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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

October 2014 Recommendations

book cover  The Dark Lady: Sherlock, Lupin and Me
by "Irene Adler" [j Adler]

Although we don't normally review youth materials on BookGuide, there are a lot of Sherlock Holmes afficionados who may appreciate this juvenile title. The Dark Lady is an English language translation of the first in a six-book series originally released in Italian. The book is ostensibly told from the point-of-view of Irene Adler as a young pre-teen, on vacation in the village of Saint Malo. In fact, "Irene Adler" is listed as the "author" of this work. Irene, as Sherlockians well know, will be "the woman" who bests him on a case ("A Scandal in Bohemia") in his later career. But in this story, she's very young. As are William "Sherlock" Holmes and Arsene Lupin (later a famed "gentleman thief" in a series of detective/crime novels by Maurice Leblanc), both of whom are also vacationing in Saint Malo. The three youth naturally encounter each other and form into a tight-knit band of friends. And, this being a juvenile crime novel, the threesome tumble across a dead body on the seashore. When the local constabulary seem incapable of solving the mystery of the dead man, the three juvenile detectives take on the case, which puts them in peril with the local criminal elements. The three main characters are bright, inquisitive and likeable, even though Sherlock has already started to develop some of the abrasive qualities he will exhibit as a "consulting detective" in his adult years. Irene herself is perhaps a bit too progressive for the time period in which this story is set, but she makes for a very plucky narrative voice. No matter how ridiculous the set-up for this series of books is, I enjoyed this and look forward to the other volumes being translated into English. Sherlock fans should enjoy this as well. One fair warning — the ending of this book comes rather abruptly, as if the author got tired of the story, and decided to wrap things up on short notice.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the books on our Elementary booklist — a comprehensive listing of alternative Sherlock Holmes works.]

[ English-language publisher's official The Dark Lady web page ]

Review Score – 7
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Clans and Tartans of Scotland
by Robert Bain [929.2 Bai 1976]

This little book contains brief historical information on each of the Scottish clans and their tartan, motto and crest. On the page opposite the information is a full color photo of each tartan. There are some interesting sections at the beginning of the book too about how the clan system came about, how they were organized and their social roles. Scotland has a very long history, so this short introduction to a specific aspect of it was a not so daunting way to start reading about it. I married into a Scottish family so it was particularly interesting to me to read about my clan. It may be of interest to other in similar situations or to those with a Scottish heritage.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try http://www.tartansauthority.com/tartan-ferret/ — This is a good webpage about tartans. It is a bit more complete than the book because each clan's tartan has variations which you can view here.]

[Also available in several earlier editions.]

[ TartansAuthority.com web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemI'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood
by Dave Barry [Compact Disc 817 Bar]

I enjoy Pulitzer Prize columnist Dave Barry's humor a lot, including the 1990s sitcom "Dave's World", so I decided to give this audio book a try, especially when I saw that it was self-narrated. Plus, he always has a way with titles. It's a collection of essays that first came out in a print edition in 2010. I'll put a PG caution on it for some 4-letter words and adult topics but over all it is a fun and quite true look at parenting, middle age, technology, marriage, and other assorted events of middle-class life. It also includes parodies of the TV series "24" and the "Twilight" book/movie trilogy. Dave also gets some serious shots in among the comedy at tightly-wound soccer parents, health care, the downturn of daily newspapers, and the Miami-New York 'rivalry'. The chapters lend themselves to listening in "drive time" portions -- the tracks are from three to seven minutes each. Like me, I think you will LOL from time to time at Mr. Barry's sarcasm but also be touched by how astute and even sensitive he is, too.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the book of the same title; Dave Barry Slept Here : A Sort of History of the United States; Dave Barry is Not Making This Up; Dave Barry's Money Secrets : Like, Why is There a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar? (downloadable audiobook); You Can Date Boys When You're Forty : Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics he Knows Very Little About (new in 2014).]

[Also available in downloadable audio and traditional print formats.]

[ official I'll Mature When I'm Dead page on the official Dave Barry web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a music CDThe Best of Scottish Pipes and Drums
by various [Compact Disc 781.62 ScoB]

This album is a mix of tracks by three preforming groups: The Pipes and Drums 1st Battalion Scots Guards, The Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch and The Drums and Pipes of the Gordon Highlanders. The Scottish tunes and marches were all very well played. There are no vocals on this album at all, so if you like instrumental music you should give this one a try. Some people may not like bagpipes right away, but I've found it does grow on you over time. What you have to remember is that the Scottish regiments used to have pipers play in battle to instil fear in their enemy and keep their own troops going. A Gordon Highlander piper named George Findlater was actually awarded a Victoria Cross (the highest decoration for bravery in the face of the enemy in the British Commonwealth forces); wounded and unable to stand, he continued to play the pipes to encourage his comrades. You can read his story and take a tour of the Gordon Highlander's museum at the webpage l inked below. If you are interested in Scotland and its history then this would be a good CD to checkout for a sample of the sounds of Scotland.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try either Gordon Highlanders museum virtual tour: http://www.gordonhighlanders.com/?location_id=35 or George Findlater's Story: http://www.gordonhighlanders.com/The-Victoria-Cross#.VB3UKaPp_jU.]

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


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book cover  The World According to Bob
by James Bowen [Biography Bowen]

In this follow-up volume to A Street Cat Named Bob, we hear more of the experiences of recovering drug addict James Bowen, struggling to make a better life for himself on the streets of London, with the assistance of the crowd-pleasing cat, Bob. Unlike the first volume, which primarily focued on Bowen's early life and the first steps he took to kick the drug habit, this book takes a look at Bowen's more recent life, including the book project a friendly publishing agent suggests. Bowen has an easy, conversational style and you quickly grow to respect his efforts to improve his lot in life. But, more importantly, you also quickly grow to love Bob, the laconic orange cat who adopted James when they both needed someone to rescue them. This is a fell good book, which should appeal to cat-lovers and anyone with a sense of social justice. You can now follow Bob's adventures on Twitter and Facebook, too!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Street Cat Named Bob and Dewey

Review Score – 8
Recommended by
Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Anya's Ghost
by Vera Brosgol [YA PB Brosgol]

This beautifully illustrated graphic novel is the story of a second generation Russian-American girl and her adventures with a local ghost. It handles fairly typical young adult issues such as body image problems and the wages of popularity fairly well, if a bit glancing. Brosgol chooses to keep the story light and pleasant rather than dig deep into these issues. Overall I found it enjoyable and quick.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Friends with Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks, This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.]

[ official Verabee web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Ben F.
South Branch Library


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book cover  The Bright Side of Disaster
by Katherine Center

When we first meet Jenny at the beginning of the book she is pregnant and trying to patch together the remaining threads of her and her fiance's (Dean) relationship. Jenny is dealt a handful of unacceptable actions, and the novel sweeps forward with a roller coaster of emotions starting with childbirth and following her navigation of the new world of single motherhood that has been thrust upon her. We watch as Jenny builds a support system as well as a relationship with her next door neighbor. Will Dean return to meet his daughter or should she take a chance on the guy-next-door or should she even be worrying about guys at all? This novel has large doses of chic lit but also broaches the bewildering struggles a single parent must face. Center will have you flying through this quick read in eager anticipation of the ending.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Bridget Jones series or the Shopaholic series.]

[ official The Bright Side of Disaster page on the official Katherine Center web site ]

Review Score – 7
Recommended by Sarah J.
South Branch Library


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book cover  The Return of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

This collection of 13 short stories begins with Sherlock's return to Baker Street. Having been sometime since his disappearance/death at the Reinenbach Falls, his faithful friend Watson is so shocked to see him, he faints. Once recovered and told how he survived and returned, the pair are back to solving mysteries. I like the short story collections, but there are full length novels by Doyle including A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear. If you liked the new Sherlock tv series by the BBC which is set in modern times more than you liked the Robert Downy Jr. movies, I recommend reading the these. Even though the tv series is set in modern London, I think it's more similar to the books than the movies are. Really, I'd recommend this book to anyone this time of year. I think autumn/winter is the perfect time to read these because the nights are dark and chilly, perfect for reading mysteries.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock: Seasons 1-3 by the BBC starring Benedict Cumberbatch.]

[Also available in a variety of additional formats.]

[ official Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate web site ]

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


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book cover  Be Careful What You Witch For
by Dawn Eastman [PB Eastman]

A Halloween cozy, full of witches, psychics and others of paranormal abilities, set in a small town in Western Michigan. Of course, there's a budding romance or two, and a couple of very special dogs. The interrelated characters of town provide plot twists that keep the book interesting to the end. It's a fun book, especially for Halloween.

[ official Dawn Eastman web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Carolyn D.
Polley Music Library


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book cover  If I Stay
by Gayle Forman [YA PB Forman]

I wanted a chance to read this YA novel before seeing the movie, and am happy to say it doesn't disappoint. In the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to Mia and her eccentric family, rock star boyfriend Adam, and the center of her universe - her own love of music and performing music on her cello. A freak accident on a snowy day leaves Mia in the ICU comatose. It is there she has time to reflect on her life to help answer the question becoming more demanding by the hour - should she stay with family and friends on Earth or let go.

[Also available in downloadable audio, book-on-cd and downloadable E-book formats.]

[ official If I Stay page on the official Gayle Forman web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Sarah J.
South Branch Library


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book cover  Codex Born
by Jim C. Hines

In Codex Born, the second of the Magic Ex Libris series of modern fantasy novels, author Jim C. Hines ramps up the action from the first book Libriomancer. These novels are tremendously fun — Hines has created a magical system unlike any I've seen in fantasy books before. The magic users here base their skills on works of literature — they can literally tap into other written works to find the tools, spells, equipment and/or energy necessary to practice their own magic. For this adventure, our hero, librarian Isaac Vainio has settled into his role a magical researcher, and is still getting used to his intense relationship with the Dryad Lena Greenwood. When attacks on the local supernatural community force Isaac to become more of a participant and less of an observer, he quickly discovers that there are serious threats to the magical world — threats he may not have the allies and resources to effectively counter. Although this novel definitely feels like a storyline set in the middle of a much larger plot, it still moves that plot along effectively, introducing new twists to Hines magical worldview. Fans of the works of Jim Butcher or Rachel Caine should enjoy this series. I really enjoyed the way the author looks at the character of Lena Greenwood — who was pulled into Isaac's world as a stereotypical "character type" from a pulp novel, but who is now self-aware and knows that she was "written to be a certain way". I highly recommend this series.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Libriomancer, the first book in the series.]

[ official Jim C. Hines web site ]

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


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book cover  Omaha's Peony Park: An American Legend
by Carl D. Jennings [917.822 Jen]

Another in the popular "local history" series of volumes from Arcadia publishing company. For anyone from the Lincoln and Omaha area who grew up in the 1950s through the 1980s, Omaha's Peony Park was a "must-see" destination. Though small, Peony Park was still an incredibly enjoyable amusement and water park, situated in the heart of the river city. In this thin volume, the author breaks down the eras of Peony Parks history into "The Early Years 1919-1959", "The 50s and 60s", "The 70s and 80s", and "The End and the Beginning". Each section is comprised primarily of black and white photo reproductions, with captions that range from very simplistic to full of details. Named Peony Park because it was originally established across the street from a famed Peony garden in Omaha, one of the park's greatest claims to fame was that it was a popular performance venue for musical groups. Particularly during the Big Band era, but carrying on through the era of rock and roll, the Royal Grove and the Royal Terrance Ballroom played host to dozens of popular musical acts. I particularly remember playing miniature golf on the golf course within the Park. If you ever visited Peony Park, I recommend this book — it will bring back memories of those fun summer days. If you never got the chance, Omaha's Peony Park: An American Legend is a great snapshot of a bygone era in Nebraska history!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the other books by Arcadia publishing.]

[ 2012 Article about Peony Park ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Justice League Dark
by Peter Milligan (writer) and Mikel Janin (artist) [YA PB Milligan]

The comic-book industry, especially the two major mainstream publishers — DC and Marvel — is rife with "reboots", in which the creators reinvent the world in which long-standing characters exist. DC in particular, revamped their comics line around 2010. One of the new titles that grew out of their "The New 52" revamping is Justice League Dark. The Justice League itself, comprised of such colorful characters as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter, is well known, But, the Justice League Dark gathered a number of the anti-heroes or figures associated with the paranormal and mystic elements in the DC universe, and teamed them up to fight the kinds of supernatural menaces that "normal" superheroes were ill-equipped to deal with. Fan favorite paranormal heroes, such as John Constantine, Deadman, Zatanna and Madame Xanadu form the core of this new group, with other supernatural heroes (Frankenstein, Shade the Changing Man, Black Orchid, Swamp Thing, Timothy Hunter and many more) coming into individual issues of the comic book to provide the occasional assist. DC has gathered up issues of this ongoing comic book to release "graphic novels" that include 6 issues of the comic in each trade paperback. The art is fantastic, the writing is strong, and for anyone who's ever been a fan of any of the quirkier characters in the background of the DC comics universe, I highly encourage that you check out these Justice League Dark collections!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Volumes Two and Three in this graphic novel series.]

[ Justice League Dark page on Wikipedia ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  I Work at a Public Library: A Selection of Crazy Stories From the Stacks
by Gina Sheridan [817 She]

Several of my library co-workers were already reading this humorous collection of "insider" stories from the world of public libraries, so I couldn't pass it up. Gina Sheridan, the author/editor of this work, has run a blog (linked below) for several years, in which she gathers the outrageous stories of librarians who have crazy or unusual transactiosn with their customers. This volume reproduces several of the most popular "incidents" from that blog, and breaks them all down, very humorously, into categories as designated by the Dewey Decimal system. If you're curious about the kinds of bizarre librarian-customer interactions that take place in public libraries across the United States, this gives you a little peek into that world. And, while I enjoyed this book very much, it barely scratches the surface — I would've liked to have seen even more stories that were presented. Sheridan (and her fellow contributors) also seem to soft-peddle some of the stories...those of us working in the library industry certainly have even more outrageous stories to tell. But...perhaps you don't want to have your hair curl!

[ the official I Work at a Public Library Tumblr site ] | [ official Gina Sheridan web site ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Black List
[DVD Black]

Raymond "Red" Reddington played by James Spader is a criminal known as the "Concierge of Crime." After eluding authorities for decades he mysteriously turns himself into the FBI. He says he'll give them information about criminals on his "Blacklist" the catch - he'll only speak with Elizabeth Keen, a rookie profiler who just graduated from Quantico. My favorite new show. Most of the intrigue revolves around why he turned himself in and what his connection is with Agent Keen.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Criminal Minds - a show about FBI profilers - Bones, White Collar, Perception and other FBI TV crime dramas.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ NBC's official The Blacklist web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
[DVD Cabinet]

A classic, 1920, German silent film with a twist ending I didn't anticipate. Francis tells the story of him and his friend, Alan, who are both in love with Jane. The two men visit a carnival and see the sideshow of Dr. Caligari who claims that his somnambulist, Cesare (played by Conrad Veidt - remember the German Major in Casablanca?) can answer questions about the future due to his being constantly asleep. Alan jokingly asks when he will die, and Cesare answers, "at dawn." And now we're worried because a serial killer is currently at work. Francis and Jane investigate Dr. Caligari and Cesare, learning that Caligari is actually the director of the local insane asylum. Jane is kidnapped, a wild chase ensues, and the story returns to the present where we get the surprise ending. And there's a reason for the weird, expressionist background. The film runs only 75 min but is excellent entertainment. I first saw this movie in the late 1970s or early 1980s when it was available on VHS (and yes, I still have the tape). After my first viewing and knowing the ending I rewatched it immediately (like we all did after first seeing The Sixth Sense). Ignore the remakes, this original is the only way to go. And you'll learn what a somnambulist is!


[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia page for this film ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemDraft Day
[DVD Draft]

Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver, the General Manager for the Cleveland Browns. As General Manager he's in charge of the NFL draft for his team and the story follows him getting the number one pick and the drama to go with it. Excellent movie for any NFL fan.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Million Dollar Arm, Trouble with the Curve, or other football movies such as We Are Marshall or Remember the Titans.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Draft Day web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemSe7en
[DVD Se7en]

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt play detectives hunting a murderer who uses the seven deadly sins as inspiration for his killings. Each victim is found representing a different sin and the race is on to solve the case before he reaches all seven. Is a very gory movie so you'll need a strong stomach.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Zodiac, Silence of the Lambs, and other movies about serial killers.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Facebook page for this film ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemStar Trek IV: The Voyage Home
[DVD Star]

As Kirk and crew return home to Earth they find that there is an alien probe approaching and is causing massive power failures across the globe. The signals emitting from the probe are determined by Spock to be vocalizations similar to those of a humpback whale. Because they must communicate with the probe, but humpback whales have gone extinct, their solution is to go back in time and kidnap/rescue a pair of whales. They travel back to the late 20th century and it's funny to watch the crew in that environment. They split up with different tasks, catch whales, build a tank in the space ship for the whales, and find some way to restore the ship's power. This is a great movie. While is does pick up shortly after the last movie ended, you could watch this as a stand alone. I'd recommend it if you like time travel movies, science fiction, or humorous movies with a good plot.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the tv show Futurama, although it's not in the library's collection, or Back to the Future, which is available from the library.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Star Trek web site ]

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


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last updated October 2014
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