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Staff Recommendations – June 2023

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June 2023 Recommendations

Patricia Wants to Cuddle
by Samantha Allen (Allen)

Patricia Wants to Cuddle is for everyone who wishes that an episode of The Bachelor were interrupted by a killer cryptid. It felt like both a love letter to this style of reality TV and a violent critique of its heteronormativity. At any rate, the writing is so frequently laugh-out-loud fun that I kept reading banger lines to my partner.

The setup is that four women are making their way to an island near Seattle for the pen-penultimate round. As an early page that I referred back to frequently puts it: “your official Final Four are: Christian influencer Lilah-Mae Adams, fashion vlogger Amanda Parker, auto show model Vanessa Voorhees, and HR rep Renee Irons.” One woman on the production crew also gets multiple point-of-view chapters. Plus, there are epistolary novel style chapters that cover discussions on the show’s fan forum and a series of diary entries concerning missing hikers from decades before.

The contestants are so vividly written that my one complaint about the book is that the horror novel plot does ultimately derail the reality TV drama that I was more invested in. But what can an author do, write poorly instead? This book was a delight to read! My thanks to the library staff member who recommended it recently.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hide by Kiersten White, Sweep of the Heart by Ilona Andrews or The Grace Year by Kim Liggett.)

( official Samantha Allen web site )


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

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
by Kate Beaton (741.5 Bea)

Don’t confuse the graphic novel Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands as a light-hearted comic. Rather the book takes a dark look at the harsh effects on the land and the people working for the oil industry in Canada. The graphic novel is actually an adaptation of an autobiographical web “comic” that Kate Beaton produced as she finished working at the oil sands.

Although the seaside community of Mabou in Cape Breton Canada is a beautiful place to live, jobs are few and far between. After graduation, Beaton has a mountain of student loans and the kind of jobs she can get in Mabou aren’t going to pay that bill. Like other young people, Beaton goes where the jobs and the money are, out west in the oil sands in Alberta.

But the bigger paycheck comes with its own cost. In stark contrast to the beauty of the land is the huge machinery and the scars the oil industry leaves behind on the land. Living is toxic — death and injury happen regularly. Beaton does not hide the grim reality of the misogyny of a place where men greatly outnumber women. Not only is her body openly discussed but men suddenly walk into her room uninvited. Men take advantage of her, but the attitude is that it must be her fault.

Where does the title Ducks come from? It refers to an accident in 2008 in which a paddling of ducks land in the oil sludge left behind in the sands and die. Perhaps the title is meant to point to the devastation the oil industry leaves on the land. Perhaps it points to the death of innocence of the people who come to work there.

Upon finishing the book, I was left wondering who people really are. Are we the people we are living with our families in ordinary towns and society? Or are we really who we can become living in isolation without social repercussions? In spite of the dark topics, Ducks is well worth the read.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton.)

( official Kate Beaton Twitter feed )

Ducks is one of the Top 11 finalists for One Book – One Lincoln in 2023. Click here to see the rest of this year’s Top 11!


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

Kick It: A Social History of the Drum Kit
by Matt Brennan (Music 786.9 Bre)

While it sometimes seems like the drum kit has been around forever, it’s one of the youngest common musical instruments, having only developed into its modern form around 100 years ago. As instruments go, it has evolved quite quickly, and largely in response to the needs of music in the modern era. In Kick It, Matt Brennan focuses specifically on its development from a few captivating perspectives. Rather than following the usual path of chronological history, each chapter focuses on a unique aspect of the drum kit and drummers from a more sociological perspective, as drummers still sometimes feel like they’re toiling away in the background of musical conversations. The book starts off addressing racist stereotypes of drummers from previous centuries, contrasting them with the clearly forward-thinking percussionists that developed the drum kit out of necessity. The next chapter addresses the loud, noisy, sometimes boisterous aspects of the drum kit, and how its eventual inclusion in most forms of popular music has shifted the conception of “noise.” This is followed by chapters discussing the evolution of performance practice and technique on this new musical instrument, the difficulties of balancing innovation and creativity with providing a steady, familiar beat, the employment prospects of playing the drum kit, and new kinds of technology that have come to co-exist with drums rather than replacing them.

It’s a fun book packed with lesser-known parts of recent music history, and I think readers who are drummers or not will find it fascinating. One theme that carries through most chapters is that drummers are often thought of as a kind of musical underdog class, while they quietly (or kind of loudly, to be more accurate!) continue to hone their craft, making the music they play with more varied and interesting along the way. You can’t help but to admire and respect the many drummers and their unique contributions, both technical and musical, documented throughout the book.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer by Bill Bruford, Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country by Angela Smith or Drumming at the Edge of Magic by Mikey Hart.)

( Wikipedia entry for Matt Brennan )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Librarary

The Scourge Between Stars
by Ness Brown (Brown)

If the cover of The Scourge Between Stars reminds you of the film ALIEN (1979), you’re very much on target! This is a fantastic read for anyone wanting another story about an isolated crew hunted by something completely new to them, especially when queer representation or its slim novella length is a plus. One difference is that while Alien has a theme of corporate space exploitation, The Scourge Between Stars concerns interstellar migration following environmental collapse.

Contact has been lost to the rest of the migration fleet. Jacklyn, who was born on the enormous ship, is unwillingly in charge after the captain — her father — locked himself in his quarters. Something that functions like invisible turbulence has severely damaged their ship. Things are terrible before Jacklyn starts to hear something moving in the walls.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes or All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes.)

( official Ness Brown web site )


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

My Husband’s Wife
by Jane Corry (Downloadable Audio)

A patron recently recommended the author Jane Corry to me, and I’m so glad she did. If you enjoy suspense authors such as Liane Moriarty or Gillian McAlister, you are going to love Jane Corry. I started with her first novel My Husband’s Wife. It has so many twists and turns, you will keep guessing until the end.

The book opens as lawyer Lily is on her way to visit a potential client in prison. She just returned from her honeymoon with Ed the artist and is excited for her new life. The new client, however, puts Lily to the test, making her solve puzzles and clues to uncover a defense for his case. As she works to prove his innocence, she finds herself oddly attracted to the peculiar man.

At the same time, the story follows nine-year-old Carla, who lives next door to Lily and Ed. As a young Italian girl growing up in London, she suffers from bullying in school. To survive, Carla learns that sometimes she has to lie, steal, and even blackmail, to get by.

The second half of the story jumps ahead several years when Carla returns to England as a young woman and walks back into Lily and Ed’s lives. Old secrets come back to haunt anyone who thought they were long past — secrets so dangerous it may cost them their lives.

Fortunately, My Husband’s Wife is just the beginning of Corry’s catalog. Unfortunately, Lincoln City Libraries only offers two other titles by this author: Blood Sisters and The Dead Ex.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Blood Sisters by Jane Corry or Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.)

( official Jane Corry web site )


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

by Colleen Hoover (Hoover)

You are waiting for the light to change to cross the street. A man in front of you steps off the curb and gets hit by a truck. You hear the crack of his skull. You are plastered with his blood. What a way to start a day—and a book. In the suspense novel Verity by Colleen Hoover, it only gets creepier from there.

Author Lowen Ashleigh is struggling. Her live-in mother just passed away from cancer and left her with bills. She is being evicted from her apartment. She is all alone and needs an income. Her literary agent contacts her with an opportunity. Bestselling author Verity Crawford was injured and is no longer able to finish her six-book series. Her husband Jeremy Crawford is looking for someone to co-write the remaining novels. If she accepts the offer, Lowen is invited to visit the Crawford home, look through Verity’s notes, read her books, and study her outlines. In exchange Lowen will be financially set and her career will get a huge boost. Sounds like a much needed deliverance.

As you might expect, Lowen discovers the situation is not what it seems. The Crawford house is overwhelmed with tragedy. Both of the young Crawford daughters passed away from accidents. And since her automobile accident, Verity is an unspeaking and unresponsive shell of herself, with a day-time nurse who cares for her every need.

As Lowen pages through Verity’s papers, she discovers an autobiography with some shocking revelations. Is everything that has happened to the Crawfords a coincidence, or is there something sinister at work? Is everyone who they seem?

Verity is a page-turner, sprinkled with Hoover’s racy romance, that will have you sprinting to the end of the book to discover the shocking conclusion.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, or The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.)

( official Colleen Hoover web site )

Check out our If You Like…Colleen Hoover readalikes list here on BookGuide!


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

The Levee
by William Kent Krueger (Compact Disc Krueger)

The Levee is a newly-released, but somewhat older title from William Kent Krueger, author of the long-running Cork O’Connor series, set in Minnesota, and the stellar stand-alones Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land. As Krueger mentions in an author afterword at the end of this audiobook, The Levee was a title he’d written many years before, but never done anything with — he’s kept coming back to it again and again, to rewrite and polish what he’d done before. And, finally, during COVID-19 self-isolation periods in the past couple of years, he finally finished it.

The Levee has been released only as an audiobook, narrated by J.D. Jackson. It is a novella in length, taking up only 3 discs as a book-on-cd. Based on an actual historical event, The Levee is set during the historic flooding of the Mississippi River in 1927, as four men (a former priest and three convicts ordered to assist him) journey by rowboat through the flood waters to the ancestral home of family, temporarily encircled by a levee built to withstand the flood waters.

Everyone in this story has their own motives and emotional connection to the attempt to save this stranded family — some noble and others less so. Krueger’s character-building skills are in full view in this short work, and I was pulled into the story quickly, finding myself invested in the (hopefully) successful outcome of the quest.

If you’re a fan of Krueger’s stand-alone novels, mentioned above, I recommend this short “new” work to you. One bonus with this audiobook is that includes an advance preview of Krueger’s forthcoming new novel, The River We Remember (due out in the Fall of 2023).

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land, both by William Kent Krueger, or No One Goes Alone, an audio-original novella by Erik Larson.)

( official William Kent Krueger web site )


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

Station Eternity
by Mur Lafferty (Lafferty)

While attending the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in August 2022, I attended a panel discussion, by industry professionals, on Science Fiction and Fantasy Murder Mysteries. Of the dozens of book and story suggestions offered up by panelists and audience members, one jumped out at me — Mur Lafferty’s Fall 2022 release, Station Eternity, set up to be the first in an ongoing series entitle “The Midsolar Murders”. I quickly purchased a copy as soon as it was released, in addition to creating a booklist here on the BookGuide readers advisory pages on that broader theme.

Station Eternity is a fun, though complex, murder mystery novel wrapped tightly in a science fiction setting. Contemporary human female Mallory Viridian has a weird problem — people around her (both friends and strangers) tend to die, frequently, and usually as a result of murders. And she seems to have an uncanny knack for solving the murders, like a 20-something Jessica Fletcher. But she’d really rather not run the risk of having more people in her vicinity die in the first place. So, when the opportunity to hitch a ride with some intergalactic space travelers presents itself, she doesn’t think twice about leaving Earth in the rearview mirror. She’s one of the first humans to be allowed to live aboard the huge, sentient, living space station, Eternity. But, even though the learning curve of getting to know and live amongst multiple fascinating new (to her) alien species is pretty sharp, it’s still better than having other human beings die because of her curse. But then Eternity agrees to allow a delegation of visitors from Earth to come to the station, and multiple deaths start occurring around Mallory again. And, she has to decide whether to stay and try to solve the new murders, or go on the run to keep people around her safe yet again.

Mallory herself is a bit of a whiny character, but the rest of the cast of space station regulars are all really well-developed and intriguing, and we learn a lot of their individual backstories as Lafferty lays the groundwork for this new series. I was particularly interested in the Sundry, a wasp-like insectoid hivemind species. Although I was a tad disappointed in the ultimate wrap-up of this first entry, I’m still excited to see more in this series, including volume 2 — Chaos Terminal — due out in October 2023! Mur Lafferty is definitely an author to keep an eye on!

(Mur Lafferty’s previous novels should appeal to you as well, though they’re in a different style. I particularly recommend The Shambling Guide to New York City and Ghost Train to New Orleans.)

( official Mur Lafferty web site )

See more titles like this in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Murder Mysteries booklist here on BookGuide!


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

The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri (Lefteri)

Nuri and Afra Ibrahim are escaping Aleppo during the current civil war in Syria. The war already took the life of their young son, and their goal to make it to England is fraught with challenges, including more tragedies for themselves and being witness to others being victimized. Absolutely heartbreaking.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Waiting by Keurn Suk Gendry-Kim and Janet Hong, Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi, A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasamor, or Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo.)

( official Christy Lefteri Twitter feed )


Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

The Mimicking of Known Successes
by Malka Older (Older)

This science fiction novella is billed as “a cozy gaslamp mystery and sapphic romance set on Jupiter.” Yes, the Earth has become uninhabitable and everyone has somehow managed to relocate to ring stations within the atmosphere of Jupiter. Forget feasible: this is a cool setting to visit!

The mystery concerns a scientist who disappeared from a small station on the edge of the settled areas. The obvious conclusion would be that he jumped or was pushed into the cold, crushing gases of the planet. Investigator Mossa — a woman of little small-talk — takes the case and crosses paths with her college girlfriend, Pleiti, a scholar who works with the missing man. Most of the story is told from Pleiti’s perspective. There is an obvious and intentional riff on the relationship between Holmes and Dr. Watson compared to Mossa and Pleiti.

I found the case progression a little hard to follow at times, but that could well be my fault. What I really enjoyed was the little reveals about humanity living on Jupiter (of all places), plus the slow burn re-acquaintance of former lovers. This is the start of a series. Book #2 is scheduled for release in February 2024 with the title: The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles. I, for one, am a sucker for wordy, evocative titles.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal.)

( official Malka Older blog/web site – not updated lately ) | ( Malka Older entry on Wikipedia )


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

Ellie and the Harpmaker
by Hazel Prior (Prior)

Think of a much more sophisticated “Rain Man” and you have the Harp Maker of the title. And Ellie is the crux of the tale, a childless housewife whose chance discovery of the harp maker (Dan) and his work barn while on a walk in the woods of Exmoor, England awakens her from the subconscious complacency of her life. The book’s chapters alternate between Ellie’s and Dan’s sides of their joint/joined story. Author Prior does a lovely job of detailing each character’s thoughts, reactions, and emotions. The story is at once and the same time lyrical, fraught, complicated, and simple — the latter in a good way. Without giving too much away, what is “meant to be” happens. This 2019 publication is a charming and thoughtful first novel from harpist, and award-winning fiction writer, Prior.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick, The Rules of Love and Grammar by Mary Simses or A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman.)

( official Hazel Prior web site )


Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

All That is Secret
by Patricia Raybon (Raybon)

I love vacationing in Estes Park, CO, and when I stumbled across a mystery novel set there in the 1920s, I was eager to sample it. Then I discovered that Double the Lies (2023) was actually the second in the Annalee Spain series, and I prefer to start new series at the beginning. But that was perfect, because the libraries’ Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group was scheduled to have our Series Share month in May 2023, in which all participants are encouraged to sample the first in any new mystery/thriller/suspense series, to report on to the group.

So…in the end, I decided to try the first Annalee Spain mystery, All That is Secret (2022), by Patricia Raybon. Annalee is a professor of divinity at a school in 1920s Chicago, one of the few places that would accept an African American woman as an instructor at that time. She had been raised in Denver, by a father who wasn’t always there for her when he was needed. Her father had been mending his ways and healing their relationship, when he unexpectedly died in an accident on the train tracks leading from Denver to Chicago. Or was it an accident — a mysterious letter from Reverend Black at her old Denver church, telling her she needs to come investigate what he believes to have been the murder of her father. Before leaving Chicago, Annalee befriends a plucky young white orphan boy (Eddie Brown Jr., who proceeds to sneak onto her train to Denver). Before they reach their destination, Annalee is attacked, her new 11-year-old friend has killed her attacker in self-defense, and that attacker turns out to be a Denver police officer.

Soon, Annalee and Eddie are on the run, before teaming up with the handsome young new Reverend who wrote her. The rest of the novel features Annalee infiltrating the household of a wealthy former politician, trying to find evidence of a conspiracy that might have been behind her father’s death. Throw in some KKK meetings, a corrupt religious leader, and a potential romance with the young Reverend and you’ve got a pleasant start to a new “Roaring 20s” Denver mystery series. Unfortunately, for me, this book series is published by Tyndale House, one of the largest publishers of Christian Fiction. Annalee is shown to be a divinity scholar that, herself, is filled with spiritual doubts, and there are repeated interruptions to the mystery plot as she questions her beliefs and how she got to where she is in her life. If All That is Secret had simply been a mystery novel, it would have held up well. But the injection of so many long passages of Annalee’s spiritual self-examination, which didn’t forward the plot in any way, bogged things down notably. Your mileage may vary!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try its sequel, Double the Lies by Patricia Raybon.)

( official Patricia Raybon web site )

See the list of titles recommended and discussed at the May 2023 Just Desserts “Series Share” meeting, here on BookGuide!

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

The Weight of It All
by N.R. Walker (Downloadable Audio from Overdrive)

Henry Beckett is a successful actuary who has just been dumped by his long-time boyfriend. Graham complains that Henry has put on a lot of weight and isn’t accompanying him to hiking and biking events any more, and moves out. Henry is devastated, and recognizes that he much preferred the wine tasting and food activities, that he wasn’t as active as he had been eight years earlier, and he’s horrified at the amount of weight he’s put on. So he joins a gym with the goal of winning back Graham.

Enter Reed Henske. His new personal trainer.

Gee, how is this story going to end?

Henry and Reed hit it off right away. Both are quick-witted with terrific senses of humor. They initially bond over the new recipes Henry is trying. We spend the book watching Henry get over Graham and progress through his health and exercise routines, while he and Reed find more common ground as their friendship builds into a romantic relationship.

This is a low-heat, low angst story with likeable side characters that takes place in Australia. I enjoyed being able to simply follow the main characters and their friends as their stories unfolded without worrying how this was going to end. Much of the humor was laugh-out-loud and I liked the main characters and their friends, and appropriately disliked Graham (then later felt sorry for him) and his buddies. I was in the mood for a simple, easy tale that kept me involved and this fit the bill.

The narrator, Joel Leslie, does an excellent job of distinguishing between the main characters, and giving a sense of their emotions. Also, his Australian accent was not heavy enough to be unintelligible to a US reader.

( official N.R. Walker web site )


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

by Larissa Wodtke (Music 781.66 Wod)

If you visit the Polley Music Library or Lincoln’s record shops, you may have seen some books in a series called “33 1/3” published by Bloomsbury, each of which focuses on a particular recording. They’re small books, just a little bit taller than a CD, and they are cleverly marketed to both bookstores and record stores as a fun way to learn a little bit more about your favorite albums. We have quite a few of those books here at Polley, and the series continues to grow each year. Late last year, the 33 1/3 series expanded into a new set of books called “Genre,” and as you might guess, each focuses on a particular genre of music. So far, they’re focusing on what perhaps could be thought of more as “subgenres” of music, relatively small music scenes that definitely have their own identity and history, but aren’t nearly so comprehensive as “rock” or “hip-hop” or “classical” would be to document in one volume. The books are a little bigger than the main series covering records — in fact, their footprint is just slightly larger than a typical mass market paperback — and they’re each written by a single author. One of the first three books is the series is Dance-Punk by Larissa Wodtke, along with books about trip-hop and death metal.

Perhaps the toughest job author Wodtke has to face in Dance-Punk comes right at the beginning: what are the boundaries of dance-punk? This question is tricky because the origins of this music didn’t come from bands calling themselves “dance-punk.” The term is more of an editorial critic’s term added after the fact, though it’s useful for tracking a kind of musical approach that isn’t satisfactorily addressed with some of the other genres this music ultimately slipped between. It’s one of those small genres that initially came into being to address particular trends noted across a few bands, and then it took on a life of its own. Today, there are lots of playlists of dance-punk music on streaming sites, and the term was used more broadly by bands in the “second wave” of the music in the Oughts. But parsing out the earliest origins is a bit of a chore, having to pick bands that are otherwise known for being punk, post-punk, no wave, new wave, or even with influences from disco, krautrock, afrobeat and experimental music genres.

After a brief introduction in which Wodtke details her personal experiences with the genre (her interests in music started in the 90s, between the two waves of dance-punk discussed in the book), she dives into the process of identifying the markers that make dance-punk music unique. Her analysis of dance-punk boundaries looks at multiple fronts, including aesthetics, cultural theory, and sociopolitical conditions, and using all of these tools, she’s ultimately able to locate the unique markers for this music within other genres in the late 70s. And already at this early point in the book, one gets the sense that the author isn’t entirely a fan of some aspects of the dance-punk scene, though she is a fan of the music. In her introduction, she alludes to the scene’s connections with “hipsterdom,” mostly the domain of economically comfortable white males, and in looking further into the roots of the music, she again notes some of the postmodern markers found in both “waves” of the music: “Perhaps this lack of affect and sincerity is a comment on the impossibility of fighting for a more socially just system, or maybe it’s because the majority of the artists making dance-punk were and are from relatively privileged backgrounds, and therefore have no stake in resilience or truly changing the status quo.” This position between modernism and postmodernism, straddling different musical genres, results in the genre being what she describes as a “compromised genre,” with artists whose intentions and sounds aren’t always in lockstep. To some extent, I don’t think this really matters, and I don’t think there are any truly pure “uncompromised” genres to be had (and it would be a little boring if there were).

The important thing is that Wodtke uses all of these tools with surgical precision to extract various artists from the punk, post-punk, no wave and new wave genres to re-examine them as the pioneers of dance-punk. In Chapter 2, she starts naming names, starting around England and NYC in the late 70s and early 80s. Across the pond, she finds the post-punk music of bands like Public Image Ltd, Gang of Four, and A Certain Ratio to fit into early dance-punk, and in New York, she hones in on some of the no wave-associated acts like James Chance (James White and the Blacks, The Contortions), Liquid Liquid, and Bush Tetras. While these bands obviously have genre affiliations outside of dance-punk, I think she made excellent choices here: all of these bands stood apart from their contemporaries as having a kind of emphasis on danceable beats, even if their music was sometimes more dissonant, intellectual, or otherwise more hard-hitting than what one usually thinks of as music for dance floors.

Later in the 80s and 90s, Wodtke notes that the concepts of dance and punk coexisting in the same music drifted apart again: punk music got faster and ditched any implications of club-friendly grooves, while dance music went far more electronic. Guitar-centered bands that weren’t as assertive as punk ended up in the large, generic “indie” category, and the music industry gradually consolidated as major urban centers gentrified. But those earlier dance-punk bands still exerted some influence on some new music throughout those decades, and by the Oughts, the conditions were right for a kind of 2nd wave of dance-punk music, which is detailed in Chapter 3. Interestingly, this wave of dance-punk music percolated in NYC and England again. In the US, Wodtke looks at LCD Soundsystem and Le Tigre, and overseas she examines the work of Franz Ferdinand. While not mentioned in the book, Nebraskans have our own band to be proud of that fits into the vibe of Oughts-era dance-punk, too: The Faint.

Chapter 4 explores dance-punk from a mostly aesthetic perspective, breaking down the genre to its most common representative musical elements and describing how these appear in different acts. Considering that the genre is a “compromised genre” as mentioned earlier, not every band prominently utilizes every musical commonality, and there is a lot of stylistic range to be found among the bands discussed in this book, but this chapter serves as a good starting point for having some concrete characteristics to work with. Again, Wodtke does a great job of highlighting clear, distinctive aspects of this music, and she supports her findings with musical examples and quotes from artists and critics. So if you hear music in the future with groovy, syncopated rhythms, minimalistic arrangements featuring angular guitars and a very dry, in-your-face production style, and a kind of ironic postmodern detachment in the lyrics, you’re probably listening to a dance-punk tune.

The final chapter discusses class, racial, and gender dynamics around dance-punk music, a kind of analysis becoming common in recent music history books. While not surprising for a genre mostly active in the 1970s and mid-2000s, dance-punk wasn’t particularly progressive in terms of socioeconomics or representation. It’s still an interesting exercise to review what went wrong and what was more successful in these areas, though. This is followed by a brief afterward looking at what’s left of dance-punk in contemporary music scenes (not much, really), and a decent but not exhaustive recommended listening list. Overall, this book lived up to the potential for this new “Genre” series of books. Though it’s a small and fairly quick read, it successfully places some pragmatic boundaries around a small subgenre that has never been very clearly defined as a “genre” before, looks for its origins and development over time, puts everything into useful historical and aesthetic contexts in defiance of the streaming music playlists of the world, and generally leaves the reader feeling both more informed and with a list of artists to check out. The only thing missing that I wish this book featured is an index, which would help make this a useful reference book for Dance-Punk in general.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001-2011 by Elizabeth Goodman, or No Wave: Post-Punk, Underground, New York, 1976-1980 by Thurston Moore.)

( Publisher’s page for Larissa Wodtke )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Librarary

Songs of Earth: Aesthetic and Social Codes in Music
by Anna Lomax Wood (Music 780.89 Woo)

John Lomax was one of the earliest song collectors and musicologists, a folklorist who saw an opportunity for us to preserve traditional forms of music by recording them for future reference. His son Alan Lomax continued and expanded this work to include as much of the world as possible, and helped to put these recordings in safe places like the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, as well as helping to produce many commercially-available recordings so that the general public could hear what he and his father were preserving.

Once you’ve collected as much music as John and Alan Lomax, and we’re talking about many thousands of songs between the two of them, it stands to reason that you’re going to need some methods to compare, categorize, and just generally try to understand the relationships between musical traditions from around the world. What commonalities can be found? What makes particular traditions unique? As one of the first people to have so many recordings from so many places at his fingertips for consideration, Alan began developing his own systems for comparing musical styles, developing a list of qualities for comparison that he eventually started calling “cantometrics,” or the measurement of songs. He first published his “Cantometrics: An Approach to the Anthropology of Music” in 1976.

Alan’s daughter Anna Lomax Wood has continued the work of her father and grandfather. She took over as director of the Association for Cultural Equity founded by her father, and continued to help develop his vision of multimedia archives of folk traditions from around the world, to be accessible for everyone. Alan’s concept of a “global jukebox” was brought to fruition by Anna, and she has continued to create commercial recordings from the Lomax archives. Through her decades of experience with these materials, she has now updated Alan’s book on cantometrics. The result is called Songs of Earth: Aesthetic and Social Codes in Music, and you can borrow it from the Polley Music Library.

In her editor’s note, Wood discusses the significance of the material in this volume: she has completely rewritten Alan’s “Cantometrics” book from 1976 — this is a new book for a new century. The overall analysis system remains the same, but Wood’s rewriting of the subject helps to keep the material relevant for contemporary audiences. Five additional musical studies are added to this book, which had previously gone unpublished, and they add a lot of value to the overall goal of musical analysis. Cantometrics itself focuses almost completely on the use of the human voice in music, and some of these additional studies add “Personnel & Orchestra,” “Urban Strain,” and “Social Factors” as tools to further investigate music. Two of the unpublished studies, “Phonotactics” and “Minutage,” add more detail to the analysis of vocal music, too.

But perhaps the most important updated element related to this book are musical examples themselves. For the average reader, this will all be interesting enough on paper, but applying it to recorded musical examples makes understanding all of this far easier and more rewarding. You will find a link in the book to a page of recordings used in the original “Cantometrics” publication, which has also been expanded to include lots of contemporary examples as well. When you click on the links to individual songs on that page, you’ll be taken to the Global Jukebox, where you can listen while examining a wealth of information related to each song. This ends up working as an excellent introduction to the Global Jukebox, which is itself a stunning interactive exhibit of music throughout time and place. Through the Global Jukebox, you can also access a 5-part course based on the Songs of Earth book, which helps to bring all of these concepts together even more. Ultimately, this is one of those rare books that comes prepared to take you through its own pages and then even further into multimedia self-guided learning. Whether you’re just curious about all of this stuff, or you find yourself compelled to learn everything you can about it, you’ll find a path through “Songs of Earth” that will meet your needs.

Returning to the book, knowing that cantometrics will help us to find both distinctive and shared qualities among forms of music, cantometric data is put into use early in the text to trace the development of American pop music. Through this analysis, some of the constituent parts of cantometrics are gradually introduced, such as looking at relative “cohesiveness,” “inclusivity,” overlapping or interlocking parts, tonal blend, rhythmic coordination, repetition, energy, tempos, volume, pitch ranges, melodic phrases, vocal effects and articulations, and so on. Looking at all of the attributes in music from around the world and in pop music itself, it becomes clear that there are many commonalities between American pop music and Afro-diasporic and European settlers in America. One can further drill down and look at commonalities within subgenres of music from many places and within many eras, revealing a different perspective for looking through music history by looking at traits of music itself.

After this, we get into a more technical section about how to code cantometric measurements, considering dozens of variables about the music or the group making it. This is followed by the Songs of Earth Course, in which readers get to try out applying these principles to a bunch of music themselves. This is the same material found on the Global Jukebox website, which is also referenced in the book. As mentioned before, if one chooses to try out the course, it’s a self-guided experience. The book estimates that going through all of the materials will take about 40 hours altogether, split up however might be convenient for readers. And you don’t need to hold onto this book just for that part—this section is fairly small and the text is also included on the Global Jukebox site.

Parts 2 and 3 of the book go into the previously-unpublished areas that supplement the basic cantometric framework with additional considerations. After these, there is a section that reveals some broad findings that seem reasonable based on cantometric measurements, some of which were surprising to me. Precise enunciation is more common in large societies with powerful governments, for example, while smaller, less authoritarian societies also seem to have less formal enunciation in their songs. It’s important to note, though, that the value of these cantrometric findings tends to be more big-picture and more about commonalities. If you want to learn more about the specifics of a given musical culture, your best bet is still a deep dive directly into their music, perhaps supplemented with cantometrics for context. This section is followed by a short chapter regarding criticisms of cantometrics, and recent approaches that have been incorporated into ethnomusicology research that can help to reveal the true complexities of cultures over time. Research like this is always difficult because culture is always dynamic, always evolving and responding to changes in circumstances, while research that looks at longer-term trends must average things out and make them look more static than they really were.

The final portion of the main body of the text comes from Alan Lomax himself, an essay called “An Appeal for Cultural Equity.” If the stakes regarding preservation and celebration of all of this musical diversity weren’t clear yet, Lomax lays them out plainly here: modern life is homogenizing the world. Small pockets of unique cultures around the world are dying out, and with them go their languages, their music, their poetry, their art, their dances, and we are all poorer for it. Ultimately he goes beyond music here, arguing for the protection and active support of unique cultural artifacts and living cultures everywhere. He mentions Nashville as a case study in the support of unique cultures: the city became the music hotspot it remains today by broadcasting the unique local music flavors of its area on its radio stations, which of course grew into a massive tradition of music loved by people around the world since then. So support local music, and the idea of local music everywhere!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World by John F. Szwed, America Over the Water by Shirley Collins or Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946 by James P. Leary.)

( Wikipedia entry on Anna Lomax Wood )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Librarary

Screening Room

formatdvdAll Creatures Great and Small: Season Three
(DVD All)

I just recently viewed the third season of All Creatures Great and Small which aired on PBS this Spring and decided that it was time to do a recommendation for this marvelous series. I am a huge fan of James Herriot (aka James Alfred Wight) and have read all of his books and every book that the library owns on him and his beloved Yorkshire. Part biographical, part fictionalized accounts of experiences that he and his son had as veterinarians in the Thirsk area of Yorkshire, James recounts life working in the Yorkshire Dales for the incredible owner of the veterinary practice, Siegfried Farnon (aka Donald Sinclair). This series had been televised before with Robert Hardy as Siegfried and Christopher Timothy as James Herriot back in the 1970s-80s, but this new series has many things going for it to rival the original production. First and foremost, the new All Creatures cast brings a more realistic edge to each character, giving them more emotional growth as they move from childish banter in the early episodes to serious topics such as the beginning of World War II in season three. With this season we see James happily married to his beloved Yorkshire farm girl, Helen, but the possibility of James enlisting as a soldier threatens to tear them apart. The theme for season three seems to be finding love and losing the ones you love as the young men are leaving for war. There are wonderful performances from all of the main characters, but especially from the characters of Siegfried (Samuel West), Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) and James (Nicholas Ralph), the three veterinarians in the practice. I look forward to the next season!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try James Herriot’s Favorite Dog Stories, all of the books in the All Creatures Great and Small series by Herriot, James Herriot’s Cat Stories, James Herriot’s Yorkshire, The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father by Jim Wright, and the original All Creatures Great and Small series (1978-80 and 1988-90) with Robert Hardy and Christopher Timothy.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official All Creatures Great and Small web site )

See Kim J.’s review of the first season of the new All Creatures Great and Small in the June 2021 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!


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

(DVD 5-25-77)

My wife checked out this quirky biographical film, recognizing that she and I are both Star Wars fans, and May 25, 1977 was the opening date of the very first film, Star Wars (later renamed Star Wars IV: A New Hope). I hadn’t heard anything about this film, and had no idea what to expect. In the end, I was very pleasantly surprised!

This film is a coming-of-age autobiography of filmmaker Pat Johnson, who grew up in a small town in Indiana, making 8mm sequels to many of his favorite movies, with the help of his friends and the support of his beleaguered mother. Absolutely enthralled by 2001: A Space Odyssey, it becomes Pat’s dream to meet and work with filmmaker and special effects artist Douglas Trumball. This movie looks at Pat’s journey, both as an aspiring filmmaker but also in the relationships he has with various people in his life, including his first serious girlfriend.

The opportunity to go to Hollywood and briefly meet Trumball, turns into an opportunity for Pat to see a rough cut preview of George Lucas’ upcoming movie Star Wars — an event that changes Pat’s life and inspires the rest of the events of 5-25-77.

John Francis Daley blew me away as Pat Johnson. He starred as a regular on Bones for several years, as “Sweets”, and he actually appears younger in 5-25-77 than he did for a half-dozen years on that series. Longtime character actor Austin Pendleton was great as Herb Lightman, as was Colleen Camp as Pat’s mother.

The style of film-making here was very stream-of-consciousness, and a lot of plot threads seem to evaporate or never get followed. There are tons of fast cuts and fantasy sequences, which may be off-putting to some viewers. But, in the end, I enjoyed this emotional journey. Anyone who’s ever dreamed of making movies will enjoy this. And Star Wars fans who’ve been there since opening day will definitely find something to appreciate in 5-25-77.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )

See the Star Wars Reviews page here on BookGuide for staff recommendations related to the vast Star Wars publishing and film world!


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

formatdvdGigi & Nate
(DVD Gigi)

This 2022 film is a heavily-fictionalized telling of a real-life story. Nate Gibson is a vibrant, athletic young man, preparing to enter college and looking forward to his future. Then a freakish incident occurs at the lake near his family’s country summer cottage, in which he contracts Meningitis from the lake water, and a delay in seeking treatment leaves him mostly-paralyzed. Though he regains speech and some minimal movement in his arms, Nate is ill-equipped to rejoin mainstream society, and mostly lives at home, cared for by his mother and health-care workers.

When the opportunity to get Nate a Service Animal presents itself, he is paired with Gigi, an intelligent and empathetic capuchin monkey (a rescue animal specially trained to provide assistance to the disabled). Though it takes a bit of time for Nate and Gigi to fully bond, eventually she becomes an extension of Nate, helping him to improve his muscular skills and assisting him in many other ways, improving the quality of his life immeasurably.

However, when a strident animal rights activist targets Nate and his family for what she believes to be inappropriate treatment of a wild animal, the Gibsons must make some life-altering decisions.

The performances in this quiet little film are marvelous. Initially, I wasn’t thinking I would like the performance of Charlie Rowe as Nate, but he ended up doing a great job, as did Marcia Gay Harden and Jim Belushi as his parents. But it is Allie the monkey, a performing animal, as Gigi, who steals this show!

My only disappointment is how much was changed from the story of the actual people that inspired this in order to make this movie. But, still, Gigi & Nate was a heart-warming and inspiring film, and I still highly recommend it.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Gigi & Nate web site )


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

formatdvdMy Favorite Brunette and The Cat and the Canary
starring Bob Hope (DVD My)

While recently working on the comedic play “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, I was inspired to watch two classic Bob Hope comedy dramas, which served as inspiration for that wacky mystery/farce play.

My Favorite Brunette (1947) featured Hope as mild-mannered children’s photographer Ronnie Jackson, who envies the private eye who operates out of the office next door to his. When that P.I. is absent, Ronnie ends up taking one of his cases, after misrepresenting himself, and soon finds himself up to his armpits in thugs, femmes fatales, and gun-toting goons. Because the film opens with Ronnie being led to the executioner’s chamber on Death Row and relating his adventures in flashback, we know that things didn’t go his way. That’s what you get for pretending to be something you’re not!

The Cat and the Canary (1939) is a more direct thematic predecessor of “The Music Comedy Murders of 1940”, with Hope as Wally Campbell, one of several people named in the will of an eccentric man who died 10 years earlier. The will requires that all the people named in it must journey to the swampy estate in the Bayou, where the man used to live. The primary heiress, Joyce Norman (played by frequent Hope co-star Paulette Goddard) must live for a week in the estate, without being driven insane, in order to fully inherit.

This triggers a madcap series of wacky events, involving hidden doorways and passageways, creepy spooks, other jealous relatives, a woman who may or may not be a witch, and maybe even paranormal hijinks.

Both films are classic comedian Bob Hope at his wimpy, sarcastic, snarky, break-the-fourth-wall best. Anyone who’s ever seen and enjoyed Hope and his friend Bing Crosby in their series of “The Road to…” movies will definitely enjoy both of these films. The libraries own My Favorite Brunette on DVD. The Cat and the Canary is available to borrow on DVD through our InterLibrary Loan service, but it is also available to watch for free on YouTube (with commercial interruptions). Both movies are short — under 90 minutes each!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the stage play The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for My Favorite Brunette ) | ( Internet Movie Database entry for The Cat and the Canary )

See the booklist page for the Lincoln Community Playhouse: The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 here on BookGuide, for additional similar items!


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

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