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Staff Recommendations – April 2021

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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

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April 2021 Recommendations

The Seven Year Itch: A Romantic Comedy
by George Axelrod (812 Ax2s)

I’ve been a fan of the movie The Seven Year Itch, directed by Billy Wilder and starring the iconic Marilyn Monroe, for many years, and knew that the movie was based on a hit play from the 1950s, but only got around the reading it recently. The play was written by George Axelrod, who also wrote the play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, and the screenplays of film hits Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Manchurian Candidate (among many others). The play premiered in 1952, starring Tom Ewell as Richard Sherman, a role he also essayed in the 1955 Monroe film. At the time of its premiere, The Seven Year Itch was considered quite controversial — dealing frankly with sexuality and adultery in ways that had previously only been hinted at on the stage, at least in comedies. By the standards of today’s culture, it actually seems rather quaint.

Richard Sherman is a publishing executive going through a mid-life crisis. When his wife and child head to their summer vacation home,, Richard is forced to confront his life and apparent inadequacies in a series of talking-to-himself monologues. Then, the beautiful young woman living in the apartment above his drops a plant off her balcony onto his, nearly killing him — and beginning a quirky relationship between the two. In the 1955 film, their relationship never really goes beyond the fantasy stage, but in this 1952 play, Sherman actually does have an affair with “The Girl”, leading to more soul searching and self-justification on Sherman’s part — but “The Girl” just feels sexually liberated — a rather “out there” attitude for the early 1950s.

Well-written, but definitely a product of its time. It’s still a fabulous play, and is NOT about a predatory male, but rather about an empowered and self-assured young woman who has no problem going after what she wants! Just don’t expect the same outcome as Marilyn’s film — this is definitely a different show!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the film The Seven Year Itch by Billy Wilder.] [ Wikipedia page for the play The Seven Year Itch ] | [ Wikipedia page for George Axelrod ]

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


The Peanuts Book: A Visual History of the Iconic Comic Strip
by Simon Beecroft (741.524 SchYb)

As a lifelong fan of the comic strip called “Peanuts” by Charles Schulz, I was thrilled to see a brand-new book out about the long-running comic and its creator. The Peanuts Book is large, colorful, and jam-packed with information about each character, the creation of the strip, and the man who made it all happen. The book features a chronology of events and a superb index to help you find the information you seek. I was especially impressed with all of the photographs included from the life of Charles Schulz as well as photographs of Peanuts toys and memorabilia to be found commercially. There are tributes to Peanuts from several famous comic artists and examples of art that had been inspired by the characters drawn by Schulz. The best part, of course, is the inclusion of samples of comics from the nearly 50 years of its running. I highly recommend this book for any Peanuts fan!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Around the World in 45 Years: Charlie Brown’s Anniversary Celebration by Charles M. Schulz, Born to Draw Comics: The Story of Charles Schulz and the Creation of Peanuts by Ginger Wadsworth or Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis.] [ publisher’s official The Peanuts Book web site ] | [ official Charles M. Schulz Museum web site ]

 

See Becky W.C.’s review of Charles M. Schulz’ Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life in the July 2006 Staff Recommendations on BookGuide

See Scott C.’s review of David Michaelis’ biography Schulz and Peanuts in the April 2008 Staff Recommendations on BookGuide

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss
by Rose Levy Beranbaum (641.862 Ber)

After 50 years being known as a baking master, and author of such books as The Cake Bible, The Bread Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum has finally created a cookbook celebrating her own favorite type of sweet dessert — ice cream! Her opening 30 pages include her basic techniques, her base recipes (that most of the rest of the book builds upon), and her advice about the types of equipment she and others use to make ice cream.

Then, the rest of this relatively small book is recipes, recipes, recipes. Beranbaum breaks them down into categories: Flavorful Ice Creams; Berry, Fruit, and Vegetable Ice Creams; Chocolate and Nut Ice Creams; Toppings, Adornments, and Add-Ins for Ice Cream; and Ice Cream Socials (how ice creams can be paired up — cones, and other ice-cream partners). The recipes in each section range from classic simple flavors (vanilla, strawberry, chocolate), to quite exotic and challenging (Bust My Bourbon Balls Ice Cream, Candy Cane Peppermint Ice Cream, Dark Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Black Pepper, Royal Velvet Lavender Ice Cream, Pear Ice Cream, Ginger Ice Cream, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream, Silken Black Sesame Ice Cream, True Coconut Ice Cream, and so many more).

Beranbaum’s instructions are easy to understand, though occasionally complicated. The illustrative photos by Matthew Septimus are beautiful and make your mouth water, but unfortunately only about 1/4 of the reviews include photos of the finished product. None-the-less, this is a marvelous cookbook, and I strongly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of both ice cream and Beranbaum’s past books!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Cake Bible, The Bread Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible, all also by Beranbaum.] [ Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss page on the official Real Baking With Rose web site ]

See Kim J.’s review of Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Cake Bible in the February 2005 Staff Recommendations on BookGuide!

See Scott C.’s review of Jeni Britton Bauer’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home in the November 2011 Staff Recommendations on BookGuide!

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


Silence (50th Anniversary Edition with new Foreward by Kyle Gann)
by John Cage (Music 780.078 Cag)

Woodstock and hippies and much of “modern culture,” the shifts in art and in society that set the stage for the popular culture of today, have been celebrating 50th birthday milestones over the last few years. This applies in classical Art Music or New Music circles, too, in which books about “modern music” usually address a timeframe demarcated at post-1945 or post-1965. Of all of the New Music figures who rose to fame in the heyday of the 1960s, John Cage is likely the most familiar to folks outside of the classical music tradition, and he remains as polarizing a figure to people today as he was over 60 years ago.

There are two peaks in Cage’s career: the first occurred in August of 1952, surrounding the composition and premiere performance of his 4’ 33’’ silent piece. While he wasn’t the first to compose a silent or near-silent musical composition, early performances were met with some controversy—and that continuity with Woodstock comes up here, because the debut performance was by pianist David Tudor at the rural, barnlike Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock.

Cage was busy with his gentle, quiet brand of innovation in 1952. Back at Black Mountain College in Asheville, NC, he staged his “Theatre Piece #1,” often regarded as the first “happening,” or contemporary multimedia event, which influenced both the “Acid Test” parties of the 60s, 90s rave culture, and multimedia approaches within academia over the decades. His public image grew slowly throughout the 1950s, as he focused on music involving chance operations, working as a teacher and lecturer and staging performances around the world.

However, the second and largest peak in Cage’s public persona came with the publication of “Silence” in 1961. A collection of his lectures and essays, “Silence” was anything but silent as it made the rounds among composers and the general public. Since its publication, it has sold around half a million copies, making it easily one of the most widely-circulated books by a modern composer. While the contents of the book date back as far as 1939, Cage’s lectures from earlier decades reveal a focus on Zen principles, rather than talking about the particulars of his periods of composition for percussion, piano, and prepared piano. Where he does get more technical about compositional approaches is to shed light on the application of Eastern philosophies to music, particularly Zen notions of silence and emptiness, and the use of the I Ching to introduce indeterminate elements into an outer framework of predetermined (composed) architecture.

While 4’ 33’’ is scarcely mentioned in the book (and only then as “my silent piece”), the title of the book itself manages to both acknowledge the work, and allude to broader Zen-connected philosophical concerns. In its way, 4’ 33’’ is the perfect illustration of Cage’s methods of using the I Ching mentioned above: the “composed architecture” of the piece is the prescribed lengths comprising its timeline, and the indeterminate elements dropped into its framework are left to those randomly occurring in the space of its performance. This also exemplifies Cage’s rather strict definition of “experimental action” as defined in the book: “an action the outcome of which is not foreseen” (p. 69). The word “experimental” is often controversial among modern composers who disagree with the appraisal of their own carefully considered work as such, but Cage’s definition gives us more nuance: one can compose thoughtfully and implement strategic forms of indeterminacy.

Perhaps the best part about “Silence,” though, is poetry. This is a book with lots to offer people who may know (or even care!) little about modern “experimental” or avant-garde music. While the titles of Cage’s lectures sometimes sound like a Seinfeld episode (“Lecture on Nothing,” for example), his gentle, playful writing style points to the joys one can find by simply paying closer attention to natural surroundings, a way of listening to and simply being with the sounds happening all around us. In its way, Cage’s philosophy can be applied to the practice of listening to music and sound as much as the discipline of composition, a practice not far removed from what composer Pauline Oliveros has referred to as Deep Listening. Even if abstract music and conceptual art aren’t your thing, the act of appreciating sounds for what they are, right in the moment, can be an illuminating way to interact with all kinds of music, whether you’re on the stage or in the audience. While we have a few other books about Cage in Polley Music Library, nothing quite matches interacting with these ideas in his own soft prose.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice by Pauline Oliveras, No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’ 33’’ by Kyle Gann or For the Birds by John Cage.] [ Wikipedia page for John Cage ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Polley Music Library


Olive, Mabel & Me: Life and Adventures With Two Very Good Dogs
by Andrew Cotter (Biography Cotter)

Author Andrew Cotter is a sportscaster by trade. Starting in March 2020, he had very little to do because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. His first video snippet of his labrador retrievers, Olive and Mabel, went viral as people laughed about his commentary during their dinner. This is the book that describes the author’s love of his two dogs, his passion for hiking/climbing mountains with his dogs, and how his family made it through the year of shutdowns. His humor often made me laugh aloud.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Marley & Me by John Grogan, or How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain by Gregory Berns.] [ official Olive, Mabel & Me web site ] | [ official Andrew Cotter web site ]

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


Sabrina & Corina: Stories
by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Fajardo-Anstine)

The short stories here are tender and also impenetrable. Do not try to make friends with the women in these stories. These are the difficult women that Roxane Gay warned us about. Although we can read about the soft sides of the characters here, it is painful to do so as the vulnerability laid bare here could carve mountains. I cannot do this work justice, I can only say that the women here are women you know. Denver and the surrounding areas also play a major role in the stories here. This book gave me great appreciation for the region that I previously knew little about.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Difficult Women by Roxane Gay, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, There There by Tommy Orange, or Men We Reap by Jesmyn Ward.] [ official Kali Fajardo-Anstine web site ]

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


How to Know the Birds
by Ted Floyd (598.072 Flo)

As a relative newcomer to birdwatching, I appreciated the unusual format of this guide on how to identify the birds, as each of the 200 entries is a one-page set-piece built around a particular species of bird that, yes, does indeed identify the formal characteristics of the avian in question, but also uses said bird as a departure point to discuss larger issues of bird behavior, the science of ornithology, and the ecological impact humans have on the world that we share with our wild feathered friends.

Reading the book brought new levels of context to my birdwatching, I noticed, even though thoroughly understanding how seasonal molt variation and species hybridization affects positive IDs will continue to be out of reach (that’s expert level stuff).

How to Know the Birds does not replace standard ID indexes such as the Sibley and Peterson field guides but expands upon them in clear language, touching on whatever main points author and birding expert Ted Floyd thinks are important to mention, thus potentially saving the reader from spending many hours poring over multiple scientific texts. Naturalistic pencil sketches of the species in their environment augment the book’s holistic approach.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Sibley or Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America by Roger Tory Peterson.] [ publisher’s official How to Know the Birds web page ] | [ Ted Floyd’s official American Birding Podcast ]

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Recommended by Eric S.
Walt Branch Library


Winterhouse
by Ben Guterson (j Guterson)

If you are looking for a cozy, classic kids’ mystery with a twist of magic, you have found it.

Orphan? Check. Living with despicable relatives? Check. Mysteriously invited to spend Christmas at a magnificent hotel resort? Check. Huge multi-story library with almost-magical paintings? Check. Little dab of untapped magic abilities? Check check. Huge mystery that’s solution could save the world from evil? Big old check check.

Yep. Winterhouse, an Edgar Award finalist and an Agatha Award finalist, has all the key components to make it a winner. It’s kind of Harry Potter meets Nancy Drew. Our eleven-year-old heroine, Elizabeth Somers, finds herself at a splendid resort hotel for Christmas. As the holiday approaches, she discovers pieces of a mystery that she feels compelled to solve. The current hotel owner, Norbridge Falls, is a grandson of the hotel’s creator, Nestor Falls. Nestor built the lakeside hotel at the foot of mountains for families to take something positive away when they return to their everyday lives. But is the hotel good, or bad? Elizabeth gets a feeling that the portraits in the library point to a mystery with big consequences. Why do almost all the females in the Falls family live to the age of 100–except for the current owner’s wife, child, and sister? Why does the quirky book, “A Guide For Children” seem to reach out to her? Why do unexplained things happen when a certain feeling comes over Elizabeth? Why does a sinister couple watch her? And what is the meaning of the puzzle message on the book in the Falls family portrait? Can Elizabeth solve the mystery, find the key, and save the world from an evil femme fatale?

Winterhouse grabbed me from the first chapter and I found myself wanting to get to the end of the mystery, but yet not wanting the story to finish. Fortunately for me, Winterhouse is now the first in the Winterhouse series by Ben Guterson. The Secrets of Winterhouse and The Winterhouse Mysteries continue the tale of magic and mystery in the world of the grand Winterhouse hotel.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser.] [ official Winterhouse series page on the official Ben Guterson web site ]

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Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Double Lives in Art and Pop Music
by Jorg Heiser (Music 781.66 Hei)

As its title suggests, this book explores musicians who have also worked in the field of art, or whose musical practices sometimes expand into broader worlds. I suppose we should define some terms up front to fully understand where this book is coming from: of course music is a form of art, but generally when Heiser refers to “art” in the context of his book, he is talking about non-musical forms of art: painting, performance art, film or video work, installation art, and those kinds of activities. And there’s another phrase that comes up a lot in the book, which is “context switching,” around which revolves the crux of his observations. Here’s his definition of context switching: “This denotes the movement of a cultural producer from one art form to another—considered, crucially, in connection with associated markets, milieus, media technologies, and institutions (their contexts), which includes the social factors that shaped the art forms in the first place.”

So ultimately we’re looking at how artists choose to move between artistic disciplines, and the unique approaches they take when doing so—some find lots of connections between such practices, while others maintain fairly separate worlds of work. Some move back and forth between disciplines regularly or are constantly working in both areas, while others go through long stretches of focus in one area or the other. I think that in many ways, the interest behind undertaking this analysis lies in the notion that we’re looking at practices that are likely reaching their final eras of remaining so discrete in terms of context. That is, the dividing lines between art media are increasingly blurred, as are the dividing lines between so-called “high” and “low” art forms, or arts made for academic or institutional audiences versus the general public. In the hyperlinked internet age, so much work in creative disciplines happens across all kinds of old lines dividing types of media, and the consumption of the arts has become less ordered, or at least less concerned with the old kinds of order that we looked at like historical chronology or geography. Heiser looks at multidisciplinary artist/musicians from roughly the 1960s to the 2010s, the modern golden age of multidisciplinary practices, and perhaps as we go forward within increasingly ahistorical and blended times, we can pick up valuable ideas from the working habits of these artists.

Throughout the book, there is a secondary theme at play, which has to do with the worldview under which these artist/musicians operate, broadly divided into “utopian” and “dystopian” approaches. Heiser sees these opposites as a framework through which to view sociopolitical contexts related to various artist/musicians’ practices: some are working in places or eras of social and/or political upheaval, while others are working in more peaceful times and places. These differences inform their work, of course, but sometimes it appears that they may also influence how or even why they jump between artistic disciplines.

The first sections of the book deal with well-known artists and musicians that help to establish what Heiser is looking for. Starting with Andy Warhol and his involvement with the Velvet Underground, we see how the Warhol’s Factory scene moved between the worlds of art and pop music, with Warhol of course getting lots of attention from Fine Art critics and art dealers and collectors, while the Velvet Underground became a very influential pop act. Then we get to explore the artistic interactions between Yoko Ono and John Lennon, who influenced one another from their diverse backgrounds, Ono coming out of the Fluxus art movement and Lennon of course being a working-class musician. After that, the book explores artists like Brain Eno, Laurie Anderson, and some relatively lesser-known but very interesting artists who also work with music.

It doesn’t seem that “Double Lives in Art and Pop Music” comes to any specific consensus about the behavior of multidisciplinary artists as a whole, and that’s to be expected. It is interesting to look at their work through various trends and polarities, though, from the utopia/dystopia opposites mentioned before, to social and political upheaval, to more practical issues like fluctuations in the economic realities of different disciplines. Heiser observes, for example, that the art world was going through rough times in the 1990s while pop music flourished, and that by the late Oughts and early 2010s, it was music that was struggling economically under the changing conditions of illegal downloading, while the market for fine arts was exploding. There are probably as many reasons for switching between disciplines as there are artist/musicians who do so, and it’s fun to read about what brings them together, as well as their unique paths.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Art of Noise: Destruction of Music by Futurist Machines by Ferrucio Bersoni, American Art Song and American Poetry by Ruth Friedberg or The Music of Dada: A Lesson in Intermediality For Our Times by Peter Dayan.] [ publisher’s official Double Lives in Art and Pop Music web page ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Polley Music Library


Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
by Peter Hill (Music 784.18 Str)

Spring has sprung, and I often think of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” around this time of year. Just as spring is a time for new growth, Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” seems in retrospect to be a signpost in music history, heralding the age of Modernism for the concert-going public. And like a spring storm, things got off to a rough start: there was a bit of a riot at the debut performance of the piece.

To be fair, Schoenberg and his circle beat Stravinsky to the concert-as-riot routine by a few months. The now-infamous “Skandalkonzert” took place in Vienna on March 31, 1913, featuring performances of pieces by Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, and Zemlinsky. Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder” was also on the bill, but fights broke out within the audience during the performance of Berg’s “Five Orchestral Songs,” and the show ended prematurely. The Berg pieces weren’t performed again publicly until 1952, incredibly enough.

But the riot at the debut of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913 developed a legendary reputation all its own. This was his third ballet commission, following The Firebird and Petroushka, and it’s likely that the audience was just as taken aback by Nijinsky’s choreography for the dancers as they were by the unique modern sounds of the music. There was laughter and shouting coming from the audience throughout the first performance. Some accounts of this performance have been embellished over time, and perhaps led certain expectations at avant-garde performances of the era. I immediately think of the Dada artists during their formative period, working out of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Dada (anti-) founder Tristan Tzara pushed a large audience of around 1000 to their limits in April of 1919, purposely antagonizing them toward rioting and destruction, which Tzara considered a smashing success, pardon the pun, as it transformed the audience from being mere onlookers to being active participants.

The legend around the debut performance of the Rite of Spring still looms large, but the real story of the piece is one of adoration. Even most folks at the time of the piece’s debut felt this way: it’s not as widely discussed, but there were five more performances of the work in its first month, and the rest were very well received. No riots on those nights. And it’s gone on to be a much beloved piece, sometimes referred to as the most loved or at least most well-known piece of 20th Century classical music.

Here in Polley, we have a book called “Stravinsky: the rite of spring” by Peter Hill, and it’s a great introduction to the piece from conception to its place in modern concert and recording repertoire today. This is a book that you’ll get maximum benefit from if you read music, but there’s still lots of useful and fascinating information for those who don’t. For example, one of the early chapters is called “Sketches,” and explores the handwritten sketches Stravinsky made toward the Rite of Spring between 1911 and 1913. There’s some great musical analysis here of how the piece gradually took shape from the dated sketches, but you can follow a lot of this by simply reading and listening, as Hill makes references to familiar parts of the final version. This is followed by a chapter on the earliest performances of the piece and reactions to it, including informal performances at the piano by Stravinsky, again at the piano in a 4-hand reduction played by Stravinsky and Debussy, at the rehearsals with the orchestra, the dress rehearsal, and that fabled first public performance itself.

Following chapters delve further into analyzing the structures and themes of the final piece, followed by a very cool section that highlights historical commentaries made about the Rite by various composers, musicians and critics. Here we find that the piece has been generally well received despite its difficulties, with comments ranging from around the time of its debut all the way to recollections from the late 1970s.

Final sections of the book cover the topics of how Stravinsky and Nijinsky collaborated on the choreography—or perhaps more to the point, how they didn’t, and how Stravinsky had some reservations about the initial staging of the piece—followed by some thoughtful comparisons between notable commercial recordings. Hill points out that The Rite of Spring happened to debut the same year as the first complete recording of a major symphony was made (Beethoven’s 5th), so it’s grown up alongside the recording industry. As one of the most frequently recorded pieces by orchestras wanting to strut their virtuosic stuff, there are lots of interesting tempo variations among respected recordings of the Rite—even those conducted by Stravinsky himself. Hill breaks down many of these differences, how they change the character and feel of the piece, and at times how Stravinsky himself reflected on the recordings.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Stravinsky: A Creative Spring: Russia and France, 1882-1934 and Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934-1971 both by Stephen Walsh.] [ publisher’s official Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring web page ] | [ official Peter Hill web site ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Polley Music Library


I am Smart, I am Blessed, I Can Do Anything
by Alissa Holder (jP Holder)

This sweet picture book by Allissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young teaches readers that being positive in your thoughts, words, and actions can make a day go from good to bad.

Little Ayaan is feeling unsure of himself. He has worries, like that he isn’t smart and won’t know the answers at school. He doesn’t think it will be a good day. However, his mom reminds him of the positive things he should remember when he feels unsure: “I am smart, I am blessed, and I can do anything.” And armed with his positive mindset he is ready to walk into his class and tackle the day.
The lesson in this book is a wonderful reminder for all of us, ages 2 to 102. Whenever worries and self-doubt are nagging, using the power of our own words can help us do anything we put our mind to.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try I Promise by LeBron James or I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes.] [ publisher’s official I am Smart, I am Blessed, I Can Do Anything web site ]

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Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Save Me From Dangerous Men
by S.A. Lelchuk (Lelchuk)

Nikki Griffin has a mysterious history, she owns a bookstore, but has a night job as well. She’s a P.I. and often hired by women to investigate their husbands or boyfriends and possible hurt them. Nikki doesn’t like abusers and she makes sure to let them know. This is a pretty violent mystery, almost a thriller, but it’s well worth it to see the bad guys get what they deserve. When Nikki is offered $20,000 to follow a woman who has been accused of corporate espionage, she discovers there is more to the story than what she’s been told. Always fighting for the underdog leads her into trouble with far more than just an abusive boyfriend.

I really liked the descriptions and the characters. I enjoyed the mystery, though I was pretty sure who was the mastermind behind it all. This is a male author writing a female character and often there are mistakes made. I found the few flaws weren’t deal breakers. It’s a fast paced read and I can’t wait to read the next book.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Sara Paretsky, Lisa Lutz or Sophie Littlefield.] [ Save Me From Dangerous Men page on the official S.A. Lelchuk web site ]

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Recommended by Marcy G.
South Branch Library


Winter’s Orbit
by Everina Maxwell (Maxwell)

Winter’s Orbit is a standalone, slow-burn, arranged marriage romance set amid interplanetary intrigue. It opens with Prince Kiem being informed by the Emperor that he’s going to be marrying Count Jainan the next day to preserve a treaty. No, they haven’t officially even met. And Jainan’s partner died only weeks ago in a shuttle crash that *might* not have been an accident.

Kiem is a good-hearted, socially adept young man with a reputation for reckless behavior, though he’s been turning that around into a great deal of charity work lately. Jainan is a reserved Engineer and amateur martial artist who comes from a vassal planet. They both almost immediately develop a huge crush on the other fellow, but hide it when they think the other isn’t interested. Meanwhile, there’s trouble with the treaty due to all kinds of shady happenings that may be extremely close to home.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fun, thrilling, sensitively told story about finding a healthy relationship and confidence in one’s own strengths.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi, A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine or Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.] [ official Everina Maxwell web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Guantanamo Voices: True Accounts From the World’s Most Imfamous Prison
by Sarah Mirk (741.5 Mir)

If you have a short amount of time to learn U.S. history of Guantanamo Bay, Guantanamo Voices is a solid primer. Most of the comics collected here focus on the time we spent detaining, torturing, and interrogating people after 9/11. There is a brief introduction about when we started using the land, as well as a few details about Cuba trying to encourage us to leave. I would definitely recommend this to high school students and millennials alike. It is a quick read for the many of us who so quickly forget our history or were never properly taught it in the first place. Because the prison is not yet closed, it has reminded me to pay closer attention to the items in the news, even if they feel distant. Some of the interviews of former military involved with the base have reminded me that there are always ways we can try to counteract atrocities being done in our names.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld, Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.] [ Guantanamo Voices page on the official Sarah Mirk web site ]

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


hooplaJagged Little Pill: Original Broadway Cast Recording
based on music by Alanis Morissette (Hoopla Digital Music)

This 2019 Broadway musical makes extensive use of the songs of Alanis Morissette that appeared on her third studio album, Jagged Little Pill in 1995 (as well as other Morissette music). The musical credits the music to Morissette and Glen Ballard, with book by Diablo Cody, and additional music by Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth. Morissette wrote two new songs specifically for the musical, “Smiling” and “Predator”, the former of which has subsequently been included on one of her albums.

The music all serves as a framing sequence for a story about a family going through some complicated times. Mary Jane “MJ” Healy is a mother, trying to hold her family together, despite the fact that it’s falling apart. Her husband is addicted to pornography, her teenaged daughter Frankie is trying to figure out what her sexual identity is, her “perfect” son Nick can’t live up to his reputation, and MJ herself is addicted to painkillers following a car accident. Iconic Morissette songs, like “All I Really Want”, “Hand in My Pocket”, “Forgiven”, “Hand Over Feet”, “You Oughta Know” and “Uninvited” take on multiple new meanings as sung by these characters, who are trying to find their way through a painful world to some pockets of happiness.

Honestly, though I do love Morissette’s original album, the performances and interpretations of these iconic songs by the various cast members of this show have almost more emotional power than the original recordings. Morissette was closely involved in the transition of her work onto the Broadway stage, and is said to be very pleased with how the show turned out. Sadly, the show made its Broadway opening in December 2019, and was one of the many shows to have been shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic — whether the original cast will return to recreate the show once the pandemic is done is unknown. Jagged Little Pill did receive 15 Tony Award nominations, and this album won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The libraries have it available as a digital album through Hoopla, though not as a CD.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the original Jagged Little Pill album by Morissette, or the sheet music from the Broadway musical by Alanis Morissette, available in the Polley Music Library.] [ official Alanis Morissette web site ] | [ official Jagged Little Pill Musical web site ]

See Jeremiah J.’s review of Alanis Morissette’s original Jagged Little Pill album in the July 2013 Staff Recommendations on BookGuide!

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


Simple Fruit: Seasonal Recipes for Baking, Poaching, Sautéing, and Roasting
by Laurie Pfalzer (641.634 Pfa)

One of the most impressive, and constantly evolving portions of the library collection is our culinary/cookbook section (the 640s in general). Especially at the downtown library, nearly every day you’ll find new cookbooks featured on the “New Books” displays, and this is one that caught my eye recently.

This is Seattle pastry chef Laurie Pfalzer’s first cookbook, and it’s a winner. She chooses to focus on fruits (often, but not always, in combination with pastry), and features recipes that emphasize the natural strengths of each fruit, rather than heavy seasonings that might cover the fruit’s own flavors. There are 49 recipes (with some sidebar/related recipes connected to the main entries), broken into the four calendar seasons — each showcases fruits at their prime in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Beautiful food photos by Charity Burggraaf accompany the recipes — sometimes just images of the fruits involved, but often showing the finished dishes.

My mouth watered as I browsed the contents of the book, and I’ve earmarked a few recipes to consider trying myself — unlike many cookbooks which make elaborate and elegant desserts seem beyond the everyday chef, Pfalzer has selected recipes for this book that seem like even a weekend cook would be successful in attempting them. A section at the front of the book itemizes both standard ingredients and basic preparation equipment — most of which would be easily accessible to home cooks. Recipes that stood out for me included: “Rhubarb Fool”, “Strawberry Pavlova”, “Blueberry Cinnamon Crepes”, “Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Blackberries and Basil”, “Peach Mousse”, “Roasted Peach Bread Pudding (with Ginger Creme Anglaise)”, “Rosemary Apples in Crepes with Rum Caramel Sauce”, “Pear and Fig Pie”, “Maple and Pear Panna Cotta”, “Meyer Lemon Buttermilk Sherbet”, and “Orange, Rosemary and Hazelnut Brittle”.

This would be a marvelous cookbook to read through if you are a fan of desserts, of fruits, or of simple recipes.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Peach Truck Cookbook by Jessica Rose.] [ publisher’s official Simple Fruit web page ] | [ official Laurie Pfalzer Instagram feed ]

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


The Hero Two Doors Down
by Sharon Robinson (j Robinson)

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to be a fan of this book. And by the end of the book you are likely to be a Jackie Robinson fan if you weren’t already. Penned by Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, it is the mostly true story of her father’s friendship with a young boy and his family in 1948.

The book grabs you from the prologue. The father of our main character, Steve Satlow, unexpectedly passes away when Steve is 20, leaving Steve a letter and a box of his memories. One of the most important items being a ticket to the Brooklyn Dodger’s 1948 season opener.

And so the story jumps to 1948, when Jackie Robinson moves into a mostly Jewish neighborhood at the start of the baseball season. While the Jewish neighborhood at first has mixed emotions about a black family moving in, then eight-year-old Steve discovers who is moving in and impatiently watches to catch a glimpse of his baseball hero.

The story then details how a friendship develops between Steve’s family and the Jackie Robinson family. Steve, often in trouble at school, learns a great deal from Robinson and his family about patience and courage. As Steve learns how to deal with adversity, he decides he wants to help others, leading an effort at his school to donate to refugee children through UNICEF. Eventually it inspires Steve to become a doctor and continue helping people throughout his life. We also learn that the close friendship between the families endures throughout the rest of their lives.

Although Sharon Robinson was born in 1950, she depicts a wonderful story of a troubled boy finding patience and what it is to overcome hardships through a story she has been told over the years. As Sharon Robinson says in her afterword: “during these troubling times of global, racial, cultural, and religious unrest, I decided that this classic story of friendship and unity needed to be shared with the next generation of readers.”

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Child of the Dream, A Memoir of 1963 or Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson, both also by Sharon Robinson.] [ The Hero Two Doors Down page on the official Sharon Robinson web site ]

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Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Just Like That
by Gary Schmidt (j Schmidt)

The cover art doesn’t do justice to Just Like That. It’s funny. It’s serious. It’s suspenseful. It’s a little of everything you might want in a middle-school drama.

Just Like That takes place in the late 60s, when young people are questioning the norm and attempting to bring about change during the Vietnam War.

The happy part of Meryl Lee Kowalski’s life has been taken from her. Her best friend is in a car accident and he dies before she can get to the hospital to say goodbye. And then she starts to sense The Blank: a dizzying white hole in her life that sometimes is so overwhelming she feels as if she will fall in and not find her way back out. To give her a change of scenery for her eighth grade year, her parents ship her off to a Maine boarding school, the prestigious St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy for Girls in 1968.

There Meryl encounters new challenges: fitting in, learning taste and discernment, and surviving field hockey. St. Elene’s caters to the wealthy and elite, and Meryl witnesses a good deal of classism and snobbery from classmates, as well as teachers. Take, for example, her literature class. Meryl is tasked with finding a literary classic. She wishes to read the Wizard of Oz, but her teacher is skeptical it is worthy. Teacher Connolly scathingly tells her, “You have not made a good beginning, developing taste and discernment through reading L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. You may try, but I would advise you to consider the plight of the Scarecrow.”

Thankfully Meryl finds unlikely allies at her new school. First is Headmistress Nora MacKnockater. She challenges Meryl to discover what she will be accomplished in, helping her grow and combat The Blank. Another ally is Matt Coffin. It’s hard to tell if he is 13 or 14. Matt manages an existence, hiding away from society and living on his own in an old lobster shack. He attempts to evade everyone. At least he intends to, until he is befriended and taken in by Headmistress MacKnockater. But it is a fragile friendship. In the past his friendships have caused those he cares about to be stabbed, beaten almost to death, and had their business blown up. Therefore, he must continue to evade trouble so the past that’s bent to find him won’t be the end of him.

By the close of the book, both Meryl and Matt are able to face their challenges, aided by their new friends and allies. In fact, they change St. Elene’s and their lives for the better. I found Just Like That to be a rewarding read, teaching that silence is not always golden and there is power in redemption.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Sea in Winter by Christine Day, or In a Flash by Donna Jo Napoli.] [ publisher’s official Just Like That web page] | [ publisher’s official Gary Schmidt web site ]

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Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge
by Ray Anthony Shepard (j Biography Judge)

Runaway by Ray Anthony Shepard is the story of Ona Judge, an African American woman who was enslaved to President George Washington, the most powerful man in the United States, and his wife Martha. Although Ona resides in a house where history is being made, the founding of American freedom, it is a freedom that didn’t include her.

Told in poetic form, the book depicts Ona’s life from Mount Vernon to Philadelphia and successful escape from the Washington’s in 1796.

Although it is considered a biography, each paragraph or page ends with a rhetorical question, such as “Why you run Ona Judge?” The author says he choose this style because people have questioned why Ona, or Oney as she was called by the Washington’s, would want to leave a life of luxury. Ona visited the best houses, rode in a first-class carriage, and had her own room. She was not required to work in the fields or perform hard labor. However, the verses and pictures depict that in spite of the extravagance she was exposed to, she was taken from her family and moved to Philadelphia without her consent–ultimately viewed as a “pet,” a “darling” slave that was handed down from one generation to the next. Her life was not her own. The author notes “during slavery—and even now—people questioned why an enslaved person in such a fine home would want to leave. But slavery is slavery, whether it takes place in a field or the President’s House.”

We learn that Ona runs and is hidden away until a white sea captain ferries her to New Hampshire. There she has a new life where she will not be enslaved, but will always live as a fugitive. Eventually we learn that Ona marries and has three children.

Runaway is the first picture book by former Nebraskan Ray Anthony Shepard, a historian and former educator. So not only is it available from Lincoln City Library, it is also kept in the Nebraska Heritage room at Bennett Martin Public Library. I found it to be an excellent picture book with beautiful illustrations by Keith Mallett that tells a hard truth about the founding of our country.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, or Eyes That Kiss in the Corner by Joanna Ho.] [ Runaway page on the official Ray Anthony Shepard web site ]

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Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


hooplaLady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History
by Tori Telfer (Hoopla Downloadable Audio)

True crime fans! This book dedicates each chapter to a different female murderer, from a giggling granny to the Blood Countess (purportedly the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula). The author takes a look at why women who murder are forgotten/overshadowed by their male counterparts (think Jack the Ripper, Jeffery Dahmer, The Zodiac Killer). Part feminist agenda, part gory history, this book was an interesting listen while I knit!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry, The Trial of Lizzie Borden: a True Story by Cara Robertson, Hell’s Princess: the Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men by Harold Schechter, or Rampage by Lee Mellor.] [ official Tori Telfer web site ]

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


The Memory Theater
by Karin Tidbeck (Tidbeck)

The Memory Theater opens on two children living in a twilight paradise called the Gardens where stately lords and ladies dance, play croquet, and hunt the older children for their feasts. It reminded me of stepping into a Maxfield Parrish painting combined with the bloodier end of fairy tales.

Several characters leave the Garden, striking out into the world — or rather worlds — on desperate quests. If you like stories that combine wildly imaginative fantasy worlds with realistic historical fiction from our own world, this may be an “over the hills and far away” adventure for you. The prose frequently borders on lyrical without being syrupy and there are plenty of small moments that made me appreciate the author’s thoughtfulness. I will be seeking out more of their books soon.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, or The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Sunsany.] [ The Memory Theater page on the official Karin Tidbeck web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


Screening Room

formatdvdAugust: Osage County
(DVD August / 812 Let)

This 2013 film is adapted by Tracy Letts from his own 2007 Broadway stage play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and both the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Play of the year.

August: Osage County is a powerful, painful drama, with tinges of dark humor around the edges. At its core, it is a family reunion story. The far-flung members of the Weston family all return to the 3-story family farmhouse outside of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, first after patriarch and award-winning poet Beverley Weston (Sam Shepard) disappears, and then to mourn his passing when his body is found after his presumed suicide by drowning. His widow, Violet (Meryl Streep), suffering from mouth cancer and addicted to a outrageous pharmacy of narcotics, is a bitter, angry woman, with unsatisfying relationships with her three grown daughters. Barbara (Julia Roberts), her eldest, is a college professor in a broken marriage (though her estranged husband and 14-year old daughter (Ewan McGregor and Abigail Breslin) come with her back to Oklahoma. Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), the middle daughter, is the only one who stayed near her parents, and has grown cynical and as she nears fifty is finally looking for some happiness in her own life (though what she chooses may cause further family stresses). And flighty Karen (Juliette Lewis) is the youngest, unable to maintain any relationship, although she is currently engaged to a man who she believes is “perfect” but everyone else realizes is a sleaze (Dermot Mulroney). Violet’s blustery sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and her husband and son (Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch), and a newly hired in-home caregiver (Misty Upham) make up the rest of the cast.

Long-simmering family issues burst to the surface — repeatedly — in this tense, highly-emotional film, with outstanding performances from every single cast member — stand-outs for me were Streep, Roberts and Cooper. I ended up reading the original stage play, pretty much simultaneous to viewing the film — it’s interesting to see what changes the playwright Letts made to fit this into a 2-hour film running time. Several excellent subplots and explanatory scenes end up getting cut, without affecting the overall plot. I actually enjoyed the play script more than the movie — I’m giving the film a “9” and the play script a “10”.

TRIGGER WARNING — this film (and play) may trigger anyone with deep-seated issues with their parents/siblings, suicide, drug abuse, or swearing. The heightened emotional state of everyone in the entire production can be draining. Don’t watch this one if you’re already feeling depressed. (As one friend commented…“So much yelling!”). But if you want to watch a group of excellent actors at the top of their game, performing an iconic and award-winning work of the American theater — this is definitely worth your time!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try reading the original Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County, or Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia page for playwright Tracy Letts ]

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


formatdvdGifted
(DVD Gifted)

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, People’s Choice Award winner and “Captain America” Chris Evans, and “Mona-Lisa” from the series “Parks and Recreation” as well as the voice of Gidget from “The Secret Life of Pets” Jenny Slate are considerable talents in this little gem of a movie. But it is young McKenna Grace who shines the brightest as Mary, an extremely gifted/intelligent child who is being raised by her uncle Frank. Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan’s turn as Mary’s loathsome grandmother is spot-on. Frank’s dilemma is how to let his late sister’s daughter be a kid while not stifling her intellectual development nor her capacity to love and be loved.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Young Sheldon (in which McKenna Grace has had a recurring guest role!), How to Be a Latin Lover, Fuller House (TV series) or Hidden Figures] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Gifted web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


formatdvdThe Long Song
(DVD Long)

Every single life is a story worthy of being told.

In The Long Song, we follow the rise and fall and rise again of Miss July, a woman born into slavery on the island of Jamaica. Her story begins when a white woman sees her along the roadside, hiding in her mother’s skirts. This woman, Caroline, is new to the island–banished to live on her brother’s sugar plantation after her husband died. Caroline, on her way to her new home, spots the beautiful girl, and when she admires her, her brother says, “Take her–she’s yours. They belong to us.” After a slight hesitation, Caroline chooses to make July her house companion, thus, raising her from field work but stealing her from her mother.

July grows to be defiant and charming and selfish and manipulative. Her pursuit of independence and agency in her life isolates her from the community of enslaved workers.

When a new overseer with abolitionist motivations comes to the plantation, both women see an opportunity to improve their situation in life. Fates rise and fall, but when slavery is abolished by the British Parliament in 1830, all of their lives are extremely disrupted in surprising ways.

In the end, as the camera slowly pans over each person, each survivor of slavery, the narrator explains the story of Miss July is just one story amongst many, and they all deserve to be told.

This BBC production is based on a book of the same name by Andrea Levy and available on DVD at your library.

[If you like this movie, I’d suggest you would also enjoy Small Island, also by Andrea Levy and also in both book and (Hoopla) movie formats.] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this mini-series ] | [ official BBC Long Song web site ]

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Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service


formatdvdOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood
by Quentin Tarantino (DVD Once)

I do not necessarily ‘follow’ Quentin Tarantino or his films, but I have seen some, and liked some, though they are not usually ‘easy’ as far as subject matter and normally get rather violent. As for this entry in his oeuvre — I get it, I particularly get it. Being born at the tail end of the Baby Boom generation, I grew up in the 60s and 70s, so I can relate not only to the ‘feel’ of that era, but to many of the events and personalities and images from then. In particular, I was crazy about the TV western Lancer, which is depicted in fairly great detail within the movie. I will also never forget the spectre of Charles Manson and the horribly evil acts he perpetrated, which is the dark core here. That’s why the pivotal scene, wherein Tarantino imagines the tables turned, was surprisingly and viscerally satisfying. His choice of movie title made perfect sense then, both realistically and hypothetically. Added to the Tarantino factor itself, you can’t really go wrong with actors like Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio, plus icons Al Pacino and Kurt Russell thrown in for good measure. This film may not be for everyone, especially due to the liberally-used ‘adult’ language and the intensity of gore when it happens, but I knew I wanted to see it and am satisfied. I think it will make a great component in a Film Studies class if it isn’t already being used in that way.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Inglourious Basterds, Jackie Brown (not in LCL collection), Django Unchained or From Dusk Till Dawn (also not in LCL collection).] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Once Upon a Time in Hollywood web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


formatdvdThe Witness for the Prosecution
(DVD Witness)

I’ve never seen the original 1957 film, Witness for the Prosecution, starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton, despite being a life-long fan of Agatha Christie. Both that film and this TV-movie, are based on a Dame Agatha short story, originally published as “Traitor’s Hands” in the UK in 1925, and subsequently reprinted under the more familiar title. Christie also adapted her story as a full-length stage play, which premiered in 1953. Billy Wilder and his creative partners adapted it again for the feature film, and it has been adapted several times for television in both the UK and US.

This 2016 was written by Sarah Phelps and directed by Julian Jerrold, and goes places the previous versions did not. Set in the early 1920s, the mystery revolves around the brutal murder of a socialite, ostensibly by Leonard Vole, a much younger man (a recent WWI veteran) who she had been using as a gigolo. Despite the victim’s maid’s assertions that Vole killed her, he says his “wife”, a dance-hall girl, can provide his alibi. Vole’s attorney takes the case to court, only to have the “wife” turn on Vole and provide testimony on behalf of the prosecution in the case. But there are still more twists and turns to come.

The performances in this teleplay version of The Witness for the Prosecution were superb, with great work from Kim Cattrall as the victim, Monica Dolan as the maid, and Andrea Riseborough as Romaine, the “wife”. Billy Howle as Vole was hit-or-miss. But the film’s real star is the diminutive Toby Jones as Vole’s desperate attorney, John Mayhew. The film-makers actually turned this into Mayhew’s story, more than those more central to the mystery itself. This is a double-edged sword — Peters easily carries the film as the main character, but if you’re a purest and wish to see an accurate and fair adaptation of Christie’s actual story, this misses the mark.

Production design is great, but I had serious issues with how dark and muddy the cinematographers chose to make everything — 2/3rds of the film seem murky and foggy, and I ended up being very frustrated — I wanted to see the actors’ expressions and most of the time that was difficult. Ultimately, I can only give this adaptation of The Witness for the Prosecution a 6 out of 10 on BookGuide’s rating scale — there’s lots to recommend it, but also lots to be annoyed with. Your mileage may vary.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the 2015 video adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, by the same production team.] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this TV-movie ] | [ official BBC The Witness for the Prosecution web site ]

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


last updated April 2021
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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