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

May 2010 Recommendations

book cover  A Lantern in Her Hand
by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Bess Streeter Aldrich's best known work is loosely based on the life of her own mother, but incorporates material from other sources as well. The overall optimistic tone of the book contrasts with the fact that many of the events described are rather dark. The main character, Abbie Deal, faces both external hardships and internal struggles as the book follows her from childhood through old age. Much of the book reads not so much like a novel as a précis of a novel. Whole years are summarized in a page or two, reflecting in a way Abbie's sense of time slipping away throughout her life. But Aldrich's strongest writing comes when she looks at an event in more detail; it is in these scenes, such as Abbie giving birth during the infamous blizzard of 1888, that the characters become more fully developed. Abbie's dreams of achieving great things are doomed to be unrealized in her own life, but ultimately find fulfillment in the accomplishments of her children for whom she sacrificed those dreams. The book thus becomes a celebration of the ordinary lives of the countless settlers who struggled to make a home in what was to them a new land. Readers who enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder's books when they were younger will probably find much to like in this book; both authors used many of the same or similar historical incidents in telling their stories, such as the "long winter" of 1880-81, and the plagues of crop-devouring grasshoppers in the 1870's. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder.]

[Click the title links above to see all available formats of this work.]

[ official Bess Streeter Aldrich Foundation web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is for a music CDBarber's Adagio
by Samuel Barber [Compact Disc 781.68 Bar]

This is one of my all-time favorite classic music albums. My first exposure to Barber's "Adagio for Strings" was when I heard the piece being used as part of the soundtrack of Oliver Stone's 1986 Academy Award-winning movie, Platoon. Adagio for Strings is haunting, mournful and yet uplifting all at the same time. When I found this album, shortly after its 1997 release, I quickly added it to my collection and gave it as a gift to several friends and relatives. This album features eight different variations on the well-known "Adagio for Strings", emphasizing a number of different instrument types in place of the traditional "strings." James Galway performs flute for one track. The Canadian Brass take up the melody for another track. The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge do a vocal version. Richard Stoltzman achors a clarinet choir for track 5. David Pizarro performs on a pipe organ for track 7. And three of the tracks feature either a string quartet or a full orchestra. If "Adagio for Strings" has ever moved you, you can't miss trying this impressive musical anthology. It's a powerful album!


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


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book cover  Starstruck: Photographs From a Fan
by Gary Lee Boas [779.12 Boa]

Although many of these photos are blurry and have not necessarily captured many celebrities' most glamorous moments, the vast range and number of them is amazing. Boas literally spent years of his life waiting for and collecting these 'fossils in amber' and thus his own story becomes as interesting as those of the great and lesser stars he has captured in candid moments. From politicians to porn stars to the elusive Greta Garbo and the pre-nose-job Michael Jackson, this is a fascinating glimpse into the cult of personality.


[ official Gary Lee Boas web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Russian Imperial Style
by Laura Cerwinske [709.47 qCer]

This book documents Russian art from 1762 to 1917. The text points out the cultural life of the tsars and the noblity. But it is the lavish illustrations, almost all in color, of furs, Faberge eggs, gowns, jewels, tapestries, furniture, table settings, carriages, etc., all created for the aristocracy, that lure the reader. [If you enjoy this one, you may also wish to try In the Russian Style by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.]


[ official Laura Cerwinske web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDAngels Flight
by Michael Connelly [Compact Disc Connelly]

Deputy Chief Irving calls Harry and his team out in the middle of the night. He doesn't give Harry any details. Irving tells Harry to bring team to Angels Flight, a cable railway that runs up and down Bunkers Hill. Harry is startled by the order for two reasons. One, his team was called out on a case out of rotation. (They're supposed to have this weekend off.) Two, the crime scene is out of their response area. The tram is another precinct's responsibility. They arrive at the cable car to find two bodies surrounded by detectives from the elite Robbery Homicide division and Internal Affairs. Once Harry finds out that one of the victims was Howard Elias, he understands why the Robbery Homicides detectives won't investigate the crime. Elias was a Los Angles attorney who made a good living suing the L.A.P.D for racially motivated brutality. Internal Affairs is there because they think that an officer carrying an old grudge may have killed Elias. The Rodney King trial hangs over this investigation like a specter. Racial tensions run high between the Afro-American community and the police department. The Afro-American leaders are crying cover up because they think a police officer killed Elias. Harry Bosch lives by his own distinctive code. His moral compass always points toward finding out the truth at all costs. As a result, he has a lot of run-ins with the L.A.P.D. brass and the Internal Affairs Division. The reader, Dick Hill, gives Harry a firm voice as he tries to find out what really happened. Angels Flight is the sixth book in this well written series. [If you like this, you may also wish to try non-series titles by Michael Connelly, and the works of both Robert Crais and Lee Child.]

[Also available in hardback, paperback, and unabridged audiotape formats.]

[ official Angels Flight page on the official Michael Connelly web site ]

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


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book cover  Once Upon a Town
by Bob Greene [940.548 Gre]

During World War II, citizens of North Platte met every troop train that came through, offering the servicemen cakes, pies, eggs, bread, fruit, vegetables, etc. This is a just a great feel good book that the city of North Platte and the surrounding area could keep up such spirit for the duration of the war. Best of all, of course, is that North Platte is in our own Nebraska!

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

[ official Once Upon a Town web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Bob Greene ]

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


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book cover  Marley & Me
by John Grogan [636.752 Gro]

John Grogan and his wife, Jenny, get a labrador retriever to determine if they are ready to start a family. Later they learn why the owner discounted the price. Most labs are calm dogs; Marley breaks the mold. He is hyperactive and afraid of thunder storms--and when Marley becomes afraid, he also becomes destructive, chewing even cement. He eats a delicate gold necklace that John has given Jenny. Marley is kicked out of obedience school, the only dog in his class earning such a distinction. But he also senses Jenny's distress when she suffers a miscarriage, and puts his head in her lap to comfort her. Marley is truly a unique pet (and the book is much better than the movie).

[Also available in abridged book-on-cd, unabridged book-on-cd, movie adaptation, and Illustrated Edition formats.]

[ official Marley & Me page on the official John Grogan web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDGrave Sight and Grave Surprise
by Charlaine Harris [Compact Disc Harris]

These are the book-on-cd adaptations of the first two titles in Harris' increasingly popular Harper Connelly series. Although the first book has previously been reviewed in the Staff Recommendations, I thought it worth mentioning that the audio versions makes for compelling listening. These are both single-narrator version, featuring stage and vocal actress Alyssa Bresnahan. She does a very good job of engaging the listener's attention and pulling you into the story. She doesn't attempt to do too many "voices" (in other words, she doesn't try to give each unique character their own unique sound, but instead highlights a few of the more unusual characters with strong accents. The main characters of Harper and her brother Tolliver are done simply but well. If you haven't sampled this series yet, I encourage you to give these CD sets a listen. They're only 7 or 8 discs and are a great introduction to an interesting new mystery-solving character with an usual talent.

[These titles are also available in print format.]

[ official Harper Connelly page on the official Charlaine Harris 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 audienceHearts at Stake
by Alyxandra Harvey

A young adult, paranormal romance, the First book in the Drake Chronicles has the story going back and forth between two fifteen year old girls who have been best friends since birth. Solange, born into the very ancient and powerful vampire Drake family, is prophesied to become a vampire queen at age 16. Lucy, whose legal name to her horror is "Lucky", was born into a new-age, no-violence, alternative, hippie family. One unique aspect of this novel is that the chapters of the novel volley back and forth between Solange's point of view and Lucy?s point of view. The author allows the Drake family to be your guide into a secret vampire society chronicling the growing teenage romances; Lucy and Nicholas (Solange's older vampire brother) and teenage vampire princess (Solange) who feels a strong attraction to the teenage vampire hunter torn between protecting Solange and killing her for a bounty. The romantic attraction and tension between Lucy and Nicholas as well as great fight scenes, humor and suspense definitely makes this book a page turner. Another unique aspect about this story is that Lucy's new age parents are very close and trusting with the Drake family, having always known about their vampire history. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Immortals series by Alyson Noel and The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.]


[ official Drake Chronicles and Alyxandra Harvey web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Jessica H.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Double Exposure Take Two
by Roddy McDowall [SOS 779.12 McD2]

This coffee-table book is a marvelous collection of photographs (all taken by the late, beloved actor Roddy McDowall [1928-1998]) of 116 influential figures in the arts -- theater, film, ballet, literature and music. But, not only are these wistful, engaging and thought-provoking photos, but each photo is also accompanied by an essay written by a friend or associate of the photo's subject, especially chosen by McDowall. Some of these essays are laugh-out-loud funny, but many are also emotionally touching and provide insight into figures that are sometimes removed from the public eye. As a photography collection of celebrities, this book stands well on its own. But in combination with the essays, this should be a must-read for anyone interested in the royalty of the entertainment industry. [If you like this volume, you should track down the other volumes in the series -- there were four in all, but Lincoln City Libraries only owns this one.]


[ official Roddy McDowall fan web site ]

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


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book cover  Dead Before Dying
by Deon Meyer

Mat Jourbert is an overweight, chain-smoking detective. He goes through the motions at his job in the Murder and Robbery Squad of the Cape Town police department in post-apartheid South Africa. Jourbert was a top-notch detective before his wife, Lara, was killed in the line of duty as an undercover agent. When she died Jourbert sunk into bog of despair in which he still wallows. Jourbert has a new boss, a political appointee named Bart de Wit. de Wit is on a tear, all the members of his department must be physically fit. All slackers must "shape up or ship out". Jourbert starts swimming and cooking low calorie meals and sees psychologist. On the job he works two cases. One is thief who robs banks. He is dubbed the "sweetheart bandit" because he calls all of the tellers sweetheart. The other is serial killer using a hundred-year old German handgun. This is a character driven novel. We follow Jourbert as he rouses from his pit of misery and realizes that the world still turns and he can make a place for himself in it. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Michael Stanley and Malla Nunn.]


[ official Dead Before Dying page on the official Deon Meyer web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDThe Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
by Leonard Mlodinow [Compact Disc 519.2 Mlo]

Our brains want to see patterns and order. That is not the way life works. Physicist Leonard Mlodinow explores the ways random events shape the world and how human intuition fights that fact. Mlodinow uses the Let's Make a Deal game show, Las Vegas roulette tables, Bruce Willis' career and the Warsaw ghetto after Hitler invaded Poland to illustrate his points. Mlodinow's entertaining and informative way of presenting the material makes this book-on-CD fun to listen to. His down-to-earth style makes it easy for the mathematically challenged such as myself to grasp his concepts. But his explanations are still sophisticated enough to keep the mathematically inclined, such as my husband, interested. [If you like this, you may also wish to try Simplexity: Why Simples Things Become Complex by Jeffrey Kluger, Sway: The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman, and Coincidences, Chaos and all That Math Jazz by Edward Burger.]

[Also available in print format.]

[ official Leonard Mlodinow at Caltech web page ]

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


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book cover  Crimes by Moonlight
by the Mystery Writers of America [813.08 Mys]

I love anthologies. They are a great way to find new authors or try out new genres. This compilation of short stories is written by members of the Mystery Writers of America all trying their hand at the paranormal genre. It includes ghosts, vampires, and -- well -- the simply odd. Charlaine Harris is great as always, but I also found new (to me) authors Margaret Maron, S.W. Hubbard, and Lou Kemp to be very enjoyable. Give it a try!


[ official Mystery Writers of America web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Jodene G.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Secrets of the Savanna: Twenty-three Years in the Africa Wilderness Unraveling the Mysteries of Elephants and People
by Mark and Delia Owens [599.674 Owe]

This book describes the culmination of their twenty-three year odyssey in Africa. Mark and Delia's fascination with the Dark Continent started when they were graduate students at the University of Georgia. One evening they attended a lecture about Africa's vanishing wildlife. The lecture inspired them to sell all of their possessions for $6000 and move to Africa to help save the wildlife. They camped in the Kalahari Desert for seven years while they studied the habits of black-maned lions and brown hyenas. After seven in Botswana they moved to the North Luangwa National Park in Zambia where they worked to stop elephant poaching.. In the course of their work the Owens found themselves in a unique position. They were able to document the impact that longtime poaching had on elephant herds. They saw how the social structure was affected and what became of elephants that were left to make their way into adulthood without the benefit of the herd. It's a fascinating look at elephant society and the impact of poaching on human society. An equal portion of the book looks at the Owens' work to persuade former poachers to develop other economic opportunities in their villages and wean themselves off of poaching as a source of income. They established their own foundation to fund economic opportunities for the villages. They loaned the villagers money to start cottage industries. Some of the women became seamstresses when the Owens loaned them money to sewing machines. The Owens provided training for women who wanted to become midwives. Some of the men became millers, others became beekeepers. The Owens hired other men and women to help them with research and to run their project. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try My Heart is Africa by Scott Griffin, or A Wild Life by Dick Pitman.]


[ official Secrets of the Savanna page on the official Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation web site ]

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


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book cover  Broken Places
by Sandra Parshall

A man with something to hide, a newspaper editor desperate to save his paper and a forty-year-old secret are the key elements in Broken Places, the third book in the Rachael Goddard series. Rachel and her assistant Holly Turner overhear an argument between Ben Hern and Cam Taylor. Cam leaves. Later, Rachel and Holly find Cam's car on the road. They stop to help him and hear gunshots in the woods. Rachel investigates and finds Cam's body. A short time later Cam's house burns down. His wife's body is found in the house. Ben was the last person to see Cam alive but Rachel can't believe that her old friend murdered someone. Her loyalty to Ben drives a wedge between Rachel and her boyfriend, deputy Tom Bridger. Rachel thinks that Tom is focusing on Ben to the exclusion of other suspects so she starts asking questions. The characters are well drawn. The inter-play between Rachel, Tom and Tom's ex-girlfriend add to the suspense. [If you like this, you may also wish to try The Serpent Pool by Martin Edwards, Quieter Than Sleep by Joanne Dobson and Wild Penance by Sandi Ault.]


[ official Broken Places and Sandra Parshall web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations
by Clive Ponting [304.28 Pon]

Ponting posits that time and again throughout history, from ancient Rome to ancient Egypt to Easter Island, man has exploited earth's resources to the breaking point and their societies collapsed. He then extends his theory to the modern world, where behavior is global and possible destruction would be on a massive scale. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore.]


[ official Green History of the World web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Clive Ponting ]

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


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceThe Hollow
by Jessica Verday

A Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel about a high school girl, Abby, coming to terms with the mysterious death of her best and only close friend. The story is intertwined with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and set in the town Sleepy Hollow as well, thus the title of the novel. Abby deals with rumors about her and her friend, being tormented by her peers and pitied, which she felt was the worst. The author wrote Abby as a very realistic teen and was able to describe her emotions so well that the reader can really feel the girls' emotional pain. Unfortunately, I was definitely disappointed in the ending of the story. The novel was marketed as a paranormal romance, but I feel those should have happy endings or at least some resolution between the two protagonists. This book had neither, and I believe the ending was definitely set up for a sequel. One theme in this book which I found interesting was the craft of perfume making, for which Abby had a wonderful talent. This creativity allowed time for Abby to take her mind off the tragic events of her best friends' death. I could tell the author had conducted some research or had some knowledge of making fragrances, and it was interesting to learn a bit about the process. I would give The Hollow a pass unless you are a die-hard paranormal romance reader. [If you enjoy this, I would recommend Fallen by Kate Lauren, and the Evernight Series by Claudia Gray, which is a story that becomes darker and action packed as you read through the series.]


[ official The Hollow and Jessica Verday web site ]

Review Score - 4
Recommended by Jessica H.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  The Princes in the Tower
by Alison Weir [942.045 Wei]

Who killed the princes in the tower? The boy king Edward V (only 12 or 13 when he died)and his brother, Richard, the Duke of York, who was only 10, died in 1483 and to this day the murderer remains unknown. The charismatic Edward IV was their father. Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, was Edward IV's ambitious brother, and upon the death of the two boys, he became the monarch, as Richard III. Did he kill his nephews to gain the throne? Other candidates for the murderer include the Duke of Buckingham and Sir James Tyrell. Weir examines each possible murderer in his turn. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes, by Bertram Fields.]


[ Wikipedia article on The Princes in the Tower ] | [ official Alison Weir web site ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemCarolina Moon
by Nora Roberts

One of eight Nora Roberts novels that have been adapted as TV-movies/DVD-movies in the past few years. In this one, Claire Forlani plays Tory, a young woman returning to her childhood hometown to relaunch her life and mend some broken fences. Tory has a psychic ability to see flashes of a brutal killer's crimes...that date back to when Tory's best friend was killed when they were both pre-teens. As Tory reconnects with both friends and enemies from her past, she has to decide whether to use her special ability to help catch the killer before they strike again. Both Forlani and Oliver Hudson turn int fine performances as the leads, as does Josie Davis, as Tory's former antagonist Faith. This is definitely a "romantic suspense", but with more emphasis on the suspense than the romance.
[Also available in print, unabridged audiotape, unabridged book-on-cd, and Large Type formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Lifetime TV Network's official Carolina Moon 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 itemThe Princess and the Frog

I've long been a fan of Disney animated features, both the "old school" style of 101 Dalmatians and Peter Pan, and the newer computer-enhanced one such as Beauty and the Beast. The Princess and the Frog was Disney's 2009 entry in that series, and featured a return to mostly hand-drawn art, featured Disney's first African-American heroine, and focused on a culture -- Cajun/Creole -- that had never been done by the studio before. I found this one to be only partially successful. The animation artwork seemed very uneven in quality, and although the instrumental score by Randy Newman was flavorful, his originals songs were surprisingly forgettable...a cardinal sin for a Disney film! The characters, on the other hand, were charmingly engaging, as always for a Disney film. The waitress heroine, Tiana, is spunky and driven, the "cute animal sidekicks" in the form of trumpet-playing alligator Louis and backwoods Cajun lightning bug Raymond were quite fun. The "hero", Prince Naveen, transformed into a frog by his enemies, was kind of bland. All in all, this is certainly a watchable film, but doesn't really stack up well to the classics in Disney's vaults.
[Also available in vocal selections sheet music, junior novelization formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Disney's official Princess and the Frog web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemSurrogates

This is the 2009 movie starring Bruce Willis, based on the 2006 graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele (previously reviewed). In the near future, human beings have become reliant on the use of robotic surrogates, which allow them to experience life through surrogate bodies without endangering themselves. When a device surfaces that can kill a human surrogate user by destroying their surrogate body, a pair of law enforcement agents try to track the human terrorist using the weapon, only to uncover a conspiracy that may involve both an anti-surrogate religious leader and the discredited inventor of the original surrogates. Willis gives a good performance is a somewhat subdued role, and there are some remarkably good performances by other actors as the slightly "plastic" surrogate characters. On the other hand, the changes made to the story in the original graphic novel are kind of disappointing. If you're intrigued by this production, I encourage you to read the original.
[Also available in original graphic novel format.]

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

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated May 2010
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