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

September 2010 Recommendations

book cover  1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
by edited by Peter Boxall [809.3 Box]

This monstrously huge volume (2" thick!), composed from the recommendations of over 100 international literature critics, tries to identify the 1001 books that any true student of world literature should have read during a lifetime's worth of reading. The tome is arranged into sections: pre-1700s, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s and 2000s. Although there are some non-fiction titles included, the vast majority of the 1001 titles listed are fiction. The list is in true chronological order by the included works' publication dates. In addition to titles and authors, for each work included, some statistical data is provided -- the birth and death dates and locations for the author; the original publisher; original book title (if changed); author's full and/or original name (if changed); and any awards for which the work was nominated and/or won. Following this data, each book receives a critical essay from one of the literary critics who recommended its inclusion, providing sometimes dry, sometimes entertaining snippets about the plot, meaning and significance of the work. Most importantly, the critics identify the "appeal factors" for most of the books -- why you would enjoy reading these titles in the first place. As a librarian, in many ways I feel considerably under-read after looking through this list. I've only read 47 of the 1001, and sampled a handful of others. While I doubt I'll get to everything on the list, I've found several to add to my list of must-reads. This isn't a book that's easy to read cover-to-cover, but it's definitely a fun book to browse, especially if you consider yourself "well read." How many of the 1001 have YOU read???

[ The List of 1001 Books on Listology.com -- with reader comments ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a music CDIt's Time
by Michael Bublé [Compact Disc 781.63 Bub]

Michael Bublé's smooth vocals are highlighted to good effect in this collection of cover songs. Bublé, who can range from "lounge singer" to hipster, does well with his own take on songs made famous by other crooners. Particular stand-outs on this disc include his versions of Feeling Good, Can't Buy Me Love, I've Got You Under My Skin and a duet of Quando, Quando, Quando with Nelly Furtado. Fans of Bublé won't want to miss this one, and it is a fair example of his vocal talents to sample for those who aren't familiar with his work. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try pretty much anything else by Bublé (particularly Crazy Love), early Frank Sinatra, or the works of Harry Connick Jr.]

[ official Michael Bublé web site ]

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


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book cover  The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

We read this for my college adolescent literature class and all fell in love with it. Collins mixes television's "Survivor" with War coverage in this young-adult thriller, sending twenty-four kids to fight to the death in order to win food for life. The story takes place in the USA in the distant future and the country is divided into twelve main districts. Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist, is from the twelfth and poorest district. To show that they're in charge, each year, the government takes twenty-four children (two from each district) and forces them to kill each other all the while being filmed and broadcast all over the twelve districts. The novel follows the story of Katniss trying to stay alive while battling her feelings for a fellow competitor. I was hooked from the beginning and had to force myself to put it down. It's just so different from other young-adult books that it kept me intrigued through to the end. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the sequels - Catching Fire and Mockingjay.]

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

[ publisher's official Hunger Games and Suzanne Collins web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library and South Branch Library


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book cover  Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion
by Neil Gaiman [813 AdaYg]

Grab your towel, and whatever you do...Don't Panic! This is the behind-the-scenes history of Douglas Adams' phenomenonally popular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Partly a biography of Adams' early years, Gaiman traces the origins of the HHGG, including all the variant versions of the property -- radio series, books (originally a trilogy, then expanded by Adams into 5 volumes), television series, stage plays, records, film, computer games. etc. Filled with humor, both riotous and wry, this is a must-read for fans of the series. I would also recommend this to fans of fantasist Gaiman, to see what one of his earliest published works is like. I particularly enjoyed seeing all the fragments from original manuscripts, to see how they differ from what ultimately made it into the published versions. Highly recommended for both fans and non-fans of HHGG alike! [Note: A completely updated version of this book was published in 2005 as Don't Panic: Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which brings readers up-to-date on Adams, through and beyond his 2001 death. Although the libraries don't own this edition, it is available through our InterLibrary Loan service.] [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams by Nick Webb, and, of course, the novels in the HHGG series.]

[ Wikipedia page for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in its various formats ] | [ douglasadams.com ] | [ BBC's official H2G2 web site ]

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


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book cover  Real Murders
by Charlaine Harris

Having been a fan of two of Harris' other series (Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly), and having had the Aurora Teagarden series highly recommended to me by other fans of "cozy" mysteries, I was looking forward to this first volume in Roe's adventures. In the end, I came away with mixed feelings. In Real Murders, small-town librarian Aurora Teagarden is a member of a "book club"-like group that examines "true crime" cases in detail and hypothesizes about potential solutions to unsolved murder cases. When members of that group start showing up dead -- murdered in ways that mimic real-life murder cases -- Aurora begins to investigate, with the help of two beaus...a sturdy but unremarkable burglary detective, and a bestselling mystery author who's just moved to town. I found the first two third's of the novel to be a letdown -- fairly simplistic characterizations and dialog. However, the final third of the book really kicked things into gear and I got a lot more involved in caring about Aurora and her life. For what had been a modern cozy for most of the book, there's a surprisingly violent twist near the end that may shock cozy readers. In the end, despite being initially disappointed, I ended up liking this one and look forward to reading more in the Aurora Teagarden series. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of the Aurora Teagarden series or the Death on Demand series by Carolyn G. Hart.]

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

[ official Aurora Teagarden page on the official Charlaine Harris web site ]

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


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book cover  Murder at Longbourn
by Tracy Kiely

Tracy Kiely combines allusions to Pride and Prejudice and Agatha Christie with a murder at a Cape Cod B&B to create a witty debut novel. When the book opens Elizabeth Parker has made a New Year's resolution to improve her life. As a result, she has sworn off of fatty foods and she dumped her two-timing boyfriend. The downside to this resolution is that she will welcome in the new year alone. Her prospects brighten when her great-aunt Winnie asks Elizabeth to come to help her host a Murder Mystery Dinner party at her new bed and breakfast. Elizabeth's mood sours when she arrives at the Inn at Longbourn and meets Winnie's other helper, her childhood nemesis, Peter McGowen. New Year's Eve arrives and the stage is set for the "murder". Elizabeth passes around plates of hors d'oeuvres while Peter tends the bar. The acting troupe mingles with the guests. At the appointed time, Winnie turns out the lights so than actor can be stabbed to death. But the actor does not die when the room goes dark. Instead a shot is fired and one of the guests dies. Because only Winnie knew exactly when the lights would go out, the police make her their number one suspect. Elizabeth takes it upon herself to solve the mystery and save her great-aunt from a jail sentence. This is a delightful cozy. I loved the references to Jane Austin and Agatha Christie. The story some interesting twists and turns. I can't say more without giving away the plot. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Killer Plot by Ellery Adams, The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan, and Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle.]

[ publisher's official Murder at Longbourn web site ] | [ official Tracy Kiely web site ]

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


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book cover  Super
by Jim Lehrer

In this novel, author and PBS anchor, Jim Lehrer, turns back the pages of the calendar back to 1956. Train travel has not yet given way to air travel. Lehrer sets this story on the luxury train called the Super Chief, nicknamed "The Train of Stars" because it carried many celebrities from Los Angeles to Chicago. Passengers are pampered on the 39-hour journey between the two cities. On this fateful journey people die under questionable circumstances. Jack Pryor, a detective for the Santa Fe railroad, must find out the facts, while keeping noted passengers such as Clark Gable and Harry Truman alive. Readers who enjoy nostalgic visits to a simpler time will find this book an enjoyable read. Travel was more leisurely, some might even say more civilized. Passengers dined in elegant dining cars as they rolled across the countryside and they stretched out for the night in sleeping cars. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith.]

[ publisher's official Super web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Jim Lehrer ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CD format of this titleHow We Decide
by Jonah Lehrer [Compact Disc 153.8 Leh]

Freelance writer, Jonah Lehrer moved from the world of writing magazine articles to writing books when he chose to explore how we make decisions. His impetus to examine decision-making came from his inability to decide which cereal to purchase. Lehrer said that he wasted a lot of time in the supermarket aisle trying to choose between apple-cinnamon and honey nut Cherrios. He wanted to learn what went on in his brain as he stood in the store with his hand on the cart staring at the boxes. Lehrer headed off to visit the world of neuroscience where he learned how rational thinking combined with the right amount of emotional input leads to good decisions while decisions made when emotions are silent or overwhelming do not lead to satisfactory results. Lehrer writes in an easy to understand style with many examples from the real world to illustrate his points. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Why We Make Mistakes by Joseph T. Hallinan, Sway by Ori Brafman, and The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely.]

[Also available in print format.]

[ official How We Decide and Jonah Lehrer web site ]

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


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book cover  Healing Hearts: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon
by Kathy Magliato [Biography Magliato]

Magliato is a female heart surgeon also trained to perform heart transplants. This is the story of how she made it through college and medical school, and how she navigates the high-pressure, highly demanding, male-dominated world of surgeons and especially heart-surgeons. She writes frankly about the sexism and sexual harassment she faced, and that all female doctors endure. We meet many of her patients and follow their stories. As expected you will shed a few tears and cheer at the successes. We watch while she juggles family and career while married to a liver transplant surgeon. Included in an appendix are the 'numbers' one should achieve for a healthy heart, and a list of symptoms of a heart attack. While reading this book you'll appreciate your heart more and become motivated to take better care of it.

[ publisher's official Healing Hearts web site ] | [ official Kathy Magliato web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Freeze Frame
by Peter May

Peter May has an interesting premise for this series. His character, Enzo McLeod is a forensic scientist who made a bet with his friend Roger Raffin. Raffin is a freelance journalist who wrote a book about seven unsolved murders in France. Enzo bet Roger that he could solve all of these cold cases. Enzo tackles one of the crimes in each book. In this, the fourth book in the series, Enzo investigates a twenty-year-old murder. Two decades ago Adam Killian told his daughter-in-law, Jane, that if something happened to him his study was to remain untouched until his son, Peter, arrived home to receive a secret message. Shortly after Adam talked to Jane he was shot and killed in his living room. Peter flew home from Africa when he heard about his father's death. He was killed in a car accident on the way home from the airport. Jane kept her promise to Adam and did not let anyone touch his study until Enzo asked her if he could investigate the crime. She allows him to examine the study to try to decipher the enigmatic message. Besides creating an engaging plot the author paints life on Ile de Groix in broad strokes that gives the reader a sense of the isolation that the residents feel. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Barbara Cleverly or Martin Edwards.]

[ official Peter May web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book-on-CD format of this titleUglies
by Scott Westerfield [Compact Disc j Westerfield]

This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceSeveral folks had recommended this series to me, so I thought I'd give it a chance as a Book-on-CD. Initially, I felt the first half of this book was quite padded, and I found I really couldn't care about the extremely self-centered main character, Tally. However, once she is blackmailed into being sent into the wilderness to seek out society's rebels, the action and plot became much more fast-paced. Adult readers may find this a rather simplistic tale, but teen (or younger) readers will connect with the primary characters and should get pulled into the plot. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of the Uglies series by Westerfield.]

[Also available in print, playaway audio device formats.]

[ official Uglies page on the official Scott Westerfield web site ]

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


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book cover  Cookbooking: The Delicious New Way to Scrapbook
by Barbara Winkler [745.593 Win]

This book provides inspiration for organizing your recipes for yourself or to create gifts for family and friends. I especially liked the idea of creating a heritage scrapbook of family recipes. Pasting old family photos along with the recipes and letters written long ago in a bound book makes a great present for someone dear to you or as a keepsake for yourself. Winkler gives detailed instructions for making the book from the cover to the last page. Another idea I like is to create a holidays cookbook of all those special occasions. I like this idea because I am always thumbing through cookbooks for that potato puff recipe that goes so well with the turkey that my husband fixes on the grill. Every year I tell myself that I will put copies of the recipes that I fix for these special days one place, but I never do it. Making a book like this is the motivation that I need. This book has a felt divider for each holiday with a pocket to hold recipe cards and notes about the celebration.

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemBride Wars
[DVD Bride]

As "girlfriend movies" go, this one is fairly enjoyable. Even though there are some silly & outrageous moments, there is also depth and warmth to it. Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway are an interesting pairing, and Candice Bergen is humorously tart as usual.

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

Review Score - 5
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemEarth
by Disney Nature [DVD j591.568 Ear]

I was a big fan of the Planet Earth series that appeared on the Discovery channel so I was excited to watch Earth. This DVD is packed with footage of some of the world's most stunning animals and locations. People of all ages can enjoy following the story of three animal families as well. Be sure to watch the credits to see how the filmmakers got some of their most difficult shots. I could not help but to be in awe of the skill and patience it took to make this film possible.

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

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


Review Score - 9
While this is a children's movie, it is enjoyable for adults as well. I certainly enjoyed it! It is part nature movie and part action-adventure film. You will be on the edge of your seat wondering if the elephants will find water, or the polar bears food. And, have you ever seen a bird of paradise do a mating dance? This movie offers entertainment while you learn about the lives of animals we share Earth with.
Rated by -- Jodene G.
staff member at the Walt Branch Library

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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemMongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan
[DVD Mongol]

"Do not scorn a weak cub, he may turn out to be the son of a tiger." -- Mongolian Proverb. Russian director Sergi Bodrov based his Oscar nominated movie on scholarly accounts of the early life of Genghis Khan, who was born as Temudgin between 1155 and 1167. Temudgin's father, a minor khan, was poisoned when Temudgin was a child. After his father's death, Temudgin was kidnapped by Targutai and enslaved. Temudgin endured years of humiliation and hardship before he escaped and sought revenge on his enemies. Temudgin used alliances as well as warfare to unite many of the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia. In 1206, at a gathering of Tartar-Mongols, Temudgin was elected supreme ruler of all of the tribes and he was named Genghis Khan (Lord of the Universe). This epic adventure shows different sides of the man. We meet Temudgin as a child and watch him grow to manhood. We see him as a family man and we watch the bloody battles that he fights and the alliances he forms on his way to becoming the supreme leader of the Mongols. This movie is a visually stunning banquet of scenery, adventure, love, revenge and stoic acceptance of the harsh life on the Mongolian steppe.

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

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemNorthern Lights
by Nora Roberts [DVD Northern]

Another in the series of eight made-for-TV-movie adaptations of Nora Roberts bestsellers. This one features country singer LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian as the leads, and is set in a remote Alaskan outpost town, Lunacy. Cibrian plays Nate Burns, a former Baltimore cop, escaping from a personal tragedy by taking a job as the new Chief of Police in Lunacy. Rimes plays Meg Galligan, a bush pilot with some skeletons in her own personal closet. When mountain climbers discover the preserved, murdered, body of Meg's father -- who had disappeared 15 years earlier -- this sets off a chain reaction of violence and suspicion in the small town. Cibrian and Rimes have good chemistry together, and Rosanna Arquette plays well against Rimes as Meg's estranged mother. The mystery in this romantic suspense tale is pretty flimsy, but you watch this type of movie for the relationships, and this one doesn't disappoint in that area. An entertaining 90 minutes.

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

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Northern Lights 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 itemPlanet 51
[DVD j Planet]

This is a very nice animated film about an "alien invasion" with the perspective of humans as the ETs. The stylization and quality are very good and the story, though not overly complicated, is a 'lesson' that should appeal equally well to different ages. Some of the voice actors include Justin "I'm a Mac" Long, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Jessica Biel.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Planet 51 web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemStudio One: Sentence of Death/The Night America Trembled
[DVD Sentence]

Studio One, sponsored by Westinghouse, offered a wide variety of dramas. Each week families gathered around their black and white television sets and turned the dial to CBS to watch live plays. Many future well-known TV and movie actors appeared in these episodes. This disk contains two shows: Sentence of Death and The Night America Trembled. Sentence of Death is the story of a young man (James Dean) who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only thing that saved him from a death sentence was the steadfast insistence of one of the eyewitnesses (Betsy Palmer) that the police had arrested the wrong man. The Night America Trembled is a recreation of the night in 1938 when the radio play, War of the Worlds was broadcast. Edward R Murrow narrated the story. They alternated between showing scenes of the actors working in the radio studio, Ed Asner was one of the actors, and the panicked citizens. Warren Beatty, in one of his earliest roles, was a card-playing college student. James Colburn made his debut in this drama. TV shows such as Studio One are a stroll down memory lane for those of us who crowded around our TV sets during the Golden Age of Television.
[Also available in VHS format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for Studio One ]

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


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last updated September 2010
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