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Staff Recommendations – July 2022

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July 2022 Recommendations

The Diva Says Cheesecake
by Krista Davis (Davis)

Sophie is hired to plan a party for the Cheesecake Queen of Old Town the caveat is she can’t serve Cheesecake. When Bobbie Sue’s husband doesn’t show up for her party, Bobbie Sue is concerned but not enough to call the police.

When Tate still hasn’t come home by the early morning Bobbie Sue calls Sophie and asks for help finding her husband. Sophie and her best friend Nina go along with Bobbie Sue to search for Tate. Sophie is the one to find him, dead in his restaurant’s basement.

At first, Bobbie Sue tries to hire Sophie to find out what happened, but as time passes Bobbie Sue changes her tune and tells her to back off. When Bernie a friend of Sophie and owner of a competing restaurant is accused of Tate’s murder, Sophie can’t leave it alone and has to find out who killed him.

The mystery was very well done, a lot of twists and turns. Natasha is still part of the story, but not nearly as annoying as previous books.

I always worry that as a series progresses the series will decline in quality. I can say this one is as good; (dare I say even better?) than earlier books.

If you love cozy mysteries, lots of food references, and a amateur detective with a dog you’ll love this book.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try No Grater Crime by Maddie Day, Dark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay or Curses, Boiled Again! by Shari Randall.)

( official Domestic Diva series page on the official Krista Davis Mysteries web site )


Recommended by Marcy G.
South and Gere Branch Libraries

Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith
by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer (741.5 Ell)

Fascinating and provocative graphic novel biography of famed author Patricia Highsmith, best known for her dark psychological thrillers as well as the ground-breaking lesbian novel The Price of Salt (a.k.a. Carol). This novel telescopes some of the events, and uses composite characters in place of some of the real people in Pat’s life. However, at its core, it appears to accurately portray Highsmith and the difficult relationships she had with nearly everyone in her life. She was notoriously prickly, living as a conflicted lesbian at a time when her psychoanalysts attempted to use early conversion techniques to turn her into a heterosexual (unsuccessfully). She was a hostile, arrogant, creative type, who resented having to write comic book stories — there are scenes in this graphic novel in which someone tries to set her up on a date with Stan Lee — but even after achieving success with the mainstream novel Strangers on a Train (which was then adapted to film by Alfred Hitchcock), she continued to remain unhappy. Her thrillers are iconic (including The Talented Mr. Ripley), with the amoral villains often the central characters. But she, herself, was known to be an avowed racist and anti-semite. For this graphic biography, Ellis and Templer somehow manage to make her a sympathetic character, despite all the negative personality traits. I found this to be a fascinating read — the artwork is beautiful, using a limited color palette emphasizing orange, black and peach colors, and the reader is encouraged to understand the difficulties in Highsmith’s life.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the actual novels of Patricia Highsmith, particularly Strangers on a Train and The Price of Salt/Carol (both of which figure prominently in the plot of this graphic novel), or the biography Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks, 1941-1995.)

( official Grace Ellis web site ) | ( official Hannah Templer web site )


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

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Last Interview and Other Conversations
by various (Biography Ginsburg)

Another fascinating entry in The Last Interview series, this time with Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who fought for women’s rights years before being named to the country’s highest court. In this set of interviews (that runs the gamut of her career but focuses especially on her final few years), Ginsburg dances around issues in front of the court — knowing she can’t really comment on something that she might be called upon to issue an official opinion about later. However, she does get to answer questions about her personal history, her earlier years working with the law, and the seeming incongruity of her being close personal friends with the judge normally furthest from her in Supreme Court rulings, Justice Antonin Scalia. The final interview in this book came mere weeks before Ginsburg’s passing in 2021.

( official The Last Interview series page ) | ( Ruth Bader Ginsburg profile on the Oyez web site )


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

The Subversive Guitarist
by Joe Gore (Music 787.872 Gor)

The Subversive Guitarist by Joe Gore is hot off the presses, and I’ve been reading through it with a copy of my own at home for the last couple of months. The idea behind this book is to help players get through those periods that occasionally crop up when you feel like your playing is getting stale, falling back on the same old habits. There’s also a tendency I’ve often seen among guitarists to get fixated on “guitar music,” which of course leaves out what can be done studying what other instruments can do, or other styles of music. Author Joe Gore has an incredibly diverse and creative musical background: he studied classical music at UCLA and was into early music as a late teenager, then got his masters in composition at U.C. Berkeley, and went on to play in a wide range of bands in all kinds of styles, from afrobeat to indie rock. He’s played on tons of Tom Waits albums and my favorite PJ Harvey albums, and was also the editor at Guitar Player magazine. He’s worked extensively with Digidesign and Apple Logic, and has a deep knowledge of digital tone-shaping for guitar, and has also been hand-making his own fully analog guitar pedals as Joe Gore Pedals. This is a guy who knows how to avoid musical boredom, and “The Subversive Guitarist” is his prescription for intermediate and advanced players to shake off those cobwebs.

Each chapter is its own lesson, with stated goals at the beginning. After a couple of quick introductory chapters, which include a discussion about whether or not it’s worth learning to read sheet music (Gore ultimately thinks that it is, and I’d agree, especially when it comes to situations like breaking old habits by learning new music), he dives into three main subject areas: rhythm, technique, and notes. In the rhythm section, pardon the pun, lessons focus on interesting rhythmic displacements, found more often in Latin or African musical styles, but there is even a great list of popular rock and pop classics that have introductions with deceptive rhythms that lead to surprise when drums come in. There’s a great combination of rhythmic displacement and fingerpicking technique, using common fingerpicking patterns in ways they’re not usually deployed rhythmically. And there’s a great deep dive into emulating the phrasing of great vocalists.

In the Techniques section, the deep-dive concept continues, with Gore looking at the expressive subtleties possible within techniques most guitarists already use, like vibrato and fingerpicking. There are even some exercises designed to get players using their fretboard-hand pinky finger more, since many players stop using it especially higher on the neck. And he gets us thinking about an important area of music that electric guitarists often neglect: the use of dynamics.

The final Subversive Notes section looks at melodic concepts from several perspectives, including wide intervallic leaps, octave displacement, dissonances, and considering scales. Of all the things in this book, I’m especially drawn to his chapters on considering sequences instead of scales and reconsidering the way guitarists are often taught to conceive of the modal system. For non-guitarists, you might not be aware of this, but many rock guitarists spend an inordinate amount of their youth running through all of the church modes on guitar. Gore points out the monophonic history of the church modes, and their more modern use with sophisticated chord structures like those often found in jazz, and then basically suggests that we just start thinking about basic key signature structures, and what scale intervals might be flexible within a basic major and minor scale. This is a pretty liberating way of looking at these things that gets you thinking about music rather than various incarcerations in scale-jails.

My only slight complaint with this book is the layout — it looks like the pages were prepared for a smaller print size then the book was ultimately printed at, and as a result, there is a lot of unused space all around the margins. If the book ever gets reprinted or updated, I’d love to see a slightly larger font that makes some use of that space. But all told, The Subversive Guitarist is a great supplemental book for most guitarists. When you’re feeling stuck, it’s great to have a skilled creative catalyst like Joe Gore at your side to get out of the box.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick or The Unorthodox Guitar by Mike Frengel.)

( official The Subversive Guitarist page on the official Joe Gore web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Record Store Day: The Most Improbably Comeback of the 21st Century
by Larry Jaffee (Music 781.66 Jaf)

Even if you don’t play vinyl records yourself, you’ve probably bumped into the many think pieces that have been written in magazines and newspapers about the pros and cons of Record Store Day (RSD) events, and how they’re perceived to affect the music industry. In the early years of these twice-annual events (there is usually one on the third Saturday in April, and another on Black Friday in November), the critical reception of RSD tended to be warmer. Now that there are so many complex pressures on the market, such as competing ways to consume recorded music, supply chain interruptions, and a noticeable increase in demand for records, commentaries about the events have become less supportive. Are the criticisms fair, though? And how has RSD affected the continued existence of brick & mortar record stores around the world?

To answer these questions, we now have a new book all about the history and impact of RSD, called Record Store Day: The Most Improbably Comeback of the 21st Century, which you can borrow from Polley. The author is Larry Jaffee, a music journalist and cofounder of an interesting organization called Making Vinyl, which is attempting to unite parties from all elements of the vinyl manufacturing industry toward working together more seamlessly, from record labels to manufacturers to retailers. With this broad view of the industry as a background, the observations in the book are coming from a reliable viewpoint.

The book’s introduction comes from Kosmo Vinyl, the manager of The Clash, who describes just how high the stakes were at the start of RSD: we were looking at a world where record stores were slowly disappearing and likely to disappear altogether. He briefly articulates the importance of record stores as places and mentions a few of his favorite attributes of vinyl records. This is followed by a short call to action from musician and Third Man Records founder Jack White, who encourages record lovers to share the joy of records and record stores with those around them who may not have experienced them. As a Record Store Day Ambassador, statements similar to White’s are sprinkled throughout the book from other celebrity Ambassadors of the event through the years.

Once we arrive at the main body of the text, Jaffee takes us through the formative years of RSD in great detail. In a way, there are two main stories at play here: the resurgence of the vinyl record format, and the cautious stabilization of independent record stores. It’s strange to consider how vinyl had all but disappeared from the commercial market in the 1990s, only to come back when digital physical formats were replaced by their more efficient downloadable and streamable cousins. This book asserts that Record Store Day played a role in the comeback of the media format itself, in addition to sustaining the small networks of independent record stores around the country.

For me, one of the most interesting takeaways from this book is how informal the beginnings of RSD were. Founders Michael Kurtz and Carrie Colliton were both employees of The Record Exchange, a small chain of stores in Virginia and North Carolina, in the early Oughts. At the time, there were three loose coalitions of record stores around the country, and Kurtz went to work for one of them, the Music Monitor Network. These coalitions were a way for independent music retailers to advocate for themselves in the retail world, where they found themselves competing with downloadable music (both legal and illegal) and big-box stores that were selling exclusive CDs as loss leaders to generate foot traffic, often for prices below independent stores’ wholesale costs. In September of 2007, the idea of an “Indie Record Store Day” was pitched at Noise in the Basement, a meeting of many record store owners who were members of the coalitions that book place in Baltimore. It was discussed at a coffee shop at the very end of the event, when many members had already left, but from this informal beginning, the idea started to take shape. By January of 2008, the basic idea of the event was formed: it would take place on the third Saturday in April, and the independent retail coalitions petitioned record labels to make exclusive, limited-edition releases for the event.

At first, this was a tough sell for many retailers. The vinyl format was being proposed as more exclusive, but many record stores at the time were focused almost entirely on compact disc sales. Those that did carry records saw tiny margins on the sale of new vinyl that didn’t make it look like a particularly profitable venture. Cofounder Kurtz began cold calling indie stores that weren’t part of the coalitions to try to get more participation for the first year, but many owners were suspicious of the idea. Ultimately, though, the first year happened with just 15 limited-edition albums available, and over 300 stores participated—not bad for a turnaround between January and April of 2008! The enthusiastic participation of artists helped in the early stages, too: Metallica did a meet and greet event at Rasputin Music in California on the first RSD, and other bands like Built to Spill, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Regina Spektor, Janelle Monae, and more held similar in-store events around the country.

Variations on the phrase “making it up as they go along” come up repeatedly in the early part of the book. The size and scope of RSD was adjusted on the fly, as stores became willing to give the idea a try, and record labels reconsidered the idea of vinyl pressings. Hardly any new vinyl was being pressed during the early period of Record Store Day, though the used market had some activity, so it took some convincing and experimentation in both the label and retail sectors to slowly build the event. Most indie labels had gotten out of pressing records altogether, while major labels like Warner Bros still produced small runs of vinyl, so to some extent getting the majors on board with the idea was essential to everyone feeling comfortable with the financial risk involved. With the modest success of the first event, the number of exclusive titles jumped from 15 to 85 for the 2nd year.

The global record market quickly took notice, too. Canada and the UK were hosting events by 2009, the 2nd year, and by 2010 European record labels were pressing exclusives as other countries got involved. And perhaps we know the rest of the story, as more indie stores and more labels have continued to join the festivities every year, now numbering over 1400 stores and thousands of special releases. It’s a remarkable success story that has revived a format and kept record stores (places that are often sacred spaces for knowledge not unlike libraries) from going the way of the Pony Express.

The rest of the book is interspersed with interesting stories from various RSD events, and recollections from respected artists on what record stores and records have meant to them personally. There is a special chapter at the end about the unusual RSD “Drops” that took place in 2020 and 2021, where the event was spread out into multiple smaller events in the hopes of minimizing huge crowds during the pandemic and providing steady visitors to stores struggling to weather the unusual economic climate.

While the book doesn’t address some of the common criticisms of RSD directly, the arguments against them can be found in the text. The idea that the major labels created RSD as a new way to recirculate their back catalogs, for example, doesn’t fit with the origin stories of the event. And the idea that RSD pressings are responsible for the massive delays in pressing plants doesn’t seem to fit with the math presented in the earlier sections of the book: although there can be hundreds of titles each year, most are pressed in quantities of 5000 or less, while international pressing plant capacities run much higher than that. There are some supply chain issues afoot because of the pandemic, as well as labor shortages and a unique problem with obtaining the acetates used to make masters after the Apollo Masters Corp. burned down in early 2020 that all point to more complex dynamics. While it’s true that RSD titles are non-returnable by retailers, and some get stuck with over-orders of copies, generally indie record stores are the kinds of places that know their customers by name and have a pretty good sense of what to order. Overall, both the growing number of participating stores and the overall massive increase in the popularity of vinyl records, whose sales have outpaced CDs for the last few years, seem to have benefited tremendously from Record Store Day.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Vinyl Age: A Guide to Record Collecting Now by Max Brzezinski or TITLE by AUTHOR)

( publisher’s official Record Store Day web page ) | ( official Larry Jaffee web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Poems, 1947-1954
by Weldon Kees (811 K25p)

Weldon Kees is one of Nebraska’s best-known poets, but he is remembered mostly for his disappearance in July of 1955 in San Francisco. His new car was left at the Golden Gate Bridge and his body was never found — one of the great mysteries of that time. Born in Beatrice, Nebraska, Weldon graduated from Beatrice High School and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as well as several other colleges. Poet, artist, film maker, musician and lyricist, Kees was well-known in the literary circles in New York and as an artist with a flair for abstract expressionism. Lincoln City Libraries was gifted with the Kees collection of letters and photographs from his mother, Sarah Kees, in the 1960s. As I have been working on the Kees Project this summer, I have been fascinated by the letters Weldon wrote to his friend Norris Getty, asking for critical advice for his poetry as he prepared it for publication. I decided to check out this collection of Kees’ poetry because it was discussed at some length between Kees and Getty. The first poem I read was “The Hourglass,” one of the finest poems I have ever read. Although not all of the poems in this collection are as well done as this one, they are definitely worth reading. Kees struggled with his poetry, bringing emotion and angst to his writing as he sought just the right words to express his feelings. Many of his poems hint at his depression and thoughts of suicide, while other poems are light or flippant in nature. I recommend this collection to anyone who is interested in the work of Weldon Kees or in poetry by Nebraska poets.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Weldon Kees and the Midcentury Generation: Letters 1935-1955 by Robert Knoll, Selected Short Stories of Weldon Kees by Weldon Kees or The Fall of the Magicians by Weldon Kees.)

( Wikipedia entry for Weldon Kees )


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

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (155.9 Nag & downloadable audio)

Stressed? Feeling overwhelmed? There may be a reason for that! In Burnout : the secret to unlocking the stress cycle, Emily and Amelia Nagoski explain why and how the stress cycle affects women.

The book addresses the physiological stress response, how those stressors occur, and offer suggestions on how to recover and protect against burnout.

Do yourself a favor and listen to/read this book!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brene Brown, Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle With Stuff by Dana White or Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear.)

( official Burnout web site ) | ( official Emily Nagoski web site )


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

The Diamond Eye
by Kate Quinn (Quinn)

Snipers are assumed to be cold, hard, calculating loners, or so one would imagine regarding the top Russian sharpshooter during World War II. But in reality, one of the best Russian sharpshooters was a pretty but nerdy university history student named Lyudmila (Mila) Pavlichenko. Many did not believe that the small woman with a young son at home could possibly have an official kill count of 309. But she was often underestimated.

At the beginning of the book Mila is a young mother, working on her dissertations about Bogdan Khmelnitsky and the Ukraine’s accession to Russia, studying to get her university degree and divorce her boastful cheating husband. Mila enlists the same day war is declared in Russia and works her way from ditch digger, through the ranks, to a sharpshooter leading her own platoon, instructing and training new Russian sharpshooters. She slowly earns respect working her way up a man’s world, being hospitalized for numerous injuries, but always wanting to quickly return to defend her land.

As with her other books about remarkable women in World War II, Quinn recounts the tale of “Lady Death” using much of the subject’s own accounts of the real people and places in her life. Quinn adds or combines characters when necessary to retell Mila’s incredible life story, and takes some liberties with the historical record if needed, she says, to serve the novel.

And of course Quinn has to add a little of her own spice to give the story an element of urgency. In The Diamond Eye, another sniper has been enlisted by unknown sources to take out President Roosevelt and frame Mila for his death. We are privy to his dark plan to kill the president and use Mila’s people against her, all of which is purely fictional.

I greatly enjoyed The Diamond Eye, just as I did The Rose Code. We feel the apprehension, the fear, the pain, the grief, the humor, the love, and the anger that motivated Mila and made her more than just a pretty-faced Russian spokesperson, one who was able to win the friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt. I enjoyed how most chapters began with the official statement about an event from Mila’s memoirs and is followed by her unofficial version. If you are a fan of World War II fiction, you are going to love The Diamond Eye.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Huntress and The Rose Code by Kate Quinn or Three Sisters by Heather Morris.)

( official The Diamond Eye page on the official Kate Quinn web site )


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

Playing With Myself
by Randy Rainbow (Biography Rainbow)

Randy Rainbow, if you are not already aware, is the fellow on social media who parodies anyone and everyone through Broadway musical show tunes and his own witty lyrics. Turns out he’s actually very shy so even though he moved to NYC, in the end he didn’t have the confidence to try-out for anything. So he worked for several years in show business periphery jobs, finally began a blog, and one day posted a musical parody created in his studio apartment with his cell phone, laptop, green fabric stretched along his walls, and software editing programs available to anyone. And the rest, as they say, is history. Though it took him several years to get there.

His biography is linear, starting with his youth in Florida, his experiences in children’s theater and through high school drama clubs, then finally his move to NYC and his various jobs there. A lot of name-dropping occurs but that’s half the fun of this biography. Turns out he can be as star-struck as any of us.

There’s swearing and standard Rainbow snark that we’ve come to expect from viewing his videos. I enjoyed his behind-the-scenes stories of how several of his videos came about. His reminisces of growing up, struggling in NYC, figuring out a career, and meeting people are funny, sometimes sad, and always entertaining. (P.S. He has a website, and you can buy your own pair of the pink eyeglasses!)

If you’re a fan of Randy Rainbow, this is a fun, light, enjoyable read. Playing With Myself is also available from the library as a downloadable audio book narrated by the author himself, and as a downloadable e-Book.

( publisher’s official Playing With Myself web page ) | ( official Randy Rainbow web site )


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

If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…Encounters With Remarkable People and Their Most Valuable Advice
by Richard Reed (170.44 Ree)

Fascinating and inspirational collection of short interviews. Author Richard Reed managed to spend time with approximately 50 individuals from various walks of life, though mostly “movers and shakers” within their individual fields. The focus of this book is the final question Reed asks each interview candidate: “Given all that you have experienced, given all that you now know, and given all that you have learned, if you could pass on only one piece of advice, what would it be?”

Each short chapter gives some background about the individual being interviewed, and how Reed’s interactions with them went. And each entry wraps up with how that individual responded to Reed’s central question. Often, despite the focus of some individuals in various career paths, their core advice may not seem to have anything to do with what you might expect them to talk about.

I enjoyed parts of this book very much, although I’ll have to admit that after a while, all the entries started to sound very similar to each other. This may be a book better suited to sampling in bits and pieces, now and then, rather than reading it cover-to-cover as I did. None-the-less, I really did appreciate seeing the answers of some his interviewees. And one, in particular, comes back to me again and again. Microsoft founder and personal computer magnate Bill Gates’ answer was “I would urge people to foster a love of reading. Start as early as you can and keep on reading.”

( publisher’s official If I Could Tell You Just One Thing… web page ) | ( Wikipedia entry for Richard Reed )


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

Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant
by Veronica Roth (YA Roth)

My oldest daughter recommended the Divergent series to me years ago, but I just got around to reading the series this past month. The Divergent series looks at life in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic city where its citizens live in “factions.” The teenagers are “tested” to see which faction they are best suited for, then allowed to make their choice on “Choosing Day.” The teens can stay with their own families in the faction they grew up in or they can decide to go elsewhere where they will live out the rest of their lives. Some aspects of this reminded me of the Harry Potter series when the kids are sorted into their “houses” at Hogwarts, but this is much more serious. The main character, Beatrice, is tested and discovers that she is not “normal” because she shows aptitude for several factions — she is Divergent, and told to not tell anyone the results of her test. She discovers that being Divergent is dangerous — there are people who will kill her if they discover the truth. Needless to say, Beatrice chooses the most difficult path and trains to become a fighting machine. Things are not what they seem on the surface for any of the factions, and one group has the technology to make one faction wipe out others. And this is only the beginning… I found this series hard to put down. Although it was difficult to read about the violence in this city, especially with everything going on in our own country right now, I was intrigued by the message of hope for a new beginning for members of this community. I enjoyed the first book so much that I also checked out the movie (DVD Divergent) to see how well the story was portrayed. Although the movie was not as good as the book, it was interesting to see how they portrayed the city and the factions. The ending in Allegiant was different from what I was expecting, but it still made for great reading. I highly recommend this series.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson.)

( official Divergent page on the official Veronica Roth web site )


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

Saor Patrol
by Saor Patrol (digital resource: Contemporary World Music database)

Despite my Nordic surname, I actually have more Celtic than Scandinavian ancestors in my family tree, so perhaps it’s no surprise that I have an affinity for Celtic music. And being a guitarist with a daughter who is a percussionist, it made sense that I would be intrigued when I came across recordings by the band Saor Patrol ( ) in the Library’s “Contemporary World Music” streaming resource.

Saor Patrol (pronounced “shore patrol”) is a Scottish folk band, though hardly a traditional one – no “Loch Lomond” or “Wild Mountain Thyme” here! Their website describes them as a “medieval rockband from Scotland.” Combining Great Highland Bagpipes, drums, and electric guitars with a look that brings to mind ZZ Top in kilts, the band plays mainly high-energy original instrumentals with a unique sound. The band’s members are all volunteers for the Clanranald Trust for Scotland, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Scottish culture and heritage, and funds raised by the band help support the organization’s projects, including the construction of a replica of a medieval Scottish fortified village.

Warning: it seems that some people have a low tolerance for bagpipe music played at high volume levels, so you may want to choose your time carefully for listening to this group!

Here’s how to access the Contemporary World Music resource or the other music resources in our Music Online collection:

1. At, under the “Resources” menu, choose “Online Resources (Databases)” and then “Access from outside the library”.
2. Enter your library card number (all digits – no spaces) and PIN, and click “Login.”
3. Scroll down to “Arts, Music & Entertainment Resources” and click “Show resources” to expand that section.
4. Click on “Contemporary World Music” – or on “Music Online” to search all six of these music resources at the same time.

( official Saor Patrol web site ) | ( official Saor Patrol YouTube channel )


Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department

Photo Ark Wonders: Celebrating Diversity in the Animal Kingdom
by Joel Sartore (779.59 Sar)

This latest entry in Nebraska photographer Joel Sartore’s series of “Photo Ark” nature photography books is what I would call a “coffee table” book. It’s large, thick, and filled with some of the most gorgeous photos of animals you’ll ever see. Sartore’s goal is to photographically document every single species of animal under the care of humans, in zoos, sanctuaries and other controlled environments.

Photo Ark Wonders features 462 different animal species. Each example (sometimes more than one per page) lists the animal’s common name, scientific name and a little blurb with a small humorous or fascinating anecdote about the species. Interspersed among the myriad photographs are profiles of Sartore, and his wife and children, who’ve grown to put up with Sartore’s photographic obsession over the years, but not always happily. Sartore also throws in a few fascinating background stories about some of the experiences he’s had while traveling internationally to get his photos taken.

Chapters in the book focus on Shape (animals with unusual shapes), Pattern (animals with unique patterns), Extra (a grab bag of various animal features that don’t all go together), and Attitude — my favorite section — in which the photographs Sartore took of various species show off almost human-like attitudes and personalities.

Absolutely gorgeous — and don’t forget to check out Sartore’s earlier Photo Ark books!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals by Joel Sartore, and Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark — on DVD.)

( National Geographic’s official The Photo Ark web page ) | ( official Joel Sartore web site )


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

Back to the Future: The Musical – Original Cast Recording
by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard (Compact Disc 782.14 Bac)

The original time-travel film Back to the Future came out in 1985, telling the tale of teenager Marty McFly using the massively-altered Delorean gull-wing car-turned-time-machine by his friend, eccentric scientist Doc Emmet Brown, to travel back to 1955. When trapped there, Marty enlists the assistance of the younger Doc Brown to figure out how to refuel the time machine to return himself to 1985. But first, Marty must help his parents to fall in love — his arrival in 1955 caused their original meeting to go off-track — or he and his two siblings will cease to exist.

The original film engendered two immediate sequels in 1989 and 1990, the first of which threw the characters forward from 1985 to 2015, and the second cast them back in time to the Old West. A later animated TV series (2 seasons totally 26 episodes) continued their story. As early as 2004, producer/writer Bob Gale hinted at a desire to turn Back to the Future into a stage musical. In 2012, it was announced that this project was a reality and was aimed for a 2015 premiere (to tie into the time Marty and Doc traveled to in the 2nd film. Delays pushed this project back repeatedly, and it finally premiered in the UK in 2021 (with plays to premiere on Broadway in 2023).

This soundtrack features the cast of the 2021 British production, including Olly Dobson as Marty McFly, Roger Bart as Doc Brown, Hugh Coles as George McFly, Rosanna Hyland as Lorraine Baines, Cedric Neal as Goldie Wilson/Marvin Berry, and Aidan Cutler as Biff Tannen. The producers’ goals for this musical were to create mostly all-new songs to retell this popular story. In fact, out of 25 tracks on this CD, only five feature music associated with the movie — Alan Silvestri’s instrumental theme (now given lyrics in “It’s Only a Matter of Time”), “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time” (both pop hits for Huey Lewis from the film’s soundtrack) and “Earth Angel” and “Johnny B. Goode” (performed at the school dance near the end of the story). All other tracks are new tunes, collaborations between original soundtrack composer Silvestri and Glen Ballard. Some are better than others, but there aren’t any real stinkers. Most major characters get a song focused on them and their goals. Doc Brown gets several, including “It Works”, “Future Boy”, “21st Century”, and the marvelous “For the Dreamers”. Marty’s wishy-washy father George gets “My Myopia” and “Put Your Mind to It”. Marty’s suprisingly man-hungry mother (as a teenager) gets “Pretty Baby” and “Something About That Boy”. And, of course, Marty McFly has many moments to shine.

Olly Dobson does a remarkably good job of recapturing the sound of a young Michael J. Fox as Marty. Hugh Coles is eerie in recreating the unique voice of Crispin Glover as George McFly, and both Hyland and Cutler do a good job inhabiting the roles of Lorraine and Biff. The slight disappointment for me was Roger Bart as Doc. I’ve really enjoyed Bart’s vocal performances in other musical soundtracks — he’s terrific as Victor Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. But he’s very “on again/off again” as Doc.

None-the-less, despite some unevenness, I thought that these songs very effective retold the well-known plot of the film. A few changes were made — swapping plutonium poising instead of Libyan terrorists for Doc’s 1985 death, etc. Just like the film, which mixes genres, this soundtrack bounces between 1950s and 1980s song stylings very effectively. Overall, Back to the Future: The Musical sounds like it would be a terrific show. I hope once it premieres here in the U.S. it is a smash success. Based on descriptions of the technical needs of this show (a flying Delorean car!), it’s unlikely to be a show feasible for community or high school theaters to perform, so catch it on Broadway if you can!

(If you enjoy this, obviously, this is tailored to fans of the original film trilogy. I’d also recommend viewing the quirky animated series, also available on DVD from the libraries.)

( official Back to the Future: The Musical web site ) | ( official Alan Silvestri web site ) | ( Wikipedia entry for Glen Ballard )


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

The One Bowl Baker: Easy, Unfussy Recipes for Decadent Cakes, Brownies, Cookies and Breads
by Stephanie Simmons (641.865 Sim)

The conceit of this beautiful little cookbook is that all of the recipes can be accomplished with a single medium or large sized mixing bowl. The author cheats a little bit by having you mix some of the ingredients separately in the glass measuring cups you’ve already used for measuring some of the ingredients, but for the most part, the “one bowl” rule is successful.

As hinted at by the gorgeous one-pan chocolate cake shown on the front cover, the emphasis here is on desserts. Simmons breaks up the content of The One Bowl Baker into the following chapters: Cookies for All Occasions, Blondies, Brownies and Bars, Celebratory Cakes and Pies, Crisps, Cobblers and a Pandowdy, Breakfast and Brunch Bites, with two final non-dessert chapters, Savory Bakes and Finishing Touches.

Each recipe, which takes anywhere from 1 to 3 pages, is accompanied by a gorgeous color photo of the finished product (often loaded with a scoop of ice cream). Simmons tries to put a gourmet twist on many of the recipes included, without making it too frou-frou for the average taste palette. Traditional peanut butter cookies become Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint cookies. Krispie Treats become S’mores Rice Krispie Treats. Cinnamon Rolls become Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls.

I’ll admit, some of the sweets included here led to a Pavlovian response from me. I would love to try the Brown Sugar, Chocolate Chunk and Pecan Cookies, the Snickerdoodle Blondies, the Salted Caramel Apple Galette, the Caramel Apple Hand Pies, the Brown Sugar and Bourbon Cherry Crisp, the Caramel Peach Pandowdy, the Maple Cinnamon Biscuits, the Nutella-swirled Banana Bread and the Best Homemade Soft Pretzels.

Cooking/mixing techniques are simple and straight-forward, and should allow even the casual home cook to turn out high-quality results. Strongly recommended. And if you make the Spiced Cranberry, Pear and Apple Crisp, I want to taste it!

( official Stephanie Simmons author page on )


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

Palaces of Memory: American Composer Diane Thome on Her Life and Music
by Diane Thome (Music 780.92 Thome)

Diane Thome is an early pioneer of electronic music, and the 1st woman to make computer-based electroacoustic music. She published her autobiography, Palaces of Memory, in 2016, and you can borrow it from Polley.

Palaces of Memory is a short book, coming in just under 100 pages even with appendices included, and I think most folks will be able to get through it in one sitting. One thing I find interesting about the book, having read through what seems like a zillion musician and composer biographies and autobiographies at this point, is how smoothly she handles balancing her work and her life throughout the book. And it’s not a technical book at all: if you like her music but aren’t a trained musician yourself, you won’t have any trouble understanding everything Thome presents here. It’s a very personable, conversational read throughout.

Like most biographies, the first couple of chapters cover Thome’s family background, growing up in a musical family, and the beginnings of her musical education. In addition to studying composition, we learn that she was also an excellent piano player, and received a Performer’s Certificate in Piano along with her Bachelor of Music in Composition with Distinction from the Eastman School of Music. Her description of the Eastman School of Music around this time (the early 1960s) find it to be a fairly conservative conservatory, but that she really enjoyed her time there and the cultural community around the school. Interestingly, she also mentions studying with Darius Milhaud at a summer program in Aspen, with classmates like Philip Glass and Joan Tower, but left early because she wasn’t feeling good about her music at the time. This conflict led her to explore attending the University of Rochester instead of finishing at Eastman, though she ultimately decided to return to the Eastman program. But at the end of her time at Eastman, she mentions an interaction with the school’s director that stuck with her: he congratulated her and said, “I hope you won’t write any of that terrible electronic music!” That director was Nebraska Native and composer Howard Hanson, to mention an interesting Nebraska connection!

At the time, Thome hadn’t expressed any interest in electronic music, and there wasn’t a program or any facilities at Eastman to pursue that path, anyway. But by the time she was pursuing a doctorate, she found herself at Princeton, which was one of only two universities in the late 60s that had the beginnings of research programs into computer synthesis for music. Ultimately she left Princeton as their first PhD graduate in music, and was the first woman pursuing computer-generated music through their program.

We’re going to skip ahead toward the end of the book for a moment to get into more of the details of what it meant to make music with computers in that era, because I think it’s hard for those of us who have lived in a world where home computers and powerful gadgets like smartphones and tablets have always existed to imagine what this was like. Chapter 8 is a fantastic description of how complex the process was. Thome was using the computer music facilities at Princeton in the time range of ’68-’73, and at that time, the process was literally programming on mainframe computers. As a composer, you would be programming in Fortran, entered a bunch of punch cards in the mainframe, and your end product would be a digital tape full of numbers that represent your audio. So you still couldn’t hear anything: for that, you’d have to make a three-hour round trip to Bell Labs in New Jersey where they had a digital to analog converter, or DAC, that could turn your numbers into audio. That’s a lot of work to hear what may be only a few minutes or seconds of audio! Remember, this is before streaming audio, mp3s, before iphones, ipods, before CDs, all modern devices which have inexpensive DACs built in that turn the digital numbers into sound at our speakers. Thome reflects that although this process was obviously kind of frustrating, it gave her totally new insights into the compositional process, resulting in new kinds of music. Timbre, the sounds themselves, could be invented almost from scratch, something that can’t be done working with the limited palette of acoustic instruments. But around this time, working on the edge of technology really made this kind of music feel like research, and Thome mentions feeling like she could understand the experiences of scientists working in labs.

Speaking of Bell Labs, where that DAC was located that Princeton composers had to use, it was just a few years later, starting around the time that Thome graduated, that another composer was working at Bell Labs herself: Laurie Spiegel. Her album “The Expanding Universe,” which was originally released in 1980, has been enjoying a bit of a renewed interest in recent years, having been reissued and expanded. Spiegel too had to work with the Bell Labs DAC at times, but she was making another unique kind of computer music unique to that facility using what they called the GROOVE system, which was a mainframe computer being used to control analog synthesizer equipment.

Thinking of Laurie Spiegel and Thome leads us back toward the middle of Thome’s autobiography, where she includes a chapter called “The Gender Issue (Yes, It Was an Issue).” We sometimes forget just how far women have been able to advance professionally and artistically in just a few decades. Reading about Thome’s many horrible experiences in the 60s and 70s that were caused by sexism on the part of the almost entirely male faculty of institutions of the time is a harsh reminder about how terrible things were. She was kicked out of the graduate program at Penn by its director George Rochberg, for example, for “unsatisfactory academic performance,” despite having a high GPA and winning numerous awards. She protested and was reinstated by the full faculty two months later. At the first national computer music conference, there were 200 men and 2 women, and the men ignored the women at the reception. She had often been the only woman in her music classes, and she went on to usually be the only woman among her faculty peers. And she has observed that women had to work harder and produce better work than men to be included on concert programs.

This struggle remains a reality for many women in the music industry, including those involved in concert music or contemporary classical music, but it is because of the hard-won efforts and unstoppable talents of composers like Thone, Spiegel, Pauline Oliveros, Suzanne Ciani, Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Elaine Radigue, and many more, that there are now more women in those classrooms and on faculty. Where the kinds of electroacoustic music that many of these women created are concerned, I have noticed that many women have continued to rise to the top of that field. Looking at the catalog of a record label like empreientes DIGITALes, for example, a Canadian label that specializes in curating the best of electroacoustic music and has been around since 1990, several dozen women’s works have been released by the label. A few of my favorites on the label, for example, include Hildegard Westerkamp, Elaine Lillios, Roxanne Turcotte, Manuella Blackburn, and Annette Vande Gorne. It’s not 50/50 representation yet, but the change just a few decades after the women pioneers of electronic music is striking.

In the rest of Diane Thome’s book, she devotes a chapter to her relationships and friendships over time, and how they often intertwined with musical interests, and there is a great chapter where she discusses her own creative process, and contrasts it with some of the popular musical movements in contemporary classical music during her time, such as serialism. Spiritual practices have also been important to her life, and of course such things inevitably have an effect on creative practices. I found that reading those two chapters together—and indeed they’re placed side by side in the book—paints an evocative picture of how to approach this still somewhat mysterious force that is electroacoustic music.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try In Search of a Concrete Music by Pierre Schaeffer or Sonic Art: An Introduction to Electroacoustic Music Composition by Adrian Moore.)

( official Palaces of Memory page on the official Diane Thome web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Screening Room

formatdvdBest Sellers
(DVD Best)

Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza turn in bravura performances in what may very well be Michael Caine’s last feature film — he was quoted in interviews as saying it was likely his final film.

Aubrey Plaza plays Lucy Stanbridge, a young woman who has inherited her late father’s publishing house, only to discover that it is on its last legs, and she is being aggressively pursued by buyers for a larger publisher wishing to absorb and liquidate her family business. Looking for something, anything, that could save and reinvigorate her floundering business, when Lucy’s assistant discovers that legendary eccentric/reclusive author owes her father a new work, Lucy decides that Harris Shaw (Michael Caine) is her last hope. Unfortunately, Harris Shaw hasn’t had a new published work in decades, and has no desire to go on a road trip to promote any new work he might come up with.

Lucy manages to guilt Harris into finishing and submitting a new work, but the bulk of this film is the awkward, painful road trip Lucy and Harris go on to dive bars across the country, where Harris uses every opportunity he has to sabotage Lucy’s promotions. But the longer they’re together, the more this odd couple starts to understand each other and bond.

The DVD box promotes Best Sellers as “heartwarming”, and the ending does have a good upturn. But these two characters are both bitter, desperate, emotionally-damaged people and watching them crash and burn over weeks on the road was a bit painful. None-the-less, the two actors turn in stunning performances, and if Caine has to retire after this one, he gave one of the best performances in his life to close out his acting career — as a cranky, curmudgeonly, profane and lonely old man.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


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

formatdvdThe King’s Man
(DVD King’s)

The first two films of the Kingsman saga — Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) were prime examples of stylish violence and cheeky humor in cinema. Based on a series of graphic novels by Mark Millar, those films captured the style and tone of the comic books very well.

Then came The King’s Man (2021), a prequel movie that explores how the Kingsman organization was first established in the early decades of the 20th century. While there’s a certain amount of violent action, and it still follows the “stylized” look of the action in the earlier two films, it felt like there was a lot more serious drama in this one.

Ralph Fiennes plays Orlando Oxford, Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou play Oxford’s partners in spycraft, Polly and Shola. All turn in good performances, as does Harris Dickerson as Oxford’s son Conrad, and Charles Dance as Kitchener. But the most memorable (and over-the-top) performance is Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin, the “mad monk” of history, turned into a supernatural supervillain in this story. I would have never thought of Ralph Fiennes as an action hero (especially at this stage in his career), but then I wouldn’t have thought of Liam Neeson in that vein, and he continues to do a never-ending series of action films.

The story doesn’t really hold together all that well, and there are moments that it is hard to suspend your sense of disbelief, but the lush visuals, spectacular stunts and special effects usually make up for it. There isn’t quite as much dark humor as there was in the earlier two films, but if you feel invested in the world of the Kingsman films, I felt The King’s Man to be a worthy addition.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Kingsman: The Secret Service, or Kingsman: The Golden Circle.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official The King’s Man Facebook page )


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

formatdvdMarry Me
(DVD Marry)

Although the premise is ridiculous, the chemistry of the stellar cast still manages to make this a feel-good film. Jennifer Lopez plays Kat Valdez, an international pop star, who is preparing to marry her fellow singing star fiancee in a splash live broadcast. Owen Wilson is Charlie Gilbert, a single-father public school math teacher, struggling to connect to his pre-teen daughter Lou. When Charlie’s co-worker and best friend Parker drags him to the concert/wedding event, he ends up front-and-center in the audience, holding a sign saying “Marry Me” (the title of Kat’s hit new song), when Kat learns, seconds before the wedding ceremony, that her fiancee is been unfaithful to her. Impulsively, Kat dumps Bastian and, seeing Charlie and his sign, agrees to marry Charlie live and in front of thousands of cheering fans.

After Charlie agrees, the rest of the film is Kat and Charlie (and Kat’s friends and handlers, and Charlie’s friends and family) trying to figure out what to do next — ultimately agreeing to try to integrate Kat’s and Charlie’s lives enough to for them to learn more about each other. Though the initial premise was ludicrous, Wilson and Lopez end up having terrific chemistry together, and the supporting cast (including Sarah Silverman as Parker, Chloe Coleman as Lou and John Bradley as Kat’s manager, Colin) is lots of fun. South American pop singer Maluma is an appropriate mix of Latin lothario and sleeze as Bastian. There are lots of great little scenes, especially as Kat interacts with the kids at Charlie’s school, but tons of implausibility as well (Kat and Charlie walking his dog down NYC streets without paparazzi following them). None the less, in the end, Marry Me is a fun, feel-good rom-com with some Hollywood superstars in the main roles. I enjoyed it.

(Also available in graphic novel format — though not currently in the libraries’ collection.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Marry Me Facebook page )


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

last updated October 2023
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