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Staff Recommendations – December 2022

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December 2022 Recommendations

The Geek Who Saved Christmas
by Annabeth Albert (Hoopla Audiobook)

A cozy, gay holiday romance, between two men in their early 40’s, that should be on the Hallmark Christmas Romance channel. A favorite troupe of mine with Neighbor #1, Gideon, who’s totally into all the holidays and decorates his house accordingly. Next door to him is Neighbor #2, Paul, who’s the grumpy guy who doesn’t decorate.

During one of their few interactions, Gideon learns that Paul’s brother is arriving for Christmas with his girlfriend, and he hopes to propose to her on Christmas Eve in front of the Christmas tree. Gideon offers to help Paul decorate and provide the perfect backdrop. They are together nearly every day as Gideon transforms Paul’s barebones house into a homey, comfy, wonderland as they get to know each other.

Of course this has a Happy Ever After and we get an epilogue for the following year (I love epilogues). You end up liking both fellows and wish you had next door neighbors just like them. Not to mention, I also approved of a lot of Gideon’s decorating ideas.

The reader, Tim Paige, does an excellent job of voicing each character and you have no trouble discerning who’s speaking in the story.

A fun, easy listen at only seven hours.

( official Annabeth Albert web site )


Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes
by Travis Baldree (Baldree)

Legends & Lattes is a book with serious buzz. The author, a professional audiobook narrator, drafted it during National Novel Writing Month in 2021 then self-published it on Amazon in February 2022. It became an instant word-of-mouth success thanks to social media. Traditional publisher Tor Books hustled to put out a trade paperback by November 2022. Nine translations are currently in progress. And, of course, there’s an audiobook version performed by the author. An amazing success story!

The story opens with Viv, an orc warrior, delivering the fatal sword strike to an enormous monster. She wrenches a fabled stone out of its head and walks away into retirement on the spot and without explanation to her Dungeons & Dragons style adventuring party. Viv has a secret plan: open a coffee shop in a city where the ley-lines and the stone will bring fortune. She’ll need all the luck she can get, as she has no experience running a business and the people in this city have never heard of coffee. What she does have is patience, strength, and way of sizing up people (all of whom are considerably smaller than herself). Some of the obstacles seem like they’d be easier if she picked up her sword, but she wants a fresh start with herself as well. On top of all this, one member of her old adventuring band is not satisfied with how things were left off.

This book is as cozy and warm as the coffee shop Viv and her new friends create.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis or A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher.)

( official Legends & Lattes page on the official Travis Baldree web site )


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

Variations on the Theme Galina Ustvolskaya: The Last Composer of the Passing Era
by Semyon Bokman (Music 780.92 Ustvolskaya)

You never know what you’ll learn in books at the Polley Music Library, even for me. In this case, as I was preparing a show on the book The Musical Human: A History of Life on Earth by Michael Spitzer a few months ago, I came upon this passage about the Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya:

“There is a creeping realization that one of the outstanding composers of our time was a forgotten old lady living in poverty in a freezing St. Petersburg flat. Shostakovich thought that his pupil Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) was a better composer than him, and I would have to agree. Ustvolskaya didn’t write much, but what she did has the weight and killer intensity of a black sun.”

I didn’t know much about Ustvolskaya, but that paragraph sent me looking for her music, which is indeed incredible and maybe the most idiosyncratic among 20th century composers I can think of. I’ve been very taken by her music as well, and in the last few months I think I’ve heard just about every piece she’s written. Some of the music is hard to find, but YouTube has some excellent performances of her work, as well as “Scream Into Space,” a short documentary about her work that was finished in 2005, just a year before her death. Little about her work has been translated into English yet, but a former student of hers, Semyon Bokman, has published Variations on the Theme Galina Ustvolskaya: The Last Composer of the Passing Era, which you can borrow from the Polley Music Library.

At the outset, a little biographical information is useful, as the book takes an unusual angle into Ustvolskaya’s work and life. Born in Petrograd (later Leningrad), Russia in 1919, she studied at Leningrad Conservatory in the late 1930s and early 40s, and went on to teach composition there from 1947 to 1977. Part of her studies were spent with Dmitry Shostakovich, a fact that is almost always mentioned in conjunction with her work, but late in life she frequently mentioned that she didn’t like his music (or him as a person). In the post WWII Soviet Union, she wrote the kind of music that was often frowned upon by the authorities. Although her work wasn’t officially banned, it was rarely performed, so her life as a composer mostly consisted of what is sometimes called “composing for the drawer,” or writing the material that you’re compelled to create but filing it away for more receptive times.

Like many creatives under Soviet rule, it’s not hard to imagine that her life was hard, living at the edge of poverty and getting little attention for her life’s work until she was in advanced old age. Because of these conditions, we don’t have a deep understanding of her in the way we’d expect to know more about the inner lives of many contemporary composers. We do know that she was very particular about the performances of her works, and once she finally started receiving attention (mostly from other parts of Europe), she was fairly cantankerous in interviews and in her feelings about most recordings of her music. And as you might guess from that Michael Spitzer quote about her from the beginning of our discussion, her music is quite dark, abstract and somewhat impenetrable, though incredibly memorable and moving as well. Ustvolskaya’s husband has maintained a website about her and her works since her death, which includes many of her thoughts about statements made by others about her music and her background, and he has added his own thoughts about books and recordings published since her death. And it must be noted that he has unpleasant things to say about the book we’re discussing today, which largely focus on the structure of the book, which centers its author in a way that he feels is unfair to the legacy of Ustvolskaya. In looking at the Ustvolskaya website, one might get the impression of a grumpy composer, though trying to correct disinformation about yourself would probably get frustrating!

One gets a different impression of Ustvolskaya from Bokman’s book, however. While it’s true that it’s formatted as recollections of the author as a student interacting with her as instructor, he remembers her has having a sense of humor and fun, and many of his impressions run counter to any folklore of her as a cantankerous person. Occasionally he even describes her as cheerful. However, he does observe that she maintains a certain distance from students, thinking of her teaching work as essentially just a job to support her as a composer, and not thinking of students as potential peers. As he observes in chapter 5, “This belief in herself and her work, and in this gigantic ‘I AM,’ helped her withstand her internal struggles and life’s temptations.” And some of this is reflected in the few interviews conducted with her, as well as in her music. She didn’t like to talk about her influences, for example, and asserted that her music existed mostly within its own boundaries. This would be a bold claim for many composers, but her music really does feel like it exists in a self-contained world. She considered her work symphonic in nature; even though most of it was written for small chamber ensembles, she rejected the notion of “chamber music” for not containing the dynamic and conceptual resources required by her music. And although it can be primitive music on some levels, plodding forward through quarter-note motion across most of her work, there is lots of complexity to discover within.

Considering that her brief time spent studying under Shostakovich is usually the first fact brought up about Ustvolskaya, Bokman approaches the subject from two angles: first, he reflects on how she would respond to students when they brought up the subject of Shostakovich. On this subject, he notes that she was dismissive of the question, usually responding with some variation of “this is not interesting.” But he follows this with a question of his own: did he feel there was an influence on Ustvolskaya’s music or work from Shostakovich? Musically, her unique approach stands alone, but perhaps she got some intellectual rigor from him. Bokman recounts a story from Ustvolskaya about doing an in-depth study of all of Beethoven’s major works, which she didn’t want to do, but Shostakovich insisted. He notes, however, that perhaps her knack for orchestration bears some influence from her famous teacher. Although her music avoids using full-size orchestras, she and Shostakovich both have a powerful sense of choosing the right instruments to play the right parts, all the more important for Ustvolskaya’s small-but-massive arrangements.

It’s difficult for Westerners to fully conceive how composers, writers and other artists had to navigate the political challenges of life under Soviet rule. Bokman’s observations about Ustvolskaya’s career choices seem a little perplexing to me at first, but he too lived in that environment and had a better inside understanding. He observes, “Ustvolskaya managed to save herself as an artist by taking little interest in the surrounding world; she did not let it in.” Had she capitulated to the aesthetic requests of Soviet officials, perhaps she would have become much more well-known, but that would have come with the cost of having to forever change her musical style, too. Considering the external pressures on artists under totalitarian rule, the somewhat mysterious image of Ustvolskaya as a kind of musical hermit becomes more complex—perhaps she was inclined to be a far more socially gregarious person, but her commitment to her work necessitated that she keep her head down and those fascinating works mostly put away. Less attention equaled more safety.

Bokman addresses another unusual quote from Ustvolskaya that is frequently mentioned in her biographies: “All who really love my music should refrain from theoretical analysis of it.” This notion is basically the opposite of what everyone does in the classical music world, although some pop musicians have said similar things about their music. There is a mystical, otherworldly quality to her music, and perhaps this idea reflects a position that knowing more about the constituent parts of a deeply moving piece of music doesn’t really explain the ineffable qualities of its power. Of course, Bokman then goes on to interpret broadly what this body of music means to him: “a proclamation of renewal.” His explanation for arriving there, for reconciling the person he knew as relatively warm and friendly with her unforgiving, stark music, is interesting to me, especially because my own response to this music, which is still very fresh in my mind, is almost the opposite! I hear it as very powerful, indeed, but more like calling out to the divine for intercession, while knowing full well that it isn’t on its way. Perhaps music that effortlessly elicits such acute but contradictory responses isn’t likely to be better understood through music analysis, indeed.

Overall, I found Variations on the Theme Galina Ustvolskaya to be a good read, and I didn’t feel like the author overly centered himself in the story — indeed, it’s necessary for him to be present, since most of the book is simply his reporting reminiscences of his time around the composer. Whether his recollections are entirely accurate is hard to say, though I must admit that I find his portrait of the artist to be a kind and warm one compared to what one can put together from her own quotes and her widower’s representation of her thoughts. But given the circumstances of life under Soviet rule, this book is probably the closest we’re going to get to a personal view of Ustvolskaya.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Sofia Gubaidulina: A Biography by Michael Kurtz or Shostakovich: A Coded Life in Music by Brian Morton.)

( Wikipedia entry for Galina Ustvolskaya ) | ( official Semyon Bokman Twitter feed )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

by Gretchen Felker-Martin (Felker-Martin)

Manhunt is one of the most gross and gory books I’ve read. The sci-fi setting is that a pandemic has transformed anyone with high testosterone into monstrous beasts. It’s *almost* a gender plague book crossed with zombie apocalypse. The difference here is that the pandemic doesn’t know anyone’s gender, only their testosterone level. The story centers on two trans women, one trans man, and one cis woman who are trying to find safety in this hellscape of transformed men (mostly) on one side and a military legion of TERF women on the other.

From glancing at other reviews, it’s clear that many people dismiss this book as gratuitously violent and insensitive for portraying rapes. It is hard to read; I’ll give them that. For many — even most — readers, this book is not for you and that’s an okay thing for both you and the book. But I think I get it. A while back I read the book Ice by Anna Kavan. That book is also about an apocalypse with horrible sexual violence written by a woman. In both cases, the point is to show something extravagantly horrible on the main stage that we normally expect people to endure, to hide, to be quiet about. We’re comfortable with that status quo: the hellscape already here. Authors should be able to scream about it.

Plus, under all the gore, it’s often a funny and poignant book. Strongly recommended to no one in particular.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński or Ice by Anna Kavan.)

( publisher’s official Manhunt web page ) | ( official Gretchen Felker-Martin Twitter feed )


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

Luc Ferrari: Complete Works
edited by Brunhild Ferrari (Music 786.75 Ferrari)

Luc Ferrari was a modern-era composer whose work has continued to receive more attention in recent years since his death in 2005. At that time, he had released around 23 albums between the years of 1968 and 2004, but more than 50 records of his music have come out posthumously as interest in his work continues to grow. The body of work that he left us is especially interesting in that he freely moved between several modes of contemporary classical music, from notated music for traditional instruments to musique concrete tape music, from electronics to recordings of natural environments, always finding his own voice in unique contexts. There is a recent book about his work called Luc Ferrari: Complete Works that we have here at the Polley Music Library, and it’s a great way to find out about the many approaches of this fascinating composer.

Complete Works was edited by Brunhild Ferrari, Luc’s spouse, who is both a composer herself and a steady advocate for his work. She’s been the force behind continuing to find avenues for the release of the many recordings in his archives, and as editor of this book, she’s combined autobiographical commentaries by Luc about all of his major works with interviews sprinkled throughout his career. Fantastic archival photos and ephemera such as pages of scores, film stills, and reproductions of Luc’s visual art are featured throughout as well.

After brief introductions by Thurston Moore (whose Ecstatic Peace Library published this book), musician and producer Jim O’Rourke, and Brunhild, the main body of the book starts with “Autobiography No 1” by Luc, a 1-page summary of his own life and work that serves as a kind of prelude to the basic structure of the book, which is simply an exhaustive list of his own works, usually described with a paragraph or two of his own thoughts about them. At the earliest point of the book, there are several early poems written between 1951 and ’58. These overlap and perhaps inform the earliest period of his musical compositions, which start in 1952 with three pieces for piano. He notes that he wrote many pieces before 1952, but these piano works mark the beginning of him feeling as through his own identity was properly represented in his work.

Some traditionally notated chamber works follow, including the “Visage” series of four pieces where Ferrari notes again that this “is the first series at the beginning of my life as a composer wherein I honestly expressed myself.” These early works, though, still reflect something of 20th century musical traditions — he notes elements of realism and serialism present in the series. By 1958, his earliest efforts with tape-based musique concrete begin to appear, and immediately overtake his previous focus on notated works. The “Visage” series even continues into this period with Visage 5, composed in 1958-9. This piece has a score, but it’s a graphic notation device, measuring various ranges of movement and timespans to be realized on tape.

Many composers who switched to working with tape music or electronics rarely went back to traditional notation, but Complete Works shows that Ferrari continued to draw from traditional instruments and notational approaches as he worked with modern ideas. Certainly traditional notation becomes more scarce further into his body of work, but one gets the sense that Ferrari evaluated musical ideas that came to him and allowed them to develop in whatever way seemed most faithful to the idea, rather than force them all into a singular approach. And we see him picking up new ideas along the way. “Tautologos I” from 1961, for example, is an early foray into electronic music, using frequency generators and picking up their output with suspended microphones that are swinging (this idea reminds me of Steve Reich’s “Pendulum Music” later in 1968). In 1962, we finding him working with the idea of controlled improvisation using notated music in the “Spontane” series of pieces, giving a combination of written material and improvised moments that small ensembles of performers can interpret as they wish.

In 1963, Ferrari composed “Heterozygote” for magnetic tape, which marked a new direction in his work. Here, he used environmental sounds found taking a long walk, and then “compressed” them into a 27 minute work. He called this approach “anecdotal music,” “introducing realist sounds as concrete images, added to traditional abstract sounds and structures.” What is fascinating about this concept is his notion of expecting the audience to participate in the creation of the “anecdote” part of the equation: “The audience becomes active because they are implicitly asked to imagine their own anecdote. The use of realistic elements allowed me to tell a story and enables the listener to invent their own meaning.” From this point forward in his music, one finds a certain kind of cinematic perspective in his music, as though he is creating something akin to “movies for the ears.” This kind of approach has become much more common in electroacoustic music circles over the decades, and serves as an interesting contrast to the more abstracted listening pursuits of other electroacoustic composers and audiences. And frankly it just makes sense: our minds are always trying to make maps and models of what we perceive, and it’s only natural that we will look for narrative fragments even in the most abstract environments. In this sense, Ferrari’s approach simply recognizes the obvious and uses it to compositional advantage rather than rejecting the idea outright.

A small section of letters between Ferrari and Pierre Schaeffer is included in the book. As Schaeffer was the leader of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) in Paris, these reveal Ferrari’s perceptions of his role among his musique concrete composing peers. The letters range from 1960 to 1968, the time period when Ferrari was affiliated with the GRM, and find him always polite, but often unhappy with the direction of the group. By the time of the penultimate letter in 1967, he was firm in a new direction that diverged from the “absolute music” or abstracted focus of the GRM to his “anecdotal music” concept that started with the Heterozygote piece. Considering that membership in the GRM helped to guarantee things like commissions and performances for member composers, his commitment to focus on his own musical needs was a brave career move.

And this only takes us up to about 1965 in a career that extended another 40 years, scarcely a quarter of the way into a book that documents the rich and varied works of a composer whose work tended toward inclusivity of new ideas and processes. Through the course of the book, we find Ferrari’s work involving aspects of improvisation, theater, field recording, film-making, photography, and visual art. Broadly speaking, Ferrari continued to compose for traditional instruments, incorporated musique concrete techniques (which he often referred to as segments of “memorized sound”), used field recordings to help establish settings for pieces, and often incorporated theatrical gestures into pieces, both composed and through guided improvisation. It’s hard to define the “style” of Luc Ferrari simply because he incorporated elements of nearly every contemporary music approach when he found them appropriate for his ideas, though the implied narrative elements of his “anecdotal music” carry through many decades of his work. The strongest impression this book leaves with me is that of pure adventure, forever adding new skills, new sounds, and new technology to his repertoire, while retaining his own voice. And his own voice celebrates the human condition at its best and worst. As he reflected in a 2004 interview toward the end of the book, joy and a sense of fear or revulsion at things like war and greed were the two polarities that dominated his thinking, and both are deeply considered in his music.

In all, this is an incredible document of an inspiring composer that I’d recommend to anyone interested in modern classical music, and creative music more broadly. The cinematic or literary feel of many Ferrari pieces comes even more alive when placed into this broad context.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try In Search of a Concrete Music by Pierre Schaeffer, Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice by Brain Kane or Living Electronic Music by Simon Emmerson.)

( Wikipedia entry on Luc Ferrari ) | ( biography on the official Luc Ferrari web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

These Violent Delights
by Chloe Gong (YA Gong)

This is a noir, mafia/gang retelling of Romeo and Juliet that will break the mold. Not only is it a noir and mafia/retelling it’s set in Shanghai in the 1920’s. Russians play the Montagu’s and the Capulets are Chinese. Our star-crossed lovers join forces to discover what mystery disease is plaguing the citizens of Shanghai. It’s filled with mystery, Shakespeare Easter eggs and historical subplot along with a side of romance and bildungsromans.

I listened to the audio version which I would also recommend. The audiobook features Cindy Kay, a conscientious narrator, who makes sure the different languages she uses are pronounced with accuracy. Shanghai-nese, Cantonese and Russian in addition to British accents and Russian accented English are portrayed clearly and beautifully. Wonderful immersive read!

(Would recommend if you like Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim or Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco.)

( official Chloe Gong web site )


Recommended by Caitlin L.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

A War of Songs: Popular Music and Recent Russia-Ukraine Relations
edited by Arve Hansen (Music 781.63 Han)

It’s difficult to find books specifically about the musical history of Ukraine, simply because in modern history the country has been part of Imperial Russia and then the Soviet Union, where the country’s unique musical traditions were instead considered as part of a greater tapestry of Russian music history, sort of like if Ukraine were a state in the US. There is also historical evidence of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union deliberately trying to suppress musical and greater cultural history of Ukraine, first through the 1876 Ems Ukaz decree, and later through the mass murder of Ukrainian kobzars and destruction of their instruments in the mid-1930s. But Ukraine has continued to rebuild their cultural heritage, and the traditions that were passed along by kobzars, frequently blind musicians who traveled from town sharing dumas, epic poetry and song that carried the history of Ukraine, have been re-established. So too has the bandura, a harp-like instrument once played by kobzars that’s unique to the country. In fact the bandura itself was refined into ever larger and more sophisticated versions during the 20th century, to make it a more flexible and modern instrument, and many youth are trained to perform on it in modern Ukraine.

In more recent history, tensions between Ukraine, which became independent in 1991, and Russia have flared on several occasions, including the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia which started in February of 2022. In Ukraine, this is considered only the latest development in the Russo-Ukranian War that has been active since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Interestingly, there are some musical elements to this story that took place just before Crimea, which are covered in the book A War of Songs: Popular Music and Recent Russia-Ukraine Relations. It’s a fascinating read about the very recent musical history of the country that sheds new light on the role of protest music in modern-day eastern Europe.

This is an academic book by nature, and technically part of a journal series of book-format publications called Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society.” However, the four in-depth essays found here make for a riveting read, especially in light of what’s happening in Ukraine right now. The focus here is on the time period surrounding the Euromaidan protests or the “Maidan Revolution” in 2013 and 2014 in Kyiv, and how both pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian messages went from the streets to the airwaves and the internet in various musical forms. Broadly speaking, I had several takeaways from spending some time with this book: of course it’s a look at the same tensions and struggles that we’re seeing play out in the Russian invasion of Ukraine right now, but it’s also a unique look at the role of protest music in modern life, something we don’t have a direct comparison to since the 1960s in the US. From the protest music perspective, some things remain the same, while others have clearly been affected by evolving technology and differing conditions in Europe.

The first essay is called “Pop Rock, Ethno-Chaos, Battle Drums and a Requiem: The Soundtrack of the Ukrainian Revolution.” This serves as a kind of introductory essay, tracking activities in Ukraine from November of 2013 to February of 2014. There is a brief introduction to the general history of protests and protest music in modern Ukraine, in which we learn that public demonstrations and accompanying music have long been a part of Ukrainian life, made more common publicly in recent history since the 1989 Soviet Glasnost reforms of Gorbachev. The music performed has included “bard music,” a kind of Soviet-era singer/songwriter folk music form known for social and political critique, along with traditional Ukrainian patriotic songs and modern pop music forms. Since the early 21st century, mass protests have been common in Ukraine, and building stages for musicians to perform at these protests is also common.

Like many protests, musical accompaniment was a part of the 2013-14 series of protests collectively called Euromaidan (or “The Revolution of Dignity” within Ukraine), and as the tenor of the protests shifted, so did the music. Through interviews with musicians and protesters, the authors divide this short span of time into five phases, each of which had its own activities and musical themes. To some extent, each phase had an identifiable musical “theme,” but because these protests happened in such a compressed timeframe that shifted from optimistic to defiant to mournful, the music mostly remained a product of the moment. One exception is the traditional tune “Plyve Kacha,” whose mournful tone has come to represent the deaths of many protesters in February of 2014. Many versions have been recorded in the ensuing years.

Ultimately, Russia took over Crimea shortly after the Euromaidan protests, and the second essay addresses music exchanges in this time period. These took the form of various “answer” or “response” songs, sometimes done in the format of parody songs, putting new words to familiar tunes. Again we find a bit of contextual history of the answer song tradition in Europe, which goes back at least to the troubadours of the Middle Ages. In the case of the post-Crimea answer songs, music was tossed about in both Ukrainian and Russian language songs among four groups: Ukrainian pro- and anti-separatists, and non-Ukrainian pro- and anti-separatists. Unlike the music covered in the first essay, which was enjoyed both in person and through online videos, these answer songs were mostly exchanged among the quarreling factions via YouTube. Some songs started life as poetry, such as Anastasiia Dmytruk’s poem “We Will Never Be Brothers” which she posted in March of 2014. Music inspired by the poem in turn inspired over 100 response song videos in just the two months following its publication. While many of these songs became quite popular, gaining millions of views each on YouTube, it’s noteworthy that these songs seemed to arise quickly out of passion, rather than attempts at musical fame.

The third essay drills even further into the idea of parody songs, specifically parodies of the Russia National Anthem. Russia passed a fascinating law in 2016 protecting their anthem in the same manner as the national flag and coat of arms, meaning that disrespectful parodies could be considered a crime punishable by a year in prison and substantial fines. The law avoids interpretive concerns as to whether different lyrics for their anthem might be intended as supportive by simply requiring for no deviations from the official lyrics. Here, we get a history lesson about the Russian national anthem, how it was performed under Soviet rule (both 1943 and 1977 versions), and how it was altered to be the Anthem of the Russian Federation in 2000. Then we look at a series of parodies, ending with the 2015 “Sebastopol incident,” in which the lyrics of a 2013 parody were projected on a large screen at the first meeting of the council of the governor in Sebastopol, Crimea. Whether accidental or intentional, this is what led to the new Russian law.

The final essay looks at musical battles between Ukraine and Russia on the larger European stage. While we don’t hear a lot about this in the United States, the Eurovision Song Contest has been an important musical event in Europe since the mid-1950s, and the broadcast of Eurovision is one of the world’s longest-running programs. In 1993, Ukraine and Russia joined the European Broadcasting Union, giving singers and songwriters from their countries access to Eurovision, followed by the former Soviet state of Georgia in 2005. In this essay, we learn about a few years of Eurovision during which political messages seemed to be exchanged between Ukraine, Georgia and Russia between 2005 and 2017. I found this section of the book full of new information for this Midwestern reader: here we find Georgian acts refusing to tone down political lyrics and dropping out of the contest, Russian groups featuring Ukrainian singers trying to soften their image, and all kinds of tensions building when the contest was held in Kyiv in 2017. For a “show without politics,” I knew nothing of the drama around Eurovision presented here, and it’s remarkable how these tensions have continued to be aired in the public square throughout Europe at any opportunity.

If you’re interested in learning more about the lead-up to the current war in Ukraine, or learning more about the unique ways that music has been involved in the fight on both sides, A War of Songs is a fantastic resource.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wild music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine by Maria Sonevytsky, A History of Russian Music: From Kamarinskaya to Babi Yar by Francis Maes or Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929 by Larry Sitsky.)

( official Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

How Y’all Doin’? Misadventures and Mischief From a Life Well Lived
by Leslie Jordan (Biography Jordan/Hoopla Audiobook)

When actor/singer/comedian Leslie Jordan died in late October (after suffering a “medical incident” while driving and fatally crashing his car), I had no idea how sad I was going to be. It wasn’t that I was an ardent fan of his, who tracked down everything he’d ever appeared in. But, his bubbly, sarcastic, Southern gay personality had been a staple in film and TV comedies and dramas for decades, and it didn’t seem possible that he was suddenly gone. So I was especially happy to be able to enjoy his voice as he narrated the audiobook version of his 2021 best-seller How Y’all Doin’?

Despite always being sort of a cult-favorite actor for many fans, it wasn’t until COVID-19 hit and everyone sequestered themselves in their homes in 2020, that Leslie achieved mega-fame. Despite not even initially knowing what Instagram was, he launched a new Insta account, where he shared his personality and quirky musings, and managed to gain 5.8 million followers. Which led to this, his second book (his first, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet (2008) isn’t in the libraries’ collection). Leslie wanders back and forth in his career and personal life, not holding anything back as he shares recollections filled with both hilarity and strong sentiment. Despite his seeming befuddlement with technology and social media, his stories of his explorations of Instagram are among the highlights of this incredibly entertaining and informative autobiography. Leslie makes this book feel like he’s sitting and chatting with you.

I got this as an audiobook-on-CD through the libraries’ InterLibrary Loan service, but if you can do downloadable audio, the Lincoln City Libraries do have it available through our Hoopla streaming service. I had tried reading this book in print format when it came out in 2021, but just couldn’t get into it. But when he read it aloud, How Y’all Doin’? became one of my favorite reads of 2022. He’s one of those performers I think I would have loved to meet in person. Strongly recommended, for anyone with an interest in celebrities, behind-the-scenes on the entertainment industry, the acting profession, and LGBTQ+ personalities.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, also by Jordan, but only available through InterLibrary Loan.)


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

The Christmas Book Flood
by Emily Kilgore, with illustrations by Kitty Moss (jP Kilgore)

Readers of all ages will love this picture book that describes the Book Flood in Iceland every Christmas Eve. Known as Jolabokaflod (which translates roughly to Christmas Book Flood), the annual tradition combines the magic and anticipation of Christmas with the joys of reading. People look for just the right book and accessory (warm socks, hot cocoa, a bookmark) for each family member to open on Christmas Eve, then everyone stays up reading all night. Kitty Moss’s beautiful artwork will leave you feeling that cold snow you see pictured on the pages, and aching for the warmth of that fireplace providing warm coziness.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens or How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.)

( official Kitty Moss – illustrator web site ) | ( official Emily Kilgore web site )


Recommended by Jodi R.
Gere and South Branch Libraries

Babel Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators Revolution
by R(ebecca).F. Kuang (Downloadable Audio Kuang)

I found this book interesting on many levels. It is an historical fantasy novel about the British Empire but also deals with language, magic and secret societies. It also deals with the problems of colonialism and power. I think it has something for everyone!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.)

( official R.F. Kuang web site )


Recommended by Susan S.
Eiseley Branch Library

The Christmas Spirit
by Debbie Macomber (Macomber)

Debbie Macomber is one of the queens of light-hearted romances, which occasionally dip into the spiritual/Christian romance field. She’s also one of those authors who come out with at least one new “Christmas” novel, seemingly every year — many of which have ended up being turned into TV-movies.

The Christmas Spirit is her holiday entry for 2022. Pastor Peter Armstrong and bartender Hank Colfax have been best friends for years, despite the dramatic differences in their life paths. They still meet at least once a week for lunch at a diner midway between their two towns, where they compare notes about their lives and share news — Pete about his struggling church, and Hank about the regulars at his dive bar. With just over a week before Christmas, Pete offers the opinion that Hank has a much easier job, and a challenge of temporarily switching jobs in the week before the holiday is accepted by both men.

Pete’s spinster sister, who is the administrative assistant at his church, is horrified at this turn of events, as the bartender immediately lets several pastoral duties slide, and Pete himself realizes that Hank’s job is more complicated than he anticipated, and that Hank’s “regular” (including a motorcycle) gang don’t warm to him.

As always with Macomber’s novels, there are “happy ever afters” for everyone but there are some fun, touching moments for both men as their eyes are opened to their friend’s world and new ways to think about their own ways of doing things. This is a simple, uncomplicated story, tied up by the end with no loose ends.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Dashing Through the Snow or Mrs. Miracle also by Macomber.)

( official The Christmas Spirit page on the official Debbie Macomber web site )


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

Countdown to Christmas: Have a Very Merry Movie Holiday
by Caroline McKenzie (745.594 McK)

This book, which originally came out in 2020 (which is the edition the libraries own), also had an updated edition in 2022. This was published by the folks at the Hallmark Channel, as a tie-in to their popular Christmas romance movies, but it is not a guide to their dozens of movies, but instead a guide to the types of Christmas decorating and traditions as seen in such movies.

This is really an all-purpose “how to celebrate the holiday book” — decorating tips, recipes, arts & crafts, interspersed with behind-the-scenes featurettes about the making of some of the well-known Hallmark movies, and interviews with Hallmark stars, in which they share some of their own families’ favorite holiday traditions. To make it even more Hallmark-y, there are trivia challenges related to the Hallmark holiday films.

All in all, this is an odd hodge-podge. As a fan of the Hallmark movies, I would’ve preferred more about those films and their cast members. As someone interested in Christmas decorating, cooking and traditions, I would have preferred more examples of those types of things. In the end, this book just sort of meanders around the topics it tries to cover. But…if you watch these movies with any regularity, you may appreciate the tidbits about the Hallmark stars.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try watching any of the literally dozens and dozens of Hallmark Christmas Movies (usually romances) that have been produced over the past several years — the libraries have purchased many of these on DVD.)

( publisher’s official Countdown to Christmas web page )


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

We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans in Comedy
by Kliph Nesteroff (970.1 Nes)

During Native American Heritage Month in November (also known as National American Indian History Month and National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month) I started reading this collection of present-time vignettes and documented history on the role and experiences of indigenous American Indians in comedy culture and humor traditions. The subtitle is “The Unheralded Story of Native Americans & Comedy.” As fascinating as it is, and having been unaware of most of it, it is an equally tragic and disheartening story. Yet, it is unfailingly hopeful and inspiring, too. You have no doubt heard of Will Rogers, and possibly Charlie Hill and Alexander Posey, or Williams & Ree. There are many other Native/First Peoples comedians, both amateur and professional, who are or were out there doing their thing — including native/Native Nebraskan Larry Omaha! This extensively researched and well-crafted work explores the day-to-day struggles and successes of a variety of funny, smart, adaptable, determined Native Americans who aspire to be the next (long overdue) Will Rogers or simply to be recognized as a great comedian first of all and indigenous person second.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The 1491s comedy troupe, Native American Comedy Slam (LOLflix series on Youtube), Will Rogers: A Biography by Ben Yagoda, or The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff.)

( publisher’s official We Had a Little Real Estate Problem web page ) | ( official Kliph Nesteroff Twitter feed )


Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

by Suzanne Palmer (Palmer)

Finder reminded me strongly of a Jack Reacher novel set in space. Fergus Ferguson takes retrieval jobs around the Milky Way galaxy. He’s not great at blending in, since he’s a very tall, red-bearded, Scottish man with a penchant for using alliterative fake identities. On the other hand, he’s exceptional at taking in and synthesizing new information to concoct schemes that allow him to grab what he’s looking for and leave the star system.

Events around his arrival catalyze a war in a system where dozens of habitats are connected via a cable system. Residents typically move around by more or less ziplining. (There’s a wonderfully detailed map in the book.) Fergus’ target is a starship in the possession of a local warlord, which wins him allies who would very much like that starship removed from the local balance of power. I enjoyed this an example of the reluctant hero trope. All Fergus wants is to do the job and keep traveling, with no attachments, no responsibilities, nothing more to add to his survivor’s guilt. Of course that’s a list of things that don’t happen in this book.

This is a series starter with the third title coming out this month. I know what I’ll be reading soon!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi or All Systems Red by Martha Wells, and Driving the Deep and The Scavenger Door, the second and third in The Finder Chronicles by Palmer.)

( official Finder page on the official Suzanne Palmer web site )


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

hooplaSpirited: Soundtrack
by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (and others) (Hoopla Music)

Spirited was a fanciful Christmas musical film produced by AppleTV+, which got a limited theatrical release in late 2022 but will stream exclusively on AppleTV+ by the end of the year. Two soundtrack albums were released — the first was a collection of the 12 original songs written for the film (and performed by the cast) by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. This album was released both digitally and on CD. The other album, released only digitally, featured the instrumental-only score to the film.

Through the libraries’ Hoopla digital music service, the Spirited: Soundtrack is available to listen to. The film, a modern twist on the old “A Christmas Carol” chestnut, features Will Ferrell as The Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ryan Reynolds as Clint Briggs, a slick manipulative image consultant who may just be a soul that is too unredeemable for the three Christmas ghosts (and their support crew) to salvage.

The film is a hoot — alternately paying loving homage to the concepts and traditions at the core of “A Christmas Carol”, while still poking fun at holiday tropes and the old-fashioned nature of redemption that underlies that story. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are the musical team behind the hit Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen, as well as the musical films La La Land and The Greatest Showman. Songs on this soundtrack range from big song-and-dance numbers featuring the whole cast and large ensemble (“That Christmas Morning Feeling”, “Do a Little Good”), to intimate solos or duets (“The View From Here” featuring Octavia Spencer, and “Unredeemable” featuring Will Ferrell). Some are serious (“The View From Here” and “Unredeemable” and “Do a Little Good”) while others are hilarious (“Bringing Back Christmas”, in which Reynold’s character incites a culture war on behalf of the Christmas Tree Growers Association, and “Good Afternoon”, in which immense fun is poked at the use of that two word phrase to “swear” back in olden times). But my favorite song is amusingly handled as an “outake”, and is performed under the film’s closing credits — “Ripple”, in which Ferrell’s Ghost of Christmas Present talks about the ripple effects of how saving one soul can impact so many others in the world.

Absolutely terrific soundtrack!

( official Spirited web site ) | ( official Pasek & Paul web site ) | ( Wikipedia entry for the Spirited Soundtrack )


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

by Douglas Preston (Compact Disc Preston)

This is an action-packed mystery/horror story. The book begins with a failed archaeological expedition years earlier in the Amazon Basin (everyone died – how more failed can one get?), then moves to current day with several deaths in the lower level of a museum of natural history in New York City. (Trigger Warning: two young boys and dogs are among the victims.)

Strange goings-on have been occurring for years in that museum ever since the cargo of artifacts from the Amazon expedition arrived. So the museum hid the cargo behind locked doors – in the basement. But now the body count begins to climb.

The police so far are discounting the stories of weirdness in the basement, and officially state that a serial killer or a wild animal is the cause of the most recent museum deaths (though they haven’t actually solved the case yet), so the museum insists on holding the big fundraiser the next evening with ramped up security. The key exhibit for that event includes a figurine of a character that kills in the same fashion as the unknown murderer.

New Orleans FBI agent Pendergast has come to New York City to investigate a possible link between the museum killings and some unsolved murders at the New Orleans docks years earlier. The same docks that the cargo had passed through on its way to New York.

You know how this is going to play out.

The investigation into the mystery of the expedition, the curses, the secrets, the back-stabbing will satisfy any mystery reader. Then toss in the monster-in-the-basement, and the excitement of all the big-name donors at a fundraiser where everything could go horribly wrong, and people end up fighting for their lives, and you have a good ol’ monster story with all the beloved clichés.

This is the first story in the Pendergast series of which there are currently 21 books. David Colacci read the story and he brought all the characters to life. So maybe don’t listen to this at night or while home alone.

( official Relic page on the official Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child web site )


Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

The Aquanaut
by Dan Santat (jPB Santat)

Sophia’s dad has been lost at sea for years, and her uncle is working hard to preserve his legacy at Aqualand — the marine life theme park they started. Sophie is having a hard time because her uncle is so focused on work that he’s missing all the important things in her life. Suddenly, an old diving suit shows up, seemingly walking around on its own, since whomever’s inside never speaks. Sophie discovers the secret inside the suit, but tries her best to keep it secret. Eventually, Uncle Paul finds out, too, and even more is revealed.

A little bit mystery solving, a little bit daring rescue, a little bit dark secrets, but more about friendship and love, this was a quick well-illustrated read.

( official Dan Santat Instagram feed )

Recommended by Kolette S.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Stitches: A Memoir
by David Small (Biography Small)

Small tells the story of his life beginning at age 6 when an operation and medical treatment drastically changed his life. Takes place in Detroit and highlights relationships with family that include an angry frustrated father, and a supremely unhappy mom who runs the home with severity and silence. Illustrations are amazing and contribute and offer insight into the psyche of Small as a young boy through adolescence in dealing with traumatic events of his life.

Best audience for this is probably adults — those who like stories, medical topics, biographies/memoirs, family relationships, and wonderful illustrations.

( official Stitches: A Memoir page on the official David Small web site )

See the earlier review of Stiches by former Library Director Pat Leach in her Firefly blog in December 2009

Recommended by Brenda E.
Gere and South Branch Libraries

The Magic Fish
by Trung Le Nguyen (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Trung)

A young queer boy uses fairy tales to connect with his Vietnamese-speaking mother. A language story. A gender story. A family love story. Threaded together with fairy tales. The boy speaks English as his first language, while his mother speaks Vietnamese. The boy is queer and he’s scared to tell his mother/parents. Mom uses a fairy tale to reassure him that they can write their own ending. Together.

( publisher’s official The Magic Fish web site ) | ( official Trung Le Nguyen web site )


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

City Under the City
by Dan Yaccarino (jP Yaccarino)

This brand-new children’s picture book felt like a throwback to my own childhood. The artistic style of this one captured the tone and feel of a book published in the late 1960s or early 1970s. This is “dystopian fiction” for children.

in City Under the City, Bix is a child in a futuristic city where the humans are all helped and watched by a collection of floating giant eyes…who provide all that the human beings need, but discourage individuality and actual “thinking”. Bix is a precocious and stubborn little kid, who resists the conformity that the Eyes impress upon everyone else.

When a friendly mouse shows Bix the way to a hole to escape the “perfect” city they live him, Bix follows, and discovers an amazing old city hidden beneath the surface of the modern high-tech futuristic reality everyone else simply accepts. There, he discovers a massive collection of pre-Eye books in a library and learns to think clearly on his own.

For a simple children’s story, this is actually a template for resisting authoritarianism and dogma, as Bix brings his new-found knowledge back to his family and launches as a resistance movement against the all-seeing Eyes. I enjoyed this on all the levels it was presented, but especially the cute artistic style, that reminded me of watching The Jetsons as a kid.

( official Dan Yaccarino web site )


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

Screening Room

formatdvdA Christmas Carol (1999)
(DVD Christmas)

I recently watched both The Muppet Christmas Carol and this 1999 TV-movie version, starring Star Trek the Next Generation‘s Patrick Stewart, back-to-back, and loved them both.

Stewart was well-known during his STNG days for performing a one-man stage version of A Christmas Carol. This filmed version came 5 years after the end of the Next Generation TV series but before Stewart became Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies.

Stewart plays the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge as a tired but determined old miser, a little less nasty and sour than some other actors in that part. He also injects a bit more emotion into the scenes as he is forced to witness moments from his past and present and contemplate his sad and neglected fate in the future. Stewart is given terrific support by the other actors in this production, particularly Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Richard E. Grant as Bob Crachit. The production and set design are top notch here, but I felt that the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Be wasn’t very impressive (it’s glowing red eyes resembled nothing more than a Jawa from Star Wars).

None-the-less, Stewart, Grey and Grant’s performances place this one in my “Top Five” of Christmas Carol adaptations — but it is hard to beat the old classic with Alastair Sim from 1951!

(Also available in traditional print format.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


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

formatdvdThe Eight Gifts of Hanukkah
(DVD Eight)

After facing criticism for the single-track focus of all their Christmas movies, featuring mostly straight, white, WASP-ish casts in November and December, the Hallmark Channel has been diversifying its holiday films in recent years, to include multiple ethnicities and orientations, and even some films focusing on other non-Christmas year-end holidays.

The Eight Gifts of Hanukkah was a 2021 offering that explored Jewish culture and heritage. Which was a refreshing change but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t just as typically predictable as most Hallmark movies are! Inbar Lavi plays Sarah Levin, a young optometrist who is recently divorced and slowly making her way back into the dating life, casually seeing two new men. Jake Epstein plays Daniel, Sarah’s best friend, who she’s always overlooked, but who not-so-secretly adores her. When Sarah begins receiving highly personal daily gifts in the eight days of Hanukkah, she labors to figure out who knows her so well that these gifts would have such great personal connection (duh!). Though the plot was a bit cringe-worthy in terms of how obvious Daniel is and how oblivious Sarah is, seeing Sarah’s family celebrating Hanukkah traditions over the eight days was lovely, and the supporting cast had some really strong performances.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Love, Lights, Hanukkah! (the 2020 non-Christmas movie from Hallmark).)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official The Eight Gifts of Hanukkah web site )


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

formatdvdA Muppet Christmas Carol
(DVD j Muppet)

This was the fourth Muppets feature film, and the first to be produced and released following founder Jim Henson’s death (in May 1990), coming out for the Christmas season in 1992. It was also the first to be distributed by the Walt Disney Company — although the Muppets are now owned by the Walt Disney Company, that merger didn’t happen until 2004.

The traditional elements of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” are modified a little to fit with the Muppets environment. Gonzo the Great portrays writer Dickens, and, accompanied by Rizzo the Rat, serves as a host and narrator throughout the film. Kermit the Frog is Bob Crachit, and Miss Piggy is his wife. Kermit’s “nephew” Robin plays Tiny Tim, Fozzie Bear plays “Fozziwig”, Scrooge’s first employer. Curmudgeons Statler and Waldorf stand in as the Marley Brothers in place of Jacob Marley. And there are all-new Muppet creations in the roles of the three primary ghosts — Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet-to-Be.

And all the Muppet performances are up to their typical standards, although the expected Muppet shenanigans are actually toned down to tell a more serious story then we usually expect from this group of zanies. And that’s good, because the real star of this production is British actor Michael Caine, as the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge. When offered the role of Scrooge, Caine is quote as saying “I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role, and there are no puppets around me.” Which is exactly what producer/director Brian Henson wanted. And precisely what Caine delivers. He never treats any of the Muppet characters as anything less than a fellow serious actor. Caine’s Scrooge is one of my all-time favorite interpretations of that iconic character, and elevates what could have been a somewhat silly film to the level of “Modern Classic”.

Note: This is a musical version of the story, with songs by Nebraska’s own pop star Paul Williams (who won an Oscar for his “Rainbow Connection” song for the original Muppet Movie). One song was cut for the theatrical release of The Muppet Christmas Carol, and has a storied history of sometimes being included in “extras” or “new edits” of this film. That song has been returned to the version of The Muppet Christmas Carol available on the Disney+ streaming service. However, it is absent from the DVD version available from the libraries.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the other Muppet feature films, or any of the dozens of other adaptations of Dickens’ classsic story.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official The Muppet Christmas Carol web site )


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

formatdvdThe Nine Lives of Christmas
based on the novel by Sheila Roberts (Hoopla Movies)

Every once in a while, all the elements click to make something even more special than it has any right to be. This was the case with The Nine Lives of Christmas, starring Brandon Routh and Kimberly Sustad — a 2014 Hallmark Christmas movie. Routh had not really appeared in many of the “romantic comedy” films like Hallmark’s holiday fare, and at that time was perhaps best known for portraying Clark Kent/Superman in 2006’s Superman Returns (although he’s appeared in a lot of things since then). Sustad was a frequent face in Hallmark movies (and in more recent years has even written or co-written some of them).

Routh plays Zachary Stone, a single firefighter (mocked by his co-workers for being featured in a “fireman calendar” as a beefcake entry). Sustad plays Marilee White, a pet store employee and cat-loving veterinary student. Zach is adopted by a stray cat, and in a series of coincidental meetings, he and Marilee become friendly discussing their respective felines — Ambrose for him and Queenie for her. When Zach’s jealous girlfriend gets Marilee fired from her pet store job when Marilee won’t tolerate her abusive behavior, Zach (feeling guilty) invites Marilee to stay in the house he’s renovating (and living in), while she gets back on her feet. Increased familiarity leads to a quietly-brewing romance.

The chemistry between Sustad and Routh is perfect. There are a lot of little misunderstandings that lead to drama. The cats are both adorable. Gregory Harrison is terrific as Zach’s boss at the fire station. And the viewer can’t help but root for a happy ending for these two cat lovers. The “Christmas” elements of this one are present but are very minimal. The Nine Lives of Christmas shows up on a lot of Hallmark fans’ “favorites” lists.

Note: Sustad and Routh reunited seven years later in 2021 for a sequel, The Nine Kittens of Christmas, which was notably inferior to this first film.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the sequel The Nine Kittens of Christmas.)

(Also available: the novel on which this film was based.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official The Nine Lives of Christmas web site )


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

formatdvdWhen We Were Apollo
(DVD 629.454 Whe)

For anyone interested in the United States history of the Space Race, this documentary is a must-see. As someone who has always been interested in the space program and NASA, I found this film to be a fascinating look at the men and women who made every mission possible. Growing up in the 1960s and watching each mission to the moon and back, it was interesting to me to see old news reels of each event interspersed with clips of major news events that were happening simultaneously with the space program and their effect on each other. I was especially moved by the interviews with men and women who were part of the program to land a man on the moon and hear their memories first-hand. It is important that we should remember the accomplishments of these people at a time when our country was in a technological war with the former Soviet Union in its efforts to get ahead in the space race. We still have many people alive today who can provide first-person accounts of the advancements made in the early years of NASA; now is the time to record those memories for future generations to learn from

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Apollo 13 or Hidden Figures.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official When We Were Apollo Twitter feed )


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

last updated September 2023
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.