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Staff Recommendations – January 2018

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January 2018 Recommendations

If I Run
by Terri Blackstock (Compact Disc Blackstock)

I love this author. This suspense story kept me listening ’til the end. A young woman is wanted for a murder she didn’t commit. She’s running from the same people her father tried to elude, and hopes to avoid his fate. He was murdered. I look forward to the next ones in the series. # 2 is If I’m Found, and #3 will be If I Live.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Traces of Guilt, an Evie Blackwell Cold Case series, by Dee Henderson, Dark Pursuit, by Brandilyn Collins or Vanish, a Private Justice series novel, by Irene Hannon. Also the Angels Walking trilogy, by Karen Kingsbury is excellent.)

( official If I Run page on the official Terri Blackstock web site )


Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
by Agatha Christie (Christie)

It all began with a visit to the dentist. After having his teeth seen to, Hercule Poiroit carries on with his day, only to find later that the dentist was found dead in the exam room. Who would want to kill a dentist, and why? As more is revealed, it seems the situation is bigger than initially surmised, involving more deaths, missing persons, international spies, and assassination attempts. It has a similar feel to it as The Big Four, in that one small incident that starts the story turns out to be a smaller piece of a large international web of crime. Or is it? I really liked this as it was a bit more gripping than some of the others in the series which are rather more relaxed and slower paced. This book has multiple titles: An Overdose of Death and The Patriotic Murders; the chapters are titled after the verses in the rhyme ‘One Two Buckle My Shoe’, and there is actually a shoe buckle in the story line. The audio version of the book is narrated by Hugh Fraser who always does a great performance, even when Captain Hastings is not in the story. So far this one of my personal favorites of the series along with The ABC Murders, The Big Four, The Five Little Pigs, and Murder in Mesopotamia. Highly recommended to mystery readers and/or historical fiction (1930’s-40’s) fans.

( official One, Two, Buckle My Shoe page on the official Agatha Christie web site )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

My Own Two Feet: A Memoir
by Beverly Cleary (jB C57)

Beverly Cleary has long been one of my favorite authors of children’s fiction. Mostly known for her series of books about Ramona Quimby, she published two books about her own life which answered questions I had always wondered about: What was her upbringing like in Oregon and what led her to want to write books for children? I have always felt that Mrs. Cleary was a kindred spirit: both of us have family ties to Oregon, we are both English majors and both pursued librarianship as a career. This particular book begins with her trip from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California where she has the opportunity to live with a cousin’s family while attending a community college. I loved the descriptions of California as seen from the eyes of a young woman leaving home for the first time. The difficulties she faced from her family to the effects of the Depression on everyone she knows are described with bittersweet melancholy throughout the story of her undergraduate years. My favorite part of the book is when she finally lands the Children’s Librarian position in Yakima, Washington. At that time, librarians were required to learn and memorize the stories they shared during story time. No doubt this experience helped Beverly to hone her skills as a narrator when she turned to writing books for children. Her ability to see things from a child’s point of view is what makes her writing stand out from other children’s authors of her generation. Beverly Cleary has left a legacy of excellent stories for children and adults that will last for generations to come. At this time (January 2018), Mrs. Cleary is still alive and living in California at age 101. I recommend this book to anyone who shares a love of her writing.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Girl From Yamhill: A Memoir, by Beverly Cleary.)

( publisher’s official My Own Two Feet: A Memoir web page ) | ( official Beverly Cleary web site )


Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Kramer Versus Kramer
by Avery Corman (Corman)

I stumbled across this book on Hoopla. I remember seeing the movie ages ago (when I was probably too young to understand it), and I thought I’d like to watch it again. However, I’m always curious, as many people are: how different was the book from the movie? So I checked this ebook out, and I found myself COMPLETELY taken with it! I couldn’t stop reading it!!!

I was able to identify with both Joanna and Ted Kramer. 20 years into my own marriage, I can see each person’s point of view…. I’m kind of surprised I was rooting for Ted, though I think that was the intention of the author. On the other hand, I do still recall, very clearly, the struggles I dealt with as a new mother (stress, depression, boredom, that “is this all there is?” feeling, etc.). I really appreciated how well the characters were fleshed out. I’m anxious to watch the movie again!

( Wikipedia page for Avery Corman )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault
by Cary Fowler (631.52 Fow)

For those who are unaware, there is a vault tucked away up in Norway that stores seeds from all over the world. The reason why is basically an insurance plan against disasters that could threaten or destroy crops around the world. It’s underground in a place called Svalbard where it’s naturally cold enough the seeds can stay preserved without much electricity, away from natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes and remote enough to be out of the way from disasters caused by humans. This book contains abundant photos of this unique archive as it tells the story of its inception, creation and ongoing work. I had heard about the vault before I picked this up but didn’t know very much about it. It was a fascinating read, and not one you’d need to do cover to cover. Even if you are not into agriculture, gardening, or scientific archives I think it’d be of interest to a wide range of people, as it’s pretty much a documentary in a book!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Don’t Throw it, Grow It!, by Deborah Peterson (635 Pet).)

( official Global Seed Vault web site ) | ( official Cary Fowler web site )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

hooplaInside In/Inside Out
by The Kooks (Hoopla Digital Music)

Nice British indie rock music. Perfect tunes for chilling out by yourself, or with a few friends. I don’t know how else to describe it but it is a favorite of mine that does not get old or repetitive over the years. Some albums, while pleasant, are not ones to listen to over and over, year after year. I feel this one is upbeat while still being sort of subdued and quiet. If you are looking for some alternative music to the usual pop rock mix, I’d suggest this. This album is only on Hoopla right now, not on compact disc.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the band Oasis. There are quite a few of their albums available on Hoopla, also.)

( official The Kooks web site )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

hooplaHow to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays
by Kiese Laymon (not currently available in the libraries’ collection)

I enjoyed this set of nonfiction essays. It gave me insight into the writing and publishing process, as well as to Laymon’s book Long Division. It explored what a loving relationship can turn into when work goals and other failures get in the way. It also explored pop culture and Black culture icons such as Kanye West, Bernie Mac, Michael Jackson, and Tupac Shakur. I appreciated what Laymon had to say about how Kanye West and other rappers may be amazing in the various ways they have trailblazed, but that they still fall short when talking about women. I most heartily appreciated that Laymon said the same about himself. This is a quick read that helped me realize a few of the excuses I’ve used too often in the last couple years. This set of essays reminded me to be myself but to never forget my goals to improve. Why is everything a self-help book when I read it? That is yet to be answered.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Long Division, by Kiese Laymon, The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant or Bab Feminist, by Roxane Gay.)

( official Kiese Laymon web site )


Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley and Williams Branches and the Bookmobile

hooplaLong Division
by Kiese Laymon (currently available only in e-formats)

Something about the way he started the first chapter helped me realize this book would be very different from everything else I would read this year. It’s a real adventure going into a new or suggested book not really knowing what you’re getting into. You may also understand the perplexity that comes with reading a book on an e-reader and trying to determine if your bookmarks saved correctly or if you forgot how to turn pages properly. So just so you’re not as confused as I was, this is a book about a few time-traveling teens who try to understand their place in the world between the years 2013, 1985, and 1964. You’ll want to pay special attention to the True or False quiz that the principal gives main character City when he gets in trouble at school. That may be where the lessons in this story lie. However, I am no longer certain that I can truly read or understand anything in this world if I haven’t read or listened to it three times.

( official Kiese Laymon web site )

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

The Horse and His Boy
by C.S. Lewis (j Lewis)

Set entirely in the magical world of Narnia and it’s neighboring countries, a young boy named Shasta and a young girl names Aravis run away together with a pair of talking horses. Initially, Shasta and his equine companion Bree, and Aravis and her equine companion Hwin, are escaping from their homes separately by fleeing to Narnia where both horses are originally from (which is why they can both talk). The two pairs meet on the way and join up, but not without troubles along the way. In a city they must pass through, they become separated. Shasta is mistaken for someone else and forced to go with some people who recognize him. Aravis meets a friend whom she’s known all her life and goes with her. The two escapees must now escape on their own, which they do, but not before Shasta meets his double and realizes he must warn Archenland (in Narnia) that war is coming from one of their neighboring countries. There is a happy ending and the characters’ stories do carry over into the following Chronicles of Narnia. I would not say they are the protagonists, but Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy are all in the story as it takes place during the time when they are kings and queens, so chronologically speaking it takes place during The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think you could read it without reading any other Narnia books before. Recommended to those looking for classic fantasy fiction with character development and moral themes.

If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the entire Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis:

Publication Order:
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
2. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951)
3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
4. The Silver Chair (1953)
5. The Horse and His Boy (1954)
6. The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
7. The Last Battle (1956)

Chronological Order:
1. The Magician’s Nephew
2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3. The Horse and His Boy*
4. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia
5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
6. The Silver Chair
7. The Last Battle
* Takes place within the time of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe]

( official C.S. Lewis web site )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

What the Dead Know
by Laura Lippman (Compact Disc Lippman)

A disoriented woman comes from a car crash, claiming to be one of two sisters who disappeared from a shopping mall thirty years ago. She knows a lot about the sisters, yet she seems more guilty of hiding something. I couldn’t wait to find out if she was who she said she was, and I was almost certain she was telling the truth, even though some could not believe her. I am so glad I finished the story. It was well worth my time.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Grand Delusion, a Jacob Burns mystery, by Matt Witten, the works of Kate Atkinson, the works of Robert Crais, or another by Laura Lippman: Every Secret Thing, or In a Strange City, part of the Tess Monaghan series.)

( official What the Dead Know page on the official Laura Lippman web site )


Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library

The Last Anniversary
by Liane Moriarty (Compact Disc Moriarty)

Liane Moriarty is an author I’ve “discovered” recently, and I’m slowly making my way through all her works. She’s Australian, usually basing her stories in Sydney. My favorite thing is to listen to the audiobooks, as she’s typically got someone with an Australian accent doing the narration.

This was a fun story. I really enjoy the way Moriarty develops her characters, as the story itself unfolds. I didn’t have any real suspicions or inklings about the truth behind the Alice & Jack Monroe story…I was pleasantly surprised by the way the whole story wrapped up.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty, The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty or Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins.)

( official The Last Anniversary page on the official Liane Moriarty web site )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Glass Houses
by Louise Penny (Penny)

In the latest Penny novel, Armand Gamache is now the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec. He and his wife are celebrating All Hallows Eve in Three Pines when a figure dressed in dark appears on the village green. When confronted the person refuses to respond. Gamache points out unless a law is broken the person had the right to stand there. The figure inspires fear in the small village and soon a death occurs.

Though Gamache is not in charge of the investigation he can’t help but work to uncover why the person was costumed as they were and why they came to Three Pines. Many months later Gamache comes to a turning point, once he’s crossed the line he can never go back.

This book is one of Louise Penny’s best books. Throughout the series, these Canadian police procedurals encompass all the genres from a small town cozy to a political thriller.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Deborah Crombie, Charles Todd, or Ann Cleeves.)

( official Glass Houses information on the official Louise Penny web site )


Recommended by Marcy G.
South Branch Library

Winter Thunder
by Mari Sandoz (Sandoz)

Whenever we have an especially cold snap with blizzard like conditions, I remember this book. For anyone who grew up in rural areas, we can relate to this teacher and her students who become stranded in a blizzard and have to fight for their survival. To really enjoy this book you need to understand how a whiteout can blind you to something just feet in front of you and how a mile to a home can become an unending journey. This is truly a Nebraska story, by one of Nebraska’s great storytellers.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Anna’s Blizzard, by Alison Hart (youth fiction) and The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin (551.555 Las).)

( Univesity of Nebraska Press’ official Winter Thunder web page ) | ( official Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center web site )


Recommended by Sandy W.
Gere Branch Library

Chasing Christmas Eve
by Jill Shalvis (Shalvis)

Every year, I make it a tradition to read at least one Christmas Mystery and one Christmas Romance in December — Chasing Christmas Eve was my selection for December 2017. I had never read any novels by Jill Shalvis previously, and discovered with this one that I was jumping into the middle of a series — Heartbreaker Bay — set in San Francisco. In this nominally-holiday-themed entry, best-selling Young Adult fantasy author Colbie Albright has run away from her high-pressure life in New York City, hoping to escape to a Caribbean island. A hurricane changes her plans and she ends up in San Francisco. An accident with a large dog and a fountain ends up with her meeting inventor and businessman Spence Baldwin. Circumstances allow for her to rent an apartment in Spence’s combined business/apartment building, and despite the fact that both of them have secrets that they don’t want to share, they bond as Colbie decompresses from her life of deadlines and Spence begins to make progress on a critical technology job he’s committed to finish.

The romance verges from sweet and simple to hot and steamy, like a pinball bouncing around a pinball machine, but the characters are likeable — even if you want to yell at them to share their secrets and not be so repressed. Having visited San Francisco before, I appreciated the travelogue as Spence helps Colbie check off the items on her “travel to-do list”. The other supporting characters were also likeable — most have had their own “how we met” novels in the series already, and I enjoyed this enough to also read a Christmas novella by Shalvis, Holiday Wishes, set shortly after Chasing Christmas Eve, and focused on two of the others in this series’ large cast. That novella felt a little rushed, and I don’t necessarily recommend it, but Chasing Christmas Eve was an enjoyable enough piece of romantic fluff.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Holiday Wishes, also by Jill Shalvis, or any of the other volumes in her popular Heartbreaker Bay series.)

( official Heartbreaker Bay series page on the official Jill Shalvis web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

We Need to Talk About Kevin
by Lionel Shriver (Shriver)

I. LOVED. This book! I loved the way it was written, both the format and the actual wording. Lionel Shriver is a GENIUS with words!!! Y’know how, sometimes, you have a conversation with someone, or you read something, and you feel DUMBER for having read that or had that conversation? This is the exact opposite! I feel SMARTER for having read this book! The language was absolutely poetic, to me, and I really felt like I could identify with Eva, the protagonist, on almost every level. I really want to come back to this one and read it again someday. I’m also going to read more of Shriver’s work!!!

As for the subject matter itself, I thought it was extremely interesting, thinking about how many school shootings (and other public massacres) there have been in recent years… and I could totally see someone, especially the mother of a shooter, becoming obsessed with prior and subsequent events like that. In fact, I’m considering buying this book (I listened to the audio) so I could have documentation of the other scenarios listed. (This book is based off a fictional shooting, but the others listed did, in fact, happen.)

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hate List, by Jennifer Brown, or Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult.)

( Wikipedia page for the book We Need to Talk About Kevin ) | ( Wikipedia page for the author Lionel Shriver )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Bennett Martin Public Library

The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Mountains
by Choo Wai Hong (305.488 Wai)

This was a fascinating look into the rich history and the present day workings of this incredible tribe of matriarchal peoples deep in China’s mountains. Written from the perspective of an “adopted” tribe member Choo Wai Hong, she is able to weave her own personal outlook as a professional lawyer from the city, to how she came to love and eventually live with the Mosuo tribe.

( British publisher’s official The Kingdom of Women web site )


Recommended by Amy I.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries and the Bookmobile

Cobalt Squadron
Star Wars Reviewsby Elizabeth Weir (j Weir)

Cobalt Squadron takes place shortly before and during the events of “The Force Awakens”. Primarily, it’s the story of Rose Tico from “The Last Jedi” and her sister Paige. The book is a serviceable story about a reconnaissance mission that transforms into a mission of mercy. The challenge is that Cobalt Squadron is a good book, but not a remarkable one. Primarily, the story suffers from no real antagonist aside from the First Order in general. We do find out a bit more about Rose, but her character arc is fairly minor. Her story would have been worked better as part of an anthology like Greg Rucka’s Before the Awakening. Stretching what would have been a good short story into a 250-page novel leaves the book feeling watered down, the action diluted and the stakes diminished. Cobalt Squadron is a good effort and a nice read for younger Star Wars fans. However, it is far from an essential read.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Before the Awakening, by Greg Rucka, Moving Target, by Cecil Castellucci, The Weapon of a Jedi, by Greg Fry, Smuggler’s Run, by Greg Rucka or Leia, Princess of Alderaan, by Claudia Gray.)

( official Cobalt Squadron web page on the Wookiepedia site )


Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

Shirley, I Jest: A Storied Life
by Cindy Williams, with Dave Smitherman (Biography Williams)

I always appreciate a good pun, so, this title and Cindy’s cute, smiling face are what caught my eye initially on the cover of this book. This is a fairly quick read but very enjoyable. From “American Graffiti” to “Laverne & Shirley”, Cindy Williams has had a somewhat charmed career, even if uneven! She provides a good amount of her family background in addition to a number of very interesting tales of her brushes with famous people, both before and after she became famous herself. It’s refreshing to read something that’s neither sleazy nor sensationalized about someone who’s a pretty normal person underneath the ‘star’.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try What’s So Funny?, by Tim Conway, This Time Together, by Carol Burnett or Make ‘Em Laugh, by Debbie Reynolds.)

( Wikipedia page for Cindy Williams web site )


Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

Screening Room

formatdvdJim Gaffigan: Obsessed
(DVD 817 Gaf)

Mr. Gaffigan has always made me laugh out loud. If you ever want to just laugh for a long time, check out his DVD or CDs!

(For hilarious laughs, check out Food: A Love Story, or King Baby or Mr. Universe or anything by Jim Gaffigan or any by Loretta LaRoche!)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Jim Gaffigan web site )


Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library

formatdvdVictoria and Abdul
(DVD Victoria)

This is a marvelous historical bio-pic, focusing on a lesser-known period of British history. Late in her life, Queen Victoria (1819-1901) became fascinated with an East Indian — Abdul Karim — who had been sent to her on a minor errand to present a diplomatic gift. His intelligence and personality brought her back to vibrancy during a stagnant period of her reign, and she appointed him “The Munshi”, a spiritual teacher for her on all things associated with India, which was part of the British Empire of the time. Despite resistance, prejudice and hatred towards Abdul from other members of Victoria’s family and the British government, Victoria and Abdul had a special and lasting relationship until her passing, at which time Abdul and his family were returned to India, and most of the paperwork that documented his role in Victoria’s life was destroyed. It is only in recent years that more documentation has surfaced.

The performances by Dame Judy Dench as Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul anchor an excellent cast. The production values on this film are tremendous, with incredible costumes and set design — the film-makers were given the rare privilege to be able to film at several of the actual historic properties associated with Queen Victoria. I learned a lot about the relationship between Victoria and Abdul, and wanted to learn more. I highly recommend this film!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the book Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidante by Shrabani Basu )

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Victoria & Abdul web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

I have to admit that although I know quite a bit about Queen Victoria of England, I had never heard the story of her relationship with Abdul Karim, a servant from India sent to Her Majesty for assistance with a state banquet. In fact, most people have not heard of Abdul Karim because the Royal Family took steps to make sure that he was forgotten. The story comes from a book called “Victoria & Abdul : The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant” based on diaries written both by the Queen herself and Abdul during the ten years he lived in England. This was a fascinating movie to watch especially since I have been following the PBS television series on Victoria and Albert. Victoria’s family and her servants did not approve of the Queen’s friendship with Abdul nor did they like the fact that she was bestowing privileges on him that raised him to the level of British nobility. The racial prejudice that her own family felt towards Abdul becomes clearly expressed after the Queen dies and every document or letter that mentions him is burnt and he is exiled. As always, Dame Judi Dench portrays the Queen with empathy, strength and passion. She also portrayed the Queen in “Mrs. Brown,” another film about Queen Victoria and her friendship with her servant, John Brown. Although the movies are similar in subject matter, I felt that “Victoria & Abdul” was the more powerful film. I highly recommend it.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Mrs. Brown, Victoria (DVD Victoria), Victoria & Albert (DVD 781.457 Vic), Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidante by Shrabani Basu.)


Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdThe West Wing: The Complete First Season
(DVD West)

This show follows the lives of President Josiah (Jed) Bartlet and his staff during their tenure at the White House. It’s a drama but there is plenty of comedy to go with it. The season starts with the president injuring himself by riding a bicycle into a tree and ends in a hail of bullets after a town meeting. Some highlights from this season are: Leo (Chief of Staff) dealing with a substance abuse inquiry, Sam (Deputy White House Communications Director) “accidentally” dating a call girl, CJ (Press Secretary) meeting with a committee who wants $900 million to put toward a “wolves only” highway, Josh (Deputy Chief of Staff) being eaten alive by reporters when covering for CJ during a press briefing, Toby (White House Communications Director) dealing with his emotions while his brother is stranded on a space ship with no doors, Charlie (Personal Aide to the President) having a flirtation with the President’s daughter, and President Bartlet having to find a proportional response when a foreign country shoots down a plane that his personal physician was on board.

I didn’t watch the show when it was on the first time around, but due to a patron’s recommendation I’ve started it now and I can’t stop watching. There is just enough comedy mixed in with the drama that it makes it funny but doesn’t drown out the seriousness of the storyline. Also the cast who all seem to be perfect for each of their roles makes it very enjoyable. It’s easy to see why this show is so critically acclaimed and won so many awards. I don’t often give something a 10/10 but this is worth it.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other Sorkin creations such as The American President – a lot of the same actors, this is the movie that the show was based off of, The Newsroom or Sports Night.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this series ) | ( NBC’s official The West Wing series web page )


Recommended by Carrie R.
Bennett Martin Public Library

last updated September 2023
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