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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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July 2020 Recommendations

Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law
by Preet Bharara (Compact Disc 347.73 Bha)

Preet Bharara was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 until 2017 when President Trump fired him for his refusal to interfere with the Mueller investigation.

I first encountered Bharara in a live interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning feature writer Eli Sanders at a Seattle city venue complete with an interactive audience in March, 2019 (https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/dan-savage/blabbermouth/e/59733466) where I found him intelligent, well-spoken, and humorous. When asked questions on current events or cases, he did not give a knee-jerk reaction but carefully outlined all the possible legal reasoning behind an attorney’s and court’s activities and explained the consequences for each action.

Doing Justice is Bharara’s first book, and I check it out as a book on CD. He reads the book and it feels as if he’s having a conversation with a friend, he wasn’t preachy or full of legal Latin terms as if trying to impress you.

This is not a dry book on legal topics by a law professor droning on and on. He covers compelling stories – some are famous cases we’ve heard about – providing background and discussing what attorneys must consider when bringing a case to trial (or not), including the ethics involved.

The book is arranged like a criminal case: Part I Inquiry (the investigation), Part II Accusation (do they charge or not?), Part III Judgment (court proceedings), and Part IV Punishment (what happens when a defendant is found guilty). And discusses each in the realm of actual cases. In Part I the first case he talks about is the Lyle and Erik Menendez case (turns out he has a personal connection there) when he realized anyone could be guilty of anything.

From the Preface: “Smart laws do not assure justice any more than a good recipe guarantees a delicious meal. The law is merely an instrument, and without the involvement of human hands it is as lifeless and uninspiring as a violin kept in its case. The law cannot compel us to love each other or respect each other. It cannot cancel hate or conquer evil; teach grace or extinguish apathy. Every day, the law’s best aims are carried out, for good or ill, by human beings. Justice is served, or thwarted, by human beings. Mercy is bestowed, or refused, by human beings.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was disappointed when it ended. I’m now following his weekly podcast podcast (https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/cafe/stay-tuned-with-preet) as an attempt to continue this book.

[ publisher’s official Doing Justice web page ] | [ Preet Bharara page on Wikipedia ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
LIBRARYLOCATION


The Rise of Skywalker
by Rae Carson (Carson)

Please Note: if you saw “The Rise of Skywalker” movie and did NOT like it, this novel is unlikely to change your assessment. However, for those who saw the movie and at least didn’t dislike it, or are curious as to who everyone was and what the name of all the locations was (and why are they important), this novel is well worth your time. Rae Carson is a talented writer and does a nice job in telling the story in novel form and making the characters feel like her own. There are numerous fun little bits of background and the motivations and the characters are expanded upon nicely. It’s hardly a required read, but a worthwhile one all the same.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Most Wanted by Rae Carson, The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster or The Last Jedi by Jason Fry.] [ official The Rise of Skywalker novel adaptation page on Wookiepedia ] | [ official AUTHOR web site ]

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


Lost Hills
by Lee Goldberg (Goldberg)

I’ve been a fan of Lee Goldberg for many years — first for his non-fiction writing (Unsold TV Pilots, Successful TV Writing), then for his series of original novels based on the Monk and Diagnosis: Murder TV series (the latter of which he produced and wrote for). I’ve subsequently found several of his other novels — some are in series, and some are stand-alone. His writing style ranges from light-hearted and comical mysteries (Monk) to incredibly serious police procedurals. Lost Hills is one of the latter.

Eve Ronin is a new detective in the homicide division of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, stationed in the hilly terrain NW of Los Angeles. Though young, she got her position after receiving some notoriety online , when she busted a big Hollywood star misbehaving, and an onlooker shared cellphone video of the incident online. She’s not quite earned the respect of her fellow detectives yet, but that may change when she and her partner field a horrific murder case. There are no bodies, but the house they investigate is soaked in the blood of what the CSI types believe is three murder victims. Ronin’s more senior partner has her take point on the case — he’s nearing retirement and doesn’t want the headaches. So we get to see the procedural details of a gruesome murder investigation, mostly from the P.O.V. of a young detective who’s still learning on the job.

This was a compelling read, and though Eve Ronin is still little more than a introductory character, with a quirky actress mother and a supportive medical doctor sister, I wanted to learn more about her. The case is interesting, and according to an author note at the end, it is based on a real case, making it all the more shocking. What little humor is present in this story is mainly in the character relationships — the case itself is deadly serious. Though perhaps not as polished and heavily detailed as some of the other police procedurals out there (it only clocks in at 224 pages), this was a good read, and I look forward to seeing more in this series, if Goldberg continues to use Eve as a character.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Renee Ballard series by Michael Connelly.] [ official Lee Goldberg web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music
by David Hollander (Music 781.542 Hol)

Let’s talk about a unique, treasure-filled microgenre of music called “library music.” No, “library music” isn’t the CDs you find at the library! Instead, library music is a kind of music produced to be used by film, TV, animation and other video production companies as incidental soundtrack music. Even radio stations sometimes had use for it, as background or incidental music during talking segments or radio plays. It’s also known as “stock music,” much like the stock photography one can find and purchase on line nowadays, “mood music,” “production music,” “cue music,” and the like. “Library Music” came to be a common way of referring to this material, as many video production companies would purchase these albums for in-house sound libraries. Or they could consult the companies producing this material by inquiring for music appropriate for particular moods or events, in which case the companies would consult their own libraries of produced music.

Music pre-made for film like this has been around in some fashion since “talking pictures” and television became commonplace, but the music we’ll talk about here dates mostly to the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when creating this material became a more structured practice. There were a few North American companies that began to produce library music in those decades, but it was interestingly a mostly-European industry, with major “libraries” being developed by companies in England, Germany, France, and Italy.

This music provided a unique combination of limitations and freedom for its creators: in one sense, the material has to be written in anticipation of certain kinds of mood-specific applications common in television shows and movies. And it can’t draw too much attention to itself, knowing that it’s likely to be used as background music in most situations, so it has to have a certain “generic” quality that keeps it from demanding too much of the foreground. On the other hand, when you compare the myriad potential “moods” one might write library music for to the kinds of predictable song forms, durations, and arrangements in popular music of those decades, there is actually some degree of compositional freedom afforded to library music work. Without the constraints of popular taste, composers could write music for all kinds of potential situations where something strange, chaotic, or maybe futuristic might be happening on-screen. Or one could write period music for shows set in previous eras. Some music might need to be subtle, minimalist, and atmospheric, while other needs might call for large, dramatic musical resources. In the right hands, taking this kind of open attitude to the work could lead to very interesting and unusual music, indeed!

In 60s through the 80s, most library music was still being produced and sold to video production companies on vinyl records. This changed to compact disc and now digital archives in the ensuing decades, of course. When these records were sold, they tended to be made in small numbers—the audience is video production companies and not the general public, of course. And when they were sold, the prices per record or CD were quite high, since you were ostensibly paying both for the music itself and the copyright clearance to use it in your video production without having to pay an additional fee. Because of those circumstances, library records themselves remain quite rare. When the dominant format switched from LP to CD, many of these records were simply thrown away, rather than ending up in used record stores. The simple scarcity of these contributed to a certain kind of attraction for rare record collectors.

Then there are the album covers: while many library records were issued with simple generic covers, some companies opted for unique covers for each of their products, trying to achieve visual impressions that might evoke feelings about the kinds of music found inside. These fantastic covers, many of them quite strange and psychedelic-looking on library records of the 60s and 70s, also contributed to their eventual collectability.

All things considered, vintage library records would probably have remained a very quiet phenomenon, unknown to all but the most intense record collectors who had already conquered their other areas of interest in hunting vinyl. But then came the massive wave of illegal music downloading in the Oughts: we remember those years the most for how much they shook up the big corporate players in the music industry, but it wasn’t just wildly popular, successful music being shared online. There were also lots of folks who suddenly shared kinds of music that would be almost impossible for anyone to find out in the wild via new blogs dedicated to lesser known micro-corners of the musical world: private press outsider music, NYC avant-garde “loft jazz” from the 1970s, forgotten albums from belly-up record labels around the world, small pressings of international records rarely heard outside of their native territories, and indeed, library records! By 2005, many more music enthusiasts were familiar with library music, and the first book on the subject, “The Music Library” by Jonny Trunk, appeared. That book focused primarily on the album art found among vintage library records, and had only sparse information on the origins of the material. It did have a sample CD, however, which helped to whet the appetites for even more potential listeners.

While some download blogs did a bit of historical research on these records and their composers, there still hadn’t been a more comprehensive book documenting the world of library music until recently. David Hollander’s Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music has finally filled that gap, and you can check it out for yourself at the Polley Music Library. The book is divided first by country of origin, and dives further into details about specific production companies and composers, including interviews with those involved where possible. There are all kinds of fascinating details, from the working conditions of composers who made the music, to unusual musical quirks discovered for particular kinds of on-screen musical needs. And there are plenty of photographs of wild library record covers here, too.

I think some of the music found in the “vintage library music” genre is absolutely wonderful, and in some cases, this kind of work proved to be a supplemental or alternative form of musical employment for musicians and composers who also worked in more conventional musical communities: bachelor pad composer Les Baxter, for example, also produced some library music, as did classical/electronic composer Tod Dockstader. And even well-known film composers like Ennio Morricone did a bit of library music, influencing others along the way. But in many cases, this music is far from generic: it’s full of a unique kind of anticipatory imagination, scoring films that have yet to be made.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Blood on Black Wax by Aaron Lupton and Jeff Szpirglas, Torn Music: Rejected Film Scores, a Selected History by Gergely Hubai.] [ publishers official Unusual Sounds web site ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation
edited by Maureen Johnson (YA PB (Non-Fiction) Johnson)

Living in an era in which more and more people are becoming activists in one way or another, I’ll admit this book caught my eye on one of the libraries’ “new books” displays, and I enjoyed browsing through it enough to check it out.

How I Resist is a relatively quick, easy read. Editor Maureen Johnson has assembled a collection of 29 essays, interviews, poems and/or cartoon selections, by a wide and diverse group of contributors. All take on the themes of “how to resist the status quo — how to make a difference — how to “matter” in today’s world of news churn, social media obsessions, fractured interpersonal relationships and hostile political separatism. Contributions come from writers, actors, musicians, poets, artists and people from across a wide social spectrum. Many are individuals I was not familiar with, while others are best-selling personalities like authors Rebecca Roanhorse, Libba Bray, Jennifer Weiner and Jacqueline Woodson. Each has a unique perspective, and while many offer variations on the concept of “Don’t give up — keep trying — just by trying you’re making an impact”, several of them have very precise and constructive advice on being a modern day activist.

Definitely worth sampling!

[ publisher’s official How I Resist web site ] | [ official Maureen Johnson web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


Forces in Motion: Anthony Braxton and the Meta-Reality of Creative Music
by Graham Lock (Music 781.65 Bra)

Anthony Braxton is a musician and composer whose work might not be incredibly well-known to the general public, but his work looms large over the fields of contemporary creative music and music education. Braxton is often included in the pantheon of jazz artists, and particularly the free jazz movement of the 1960s. Indeed, his early work as an improvising saxophone player was a major influence on free jazz. But in the ensuing years, his compositions often fall into what seems more like contemporary classical works, and Braxton himself often refers to his work simply as “creative music.” As Professor of Music at Wesleyan University from the 90s to 2013, he inspired and educated new generations of creative musicians, often filling his own ensembles with young East Coast musicians.

We have a recently reprinted book about Anthony Braxton here in Polley that I would highly recommend. It’s called Forces in Motion: Anthony Braxton and the Meta-Reality of Creative Music by Graham Lock. Originally published in 1988, the book follows Braxton on a tour of England in 1985, featuring a series of casual on-the-road interviews in which Braxton and Lock cover a wide range of topics. Some allusions are made to Braxton’s own “Tri-axium writings,” a body of writing in which Braxton elaborates on his on philosophies at length, though these have unfortunately remained out of print for decades. Through these conversations, one can get a good feeling for how Braxton’s music works, his musical interests, and influences on his work as a black musician straddling the line between composed and improvised worlds. After the main touring section of the book, we get three lengthy postscript sections that further explain Braxton’s thoughts on how music and societies are related, an overview of the Tri-axium writings, and some lecture notes that delve into the kinds of structural models used in his compositions. Finally, there is a catalog of Braxton’s works covering the time period between 1966 and 1986.

While the time period from 1986 to the present isn’t covered in the book–hopefully someone is working on a new book to cover his fascinating work since then–you’ll be sure to get a sense of the pure magic of Braxton’s music through these pages.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Message to our folks: The Art Ensemble of Chicago by Paul Steinbeck, The Free Musics by Jack Wright or Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music by Derek Bailey.] [ page for Forces in Motion on jazzstudiesonline.org ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest
by Teresa Marrone and Kathy Yerich (579.6 Mar)

For several years, my wife and I have had unpleasant infestations of thousands of large, ugly mushrooms under the Mountain Ash tree in our front yard, and I’ve been curious to learn more about the particular species of mushroom we’ve had to deal with. I had a found a few things online but wasn’t trusting that the information was completely accurate. So…when I saw this book on the New Books display at the downtown library, I grabbed it — hoping that it would help me identify my annual nemesis.

Not only did it quickly answer my ongoing question — the Ash Bolete (page 184), but I found numerous other mushrooms identified throughout the book, which I’ve personally seen on walks and hikes, both here in Nebraska and in the mountains of Colorado. The book opens with a section dealing with broad information about all types of mushrooms, then the majority of the book is broken down into ten mushroom categories. Each unique mushroom is given a two-page spread — the first page is a detailed description of the mushroom, and the second is photographic examples. The descriptions include things like: Habitat, physical Description, Spore Print, Season it can be found, Other Names (including the scientific identification), Compare (details distinguishing each from similar mushrooms), and miscellaneous notes.

Poisonous and/or inedible mushrooms are clearly identified — in the case of poisonous, there’s a skull&crossbones. In the case of mushrooms that are prized by cooks, there are notes to that effect.

The back of the book includes a bibliography to related resources, an extensive glossary of terminology used throughout the book, and a large index. According to the introduction, this book covers “the upper midwest”, including North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana. However, I’ve already identified at least a dozen or more mushroom species here in the Lincoln area. I may buy this one myself!.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Field Guide to Mushrooms by the National Audubon Society, Mushrooms & Other Fungi of the Midcontinental United States by D.M. Huffman, L.H. Tiffany and G. Knaphus or Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.] [ official Teresa Marrone Twitter feed ] | [ official web site of Kathy Yerich, mushroom enthusiast ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


A Place For Us
by Fatima Farheen Mirza (Mirza)

A Place For Us is a multigenerational, non-linear domestic fiction novel. Fatima Farheen Mirza creates a moving, thoughtful novel based on family life in America from the perspective of East Indian Americans. The point of view changes based on who is narrating the chapter, jumping back and forth from the present to memories of the narrating character at different ages and time frames. This religiously diverse work offers insight to the struggle of culture conflict and a sense of belonging in a post 9/11 world.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Salt Houses by Hala Alyan, Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea, or Digging to America by Anne Tyler]

This is one of the Top Ten finalists for the 2020 One Book – One Lincoln. Check out the rest of the Top Ten at this link! And vote for your favorite of the top three via our online voting form!

[ publisher’s official A Place For Us web page ] | [ official Fatima Farheen Mirza web site ]

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Recommended by Rio B.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


An Individual Note: Of Music, Sound and Electronics
by Daphne Oram (Music 786.7 Ora)

Composer Daphne Oram’s contributions to electronic music run wide and deep: she was a pioneer in working with electronic music systems, eventually developing her own “Oramics” sound-drawing machine. She petitioned the BBC to pursue electronic music as a component of their programming, leading to her becoming one of the co-founders of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. From there, the sounds of electronic music were incorporated into a wide range of video and audio programming, influencing commercial A/V production approaches up to the present day. She left the Radiophonic Workshop to run her own studio, Tower Folly, producing varieties of inventive commercial and concert music as her own boss. Her work continued to grow and evolve alongside technology throughout her career, and she became comfortable working with digital computer code-based work just as she had been fluent with tape and oscillator-based music.

Daphne Oram published a book on her musical thinking called An Individual Note in 1972. It’s a wild ride that oscillates (pardon the pun) between some technical ruminations about early electronic music architectural features like capacitors and circuits, and Oram’s own philosophical extensions of the concepts of wave forms and signal flow into other areas of human endeavor, from cognition to sociology. Her boundless creative spirit is well captured in the book, which was out of print for decades, but has recently been reprinted with a great new introduction by Sarah Angliss. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in early electronic music, the Radiophonic Workshop, and Daphne Oram’s unique work as well, so the timing is perfect to dig into this book.

Oram wastes no time thinking big: by chapter 2 in An Individual Note, she is making comparisons between the simple sine wave, the building block of electronic music, and quantum mechanics, as the sine wave is kind of an irreducible particle-wave of its own, which only becomes more harmonically sophisticated by removing information from it (removing parts of a sine wave results in “squaring” of the sine wave, or imparting odd-numbered harmonics). At times, Oram searches for a kind of metaphysical unified field theory of sorts through the physics of sound waves, which themselves of course conform to the whole family of rapidly-repeating waves of the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio and suspersonic frequencies all the way through to light itself. She looks at frequencies occurring at cellular and atomic levels, and while these may not contribute directly to writing your next song, they’re also interesting to consider as a way to organically frame electronic music. These mysterious sounds, once thought of as very strange and unnatural, are very much grounded in the laws of nature observed in other forms of music and art.

Her discussion of tape-based musical forms toward the center of the book may refer to mostly outdated equipment in our digital world today, but most of the musical concepts she’s applying to taped music work perfectly with digital music, too: modifying formants, or the front-end articulation of recorded notes, repeating and “looping” segments of sound, and filtering or modifying various timbral elements of sounds. Oram’s optimism about the future of music and its composition is positively infectious, as she envisions a world in which the role of composers could reach levels where they could simply think their most ambitious creations into existence, without the limitations of human hands playing instruments, by leveraging the technology that she and others were starting to develop in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. While at times the book veers into the territory of science fiction, written as it was on the cutting edge of technology of its time and in anticipation of ever greater technological evolution, it’s a wonderfully optimistic book, and it’s likely to change the way you listen to and think about electronic music.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Future Sounds: The Story of Electronic Music from Stockhausen to Skrillex by David Stubbs, or Living Electronic Music by Simon Emmerson.] [ An Individual Note as a PDF online ] | [Daphne Oram page on Wikipedia ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


Such a Fun Age
by Kiley Reid (Reid)

Emira Tucker is a 25-year-old African-American woman living in Philadelphia and working as a babysitter. Alex Chamberlain is a white blogger/speaker with two young children; she is Emira’s employer. Emira, dressed for going out, had been in the middle of an evening with friends when she received an urgent call from her boss. Eager to help, she came over to get Briar (a toddler) out of the house for an emergency, and took her young charge to the store. Noticing a difference in race, a shopper and security guard questioned Emira to see if she had kidnapped Briar. The novel begins with an uncomfortable situation, and raises important questions about race. Which conversations should take place? Which conversations are offensive? Social media further complicates things. White privilege and several layers of minimazation on the white supremacy pyramid are raised: tokenism, white savior complex, racial fetishism. This is a great book club book.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendon Kielyor Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.] [ official Such a Fun Age and Kiley Reid web site ]

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


Two Steps Forward
by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist (Compact Disc Simsion)

I’ve been a fan of Graeme Simsion’s writing every since reading his The Rosie Project a few years ago. He writes in several different styles, and each features engagingly quirky characters and plots.

In Two Steps Forward, Simsion has co-authored a funny, emotional story with his wife, Anne Buist. It is told in alternating chapters by two different narrative protagonists — and in the audiobook adaptation, there are two different narrators, one male and one female. Martin is an engineer from England, ending a teaching job in southern France. He’s still recovering from a bitter divorce and has a complicated relationship with his teenaged daughter. Zoe is an American, recently widowed, who has escape her life in the U.S. to visit a friend in France. Both of them separately make the decision to walk the Camino de Santiago (a.k.a. The Chemin), the centuries-old pilgrim path that starts in France and ends in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. After encountering each other negatively before their separate walks began, each begins their journey of self-discovery and physical endurance. Partway into their 6-week, they run across each other, eventually discover that they each had misassumptions about the other, and join with other “pilgrims” on various stretches of their walks.

Martin and Zoe are both compelling characters, with interesting story arcs. Simsion and Buist people the novel with an intriguing cast of supporting characters, and as both of the main characters describe the details of their Chemin walk, it comes alive for the reader. By the end of the novel, and its emotional roller-coaster of events, I found myself caring immensely for the characters and didn’t want to see their story end!

I especially highly recommend the audiobook, with its two different narrative voices — really gave the story depth.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, or The Best of Adam Sharpe, all also by Graeme Simsion — I recommend all of these as audiobook adaptaions!] [ official Book Trailer for Two Steps Forward on YouTube ] | [ official Graeme Simsion web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


Kitchens of the Great Midwest
by J. Ryan Stradal (E-book)

The main character is Eva Thorvald, daughter of foodie parents. A few chapters feature her directly, and the rest are from the perspective of others who know her. Each chapter describes characters, formative events (and foods) in her life, starting when she was a baby and following her into adulthood. The structure is unique and keeps the reader trying to make connections between characters and events. The characters themselves make it great. These are ordinary, yet often quirky people described in an entertaining way. Each character was developed well enough in a chapter that sometimes when it was time for a new narrator, I wanted more of the previous story. The overall feel of the book was lighthearted, although loss, difficulty, and sadness were mixed in throughout the characters lives in a way that felt real.

I loved this book, not just because of the good writing but because several of its themes were close to my heart: it was for foodies, with discussions of types of heirloom tomatoes, popup restaurants, hot peppers, and it even included some recipes (prize-winning peanut butter bars … I might have to actually make them). It also featured places and people of the Midwest in an ordinary and (mostly) un-caricatured way.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Lager Queen of Minnesota, also by J. Ryan Stradal.] [ official Kitchens of the Great Midwest page on the official J. Ryan Stradal web site ]

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Recommended by Laura N.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


Dot.Con: The Art of Scamming a Scammer
by James Veitch (817 Vei)

British comedian James Veitch set himself the task of actually replying, positively, to all the scam e-mails he received — Nigerian princes wishing to have help moving large sums of money out of their country, beautiful Russian women seeking companionship, desperate “friends” stuck overseas and needing a loan to be able to return home, and so many more. This book compiles the chains of e-mails back-and-forth between Veitch and several of the scammers, in which Veitch played cat-and-mouse with them, teasing that he was going to give them what they wanted, only to back out after many, many e-mails were shared and responded to.

Veitch is dryly humorous, and the shtick of leading the scammers on is initially funny, but eventually becomes something of a one-note theme. None-the-less, this volume is definitely entertaining, and provided the vicarious thrill of watching him waste enormous amounts of the time these scumbags would have otherwise spent stealing the money of those gullible enough to fall for their malarkey. A fun, light read…just don’t expect any depth from it.

[ official James Veitch web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


Born to Draw Comics: The Story of Charles Schulz and the Creation of Peanuts
by Ginger Wadsworth (j Biography Schulz)

Charming illustrated biography of author/artist Charles M. Schulz, intended for younger readers. Done is something like a “graphic novel” format, this lovely book covers the span of Sparky’s life, from his childhood in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota through his experiences in World War II and his professional life in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, California. Author/artist Ginger Wadsworth does an excellent job capturing the personality of Schulz at various ages, and peppers little visual references throughout the book that long-time Peanuts fans will enjoy looking for. It’s always fascinating to read about the inspirations for iconic literary characters, and knowing the background of some of the Peanuts characters, especially when told in an illustrated format, is great.

Definitely worth a quick read. Although Born to Draw Comics is cataloged in the libraries’ youth collection, it is equally well suited for adult readers, who may appreciate some of the subtle details that kids may not “get”.

[ official Ginger Wadsworth web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


Screening Room

formatdvdFrom Friend to Fiancé
[DVD From]

This is a typical Hallmark Channel romance movie — fluffy, lacking in any real depth, but still fun to watch. I first got hooked on the annual Christmas Movie marathons from Hallmark, and the channel’s executives soon discovered that viewers had an appetite for this type of feel-good romantic fare year-round. From Friend to Fiancé happened to air during one of their summer-themed periods. My wife got me interested in watching Ryan Paevey (a Hallmark Channel movie “regular”) a few years ago, after his long stint on General Hospital, and now I look forward to seeing any of these that feature him. In this one, Ted Cooper (Paevey) is engaged to the woman who used to be the “mean girl” in high school, and asks his childhood best friend Jessica (Jocelyn Hudon) for help in planning his wedding — a task she agrees to, only to realize she’s loved Ted for years and can’t believe she’s helping him marry someone else. It’s a simple plot, filled with typical misunderstandings and miscommunications. But the cast pulls it off with fun, gentle humor and sweetness.

Don’t go into this expected serious drama or anything — it’s just light, frothy fun!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this TV-movie ] | [ Hallmark’s official From Friend to Fiance web page ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


formatdvd

1776
[DVD 1776]

I may not have caught the premiere of the Hamilton movie on the Disney+ streaming service during the Independence Day weekend this year, but I did enjoy a Broadway musical about the Founding Fathers of the United States. That musical just happens to be 1776, a 1972 film adaptation of the 1969 Tony Award-winning musical, directed by Tony Hunt, with book and music by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards. The hit Broadway show originally ran for over 1200 performances, and many of the original cast recreated their roles for this feature film.

William Daniels (St. Elsewhere, Boy Meets World, and the voice of K.I.T.T. on Knight Rider) is the central role of John Adams, who has been trying to convince his fellow delegates to the Continental Congress in 1776 to declare independence from England. Howard Da Silva was Ben Franklin, Ken Howard (The White Shadow) was Thomas Jefferson. John Cullem, Donald Madden and Blythe Danner all contribute significant supporting performances. The story tells the events of the final few weeks of deliberations that led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in July, 1776. Being a Broadway musical, 1776‘s exposition-heavy dialog is frequently interrupted for peppy and memorable songs (and occasionally dances). Most noteworthy of those are: “Sit Down, John”, “The Lees of Old Virginia”, “He Plays the Violin”, “Cool, Considerate Men”, “The Egg”, “Molasses to Rum” and the heartbreaking “Momma, Look Sharp”. Performances across the board are marvelous. The vast majority of the story is set in the chamber where the Congress is convening, but a few other set pieces provide some variety. 1776 provides a terrific look at a significant period in U.S. history. My only two complaints are that there are only two roles for women in the entire production — Abigail Adams and Martha Jefferson. And the pacing is a bit slow at times, leading to a run time of just over 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Still, this musical film is both highly entertaining and educational. I strongly recommend it…whether or not you’ve seen Hamilton! (Note: A 2021 Broadway revival was planned for this musical — it’s uncertain, in light of all the COVID-19-related cancellations, whether it will still happen or not!)

[Also available: Vocal Selections From 1776.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official 1776 web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


formatdvdYellowstone: Season 1
[DVD Yellowstone]

John Dutton and his family own a large ranch in Montana. This series revolves around the challenges of owning the ranch while simultaneously trying to keep people from encroaching on their land. Season one involves things like land developers trying to steal their land to make it a national park, differences of opinion with the tribal police, integrating new cowboys, and dealing with local politicians, all while trying to keep family secrets hidden. The series is well-cast, and adds some humor in when needed but it’s mostly drama. It’s really interesting because you get to see things from their family’s viewpoint, their hired hands’ viewpoint, and the outsiders’ viewpoint.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hell on Wheels, The Son, Longmire or any other western series on DVD.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ the Paramount network’s official Yellowstone web page ]

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Recommended by Carrie R.
Bennett Martin Public Library – Public Service


last updated July 2020
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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