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Staff Recommendations – February 2018

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February 2018 Recommendations

Anastasia (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
music by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Compact Disc 782.14 Ana)

In 1997, Fox Animation and 20th Century Fox released an animated film entitled Anastasia, a fictionalized adventure about the legendary missing Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna from the Romanov family of Russia, who disappeared during the events of the Russian Revolution that overthrew the Russian monarchy and aristocracy, as the rest of her family was executed in 1918. The film, featuring the voices of Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer and Christopher Lloyd (among many others), was a musical and a spectacle, designed to compete with the animated films being produced on an almost annual basis by the Walt Disney Studio.

As a musical, the film featured 17 songs by lyricist Lynn Ahrens, including two highly memorable works, “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past”. The story of the film supposes that Anastasia survived the deaths of the rest of her family, and has lived on the street as an amnesiac, Anya. She gets caught up in a con artist’s plot to have her impersonate the missing Anastasia to collect a potential reward from Anastasia’s grandmother if Anastasia was to return. An unlikely love story is wrapped around the discovery that Anya truly is Anastasia.

in 2017, the beloved animated film was adapted into a stage musical on Broadway, with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty taking some of the songs from the film, and adding many more new musical numbers for the stage, including “In a Crowd of Thousands”. Some of the more fantastical elements of the film are rendered more realistic for the stage show — eliminating some mysticism and the popular animal character of Bartok the Bat — and the musical Anastasia becomes a true historical epic.

The CD of the soundtrack for the Broadway musical includes 25 tracks, ranging from powerful and emotional, to humorous and wistful. Christy Altomare plays Anya/Anastasia, and Derek Klema plays Dmitri. Both have excellent, beautiful voices and their songs are the most powerful on the album. I hope Anastasia has a long and healthy life as a Broadway hit, but I also hope it tours the U.S. and makes it to Lincoln and/or Omaha, as I would love to see this show!

(Sadly, the libraries do not own the animated film Anastasia, however we do have the soundtrack to that film available on CD!)

( official Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty web site (creators of the music) ) | ( official Anastasia: The New Broadway Musical web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

The Tent
by Margaret Atwood (Atwood)

I was recently looking for a Margaret Atwood book that was small and easily digestible, as sometimes my attention span does not allow me to read full tales spun in world’s outside my own. Although I love her perspective, the only other Atwood book I successfully completed was Good Bones and Simple Murders, which was another book of short stories and poems. This one was similar to that because every chapter packed a punch. This book was slightly different because there were a couple more chapters where you could read about her reflections on her time as a writer, and her wrestling with the expectations put upon her. My favorite chapter in this collection was Orphan Stories. I felt like it understood me we well as a millennial maybe, or perhaps as a misfit. I would recommend this book to many bold and brave women in my life.

( publisher’s official The Tent web page ) | ( official Margaret Atwood web site )


Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries and the Bookmobile

The Deal of a Lifetime
by Fredrik Backman (Backman)

Another gem of a novella by the internationally popular Swedish author, this fantasy about life and death poignantly encapsulates the extent of love, no matter how much time and how many regrets have been impediments along the way.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, and the film Meet Joe Black (not in the libraries).)

( official The Deal of a Lifetime page on the U.S. publisher’s official Fredrik Backman web site )


Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

A Murder is Announced
by Agatha Christie (Christie)

This book is in the Miss Marple series, which does not need to be read in order, in my opinion. It is set in small town England when Miss Marple is visiting a friend. The story begins a bit before she arrives however with an announcement in the local newspaper that there will be a murder at a certain house at a certain time. Quite a few people turn up out of curiosity and under the impression it’s one of those mystery who-done-it parties. They are all startled however when a death does actually occur (the intruder to the house and outsider to the village), but it looks like the hostess was the intended victim so she is under constant peril and police watch for the length of the book. With no enemies and no clear motive for the attempt on her life, the inspectors are puzzled. Enter Miss Marple to clear a few points up, basically by politely spying on folks and eventually the mystery is solved, but not without a rather deep dig into the past of multiple characters. I really liked this one and it may be one of my favorites in the series because of all the complexities involved. If you enjoy mysteries with deeply developed characters and or historical ones, then you’ll most likely be captivated by this one.

(NOTE: At the time of its original release, this was Agatha Christie’s 50th novel, and received a great deal of publicity for that fact.)

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Caribbean Mystery, by Agatha Christie.)

( A Murder is Announced page on the official Agatha Christie web site )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

“The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth”
by Edward, Lord Dunsany

A family member who has read the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft told me that Lovecraft was inspired by Lord Dunsany and they wanted to read some of his work. I found this in the library’s collection for them and after reading they thought I’d like it, so I gave it a try. It’s less than 20 pages long, so it is not a huge commitment. I thought it was pretty good and was reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s short stories such as “Farmer Giles of Ham” and “Leaf by Niggle”. Old, mystic and dreamy I think would best describe it. The story is about a village (Allanthurion) whose residents suddenly begin having nightmares from Hell and are afraid to sleep. The magician of the village determines the dreams are from Gaznak, the greatest magician, rider of a comet who visits Earth every few hundred years and feeds on the minds of men. The terrible dreams can only be stopped by defeating Gaznak and the only way to vanquish him is with a sword called Sacnoth. The sword is part of a dragon-crocodile named Tharagavverug, which can’t be slain because it’s made of metal and nothing can fell it save for hunger. So our brave village hero Leothric, starves the dragon, which takes a few days, gains the sword and sets off to destroy the wizard Gaznak. That’s sort of all there is to it, as it’s quite short, but I liked it more for how the story was told than some sort of complicated plot or character development. It’s a nice little story deserving of a read, even if you are not into Lovecraft and or Tolkien. Readers of fairy tales, fantasy, or fables will enjoy.

This is a short story available in several books the library owns including: The Mammoth Book of Fairy Tales, Edited by Mike Ashley, 398.2 ASH; The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories, by Oxford University Press, 813.08 OXF; and The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth, by Lord Dunsany, on Hoopla.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Call of Cthulu, by H.P. Lovecraft, Farmer Giles of Ham, by J.R.R. Tolkien, Leaf by Niggle, by J.R.R. Tolkien, or Smith of Wooten Major, by J.R.R. Tolkien, all of which are short stories.)

( Article about Lord Dunsany and “The Fortress Unvanquishable” at ) | ( Wikipedia entry on Edward, Lord Dunsany )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

Footnotes* From the World’s Greatest Bookstores (*True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers)
by Bob Eckstein (002 Eck)

This one caught my eye on the New Books display at the downtown library, with a cozy watercolor illustration of a charming bookstore on the cover, and an unusual physical design — a hardback cover that folds back over the top of the interior contents. Bob Eckstein is not just a writer, but also an illustrator and cartoonish. His works have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

For this book, which was inspired by a magazine article about charming bookstores in New York City, Eckstein pairs evocative watercolor paintings with an information page about each international bookstore being profiled. The paintings also incorporate quotes of hand-lettered remembrances from customers, owners, booksellers and celebrities about each individual bookstore. Eckstein started with a list of 150 noteworthy bookstores, and ended up with 75 within this volume’s pages. Covering the entire world, the bookstores profiled range from quaint little shops in out-of-the-way places in the U.S. to significant independent bookstores in India, Thailand, China, South America, France, England and more. Even The Antiquarian, a longtime staple in Omaha’s Old Market, which moved to Brownville, NE several years ago, is included.

The stories told, of odd customers, or famous authors and events, are quite memorable. The story that stuck with me was of David Bowie helping a harried bookstore employee to set up a book display, and she had no idea who he was. I always make it a point to check out unusual bookstores in any city I visit on vacation — for instance, check out MacDonald’s Book Shop in Estes Park, or The Tattered Cover in Denver, or Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s in Minneapolis — and this book makes me want to visit quite a few more! (Sadly, several of my old favorites, including The Mystery Book Store in Omaha, and Murder By the Book in Denver, are no more!)

( publisher’s official Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores web site ) | ( official Bob Eckstein web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Love You When…
by Linda Kranz (jP Kranz)

This is a lovely little juvenile picture book, which should also appeal to adults who appreciate creativity. Linda Kranz is a children’s book illustrator who specializes in using painted rocks in her art. In the case of Love You When…, she has assembled a series of inspirational pages filled with photos of heart-shaped rocks, some just in their natural appearance, and others painted. Each page is a work of art, with an upbeat statement about loving someone under any types of circumstances.

The images in Love You When… reminded my wife and myself of one of our trips to San Francisco, and the various “Heart” statues that were on display throughout the city (much like Lincoln’s bicycles, stars, lightbulbs and hearts). We also both look for small heart-shaped rocks and stones, on hiking trails, lakesides, and bike paths. Knowing how rare it is to find such uniquely-shaped items, I can appreciate how much effort Kranz went to in order to assemble the beautiful images in this book. If you’re looking for a little pick-me-up, and can appreciate an artist’s use of natural objects in telling a story, both my wife and I recommend this charming little book!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try some of Linda Kranz’s other books, of which the libraries own Only One You, and Let’s Rock: Rock Painting for Kids.)

( official Love You When… page on the official Linda Kranz web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library and

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

The Best of Adam Sharp
by Graeme Simsion (Compact Disc Simsion)

I really enjoyed Graeme Simsion’s previous two novels, The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, featuring brilliant but eccentric physicist Don Tillman and his girlfriend/wife Rosie, and their misadventures in love. I particularly enjoyed those two as audiobooks, with a perfect narrator, with his lovely Australian accent. So, when I saw that Simsion had a new (2017) title out, and that it was also available as an audiobook, I couldn’t wait to give it a listen.

Again, the perfect narrator was selected to read out this new novel, in the form of David Barker. The Best of Adam Sharp has a completely different tone from the two Rosie novels. It still has a lot of humor, but in place of Don Tillman’s high-functioning-autistic narrator, Adam Sharp has a laid back and more introspective personality. Adam is a computer database engineer, living in England with a woman who’s also in the computer field. They have a comfortable relationship, after years of trying (unsuccessfully) to have children, and he has a routine that suits him, including weekly trivia night at a local pub with his co-workers. But something is missing from his life — he used to be a piano player, and he’s given that up. Out of the blue, the “woman who got away”, Angelina Brown, from a relationship during the 6 months he spent in Australia in his twenties, e-mails him with “Hi!”. A harmless flirtation with Angelina on-line leads to Adam questioning everything about his life at the moment. And when the opportunity to potentially reconnect with the woman he’s never forgotten presents itself, despite her being married, he’s forced to confront several truths about himself.

The plot of this one is quirky, but it is filled with fascinating characters. Adam Sharp’s musical background creates an opportunity for author Simsion to pepper the entire novel with the equivalent of “background music” — songs Adam recalls from flashback sequences, songs Adam plays while working as a musician in a bar, songs played off of iPods, and songs heard on the radio in stores and taxis. Simsion provides an itemized list at the back of the book, identifying with versions of the songs, down to “studio” vs “live” recordings, to listen to in order to get into the book’s mood. The audiobook also features a short interview with Simsion on the final disc, in which he talks about the process of finding the perfect narrator for the audiobook version of The Best of Adam Sharp. I enjoyed this one immensely, although a few of the plot elements may prove to be too much for more prurient readers.

( U.S. publisher’s official The Best of Adam Sharp web site ) | ( official Graeme Simsion web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

by Jeff Vandermeer (Vandermeer)

Annihilation is the first volume in The Southern Reach trilogy by author Jeff Vandermeer. It is also the source material for a new feature film, scheduled for release later in February 2018, starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac and Gina Rodriguez (among others). Annihilation is part thriller, part scifi and part horror. A team of four female scientists is being sent into a mysterious, isolated geographic area to explore a mystery there — something that has led to disaster for 11 previous expeditions. Some…event…occured in this space, and inexplicable things have been happening in the area since. The previous expeditions either didn’t return, or went mad, or came back changed…and the area with these effects may be expanding.

The tone is a cross between the science fiction adventure novels of years gone by and the gradually increasing dread of a H.P. Lovecraft novel, with its unspeakable horrors. Events of the story also leave the reader wondering about the reliability of the central narrator. I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed in the number of details that were left hanging by the end of this volume, but I do find myself very invested in finding out what happens next, so I’m sure I’ll be reading Authority and Acceptance soon to see how Vandermeer expands and concludes the story. In the meantime, I’ve very curious to see how this first book gets turned into a feature film!

( Wikipedia entry for The Southern Reach Trilogy ) | ( official Jeff Vandermeer web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

hooplaFables 3: Storybook Love
by Bill Willingham (Hoopla digital comic books)

This is the third part of the Fables series that I’ve reviewed before and I highly suggest you read those before reading this one. The first story arc in this book is American Jack Tales: Bag of Bones, which is a rather short story. It’s set in the American South during the Civil War. Jack, who is one of the characters we usually see in the modern day story, was around in the South at this time and after winning a card game is given a bag to hold anything and everything, even Death himself. It’s pretty amusing but does contain nudity, so it’s not something for all readers. The next story in this book is Sharp Operation + Dirty Business, staring Briar Rose and Bigby (the Big Bad Wolf). It’s explained that Briar Rose’s condition still persists and that anytime she pricks her finger not only does she fall asleep but everyone in the same building does as well. This is a potential threat to FableTown’s security as they don’t want their identity known to the wider world. Here’s the problem, someone has, sort of, figured it out. I’ll let you read it and find out how they deal with this person. Storybook Love is the big story in this volume and begins when Snow White and Bigby are drugged. They wake up to find themselves in the middle of the wilderness, camping, with no recollection of how or why they are there. They have a suspicion that the unusual situation is hostile, not a friendly practical joke, and it turns out they are right. Bigby, who hides his wolf form in human skin most of the time, transforms into his true form to help them both escape. This series is so full of surprises that I don’t want to spoil the plot by saying any more. Barley Corn Brides is the last story in this volume and is pretty short. It’s about the smaller residents on Fable Farm and how they built up their colony from just a few men who made the initial journey into our world, to the small village they have now thanks to the same sort of seed which Thumbelina came from. I would highly recommend this book to you if you are into story book type fantasy, for adults. It’s very well written and illustrated. The characters develop a lot over the stories from volume to volume and little bits of their mysterious past in the Fablelands get revealed ever so slowly.

If you like this, there are paper copies, as well as all the rest of the series is on Hoopla. Please note is that these stories were published in the volumes reviewed here and as deluxe volumes, which are hardback and longer, so there are only 14 of them. The stories line up fairly evenly but sometimes the shorter ones get shuffled around a bit differently in the different volume lines. Originally they came out as comic books, not graphic novels, so you could go that route too if you wanted.

( Wikipedia page for Fables ) | ( Bill Willingham’s website ( appears to be offline – check out his Twitter feed instead )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

The Misfit’s Manifesto
by Lidia Yuknavitch (302.14 Yuk)

I picked up he Misfit’s Manifesto because I had read other books by Lidia Yuknavitch and had been really impressed with her unflinching look at topics that are usually unsavory. As I started the introduction on this one, I chastised myself for picking up YET ANOTHER book on being a misfit. Sometimes too many of one type of book in a row turns into a snooze-fest. Well, the author and the peers she relied on to describe various types of misfits are here to say that not everyone is a misfit just because they like to purposefully mismatch their clothes. There is an aspect to being a social misfit that has to do with the trauma we’ve been dealt, and how we manage and struggle through it. This is a wonderful book to help a person realize that it will be okay if the traditional hero’s path is not the one you take. We are doing the best we can, and there is beauty in our perseverance.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws, by Kate Bornstein.)

( publisher’s official Misfit’s Manifesto web page ) | ( official Lidia Yuknavitch web site )


Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries and the Bookmobile

Baker’s Magic
by Diane Zahler (j Zahler)

I recently did a book discussion on literary cookbooks (cookbooks inspired by works of literature); one of the patrons attending the discussion suggested I read this book. (I only discovered later that it’s on the list of books up for a local award this year.)

I really, REALLY enjoyed this book! I love that the protagonist in this story, Bee, is feisty and independent, yet she very quickly becomes close to people in her life. She’s got a unique skill for baking (which I love), and as an added bonus, she’s got magic skills — that of incorporating her current mood into the items she bakes. At first, that is a problem for Bee. But once she learns to harness this power, it works largely to her advantage.

I had a great time following Bee on her adventures, and I was pleased, at the end of the story, to find the recipe for her mentor’s cinnamon rolls!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel.)

( publisher’s official Baker’s Magic web site ) | ( official Diane Zahler web site )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Screening Room

formatdvdCalendar Girls
(DVD Calendar)

After having read the stage/play script version of this story, I realized I hadn’t actually seen this 2003, starring Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Philip Glenister, and a cast of other recognizable British actors. Based on real-life events from 1999, where a group of middle-aged British women from a small community in Yorkshire decided to post nude, though tastefully, for a calendar to raise funds to purchase a new couch for the waiting room of a cancer treatment center where one of their husbands had been treated, this film is packed with both laughs and some serious emotional punch. The performances are strong throughout, from Mirren as the flamboyent best friend who proposes the calendar, to Walters as the widow whose experiences inspire the calendar, to the many other women who made up the rest of the calendar’s pages. For a film addressing the issues of tasteful nudity, the filmmakers manage to be both serious and light-hearted in how they portray the photography sessions for the calendar. The English countryside, and the tradition of Women’s Institutes come across beautifully. But at its core, this is a relationship comedy, and the relationships between all the primary characters shine. If you haven’t sampled this one, I highly recommend it, although I’d love to see it performed on stage as well. The stage drama was first produced in 2008, and subsequently in 2015, a musical adaptation was produced in England, to some success.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( Wikipedia page for the Calendar Girls movie )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdShin Godzilla
(DVD Shin)

This is the most recent in the Godzilla film series which dates back to 1954 with Gojira. It’s similar to others in the series in that it’s more humorous than frightening despite fact that there’s a giant monster as the main character. In this movie we watch the Japanese government handle the emergency situation brought about by Godzilla coming ashore. Staging through confusion, denial, acceptance and then to action we see the officials call meeting after meeting, change the location of the meetings, call in certain people to the meetings, have discussions, arguments and votes, all the while Japan is being destroyed by Godzilla and the citizens are in a state of panic and horror.

At first odd things happen and no one is sure why until an infantile form of Godzilla comes out of the water. Footage is shown on the news and the officials in their office buildings have to accept the odd events are not caused by an earthquake or other natural disaster, while at the same time have to figure out what it is, whether to contain or defeat it, and how to do this. The creature is smashing up the city and goes through multiple forms before morphing into who we recognize as Godzilla. The chain of command is amusing to watch as the people on the ground communicate to the people in the office buildings. During the course of events there is struggle in the office building between politicians and scientists brought in to figure out what the creature is and how to deal with it. It may sound like a lot is going on but that’s just because the perspective keeps switching between on the ground action and meetings in the office. I really liked seeing the story told as two sides of a spinning coin. The whole movie is in Japanese with English subtitles, so unless you know Japanese you will be reading the movie, which I know some viewers may not like, but I didn’t mind. If you enjoy action comedy/drama and or Kong Skull Island chances are you’ll like this too. As a side note, if you like this movie, there is another in the works called Godzilla vs. Kong set to come out in 2020 which will star both giant monsters. For more movies in the mean time check out Hoopla for Godzilla, Gamera, Rodan films.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

formatdvdThe West Wing: Complete Second Season
(DVD West)

The second season of the series starts off by finding out who got shot at the end of last season’s finale, and the season ends with a funeral of a beloved staff member. Some character highlights include the President being forced to tell the country about his health, CJ choosing which turkey is the most photogenic and therefore should be pardoned for Thanksgiving at the White House, Toby arguing about school prayer, Charlie trying to locate the perfect carving knife for the president, Josh dealing with his issues with the help of a psychiatrist, Leo defending the Missile Defense Shield, Sam helping his friend run for office with bad results, Donna being the only one worried about the satellite falling to earth and also in the second season we are introduced to Ainsley Hayes, a Republican reporter who shows Sam up on national TV and Leo then hires as Associate White House Counsel.

The drama and humor continue in the second season. The best episode is probably the Thanksgiving episode, but there are many good ones throughout the year. When the president is forced to explain his health it really changes the dynamic in the White House so there is a lot more drama added in-house between staff.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The American President, The Newsroom, Scandal, Madam Secretary or other political dramas.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this series ) | ( official The West Wing page on the NBC web site )


Recommended by Carrie R.
Bennett Martin Public Library

last updated September 2023
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