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Staff Recommendations – July 2021

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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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July 2021 Recommendations

Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies
by Dave Addey (not in library collection — I suggest requesting it via the library’s InterLibrary Loan service)

Author Dave Addey started Typeset in the Future as a website (https://typesetinthefuture.com/), and has migrated much of that site’s content to this impressive book — all about the use of specific fonts/typesets to innately establish a futuristic science fiction setting in motion pictures. Addey targets seven specific science fiction films to use as prime examples: 2001: A Space Odyssey; Blade Runner; Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Alien; Total Recall; Wall-E; and Moon. This site and this book aim to answer the question — When you see an image from a movie, featuring text or signage or identifying markers in some way, what fonts make you immediately recognize that the scene is set in the future?

Each film gets its own in-depth exploration in this book, examining the iconic fonts used in on-screen graphics, signage, paperwork, vehicle name graphics, and more. But that’s not all — Addey has extensive sidebar articles about the history of various fonts, the people who created them or for whom they were named, and much more. What could have been an extremely dry and technical topic is brought to life in vivid detail, Addey’s passionate enthusiasm for his subject matter is abundant, and his sarcastic and snarky sense of humor shines through in his lengthy commentaries. This book is jam-packed with graphics — zoomed-in close-ups of moments from each film, in which a particular font can be identified — reproductions of entire font families to illustrate a point — photos of props from the films, with distinctive text/markings on them in recognizable fonts, etc. Each chapter ends with him interviewing someone associated with the typography and/or production or set design of the film that was just dissected. Personally, I found these interviews to be among the most interesting information provided in this book.

Sadly, the libraries have not ordered Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies for our local collection — if you’re interested enough to track this one down, I encourage you to pursue it as a request through our InterLibrary Loan service, where for a small service fee, we can get borrow it on your behalf from another library elsewhere in the country. I loved this book, and highly recommend it. I only subtract a single point in my review score because Addey occasionally goes off on tangents that seem only vaguely related to the main focus of the book. But sometimes, even those are fun!

[If you enjoy looking at the history and specific use of fonts, you may also wish to try Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield, Culture & Typography: How Culture Affects Typography by Nikki Villagomez or The Evolution of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Landmark Typefaces: Examining Letters From Metal Type to Open Type by Tony Seddon. Books about the making of these films are also out there to track down, which touch on some of the same topics.] [ official Typeset in the Future book page on the official Typeset in the Future web site ]

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


Say Yes to What’s Next
by Lori Allen (646.72 All)

This caught my eye because I enjoy watching the TV series “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta”, which features Allen’s bridal boutique, which she formed from the ground up. She is the epitome of a successful and sassy modern Southern Belle. The subtitle is “How to age with elegance and class while never losing your beauty and sass”. Combining biographical information with advice and advocacy for middle- and older-aged women, this is a fairly quick and frequently humorous read. It is not ‘lightweight’ as much as to-the-point. For me, personally, a lot of the information was moot, as she centers most of the topics around women with children and grandchildren, which I do not have. However, one very nice thing about the book is that online and organizational resources, such as mentoring programs and a budgeting website, are referenced in a number of instances. Regarding her personal life, I was surprised to find out about a critical injury Allen had after she had come through breast cancer successfully and it was nice to learn how despite a deep depression she suffered, she persevered and overcame that as well.

[ publisher’s official Say Yes to What’s Next web site ] | [ official Lori Allen web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


Geektastic: Stories From the Nerd Herd
edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castelluci (YA PB (Non-Fiction) Black or j813.08 Bla)

I stumbled across a copy of this 2009 anthology a few years ago in a used bookstore and snatched it up for my own personal collection, and finally got around to reading it. I’m pleased to see it exists as both a physical book and E-book through the libraries as well!

Geektastic features 15 short stories and 14 interstitial 1- or 2-page comics that all explore the concept of “fandom” and “being a geek/nerd” — all written by some of the hottest Young Adult authors at the time of publication, including Scott Westerfeld, Cassandra Clare, David Levithan, Garth Nix, Kelly Link, John Green, Libba Bray and more! In some cases, this might involve science fiction or fantasy — the characters may be huge Star Trek or Star Wars fans, but it can also involve intense fans of other types of things as well — fanfiction, gaming, devotees of an actor — anything where the person can “geek out” over their interests. These stories cover a broad range of styles and tones, and I didn’t necessarily love all of them. But, there were enough strong entries for me to feel comfortable recommending the collection.

Though it’s classified in the Young Adult section, I’m reviewing it as an “adult” item, for adult readers. Obviously, it’s appropriate for YA readership. My only real complaint — I got to enjoy some of the characters in the stories so much I was sorry the story was over in just 10-15 pages!

Strongly recommended — especially for anyone who’s ever felt ostracized for being overly devoted to an interest, or, conversely, for anyone who’s never really understood the mindset that can lead to that level of devotion. Truly, a celebration of being on the fringes of mainstream.

[ official Geektastic anthology page on the official Holly Black web site ]

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


The Unicorn Cookbook: Magical Recipes for Lovers of the Mythical Creature
by Alix Carey (j641.86 Car)

When I saw this one pass by the check-out desk at the library, I knew I had to take a look — my wife loves unicorns!

This children’s cookbook is, quite literally, one of the most colorful cookbooks I’ve ever seen. British baker Alex Carey is extremely imaginative in the use of color, sprinkles and other decorations. The cookbook is broken down into numerous categories, with some crossing over between them: Cupcakes, Celebration Cakes, Cookies & Biscuits, Bars and Bites, Party Food, Breakfast, Desserts, and Drinks. Carey creates unicorn horns in several different ways, including through the use of fondant, and by starting with an ice cream cone base.

Most recipes are relatively basic, but some feature steps that might be complex for younger bakers. But the book is definitely a feast for the eyes. If you’ve got a youngster who loves unicorns, fantasy, and magic, you’re bound to find some creative ideas for baking and celebrating in this volume. And as an added bonus — the “English accent” of the author comes through in some of the terminology used in the book, adding a bit of fancy flair even to the text.

[ publisher’s official The Unicorn Cookbook web page ] | [ official Alix Carey Twitter feed ]

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


The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
by Becky Chambers (Chambers)

I enjoyed reading this recently for my science fiction club’s monthly Book Discussion meeting in June 2021. This particular volume, published in 2014, is Chambers’ first novel in her Galactic Commons series, which has reached four volumes as of 2021. Set in a distant future, in which human beings are just one small part of a multi-species federation of trade and exploration, the main events of this novel focus on the crew of a tunneling vessel — blue collar workers who are hired to punch a hole through space to create a short-cut between the areas of known space and the edge of a portion of space peopled by a galactic empire that is negotiating to join the others.

This is a character-driven novel, though the plot does move forward in bits and pieces. Chambers is far more concerned with introducing a large and diverse cast of humans, aliens and artificial intelligences. Her “worldbuilding” skills are spectacular, and you’ll find yourself invested in the lives of this hardworking spaceship crew. On the other hand, you may also find yourself overwhelmed with characters from extremely diverse cultures — in Chambers’ world, everybody seems to be wholly accepting and embraces all those differences, with hardly any major character conflicts among the central cast (other than one token “curmudgeonly” crewmember whose apparent role is to serve as the singular source of internal conflict). There are numerous elaborate and intriguing set pieces, where the characters (and we readers) learn more about their universe.

I enjoyed this very much, but I missed having a storyline where the plot (i.e. “what’s happening” as opposed to “who its happening to”) was more critical. And a few of the more “out there” character quirks seemed a bit heavy-handed. And yet…I was sorry to see this story end, and I look forward to reading more in her Galactic Commons stories. Highly recommended for fans of social science fiction, or of exotic alien races, or of the adventures of blue-collar futuristic workers and “fringe” members of society instead of mainstream. In other words, if you liked Firefly more than Star Trek, this will probably appeal to you.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of The Galactic Commons series by Becky Chambers, the TV series Firefly or the science fiction novels of Ann Leckie.] [ official The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet page on the official Becky Chambers web site ]

See Rio B.’s review of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in the August 2020 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!

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


Queering Kansas City Jazz: Gender, Performance and a History of a Scene
by Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone (Music 781.65 Cli)

This is a recent book published by University of Nebraska Press that addresses untold stories of music history that are not far from Nebraska geographically. The history of Kansas City jazz is a pivotal moment in jazz history that’s a highlight of most jazz history books. KC is arguably the birthplace of bebop, and bebop is the music from which most strains of jazz ever since are most closely related.

But the history books published so far haven’t looked at the broader scope of entertainment and culture that was offered in Kansas City at the same time. As author Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone frames it in her introduction: “numerous works have explored the intersection of leisure culture, identity politics, and jazz in New York, Chicago and other jazz scene cities, but neglected to explore the way that non-normative gender performance, combined with working-class women, racial segregation, and space, created Kansas City’s jazz scene.” This fascinating book explores these previously-forgotten dynamics in the story of KC jazz, and in doing so, we find a more diverse and culturally complex scene while correcting the historical record. While you won’t learn a lot more about jazz itself in this book, you’ll discover a broader and more thorough picture of the times and places where bebop was born.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History by Scott Knowles DeVeaux or Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch.] [ University of Nebraska Press’ official Queering Kansas City Jazz web page ] | [ official Dr. Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone staff page at the University of Central Missouri ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


Win
by Harlan Coben (Compact Disc Coben)

Harlan Coben writes several stand-alone mystery titles (many of which are now appearing on Netflix), and the Myron Bolitar mystery series. Windsor Horne Lockwood III, or Win to his handful of close friends, is best friends with Myron – as such he plays a secondary, yet major, character in the Bolitar series. Together, he and Myron have fast and witty banters that are the highlights of the books (well, aside from the mysteries themselves).

This title is the first in a series that features only Win. His family got off the Mayflower, he’s smart, wealthy, and Philadelphia Main Line – exactly someone you would hate on sight in real life. He’s also psychotic. He’s always armed (with multiple weapons) and well-versed in most of the martial arts. We have an interesting mystery with ties to his family and we meet other characters whom I assume will play reoccurring roles in future stories. Win’s witty repartee continues and he’s always breaking the fourth wall to explain his reasoning to the reader. The mystery was satisfying and its resolution caught me by surprise.

Steven Weber is the reader and the reason I chose to listen to this book rather than read it. He narrates the Bolitar series and I felt his interpretation of Win was spot-on, and he didn’t disappoint here either.

This series is probably best for those familiar with the Bolitar series and who have a working knowledge of Win’s history.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Myron Bolitar series also by Harlan Coben.] [ official Win page on the official Harlan Coben web site ]

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


Fair Warning
by Michael Connelly (narrated by Peter Giles and Zach Villa) (Compact Disc Connelly)

I read this latest entry in the Jack McEvoy series by Michael Connelly as an audiobook-on-cd, for the library-sponsored Just Desserts mystery book discussion group meeting in June 2021. Unlike Connelly’s other ongoing series, such as the Harry Bosch novels, which produce a new entry every year-or-so, Connelly spreads the novels featuring investigative reporter McEvoy out a bit more — anywhere from eight to a dozen or more years may pass between each new entry. In interviews, Connelly has even said that he finds the McEvoy novels the hardest of all his series to write, as McEvoy is the character closest to Connelly in real-life experiences.

Just Desserts Mystery Discussion GroupIn this entry, McEvoy, currently writing for a consumer affairs news website — the “Fair Warning” of the title — is pulled into an LAPD homicide investigation when a woman he had a one-night stand with years ago is murdered, apparently the latest victim of a crafty serial killer who uses a particularly brutal method to kill his victims. Though released from being a suspect, McEvoy feels connected to the case, and begins to believe there’s a story he should investigate. He is partnered with one of his colleagues to research a story involving consumer-level DNA analysis (genetics testing), and some of the apparent security loopholes in that industry. And there IS a story to be uncovered, as the serial killer has used genetics database connections to target his victims…and doesn’t want his trail to be uncovered.

McEvoy isn’t quite as unambivalently “righteous” as Bosch or several other recurring Connelly characters. But I found that his grayer edges made him a compelling character. The exploration of the DNA testing industry, and the ability to target potential sexual assault or murder victims based on genetic markers was somewhat chilling. And the cast of supporting characters was intriguing. The book-on-CD version of this includes a one-on-one interview between author Connelly and Myron Levin, the real-life editor/publisher of the real-life Fair Warning website, who allowed himself to be fictionalized for this story. [Note: the FairWarning.org site has ceased doing business as of February 2021, after 11 years as a consumer protection service.]

All in all, I found this to be a very solid Connelly entry!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Poet and The Scarecrow by Connelly, the previous two Jack McEvoy novels.] [ official Fair Warning book page on the official Michael Connelly web site ]

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


Second Place
by Rachel Cusk (Cusk)

In Rachel Cusk’s first novel since her stunning Outline Trilogy, “Second Place”, we open with the narrator “M” writing to her poet friend Jeffery about the famous painter “L” who M has invited to stay with her and her husband in their second home. M is a writer and has a broken spirit, but by inviting L to live in close proximity to her, she feels that she can get to the center of the meaning of her life through art by witnessing the artist’s process. The novel is fraught with introspection about the tension between life and art and the roles that they play and have on the artist and the audience. Each sentence peels back the narrator’s inner turmoil and the complexities (often contradictory) of human emotions and behavior. “Second Place” left me breathless. This novel is slim yet each sentence invites a closer reading and Cusk writes in a hazy atmospheric tone that is perfect to read during the summer.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Facts and Furies by Lauren Groff, Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill or The Outline Trilogy (Outline, Kudos, Transit) all by Rachel Cusk.] [ publisher’s official Second Place web page ] | [ Wikipedia page for Rachel Cusk ]

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Recommended by Maddie O.
South Branch Library


Gory Details: Adventures From the Dark Side of Science
by Erika Engelhaupt (500 Eng/Downloadable Audio)

If you like learning gross details about humans and their surrounding environments, look no further! My favorite/most morbidly titillating story was about the woman with worms in her eye. From eating bugs, to will our pets eat us if we die, National Geographic blogger Erika Engelhaupt takes us on a journey through her Gory details.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try All That Remains by Sue Black, Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year by Michael Farquhar or Vampire Forensics by Mark Collins Jenkins.] [ official Erika Engelhaupt web site (also official Gory Details site) ]

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Recommended by Rio B.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services


Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Petter Rabbit
by Linda Marshall (jP Marshall)

Charming and informational juvenile picture book biography about Beatrix Potter, exploring how and why she came to write the iconic children’s tale Peter Rabbit, and all the other little picture books that explored the British countryside.

Marshall’s artwork perfectly captures the personality of Potter, her family and friends, and the other people in her orbit. That artwork also does a remarkable job of capturing the idyllic qualities of a simpler country lifestyle, which Potter wished to save, in the face of technological advances and increasing urbanization of British farmlands. And, on a third level, the art harmonizes well with Potter’s own illustrations from her classic books.

For anyone who’s ever loved reading Potter’s tales — I grew up on the little green hardback volumes! — and for anyone who doesn’t believe one person and their actions can actually make a difference.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Beatrix Potter’s Art and A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today’s Favorite Children’s Book Illustrators, both cataloged as under Potter as author, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear or Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales by Marta McDowell.] [ official Saving the Countryside page on the official Linda Marshall web site ]

See Kim J.’s review of Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life in the May 2014 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!

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


Tiny Tales
by Alexander McCall-Smith (Large Type McCall Smith)

Tiny Tales is like a dessert cart of incredible delicacies.

Each little story is worthy of savoring. My favorite group of stories is about “Pope Ron”, an average good guy who grows up to be Pope, and how he takes some time out from “Pope-ing” to enjoy life as a regular guy once again and how the people around him, who knew him from childhood, are both reverent of his status and familiar with him as folks who “knew-you-when” can be.

Dividing the groups of stories are little “Amuse-bouches”: Short illustrated cartoon stories which are light hearted and fun.

I think anyone who would like a break from real serious stories, and a moment of kindness and humor would enjoy these stories.

[ official Tiny Tales page on the official Alexander McCall Smith web site ]

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


Pie Style: Stunning Designs and Flavorful Fillings You Can Make at Home
by Helen Nugent (641.865 Nug)

Author Helen Nugent was working as an instructional design and technical writer for the pharmaceutical and food industries a few years ago, when she started baking pies. Lots of pies. And sharing photos and commentary about them online. Her elaborately decorated baked goods achieved a following, and now, via her Pie Eyed Girl website, she continues to share her baked goods artistry.

Pie Style captures a large number of her more popular pie baking accomplishments, with recipes for home bakers to attempt their own versions of her projects. This book is divided into 8 chapters: The Pie Doughs, Garden Designs, Field and Forest Inspirations, Modern Motifs, Braid, Twist and Weave Patterns; Celebration Pies, Next-Level Pies; and Essential Pie Skills and Decorating Techniques.

Nugent’s techniques seem highly elaborate, and may be beyond the ability of average cooks to accomplish. None-the-less, this cookbook is absolutely gorgeous to look at, with most recipes accompanied by series of photos illustrating the “before”, “after” and step-by-step assembly process for each pie. Even if you don’t end up attempting Nugent’s fancy crusts and toppings, you may appreciate the flavorful recipes for pie fillings, both savory and sweet, which you can try with your own choice of crusts, either utilitarian or decorative.

Sometimes, a cookbook is simply a work of art. Whether or not you attempt to achieve Nugent’s level of food artistry, you should appreciate looking at the beauty of the pictures in this one!

[ official Helen Nugent Instagram account ] | [ Pie-Eyed Girl – the official Helen Nugent web site ]

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


Between the Tracks: Musicians on Selected Electronic Music
edited by Miller Puckette and Kerry L. Hagan (Music 786.7 Puc)

I wanted to highlight this book because it’s a good example of the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Indeed the cover art for this title is unfortunately bland, with an image of a vinyl record along the top quarter of its front cover and lots of empty blue space for much of the rest. But if you’re interested in the more experimental side of electronic music and its history, this book is far more exciting than the cover suggests.

The book consists of 12 essays covering the more “composerly” side of electronic music from roughly the 1960s to the present. Back in the 50s and 60s, there were university sound laboratories packed with room-sized synthesizers for composers and students to undertake what amounted to research in sound. At that stage, most of this music was truly “experimental,” exploring then-new sounds and textures and working methods. Now that so many people have worked with these sounds, they’re largely past the stages of experimentation and function as fully expressive musical tools, but that gives us the opportunity for even more kinds of research: we can look at cultural and social aspects of music-making around these instruments.

Although the essays are independent from one another, there are some common themes that arise between them. The first three essays, for example, all address electroacoustic compositions that have some potential for extramusical communication. While electroacoustic music was once regarded as almost impenetrable emotionally, it has become so familiar that we can analyze newer compositions in terms of their ability to function representationally, like the opening essay by Yvette Janine Jackson that describes Jacqueline George’s “Same Sun (2016)” as a narrative commentary on environmental issues. Gayle Young’s “Ice Creek (2018)” and Hildegard Westerkamp’s “Beneath the Forest Floor (1992)” are given similarly thorough analysis.

Other essays address issues like collaboration and ownership of compositions, cultural identities within electronic music practices, and investigations into the circuits, both literal and conceptual, used in electronic music performance and composition. This is a great read with some novel perspectives that’s sure to expand your thinking on electronic composition.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Electronic Music and Musique Concrete by F.C. Judd, Living Electronic Music by Simon Emmerson or Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic by Curtis Roads.] [ publisher’s official Between the Tracks web page ] | [ Wikipedia page for Miller Puckette ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


The Lady Has a Past
by Amanda Quick (Quick)

Amanda Quick, aka Jayne Ann Krentz, is back with another historical romance title in her Burning Cove series. Burning Cove is a seaside California town that caters to the rich and famous in the 1930s. Each of the five titles in the series features a strong female character who stumbles into a murder mystery and uncovers the dark truth with the help of a handsome, strong male counterpart. Some of the books carry over characters and places, but it’s not mandatory to read the books in order to enjoy the titles.

This installment features a novice private investigator, Lyra Brazier. After a bumpy first day on the job in which she kills a man with a golf club, the next day she returns to find her boss and mentor Raina Kirk leaving the office to help an old friend. But it soon becomes clear that something else is brewing as Raina disappears from the lavish Labrynth Springs Hotel and Spa.

When Lyra is determined to look into Raina’s disappearance, nightclub owner Luther Pell (Raina’s boyfriend) employs a “bodyguard” of sorts to aid in her investigation. Enter Lyra’s love interest. Instead of a muscle-bound gangster, Lyra is paired with the cool, quiet antiquarian book dealer Simon Cage. Behind his steely eyes Cage hides a special paranormal ability that hopefully will save Raina–and both of them–from an untimely end.

I enjoyed this book because it was a fun read with quick action, steamy romance, and short chapters that keeps you intrigued until the end. Krentz is a bestselling author for good reason and I look forward to the next Burning Cove installment..

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick or Tightrope also by Amanda Quick.] [ official The Lady Has a Past page on the official Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz web site ]

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


Song and System: The Making of American Pop Music
by Harvey Rachlin (Music 781.64 Rac)

Author Harvey Rachlin has a proven track record for great writing about the music industry. Many of his books have been more practically focused, such as “The Songwriter’s Handbook” and “The Encyclopedia of the Music Business,” directly helping aspiring artists to improve their music and find ways to share it with the world. In “Song and System,” he has turned his attention to the modern history of the music business, showing how music, technology, and fandom have all evolved together over the last 100 years.

After a brief but informative introduction, in which I learned several new metrics for determining the relative value of a pop song, Rachlin starts to lay out the historical methods by which music could be distributed. Evolving technology takes us from publishing sheet music and attending concerts to purchasing records, listening to the radio, television, CDs, downloads, and the latest audio streaming strategies being used today. As the technology and revenue streams change, we see the industry change and adapt as well, although it seems that the industry often lags a little behind evolving technology in more recent decades. Along the way, even older forms of distribution evolve and create new kinds of music industry services. Take the distribution of sheet music: what was once fairly informal became much more structured with the advent of copyright law and music publishing, leading to the success of Tin Pan Alley and even publishing rights companies that still exist today.

Interestingly, music tech seems to work as an additive process: new technology in the world of music never quite replaces the old. Sheet music, radio, and records all still exist today with enthusiastic fans and users. And live performances remain a crucial part of the music industry. Whole new genres like hip-hop are born through performance. It’s a complex puzzle of factors, but “Song and System” puts it all into context.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music by Eric Weisbard, Switched-on Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why it Matters by Nate Sloan or Love for Sale: Pop Music in America by David Hajdu.] [ official Harvey Rachlin web site (also official site for Song and System) ]

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys Soccer Team
by Christina Soontornvat (j796.525 Soo)

A stirring story of the rescue of the 12 boys and one assistant coach of a Thai soccer team in early July, 2018 from Tham Luang Nang Non (The Cave of the Sleeping Lady) in northern Thailand. The Lady is the fourth largest cave in Thailand, and when it was all said and done they had been stranded underground, mostly in the dark, for 18 days.

This became a multi-national effort, and the logistics of this dangerous rescue were amazing. The rescue crews privately estimated that 5-6 of the boys would not make it. Sadly, a retired member of the Thai SEAL team, who returned to assist, did die during the initial operations.

Reading through the set-up, the rehearsals, the actual process, and everything involved to get those young men out of the underwater portions of the cave was riveting even though we know they made it.

This is classified as a juvenile book, but don’t let that put you off. It could be more of a Teen Read and there is nothing kid-like about this book (this is a 2021 Newbery Honor book – awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children section of the American Library Association for the most distinguished American book for children). Includes photos, additional maps and side-stories.

A compelling, quick read you can do in an afternoon.

[ official All Thirteen page on the official Christina Soontornvat web site ]

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


Screening Room

formatdvdAll My Life
(DVD All)

If you pay any attention to trending romance stories in pop culture, you may have heard about the experience of Jennifer Carter and Solomon Chou, whose friends and family initiated a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to help them pay for their wedding and honeymoon, after Sol was diagnosed with inoperable cancer only months before their original wedding was to have taken place.

All My Life tells their story. Jessica Rothe plays Jenn and Harry Shum Jr. plays Sol, with an extensive cast of supporting actors as their friends, co-workers and physicians. The film telescopes some of the real-life events in the couples’ life, shortening the timeframe of some of the actual events. Yet, the feel of the film isn’t rushed. Rothe and Shum have marvelous chemistry as the ill-fated couple, with Rothe particularly shining, the more stress she’s placed under.

Despite the sad ending that most viewers should know is coming, this was an uplifting and life-affirming movie. I enjoyed it very much and give it a strong recommendation!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official All My Life Facebook page ]

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


formatdvdBotswana: In the Footsteps of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency with Alexander McCall Smith
by Mats Ogren (DVD 916.833 Bot)

This DVD invites you to take a tour of Botswana with Alexander McCall Smith. I have enjoyed reading these books with their traditionally built and incredibly kind and wise heroine as she helps her clients solve their moral dilemmas in a gently humorous fashion. Watching this DVD gives one the opportunity to meet some of the real people behind the characters of the book, including Mma Romatswe herself as well as the director of the orphanage and the head of the wildlife preserve. You’ll learn some history of Botswana and see scenes from the Diamond industry, and a discussion of the Tourism Industry and conversations with Botswana Bushman. You will also learn about some traditional Botswana Values and see the country and learn about life the Bush. This video was produced about the same time that production began on the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency TV series based Mma Ramotswe and her loyal helper Grace Makutsi, back when McCall Smith was writing book 9 The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008). Even though the production is a little dated, it’s still an interesting show to watch for anyone who is interested in Botswana, the No. 1 Detective Ladies Series, or an inside glimpse into the author’s process. Get your cup of tea ready, and sit down for a pleasant hour!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The No. 1 ladies’ detective agency [the complete first season], or the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels by Alexander McCall Smith.] [ official Alexander McCall Smith web site ]

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


formatdvdA Call to Spy
(DVD Call)

I first saw this on the new DVD releases display at WalMart, and realized I’d never seen any promos for it at the time of its 2019 theatrical release. Seeing that one of its stars was Stana Katic, who starred as Kate Beckett for seven seasons on the ABC detective series Castle, of which I was a huge fan, I immediately placed a hold on it through the LibraryLNK app — and then it turned out my wife got a library copy before my hold came in.

A Call to Spy is a gritty and emotional World War II story, based on real life events. Katic plays Vera Atkins, a Romanian-born female British intelligence officer, whose work for the Special Operations Executive in the early years of the war included the recruitment of 37 female operatives, who were sent undercover into hot spots occupied by Axis powers, particularly throughout France, to create resistance cells and report back via wireless on enemy movements. These women were in deadly danger at all times, especially those responsible for using the wireless — an activity constantly watched for and targeted for reprisals by the Nazis.

This film focuses on her efforts along those lines with two specific women — Noor Inayat Khan (played by Radhika Apte), and Virginia Hall (played by Sarah Megan Thomas — who also wrote the screenplay). Hall was an American who had been injured and supplied with an artificial leg, and Khan was a British Muslim. Both were sent into France, with differing levels of success. Meanwhile, on the home front, Atkins fights against prejudice and distrust amongst the all-male intelligence command structure.

This was a compelling film, and made me curious about the real-life story of Atkins and the other women. Research indicates that this film simplifies some of the complex situations they all found themselves in, and Atkins had a very up-and-down relationship with British intelligence. But for a 2-hour movie that needed to streamline the story somewhat, I found this to be excellent — both entertaining and educational. And the performances were top notch, particularly Thomas and Apte, who do a good job of showing how dire their characters’ situations can become. Strongly recommended, especially for fans of war films, espionage films, or films focusing on strong female characters — in this case real historical figures.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official A Call to Spy web site ]

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


formatdvdPsycho Goreman/PG (a.k.a. “PG: Psycho Goreman”)
(DVD Psycho)

A friend kept highly recommending this horror/comedy film to me, so I finally gave in and checked out the library DVD to watch. That’s an hour and a half of my life I won’t get back.

Psycho Goreman (a.k.a. PG: Psycho Goreman) is an bizarre hybrid of horror and science fiction, with some extremely dark humor thrown into the mix. The plot, in a nutshell: An ancient, evil, alien warlord was defeated and entombed on Earth millennia ago by a powerful galactic federation. Today, a pair of pre-teen siblings unwittingly release the evil entity, only to discover that a glowing medallion that had sealed him into his prison still has the ability to control his actions — as long as they have that seal, they can tell him what to do. Unfortunately, it is the headstrong, petulant, antisocial sister (Mimi) that takes control of the creature, not the more cerebral, even-tempered brother (Luke).

They name the 9-foot-tall nightmare Psycho Goreman (a.k.a. PG), and after first keeping it hidden in an abandoned warehouse (where it has slaughtered the members of a gang of thieves), Mimi eventually starts parading it around their neighborhood. The humor comes from the ridiculous things they attempt to have the murderous Psycho Goreman do, all while the monstrous creatures fumes and swears to wreak its eternal bloody revenge. The carnage of beheadings, spurting blood and a body turned inside out is stacked up against the craziness of seeing a nine-foot-tall spiky monster wearing slacks, a polo shirt and a beach hat.

In the end, although I appreciated some of the gory special effects, others are absolutely awful (including a giant brain, and the alien representatives on the UN-like galactic federation). I didn’t think the over-the-top humor made up for the flimsiness of the plot, and I actively despised Mimi, and wanted to see Psycho Goreman pop her head off. However…if you’re a fan of gore-splattered horror films with some unexpected humor thrown in, this might be right up your alley. And, if you DO like that kind of thing, you may be pleased to know that Psycho Goreman has over two hours of special behind-the-scenes features on this DVD disc — much more than the 94-minute length of the film itself!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Psycho Goreman web site ]

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


formatdvdThen Came You
(DVD Then)

Kudos to Kathie Lee Gifford! She proves that a woman of a certain age has plenty of life and creativity left in her, in real life and in movie-making. This humorous romance is at once a romp and a solace. Recently widowed Annabelle starts a planned around-the-world trip in rural Scotland. The innkeeper, Howard, is himself a widower and recently affianced to a good friend of his late wife’s, who is also an old flame. He and Annabelle develop a quirky but genuine affection for one another, which complicates matters. In addition, Annabelle has a side agenda that ultimately relates back to Howard! Gifford wrote the script for Then Came You and also co-wrote the songs used in the film. It is directed by Adriana Trigiani and features actor/author/talk show host Craig Ferguson as Howard.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Godwink Christmas (DVD) or the book American On Purpose b Craig Ferguson.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


last updated July 2021
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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