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Staff Recommendations – October 2018

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

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October 2018 Recommendations

Silent Alarm
by Jennifer Banash [YA Banash]

This is one of the books I’ll be covering for a book talk (about school shootings) in my library system, so I won’t go into detail about the book here. I do want to say, though, that this was one of the better written books on the subject that I’ve read. I tried reading something similar recently–that is, I tried reading another book written from the standpoint of the shooter’s family member–and it just didn’t pull me in. I couldn’t get interested in it. I believe it was the format of the book itself, the way it jumped around between various characters, including a family member of the shooter, and it was hard to follow.

Silent Alarm in interesting, not only because you get the obvious heated and angry treatment from the families and friends of victims toward those relatives of the shooter–that’s what you would anticipate, and that’s what does happen… but you also get the psychological downfall of that family member as she tries to deal with her own feelings of guilt and loss. It’s very compelling.

[ publisher’s official Silent Alarm web page ] | [ official Twitter feed for Jennifer Banash ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Doctor Who: The Fearmonger
by Michael Blum [Compact Disc Blum]

I’ve been a Whovian — a Doctor Who fan — since first seeing the series on our local PBS television station back in the early-to-mid-1980s. For a series that has had 13 different actors portray the main character over the course of 55 years, I still find myself drawn to the versions of The Doctor from the series’ original run (1963-1989). One Doctor I haven’t really seen in many episodes, the 7th, Sylvester McCoy, never aired in our local TV market, and the libraries unfortunately do not have any of his adventures on DVD. However, I was able to enjoy this original audiobook, featuring McCoy recreating his role in a full-cast audio recording.

Original Doctor Who audiobooks are a huge thing — there have been dozens of them produced over the years, primarily from a company known as Big Finish Productions, almost all of which bring back the original actors to have portrayed The Doctor, as well as many of their co-stars (i.e. their “companions” on the series). These are always extremely well-produced and performed, and The Fearmonger is one of the better ones I’ve had a chance to sample. Originally released 16 years ago in 2002, the topics and tone of The Fearmonger eerily presage the divisive political climate we currently live in. The Doctor and his human female traveling companion Ace find themselves in a hostile political landscape, in which outsiders are being treated as villains, and shock radio hosts are capitalizing on social divides. However, in this case, the natural human drama is being amplified by an interfering alien presence.

The full cast on this one makes it far more entertaining listen than with a single narrator, and the sound effects and music make this a much richer listening experience overall. I highly recommend the entire series of Doctor Who audio adventures, especially those by Big Finish, and I enthusiastically recommended this specific entry in the series!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the many, many Doctor Who novels, in both print and audiobook, available through the libraries!]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories
by Agatha Christie

During the course of her writing career, Dame Agatha Christie wrote 33 full-length novels featuring her iconic Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot, starting with The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920 and ending with Curtain in 1975. In the intervening years, she also wrote over 50 short stories that featured the detective, and which were collected in various smaller stories collections at various times. THISTITLE collects all of those shorter works in one large omnibus collection, placing them in chronological order according to their first appearances.

If you’ve only ever sampled Poirot before, or, perhaps, only read some of the more famous full novels to feature him, this collection gives you a perfect opportunity to fill in all the gaps in his long-running storyline. If you’re mainly familiar with the televised Poirot stories, in which he was played by David Suchet in 70 episodes over the course of 24 years, you will find the original source material for many of those episodes here in this collection. I will admit, even as a Christie and Poirot fan, that this is a dense volume — there are A LOT of stories to read in this collection. This is the type of book to savor over a lengthy period of time — pulling it out whenever you are in the mood for just a little Poirot, and then putting it away again for another rainy day.

None-the-less, if you are a Christie and Poirot complete-ist, as I am, this should be an essential part of your reading collection. Put your “little grey cells” to work and start catching up on this extensive body of mystery classics!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the 33 full-length Hercule Poirot novels by Agatha Christie. Check out this Hercule Poirot reading list on BookGuide.] [ publisher’s official Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories web page] | [ official Agatha Christie web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Mirror Crack’d (From Side to Side)
by Agatha Christie

This is a Miss Marple novel featuring a movie star who recently moved into her village. The actress holds a party and a guest ends up dead after a drink. At first there is no clear motive so it seems it was an accident, but the poison in the drink was put there intentionally, so we have a mystery. The actress and her husband are not very forthcoming with information to aid the police; thankfully Miss Marple does her usual poking around and observing human nature to come to the truth. It took me a while to get into this one because revolves around the lives of the rich and famous along with the gossip and rumors that surround even fictitious ones, and this is not something I really pay attention to in real life. However, it was quite interesting the further into it I read and the solution to the mystery was quite believable, so I did enjoy it. I’d recommend this to British mystery readers and or those who enjoy the celebrity gossip scene as you may like it more than I did.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Hollow, a Hercule Poirot novel, also by Agatha Christie.] [ official The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Ladycastle
by Delilah S. Dawson (writer), and Ashley A. Woods (artist) [YA PB (Graphic Novel) Dawson]

A delightful fantasy graphic-novel (a compilation of shorter comic-book format issues), that turns traditional fantasy tropes on their ear!

Having met fantasy/SF author Delilah Dawson at a local genre convention here in Lincoln a few years ago, I recently searched online to see what she’d been writing lately, and stumbled across this marvelous little comic-book series, which was collected into a graphic novel format. Written by Dawson, with art by Ashley A. Woods, Ladycastle tells of the adventures and misadventures of a group of highly capable young women in a faux-medieval setting — what most epic fantasy sagas tend to be set in. The big difference here is that the small kingdom of Mancastle is missing all its men. They’ve all gone off on a military expedition, leaving their wives, sisters, and female children to run the walled city in their absence. When a lone soldier, Sir Riddick, returns to announce that all the men have been eaten by a dragon, and a curse has been placed on the Kingdom of Mancastle that attracts “monsters” to attack the walled city, the ladies all decide they’re going to become the kingdom’s leaders. The blacksmith’s wife, Merinor, becomes the King, a princess who had been locked in a tower to await an arranged marriage becomes the head of the armed forces, etc., etc. Sir Riddick, a bit of a blowhard and buffoon, soon finds himself training a large group of very capable women in the arts of warfare, survival and governance.

When the monsters start coming, the women’s completely different approaches to warfare lead to some fascinating plot twists. The characters are all vibrantly realized, particularly Merinor the “King”. The artwork by Woods is absolutely fabulous! This was a terrific little find for me, and I was highly disappointed when I reached the end of this graphic novel compilation. It ended on a cliffhanger, however it appears that the series did not continue beyond what is included in this volume. None-the-less, I do recommend sampling this one, especially if you like light-hearted fantasy works that don’t play by the rules!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Dragon Business, by Kevin J. Anderson, the Disc World series, by Terry Pratchett.] [ publisher’s official Ladycastle web page ] | [ official Delilah Dawson web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Bridget Jones’ Diary
by Helen Fielding [Compact Disc Fielding and Downloadable Audio]

I saw this movie ages ago–not when it came out, but after it had been out on video for about five years. It was pretty funny, but I wasn’t thrilled with the cast, I think. I don’t know. I felt the movie was “just okay.”

For some reason, though, I saw the audiobook for this story recently, and I thought, “Hmm…. I wonder how different the book is? Would I like it? Would it be fun to listen to?” The answers–yes! yes! YES!!!

I love the format of the story–Bridget keeping an almost daily diary, starting each entry with her weight, the alcohol “units” consumed that day, and the number of cigarettes smoked that day. Sometimes, she’ll add little notes, like “v.g.” for “very good,” or “v. poor” for “very poor,” etc. Then she’ll go on and describe the events of the day. It’s deliciously funny, the way she goes through the exact events… sometimes, if she’s struggling (like putting off cooking something, or trying to set up her video machine to record a TV show for her mother), she’ll break down the event in five minute increments… it really illustrates how much of a procrastinator she is, how deeply she struggles with absolutely mundane things, etc. I found it embarrassingly funny, because I know I’ve done the same things!!! The story takes place largely in London, and Bridget and the other characters are all British… so there’s a bit of slang that one has to weed through now and then. For example, Bridget would note, for several days in a row, how many “instants” she went through that day. She finally explains, down the road, that they are instant lottery tickets, similar to our pickle cards or maybe scratch-off tickets. I enjoy this about the book, though. I like they way the story flows and you either figure the language out on your own, or she eventually clears it up for you.

The narration is done by Imogen Church. I’ve listened to a couple of other books narrated by her (The Woman in Cabin Ten; Into the Water; etc.), and I will be picking other audiobooks to listen to largely because she’s the narrator. She does a fabulous job!!!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella.] [ Wikipedia page for Helen Fielding ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Curtain Up: Agatha Christie — A Life in the Theatre
by Julius Green [Biography Christie]

I was part of the play reading committee for our local community theatre last year, as that group was contemplating producing an Agatha Christie play. As part of that process, I read a dozen of Christie’s sixteen published/produced stage plays, helping the Lincoln Community Playhouse select “Black Coffee” (Christie’s one-and-only full-length Hercule Poirot play), and the Beatrice Community Players select “A Murder is Announced” (an adaptation for stage of one of Christie’s Miss Marple novels).

In the process of reading all of these plays, I became fascinated by Christie’s long and successful relationship with the world of the theatre, so I was incredibly please to stumble across this marvelous book and be able to recommend it as a purchase for the libraries. Curtain Up is a biography of Christie, but focusing only on her involved with writing and producing stage plays. There are many other excellent biographies about Christie that cover the rest of her life, but few of them take much notice of her play-authoring experiences. From a very young age, Agatha Christie was fascinated with the world of the theatre. In her teens and twenties she acted in a few plays and/or musicals, and wrote many playscripts, none-of-which were produced at that early age. It was not until 1930, nearly a decade after she had achieved success as a novelist, that her first full-length play was produced in London — Black Coffee, a Hercule Poirot story written directly for the stage (and not novelized until 20 years after her death). Christie took a bit of a hiatus from writing her mystery novels in the early 1950s and wrote several successful plays — in fact, she still holds the record of being the only female playwright to have three hit shows running in London’s West End theater district simultaneously (in 1954).

Of Christie’s play output, readers may already be familiar with The Mousetrap (which has run now for 67 straight years in London), And Then There Were None, and Witness for the Prosecution. But she has several other very entertaining works to her credit. I have to admit to a little bit of bias in enjoying Black Coffee (since I ended up getting to actually portray Poirot in the Lincoln production of the play), but I also recommend Spider’s Web, Towards Zero, Verdict and The Unexpected Guest. This highly-detailed and extensively-annotated volume goes into the writing and producing of each and every one of her plays, as well as those that have never been produced. If you have even the slightest interest in Agatha Christie, play-writing in general, or the the history of the British theater scene, you’ll enjoy this book.

In all honesty, I will have to admit, even I found the writing of this one a bit dry and academic at times, but at the same time, author Julius Green injects quite a bit of humor into his writing, which lightens the academic parts quite a bit!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Mousetrap and Other Plays, by Agatha Christie — a collection of 8 of her 16 produced plays (sadly not including Black Coffee!] [ publisher’s official Curtain Up web page, including online addendums ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Cemetery Girl: Haunted, Book Three
by Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden and Geraldo Borges [741.5 Har]

Having enjoyed the first two volumes in the Cemetery Girl graphic novel series by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, with art by Don Kramer in 2014 and 2015, I’ve been eagerly waiting for the next entry. Apparently, in the intervening years, this project jumped from one publisher to another, and in the process lost its illustrator. Well, Cemetery Girl is back now, with a final volume, in what is being described as a trilogy. Artist Geraldo Borges replaces Don Kramer, but otherwise, this final entry seamlessly fits in with the preceding volumes, Pretender and Inheritance.

Calexa Rose Dunhill isn’t her real name. But she can’t remember what that is. She was dumped in a small cemetery, near death, and awoke with no memories of who she was. What she quickly discovered, however, was that she had the ability for her body to be temporarily inhabited by the spirits of the recently deceased. And she’s being hunted by somebody who wants her dead. In this final volume, the events of the two earlier entries give Calexa hope that she might be able to have a normal life again. But the threats that took away her memory are still out there, and she may be endangering the friends who’ve become her new family.

The artwork in this volume is spectacular, and the storytelling is crisp and fast-paced. Charlaine Harris is perhaps best known for the Sookie Stackhouse paranormal novels (that were turned into the TV series True Blood). Christopher Golden has made a name for himself in TV and movie novelizations. Together, they tell an engaging story, filled with characters that you easily grow to care about. I’m sorry to see that this series is ending, but if it does have to end, at least it did so with a satisfying conclusion.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the first two in this trilogy, The Pretenders and Inheritance, by the same authors.] [ publisher’s official Cemetery Girl web site ] | [ official Charlaine Harris web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Reformed Vampire Support Group
by Catherine Jinks [YA Jinks]

If you are looking for a fresh take on vampires, this is the book for you. Nina Harrison is a vampire who was “fanged” when she was fifteen. She is tiny and is still treated like a child by her mother, and everyone else in her Vampire Support Group. The group meets every week and encourages each other to share their feelings and struggles, and encourages each other in their attempts to never fang a human. When one of their group is discovered as a pile of ash in his coffin, the members of the group are thrust into a mystery. Who killed Casimir, and is the rest of the group going to be targeted as well? Nina is finally going to get the adventure she has always wanted.

This downloadable audiobook is narrated by Caterine Lee. The book takes place in Australia, so the audio was fun to listen to for the accents.

I listened to the downloadable audio from Omaha Public Library, but the item is available in book format from Lincoln City Libraries.

[ official Reformed Vampire Support Group page on the official Catherine Jinks web site ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Girls and Boyshoopla
by Dennis Kelly [downloadable audio via Hoopla]

This is one of those stories that you don’t even realize what it’s about until at least three quarters of the way in, if not more. I really, honestly didn’t know what the actual “main thrust” of the story was for the longest time. And I didn’t care. I just wanted the story to keep going! It could have ended up not having any final reveal, and I’d have been okay with that. It was captivating from the very start, and all I wanted to do was have my own small part in it–that of the listener. Once I had a tiny inkling of what was going on, I was even more committed. This is one of those audio books that I wasn’t content to just listen to briefly in the car… I took it with me everywhere, devouring every second of it, then wishing it could have gone on longer! There are, I think, three main themes in this story: one focuses on the relationship between a man and a woman, initially burning hot with passion, then ice-cold; the second involves the minutia of day-to-day life as a mother of small children, how things can drive you mad and then fill your heart to bursting within the span of five minutes; the third is the violent tendencies of man (I would say humans, but ultimately, it’s more often than not men who commit violent acts), even in men whom you’d never think capable of such acts.

Carey Mulligan does an amazing job narrating — if at all possible, listen to the audio version of this story! *At this time, Lincoln City Libraries does not have the audio version of this, but the e-book is available on Hoopla.*.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver.] [ Wikipedia page for Dennis Kelly ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Tales From Earthsea
by Ursula K. Leguin

I first read the Earthsea Trilogy over 40 years ago and enjoyed the series immensely. It was only recently that I discovered that she wrote three more books in the series nearly twenty years ago. I just finished the last of these, “Tales from Earthsea,” which provides some ‘prequel’ stories to give the reader background for the earlier books. Of these last three books, this was by far the best one. Characters were well developed and the new stories were gripping. I especially liked “Bones of the Earth.” I only wish that LeGuin would have written more of these! Author Ursula LeGuin died this past January 2018 and left an amazing legacy of books for her fans to enjoy for years to come.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Riddle Master of Hed, by Patricia McKillip, the Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik, the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling or The Left Hand of Darkness, by Urusla K. Leguin.] [ Wikipedia page for Tales From Earthsea ] | [ official Ursula K. Leguin web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Little Shop of Horrors
by various [various call numbers]

Every October, I like to review at least one (if not more than one) title in the libraries’ collection with a “horror” or paranormal theme. As I looked for something to review here in October 2018, I realized that BookGuide has never featured a review of Little Shop of Horrors in any of its many different versions!

This enduring storyline first cropped up in a 1960 horror film by horror film schlockmeister Roger Corman, King of the B Pictures. It featured Jack Nicholson in one of his early minor roles. Written by Charles B. Griffith and directed by Corman, the original Little Shop of Horrors is something of a farce, and its “horror” is rather laughable. Nicholson’s presence is one of the only things to keep this little cult film in the public’s eye, though is role is very small.

In 1982, a horror/comedy/rock-musical version of Little Shop of Horrors was developed for the stage, featuring music and lyrics by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman. This stage musical plays up the black humor and introduces us to several catchy Broadway tunes, including the titular “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Downtown (Skid Row)”, “Somewhere That’s Green”, “Dentist!” and “Suddenly Seymour”. The story, about a struggling floral shop on New York’s skid row, which may or may not be saved with nebbishy clerk Seymour Krelborn purchases a bizarre alien plant — which turns out to be a fast-growing man-eater! — features numerous memorable characters, including Seymour’s wanna-be girlfriend, Audrey (he names the bloodthirsty plant Audrey 2), Mr. Mushnik (Seymour’s florist boss) and Orin Scrivello (a sadistic dentist who gets a fine comeuppance). The music is cheery, despite the serial killer plot, and most stage productions feature a tremendous Audrey 2 plant puppet.

In 1986, a feature film version of the stage musical was released, featuring Rick Moranis as Seymour, Vincent Gardenia as Mr. Mushnik, and comedian Steve Martin as the evil dentist Orin Scrivello. The only cast member to transfer from Broadway to the feature film was Ellen Greene, who really “owns” the character of waif-like Audrey. The music for this film is basically the same as the stage musical, though the storyline was expanded for the film. This is a terrific adaptation of the musical, and should appeal to fans of both musicals and horror films.

The libraries have Little Shop of Horrors available in various formats — although not the original 1960 film. If you’re looking for a little horror with a heavy dose of black comedy, give Little Shop of Horrors a try. If you’re a fan of musicals, you’ll be humming the tunes from this one for quite some time to come! And if you ever have a chance to see a staged production of the off-Broadway musical, don’t pass it up — it’s a favorite for high school theater programs and community theaters around the country! My highest recommendations among the various versions are the soundtracks of both the off-Broadway musical and the film musical!

[ Wikipedia links for the various Little Shop of Horrors versions ] | [ Little Shop of Horrors at the Internet Broadway Database ] [ the film Little Shop of Horrors at the Internet Movie Database ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


There’s Someone Inside Your House
by Stephanie Perkins [YA Perkins]

Moving from Hawaii, running from some incident that is unclear to the reader, Makani Young has restarted her life with her grandmother in Nebraska. New friends, new job, new boyfriend. Things are going well until students from her high school start being murdered. First the lead of the school play, then the football star, and it continues. Makani’s boyfriend Ollie is thrust into the forefront of the investigation. Makani and Ollie try to clear his name and figure out who is committing the gruesome murders.

Part romance, part slasher-thriller, this book is a slightly odd combination. There are definitely some cheesy parts, but as a reader from Nebraska, there are also some comical parts. Some tense moments make this a good book for the month of October.

[ official There’s Someone Inside Your House web site ] | [ official Stephanie Perkins web site ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Screening Room

formatdvdWinchester
[DVD Winchester]

Having toured the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, I was looking forward to seeing this film, which was filmed (in part) in that huge, rambling structure. Add to that that I’m a fan of Helen Mirren, who portrays Sarah Winchester in the film, and I greatly anticipated what story the film-makers would tell.

I was hoping for a legitimate biographical story of Sarah Winchester, the widow who inherited the fortune built on the Winchester Repeating Rifle. She was a fascinating historical figure — supposedly haunted by the ghosts of every who had been killed by her family’s rifles. She started a never-ending construction project on her mansion in the countryside outside of San Jose, CA — the constant noise and bustle of construction supposedly kept some of the “spirits” at bay. Also, many of the bizarre and unrelated rooms she had built onto the house were designed specifically to contain and restrain vengeful ghosts. If you ever have the chance to see an actual documentary about Sarah and her house, or every find yourself with an opportunity to tour the house, don’t pass it up.

Unfortunately, the film they chose to make is much more of a traditional “horror” film, with a little historical semi-accuracy thrown in to provide flavor. Mirren as Winchester, and Jason Clarke as Dr. Eric Price, a visiting physician (brought in to help determine if Sarah is sane), both provide excellent performances, as do Sarah Snook and Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, as the young aide to Sarah, and her son living at the mansion. Those performances, and the marvelous set design and costuming, almost salvage this film. But the “shock” nature of the horror, and the limited views we get of the actual mansion, left me a bit disappointed. Horror fans may appreciate this one (and learn a little bit about a true historical person and location). But those seeking more than just standard horror fare may feel a bit let down.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for Winchester ] | [ official Winchester web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdYoung Frankenstein
[DVD Young]

This was a pretty funny movie that parodies Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel, which I haven’t read, so can’t compare and contrast. In the movie, a young doctor and medical professor in America gets a letter from his deceased grandfather’s estate in Transylvania requesting his presence. His last name is Frankenstein and because his grandfather was well known as being rumored to have reanimated a dead body, he does not enjoy people commenting on the matter. He dislikes it so much that he even insists that his name be pronounced differently, just to be taken more seriously. Despite his feelings on his family matters, he still makes the journey, leaving his fiancé behind in America; however, she eventually pays him a surprise visit. It’s very funny throughout, even his journey to his grandfather’s castle, during which he meets a woman who sort of ends up being his assistant. Once he arrives, he discovers in his grandfather’s papers that he did indeed bring someone back to life and there are notes recounting exactly how to do it. Curiosity gets the best of him so he tries it out – after collecting a dead body – and it works. It never ceases being humorous and I for one found it especially funny that Dr. Frankenstein is played by Gene Wilder who I know best as Willy Wonka from the older version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I would definitely watch this movie again and recommend it to anyone looking for a comedy.

[ Internet Movie Database page for this film ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

See the October 2008 review of Young Frankenstein by Scott C.

See the November 2016 review of the Young Frankenstein “making of” book by Mel Brooks, also by Scott C.


last updated April 2019
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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