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Staff Recommendations – September 2019

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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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September 2019 Recommendations

Clean Sweep
by Ilona Andrews (Andrews)

Clean Sweep is the first book in the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews. This series takes place around a magical inn in Texas that caters to supernatural and alien guests. Dina, the Innkeeper with a capital ‘I’, grew up in a family of Innkeepers, so she knows all about her duty to keep unusual guests safe–including from each other–and how to use the amazing powers she possesses on inn grounds.

Things are slow at the moment, with Dinah’s only guest being a galactic tyrant enjoying her peaceful retirement. (Or at least peaceful since the assassins gave up on trying to breach the inn’s defenses.) But when neighborhood dogs start showing up torn to bits on suburban lawns, Dinah struggles with her need to keep a low profile and not go around playing neighborhood detective. Maybe she can get her new, recently-out-of-the-military, not-bad-looking-at-all neighbor to do something about it. After all, Dinah can tell he has dangerous secrets of his own.

This is a fun urban fantasy and science fiction series that is published chapter-by-chapter on the authors’ website before being printed up as each book. “Ilona Andrews” is the pen name of a husband and wife team known for writing action-thriller romances with plenty of heat and magic. Clean Sweep is a great starting point for new readers. The second Innkeeper Chronicles book Sweep in Peace does feature character appearances from one their recently completed series which starts with the book On the Edge, so it’s not a bad idea to start with that series as another option.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, beginning with Cold Front, the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton, beginning with Guilty Pleasures, the Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris, beginning with Dead Until Dark, or the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, beginning with Moon Called.] [ official Innkeeper Chronicles page on the official Ilona Andrews web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Something Wicked
by Sarah Dale (YA Dale)

This is the first book in the “Zodiac Cusp Kids” Young Adult series that will appeal to adults as well. We follow three junior high friends – Angie, Jenny, and David – as they battle the supernatural in 1980’s Lincoln, NE. Think “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” except that our heroes are in junior high (but I’m betting we’ll follow them on into high school).

A well-written, fast-paced story as, in this story, the three teens encounter an otherworldly demon. The reader is quickly pulled into the tale in this page-turner that you can’t put down. No need to be familiar with Lincoln, NE to enjoy the story.

Nine books are planned in this series with the third one just recently published. Start with this title then follow in order Something Haunted and Something Lost.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Niceville, by Carsten Stroud, the first in a trilogy. Note, this is a more intense novel of the supernatural but a page-turner as well] [ official Sarah Dale Author Facebook page ] | [ official Sarah Dale Author Twitter feed ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Bingo Love, Volume 1: Jackpot Edition
by Tee Franklin and various others (741.5 Fra)

Bingo Love, Volume 1 is a graphic novel about two Black girls, Hazel and Mari, who meet at a church bingo event in 1963 and are best friends with secret crushes on each other for four years until they find out how the other feels. Their families pull them apart. They both marry men and have children and grandchildren. Decades later, at a church bingo event, they meet again and…let’s just say they don’t keep cool about it.

Bingo Love is a celebration of enduring love between women. It’s about beauty in old age. It’s also about complicated family situations. I would recommend it to anyone from older teens to those past retirement age. This is a happily ever after, after so much living.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Poppy Jenkins, by Clare Ashton, available through inter-library loan.] [ official Bingo Love web site ] | [ official Tee Franklin web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Star Wars ReviewsStar Wars: Alphabet Squadron
by Alexander Freed (Freed)

Alphabet Squadron is the spiritual successor to Michael Stackpole’s “X-Wing” series. It is so named because the squadron includes a mix of A-wing, B-wing, U-wing, X-wing and Y-wing starcraft. Much as the ships are a mish-mash hodgepodge, so are the pilots and the circumstances that lead them to becoming a squadron. Fans of the TV Series “Star Wars: Rebels” will enjoy Hera Syndulla showing up as a supporting character. This is a very good read for Star Wars fans who enjoy the parts of the universe that don’t involve lightsabers or the Force. The characters are deeply flawed and all the more interesting for it. The plot moves along nicely without sacrificing character development. It’s the first book of series and it requires being a fan of the books and TV series to fully get what’s going on. However, any Star Wars fan, regardless if they know who everyone in the book is and why they’re important, will enjoy this novel.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Twilight Company, or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, both by Alexander Freed, or Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig] [ official Alphabet Squadron page on Wookiepedia ] | [ official Alexander Freed web site ]

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 85 Years Old
by Hendrik Groen (Groen)

This book features a year in the life of Hendrik Groen. He is a dapper gent who tells it like it is, and doesn’t pull his punches. He’s not “vulgar” like his friend Evert, but they’re both ornery and living large in an old folks home in Holland. His favorite activities include going on outings with his buddies in a parade of motor scooters, traveling in a pack with the Old But Not Dead Club, and taking naps. Hendrik shares with us a friendly window into life as it really is in a care facility. Among the topics discussed are euthanasia, adult diapers, dementia, kids-these-days, and the petty squabbles of any group of humans living in close quarters. All done with a droll sense of humor.

Reading Hendrik’s diary-style entries, reminds me of sitting on the porch swing with my grandpa on a summer night, listening to him talk to the neighbors while we all waited for it to get late enough to go to bed. I felt like a kid again, listening to the grown-ups and trying to keep quiet so I could overhear their secret talk.

A book that reminds you of summer nights and a very special grandpa just can’t be beat.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 years old, by Hendrik Groen, or No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall-Smith (for a similar cozy theme).] [ publisher Penguin UK’s official Hendrik Groen web page ]

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Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Heart-Land: Growing Up in the Middle of Everything
by Douglas Keister (Biography Keister)

The title tells it all. Douglas Keister reminisces about growing up as the middle child, in the middle of the 20th century, in Lincoln, Nebraska – the middle of the US.

He does so with a humor that’s both sweet and laugh-out-loud:

July 4th – “My Fountain with Report was always a crowd-pleaser. Take a generic fountain, bore a small hole in the bottom, insert cherry bomb, secure with tape, light fountain. Just as the fountain was fizzling out, the last glowing embers would ignite the cherry bomb’s fuse, then a few seconds later there would be a spectacular explosion. The actual trajectory of the fireball was somewhat unpredictable which gave it a high rating on Doug’s Danger Scale.”

Weather – “Nebraskan’s are obsessed with weather. The prime reason is that most Nebraskans are rooted in an agrarian lifestyle – weather means dollars gained or lost. The second reason is entertainment value. Unlike states like California where there are endless days of bucolic sameness, Nebraska has real weather, often two or three seasons in the same day.”

He also touches upon a defining moment bonding most Lincolnites:

“By December (1957) the first seeds of my loss of innocence were sown. In safe, clean, white-bread Lincoln, Nebraska, a troubled young man and his 14-year-old girlfriend would do some terrible things – horrible, unthinkable things…By January 29th Lincoln, Nebraska was in lockdown. The governor called in the National Guard; Jeeps with mounted machine guns patrolled the streets and armed parents rushed to schools to drive their children home.”

Much of what he writes about are the same experiences we’ve all had in our youth. It feels as if we’re chatting with him over coffee and sharing stories. You’ll read portions of the book aloud to whomever is sitting next to you. This is a quiet, enjoyable, quick read that will stay with you.

[ official Heart-Land page on the official Douglas Keister web site ]

See also: Kim J’s review of Heart-Land from January 2015

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


This is How You Lose the Time War
by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Mohtar)

This is How You Lose the Time War is a science fiction novella that reads like a cross between a short story collection and an epistolary novel (plot development through letters). Two very different versions of utopia in Earth’s far future are struggling against each other to ensure their own existence across timeline strands: one focused on technological advancement, the other on biological advancement. Each side sends its agents back Terminator-style to make changes through violence, rescues, nudges this way and that but seldom through direct confrontation. Then the top agent from one future leaves a note for the top enemy with the label: “Burn before reading.”

Soon, Red and Blue — as they call each other — find that they may be the only ones across the ages who can understand each other. Structurally, this book alternates between showing Red’s current mission, then how Red finds a creatively-delivered message from Blue, then Blue’s letter…and then the next chapter switches over to Blue’s point of view for her mission, discovery, and reading of Red’s message. The missions stretch from the age of dinosaurs to an age of spaceships, and then farther on. It reminded me of Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities with how eager I was to explore each new setting.

Red and Blue’s chapters were written by two authors, with no indication of which author went with which character. By the end, I had a strong feeling that turned out to be correct when I read an authors interview, but I think some of the fun here is in the guessing.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the enemies-to-allies trope, this is your sugar high. I expect this to contend for awards for literary fiction, science fiction, and queer fiction.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Honey Month, by Amal El-Mohtar, Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone, Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks, Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston or Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino.] [ publisher’s official This is How You Lose the Time War web site ] | [ official Amal El-Mohtar web site ] | [ official Max Gladstone web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Sasha Dolls Through the Years
by Dorisanne Osborn (745.592 qOsb)

The Sasha doll was originally made in the 1940’s by Swiss artist Sasha Morgenthaler. They continue to be popular in Europe and have a strong following among doll collectors in the United States. Their have painted faces with Mona Lisa smiles, poseable heads, arms and legs. They are surprisingly expressive with their simple lines.

Sasha Dolls Through the Years is a difficult book to find; it’s an excellent resource, thoroughly researched and with page after page of clear color photographs, describes in detail the history and evolution of the Sasha dolls, their faces, their body styles and compositions, and their clothing and accessories.

This book is mostly of interest to doll aficionados, but it’s one of the many gems here at Lincoln City Libraries.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Fashionable Terri Lee dolls, by Peggy Wiedman Casper, Paper dolls of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s : identification & value guide, by AUTHOR or TITLE, by AUTHOR] [ official www.sashadoll.com web site ]

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Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


hooplaYesterday: Motion Picture Soundtrack
mostly performed by Himesh Patel, mostly written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

This is the soundtrack album to the film Yesterday, which came out earlier in 2019 and starred Himesh Patel, Lily James and others. The concept of the film is that a struggling British indie-folk-rock singer, Jack Malik (Patel), on the verge of giving up his musical dreams of being discovered, is in an automobile accident during a mysterious global blackout and awakens to discover that he’s the only person alive who remembers The Beatles, and their hundreds of “unforgettable” songs. In the course of the film, Jack makes the decision to recreate all those legendary songs for an audience that has never heard them before — so, from memory, he writes out the music for the classic Beatles hits, modified for a single singer — himself. The film goes into a lot more layers, and I’ll save that review for when the DVD of the movie is released (soon!), but the soundtrack album came out on CD, and has been available via the libraries’ Hoopla digital service, since the time when the film was in theaters.

The soundtrack includes 27 tracks. One is Jack Malik’s own original “The Summer Song” (a good example of why he hadn’t hit it big on his own), seven others are brief interstitial instrumental pieces from the film’s orchestral score composer Daniel Pemberton. And the remaining 19 tracks are actor Himesh Patel as Jack Malik, singing the Lennon/McCartney hits. Some are changed very little from their original versions, while others have had major alterations to them. “Yesterday”, “Let it Be”, “The Long and Winding Road” and “Hey Jude” all pack emotional punch, if you’ve seen the film and can picture their use in the context of the film’s events, but they’re also superbly done covers of the songs just in their own right. Patel has a good singing voice, and carries off the Beatles songs well, if not expertly. The CD had a “bonus” track — within the film, Ed Sheeran appears as himself, albeit in a Beatles-less universe, and advises Jack Malik during the recording of “Hey Jude”, that it would work better as “Hey Dude”. The bonus track is the full-length version of the studio recording of “Hey Dude”.

Honestly, this album works best if you’ve seen the film, Yesterday, but as a collection of “covers” of Beatles songs, its stands perfectly fine on its own. Personally, I loved the film — it’s one of my favorite films of 2019, and as such, I found this album to be tremendous. Not as good as listening to the actual, original, Beatles performing their own music. But still highly recommended as a fun album to listen to!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try all the original Beatles albums, from whence all this beautiful music originally came.] [ official IMdB page for Yesterday ] | [ Yesterday soundtrack track listing on Allmusic.com ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Thornhill
by Pam Smy (j Smy)

A chilling mystery told through a combination of diary entries from 1982, and drawings from 2017, “Thornhill” is a wonderful ghost story that will delight and haunt young and grown alike. It deals with bullying, and the complications of growing up in a young girls orphanage in the 80’s. The beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations are haunting and brimming with detail, and will enthrall readers with every page.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a novel in words and pictures, by Brian Selznick, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte or The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.] [ publisher’s official Thornhill web page ] | [ official Pam Smy blog ]

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Recommended by Elanor J.
Gere Branch Library


Screening Room

formatdvdDickensian
[DVD Dickensian]

For anyone who loves the stories and characters created by Charles Dickens, you will love this creative television series that takes some of Dickens’ most beloved characters and brings them all together in a story filled with plot twists and unexpected events each episode. The story begins with the death of Miss Havisham’s wealthy father and brings together such unlikely neighbors as Jacob Marley, Miss Havisham, Bob Cratchit and Mr. Bumble. The cast is excellent, but I was especially impressed with the performances made by actors Stephen Rea as Inspector Bucket, Anton Lesser as Fagan and John Heffernan as Jaggers. If you love Dickens and enjoy a good mystery, you will want to check out this series.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official Dickensian series web site ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdThe Hurricane Heist
[DVD Hurricane]

This film starts off with an action-packed flashback to Hurricane Andrew, and doesn’t let up on the action for more than a few moments from that point onward. Co-written by a team of writers, and directed by Rob Cohen (creator of the Fast & The Furious film series), this film is a caper wrapped in a disaster story.

Will (Toby Kebbell) and Breeze (Ryan Kwanten) are two brothers who lived through the trauma of Hurricane Andrew that killed their father back in 1992. Will has gone on to become a meteorologist, working in the field in a specially-designed vehicle to track and study storm cells. Breeze has become a mechanical engineer. when a new 2018 Hurricane “Tammy” threatens their hometown, Will is eager to study it, and Breeze is lackadaisical and willing to evacuate like the rest of the town’s populace. Meanwhile, Casey (Maggie Grace) is a federal officer working at the nearby Federal Mint facility that is responsible for shredding over $600,000,000 in old bills that have been gathered at the site — only the shredder has broken down.

Turns out…that’s part of a big-time heist scheme designed to allow a team of bad guys to come into the mint and steal the money under the cover of the town’s hurricane evacuation. Casey, who’s left the facility to get Breeze (as a contracted repairman) tumbles to the scheme and escapes the bad guys, then teams up with Will to try to figure out how to rescue Breeze (and the other mint staff) and foil the heist. All while one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history is raging around them.

The acting is terrific across the board in this film. I wasn’t familiar at all with either of the actors playing the brothers, and knew Maggie Grace only from the TV series LOST. Ben Cross and Ralph Ineson, as two of the “bad guys” were both recognizable, but otherwise it was a cast of “unknowns”, which was refreshing.

The stunt-work and physical effects work were intensive, as was the CGI. For me the level of believability for The Hurricane Heist was pretty much nil, but that didn’t bother me — this was a film where you turn your logical brain off and just get carried along by the plot/action. It was a lot of fun.

I particularly enjoyed watching the special features on this disc. Among them, there are interviews with director Rob Cohen, who share some unflinchingly honest comments about the state of Hollywood movie-making today.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdThe Kid Who Would Be King
[DVD j Kid]

A fun and engaging youth-oriented take on the King Arthur mythology, with a little heavy-handed lecturing thrown in for good measure.

Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of Andy Serkis, famed for his special-effects-aided performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films), stars as Alex, a pre-teen living with his single mom in a British suburb. He’s not one of the popular kids, but he does stand up for his bullied friends, including Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), a portly but cheerful nerd. When the two main bullies at the school try to fight him after class, Alex flees, and ends up in a seemingly abandoned and collapsing construction site. He discovers a sword sticking up out of a stone, and sucessfully draws it, with no audience to see him.

The action of pulling Excaliber does bring Merlin out of hiding, who realizes he must find Arthur’s inheritor and assemble a team of knights to do battle with Morgana, who is also returning to the mortal world…in search of Excaliber herself.

It takes a while for the young-appearing Merlin (portrayed by Angus Imrie as a teen, and by Patrick Stewart as an older version) to convince Alex and Bedders of the truth, and they end up surprisingly teaming up with the bullies, Lance and Kaye, to go on a quest for Alex’s missing father, who may hold the secret of where to defeat Morgana.

The kids are engaging, particularly Serkis as a very earnest young Alex, and Imrie as an intense Merlin. The special effects, as our heroes battles Morgana’s resurrected undead minions, are pretty impressive. There are humor, sadness, treachery, honor and nobility. There are multiple quests, and character growth for most of the young leads. The cinematography is noteworthy, with scenes along the coast and in the English countryside that are gorgeous, and a final battle between the forces of good and evil on the grounds of the middle-school which all the kids attend.

Yeah, there are silly and unbelievable things, but in the end, I enjoyed this film very much. There were moments that were breathtaking, such as the Lady of the Lake presenting the sword to Alex after he’s faltered in his quest. And those moments more than made up for any failing in this kid-oriented film!

[ If you liked this film, you may also enjoy Excaliber (1981) — my favorite retelling of the Arthurian legend, starring Nigel Terry and Nicol Williamson, though it is definitely not for kids. And Camelot, the classic 1967 musical, starring Richard Harris, is another fun telling of this tale. ] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Kid Who Would Be King web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdMr. Right
[DVD Mr.]

This was a fun oddball cross-over between rom-com and violent action. Anna Kendrick plays Martha, one of her stock “quirky”, neurotic young women, fresh off a break-up with her boyfriend and leery of getting involved with anyone new. Sam Rockwell plays Francis, the charming and equally quirky man she crosses paths with only to have them “click”, relationship-wise. They seem perfect for each other. But the “perfect” turns out to be flawed, when she discovers that he’s a former hit-man, now on the run from the bad guys who had hired him, and from his former “killing” trainer, who’s frustrated that Francis has left the business. He may only kill bad guys now, but that doesn’t mean violence and mayhem aren’t following him around.

Kendrick and Rothwell seem like an odd pairing, but they have good chemistry, and watching Martha evolve as a character from wishy-washy to “badass” was fascinating. Tim Roth provides great support as the former mentor of Francis, who’s also after him. And rapper RZA has a comic turn as “Shotgun Steve”, one of the bad guys’ “muscle”, who turns out to have a personality of his own. None of the “bad guys” really stood out, though.

The violence is fairly extreme, and the coarse language flies fast and heavy. But the snappy dialog is funny, and the relationship between Martha and Francis really made this film pay off in the end. Recommended, with warnings for violence and language.

[ If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy Grosse Pointe Blank from 1997, similar in theme and tone. ] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Mr. Right web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated September 2019
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