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The Bennett Martin Public Library downtown maintains an ongoing "Staff Recommendations" display – Staff from throughout the library system are encouraged to submit book, audio, CD and DVD/video recommendations for items to be placed onto this display. Items on the display have bookmarks inserted, giving brief descriptions about the item's appeal factors, and listing similar books, audios or videos that the reader might also enjoy.

This page on BookGuide is used to highlight some of the items that have appeared on our Recommendations displays in the past, including our staff members' descriptions of the books, plus links to any "official Web sites" for the books, authors or series, if they exist*. Items on both the display and on this webpage may be recent releases, or older titles that deserve another look. Hotlinks on titles or formats (downloadable audio, book-on-CD, Large Print) connect to the appropriate entry in our on-line catalog, so that you may check on the availability of the item.

INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS

January 2015 Recommendations

book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemThe Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies
by Susan Wittig Albert [Compact Disc Albert]

This charming, homespun cozy is set in Darling, Alabama in the midst of the depression. The story is as much about the townspeople getting by as it is a mystery. Along with their gardening, the local garden club, the Dahlias, wonder who the secretive platinum blonde is that is visiting Miss Hamer and claims to be her niece and decide to investigate. The Dahlias also support each other through their trials and tribulations including a foreclosure and the resolution to an old romance. The book is sprinkled with recipes, gardening and housecleaning tips.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Laura Childs, Ellery Adams and Victoria Thompson.]

[Also available in traditional print, downloadable E-book and Large Print formats.]

[ official Susan Wittig Albert web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated
by Alison Arngrim [Biography Arngrim]

This memoir was fun to read, as I'd expected, but also a bit sad. I already knew Alison Arngrim (who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) wasn't really the mean girl she portrayed on the show; what I didn't realize was that she'd had a seriously traumatic childhood, and her role on the show was an escape for her. Arngrim fills her book with lots of behind-the-scenes stories about her cast-mates, as well as fun tidbits about life in Hollywood in the 70s.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Growing Up Brady: I was a teenage Greg, by Barry Williams; Here's the Story, by Maureen McCormick; and Losing It: And gaining my life back one pound at a time, by Valerie Bertinelli.]

[Also available in
downloadable E-book format.]

[ official Alison Arngrim web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight
by Jay Barbree [Biography Armstrong]

Neil Armstrong - the first man to step on the moon. This is not a story of Armstrong's lifelong flight from the police, as a friend jokingly questioned. Rather, this covers his training, his career as a pilot in the Korean War, his NASA career, and his life after he left the space program. There is excellent background on all the Mercury and Gemini flights, and most of the Apollo flights, as well as some of the Soviet flights. We meet most of the astronauts and some of the cosmonauts. We also get a full five enthralling chapters on Apollo 11's historic flight to, and return from, the moon. There are photos on nearly every page, a good many I hadn't seen before and some are very moving. My only complaint - all the photos are black & white. When tragedy struck again, Armstrong returned to NASA briefly as Vice Chairman of the commission that investigated the Challenger accident. Barbree was best friends with Armstrong, good friends with most of the astronauts and we get some good stories. Definitely a bromance with the fliers and the space program but Barbree doesn't cut NASA any slack for its mistakes and later failures. A must-read for the space fan and I defy you to not tear up throughout the telling.

[ official NASA Bio for Neil Armstrong ] | [ Jay Barbree on Wikipedia ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Book Stops Here
by Kate Carlisle

As I read this amusing book I was reminded of the Stephanie Plum series. Admittedly, there are more differences than similarities between the two series. The humor in Carlisle's books is more sophisticated than the inane silliness found in the Evanovich books. Carlisle's character, Brooklyn Wainwright, does not live a paycheck to paycheck existence. She is a well-regarded rare-book restorer and appraiser. Brooklyn has a hunky live-in boyfriend with a sexy British accent. In this book Brooklyn is the rare book appraiser on This Old Attic a hit TV series. Her first appraisal leads to murder and to a meeting with an eccentric millionaire who is obsessed with Mae West.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Janet Evanovich, Erika Chase, Lorna Barrett and Ellery Adams.]

[ official Kate Carlisle web site ]

Review Score – 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is for a music CDLandmarks
by Clannad [Compact Disc 781.62 IreYc]

This is a nice album of Irish Celtic music. It has an overall traditional feel but some occasional modern hints. While I was listening to it, it reminded me of Enya's music. I did a bit of reading about the Clannad family group and it turns out that Enya is actually a younger sister of the members and she performed with them on tours and two of their albums. So if you like Enya's music then you'll probably like this album too. This calming Celtic music is perfect for reading or studying to.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other albums by Clannad in the library's collection and Enya's albums too. You may also like The Cheftians' music.]

[ official Clannad web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  My Sister's Grave
by Robert Dugoni

Tracy Crosswhite has been haunted by her sister's disappearance and presumed murder twenty years ago. Edmund House was convicted of killing Sarah eventhough they never found her body. It appears to Tracy that House was wrongly convicted and Tracy works to free him from prison. This page turner is a combination police procedural and legal thriller that questions legal ethics and asks the question "does the end justify the means?".

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter and Linda Castillo.]

[ official AUTHOR web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemThe Job
by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg [Compact Disc Evanovich]

The Job is the third in the Fox and O'Hare series of crime caper novels, co-written by bestselling authors Janet Evanovich (the Stephanie Plum novels among others) and Lee Goldberg (the Monk and Diagnosis Murder novels, among others). I've hugely enjoyed the audiobook versions of all three titles in the series so far -- The Heist, The Chase and The Job, although I'll have to say that The Job seems the weakest of the three to date. The series features by-the-book female FBI agent Kate O'Hare, reluctantly teamed up with con artist extraordinaire Nicolas Fox. Fox was O'Hare's obsession for many years -- tracking him from one huge con job to another but always having him slip away at the last second. When she finally caught him, he struck a deal with her FBI bosses, which they took -- he would help them go after the "big fish" (the criminals too big for law enforcement to catch by traditional methods), in return for staying out of prison. The catch is -- Kate is his "handler", coordinating his illicit FBI work, while still pretending to be hunting him down in the real world. Each of the novels features Fox and O'Hare assembling a team of specially skilled assistants, as they put together scams to take on big time criminals -- Fox luxuriating in his semi-official status, and Kate chafing at all the laws he's continuing to break. Meanwhile, their unresolved sexual tension is a constant source of witty banter. These novels feel like a light-hearted take on the old 1970s-era Mission Impossible television series, or its more recent spiritual successor Leverage, and the dialog is sharp and funny. They're not perfect, by any means, but they are a wonderful, light fluffy escape for readers in the mood for a quick read. The audiobook narrator, Scott Brick, does a tremendous job on this series. My only complaint is that the second and third books seemed to wrap up their plots way too quickly, with way too many plot threads hanging loose. But still fun to read!

[Also available in traditional print and Large Print formats.]

[ official Fox and O'Hare page on the official Janet Evanovich web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for a music CDMaking Mirrors
by Gotye [Compact Disc 781.66 Got]

For anyone who enjoys pop/rock/synth/euro music, this is a good offering from the Grammy-winning Belgian-Australian musician Gotye (real name "Wally" De Backer). Including the evocative, retro-flavored smash hit from a couple of years ago, "Someone that I Used to Know", the album is a mix of upbeat tunes and darker, quirkier songs. In a few instances I found it reminiscent of Lincoln's own Matthew Sweet. Gotye employs a variety of styles (R&B, techno, ballad) in his offerings and even if you don't like all of them equally, they all have something intriguing or a little different to the sound and/or lyrics.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Time capsule: the best of Matthew Sweet, 1990-2000; Pure 80's hits; New wave hits, Vol. 1; Suddenly 70s; Guardians of the galaxy: Awesome mix, Vol. 1; Pop music: the golden era, 1951-1975; The roots of rock: 80's new wave.]

[ Wikipedia page for Gotye ] | [ official Gotye web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Sandman Slim
by Richard Kadry

While you're waiting for Jim Butcher to finish the next book in the Harry Dresden series, get your urban fantasy fix with Sandman Slim. It's a gritty, fast-paced story that's part hard-boiled detective fiction, part supernatural thriller, part action-adventure and a fun hell of a ride.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Storm Front by Jim Butcher, or Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton.]

[ official Richard Kadry web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Heart-Land: Growing Up in the Middle of Everything
by Douglas Keister [Biography Keister]

This humorous autobiography is a must-read for anyone who grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska in the 1940s, 1950s or 1960s. The author is Douglas Keister, a local Lincoln boy who went on to publish over thirty books with his photography. Mr. Keister's writing reminds me of the classic movie "A Christmas Story" which was based on the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. Memories of the old Gold's Department Store, the Yum-Yum Hut, Tastee Inn and Out and other Lincoln landmarks fill this charming book. There is also a chapter about Charlie Starkweather for those interested in the infamous murder spree.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Remember When: Memories of Lincoln by James McKee and Linda Hillegass.]

[ official Heart-Land page on the official Douglas Keister web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Lincoln Highway: Nebraska's Longest Main Street Celebrates 100 Years
by Mike Konz [388.1 Kon]

Mike Konz is the managing editor of the Kearney Hub newspaper and an avid motorcyclist. This collection of photos and stories about the Lincoln Highway in Nebraska is an interesting story of the towns that rallied to help create America's first coast-to-coast highway using anything they had -- bricks, concrete and even packed dirt. This is a fascinating look at the the making of the Lincoln Highway across Nebraska using wonderful photos, newspaper articles, advertisements and interviews. This is well worth reading.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Lincoln Highway: Main Street Across America by Drake Hokanson.]

[ official Lincoln Highway Association web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Tarkin
by James Luceno

This book serves as something of a "reboot" of one of Star Wars' more iconic characters: Wilhuff Tarkin. It's an interesting and fun read in that you come to understand why Tarkin is the way he is. Luceno crafts Tarkin as both protagonist and antagonist in this well-paced and fairly compact story.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Dark Lord: the Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno, and Darth Plagueis by James Luceno.]

[Also available in book-on-cd format.]

[ The Wookiepedia web site ] | [ James Luceno on Wikipedia ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Star Wars: A New Dawn
by John Jackson Miller

For fans of the Star Wars: Rebels TV series (or any fans of Star Wars), Star Wars: A New Dawn is the story of how two of the series main characters, Hera and Kanan, met and started working together. It's a fun, well-paced story that serves as a nice introduction into the new Expanded Universe being crafted by Disney.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller, or Kenobi by John Jackson MIller.]

[ The Wookiepedia web site ] | [ official John Jackson Miller web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  This is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper

I chose this book because a movie was recently made about it, and I wanted to read it first. It's the story of a man whose marriage is in the process of falling apart when his father dies. He and his siblings are forced to sit shiva as his father's last, dying request. The magnitude of this book relies on the fact that the antagonist and his siblings all have strained relationships. It was hilarious, at times, while other parts touched me deeply and brought me to tears. It may seem inconceivable, to some, that a small group of people could go through enormous change over just seven days, but the fact that they're almost entirely confined to their childhood living room for that entire week clearly adds to the intensity.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos.]

[Also available in book-on-cd format.]

[ official Jonathan Tropper web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for a music CDLinus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi
by Vince Guaraldi [Compact Disc 781.65 Gua]

On this CD, George Winston preforms the solo piano music of Vince Guaraldi, the man who created the music for the animated Peanuts shows in the 1960s. If you've seen the shows before the songs on this CD will be familiar to you. The music brings back fond memories of watching Snoopy and the gang dance around as Schroeder plays the piano for them. It's a great CD to listen to over and over. I'd recommend it to those who like jazz piano and anyone who enjoyed the Peanuts TV shows.

[ official Vince Guaraldi web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Ancient Scotland
by Ian Zaczek [941.1 Zac]

This is a Scottish history book with a lot of photos. Each chapter covers a different region of Scotland and provides a short history at beginning of the chapter. After the introduction to the area, there are full page photos of particular locations in the region with a paragraph or so about it on the opposite page. The photos are beautiful and more meaningful as you read the history of each place. It's a nice visual history of Scotland, but if you are looking for a more in depth history book, I'd recommend Scotland: The Story of a Nation by Magnus Magnusson. Id recommend it if you are interested in travel or history.

[If you like the photographic histories you may also like Heritage of Scotland: A cultural history of Scotland and Its People by Nathaniel Harris andThe great castles of Britain and Ireland by Lise Hull.]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemExtraordinary Measures
[DVD Extraordinary]

I'll admit, I had superficial reasons for wanting to watch this film -- after all it has two of my favorite actors in it: Harrison Ford (Star Wars, American Grafitti, Air Force One, Indiana Jones), and Brendan Fraser (The Mummy films, Blast From the Past and more). In the end, however, It was the story that impressed me the most, despite terrific performances from both Fraser and Ford (and Keri Russell). Fraser and Russell are salt-of-the-earth ordinary folks, whose two children are diagnosed with a rare genetic disease that will likely kill them before age 10. Ford plays a crusty, cantakerous medical researcher (in Nebraska!!), who they turn to for help because he's research work may hold the key to their childrens' survival. A large chunk of this movie deals with the emotional stresses and turmoil that the family go through as they try to raise astronomical amounts of money for the medical research, with the anti-social nature of Ford's character making it all-the-more difficult. Lots of emotional highs and lows in this film, and it provides a fairly realistic look at the complicated process of medical research and testing. I also enjoyed the Nebraska connection! Highly recommended.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemGuardians of the Galaxy
[DVD Guardians]

After tracking down and stealing a mysterious orb Peter Quill — also known as Starlord — finds himself in hot water, being chased by Gamora, who was sent by a villain named Ronan the Accuser to retrieve the orb. Little does Ronan know Gamora has her own plan to sell the orb to The Collector but her plan gets back-burned when she and Peter are arrested along with bounty hunters Rocket and Groot who attempted to capture Peter for money. In jail they meet Drax who hates Ronan because he killed his wife and daughter. The five of them break out of a prison together and decide to take the orb to The Collector and split the profit. This plan goes awry and the orb is stolen by Ronan's minions. When they realize how dangerous the orb really is the team vows to retrieve it and take it to Nova Prime where it will be safe. This is harder than it sounds because with the orb in his possession Ronan becomes even more powerful. I liked the characters, I thought the actors portrayed them very well, and the storyline was good but my favorite part was actually the soundtrack.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other Marvel superhero movies like The Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Thor.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Guardians of the Galaxy web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemWhen the Game Stands Tall
[DVD When]

Based on a true story — this film follows the life of Bob Ladouceur the head football coach for the De La Salle High School Spartans. Their team is on a roll, winning 151 games in a row but when Bob has a seizure and is forced to take a break from coaching the team seems to fall apart. Unlike movies like Remember the Titans or The Blind Side this doesn't show the team coming from nothing to being champions, the movie picks up right before the end of their winning streak. It was an interesting story and focused a lot on the players' loyalty to each other and to their coach.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Remember the Titans, Friday Night Lights, Draft Day and other football movies/TV shows.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official When the Game Stands Tall web site ]

Review Score – 7
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated January 2015
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