Saturday, February 17, 2018

Shin Godzilla (on DVD)

Shin Godzilla
[DVD Shin]

This is the most recent in the Godzilla film series which dates back to 1954 with Gojira. It’s similar to others in the series in that it’s more humorous than frightening despite fact that there’s a giant monster as the main character. In this movie we watch the Japanese government handle the emergency situation brought about by Godzilla coming ashore. Staging through confusion, denial, acceptance and then to action we see the officials call meeting after meeting, change the location of the meetings, call in certain people to the meetings, have discussions, arguments and votes, all the while Japan is being destroyed by Godzilla and the citizens are in a state of panic and horror.
At first odd things happen and no one is sure why until an infantile form of Godzilla comes out of the water. Footage is shown on the news and the officials in their office buildings have to accept the odd events are not caused by an earthquake or other natural disaster, while at the same time have to figure out what it is, whether to contain or defeat it, and how to do this. The creature is smashing up the city and goes through multiple forms before morphing into who we recognize as Godzilla. The chain of command is amusing to watch as the people on the ground communicate to the people in the office buildings. During the course of events there is struggle in the office building between politicians and scientists brought in to figure out what the creature is and how to deal with it. It may sound like a lot is going on but that’s just because the perspective keeps switching between on the ground action and meetings in the office. I really liked seeing the story told as two sides of a spinning coin. The whole movie is in Japanese with English subtitles, so unless you know Japanese you will be reading the movie, which I know some viewers may not like, but I didn’t mind. If you enjoy action comedy/drama and or Kong Skull Island chances are you’ll like this too. As a side note, if you like this movie, there is another in the works called Godzilla vs. Kong set to come out in 2020 which will star both giant monsters. For more movies in the mean time check out Hoopla for Godzilla, Gamera, Rodan films.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Shin Godzilla web page from its U.S. distributor ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Friday, February 16, 2018

The Tent by Margaret Atwood

The Tent
by Margaret Atwood

I was recently looking for a Margaret Atwood book that was small and easily digestible, as sometimes my attention span does not allow me to read full tales spun in world’s outside my own. Although I love her perspective, the only other Atwood book I successfully completed was Good Bones and Simple Murders, which was another book of short stories and poems. This one was similar to that because every chapter packed a punch. This book was slightly different because there were a couple more chapters where you could read about her reflections on her time as a writer, and her wrestling with the expectations put upon her. My favorite chapter in this collection was Orphan Stories. I felt like it understood me we well as a millennial maybe, or perhaps as a misfit. I would recommend this book to many bold and brave women in my life.

[ publisher’s official The Tent web page ] | [ official Margaret Atwood web site ]

Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries and the Bookmobile

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

"The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" by Lord Dunsany (a short story)

“The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth”
by Edward, Lord Dunsany


A family member who has read the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft told me that Lovecraft was inspired by Lord Dunsany and they wanted to read some of his work. I found this in the library’s collection for them and after reading they thought I’d like it, so I gave it a try. It’s less than 20 pages long, so it is not a huge commitment. I thought it was pretty good and was reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s short stories such as “Farmer Giles of Ham” and “Leaf by Niggle”. Old, mystic and dreamy I think would best describe it. The story is about a village (Allanthurion) whose residents suddenly begin having nightmares from Hell and are afraid to sleep. The magician of the village determines the dreams are from Gaznak, the greatest magician, rider of a comet who visits Earth every few hundred years and feeds on the minds of men. The terrible dreams can only be stopped by defeating Gaznak and the only way to vanquish him is with a sword called Sacnoth. The sword is part of a dragon-crocodile named Tharagavverug, which can’t be slain because it’s made of metal and nothing can fell it save for hunger. So our brave village hero Leothric, starves the dragon, which takes a few days, gains the sword and sets off to destroy the wizard Gaznak. That’s sort of all there is to it, as it’s quite short, but I liked it more for how the story was told than some sort of complicated plot or character development. It’s a nice little story deserving of a read, even if you are not into Lovecraft and or Tolkien. Readers of fairy tales, fantasy, or fables will enjoy.

This is a short story available in several books the library owns including: The Mammoth Book of Fairy Tales, Edited by Mike Ashley, 398.2 ASH; The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories, by Oxford University Press, 813.08 OXF; and The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth, by Lord Dunsany, on Hoopla.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Call of Cthulu, by H.P. Lovecraft, Farmer Giles of Ham, by J.R.R. Tolkien, Leaf by Niggle, by J.R.R. Tolkien, or Smith of Wooten Major, by J.R.R. Tolkien, all of which are short stories.] [ Article about Lord Dunsany and “The Fortress Unvanquishable” at Blackgate.com ] | [ Wikipedia entry on Edward, Lord Dunsany ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love You When... by Linda Kranz

Love You When… by Linda Kranz [jP Kranz] 

This is a lovely little juvenile picture book, which should also appeal to adults who appreciate creativity. Linda Kranz is a children’s book illustrator who specializes in using painted rocks in her art. In the case of Love You When…, she has assembled a series of inspirational pages filled with photos of heart-shaped rocks, some just in their natural appearance, and others painted. Each page is a work of art, with an upbeat statement about loving someone under any types of circumstances.
The images in Love You When… reminded my wife and myself of one of our trips to San Francisco, and the various “Heart” statues that were on display throughout the city (much like Lincoln’s bicycles, stars, lightbulbs and hearts). We also both look for small heart-shaped rocks and stones, on hiking trails, lakesides, and bike paths. Knowing how rare it is to find such uniquely-shaped items, I can appreciate how much effort Kranz went to in order to assemble the beautiful images in this book. If you’re looking for a little pick-me-up, and can appreciate an artist’s use of natural objects in telling a story, both my wife and I recommend this charming little book!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try some of Linda Kranz’s other books, of which the libraries own Only One You, and Let’s Rock: Rock Painting for Kids.] [ official Love You When… page on the official Linda Kranz web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library and
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation
by Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation is the first volume in The Southern Reach trilogy by author Jeff Vandermeer. It is also the source material for a new feature film, scheduled for release later in February 2018, starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac and Gina Rodriguez (among others). Annihilation is part thriller, part scifi and part horror. A team of four female scientists is being sent into a mysterious, isolated geographic area to explore a mystery there — something that has led to disaster for 11 previous expeditions. Some…event…occured in this space, and inexplicable things have been happening in the area since. The previous expeditions either didn’t return, or went mad, or came back changed…and the area with these effects may be expanding.

The tone is a cross between the science fiction adventure novels of years gone by and the gradually increasing dread of a H.P. Lovecraft novel, with its unspeakable horrors. Events of the story also leave the reader wondering about the reliability of the central narrator. I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed in the number of details that were left hanging by the end of this volume, but I do find myself very invested in finding out what happens next, so I’m sure I’ll be reading Authority and Acceptance soon to see how Vandermeer expands and concludes the story. In the meantime, I’ve very curious to see how this first book gets turned into a feature film!

[ Wikipedia entry for The Southern Reach Trilogy ] | [ official Jeff Vandermeer web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Baker's Magic by Diane Zahler

Baker’s Magic
by Diane Zahler [j Zahler] 

I recently did a book discussion on literary cookbooks (cookbooks inspired by works of literature); one of the patrons attending the discussion suggested I read this book. (I only discovered later that it’s on the list of books up for a local award this year.)

I really, REALLY enjoyed this book! I love that the protagonist in this story, Bee, is feisty and independent, yet she very quickly becomes close to people in her life. She’s got a unique skill for baking (which I love), and as an added bonus, she’s got magic skills — that of incorporating her current mood into the items she bakes. At first, that is a problem for Bee. But once she learns to harness this power, it works largely to her advantage.

I had a great time following Bee on her adventures, and I was pleased, at the end of the story, to find the recipe for her mentor’s cinnamon rolls!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel.]

[ publisher’s official Baker’s Magic web site ] | [ official Diane Zahler web site ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Calendar Girls (on DVD)

Calendar Girls
[DVD Calendar]

After having read the stage/play script version of this story, I realized I hadn’t actually seen this 2003, starring Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Philip Glenister, and a cast of other recognizable British actors. Based on real-life events from 1999, where a group of middle-aged British women from a small community in Yorkshire decided to post nude, though tastefully, for a calendar to raise funds to purchase a new couch for the waiting room of a cancer treatment center where one of their husbands had been treated, this film is packed with both laughs and some serious emotional punch. The performances are strong throughout, from Mirren as the flamboyent best friend who proposes the calendar, to Walters as the widow whose experiences inspire the calendar, to the many other women who made up the rest of the calendar’s pages. For a film addressing the issues of tasteful nudity, the filmmakers manage to be both serious and light-hearted in how they portray the photography sessions for the calendar. The English countryside, and the tradition of Women’s Institutes come across beautifully. But at its core, this is a relationship comedy, and the relationships between all the primary characters shine. If you haven’t sampled this one, I highly recommend it, although I’d love to see it performed on stage as well. The stage drama was first produced in 2008, and subsequently in 2015, a musical adaptation was produced in England, to some success.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia page for the Calendar Girls movie ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
by Agatha Christie [Christie] 

It all began with a visit to the dentist. After having his teeth seen to, Hercule Poirot carries on with his day, only to find later that the dentist was found dead in the exam room. Who would want to kill a dentist, and why? As more is revealed it seems the situation is bigger than initially surmised, involving more deaths, missing persons, international spies, and assassination attempts. It has a similar feel to it as The Big Four, in that one small incident that starts the story turns out to be a smaller piece of a large international web of crime. Or is it? I really liked this as it was a bit more gripping than some of the others in the series, which are rather more relaxed and slower paced. This book has multiple titles: An Overdose of Death and The Patriotic Murders; the chapters are titled after the verses in the rhyme ‘One Two Buckle My Shoe’, and there is actually a shoe buckle in the story line. The audio version of the book is narrated by Hugh Fraser, who always does a great performance, even when Captain Hastings is not in the story. So far this one of my personal favorites of the series along with The ABC Murders, The Big Four, The Five Little Pigs, and Murder in Mesopotamia. Highly recommended to mystery readers and/or historical fiction (1930’s-40’s) fans.

[ official One, Two, Buckle My Shoe page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]
 
Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

The Last Anniversary
by Liane Moriarty [Compact Disc Moriarty] 

Liane Moriarty is an author I’ve “discovered” recently, and I’m slowly making my way through all her works. She’s Australian, usually basing her stories in Sydney. My favorite thing is to listen to the audiobooks, as she’s typically got someone with an Australian accent doing the narration.
This was a fun story. I really enjoy the way Moriarty develops her characters, as the story itself unfolds. I didn’t have any real suspicions or inklings about the truth behind the Alice & Jack Monroe story…I was pleasantly surprised by the way the whole story wrapped up.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty, The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty or Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins]

[ official The Last Anniversary page on the fficial Liane Moriarty web site ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Monday, January 29, 2018

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays by Kiese Laymon (on Hoopla)

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays
by Kiese Laymon [currently available only in eBook format from Hoopla through the libraries] 

I enjoyed this set of nonfiction essays. It gave me insight into the writing and publishing process, as well as to Laymon’s book Long Division. It explored what a loving relationship can turn into when work goals and other failures get in the way. It also explored pop culture and Black culture icons such as Kanye West, Bernie Mac, Michael Jackson, and Tupac Shakur. I appreciated what Laymon had to say about how Kanye West and other rappers may be amazing in the various ways they have trailblazed, but that they still fall short when talking about women. I most heartily appreciated that Laymon said the same about himself. This is a quick read that helped me realize a few of the excuses I’ve used too often in the last couple years. This set of essays reminded me to be myself but to never forget my goals to improve. Why is everything a self-help book when I read it? That is yet to be answered.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Long Division, by Kiese Laymon, The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant or Bab Feminist, by Roxane Gay.]

[ official Kiese Laymon web site ]

Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley and Williams Branches and the Bookmobile

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed (on DVD)

Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed
[DVD 817 Gaf] 

Mr. Gaffigan has always made me laugh out loud. If you ever want to just laugh for a long time, check out his DVD or CDs!

[For hilarious laughs, check out Food: A Love Story, or King Baby or Mr. Universe or anything by Jim Gaffigan or any by Loretta LaRoche!]

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

Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Glass Houses
by Louise Penny [Penny] 

In the latest Penny novel, Armand Gamache is now the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec. He and his wife are celebrating All Hallows Eve in Three Pines when a figure dressed in dark appears on the village green. When confronted the person refuses to respond. Gamache points out unless a law is broken the person had the right to stand there. The figure inspires fear in the small village and soon a death occurs.

Though Gamache is not in charge of the investigation he can’t help but work to uncover why the person was costumed as they were and why they came to Three Pines. Many months later Gamache comes to a turning point, once he’s crossed the line he can never go back.

This book is one of Louise Penny’s best books. Throughout the series, these Canadian police procedurals encompass all the genres from a small town cozy to a political thriller.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Deborah Crombie, Charles Todd, or Ann Cleeves.]

[ official Glass Houses information on the official Louise Penny web site ]

Recommended by Marcy G.
South Branch Library

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Friday, January 26, 2018

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin
by Lionel Shriver [Shriver] 

I. LOVED. This book! I loved the way it was written, both the format and the actual wording. Lionel Shriver is a GENIUS with words!!! Y’know how, sometimes, you have a conversation with someone, or you read something, and you feel DUMBER for having read that or had that conversation? This is the exact opposite! I feel SMARTER for having read this book! The language was absolutely poetic, to me, and I really felt like I could identify with Eva, the protagonist, on almost every level. I really want to come back to this one and read it again someday. I’m also going to read more of Shriver’s work!!!

As for the subject matter itself, I thought it was extremely interesting, thinking about how many school shootings (and other public massacres) there have been in recent years… and I could totally see someone, especially the mother of a shooter, becoming obsessed with prior and subsequent events like that. In fact, I’m considering buying this book (I listened to the audio) so I could have documentation of the other scenarios listed. (This book is based off a fictional shooting, but the others listed did, in fact, happen.)

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hate List, by Jennifer Brown, or Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult.]

[ Wikipedia page for the book We Need to Talk About Kevin ] | [ Wikipedia page for the author Lionel Shriver ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Winter Thunder by Mari Sandoz

Winter Thunder
by Mari Sandoz [Sandoz] 

Whenever we have an especially cold snap with blizzard like conditions, I remember this book. For anyone who grew up in rural areas, we can relate to this teacher and her students who become stranded in a blizzard and have to fight for their survival. To really enjoy this book you need to understand how a whiteout can blind you to something just feet in front of you and how a mile to a home can become an unending journey. This is truly a Nebraska story, by one of Nebraska’s great storytellers.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Anna’s Blizzard, by Alison Hart (youth fiction) and The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin (551.555 Las)]

[ Univesity of Nebraska Press’ official Winter Thunder web page ] | [ official Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center web site ]

Recommended by Sandy W.
Gere Branch Library

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

If I Run by Terri Blackstock (audiobook)

If I Run
by Terri Blackstock [Compact Disc Blackstock] 

I love this author. This suspense story kept me listening ’til the end. A young woman is wanted for a murder she didn’t commit. She’s running from the same people her father tried to elude, and hopes to avoid his fate. He was murdered. I look forward to the next ones in the series. # 2 is If I’m Found, and #3 will be If I Live.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Traces of Guilt, an Evie Blackwell Cold Case series, by Dee Henderson, Dark Pursuit, by Brandilyn Collins or Vanish, a Private Justice series novel, by Irene Hannon. Also the Angels Walking trilogy, by Karen Kingsbury is excellent.]

[ official If I Run page on the official Terri Blackstock web site ]

Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary

My Own Two Feet: A Memoir
by Beverly Cleary [jB C57] 

Beverly Cleary has long been one of my favorite authors of children’s fiction. Mostly known for her series of books about Ramona Quimby, she published two books about her own life which answered questions I had always wondered about: What was her upbringing like in Oregon and what led her to want to write books for children? I have always felt that Mrs. Cleary was a kindred spirit: both of us have family ties to Oregon, we are both English majors and both pursued librarianship as a career. This particular book begins with her trip from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California where she has the opportunity to live with a cousin’s family while attending a community college. I loved the descriptions of California as seen from the eyes of a young woman leaving home for the first time. The difficulties she faced from her family to the effects of the Depression on everyone she knows are described with bittersweet melancholy throughout the story of her undergraduate years. My favorite part of the book is when she finally lands the Children’s Librarian position in Yakima, Washington. At that time, librarians were required to learn and memorize the stories they shared during story time. No doubt this experience helped Beverly to hone her skills as a narrator when she turned to writing books for children. Her ability to see things from a child’s point of view is what makes her writing stand out from other children’s authors of her generation. Beverly Cleary has left a legacy of excellent stories for children and adults that will last for generations to come. At this time (January 2018), Mrs. Cleary is still alive and living in California at age 101. I recommend this book to anyone who shares a love of her writing.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Girl From Yamhill: A Memoir, by Beverly Cleary.]

[ publisher’s official My Own Two Feet: A Memoir web page ] | [ official Beverly Cleary web site ]

Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Weir

Cobalt Squadron
by Elizabeth Weir [j Weir] 

Cobalt Squadron takes place shortly before and during the events of “The Force Awakens”. Primarily, it’s the story of Rose Tico from “The Last Jedi” and her sister Paige. The book is a serviceable story about a reconnaissance mission that transforms into a mission of mercy. The challenge is that Cobalt Squadron is a good book, but not a remarkable one. Primarily, the story suffers from no real antagonist aside from the First Order in general. We do find out a bit more about Rose, but her character arc is fairly minor. Her story would have been worked better as part of an anthology like Greg Rucka’s Before the Awakening. Stretching what would have been a good short story into a 250-page novel leaves the book feeling watered down, the action diluted and the stakes diminished. Cobalt Squadron is a good effort and a nice read for younger Star Wars fans. However, it is far from an essential read.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Before the Awakening, by Greg Rucka, Moving Target, by Cecil Castellucci, The Weapon of a Jedi, by Greg Fry, Smuggler’s Run, by Greg Rucka or Leia, Princess of Alderaan, by Claudia Gray.]

[ official Cobalt Squadron web page on the Wookiepedia site ]
 
Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

The West Wing: The Complete First Season (on DVD)


This show follows the lives of President Josiah (Jed) Bartlet and his staff during their tenure at the White House. It’s a drama but there is plenty of comedy to go with it. The season starts with the president injuring himself by riding a bicycle into a tree and ends in a hail of bullets after a town meeting. Some highlights from this season are: Leo (Chief of Staff) dealing with a substance abuse inquiry, Sam (Deputy White House Communications Director) “accidentally” dating a call girl, CJ (Press Secretary) meeting with a committee who wants $900 million to put toward a “wolves only” highway, Josh (Deputy Chief of Staff) being eaten alive by reporters when covering for CJ during a press briefing, Toby (White House Communications Director) dealing with his emotions while his brother is stranded on a space ship with no doors, Charlie (Personal Aide to the President) having a flirtation with the President’s daughter, and President Bartlet having to find a proportional response when a foreign country shoots down a plane that his personal physician was on board.

I didn’t watch the show when it was on the first time around, but due to a patron’s recommendation I’ve started it now and I can’t stop watching. There is just enough comedy mixed in with the drama that it makes it funny but doesn’t drown out the seriousness of the storyline. Also the cast who all seem to be perfect for each of their roles makes it very enjoyable. It’s easy to see why this show is so critically acclaimed and won so many awards. I don’t often give something a 10/10 but this is worth it.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other Sorkin creations such as The American President – a lot of the same actors, this is the movie that the show was based off of, The Newsroom or Sports Night]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ NBC’s official The West Wing series web page ]

Recommended by Carrie R.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Inside In/Inside Out by The Kooks (on Hoopla)

Inside In/Inside Out
by The Kooks [Hoopla Digital Music] 

Nice British indie rock music. Perfect tunes for chilling out by yourself, or with a few friends. I don’t know how else to describe it but it is a favorite of mine, that does not get old or repetitive over the years. Some albums, while pleasant, are not ones to listen to over and over, year after year. I feel this one is upbeat while still being sort of subdued and quiet. If you are looking for some alternative music to the usual pop/rock mix, I’d suggest this. This album is only on Hoopla right now, not on compact disc.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the band Oasis. There are quite a few of their albums available on Hoopla,also.] [ official The Kooks web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China's Mountains by Choo Wai Hong


This was a fascinating look into the rich history and the present day workings of this incredible tribe of matriarchal peoples deep in China’s mountains. Written from the perspective of an “adopted” tribe member Choo Wai Hong, she is able to weave her own personal outlook as a professional lawyer from the city, to how she came to love and eventually live with the Mosuo tribe.
[ British publisher’s official The Kingdom of Women web site ]


Recommended by Amy I.
Eiseley and Williams Branch Libraries and the Bookmobile

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis

Chasing Christmas Eve
by Jill Shalvis [Shalvis] 

Every year, I make it a tradition to read one Christmas Mystery and one Christmas Romance in December — Chasing Christmas Eve was my selection for December 2017. I had never read any novels by Jill Shalvis previously, and discovered with this one that I was jumping into the middle of a series — Heartbreaker Bay — set in San Francisco. In this nominally-holiday-themed entry, best-selling Young Adult fantasy author Colbie Albright has run away from her high-pressure life in New York City, hoping to escape to a Caribbean island. A hurricane changes her plans and she ends up in San Francisco. An accident with a large dog and a fountain ends up with her meeting inventor and businessman Spence Baldwin. Circumstances allow for her to rent an apartment in Spence’s combined business/apartment building, and despite the fact that both of them have secrets that they don’t want to share, they bond as Colbie decompresses from her life of deadlines and Spence begins to make progress on a critical technology job he’s committed to finish.

The romance verges from sweet and simple to hot and steamy, like a pinball bouncing around a pinball machine, but the characters are likeable — even if you want to yell at them to share their secrets and not be so repressed. Having visited San Francisco before, I appreciated the travelogue as Spence helps Colbie check off the items on her “travel to-do list”. The other supporting characters were also likeable — most have had their own “how we met” novels in the series already, and I enjoyed this enough to also read a Christmas novella by Shalvis, Holiday Wishes, set shortly after Chasing Christmas Eve, and focused on two of the others in this series’ large cast. That novella felt a little rushed, and I don’t necessarily recommend it, but Chasing Christmas Eve was an enjoyable enough piece of romantic fluff.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Holiday Wishes, also by Jill Shalvis, or any of the other volumes in her popular Heartbreaker Bay series.]

[ official Chasing Christmas Eve page on the official Jill Shalvis web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Kramer versus Kramer by Avery Corman

Kramer Versus Kramer
by Avery Corman [Corman] 

I stumbled across this book on Hoopla. I remember seeing the movie ages ago (when I was probably too young to understand it), and I thought I’d like to watch it again. However, I’m always curious, as many people are: how different was the book from the movie? So I checked this ebook out, and I found myself COMPLETELY taken with it! I couldn’t stop reading it!!!

I was able to identify with both Joanna and Ted Kramer. 20 years into my own marriage, I can see each person’s point of view…. I’m kind of surprised I was rooting for Ted, though I think that was the intention of the author. On the other hand, I do still recall, very clearly, the struggles I dealt with as a new mother (stress, depression, boredom, that “is this all there is?” feeling, etc.). I really appreciated how well the characters were fleshed out. I’m anxious to watch the movie again!

[ Wikipedia page for Avery Corman ]

Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

The Horse and His Boy
by C.S. Lewis [j Lewis]

Set entirely in the magical world of Narnia and it’s neighboring countries, a young boy named Shasta and a young girl named Aravis run away together with a pair of talking horses. Initially Shasta and his equine companion Bree, and Aravis and her equine companion Hwin, are escaping from their homes separately by fleeing to Narnia, where both horses are originally from (which is why they can both talk). The two pairs meet on the way and join up, but not without troubles along the way. In a city they must pass through, they become separated. Shasta is mistaken for someone else and forced to go with some people who recognize him. Aravis meets a friend, whom she’s know all her life, and goes with her. The two escapees must now escape on their own, which they do, but not before Shasta meets his double and realizes he must warn Archenland (in Narnia) that war is coming from one of their neighboring countries. There is a happy ending and the characters’ stories do carry over into the following Chronicles of Narnia. I would not say they are the protagonists, but Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy are all in the story, as it takes place during the time when they are kings and queens, so chronologically speaking it takes place during The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think you could read it without reading any other Narnia books before. Recommended to those looking for classic fantasy fiction with character development and moral themes.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the entire Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis:
 Publication Order:
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
2. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951)
3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
4. The Silver Chair (1953)
5. The Horse and His Boy (1954)
6. The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
7. The Last Battle (1956)
Chronological Order:
1. The Magician’s Nephew
2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3. The Horse and His Boy*
4. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia
5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
6. The Silver Chair
7. The Last Battle
* Takes place within the time of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe]

[ official C.S. Lewis web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Shirley, I Jest! A Storied Life by Cindy Williams

Shirley, I Jest: A Storied Life
by Cindy Williams, with Dave Smitherman [Biography Williams] 

I always appreciate a good pun, so, this title and Cindy’s cute, smiling face are what caught my eye initially on the cover of this book. This is a fairly quick read but very enjoyable. From “American Graffiti” to “Laverne & Shirley”, Cindy Williams has had a somewhat charmed career, even if uneven! She provides a good amount of her family background in addition to a number of very interesting tales of her brushes with famous people, both before and after she became famous herself. It’s refreshing to read something that’s neither sleazy nor sensationalized about someone who’s a pretty normal person underneath the ‘star’.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try What’s So Funny?, by Tim Conway, This Time Together, by Carol Burnett or Make ‘Em Laugh, by Debbie Reynolds]

[ Wikipedia page for Cindy Williams web site ]

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Victoria & Abdul (on DVD)

Victoria and Abdul
[DVD Victoria]

This is a marvelous historical bio-pic, focusing on a lesser-known period of British history. Late in her life, Queen Victoria (1819-1901) became fascinated with an East Indian — Abdul Karim — who had been sent to her on a minor errand to present a diplomatic gift. His intelligence and personality brought her back to vibrancy during a stagnant period of her reign, and she appointed him “The Munshi”, a spiritual teacher for her on all things associated with India, which was part of the British Empire of the time. Despite resistance, prejudice and hatred towards Abdul from other members of Victoria’s family and the British government, Victoria and Abdul had a special and lasting relationship until her passing, at which time Abdul and his family were returned to India, and most of the paperwork that documented his role in Victoria’s life was destroyed. It is only in recent years that more documentation has surfaced.

The performances by Dame Judy Dench as Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul anchor an excellent cast. The production values on this film are tremendous, with incredible costumes and set design — the film-makers were given the rare privilege to be able to film at several of the actual historic properties associated with Queen Victoria. I learned a lot about the relationship between Victoria and Abdul, and wanted to learn more. I highly recommend this film!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the book Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidante by Shrabani Basu ]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Victoria & Abdul web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!