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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

July 2014 Recommendations

book cover  Death Angel
by Linda Fairstein

This was the title selected for the June 2014 Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group sponsored by the libraries, and I've got to say, I really enjoyed it very much. Even though it's the 15th volume in a series, I didn't feel like I was lost in the introduction to the characters. The police procedural portion of this novel felt like a Law and Order episode, while the intense relationship plot elements felt more like a soap opera. All that aside, though, Fairstein's detailed descriptions of Central Park -- it's layout, it's history, it's..."character" for lack of a better word -- are what make this book a winner. Having never been to New York City, let along Central Park, I felt after reading this novel that I new a lot more about this exotic locale than ever before. I may not continue with this series, but I highly recommend this individual entry!


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

[ official Linda Fairstein web site ]

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


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book cover  The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains
by Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by Eddie Campbell

I've been a fan of Neil Gaiman's writing ever since his days working on the Sandman comic books for DC Comics back in 1989-1996. I continue to watch for, and enjoy, each new work he puts out, whether a juvenile picture book, a young adult novel, or a short story collection for adults. The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains is the latest release -- a re-release of a story which won Gaiman the Locus Award for Best Novelette in 2011, when it appeared in the anthology Stories. This time, Gaiman has collaborated with graphic artist Eddie Campbell, who has created numerous highly-stylized illustrations to accompany Gaiman's fluid and evocative prose. The story itself is fairly simple, but is still a thoughtful exercise in regret, vengeance, and relationships. I can't say that I'm a huge fan of Campbell's art -- it varies from grotesque to charming, but it definitely captures the tone of Gaiman's story. I wouldn't necessarily call this one of Gaiman's all-time best works, but it is a great example of his excellence in literary craftsmanship.

[This is most appropriate for Gaiman fans, but if you're unfamiliar with his work, I would strongly recommend The Graveyard Book, Coraline, or any of his short story collections as similar to this book. His novels are also highly recommended, but I'd start with his shorter works!]

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

[ official Neil Gaiman web site ] | [ official Eddie Campbell blog site ]

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


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book cover  In Want of a Wife
by Jo Goodman

1891 New York City. Jane Middlebourne's parents died when she was very young. She was reluctantly taken in by her mother's wealthy cousin who truthfully didn't really want Jane nor did she treat Jane properly. Now that Jane is an adult, she has no prospects and no future. As a result she accepts a proposal from a Wyoming rancher as a mail order bride. Morgan Longstreet didn't have a happy childhood either and as we later learn, he went to prison for six years when forced to assist his family to rob banks. Now he's just trying to build himself a life and is seeking a partner to work by his side. Unfortunately, his brothers are now out of prison and believe he has the loot that was stolen. This is Book #3 in the Bitter Springs historical romance series. You don't have to have read the first two books to understand what's going on here. You watch as they figure out their relationship, plus we have the added adventure of his brothers trying to mess up things. This was a nice, enjoyable read that had some surprises.


[ official Jo Goodman web site ]

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


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book cover  Sherlock Holmes' London: Following the Footsteps of London's Master Detective
by Higashiyama Kobayashi [914.21 qKob]

First published in 1984 (UK, 1986 US), this large book is jam-packed with photographs, illustrating London from the perspective of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. The first section of the book features reproductions of historical photos from the era in which the Holmes stories are set, showing what the world of London -- and specific sites mentioned in the stories -- looking like when Holmes would have been solving his cases (1877-1903). The remainder of the book is filled with both color and black-and-white photos of sites throughout London and the immediate surrounding countryside, taken in the 1980s, that illustrate the current appearance (in many instances this can be timeless) of scenes described in the Holmes stories and novels. Although a bit dated, since it was published 30 years ago, I still found this to be a fascinating read -- and, because 80% of the content is photos (or reproductions of the illustrations from the original stories), this can be a quick read, depending on how long you want to study the photos. Holmesian fans will definitely appreciate this one, as well Anglophiles in general. Just remember, even the "modern" photos are now historical in nature too!


[ official Sherlock Holmes Literary Tours web site ]

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


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book cover  How About Never...Is Never Good For You? My Life in Cartoons
by Robert Mankoff [Biography Mankoff]

I've always enjoyed the cartoons in The New Yorker magazine -- in fact, I hardly ever read any of the actual articles. Robert Mankoff has been the cartoon editor (as well as a contributor) to that venerable magazine for many years. This book is sort of a mishmash combination of autobiography for Mankoff and history of how cartoons (or "drawings" as they're referred to by the magazine) are submitted to the New Yorker, evaluated by the NY art staff, and ultimately make it into publication. As a bonus, Mankoff gives detailed advice on how best to turn in entries into the New Yorker's weekly "Caption This" contest. Mankoff loads this large book with almost 300 cartoons, both from himself and from other noteworthy New Yorker cartoonists. Mankoff has a terrific writing style - very conversational and sarcastic. This was a very fun, light but informative read. A must for fans of the dying art of traditional single-panel cartooning style.

[There have been a lot of special New Yorker cartoon compilation books put out over the years. Two I'd recommend would be The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker (2004), and The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection (1999).]

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

[ official Story Behind This Book web site ] | [ official New Yorker Cartoon Bank web site ]

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


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book cover  Far From You
by Tess Sharpe [YA Sharpe]

Sophie repeats the months, weeks, and days over and over. No drugs for nine months, two weeks, six days. Not that anyone believes her. Four months ago, Sophie's best friend was killed in what looked like a drug deal gone wrong. Sophie was there that night and everyone from the police to her parents believe that she is the reason for the deal, that she relapsed and brought Mina down with her. Sophie and Mina had their secret, but doing drugs together wasn't it. Sophie is forced to attend a drug rehab center and then see a counselor to focus on her mental health. Anyone would need a counselor after seeing their best friend die. And Mina was so much more. Sophie never saw the killer's face because of his mask, but knows the police are on the wrong track with the drug bust. Can Sophie figure out who killed Mina and why before the killer silences her, too? A fresh perspective on the difficulties of bisexuality in the modern world.


[ official Tess Sharpe web site ]

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


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book cover  The Kill Artist
by Daniel Silva

This is the first book in the Gabriel Allon series. Gabriel works in Europe as an art restorer of Old Masters paintings. He?s also a retired Mossad agent and wants only to be left alone to work on the paintings. If you?re not into spy novels, such as the Bourne series or those by Le Carre, don?t worry. These books are actually mysteries as Gabriel tries to pull together all the clues to figure out who did what, when the next event is going to happen, and by whom. In this novel, Gabriel is reluctantly pulled into a search for a terrorist who has recently resurfaced ? a man who was responsible for the destruction of his family - and is planning a high-profile murder. We meet characters who recur throughout the series, and some will become very dear to you. The people and events are well fleshed-out but not tediously so. At the same time, the action is suspenseful as the story unfolds with plans within plans within betrayals. Read this series in order. Character histories unfold throughout the books, as well as references to events of past books..

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Doc Ford series by Randy Wayne White.]

[ official Daniel Silva web site ]

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


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book cover  Maus: A Survivor's Tale - My Father Bleeds History
by Art Spiegelman [940.531 Spi]

Maus I is the first of two graphic novels (the second being Maus II: and here my troubles began) detailing the life of Art Spiegelman's father, Vladek, a Polish-Jewish holocaust survivor. These are extremely important books in terms of what they do for the medium of comics as well as the history of the holocaust. As a cartoonist, Spiegelman's prior work had been extremely avante garde, experimental, and difficult to parse, but Maus marks a change towards something more concrete. The style is rough but straightforward, opting to deliver its story efficiently. To contrast this, however, Spiegelman has chosen to depict the various European ethnicities as having the faces of different species of animals. The most poignant example being: Jews are depicted as mice, Germans as cats. This achieves two aims. 1) It highlights the racist/anti-semitic attitudes of mid-century Europe, and 2) it simplifies the face of each character to the point where we are able as readers to put ourselves in that place. Maus is a necessary read for anyone wishing to understand the narrative power of comics, as well as any student of history. Each page is a carefully diagrammed account, taking us step-by-step through Vladek Spiegelman's ordeal as told through a series of interviews with his son. These accounts are punctuated with scenes of the present, detailing the complicated and infuriating relationship between Art and his father. I'll say it again more simply: you need to read this book right now.


[Also available : The second volume Maus II: A Survivor's tale - And Here My Troubles Began.]

[ Wikipedia page for Art Spiegelman ] | [ official Art Spiegelman and the Making of Maus web site from PBS ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Ben F.
South Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemThe Cairo Affair
by Olen Steinhauer [Compact Disc Steinhauer]

This is a complex novel that entwines personal secrets and intelligence secrets. Emmett and Sophie Kohl inadvertly set the wheels in motion twenty years ago when they were on their honeymoon in Yugoslovia. When the book opens, American diplomat Emmett Kohl is murdered in front of his wife. Sophie, feeling guilty because she had confessed to Emmett that she had had an affair while they lived in Cairo just before he was shot, searches for Emmett's killer. As Sophie probes, she is shocked to learn they were forced to move from Cairo to Budapeste, because Emmett was supected of passing secrets to the enemy. But as she digs deeper she learns about "stumbler", an aborted CIA plan to oust Khaddaffi from Libya. Was this long abandoned scheme the real reason that Emmett killed?

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of John le Carré, Len Deighton and Chris Pavone.]

[Also available in downloadable audio and traditional print formats.]

[ official The Cairo Affair and Olen Steinhauer web site ]

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


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book cover  The Ultimate Protein Pow(d)er Cookbook: Think Outside the Shake
by Anna Sward [641.563 Swa]

This cookbook is nothing short of amazing for people who are looking for a way to fit more protein into their diet without adding sugar, fat, or preservatives. The cookbook provides readers with so much more than just the simple shake recipes more people think of when they think of protein powder. Anna gives the reader recipes for healthy protein bars, breads, soups, quiches, pizza, muffins, pancakes, cookies, cakes, and more! Things you've never thought of doing with protein powder are explored in this book and the results look fantastic. Anna uses a range of protein powders — everything from whey to hemp protein — so readers can find recipes that work with what they have. She also does a great job explaining the differences between protein powders so readers can understand what the pros and cons are of each protein, as well as which can be used as substitutes for one another in recipes.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Protein Pow(d)er: the Cookbook, also by Anna Sward.]

[ official Anna Sward's ProteinPow web site ]

Review Score – 10
Recommended by Sam N.
Gere Branch Library


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book cover  Nerd in Shining Armor
by Vicki Lewis Thompson

First book in the Nerd Series, but each one is actually a stand-alone. Computer nerd Jack is in love with the office secretary Genevieve who's in love with the boss Nick. The three are in the office plane, with Nick as the pilot, so that Jack can fix a computer issue for their biggest client, while Nick is attending a meeting and taking Genevieve along to "take notes." However, it turns out that Nick has been embezzling funds and is taking the only parachute thus leaving Nick and Genevieve to die in a plane crash over the ocean and leaving no witnesses. But guess who grew up playing Flight Simulator as a nerdy kid and is able to crash-land the plane next to a deserted island? And so it goes. This is not high-grade literature, but so much fun. It's predictable, it's hilarious, and Jack is so likeable. You'll also meet Genevieve's mother and brother, and Nick's business partner, Matt, who can't figure out why the company is not as profitable as it should be. And guess who's the same age as Genevieve's mother? This is a quick, entertaining read with no surprises, and of course it ends the way it should.


[ official Vicki Lewis Thompson web site ]

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


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemBurlesque
[DVD Burlesque]

Small town girl Ali moved to Los Angeles to follow her dreams. She comes across the Burlesque Lounge and becomes a waitress. While waiting tables Ali learns all of the routines the dancers perform and auditions to join their crew. The lead dancer decides Ali is trouble and tries to destroy her career by shutting down the music while she's onstage, but Ali surprises everyone by busting out into song. Tess, a former dancer and the lounge owner, is impressed and decides to change the act to revolve around Ali and her singing. Meanwhile Tess is facing eviction and is forced to decide whether to go bankrupt or sell her club. Excellent soundtrack, good acting, and an interesting storyline.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Moulin Rouge, Rock of Ages, and other musicals where people are following their dreams.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Burlesque 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 itemStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
[DVD Star]

This Star Trek movie takes place some years after the original series TV show left off. Kirk has become an admiral and the Enterprise crew have moved into different positions on different ships. Most of the original actors are the same, and because there was about 10 years between the filming, you can see that time has passed for the actors and the characters. Former Enterprise crewman Chekov is aboard the USS Reliant on a mission to locate a dead planet for a science experiment known as Genesis. Project Genesis has created a device to create life from nothing on a dead planet. The crew of the Reliant believe they have found a suitable plant for the experiment but then discover a just a few life forms on the surface. When the beam down to investigate, they are confronted by Khan, an old nemesis of Captain Kirk. Khan, hungry for revenge, hijacks the USS Reliant and project Genesis. When Kirk finds out he goes to investigate and put an end to Khan. If you are goi ng to watch this movie, I highly recommend watching the episode in season one of the original series where Khan first appears to understand the back story. If you have seen the 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness, this is the same Khan character, however the plots are different and are not in the same continuity. I would recommend this to those who enjoyed the new Star Trek movies and to science fiction movie goers.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Star Trek the Original Series: Season One (including the episode "Space Seed" that sets up the events in this film), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).]

[Also available in movie novelization by Vonda McIntyre.]

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

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


After launching the movie series with the beautiful but slow-moving and emotionally-disconnected Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, this second Star Trek feature film recaptures the humorous character relationships -- like an extended family -- and brings back one of the TV series' greatest villains for a bravura scene-chewing performance with Ricardo Montalban as Khan. For anyone who's a true lover of Star Trek, this film far surpasses the mess that was 2013's reboot Star Trek Into Darkness Probably the best of ALL the Star Trek feature films to date, at least among those featuring the original cast.

Review Score - 10
Rated by -- Scott C.
staff member at the Bennett Martin Public Library

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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this item3 Days to Kill
[DVD 3 Days]

After being diagnosed with lung cancer, ex-CIA agent Ethan Renner is forced to take on one last mission in exchange for an experimental drug that will cure him. Meanwhile Ethan is trying to fix his relationship with his wife and daughter and when family and work start to mix things get complicated. Interesting plotline, good acting, but I could see why it wasn?t a huge blockbuster.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Taken and Taken 2 starring Liam Neeson; other Kevin Costner movies like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit or Revenge.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official 3 Days to Kill web site ]

Review Score – 6
Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated July 2014
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