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

April 2010 Recommendations

book cover  You've Got Murder
by Donna Andrews

Though best known for her Meg Langslow series, I personally prefer Andrews' Turing Hopper series. This series came about as part of a challenge to create a unique mystery series protagonist...and you can't get much more unique than the character of Turing Hopper. Turing is a self-aware artificial intelligence, created as something of a fluke. The software sources that were used to create Turing included a database of mystery fiction, so Turing has a built-in penchant for trying to solve mysteries. When the programmer that "created" her disappears under suspicious circumstances, Turing assembles a small group of human helpers in the non-digital world to assist her in investigating her creator's status. The character of Turing is intriguing, and the fairly light-weight handling of the topic and mechanics of artificial intelligence is done deftly. But, this isn't a tech manual...it's a mystery, and Turing (and her helpers) use traditional (and computer-age) methods to solve their case. And the relationships between Turing and the human beings that serve as her "eyes and ears" in the physical world are fascinating. Only four volumes in the Turing Hopper series were written, but Andrews says she's open to revisiting the series in the future. Try this one...you'll like it!


[ official Donna Andrews web site ]

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


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book cover  The Alien Life of Wayne Barlowe
by Wayne Barlowe [809.387 qBar]

Spectacular collection of full-color and b&w illustrations by famed science fiction and fantasy illustrator Wayne Barlowe. Published in 1995, this volume includes works from throughout Barlowe's career, and each piece of art is accompanied by a text blurb from Barlowe explaining the origin of the piece and his creative and artistic inspirations for that specific work of art. Barlowe is well known for his detailed alien physiognomies, and most of the pieces in this collection exemplify the tradition of "nature art". His otherworldly creatures (some based on other author's works and some created by Barlowe himself from scratch) are logical extrapolitions from scientific principles and look frighteningly real. If you like this book, you can't miss his Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials and Barlowe's Guide to Fantasy -- must have volumes for genre fans.


[ official Wayne Barlowe web site ]

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


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book cover  The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Cookbook
[641.636 Bub]

I enjoy seafood, and I enjoy movies. This book crosses the two over quite nicely. The recipes in this book are interspersed with commentary in the voice of the fictional movie character Forrest Gump (from the same-titled novel by Winston Groom). The 77 recipes in this book are broken into categories -- baked, barbequed, broiled, fried and sauteed -- along with a section on sides and sauces that go well with shrimp dishes. The instructions for each recipe are simple and straight-forward, and for the most part can be accomplished without elaborate or unusual equipment. If you, like myself, are a shrimp-lover, you'll find yourself salivating over the descriptions of each dish, while also chuckling at the side notes from Forrest. My only complaint about this book is that, although there are a handful of photo illustrations of some of the dishes, those photos are few and far between...I would've preferred images of each of the dishes. Otherwise, a tasty and humorous little specialty cookbook. [If you enjoy this, you may also like My Favorite Chocolate Recipes: Mama's Fudge, Cookies, Cakes and Candies, by Winston Groom.]


[ official Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CD format of this titleArchaeology and the Iliad: The Trojan War in Homer and History
by Eric Cline [Compact Disc 939.21 Cli]

Umberto Eco once wrote that humans are more passionate about the truth of their myths and of fiction than they are about the truths of their own history. Never has this played out more popularly than the search for the city of Troy, immortalized in the epic poem of the blind bard Homer. Professor Cline's lectures on the history of The Iliad, Homer, the area around what most consider to be Troy, and the men who sought to find Priam's palace there are lively, informative and delivered with care for the subject. He describes a world vastly more complicated than one that would or could go to war over a beautiful woman (even is she is so beautiful that her face launched 1,279 ships - Professor Cline counted). The lectures bring to life a world that has handed much to our own, and with them come reminders of the fragility of history and humanity. It is well worth seven evenings' listening.


[ official Eric Cline web page at George Washington University ]

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


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book cover  Absinthe: History in a Bottle
by Barnaby Conrad [394.13 qCon]

Absinthe, a highly addictive liqueur, which in literature is also known as "la fee verte" (the green fairy) is chronicled in this readable and lavishly illustrated book. The art works are by such luminaries as Manet, van Gogh, Degas, Picasso, and Lautrec, all of which feature the distinctive green drink. The book also contains a discussion of many literary figures who were devotees of the green fairy. Some of the writers and artists are: Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Toulouse Lautrec, Mondigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Aleister Crowley. A serious absintheur adds water to the liqueur slowly, pouring it over a sugar cube in an elaborate slotted spoon. Absinthe turns a milky greenish color when the water is added. The drink is made from wormwood, a bitter herb sometimes used as an insect repellent. (Vermouth is also made from wormwood.) Serious drinkers experienced hallucinations and convulsions; the liqueur was soon banned in most of Europe and the United States. Absinthe experience a revival in the 1990s, since it had never been banned in Great Britain.


[ Wikipedia article on Absinthe ] | [ official Barnaby Conrad web site ]

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

Lovely book combining history, literature, art, and decadence!

Review Score - 8
Rated by -- Kathryn K.
Staff member at the Bennett Martin Public Library

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book cover  Bugsy's Baby: The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill
by Andy Edmonds [364.106 Edm]

Virginia Hill, the lover of Las Vegas mobster Bugsy Siegel, was also involved with the Al Capone's Chicago gang and with the New York mob led by Frank Costello and Joe Adonis. In 1933, when she was just seventeen, she arrived in Chicago and caught the attention of Joe Epstein, who ran the gambling outfit for the Capone operation. In 1950, she testified for the famed Kefauver Committee, which was investigating crime in interstate commerce. Her death in 1966, was probably a mob hit. Edmunds explains why. [For more books of this nature, check our catalog under the subject heading "Organized Crime."]


[ Wikipedia entry on Virginia Hill ]

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


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book cover  The Way We Wore: Styles of the 1930s and 1940s and Our World Since Then
by Marsha Hunt [746.92 qHun]

Marsha Hunt was signed by Paramount Pictures when she was just 17; later she signed with MGM. In this book she showcases some of the costumes she wore in her pictures. One section is devoted to the hats she wore. She includes some casual wear from the period and mentions a costume that she designed herself. In fact, she was a teenage model for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Anyone who likes films from the 30s and 40s will enjoy this book. [If you enjoy this one, and are looking for more, search our catalog under the subject heading "Motion Pictures -- Costumes".]


[ official Marsha Hunt page on the Internet Movie Database ] | [ Wikipedia page for Marsha Hunt ]

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


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book cover  Butler County: The Boston Studio Collection
by Susan McLain [978.232 McL]

This book offers a vignette of Butler County's history through the camera lens of Harvey L. Boston. He operated the Boston Studio in David City, Nebraska from 1893 to 1928. During that time Boston photographed Butler County's prominent residents as well as the common folks who toiled on farms or as laborers. Author Susan R. McLain gives us snippets of the lives of the residents. McLain is a fashion historian. Much of the insight she offers is based on the clothing that was worn. At that time a family's prosperity was reflected by their clothing. For example, McLain points out that Anna Thompson's hat was featured in the latest fashion magazines. McLain does not limit her information to clothing details. She also tells us about their lives. In another photo we meet Madge Evans. After she graduated from David City High School Madge moved to Lincoln and worked in the Lincoln City Library before moving to Beatrice where she worked as the city librarian until her retirement in 1952. This book is an excellent resource for genealogists who are looking for ancestors who resided in Butler County in the early part of the 20th Century. McLain provides tidbits of information about some of the people. Descendents of Amelia Shirk may not be aware that she spent a night in a snowdrift during the blizzard of 1888. Most of the photos are portraits but some are location shots of David City and surrounding farms. These pictures illustrate life in Butler County that can be for historians and researchers. This book is a joy for people who like photos printed from glass negatives. [Part of the Images of America series.]


[ official Butler County, NE web site ] | [ Butler County Gallery web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
by Christopher Moore

This Christmas tale is not Dickens! As the author warns: it contains cusswords and people in their forties having sex (in the graveyard). In Pine Cove, Dale Pearson quarrels with his ex-wife, Lena. Since this is a different kind of Christmas story, he is later dispatched with Lena's shovel. (He falls on it and impales himself.) Since Dale was dressed as Santa, Josh Barker, who witnesses the death, believes that Santa has died -- and expresses the wish that he could come back to life. Theo Crowe, the town constable, who also smokes pot, is called to the scene of the quarrel. Theo is married to Molly Michon, former movie queen, known for playing Kendra, Warrior Babe of the Outland. Now that her career is over, she is seriously medicated. Trim and tanned Tucker Case, a pilot for the DEA, rolls into town with his fruitbat Roberto, who wears Ray-Bans. Understand that it is Roberto who wears the Ray-Bans! Another visitor is a blond man wearing a long black coat: he is the archangel Raziel, who grants Josh's wish. Dale comes back to life as a zombie. This book is not for all tastes, since is totally off the wall and outrageously funny. Tucker shows up again in another book by Moore.

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

[ official The Stupidest Angel web site ] | [ official Christopher Moore web site ]

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


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book cover  The Witch Doctor's Wife
by Tamar Myers

Tamar Myers was born and raised in the Belgian Congo. She used her memories of African folktales and customs to create the setting for her stand-alone novel, The Witch Doctor's Wife. It's 1958 and a small passenger plane is making its final descent to the dirt landing strip near the village of Belle Vue. The left propeller cut the branches of a eucalyptus tree and crashed lands. This frightening event is Amanda Brown's introduction to the Belgian Congo, her new home. Amanda is a missionary from South Carolina and her job is to manage the guesthouse in Belle Vue where missionaries who work in the bush come to relax and socialize. The largest employer in the area is a Belgian diamond consortium that rules with an iron fist. Anyone who tries to smuggle diamonds out is subject to stiff fines and the whip. The local witch doctor finds a large uncut diamond and attempts to sell it without the local diamond consortium finding out. His actions lead to murder and cause much grief for his beloved wife. This book is a world away from Myers' Pennsylvania Dutch and Den of Antiquity series, both geographically and in style. The Witch Doctor's Wife is an engaging novel but it is not as humorous as the books set in the United States. [If you enjoy this, you may also like the novels of Karen Harper.]


[ official Tamar Myers web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Rome Wasn't Burned in a Day
by Leo Rosten [427.08 Ros]

Although this book was published in 1972, the language boo boos and bloopers remain timeless. A few samples: "The most important thing in acting is honesty. Once you learn to fake that, you're in." "Their father is some kind of civil serpent." "Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion." "The cotton crop was ruined by bold weasels." If you revel in malaprops and other language botches, this book will keep you laughing. [For more books of this nature, check our catalog under the subject heading "English Language -- Humor."]


[ Wikipedia page for Leo Rosten ]

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


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book cover  Rare: Portraits of America's Endangered Species
by Joel Sartore [578.68 qSar]

This is an absolutely gorgeously photographed volume that looks at endangered animal and plant species throughout the United States. Joel Sartore is an award-winning photographer for the National Geographic, who is based out of Lincoln, NE. His photos in the magazine are always beautiful, and for this book, his captures of rare and unique species are beautifully rendered, against a stark black or white background. Each photo is accompanied by a little story explaining how the shot was taken and offering interesting tidbits about the specific species in the photo. The vast majority of the shots in this book were taken at zoos around the country. Sartore shares conservation information in a moving forward, that includes a photo of a rabbit species that has since gone extinct. This book should be appreciated by animal lovers, conservationists, photography enthusiasts or fans of Nebraska authors! My only complaint is that the size of the book doesn't really do justice to Sartore's highly-detailed photos, but since it is not a "coffee-table"-sized volume, perhaps it will be more accessible to more readers!


[ official Rare: Portraits of America's Endangered Species page on the official Joel Sartore web site ]

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


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book cover  The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu
by Michael Stanley

The best book that I read in 2009 is The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu by Michael Stanley. Michael Stanley is the pen name for the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. The authors paint a captivating portrait of Botswana and its people. The book opens with an interesting premise – a man was murdered, twice. Detective David “Kubu” Bengu travels to a remote game camp in the lush Okavango Delta to investigate the murder of two men. When Kubu checks their backgrounds he is surprised to find that one of the men, George Tinubu, died 30 years ago in Zimbabwe. Fingerprints confirm that Tinubu did not die 30 years ago. The murders appear to be drug related. But Kubu wonders if that is true or if Tinubu’s past finally caught up with him.


[ official Publisher's site for The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu ] | [ official Michael Stanley/Detective Kubu web site ]

Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Louis Armstrong's New Orleans
by The Thomas Brothers [Music 781.65 Armstrong]

The photographs and maps in this book are reason enough to check it out. But once you take a look at those, you'll want to know more. If you could start at the back of the book and read in reverse, you could trace the accomplished musician, Louis Armstrong, all the way back to his beginnings, including the influence of his birth circumstances, his grandmother's church, the rags-bottles-and-bones men, the Waif's home, the funeral parade second lining, the advertising wagons and the Mississippi riverboats. The book explains how encompassing the influence of old New Orleans was on the ultimate Armstrong jazz music. If you are an Armstrong fan, be prepared to want to check out the Armstrong CDs owned by the library system as you read about his musical development and recording history!


[ Wikipedia article on Louis Armstrong ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Kay V.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CD format of this titleThe Deepest Water
by Kate Wilhelm

Abby Conners is numbed by her father's murder and she goes through the motions in the days after his death. Prodded by questions from the police, Abby rouses herself from her grief-stricken stupor and begins to think about why someone killed her father. Judson Vickers lived and died in a remote cabin in the Cascade Mountains where he wrote best-selling novels. The characters in the books were lightly disguised people that Jud knew. The plots were based on Jud's experiences. Abby wonders if someone had a secret that he or she did not want exposed in Jud's latest book. Kate Wilhelm takes a break from her Barbara Holloway series and writes this psychological thriller. [If you enjoy this, you may also like books by Lisa Jackson, Linwood Barclay and Tami Hoag.]

[Also available in print, and downloadable audio formats.]

[ Wikipedia article on Kate Wilhelm ] | [ official Kate Wilhelm web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Maisie Dobbs
by Jacqueline Winspear

I wasn't sure what to expect when this title ended up as one of the monthly discussion titles for the Just Desserts mystery group here at the library. I had seen good reviews of this series, and knew that it was popular, with seven volumes released so far. I ended up enjoying this one tremendously. Though classified as a mystery -- Maisie is a fledgling detective in this first volume -- this was more of a period character study than anything else. Set primarily in late 1920s London, as Maisie Dobbs sets up her first independent investigation agency, this novel also features extended flashbacks to Maisies youth, in which she leaves her father to take a position as a household employee to a forward-thinking socialite, and ultimately to the period in which Maisie serves as a nurse near the front lines of WWI in France. Maisie, and the quirky characters that surround her, is a believably real figure, and you'll grow to care about what happens to her. The Dobbs series is often compared, favorably, to the series by Alexander McCall-Smith set in Kenya, and I agree with that assessment. If you like Precious Ramatswe, you'll like Maisie, too.

[Also available in downloadable, book-on-cd, and Book on Tape formats.]

[ official Jacqueline Winspear/Maisie Dobbs web site ]

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 itemThe Hamish Macbeth series
by M.C. Beaton [DVD Beaton]

A wonderful three-part series starring Robert Carlyle ("The Full Monty")as police constable Hamish Macbeth as he attempts to maintain order in his small town of Lochdubh, Scotland. This is made difficult by the zany and eccentric characters that populate the area. Macbeth thinks this his ideal job and seeks to fly below the radar with his superiors so he's not promoted elsewhere. Heartwarming, heart-wrenching, and sometimes hilarious tales. A favorite was the annual shinty match against the neighboring town. Everyone in Lochdubh bused up for the match, including townfolk dressed as cheerleaders. Based on characters created by M.C. Beaton from her mystery series. No subtitles. This viewer initially had difficulties following the thick Scottish accent for half of the first dvd. Either they eased up on the accent or I finally developed an ear for it. (Trivia: actress Shirley Henderson, playing the character of Isobel, also plays Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter movies.) [If you enjoy the tone of this series, try out the biographical series based on James Herriott's All Creatures Great and Small, available on DVD.]
[Also available in print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia article on the Hamish Macbeth book/film series ]

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 itemThe Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett

Nick and Nora Charles set out to solve a murder in this sophisticated film. One of the best aspects of the movie is the banter between William Powell (Nick) and Myrna Loy (Nora). At one point, Nora chides Nick for bringing her to New York, just to make a widow of her. He replies that she wouldn't be a widow for long. Without hestitating, Nora responds, "You bet I wouldn't." That's another reason for watching this film: Nora wants to help solve the murder. She is a very strong woman for the time (the film was made in 1934). Another great scene between Nick and Nora takes place on Christmas morning, as Nick uses an air rifle to demolish the ornaments on the tree. Nick's antics do not fluster Nora one bit. The movie is fun to watch and Powell and Loy are two of the best.
[Also available in print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia entry for the book/film The Thin Man ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemMoonlight: the Complete Series

This was a marvelous, but unfortunately short-lived, series on CBS that aired during the 2007-2008 television season. Alex O'Laughlin starred as Mick St. John, a hot young vampire who has served as protector to a human girl (now a woman), Beth Turner, played by Sophia Miles. Beth has become an investigative reporter for a web journalism site, and as the series begins, she finds herself attracted to the strange man who keeps hanging around her periphery. As the series progressed, we saw the relationship between Mick and Beth advance, complicated when Mick believes he's on the track of a cure for vampirism that will return him to the land of the living. Supporting cast members, such as Jason Dohring as Josef and Shannon Sossomon as Coraline often stole the show, but at its heart it was a vampire romance series, predating True Blood. And O'Laughlin and Myles had steamy chemistry with each other! The series suffered from airing during a year with a writer's strike, so only 16 episodes were produced. [If you enjoy this series, you may also enjoy the Forever Knight series, the True Blood series and the Blood Ties series -- all available on DVD.]

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

related lists See more books and TV boxed sets like this on our TV Tie-Ins booklist
Review Score - 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated March 2010
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