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Staff Recommendations – January 2023

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January 2023 Recommendations

Dashing Through the Snowbirds
by Donna Andrews (Andrews)

This Christmas, Meg Langslow has a house full of Canadians. Rob’s company Mutant Wizards begins to collaborate with a company that provides genealogical information. The idea is to help them expand their DNA testing services. The head of the company is rude and entitled. He demands that his people move to Caerphilly to work at the Mutant Wizard office instead collaborating online. He also failed to realize there wouldn’t be any rooms available for his staff ergo the house full of Canadians.

When Ian is found bludgeoned to death, Meg begins her search for who killed him. Was it one of his employees? His father, not wanting to see him ruin the company he worked so hard for? A man who was convicted of murder thanks to the information in their fledgling DNA database?

I was kind of disappointed her previous Christmas book, but this shows she’s not lost her touch. I loved the changes happening with Meg and her family. I like that the mystery is well done and that the books still have the subtle humor I’ve come to love.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Bones of Holly by Carolyn Haines or Twisted Tea Christmas by Laura Childs.)

( official Donna Andrews web site )

See many more items like this in the Mistletoe Mysteries booklist here on BookGuide!


Recommended by Marcy G.
South and Gere Branch Libraries

Alice in Borderland: Volumes 1 and 2
by Haro Aso (741.5 Aso)

Eighteen-year-old Arisu hates his life. He is bored with school, his family, and living each day in reality. All he wants to do is hang out his friends and play video games. One day his wish comes true and he and his friends are forced to compete inside a video game in a parallel world that is not only dangerous and vicious, but deadly too. Be careful what you wish for, ’cause you just might get it.

( Wikipedia entry for Alice in Borderland ) | ( publisher’s official Haro Aso web page )

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 Nancy E.
Eiseley Branch Library

The Aunt Dimity series
by Nancy Atherton (Atherton)

The Aunt Dimity series, written by Nancy Atherton, is a cozy mystery series that takes place in the fictional village of Finch in the Cotswolds of England (in the southwestern area of the island). When one hears Mysteries one usually thinks Murder Mysteries but in this series the vast majority of the mysteries are everything from locating Great Grandmother’s stolen necklace and possibly clearing the name of the accused thief, to finding a specific item before a deadline or the current resident loses title to the familial lodgings, to the occasional untimely death.

As in any good cozy mystery series, we meet the villagers — some of whom become our friends — who continue to roam through the subsequent books, while our main characters become involved in the mysterious goings-on.

We meet Lori, one of our main characters. She inherits a cottage from her late mother’s best friend, Dimity who lived in Finch — and is a ghost. They communicate via a blue journal. Lori writes in it and Dimity’s handwriting appears in response.

This is a fun, low-key, cozy mystery series that has published its 25th title in 2022 (Aunt Dimity and The Enchanted Cottage). Start with the first book, Aunt Dimity’s Death. All titles are available as physical books and as downloadable books, a few on Hoopla Audio, and a handful are on CD as well.

( official Aunty Dimity andl Nancy Atherton web site )


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

The Winners
by Fredrik Backman, narrated by Marin Ireland (Compact Disc Backman)

Fredrik Backman returns to the characters and settings of Beartown and Us Against You to conclude a trilogy of devastatingly emotional storylines in The Winners. Beartown (2017) was a One Book – One Lincoln finalist in 2018, and introduced us to the small forest towns of Beartown and Hed (in Sweden, though it is never explicitly said), where both communities entire identities were tied into their individual hockey teams. When a rape occurs involving Beartown’s star player and the daughter of the team’s general manager, society breaks down. In Us Against You the possible dissolution of Beartown’s hockey team leads to a new configuration of star players, new types of friendships, and new antagonisms.

In The Winners, a few more years have passed, and Beartown hockey is once more on the rise, while a devastating storm destroys Hed’s hockey facility and causes even more friction between the two towns’ fanbases as the two teams must share an arena. Brewing resentments and hatreds slowly percolate beneath the surface, as old friendships are rekindled or re-explored, and characters who found themselves uprooted in the previous books face new beginnings.

Backman’s storytelling style, in which, throughout the book he throws in little asides about the long-term future of all the characters, makes you realize that before this book is done, there is going to be a life-changing event that impacts every single one of these people who readers have grown to admire and care about. The tension is slowly ratcheted up bit-by-bit, with occasionally moments of levity. But by the final few chapters you are on the edge of your seat, concerned with who will survive to the final page.

I really admired actress Marin Ireland’s narration of The Winners. She manages to create unique voices for nearly all of the characters, making me emotionally buy in to their journey. I generally listened to audiobooks-on-cd in my car, and I can honestly say that I was talking back to my CD player and my eyes were misting over as this story came to its climax. An excellent book, and I’ll only drop it from a “10” to a “9” for some minor pacing issues. Still highly recommended.

(You really, REALLY, have to have read/listened-to Beartown and Us Against You before you read/listen-to The Winners. Seriously, take my word for it! Otherwise, the rest of Fredrik Backman’s novels should also appeal to you, although this trilogy is Backman’s darkest works — the rest are significantly darker and more humorous than these three.)

( official The Winners page on the official Fredrik Backman web site )

See Scott C.’s review of the audiobook of Beartown in the June 2018 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!

See Scott C.’s review of the audiobook of Us Against You in the March 2019 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!


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

Star Trek Classics: The Mirror Universe Saga
by Mike W. Barr (writer) and Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists) (Hoopla Comic Books)

This multi-issue storyline was compiled into a graphic novel several years ago and is available through the digital resources in our Hoopla service. The Mirror Universe Saga originally came out in the two-year span between Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and deals – in part – with the after-effects of the events in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), in which Spock sacrificed his own life to save the rest of the Enterprise crew, and Star Trek III, in which Spock is mysteriously resurrected as a result of the untested scientific effects of the newly-created Genesis Planet.

But this multi-part story is far more than merely time-filler between movies. Comic book writer Mike W. Barr, along with artists Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran, tap into some fan-favorite elements of Star Trek mythology to tell a rip-roaring tale of adventure, revenge, grief, and empire-building. Back on October 6, 1967, in classic Star Trek’s second season, the concept of a parallel Star Trek universe with an alternate timeline was introduced in the episode, “Mirror, Mirror”. In that story, Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty end up beaming up to the Enterprise during a violent ion storm and find themselves suddenly in a violent new world, where they must assume the roles of their doppelganger counterparts, who rose to positions of authority through deceit, bloodshed, treachery and torture. Only the Mirror Universe version of Spock (sporting a dashing mustache and goatee) seemed to offer them a chance at returning to their normal universe (after he discovers the truth about their origins), and Kirk leaves Mirror Spock in a position to potentially affect positive change in the violent Mirror Universe.

The Mirror Universe Saga is set over 25 years after “Mirror, Mirror” and reveals that the Mirror Universe Kirk and his crew have been waiting for an opportunity to cross through into our universe to attempt to expand their bloodthirsty Empire. The events of the early Classic Trek movies serve as a backdrop to our well-known Kirk and crew having to deal with monstrous versions of themselves. Characters who have died in the main universe films still exist in Mirror Universe versions. We finally have a showdown between two different James T. Kirks, and fans get to see the distinguished Mirror Spock again, and learn why his goal of leading a rebellion in the Mirror Universe never came to pass. The writing is absolutely terrific, though events in later Trek movies ended up making what happens in this mini-series completely non-canon. The artwork varies, from excellent versions of the movie-era appearances of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et. al., to barely recognizable. And the “bad guys” from the Mirror Universe are portrayed as cartoonish megalomaniacs. None-the-less, this is one of my favorite storylines from the comic book history of Star Trek, and I strongly recommend it to any Star Trek fan who hasn’t already read it!

( entry for The Mirror Universe Saga in the Memory Alpha Star Trek fan databse ) | ( official Mike W. Barr web site ) | ( Wikipedia entry for artist Tom Sutton )

See many more reviews like this on the Star Trek Reviews page here on BookGuide!


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

The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart
by Stephanie Burgis (j Burgis)

Even though her dragon scales aren’t developed enough to give her adequate protection against humans, the young dragon Aventurine sneaks out of her family’s mountain cave to explore the world by herself. Her elders say she isn’t old enough to survive alone, however she wants to prove them wrong and catch a human.

But it’s not the thickness of her skin that turns out to be Aventurine’s downfall—it’s her stomach. A clever human food mage prepares Aventurine her first taste of chocolate, turning her into a human girl. Aventurine has to figure out how to survive without her scales, claws or fire breathing, and especially without her protective family. She sets out to find chocolate, in hopes that she can return to her dragon form.

After a series of trials and tribulations, Aventurine becomes an apprentice in a chocolate house. She doesn’t return to her dragon form upon her next taste of chocolate. But in the end she becomes something quite stronger than she imagined. It turns out dragons are not so different from humans. They both have annoying siblings and disapproving parents. They can be intelligent, have passions that make life worthwhile, and fiercely defend their families.

The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart is a wonderful fantasy story for kids from fourth grade to adult that teaches that life doesn’t always turn out how you expect. Aventurine discovers that if you face your fears and learn from your mistakes, in the end you might be able to live the best of both worlds.

And if you enjoy this book, you can read the sequel to the book called Girl with a Dragon Heart and the final book in the series The Princess Who Flew with Dragons.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Spark by Sarah Beth Durst or Wings of Fire series by Tui Sutherland.)

( official The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart page on the official Stephanie Burgis web site )


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

Fatty Fatty Boom Boom: A Memoir of Food, Fat and Family
by Rabia Chaudry (Biography Chaudry)

Rabia Chaudry is a bastion in the true crime world as an attorney and advocate for the wrongfully convicted, but this gives us a personal look at her as a daughter, wife, mother and woman. This is much more than a food or weight loss memoir and there is no ‘woe is me’ vibe here. What there is: is a lot of humor and honesty as Rabia shares her story of learning to accept her body even if it doesn’t conform to societal expectations. This is also a fascinating look at an immigrant family’s experience with American food and a woman’s discovery of her own heritage through food.

( official Fatty Fatty Boom Boom page on the official Rabia Chaudry web site )


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

Aural Diversity
by John J. Drever and Andrew Hugill, editors (Music 780.87 Aur)

This book addresses a somewhat scary issue for most musicians: aural diversity. On the surface, this is a topic that reflects on the notion of hearing as something that can be a spectrum of experience among different people, similar to how different folks sometimes perceive sights and tastes differently. In practice, though, aural diversity is speaking to differences in hearing that may arise from hearing impairments of various kinds. For many popular musicians, the brutal volume levels at most modern concerts can take a serious toll over the years, causing tinnitus and high-frequency hearing loss for many artists. Danny Elfman, Sting, Ozzy Osbourne, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey, Grimes, and Neil Young are just a few examples of well-known artists who suffer from this kind of hearing loss.

For other artists, hearing loss or hearing differences can come from other sources: some are deaf from birth or young age, like Evelyn Glennie or Mandy Harvey, or have issues with one ear, like Brian Wilson or Paul Stanley. Sometimes brain tumors can affect hearing, as happened to guitarist David Torn in one ear. Some develop conditions that aren’t well understood, such as Meniere’s disease that has affected Ayumi Hamasaki and Huey Lewis. Others can lose hearing from accidents, ototoxic medications, various hereditary conditions, or simply the process of aging. And tinnitus and hearing loss seem to be a fairly common symptom for those who have had COVID-19 as well, making this a timely topic. Having learned myself in recent years how to live with another of the mysterious ailments that cause hearing damage, Semicircular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome, I can vouch that one can’t always predict what will happen in life, no matter how careful you are with your hearing. And I can vouch that the passion for music remains the same.

The new book Aural Diversity, edited by John. L. Drever and Andrew Hugill, is a collection of essays that address a wide range of issues relevant to hearing the world differently, and how various composers and musicians have developed their own unique ways to engage with sound and music when their hearing behaves differently than the norm. Contributors include musicians and composers with various hearing impairments, and researchers in audiology and acoustics, some of whom have hearing differences themselves. The topics addressed are generally divided into two main parts in the book, “Acoustic Environments and Soundscape” and “Music and Musicology.”

The book features two introductions: the first is a general layperson discussion of the notion of “aural diversity” written by the editors, who propose a rough definition of the concept and why we should care about it. If you’re a musician, consider this sobering statistic laid out in this section: musicians are almost four times more likely than non-musicians to develop hearing impairments. It’s probably a good idea for musicians to have some familiarity with the research happening in this field. The second introduction is a “clinical perspective” ‘from Dr. David Baguley, the recently deceased head of the Clinical Hearing Sciences team at the University of Nottingham. His observations about hearing remind me of discussions around vision, in that 20/20 eyesight is considered “normal” and deviations from it are overwhelmingly discussed in terms of limitations: vision that’s less clear, a narrower field of vision, color blindness, etc. The field of audiology is similar, where “normal” hearing is measured as 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and the negative terms of “hearing loss” or “impairment” describe deviations from that norm. Too bad we so rarely hear of super-vision or super-hearing (although some issues with a form of highly sensitive hearing, hyperacusis, also appear in the book).

In Part I of the book, the collected essays focus on what an average reader will consider “soundscapes,” or various environments and the sounds associated with those environments. Some of these environments are surprising: the first essay, for example, addresses the development of hearing in the womb, and the unique sound environment we all experience before birth. Researchers even created a “Sonic Womb Orrb” to emulate the fetal auditory environment, noting that for some time before birth, hearing is our dominant source of sensory input, since there isn’t much yet to see. Other soundscape-oriented articles are relatively more conventional, assessing the impacts of noise-generating devices found in our everyday lives, such as hand dryers and vacuum cleaners, and looking at accessibility issues related to hearing differences. Other essays are more experiential, letting readers know a little about what life is like with a cochlear implant, deafness, deafblindness, unique hearing sensitivities often found in autistic populations, or extreme tinnitus. The final essay in Part I, “Textual Hearing Aids: How Reading About Sound Can Modify Sonic Experience,” feels like a good transition into the music-focused research of Part II, in that the processes described here can apply to general environmental sound as well as music.

Part II, “Music and Musicology,” could be considered essential reading for musicians, regardless of their current hearing health. The essays here provide lots of useful information for musicians and composers about the range of experiences listeners and musicians can have because of differences in hearing. After a sort of introductory essay, “The Show Must Go On,” which lays out the various effects that aging, exposure to high-volume sound, cognition and musicianship can have on hearing in practical terms, we get to some real-world discussions of listening and performing experiences with music from a diverse range of participants with hearing differences. This is followed by a study of musicians with Meniere’s Disease, which typically causes a cluster of symptoms that include low-frequency hearing loss (other forms of sound-induced hearing loss typically affect high frequencies), and this often results in diplacusis, or misperception of pitches, especially in lower ranges. This of course leads to difficulties with both listening to and playing music. Cognitive impairments related to dementia also have frequent correlation to hearing difficulties, which is covered in another essay.

Then we get to some concepts for inclusion of folks with different hearing abilities. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” introduces the idea of real-time manipulation of sound sources to accommodate individual listeners through unique headphone mixes (something that can also be manipulated via apps for those with modern hearing aids). Several essays discuss multimodal stage presentation ideas, including features like sign language, vibrating floors, “tinnitus relief stations,” and multimedia art that evokes sonic concepts visually. Several composers and musicians who have various differences in hearing also offer essays describing their own methods for composing, practicing and listening.

Knowing that musicians are already more likely to have hearing difficulties than the general public, and guessing that musicians vastly under-report such problems due to fear of damaging their careers, there is a potentially wide audience for this book. Besides attempting to make live music experiences as inclusive as possible, there are lots of ideas in here for protecting your own hearing, and adaptations to keep yourself active in music if hearing issues should develop. I hope to see more research in this field, but this is a great starting point for learning about where we are now.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Music for Children With Hearing Loss by Lyn E. Schraer-Joiner or Hearing-Feeling-Playing by Shirley Salmon, editor.)

( official web site ) | ( publisher’s official Aural Diversity sales page )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

by Ever Dundas (Dundas)

HellSans has a lot going on, but the first thing you’ll notice is that there are two options for where to start reading. The book as a whole is divided into three parts labeled:

  • Part One or Two: Icho
  • Part One or Two: Jane
  • Part Three: HellSans

I opted to start with the Jane narrative which follows the protagonist, Jane, the billionaire head of a personal assistant robotics company who is having a very bad day. As you might guess, the other option is to follow the other protagonist, Icho, who is secretly working on a cure for HellSans Allergy and is also having a very bad day. Not for sensitive readers.

The titular “HellSans” is a typeface which produces euphoric “bliss” effects in most people who look at it. It is, of course, used heavily by government and news agencies. Some people are immune to this effect. Still others have a severe allergic reaction to seeing or even visualizing in the typeface. This has led to social ostracization to the point where allergic people are not legally considered human. The personal assistance robots are free to kill them. So, as you might imagine, there’s a lot of political analogy and satire happening in this book.

This all might have made for a fine sci-fi novel, but once you’ve gotten through both of the first parts and into the final section, this book gets bold. There’s metatexual play and the stakes change dramatically. I was left with as much appreciation for what HellSans *does* as I did for how it told the story.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, or Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin.)

( publisher’s official HellSans web site ) | ( official Ever Dundas page on the Scottish Book Trust web site )


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

by Megan Freeman (jPB Freeman)

Remember Island of the Blue Dolphins? What if it were set in modern times in Colorado? This novel-in-verse may be quick to read, but the *thinks* it makes one think are bound to stay for a whole lot longer. Maddie, a young teen, must use her wits and imagination to survive on her own in spite of crushing loneliness. A quote that really stuck with me, was, when she was contemplating whether her parents had survived or not, she noted “It is always too soon (to lose someone you love).” That to me is a truth worth pondering. I also appreciated how her post-divorce families were described in a nuanced manner. I enjoyed the opportunity to imagine what life might be like for a young girl with no adults to direct her, and how even without other people around, she made choices about who she wanted to be. She used the library; looking for advice and truths from written voices that you probably know…What would you do if you were all alone? What do you hope to do with your one wild life?

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. During her time alone, Maddie finds comfort in the poetry she reads. Some of the poets she mentions are Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, e.e. cummings and Billy Collins.)

( official Alone and Megan Freeman web site )


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

Hell and Back
by Craig Johnson (Johnson)

Craig Johnson has created another thrilling book in the Walt Longmire series. I have to say that this one has been different from all of the others; it is part ghost story, part time travel, and part American history. Imagine waking up in the middle of a highway in the middle of nowhere in a snowstorm. If that isn’t bad enough, you don’t know who you are, but your hat has the name “Walt Longmire” inside it. The story all takes place at “Fort Pratt” in Montana, an educational institution that burned down over 100 years ago, killing all of the Native American children inside. This book looks at part of our country’s history that is something that we should be ashamed of. It is a fast read and one of the best stories so far.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try anything else by Craig Johnson.)

( official Hell and Back page on the official Craig Johnson web site )


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

When Stars Are Scattered
by Omar Mohamed (author) and Victoria Jamieson (artist), with coloring by Iman Geddy (j Biography Mohamed)

This is a true story of Omar Mohamed and his brother, Hassan, two Somali boys growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya. The illustrator is Victoria Jamieson (Roller Girl).

As a former classroom teacher, this story hit me hard — emotionally. Over the years, I taught hundreds of refugee students. This made me wonder about, and empathize with, their stories.

When Stars Are Scattered was a 2021-2022 Golden Sower Award nominee.

( publisher’s official When Stars Are Scattered web site ) | ( official Omar MO Twitter feed ) | ( official Victoria Jamieson 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 Nancy P.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

Acts of Violet
by Margherita Montimore (Montimore)

Half of Acts of Violet is composed of a missing person podcast, news articles, emails, and similar coverage of a superstar stage magician (Violet Volk) who disappeared mid-act a decade ago. The other half is a more traditional narrative from the point of view of Violet’s sister, Sasha, who doesn’t want attention from Violet’s fans or podcasters. But Sasha has been waking up in strange places. She’s worried about her daughter who idolizes Violet without knowing the whole story. Is it time to tell her side after all?

This book kept me up late two nights in a row and snatching time where I could in the middle. I was glued! There’s some good info here about the history of stage magic and Russian American culture. Is it better to know or not know how an illusion is done? This is a question that comes up throughout this book. Personally, I’ll take a little of both.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan or The Mysterious Disappearance of Aiden S. (as Told By His Brother) by David Levithan.)

( official Acts of Violet page on the official Margherita Montimore web site )


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

Renegade Snares: The Resistance and Resilience of Drum and Bass
by Ben Murphy and Carl Loben (Music 781.648 Mur)

Drum & bass music was a tremendous influence on lots of electronic music styles from the 1990s to the present, and the music continues to be made as well. As one of the larger subgenres within electronic dance music (EDM), the story of drum & bass is fascinating, but not so well-known, especially in the United States. But we have a recent book that traces the history of the music through to the present day. It’s called Renegade Snares: The Resistance and Resilience of Drum and Bass by Ben Murphy & Carl Loben, and you can borrow it from Polley.

Murphy and Loben are the perfect authors to take on this project, as both were fans of the music during its development in the early to mid-1990s, and both have been editors of DJ Magazine, a British monthly magazine covering electronic music trends since 1991. They’ve known the scene since it started, and written about it for decades. And I think books like this are especially important today because many people don’t know much about the origins of a lot of EDM styles. So much of EDM, from techno to jungle to drum & bass to dubstep, reminds folks of dance clubs and raves, largely full of affluent white kids spending their nights dancing and trying the latest in laboratory-synthesized recreational chemicals, and these stereotypes have somewhat overshadowed the real history of this music. Take techno music, for example: did you know that it’s generally considered to be a product of black musicians in Detroit, starting with producers Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May, who combined DJ techniques with synthesizers? Or that the relatively recent EDM subgenre of footwork was an innovation of black producers in Chicago, and later some Japanese producers were inspired by their work and developed a parallel Japanese footwork scene? Or that dubstep in the early oughts in the UK was massively influenced by 1980s Jamaican sound system DJ collectives? So too, we will find, that drum & bass music started in working-class black neighborhoods around London.

One of the most important elements of drum & bass music is the “breakbeat,” which is using sampled drums from instrumental passages on records. This kind of work had long been a staple of hip-hop production, and in fact one of the most commonly used breakbeats in hip-hop, the “amen break” from the 1969 tune “Amen, Brother” by the Winstons, became a foundational sample for drum & bass music, too. Chapter 2 of “Renegade Snares” digs deep into the history of the amen break carrying over from hip-hop into EDM styles, where the focus on percussion was even bigger. Where hip-hop producers often slowed down the amen break in their tracks, drum & bass producers sped up the sample, and sometimes add a little distortion to it, making it a hyper, assertive call to the dance floor, or an almost overwhelming rhythmic statement that could elicit a similar kind of hyper energy as the drums in thrash metal music of the same era. In Chapter 3, we learn about breakbeat hardcore, the early 90s antecedent to jungle and drum & bass styles. At the time, these were DIY extensions of EDM music, and early artists were mostly self-releasing their music.

As an aside, while this music was an underground phenomenon, a relatively popular style was also developing using some of the same concepts: big beat. Bands like the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, and the Crystal Method were all drawing from breakbeat hardcore music, and arguably some of their early 90s records contain moments similar to drum & bass, though usually with somewhat slower tempos than “legit” drum & bass music.

The next few chapters of Renegade Snares cover the development of jungle music, the transitional style between breakbeat and drum & bass. All of these styles are closely related, and the main difference that a lay listener is likely to pick up between breakbeat hardcore and jungle is more emphasis on deep bass parts. Jungle slowly made its way into dance clubs further than breakbeat had gone, likely because of the bass. Small record labels were also important to the distribution of jungle tracks, which carried through to drum & bass artists as well.

It’s interesting reading about some of the ways this music made its way around the UK that differ from the way things have worked in the US. As mentioned in Chapter 6, pirate radio stations were an essential part of sharing these new musical forms—airplay on pirate radio could drum up interest for music before it could be found in record stores or dance clubs. Indeed, pirate radio could create demand for records and being featured in clubs! In the UK, these stations formed a whole network of information and art-sharing that could happen without the financial backing needed for most mainstream music. Perhaps the closest thing we had to this in the United States was tape trading in the 80s, but I can only imagine the extra immediacy and sense of community these radio stations nurtured in the 90s.

In the US, the terms “Jungle” and “drum & bass” are used pretty much interchangeably, too, so it’s nice to get a sense of the differences between them through this book. As the book progresses, specific artists who became known for drum & bass music, such as Goldie and Roni Size are highlighted, as are transitional artists like the Omni Trio, whose “Renegade Snares” tune is the inspiration for the title of this book. They are similar styles, and the sense I get from the book is that “drum & bass” can be considered a kind of refinement or evolution of jungle approaches that introduces strategic jazz and ambient sounds, and keeps pushing the tempos faster and faster (although there is “ambient jungle” and jazz-infused jungle, too).

Later sections of the book highlight the spread of this music around the rest of the world, and new genres that are inspired by drum & bass approaches, such as footwork and dubstep. The high-speed breakbeats and deep bass this music unlocked in the 90s has enjoyed several resurgences in popularity filtered through these newer styles. And it’s fun to read about how all kinds of styles within EDM, classic and new, from all over the world, continue to cross over into one another in fresh new ways right up to the present day. A great book for finding your way into this rewarding underground genre.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Join the Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music by Matt Anniss, or DJ Culture in the Mix: Power, Technology and Social Change in Electronic Dance Music by Bernardo Attias.)

( publisher’s official Renegade Snares web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

100 Best Selling Albums of the…[decade]
by various editors (Music 780.166 One)

I was pleasantly surprised to discover this British series from the Polley Music Collection earlier this year. These are little gems of 20th Century American and English pop and rock music history. It was fun to re-visit information I knew about certain artists, songs, and albums in addition to learning new information. The set served as musical time capsules covering 4 1/2 of my six decades around the sun.

Organized by decade, each compact volume allots 2 pages per record album — Hey, kids, vinyl’s back! — one for a summary/critique and one for the album cover. You can digest the contents in small chunks or all at once. Appendices break the information down into categories like the highest ranking groups or solo artists overall, or which record companies had the most albums in the list. An index is also included in each volume as well as an introductory section.

Each volume has one or more designated editors, with Tom Broder (a versatile U.K. editor and writer) as overall Project Editor for the series. Being that these were published in 2004, the sales data may be quite outdated on some albums!

NOTE: There are many typographical errors in each of the volumes, some being of punctuation or grammar but others are misspellings of personal names and song titles. And, granted that the descriptions/reviews are very short, there seem to be some strange omissions such as not including Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty with the personnel list for Carlos Santana’s album Supernatural.


Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

Killers of a Certain Age
by Deanna Raybourn (Raybourn)

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen and Natalie are four women in their 60’s who have been assassinating people together for the last 40 years. They are on a cruise to celebrate their retirement when they discover that the agency they’ve devoted their lives to has made them their latest targets. In order to get out alive, they have to work together to eliminate the threat by using their extensive experience. Not quite as overtly humorous as Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club series, but this is a fun, entertaining and action-packed revenge story that will appeal to more than ‘readers of a certain age’.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Thursday Murder Club, The Man Who Died Twice or The Bullet That Missed all by Richard Osman.)

( official Killers of a Certain Age page on the official Deanna Raybourn web site )


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

A Deadly Bone to Pick
by Peggy Rothschild (Rothschild)

Molly Madison moved from Massachusetts to California to get away from the gossip and bad memories. After she quit the police force she became a PI, while investigating a woman accused of cheating, her husband Stefan, ends up dead. Though the police looked at her very carefully, they finally discovered her client killed Stefan because he was the man his wife was involved with. Now in California she ready for a fresh start.

The very first day while moving in she meets a lovely neighbor named Seville and another neighbor’s dog Noodle, nicknamed Frankendoodle and Sir Drools a Lot. Since Molly is at loose ends, she volunteers to help Noodle’s owner and train him to be a better canine companion. Seville finds Molly charming and as a house warming gift gives her business cards claiming she’s a “Dog Wrangler” and thanks to the cards and flyers Seville posts around the neighborhood Molly becomes the local dog trainer.

When Noodle finds a dismembered hand on the beach and then Seville is murdered, the local police focus on Molly. She’s always been curious and can’t help but begin to ask questions.

Throughout the book we find out the Molly was a K9 officer, but wasn’t allowed to keep her partner. She owns a Golden Retriever who she competes in Agility with, I loved the fact she had training equipment and practiced in the back yard. I’m always cautious about books with dog trainers, often the information is quite unrealistic, but mostly it was well done.

The mystery was good and the characters interesting. I really liked this book, up to the point that the main character does some insta-training with the dog. Two weeks is not enough time to reliably train a dog.

If she writes more books, I’ll probably continue to read the series, but that one small error made me keep from giving it a higher rating.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Wedding Plot by Paula Munier or Smile Beach Murder by Alicia Bassette.)

( official A Deadly Bone to Pick and Peggy Rothschild web site )


Recommended by Marcy G.
South and Gere Branch Libraries

Chanson: A Tribute to France’s Most Romantic and Poetic Musical Tradition
by Olaf Salie (Music 781.63 Sal)

We have our share of incredible songwriters here in the New World, but it’s hard to compete with the French in terms of tradition. While many folks in America don’t know a ton about the unique French relationship to songwriting, there is a great new book called Chanson: A Tribute to France’s Most Romantic and Poetic Musical Tradition by Olaf Salie that goes into great depth about the subject, and you can borrow it from the Polley Music Library.

Chanson is one of those books that bridges the gap between an excellent history book and a coffee table art book. For folks who are already familiar with the chanson tradition or just like the music, this book can work wonderfully as a lighter read, a fun book to flip through while you’re listening to your favorite Edith Piaf records. But if you want to get into historical contexts, it’s a great place to start, too.

The introduction to this book is a great overview of how the French view music and culture more generally, and it makes some references to just how old cultural institutions and traditions have run in the country. The Academie Francaise, for example, was founded in 1635 in large part to standardize the French language and protect and preserve French culture. And some of that culture dates back to Medieval times: songwriting in France is one of the longest-running traditions in the world, with roots that can be traced back to the trouveres and troubadours, the original singer-songwriters of the Middle Ages. In the simplest terms, “chanson” simply means “song,” but in trying to define what “chanson” really means in France is more complicated because of this incredibly long tradition. Medieval song is part of the tradition as much as modern French songwriting, and all of it forms part of a more cohesive cultural whole than we’re used to conceptualizing around music in America. But they’re sitting on the historical birthplace of secular songwriting, dating back nearly a millennium, and the gravity of that tradition can’t help but influence popular music’s place in French culture.

Several functions of the chanson are discussed in the introduction as well: some of those earliest songs formed the beginning of the love song tradition, the beginning of social criticism in song, and songs of heroic fables. These broad themes continue to be important in contemporary songwriting (both in the chanson tradition and elsewhere, for that matter). And in the chanson tradition we find the archetype for the kind of person often associated with being a songwriter dates back to early history, too: Francois Villon, who lived in the middle 1400s, for example, is remembers as “a poet, a drunkard, a lover—and a criminal.” His songs reflected his position as a kind of outsider in society, and we still see that kind of “bad boy” vibe in some artists today. Author Salie also notes that the chanson tradition must be considered in terms of lyrical sophistication: compared to other countries’ pop song traditions, the chanson is held to a higher literary standard as essentially a form of poetry set to music. And generally that means vocals must be in French, as part of the literary discipline of the chanson is linked to the sound and flow and feel of the language itself.

With those general observations in mind, the rest of the book proceeds chronologically, focusing on the 20th Century chanson tradition up to the present day. There is a short section documenting the period before WWI dating back to the late 1870s, a period often called la Belle Epoque or “the beautiful epoch,” during which the city of Paris was in its first modern-era heyday. Immediately before that period, roughly 1850-70, the city had been deliberately modernized by removing most medieval-era building, replacing them with a carefully planned cityscape featuring wide streets and attractive new construction. In this new city, citizens enjoyed themselves in the cafes and salons of the day, and various forms of art and culture flourished. But in this era, the chanson existed in places such as the legendary Moulin Rouge, but between the World Wars, music took on a whole new level of cultural immediacy.

So much happened in the 1920s to help the chanson become a cultural powerhouse: the radio proliferated around the world. People and artists from all over the world—including the US, whose musicians were looking for more lucrative places to play during Prohibition—flocked to Paris. Jazz clubs and music halls opened. Variety shows that had previously been produced only for wealthy audiences were now directed at the general public. All of these factors combined to create the first modern entertainment celebrities in France, whose work in that era laid the foundations for the chanson in decades to come. Some of these 1920s and 1930s French stars remain better known within France, like Maurice Chevalier, while others like guitarist Django Reinhardt or American expatriate Josephine Baker are world renowned.

The 1940s are where the art of the chanson kicks into high gear, with performers like Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet. The book features detailed biographies for many of these classic-era performers, including Piaf, Yves Montaud, and Charles Aznavour, accompanied by great photos from throughout their careers. That “outsider” nature of entertainers mentioned before becomes a clear part of chanson performance in this era: the most beloved artists are not the most beautiful people or those with the best voices. Instead, there is a certain admiration for those who might otherwise have been told they’re too short for show biz, with thin or raspy voices, or those who come from poverty and struggle. In this way, the chanson became deeply relatable to the average audience. This was music from the heart, performed by people who could be your neighbor (although they became huge celebrities).

The “Piaf Generation” of chanson performers reached roughly from the 1940s through the 60s, when several varieties of chanson began to circulate. Much like the division of pop music into various subgenres in America in the 2nd half of the 20th century, French chanson branched into new areas as well. The book documents the “existentialist” movement, with performers who aligned themselves with more bohemian intellectual audiences, whose music tended toward introspection and melancholy. At the same time, chanson absorbed French pop music of the day, often referred to a Ye-Ye, and performers from that perspective took more inspiration from rock and roll music. It’s worth mentioning here that the kind of individual dancing associated with rock and roll, and the discotheques where it took place, originated in France, so their contribution to the international dance club scene is an essential one. With strains of rock and roll in the music, dancing and fun were a big part of this side of chanson writing, but so too came the same kind of cultural revolution elements seen elsewhere, like hippies and 60s and 70s counterculture. Some of these chanson performers dressed more like rock musicians, such as Johnny Hallyday, while others like Serge Gainsbourg mostly stuck with the suitcoats of previous generations. Still others like the disco-influenced Claude Francois split the difference, with a family-friendly suitcoat vibe, but those suitcoats were sometimes in bright colors.

The final few sections of the book cover the life of the chanson in recent decades. From the 70s forward, women have been featured more prominently among French entertainers. In the 80s and 90s, the art form absorbed more influences from world music and newer forms of pop like punk and new wave. And up to the present, the French scene maintains its own unique perspective in popular music through the power and history of the chanson. For those who want to hear more music along these lines, there is a short appendix at the end of the book that features a thematically divided playlist of suggested songs. If you want to hear chansons about “love” or “revolution” or “melancholy” and so on, this is an excellent starting point.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Relax Baby, Be Cool: The Artistry and Audacity of Serge Gainsbourg by Jeremy Allen, No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf by Carolyn Burke or My Life by Edith Piaf.)

( publisher’s official Chanson web page )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Elle(s): The New Girl
by Kid Toussaint (writer) and Areline Stokart (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Toussaint)

Elle is the “new kid” at her school, and has a little trouble fitting into the social cliques. Mainly because she has six different personalities, most of which only come out and become dominant when she is anxious or stressed. And, unfortunately, in the “new school” environment, that is frequent. Fortunately, she’s got a support structure of a group of new friends, particularly her best friend, Maelys, who recognizes that there’s something different about Elle and wants to help her cope.

Writer Kid Toussaint does a great job of capturing modern teenage angst and the struggle to develop a strong, unique personality in an environment encouraging conformity. And artist Aveline Stokart does an incredible, beautiful job with their painted artwork, creating a lush, detailed world, people with distinctive characters. Elle’s six different personalities (referred to as “moods”) are denoted by six different hair colors and mood/color palettes. There are also shadings of paranormal elements, as some of the latent personalities wish to take over from Elle’s normal default mood.

I strongly recommend this graphic novel, and look forward to additional forthcoming volumes in what is planned to be a series.

( official Aveline Stokart web site ) | ( official Kid Toussaint Instagram feed )


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

Asadora! Book 1
by Naoki Urasawa (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Urasawa)

A typhoon descends upon 1959 Japan hiding something more sinister. One girl, Asa, stands before it with her stolen plane, delivering aid to those stranded. Recommended for Young Adults and Godzilla fans!

( official Asadora! web site ) | ( official Naoki Urasawa web site – site appears to be offline )

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 Laurie J.
Gere and South Branch Libraries

Screening Room

formatdvdThe Hunt for Red October
based on the novel by Tom Clancy (DVD Hunt)

Based on the book of the same name written by Tom Clancy, this is a story about a Russian submarine with technology that makes it undetectable on radar. Marko Ramius — played by Sean Connery — is in command of this sub. Ramius kills a political officer on board the ship and replaces the orders from Russia with ones that he had written himself. He claims that they are being told to head to the American coast. Meanwhile, the Americans learn of the existence of this sub, that it’s coming their way and that it’s undetectable, but are told to sink it. Jack Ryan — a CIA analyst played by Alec Baldwin — comes up with a theory that Ramius is not attempting to start a nuclear war, but is instead trying to defect, while handing over the submarine in the process. In order to prove his theory he urges the American commander to make contact with Ramius. They find the ship, communicate through Morse code, and learn that is exactly Ramius’s plan, but then they must come up with a plan of their own to throw Russian intelligence off their scent.

All-in-all it was a well-made movie. Connery was fabulous, Baldwin did well, and it was a thrilling story.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other Jack Ryan books made into movies – some that we own are The Sum of All Fears, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit or any of the seasons of the Jack Ryan TV series starring Jon Krasinsksi.)

(Also available in traditional print format.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )

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

formatdvdThe Inspector Lewis series
(DVD Inspector)

As a longtime fan of the Inspector Morse series starring John Thaw, I was happy to see that the producers decided to continue the series after Thaw’s death by focusing on his partner, detective Robbie Lewis. One of the things that I loved most about the Morse series was the relationship between Endeavour Morse and his not-so-bright sergeant, Lewis. Lewis is not only mourning the loss of his partner, Morse, but also his wife, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident. With a new sergeant to train, things look rather bleak for Inspector Lewis in Oxford, England — a city which seems to have more than its share of murders. Sergeant Hathaway is played by Laurence Fox, son of another great British actor, James Fox. Hathaway’s cool demeanor and Oxford education help to complement the down-to-earth and easy-going nature of Lewis. So far I have watched the first three seasons of Inspector Lewis but still have many more to go. The chemistry between actors Kevin Whately (Lewis), Laurence Fox (Hathaway) and Clare Holman (Dr. Laura Hobson) makes this an enjoyable mystery series to watch. I highly recommend it, especially for fans of Colin Dexter’s detective Morse.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the original Inspector Morse series, and the prequel series Endeavour.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this TV series )


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

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