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

May 2013 Recommendations

book cover  WARP: The Reluctant Assassin
by Eoin Colfer [j Colfer]

Now – Seventeen year old Chevie wants to be an FBI agent more than anything. After an incident Chevie is sent to to London to guard a large metal pod. Chevie knows the FBI only sent her so she would be out of the way, so she won't cause anymore problems. After a few months of the most boring assignment the FBI has to offer something starts happening with the pod, something bad. 1898 London – Riley really doesn't want to be an assassin but his master Albert Garrick will kill him if he doesn't do as he's told. Garrick insists he kill their next target. But Riley can't make himself do it. The old man wakes up and Garrick forces Riley's arm into stabbing the man. Then there is a flash of light, and Riley and the man seem to vanish, leaving Garrick in the dust. The Reluctant Assassin is at its essence, a time travel story. That the characters jump from present day London to 1898 London frequently make the story very interesting. Throughout the majority of the book Chevie and Riley are just trying to flee from Garrick, which I felt did get a little old. I do think that younger readers, late elementary school to middle school age, would enjoy it and I believe that is more the target audience. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Artemis Fowl series, also by Colfer.]


[ official Eoin Colfer web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  The Last Course
by Claudia Fleming [641.86 Fle]

Although I enjoyed going through this collection of one of my favorite things – dessert – I think it could have been better, in terms of reaching a broad audience of non-professional cooks/chefs. Only about one-third of the recipes are accompanied by a photo of the finished dish, and many of the recipes are rather complicated or involve multiple parts of preparation. It does make me curious to go to the source restaurant but I'm sure the prices would be a shock even if the fare is as fabulous as it looks and seems. I appreciate that the recipes are divided by content/type of dessert and there are helpful tips on wine pairing, and food/spice characteristics. What bothers me, though, is the amount of "discard" this and that in the instructions. Albeit this was published over ten years ago, 'going green' is not a brand-new concept so it would be nice to get suggestions for what can be done with leftovers, such as egg whites or yolks, either to complement the dish being made or use in another. What I ended up wishing for over all was that someone ELSE would make the desserts that caught my eye and then let me taste-test them! I'll accept a delivery of chocolate caramel tarts or lavender lemon pound cake any time.


[ official North Fork Table and Inn – Claudia Fleming's restaurant ]

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


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book cover  Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn

A wife goes missing... the iron is left on, a pot still boiling on the oven. Where did she go? Who did this? What is her husband, now the prime suspect, going to do? The book alternates from the husband's point of view (Nick), and previous journal entries from the missing wife's diary (Amy), leading up to an explosive page turning second half. However (without giving anything away), I didn't think the ending was as satisfying as the rest of the book. Nevertheless, you'll have a hard time putting this one down, as nearly every single chapter ends in a cliff-hanger. Contains offensive language.

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

[ official Gillian Flynn / Gone Girl web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Marti Public Library


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book cover  A Question of Identity
by Anthea Fraser

Rona Parish is a successful biographer and freelance journalist. She also has a reputation for solving murders that she likes to downplay. Rona is working a biography about the reclusive artist, Elspeth Wilding. Her research is going slowly but she is committed. Her twin sister, Lindsay, asks Rona to find out the identity of a person inked out of an old school photo for a friend. At first, Rona balks at the idea. She is trying to discourage people from thinking of her as an investigator. But Lindsay persists and Rona is bored with her research so she agrees to meet with William and Glenda Stirling to hear their story. They tell her about the black and white photo of a school group at Springfield Lodge with the date, July 1951, scrawled on the back. One of the people blotted out of the photo. Glenda found the picture in the bottom of a sewing box and asked her mother about it. Her mother, Trish Cowley, became very upset and refused to talk about it. Glenda found the photo again after Trish died and decided to find out who had been scratched out. That is where a reluctant Rona comes in. An improbable set of coincidences allows Rona to identify the person and the reason the individual was obliterated.


[ Wikipedia's Anthea Fraser entry ]

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


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book cover  The Silent Land
by Graham Joyce

Jake and Zoe are skiing in the French Pyrenees when they are buried in an avalanche. After extricating themselves from the snow they discover the hotel and village are apparently evacuated due to further avalanche dangers, and their cell phones aren't functioning probably due to towers being destroyed. They remain at the hotel waiting for rescue as they begin to make interesting discoveries. A love story of life, memories, regrets, and relationships with Twilight Zone overtones. You immediately believe they are dead but the ending is not what I expected.

[Also available in downloadable E-book format.]

[ official The Silent Land page on the official Graham Joyce web site ]

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


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book cover  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce

Probably my absolute favorite read for 2012! Retired businessman Harold Fry, stuck in a life of established routine with his wife Maureen, with whom he barely communicates, finds his world put akilter when he receives a letter from a long-ago co-worker, Queenie Hennessy. Queenie is in a hospice in far northern England, dying, and just wants to say goodbye. Not a man of eloquent words, Harold none-the-less writes a short note to Queenie, puts on a jacket and tells Maureen he's going to drop off a letter at the nearest postbox. Only...when he gets to the neighborhood drop box, he continues on to the next box, and the next box after that. Ultimately, Harold finds himself walking down the road, starting in Southern England and planning to walk all 500 miles to Queenie's bedside, reasoning to himself that Queenie will have to live long enough for him to say goodbye in person. What starts off as a fairly lightweight, quirky novel, quickly builds drama and emotion, as Harold meets a number of colorful characters who help him on his journey. Though the antics of some of the folks who join him on his travels threaten to distract him from his mission, Harold looks deep within himself to find the strength to carry on, and to deal with some of the personal crises in his own life at the same time. A surprisingly weighty and emotional book! [Also enjoyable as an audiobook, read by actor Jim Broadbent.]

[Also available in downloadable audio and downloadable E-book formats.]

[ official Rachel Joyce web site ]

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


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book cover  A Necessary Evil
by Alex Kava

This is book five in the Maggie O'Dell series by Nebraska author Alex Kava (pen name for Sharon Kava), and is a sequel to book one "A Perfect Evil". One doesn't have to have read the first book, or any of the others in between, to enjoy this title. Enough backstory is provided to bring the reader up-to-speed, but I found the story interesting enough to go back to book one to read its origins. FBI profiler, Maggie O'Dell is on the trail of two separate killers. One is leaving the decapitated heads of his victims all over Washington, DC and the other is murdering priests in a ritualistic manner in public locations all across the U.S. O'Dell has few leads when she receives an offer of assistance from a most unlikely source – her prime suspect in book one. The chapters alternate between Maggie and the Omaha police detective who is investigating the murder of a Catholic Monsignor in a men's room at Eppley Airfield in Omaha. She is brought in to provide a profile of the murderer and runs into a former love-interest from "Perfect Evil" who also has a personal interest in the Omaha murder. The man who was the suspect in book one is a sympathetic character and you're torn between understanding his background versus what he's suspected of doing, and it's not clear until near the end if he's a victim or a monster. A satisfying twist awaits you at the end.


[ official Alex Kava web site ]

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


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book cover  The House
by Patrick Lewis and Roberto Innocenti [j811 Lew]

There is a poem that runs through every other page of this book, but the illustrations tell just as much of the story. The poem centers round a house built in 1656, and we watch the passage of time through the years of 1900 to 1999. The house narrates the poem about itself, it's occupants and the historical events that affect them. The illustrations are all drawn from the same point of view so we can watch the changes occur page by page. After you've read it through it's fun to flip back and look for differences in the landscape, see how the residents grow up, and see the house get tended to, fall to disrepair, then get found again. This book is the children's section of the library but could be enjoyed by any age or as a book to read together. Whether you enjoy poetry, history, art, or any combination of those, I suggest you pick this one up – it's a wonderful book. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Castles by J. Patrick Lewis j811 Lew.]


[ official J. Patrick Lewis web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired by Fiction
by Esterelle Payany [641.5 Pay]

EstÚrelle Payany shares recipes inspired by thirty-two fictional scoundrels. Villains range from fairy tale ogres such as the Big Bad Wolf to Dracula to Hannibal Lecter. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from the original story and ends with a recipe suggested by that segment. Some of the recipe selections are obvious. Such as The Big Bad Wolf's choice of pigs in the blanket but Hannibal Lecter does not choose to make liver with fava beans. He opts for a different variety meat. This is entertaining book to read. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Murder on the Menu by Jean Larmoth, Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook.]


[ official Esterelle Payanty's Twitter Feed in French ]

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


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book cover  Silver Linings Playbook
by Matthew Quick

Silver Linings Playbook follows the life of Pat Peoples after he is released from a psychiatric facility in Baltimore. Pat's wife Nikki has decided that they need some "apart time" so Pat goes back to living with his parents in New Jersey, biding his time until "apart time is over". Pat spends his days running, lifting weights, and watching Eagles games with his father who also seems to have some mental issues. Pat's best friend Ronnie and his wife Veronica attempt to set up Pat with Veronica's sister Tiffany whose husband has just died. Soon after Tiffany starts following Pat as he runs, saying she is scouting him to be her dance partner at a local competition. Pat is obsessed with getting back with his wife so Tiffany says she will deliver her letter if Pat dances with her. The book does differ from the movie as the dance competition isn't the finale. Quick's writing style makes the book a quick read and hard to put down. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Sorta Like a Rock Star or Boy21 also written by Matthew Quick.]

[Also available in downloadable audio format.]

[ official Matthew Quick / Silver Linings Playbook web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Redeeming Love
by Francine Rivers

I came across this book while searching the highest rated books on Amazon.com; 1200 out of 1400 people rated it 5 stars, so I thought I would give it a try. It is a retelling of the biblical story of Hosea, who married the prostitute Gomer. She keeps running off with other men, but Hosea keeps going to get her back and continues to forgive her. Redeeming Love is set in the 1850's California Gold Rush. The story's main character Sarah/Amanda/Angel has had a rough life. With her astounding beauty she ends up working in a brothel, the only thing she has ever known. It is up to Michael an extremely devout man to get her out of her situation. I was really pleased with the overall message-- it wasn't preachy for a Christian Fiction novel, especially when God "talks" to Michael. The love scenes are tastefully done (remember she is in a brothel), but without being crass. I really enjoyed the character development on multiple levels, and it was even suspenseful towards the end! Don't expect a literal retelling of the biblical book of Hosea, but it contains similar themes about love, faith, and redemption in a very classy way. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try An Echo in the Darkness – Francine Rivers; Glory – Heather Graham; Mark's Story – Tim LaHaye.]

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

[ official Redeeming Love page on the official Francine Rivers web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemCalculated in Death
by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts)

I started the audiobook of this, and felt compelled to end it despite how awful it truly was. The entire premise is a detective, Eve Dallas, solving a corporate crime and a murder by relying on her billionaire boyfriend Roarke (entirely unbelievable- if he truly was a billionaire, why would she still be working on the streets as a detective anyway?!) It reads like a bad episode of Law and Order. I literally found myself fast forwarding through long asides and entirely too long psychological rants about Eve's perceptions of the killer. Maybe the other 40-some books in the series are better, but don't bother on this one.

[Also available in traditional print and Large Print formats.]

[ official J.D. Robb web site ]

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


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book cover  Happy Never After
by Kathy Hogan Trochek

Callahan Garrity is a former Atlanta cop, a part-time investigator and co-owner of the House Mouse cleaning service. What starts out as a missing person case turns into a murder investigation. Callahan is asked to find the missing member of a 1960s singing group, the VelvetTeens. The group is asked to be in a movie and sing their hit song, Happy Never After. But Vonette and Rita have find Delores, who they haven't heard from in 20 years or the movie deal is off. Things become complicated when the VelvetTeens former manager, Stu Hightower, tells Vonette and Rita that he owns the rights to the group the VelvetTeens and their songs. They ca'?t perform as the VelvetTeens or sing their hits. Rita confronts Stu and threatens him. That night she is found drunk at his house, holding the gun that killed Stu. Rita's defense attorney asks Callahan to do some investigative work. Callahan finds a number of people who despised Stu, including his ex-wife who tried to burn down his house. Callahan uses some creative and amusing techniques to gain access to the gated community where Stu lived and to interview his neighbors. This book is a good read on a lazy afternoon. Trocheck also write romances under the pen name Mary Kay Andrews.


[ official Happy Never After page on the official Mary Kay Andrews / Kathy Hogan Trocheck web site ]

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


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book cover  The Blue Blazes
by Chuck Wendig

The Blue Blazes is the story of Mookie Pearl, a thug and solider for The Organization. The Organization runs all the gangs in New York City, and the cerulean trade. Cerulean allows the user the ability to see the things that come from below New York as they really are, while also giving the user certain... other powers. Mookie just wants to do right by his job. So when the Boss's grandson asks Mookie to find the mythical death's head, the only thing that may save the cancer stricken Boss and stop an all out gang war from erupting, Mookie does as he asks and makes a short trip to the underworld. All while his estranged daughter Nora is trying to make a move to take over the organization and get revenge against Mookie. I would best describe The Blue Blazes as a cross between The Dresden Files and The Godfather with a huge helping of originality thrown in. The writing is dark and at times quite funny, while the descriptions and dialogue are gritty and gothic. I look forward to what I hope becomes a new series. I would recommend Blue Blazes to someone who is looking for a more dark and gritty urban fantasy novel. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher.]


[ official Chuck Wendig web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Wyatt P.
Gere Branch Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemArgo
[DVD Argo]

Based on a true story – After the American Embassy in Iran is invaded by Iranian revolutionaries six Americans escape and hide out at the Canadian Ambassador's house. Tony Mendez, a CIA agent played by Ben Affleck, is put in charge of getting them home. His plan is to make it look like the Americans are in Iran scouting locations for a movie and then sneak them out as part of the production crew. With some help from some Hollywood friends (played by Alan Arkin and John Goodman) they find a script that would fit and Sam flies over as an Associate Producer. The whole movie has you sitting on the edge of your seat. Ben Affleck did a great job as both Director and lead actor. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the book Argo: how the CIA and Hollywood pulled off the most audacious rescue in history by Antonio Mendez,and Zero Dark Thirty, another movie based on a true story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.]

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

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemBram Stoker's Dracula
[DVD Dracula]

This movie is based on the novel by Bram Stoker. I haven't read the book so I can't say how close it is to the original, but it was a decent movie. It begins in the past showing Dracula as a Drakel warrior leaving his love to fight in battle. She is sent news that he has perished and throws herself into the river. He returns to find her dead, and drinks blood to become an immortal vampire. We then jump forward in time when a London lawyer travels to Transylvania at the request of Count Dracula. The lawyer leaves his love behind in London and promises to marry her upon his return, but he is held captive. While he is being held, Dracula travels to London, seduces the lawyer's fiancÚ and wrecks mayhem in the city. It was not as frightening as I expected it to be, but it is still a rated R horror movie, so if that's not your the kind of movie, I suggest you pass on this one. However, if you enjoy classic stories and or monster movies you'd probably enjoy it. There is also a romance story involving the friend of the fiancÚ in London, which may also appeal to some viewers, and provide a temporary break from Dracula himself in the early parts of the film. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the original novel by Bram Stoker.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score – 7
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemLand Girls
[DVD Land]

I have really enjoyed this series! Based in England, it tells the story of the women who worked the fields while men were off at war. Although there are some historical errors, it is still an enjoyable look at life in Britain during the War from the viewpoint of women doing their part to serve their country. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Foyle's War on DVD.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official Land Girls web site from the BBC ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemSigns
[DVD Signs]

The tag line to this film talks about space aliens landing on earth trying to take over, and how the population reacts to the potential invasion. Ignore that. It is part of the story but it's just the backdrop for the REAL story – that everything happens for a reason. Rev Graham Hess' wife was killed in a car accident, causing him to lose his faith. The tragedy is told in flashbacks, slowly developing the characters as we learn how he and his grieving family have been falling apart. His brother Merrill, a former minor league ball player known for his power swing, has moved in with the family to try to help. One morning the Hess family awaken to discover giant crop circles in their Pennsylvania corn field. Rev Graham Hess believes it's teens causing havoc until the crop circles begin to appear worldwide. Merrill and the two children are convinced space aliens have arrived. The family begins to board-up windows as they, and the rest of the world, prepare for invasion – but you've yet to actually see anything. No big monster special effects here, just Hitchcock-like suspense such as sounds across the roof, the dog yelping in the night, and unknown someones running through the cornfield at night. Note all the weird things that are occurring throughout the film – the daughter has begun to leave glasses of water all over the house, and during his final conversation with his dying wife, Colleen, she commented, "Tell Merrill to swing away." Watch as all the disconnect comes together in the immensely satisfying end. Don't put this movie on and plan to multi-task while it's running. This is one of the films you have to pay attention to to catch it all. This stars Mel Gibson as Graham Hess, and Joaquin Phoenix as his brother, Merrill. I'll 'fess up right now, I'm not a fan of Mel Gibson and I don't see a film just because Joaquin Phoenix is in it, but the film's story was so engrossing for me that I forgot they were the actors involved. You'll also see the director, M. Night Shyamalan, in a small role as the guilt-ridden veterinarian responsible for the accidental tragedy. This is an excellent, character-driven suspense film and one of my favorites.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemSilver Linings Playbook
[DVD Silver]

After beating up his wife's lover, Pat Solitano (played by Bradley Cooper) is diagnosed with bipolar and is forced to stay at a mental institution in Maryland. After 8 months his mother brings him home to live with her and his father (played by Robert De Niro) who also suffers from a mental disease. Because of a restraining order Pat is not allowed to contact his wife Nikki, but wants to get in shape for when they will get back together. Pat's new life motto is "excelsior" where he looks for the silver linings in life. He spends his days running and reading books that are on Nikki's high school English syllabus. While running one day Pat sees his old friend Ronnie who invites him over for dinner. There he meets Tiffany, (played by Jennifer Lawrence) Ronnie's sister-in-law whose husband has just died. After a disastrous dinner Tiffany asks Pat to walk her home, then over the next few weeks begins to follow Pat when he runs. Since Pat is not allowed to talk to Nikki Tiffany promises to deliver her a letter if Pat will become her dance partner in a local competition. As they train for the competition things become interesting between them. This movie is made up of an all-star cast who deserve every award they were given. There is humor, but not too much, and you learn a lot about OCD and bipolar as the movie goes on. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the book Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.]

[Also available in traditional print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Silver Linings Playbook web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemSkyfall
[DVD Skyfall]

A computer hacker compromises M16, the headquarters of Her Majesty's Secret Service exposing the agency and it's members. James Bond must overcome his personal qualms with M, and save the agency before it is too late. Contains tons of action and suspense from the opening scene to the ending credits, and several well-thought out subplots. Some have said this is the greatest Bond movie of all time-- I wouldn't give it that distinction, but action movie fans certainly won't be disappointed. Adele won Oscar for Best Song. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale, other James Bond DVDs, books by Ian Fleming.]

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

related lists See more books like this on our 50 Years of James Bond booklist
Review Score – 9
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemA Walk to Remember
[DVD Walk]

Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same title, but with a number of elements re-arranged and updated, this is an unabashed tear-jerker and I fell in love with it. Released in 2002 and featuring Mandy Moore and Shane West, plus veteran actor and narrator Peter Coyote in a supporting role, it's a bad-boy/good-girl romance with a dose of gravitas but also moments of humor, hope, and faith. It may be too corny or trite for some tastes but I found it to have a very good mix of good acting, good production values, and heartstring-tugging storytelling. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Walk to Remember, the novel by Nicholas Sparks.]

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

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official A Walk to Remember web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemZero Dark Thirty
[DVD Zero]

Based on real events, this controversial film follows a CIA Agent named Maya and her quest to find Osama Bin Laden. Driven and confident Maya interrogates Al-Queda members and tracks down leads in an effort to find Bin Laden's exact location. When she believes she finds him she must them convince not only her boss but the CIA that she's right. Jessica Chastain shines as Maya in this epic film. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Zero Dark Thirty: the Shooting Script 791.437 ZerYb, or any of the books about Seal Team Six.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Zero Dark Thirty web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated June 2013
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