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Staff Recommendations – December 2018

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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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December 2018 Recommendations

Nemesis
by Agatha Christie

Nemesis is last in the Miss Marple series, though not the last published (Sleeping Murder). It’s clear reading it that the Miss Marple in this story is much older than she’s been before, but that does not stop her from solving one more case. A very interesting case is presented to her in a very vague way by a former acquaintance who she meet during A Caribbean Mystery, Mr. Rafiel. She sees his obituary in the newspaper and shortly after receives a letter from his lawyers to come and see them. Mr. Rafiel, who’d been ill for some time, had, before his death, an old crime on his mind, and set Miss Marple on a sort of wild goose chase to not only solve it but find out for herself what the crime was, where is occurred and the persons involved. The lawyers inform her that if she accepts the mission (which they themselves know nothing of), Mr. Rafiel’s estate will cover all associated expenses. She accepts and discovers she’s been booked on a prepaid group tour bus to see gardens and old mansions of England. It’s on this trip that the mystery starts to take shape. This was one of my favorites Christie novels and even though one of the characters appears first in A Caribbean Mystery, you needn’t read it first unless you feel like it – it won’t be confusing. Highly recommended for mystery readers.

[If you like this I also recommend Rosemary & Thyme, a British TV show featuring mysteries, gardens, and older female sleuths much like this novel. You’ll probably also enjoy any others in the Miss Marple series, perhaps in particular A Caribbean Mystery, as it ties into this novel.] [ official Nemesis page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


The Bacon Lover’s Cookbook
by Christina Dymock [641.636 Dym]

I’ll have to admit it — second only to smoked BBQ, there’s probably no food I enjoy the taste of more than a good, smoky, crisp piece of thick-cut bacon. When I saw this cookbook on the “new books” display, I couldn’t pass it up! Author Dymock has compiled a collection of 50 bacon-centered recipes, in the following categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Sides, and Sweets. But first, she starts with several pages in which she discusses the various ways in which bacon can be cook, from frying, broiling and baking, to microwaving and grilling.

Each and every recipe is accompanied by at least one photo, illustrating the cooking process or the finished dish. There’s a lot of really simple, obvious, recipes — things that duplicate popular restaurant offerings like “Egg McMuffins”. The recipes I found to be more interesting, though, were for dishes that seemed a little more…unique. “Applesauce Bacon Dippers” are batter coated bacon slices cooked like a pancake, and ready to be dipped in applesauce or maple syrup. “Bacon Bruschettas” look like a marvelous variation on the popular appetizer. “Giant Cobb Sandwich” reimagines the classic salad as it would appear between bread slices. “Bacon Loaf” is a twist on meatloaf, using ground turkey and turkey bacon. “Bacon Wrapped Shrimp” is a variation on the classic favorite. “Mom’s Baked Beans” is made far more baconier. But it is in the “sweets” category, that Dymock really caught my attention — “Bacon Candy”, “Just Bacon Cookies”, “Bacon and Caramel-Dipped Apples”, “Bacon Brownies”, “Easy Bacon Caramels”, “Bacon Trifle”. Honestly, she had me at “Bacon S’Mores”.

One other thing I enjoy about The Bacon Lover’s Cookbook is that the author scatters little chunks of bacon trivia and knowledge throughout the content, as “Bacon Bits”. I learned quite a bit about the history of this delicious dish just browsing these nuggets of info. I really appreciated the photos in this book. The only reason it doesn’t get a higher score is the limited scope of only 50 recipes. Otherwise, a fun culinary read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Bacon Nation: 125 Irresistible Recipes, by Peter Kaminsky, or Bacon 24/7: Recipes for Curing, Smoking and Eating, by Theresa Gillam.] [ Christina Dymock‘s Blog ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Santa Bruce
by Ryan T. Higgins [currently available from the libraries only as an E-book, but hopefully soon also as a hardback jP picture book]

Grumpy and curmudgeonly bear Bruce returns in a holiday tale. The series of “Bruce” picture books for kids is a personal favorite of mine — the artwork and storytelling by Ryan T. Higgins is superb and exceptionally humorous. In earlier volumes in the series, grumpy bear Bruce is accidentally adopted as a “mother” by a bunch of baby goslings. In another, Bruce is coerced into turning his home into a hotel by his adopted kids, and by the pushy comical mice that have moved in with him. In this Christmas volume, Bruce is wearing a read coat and hat while outside in the snow, and is mistaken for Santa Claus. His “kids” and the mice do nothing to dissuade this and, in fact, work to convince Bruce to take on the role of Santa for all their neighbors’ and friends’ children. The humor is sweet and simple and the artwork is highly detailed. As someone in their mid-50s, even without kids or grand-kids of my own, I still enjoy and appreciate Higgins’ work. If you’ve got kids to read picture books to, they’ll love this entire series, and December’s a perfect time to introduce them to Santa Bruce!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the other books in the “Bruce” series by Ryan T. Higgins, or his other picture books, including Be Quiet!, or We Don’t Eat Our Classmates!] [ official Ryan T. Higgins web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Elevation
by Stephen King [downloadable audio]

This was a fun new book by Stephen King. I pre-ordered it on Audible, and I was lucky enough to have just finished my last audiobook when this became available! It was read by King, himself. That’s always fun, having the author read his or her own work, because they know exactly how the story should sound. I enjoy listening to King, because he’s not a trained voice actor, and his voice is actually not one of those you’d really CRAVE to listen to…. but he was better than respectable, doing a very nice job of keeping the various characters’ voices straight. I was impressed!

The story itself was not what some would consider “typical” Stephen King stuff… that is, it wasn’t a horror or thriller novel, in the traditional sense. However, what was happening to the main character, Scott Carey, was, in my opinion, spooky. It was a good read, and I really enjoyed it!

I think the reason I’m not giving it a full 5 stars is because it was a little on the short side. I’ve gotten so used to reading epic novels by King, that when something of his doesn’t take me more than a couple of days, I almost feel cheated. (That is, of course, unless it’s a novella or short story, and I know that going into it…. then I’m ready for a ‘quickie’ from him. But in this case, I think I was hoping for more….) Still, I’d definitely recommend it!

[ official Elevation page on the official Stephen King web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
by Michelle McNamara [364.15 McN]

More than just a true crime story, this is a memoir of one woman’s obsession to find the elusive serial killer who terrorized California for decades. Get the story behind the hunt for the Golden State Killer and meet some of the players who brought him to justice using ancestral DNA technology. Not just for fans of true crime, this is a beautifully written story.

[ publisher’s official I’ll Be Gone in the Dark web page ] | [ Wikipedia page for the late Michelle McNamara ]

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Recommended by Jen J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi: Stories
by Neel Patel

Oftentimes the only excuse I need to pick up a new book is that the title sounds unique enough. If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi sounds to me like a person’s passive cry for attention. I can appreciate that, despite its obnoxiousness. Most of the short story collections I have gotten into in the last few years have impressed me with their sincere intensity and depth of emotion. The title piece is about the ways in which two brothers have sometimes happily destroyed and over the years struggled to rebuild their relationship in their early adulthood. Many of the stories related romantic love, in all of its forms, and the ways in which it doesn’t last. Keeping up or failing to fulfill parental expectations, and the damage that can be done by parental gossip also played dramatic roles in this collection. I found that many characters had very “millenial” problems, such as using social media to their own detriment, and that worked well for me as a reader, but it might unfortunately date the book in a few years.

[ official If You See Me Don’t Say Hi page on the official Neel Patel web site ]

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


Wine Folly: Magnum Edition – The Master Guide
by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack [641.22 Puc]

My co-worker Lisa V., from Eiseley Branch, recommended this title during our final appearance on KFOR’s “Problems & Solutions” “book chat” episode in November, and I told myself to keep an eye open for it. When I saw one on our “New Books” display, I snagged it — and I’m glad I did.

Madeline Puckette is one of the brains behind the website WineFolly.com. This book is an expansion on a previous wine guide that was published (based on WineFolly.com’s content). This particular book is a marvel — it is jam-packed with color infographics, charts and useful information for anyone who generally enjoys wine, but doesn’t know how to determine which wines they may appreciate the most. Section 1 is “Wine Basics” and features handy background info about “What is Wine?”, “Wine Traits” (including the five most important elements — body, sweetness, tannin, acidity and alcohol), how to go about “Tasting Wine”, “Handling, Serving and Storing Wine”, and “How Wine is Made”. Section 2 is “Food & Wine”, covering how wines best pair with dozens of types of food, and how best to cook with wine. Second 3 is “Grapes & Wines”, and takes up 50% of the book — each type of “named” wine is given a page (sometimes two) with detailed background on the traits of that wine, what it pairs best with, where it comes from, how it’s made, what wines are similar to it, and more. This is the bulk of the book. Section 4 is “Wine Regions” and features entries showing which wines come from which regions of the world, and what wines from each region are recommended.

There are a lot of wine guides out there, but I find this one particularly helpful due to the “infographic” style it uses — everything is explained in clear, easy-to-understand images and terms. And if a term is unfamiliar, it’s probably simply defined in the appendix of terminology at the back of the book. If you’re only passingly familiar with wines or are only just starting to explore the differences in the hundreds of wines available to you, I highly recommend this handy volume.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wine Isn’t Rocket Science, by Ophelie Neiman, Wine for Dummies, by Sterling Roig or Reverse Wine Snob, by Jon Thorson.] [ official WineFolly.com web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas [YA Fic Thomas]

Starr Carter is torn between two worlds and struggles with having separate identities in each. When she witnesses a horrific event she must decide who she really is and where she stands. Well-written, heartbreaking and timely, this book will appeal to teens and adults alike. Read it before you see it!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try All-American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, or Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany Jackson.] [ publisher’s official The Hate U Give web page ] | [ official Angie Thomas web site ]

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Recommended by Jen J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Leather Bracelets: 33 Step-by-Step Instructions for Leather Cuffs, Bracelets and Bangles With Knots, Beads, Buttons and Charms
by Nihon Vogue-Shu [745.594 Vog]

Having worked with hemp and embroidery thread to make bracelets before, I thought I’d check this out. The layout is a bit different than I’ve seen similar books. A good 30 pages is spent at the beginning featuring each style, followed by the tools and techniques section, then a guide to the knots. It’s not a complaint, but I thought it strange to have such a lengthy introduction to the styles instead of having them adjacent to the instructions for each and I think the two techniques/guide to knots sections could have been combined. The photos and diagrams are good, as are the written instructions. I particularly liked the tips for making the ends of the bracelets look more finished, and these are easily transferable to other bracelet making materials. I’ll probably be checking this one out again because unfortunately I didn’t have enough leather cord on hand to try out any of the projects with; however I did try one with embroidery thread I had and it turned out well. I think it’d also work to make some of these patterns with paracord or hemp; these would have different looks due to the different materials, so don’t let lack of leather cording hold you back from trying these patterns. If you have enjoyed making friendship bracelets, paracord projects or macramé, or are interested in trying these kinds of things, I’d recommend this book to you.

[ publisher’s Leather Bracelets web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Librach


Screening Room

formatdvdChristopher Robin

[DVD j Christopher]

Although this movie was marketed for “families” or “kids”, I think it was really intended for all us adults who grew up with the classic Winnie-the-Pooh and miss that sense of innocence and pure love in our lives..

Ewan McGregor plays the grown-up Christopher Robin — the young lad who spent his childhood roaming the Hundred Acre Wood with his stuffed animal friends, Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Roo, Owl, Rabbit and more. Based on the classic children’s fiction of A.A. Milne, this film’s story places the adult Christopher in London, with his wife and young daughter. Following his service in The Great War, he’s taken a job with a luggage company, where he’s a workaholic, trying to save the struggling company from the bumbling leadership of the owner’s ineffectual son. His overworked nature leads Christopher to skip a planned family getaway to the country.

However, in the Hundred Acre Woods, Pooh bear misses his old friend Christopher Robin, and decides to seek him out, against the advice of his fellow stuffed animals. Slipping through a magical passageway in an old tree, Pooh appears in a park in London, drawn like a magnet to Christopher. The adult Christopher cannot believe his walking, talking, “imaginary” friend from his childhood has suddenly appeared in his adult life, leaving honey stains everywhere and eliciting concerned stares from the other adults around him. Christopher’s efforts to return Pooh to the Hundred Acre Wood result in comical misadventures, both in the Wood, where he must convince all the other stuffed animals that he’s not a hephalump, and in the real world, when Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger go on an adventure in London to assist Christopher and his young daughter.

While a bit uneven in places, and darker in tone than I would have preferred, Christopher Robin still manages to tell a marvelous adventure story, filling with moments of sincere emotion and humor. Anyone who grew up either reading the originals Milne stories, or watching the “American-ized” Disney cartoon versions of those stories, should truly love this sentimental journey back to reclaim some of their childhood. The special effects are phenomenal, bringing the stuffed critter to life, and the voices are absolutely perfect — Jim Cummings as the voices of both Pooh and Tigger, and Brad Garrett as Eeyore are particular standouts!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hook, the Robin Williams film, which features a similar plot of a middle-aged man rediscovering his enthusiasm for life while revisiting a part of his childhood.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Christopher Robin web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdDownsizing

[DVD Downsizing]

If you saw the trailer for this intriguing film by Nebraska-born film-maker Alexander Payne, you might have thought it was going to be a raucous, goofball comedy film that employed a lot of sight gags reminiscent of the old the 1960s TV series Land of the Giants, in which our miniaturized heroes deal with a whole lot of massively over-sized props. And if you watched only the first 45 minutes of this film, you might still think that’s all that this film had going for it. But there’s more going on here than initially meets the eye.

Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, an occupational therapist struggling to make ends meet with his wife wife Audrey. When European scientists perfect the technology to shrink humans to a 5″ height, Paul and his wife consider the possibility of making use of the non-reversible procedure — living at a smaller size, their modest nest egg of investments would allow them to live like millionaires in the new society that has been created to cater to those who have “downsized”. That’s the basic set-up. But when things don’t go quite as planned for Paul, that’s where the film shifts into an another tone and style.

What was generally a funny film, filled with site gags and “big ideas”, suddenly becomes a far more introspective and thought-provoking drama. The change is a bit jarring, and I’m not sure that the latter half of the film really lives up to the potential it showed early on. But it is still a very intriguing film, and shows that Alexander Payne is still pushing creative boundaries as a film-maker. And, as will almost all of his films, he manages to include references to Nebraska in this film as well — Paul and Audrey initially live in Omaha! Good performances from a well-chosen cast, including Christoph Waltz and Rolf Lassgard (A Man Called Ove). Just be prepared for some whiplash when the film changes directions partway through!

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

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdMamma Mia: Here We Go Again!

[DVD Mamma]

This 2018 sequel to 2008’s original film Mamma Mia, which itself was adapted from the “jukebox” stage musical which opened in 1999. This film reunites the entire cast from the first film, in a story that picks up years after the original. But, this film also features the added bonus of having huge flashback sequences to twenty years before the events of the first film as well. A cast of younger actors plays the memorable roles: Lily James (young Donna to Meryl Streep’s older Donna), Alexa Davies (young Rosie to Julie Walters’ older Rosie), Jessica Keenan Wynn (young Tanya to Christine Baranski’s older Tanya), Hugh Skinner (young Harry to Colin Firth’s older Harry), Josh Dylan (young Bill to Stellan Skarsgard’s older Bill) and Jeremy Irvine (young Sam to Pierce Brosnan’s older Sam). Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper reprise their roles as Sophie, Donna’s daughter, and her partner Sky. And throw in new characters played by Andy Garcia and Cher, as Sophie’s grandmother Ruby.

The plot in a nutshell is that Donna (Meryl Streep) has passed, and her daughter Sophie has completely updated the little Greek island taverna her mother ran, into a modern retreat, and she’s planning a spectacular grand re-opening. But she’s also discovered she’s pregnant, and is having relationship issues with Sky, who’s gone to the big city to pursue his career. Sophie invites all her “three fathers” back to the island for the special event, and scenes inter-cut between the older versions of the characters reuniting, and the young versions of the three women just out of school and on the adventure that brought them to the Greek Isles — particularly the three flings the young Donna had with Bill, Harry and Sam, which lead to Sophie’s existence.

The younger actors were perfectly cast in their roles, and all sing incredibly well. The use of ABBA songs is terrific, and provides a great deal of energy and fun in all the singing sequences. The choreography in various dance sections is all uniformly excellent as well. People complained with the first film that Pierce Brosnan couldn’t sing, but he pulls off a marvelous solo in this film. Cher’s short appearance as Sophie’s grandmother (Meryl Streep’s mother!), is a little overblown, but allows for her to sing “Fernando”, which is a great moment in the film. There’s actually a lot of emotional resonance in this film, if you’ve grown to care about the characters, and a cathartic moment near the end of the film, to the song “My Love, My Life”, that is especially memorable. And, of course, the entire cast — both generations — gets to dance to “Super Trouper” in spangly outfits at the end of the film — a goofy highlight.

Personally, I loved this film. Your mileage may vary, depending on how much you like the music of ABBA and have a willingness to let characters break out into song-and-dance numbers at the drop of a hat!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the original first Mamma Mia film.] [Also available and worth recommending is the soundtrack album, featuring all the ABBA tracks as sung by the actors in the film.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Mamma Mia movies web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated December 2018
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