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

October 2010 Recommendations

book cover  She Ain't Heavy, She's My Mother
by Bryan Batt [Biography Batt]

This biography is actually about TWO people - Batt, and his mother. If his photo or name is unfamiliar to you, Bryan Batt stars in AMC's "Mad Men" as Salvatore Romano. In one interview about this book, Batt commented that he was fed up with memoirs by people complaining about their parents, so he decided to write a book about how great his mom has been. Batt was raised in New Orleans and after a New York trip with his mother to see "Cabaret" he was determined to become a song and dance man. Along with the story of how he became an actor on Broadway, we also learn about his mother and his life in New Orleans while growing up. You can practically hear her southern accent drip off the page. Batt was living and working in New York City when the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and he describes some poignant moments of what life in NYC was like for a few days. Batt has some stories about Hurricane Katrina as well. A quick read, very interesting and entertaining. This reviewer was disappointed when the stories ended.

[ publisher's official She Ain't Heavy... web page ] | [ official Bryan Batt web site ]

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


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book cover  Larceny and Lace
by Annette Blair

Madeira Cutler is opening her new vintage clothing shop in her home town (in what was once the morgue). Murder steps in and Madeira must use her newly found ability of seeing the past through the old clothing to help solve the crime. The most intriguing Halloween ball takes place at the end of the book. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other titles by Annette Blair. Casey Daniels also has a heroine who sees the dead and she's a cemetery tour guide.]

[ official Annette Blair web site ]

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


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book cover  Classy: Be a Lady, Not a Tramp
by Derek Blasberg [YA Blasberg]

This non-fiction book is usually the type I would just flip through in order to note key points. However, I found myself reading this book of etiquette from cover to cover. The author, Derek Blasberg, uses wit and humor as well as examples of bad manners from his own past. He also added many pop culture elements and references to make his points interesting in what otherwise could have easily ended up being a dry read. I really enjoyed the author's examples of indiscretions made by many of today's out-of-control socialites, reality TV stars and actresses in a way that gets his point on how not to be a "self-entitled skank". The conduct of life content is useful for all adults, but the overall theme of the book is geared towards young-adult women. Derek Blasberg grew up in St. Louis Missouri, but moved to New York City after his high school graduation. He graduated with honors and degrees in Dramatic Literature and Journalism in 2004, and then started his first job as an assistant at American Vogue. Blasberg is now the Editor at Large of Conde Nast's premiere fashion website, Style.com, as well as the Editor at Large of Hearst Publications' fashion title Harper's Bazaar.

[ official Derek Blasberg web site ]

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


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book cover  Casting Spells
by Barbara Bretton

A young woman owns a knitting shop in what appears to be a normal small town. Unknown to visitors, its populace all are magical beings — except for the knit shop owner whose ancestress placed a safety spell over the town generations ago. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Book 2 in the series - Laced With Magic, and book three Spun by Sorcery is due out in November.]

[ official Barbara Bretton blog ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Sandy W.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  The Viognier Vendetta
by Ellen Crosby

Wine lovers will enjoy this series set in Virginia's hunt country. Each book entwines the story of a different wine into the plot. The crisp Viognier wine is featured in this story. Vintner Lucie Montgomery explains to her customers who are not familiar with this wine that even though it has a long in history in France it is fairly new to the United States because the grape is difficult to grow. Trivia about Mosby's Raiders and J.E.B. Stuart, who roamed the area, add a dash of civil war history to the novels. When the book opens Lucie is driving to Washington D.C. to spend the weekend with her old college friend, Rebecca Natale. They are going to a black-tie gala honoring Rebecca's boss, billionaire investor Sir Thomas Asher. They stop at the Vietnam Wall where Rebecca leaves a bouquet of white roses. She tells Lucie that she has to run an errand for her boss but that she will meet her at their hotel before the event. Rebecca never comes back to the hotel. The next morning Rebecca's clothing is found neatly folded by the Potomac River. Rebecca has vanished, along with an antique silver wine cooler. Is it suicide, murder or a bold plot to disappear? Lucie joins force with Rebecca's friend, Ian Phillips, to find out what happened to Rebecca by following clues that she left for them in an Alexander Pope poem. Crosby has created a likeable character in the resourceful Lucie who overcame a crippling injury and took over her family's failing vineyard and turned it into a thriving business. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Books by Cleo Coyle, Ellery Adams and Julie Hyzy.]

[Also available in downloadable audio format.]

[ official Viognier Vendetta page on the official Ellen Crosby web site ]

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


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book cover  Wicked Appetite
by Janet Evanovich

Readers of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum may be familiar with character "Diesel" from the "Between the Numbers" series. In this new series, Diesel is the main character, paired with Lizzy, a cupcake baker who wants nothing more than to be left alone so she can bake. Sadly, that just isn't going to be. This book is true Evanovich -- laugh out loud hilarious while gorging on fried chicken, cupcakes and a monkey in tow.

[Also available in book-on-cd, and Large Print formats.]

[ official Wicked Appetite page on the official Janet Evanovich web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Jodene G.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Time and Again
by Jack Finney

This is a fascinating time travel novel, by a master fantasist. Artist Si Morley gets involved in a secret government project to prove that someone can be sent backwards in time and then return to the present day. The "science" is hokey -- using hypnosis and the environmental equivalent of a sensory deprivation chamber -- and the novel only remotely deals with potential time travel paradoxes. However, this book is a love poem to Victoriana -- Finney's extremely detailed descriptions of everything the characters encounter in the novel give a real sense of place, and the reader can easily find themselves falling in love with 1880s New York. This novel, in many ways, inspired the Jane Seymour/Christopher Reeve time-travel romance film, Somewhere in Time (even though that was written by Richard Matheson). If you liked that film, you'll probably enjoy this novel, too.

[ Wikipedia page for Time and Again ] | [ Wikipedia page for Jack Finney ]

related lists See more books like this on our Time is Relative booklist
Review Score - 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Starvation Lake
by Brian Gruley

Small town hockey plays an integral part in this debut novel. Thirty years ago, Jack Blackburn moved to Starvation Lake and started coaching hockey. He turned the ragtag River Rats into a contender for the Michigan state hockey championship. His motto was that that the team needed to win only one game — the Michigan state championship final. The River Rats made it to the final, but lost in overtime, due in part, to an error by their goalie, Gus Carpenter. Gus left Starvation Lake to go college to become a journalist. He was a rising star at the Detroit Times. A news reporting error sent him back to his hometown with his "tail between his legs". New he is associate editor of the Pine County Pilot and goalie in the Midnight Hour Men's Hockey League. One night, parts of an old snowmobile, with a bullet hole, washed up on the shore of Walleye Lake. Vehicle records proved that the sled belonged to Jack Blackburn. Blackburn died in a snowmobile accident ten years before — on Starvation Lake. How did the snow mobile make it was from Starvation Lake to Walleye Lake? Did the sled travel through one of the tunnels that are rumored to run between the lakes? Gus and his reporter, Joanie McCarthy, dig into the town's past trying to find out what happened. Gruley paints vivid pictures of life in Starvation Lake. For example, when Gus walks into Audrey's Diner to get an egg pie for breakfast, I can hear the dishes clatter and I can small the rich aroma of coffee in the air. In my mind's eye I can see Make-Believe Gardens, the hockey rink that Jack Blackburn built, with its goals made of two-by-fours and chicken wire.

[ official Bryan Gruley web site ]

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


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book cover  Frankenstein: The True Story
by Christopher Isherwood [812 Ish]

I stumbled across this rare little treasure in the stage play collections at the downtown library. Numerous friends have highly recommended the filmed version of this story, an intriguing alternate take on the legendary Frankenstein story by Mary Shelley. Unfortunately, the film version of Frankenstein: The True Story is rather rare, and quite hard to come by. So, this small paperback, which is the script to the filmed production, serves as a quirky yet highly readable replacement to the video. This novelization-in-script-form features an opening framing sequence of author Mary Shelley sharing the origins of her story with the other writers whose mutual challenge inspired the tale. The story incorporates Shelley's fellow writer Polidori as a character in Frankenstein's tale (not actually in Shelley's story), and plays a bit fast and loose with other elements of the well-known story. But this is still a fascinating and entertaining version of the Frankenstein tale. I still recommend getting your hands on the video version (try our InterLibrary Loan service), but in the meantime, this is a fun and intriguing read. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try to borrow the film through InterLibrary Loan.]

[ Wikipedia page for Frankenstein the True Story ] | [ Wikipedia page for Christopher Isherwood ]

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


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book cover  Wisconsin Death Trip
by Michael Lesy [917.75 obLes]

The 1800s out west is often stereotypically portrayed as a wholesome place where American dreams came true, communities thrived and conservative values were upheald. But was that actually the case? Historian Michael Lesy compiled this bizarre look into the life of the people of the West in the late 1800s using newspaper clippings and old photographs. Truth be told, there was a macabre side to the time including poverty, mental illness, violence, and suicide to name a few. This gritty look at Black River Falls, WI is an alternative and very real dark historical view of the past. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Diane Arbus, magazine work by Diane Arbus; The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago by Douglas Perry.]

[ official Wisconsin Death Trip web site (for both book and film) ] | [ official Michael Lesy bio page from Hampshire College ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Glory B.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories by Richard Matheson
by Richard Matheson

This is a marvelous collection of 20 short horror stories by a master of the form. Fans of this genre will recognize the title piece as the story about an airline passenger having a psychotic breakdown as he sees a bizarre creature ripping apart the wing of plane he's flying on. That was turned into a 1963 episode of the classic Twilight Zone TV series, starring William Shatner, and was later included in the Twilight Zone: The Movie, which starred John Lithgow in the same role. For me, that story is arguably the best in the collection, but there are many others here worth recommending. Matheson does a great job of finding horror in the ordinary. His protagonists are typical "everymen". The settings are not gothic and spooky, but rather are the house next door, or your typical office complex. Of the stories in this collection, I would highly recommend "Mad House", "Legion of Plotters", "The Children of Noah", and "First Anniversary". The final story, "Prey" will also be recognizable to long-time TV and horror fans -- it was the basis one of the tales included in 1975's Trilogy of Terror, in which a Zuni doll comes to life and terrorizes Karen Black in her apartment. Note: Oddly, although the back cover of this book says the collection includes the story "Duel", which was turned into a creepy TV-movie starring Dennis Weaver and a semi, and ws the first feature film directed by Steven Spielberg, that story does NOT actually appear in the collection! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try pretty much anything else by Richard Matheson, including: I Am Legend, Richard Matheson's Off-Beat Uncollected Stories, Hell House, and Hunted Past Reason.]

[ Wikipedia page for Rickard Matheson ]

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


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book cover  Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat That Touched the World
by Vickie Myron [636.8 Myr]

Remember Dewey Readmore Books? The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World? Who could forget? The dirty, nearly-frozen kitten was discovered in the drop box of the Spencer, Iowa, public library in 1988, and adopted the site as his "kingdom" for the next nineteen years. In the first book by Vicki Myron, former library director and Dewey's "Mom," the story is told of those adventuresome nineteen years, Dewey's influence on the psyche of a town suffering from an economic downslide, and his ability to help the humans who needed him most. It may be worth a second read while you wait for the next book, Dewey's Nine Lives: the legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions, to be released on October 12. Or why not try the picture book, Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library. Psssst! There will also be a picture book released in October — just in time for Christmas — Dewey's Christmas at the Library. Enjoy!

[Also available in book-on-cd, and Large Print formats.]

[ official www.deweyreadmorebooks.com web site ]

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


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book cover  Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese
by Michael J. Nelson [791.43 Nel]

Michael J. Nelson was one of the brilliant and satirical writers/performers behind many seasons of the late and lamented Mystery Science Theater 3000 television series. MST3K spent two hours each week mercilessly mocking bad movies, most often science fiction, horror or "biker" flicks. But not just mocking...Nelson and his comrades were mocking badness in very intelligent ways. Their schtick was that while a (bad) movie was playing, tiny silhouettes of Mike and his two robot companions appeared at the bottom of your tv screen and commented on the film's dialog, sets, etc. as the film played out. During an average 2-hour movie, you'd get perhaps 200 or more zingers from Mike and the bots, and many of those zingers were intellectual and well-informed. MST3K ended in 1999, and Nelson followed it up with this amusing collection of movie reviews and commentaries, filled with his goofy, sarcastic sense of humor. Not all of the essays in this collection are simple movie reviews...he also goes off on riffs about trends, actors, etc. If you're a fan of MST3K, you'll enjoy this. If you enjoy making fun of bad movies, you'll want to take a look. And if you just like reading movie reviews with a sense of humor, this is definitely right up your alley. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try to borrow episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 through InterLibrary Loan.]

[ official Movie Megacheese page on the official Michael J. Nelson web site ]

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


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book cover  BBQ 25
by Adam Perry Lang [641.578 Per]

Fun and helpful little cookbook, in an interesting format. This is, essentially, an adult "board book", with thick stiff pages and highly glossy illustrations. Perry Lang breaks down the basics on preparing BBQ with beef, pork, chicken, lamb, seafood and miscellaneous items. Included are essential ingredients and techniques for rubs, brines, marinades and bastes, and lists of the essential tools needed for each dish. Some of his techniques for both direct and indirect grill cooking seem intriguing, including a method that involves the meat visiting the grill twice -- once while exposed to the smoke, and the second time while wrapped in foil. All his illustrations are extremely helpful. I really enjoyed this BBQ cookbook, and look forward to trying out some of his ideas.

[ official Adam Perry Lang 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 Day of the Jackal
by Frederick Forsyth [DVD Day]

This movie is based on a novel of the same name by Frederick Forsyth. Forsyth's novel is the gold standard of the thriller genre. Director Fred Zimmerman stays true to the plot of the book and creates a first-rate movie. The Jackal (Edward Fox) is an assassin who is a master of disguise with ice water running through his veins. He is a meticulous planner. It is these traits that make him the perfect choice for the OAS who wants to assassinate De Gaulle. To give you some background if you have not read this fine novel — President Charles De Gaulle angered some by granting Algeria its freedom in 1962. A secret group within the army called itself the Secret Army Organization, or OAS for short, launched a series of assassination attempts on De Gaulle. The French Secret Service foiled all of the attacks and arrested the leaders. A new leader emerged and he hired a man who went by the code name of Jackal to kill De Gaulle. This low-key thriller takes us into the minds of the Jackal and the quiet, unassuming detective who is assigned to capture him. We watch the Jackal meticulously plan the murder and overcome unexpected obstacles while Detective Lebel uses his informal network of foreign intelligence and police contacts to identify and trace the Jackal's myriad of aliases. [Note: Remade in 1997 as The Jackal, starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere and Sidney Poitier.]
[Also available in print format, 1997 remake formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemNorthanger Abbey
by Jane Austen [DVD Northanger]

This movie is an unbelievably funny story by Jane Austen. It is apparent Jane Austen had quite a bit of fun writing this tale mocking gothic fiction. I laughed out loud in places. A must see!
[Also available in print, 1992 movie production formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Northanger Abbey web site from PBS ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Jodene G.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this item'Salem's Lot
by Stephen King [DVD Salem's]

Although I've previously reviewed Stephen King's novel, 'Salem's Lot, for our staff recommendations, this 1979 mini-series adaptation deserves a strong recommendation of its very own. In my opinion, this is one of the best adaptations of a King novel to the screen, either big or small. The casting on this creepy little gem is perfect, from David Soul as Ben Mears, to James Mason as Jason Straker and Reggie Nalder as the Nosferatu-like Kurt Barlowe. Other cast members (all of whom are excellent) include Lew Ayres, Bonnie Bedelia, Lance Kerwin, Ed Flanders, Fred Willard, Geoffrey Lewis, and Elisha Cook Jr. This mini-series manages to capture the feel of a small New England town perfectly, and the sense of dread felt by the inhabitants as evil overcomes their community is palpable. This film has some genuine jump-out-of-your-seat scares, including one of my favorite "scary movie" scenes of all time, as newly vamped Danny hovers outside of Mark's bedroom and begs to be "let in". In 2004, a newer version of this story was filmed for TNT, starring Rob Lowe. It was slicker, and had a big-name cast. But for my money, you can't beat this 1979 mini-series! Perfect Halloween viewing material!
[Also available in print, and book-on-cd formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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last updated November 2010
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