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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS

September 2009 Recommendations

book cover  Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen

A classic tale of romance, scandal and social prejudice, this book is as relevant today as it was when it was written! I also recommend the 1980 BBC television miniseries production of the novel over all other adaptations. Elizabeth Garvie is the quintessential Elizabeth Barrett.
[Pride and Prejudice is available in a variety of different editions and formats. This catalog link should take you to a master list of all versions of this tale that are currently available at the libraries.]

[ Pride and Prejudice page on Wikipedia ] | [ The Republic of Pemberley web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is of material appropriate for a Youth or Young Adult audienceThe Bagthorpe Saga
by Helen Cresswell

This series, although written for children, will appeal to anyone with a taste for the outre, the eccentric, the slightly off the wall, the outrageously funny. The titles are: Ordinary Jack, Absolute Zero, Bagthorpe's Unlimited, Bagthorpes v the World, Bagthorpes Abroad, Bagthorpes Haunted, Bagthorpes Liberated (plus two more our library does not own; use your interlibrary loan privileges and ask for Bagthorpes Besieged and The Bagthorpe Triangle) Meet the wacky Bagthorpe clan: Grandpa, who is selectively deaf. Grandma who loves in order: herself; her dead and often lamented cat Thomas; and that shining jewel of a child, her granddaughter Daisy Parker. Henry Parker, Grandpa and Grandma's son, who becomes easily irate at the antics of his family. He is a script writer and often disappears into his study to work--although he often listens at the keyhole to the antics going on outside. Laura Bagthorpe, Henry's wife, who attempts, and usually fails, to keep sanity in the family. Her alter ego is Stella Bright, advice columnist. Rosie Bagthorpe, Henry and Laura's precocious daughter. William Bagthorpe, Henry and Laura's eldest son. Jack Bagthorpe, Henry and Laura's youngest son and the Ordinary Jack of one of the titles. His attempts to break out of his "ordinary" rut in Ordinary Jack end in his (faked) reputation as a prophet. Celia Bagthorpe Parker, Henry's fey and elfin sister. Russell "Uncle" Parker, Celia's husband, who drives sports cars, often spewing gravel as he drives up to the Bagthorpe home; he is wealthy and there is some mystery about the source of his income. He needs the money to pay for the havoc his daughter wrecks. He is totally devoted to Celia and will do anything to further her comfort. Daisy Parker, the only child (thank goodness) of Celia and Russell. Daisy owns a beribboned goat named Billy Goat Gruff. She talks to an invisible friend named 'Arry 'Awk. She delights in setting fires. She calls Grandma Bagthorpe Grandma Bag and Henry is Uncle Bag. In Bagthorpe's Unlimited she becomes charmed by her cousins' plot to grow maggots. In Bagthorpes v the World Daisy holds a number of funerals. Aunt Celia calls it her "Intimations of Mortality phase." Daisy is an enfant terrible. Mrs. Fosdyke, the Bagthorpe cook, who fascinates her friends the Mesdames Pye and Bates down at the local pub, the Fiddler's Arms with her tales of the family. Zero, Jack's dog, who becomes a dog food commercial sensation in Absolute Zero. Will the Bagthorpes win more contests? (They enter a great many in Absolute Zero.) Will they establish the record for the world's longest daisy chain (in Bagthorpe's Unlimited). The television program Night Court is not a book, but if you were a fan of that program, you will undoubtedly enjoy this irrepressible Bagthorpe series.

[ Bagthorpe Saga page on Wikipedia ] | [ Helen Cresswell's Literary Legacy on the BBC web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Quilter's Complete Guide
by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter [746.46 Fon 2000]

One of the essential books for quilters of all skill levels. Discusses basic tools, supplies, and fabrics. Demonstrates skills such as flying geese, stars, the math needed for half-square and quarter-square triangles, appliques, paper-piecing, borders, mitering, etc. This book covers it all. Illustrations and photos on every page. You'll refer to this book again and again. If nothing else browse through it for the gorgeous illustrations of quilt blocks and quilts. [If you like this, you may also enjoy Basic Quiltmaking Techniques for Borders & Bindings by Mimi Dietrich.]
[Also available in an earlier 1993 edition.]

[ official Fons and Porters commercial web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Simple Art of Napkin Folding
by Linda Hetzer [642.7 Het]

A wonderful little book on how to fold your napkins into fancy designs. Great illustrations that clearly demonstrate each fold. Covers some of the basic, easier folds on up to the really intricate patterns (and who know they all had names?). Includes guidelines on table settings and napkin placement. Also a section on stain removal, and embroidering initials.

[ publisher's official Simple Art of Napkin Folding web page ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  War Child
by Emmanuel Jal [Biography Jal]

This is a heartbreaking, gruesome account of civil war, survival, and triumph against all odds. Jal lost his family at an early age, became a child soldier, and then a rap star speaking out against the on-going horror. Recommended for military enthusiasts, and those interested in contemporary, international issues. [If you liked this, you might also enjoy A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Solider, by Ishmael Beah and What is the What, by Dave Eggers.]
[Also available in book-on-cd format.]

[ official War Child book and movie page on the official Emmanuel Jal web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Jim W.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDDead Wrong
by J.A. Jance

Joanna Brady is Sheriff of an Arizona county adjacent to the Mexican border. In this installment, #12 in the series, Sheriff Brady is very pregnant and eager for the birth of her second child. Several intriguing cases and personal issues occupy her attention in this story including dog fighting, the brutal attack of one of her staff, a carjacking, an opinionated mother-in-law, and murder with long-ago ties to a previous case that her father had investigated. Interesting mysteries, likeable characters, a very satisfying story. The reader does an excellent job and adds to the feel of the story. [In you like this, you may also enjoy the works of Tony Hillerman, with their American Southwest settings.]
[Also available in print, downloadable audio, and Large Print formats.]

[ publisher's official Dead Wrong web page ] | [ official J.A. Jance web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Color of Water
by James McBride [305.8 McB]

The author explores and tackles the hot-button issue of racial identity by confronting all the issues that haunted him in his past. He pays homage to the courage, strength, and wisdom of his Jewish mother, who refused to be defeated by all the bigotry, hatred, and abuse the world fostered on her and her children. [If you like this one, you may also enjoy Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane and Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, and Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin.] [One of the 2009 One Book - One Lincoln finalists.]
[Also available in downloadable audio, book-on-cd, and Large Print formats.]

[ Color of Water Wikipedia page ] | [ official James McBride web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Jim W.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This...and Other Things That Strike Me as Funny
by Bob Newhart [817 New]

I've always been a fan of Bob Newhart, ever since getting hooked on The Bob Newhart Show back in the 1970s, and subsequently tracking down his Grammy-winning Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart comedy album(s). So...when this autobiography/memoir appeared back in 2006, I couldn't pass it up. Bob's book is a very entertaining read, filled with lots of recollections of high points in his comedy career, but after finishing it my first feeling is that the book didn't really add up to much. It's very light-weight as biographies go, and even fairly weightless in comparison to other similar humor books. While a lot of page space is taken up with his earlier comedy career in standup, and his first real breakthrough on television (The Bob Newhart Show), his later hit, Newhart, although long-running and tremendously popular, only gets a few pages -- about the casting and about the unforgettable final episode. And his two lesser-know shows, Bob, and George and Leo get less than a paragraph combined. The book came out before he became involved in the recent series of made-for-TV-movies about The Librarian, in which he has a major role. Overall, although this book is a fun read, I don't know that I'd recommend it for anyone but a die-hard Bob Newhart fan, and even then if you're a big fan you've probably heard most of the stories he tells already, in his many talk-show appearances. On the other hand, it will bring back fond memories of seeing him chatting with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show!
[Also available in Large Print format.]

[ official Bob Newhart web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is a recommended web siteThe OTRRpedia
from information compiled by The Old Time Radio Researchers Group

This website is devoted to old time radio. A search for programs or episodes is currently up and running and soon a search for radio talent will also be available. (People are already entered, they just can't be searched, but if you look for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes there is a link to Basil Rathbone. There is also an index to look through for people.) One enjoyable feature is a radio diary. Enter a date and you will find what programs aired on that date. The information is compiled by the Old Time Radio Researchers Group. Clicking on that link brings up other links. Have a ball by clicking on the Publications link, then the Magazines Page. A list of magazines published primarily in the 30s and 40s comes up. Click on a title, then the original issue date comes up. Click on one, then wait just a little bit for it to load (the entire issue has been scanned) and you can actually read the magazine. The articles include the well known (Burns and Allen) and the not so famous (Irene Rich). Just one gripe: no sounds. You can't listen to the memorable theme for The Green Hornet (The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov), so check it out on compact disc here at the library! You also can't listen to some of the great old commercials, like for Cream of Wheat or Pepsodent. (You'll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.) [If you like this, consider the following: There are LOTS of websites for individual programs (try looking for Vic and Sade; Victor Gook and his wife Sade live in a little house halfway up the next block. Vic is the Exalted Big Dipper of the Drowsy Venus Chapter of the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way. He is an accountant for a kitchenware company and he is sometimes asked to submit articles to the Kitchenware Quarterly!) Of course the library has many books on radio programs and you can experience the progams themselves on compact disc.]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Aliens and Alien Societies
by Stanley Schmidt [808.388 Sch]

This is the first volume in a four-volume set put out by Writers Digest Books under the umbrella Science Fiction Writing Series. This entire series is highly recommendable, and you'll probably see the other volumes reviewed here by me in the future. Aliens and Alien Societies features 11 chapters, an extensive bibliography of related source books, and a 7-page glossary of terms that are common to science fiction writing that focuses on believable science. Schmidt is the long-time editor of Analog Science Fiction magazine and has a PhD in physics. He provides scientifically-detailed, yet easy-to-understand explanations about astronomical history, biochemical basics, bioengineering, the logical underpinning of alien societies, creative use of non-human language, and the motivational psychology of non-human species. I really enjoyed the examples he spread throughout the book, from established science fiction authors, of alien species, societies and cultures as found in genre literature of the past 40 years. If you're an aspiring writer of science fiction, whose stories are likely to feature aliens in an alien environment, or humans interacting with aliens, this volume should be required reading.

[ A conversation with Stanley Schmidt at sfsite.com ] | [ Stanley Schmidt page at SFWA ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  In the Shadow of No Towers
by Art Spiegelman [SOS 741.5 Spi]

In 2004, graphic artist Art Spiegelman (Pulitzer winner for Maus), a New Yorker, released this oversized hardback compilation of a series of ten full-page graphical remembrances of the events of September 11, 2001 and their political and social aftermath. With a tone ranging from the terror of not knowing the fate of his daughter (whose school was at the foot of the Towers), to inchoate outrage at the Bush administration's political and goverrnmental handling of the "terrorist" issues, Spiegelman has created a 9/11 work of startling clarity and emotion. Spiegelman's artistic style ranges from highly realistic, to extremely cartoony, and he frequently ends up using the "mice" visual persona that he used so effectively to portray himself, his family and the Jewish people in Maus. People with a strong right-leaning political stance may not necessary appreciate this work, but it is a significant contribution to post-9/11 literature. An extra feature in this compilation is several pages of older newspaper comics from the late 1800s through the 1930s, by a variety of other artists. These include entries such as the Kin-der-Kids and Little Nemo, among others. Since Spiegelman's own works in this volume were full-page newspaper strips, seeing these historical examples from other eras places Spiegelman in an interesting historical context. I found this entire book to be a fascinating read.

[ Wikipedia entry for this book ] | [ Wikipedia entry for Art Spiegelman ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemBottle Shock
[DVD Bottle]

This 2008 film is a historical drama, set in the mid-1970s, about the California wine industry and the event that rocketed California vintners onto the world stage -- the blind Paris wine tasting of 1976, in which a California wine beat out a French wine in a blind taste test, for the first time in history. The film has a marvelous little cast, each of whom gets their moment to shine. Most prominent (probably) among the stars is Alan Rickman, who plays Steven Spurrier, a snooty English wine snob trying to run an under-patronized wine store in Paris. In an effort to try to ingratiate himself with the French wine community, Spurrier proposes to sponsor an international wine tasting event...sure that this will show of the quality of the French product in comparison to the inferior wines from other countries, including the up-and-coming wineries of California's Napa and Sonoma valleys. Spurrier flies to California to select a variety of wines to take back for his competition, only to be stunned to discover that many of the California wines are of exceptionally high quality. Bill Pullman plays Jim Barrett, a man who quit his button-down office job to try to live the life of a vintner. Chris Pine (James T. Kirk in this summer's Star Trek reboot), plays Jim's son, Bo -- an unfocused young man in his twenties who suddenly finds his calling. Other cast members include Rachael Taylor as Sam (a sexy intern), Freddy Rodriguez as Gustavo Brambila (one of Jim's vineyard workers with a dream of starting his own vineyard), and Eliza Dushku as a bar owner with a pivotal role to play in the Barretts' lives. It's not giving much away to say that the Barretts' wine plays a historical role in the '76 taste testing, which launched American wines onto the cover of Time Magazine. What's fun about this film is the way we get to the pivotal moment in France. The performances of Pullman, Pine and Rodriguez are all laced with emotional nuance...you really get to caring about each of their characters. Rickman, too, turns in a multi-layered performance. His "wine snob", introduced in the film's first few moments, grows with each California winery he stops at, and he really held the film together very well. All in all, despite an unnecessary 3-way romantic entanglement, I enjoyed this one tremendously, and highly recommend it...especially for Rickman or Pine fans.

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

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemDan in Real Life
[DVD Dan]

Dan in Real Life (2007) starred Steve Carrell as an advice columnist, single-father to three daughters, following the untimely death four years ago of his wife. As the film begins, Dan is bundling up his brood for a traditional annual trip to his parents home on the Bay in Rhode Island, where a family reunion awaits them. Dan has pretty much focused exclusively on his duties as a father and as a writer, leaving no time for an emotionally satisfying life of his own. After they all get to Rhode Island, Dan has the opportunity to escape for a few hours. Hanging out in a bookstore, Dan connects unexpectedly with Marie, who's passing through on her way to join her boyfriend. Dan falls hard for Marie after only a few hours, and learns to his dismay (once he returns to the homestead) that she was on her way to his own family reunion...she's his brother Mitch's new girlfriend. Complications, of course, arise when they both realize the strength of the attraction they each feel for each other, and straight-arrow Dan must try, for his brother's sake, to not be attracted to Marie...a hopeless cause. Throw in lots of emotional angst, a small amount of physical slapstick humor, an awkward teen romance, and tons of family "togetherness" and you've got Dan in Real Life. All in all, I found this film to be a sweet charmer, with just enough goofy humor to make it not-quite-sappy. If you're looking for a nice family comedy/drama with some good performances, especially from Steve Carrell. I recommend this one. Oh, and the DVD extras include 20 minutes of deleted scenes, many of which I thought would have been fine if left in the film. [A side note -- this film had a marvelous soundtrack, also available for checkout at the library!]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Dan in Real Life web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemDanger UXB
by John Hawkesworth [DVD Hawkesworth]

UXB stands for UneXploded Bomb. This series takes place in London during WWII when Germany was dropping bombs on Britain. Not all the bombs exploded and as the public discovered these UXBs they contacted this squad for deactivation and removal of the devices. You follow the men of this squad in their lives, loves, and as they attempt to disarm the bombs. Think of the TV shows "Emergency!" or "Adam-12" but this time they're bomb experts in WWII London. Originally broadcast on PBS and brought to you by the same person who brought you "Upstairs Downstairs."

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemRoxie Hart
[DVD Roxie]

Roxie Hart is the comedy/drama version of the musical 'Chicago.' In the Chicago of the roaring 20s, women seem to literally get away with murder. Roxie, who is innocent, agrees to be charged with murder: she'll get off and her budding theatrical career will take off. This film is quite funny and since Ginger Rogers is the star, she performs the Big Apple in one scene. The dance steps, of course, are quite polished and in keeping with her character. Unless you are an old film afficianado, the rest of the cast may not be as recognizable as Ginger, but watch the film anyway and enjoy their performances. Spring Byington as the reporter Mary Sunshine and Lynne Overman (who?, I hear you say) are quite good, especially Overman. Iris Adrian, who is always enjoyable to watch, is fine as hard-as-nails 2 Gun Gertie Baxter. Watch for Phil Silvers in a small role. William Frawley (Fred Mertz) is also in the cast. The pacing is great and the laughs keep coming. [If you like this one, you may also enjoy It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert and The Thin Man series with Myrna Loy and William Powell.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemWe're No Angels
[DVD We're]

A delightful, light-hearted movie with Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov as three criminals who've just escaped from Devil's Island. They plan to rob a local store of clothing and money to escape by boat but end up as roofers for the store manager (Leo G. Carroll). While on the roof they learn of the family goings-on and decide to help. Basil Rathbone is wonderfully nasty as the cousin who owns the store and is planning to fire Carroll - whose daughter is in love with Rathbone's nephew who is turning into a miniature version of Rathbone. And don't forget Ray's poisonous pet snake, a death in the family (execution? murder?), a forged will, and the police roaming the island for the escaped three. Who knew Bogart and Ray could do comedy? Especially since we're used to seeing Aldo Ray as a nasty who should get it in the end. A fun film for the entire family.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated September 2009
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