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Staff Recommendations

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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 Staff 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 | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

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May 2019 Recommendations

Lost Omaha
by Janet Daly Bednarek [978.225 Bed]

As someone interested in Nebraska history, I thought that this book offered an interesting look at Omaha’s history. I was especially interested in the section on Peony Park having spent time there as a teenager. The book has great photos of buildings and landmarks in Omaha that are no longer there. I also enjoyed the research that went into the making of this book.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Historic Omaha : An Illustrated History of Omaha and Douglas County, by Bob Reilly.] [ publisher’s official Lost Omaha web page ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


They Call Me Guero
by David Bowles [jPB (Non-Fiction) Bowles]

This is a charming collection of poems written by a middle-schooler living on the border, not only between Texas and Mexico, but also between grade school and young man, and the border of cultures: as a “guero” his fair-skin can complicate his life as he lives on the border between being hispanic and white. While his classmates might tease him for fair skin and red hair, his father admonishes him to use those attributes to help open doors for the rest of the family.

In my favorite poem, Spanish Birds, Bowles compares the different “melodies” that each of his family members uses when speaking Spanish to different kinds of birdsong. It evokes my most significant takeaway from this book–Bowles’ family is made up of quite the cast of characters and they’re held together by their love for one another.

Of course, you can’t have a book about a middle-schooler that doesn’t feature a confrontation with a bully, and this is no exception . . . except that . . . when the bully calls him a name, the hero of our story retaliates by writing a furious and clever poem in rap.

Poem by poem, Bowles constructs a world and furnishes it with scenes and characters that engage the reader and enrich their understanding of life on the border.

I read a lot of YA books about immigrants/refugees/New Americans; I’m especially interested in stories told from the viewpoint of the children. This one was particularly engaging.

[ publisher’s official They Call Me Guero web page ] | [ official David Bowles web site ]

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Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Wishsong of Shannara
by Terry Brooks

This novel is the third in a trilogy; the preceding titles are The Sword of Shannara and the The Elfstones of Shannara. I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely critical that they be read in order, but I strongly encourage it as previous events and characters overlap in these novels. Wil and Eteria from the adventures of the last book have since been married and have two mostly grown children, Brin and Jair, who are quickly whisked away by the druid Allanon on adventures of their own. The beginning is familiar as it’s how the other two in the series begin; a grave danger threatens all the lands and all its peoples, and the attempt to save it all requires the help of the Ohmsford family. Jair and Brin, both born with the magical gift of the Wishsong, which is a way of singing to change reality or appear to, are separated in the early stages of the quest each with their own mission in the grand scheme to destroy the source of dark magic of the Warlock Lord from the first book in the trilogy. I really have enjoyed this trilogy, which is set among a larger series of Shannara books. All I’ve read so far have engaging plots, character development and a world rich in history that readers can experience by reading/visiting the same places, seeing some of the same events and magical items so many years apart.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Sword of Shannara and The Elfstones of Shannara, the first two books in the trilogy, or The First King of Shannara, a prequel — all by Terry Brooks.] [ Wikipedia page for The Wishsong of Shannara ] | [ official Terry Brooks web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


The New York Musicals of Comden & Green: The Complete Book and Lyrics
by Betty Comden and Adolph Green [Music 782.14 qCom]

Marvelous look back at three classic Comden & Green Broadway musical shows — “On the Town”, “Wonderful Town” and “Bells Are Ringing”. Each musical gets a couple of pages of reminiscences from the playwrights, then the complete script is reproduced, complete with plenty of production photos of the original casts and crews. Nicely packaged.

I’ll have to admit, I enjoyed reading each of these scripts while listening to the original Broadway soundtracks — pausing after each of the songs to catch up on the bits of each show that didn’t feature music. Or, you can find video and audio from various past productions of the shows on YouTube. But, there’s nothing like reading the original scripts to give you a full sense of what the show should’ve been like.

Strongly recommended for any fans of classic Broadway musicals, particularly for fans of shows that explore New York City. I’ll be humming some of these showtunes for weeks, particularly “New York, New York”, “Conga”, and “It’s a Simple Little System”!

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


A Million Little Pieces
by James Frey [362.29 Fre]

I had heard about this book when it hit the Oprah’s Book Club list…. then I heard about it again when the “truth” was “revealed”…. that it wasn’t actually a memoir, as touted, but a work of fiction… ooh! the CONTROVERSY!!!!

I picked it up at a book sale or in a bargain bin about a year ago, having always been curious about it. Yes, I knew it was a work of fiction, or at least more fiction than truth… but I was still interested in the actual story.
I’m glad I finally started reading it–it was REALLY intense and very interesting. Regardless of whether or not it’s a true story, it was very, VERY good! I was immediately sucked into James’ story. I’m incredibly curious about the Road to Recovery for addicts, and this, to me, was a clear picture of how difficult and harrowing it can be. There were a lot of things I’m sure happen to some people, in reality, and they were naked and scary and ugly and painful. I appreciated that candor. I also appreciated, by way of reading this story, how lucky I am to have missed these problems. It became clear to me, once again, that addiction can hit anyone at any time, regardless of class, race, upbringing, values, etc.

I think everyone should read this! **I will note, there were things about the way this book was written that just drove me nuts! The author capitalizes just the WRONG words, seemingly willy-nilly. It’s bothersome to me… if you’re uptight about grammar, the way I am. But I opted to overlook it, since the story was so good.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try High on Arrival, by Mackenzie Phillips, or Last Night I Sang to the Monster, by Benjamin Alire Saenz.] [ Wikipedia entry for A Million Little Pieces ] | [ official James Frey web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


The Word is Murder
by Anthony Horowitz [Compact Disc Horowitz]

While trying to decide what books to use for upcoming meetings of the libraries’ Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, I kept looking at The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz (creator of Foyle’s War). Ultimately, there weren’t enough copies of The Word is Murder floating around the library system to make it a good Just Desserts selection, but the description sounded fascinating, and the Book-on-CD version was read of British actor Rory Kinnear — it was also only 7 discs, while many modern mysteries on CD can be 9 to 13 discs long. So…I decided to give it a try. And, boy, am I glad I did!

The Word is Murder is extremely “meta” — it is told from the point-of-view of mystery writer Anthony Horowitz himself. In the context of this story, Horowitz states that a British ex-cop, Daniel Hawthorne, who served as a technical consultant on a TV series he created (Injustice, which actually did air in 2011) contacts Horowitz and asks him to take on a job — following Horowitz as he consults on a bizarre murder case that he is consulting on for the police, and writing a novel out of the experience. Hawthorne, a brusque, unlikable man is still a brilliant sleuth, and the case he’s working on intrigues Horowitz — a woman goes to a funeral parlor to arrange her funeral in meticulous detail, only to wind up murdered in her home just six hours later.

With serious misgivings, Horowitz agrees to Hawthorne’s request, despite the fact that the detective won’t reveal more than minor details about his own life or his sleuthing methodology. This mystery is really the story of an inexperienced “Watson”, forced to follow and chronicle the exploits of an uncooperative “Holmes”. But the way Horowitz tells the story, and the life he breathes into all the characters, made for a compelling tale.

I’ll admit that the solution to the main mystery wasn’t all that complicated — for the most part, enough clues are scattered throughout the scenes to piece it all together, even if a few “reveals” are saved for near the end of the book. But…this isn’t necessarily to be read/listened-to for the mystery — it’s more a character study. And an excellent one at that.

A fun read, and Rory Kinnear does a terrific job doing the voices of numerous different characters. His gruff, growly voice for Hawthorne was perfect. Strongly recommended!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try anything else by Horowitz, particularly The Magpie Murders, which also plays around with the conventions of the traditional mystery story. Though in that case, it is more a tribute to the old Agatha Christie style, where The Word is Murder is contemporary.] [ official The Word is Murder page on the official Anthony Horowitz web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


In the House in the Dark of the Woods
by Laird Hunt [currently available only in e-book form on Overdrive]

“I told my man I was off to pick berries and that he should watch our son for I would be gone some good while. So away I went with a basket”….

So begins ‘In the House in the Dark of the Woods,’ a kind of colonial American ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for adults. It’s about a woman who enters the woods and doesn’t return for a long time because she has a string of adventures: violent, horrific adventures with a small cast of characters who all seem to want her to side with their own schemes against the others. The voice of this book comes off as naive at first, but its simplicity of observation layered on top of the wild happenings makes for a delightfully weird reading experience.

When I read this book, I kept thinking about how it was written by a man despite how deeply it is about being a woman. I don’t mean sexist stereotypes of being a woman, but the sort of self-satisfaction and willpower that patriarchy has feared for so long, including in historical New England.

Recommended for readers who love psychological suspense, horror, historical fiction, fairy tales, and reading about what happens when someone who is already an adult comes of age again.

[ publisher’s official The House in the Dark of the Woods web site ] | [ official Laird Hunt Twitter feed ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Find Momo
by Andrew Knapp [jPB Knapp]

This is an adorable book by photographer Andrew Knapp that combines the fun of “Where’s Waldo?” with the cuteness factor of “Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund.” The dog in this book is a Border Collie named Momo who “hides” in all of the photos taken at locales throughout Canada and the United States. The best part of this book is that there are “clues” given at the back of the book that show you exactly what area of the photo you need to look in to find Momo. I also love the stories about Momo that are included throughout the collection of photos. This book is catalogued as a children’s book, but it can be enjoyed by any age level. There is another book by the same author as well called “Find Momo Coast-to-Coast,” so if you enjoy this book, there is another one to read as well.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Crusoe, the Celebrity Dachshund: Adventures of the Wiener Dog Extraordinaire, by Ryan Beauchesne, Crusoe, the Worldly Wiener Dog : Further Adventures with the Celebrity Dachshund, by Ryan Beauschene.] [ official Find Momo page on the official Andrew Knapp web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Thank you, Kim, for introducing me to Momo. I’m greatly enjoying reading the books by Andrew Knapp featuring his beautiful and photogenic border collie Momo. In some ways, the books remind me of “Maddie on Things”, which featured a photographer on a road trip across the U.S., photographing his dog standing on top of things. Not quite “hidden”, but still interesting.

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reviewed by Scott C.
customer/staff at Bennett Martin Public Library


The Good Girl
by Mary Kubica [downloadable audio version]

I really enjoy books like this, especially when I listen to the audio version: books that have varying chapters as told by the various characters in the book. It’s fun to get different people’s perspective on the same situation as the story unravels. This book was very interesting and I really enjoyed the ending! The characters were developed well, and I could actually see, in my mind’s eye, the different locations as they were described. Well done, Mary Kubica!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Truly, Madly, Guilty.] [ official The Good Girl page on the official Mary Kubica web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


Bird Box
by Josh Malerman

Wow! I haven’t flown through a book this quickly in a long time. I picked this up about three, maybe four days ago, and I just finished tonight. (For me, that’s pretty fast.) I’d seen a few things about the movie, but as it was on Netflix, I wasn’t able to watch it. I’m so glad I read the book. This is an edge-of-your-seat, who-can-you-trust kind of book!!! I LOVE that the protagonist is a woman and a mother! This book had me mildly frightened most of the time, and at times I was exclaiming out loud in fear! Loved it!!!!!

[ official Bird Box page on the official Josh Malerman web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

See previous review of Bird Box by Tammy T. in November 2014


Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?
by Steven Tyler [downloadable audio version]

I’ve been a fan of the band Aerosmith for many, many years. And I’ve always thought their front-man, Steven Tyler, was one of the most charismatic lead singers out there. He clearly owns the stage the minute he sets foot on it. What I maybe didn’t quite realize was what a brilliant guy he is. He’s extremely well-read and articulate. This book was very enjoyable, interesting, amusing! Steven Tyler is definitely a Wordsmith of the Most Insanely Entertaining sort!!! He was born to be a poet and a singer, and we are ALL lucky that he found his calling and was able to live out his calling. I’m always pleased to hear background stories of how songs came about, what the dynamics of a band’s relationship are, etc. I’m bummed that I’ve never been able to see Aerosmith in concert, but reading about their shows almost makes me feel like I was there!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock.] [ publisher’s official Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? web page ] | [ official Steven Tyler web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


Screening Room

formatdvdKedi
a film by Ceyda Torun [DVD 636.8 Ked]

I’ll have to admit to two things — I’m much more of a “dog” person than a “cat” person, and I’m strongly opposed to cats roaming loose — I have a hate/hate relationship with several neighborhood cats that have chosen to use parts of my yard as their personal litter boxes.

None-the-less, when I saw the trailer for this film on another DVD I was watching from the libraries’ collection, it looked fascinating. And I’m glad I watched it. This documentary is charmingly look at human-cat relationships in Istanbul, a community which has had thousands of cats living on the streets since the days of the Ottoman Empire. The film cuts between fluid footage following several specific cats on their rounds through the city, to interviews with the humans those cats choose to interact with. The humans don’t claim to “own” any of these feline friends, but several have been adopted by some of the four-legged types. The humans have various poignant observations to make about the therapeutic and even spiritual advantages of relationships with the cats — “They absorb all your negative energy,” one shopkeeper comments. “They do me good.”

But most of the film focuses directly on the lives of the cats, with a calm, soft-spoken narrator offering brief explanations of the different cats’ personalities, and how the changing urban landscape of Istanbul is impacting these furry citizens of the city.

This is a pleasant, low-key stroll through an exotic city, its residences and street-front businesses, in the company of some fuzzy locals who enjoy the company of human beings, but don’t feel the need to be restricted to one patch of ground. Recommended for cat lovers and anyone interested Istanbul, Turkey.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind by Sy Montgomery, To Catch a Cat: How Three Stray Kittens Rescued Me by Heather Green, or Call of the Cats: What I Learned About Love and Life From a Feral Colony by Andrew Bloomfield.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Kedi web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdThe Muppet Movie
[DVD j Muppet]

Jim Henson first introduced the “Muppets” in Sam & Friends, a short-lived TV series in Washington D.C. in 1955. After making appearances in TV advertising and occasionally popping up on late-night talk shows, the next significant appearance of Muppets was when they were integrated into the new Childrens Program, Sesame Street in the mid-1960s. There, characters like Bert & Ernie, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and many others, taught children lessons in spelling, counting, and general learning concepts with love and affection. One of the most popular and famous Sesame Street Muppets, and long thought to be Jim Henson’s alter-ego, Kermit the Frog then served as the central character on The Muppet Show, a syndicated half-hour variety comedy series, which introduced dozens and dozens more new felt friends from 1976 to 1981.

This 1979 film was a spin-off of The Muppet Show, and served as kind of an “origin story” for many of the characters on that series — Kermit, Fozzi Bear, Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, Ralph the Dog, the Swedish Chef, critics Statler and Waldorf, and Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (including Animal the drummer). Kermit is a swamp-dwelling, sensitive, musically-inclined frog, who decides to seek his fame and fortunate in Hollywood, by going on a road trip and picking up friends along the way. There are cameos from numerous big-name stars (Edgar Bergen, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Dom DeLuise, Elliott Gould, Bob Hope, and many more), plus numerous musical numbers featuring songs by famed Nebraska musician Paul Williams, including the film’s central number “The Rainbow Connection”.

For anyone who grew up with The Muppets, this is essential viewing. For anyone who’s been living under a rock for the past 40 years, this is a wonderful introduction to the whole manic gang, and should be followed up by viewing all the seasons of the original Muppet Show. This is literally one of my all-time favorite films — I can’t recommend it highly enough!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try all the seasons The Muppet Show.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdUnfinished Song
[DVD Unfinished]

It’s amazing how easy it is to stumble across unknown little gems in the libraries’ DVD collection. This was a 2012 film my wife found for us to watch, and I’ll have to admit — I’d never heard of it. But it turned out to be marvelous little movie!

Vanessa Redgrave and Terrance Stamp play Marion and Arthur, an older, retired couple in a typical British “working class” suburb. She’s the vivacious, outgoing type and he’s the grumpy, grouchy type. But that doesn’t stop Arthur from taking his wife to the regular meetings of the small local choir she’s a member of…even though she’s dying of cancer. That choir, led by charismatic young choir director Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), is experimenting in non-traditional song choices as they practice to appear in a singing competition.

When Marion succumbs to her disease, Arthur is left on his own — estranged from his son James (Christopher Eccleston), and not interested in his late wife’s more “social” friends. But something pulls him back to the choir group, and ultimately he takes Marion’s place in the choir. It’s the first step — of many — as Arthur attempts to reconnect with the world around him, post-Marion.

This is a sweet, sad, sentimental film, with tremendous performances by Redgrave, Stamp and Arterton. Strongly recommended!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Calendar Girls.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated April 2019
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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