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The Bennett Martin Public Library downtown maintains an ongoing "Staff Recommendations" display – Staff from throughout the library system are encouraged to submit book, audio, CD and DVD/video recommendations for items to be placed onto this display. Items on the display have bookmarks inserted, giving brief descriptions about the item's appeal factors, and listing similar books, audios or videos that the reader might also enjoy.

This page on BookGuide is used to highlight some of the items that have appeared on our Recommendations displays in the past, including our staff members' descriptions of the books, plus links to any "official Web sites" for the books, authors or series, if they exist*. Items on both the display and on this webpage may be recent releases, or older titles that deserve another look. Hotlinks on titles or formats (downloadable audio, book-on-CD, Large Print) connect to the appropriate entry in our on-line catalog, so that you may check on the availability of the item.

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

November 2014 Recommendations

book cover  Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened
by Allie Brosh [Biography Brosh]

Allie Brosh's blog-turned-book is packed with humorous illustrations and page turning reflections from her life from a childhood to current day. In addition, Brosh sandwiches in segments about what it is like to deal with depression and mental illness in the first person. (A great resource for friends and loved ones.) You will laugh until you cry. Dogs, geese, cake and various adventures are color coded for reading ease....but you definitely won't want to stop!.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.]

[ official Hyperbole and a Half web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Sarah J.
South Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for a music CDKing's Court and Celtic Fair
by The Empire Brass [Compact Disc 781.62 ScoE]

I wasn't really sure what kind of music this was or the meaning of the title when I checked it out. After listening to it, I found the title is very accurate. It's kind of Celtic, but very upbeat and has a different variety of instruments than I'm used to hearing in the genre. It sounds like what you'd hear at a fair or in a king's court. You may try playing it on shuffle with the Monty Python's Spamalot CD; I think that would be a good mix. I'd recommend it to those who just want to listen to something different.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Monty Python's Spamalot on CD.]

[ official The Empire Brass web site ]

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


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book cover  Home to Harmony
by Philip Gulley

This is the first book in the Harmony series. Quiet storytelling in the style of Garrison Keillor and Lake Wobegon, this series is narrated by Quaker Pastor Sam Gardner as he talks about the folks of Harmony, Indiana and the members of his small church. We have a small town, some quirky characters, poignant stories, humorous stories, stories that will strike a chord, touching stories, and stories that couldn't be more true. There are eight books in the series so far. Read in order. For fans of Keillor and Jan Karon.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Jan Karon or Garrison Keillor.]

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

[ official Home to Harmony page on the official Philip Gulley web site ]

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


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book cover  The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances
by The Oatmeal, a.k.a. Matthew Inman [741.5 Inm]

As a casual runner who sometimes obsesses about how much to run, the title of this humorous collection of essays and illustrations really caught my attention. Artist Matthew Inman, who goes by the moniker "The Oatmeal" in his online and print art, has penned a terrific volume filled with heartfelt observations about the obsessions some long-distance runners can fall into, counter-balanced by extremely humorous (and occasionally disgusting) art to supplement his observations. I enjoyed this a lot, but as with any other books by The Oatmeal, I find myself having to be somewhat cautious when recommending them. Inman's humor can easily diverge into the revolting and/or offensive. But, if you've got the stomach for off-color humor, you may find this volume exploring the author's tendency to run past the point of practicality to provide fascinating insight.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other volumes of The Oatmeal's humor.]

[ official Running page on the official The Oatmeal web site ]

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


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book cover  Crossfire Trail
by Louis L'Amour

A L'Amour western of an injustice that one man attempts to correct. Rafe was shanghaied and spent a year at sea. While a shipboard-prisoner, he meets four men, also shanghaied into the crew, who become his friends. The oldest one was beaten and eventually died but not before giving Rafe the deed to his ranch to give to his wife and daughter. Rafe and the others escape the ship and make their way to Wyoming where they learn the wife has died, and the daughter is now engaged to the man who holds the mortgage. Shady dealings about the father's death, and now it turns out there's oil on that land...Interesting characters, men of a moral code, bad guys, and a good, basic western. Also made into a tv-movie starring Tom Selleck and Mark Harmon, which the library owns on DVD.

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

[ official Crossfire page on the official Louis L'Amour web site ]

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


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book cover  Dexter Down Under
by Jeff Lindsay, art by Dalibor Talajic

Never having actually read any of the Dexter novels by Jeff Lindsay (nor having watched the Dexter television series, starring Michael C. Hall), I was surprised to be finding myself reading this graphic novel (a collection of a multi-issue comic book from 2012) featuring Dexter Morgan on loan to the Australian police to help solve a serial-killer case that has them stumped. I knew enough about the Dexter character -- he's a forensic pathologist who is also a serial killer himself, although he only kills other serial killers -- that I wasn't at all lost being dropped in the middle of his storyline continuity. In this Australian case, he and an attractive young female Aussie cop, investigate the disappearance and deaths of Asian immigrants to Australia, eventually stumbling on a sick "Most Dangerous Game" type of scenario. I found this graphic novel format to be fast-paced and entertaining, with excellent art. However, I sense, from what little I know of both the books and TV series, that the gruesome qualities and dark psychological suspense of both those formats, was a bit watered down for the comic-book storyline. That caveat not-withstanding, I enjoyed this read, and recommend it as an introduction to the character of Dexter. Longtime fans of the Dexter series may have differing opinions.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try some of the other "graphic novel" adaptations of other popular series, such as the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter by Laurell K. Hamilton, and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.]

[ Wikipedia page for the Dexter comic books ] | [ official Dexter book series web site ]

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


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book cover  Bird Box
by Josh Malerman

Something is out there. When you look at whatever it is you go mad, attach others and kill yourself. Imagine negotiating this new reality living in a house with the windows covered and never stepping outside without a blindfold. Now imagine this world raising two small children and making the decision to leave your refuge for the chance of finding a community that will offer the children a better chance at survival..

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Road by Cormac McCarthy.]

[ publisher's official Bird Box web page ] | [ official DVD" target="_blank">Josh Malerman Facebook page ]

Review Score – 8
Recommended by Tammy T.
Bennett Martin Public Llibrary


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book cover  Dear Luke, We Need to Talk: and Other Pop-Culture Correspondences
by John Moe [817 Moe]

This is a sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-annoying collection of fake correspondences between pop-culture icons. From the handwritten notes of Darth Vader to his newly-discovered son Luke Skywalker, trying to explain his status as an absentee father, to bitingly satirical inteviews with various Disney animated personnel discussing the conundrum about Goofy and Pluto both being dogs, humorist John Moe skewers dozens of different pop culture standards. And the formats of correspondence that he mocks are equally entertaining -- letters, e-mails, journal entries, Don Draper's cocktail recipe notecards, poetry, extended Fight Club rules lists, the formats go on and on. I found myself smiling and giggling at about 65% of the content of this breezy collection. Unfortunately, the other 35% was either un-funny or somewhat insulting or insensitive. Or, unfortunately, boring and repetitive, which applies to a long, drawn-out series of Super Bowl Half-Time proposals, which became tiresome very quickly. None-the-less, the portions of this humor collection that "clicked" more than make up for the portions which fell flat, and I do recommend it to anyone with their finger on the pulse of pop-culture!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Lazlo letters books by Don "Father Guido Sarducci" Novello, Idiot Letters by Paul Nosa, and the satirical news collections by the editor of The Onion.]

[ official Dear Luke... web page on the official Wits Radio web site - hosted by John Moe ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a music CDMonty Python's Spamalot
[Compact Disc 782.14 Mon]

I got to go see the Broadway production of Spamalot when it was at the Lied Center a few years ago. This is the soundtrack to that production which is based on the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is a parody of the legend of King Arthur. It's Monty Python, so you'd expect it to be funny, and it is. Even if you haven't seen the play, the lyrics will make you giggle. There is not a bad song on this album and even some of the titles are funny: 'I am not dead yet', 'The song that goes like this', and 'You won't succeed on Broadway'. If you like musicals or just want something humorous this CD is for you. I highly recommend it. You may also like Tom Lehrer's albums. These aren't from musicals but they are funny little songs. And now for something completely different, Michael Palin's travel DVDs - which I also highly recommend..

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Songs & More Songs by Tom Lehrer: His lyrics, His Music, His So-Called Voice, and His Piano, An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, Michael Palin's travel DVDs.]

[Also available in Sheet Music formats.]

[ official Monty Python and the Holy Grail Web site ] | [ official IMDb page for the movie Web site ] | [ official Monty Python's Flying Circus Web site ] | [ official Spamalot Web site ]

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


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book cover  The Returned
by Jason Mott

It begins with a simple story of Harold and Lucille - a couple in their seventies content in their relationship. One day, a man from the government arrives at their door with a simple question - Do you know this child? Out steps their 8-year-old son Jacob - who had drowned in 1966. It was a phenomenon happening across the world. Jacob was found halfway across the world. And so it was, the dead popping up 'Returned' all across the world - leaving the government to deal with scared, astonished, and even angered citizens who asked the unanswerable questions of How? Why? How long? How is it possible? We follow the story of the reunited little family and how their own town drastically changes. We even get stories of how different townspeople welcome - and reject- those who come back. There is confusion in their hearts on how they should feel, where the people truly "belong". And so, a great divide begins across the globe and sections right through the Hargrove's tow n of Arcadia. Is this the "second chance" that Harold & Lucille? How about Pastor Peters? Is this the beginning of the world. Is it the end?

[Amazon offers three e-book only prequels to the book. I didn't know about these and still felt the story had a natural opening. The titles of the prequels are: The First, The Choice, and The Sparrow. The synopsis of the TV series Resurrection (based loosely on the book) caused my interest in this book but does not fall very closely in line with it at all.]

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

[ official Jason Mott web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Sarah J.
South Branch Library


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book cover  Everything's Better With a Beard
by Si Robertson [jP Robertson]

This is a humorous picture book about beards. The whole thing, told in rhyme, is about why beards are great and goes on to put beards on everything. The Sphinx, dogs, rubber ducks, flowers, trucks, they go on and on. It's a fun read for Movember, a movement to raise awareness for men's health issues every November that challenges men to grow a beard and or mustache over the course of the month..

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos and Joy Ang.]

[ official Duck Dynasty web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemThe Sound and the Furry
by Spencer Quinn [Compact Disc Quinn]

The libraries' Just Desserts mystery discussion group read and discussed the very first Chet and Bernie mystery, Dog On It, back in January 2011, and I really enjoyed the characters in that novel, particularly the main narrator, Chet the Dog. The series got added to my to-be-read list, and it took me a while to get back to it, and I ultimately decided to pick up the second volume as an audiobook. I have absolutely fallen in love with the audio versions of these stories, and I burned through the second to this, the sixth, volume as books-on-cd in rapid fire. Narrator James Frangione is absolutely perfect in performing.these stories, capturing the personality of narrator Chet with remarkable accuracy -- I really do feel like I'm in the mind of a dog as he tells the story. I don't think I'll return to actually reading this series, since I enjoy the audio versions so much. I highly recommend the entire series to any mystery fans looking for a unique narrative style, but I reserve my highest praise for the book-on-cd versions of these stories. In this sixth volume, The Sound and the Furry, Chat and Bernie journey out of their dry, arid southwestern climates to tackle a case down on the Louisiana bayou. Colorful characters abound. A solid mystery story supports the great dialog and descriptions of setting. And, as usual, Chet is on the case and just waiting for his chance to grab the perp by the pants leg!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try all the other Spencer Quinn titles.]

[Also available in traditional print format.]

[ official chetthedog.com blog ]

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 itemMarvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season One
[DVD Agents]

Starting in 2008, with the feature film IRON MAN, Marvel Comics launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- an internally consistent series of theatrical films, short online films and television productions, all of which are set in the same "universe". Though other movie studios own the rights to produce Spider-Man and X-Men films, all other productions featuring characters from the Marvel comic books fall under this MCU umbrella. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the first full-scale television series set in that universe -- focusing on the secret government agents that try to track super-powered individuals and artifacts or technology of an unearthly nature. Agent Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, has appeared in minor-to-major roles in most of the MCU feature films, and serves as the leader of the team of specialized agents in this series. In this first season, we meet all the new agents, watch as they struggle to form a cohesive team, and follow several through-st ories. The events from the feature film Captain America: The Winter Soldier impact Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2/3 the way through the season, creating a totally different dynamic among the characters and in the storytelling as this season winds down. The stunts and effects work in this series are terrific, as is the cast. As a Marvel Comics fan, I really wish there'd been a few more appearances of super-powered people, but this was a nice introduction to the concept of this series. This DVD set features several excellent "extras" - including an in-depth look at how all the films/tv-series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe fit together. I look forward to seeing how this series progresses. Some of these episodes deserve a "10" while others only a "6", so I'm giving the whole boxed set an "8" overall.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the films in the Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Hulk movie series.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. web site ]

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 itemBeyond the Heavens
[DVD Beyond]

This movie was interesting. It was about a young teen who was debating with himself about science and religion. He talked with his science teacher and after school he heard stories told by a strange little man, who was reading C. S. Lewis to a group of young people. Some folk in town feared the old man would hurt the children. It was a good movie.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe on DVD.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Beyond the Heavens web site ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemEndeavour - Series One
[DVD Endeavour]

Endeavour follows the early years of policeman-in-training Endeavour Morse as he learns the ins and outs of police work with Investigator Fred Thursday in 1960s Oxford, England. As a fan of the Inspector Morse series with veteran actor John Thaw, I was curious to see how this series would hold up as a "prequel." The writers do a great job of showing how Morse acquires various personality traits and quirks. I especially enjoyed seeing Morse develop his appreciation for Jaguar automobiles, his trademark vehicle in the Inspector Morse series. Another nice touch is having the real-life daughter of actor John Thaw (the original Morse) as a character in this new series. The writing is solid and the acting superb. I highly recommend this series..

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Inspector Morse series on DVD, Inspector Lewis series on DVD, Foyle's War on DVD.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Episode Guide at epguides.com ]

Review Score – 9
Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated November 2014
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