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

March 2013 Recommendations

book cover  The Bad Always Die Twice
by Cheryl Crane

What a fun book to read! Nikki Harper is a tenacious amateur sleuth and faithful friend to Jessica Martin who is suspected of murdering of washed up TV actor Rex March. Nikki Harper is the daughter of screen goddess Victoria Bordeaux. Instead of following her mother's footsteps to stardom, Nikki became a successful real estate agent. Nikki and her partner, Jessica Martin, are a great team selling high-end homes in the Los Angeles area. Disaster strikes when a frantic Jessica calls Nikki and tells her that she found Rex dead in her bed. The only thing more shocking is that March supposedly died in a private plane crash six months before. Nikki and her mother work to find out who killed Rex and deposited him in Jessica's apartment. Even though there are no short of suspects (the second-rate actor was a first-class philander) the police have their sights set on Jessica. Nikki works to keep her friend out of prison. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Valentino series by Loren Estleman.]

[ Cheryl Crane on Wikipedia ] | [ publisher's official The Bad Always Die Twice web page ]

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


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book cover  100 Diagrams That Changed the World: From the Earliest Cave Paintings to the Innovation of the iPod
by Scott Christianson [909 Chr]

This is a really cool book! Exactly as the title implies, it takes 100 famous diagrams throughout history, shows the picture and then describes them in detail. This book goes all the way back to Chauvet Cave Drawings (30,000 BC) to the modern day iPod created by Steve Jobs. Some of the more notable diagrams include full color pictures of: Egyptian Book of the Dead, Rosetta Stone, the Nazca Lines, the Genealogy of Christ, Bacon's Optics, Dante's Divine Comedy, the list goes on and on. Very fascinating, I especially liked the ones by Leonardo da Vinci. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try 100 Bible Verses that Changed the World; 100 Native Americans who changed history; 100 places that can change your child's life; other "100 books".]

[ publisher's official 100 Diagrams web page ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Micro
by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

This book starts off with a lot of potential and suspense, and then careens off a literary cliff. This was published after Crichton's death- Richard Preston completed the novel from Crichton's notes and research. Tiny micro-robots become killers; and the rest of the book plays out like a darker version of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." The middle two-thirds of the book is shrunken humans walking around the rainforest battling insects. So many characters in fact, you forget who the main ones are, especially after Crichton and Preston start killing them off one by one in gory descriptions. The plot is not convincing, and the "research" presented doesn't compare to the quality of his other novels at all. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other Michael Crichton novels: Sphere, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Next, Prey.]

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

[ official Micro page on the official Michael Crichton web site ]

Review Score - 2
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is of material for a Young Adult audienceOut of My Mind
by Sharon Draper [j Draper]

A young girl has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Although her brain and mental capacity functions normally, she has neurotic problems and can't speak. She manages to communicate through the use of pointing to words. Eventually, they manage to get her a machine (similar to Stephen Hawking's) which allows her to program full sentences. The book talks about her battle -- that all kids go through -- joy, despair, being an outcast, lack of friends, magnified by her condition. Keep a box of tissues handy for this tear-jerker! A. Must. Read. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.]

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

[ official Out of My Mind page on the official Sharon Draper web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Bead Embroidery: Stitch Samples
by Yasuko Endo [746.5 End]

This book shows a variety of patterns and methods for adding beads to your embroidery work. While it does suggest some projects, the focus is on the patterns. They include photos, diagrams and step by step instructions. It does cover the basics of stitching and beading, so if you have never tried this sort of thing, it does show you how to get started, but as I said it does leave the projects up to your imagination. Because of this, the book includes a ton of patterns to fit any style, project or ability.

[ Review of this book on the Quilting Daily web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  The Lost City of Z
by David Grann [918.1 Gra]

In 1925, the British explorer, Percy Fawcett, his son Jack and Raleigh Rimellin disappeared in the Amazonian rain forest while searching for a fabled civilization that Fawcett called Z. In 1927, the three adventurers were officially declared missing. Many expeditions searched for Fawcett and this lost "City of Gold" but did not find a trace of either the men or the city. While researching another story, David Grann learned about Fawcett and his expeditions into the Amazon. Grann became obsessed with the legend of this colorful explorer and his baffling disappearance. Grann, a man with a lousy sense of direction and an aversion to camping, went into the Amazon to retrace Fawcett's last mission. In this fascinating story Grann weaves the story of Fawcett with his own journey into the Amazon. Fawcett, a man of modest means, achieved worldwide acclaim as an explorer of the Amazon and its waterways. It is hard to imagine the bravery that it took for Fawcett to head out into the uncharted territory facing hostile indigenous tribes, horrific insect infestations, tropical diseases, white-water rapids, poisonous snakes and piranhas. Grann's story of his meticulous research and his courageous trek through the Brazilian jungle to find out what happened to Fawcett and to, perhaps, find Z is a great adventure story. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The River of Doubt by Candice Millard, Into Africa by Martin Dugard, Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams.]

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

[ official Lost City of Z page on the official David Grann web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemFour Fish
by Paul Greenburg [Compact Disc 333.956 Gre]

Paul Greenberg has written thoughtful book on the current state of commercial fishing, fish farming and recreational fishing. He writes in a direct and personal style. The book is filled with interesting stories based on Greenberg's own experiences, historical research and interviews with experts. Greenberg doesn't climb up on a soapbox and extol his point of view. He simply presents the facts in an easily understandable way. This book is for readers interested in fish, science or more knowledge about the foods we eat. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky, The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat by Charles Clover, The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists are Unraveling the Mysteries of our Favorite Crustacean by Trevor Corson.]

[Only available in book-on-cd and downloadable E-book formats.]

[ official www.fourfish.org web site ] | [ Paul Greenberg on Wikipedia ]

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


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book cover  Death on Tour
by Janice Hamrick

Jocelyn Shore has gone through a messy divorce. As a treat she decides to cross off one of the items on her bucket list -- a trip to Egypt. She invites her cousin Kyla to go on a Egyptian tour with her. Shortly after they arrive in the land of pyramids, the obnoxious Millie Owens apparently falls to her death. A close examination of Millie's body reviews that she was stabbed in the neck. Thus begins a series of unnerving events with Jocelyn as the prime target. The tension in the book is tempered with flashes of humor. Mysteries that take place on tours require a delicate balance of travel log and plot and Hamrick did a good job. Janice Hamrick gives the reader a good sense of place. She made it easy for me to feel what it's like to be accosted by aggressive street venders trying to drag you to their stalls to buy their wares. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Maddy Hunter, Tracy Kiely and Ellery Adams.]

[ publisher's official Death on Tour web page ] | [ official Janice Hamrick web site ]

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


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book cover  The First Rule of Ten
by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay

In this book we meet Tenzing (Ten for short) Norbu. Ten has an unusual background for a Los Angeles police detective. He grew up in a monastery in India where he secretly read Sherlock Holmes. Ten's father planned for Ten to follow in his footsteps and become a monk. Ten resisted the idea. A llama intervened in this father-son tug-of-war and Ten found himself in Los Angeles teaching meditation at the Buddhist Cultural Center. He left the center to pursue his crime solving ambitions by joining the LAPD. Ten grew restless in the LAPD and a bullet wound impelled him to follow to his dream of being a private investigator. Ten?s first client arrives at his door before he hangs his sign. A woman looking for the previous owner of Ten's house knocks on his door asking for Zimmy. She introduces herself as Barbara Maxey and says that she is Zimmy's ex-wife. She wants to talk to Zimmy about some music royalties that Zimmy earned as a rock-and-roll singer. Ten thinks that she wants a share of the royalties and refuses to give her his current address. Barbara is found murdered the next day. Ten, feeling guilty because he did not listen to her story, decides to find out who killed her. This book was a fun read and I look forward to more books in this series. In case you are wondering, the first rule of Ten is "Don't ignore intuitive tickles, lest they reappear as sledgehammers." [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Colin Cotterill, Elliot Pattison, and John Burdett.]

[ publisher's official First Rule of Ten web page ] | [ official Dharma Detective web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemThe Moonlit Mind
by Dean Koontz [Compact Disc Koontz]

A supernatural suspense/thriller. A boy runs away from his family for dark reasons. Ghosts, sex, betrayal, murder, even cannibalism...this book has it all. After befriending a dog named after his lost brother, the boy must return to the home where the incidents keep happening to settle things once and for all and keep it from happening again...to him. The story is told out of order and somewhat hard to follow, and the title suggests very little to do with the plot. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try David Ambrose - Superstition, Coincidence; Stephen King - UR, Dan Brown's Robert Langdon series.] [Note: This title was released exclusively as an eBook and audiobook-on-cd, of which the libraries only have this available in the book-on-cd format.]

[ official The Moonlit Mind page on the official Dean Koontz web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Extreme Origami
by Won Park [736.982 Par]

The libraries have a fairly extensive collection of books teaching you how to do origami, both in the youth and adult collections under 736.982, but this one jumped out at me right away when I saw it. Park creates 20 different works of origami art, using only U.S. dollar bills. Included for each design are detailed, broken-down graphics showing the exact folds and order of folding, plus a beautiful photo of the finished work of art. Park's designs are incredibly intricate and beautiful, and include such exotic paper sculptures as Praying Mantis, Koi Fish, Scorpion, Ox, Spider, Butterfly and Formula 1 Race Car. If you've ever wondered if you can do origami, this is a great place to start. If you don't want to try it yourself, this book is just gorgeous to browse through!

[ Won Park page on The Origami Research Center web site ] | [ Images of Won Park dollar bill origami on Tumblr ]

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


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book cover  Weird Al: The Book
by Nathan Rabin and Al Yankovic [Music 781.66 Yan or Biography Yankovic]

I've been a huge fan of Weird Al Yankovic since the early 1980s -- the first of his parody songs that I can remember hearing was "Another One Rides the Bus", followed by "Ricky". This book is a blast to read -- filled with anecdotes, rare photos from Al's life and career, song lyrics, Al's tweets, and recollections from Al's friends and bandmates. Told in purely chronological order,Weird Al: The Book, starts with Al's childhood, with the formative influences on his eventual career, such as Dr. Demento, and carries us through 2011 and his latest album release, Alpocalypse. Al's history is broken into five chapters -- "Portrait of the Parody Artist as a Young Man", "The Eat It Guy", "Kurt Cobain Saves Rock & Roll and Also Al's Career", "A New Look Al for a New Era", and "The Alpocalypse Approaches". Also included are a complete discography and videography. Plenty of space in these pages is dedicated to the creative process -- what exactly inspired and went into the making of many of Al's greatest songs and madcap music videos. The sense of humor prevalent througout Weird Al: The Book perfectly captures Al's sarcastic, poke-fun-in-a-loving-way tone. If you've ever enjoyed a Weird Al song/video, either his spot-on parodies like "Eat It", "Like a Surgeon", "Smells Like Nirvana", "Amish Paradise", "The Saga Begins", "White & Nerdy" or "Perform This Way", or you prefer his originals, like "Slime Creatures From Outer Space", "One More Minute", "Christmas at Ground Zero", "Bob", "Don't Download This Song", "Weasel Stomping Day" or "Polka Face", you'll enjoy this terrific but short biography. My only complaint is that the author(s) could have easily gone into far more detail about most of the stories told in this book -- it barely scratches the surface of Weird Al! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to track down any of his albums (none of which are currently owned by the libraries) or search online for his many hilarious music videos. And, if you ever have the chance, make sure you see him in concert live!]

[ official Weird Al web site ]

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


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book cover  The Other Woman
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

This fast-paced novel starts with two storylines that eventually merge. Jane Ryland refused to reveal her source after reporting about grocery magnet Arthur Vick's affair with a hooker. Vick sued Channel 11 and Jane for slander. He won the million-dollar lawsuit and Jane lost her job as an investigative reporter for a Boson TV station. With help from her friend, Detective Jake Brogan, she found a job as a newspaper reporter. One of her first assignments is to interview Moira Lassiter, wife of Owen Lassiter who running for senate. Moira has disappeared from the campaign trail and Owen Lassiter's public relations staff only says that she is "taking a break from the campaign" and refuses to arrange an interview for Ryland. Jane uses her fine investigative skills to track down Moira Lassiter. Moira thinks that her husband is having an affair and she wants Jane to find the other woman. The second storyline involves a series of deaths that may or may not be the work of a serial killer. Each woman was found by a bridge. The press cries that a serial killer is targeting young women and leaving their bodies under bridges. Boston police detective Jake Brogan isn't sure that the deaths are related. Ryan sprinkles surprises through out the book that keeps the reader turning the pages. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Julie Kramer and Jan Burke.]

[Also available in downloadable audio format.]

[ publisher's official Other Woman web page ] | [ official Hank Phillippi Ryan web site ]

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


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book cover  The Silmarillion
by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien

This book was compiled and edited by J.R.R. Tolkien's son Christopher after his death. It tells of the times before The Lord of the Rings. We hear of the creation of Middle Earth, the beginning of men, elves, and dwarves, the creation of three jewels called the Silmarils and the evil of Morgoth. The book covers such a long space of time that the overall tale may seem choppy to some readers, but if you keep in mind that it is legend of the olden days, hearing bits of it at a time makes sense. While I did enjoy this and would recommend it, I strongly suggest you read The Lord of the Rings prior to trying this one. It covers so much history that there are a lot of people, places and plots to keep track of, so if you are not familiar with Tolkien's universe, it's going to be very difficult to read. If you do chose to tackle it, I think you'll find it rewarding. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Children of Hurin and The Hobbit, both by J.R.R. Tolkien.]

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

[ Silmarillion at TolkienGateway.net ] | [ Silmarillion on Wikipedia ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Open Heart
by Elie Wiesel [Biography Wiesel]

The book is a very poetic description of Wiesel's recent open heart surgery, where he discusses his son, wife, grandchildren, and family, Holocaust flashbacks, and philosophizes on life, death, and God. A very short read at only 79 pages, with really short chapters, some less than a page. He mentions several of his other writings, and the inspiration behind them as well throughout his life. Very uplifting and spiritual. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Elie Wiesel - Night, Dawn, Twilight, Legends of our Time.]

[Also available in downloadable E-book format.]

[ publisher's official Open Heart web page ] | [ Elie Wiesel on Wikipedia ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemSmartest Machine on Earth
[DVD 006.3 Sma]

Fascinating and fast-paced episode of NOVA, focusing on the development of Watson, the super-computer created by scientists at IBM, which competed on the TV quiz show Jeopardy in February 2011 against the top two human Jeopardy winners -- Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. NOVA does a great job of distilling the essential scientific elements down into something the average viewer can clearly understand. In this case, the focus is on how machine learning within a finite database of knowledge compares to human intuition and thinking processes. While on the surface, focusing years of effort and millions of dollars on creating a machine intelligence that can win at a quiz show seems somewhat foolhardy, but the things that scientists have learned about the development of true artificial intelligence may make it all worthwhile. My only complaint about this DVD is that I wish that they had included the Watson episode of Jeopardy as a bonus feature -- the snippets from the Jeopardy filming that are included throughout this NOVA episode makes me wish I could see the full Jeopardy episode as well! I love Ken Jenning's humorous little note in the Final Jeopardy round: "I for one welcome our new computer overlords". [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to visit the NOVA website or view the Jeopardy episode on YouTube.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this episode of NOVA ] | [ official Smartest Machine on Earth page on the NOVA 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 itemSGU: Stargate Universe
[DVD SGU]

I'll have to admit, I was much more a fan of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis than I was of this 3rd Stargate spinoff series - both of those earlier shows, while serious much of the time, had a lot of innate humor in the dialog and character relationships. Stargate Universe, in comparison, was dark, dour and generally humorless -- taking its stylistic cues from the SyFy network's other hit serious of the time, Battlestar Galactica, which focused on gritty realism and ultra dark storylines. SGU, in a nutshell, finds a group of military, scientific and civilians thrust through a wormhole into another galaxy, where they are trapped aboard an ancient, poorly functioning starship with very little hope of returning to our known space. The stories involved intense character conflict and drama. Despite the unrelenting darkness and essential lack of humor, I still recommend this series mainly for the cast, who were uniformly excellent, particularly Robert Carlyle as Dr. Nicholas Rush (who's the best thing on the show!), Justin Lewis as Colonel Everett Young, David Blue as nerdy young genius Eli Wallace and Elyse Levesque as Chloe Armstrong. Definitely different in tone than any other Stargate product, but worth sticking through to the end of the second season. My only major complaint -- the producers, knowing that the chances of being renewed for a 3rd season were unlikely, none-the-less ended the series on a major cliffhanger. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the original Stargate movie (not currently available on DVD from the libraries), Stargate SG-1 (10 seasons),Stargate Atlantis (5 seasons), Battlestar Galactica (the newer 2000s version, not the 1979 series).]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official Stargate web site from MGM ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemWhiteout
[DVD Whiteout]

I grabbed this one of the DVD displays here at the library because I'm a fan of Kate Beckinsale and somehow missed seeing this one over the course of the 3+ years since it was released (2009). Based on a graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, Whiteout is set primarily at the Amundsen-Scott Research Center on Antarctica, as U.S. Federal Marshal Carrie Stetko investigates the continent's first murder...then series of murders. All as the base's occupants prepare to evacuate in the face of an oncoming megablizzard. The performances, from Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Alex O'Loughlin and Tom Skerritt are all top-notch, and the filmmakers were successful in creating a very atmospheric set. Whether the characters are trapped outside in howling whiteout conditions, or inside, in the claustrophobic environment of the base with a killer on the loose, the tension is high. There are some lapses in logic and some character motivations, but it is still an entertaining action flick in an unusual setting, featuring a strong female lead. I recommend it fairly strongly.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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last updated April 2013
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