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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS

June 2010 Recommendations

book cover  Sin the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America's Soul
by Karen Abbot [306.74 Abb]

This book is about a fabulous (and notorious) bordello on South Dearborn Street in Chicago called the Everleigh Club. The Club was owned and run by two sisters, Minna and Ada. Their last name is not certain--the sisters made up many stories about their lives. Sometimes they refer to their surname as Lester, sometimes as Everleigh; other last names crop up as well. The cortesans (known as butterflies--from Minna's stunning and valuable collection of diamonds in a butterfly shape) were educated in Balzac and other literature and they were ordered to stay away from drugs and sternly forbidden not to roll their tricks--they made more money than their sisters in other houses, so the butterflies complied. In fact, Minna and Ada had a long waiting list of girls wanting to enter the Club. The house was elegant with (from page 69 of the book) a "towering water fountain, parquet floor arranged in intricate mosaic patters, and ceiling that dripped crystal chandeliers. They came to see little oddities...gilded fishbowls, eighteen-karat-gold spittoons that cost $650 each, the the Everleigh's signature trinket--a fountain that at regular intervals, fired a jet of perfume into the thickly incensed air." (A brief note to put the cost of the spitoons in perspective: the Club's heigh day was from about 1899-1908.) The Club also featured a solid gold piano (Ada's obsession) and their clients dined on pheasant, squab, roasted turkey, duck or goose with sides of au gratin cauliflower or spinach cups with creamed peas, not to mention champagne. The sisters have a Nebraska connection: before opening up shop in Chicago, they ran a bordello in Omaha. A running thread throughout the book is the reform movement that arose in Chicago in response to white slavery charges and the immorality of prostitution in general. Some of the organizations went on to become national in nature, since the traffic in women was not, of course, limited to Chicago.

[Also available in downloadable audio format.]

[ official Sin in the Second City and Karen Abbot web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Bone Thief
by Jefferson Bass

Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Bill Bass. Jon Jefferson is a journalist and a filmmaker. Bill Bass is a forensic anthropologist who taught at the University of Tennessee. He also founded the Anthropological Research Facility, better known as The Body Farm. They collaborate on the plots. Bass provides the expertise while Jefferson pounds away at the keyboard and creates the manuscripts. Their protagonist, Bill Brockton, is based on Bill Bass. Like Bass, Brockton teaches anthropology at the University of Tennessee and he runs The Body Farm. This book delves into the ugly world of black market sales of bodies and body parts. The FBI convinces Brockton to help them with a sting operation so they can bring some of these traffickers to justice. Brockton's moral compass makes it hard for him to play the role of budding black marketer. This is the fifth book in this well-crafted series. The plots are well-thought out. There is a strong sense of place. It's easy to visualize the steel girders that support Neyland Stadium and the offices underneath it that house the anthropology department. Bill Brockton and his graduate assistant Miranda Lovelady have a very comfortable relationship -- lots of banter and the occasional difference of opinion. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Diane Fallon Series by Beverly Connor, the Lindsay Chamberlain Series by Beverly Connor, the Temperance Brennan Series by Kathy Reichs, or The early Patricia Cornwell novels.]


[ official The Bone Thief section of the official Jefferson Bass web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Fire Came By: The Riddle of the Great Siberian Explosion
by John Baxter and Thomas Atkins [001.94 Bax]

In 1908 a large meteorite hit the Tunguska region in central Siberia. The seismic shock was registered in Paris, London, Washington, D. C. and, of course, Moscow. At the time, the explosion and impact were not scientifically understood. With the passage of time, more was understood about astrophysics, including black holes and antimatter and the Tunguska event has been better investigated. This book relies on the aforementioned modern science to explore the "fire that came by."


[ Wikipedia article on the Tungunska Event ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Death by Hollywood
by Steven Bochco

I've enjoyed Bochco's television series for years -- groundbreaking hits like Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser M.D., Hooperman, and Murder One (though I never got into NYPD Blue). Before he became one of the 1980s and 1990s' most influential producers, I'd enjoyed his writing for 1970s cop shows, too -- his Columbo plots were some of the most intricate that series every produced. Do, with that kind of writing pedigree, I looked forward to reading this, his first novel. I'll have to admit, I was kind of disappointed. As a mystery/thriller, this novel sort of fits into the "Columbo" mold -- we (the reader) know who did everything, and the fun of the plot is to see if the "sleuth" characters can figure it out. Unfortunately, this process isn't really all that enjoyable, because the characters are distinctly unlikeable. Bochco pokes a lot of fun at the foibles and idiocies of the entertainment industry, and on that level, I'd recommend this one as an indictment of that world. However, as a mystery novel this one is merely lukewarm. I'd also caution those that find offensive language to be one of your barometers of readability -- this one is rife with four-letter words...and unnecessarily so, in my opinion. If you'd still like to pursue this one, here's the plot in a nutshell: Two-time loser screenwriter with writer's block witnesses a murder through a telescope, but instead of calling it in, he decides to position of inside knowledge to write a screenplay about what he saw, insinuating himself into the lives of the guilty parties and the cops investigating the crime. Several double- and triple-crosses later, his agent (who narrates the story) tumbles to an even bigger secret when the script sees the light of day. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Stephen J. Cannell, another TV producer who's moved into writing novels.]


Review Score - 5
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDSworn to Silence
by Linda Castillo [Compact Disc Castillo]

Sworn to Silence offers us a glimpse of Amish life. Painters Mill is small town in northeast Ohio were the Amish and "English" live. The peace and quiet of the community is shattered when a serial killer returns after a sixteen-year absence. Painters Mill police chief, Kate Burkholder, always thought that she knew why the murders stopped. Now that they have started again she struggles to manage the case and hide her secret. It's impossible for her to believe that the murderer has returned but this killer's "MO" is identical -- down to the Roman numerals carved in the victims' abdomens, a detail never released to the press. Kate grew up Amish in Painters Mill. She left the order to live among the "English" and work as a police detective. Kate came home to Painters Mill to help her mother through her final illness. She stayed in Painters Mill because she was offered the job of police chief. Now her job and her secret are jeopardy because the local politicians have set up a multi-jurisdictional task force to solve the case. This book on CD is not for listeners with weak stomachs. There are graphic descriptions of the murders as well as heart-wrenching scenes of parents who have just learned that their daughters are dead. Their cries of despair echoed from my car speakers. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Thomas Perry or Chelsea Cain.]

[Also available in downloadable and print formats.]

[ official Amish Crime Thriller page on the official Linda Castillo web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Ghost Towns of the Southwest: Your Guide to the Historic Mining Camps and Ghost Towns of Arizona and New Mexico
by Jim Hinckley [917.91 Hin]

I admit it; I am a sucker for ghost towns. There is something about the remnants of these old places that intrigue me. I love prowling them with my camera and I love reading about them. The author, Jim Hinckley describes these towns that are shells of their former selves in lyrical prose. He portrays communities such as Oatman as "towns that cling to life with dust swirling along once busy thoroughfares". He also gives historical tidbits. For example, Oatman is linked to Hollywood. Several movies were filmed here, most notably How the West Was Won in 1962. And Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their first night as husband and wife in the Oatman Hotel in 1939. Hinckley also gives careful attention to ghost towns such White Hills, which are only wind-blown memories. The only tangible remains are weather beaten wood claim markers. Many of these dusty time capsules started their lives as mining camps and grew into towns as the mines prospered. When the gold, silver and copper veins were exhausted the residents drifted away in search of better opportunities. Some communities, such as Bisbee redefined themselves and are now thriving. Bisbee is a photographic gem nestled in the colorful canyons of the Mule Mountains. Other towns such as Elizabethtown, New Mexico are simply picturesque ruins. Hinckley teamed up with travel photographer, Kerrick James to produce a book that is rich in visual as well written detail. There are easy to follow maps and explicit driving directions if you interested in visiting these relics. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Dust to Dust: Ghost Towns of Eastern Nebraska by Lowell Greunke, Black Hills Ghost Towns by Watson Parker, Colorado Ghost Towns -- Past and Present by Robert Leaman Brown, and Ghost Towns of Kansas by Daniel Fitzgerald.]


[ official Jim Hinckley blog ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Iron Lake
by William Kent Krueger

When the Just Desserts mystery group selected this author for one of its monthly book discussions, I was quite pleased -- I'd been meaning to try Krueger for some time, since he'd regularly come to Lincoln for signings at the former Lee Booksellers any time he had a new book out, and friends had recommended his thrillers very highly. I was not disappointed! I enjoyed Iron Lake, the first book in Krueger's Cork O'Connor series, tremendously. O'Connor is a damaged character -- a forcibly retired Sheriff in the small, northern Minnesota town of Aurora, dealing with broken relationships and an uncertain career path. A panicked request from a friend to look into her teenaged son's disappearance while delivery papers during a blizzard launches Cork into a dangerous situation that ultimately involves multiple murders, an Indian casino, an anti-government militia, a motorcycle-riding minister, and the up-and-coming politician who's been seeing his wife on the side. The characters, while not necessarily all likeable, are well-drawn, and Krueger does a great job of creating his snow-packed Minnesota setting. When the characters get trapped in the snow, you start shivering. The mystery is solid, if somewhat predictable, but the atmosphere more than makes up for any predictability. I highly recommended this one...it has led to 9 volumes in the series (as of 2010).


[ official William Kent Krueger web site ]

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


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CDThe Doomsday Key
by James Rollins [Compact Disc Rollins]

I like books that weave history into a modern day plot. In this novel Rollins draws on the Domesday Book commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1086 as his inspiration. This book was known as the great land survey. It provided extensive records of the landholders, their tenants, the amount of land they owned, how many people occupied the land (villagers, free men, slaves etc.), the amount of woodland, meadow, animals, fish and plows, all the buildings (churches, castles, mills, etc.) and the value of the land and its assets before the Norman Conquest, after the conquest and at the time of Domesday (the day of reckoning) for taxation purposes. The story does not hinge on the prosperous parts of England but on some of the areas that were declared, "wasted" in the Domesday Book. William's army ravaged these places when they moved through England. Here, Rollins takes artistic license and he creates a "wasted" village with unusual markings and a decimated population. The strange cause of the death of the villagers is as shocking as the odd markings. The centuries roll to modern times when three people are murdered on three continents. Jason Gorman, son of an influential United State Senator, sends an email about genetically modified corn to his father just before he is murdered in a Red Cross camp in Africa. His body is branded with a Druidic cross. A Vatican archeologist who is researching the roots of Celtic Christianity hides a leather pouch with a grizzly clue just before an assassin kills him in St. Peter's Basilica. A Druidic cross is burned into his flesh. A geneticist is tortured and murdered in his lab at Princeton University. He is seared with a Druidic cross. Each of these men was also connected to Viatus International, a company working on the genetic modification of seeds. Sigma Force, a clandestine Department of Defense agency, is assigned to look investigate these deaths. The Sigma Force leader, Painter Crowe divides his team and sends Grayson Pierce and Joe Kowalski to Rome to investigate the murder of the Vatican archeologist. They pursue the Doomsday Key -- an ancient cure to a potent fungus that can be used for biological warfare as well as to control the world food supply. Crowe and Monk Kokkalis head to Norway where Ivar Karlsen, the head of Viatus International has called a World Food Summit. This CD was good company when I drove through the sandhills on a quiet highway. The flippant humor sprinkled throughout story amused me. The historical aspect was fascinating. I enjoyed the notes that Rollins provided at the end. This section is called "The Author's Note to Readers: Truth or Fiction." It gave details about several elements portrayed in the book. The prophecies by Saint Malachy are eerily on target. The history surrounding the Domesday Book is intriguing. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Steve Berry, the works of Dan Brown, and the works of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.]

[Also available in print format.]

[ official Doomsday Key page on the official James Rollins web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  A Twist of Orchids
by Michelle Wan

This series is set in the lush Dordogne départment of southern-western France. Julian, an English botanist, freelance landscaper and orchid enthusiast is searching for the rare Cypripedium Incognitum, an orchid that he saw only once in a damaged photo. Mara, his live-in lover, notes that "come spring, he is filled with a kind of anticipatory anixiety" until May arrives and the Cypripedium Incognitum blooms and he can search for it again. Julian's near fanatical search for the Cypripedium Incognitum is the backdrop for these books. In this novel, Julian's enthusiam is tempered by his search Kazim Ismet, the son of Turkish friends. Kazim has disappeared and his worried parents asked Julian to look for him. Orchids, while not the root of evil, certainly play a role in the evil perpetrated in this book. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle, books in the English Garden Mystery Series by Anthony Eglin, and The Garden Mystery series by Ann Riple .]


[ publisher's official A Twist of Orchids web page ] | [ official Michelle Wan web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  A Tour of the White House With Mrs. John F. Kennedy
by Perry Sidney Wolff [975.3 qWol]

In 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy hosted a television program about her renovations to the White House. She established a Fine Arts Committee to achieve her goal of refurbishing the mansion with as many authentic pieces as possible. In addition, the post of White House Curator was established, and the White House Historical Association was formed to prepare an official guidebook and publish other historical material. The program, which was broadcast on all three networks was watched by three out of four television viewers. The author, Perry Wolff, was also the CBS producer of the television program. Although the tour took place over 40 years ago, anyone who cares about the history of the White House will still find this book fascinating. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the subject heading "White House (Washington, D.C.)".]


[ watch the original 1962 documentary on Hulu.com ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  An American Celebration: The Art of Charles Wysocki
by Charles Wysocki [759.13 Wys]

In over 200 full-color works, Wysocki celebrates Americana, painting quilting bees, pumpkin patches, carriages, the post office, etc. in his folkart style. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try American folk paintings: paintings and drawings other than portraits from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center.]


[ official Charles Wysocki web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Big Bang Theory: Season One
[DVD Big]

What is now one of CBS' biggest sitcom hits started off a little quietly in the fall of 2007, but quickly connected with audiences. And there's a Nebraska connection! Kaley Cuoco (8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter) is Penny, a midwestern girl – from Omaha – who moves to L.A. to seek acting fame but ends up waitressing at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant. When she moves into an apartment building, she finds herself living across the hall from a pair of brilliant but socially-inept scientists, Leonard Hofstadter (played by Roseanne's Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon Cooper (played by the brilliant but relatively unknown Jim Parsons). Leonard develops an immediate crush on Penny, and she is soon enfolded into the nerds' cluster of friends, including fellow scientists Raj Koothrapalli and Howard Weinstein. For once, the geeks are the stars and anti-heroes of the show, obsessing about their scientific pursuits on the job and their Star Trek and Lord of the Rings marathons or trips to the local comic-book store while off work. This 17-episode first season does an excellent job of introducing the characters, of whom the prissily-dictatorial Sheldon Cooper easily steals the show. [Note: The only reason I'm giving it a score of 9 instead of 10 is that it got even better in the 2nd season!]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ episode guide on epguides.com ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemPsych: The Complete Third Season
by [DVD Psych]

This is a witty series that gets better every year. Shawn Spencer claims to be a psychic and he uses his "abilities" to solve crimes. Shawn's buddy Gus tries to provide the voice of reason but Shawn rarely listens. Among the cases Shawn and Gus take on in this season are: a vanishing body at their high school reunion, a murdered sea lion and an old summer camp that is terrorized by axe murderer which is a funny but scary takeoff on the Friday the 13th movies. Shawn and Gus run a private detective agency and they also act as consultants to the Santa Barbara Police Department. Some of the funnier moments involve Lassiter, a way too serious police detective. I am looking forward to season four.
[There are also several Psych novels out in paperback now -- all written by William Rabkin.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official USA Network site for Psych ]

related lists See more books and TV boxed sets like this on our TV Tie-Ins booklist
Review Score - 9
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe September Issue: Anna Wintour and the Making of Vogue
a film by R.J. Cutler [DVD 746.92 Sep]

If you are of the belief that Vogue Magazine is the fashion bible, this is a must see Documentary. Every year, the September issue sets the tone for the following seasons' clothing styles and designs. Cameras follow Editor-and-Chief of Vogue Magazine, Anna Wintour, as well as other key Vogue team members as they design and prepare for not only the years' largest issue of 2009, but for their largest issue in Vogue Magazine history. You may recall Anna Wintour, who was immortalized as the nightmare boss in the 2003 novel The Devil Wears Prada, written by Lauren Weisberger. This DVD allows entrance into Vogue's offices, fashion photo shoots and even a rare glimpse into Ms. Wintour's office, home and private life. The cameras also take the viewer to photo shoots in Paris and Italy as well as to several fashion shows and Haute Couture Houses such as Karl Lagerfeld. There are also interviews with several famous designers. This a two disk set with special bonus material and deleted scenes. [If you're looking for something light and fun with New York's high fashion scene, Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes is a good choice. Ms. Sykes is a Vogue staff member and is often a feature writer for Vogue articles. I would also recommend Front Row: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogues Editor-and-Chief by Jerry Oppenheimer.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official The September Issue web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Jessica H.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemA State of Mind
by Daniel Gordon [DVD 796.44 Gor]

This fascinating documentary is some of the first film footage from within North Korea in 50 years. This film introduces us to two girls (ages 11 & 13) who after school each day practice gymnastics for 6 hours, outside, on the cement. Their goal is to be in the "mass games" showcasing thousands of gymnastics performing in synchronized movements in a display of unity and love for "The General" and their country. By getting to know these two girls and following them in their daily lives we get to know what life is like in North Korea and how the Korean War played a huge role in how North Koreans live and think. This is a must see!

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official A State of Mind web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Jodene G.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemSWEET Land
[DVD Sweetland]

The film begins with the wake for Olaf, a Norwegian-American farmer on the prairie of Minnesota. His widow, Inge, discovers a photo of herself taken in 1920 when she was newly arrived to this country. Most of the rest of this movie is a flashback to their meeting and the events, family, and friends surrounding their courtship. Olaf is a Norwegian-American farmer on the prairie of Minnesota in 1920. He sends away for a mail-order bride and Inge arrives. They head directly to the Lutheran church to be married but it turns out Inge is of German descent, not Norwegian as Olaf expected, and her immigration papers are not in order. This is just after WWI so anti-German sentiment is still running high. The pastor refuses to marry them using her papers as the excuse. Since they aren’t married they cannot live together, so Olaf houses her with his best friend, Frandsen, and his wife Brownie, while they figure out what to do next. Inge’s English is fractured and she initially has a difficult time assimilating into the community who are still hostile to her heritage. Frandsen and Brownie are very welcoming and become good friends to her, but with their nine children the house is overflowing. Inge returns to Olaf’s house while he moves into the barn until they can finally marry. Many in the community are scandalized at this. Then, Frandsen faces foreclosure on his farm and Olaf must make a decision. This is a character-driven story, slow-moving but not boring, as the viewer watches relationships develop and stories unfold. One would think this quiet film to be another outstanding PBS production but it’s actually an independent film based on the short story “A Gravestone Made of Wheat” by Will Weaver. Many of the supporting cast members are recognizable faces, such as John Heard and Ned Beatty. Winner of, and nominated for, many awards including Best Narrative Feature from Hamptons International Film Festival (2005); Best Film from Vail Film Festival (2006), and Wisconsin Film Festival (2006); Best First Feature from Independent Spirit Awards (2007); and Best Actress-Feature Film from Newport Beach Film Festival (2006). This is not a film to half-watch while paying your bills or checking email, you would miss so much of the unspoken drama between the actors. The country scenes are breathtaking. Grab your popcorn and sit back to give your full attention to a moving story.

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

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


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last updated June 2010
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