Friday, September 22, 2017

Himalaya (on DVD)

Himalaya
by Michael Palin [DVD 915.496 Pal] 

Michael Palin of Monty Python has traveled around the world before but his journey this time is a bit slower paced as he’s traveling around and up the Himalayan Mountains. While I enjoy his longer journeys around the Pacific Rim, Pole to Pole and Around the World in 80 Days, this one is just as good. It’s not the sort of travel show that shows you where to stay and what to see when you go there yourself. As usual his voice over is a mix of informational and personal narrative which is interesting and entertaining. Palin has a way of making the viewers feel like they’re there with him on his travels, which are never the tourist routes. He really gets into the cultures he visits, often by living with the locals. I never get tired of watching these shows over and over, so I recommend this, and his others, highly to anyone who enjoys documentaries, travel, the Himalayas, and or Michael Palin.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Palin’s other travel documentaries: Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Hemingway Adventure, Sahara, New Europe, or Brazil. There are also books that accompany most, if not all, of these trips. [Also available in traditional print format.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Michael Palin’s Himalaya web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Right Side by Spencer Quinn

The Right Side
by Spencer Quinn

I was looking forward to this new novel in a brand-new series by Spencer Quinn, author of the Chet & Bernie mysteries, mainly because Quinn writes some of the best narrative voices out there. But, if I was expecting the somewhat light-hearted, whimsical tone of those Chet & Bernie mysteries, I was in for an incredible surprise. But it’s a good surprise! LeAnne Hogan is the central character (and voice) of this new novel. She is a wounded warrior — a soldier recovering from injuries received in Afghanistan, where she lost her right eye and the right side of her face became badly scarred. In addition to having difficulties adjusting to her new physical reality, she is also suffering from PTSD, with some memory loss and her personality disrupted — most of her inhibitions wiped out. Forming an intense bond with her female roommate at the stateside hospital where she is recovering, LeAnne reacts badly when that roommate dies unexpectedly — she leaves the facility and heads out on her own, without meds and without completing her psychological recovery.

After some wandering, ultimately, she ends up in the hometown of her deceased friend, where she discovers that her late friend’s elementary-school-aged daughter has disappeared. Facing suicidal impulses of her own, and needing a cause to focus on, LeAnne fixates on finding the missing girl, despite hostility from the locals. Supporting her is another female loner — a mysterious but tough black dog that for some reason has adopted LeAnne, despite LeAnne’s protestations.

LeAnne’s journey, as she deals with current tensions and relives the incidents that lead to her injuries, is fascinating to follow, and although she has a sometimes abrasive personality, you can easily see why she may rub people the wrong way. Her reluctant relationship with the mysterious dog that bonds with her is also a typical “Spencer Quinn” device — seemingly all of his novels explore the human/dog relationship.

Don’t go into this expecting light and fluffy, but if you’re willing to tackle a little darkness and some rough characters, I highly recommend this. One of my favorite reads of 2017!

[ official The Right Side page on the official Spencer Quinn web site (pseudonym of Peter Abrahams) ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Life (on DVD)

Life
[DVD Life] 

This space thriller stars Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal. A group of scientists on the International Space Station send a probe to Mars and it comes back with a sample including a single celled organism that they decide to try to bring to life. After performing some experiments on it it does in fact come to life and seems friendly, however something goes wrong with the chamber it’s held in and it stops moving. To bring it back to life one of the scientists decides to shock it and it doesn’t take too kindly to it. Suddenly its mission is to kill all aboard so the movie follows their hope for survival while trying to keep the station from entering earth’s atmosphere and bringing the creature into our world. This movie was terrifying and disgusting. It has a very slow start so you have to stick with it, but once the creature starts killing people and gets bigger and bigger after each kill the scenes get more intense.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Alien, Interstellar, Contact, The Martian, Arrival or The Thing] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Life (Movie) web site ]

Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

News of the World
by Paulette Jiles

72-year-old Captain Jefferson Kidd, out of Georgia and living in Texas, veteran of three wars, a former printer by trade, a widower with grown children who live a long distance away, and nowadays a professional “news reader”, finds himself in an unusual and potentially dangerous situation. He has been implored by a trusted acquaintance to take over the delivery of a white girl, recently “rescued” by the Army from a Kiowa band, to her only known German relatives. 10-year-old Johanna is at turns wild and wary, not understanding why she has been separated from what she considers her family since being taken captive four years earlier. As their unlikely journey from north to south Texas plays out through bad weather, bad people, and bad fortune, the two disparate souls bond through necessity and acceptance, ultimately creating a crisis for the “Kepdun” and “Chohenna” at the intended conclusion. An excellent, evocative yet also plain-spoken, novel, I kept picturing it as a wonderful Western movie or series such as Lonesome Dove or The Cowboys. The fact that it uses historical bases for the characters and situations makes it even more fascinating.

[ official News of the World web site ] | [ official Paulette Jiles web site ]

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Disney's Greatest: Vol. 1-3 (downloadable music)

Disney’s Greatest: Vol. 1-3
by various [Hoopla Downloadable Music]

There is something about Disney music that just puts one in a good mood. These albums have a nice mix of tunes from movies old and new, and with about 20 songs per album, it keeps you going for a while. Most all of them were familiar to me, but there were a few I didn’t know and my one complaint is that only the song title is listed, not the movie title as well. It’s easy enough to look it up but I thought it’d be nice to have it somewhere on the playlist. I don’t feel like I really need to say how good the music is since so many people grew up with it, so I’ll just say it was really fun to listen to. Recommended for anyone.

You can check these out on Hoopladigital.com or via the Hoopla app, with streaming or download. If you want more, there are a ton of other Disney albums on Hoopla to check out.

[ Disney’s Greatest at the official Disney Wiki ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel


Jack Viertel has been the producer or has overseen the production of dozens of Broadway plays and musicals, including multiple Pulitzer and Tony Award winner, such as City of Angels and Angels in America. In addition to conceiving of the ideas for Smokey Joe’s Cafe and After Midnight, he has been a creative consultant on many other shows, from Hairspray and A Christmas Story to the recent hit Dear Evan Hansen. He has also spent more than 10 years teaching classes about musical theater history at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, which he used as the inspiration for this fascinating look at the underpinnings of American Musicals.

Though there are always exceptions to any standardized formula, you’d be surprised how many American musicals follow the blueprint that Viertel lays out in this volume. He breaks each significant part of an American musical into its own section, and each section gets a chapter of focus: Opening Numbers; the “I Want” song; Conditional Love Songs (“If I Loved You”); The Noise (the rambunctious numbers in the first 1/3 of the show that ramp up the energy); Bushwacking (secondary couples, villains, multiple plot lines); Stars (the numbers that create break-out stars; Tent Poles (the numbers that shows prop up entire shows…a.k.a. the numbers everyone will remember about the show); the Curtain numbers that end Act I and open Act II, “The Candy Dish” — fun, often light-hearted numbers early in Act II that bring the energy back up and make people smile; Beginning to Pack (starting to wrap up the plot); The Main Event (the songs that solve most of the major problems for the characters); the Next-to-Last Scene; and The End (finales). Not to mention the various ways that shows handle their curtain calls, from simple to complex.

Viertel’s expertise and trenchant observations give this a scholarly feel, but his enthusiasm for his topic makes it more engaging than a dry college course. My only complaint, and he addresses this in his introduction, is that he doesn’t use more varied examples to prove his various points…but as he says, the “rules” he is explaining are hewed to by so many different successful shows that he could have pulled from a lot of other shows…he just sticks with those he likes the best or is most familiar with.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway.]

[ publisher’s official Secret Life of the American Musical web site ] | [ official Jack Viertel Twitter feed ] | [ 1-hour video lecture on this topic by Jack Viertel ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Best Man by Richard Peck

The Best Man
by Richard Peck [j Peck] 

This book is catalogued as “juvenile” but that doesn’t make this a simple tale. This contemporary story begins and ends with weddings, and in the middle is a wonderful coming-of-age story as we learn how important families are.

Archer greatly admires his grandfather, his dad, and his uncle and wants to be just like them. They provide a foundation for him as they help him work his way through school bullying, the divorce of a friend’s parents, illness and death, and learns about friendship and family. Told with warmth, humor, and poignancy, at times you’ll tear up, at others you’ll laugh out loud:

“(His sister) went to driver’s education the summer she was 16 and practiced on Grma MaGill’s ’92 Lincoln, which cornered like a landing craft and got eleven miles to the gallon.”

“Down in the (school) storage room Mr. McLeod came across a stack of maps from back when there were maps in classrooms. He hung them all around our walls…We tried to explain to him that we’d never need to know about these places. Kazakhstan? The Upper Peninsula of Michigan? Please. But then he’d cut out in another direction. Omaha. Omaha Beach. Selma…

…We asked him to read to us…’Well, maybe I could read you a little from my favorite book,’ he said, rubbing his smooth chin…It was about an army officer just back from war in Afghanistan, and looking for a guy to room with. The book was a Sherlock Holmes story. Who knew there were wars in Afghanistan in 1878? Who knew where Afghanistan was? So we were back to geography and history again before we knew it.”

Archer’s family becomes as dear to us as they are to him. Then in fifth grade he gets the best student teacher, and a fourth person becomes a role model for him

An ALA Notable Children’s Book for 2017, I thoroughly enjoyed this story.

[ Wikipedia page for Richard Peck ]

Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Body in the Transept by Jeanne M. Dams

The Body in the Transept
by Jeanne M. Dams

After seeing Jeanne M. Dams’ novels in the library collection for many years, I finally had the opportunity to read one when the library’s Just Desserts mystery book group discussed her at its July meeting. I read the ebook edition of The Body in the Transept, the first (of 18, so far) in her “Dorothy Martin” series, featuruing a retired American woman who has moved to a small English village for her retirement. In this first volume, recently-widowed Dorothy is still settling into Sheresbury, and adjusting to life as a single senior — she and her late husband had planned their retirement to England after spending time there several years earlier, and despite his passing, she decided to follow through with their plans. Dorothy’s first Christmas in her new village turns dark, when she stumbles upon the body of one of her church’s priests. Despite enjoying the attentions of an older police inspector, Dorothy still feels compelled to snoop into the investigation into the priest’s death, because of her connection to the case — an action that could turn deadly, as the guilty party isn’t above more violence to cover their actions.

While the plot of this traditional “cozy” was fairly simple and predictable, I enjoyed the characters, particularly Dorothy herself. And I look forward to reading further volumes in the series, as she later becomes even more involved with her constable friend Alan Nesbitt (eventually marrying), but keeps stumbling across more murders that require her attention.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Murder She Wrote series of novels, featuring Jessica Fletcher (based on the popular television series) — released under the “Fletcher” pseudonym but actually written by Donald Bain.]

[ official Dorthy Martin Series page on the official Jeanne M. Dams web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Picturing the Bomb by Rachel Fermi


While this book does not entirely consist of photographs, they do make up the majority of the book. It includes photos from Los Alamos, Oakridge and Hanford, all secret locations of the Manhattan Project, which cumulated in the construction of the world’s first atomic bomb. After reading a few books on the topic, this one was nice in that it provided a sizable photographic glimpse into that world. If you are not too familiar with the project, then the book does fill you in the major people, places, and events involved. Also included at the back is a time line, a glossary and a section for biographies and profiles of certain people involved. I found it interesting that the book points out that so many people associate the image of the mushroom cloud with the atomic bomb project, however to so many on the inside, it was daily life for years, not just a single moment and as a result of that these photos are very diverse. They portray daily life at the three locations showing the interior of the prefab homes, people at work in the factories at Oakridge or the labs in Los Alamos. There were families and children and social life among the work that are shown all together here with the more familiar photos of the ground zeros in Japan and the inner workings of the bomb parts, the planes used to transport the bombs and so on. As I’ve discovered in my reading on the subject, there’s always more to this story because it’s so many stories wrapped into one. I recommend it if you are at all interested in the Manhattan Project or World War Two.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan [940.53 Kie], or 109 East Palace Place, by Jennet Conant 623.451 Con].]

[ official Rachel Fermi Photography Blog ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hello, My Name is Doris (on DVD)

Hello, My Name is Doris
[DVD Hello]

I grew up watching Sally Field as an actress, first in The Flying Nun, then The Girl With Something Extra, then her feature film successes in such films as the Smokey and the Bandit movies, Norma Rae, Places in the Heart, Murphy’s Romance (a personal favorite), Mrs. Doubtfire and Steel Magnolias. In more recent years, I’ve enjoyed seeing her tackle more seasoned roles in things such as the Brothers & Sisters TV series, Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln, and Aunt May in two Amazing Spider-Man films. The trailers for Hello, My Name is Doris made me eager to see her in another starring role, especially opposite Max Greenfield, whom I’ve enjoyed tremendously in the comedy series New Girl.

This film features Field as Doris, a lowly data-entry clerk in her late middle-age, who has been the sole live-in caretaker for her mother for decades, giving up any chance of seeing any of her own hopes and dreams accomplished. When her mother finally passes, Doris finally has the opportunity to pursue some of her own dreams, while simultaneously fending off her siblings’ desire to sell the family house. Unfortunately, because most of her life has been a huge “gap”, Doris isn’t prepared for what her heart wants…and timidly sets off in pursuit of a new executive at her advertising firm, a much younger man. With the advice of a friend’s pre-teen granddaughter, Doris tries to fit into the world of her young target, dabbling awkwardly in social media and becoming a cause celebre in his circle of hipsters. The film bounces from silly and sentimental, to awkward and uncomfortable, but throughout its mood swings, Sally Field turns in a bravura performance. In the end, I came away not fully satisfied with the film itself, but Sally Field is a wonder and I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of her work!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of her films or TV-series, hotlinked above.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Hello, My Name is Doris web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Friday, August 25, 2017

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle / Graphic Novel by Hope Larson

A Wrinkle in Time and A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel
by Madeleine L’Engle [j L’Engle for book]; adapted by Hope Larson as a graphic novel [YA L’Engle for Graphic Novel] 

This is an absolute classic in the field of youth or Young Adult science fiction/fantasy fiction. Originally published in 1963, A Wrinkle in Time is part adventure story, part coming-of-age tale, and part allegory. Young Meg Murry feels like an outcast, not liked by any of the other kids she knows, and ostracized in her circle of contacts. She is the daughter of a pair of brilliant but eccentric scientists, and her father disappeared months ago — the people of the town believing he ran away with another woman. In fact, the only person who seems to understand her is her five-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, a brilliant wunderkind. Charles Wallace has befriended a trio of odd elderly women, who have taken up residence in a nearby “haunted house”. He introduces Meg and their new friend Calvin O’Keefe, to the three ladies, who soon launch the trio of children on an adventure through time and space, in search of their missing father — and in opposition to a dark and oppressive force that is taking over planet after planet and has Earth in its sights.

The Graphic Novel adaptation of L’Engle’s novel was adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson, and is a very faithful telling of the story. All the art is black & white, with blue highlights and shadings. The artwork is fairly good, but I felt that the choices made by Larson for graphic purposes sometimes missed opportunities to enhance the story. The “Red-Eyed Man” that features in the story’s middle is not literally “red-eyed” in the art. None-the-less, this is a reasonable alternate way to enjoy this story. There is a big-budget movie version of A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters very soon.

This is the first volume in The Time Quintet, but is the most well-known of the volumes in the series. I give the original novel an “8” and the Graphic Novel version a “6”.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of the Time Quintet by L’Engle]

[ Wikipedia page for A Wrinkle in Time ] | [ official Madeleine L’Engle web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams

Beatle Meets Destiny!
by Gabrielle Williams [YA Williams]

Combine one 18-year-old stroke survivor named John Lennon, nicknamed “Beatle” with one 17-year-old girl named Destiny McCartney, who sidelines as an astrology columnist — on a Friday the 13th, no less!

Then add in an existing girlfriend, a twin sister who’s seeing one of her teachers, a cat-shaving fetishist, and an unintentionally-pilfered priceless chair and you get an interesting older-teen novel. Set in Melbourne, Australia at or near the publication date of 2009, the story covers a year and some in the life of these high-schoolers and their friends as they navigate the tricky waters of youthful impulsiveness (or outright stupidity) and developing maturity. Despite some unwise subterfuge and resultant confusion, our titular couple manage to mostly “work it out” in the end. Contains adult language.

[ publisher’s official Video Booktrailer for Beatle Meets Destiny web site ]

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall

Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall A celebration of the music of Stephen Sondheim [Compact Disc 782.14 Son] 

This two-CD album is a marvelous recording from a live event that took place in June 1992 at Carnegie Hall, in which many of the past stars of songs penned by Stephen Sondheim gathered to perform his music in a concert setting, to pay tribute to the master lyricist. The event was recorded for release as an episode of PBS’ Great Performances, and came out both as a DVD and as this musical CD. The show is a veritable “Who’s Who” of Broadway mega-talents from that era, including Madeline Kahn, Liza Minelli, Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone, Patrick Cassidy, Victor Garber, Bernadette Peters, Glenn Close and more. The songs included are among the best-known pieces of music in Broadway history, epitomized by Sondheim’s fast lyrics and manic pacing.
While some of the individual tracks may not live up to the quality of the Original Cast Recordings of their respective shows, this is still a very fun collection, with live audience reactions to the performances. I recommend this for any Sondheim completists, or if you’re only vaguely familiar with his great body of work and just want a sampler of some of his best pieces.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of the soundtracks to individual Sondheim-created stage musicals, including Assassins, Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park With George and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Also, this concert was also released on DVD (though the libraries don't own it).]

[ manufacturer’s official Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall ordering page — play samples of all tracks ] | [ official www.sondheim.com web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

Faceless
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel [YA Sheinmel] 

Maisie Winters is a high-school track star, who is expecting to get a scholarship to the University of her choice. She’s popular and has the boyfriend of her dreams. This all changes when she is involved in a freak accident. While running one morning, a storm suddenly comes up, lightning strikes, and Maisie is caught in an electrical fire. She receives severe burns to her body, and her face is destroyed. Maisie is able to receive a face transplant, which at least gives her a nose, cheeks and a chin, but makes her look like a stranger. Her new face was supposed to give Maisie her life back, but now people treat her differently, and she can’t do the things she used to love, like running. Maisie must figure out her new identity, and what is important to her.

This was a good book about self-discovery. A story about how no one else can truly define you, you have to decide that yourself. The reader feels Maisie’s pain and frustration as people continually tell her how “lucky” she is, and will root for her to fight her way out of her dark time.

This book is a 2017-2018 Golden Sower Nominee.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Running Dream, by Wendelin VanDraanen.]

[ official Faceless page on the official Alyssa Sheinmel web site ]

Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Monday, August 21, 2017

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

There are 12 short stories within this work and they are the last Sherlock stories written by Doyle. There were many that came after but not by the original author. Each story is stand alone, so you don’t really need to read them in succession and honestly I don’t feel like you need to read the previous works before this one. There was one story that stuck out in this work that I don’t recall from any other in that Sherlock himself was narrator. Typically Watson is narrator and sometimes there’s a non-character narrator, so it was certainly different, though I didn’t mind. I think the books are much better, and very different than the movie adaptions with Robert Downy Jr. in them, so if that’s all you’ve experienced then it’ll be surprising how few action scenes there are. I thought the Benedict Cumberbatch series that’s set in modern times, was ok although I haven’t seen all of them. If you’ve watched and enjoyed these or some of the older film adaptions, I do suggest you try out at least some of the original stories by Doyle, in this set or the others. We have a paper copy of this one and as an e-book. Also it’s not unusual for it to be collected with other Sherlock books such as The New Annotated Sherlock Homes vol. 2.

[If you enjoy this, here are the other Sherlock Holmes stories by Doyle: Short Story Collections — The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes; Novels: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The House of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear.]
 
[ Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

For the Love of Spock (on DVD)

For the Love of Spock
[DVD Biography Nimoy] 

I had the pleasure of seeing this wonderful documentary in a movie theatre, on the big screen, with a large and appreciative audience, and I can say it looked marvelous under those conditions!
Adam Nimoy, the son of the actor Leonard Nimoy, who brought Star Trek’s Mr. Spock to life for nearly 50 years, has assembled an incredible collection of interviews, performance clips, and rare home videos, to explore the origins of the Spock character, and the impact of Nimoy’s performance on multiple generations of Star Trek fans.

This production was truly a labor of love, and for any devout “Trekkie” or “Trekker”, should be consider must-viewing. It mixes sentimentality with whimsy, and features many wonderful interviews with both entertainment industry professionals and fans alike. I particularly liked the interviews with Zachary Quinto, the actor who has inherited the mantel of Spock in the newer Star Trek films of the 21st century.

Simply put, I loved this documentary!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try tracking down actor Leonard Nimoy’s various noteworthy performances, including all three seasons of classic Star Trek, seasons 4 and 5 of Mission Impossible, the TV-Movie A Woman Called Golda, the updated Outer Limits episode “I, Robot”, and his various scattered appearances on Fringe.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official For the Love of Spock web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kino's Journey (on DVD)

Kino’s Journey
by Ryutaro Nakamura [DVD Kino’s]

This collection of episodes follows Kino on her journey to strange and unusual places. It is an animated series, but it’s not for kids due to some violence and adult themes. Each episode features a new place and new people and it’s rather philosophical providing a lot to consider. One episode for example is about a community that invented a way for everyone to communicate thoughts and feelings without speaking, so as to increase compassion for one another. After not too long the society discovered it didn’t work out as they hoped and decided it could not function that way anymore. Because there was no way to reverse the effect, everyone now lives alone, separated by quite a distance in county homes,. I’ll let you watch it and discover the other places Kino visits, but that should give you a feel for the series. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested in philosophy or sociology, I think you’ll enjoy it.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder, a novel that covers the history of philosophy]
 
[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia page for Kino’s Journey ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Adulthood is a Myth: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection by Sarah Andersen

Adulthood is a Myth: A Sarah’s Scribbles Collection
by Sarah Andersen [741.5 And]

I’d seen various friends sharing single examples of the Sarah’s Scribbles webcomic in their social media — Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. — and enjoyed Sarah Andersen’s wry, self-deprecating humor. So, when I saw this oversized collection of her work on the library’s “new books” display, I couldn’t pass it up. Andersen is a member of the Millenials generation, and pokes a lot of fun at all the standard Millenial tropes. There are themes that run through many of the strips or stand-alone panels included in this volume. I found myself smiling or laughing frequently, however, I also found a lot of her art to be uncomfortably or awkwardly amateurish, so I have a hard time giving it a full recommendation. The introduction of her rabbit character was fascinating — I found myself really enjoying the strips in which the rabbit appears. All in all, this is lightly amusing, with some serious looks at Millenial attitudes — If you like the online Sarah’s Scribbles comics, you’ll love this. If you prefer your artwork a little more…polished…you have have reservations about this one.

[ official Sarah’s Scribbles web site ]
 
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis [j Lewis] 

It’s debated whether this is the first in the Narnia series or not, but it does indeed explain the origin of the land of Narnia. It begins in London England and two neighbor children, Digory and Polly. Digroy lives with his aunt, uncle and mother (who is very ill). The top floor of the house is forbidden at its uncle Andrew’s office. The two children mistakenly sneak in the office via the rafters – trying to get to the empty house next to theirs. Uncle Andrew convinces them to try on some magic rings that send them out of this world to others. Their adventures I don’t want to spoil for you too much, but someone comes back to London with them, the they all (the children, uncle Andrew, the visitor and other Londoners) travel back to the other world and witness the creation of Narnia. They meet Aslan – creator of the world – and he sets Digory on a quest for a fruit from a tree over the hills and far away. The story concludes with the completion of this quest and explains that Digory was allowed to bring back a piece of fruit from Narnia to London. He plants the seed in his yard, and years later a storm damages the tree severely and Digory, grown up now, has a wardrobe made out of the wood. He keeps the wardrobe in his family home in the English countryside and thus follows more Narnia adventures. I thought it was a great lead into the other books and recommend it to readers of all ages. It could be fun to read with a child too as you may see the story in different lights.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The rest of the Narnia series:

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
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)
[ official C.S. Lewis web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Album, the Beatles and the World in 1967 by Brian Southall


2017 is the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ classic album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As part of the celebration of this milestone, PBS aired a marvelous special, entitled “Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution” several times in June, hosted by Howard Goodall. And this book came out, looking at the origins of this significant album, and contextualizing it within the bigger scheme of what was happening in the world in 1967.

Just like an old-style record album, which has a Side A and a Side B, this book divides its coverage into two halves. The first half of the the book is a profile of the members of The Beatles, and their history, and what led them to write and record the album Sgt. Pepper, which was ground-breaking in its experimental nature at the time of its release. The second half of the book is a month-by-month chronology of the year 1967, highlighting the major world and cultural events of the year, and how the Beatles fit into that year’s timeline. I think I actually appreciated that second half more than the first half in this book — the making of the Sgt. Pepper album has been covered in many previous tomes, but looking into world history and how Sgt. Pepper fits into the other events of the year was enlightening. This book features a huge number of photographs, many of which I don’t remember seeing previously. All in all, an entertaining read, especially if you want to pop your vinyl, CD or digital album copy of Sgt. Pepper into its appropriate playing device and listen to the music as you’re reading along.

[ publisher’s official Sgt. Pepper book web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Brian Southall ] | [ Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution – on PBS site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Father Brown Mysteries: Series One on DVD

The Father Brown Mysteries: Series One
based on the stories of G.K. Chesterton [DVD Father]

Father Brown is a mystery series set in early 1950’s rural England where the effects and sentiments of WWII are still fresh. Based on the books by G.K. Chesterton, Father Brown is an older cleric and head of his parish church in rural England. He’s been around enough to understand the world and the motivations of people which helps him solve the current murder.

His church secretary would prefer he keep his focus on his pastoral duties, but she frequently gets pulled into his investigations. He’s also friends with the local gentry and her connections, as well as her avid interest in the investigation, assist him as does her chauffeur – a somewhat shady character whose skills also come in handy. Father Brown’s participation in the cases is not appreciated by the local detective, nor by his bishop, both of whom try to thwart his investigations. But in the end, we know he’ll save the day.

A quiet, character-driven story with a good mystery puzzle to solve. Father Brown is played to perfection by Mark Williams, who played Arthur Weasley (the father of the Weasley clan) in the Harry Potter movies. The library owns seasons one through three on DVD, each episode is about an hour in length.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Midsomer Murders, or Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries]

[Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official The Father Brown Mysteries web site ]

Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton

The Innocence of Father Brown, in the collection, The Father Brown Omnibus
by G.K. Chesterton


Published in 1911, The Innocence of Father Brown is the first collection of G.K Chesterton’s short stories featuring the priest/detective. The dozen stories in this collection, all originally published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1910 and 1911, would be considered “cozies” in mystery circles today (in fact, some claim that Chesterton created the category with these stories), though some of the stories hardly qualify as mysteries at all in the usual sense of the word. The stories are rightly considered classics, but they differ from other mysteries in ways that may make them more appealing to general readers than to devoted mystery fans.

Even calling Father Brown a “detective” is stretching definitions. He never claims to be a detective in these stories, and he is more concerned with the criminals’ repentance than with seeing them brought to justice – reflecting Chesterton’s own view of the world (though these stories were published years before his own conversion to Catholicism). Father Brown relies as much on his knowledge of human nature, derived from his clerical experience, as he does on observation and deduction, though he nonetheless always emphasizes reason – again, reflecting Chesterton’s own character and perspective.
Father Brown’s character is only lightly sketched out in these stories, with hardly any information about his background; what background is given is not always consistent from one story to another. This applies as well to the character of Flambeau, the criminal in the early stories who reforms to become Father Brown’s friend and crime-solving colleague in the later stories.

Highly recommended, with the caveat that the stories may not appeal to some mystery readers.

[ Wikipedia page for Father Brown ]

Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department

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Monday, July 31, 2017

The Iron Giant (on DVD)

The Iron Giant
[DVD j Hughes] 

The Iron Giant is one of my all-time favorite animated movies. It was directed by Brad Bird, who also helped adapt the story from a novel, “The Iron Man”, by Ted Hughes. This was Bird’s first turn as a feature-length director, and after Iron Giant, he moved to Pixar, where he became one of their most creative forces on films such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Released in 1999, The Iron Giant is set during the cold war period of the late 1950s. The Soviet Union has just launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik. So, when something approaches Earth from deep space and crash lands in the forest, a panic ensues. Except that what crashed is a semi-sentient giant robot, and the first person who finds it is a trusting young boy, Hogarth Hughes, who befriends the confused and lost giant.
This is an emotional and personal story, packed into a tense military adventure story. It features wonderful voice-actor work from Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston, John Mahoney, James Gammon and Cloris Leachman. The voice of the giant robot is provided by Vin Diesel, 16 years before he voiced “Groot” in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The field of animation has gotten progressively more sophisticated and impressive over the years, but for a film almost 20 years old, this has perfectly fine animated. I also love the score by Michael Kamen. This is a film that should appeal to both kids and adults, and has a message to share about trust and tolerance, which is just as valid now as it was in the time period of the film’s events.

This movie has been released in several different DVD or BluRay editions, with various different “special features”. The copy I’m reviewing had some real nice “extras”, including director’s commentary by Brad Bird, with several other department heads; and 13 branching minidocumentary segments that highlight key sequences from the viewpoints of Score, Character Design, Storyboards and Animation.

Definitely worth a full “10” rating…don’t miss it!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official The Iron Giant web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public LIbrary

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Sloshies: 102 Buzzy Cocktails Straight From the Freezer by Jerry Nevins

Sloshies: 102 Buzzy Cocktails Straight From the Freezer
by Jerry Nevins (of Snow & Co.) [641.874 Nev] 

I saw this title appear in our “What’s Cooking” e-mail newsletter, as a new addition to the libraries’ culinary books section, and was intrigued. I’m not much of a drinker — don’t like either beer or most wines — but I do like the occasional cocktail or mixed drink, and the concept of an entire recipe book filled with “frozen drinks” was appealing.

Nevins, co-founder of Kansas City frozen cocktail bar “Snow & Co.”, brings a sense of humor and a desire for simplicity to his extensive list of recipes. He shows how ANYone can create frozen cocktails with ease — using expensive freezing/churning equipment, or simply mixing the ingredients in a ziploc baggie and freezing them for four hours! He definitely shows how the frozen drink world is NOT just limited to such traditional but unimaginative fare as Daiquiris, Pina Coladas and frozen Margaritas. He also emphasizes the use of fresh ingredients over prepared ingredients, especially with fruit juices and herbs.

I’m intrigued by almost ALL of the recipes included in the book, though the wide variety of alcholic ingredients would require a major expansion of my liquor cabinent! I may have to pick up my own copy of this, or make numerous photocopies to get all these recipes for myself in the long run. My only complaint is that I’m a visual learner, and I’d like to know what each of these drinks actually looks like — and, unfortunately, there are photographs of only a small sampling of the drinks, so the rest is up to our imaginations. The opening chapter of the book covers basic tools for assembling the drinks, including how to make both “basic syrup” and “infused syrups” (nearly every drink includes one of these two ingredients), as well as the benefits of different types of glasses for drink presentation. There’s also information on how to decorate your drinks — in fact, each and every drink recipe tells you what the ABV (alcohol by volume), recommended glass shape, and best garnish (some very simple and some fairly complex). Though the book is broken into chapters — Tart, Sweet, Spiced and Floral — I appreciate the index at the back that lists drinks by the alcoholic ingredient.

A fun read, with intriguing recipes. I recommend this one!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked With Spirits, Wine or Beer, by Krystina Castella.]

[ official Sloshies web site ] | [ official Snow & Co. web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka


Guardians of the Whills is a fun story that gives us a little more insight into Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe before they meet up with Jyn Erso in “Rogue One”. While opposites in just about every way, including their taste in tea, Baze and Chirrut are close friends who value and care about each other. Though the Empire has taken over the Kyber Temple, both are committed to helping the downtrodden citizens of Jedha, especially the orphans created by the Empire’s brutality. As they become unsure of how they can continue to help those in need, they meet up with someone who appears to be the answer to their problems. Saw Gerrera and his partisans have come to Jedha to organize the various resistance groups and strike back against the Empire. Saw promises to share his resources to help the orphans in return for Baze and Chirrut joining his partisans. Though initially a great help, Saw and his partisans soon escalate the battle into an never ending cycle of resistance and reprisal. Baze and Chirrut are left to decide if working with Saw is worth the cost and what they will do if it isn’t. “Guardians of the Whills” is a fun, straightforward story that moves at a brisk pace. It packs lots of action with some basic insights into the characters.

One of the more fun things about the book is including various quotes about the Force at the beginning of each chapter. It’s not an essential read, but most Star Wars fans of all ages will enjoy it and find it worthwhile.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, by James Luceno, Rebel Rising, by Beth Revis, or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, by Alexander Freed.]

[ Guardians of the Whills (Novel) page on Wookiepedia ] | [ official Greg Rucka web site ]

Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (on DVD)

Kong: Skull Island [DVD Kong] 

Fantastic. I loved this movie with the beautiful island scenery, strange beasts, native people, a stranded WWII soldier, a 1970’s exploration crew and junior King Kong. John Goodman’s character is member of a group who studys cryptids so he and his pal convince a congressman to grant them a military escort to an uncharted, unexplored island in the Pacific in the shape of a skull that they believe is home to the unknown. Approval is reluctantly granted just as the Vietnam War comes to an end. Samuel L. Jackson’s character, a military leader, is recruited to lead the expedition. Pleased to have another mission, he accepts. The crews with a huge military ship and multiple helicopters go in. Kong is there pretty much right away and he’s not a happy about having guests. The helicopters don’t last long, we’ll just say that. The expedition members and military personal are all scattered into small groups, one of which stumbles upon some ruins, then a group of natives, then John C. Reilly’s character, a WWII American pilot who’s plane crashed on the island during the war. He’s been there ever since so he’s gone a bit crazy and knows nothing of what’s occurred in the 25-30 years he’s been there. He explains, as they found out, Kong is not the only unusual creature on the island and decides to help them and himself escape. I don’t want to spoil anything because it’s just so fun to watch and there are so many dangers that people die in horrible ways all throughout the film and you never know who it’s going to be. Being a major character does not safeguard you against the perils of the island. Again I think it’s a really fun and fantastic movie, full of action, surprise, and humor; you should really watch it if you like that kind of movie. It’s not for everyone, but few things are.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try King Kong, the original 1932 film.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Kong: Skull Island 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!