Hamilton (2015) by Lin-Manuel Miranda

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Reviewed by Emily Terasa (Library Staff)

Since it will probably be years until I can see the smash-hit musical Hamilton (with it seemingly being sold out for forever!), I decided to check out the soundtrack so I could see what all the fuss was about. And let me tell you, the fuss is well-deserved. Lin-Manuel Miranda, a recent recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, fulfills the genius title with his creative and amazing lyrics and music. Every time I listened to some of the songs, I would remark to someone near me how much of a genius Lin-Manuel Miranda is, to have come up with something so brilliant.
Hamilton follows the life story of a founding father, Alexander Hamilton. I really knew nothing about his life, but after listening to the soundtrack, I realized he had an extremely fascinating story. From fighting in the Revolutionary War and becoming Treasury Secretary, to battling with Jefferson over the government and dueling with an old friend, Alexander Hamilton lived quite the life. The story is told mainly in song, with an emphasis on, surprisingly, rap (the rap battles between Hamilton and Jefferson are epic!)
The soundtrack is two discs, so you are able to follow most of the story, even without seeing the musical. There are many standout songs, but two of my favorites are “You’ll Be Back”, which is basically King George singing a song to the US (like the US was an ex-girlfriend) and “Ten Duel Commandments” which is a rap explaining the rules of a duel.
The entire soundtrack is fabulous, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves musicals, or who just has an appreciation for music, and the writing process because Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the entire musical himself. He truly is a genius, and this musical is genius. You’ll be back to listen to it again and again!

Located in Soundtracks (CD SDTK HAMILTON)

Does This Mean You’ll See Me Naked? by Robert D. Webster

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Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

I think you should know up front: I’m a little bit morbid. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I look at Victorian postmortem photographs on Wikipedia (not an activity I recommend if you want to sleep again anytime soon). I am fascinated with death and the cultural constructs that surround it. So, of course, I had to read Does This Mean You’ll See Me Naked?.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Jessica Mitford’s seminal 1963 book The American Way of Death was the first popular expose of the funeral industry, and funeral director Webster’s 2011 memoir follows in Mitford’s footsteps. The chuckle-inducing title belies the content, which is really quite serious and thought-provoking.

Webster worked for other funeral homes for the first few decades of his career, and now he is the proprietor of his own funeral home. He does share some funny (if necessarily slightly morbid) anecdotes–like trying to extract a very large decedent from a very small bathroom. But most of his stories are more of the shocking variety: of funeral-home employees who mishandle bodies, funeral directors who overcharge distraught widows, families who refuse to pay, and children who request that he throw away their father’s ashes.

The author is at pains to remind the reader that he would never employ any of the shady practices of less-scrupulous funeral directors–in fact, one of the reasons he chose to open his own funeral home was because he did not think his previous employers treated clients fairly. But unless you live near his family-run operation in Ohio, you should take this book as a heads-up to do your research on funeral planning before a death (yours or a loved one’s) occurs. Compare prices and services at funeral homes–they can vary greatly–and have a frank discussion with your family about your wishes and theirs. Then consider putting your wishes in writing and setting aside money to cover funeral expenses. This book prompted me to have a conversation with my dad about just those topics, and I can’t believe how much I didn’t know about his wishes. My advice: Check out this book, then have those discussions while you still can.

Located in Adult Non-Fiction (363.7 WEB)

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Reviewed by Judy B (Library Staff)

If you are a devoted fan of Jane Austen’s works, this modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice might offend you. Sittenfeld is described as “wickedly entertaining” by the New York Times, and I found her version very wicked indeed. While the author captures and updates the satirical commentary about society’s morals and regulations that make Austen such a fascinating read, the excess of alternate lifestyles and explicit behavior in most of the characters will be a turn off for most Austen fans.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC SITTENFELD)

This is Our Science (2011) Astronautalis

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Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

Charles Andrew Bothwell, better known as Astronautalis is a Florida-born lyricist who has performed with artists such as P.O.S., Isaiah Toothtaker, Tegan Quin and Sarah Jaffe to name a few. He sings alternative hip hop with a fast-paced beat verging towards the speed of rap. His mixture of pensive lyrics and a hypnotic voice blend to create a fabulous album which is sure to be one of many yet to come.

Located in CDs (RAP/HIP HOP ASTRONAUTALIS)

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

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Reviewed by Stephanie Ramirez (Library Staff)

What is the line between “religion” and “cult”? Author Lawrence Wright explores the history and inner workings of the Church of Scientology. Founded by L. Ron Hubbard, whom some call a genius and other a madman, the church’s notoriously secretive practices are revealed in this book: the billion year contract that new recruits are pressured to sign, declaring family members and friends “suppressive persons” so no contact can be made with them again, and of course, the process of “going clear,” which can amount to millions of dollars spent in pursuing this goal. For a clear picture on the damage and fear this religion can cause, check out the accompanying documentary as well. Excellent, well-written tome, one I couldn’t put down!

Located in Adult Nonfiction (299.936 WRI)

Timeline: A Visual History of Our World by Peter Goes

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Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

This gorgeous and unusual nonfiction book is a treat for children and adults alike. Relatively massive at 15 inches tall (!), Timeline uses an intricate woodcut-style illustration to tell the story of our world from the beginning of life through today. These illustrations stream through the center of each large spread with bite-sized facts sprinkled throughout. I found it fascinating to see world events and defining moments arranged side by side, offering perspective and connection not always present in my historical recollection. While reading Timeline, I couldn’t stop thinking of all the people I could buy this book for as a gift because it is such a visual treasure. Highly recommend.

Located in Children’s Nonfiction (J 909 GOE)

 

Lemonade (2016) Beyonce

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Reviewed by Stephanie Ramirez (Library Staff)

The Queen can do no wrong! With all the hype surrounding the release of the visual album “Lemonade” and the accompanying album, there were worries that Beyonce couldn’t match the hype. Those worries were unfounded. Take away all the publicity of her much-publicized rift with husband Jay-Z over infidelity reasons and this album still stands strong on its own merits: the call-to-arms message of “Formation,” the strong women anthem of “Sorry” and the beautiful simplicity and raw emotion displayed on “Sandcastles.” This one should be on permanent repeat on your playlists.

Located in CD POP/ROCK BEYONCE

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

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Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

In the Heart of the Sea won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2000, so it’s not a new book. But it has been back in the news–and on my reading list–because a movie adaptation starring Chris Hemsworth (of Thor fame) came out in 2015.

The book, and the movie, tell the story of the Nantucket whaleship Essex, which was rammed by a sperm whale and sank in the Pacific Ocean in 1820. It’s an amazing tale of survival and adventure–the ship’s crew drifted on the open ocean for 93 days and had to resort to cannibalism to survive–and as such would appeal to almost any reader.

But the author has also skillfully used the Essex tragedy to illuminate the entire culture and economy of whaling in the United States in the early 19th century. I’m a history buff, but I had always considered this time period to be pretty dull. In the Heart of the Sea turned that opinion on its head. This is the type of readable, engrossing history book that makes kids into history majors.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy Keller

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Reviewed by Jennifer Rude Klett (Library Staff)

Is The Meaning of Marriage exclusively for the married? No, quite the opposite. Surprisingly, this book is equally beneficial for the singles out there, especially since singles can alternately overly fear or idolize marriage. Consider this excerpt directed at singles:

When one person says to another, “I love you, but let’s not ruin it by getting married,” that person really means, “I don’t love you enough to close off all my options.”

This is an eye-opening, perspective-setting book that I highly recommend especially in our modern consumer-driven culture, and its assumptions about “soul” mates, romance, self-fulfillment, divorce, and cohabitation.

Even if you are long-time wedded, this book will be beneficial to you and your spouse. The Meaning Of Marriage makes a perfect engagement, bridal shower, or wedding gift.

Available through the BRIDGES Library System

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

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Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

Two teenagers meet…and that is where this story stops being like anything you’ve read before. Parker doesn’t speak, he has communicated only through writing since his father died, and Zelda is silver-haired and claims to be nearly 250-years-old. This fascinating story keeps “facts” securely in the gray area but the keen observations of life and clever characters ring sharp with truth.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC WALLACH)