Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Salon's Best Fiction of 2009

On December 8th, 2009, Salon columnist Laura Miller posted her picks for the Best Fiction of 2009.

The list included five novels or short story collections. Here's the list, with hotlinks into the library catalog for the titles already owned! Click the link above to see Miller's full commentary on each title.

Salon's Best Fiction of 2009

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
Await Your Reply: A Novel by Dan Chaon (a Nebraska Author!)
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
Love in Infant Monkeys: Stories by Lydia Millet
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Fringe: The Complete First Season

Fringe: The Complete First Season

Looking for an X-Files type of fix on television today? Look no further than Fringe, the spooky series currently in its second season (2009-2010) on FOX. If you haven't sampled it yet, I definitely recommend viewing the first season on DVD. Much the same as The X-Files, Fringe has a complicated overall story arc, with scattered stand-alone episodes mixed in. The series features FBI agent Olivia Dunham joining a team of investigators looking into "the Pattern", a series of incidents involving cutting edge and experimental sciences. Assisting her is Professor Walter Bishop, a genius who has spent the past 17 years in a mental institution, and his son Peter, a former conman who is the only one who can keep his father's fragile grip on reality intact. Viewers with delicate sensibilities should be forewarned -- Fringe can get rather gruesome at times, and rather scary as well. But it is worth it for the fantastic performances of Anna Torv as Olivia and John Noble as Walter. -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official Fringe web site ]

Have you seen this set or are you watching this show? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome
by Edith Wharton

The story is age old: a man married to one woman and in love with another. The appeal lies in the homey details of its New England setting. A girl wearing a cherry-colored scarf at a church social and dancing the Virgnia reel. Fiddle music. Ice cream saucers. Snow. Zeena Frome, Ethan's wife, in her best merino. Fresh doughnuts, stewed blueberries, pickles in a red glass dish. A sled flying over the snow. The Frome graveyard. -- recommended by Rianne S. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[Also available in audiotape and compact disc formats -- the title links above should take you to all formats.]

[ Wikipedia page for Ethan Frome ] | [ www.edithwharton.org ]


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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Scary Stuff

Scary Stuff
by Sharon Fiffer

Jane Wheel is a PPI (Picker and Private Investigator). As a Picker, Jane canvasses estate sales, garage sales and auctions looking for items to buy and resell to antique dealers. Jane also looks for bakelite buttons and McCoy pottery for her personal collection. Jane is an apprentice Private Investigator. (She would be a licensed private investigator if she would just take the private investigator's exam instead of running off to estate sales.) Her partner is Bruce Oh, a retired police detective and a licensed private investigator. (He found the time to take test.) Jane met Bruce Oh when he was a police detective and she stumbled across dead bodies while antiquing. When this book opens Jane is in Palm Springs visiting her brother Michael and his family. One night they are out to dinner and Michael is accosted. A man threatens Michael until he looks at him closely and says that Michael is not Honest Joe, the man who cheated him on Ebay. Afterwards, Michael tells Jane that two other people have mistaken him for Honest Joe. After Jane returns home she decides to track down Michael's look-alike and is surprised to find that the trail leads to her mother's doorstep in Kankakee, Illinois. Fiffer created some very likeable characters in this series. Besides Jane and the inscrutable Bruce Oh, we meet Bruce's wife, the elegant Claire and Tim, Jane's flamboyant friend. -- recommended by Donna G. - Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries

[ official Sharon Fiffer web site ]

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

When hitchhiking through the galaxy, the traveler's most indispensible accessory is his towel. Fortunately, Ford Prefect, a native of the planet Betelgeuse, and a roving researcher for the Hitchhiker's Guide, always keeps his in his satchel. To avoid the destruction of the Earth, Ford and his British friend, Arthur Dent, stowaway on a Vogon flagship. When the captain discovers them aboard, he reads poetry to them: the Guide specifically warns against listening to Vogon poetry: it is the third worst in the universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria, and the very worst poetry perished with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Without mercy, the captain catapaults them into space. They are rescued by Zaphod Beeblebrox and his Heart of Gold ship. Zaphod is the ex-hippie President of the Imperial Galactic Government. They arrive in the vicinity of the planet Magrathea--and are asked to leave. When they remain, a computer launches a warhead at them. An explosion creates a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias. The whale dies; the petunias think, "Oh, no, not again." Arthur now learns that the computer Deep Thought was created to discover the answer to life, the universe, and everything. After thinking for seven and a half million years, computer (the second best ever) announces the answer: "forty-two." Earth was created to develop the question--and it was destroyed just five minutes before its ten million year mission was to be accomplished. In that case, since they're feeling a bit peckish, the intrepid travelers will stop for a bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. -- recommended by Rianne S. - Bennett Martin Public Library
[The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy began as a radio play, which was then adapted into three novels. The fourth and fifth novels were original to novel form. All stories in the series have been produced in audio format, either as book-to-cd adaptations or as recordings of the original radio plays. The library has several audio versions of these stories.]

[ BBC's official Hitchhikers Guide web site ] | [ official Douglas Adams web site ]

See more books like this on our In Space No One Can Hear You Laugh booklist
Listen to a discussion of this book in our 'Casting About, Program 23 podcast


Have you read 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 web site. 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.

The Accidental Billionaires (on CD)

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook - a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
by Ben Mezrich [Compact Disc 338.76 FacYm]

For those interested in the details and personalities associated with the origin of today's hottest social-networking site, Facebook, this is a fascinating, if depressing read. Or listen, in this case, since I ended up trying this as a book-on-cd. Facebook only started within the past 5 years, so there's a sense of immediacy to the telling of the creation of this online behemoth. The subtitle of this book, "a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal" pretty much sums it all up. Facebook began as an experiment by a couple of Harvard geeks to catalog and "rate" the women at their university, then rapidly grew into a more broadscale site that allowed people to identify and associate with their friends and/or interest groups online in a way that had not been done before. Adding users campus by campus, before ultimately taking Facebook to the general public (where it now flourishes), programmer Mark Zuckerberg and his college friend and financial backer Eduardo Saverin launched the site from a Harvard dorm room on a single laptop. The trail from that humble beginning to the multiple millions who use the service now is strewn with broken friendships, misappropriated intellectual property, mangled egos and numerous lawsuits. Despite the dark tone, I found this to be a fascinating topic, and the audio narration by Mike Chamberlain was very well done. If you're into contemporary web trends, I recommend trying this book out. After finishing it, I've seen online commentaries indicating Mezrich soft-peddled a lot of the conflicts between the major players, but The Accidental Billionaires is still worth reading to get a sense of what was involved in the birth and explosive growth of Facebook. [Note: One warning I would offer -- the language is definitely "R" rated in this particular book/book-on-cd. Listener beware!] -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[Also available in print format.]

[ publisher's official Accidental Billionaires web site ] | [ official Ben Mezrich web site ]


Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Red House Mystery

The Red House Mystery
by A.A. Milne

A. A. Milne, of the Winnie the Pooh fame, made one foray into detective fiction. He wrote a cozy for his father who was a devotee of mysteries. The Red House is a country manor, home to Mark Ablett, and a gathering place for his friends. The tranquil atmosphere is disrupted when Mark's ne'er-do-well brother from Australia comes to visit. At the same time Antony Gillingham, who is in between careers, has impulsively chosen to get off the train at Woodham Station because he likes the look of the area. Antony is man of independent means who likes to try out a variety of careers. He has been a valet, a waiter, a newspaper reporter as well as a shop assistant. He works as long as the job interests him and then he quits. Right now he does not know what career to pursue next, so he left London for a holiday in the English countryside. Antony settles into a country inn and, during a conversation with the proprietor, learns that the Red House is nearby. Antony decides to visit his friend Bill Beverley who staying at the Red House. As Antony walks up to the Red House he finds Mathew Cayly banging on the library door and yelling for Mark. Antony asks if he can help and Cayly explains that Mark was meeting with his brother when a shot was fired in the library. The door is locked. When Antony and Cayly finally break into library they find Robert dead on the floor and that Mark has disappeared. The police are called. They ask that Antony stay at the Red House along with the other guests until the inquest. At that point, Antony decides upon his next career, that of a private inquiry agent, ala Sherlock Holmes. Antony talks Bill into acting as his Watson. Antony and Bill sort through a myriad of clues and red herrings to solve this locked room mystery. The book is a fun read that received critical acclaim. Alexander Woollcott, critic for the New Yorker magazine, called it "one of the three best mystery stories of all time". Raymond Chandler called it "an agreeable book, light, amusing in the Punch style, written with a deceptive smoothness that is not as easy as it looks." -- recommended by Donna G. - Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries

[ Wikipedia page about this novel ]

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

New York Times Book Reviews' 10 Best Books of 2009

In their December 13th, 2009 issue, the New York Times Book Review listed their Ten Best Books of 2009.

The list included five fiction and five non-fiction titles, of which the Lincoln City Libraries own most. Here's the list, with hotlinks into the library catalog for the titles already owned. The others will be ordered!

Fiction

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert

Non-Fiction

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
The Good Soldiers by David Finkel
Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr
Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed
Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life by Carol Sklenicka

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Duplicity

Duplicity

Checked this one out from the DVDs to Go shelves a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The chemistry between Julia Roberts and Clive Owen is remarkable, and the plot twists and turns of this film are quite intricate. This is not a film to have playing in the background and enjoy in bits and pieces. If you're going to watch this one, pop some popcorn, ignore your phone, and watching it straight through, paying attention to the details. In addition to Roberts and Owen, there are some marvelous supporting performances as well, particularly from Paul Giamatti as a bombastic corporate executive. Overall, the best phrase to describe Duplicity is "multi-layered fun." -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library

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


Have you seen 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 web site. 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.

The Mouse That Roared

The Mouse That Roared
by Leonard Wibberley

This book is an outrageously funny spoof of politics, especially foreign policy and war. The Duchy of Grand Fenwick (five miles long and three miles wide) needs revenue. It grows a small black grape from which is obtained the noble Pinot Grand Fenwick, but the proceeds from its sale is not filling the coffers. The Duchess Gloriana XII talks with the chief forester of the Duchy, Tully Bascomb, who suggests the the tiny country declare war on the United States--and lose. The Americans always generously assist the defeated. The Fenwickians even have an excuse: a California wine company has been bottling the spurious Pinot Grand Enwick, an insult to Fenwickian wine. Tully thus outfits his fighing force (they will attack with their national weapon, the longbow). At the same time that the Fennwickians arrive, the States are learning about a powerful new bomb, the quodium bomb. Rumors fly: liquor and salami may counteract atomic radiation! Hip flasks become fashionable! And Tully captures the bomb's creator, Professor Kokintz. Grand Fenwick is now in a position to dictate terms! -- recommended by Rianne S. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[ Wikipedia pages for The Mouse Who Roared and Leonard Wibberley ]


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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Deck the Halls: Quilts to Celebrate Christmas

Deck the Halls: Quilts to Celebrate Christmas
by Cheryl Almgren Taylor [746.46 qTay]

Quilt patterns for holiday-themed banners, table tops, mantle runners, a stocking, and wall hangings. A good assortment of quick projects, or easy ones, or several applique quilts. Great ideas for colors, and I especially liked viewing the mantle decorations. Includes the standard Quilting Basics instructions at the beginning, and applique patterns to copy. Lots of color photos and well-written instructions. Another terrific quilt book from "That Patchwork Place" publishing co. [If you like this, you may also enjoy Favorite Christmas Quilts from that Patchwork Place, 746.46 qFav] -- recommended by Charlotte K. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[ official Cheryl Almgen Taylor web site ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Space Travel

Space Travel
by Ben Bova with Anthony R. Lewis [808.388 Bov]

Third of four volumes in Writers Digest's Science Fiction Writing Series. Bova and Lewis provide a good overview of the history of actual spaceflight technology and physics, then explore the many conceptual or theoretical methods of space exploration from a scientific background. Their discussions of the theoretical methods of space exploration include both interplanetary as well as interstellar travel. I particularly appreciated chapters entitled Starships, The Universe and the concluding chapter Military Uses of Space. As with previous volumes in the this writing guide series, there is both an extensive glossary and bibliography at the back, leading readers (and writers) to many additional sources for more detailed, more technological assistance. Of the four volumes in this series, this was probably one of the most reality-based guides, and should prove to be a helpful tool for both beginning and experienced writers of speculative fiction. -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[ official Ben Bova web site ]


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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Rockford Files: Season One

The Rockford Files: Season One

The Rockford Files ran for six seasons, from 1974 to 1980, then returned for 8 TV-movies from 1994 to 1999. The series was groundbreaking for its time, focusing on a private investigator who wasn't a "knight in shining armor" dedicated to the highest of ideals and willing to sacrifice himself for a client, as most P.I.s from 1950s and 1960s series had been up to that point. Instead, drawing from the type of self-serving character that James Garner had perfected in Maverick, Jim Rockford was an ex-con (although he didn't do the crime he was jailed for) who was just trying to make a living. He didn't like weapons, and he really didn't like getting in fights for his clients, even though the bad guys regularly beat him up. He lived in a broken-down trailer on the beach; his father didn't really approve of what he did for a living; and he was constantly being hit up for favors by his shifty friends and former cellmates. When Jim Rockford punched somebody, he tended to break his own hand rather than the other guy's chin. As the series progressed, the humorous elements became more prominent, but in this first season, the series was a bit more gritty and downbeat. Watch for guest appearances by many of today's big stars in some of their earliest television work. And don't be thrown by the different actor playing Rocky in the pilot episode! The series featured stellar supporting work by Joe Santos as Jim's cop friend, Dennis, Noah Beery Jr. as Rocky, Gretchen Corbett as Beth, and Stuart Margolin as Angel Martin. If you like this first season, following the remaining seasons in sequence -- the character relationships build over time! -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library


[ Rockford Files at epguides.com ] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ]


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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mistletoe Mysteries booklist -- Updated for 2009!

In honor of the season, we've got the traditional Mistletoe Mysteries book display up at the Bennett Martin Public Library downtown. This holiday-themed selection of mystery fiction has become something of an annual tradition here, and the online booklist that inspired the display has been updated for 2009 as well.

The following titles (below) have been added to the Mistletoe Mysteries booklist this year. We'd love to have you look through the full list on our BookGuide web site and then reply to the following question:

If you're a fan of mystery fiction, do you have a favorite among holiday mystery novels, particularly among those on our Mistletoe Mysteries booklist?

New additions for 2009:

The Vintage Caper

Vintage Caper
by Peter Mayle

Dan Roth is a Hollywood entertainment lawyer with a fine wine collection. He is very proud of his collection. So proud, that he invites the Los Angeles Times to write a profile about it. Roth basks in the afterglow of this article until Christmas when he goes to Aspen for a week. When Roth returns he is distraught to find that the precious bottles have been stolen. Roth insured the wine for 2.8 million and his insurance company would rather find the wine than pay the claim. This is where Sam Levitt, corporate lawyer, crime expert and wine connoisseur enters the picture. The insurance company hires Sam to find the wine. Sam follows the trail to Bordeaux where he teams up with insurance agent Sophie Costes and her cousin, journalist Philippe to track down the errant bottles. Levitt is suave and charming, just as the character Alexander Mundy was on the old TV show It Takes a Thief. This work of fiction reads like a culinary travelogue of Bordeaux and Marseille with a little sleuthing thrown in for spice. -- recommended by Donna G. - Virtual Services Department

[ publisher's official Vintage Caper web site ] [ official Peter Mayle web site ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild

Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild
by Michael Forsberg [917.8 qFor]

Michael Forsberg was the driving force behind this project. He found the funding and enlisted the writing skills of Ted Kooser, Dan O'Brien and Dan Wishart. The book is filled with breath-taking images of the sparse beauty of the Great Plains. This is an area that is often referred to as the "flyover zone" by impatient people who require beauty to jump to out at them as it does in the majestic Rockies. Here one must be patient and wait for the land to reveal its subtle beauty in the waving grasses and cloud-dotted azure skies. University of Nebraska geography professor Dan Wishart describes how the Great Plains evolved geologically and culturally. South Dakota rancher and writer Dan O'Brien wrote essays about small towns that are fading into oblivion and water, the most important commodity in the Great Plains. This book is more than trip through the beauty of the Great Plains. It is a compelling argument to preserve what remains of the greatest grassland in the world. -- recommended by Donna G. - Virtual Services Department

[Also available in audiotape, book-on-cd, and Large Print formats.][ official Great Plains page on the official Michael Forsberg web site ]

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Grand Canyon and Other Selected Poems

Grand Canyon and Other Selected Poems
by Amil Quayle [811 Qua]

This is a handsome volume of diverse poems collected over a lifetime's work. Quayle utilizes a colloquial style to achieve a direct, intimate connection with his readers. Every poem is a journey, physical, emotional, and spiritual, and by the end, we feel as if we have gotten to know an old friend. Illustrated with many photographs and drawings. [If you like this one, you may also enjoy Village Journal by Greg Kuzma and We Have Always Been Coming to This Morning by Greg Kosmicki] -- recommended by Jim W. - Gere Branch Library


[ Quayle interview at Idaho State University ] [ Amil Quayle page at the Nebraska Center for Writers ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Booktalk Booklist: ALA Notable Books 2009

ALA Notable Books - 2009
Gere Books Talk, November 30, 2009 and Bethany Books Talk, December 18, 2009
Pat L.

Since 1944, the goal of the Notable Books Council has been to make available to the nation's readers a list of 25 very good, very readable, and at times very important fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books for the adult reader.

FICTION

The Hakawati
by Rabih Alameddine

The Wasted Vigil
by Nadeem Aslam

Peace
by Richard Bausch

City of Thieves
by David Benioff

The Plague of Doves
by Louise Erdrich

Atmospheric Disturbances
by Rivka Galchen

Unaccustomed Earth
by Jhumpa Lahiri

Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories
by Steven Millhauser

Resistance
by Owen Sheers

Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout

The Ginseng Hunter
by Jeff Talarigo

NON-FICTION

The Bin-Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century
by Steve Coll [Biography Bin Laden]

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
by Drew Gilpin Faust [973.71 Fau]

The Forever War
by Dexter Filkins [956.704 Fil]

Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950
by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore [323.4 Gil]

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
by Annette Gordon-Reed [Biography Hemmings]

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood
by Mark Harris [791.43 Har]

A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World
by Tony Horwitz [970.01 Hor]

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
by Jane Mayer [973.931 May]

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan [613 Pol]

American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work
by Nick Taylor [973.917 Tay]

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)
by Tom Vanderbilt [629.283 Van]

The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order
by Joan Wickersham [155.938 Wic]

POETRY

Special Orders: Poems
by Edward Hirsch [811 Hir]

Ghost Soldiers: Poems
by James Tate [811 Tat]

The Greatest American Hero

The Greatest American Hero

One of my all-time favorite television series, which ran on ABC from 1981 to 1983. What do you get when you combine an idealistic, liberal school teacher with a conservative guns-blazing FBI agent and then throw in mysterious aliens, a super-powered super-hero suit, and a mandate to save the world? What about if they lose the instruction manual to the supersuit and have to learn how to use it by trial and error? This early 1980s series from Stephen J. Cannell (The Rockford Files, 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, Wiseguy) starred William Katt, Robert "I Spy" Culp and Connie Selleca, with a supporting cast that included Michael "Houston Knights" Pare and Faye "V" Grant. GAH managed to find a nice mix of both serious and comical storylines, with quirky new powers of the suit popping up when least expected. One of the series absolute best episodes, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys", was in this first season. Fun extras on this first-season DVD set include retrospective interviews with the cast and producers. The series lasted three seasons -- here's hoping the libraries pick up seasons 2 and 3! [Note: This series has been optioned for a feature film remake. Whether it comes to pass or not remains to be seen.] -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library


[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] [ Greatest American Hero at epguides.com ]

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Life at Burghley

Life at Burghley: Restoring One of England's Great Houses
by Victoria Leatham [914.253 Lea]

Anyone with a fascination for English castles and English history would enjoy reading this book. Written by Lady Victoria Leatham, the current owner of Burghley Hall, the book uses humor and family stories from the point of view of someone raised in this Great House to illustrate the importance of maintaining collections of art and treasures from Europe's past. [If you like this, you may also enjoy The Cecils of Hatfield House: An English Ruling Family by David Cecil.] -- recommended by Kim J. - Bennett Martin Public Library


Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl
by Elizabeth Scott

"Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared. Once upon a time, my name was not Alice." This is a fictional story about a fifteen year old girl who has been living with her kidnapper for five years. She endures daily physical, mental and sexual abuse. As she has become older her kidnapper becomes angry and more abusive to her for not being a little girl anymore. He begins to starve her in an attempt to keep her figure that of a ten year old. As the reader, you feel powerless to save her. You also see countless opportunities for her to get away or ask for help when she is out in the community, but she never does. Her kidnapper has her frozen with fear of what he will do to her family if she ever leaves him. He has her family address memorized and through the years brings her evidence that he is keeping tabs on them. The main character has many conflicting elements to her personality: defeat, naivety, self-blame, hardened, envious and mean to other children, longing for death and yet still being hopeful she will escape alive. This story will stay with you long after you have finished the book. -- recommended by Jessica H. - Walt Branch Library

[ official Living Dead Girl page on the official Elizabeth Scott web site ]

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Get Real

Get Real
by Donald Westlake

I'd never read any of the late Donald Westlake's Dortmunder books before the libraries' Just Desserts mystery discussion group selected Get Real for a recent monthly discussion. I loved it! What appeared, on the surface, to be an extremely spare writing style and simplistic descriptions actually turns out to be wholly appropriate for this cast of characters. Dortmunder is the "brains" behind a gang of thieves, whose capers inevitably run into serious difficulties. In Get Real, Dortmunder and his gang are hired to portray fictionalized versions of themselves in a reality tv series, in which they will be robbing a building owned by the series' production company. When Dortmunder and his cronies realize that there's hidden wealth in the building, they plot to really rob the building while at the same time "fake" robbing the building for the TV show. Sound complicated? It is, and, as usual, things go wrong in surprising ways. The only thing disappointing about this book was the fact that it ended. Guess I'll have to go back to 1972's The Hot Rock and read the Dortmunder books from the beginning. -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library


Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

...And Another Thing

...And Another Thing
by Eoin Colfer

I approached this book with considerable trepidation. As a long-time fan of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, I found myself lumped in with many other purists who didn't want to see that marvelous series sullied by another author trying to contribute to the legacy. It is impossible to review this book without comparing it to the five previous volumes in this famed "trilogy". And, in comparison, it certainly comes up short. However, this tale, which takes up not long after Adams' final volume, Mostly Harmless (1992) ended, has its moments. The wonderfully anarchic sense of humor and plot development that Adams employed continues here, with time-and-space traveler Arthur Dent, his alien friend Ford Prefect, and the wackjob Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox trying to escape the destruction of Earth (again), and getting pulled into a conflict between a bored immortal and a despondent Asgardian god Thor. Throw in some cheese-worshiping personal trainers and a sullen goth teenager and you've got some classic British farce. If you're looking for a light, fun read, I can recommend this book. If you're a hard-core H2G2 fan, you may want to pass on this one. My overall opinion is: Colfer tries too hard to sound like Douglas Adams and doesn't really pull it off. -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[ official Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy web site ] [ official Eoin Colfer web site ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

New Booktalk Booklist: Books I Am Thankful For

Looking for some good new reading suggestions? Check out the new Booktalk Booklist, Books I Am Thankful For, featuring a dozen fiction and non-fiction releases that have recently made a connection for Lisa V.

Books I am Thankful For
Gere Books Talk, November 23, 2009
Lisa V.

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed [332.1 Aha]
Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns [ On Order ]
Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson by Lyndsay Sands Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
What Angels Fear: A Historical Mysteyr by C.S. Harris
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes [509 Hol]
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen [Biography Alcott] Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury [364.163 Sal]
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1739-1815 by Gordon S. Wood [ On Order ]
The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow [305.4 Zas]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

North & South

North & South
by Elizabeth Gaskell

This four-part adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel about working conditions in a cotton mill in northern England is a riveting story of social reform, unions, and romance. Although I was not pleased with the ending of this adaptation, I enjoyed the film immensely due to its moodiness and fine performances. [If you like this, you may also enjoy Cranford, also by Elizabeth Gaskell] -- recommended by Kim J. - Bennett Martin Public Library


[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] [ official North and South web site from the BBC ]

Have you seen 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 web site. 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.

Cranford

Cranford
by Elizabeth Gaskell

I knew very little about author Elizabeth Gaskell prior to reading the book Cranford. Mrs. Gaskell was the close friend and biographer of Charlotte Bronte. Besides writing about her friend, she also wrote fiction, which she submitted to be published at the urging of her friend, Charles Dickens. Of her stories, Cranford is the closest thing to an autobiography of her life. The town of Cranford is based on the small town that Elizabeth grew up in, and many of the events that happen were taken from real-life experiences. My favorite one is the story about the cat who swallowed some lace and how the owner contrived to "get it back." The stories are enjoyable, but lack the dramatic tension of Gaskell's novel North and South. [If you like this, you may also enjoy the DVDs of North and South (see separate review on BookGuide or in the BookGuide Blog), Cranford and Wives and Daughters.[Also available in DVD adaptation, unabridged book-on-cd, and Large Print formats.] -- recommended by Kim J. - Bennett Martin Public Library


Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time Travel

Time Travel
by Paul J. Nahin [808.388 Nah]

Third of four volumes in Writers Digest's Science Fiction Writing Series. Author Nahin approaches the science behind theoretical methods of time travel from a literary perspective by highlighting popular time travel methods used in classic novels and stories to date. He then explores a wide variety of scientific theories about time travel, with concrete examples of how to incorporate these into your own speculative fiction. Interesting chapters include "Time as the Fourth Dimension", "When General Relativity Made Time Travel Honest", "Time Machines That Physicists Have Already 'Invented'", "Quantum Gravity, Splitting Universes, and Time Machines" and "Reading the Physics Literature for Story Ideas." As with earlier volumes in this series, there is a helpful glossary of terms and concepts, and an extensive bibliography of additional reading on the topic. Of the four volumes in this series, I found this one to be the most technical, dealing as it is with theoretical physics. Still, a useful tool for writers of science fiction. -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library


Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

This true story about the struggle to abolish British slaving via Parliament focuses on the efforts of William Wilberforce, and highlights one of his greatest inspirations, John Newton, the slaver-turned-priest who wrote one of the most-loved hymns in history, "Amazing Grace." The whole cast, including Ioan Gruffudd as "Wilber", Michael Gambon as Lord Fox, and Romola Garai as Barbara, who became Wilberforce's wife, is wonderful. Albert Finney particularly stands out with a humble yet powerful peformance as Newton. Winner of a Christopher Award for affirming "the highest values of the human spirit." Producers include such names as Terrence Malick and Patricia Heaton. [If you like this, you may also enjoy DVD Hiding Place, The Hiding Place; DVD 822 Nic, C.S. Lewis through the Shadowlands; and DVD B L97, Martin Luther.] -- recommended by Becky W.C. - Walt Branch Library


[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] [ official Amazing Grace movie web site ]

Have you seen 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 web site. 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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Foreign Correspondent

The Foreign Correspondent
by Alan Furst

The story -- a journalist reports on events leading up the World War II, especially the Spanish Civil War -- is just so-so. The ambiance, however, is superb. Most of it takes place in Paris in 1938 and a spring snow, cigarette smoke, cognac, and the food establish a definite sense of place that is most appealing. -- recommended by Rianne S. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[Also available in Large Print format.]

[ official Foreign Correspondentpage on the official Alan Furst web site ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

New Booktalk Booklist: Stop...You're Killing Me!

Hey, mystery fans...looking for some new reading suggestions? Check out the new Booktalk Booklist, Stop...You're Killing Me, featuring new mystery novels Marcy G. found while browsing her favorite mystery web site -- www.stopyourekillingme.com.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas - Collection 1

The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas - Collection 1
based on stories by Rod Serling for the original Twilight Zone television series

I've been a lifelong fan of The Twilight Zone, the old B&W anthology TV series produced by Rod Serling in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some of the stories from that series are among the most iconic tales of "What If" in fiction. In the early 2000s, Dennis Etchison adapted many of Rod Serling's original scripts for the radio, as a regular syndicated radio broadcast. Those radio plays have been gathered into 13 CD collections (of which the library has only the first). Each episode features a well-known actor as the lead voice, with a cast of recurring voices as the supporting cast. Collection #1 features 10 episodes, the highlights of which include Lou Diamond Phillips in "A Kind of Stopwatch", Ed Begley Jr. in "The Man in the Bottle", Tim Kazurinsky as "Mr Dingle the Strong" and Chris MacDonald in "The Night of the Meek". Production values are all top-notch, with the voice casts, special and sound effects all very good. I would highly recommend this set for TZ fans and for fans who remember the days of live radio dramas. My only complaint would be that with a few small exceptions, the stories were not updated from their early 1960s-era settings for a more modern audience. But that's a minor quibble. -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library


Have you listened to these? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide web site. 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.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No Reservations

No Reservations

I enjoy watching "romantic comedies", and the trailers for this film certainly made it seem as if this film fit that bill. There certainly is some romance in this film. There also is some comedy. But, surprisingly, there's even more dramatic character study. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Kate, a driven, organized head chef at a trendy Manhattan eatery, who finds herself suddenly burdened with two unexpected people in her life -- her orphaned niece, and a exuberant, free-spirited sous-chef with a love for life. For what, on the surface, appears to be a light comedy, there's some suprisingly serious angsty-ness here. Kate goes through a lot of introspection as she adjusts to suddenly becoming a single parent. Overall, a very satisfying film, though not the laugh riot that the trailers might have led you to believe! -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official No Reservations web site ]

Have you seen 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 web site. 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.

Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles: A Muppet Sketchbook

Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles: A Muppet Sketchbook
by Alison Inches [791.5 qHenYi]

For anyone who's a fan of The Frog, and anything else Muppet-related, this is a "behind the scenes" treat. It combines quite a bit of biographical information on Henson with a trove of drawings, and it also has examples of non-Muppet works. It's a nice slice of the creative processes of a gentle genius and his skilled team of artists and performers. [If you like this, you may also enjoy No Strings Attached by Matt Bacon; The Muppet Show Book by Jim Henson; It's Not Easy Being Green by Jim Henson; and Jim Henson: The Works by Christopher Finch.] -- recommended by Becky W.C. - Walt Branch Library

[ official Jim Henson Legacy web site ] | [ official Jim Henson Co. web site ] | [ This book's page on the Muppet Wiki web site ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Busy People's Super Simple 30 Minute Menus

The Busy People's Super Simple 30 Minute Menus
by Dawn Hall [641.55 Hal]

A terrific book for busy homemakers or just when you can't think after work. Each recipe is actually a full menu that you can prepare in 30 min (such as "Quicker Than Granny's Home-Style Chicken, Country Parmesan Potatoes, Garlic Green Beans") and includes nutrition info per serving. Gives you a countdown on what cooking task to do and when to do it ("30 min before dinner start the potatoes by bringing 2 quarts water in a medium saucepan to boil over high heat. 27 min before dinner prepare the chicken...in a shallow dish combine 1/2 c bread crumbs...") walking you through every step, ending with "1 min before dinner" when you're putting the serving dish on the table. Includes the kitchen utensils needed and the grocery list. Meals divided into categories such as Chilled Meals, Casseroles, Grilling, Vegetarian, Home on the Range. Preparing a nutritious, delicious meal couldn't be easier. [If you like this one, you may also enjoy Dawn Hall's Busy People's Slow-Cooker Cookbook; 641.588 Hal.] -- recommended by Charlotte K. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[ official Books page on the official Dawn Hall web site ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Do You NaNoWriMo?

It's still early in November, and that clickety sound you're hearing in the background is the thousands of aspiring writers and wordsmiths around the world who are actively participating in the annual event known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

It's not too late for you to take part! Participants can go to the NaNoWriMo website, sign up for a free account, and then begin writing their own version of the Great American Novel. Everyone who takes part is encouraged to shoot for the ultimate goal -- start with 0 words when you register, and finish with a complete 50,000-word novel (or longer!) by the stroke of midnight at the end of November 30th.

Looking for some moral support as you keyboard your way to literary greatness? You can hang out with the 400+ other Nebraskans who are registered participants -- bemoan your progress in the discussion forums -- identify your friends as Writing Buddies and track their daily word count -- get together at regularly scheduled NaNoWriMo gatherings in Lincoln -- and look forward to the big celebration party for local writers after the November 30th deadline has passed! You can keep your writing completely private or open it up to everyone else to read and critique.

Although a complete 50,000-word novel in a month may prove to be too much for you, the creative and supportive environment of NaNoWriMo is sure to get your literary juices flowing, no matter whether you're writing a political thriller or paranormal romance!

So...check out NaNoWriMo.org, get started writing, and drop us a note in the comments here to let us know what your "handle" is on the NaNoWriMo site...we'll keep an eye on your progress!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre
by Amanda Grange

Sometimes it is worthwhile to identify books that we simply cannot recommend. This book falls into this category. As a fan of Jane Austen, I am interested in books that pick up where the author left off in her novels. This book looks at the events that follow the marriage of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Little does Elizabeth know that Mr. Darcy hides a terrible secret from her. Why does Darcy refuse to visit his new wife's bedchamber? Why is he aloof and uncommunicative? There are things about the Darcy family that Elizabeth has yet to discover. Unfortunately, I could not even finish this book because the writing was so bad. If you want to read a good story, go to the master: read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Northanger Abbey. Those are books worth sinking your teeth into! [If you like the underlying storyline of this one, you may also enjoy Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Emma, all by Jane Austen] -- recommended by Kim J. - Bennett Martin Public Library


[ official Mr. Darcy, Vampyre blog ] [ official Amanda Grange web site ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Customer Review: A Carrion Death

A Carrion Death
by Michael Stanley

First in the series with Detective Kubu, we search for both the identity and the killer of a body found bleaching near a Botswanian waterhole. Kubu follows a tangled -- there are more than 70 chapters -- plot to root out the mystery involving diamonds, sibling rivalry, business takeovers, shady characters, Botswanian politics and geology. Well-written, very interesting characters, good story. I expect as the writer continues the series, some small hiccups in plotting will fade away and I look forward to reading more in the series. -- reviewed by Barbara R. - patron of the Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Readerlist - Zombies...the New Vampires!

Looking for one more bite of horror fiction in preparation for Halloween?

Sample the Zombies...the New Vampires! list of recommended reading submitted to BookGuide by a fellow reader!

A Storyteller's Ghost Stories

A Storyteller's Ghost Stories [Tales From Nebraska and Iowa]
by Duane Hutchinson [813.08 Hut]

A regional classic, Duane Hutchinson's popular ghost story collection has gone through multiple printings and generated two subsequent volumes. Hutchinson served for nearly two decades as a chaplain at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, before retiring and hitting the road as a professional story teller. In this volume, he has collected some of the most popular stories he tells, to groups both young and old. His stories are often based on real events, as expressed to him by those who experienced them. In many cases, though, he alters details -- both to protect identities and to streamline the stories. He also presents the stories with instructions on how to "perform" them to an audience...where to take dramatic pauses, etc. One thing I found interesting is that Hutchinson only includes ghost stories in which there's no trace of malevolence, or often in which there is an upbeat ending. Well-known ghost stories in this first volume include the ghost at Nebraska Wesleyan University, the Temple Building ghost at UNL and the South Branch Book Club ghost. If you're looking for a little frisson of thrills, with a local flavor, don't miss A Storyteller's Ghost Stories by the late Duane Hutchinson, especially volume one. -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[Also available: The Ghost of Nebraska Wesleyan -- a videotaped storytelling by Hutchinson ]

Have you read 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 web site. 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.

Nebraska Book Awards for 2009

The Nebraska Book Awards, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book and supported by the Nebraska Library Commission, recognize and honor books that are written by Nebraska authors, published by Nebraska publishers, or are set in or concern Nebraska.

The 2009 awards will be presented in early November at the Nebraska Book Festival in Lincoln, however we've already got the winners posted on our Nebraska Book Awards page.

Take a look!