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Staff Recommendations – November 2018

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November 2018 Recommendations

A Simple Favor
by Darcey Bell (downloadable audio)

I have to say, I’m a little shocked that this is the first book by this author, Darcey Bell. It was amazing and I think Bell writes with the skill of a much more seasoned author!

I listened to the audio version of this book, which was read by three different narrators. I LOVE it when enough care (money?) is put into a book to have different characters’ voices narrated by different people! This is one of those books where portions are coming from different perspectives. I love that style!

This story reminded me of Gone Girl, simply because of the sneakiness and the depth of darkness that one particular character has (Emily). I found myself, at times, identifying with the one that was the blogger, the one folks would consider a super-mom (I think they called her Captain Mom in the story)… her name is Stephanie, and part of me identified with her… the part that wants to be a good mother and also wants to write and reach out to others–not the dark, secretive part of her that she can’t quite keep buried; not the part that gets a little TOO involved with Emily and Sean’s family when Emily goes missing….

I was hooked on this story from the very beginning, and I never lost interest! Looking forward to more from Ms. Bell!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.)

( publisher’s official A Simple Favor web site ) | ( official Darcey Bell Twitter feed )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Bennett Martin Public Library

The Illustrated Man
by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury)

It had been a long time since I’d read anything by Ray Bradbury, but recently a copy of The Illustrated Man came my way, and it seemed like a good time to try this author again. The Illustrated Man is a collection of eighteen short stories, framed by a prologue and epilogue, all dating from the period 1948 to 1951. (The selection of stories in the collection varies somewhat from edition to edition; the ones mentioned here are all included in the 2011 edition held by Lincoln City Libraries.)

Though Bradbury is usually considered a science fiction writer, he said in later years that his only science fiction work was Fahrenheit 451, and all of his other speculative fiction was fantasy. But by the standards of the time when these stories were originally published, some would have been considered science fiction, some fantasy, and some would fall somewhere between the two. With only one or two exceptions, the stories have a dark tone, bordering in some cases on horror – “Zero Hour” is particularly chilling. “The Veldt” could have been the inspiration for Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “holodeck” – particularly those episodes where something goes wrong. “The Long Rain,” though set on Venus (and written at a time when some scientists thought that Venus might be habitable), is a psychological study of the effects of prolonged exposure to extremely harsh conditions. “The Concrete Mixer” is a satire commenting on militarism on the one hand, and the banality of popular culture on the other. “The Exiles,” perhaps my favorite story in the collection, is a surreal fantasy with themes prefiguring those in Fahrenheit 451. Special mention should be made of “The Other Foot,” since it shows both a strength and a weakness of Bradbury’s. The story involves the arrival of a white man on Mars, which had been colonized decades before by African-Americans (“Negros,” in the terminology of the early 1950’s). For the time when it was published, nearly 70 years ago, this story was controversially progressive in its view of race relations, though it may not seem so from our perspective. But this progressiveness is not paralleled in Bradbury’s portrayal of gender roles in the stories, in which there is not the slightest hint of anything other than a patriarchal society with women in subservient roles. So this collection can only be recommended with a strong warning that this particular blind spot on the author’s part will seem uncomfortable to most modern readers.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Fahrenheit 451, also by Ray Bradbury, or the works of Isaac Asimov.)

( official Ray Bradbury web site )


Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services – Bennett Martin Public Library

The Mousetrap and Other Plays
by Agatha Christie (822.9 Chr)

For the past two+ months (September to early November), I’ve been rehearsing and then performing as Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s play “Black Coffee” (finishing its run November 2-4) at the Lincoln Community Playhouse. “Black Coffee” was produced there in conjunction with a production of the Miss Marple play “A Murder is Announced” at the Community Theatre in Beatrice, NE. I was part of the play-reading team that selected both of these plays — in preparation for that, I had to read almost all 16 of the stage plays that Agatha Christie wrote, in order to find which plays could share similar, unchanging sets. I grew to have a very strong appreciation for Christie’s play writing capabilities — over the course of her career, she felt her mystery-writing became very formulaic, and in fact described herself as “a sausage factory” in the way in which she cranked out stories and novels with such regularity. But, she was truly passionate about the writing of her plays, and found them to be a far more creative process that fiction-writing was.

This marvelous collection brings together 8 of her 16 plays — Not “Black Coffee”, I’m afraid — including the three she is perhaps best known for in the theatrical world — “And Then There Were None”, “Witness for the Prosecution” and the record-setting “The Mousetrap” (which has played continuously in London’s West End theatrical district for 66 straight years, since its 1952 premiere). None of these eight plays feature any of Christie’s recurring characters — they’re all stand-alones. And, sadly, the collection doesn’t include another of my personal favorites, “Spider’s Web”. But the eight plays that ARE in this collection are all very entertaining and give you a pretty good “snapshot” of Christie’s play writing skills. Even if you weren’t able to view “Black Coffee” and “A Murder is Announced” in our local theatrical experiment, I encourage you to grab TITLE and dive into some classic mystery and thriller stagecraft. Perhaps a production of one of these will also show up in an area theatre in the future!

( Wikipedia page for The Mousetrap and Other Plays (including sub-pages for each individual play) ) | ( official Agatha Christie web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Agatha Christie: Murder in Four Acts: A Centenary Celebration of “The Queen of Crime” on Stage Film, Radio & TV
by Peter Haining (823 qChrYh)

As part of preparing to give a special library presentation on “The Mystery of Agatha Christie” in both September and November 2018 at two different library locations, I dug through my own personal collection of Christie-related non-fiction books, and was pleased to discover that not only did I own a copy of this particular volume, but so do the libraries!

This is a marvelous “coffee table” book that came out in 1990, to celebrate Dame Agatha’s 100th birthday. As the title indicates, it is a in-depth look at all the variations on Christie’s works that have been done for Radio, Stage, TV and the movies. There are detailed explorations of all the actors and actresses that had played Christie’s signature characters (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy & Tuppence, etc.) up through 1990. This charming book features more behind-the-scenes photographs from various Christie adaptations than I’ve seen anywhere else, including online.

If you are an Agatha Christie afficionado, you won’t want to miss this one. The only drawback is that it came out 28 years ago, and therefore doesn’t includes much about the more recent Christie media adaptations. But, it does still include David Suchet as Poirot, as he had begun that iconic role shortly before the book was published.

( official Agatha Christie web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Allegiance: Original Broadway Cast Recording
by George Takei (and others) (Compact Disc 782.14 All)

Star Trek actor George “Mr. Sulu” Takei has crafted a particularly influential persona for himself in recent years as an internet activist. His online presence, which started with tongue-in-cheek humor, gradually expanded to allow Takei to embrace and promote some of the issues near-and-dear to his heart. One of those causes, which he has tried to educate the public about for decades, is the shameful chapter in American history in which close to 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned in internment camps in the United States during World War II — including Takei and his family.

That experience, and the experiences of so many other Japanese-Americans that Takei knew, serves as the inspiration for this stage musical, which premiered in San Diego in 2012 and then was produced on Broadway in 2015. Takei even starred in both productions. Allegiance features music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, with a book by Marc Acito, Kuo and Lorenzo Thione. Performers on this soundtrack album include Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and more. The songs range from incredibly emotional to humorous to catchy. Even without the full script in front of you, listening to the music on this soundtrack will still give you a strong feeling for the tone and messages of the full musical. And if you ever have the chance to see the filmed version of Allegiance (which played a few times in our local theaters), I highly encourage you to take the opportunity. The actors/singers were all superb. And the light this musical shines on a dark corner of American history may help us to think carefully before future such human rights violations are allowed to occur again in the future.

( official Allegiance Musical web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Supergirl: Being Super
by Mariko Tamaki (writer) and Joelle Jones (artist) (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Tamaki)

I’ve been a follower of the mythology of Superman and his various Kryptonian relatives since watching the Christopher Reeve Superman films of the late 70s and early 80s. In particular, I’ve always been partial to the adventures of Superman’s cousin, Kara, who is known as Supergirl here on Earth. Kara made several appearances in the TV series Smallville (all of season 7 and guest bits in seasons 9 and 10), and the character stars in her own TV series, Supergirl (which premiere on CBS and now airs on the CW).

This graphic novel (a compilation of four monthly comic books) caught my eye on our Teen display, and I couldn’t resist. This storyline is almost an origin tale, and places Kara as a teenager in a small midwestern town, dealing with the intermittent failure of her superpowers. The death of a friend, which she could not prevent, leads Kara into an emotional journey in which she learns more about her true heritage and bonds with her parents and friends. The artwork and storytelling are terrific, and I really connected with the characters’ flaws and emotional weaknesses.

Highly recommended!

( DC’s official Supergirl: Being Super web page ) | ( official Mariko Tamaki blog )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

by Tara Westover (Biography Westover)

I found this memoir to be a little slow-moving at times. Nevertheless, I was completely intrigued by Tara Westover’s story of her childhood and young adult years, and how she managed to survive and flourish despite a very odd upbringing. Sometimes, you hear about extreme survivalists, getting ready for the “end times.” But I never thought I’d get such a clear inside-view of what the preparation and day-to-day lives of those people would be like.

Knowing, from the very onset of the book, that Westover grew up in a very strict Mormon family, I assumed it was going to be a story of polygamy and of being betrothed at an early age to some crusty old man who already had three other wives. (I’ve read a few of those, and they’re always sad and disturbing.) But this was nothing like that at all. This was a story of people living almost more the way I always picture Amish people living–not many of the “comforts” of the modern world as we know them… not utilizing the advantages of modern medicine, etc.

Despite several experiences in Westover’s life where she very easily could have been horribly maimed or killed, due to stupid accidents and the aforementioned resistance to modern medicine. Somehow, though, Tara survived and went on to not only escape this lifestyle–she went on to become very successful and well-respected in an area that her family was dead-set against: public education.

This was well written and kept my attention throughout the entire story…

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Escape, by Carolyn Jessup, or Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, by Elissa Wall.)

( official Tara Westover web site )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Screening Room

formatdvdHardcore Henry
(DVD Hardcore)

I haven’t seen a movie filmed like this before. From start to finish we see everything through the main character’s eyes. As a result it can be a bit roller coaster like with all the action and may make some viewers motion sick. There is no narrator so this point of view means that the confusion of Henry is the confusion of the viewers as well. He awakes after some trauma with missing limbs/eyes/ect and is fitted with new robotic body parts. His wife is the doctor tending to him and just about when he’s going to get his voice programmed, alarms go off that the facility is under attack; therefore he goes the rest of the movie with out being able to speak. He and his wife escape, but she’s captured by the villain and Henry is on his own, not knowing where he is or what he’s doing, aside from fighting off the villain’s minions who are chasing him throughout the whole movie. He meets a guy named Jimmy who recognizes him, knows his name and offers him help. Jimmy dies, violently and repeatedly, yet appears again later looking different, acting as though this is not at all weird. The truth about Jimmy and the whole plot of the movie is revealed toward the end. This is a rated R movie because it contains brutal violence with blood and guts, obscene language, drug use, and nudity; it’s clearly not a movie for everyone, so viewer discretion is advised. However if you like violent action movies and or FPS games and don’t easily get motion sick, this one is pretty good.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try John Wick; Judge Dredd – The movie or books. The DVD, of the 2012 film (there was on older one from 1995, which I have not seen but have been told is not that good) used to be in the library collection but no longer is. I reviewed it in July 2013, if you are interested. The books are available as paper copies or ebooks via Hoopla Digital. I’ve heard positive things about the books.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

See the February 2017 review of Hardcore Henry by Scott C.

(DVD j Hedgehogs)

This one was a bit of a disappointment for me. My wife and I both love the cute little creatures known as hedgehogs (latin name Erinaceinae). So, when I saw what looked like a cute animated film about the critters, I couldn’t pass it up. I knew, going in to it, that it was not a film from one of the big well-known animation studios — Disney, Pixar, Sony, etc. — but it had a few recognizable actor names among the narrators — Jon Heder, Chevy Chase, Kari Wahlgren, so I presumed it wouldn’t be too disappointing. In the end, it was only mildly amusing. Bobby is an arrogant and prideful “star” hedgehog is in own little tribe. But when he gets in a fight and hits his head, he loses his memory and finds himself stranded in a big city, instead of the countryside he comes from. There are some cute character bits — I particularly liked most scenes with Hubert, the overweight, good-natured pigeon who befriends Bobby. But overall, this all fell a bit flat, and the film-makers’ “messages” related to behavior and conservation were a bit over-the-top.

Still, a slightly amusing romp with fairly decent animation. If you’re not expecting much, you may find yourself enjoying this one!

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdIn the Shadow of the Moon: When the Whole World Looked Up
(DVD 629.454 In)

This is an absolutely marvelous documentary, presented by Ron Howard, in 2008, that covers the Apollo space program. Featuring dozens and dozens of exclusive interviews with astronauts and others involved in America’s efforts to land a man on the Moon. Interspersed with the contemporary interviews are numerous examples of archival footage from the space race. The whole is expertly pieced together with unifying music and superb pacing.

If you’re at all interested in space exploration, and this critical period in American history (1968-1972), you’ll love this film. I’ve seen it aired on television a few times, but this DVD set from the libraries includes several “special features”, including filmmaker commentaries, a short piece on the music score for this film, and over 60 minutes of additional interview footage which didn’t make it to the television airings of the documentaries. For space enthusiasts and anyone interested in inspirational stories of scientific underdogs battling long odds.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the feature film Apollo 13.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdThe Wizard of Oz
(DVD j Wizard)

Somehow I have managed to not see this movie in its entirety before, but it was on TV while I was on a trip so I took the chance to watch it recently. It was a pretty pleasant movie with more singing than I thought it had. I was familiar with the story but I enjoyed the beginning while Dorothy is still in Kansas and the lead up to the tornado that takes her and Toto to Oz. What I had not realized before is that the Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow and Wicked Witch are also characters in Dorothy’s life in Kansas (the witch didn’t like Toto in that reality either). I’m sure most people are familiar with the journey to Emerald City via the Yellow Brick Road to see the Wizard and that her shoes could have taken her home straight away, but all the same it was entertaining to watch. If you are like me and have not seen this movie before, I think it is worth watching. Some classics I feel I could take or leave, even if I’m told it’s a must, but it was really rather good in my opinion, even thought I wouldn’t probably watch it again. I think it’d appeal to a general audience, any age or interest.

(This classic story is also available in its traditional print format.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( Wikipedia page for The Wizard of Oz (1939) )


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

formatdvdWon’t You Be My Neighbor?
directed by Morgan Neville (DVD Biography Rogers)

I had the immense pleasure of seeing this documentary biography film about beloved Fred Rogers while it was in the local theaters a few months back, and am excited and proud to have added it to my personal DVD collection as soon as it came out in that format.

This is an absolute charming and well-constructed look at the life of Fred Rogers, particularly focusing on his development of the PBS educational television series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Through a marvelous combination of archival footage, home movies, and recently-conducted interviews with Fred’s colleagues, family and friends, we see a picture of what influences led Rogers to his ultimate career path. We then also see examples of the thousands and thousands of children, whose lives he touched. I particularly enjoyed seeing him face down a hostile congressional hearing to plead for continued funding for public television.

Though there are many in today’s harsher cultural climate who claim that Mister Rogers had a damaging influence, my own experience was completely the opposite — Rogers was a huge influence on making myself and other kids of my general into better human beings than we might have been had he not had the calling to make his show. I was not the only viewer to leave the theatre with moist eyes after watching this documentary. And I cannot recommend this well-made documentary highly enough. If you’re young enough that Mister Rogers was not a part of your childhood, this film may help you understand some of the quirks of your parents’ generation, and if you grew up with the kind, gentle, reassuring presence that was Fred Rogers and his television Neighborhood, this will certainly bring back some good memories and warm feelings.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King, or I’m Proud of You by Tim Madigan.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Won’t You Be My Neighbor? web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

last updated September 2023
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