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Staff Recommendations – October 2015

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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

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October 2015 Recommendations

valleyoffearThe Valley of Fear
by Arthur Conan Doyle

This novella recounts a murder in England, investigated by Sherlock Holmes. As it concludes, it turns out there is a backstory to why the murder occurred that goes back some twenty years in the American West. So the story then travels across space and time, and starts over with the back story. It all comes together in the last few pages. I don’t want to give anything way because it’s full of surprises, so I won’t say more. It was a very good; most of Doyle’s Sherlock stories are short, so it was a nice change to have a longer read. If you like mysteries set in the past, either in America or England, I’m sure you’d like this one.

[ official Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


comicbookstoryofbeerThe Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage From 7000 B.C. to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution
by Jonathan Hennessy and Mike Smith, with art by Aaron McConnell [641.23 Hen]

Right off the bat, let me say that I don’t actually drink beer. However, seeing this book on the library’s “New Books” display, it caught my eye and intrigued me enough to check it out. I’d enjoyed reading the section on “beer” in A History of the World in Six Glasses a few years ago, but even since that book’s publication in 2006, there’s been an explosion in the craft beer brewing business. The Comic Book Story of Beer is a terrific look at the entire history of beer brewing, from ancient times to today. Told in a “graphic novel” format, bookended by a twentysomething who goes shopping for a non-typical beer and finds himself overwhelmed by all the options, the authors squeeze in a lot of truly fascinating facts and figures about brewing. You’ll find lessons in chemistry, economics, world history, commerce, war, religion, politics and social history, all as they relate to the changes in how beer is created.

Even if I never actually develop a taste for beer, I enjoyed this detailed history of its contributions to the world. I would recommend this to anyone who’s interested in “microhistories” or who’s enjoyed a tall, foamy one and wondered about where it came from! I’d grade it with a higher score, but the art, at times, doesn’t live up to the quality of the text. But, overall, still a fun and educational read!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A History of the World in Six Glasses.] [ official Comic Book Story of Beer web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


horrorstorHorrorstör
by Grady Hendrix

This is a quirky horror novel that came out in 2014. in a Orsk store (a marvelous parody of Ikea stores) in central Ohio, employees arrive each morning to find destroyed merchandise throughout the store. Security cameras don’t capture anything happening, so a trio of store employees agrees to work an overnight overtime shift to stay in the store and figure out what’s happening.

What starts as a humorous diatribe about the reality of working in a retail store environment, and the sometimes strained relationships between co-workers, employees-and-supervisors, and retail employees and customers, takes a sharp turn half-way through and becomes a slightly non-traditional haunted house book. The format of the book adds to the enjoyment of the read — it is designed to look like an “Ikea” catalog, with product descriptions and illustrations, which become darker and more distressing the farther into the plot you go. Characters that you initially may dislike will grow on you. Overall, a very entertaining read, with some serious chills in the latter half of the story. My only complaint is that the first half of the book incorporated a lot of humor, in both dialog and character relationships, and that seemed to get sacrificed to the horror elements of the plot too quickly. It would have been more enjoyable if the group of disparate characters had maintained a “Buffy the Vampire Killer”-like sense of humor about their situation. Still, creative and different. If you like horror, I’d recommend giving this a try.

[ official Horrorstör Video Trailer ] | [ publisher’s official Horrorstör web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


deadwakecdDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaformatCDbook2
by Erik Larson [Compact Disc 940.451 Lar]

This book looks at the Lusitania’s last voyage from several viewpoints in chronological order. You come to understand the actions of the u-boat, why some responsibility for the sinking belongs to British intelligence, why our president was distracted at the time, and how this all impacted those sailing on the ship. It’s’ a balanced look at a bit of history most of us have heard about but really have little in depth knowledge of, yet was a major turning point of WWI.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (910.45 Lor) The original book about the Titanic and basic resource for many of the books that followed. Lord was able to interview many survivors and shares their stories as well as the ship’s.] [ official Dead Wake page on the official Erik Larson web site ]

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Recommended by Sandy W.
Gere Branch Library


letsbelessstupidLet’s Be Less Stupid
by Patricia Marx [817 Mar]

Also known as Patty Marx, the author is an alum of the Saturday Night Live writing staff and currently works for the New Yorker magazine. The book records her quest to improve her gray matter over about a year’s time, performing cerebral exercises on her own and consulting with professionals for data and testing. Her take on how to train & maintain her brain is humorous, self-deprecating, and even thought-provoking. How synergistic! Perhaps her own mental abilities were not honed significantly sharper in the end, but she is helping the rest of us keep our own noggins and funny bones intact with this little tome. The one quibble I have with the book is the small print size — those of us of a certain age have eyes whose acuity has not kept up with our fabulous intellects!

[ Patricia Marx profile on the New Yorker web site ] | [ publisher’s official Let’s Be Less Stupid web page]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


threegravesfullThree Graves Full
by Jamie Mason

Eighteen months earlier milquetoast Jason Getty killed a man and buried him in his backyard. For seventeen months Jason worried, stewed, and lost sleep over his actions. His yard went unattended because he couldn’t stand to touch his spade again. Worried that his neighbors are wondering about his yard and begin to notice something weird at the back, he hires a lawn care company to rake, toss grass seed, and plant seedlings in the front.

And they discover a body buried in his front yard that he didn’t know about.

The police arrive, and find a second body in the front yard. The detective informs Jason they are making arrangements for a corpse-sniffing dog to arrive in a few days to check the remainder of his property. Jason is now in full panic mode about the body he buried in the back.

The other two people associated with the newly discovered bodies, Jason, and the two detectives are now circling each other. We learn everyone’s backstory and the events leading up to all three murders. And everything comes to a head in one wild night. A well-written, quick read even at 307 pages with a satisfying ending.

[ official Three Graves Full page on the official Jamie Mason web site ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


reversewinesnobReverse Wine Snob
by Jon Thorsen [641.22 Tho]

In 1982, Leonard S. Bernstein (not the conductor – the writer and publisher) came out with a book entitled The Official Guide to Wine Snobbery. This lighthearted guide to wine (no longer in Lincoln City Libraries’ collection) included the recommendation that one should never spend more than $5 for a bottle of wine. Adjusted for inflation, that would come to about $12 today.

Somewhat in the same spirit (pun intended), Reverse Wine Snob author (and website founder – http://www.reversewinesnob.com) Jon Thorsen advocates a $20 per bottle limit for wine. While this amount seems a little steep to me, more important than the specific dollar amount or the specific wine recommendations (which will quickly become outdated – though the website allows you to subscribe to reviews, to keep up to date) are the author’s general principles outlined in ten “tenets” he espouses, such as “Buy wine that fits your lifestyle; don’t change your lifestyle to fit your wine” and “Drink what you like.” There are also tips on buying wine online and at retailers such as Trader Joe’s. And don’t miss the fun photo of the author’s daughter on page 5!

[ official Reverse Wine Snob web site ]

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Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department


Screening Room

formatdvdangeldvd-5Angel

[DVD Angel]

This 1999-2004 paranormal series was a spin-off from the even-more-popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer [1997-2003]. As the series began, following the third-season finale of Buffy, Angel (“Angelus”) has left Sunnydale behind, seeking redemption for his sins as a vampire by trying to help others. Cursed with his human soul attached to his vampire body, Angel is tormented by all the evil acts he has committed as a vampire, but he can’t be with his true love Buffy without risking the loss of his soul. So, instead, he settles in Los Angeles, as something of a private investigator, helping the downtrodden. This is his role during the first four (of five) seasons, as he and various human and inhuman comrades fight against demons, criminals and other bad guys (often associated with the demonic law firm Wolfram & Hart). In the final season, Angel and company have basically taken over the Los Angeles branch of the evil Wolfram & Hart, and have a more complicated time trying to do good while also trying to prevent W&H from corrupting them.

The Angel cast featured a number of folks who had previously been on Buffy in one capacity or another, as well as a number of all-new characters. Like Buffy, each season tended to feature a “big bad” villain, whose end game was thwarted in the final episode of the season. The acting, writing, make-up and effects work was terrific. The series ended on a rather ambiguous note, though that doesn’t detract from the five years that led up to the finale. And for those who care about such things, series creator Joss Whedon continued the characters’ story arc past the end of the series Angel, with an on-going comic book, Angel: After the Fall.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ Angel episode guide at epguides.com ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdbletchleycircledvd-2The Bletchley Circle: Series Two

[DVD Bletchley]

Just as good as season one, the Bletchley Park women return for season two. Set a few years after WWII it follows a group of women who used to work as code breakers in the war at Bletchley Park. The women find themselves solving crime with the skills they learned during the war. There are two story arcs this season. The first involves helping a former co-worker from Bletchley clear her name and prevent her being hung for a crime she didn’t commit. The later story involves abduction of one of the girls and human trafficking. It’s a wonderful mystery / historical show with a lot of character development. Highly recommended, though you should watch season one first.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Bletchley Circle: Series One and Ripper Street: Series One to Three.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official PBS page for The Bletchley Circle ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


formatdvdflash1990dvdThe Flash: The Complete Series

[DVD Flash]

Though the televised adventures of The Flash are perhaps better known for the version currently airing on The CW network, true fans are also familiar with the earlier version of The Flash, which aired for a single season in 1990-91 on CBS. John Wesley Shipp played Barry Allen, a Central City police forensics scientist, who develops super-speed powers after getting hit by lighting and doused in an exotic mix of chemicals in his police lab. Confused and uncertain how to handle his new-found super-human abilities, Allen confides in both Julio Mendez (his fellow scientist in the police lab), and Dr. Tina McGee, a scientist at Star Labs (and ultimately a romantic interest for Barry).

Shipp’s costume as The Flash was considerably different from the costume that has appeared in the more recent series — he appears to be much larger, and has a “pumped up” physique while in costume. This version of the show is very cartoony, and the “speed effects” as The Flash is running or making other high-speed actions, are a little clunky. But the writing was fun — there were a lot of very entertaining stories, bringing many of the iconic “rogue’s gallery” of Flash villains from the comic books to the screen. A lot of the bad guys had a very “noirish” feel to them, and primary colors abounded. I’m surprised that fight sequences didn’t use super-imposed sound-effects balloons like the old Batman sitcom!

None-the-less, for the time period in which this original Flash series was developed — following Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman and Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk, but preceding more recent serious takes on comic book icons like Smallville and Arrow — this an admirable effort. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of newer version and have never even heard of this original. Find it and sample it!

[This series is not actually available from the libraries directly in our own collection. I recommend tracking it down via our InterLibrary Loan service.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ The Flash episode guide at epguides.com ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdflashdvd-1The Flash: Season One [soon to be in the libraries’ collection]

[DVD Flash]

The 2014-15 television season saw the introduction of a new television version of The Flash, the iconic DC comic book hero first introduced in 1940. This series features the second iteration of that character, Barry Allen, who was featured in the comic from 1956-1958 and again from 2008 to the present. Capitalizing on the popularity of their other superhero-based series, Arrow, the CW network introduced Barry Allen during a second season episode of Arrow, and spun him off into his own series while Arrow was enjoying its third season. Grant Gustin is police forensic investigator Barry Allen, who is exposed to a combination of lightning strike and chemical spill, all while a particle accelerator accident in his hometown of Central City is bathing the city in unknown energies. After being in a coma for 9 months, Allen awakens to soon discover that he has the ability to move at superspeed. Seeking help to understand this change, Allen is soon mentored by Dr. Harrison Wells, creator of the failed particle accelerator, and two of the scientists working with the disgraced scientist, Dr. Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon. The first season of the show also features Joe West, Allen’s police officer stepfather, and Joe’s daughter, Iris, the woman Barry’s secretly loved for years.

Storylines in this first season have ranged from standard police procedurals, with Barry aiding law enforcement with his superspeed, to wild-and-crazy science fiction and fantasy, as other individuals with superpowers (Metahumans) begin to emerge…some benevolent, but many who are becoming supervillains. Barry, who has been driven to prove his father innocent of his mother’s murder when he was a pre-teen, has an inherent need to do good, and his heroic crime-fighting comes naturally. There’s a lot of humor in this show, particularly whenever scientist Cisco appears, but there is also a lot of emotional angst. The cast is marvelous, and the special effects (both Barry Allen’s speed-enhanced actions and everything else) is top-notch.

I particularly love the fact that Barry’s imprisoned father is played (in several episodes) by John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry Allen/The Flash in the earlier 1990-91 version of The Flash on CBS. There was even an episode in season one of the new Flash that guest-starred Mark “Star Wars” Hamill as the villainous Trickster — a role he had played 24 years earlier on the original version of The Flash. This is a high-gloss, take-itself-serious version of The Flash, but with a good sense of humor. The second season starts this month on the CW network — but you can get familiar with it in this season one DVD set!

[If you like this, you may also wish to sample Arrow, the other CW superhero show, set in the same continuity as The Flash — in fact, they’ve crossed over with each other more than once so far!] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official The Flash (2014) web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdfrankenweeniedvdFrankenweenie

[j DVD Frankenweenie]

This Tim Burton movie is about a young scientist, Victor, who brings his dog Sparky back to life with lighting. He intended to keep this a secret but Sparky wanders outside one day and one of Victor’s classmates sees him. The secret is then out and with the science fair coming up everyone is eager to reproduce the experiment for their project. Chaos ensues due to the resulting creatures produced from the other student’s experiments. Fun movie for all ages during October / Halloween.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Nightmare Before Christmas.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for 2012 version of this film ] | [ official Frankenweenie web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


formatdvdstrangeandnorrelldvdJonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

[DVD Jonathan]

This is a seven-episode mini-series adaptation of the hugely popular 2005 novel of the same name, by Susanna Clarke. The nutshell version of the plot is that magic appears to have died out in England by the time of the Napoleonic Wars, until one of its last practitioners takes on a brash young apprentice with new ideas, philosophies and a lot of attitude. Their eventual conflicts bring the use of magic in England back to a head, with dramatic results. This BBC adaptation is lush in detail, with terrific performances from the entire cast, particularly Bertie Carvel as Strange and Eddie Marsan as Norrell. Costumes, set-design, make-up and special effects are all top-notch. If you loved the book, definitely give this mini-series a look. If you’ve never read the book, this is still worth a look, although I’d recommend the book before this DVD set. One final note — this DVD set has a nice featurette on “The Making of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” — definitely worth watching!

[Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (TV series) web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdlooperdvdLooper

[DVD Looper]

One of the best time travel films of the past 20 years! Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are both superb, playing the same character, Joe. in 2074, time travel has been invented but it is essentially illegal and only used by black market forces, such as organized crime. When the mob wants to make somebody vanish, they send them backwards in time 30 years, where a “Looper” is waiting to execute the unfortunate victim. Things get complicated when old Joe (Willis), a former Looper, runs afoul of the mob in the future, and they send him back into the past for elimination by his own younger self (Gordon-Levitt). Suffice it to say, old Joe survives, and what results is a riotus action drama, with terrific stunts, lots of action sequences, and some mind-bending time travel dilemmas. I was particularly impressed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance — you could easily see his character aging into Willis’ later version of the same man. Terrific cast, and thought provoking action film. I highly recommend it!

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

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdstrangersonatraindvdStrangers on a Train

[DVD Strangers]

Based on a suspense novel by Patricia Highsmith, this suspense/thriller is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most unforgettable masterpieces of movie-making! When professional tennis player Guy Haines (Stewart Granger) encounters the psychotic socialite Bruno Antony on a train ride, and they get into a conversation, Bruno sees an opportunity to solve a problem he has. Bruno wants to eliminate his father, and he thinks Guy would like to see his shrew of a wife, Miriam, dead. Bruno proposes trading murders — he’ll kill Miriam and Guy will kill Bruno’s father — no ties to each other, thus the perfect murders. Guy doesn’t take Bruno seriously, so when Bruno actually does kill Miriam and Guy refuses to kill Bruno’s father, a suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse begins in which Bruno tries to set up Guy for Miriam’s murder, and Guy has to try to prove his innocence and also alert the authorities to the real killer. In true Hitchcock fashion, the tension is racheted up to unbearable levels, the camerawork is innovative, and there’s a heart-stopping confrontation on a merry-go-round gone out-of-control. The performances in this film are among the best in all of Hitchcock’s suspense films, particularly Robert Walker as the psychotic Bruno Antony.

This particular DVD release of this film is a double-sided disc, with Side A being the recognizable American release of the film (1951), and Side B being an earlier British pre-release version of the film, which has a much closer look at the mentality of Bruno Antony. Both are well-worth your time!

[If you like this item, you might like these too – Pretty much anything else in the Hitchcock stable of films, but particularly Frenzy (1972) and Rear Window (1954).] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdwalkingdeaddvd-3The Walking Dead: Season Three

[DVD Walking]

I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead since it first premiered in 2010, and I continue to watch it today, as each season airs on AMC. The series has had its share of ups and downs, with regards to its storytelling and settings. I think the third season, available in this boxed set, was one of the series’ strongest. After the second season ended in chaos, the primary group of human survivors finds themselves split up and going in separate directions. Group leader Rick Grimes leads his rag-tag bunch of desperate humans into an abandoned prison, clearing the facility of undead zombies wing by wing. Setting up the prison as their new home — it is defensible and offers a hope of stability — the survivors explore the surrounding area for supplies. Meanwhile, original group member Andrea ends up encountering fan favorite character Michonne in the woods, and they both end up at Woodbury, a walled community ruled over by the despotic man known as The Governor.

The zombie action of this series about a zombie apocalypse world remains gory and violent, but it is the human stories, particularly those involved the new characters of Michonne and The Governor, and are what this series is really all about. This 16-episode season has a distinct start and conclusion, and viewers unfamiliar with the show will get caught up quickly. Don’t get too attached to ANY of the supporting characters, because no-one should be considered safe to survive until the fourth season!

[There are distinct differences between The Walking Dead as a TV series and as a series of graphic novels, however, much of the plot covered by this season has also been touched on in the graphic novel series.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official The Walking Dead web site from AMC ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated January 2019
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