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

March 2010 Recommendations

book cover  Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less
by Jeffrey Archer

Another caper story. After a savvy and wealthy American, Harvey Metcalfe, through a naïve employee, cons four Brits into investing into an oil company that then goes broke—as planned. One of the four, an Oxford don, invites the others to his lodgings for dinner and explains his idea: each of the four will come up with a plan to relieve Metcalfe of his earnings when he comes to England for Wimbledon, a ritual he follows every year. They will recover what they've lost, plus expenses: not a penny more, not a penny less. The four are: Stephen Bradley, Oxford don; Jean Pierre Lamanns, art dealer; Adrian Tryner, a Harley Street doctor; and James Clarence Spencer, Viscount Brigsley, heir to the 5th Earl of Louth. They agree to meet in a week's time to apprise and appraise the various plans. Every one except James comes up with a plan; James, however, has met a girl...The plot begins its many hairpin movements when they implement the various schemes—and as James struggles to devise one.

[ official Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less page on the official Jeffrey Archer web site ]

related lists See more books like this in Rianne's Books With a Twist booktalk booklist
Review Score - 7
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceGoing Bovine
by Libba Bray

Going Bovine is about Cameron Smith who has Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (the human equivalent of Mad Cow Disease) and is visited occasionally by a punk angel named Dulcie; he goes on a road trip w/ a dwarf and a lawn gnome. Locus compares it to Don Quixote with Ken Kesey Electric Koolaid overtones.

[Also available in book-on-cd format.]

[ official Going Bovine / Libba Bray web site ]

Recommended by Susan S.
Eiseley Branch Library


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book cover  Strange things Happen: A Life With the Police, Polo and Pygmies
by Stewart Copeland [Music 781.66 Cop]

Most people think of Stewart Copeland, when they think of him, as the former drummer for the Police, but his life is full of many other experiences and identities. Copeland grew up living in the Middle East, as the son of a CIA agent. He begins his story in the present, looking back on how this unusual upbringing shaped him and how his current life of settled prosperity conflicts with his image as rock icon and rebel. Stories from the road and from the stage alternate with tales of polo ponies and making films about Pygmies in the Congo -- and it's all TRUE -- as far as we know. Readers should not dismiss this book as just another self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing rock star bio. Copeland can really write, and his life story is both exciting and grounded in genuine self-examination. The only bad thing about Strange things Happen is that it will make you long for more autobiographies written with this much candor and in such lively, well-crafted style.

[ official Strange Things Will Happen... page on the official Stewart Copeland web site ]

Recommended by Lisa V.
Eiseley Branch Library


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book cover  A Guide to the Birds of East Africa
by Nicholas Drayson

This is NOT a field guide to birds, but a fiction book. The setting is Kenya and we’re introduced to quiet, widowed Mr. Malik who has been secretly in love (for several years) with Rose Mbikwa, also widowed, who leads the weekly bird walks. He’s worked up his nerve to invite Rose to attend the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball – THE social engagement of the year. But into Malik’s social club, the Asadi Club, walks his old school nemesis, Harry Khan, a handsome ladies’ man who’s back home on vacation. He’s just met Rose and has decided to invite her himself. Malik protests and the club arranges a challenge: whoever counts the most birds in one week may ask Rose to the dance. The reader is not overwhelmed with birding terms or activities, and an interest in birds is not necessary for the enjoyment of this book. The focus is on the three main characters and their activities (including a surprise revelation about Mr. Malik). This is a slow-paced tale, but never boring, as the storyteller quietly unfolds the background of everyone involved. I won’t tell you who finally wins the day with Rose, but I will say the story ends appropriately and you’ll like the ending. You won’t be able to put the book down (odd to think of a quiet tale as a real page-turner, but it is), and you’ll be sorry when the story has ended.

[ Reviews of this book on LibraryThing ] | [ Penguin Publishing's page for Nicholas Drayson ]

Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Fleet Street Murders
by Charles Finch

This Victorian era series has shades of Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, Charles Lennox walked the fog-shrouded streets of London. Holmes had the loyal Watson while Lennox had James Dallington. Both men dealt with unimaginative Scotland Yard detectives. Holmes bested Lestrade and Lennox outdid Exeter. That is where the similarities end. Lennox was a warm man with many personal relationships while Holmes was aloof and acerbic. The Fleet Street Murders opens with the near-simultaneous murders of two journalists who lived in opposite parts of London. Gerald Poole is suspected of orchestrating the crimes. His motive? The journalists wrote critical articles about Poole's father while he was on trial for treason. James Dallington is convinced that his friend, Poole, is innocent and compels Lennox to investigate the murders. Lennox agrees even though that means that he has to balance the investigation with his run for a parliamentary seat. [If you like this, you may also enjoy: The St. Just series by G.M. Malliett; the Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn; The Thomas Pitt series by Anne Perry; and The Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.]

[ Publisher's Fleet Street Murders web page ] | [ official Charles Finch web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Art of Avatar
by Lisa Fitzpatrick [791.43 qFit]

This book reminded me of the pleasures of reading "The Art of..." film books all the way back to Ralph McQuarrie's "The Art of Star Wars" back in the mid-1970s. This volume is filled with beautiful painted "concept illustrations" that helped the digital artists design the computerized world of Pandora in James Cameron's film Avatar. In addition to color paintings, there are numerous b&w sketches and photos from the films to show what the finished effects work looked like. Although there is minimal text, what is there helps to explain the artists' intents as they created the various landscapes and creatures of the Avatar universe. Particularly appealing are two extended foldout pages that show various incremental versions of both the Nav'i and Pandora. An excellent resource for movie fans, particularly of SF and Fantasy films. My only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that this book is fairly thin, in comparison to other "The Art of..." movie books, so I'm glad I checked it out from the library instead of buying a copy!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for Avatar ]

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


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book cover  Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out to See Them All
by Stephen Fry [917.3 Fry]

A companion book to the BBC series of the same title, this offers an outsider's view of the U.S. (although Fry has homes here and resident alien status) as he travels the country, state to state. Fry, perhaps best know to Americans as P.G. Wodehouse's "Jeeves" on television, is an accomplished comic, actor, and writer. Fry's attitude toward his subject is at times quite superior but at others completely in awe of the vast array of people and places that make up the nation. Unfortunately he gives very short shrift to a couple of the states, and there are a number of misspellings of names in the "Well-known Residents" section that's included with each state's chapter. The section on Nebraska didn't really have much to do with our state but did give some interesting background on the Interstate Highway system. I liked the book but didn't love it. It's worth looking at, though, and is easy to browse in small bits.

[ official BBC Web page for this documentary series web site ] | [ official Stephen Fry web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


I also enjoyed this one -- Fry has a natural storytelling ability and his wry sense of humor was much appreciated. I was a bit annoyed at his scattered factual errors (Thanksgiving is NOT the 3rd Thursday of November), but it was definitely refreshing to see familiar sites of the U.S. through the eyes of a foreigner...who actually likes America!

Review Score - 8
Rated by -- Scott C.
staff member at the Bennett Martin Public Library

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book cover  A Separate Peace
by John Knowles

Gene and Finny (Phineas) meet at the Devon School in New Hampshire during the summer of 1942. Finny is a natural athlete. Gene excels at his studies, but is jealous of Finny, who suggests that they jump out of a tree as a rite of passage. Gene and Finny thus become charter members of the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session. Gene's jealousy intensifies, until one day, when they are both standing in the tree. One of them falls -- but is it an accident? The writing is quite fine and the interaction between the two boys carries the story.

[Also available in book-on-cd format.]

[ Wikipedia page for A Separate Peace ] | [ Wikipedia page for John Knowles ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Darkly Dreaming Dexter
by Jeff Lindsay

Told from the first person of a seriously deranged, self-deprecating, multiple murderer, who also happens to be a lab technician for the Miami police department, Dexter Morgan. Dexter is a monster, a killer, who does not kill indiscriminately, but chooses those who need killing to murder. He keeps a blood sample of all of his victims -- his trophy. The temptation is to sympathize with Dexter -- most readers do with a first person narrator--but don't fall into the trap. One method to gain our empathy is by telling us how he masks his sociopathic personality. However, when another serial killer strikes, Dexter finds himself admiring the man's skill and precision. WARNING: This is not for all tastes. Dexter is sick, sick, sick and the book is disturbing. Notice the blood smear on the cover -- with a happy face in it.

[Also available in audiotape and book-on-cd formats.]

[ official Random House Dexter web site ]

related lists See more books like this in Rianne's Books With a Twist booktalk booklist
Review Score - 8
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  John Adams
by David G. McCullough [B Ad1m]

McCullough presents not just Adams, but all of his contemporaries as real people, not as distant historical abstractions. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and especially Abigail Adams, are portrayed with all of their strengths, weaknesses, and flaws, in a way that helps clarify the early formative years of the United States.

[Also available in book-on-cd, and DVD adaptation formats.]

[ official John Adams book page on the official David McCullough site hosted by Simon and Schuster ]

Recommended by Peter J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  A Beautiful Place to Die
by Malla Nunn

The year is 1952. Apartheid is the backdrop for this well-drawn book set in Jacob's Rest, a small, dusty South African border town. The whites, mixed races and black citizens struggle to find their places in the complex social structure of the country. Detective-Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is sent to Jacob's Rest to investigate the shooting death of police Captain William Pretorious. Soon, brutal investigators from the Security Branch of the national police take over the investigation. They believe that Pretorious' murder is the result of a communist plot. Cooper is relegated to investigating a six-month old Peeping Tom case. Emmanuel Cooper soon finds ties between the Captain's murder and the Peeping Tom that lead him down a rocky path that is strewn with boulders of racial prejudice. Nunn paints word pictures so realistic that I could almost taste the dust rising up from the unpaved streets. In my mind's eye I could see the wide expanse of the grassy veldt as it stretched from the town toward the shimmering river and the border with Mozambique. [If you like this, you may also enjoy: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey and Dead Before Dying by Deon Meyer.]

[ official A Beautiful Place to Die page on the official Malla Nunn page at SimonandSchuster.com ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Declare
by Tim Powers

What do you get when you cross John LeCarre and Len Deighton with H.P. Lovecraft and Auguest Derleth? Well, that would be Tim Powers' magnificent fantasy/horror/espionage novel, Declare. This impressive novel focuses on the intelligence community, and a 1960s attempt to fix a mission that went horribly awry on Mount Ararat during WWII. The espionage elements of Declare truly feel like reading the best of LeCarre, Deighton, Follett or any of the other "spy" thriller writers. A review of this book is hard to write without giving too much of the intricate and complicated plot away...however, Powers manages to insert the supernatural into this spy story very effectively. His descriptions of ordinary soldiers and intelligence offices' encounters with otherworldly beings is truly terrifying. Powers' research into the real-world people he includes in this book is detailed, and Declare is very dense with seemingly minor historical details...which may put off some readers. However, I recommend you stick with it -- this one is a tremendous read!

[ Declare page on Wikipedia ] | [ official Tim Powers web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceEmily's (Secret) Book of Strange
by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker [j741.5 Reg]

I'd seen occasional illustrations of Emily the Strange for years, in odd places all over the country, and had glanced at one or more of the Emily books in bookstores and been intrigued. So...when I saw this one at the library (one of two Emily books we own), I decided to finally take the plunge and read it. Emily, who started as a counter-culture commercial icon, is an intriguing literary creation. She's an unusual cross between a punker, a goth and the seriously twisted little girl Wednesday Addams. This book doesn't really have any plot to speak of -- it is merely a strung-together series of Emily-themed slogans or sayings. The true charm or intrique of this book, however, is the hidden imagery. The artist (Parker) and publisher use a variety of different inks to create images within images. My favorite is a large, red flower, in whose petals (if you shift how you hold the book), you can see ghastly, ghoulish faces. Emily is definitely an acquired taste, and one that I don't think I'll stick with, but this book is certainly an interesting one, and should appeal to folks with both a wry, dark sense of humor, or fans of Charles Addams work.

[ Wikipedia page for Emily the Strange ] | [ official Emily the Strange web site ]

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


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book cover  Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
by Laney Salisbury [364.163 Sal]

When art collectors and dealers pay the big, big bucks for artwork, they also expect to get the provenance of the piece they are buying. Detailing the history of a painting or sculpture, the provenance tells not just who created it, but where it's been, and who has owned it. But what if the provenance itself is a fake, and the painting they're so proudly displaying is the work of a talented forger? That's the situation in which many art buyers found themselves during the decade-long art scam perpetrated by Britain's John Myatt and Dr. John Drewe, the central figures in this fascinating book. Myatt is the talented, but commercially unsuccessful, painter who creates "new" works by well-known modern artists, while Drewe (no doctor at all) creates the documents and paper trail designed to make them salable. They should have been caught again and again, but Drewe uses his considerable charm and complete lack of ethics to convince his willing scam victims that everything is on the up-and-up. Though they were eventually nabbed by Scotland Yard investigators, Drewe and Myatt were able to continually dupe art scholars and dealers who should have seen through them immediatley, but often had their own reasons not to look too closely. This book will keep you turning pages, with its view behind the scenes at some of England's finest museums and galleries, and glimpse into the mind of an undeniably intelligent, but completely unscrupulous confidence man and the people, both unwitting and complicit, who helped him pull off one of the greatest art scams in history.

[ official Provenance page on the official Laney Salisbury web site ]

Recommended by Lisa V.
Eiseley Branch Library


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book cover  The Amber Room: The Fate of the World's Greatest Treasure
by Cathy Scott-Clark [940.531 Sco]

It is a well known fact among art aficionadoes that the Nazis looted a great deal of art from European museums, private collections, etc. during World War II. After the war, many of the art treasures were returned to their owners. Some are still trickling back to their owners to this day. And some are lost. Perhaps the most famous of the lost art treasures is the fabulous Amber Room. The room was a joint project in the 1700s of German and Russian talent. It's original home was in the Charlottenburg Palace in Prussia. Peter the Great of Russia expressed an admiration for the room and in 1716, Friedrich Wilhelm I presented it to Peter. During World War II, it was taken from Leningrad to Konigsberg in Germany. Konigsberg was heavily bombed late in the war and the Amber Room was never seen again. Was it destroyed by the bombing? Some of the art in Konigsberg was removed to saftey. Could the Amber Room have been saved? This book examines the various theories about what happened to the priceless room-- (one theory puts the room in an underground mine in Poland) and draws its own conclusions.

[ Wikipedia page about the actual Amber Room ] | [ official author page for these authors ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Librayr


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book cover  The Hot Rock
by Donald Westlake

On the same day that he is released from jail, Dortmunder, is asked by a pal, Andy Kelp, to help him steal a valuable emerald. The jewel has a buyer -- the United Nations ambassador from an African nation disputing the ownership of the emerald. Enter the various personalities of the heist team: Roger Chefwick is married and likes to work on his miniature railroad and to eat his wife's fudge. (I'm not sure if fudge is a reference to his sex life!) Another, Murch, lives with his mother and listens to street noises on record albums. Greenwood is a swinging single. The team stages a spectacular car crash into the building housing the emerald and the distraction works well; however, the three men actually stealing the jewel drop the glass case enclosing the emerald and so draw attention to themselves. The men run off, splitting up and as luck would have it, the thief with the emerald is the one caught by the police. To keep him from talking, his cohorts successfully spring him from the slammer. As they high-five one another in jubilation, they ask him about the emerald and he must give them the bad news -- he had to hide it in the police station! He'd swallowed it at the Coliseum—and got it back later, while in jail! Now the men break into the police station via helicopter. Wielding grenades, they enter the cell (in a very funny sequence) -- the cell is occupied by an old man in there for flashing -- but the jewel is not there. Greenwood, the once incarcerated thief, tells Dortmunder that he did tell his attorney where the stone was. Unfortunately, the attorney, Prosker, has committed himself to an insane asylum. Dortmunder plans yet another break-in. This time, they use a miniature railroad car, dubbed Tom Thumb, to invade the insane asylum, since the railroad tracks run nearby. Another very funny sequence wherein the asylum personnel chide the heist team for disturbing the inmates' sense of reality! Unimpressed with the scolding, the men kidnap Prosker. Prosker reveals that the emerald is in his safety deposit box at his bank. To access the box requires two keys -- his own and the one held by the bank. Now they get to rob a bank. Dortmunder hires a mentalist to hypnotize the bank guard into handing over the key to the safety deposit box. The mentalist rides the elevator with the man, successfully implanting the phrase that will be their prompt: "Afghanistan banana stand."

[ official Donald Westlake web site ]

related lists See more books like this in Rianne's Books With a Twist booktalk booklist
Review Score - 9
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CD format of this titleThe Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
by Simon Winchester [Compact Disc 550.92 Win]

Much of what makes up this story of a man of incredible observational and recording skills involves also the story of class conscious scholars who felt themselves slighted at the achievements of a common, though uncommon, man. William Smith was the first person to notice the relationship of layers of rock and stone to each other and, most importantly, the coal that was so desirable and necessary for the Industrial Revolution that had already swept England. His maps fit into a world that was just beginning to hear of evolution and other radical notions, mostly seen as attacks on the religious establishments. Smith's story takes us all over England, from Bath to the poor houses of London. Winchester's book is lively and detailed. The story is fast-paced, though not adventure-filled, as much of this work involved close scrutiny and careful cartography, hardly the stuff of blood-pumping thrills. He does spend what seems a great deal of time talking about the coal industry, but without it, there would be no context for Smith's achievements. This is a delightful book and well narrated. It is another way into the study of a time of enormous technological, social and ideological change.

[Also available in print format.]

[ official Map That Changed the World page on the official Simon Winchester web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Sarah E.J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemRab ne Bana di Jodi
[DVD Rab]

Dancing and singing and late night chats with best friends - for girls only? Not so. Shah Rukh Kahn & Anushka Sharma star in this surprising and unconventional romance. Surinder Sahni is a staid employee of Punjab Power living in his parents' home who falls in love with Tanni, the vivacious 18 year-old daughter of his former mentor. Tragic circumstances bring them together, and Suri finds himself wooing his wife in ways that bring him out of the shell in which he has lived for so long. Suri's best friend, played by Vinay Pathak, encourages his antics and before long even the audience is cheering for more! For fans of Shah Rukh Khan, this movie is a joyous celebration of everything that he is known for. The music is lively, and the number that has an homage to movies of the past is a nice touch. If you are unfamiliar with Hindi movies, this is not a bad place to start.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Rab ne Bana di Jodi web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Sarah E.J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemStargate
[DVD Stargate]

A fun adventure film that's the basis for the "Stargate" TV series and spin-offs as seen on the SciFi channel. Kurt Russell stars as Col Jack O'Neil, a soldier's soldier. James Spader is Prof. Daniel Jackson, an Egyptologist. Fifty years earlier a strange device is found in the Middle-Eastern desert. Now it's hidden away on a U.S. military base and turns out to be an interstellar transport device. O'Neil and Jackson lead a team through the Stargate to find a slave planet, and of course end up captured. Add action, romance, and Egyptian mythology for an all-around exciting, fun film.

[Also available: Several (though not all) of the 10 seasons of the TV-series sequel Stargate SG-1, which ran from 1997 to 2007.]

[ 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 itemWe Are Marshall
[DVD We]

The true story of how Marshall University rebuilt its football program after a devastating plane crash in November, 1970. Nearly the entire team and coaches were killed along with fans and boosters who were also on the plane - no one survived the crash. A very emotional film as you watch the town and university as a whole, and the individuals, try to pick up the pieces and move on. One does not need to be a football fan, nor a fan of Matthew McConaughey to enjoy this movie. McConaughey plays a very likable character who is dedicated to his family. Football is merely the backdrop for this very moving tale of healing. An excellent story.

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

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


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last updated March 2010
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