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Staff Recommendations – February 2023

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February 2023 Recommendations

The Cryptid Club
by Sarah Andersen (741.5 And)

Cryptid (definition): an animal (such as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster) that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist.

Web cartoonist Sarah Anderson (Sarah’s Scribbles, and Fangs) launched a new four-panel web comic The Cryptid Club on Webtoon in September 2021. This little hardback book compiles all of the cartoons from the run of that web comic from the beginning through May 2022. The strip features a rotating/recurring cast of characters, from Bigfoot (Sam) and Nessie to a chupacabra, ghosts, a Kraken, aliens, the Fresno Nightcrawlers, Cthulhu, Mothman, The Flatwoods Monster, the Slender Man, a Jackalope, a Siren and a Sirenhead, and a Sleep Paralysis Demon. But, though many of those might be considered “monsters” in modern pop culture mythology, in this strip, they’re all just “normal” people trying to live “normal” lives.

The strip is a cute little “slice of life” from the world of these slightly creepy creatures, and Andersen does an absolutely marvelous job of capturing a mix of both the mundane and the macabre. I felt little hints of Charles Addams classic “The Addams Family” comics in these pages. I’ll have to admit, I occasionally find some of Andersen’s extremely simplistic art a bit off-putting, but in this collection, she’s at her best.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the other cartoon compilations by Sarah Andersen, I particularly recommend Fangs, or The World of Charles Addams by Charles Addams, containing many of the cartoons that inspired various iterations of The Addams Family.)

( official Cryptid Club web site ) | ( official Sarah Andersen web site )


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

Everything We Didn’t Say
by Nicole Baart (Baart)

Juniper Baker returns to the small town where she was raised, trying to solve a murder from the summer after she graduated. Modern-day threats and dangers to her and her family members are almost surely connected to her brother being the main suspect from that long-ago murder.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart or The Other Daughter by Karin Slaughter.)

( official Everything We Didn’t Say page on the official Nicole Baart web site )


Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder
by Valerie Burns (Burns)

The first in the new Baker Street Mystery series, this is a culinary-themed cozy mystery. Maddy Montgomery inherited her aunt’s bakery, large house, and 250-pound English Mastiff, all in a small town in Michigan. There is a clause for her to keep all three, though, and that’s to keep the bakery running and live in the house for at least a year. Before her second day in town has come to a close, there is a murder in the bakery, and Maddy has to work with her new neighbors and friends to clear her own name. A marketing genius but baker newbie, Maddy entertains the reader while also bringing business to the bakery with her series of trending hashtags.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.)

( official Baker Street Mysteries series page on the official V.M. Burns web site )


Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Octavia Butler’s Kindred
adapted from the novel by Octavia Butler by Damian Duffy and John Jennings (Butler)

A time travel story following a young woman from the 1970s back to the plantation run by her ancestors. Powerful and emotional.

(Note: A TV series adaptation of this story appeared in December 2022 on the Hulu streaming platform — it adapts the first three chapters of the novel into 8 episodes, with some changes from the original source material. Additional seasons are planned, continuing the adaptation of the original story.)

( official Kindred page on the official web site for the late Octavia Butler )

This was one of dozens of Graphic Novel reviews submitted by library staff during our 2022 In-Service Training day on 9/23, all collected on A Day Full of Graphic Novels

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

The Motion Picture Teller
by Colin Cotterill (Cotterill)

I was fortunate enough to luck into an Advance Readers Copy of this title several months ago, prior to its official January 2023 release. Having enjoyed the Colin Cotterill “series” titles I’ve previously read (see review link below), I was excited to dive into this stand-alone novel.

The Motion Picture Teller is set in 1996 in Bangkok, Thailand. Supot is a somewhat lackadaisical postal delivery man, just going through the motions of life. The one bright spot in an otherwise bland world, is the time he spends with his friend Ali, who runs a video rental store (and tinkers with being a screenwriter). The two men are obsessed with films — especially foreign films, and the exotic women who star in them. They have a small viewing area at the back of the store, where they regularly spend hours upon hours viewing videotapes. When they discover a previously unknown film, entitled “Bangkok 2010”, mixed in with a box of VHS tapes they purchased from a scrounger, they watch it and and are stunned to realize it is a masterpiece — perhaps the greatest Thai-made movie of all time — but nobody has ever heard of it and it was apparently never released.

Supot becomes obsessed with finding the makers of this film, and with meeting the beautiful female star of the film, Siriluk, whom he develops a crush on. The majority of this novel features Supot’s efforts to uncover the film’s mysterious origins, which takes him to the backwoods of Thailand, and a commune full of people that have many secrets to hide.

This book was absolutely charming — it is a mystery novel, without a crime having been committed, and Supot and Ali are fabulous characters. But they’re not the only ones — every single supporting character is fully realized, colorful and intriguing. The dialog is humorous, sharp and snappy. The plot is complex. And the setting, in various different parts of Thailand is exotic and distinct. I really enjoyed this one, and strongly recommend it for fellow cinephiles! And I love what the title of the book refers to — Supot verbally telling the stories of motion pictures, from memory, to a rapt audience — an intriguing twist on the traditional “storyteller”.

(Author Colin Cotterill has lived in Thailand for many years, and has had two long-running mystery series set there — those featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun (a series which ended with a 15th entry in 2020), and those featuring Jimm Juree (2011-2019). Those are all worth sampling if you can track them down! I’ve particularly enjoyed the three Jimm Juree entries the libraries have as audiobooks.

I also recommend the film Be Kind Rewind, which also features somewhat quirky characters who inhabit a video rental store.)

( publisher’s official The Motion Picture Teller web page ) | ( official Colin Cotterill web site )

See Scott C.’s review of the audiobook of Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Cotterill, in the June 2020 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!


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

Everything I Never Dreamed: My Life Surviving and Standing Up to Domestic Violence
by Ruth Glenn (Biography Glenn)

I happened to see this book on our New Book Display and became intrigued with the book after reading the blurb on the cover. This book was not an easy read. There are many stories of domestic violence against women and children, told by the survivors or their families in explicit detail. The courage that these individuals have shown to escape their abusive partners and to speak out against domestic violence is nothing short of incredible. Glenn tells the stories of survivors through her own experience as a wife and mother who was kidnapped, abused, and shot at close range by her husband. As a national spokesperson of organizations devoted to ending domestic violence, she brings hope to victims everywhere through her work and her personal story. I was especially impressed with the statistics throughout this book, demonstrating how our society has turned a blind eye to domestic violence and left these victims without a legal system to help them escape the horrors of abuse at the hands of people who are supposed to keep their partners and children safe. Glenn finishes the book with suggestions that we as individuals and as a society can do to work towards ending domestic violence. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject or as the parent, friend or family member of someone who is currently in an abusive relationship..

( publisher’s official Everything I Never Dreamed web page ) | ( official Ruth Glenn info on the American Bar Association site )


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

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
by Lucy Knisley (Biography Knisley)

Lucy Knisley loves food — she is the daughter of a chef and a gourmet. This is a forthright, thoughtful and funny memoir. She traces key episodes in hr life — framed by what she was eating at the time, and lessons learned about food, cooking and life. Each chapter is book-ended with an illustrated recipe — many of them treasured family dishes — yummy!

Recommended for adults, teens, and people who like to cook!

( official Relish page on the official Lucy Knisley web site )

This was one of dozens of Graphic Novel reviews submitted by library staff during our 2022 In-Service Training day on 9/23, all collected on A Day Full of Graphic Novels

Recommended by Pamela C.
Gere and South Branch Libraries

Holy Ghost: The Life and Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler
by Richard Koloda (781.65 Ayler)

Albert Ayler was one of the most renowned saxophone players this side of John Coltrane. In fact, his and Ornette Coleman’s bands played at Coltrane’s funeral, an honor that Coltrane had requested before his death, and Trane told many folks that he saw Ayler as the next important up and coming horn player. Sadly, he only lived a few years beyond Coltrane, but he achieved stunning heights in his all-too-short career. Author Richard Koloda, a musicologist who was also a personal friend of Albert’s trumpet-playing brother Donald, has recently published Holy Ghost: The Life and Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler, and you can borrow it from the Polley Music Library.

As Koloda discusses in his preface, Ayler’s premature death and the discovery of his body in the East River became the stuff of legend in jazz, and unfortunately the legend has sometimes overshadowed the significant body of work he left behind. But in his short career, he did change the course of jazz music, bringing collective improvisation back to modern jazz, and exerting sizable influence on John Coltrane. And if you influenced Coltrane, you’ve de facto influenced the direction of jazz. Koloda asserts that this is the first in-depth biography of Ayler to be written in English, and his research gathered over 20 years corrects the historical record around Ayler’s work and life on a variety of fronts—even misstatements by Albert himself!

Proceeding through Ayler’s life chronologically, Koloda describes his childhood in Cleveland as a generally comfortable middle class upbringing in a musical family. Albert’s father Edward was an aspiring saxophonist, and his younger brother Donald proved to have musical proclivities at a young age, too. Albert’s father started him on alto saxophone by the age of 4, and he was performing in public by the age of 9, and even touring in Little Walter’s rhythm and blues band by the age of 17. In his early 20s, he joined the military (Koloda notes that the timing would suggest he did this to avoid paying child support), and while playing in the Army band, he switched from alto to tenor saxophone. Though his playing for the Army was conventional as one might expect, it appears that he began to find his own voice on the instrument around this time, which ultimately consisted of combining simple, gospel-inflected melodies with very free playing. Upon discharge, he looked for venues to continue developing this style, but early audiences in LA and his native Cleveland weren’t overly receptive. In 1962, he headed to Sweden, where he recalled his new approach being appreciated during his military stint.

His initial reception in Sweden was about the same as things were in the US—his intense, timbre-focused sound was still running a little ahead of the stylistic curve. But he did come across the first people to champion his work, such as Bengt “Frippe” Nordstrom, who released the first recordings of Ayler on his own Bird Notes record label. The first of these records, “Something Different,” was released in 1963, and became the new standard in free music, taking things further than Ornette Coleman’s late 1950s approach. These early recorded efforts continued to baffle most critics, too, who were largely thrown by Ayler’s propensity for playing standards on his records that would only briefly feature recognizable forms, and then everything would become disorienting. He began to meet like-minded musicians in this early period, though, such as bassist Henry Grimes and trumpet player Don Cherry, who was also a veteran of Ornette’s band.

Ayler was back in Cleveland later in 1963, and some local musicians were starting to pick up on his style. One detail I learned in this book was that tenor player Frank Wright was directly influenced by Ayler’s approach, and he went on to record similarly free jazz albums (his style was often referred to as “energy music”) from the mid-60s through the 70s. Later in the year, Ayler moved to New York, where another of the main champions of his work happened to see him play on Christmas day. That audience member was Bernard Stollman, who immediately decided to sign Ayler as the first artist on his new record label, ESP-Disk (we have a great book in Polley all about that label called “Always in Trouble, by the way). ESP Disk indeed released much of Ayler’s mid-60s work, starting with “Spiritual Unity” in 1964, and went on to become one of the most important record labels in documenting what was often called “The new thing.” Most of the essential Ayler records, including “Spirits Rejoice,” “Bells,” and “New York Eye and Ear Control” were all released on ESP Disk.

The middle sections of the book detail Ayler’s quick rise to jazz notoriety, where again his impact on the playing of John Coltrane feels like an essential way to describe the importance of his work. The influence couldn’t be more clear just looking at Coltrane’s discography: after his landmark album “A Love Supreme” in 1965, his next major album was the large-ensemble free jazz “Ascension,” released in two parts in 1966, and subsequent albums showed his improvisational style reaching further into the sound explorations pioneered by Ayler.

Success with peers and his critics didn’t always fill the seats at his performances, though. Koloda recounts the years of continued financial struggle and some audiences still just not warming up to free jazz in festival formats. Coltrane interceded to get Ayler signed to Impulse Records, and he gradually capitulated to pressures to make his music more commercial in a variety of ways: he included vocals, he made shorter pieces that could be used as singles, and he attempted to incorporate rock and R&B influences into his music. In retrospect, these decisions seem misguided, and there is also recorded evidence that Ayler continued to develop his own unique free sound regardless of the records, as evidenced by the recordings we have from his last performances in France July of 1970. And in his final months, we find evidence of Albert struggling with his mental health: his brother Donald, who had played trumpet in Albert’s bands over the years, also had issues with mental decline, which Albert blamed in part on himself. Donald ended up hospitalized around September. Without clear prospects for the future (Impulse Records dropped Albert in early 1970), he entered a period of depression. After the successful French shows in July mentioned earlier, he played very little, visited family, and ultimately disappeared on November 5. His body was found in the river on November 25. Despite some of the strange legends that have developed over the years, author Koloda’s research seems to conclude that his passing was most likely a suicide.

The postscript to the book follows up on the final years of Albert’s brother Donald: in and out of hospitals for the rest of his life, he continued to play music, but for the most part lived in a declined state until his passing in 2005. On the whole, “Holy Ghost” is a well-written book that’s a pleasure to read, but unfortunately there are no happy endings for either of the Ayler brothers. Though the influence of Albert’s music in particular lives on—Koloda notes that many modern art-rock bands explicitly pay homage to his work—he only experienced a small fraction of the love and admiration for his work that exists now.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try This is Our Music: Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American Culture by Iain Anderson or Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP Disk by Jason Weiss.)

( publisher’s official Holy Ghost web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Fangirl: The Manga, Vol. 1
adapted from the novel by Rainbow Rowell by Sam Maggs, with art by Gabi Nan (YA PB Maggs)

Twin sisters from Omaha begin freshman year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Cath is a writer of fan fiction, but when she turns in a fanfic story for her creative writing class, her professor accuses her of plagiarism.

( official Sam Maggs web site ) | ( official Fangirl Manga page on the official Rainbow Rowell web site )

This was one of dozens of Graphic Novel reviews submitted by library staff during our 2022 In-Service Training day on 9/23, all collected on A Day Full of Graphic Novels

Recommended by Paul B.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries

by Josh Malerman (Malerman)

I picked up Goblin from a “Goblincore” library display, then looked up what “goblincore” means. According to Collins: “a fashion style that celebrates aspects of nature that are not considered traditionally beautiful, e.g: mushrooms, insects.” I’d say this book counts because of its motifs of near-constant rain, forbidden woods, and dark-plumed owls with creepier than usual eyes.

This book bills itself as “A Novel in Six Novellas” though I suspect only one of the stories — “Happy Birthday, Hunter!” — is long enough to count as a novella. The good news is that this long story midway through is truly the star of the collection. Neal Nash is a big game hunter in the small city of Goblin, where it’s almost always raining. It’s his 60th birthday party and everything is pushed to excess (his cake is made from a dozen kinds of game meats). The narrative itself feels like Ray Bradbury’s exuberance. Nash’s house is filled with animals from around the world, but he doesn’t have one of the legendary owls from the forbidden woods north of Goblin. No one has ever killed one. Tonight he’s going to be the first, no matter the cost.

The other five stories are all connected to this community in the style of an anthology horror with a wrap-around narrative about delivering a mysterious box. If you liked Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, I’m pretty sure the story “Presto” is a direct tribute. Reading the whole collection straight through adds a lot in terms of setting and vibe, but if you have limited time, I would still recommend “Happy Birthday, Hunter!” as a great standalone experience.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Books of Blood by Clive Barker, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury or A Taste of Honey by Jabari Asim.)

( official Goblin page on the official Josh Malerman web site )


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

Primus: Over the Electric Grapevine
by Greg Prato (Music 781.66 Pri)

Primus is a quirky band that has been a part of pop culture since the grunge days of the 1990s, and their bandleader Les Claypool is generally regarded as one of the best bass players of his generation. Their music often sounds melodically strange but rhythmically sophisticated, and somehow it all comes together to be incredibly catchy. A great book about the band and Claypool himself, called Over the Electric Grapevine by long time music journalist Greg Prato, was recently published in paperback for the first time, and you can borrow it from Polley.

From a writing and editing standpoint, this book is a great example of how to edit oral history accounts into a narrative that has flow and direction. After conducting extensive interviews with band members and participants in a variety of Claypool-related acts, Prato carefully edited interviews to create the whole shape and form of this book. It works beautifully, and I’ve rarely seen this technique handled so well. This usually comes off clunky without some connective sections penned by the author, but if you want to see it done well, consider this book a great place to start.

In terms of content, the book progresses chronologically, starting around high school-age for Claypool. We dive into his life story before he started playing bass, but he was interested in music more generally because of a high school friend, Kirk Hammett, who would go on to become the lead guitarist in Metallica. Like a lot of high school kids interested in music, both of them ended up playing in lots of high school bands, and both seemed to have that luck of having natural affinity for their chosen instruments, and a lot of enthusiasm for playing and learning. They weren’t in bands together, though: Hammett’s high school band became the well-known thrash band Exodus before he joined Metallica, and Claypool started out in a progressive metal band called Blind Illusion. But Claypool wasn’t overly smitten with metal music: he reports that his early influences quickly expanded into rhythm and blues music, progressive rock, and funky bands like the Meters, and his own writing started to combine these disparate sounds into the unique blend that became Primus.

While the book mostly centers around the band Primus, the trio has undergone lots of lineup changes over the years, and earlier members often return to work with Claypool in other bands, or sometimes even rejoining Primus. Early drummer Jay Lane and guitarist Todd Huth, for example, were members of the band during the period where their earliest songs were written, but had left the band by the time their debut album was released in 1990. However, the two returned to join Claypool in a band called Sausage in 1994 (named after the first Primus demo tape), Jay Lane has played with Primus in more recent years, and Todd Huth has joined Claypool in the Flying Frog Brigade. Claypool has created a quirky musical world where bandmates come and go, but everyone seems to remain friendly and open to future collaborations.

With their fairly unconventional sound, it still seems kind of surprising that Primus became a commercial act during the grunge era in the 90s, but their story is a classic tale of hard work and perseverance paying off. After self-releasing their first album and doing their second on a one-record deal, the band simply played as much as they could, touring the country in a small van. It’s the stuff of clichés, but in their case it really worked. The young record label Interscope signed the band on the strength of live performances, which clearly demonstrated that audiences were already deeply into the music. With the release of their singles “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” and “Tommy the Cat,” from their Interscope debut, both of which received lots of radio airplay and video play on MTV, the band found themselves touring with the largest rock bands of the era. Like other 90s alternative rock acts that are still playing, the band isn’t topping charts these days, but they continue to tour and record regularly.

While the book largely tracks the history of Primus, focusing on elements like all of the bands they befriended on tours and the zany music videos that helped to keep their career moving along, bandleader Claypool has also been active in a wide range of side projects as mentioned earlier, and the sheer volume of those projects requires a hefty proportion of the book’s page count to document. The second half of the book investigates these, starting with the Sausage project that essentially reunited an earlier iteration of Primus, followed by the first Claypool solo album, “Highball With the Devil,” where he explored more of his funk, soul and R&B influences. Later, during a lull in Primus activity, he started the band Oysterhead with Trey Anastasio of Phish and Stewart Copeland of The Police. Then he got more involved with the jam band scene with his big band, the Fearless Flying Frog Brigade. While touring with the Brigade, he ended up sitting in for bassist Bill Laswell, which led to another band, Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains. And more solo albums trickled out between these projects as well.

Toward the end of the book, there’s a chapter just made of reflections and compliments about Claypool’s bass playing from a variety of his bandmates and musical peers over time. The final full chapter builds on this idea, featuring similar quotes from a variety of artists about their thoughts on the influence and relevance of Primus to popular music of the last few decades. These reflections do a good job of outlining the importance of this band: their unique combination of originality and musicianship with a fun-loving kind of approach has no doubt influenced lots of musicians who have followed them. But they still sound incredibly unique all these years later.

My only complaint about this book is that this new paperback edition hasn’t been updated from the original 2014 printing. Without this update, we miss out on a couple of Primus releases, for example, but I was especially hoping for an update including the Claypool/Lennon Delirium project that Claypool has started with Sean Lennon. They’ve done two very interesting records and an EP in the time since this book was first published. Nonetheless, it’s a great read if you’re curious about the unique world of music around Les Claypool.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Lived Through That: 90s Musicians Today by Mike Hipple or Now is the time to invent! Reports from the Indie-Rock Revolution, 1986-2000 by Steve Connell.)

( publisher’s official Over the Electric Grapevine web page ) | ( official Greg Prato Twitter feed )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Free Speech Handbook: A Practical Framework for Understanding Our Free Speech Protections
by Ian Rosenberg and Mike Cavallaro (323.443 Ros)

Traces the history of free speech law by reviewing the Supreme Court cases and compares the results to current events. An adaptation of Rosenberg’s book The Fight For Free Speech. Recommended for teens and adults seeking an understanding and entertaining overview of free speech legal history.

( publisher’s official Free Speech Handbook web site ) | ( official Ian Rosenberg Twitter feed ) | ( official Mike Cavallaro art site )

This was one of dozens of Graphic Novel reviews submitted by library staff during our 2022 In-Service Training day on 9/23, all collected on A Day Full of Graphic Novels

Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere and South Branch Libraries

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone
by Benjamin Stevenson (Stevenson)

Ernie Cunningham witnessed his brother killing someone and he told the authorities. His brother was sent to prison for three years.

Ernie’s family is not happy with him for cooperating with the police and testifying against his brother. Now, his brother is getting out of prison in two days and their mother has organized a Welcome Home weekend at a remote mountain ski resort. And a blizzard is on the way.

Every mystery reader knows this is a perfect recipe for a murder mystery – all that’s missing is the bloody knife and/or a smoking gun.

Our narrator is Ernie, who frequently breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader. He carefully provides historical background of each family member, jumping between current time and previous events. Are we getting all the facts?

This is a well-told story that keeps you guessing, and keeps the reader in a constant state of expectation and suspicion of everyone for everything. Every chapter has a new revelation or another piece of the puzzle. Highly recommend.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Knives Out by writer/director Rian Johnson)

( official Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone page on the official Benjamin Stevenson web site )


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

The Midnighters
by Hana Tooke (j Tooke)

The Midnighters by Hana Tooke was recommended to me by a fourth-grade reading fanatic, and I was not disappointed. The book tells a peculiar story of an odd young girl who doesn’t fit in. But in order to save a friend, she finds the courage to embrace her oddities and discover the exceptional person that she is. (The Midnighters juvenile fiction book is not to be confused with the young adult Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld.)

Ema Vaskov is the 12th born of her siblings, born at the 12th hour on the 12th day of the 12th month in 1877 in Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia. Her grandmother forebodes that all these twelves are hellish and will result in dark shadows—and a single eyeball.

The odds are stacked against Ema. Each of her siblings are extraordinary in the study of whatever sparks their interest—philosophy, anthropology, zoology, archeology, and physics. Even her parents are renowned for their work in meteorology and climatology. But Ema doesn’t have any scientific passions that others find worthwhile. Instead of passions, she has fears. She fears birthdays and the number 12. She senses dark emotions as shadows, studies bones, investigates facial “twitchology,” and is often forgotten and walks unseen. As each of Ema’s siblings leaves home, she fears that the things that she thinks are remarkable, aren’t really worth remark at all. Her only accomplishments are disappointing her parents and herself.

On her 12th birthday, Ema temporarily moves in with a quirky uncle and meets another girl named Silvie hanging like a bat in her window, right at midnight. Mysterious Silvie shows up around the same time every month at midnight to challenge Ema to face her fears and explore the city. Just when Ema is starting to gain confidence, Silvie disappears. Can fearful Ema be the only person who can save her?

The Midnighters is filled with secret societies, bats, cats, eyeballs, séances, flying whale skeletons, cemeteries, kolaches, and a murder mystery. Of course only someone with Ema’s exceptional abilities can uncover the truth. And perhaps she can finally earn the notice and respect of her parents, friends, and family as she discovers her own potential.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Winterhouse by Ben Guterson or City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab.)

( official The Midnighters book trailer ) | ( official Hana Tooke web site )


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

Drumming With Dead Can Dance and Parallel Adventures
by Peter Ulrich (781.66 Ulr)

After forming in Australia in the early 1980s, Dead Can Dance started to garner attention after relocating to London, and ultimately they became one of the most popular bands in the burgeoning “Ethereal Wave” genre. Their style, which included musical elements from all over the globe, helped to bring world music styles to the mainstream, and was a big influence on other bands that went on to combine world music and classical influences with pop, such as Enya and Enigma. The band’s early drummer Peter Ulrich has written a new book called Drumming With Dead Can Dance and Parallel Adventures, and you can now borrow it from the Polley Music Library.

I had high hopes for this book, as there hasn’t been much written about Dead Can Dance or the 4AD record label scene, but I started to get a little nervous just inside the front cover, where I had been excited to see “With Foreword by Lisa Gerrard,” displayed even above the book title. That foreword turned out to be a single sentence. As we’ll learn going through the book, though, perhaps that’s just right. Seated at the drum throne from the early days of the band’s cofounders Gerrard and Brendan Perry moving to the UK, Ulrich had a unique vantage point for learning about the unique differences between their working and thinking styles, and it’s their complimentary opposites that ultimately gave the band its artistic range. Interestingly, it’s really just a matter of coincidence that Ulrich ended up working them, too, which he starts to describe at the very beginning of the book: He simply answered a phone call from Perry asking if he’d be interested in auditioning, and the call happened to come on the day he discovered he was losing his job. It turned out that he lived in the same neighborhood as Perry and Gerrard, and though he wasn’t immediately playing fluently in the style they were looking for, the had him continue coming to rehearsals and he found himself “absorbed,” as he puts it, into the band over the coming few weeks.

For Chapter Two, Ulrich backtracks into his own musical upbringing. After the usual childhood piano lessons, he eventually found his way to the drum kit and the guitar as a teenager, and was immersed in a pretty wide range of popular music in his youth, including folk, rock, reggae, and punk music. He drummed in bar bands and continued listening to new trends in music, becoming enamored with post-punk and gothic rock bands. This part of his musical interests turned out to be especially useful playing with Dead Can Dance. Quickly returning to the early DCD narrative at roughly the 3-month mark into his working with the band, he was finding Gerrard and Perry to be extraordinary, talented musicians with almost opposite tendencies: Perry was deliberate, detail-oriented and organized, while Gerrard was spontaneous and more of a big-picture thinker. While they were opposites in many ways, both were highly opinionated, and rarely saw middle ground—they either loved what was happening in rehearsals or completely hated it. But songs started to come together, and after circulating a demo tape to record labels that seemed like a good fit, the 4AD label started expressing interest, at first helping the band to get their first opening slots at UK shows, and ultimately agreeing to sign the band.

These early chapters give a fantastic inside look at the early days of Dead Can Dance, going through the same kinds of trials and tribulations so many young bands experience. Early shows are plagued with sound issues, their first record has to be done on a very small budget and short schedule, early mixes sound awful and need to be re-done, and band members quitting just as the band started to gain momentum. But they persisted, and quickly started to gain critical and popular notice. Ulrich has an additional unique perspective besides being their drummer in these formative years, too—because he had worked in offices and had some administrative experience, he became their early tour manager. This probably helped to cement additional memories of early tours in his mind that are the kind of thing that drives managers crazy, like vehicle breakdowns that result in breach of contract fines for missing shows, or venues that didn’t seem to be located where they should be on maps. There is a particularly wild story about an early gig in Paris that went terribly awry, leaving the band to defend themselves against the audience and then the bouncers for the club!

To roughly its halfway point, the book primarily follows the career of Dead Can Dance, with some side tracks into Ulrich’s work with another 4AD band, This Mortal Coil. Then the 90s proved to be less kind to the whole scene: Dead Can Dance broke up, many other 4AD bands were breaking up or near the end of their careers, and even their couple who ran the label broke up. Then we enter the “parallel adventures” referenced in the book’s title. Ultimately, Dead Can Dance has reunited several times in the ensuing decades, sometimes for tours and sometimes to produce new records. Members have also embarked on solo careers and collaborated with other groups over time. And the influence of Dead Can Dance continued to grow, even during times where the band was dormant. During these more recent iterations of Dead Can Dance, Ulrich has continued to follow the band, but it no longer participating directly. That said, he has remained in touch with his former bandmates, and reports both their careers and his own in recent years.

One thing I was hoping this book would discuss in more depth was simply how the wide-ranging influences behind Dead Can Dance all came together in the music. Ultimately there isn’t a breakdown of this—perhaps that would have to come from a book written by Lisa Gerrard or Brendan Perry. From the early days recounted in the book, it seems like the process was a gradual one that simply involved listening to lots of records and having an open mind to learn more about music. While the band is largely self-taught, they absorbed influences from musical traditions around the world, as well as folk music and earlier eras of European classical music, and made a new kind of music out of these influences that seems to speak from every place and era all at once. Although we don’t won’t find a particular method here behind this, there is an excellent appendix in which Ulrich presents what he calls “An introductory guide to world music.” He provides a list of recommended recordings here that’s divided into two rough groups: music captured as field recordings, generally reflecting what world music traditions most likely have sounded like historically, and music produced by groups all around the world that has taken on some cross-cultural influences of its own. In their own way, Dead Can Dance arguably fall into the latter category, and there are some additional fantastic recordings referenced here.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Silenced by Sound by Ian Brennan or England’s Hidden Reverse by David Keenan.)

( publisher’s official Peter Ulrich page )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Screening Room

formatdvdThe BFG

This delightful film version of Roald Dahl’s classic story, The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), is incredible — directed by Steven Spielberg with music by John Williams, this is one of the best children’s movies I have seen in many years, particularly with the special effects and computer graphics. The best performances in this production are from Mark Rylance as the BFG, Penelope Wilton as Queen Elizabeth II, and Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. I highly recommend this film for children and adults.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Annie, The Secret Garden or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.)

(Also available in traditional print format.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official The BFG Facebook page )


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

formatdvdGhosts: Season One
(hopefully on order soon)

Ghosts is a half-hour comedy airing on the CBS network, which premiered in 2021 and is currently in its second season (with a 3rd already ordered). It is an Americanized version of a British show with the same name, which premiered in 2019 and is currently in its fifth season in the UK.

I encountered the US version first, though I’ve since watched the first season of the UK version on DVD, in the libraries’ collection. They both have their own strong points, but I’ll have to admit, I like the American version better.

A young couple, Samantha (“Sam”) and Jay discover that she has inherited a run-down country estate, after a distant relative of Sam’s recently passed. They take possession of the property and decide to invest their life savings into renovating the crumbling building and turning it into a Bed & Breakfast. This doesn’t sit well with the building’s current occupants — a group of ghosts of people who’ve died on the property during many different eras in history, from a Norse Viking, to a sensitive but sarcastic Native American, to the wife of a robber baron, an American revolutionary soldier, a Prohibition-era singer, a drugged out 70’s hippie chick, a boy scout trooper leader from the 80s, and a 90s Wall Street prodigy. (There’s also a headless biker, but he shows up only occasionally). Each of these ghosts appears as they did at the time of their death — the troop leader has an arrow through his neck, and the 90s yuppie is pants-less.

In the premiere episode, Samantha has an accident on the stairs, suffers a near-death experience, and subsequently can see and hear (and talk with) all of the ghosts, much to the consternation of her husband but to the relief of all the ghosts — who can finally communicate with the world of the “Living”. The humor of the series then stems from the experiences of Sam and Jay as they try to ready Woodstone Mansion as a B&B, versus the ghosts, who grudgingly acknowledge that their “lives” must change if the mansion is to remain a home to them. There’s a terrific cast of supporting characters, both ghosts and living people, that all of these regulars interact with, including Mark Linn-Baker (“Perfect Strangers”) and Kathy Greenwood (“Whose Line is it Anyway?”) as Sam and Jay’s stuffy next-door neighbors.

All of the ghost characters are fabulous, and during the course of the first season, each of them is given an episode that tells their background story, very much “humanizing” them. Sam’s ability to see ghosts is not limited to just the mansion, as she now sees ghosts wherever she goes, including the ghost of her late mother, in a special first-season episode. Performances are excellent across the board, but especially from Rose McIver as Sam and Utkarsh Ambudkar as Jay. I have a personal fondness for Richie Moriarty as perpetually cheerful punctured troop leader Pete Martino, and Brandon Scott Jones as Captain Isaac Higgintoot, who can’t believe his former rival, Alexander Hamilton achieved such fame in life! The writing features snappy dialog, and can verge between extremely comical, to emotional and poignant.

I really can’t recommend Ghosts highly enough, and if you haven’t tried it already, this first season DVD set (18 episodes) is a great place to start. Then, watch the first season (only 6 episodes) of the UK version to compare and contrast. Many of the same comic writers who produced the UK version are also involved in the production of the US version.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Ghosts: Series One, or the old classic, Topper.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this series ) | ( official Ghosts page on the CBS web site )

See Scott C.’s review of the first season of the UK version of Ghosts, in the May 2022 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!


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

formatdvdMagpie Murders
(DVD Magpie)

This is a whodunit that takes place in present day and the 1950’s. Both the original book and this Masterpiece Theatre production were written by author Anthony Horowitz.

In the present-day story, author Alan Conway, who is famous for the fictitious Atticus Pünd murder mysteries that take place in the 1950’s, has recently died, apparently of a suicide. He had just turned in his most recent manuscript, but the final chapter is missing! Now his editor is trying to locate that chapter or figure out whodunit in the book so she can publish his final mystery, and also determine what happened in real-life to Conway. Did he actually kill himself?

This dramatization constantly criss-crosses between the mysteries of the two time periods – the 1950’s characters in Conway’s book and present-day. Everyone in the Pünd manuscript is based on someone in Conway’s life — and the same actors play them both. It was fascinating to watch how seamlessly this story moved between the two timelines. One of my favorite transitions was watching our contemporary character take a left turn in her car and drive out of our view, and the oncoming car contains our 1955 Pünd and we continue the manuscript’s 1955 story with him.

Both storylines kept the suspense going as we tried to solve all of the mysteries. The DVD version did an excellent job of abridging the book while remaining true to the characters and the mysteries.

As usual, an excellent production from the folks at Masterpiece Theatre. You can easily binge this two-disc, six-episode series in an afternoon and evening.

If you decide to read the original Magpie book (which I also enjoyed), keep in mind that the presentation is different from the DVD. The first part of the book tells the 1955 mystery as told in the manuscript (but we won’t know its ending yet because that chapter is missing), and the second part follows our editor as she tries to find that missing chapter and sort out Conway’s death. I actually preferred the DVD version of moving between both storylines at the same time.

And yes, we find out whodunit in all the mysteries including that missing chapter.

(Also available in traditional print format.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this mini-series ) | ( official PBS page for Magpie Murders on Masterpiece )

See Scott C.’s review of Magpie Murders in the June 2021 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!


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

formatdvdSing Street
by Lucy Boynton and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (DVD Sing)

1982. Dublin. Conor’s lame parental units are experiencing hard times and to save some dough, they transfer him to a new cut-rate, brutish school. Conor is determined to be chill with it, and rather than trying to fit in he’s trying to figure out who he is. Meanwhile, there’s a fly young woman (played by Lucy Boynton) he wants to get to know; how can he grab her attention?

He lives with his brawling folks, a super studious older sister, and an older brother, wise about music and yet suffering from his own stunted dreams, who still manages to impart some golden advice to his younger brother.

He decides to form a band and gathers around him an unlikely group of misfits who deal with bullies, priests, parents and first love along the way.

The mood of Sing Street reminds me a lot of 80’s teen films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or Sixteen Candles…a similarly predictable plot but it’s fleshed out with some fun original music reminiscent of Duran Duran, Adam Ant, Culture Club, a-ha…favorites from back in the day.

I kid you not, it’s a nice combination of a trip down memory lane and a little escapist fun. Personally, I was quite impressed by how many 80’s things this 2016 movie got right. I’ve also heard tell there’s a new Broadway show based on the movie. I just hope their star is as fine as the baby-faced Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, who looks like he could’ve just stepped right off the pages of Tiger Beat. Totally.

I’m looking forward to watching it again. So. Much. Fun. And sweetly inspirational.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try School of Rock, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles or Nowhere Boy.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Sing Street Facebook page )


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

formatdvdThe Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
starring Nicolas Cage (DVD Unbearable)

Nicholas Cage plays himself in this comedy/action-adventure. Cage is broke — to be frank — and agrees to go to a super fan’s birthday party in exchange for a large fee. The problem is this super fan — “Javi” played by Pedro Pascal — isn’t just a regular fan, he’s also being watched by the CIA. The CIA decides to recruit Cage to see if he can locate a missing person supposedly kidnapped by Javi’s organization. Javi is enamored by Cage and spends the whole time trying to get him to work with him on a screenplay. It makes for an entertaining film.

I wasn’t sure what to think based on the premise but actually it was very funny. If you’re Nicholas Cage fan it’s a must-watch because there are SO many references to his previous works and Pedro Pascal really gets a chance to show off his comedic skills.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Gone in 60 Seconds, Con Air are just a couple of the movies referenced in this one — really any Nicholas Cage action movie would be good. Being John Malkovich is one that’s an actor playing himself in a satire way.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent web site )


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

formatdvdWhere the Crawdads Sing
(DVD Where)

Kya, known to the townspeople as Marsh Girl, was slowly abandoned by her family and ends up raising herself on the marshlands in the 1950s. She sells mussels at the general store for money and spends her time documenting the wildlife in the marsh. A local boy she was tied to romantically is found dead. His shell necklace – that she had given him — is missing. Due to that fact, and the town’s prejudice against her for being different, she is put on trial for his murder. Kya does have an alibi — she was meeting with a publisher in a different town at the time. The trial ensues and more dirty laundry is aired.

I haven’t read the book but was intrigued by the premise. From the movie’s viewpoint you really don’t know who killed the boy until the very last minute so it sort of keeps you guessing the whole time. While it was interesting I don’t think that I would watch it a second time.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the book it was based on, by Delia Owens.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Where the Crawdads Sing web site )


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

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