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Staff Recommendations – January 2020

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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

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January 2020 Recommendations

Because We Are Bad
by Lily Bailey (Biography Bailey | downloadable audio)

This is exactly the type of book I prefer to listen to, especially when it’s read by the author. The feel and tone for this book were critical, I believe, and they were expressed perfectly because the author read the book herself!

I feel like I occasionally obsess about things, but in reading this book, I’ve come to realize that I do not get nearly as deeply absorbed with obsessive thoughts as I might have feared. How this woman has managed to live with her OCD and overcome the worst of it is, to me, a testament to her strength of character!

This book moves along at just the right pace and it sticks to a very chronological outline, which was helpful in this particular situation. I really felt for Ms. Bailey as she struggled with her various challenges; yet, I had to laugh at times (which, I think she wants, as you can tell by the way she wrote).

Mental health issues are so much more common that people would care to admit, and I’m glad the author was able to get consistent help.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz, or The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.] [ publisher’s official Because We Are Bad web page ] | [ official Lily Bailey Twitter feed ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


Watershed
by Mark Barr

A dam is being built in 1937 rural Tennessee to bring electricity to the community. The huge effort for that greater good is described while also describing Nathan’s and Claire’s hopes of being able to move forward in their private lives. A boarding house is the melting pot for job-hungry people striving to make ends meet shortly after the Depression.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, or Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves.] [ official Watershed web site ] | [ official Mark Barr web site ]

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


All Through the Night
by Suzanne Brockmann

Ignore the fact that this is Book #12 in the 20+ books in the Troubleshooters series by Suzanne Brockmann. All of her books end happily so it’s not a spoiler that the couples you’ll meet in this book are together. This was a New York Times best-selling hardcover book and is known as “the wedding” book in this series.

The Troubleshooters series started out as SEAL teams, and we follow them throughout the books as they go on their missions and conduct their personal lives. We also meet the FBI agents who frequently work alongside them on special missions. Some of the SEALs retire and form their own security organization (The Troubleshooters), yet are so highly regarded that they frequently work with the current SEALs and FBI agents on sensitive government missions. Pretty handy so we get to continue following some of our favorite characters. Each book showcases one or more of the couples as they meet and work through their relationship while we’re dealing with the current mystery or villain.

If you are looking for a romance series of alpha men who rescue damsels in distress, this is not the series for you (instead try another military romance series the KGI series by Maya Banks, first book “The Darkest Hour”). The characters in the Troubleshooter series are white, people of color, straight, gay, men, and women who are working as capable, funny, smart people in our military and government.

This particular book, All Through the Night, is one of my favorites of this series and tells of the engagement and wedding of FBI agent Jules Cassidy to action-movie hero Robin Chadwick. The whole gang appears in this book, plus a new side-story arc of another couple. Plus a stalker. Plus Jules gets called away unexpectedly on a mission and might not return. You’ll get a feel for the series in general and the family these characters have created among themselves.

This was the first book I read in this series and I got a tad confused with all the characters and how they are related. But I was so impressed with the storyline, Brockmann’s humor, and the people she’d created that I went back and began at Book #01 (“The Unsung Hero”) and read them all in order.

I highly recommend this well-written, humorous, contemporary romance story of two characters you’ll like immensely.

[ official Troubleshooters series page on the official Suzanne Brockmann web site ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Murder, She Said
based on works by Agatha Christie (823 Chr)

This is a charming little collection of quotations of lines from the Miss Marple novels and short stories by Agatha Christie, a companion volume to the similar Little Grey Cells: The Quotable Poirot, which highlighted the character of Hercule Poirot, her other great detective. Though there are far fewer Marple novels and stories than Poirot, the editors of this collection still manage to assemble a surprisingly thought-provoking selection — broken down into a variety of categories addressing relationships, motive, and Marple’s views on herself. This should appeal to anyone who’s a Christie fan, or even just the casual mystery reader who wants some more insight into one of the most recognizable sleuths in this literary genre.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Little Grey Cells: The Quotable Poirot and Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories, both by Agatha Christie.] [ official Murder She Said page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Water Dancer
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a an amazing writer who reaches a wide audience. He received a “Geenius Grant” in 2015 from the MacArthur Foundation, addresses Reparation for African-Americans, and wrote a Black Panther series & a Captain America series for Marvel Comics.

About The Water Dancer: Hiram was born into slavery on the Lockless plantation. His father owns the plantation and his mother was sold by his father, leaving Hi (short for Hiram) with no memory of his mother. Hi has a photogenic memory about everything else, though. The book is a mixture of historical fiction describing Grandma Moses, aka Harriet Tubman, with a splash of fantasy in the art of Conduction (teleportation) Hi has been gifted.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.] [ official Water Dancer page on the official Ta-Nehisi Coates web site ]

See others from the Oprah’s Book Club Reading List

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


Full Disclosure
by Camryn Garrett (YA Garrett)

ull Disclosure is a young adult novel that was actually written by a teenager. It’s about a high school girl who was born HIV positive. Simone knows she’s lucky that she can live a healthy life so long as she takes her medication, but she wishes she could have sex without having to disclose her status and risk the disaster that happened at her last school.

Things do seem to be going well with a boy she’s crushing on, until she gets an anonymous note in her locker: someone knows! And if she doesn’t stop talking to the boy, they promise everyone is going to find out.

Meanwhile, Simone is directing her school’s production of the musical Rent. This is book that goes behind the scenes more so than on stage. It’s a book with vibrant racial and sexual diversity that shares story beats with Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but rings out as more thoroughly authentic.

Recommended for high schoolers, some interested middle schoolers, and adults who like an upbeat story that also gets you thinking.

[ official Full Disclosure page on the official Camryn Garrett web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


This Tender Land
by William Kent Krueger

Odie O’Banion and his brother Albert are orphans living in the Lincoln School of 1932 Minnesota. It is a cruel place in which hundreds of Native American children were placed and “educated” (a.k.a. forced to have their hair cut, and their language, clothing, and beliefs changed.) Odie, Albert, their best friend Mose, and a young girl named Emmy escaped from the school and set forth in a canoe to find Odie’s and Albert’s aunt in St. Louis. This book shared the author’s storytelling talent he showed in Saving Grace. It seemed like an adult version of The Boxcar Children.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Ordinary Grace, also by William Kent Krueger.] [ official This Tender Land page on the official William Kent Krueger web site ]

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


The Raven Tower
by Ann Leckie (downloadable audio)

This is Ann Leckie’s first fantasy novel and while it started out fairly typical – an heir with his trusty aide de camp returns home to claim his father’s position, only to find his father missing. There is a second story unfolding, as well, narrated by a god. When the two stories meet, the book takes a dark turn.

[ official The Raven Tower page on the official Ann Leckie web site ]

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Recommended by Susan S.
Eiseley Branch Library


The Grace Year
by Kim Liggett (YA Liggett)

The Grace Year is a teen novel that combines small-community dystopia with survivalist genres. It’s set in a County where families with privilege live, while everyone outside of the County are dangerously desperate poor people. Or at least that’s what the people inside the County are told. Another thing they’re told is that young women have dangerous magic that–among other things–forces good husbands to have affairs with them. To deal with this problem, sixteen year old girls are sent away for a year to live with each other in isolation so they can either get their magic under control or die during their “grace year.” The girls who survive are ready to become compliant wives.

It should come as no surprise that our hero, Tierney, has doubts about this setup. On the other hand, she is starting to have vivid dreams about what readers will recognize as a witches’ coven in the forest. As her year of girls is led away on their journey, she sees that it’s true that outsider men are following, eager to capture and butcher them if they stray from their eunuch guardsmen. Fair warning: this is a gory book.

When they arrive at the place they’ll be spending the next year, things quickly take a turn into Lord of the Flies territory. Tierney struggles to survive the wilderness isolation, other girls, and outsider men waiting beyond with their knives. Meanwhile, she unravels the mysteries around the grace year.

Recommended most strongly for readers who will enjoy the mystery elements or the feeling of seemingly invincible misogynistic oppression. It may work for readers interested in survival stories, but for all the deaths in this book there should be MORE deaths if the survival elements were treated with more realism. My other complaint is that the events of the grace year part of this book only seem to take 3-4 months combined. Maybe it was edited down to accommodate the vital parts of the story that take place before and after.

As far as I noticed, all characters are presumed white. Same sex attraction is included in a small, but extremely positive way. Trans/non-binary identities are not mentioned.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wilder Girls by Rory Power, Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young, We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia, These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling, or the Selection by Kiera Cass] [ publisher’s official The Grace Year web page ] | [ official Kim Liggett web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Dragonsong
by Anne McCaffrey

First things first, there are dragons. I mean real, fire-breathing dragons that people ride. Second thing, Menolly, the main female protagonist is quietly strong in the face of adversity, pursuing her musical dreams over her family’s fishing dynasty. This world is set in an older time period, with wooden boats and no electronics yet, but with women in powerful roles. Menolly was, for me, a guide to reacting to life in a graceful manner, as opposed to righteously fighting against all troubles. She fought, don’t get me wrong, but not by flying off the handle. She used subtlety and grace to win her battles and showed me the value of a strategic retreat. This, for Menolly, resulted in some unlikely dragonet friends, whom she discovered, loved music as much as she does.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Dragonsinger, Dragondrums, or The Girl Who Heard Dragons, all by Anne McCaffrey, or Arrows of the Queen, The Black Gryphon, or Joust, all by Mercedes Lackey.] [ Wikipedia page for Dragonsong ] | [ official Anne McCaffrey web site (archive) ]

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Recommended by Rio B.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Red, White and Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston (downloadable audio)

I’m not usually a romance reader but this title came up in a newsletter I subscribe to for work. In some ways it was the classic romance trope, with the two disliking each other initially but growing to like each other as they get to know one another. Romance is difficult for everyone but especially Alex and Henry since not only are they young men but young men who are in the public eye. I loved how the characters were developed and the secondary characters also had lives.

[ official Red, White & Royal Blue page on the official Casey McQuiston web site ]

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Recommended by Susan S.
Eiseley Branch Library


Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come
by Jessica Pan (eBook)

I chuckled to myself upon reading the title and it was enough to get me interested in it’s content. I thought “could this be any more true about myself?” I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s chronicle of her hilarious and painful year of misadventures, fighting hard against her introvert tendencies to see if living as a extrovert could pull her out of her depression, brought on by her debilitating introversion. She subjects herself to speaking to strangers, speaking in front of an audience, performing stand up comedy, traveling by herself without a plan, and several other activities that would normally make her cringe (myself included). Often I wonder if she’s writing about me. While my level of introversion isn’t as extreme, I still found her experience to hit pretty close to home. I applaud her for putting herself out there, being vulnerable, and trying to overcome her fears. It was reassuring to read about her experience and reflect upon my own personal struggles to come out of my shell, or not, and that’s perfectly OK.

[ official Jess Pan web site ]

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Recommended by Mai D.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett

Because his mother left the family to do charitable work in India when Danny Conroty was young, he was raised by his older sister, Maeve Conroy, and the household help. Their father was too busy with his realty investments to be involved in their lives. Their stepmother loved their iconic mansion, nicknamed The Dutch House after the previous owners who were Dutch, but she did not have the kids’ best interests in mind. This story taught so much about forgiveness and living the life we’re given instead of the one we planned.

[ official The Dutch House page on the official Ann Patchett web site ]

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries


Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All
by Laura Ruby (YA Ruby | downloadable audio)

This is a historical novel about two different young women; Pearl, the narrator, is dead and telling both her story and Frankie’s, a young woman who has been left at an orphanage after her mother dies and her father cannot take care of her nor her siblings since the depression is also happening. I loved how the stories intertwined and Pearl’s story was slowly revealed layer by layer.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.] [ official Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All page on the official Laura Ruby web site ]

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Recommended by Susan S.
Eiseley Branch Library


The Murderbot Diaries series
by Martha Wells

The four novellas in The Murderbot Diaries series (All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy) were among my favorite reads in 2019. “Murderbot” is a self-applied nickname for an artificial lifeform — a SecUnit (security unit) made of a combination of both hardware and human tissue. In this series, SecUnit has become fully self-aware, and has hacked and broken the combination of hardware and software that keeps it enslaved as a tool to humans. The problem is, though it feels a sense of responsibility to the humans that is contracted to work for, all it really wants to do is be left alone to watch the futuristic equivalent of high-tech soap operas, and to to not have to interact with humans if at all possible. But, there’s a mystery in its background, in which it may have killed a whole lot of people (hence “Murderbot”) and then had its memory wiped.

Over the course of these four very short novels (a fifth full-length novel is coming in 2020), SecUnit saves a bunch of lives, is granted its autonomous freedom, chooses to run away, investigates its own mysterious past, and comes back to save the lives of the first human “friends” it has ever made. All while telling its adventures in the most self-deprecating, sarcastic way possible. This is serious science fiction, with one of the most appealing, and intriguing, narrative heroes I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Martha Wells brings an intense humanity to SecUnit as a protagonist, but also creates an incredibly believable futuristic world. The pacing is marvelous — jumping from monotonous to pulse-pounding in an instant. I can’t wait to read more in this series!

[ official Murderbot Diaries page on the official Martha Wells web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Screening Room

formatdvdCaptive State
[DVD Captive]

Captive State is an odd film — part science fiction, part post-apocalyptic, part political espionage thriller, and 100% depressing.

The setting is Chicago, nearly a decade after humanity was basically subjugated following an alien invasion. Much like the 1980s mini-series and single-season TV series, “V”, “V: The Final Battle” and “V: The Series”, aliens have arrived, shown they have superior technologies, and essentially take over our planet. These “Legislators” then use the humans to do their dirty work — humanity ends up split between the collaborators — who work with and for the aliens — and the dissidents — who form an underground rebellion against the aliens and try to undermine their plans.

This film chronicles the frantic actions of a small cell of rebellious humans, up against the might of the local Chicago government, which is backed by the Legislators’ tech. There are multiple layers of stories going on simultaneously. The film has a dark, gritty realism, and the few moments of science fiction we get, in views of the alien Legislators, are very limited. John Goodman is noteworthy as the head of the Chicago security forces, doing the aliens’ bidding, but most of this cast were “unknowns” to me.

It’s a well-made film, but very depressing to watch. I recommend Captive State for its drama and storytelling, but don’t go in expecting a “happy ending”.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try District 9, or Chappie.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Captive State web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdIsn’t It Romantic
[DVD Isn’t]

I prefer to take actress/singer Rebel Wilson in small doses but, in this movie starring her, I’m okay with the whole shebang for once. Wilson plays Natalie, an overlooked junior architect who, through a head injury, seems to have been transmogrified into a life full of glamor, power, and [shudder] treacly romance. As she navigates her resulting relationship with a dream-guy boyfriend, she starts losing touch with her work bestie, Josh. How does it all turn out? This has a surprisingly sweet tone in among the surrealism and sarcasm, and it pairs Adam Devine with Wilson again (Pitch Perfect movies) for satisfying chemistry. Liam Hemsworth and Priyanka Chopra round out the main cast.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try watching the films What Women Want, Bride and Prejudice or Leap Year.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Isn’t It Romantic? web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


formatdvdThe Public
[DVD Public]

The Public was a passion project for Emilio Estevez, who not only wrote and directed this film but who also starred in it. Estevez plays Stuart Goodson, a librarian with the main downtown Cincinnati Public Library. During a brutal cold streak one winter, the homeless and transient users of the library end up staging a “sit-in” or takeover of the library — non-violently refusing to leave at closing time, for fear of dying from the outdoor conditions. Goodson and other library employees wind up locked inside the library with a large group of the homeless — barricaded to prevent the police from coming in to remove them from the library.

This film explores a lot of important issues, including what the library’s role is in serving the public, where do the lines get drawn in how much support the library staff can provide to people with physical and mental issues, and what does it mean to be a functioning and contributing member of society. But it’s also a character study — mainly of Goodson (who has some secrets that are revealed as the plot progresses), but also of his library co-workers. There are some excellent performances, including Alec Baldwin as a crisis negotiator, and several of the actors portraying the homeless men and women who take over the library.

As a librarian, I appreciated the in-depth look at some of the kinds of issues I and my co-workers encounter on a daily basis. As a movie fan, I can strongly recommend this a well-made, thought-provoking drama.

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

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdVera
based on the novels of Ann Cleeves [DVD Vera]

Vera is a British crime drama series featuring Brenda Blethyn as Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope and David Leon as her trusted sidekick Sgt. Joe Ashworth. The series is set in the fictional Northumberland and City Police department along the coast of England. In actuality the series is filmed in beautiful Newcastle upon Tyne in Northeast England, a perfect setting for these marvelous stories based on the crime series by author Ann Cleeves. There are currently nine seasons that have been filmed with season ten forthcoming. I just finished viewing Set 2 and especially enjoyed “Silent Voices” which was based on the novel of the same name. Vera is not your typical Chief Inspector. She is cranky yet kind-hearted, with a soft spot for the people in her department. In one scene, an employee turns in her request to be transferred from the department after Vera gives her a hard time about not working hard enough. Vera nearly bursts into tears at the sight of the request, something you don’t see other chief inspectors do. Once again we learn that underneath that get-to-work exterior is someone who is really human after all. The stories are well-written and keep you guessing who the killers are right up until the end.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, or Prime Suspect on DVD.] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this television series ] | [ official Vera page on British television network ITV’s website ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated February 2020
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