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

June 2014 Recommendations

book cover  White Hot Kiss
by Jennifer L. Armentrout [YA PB Armentrout]

Seventeen-year-old Layla has never completely felt like she belonged. Being half demon, half gargoyle, she doesn't fit in with her gargoyle adoptive family, even the adoptive brother Zayne for whom she has less than brotherly feelings. Humans are out of the question because her demon half will take the soul of any human she kisses. Demons are evil and she has no interest in pursuing a relationship with one of them, either. That is, until she meets Roth, the mysterious demon who saves her life on multiple occasions. Layla begins to trust Roth and even realizes that she may want to kiss him - the first time she has had the ability to do soul without endangering a soul. Her adoptive family sees black and white when it comes to demons and the fact that she's hanging out with one is like a betrayal to them. Layla is caught in the middle of a millenniums-long battle and is more of a key player in it than she could ever imagine.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout.]

[ official White Hot Kiss page on the official Jennifer Armentrout web site ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Sam N.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Life Sentences
by Alice Blanchard

Daisy Hubbard takes a leave of absence from her job as a research scientist in Boston to look for her sister, Anna. Anna is schizophrenic and has gone off her meds. Daisy flies to California and works with LAPD detective Jack Makowski to find her. The plot of Life Sentences is complicated. It starts out as a medical thriller about rare genetic diseases. Then the book pokes into the family secrets that not only bind Daisy, Anna and their mother but also alienate them from each other. We also learn about Makowski's motivation. He's a tenacious cop whose fatal flaw is that he likes to save "damsels in distress". This strong urge causes him to make bad decisions that put his life and career in jepordy. The book has lively dialogue and moves along at a brisk pace. But it is hard to believe that a police officer would do what Jack does.

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

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


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book cover  The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
by Daniel Brown [797.123 Bro]

Who knew we could care about crewing? This story is rich in detail yet not overwhelming. We follow one particular rower, Joe Rantz, as well as his teammates at the U of Washington, at a time when rowing was a sport of national headlines. The extreme poverty of the 1930's is dearly felt and very evident for these boys as they struggle to remain in school, as well as to compete against the wealthier schools in the East. Each chapter alternates between Joe's tough childhood as he grows up, and their college years while we follow the boys over four years as they mature as rowers and emerge as a team. The excruciating mechanics required of the human body to properly row in tandem is amazing. The author does a fabulous job of getting the reader caught up in each race. Even though we know by the second paragraph of the book that the boys won the gold by a narrow margin, the qualifying races, the Olympic heats, and the final race for the gold are very exciting. A long and satisfying epilogue after the Olympics follows the boys through their careers, lives, reunions, and eventual deaths. An excellent read and highly recommended.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand.]

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

[ official Boys in the Boat and Daniel J. Brown web site ]

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


This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemI totally agreed with Charlotte's positive review of this book! This was an amazing book. I had no interest in rowing or the 1936 Olympics, but I do now. I listened to the audiobook and it was captivating. I talked my husband into listening to it, too, and he'd fall asleep with his earbuds in each night, as he couldn't quit listening!

Review Score - 10
Rated by -- Liz H.
a customer of the Gere Branch Library

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book cover  Storm Front
by Richard Castle

If you follow the ABC TV show "Castle" then you're aware that in the first episode our fictitious author, Richard Castle, has killed off his hero of multiple books, Derrick Storm. But NOT REALLY! Turns out Storm was merely PRETENDING to be dead for four years to root out his enemies. Storm can out-Bond Bond, yet he's not cartoonish. Okay, bigger than life but you expect that sort of thing from a super spy. Someone is killing bankers with worldwide influence toward an unknown end. Along the way Storm picks up a partner, and after consulting with an economics professor, the explanation is amazing and yet understandable and believable. Exciting and just plain fun as we bounce around the world with Storm. We still don't know who is actually writing the Richard Castle books, as the TV show is still pretending that the actor, Nathan Fillion, is the author..


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

[ official Storm Front page on the "official" Richard Castle web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Heart of the Storm: My Adventures as a Helicopter Rescue Pilot and Commander
by Colonel Edward L. Fleming [629.132 Fle]

We follow Fleming during his 30-year career as a helicopter rescue pilot, and learn very quickly why it's considered one of the most dangerous occupations. Among other rescues, Fleming was involved with the recovery of downed pilots in Vietnam and stranded villagers during flooding in the Philippines. During his career as an air national guardsman, he pulled crew members from ships in the north Atlantic during hurricanes and was involved in the rescue from the antarctic of the woman scientist who needed emergency breast cancer treatment. We become involved with his crew, cheer at their successes and mourn with them at the losses, but all are interesting stories..

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


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book cover  The Con Job: A Leverage Novel
by Matt Forbeck

This is the first of a series of three original tie-in novels written based on the TNT cable television series Leverage, which ran for five seasons from 2008 through 2012. This book is most definitely a wink and a nod to the fans of the show, with lots of inside references and appearances by minor supporting characters from episodes of the series. The gist of the show is that a group of former "bad guys" has teamed up to form an organization that assists the "little guys", being victimized by corrupt but powerful people. The "team" consists of -- a Hitter, a Hacker, a Thief, a Grifter and a Mastermind. In this particular story, set somewhere in the middle-to-late part of the TV series' run, the gang is hired by the kid of a classic comic book illustrator, who had entrusted his life's work of art to a man who proceeded to rip him off. The team must infiltrate in infamous San Diego Comic Con, and somehow figure out a way to either recover the artist's work, or con the corrupt art dealer out of his ill-gotten gains. As in the series, problems crop up in the middle of the con game, and other players enter the situation, which requires a lot of quick changes to the team's plans. Forbeck, a part-time-novelist, part-time-game-designer, does a great job of capturing the personalities of the TV series' characters and vocal styles. The "mystery" plot is a bit floppy, but that really doesn't matter here -- you read this type of novel to recapture some favorite characters and see where their relationships are going. For fans of Leverage, I give this one solid marks. If you've never seen the TV show, I think this one is still written well enough to suck you in.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try either of the other two Leverage novels, The Zoo Job and The Bestseller Job, both written by other authors.]

[See more titles like this in the TV Tie-Ins booklist, elsewhere on the BookGuide site!]

[ Wikipedia page on Leverage the TV Series ] | [ official Matt Forbeck web site ]

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


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book cover  When Parents Text: So Much Said...So Little Understood!
by Lauren Kaelin and Sophia Fraioli [eBook]

Mildly amusing book, tied in the the website set up by Kaelin and Fraioli, where they share dozens (no hundreds) of texts sent by cellphone by parents of today's tech-savvy generation. Some parents may be hip to the use of today's tecnology, and the established lingo of the texting generation. But not the one featured on this site or in this book. These short, punchy messages are organized in helpful categories, and are good for a few chuckles here and there. But I found reading an entire book of them in one or two sittings to be more than I could really take -- a little of this type of humor goes a long way, and a lot of this type of humor ends up being too much.

[ official When Parents Text web site ]

Review Score – 5
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Pilgrimage
by Annie Leibovitz [770.924 qLei]

The inspiration for this coffee table book came when Annie Leibovitz and her sister impulsively visited Emily Dickinson's home. Later, Leibovitz made a list of the potpourri of places that she wanted to see and record with her camera. Paging through the book, one learns how Leibovitz selected each location and befriended the curators. The images that illustrate this book have a random quality to them. Some are grand vistas of places such as Yellowstone National Park. Others are intimate photos of living rooms and bedrooms. Still others focus on the details of people's lives such as the blood-stained gloves that Abraham Lincoln wore on the night of his assassination. These photos are a huge departure from the edgy portraits that one usually identifies with Leibovitz. Lovers of photography and armchair travelers will enjoy the stories and pictures.


[ official Smithsonian American Art Museum page for this Leibovitz exhibition ] | [ Wikipedia page for Annie Leibovitz ]

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


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book cover  The Amazing Harvey
by Don Passman

The distinctive cover of this one jumped out at me from the "new mysteries" section at Barnes and Noble every time I saw it, so I was happy to see the libraries pick it up as well. The Amazing Harvey is Harvey Kendell, a professional magician in Los Angeles, struggling to make ends meet. Moving from one low-paying performance job to another, and hanging out with his fellow magicians at The Magic Castle between gigs, Harvey's life suddenly spirals out of control, when he's accused in a case of rape and murder. Harvey knows that he didn't do the crime -- heck, he'd never even met the women he's accused of assaulting and killing. But, the police have DNA evidence that seems to contradict his claims. Turning down his mother's offer to hired a flashy TV attorney, Harvey instead turns to a former classmate, Heather, who's having some issues of her own, keeping her legal practice afloat without relying on handouts from her far-more successful attorney father. With Harvey working as Heather's legman, they look into the details of the life of the victim in Harvey's case, and Harvey also helps Heather with some of her other current cases. The characters here are well-rounded and, for the most part, likeable. Harvey's coping mechanism for stress is to crack wise. The backdrop of a working magician's life is fascinating. I look forward to more in this series.

[If you enjoy this, don't pass up the opportunity, if you ever get it, to see the television series The Magician, starring Bill Bixby. It had a short one-season existence on NBC in 1973-74, and starred Bixby as playboy philanthropist Tony Blake, a top-end magician (think David Copperfield) who solves mysteries on the side. It was terrific, and it's a shame that it hasn't come out on DVD yet. Bootleg copies are available to watch, either partial or full episodes, on YouTube.]

[Scott shared this one at the May 2014 Series Share meeting of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group at the libraries!]

[ Publisher's official The Amazing Harvey web site ] | [ official Don Passman web site ]

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


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book cover  Prep School Confidential
by Kara Taylor [YA PB Taylor]

Anne didn't mean to burn down part of her exclusive academy in New York. Really. The incident forces her parents to send her to boarding school outside of Boston, which is completely unacceptable to Anne. She'll do anything to get back to New York. That is, until her seemingly innocent, nerdy roommate is murdered and the school covers it up. Anne begins digging as those around her remain silent and finds out that her roommate is not as innocent as she seemed. Someone wants to silence Anne before she discovers the truth, even if they have to frame her for the murder to do it. Unexpected help with her sleuthing comes from her roommate's angry brother and a beautiful boy from school. While Anne is putting herself in harm's way each time she starts asking questions about the murder, her heart is also in danger from these two very different, but very captivating men. Will Anne solve the murder before someone silences her permanently?

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter.]

[ official Kara Taylor web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Sam N.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  This Old House Magazine
[Periodical This]

If you like the tv show, you'll probably like the magazine. It has before and after renovation projects, homeowner tips, new products for homes, and step by step DIY projects. Even if you don't own a house, it's still fun to look at the restoration projects similar to the ones on the tv show. One of my favorite part of each issue is 'Save this old house'. They have a brief history of an old house, typically abandoned and it dire need of repairs, to save from demolition and renovated to it's former glory. They list the price, which is minimal and often free (as long as you move it off it's current lot), and tell reader what needs done to it. It's interesting to think about the history of those houses and their future potential. I think that if you appreciate the history of old homes, or own a home and are looking for homeowner tips, you'd like this magazine. If you checkout the This Old House webpage, you can actually watch current and past episodes of the show.

[ official This Old House web site ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemMiss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Season One
based on the books by Kerry Greenwood [DVD Miss]

Despite their ongoing popularity, I'll have to admit, I've never really gotten into the printed mystery novels by Kerry Greenwood featuring Phryne Fisher, an Australian socialite who solves mysteries in Melbourne and Sydney in the Golden Age of Mystery Fiction (1920s-1930s) But, I was intrigued enough by what I actually have read to give this Australian TV series (now released in the U.S. on DVD) a chance, and I'm glad I did. This is a superb production -- very stylish and rich with period detail. The series (which has had two seasons produced thus far), is direct adaptations of the Greenwood novels, rather than "original" stories for the screen. The show stars Essie Davis as Miss Phryne Fisher, Nathan Page as Detective Inspector Jack Robinson and Ashley Cummings as Dorothy "Dot" Williams. The look of the show is sumptuous in its details, the music is catchy, and the attention to detail with props and costumes is marvelous. I've heard from fans of the books that readers seem to think the books are much better than the series. But speaking as somebody who couldn't get "into" the books, I highly recommend this television series on DVD.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the novels by Kerry Greenwood that it is based upon.]

[This was one of the titles Scott featured in the Golden Age of Mystery Fiction issue of his library newsletter, It's All Geek to Me!]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries episode guide at epguides.com ] | [ Official Australian TV site for this show (some content not viewable outside Australia) ]

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


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last updated June 2014
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