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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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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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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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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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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Saturday, January 13, 2018

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman (audiobook)

What the Dead Know
by Laura Lippman [Compact Disc Lippman] 


A disoriented woman comes from a car crash, claiming to be one of two sisters who disappeared from a shopping mall thirty years ago. She knows a lot about the sisters, yet she seems more guilty of hiding something. I couldn’t wait to find out if she was who she said she was, and I was almost certain she was telling the truth, even though some could not believe her. I am so glad I finished the story. It was well worth my time.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Grand Delusion, a Jacob Burns mystery, by Matt Witten, the works of Kate Atkinson, the works of Robert Crais, or another by Laura Lippman: Every Secret Thing, or In a Strange City, part of the Tess Monaghan series]

[ official What the Dead Know page on the official Laura Lippman web site ]

Recommended by Kathy H.
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!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Long Division by Kiese Laymon (on Hoopla)

Long Division
by Kiese Laymon [currently available only in e-formats] 

Something about the way he started the first chapter helped me realize this book would be very different from everything else I would read this year. It’s a real adventure going into a new or suggested book not really knowing what you’re getting into. You may also understand the perplexity that comes with reading a book on an e-reader and trying to determine if your bookmarks saved correctly or if you forgot how to turn pages properly. So just so you’re not as confused as I was, this is a book about a few time-traveling teens who try to understand their place in the world between the years 2013, 1985, and 1964. You’ll want to pay special attention to the True or False quiz that the principal gives main character City when he gets in trouble at school. That may be where the lessons in this story lie. However, I am no longer certain that I can truly read or understand anything in this world if I haven’t read or listened to it three times.

[ official Kiese Laymon web site ]

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

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Seeds on Ice by Cary Fowler

Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault
by Cary Fowler [631.52 Fow]

For those who are unaware, there is a vault tucked away up in Norway that stores seeds from all over the world. The reason why is basically an insurance plan against disasters that could threaten or destroy crops around the world. It’s underground, in a place called Svalbard, where it’s naturally cold enough the seeds can stay preserved without much electricity, away from natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, and remote enough to be out of the way from disasters caused by humans. This book contains abundant photos of this unique archive, as it tells the story of its inception, creation and ongoing work. I had heard about the vault before I picked this up, but didn’t know very much about it. It was a fascinating read and not one you’d need to do cover to cover. Even if you are not into agriculture, gardening, or scientific archives, I think it’d be of interest to a wide range of people, as it’s pretty much a documentary in a book!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Don’t Throw it, Grow It!, by Deborah Peterson (635 Pet).]
[ official Global Seed Vault web site ] | [ official Cary Fowler web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (in audiobook form)

And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie [Compact Dics Christie (or) Hoopla Audio] 

This is in neither the Miss Marple nor Poirot series, and is the first by Christie I’ve read that’s not but I really enjoyed it; it is in fact one of my favorites now. It’s definately darker and more suspenseful than others I’ve read by her. Ten people are invited to stay on a small island not far off the coast of England for the summer. Eight of them arrive together by a small boat run by a local; the other two arrived earlier as they were hired as house keepers. The island is called Indian Island and hanging on the wall inside each of the bedrooms is a framed children’s rhyme, 10 Little Indian Boys which tells of the demise of each, one by one until there were none. This is where the books gets it’s name because very shortly after arriving they die, one by one, just in way the rhyme describes. The group is unsure at first if they are accidents or intentional and if intentional who is doing it, one of them or someone in hiding. It’s a very stirring story so I won’t give away more. I highly recommend if if you like mysteries and or classics, but as I said this this not as cozy (as some would say), as the Miss Marples or the Poirots, so do expect more thrills and chills. I listened to the audiobook read by Hugh Fraser and thoroughly enjoyed his performance as usual.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Big Four, also by Agatha Christie.]

[ official And Then There Were None web site ] | [ official Agatha Christie 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!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From the Heart (on DVD)


Martha Williamson brings another great story about the Postables team that does a thorough job delivering long lost letters and packages. From the Heart tells the story of a 200-year-old valentine which could change history if it gets delivered. I have my name on Hold for the next movie in the series. It is called “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Lost Without You,” and lists the “author” as Eric Mabius (an actor in these popular Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel movies.)

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Murder She Baked, based on a mystery series by Joanne Fluke; A Bone to Pick (Aurora Teagarden mystery); and the other Signed, Sealed, Delivered series movies, includingSigned, Sealed, Delivered: The Complete Series, Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas (2014), One in a Million (2016) or From Paris With Love (2017). Other TV series you might enjoy: The Middle, and Last Man Standing.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From the Heart web page ]

Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered: One in a Million (on DVD)


One in a Million is another Martha Williamson story continuing the Hallmark comedy-drama series. The persistent team of postal employees go to great lengths to deliver lost mail and succeed every time they try. Our family enjoys catching up on the progress of the relationships between team members. My husband had two government careers which he really enjoyed. He delivered mail in downtown Lincoln for the U.S. Postal Service in the late 1960’s. His other career was with the USDA.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish enjoy the other TV-movies in this series: Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Complete Series, From Paris With Love, For Christmas or From the Heart. Other good TV series include Touched by an Angel, The Middle, and Parenthood.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Signed, Sealed, Delivered: One in a Million web site ]

Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library

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Friday, December 29, 2017

The Martian Chronicles - in audiobook form - by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles
by Ray Bradbury [Compact Disc Bradbury] 

It has been over 30 years since I last read Ray Bradbury’s 1950 story collection, The Martian Chronicles. So when this book-on-CD audiobook version came across the desk at the library recently, I decided it was a good time to revisit an old favorite.

The Martian Chronicles is a “fix-up” novel, which is to say that it is comprised of a series of thematically related short stories, which Bradbury has written short connecting bits to connect to each other for what is, overall, a novel-length storyline. There are some cross-over characters and plots across the content of some of the stories. The Martian Chronicles is about the human settling of the planet Mars, over the course of several decades. The native Martian population is decimated by a plague caused by one of the earliest human missions to the planet, and the subsequent waves of humans to colonize Mars take over the beautiful Martian cities or build their own. The individual stories in this collection vary in quality and have a lot of different “tones”.

While, in many ways, The Martian Chronicles feels dated, it is still an absolute classic in the field of speculative fiction. Audiobook narrator Stephen Hoye provides a low-key narrative style to his voice work, which at times leaves the stories feeling a bit emotionless. But at the same time, it is a compelling listen, and he captures some of the characters very well. In the end, I’ll have to admit that I enjoyed reading this novel more than listening to it, but this was still a worthwhile introduction to the stories, if you’ve never experience them before!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the other works of the late Ray Bradbury, in print or audio.] [ official Ray Bradbury web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pawn by Aimee Carter

Pawn
by Aimee Carter [YA Carter] 

Kitty Doe has just been tested, and will spend her life as a III. This means she won’t starve, but she will be a sanitation worker for the rest of her life, and will likely die at a young age. When the prime minister approaches her and asks if she would be Masked – surgically transformed into Lila Hart, his niece, who was killed. It’s an easy choice, and Kitty accepts. She will have to leave her life and friends behind, but she will get to live as a VII, practically royalty. There’s just one catch, Kitty discovers that she must also stop the rebellion that Lila started, the one that she believes in and supports.

[ official Blackcoat Rebellion series page on the official Aimee Carter web site ]

Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wonder Woman '77 Meets the Bionic Woman by Andy Mangels and others

Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman
by Andy Mangels, Judit Tondora & others [YA PB (Graphic Novel) Mangels (and) Hoopla]

A few months ago, I reviewed Wonder Woman ’77 Vol.1, which was a marvelous recapturing of the style of superhero storytelling as seen in the old Wonder Woman television series starring Lynda Carter. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Wonder Woman ’77 Vol 2, and this, Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman.

This cross-over title was a whole lot of fun, especially for somebody who literally grew up on both of those television series. Wonder Woman’s pilot aired in 1975, and the series ran for three seasons from 1976 to 1979. The Bionic Woman, starring Lindsay Wagner, also ran for three seasons, from 1976 to 1978. Each series also had some bumps in its network run — Wonder Woman began as a 1940s era series on ABC, before moving to CBS and updating to a contemporary (1977) setting. The Bionic Woman also began life on ABC, as a spin-off of The $6 Million Man, then moved to NBC for the final part of its run. Both featured strong action-oriented female leads, and both featured wild and outrageous science fiction and/or fantasy plots, that often strained viewers credulity.

I mention the outrageous storylines specifically, because they tie directly into this cross-over tale. This trade paperback combines the six-issues of a comic-book miniseries, written by Andy Mangels with art by Judit Tondora. Diana Prince (Wonder Woman’s civilian cover identity, a government intelligence agent), and Jamie Sommers, a bionically enhanced intelligence agent (for a different agency) encounter each other while at an East Coast conference when they both have to help stop a terror attack. The two women bond over their similar lives and are soon assigned, by their respective agencies, to work together to investigate a vast international conspiracy. It turns out that villains from multiple episodes of each of the series, all of whom were responsible for creating lifelike androids that were tools of evil megalomaniacs, have teamed up to combine their knowledge and goals. And they’re all working for a WWII Nazi mastermind, who wishes to invade Diana’s homeland, Paradise Island, and wipe out the Amazon Princess’s family and friends.

The plot of this six-part storyline is really dark, and totally nuts, but still a hoot to read. We have guest appearances but many, many supporting characters from both shows’ casts, and artist Tondora does a fairly good job of having the huge cast of major characters all strongly resemble the actors who orginally played them (particularly Fritz Weaver as one of the mad scientists, and Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman and Martin E. Brooks as Dr. Rudy Wells). Tondora’s depictions of both Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner aren’t perfect, but they’re successful more often than they’re wrong, and this really does feel like it could have been a TV mini-series crossover event. Some of the plotline and dialog is a bit hackneyed, but they that could also be said about both of the TV series at the time as well.

Overall, though I truly enjoyed this time capsule event — it is set in the late 1970s, and definitely felt accurate for the setting. And, seeing two of TV’s most memorable TV heroines fighting side-by-side against an army of Nazi soldiers and Fembot female androids is marvelous fun. I went out and bought this one for my own collection, but you can enjoy it here at the library!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wonder Woman ’77 Volume 1 and Wonder Woman ’77 Volume 2, by Marc Andreyko, or The Bionic Woman graphic novels on Hoopla.]

[ official DC Wikia entry for this mini-series ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank Herbert

Even as I read this I could tell it was becoming a new favorite and one I’d like to read again; by the time I was done I was certain. I knew nothing about the book before I read it other than sand worms exist, so I don’t want to have any spoilers in this review to ruin the book for anyone. It’s a classic science fiction novel which is really three books in one. There are many characters and there is not just one protagonist. The two main characters are Jessica and Paul, mother and son. They live at the beginning of the book on a planet called Caladan but soon move to the planet Arrakis. In this time and place there is something called spice, the most valuable substance in the universe, which is only found on Arrakis, so whom ever is in control of the planet has power and pressures placed upon them. Duke Leto of House Atreides is offered the planet and accepts, so his son Paul and Lady Jessica move there with him (Leto and Jessica, are a couple but not married). Arrakis is a desert planet; it does not rain, there are no oceans, or lakes or ponds. The natives of the planet, the Fremen, are increadilby adapted to life in these conditions ulitizing what they call a stilsuit which captures any bodily fluids and purifies them for drinking. Water is sacred here. In the Atreides house water is not quite so scarce but they are not destined to stay there. Due to political and economic situations the Duke Leto and his family are in danger and they all know this when they move there. It happens early in the story that the house is overthrown and the Duke is killed, so that’s not too much of a spoiler, but it’s what happens afterwards and who Jessica and Paul become on Arrakis that is the larger story. I highly recommend this book to any classics and or sci-fi readers. I am glad there are more in the series, although not all them were written by Frank Herbert, some later ones were written by his son. I can’t recommend or comment on these as I haven’t read them. I am aware there is a film version of the book, but again I have not seen it so can’t comment or recommend it, but may be of interest.

[ official Frank Herbert/Dune web site ]


Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Scandinavian Gatherings by Melissa Bahen

Scandinavian Gatherings: From Afternoon Fika to Midsummer Feast – 70 Simple Recipes and Crafts for Everyday Celebrations
by Melissa Bahen [641.594 ScaYb]

The subtitle of this fun book is “From Afternoon Fika to Midsummer Feast: 70 Simple Recipes and Crafts for Everyday Celebrations.” I enjoy reading all kinds of Scandinavian cookbooks, but this one really caught my attention because the author lives in the area of Oregon that my family lives in and talks about my favorite Scandinavian Festival held in Junction City every year. The book is filled with all kinds of authentic recipes, craft ideas and stories perfect to use at holiday celebrations and much more. The photographs and illustrations complement the stories and recipes very well. I highly recommend this book — even if you aren’t Scandinavian!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Tasting Hygge: Joyful Recipes for Cozy Days and Nights, by Leela Cyd, and The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, by Meik Wiking]

[ official Scandinavian Gatherings page on the official Melissa Bahen web site ]

Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Journey / Quest / Return - a picture book trilogy by Aaron Becker

Journey / Quest / Return
by Aaron Becker [jP Becker]


This is a self-contained trilogy of picture books, published over the course of four years — Journey (2013), Quest (2014) and Return (2016). The first book in the story, Journey, was a Caldecott Medal Honor book.

All three of these juvenile books fall into the rare storytelling category of “wordless stories”. Not a single word of dialog appears in any of the three books — character interactions are purely through expressions, gestures and action.

In Journey, a lonely little girl, with a family too busy to be bothered to interact with her, discovered a large stick of bright red artists’ chalk. Using her imagination, she draws a fully-realized doorway into the wall of her bedroom, opens the magical door, and steps through into a gorgeous medieval fantasy world. Using the magic red chalk, she goes on an adventure, drawing rowboats and hot air balloons to provide herself with transportation. Ultimately, she runs afoul of the local totalitarian government when she attempts to rescue a beautiful purple bird from a group of soldiers.

In the second and third books, after returning to the “real world”, the girl joins forces with a boy with magical purple chalk to return to the fantasy world, where they encounter a friendly king, who gives them a map to find additional magical chalks. In their quest to find more colors of the magical chalk, they again are pursued by agents of the oppressive regime that is holding their friendly king prisoner. Finally, the third book pulls the girl’s father into the fantasy realm as he tries to find out what has happened to his daughter, who keeps disappearing for lengthy periods of time.

All three books feature absolutely gorgeous illustrations — the fine detail work on some of the fantasy world settings is breathtaking. The positive approach to having a vivid imagination is very uplifting. And the lack of dialog makes the creativity of Becker’s storytelling impressive. I can’t recommend this trilogy highly enough!

[If you enjoy this, you may also appreciate Shaun Tan’s wordless graphic novel/picture book The Arrival.] [ official Aaron Becker 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!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Christmas of the Phonograph Records: A Recollection by Mari Sandoz


Mari Sandoz relates a story of the Christmas a phonograph and records arrived at the farm. Instead of paying debts, Old Jules used an inheritance to splurge on this music. No one else in the area had such a device so everyone from miles around gathered at the Sandoz home. For days visitors ate, danced, and sang to music from their old countries and to new artists.

Published posthumously, this is a riveting peek at a joyful time in what was usually a hard life. A quick read at only 36 pages.

[ official Mari Sandoz Heritage Society web site ]

Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Friday, December 22, 2017

The House Without a Christmas Tree (on DVD)

based on the book by Gail Rock [j DVD Rock]

This 1972 season holiday TV-movie, starring Jason Robards, Lisa Lucas and Mildred Natwick, was an annual viewing tradition for my family as I was growing up — it aired on CBS at the Christmas television season throughout the mid-to-late 1970s. Though originally created for the screen, it was subsequently adapated, by Nebraska author Gail Rock, into a best-selling 1974 novel. In fact, The House Without a Christmas Tree was the first of four TV-movies, and was followed by The Thanksgiving Treasure (1973), The Easter Promise (1975) and Addie and the King of Hearts (1976), all of which were novelized by Gail Rock.

However, it is this movie that is the most memorable. 10-year-old Addie Mills lives with her taciturn father James, and her Grandma Mills. James, is still in mourning over the loss of his wife years ago, and had forbidden the presence of a Christmas tree in “his” home. When Addie wins a tree, and all the trimmings, in a school contest, using techniques her father taught her, she’s proud to bring home the tree, only to have James insist it has to go. This leads to a family crisis, as James and his mother (Grandma) disagree over the tree. When Addie secrets slips out in the middle of the night to deliver her winning tree to another family, who are too poor to have a tree of their own — it leads to James realizing that he’s been treating his family badly for years, because of his bitterness over losing his wife.

The performances in this show are tremendous, especially in the relationship between Addie and her father. The story is set in the 1940s, in a fictional small Nebraska town, so there’s a definite local connection for this charming holiday classic, and I’m thrilled to see that The House Without a Christmas Tree is out again on DVD, after having disappeared from TV showings decades ago. If you, also, grew up with this special, it’s definitely worth revisiting. And if you’ve never seen it before, you’ve got a treat to look forward to!

[Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Addie Mills 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!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Harry Potter: A Journey Through the History of Magic by J.K. Rowling


Any fan of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series will want to check out this delightful collection of materials published with the assistance of the British Library. Filled with photos of artifacts to illustrate magical terms used throughout Rowling’s books and copies of early drafts of Rowling’s preliminary book outlines, this book helps the reader to see how J.K. Rowling put together her amazing collection of stories about Harry Potter. My favorite part of the whole book was a page which showed an outline for one of her books that J.K. Rowling used to keep the story on track. It is no wonder that the books are considered to be some of the best-written books for youth when one considers the amount of research that went into the creation of each remarkable story. The book is one of the most attractive books I have seen recently. I highly recommend this book.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the Harry Potter novels, or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by J.K. Rowling.]

 publisher’s official A Journey Through the History of Magic web site ] | [ official J.K. Rowling web site ]

Recommended by Kim J.
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, December 20, 2017

The Bagpipes of Christmas by The Monros (on Hoopla)

The Bagpipes of Christmas
by The Munros [Hoopla Digital Music] 

Looking for some ever so slightly different holiday music that’s still familiar? I’d suggest this album to you if you are. It’s just what the title says it is, bagpipe Christmas music, but there are also some Scottish melodies included such as Flower of Scotland, Highland Cathedral, Loch Lomond, and Wild Mountain Thyme. The Christmas songs are rather classic ones like Silent Night, Away in a Manger, The First Noel and Walking in the Air. I really enjoyed this album and think it has a somewhat wide appeal, although not everyone likes the bagpipes. This is available on Hoopla as a download or as streaming audio.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Winter’s Crossing, by James Galway (Compact Disc 781.62 IreYg), Scottish Tranquility, by Phil Coulter (Compact Disc 781.62 ScoC) or December, by George Winston (Compact Disc 781.65 Win).]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

Have you listened to or downloaded this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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, December 19, 2017

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

Brave Enough
by Cheryl Strayed [808.882 Str] 

Strayed’s autobiographical book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail was one of my top five favorite reads the year it came out (2012). In Brave Enough, Strayed has some introductory remarks about how she’s collected inspirational quotes from other people’s writings over the years, and how important some of those have because to her — helping her to get past rough patches in her life. For this collection, she has pulled quotes and passages from her own past writings, after friends, colleagues and readers told her that she and her writings were inspirational to them.

The quotes/passages she shares in this small collection range from one-sentence pithy statements, to multi-paragraph explorations of various concepts. Strayed’s writings can be, shall we say, rather salty….so if you’ve got issues with moderately doses of what most people would consider profanity, this collection probably isn’t for you. But if you don’t mind four-letter-words scattered liberally through her self-quotes, Strayed has a lot of very thoughtful things to say. By the time I was done reading this, I had copied several of her statements out that had an impact on me, including “To love and be loved. That is the meaning of life.”, “Put yourself in the way of beauty”, “Trust your gut. Forgive yourself. Be grafteful”, and “Don’t own other people’s crap!”.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Strayed’s other books, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, and Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar.]

[ official Brave Enough page on the official Cheryl Strayed web site ]

Read Tracy T.’s reviews of Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild, from May 2016
Read Scott C.’s review of the movie adaptation of Wild starring Reese Witherspoon, from June 2016

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!

Monday, December 18, 2017

#famous by Jilly Gagnon

#famous
by Jilly Gagnon [YA Gagnon] 

This is essentially a novelization of the “Alex from Target” story.

Rachel and her friend Mo have a running joke of sending funny pictures to each other via Flit (much like Twitter). Rachel sneaks a picture of Kyle while he’s working at the Burger Barn with the hashtag “I’dlikefrieswithTHAT.” She doesn’t think twice about it, because she has three followers, and Mo doesn’t have very many either. There’s no way anyone else from school will see it, right? To Rachel’s horror, the picture goes viral, everyone sees it (and now knows about her secret crush), Kyle becomes insta-famous, and Rachel becomes the subject of online bullying.

Told in alternating points of view between Rachel and Kyle, this was a cute story. It also brings attention to online bullying, which today, is important for people to be aware of.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Awkward, by Marni Bates.]

[ publisher’s official #famous web page] | [ official Jilly Gagnon web site ]

Recommended by Marie P.
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!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Magdalena: Reformation by Tini Howard (on Hoopla)

Magdalena: Reformation
by Tini Howard [Hoopla Digital Resources] 

Before I read this I had never heard of this character before so it was pretty fun to read with no preconceptions. Patience, aka Magdalena, is a hero who wields a spear, the Spear of Destiny, which she uses to fight evil and demons. This spear and the role that comes with it have been passed down the blood line of Christ, sort of like the Witchblade but different. During a battle at the beginning of the story Magdalena is hurt by a demon and it’s implied she’s no longer the real spear bearer. She knows that eventually she’ll need to find a successor and pass on her skills and knowledge but she thought she had more time. Conveniently another with the Holy blood living in town comes to her attention and the training begins. The trainee is a community college student trying to live a good life but getting tangled up with perhaps the wrong people. I liked this book and am really curious about the rest of the series. Right now there is no more on Hoopla but they do add new books regularly, so who knows if more will appear. If you are looking for a really good graphic novel with religious mythology and or if you like Witchblade (they are set in the same universe and have crossed over before), you’ll probably enjoy this.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Fathom, a graphic novel series by Michael Turner, also on Hoopla, Witchblade, a graphic novel series on Hoopla or Aphrodite IX: Rebirth Vol. 1 & 2, more graphic novels on Hoopla.R]

[ official Magdelena web site ] | [ official Tini Howard web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

Have you read or downloaded this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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!