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

April 2011 Recommendations

book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceStolen
by Lucy Christopher

This is a young adult, fictional story, not a romance, yet not a horror story. A Sixteen year old girl, Gemma, is kidnapped and taken away to the vast and remote outback of Australia. Her kidnapper , Ty, believes he is deeply in love with Gemma and is "rescuing" her from her big city dwelling, indifferent parents, selfish friends as well as a materialistic life in London. The story is told in the first person and reads as an honest, realistic letter to her kidnapper. The personality development of both main characters is intriguing and the reading is continually guessing as to whether Ty is just an eccentric, slightly delusional person or someone more sinister, extremely mentally ill. As Gemma reluctantly gets to know Ty, her emotions run the gamut until she begins to empathize with her kidnapper and have romantic feelings toward him. Naturally, these feelings brings up the psychological phenomenon, "Stockholm Syndrome", in which a hostage grows adulation and positive feelings toward his or her captor. After I finished this novel, I read up on the author, Lucy Christopher. This was her first book, and I was very surprised that she actually wrote this book as part of her doctoral thesis. The author is from Wales and resided in Australia for most of her life. Therefore, Ms. Christopher brought vivid, mind capturing detail to the story allowing the reader to be pulled in and to have a clear picture of the outback without having ever being there. Stolen was intriguing, and as I had hoped, the story is not be overly dark and depressing. Surprisingly, there is no rape and very little physical violence, so if you are a reader who is sensitive to these themes, it is still a book I would recommend. I have been not so patiently waiting for this story to be published for quite a few months. I read it quickly and was not disappointed. Ms. Christopher is definitely a unique author to the Young Adult genre.


[ official Stolen and Lucy Christopher web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Jessica H.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  The Dinosaur Hunter
by Homer Hickam

Who knew that the tedious work of digging for dinosaur bones could create such mayhem? Square C ranch foreman, Mike Wire, narrates the story of the time that a paleontologist, Dr. Norman "Pick" Pickford, asked for permission to dig up Blackie Butte. What started out as simply brushing away the dirt from a T Rex skeleton turned into a battle with members of the Russian mob. It all started innocently enough when Ray Coulter wrote a paper for his high school English class about the fossils that his father found years before. Ray's teacher posted the paper on the school's website. It was anonymously emailed to the paleontologist. Pick charms Jeanette Coulter, a hard-as-nails widow, into allowing him to search her land for these extinct reptiles. This engaging thriller introduced me to the world of dinosaur hunting and the black market that thrives around the search for these relics. Hickam set this book in eastern Montana where he has hunted for dinosaur bones for more than a decade. During his excursions Hickam became acquainted with the ranchers and farmers who call these grasslands home. These hardy, independent folks are the basis for his colorful characters. Homer Hickam has written a number of books. His memoir, Rocket Boys was made into the well-acclaimed movie October Sky.


[ official Dinosaur Hunter page on the official Homer Hickam web site ]

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


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book cover  Death in Zanzibar
by M.M. Kaye

M. M. Kaye was so enamored with Zanzibar that she set two books on that island paradise. The first book, Trade Wind, is a historical novel that tells the story of Rory Frost, a slave trader and pirate. The second book, Death in Zanzibar, features Tyson Frost, the grandson of Rory. Rory Frost hid a cache of gold and left clues to its location in a document that he sent to his solicitors in Market-Lyndon, England with instructions that it not be released until 70 years after his death. Tyson asks his stepdaughter, Dany Ashton, to bring him the document when she flies to Zanzibar from London to visit he and her mother, Lorraine. Dany gets the document from Mr. Honeywood. Shortly, after she leaves office, the elderly solicitor is murdered. Then Dany's hotel room is ransacked and her passport is stolen and a gun is planted in her dresser drawer. Dany turns to a man who she has just met who is also going to visit her mother and stepfather. Dany adamantly tells Lash Holden that she will fly to Zanzibar, the island of her dreams, passport or no passport. At Lash's suggestion, Dany assumes the role of Lash's secretary, Aida Kitchell and travels with him to Zanzibar. There more trouble awaits Dany when someone attempts to frame her for another murder. M. M. Kaye was married to a British Army officer, who, in her words, "was posted to many novel and entertaining places". She kept a journal about each exotic locale. Kaye said that when she was ready to write this romantic suspense novel all she had to do was "hunt up my Zanzibar notebook, and there it all was. An exact description of everything I could possibly need, down to the advertisement painted on looking-glass in the Mombassa Airport, and the millipede crawling across the floor of the tiny, makeshift one on Pemba." Even though this book was written fifty ago, it stands the test of time fairly well. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try books by Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer and Victoria Holt.]


[ M.M. Kaye on Wikipedia ]

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


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book cover  The Celebrity Black Book
by Jordan McAuley [R 790 qMcA]

This is, quite simply, the most effective tool to finding celebrity contact information available today. The format is incredibly simple -- this book is basically just one massive encyclopedia of celebrities -- over 60,000 actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, religious figures, world leaders, authors/writers, models, directors, producers, artist/photographers and reality tv stars -- arranged purely in alphabetical order, and including only their mailing addresses. In many cases, especially that of media stars, the addresses provided are for the agency that "handles" them, as opposed to the celebrity themselves directly. Although you may be able to locate SOME contact methods for certain celebrities, via their websites and other means online, no other resource is as comprehensive as this. Trying to track down Robert Englund (the original Freddie Krueger)? He's in here. Want to drop a fan letter to Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the moon)? His agents are listed here! Got a question for scientist Temple Grandin? You'll find her mailing address here. The only drawback, from an organizational standpoint is that there is no index by category -- the information here is solely by the celebrities' names. But if you know who you're looking for, and you haven't found it in a quick web search -- this is the tool to use! [Note: The latest edition owned by the libraries -- the 20th anniversary edition -- is only available in the Reference collection at the Bennett Martin Public Library. Although it can't be checked out, library staff will be happy to look addresses up for you!]


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


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book cover  Nebraska's Fatal Air Crashes of WWII
by Jerry Penry [940.544 qPen]

This book gives accounts of the hundreds of airplane crashes involving military aricraft in Nebraska during World War II. Many of these crashes were not reported by the media because they were part of training exercises and needed to be kept secret. History has overlooked the sacrifices made by these men and women. This book is dedicated to all of them. The amount of research that went into this book is incredible. I was most impressed with the photographs, the eyewitness accounts, and the detailed maps of the crash sites. This book would appeal to anyone with an interest in aviation history or World War II. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Nebraska Voices of World war II: Nebraska Veterans in the Great War by Ted Larson, Wings Over Nebraska: Historic Aviation Photographs by Vincent Goeres, or the extensive Air Force Base Lincoln microfilm collection of clippings related to Lincoln's historic airbase.]


[ Jerry Penry's official Nebraska Air Crashes web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Dog On It
by Spencer Quinn

This was the January 2011 selection for the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, and despite that group's members have a varied taste in mystery styles, Dog On It found nearly universal acclaim among our members. Personally, this was one of the most entertaining and enjoyable mysteries I've read in several years. That is almost entirely because of the narrative voice used by Quinn in this story. Dog On It is told from the point of view of Chet -- a mutt who is owned by Bernie, a private investigator. Chet is a dropout from the police K-9 academy but still has a hard-boiled detective's drive to right wrongs. Unfortunately, he's a dog. And, he's therefore susceptible to things that typically distract dogs -- odd smells, food, other dogs, fleas, and a short attention span. Somehow, despite this hilarious but somewhat unreliable narrator, Quinn tells a solid mystery story, with quite a few scary moments. If you like a good Southwestern US setting, and you're looking for an unusual narrative voice, you can't miss this one! Dog On It is merely the first in an ongoing series featuring Chet and Bernie. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the subsequent volumes in the Chet and Bernie series.]

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

[ official Chet the Dog web site/blog ] | [ publisher's official Spencer Quinn web page ]

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


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book cover  The Long Walk: A True Story of the Trek to Freedom
by Slavomir Rawicz [940.547 Raw]

Slavomir Rawicz is in the Polish Calvary in 1939 in his early twenties as Europe is becoming a hot zone, mobilizing towards WWII. Rawicz fights in a few skirmishes, but early on before the war begins, he is arrested by the Russian secret police. His personal narrative in The Long Walk describes his horrific experiences as a prisoner in Russian prison and a Siberian work camp. Leading up to his escape, Rawicz recounts the brutality of his life as an inmate. The meat of his story lies in a 4,000 mile walking escape from the Siberian work camp. Rawicz and a small group of man trek through the Siberian Arctic, Gobi Desert and over the Himalayan Mountains with little more than the clothes on their backs. It is an epic journey of man against nature. The group of escapees experiences every physical hardship one could. Rawicz writes so concisely and eloquently that you are propelled through their journey as physically and emotionally as possible as a reader. One of the most touching aspects of the story is in the relationship between the escapees. The group of men can only survive through the complete trust of one another and their ability to share resources and ideas. Their story is an account of the depth of team work, human suffering, endurance and the conquering of mind over body. The truth of the story has been disputed although it is considered nonfiction. Read it anyway, for a thrilling story and do some research later to decide whether or not you believe. The Long Walk is an enthralling quick read for historical/personal narrative fans, veterans, adventurists, or inspirational reading for someone recovering from an illness or accident. P.S.: Read the book first! The Long Walk has recently been adapted into the film The Way Back, but don't miss out on Rawicz's writing. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracey Kidder, Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran by Roxana Saberi.]


[ Wikipedia entry for Slavomir Rawicz ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Glory B.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Touch Me, I'm Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs You've Ever Heard
by Tom Reynolds [Music 781.586 Rey]

The title is what caught my eye in the first place. I thought, "why would you name your book that?" So I picked it up and started reading. This book is hysterical and so incredibly easy to get hooked on. Reynolds doesn't just list the 52 songs, he breaks them up into categories like "Love's Just Another Word for I Want to Eat Your Liver" and "I'm Not Bitter, I Just Wish You'd Die, You Miserable Pig" then gives you a little trivia about the author, breaks down the song, and then finally describes why he thinks it's creepy. There were a lot of songs listed that made me say "that song isn't creepy!" until I read what he had to say. It's surprising how many lyrics you don't actually interpret. The author's sense of humor is hilarious, sort of dry and blunt, but he makes you understand why the song is so creepy. It's actually made me pay more attention to the lyrics of the music I'm listening to. What's also nice about this book is that you don't have to read all of it in order. It gives you the song titles in the front and you can skip around to ones you've heard of or ones you're interested. Then, at the end, he gives you a complete list counting down to the number one creepiest love song you've ever heard. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try his previous book, I Hate Myself and Want to Die: the 52 most depressing songs you've ever heard which is available through Interlibrary Loan.]


Review Score - 10
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library and South Branch Library


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book cover  At Willa Cather's Tables: The Cather Foundation Cookbook
by Ann Romines [813 CatYr]

Willa Cather told her tales, in part through the kitchens of her characters. Characters such Antonia who baked kolaches filled with spiced plums. And Father Vaillant who prepared onion soup for the first Christmas that he and Father Latour celebrated in New Mexico. As a young girl, Cather spent many hours in kitchens. First in Virginia with her grandmother where she learned family stories. Then in the pioneer kitchens of her immigrant neighbors. Those conversations were the fuel for her writing career. To honor Cather's love of good cooking, The Cather Foundation has written this book. It is divided into four sections. The first section is filled with excerpts from many of Cather's novels along with recipes that could have been prepared by the characters. Cookies that Bohemian Mary could have baked. Or gooseberry preserves that Cecile may have made for her father. Cather's family and friends contributed the recipes for the second section. The Foundation has some cookbooks that the Cather family donated. Tucked inside these books were handwritten recipes such as the lemon pie recipe from Jessie, Willa's sister. Willa's good friend from childhood, Carrie Miner Sherwood, sent Willa Christmas gifts after she moved to New York. In 1921, Willa sent Carrie a note thanking her for the steamed pudding. The Sherwood family searched Carrie's papers and found a recipe for steamed Christmas Plum Pudding, probably the recipe for the pudding she sent Cather that long ago Christmas. Along with the recipes are photos and stories of Willa?s friends from her Red Cloud days. Women such as Annie Sadilck Pavelka, who was the model for the title character in My Antonia. When Willa Cather died, Annie told her children that she had lost of her best friends. The third section is recipes from places that were important to Cather. The berry cobbler and blackberry buckle recipes pay homage to Willa Cather's Virginia roots. Webster County, Nebraska is represented by recipes from cookbooks published by local groups or in area newspapers. The last section is comprised of recipes from members of the hard-working Cather Foundation staff. Some are recipes from the annual Spring Conference Banquet such as Pork Loin Roast and Plum Cake. The foundation has made Willa Cather come back to life in these pages. Turning pages I reminisce about these novels that I read in high school.


[ official Willa Cather Foundation web site ]

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


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book cover  Vietnamerica
by G.B. Tran [741.5 Tra]

Vietnamerica is a personal graphic memoir by G.B. Tran in which he documents the conversations with his immigrant Vietnamese family. They recount their family history in Vietnam leading up to their escape to America. The illustrations throughout are colorful and unique to the graphic novel genre. Tran also incorporates his father and grandfather's watercolors throughout which adds another strong visual layer. The nonlinear story retraces his parents' and grandparents' lives in Vietnam as they were growing up amidst the controversies of French and finally American occupation. Unlike other Vietnam war stories Tran focuses on Vietnamese familial relationships, which were affected by the political conditions of the time. Further he explores his relationship as a Vietnamese American and his place in both cultures. Tran ends his story in tribute to the memory of his family and the importance for all immigrants to appreciate their ancestral heritage. A great read for all first generation immigrants. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip, The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert, Waltz With Bashir by Ari Folman, Che : a graphic biography by Sid Jacobson, Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi.]


[ G.B. Tran's official blog ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Glory B.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  With Love and Laughter, John Ritter
by Amy Yasbeck [Biography Ritter]

John Ritter was one of my TV heroes -- a comedic actor, adept at both witty dialog and absurd pratfalls, but who managed to remain a "good guy" in real life. From his early parts and recurring role as the paster on The Waltons, to his star turns on Three's Company, Hearts Afire and Hooperman, I had followed his career with pleasure, enjoying each of his performances, but enjoying reading about his behind-the-scenes life almost as much. His death in 2003 was so sudden and shocking, it threw me for a loop, and hearing after-the-fact that it was due to an undiagnosed medical condition was all the more alarming. Ritter's second wife, Yasbeck, does a tender job of looking back at Ritter's life -- the celebrity of his parents Tex and Dorothy Ritter, and his innate need to perform. Counter-balancing Ritter's career trajectory, Yasbeck shares her own background and upbringing, leading to their relationship and the child they had together. Though the last couple of chapters deal with the heartbreak of Ritter's death and the medical issues associated with the condition he fell victim to, the majority of this book is a feel-good tribute to one of our best comic actors, taken from us too early. I enjoyed this tremendously.


[ official John Ritter Foundation web site ] | [ John Ritter entry on Wikipedia ]

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 itemBonekickers
[DVD Bonekickers]

The series follows Dr. Gillian Magwilde and her team of archaeologists finding treasures across the world. The series aired on BBC and was cancelled after only six episodes because of bad ratings. I surprisingly liked it anyway. The critics said it was like CSI meets Indiana Jones. It puts a twist on historical legends like the Knights Templar, the True Cross, Joan of Arc and Excalibur. Plus there's a lot of British humor in it so it's rather amusing. I enjoyed the humor and the fact and that they were explaining the history aspects. Each episode covers a different part of history then comes together in the end. [Note: If you like this you may also enjoy The series Bones on Fox, they find out peoples' histories through their bones or the Indiana Jones movies which is also about seeking treasure]

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

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library and South Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemFor Whom the Bell Tolls
based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway [DVD For]

It's 1937 and the Spanish Civil is raging. Robert Jordan (Gary Cooper), an American demolitions expert, is assigned to an antifascist guerilla unit that is planning to blow up a bridge to stop Franco's troops from advancing. Jordan is living in a cave high in the Guadarrama Mountains with a group of gypsy loyalists waiting for the right moment to demolish the bridge that spans a deep gorge. During the three days that this tiny band of resistance fighters wait for the right moment to blow up the bridge we watch Jordan falls in love with Maria (Ingrid Bergman), a young woman who was raped by some of Franco's soldiers. We become acquainted with the other members of this motley assortment of freedom fighters. Pablo (Akim Tamiroff) was once the brave leader of this group. Now he is cowardly and appears to be willing to sell out to the opposition for the right price. Pilar (Katina Paxinou) has taken Pablo?s place as the idealistic leader. This is a gripping movie that shows the brutality of war through Robert Jordan's eyes. For Whom the Bell Tolls was based on a novel of the same name by Ernest Hemmingway. Hemingway used his experiences as a war correspondent in Spain during the Spanish civil war as the basis for this bestselling novel. The movie was equally successful It was the top box office hit in 1943. For Whom the Bell Tolls was nominated for nine academy awards. Only Katina Paxinou won an Oscar. And it for best supporting actress
[Also available in a variety of print and audio 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 itemGlee: The Complete First Season
[DVD Glee]

This show is worth every award its won. It has a fantastic cast, excellent storylines and awesome soundtracks. The whole series is about a Glee club at a high school in Ohio. They're the underdogs at the school, and always getting slushies thrown in their faces. The story follows the formation of the Glee club and its ups and downs as well as its members ups and downs. What's so great about the writing is that each character is different and has their own quirks, and each musical number is unique. Every new episode brings more drama and more comedy. It's not a musical where they just break out into song at every chance -- the music usually takes place during practice. It's a fantastic series written about high school kids with real life problems

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Glee web site from the Fox network ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library and South Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemHot in Cleveland: Season One
[DVD Hot]

I've been a fan of Wendie Malick ever since "Just Shoot Me" and I've heard nothing but good things about this series so I added it to my list. It's about these three middle-aged women from LA who decide to fly to Paris. One is an actress, whose show was just cancelled; another is a writer; and the last one is the eyebrow queen of L.A. On the way to Paris the plane has to make an emergency landing in Cleveland. At first they're upset, but then they go to a bar and are stunned that the men are looking at them instead of past them like they do in L.A. They decide to stay and move into this house where they meet Betty White's character, who is the caretaker of the house. The series is hysterical, I highly recommend it. If you're looking for a good comedy with actual storylines this is the one for you. [If you like this you may also enjoy "Just Shoot Me" with Wendie Malick as an ex-model working for a fashion magazine (available through interlibrary loan), or Frasier with Jane Leeves as Daphne.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Hot in Cleveland web site from TV Land ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library and South Branch Library


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last updated April 2011
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