Tag Archives: staff picks

February Staff Picks

STAFF Picks (1)

Dragana’s Picks

The-Circle-2017-movie-posterMovie: The Circle

“When Mae is hired to work for the world’s largest and most powerful tech and social media company, she sees it as an opportunity. As she rises through the ranks, she is encouraged by the company’s founder, Eamon Bailey, to engage in a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and ultimately her personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes begin to affect the lives and future of her friends, family and that of humanity.”

Audiobook: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbertsignature

“Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker, a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself.”

Jamie’s Picks

silver linings playbookMovie: Silver Linings Playbook

An offbeat romantic comedy about two individuals struggling with loss and mental health issues. Even with the somewhat heavy subject, this movie is very funny! Filmed in locations around Upper Darby and Landsdowne and includes much Eagles pride!

CD: Chris Thile – Thanks for Listeningthanks for listening

A compilation of topical songs that Thile wrote for the “Song of the Week” segment of A Prairie Home Companion. Timely lyrics paired with Thile’s complex bluegrass/pop compositions. I recommend a few listens to let it sink in!

Jessie’s Picks

mr and mrs smithMovie: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

One of the best Action/Romance movies! Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie star in this movie as rival hitmen that married without knowing the other’s true occupation. Chaos and romance occur when they find out the truth about each other.

CD: The Cranberries – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?Everybody_else_is_doing_it_so_why_can't_we_(album_cover)

This is the debut album of The Cranberries and has the hits “Linger” and “Dreams.” The whole album is full of great songs. The celtic influences and the late, great Dolores O’Riordan’s voice make this album a must-listen. My other favorite Cranberries album is “No Need to Argue,” which includes “Zombie” and “Daffodil Lament.”

Kim’s Picks

one-eyed-jacks.64315Movie: One-Eyed Jacks

In 1880 Rio (Marlon Brando) and Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) rob a Mexican bank but are cornered on a mesa by the Rurales.  Dad takes their only horse, promising to return, but he doesn’t and Rio spends years in a hellish prison.  Vowing vengeance, he escapes and finds Dad a respectable family man and sheriff of Monterey, California.  Revenge remains on Rio’s mind, and like virtually every character in the film he dishes out and becomes a victim of lies.  Marlon Brando took over from Stanley Kubrick and others to direct this 1961 minimally-flawed western masterpiece restored for the Criterion Collection.

Audiobook: Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waterscoming to my senses

Founder (1971) of the now iconic Chez Panisse, Waters traces her life from her youth in New Jersey to her Eureka! moment discovering French cuisine on the ground in France and dreaming of duplicating the experience back home in Berkeley, California, hotbed of the Free Speech Movement and liberal causes brought to a head by the Vietnam war.  Waters succeeded.  Her locally grown, organic products and preparation attracted a broad clientele, including such film directors as Coppola, Rossellini and Godard.  Like Julia Child’s books, Coming to My Senses creates a desire to eat and drink the French, or here, the California way.

Mary’s Picks

poldarkTV Series: Poldark

BBC drama at its best. Fall in love with great characters and breathtaking scenery of Cornwall, England.only time

CD: Enya – Only Time: The Collection

Mesmerizing music from Irish vocalist, Enya. Her first album, which includes “May It Be” from The Lord of the Rings movie.

Stephanie’s Picks

cool runnings.jpgMovie: Cool Runnings

“The comedy hit inspired by the true story of Jamaica’s first Olympic bobsled team.”

CD: Dum Dum Girls – Only in DreamsPrint

The Dum Dum Girls’ second album featuring a more polished sound than their first. Contains themes of heartbreak and loss. Tim Sendra of AllMusic writes, “Dee Dee had to change, the change was good, and it led to a fine, grown-up guitar pop record.”

Quoted summaries from catalog.ccls.org.

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January Staff Picks

STAFF Picks (1)

Dragana’s Picks
wind at my back

TV Series: Wind At My Back

If you liked the Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea, you will love this Canadian TV series about the life in the small mining town during the time of depression in 1930s.

Great Courses Audio: Books That Have Made History: Booksbooks that have made history That Can Change Your Life

This 3-part series of lectures by the University of Oklahoma professor Rufus Fears presents the personal choices of some of the most essential writings in history, ranging in time from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the 20th century, and in locale from Mesopotamia and China to Europe and America.

Jamie’s Picks

you've got mailMovie: You’ve Got Mail

My all-time favorite romantic comedy (maybe my all-time favorite movie). In true Nora Ephron form, the characters are quirky and the dialogue is perfect. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are a duo for the ages.Damien_Rice_O_album_cover

CD: Damien Rice – O 

Contains the popular song “The Blower’s Daughter,” and while that song is pretty good, I end up playing “Delicate” over and over again. Singer/songwriter coffeehouse vibes.

Jessie’s Picks

father brownTV Series: Father Brown

“Celebrated author GK Chesterton’s beloved character, Father Brown, is brilliantly brought to life in this charming ten-part BBC series starring Mark Williams (Harry Potter, Doctor Who). With the warmth of The Vicar of Dibley, the intellect of Miss Marple, the humour of Father Ted and the intrigue of Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown is a fresh new take on a classic genre. Set in the 1950s in the heart of the English countryside, Father Brown is a kindly cleric with a particular talent for solving crimes. Many years spent hearing confessions have given him an uncanny insight into the workings of the criminal mind, and in each episode the enigmatic priest discovers the truth of a crime by looking into the truth of the soul, the passions, dark secrets, hidden desires.”

Videogame: Little Big Planet 3 220px-LittleBigPlanet_3_boxart

“Sackboy, the knitted knight has been equipped with an all-new climbing ability and brand-new power-ups including the amazing Pumpinator. In LittleBigPlanet 3, explore a world filled with creativity as you explore all corners of the Imagisphere, meet the inhabitants of the mysterious planet Bunkum and face the nefarious Newton. Discover a variety of surprises that the LittleBigPlanet Community have created and shared for you to enjoy, with new levels and games to play every day. Then if you’re feeling inspired, flex your creative muscles with the powerful and intuitive customization tools, to bring your own imagination to life in LittleBigPlanet 3.”

Kim’s Picks

the alpsAudiobook: The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond by Stephen O’Shea

O’Shea drives the famous European mountain range in a Renault Megane Sport that elicits oohs and aahs until the admirers find out it’s a rental.  Regardless, O’Shea powers on, meeting up with a friend and “The Last Hippie,” all the while regaling us with the history of the Alps, its multi-lingual inhabitants, and its current state of play often compromised by environmental and technological degradation.  O’Shea’s saga is an often poetic paean to this unique parcel of the world.
brave enough

CD: Lindsey Stirling – Brave Enough 

The dancing violinist who was dismissed by two America’s Got Talent judges but went on to win a Billboard Music Award and came in second on Dancing with the Stars provides 14 of her own eclectic compositions.  They encompass various genres, including pop, rock, New Age, Celtic, and perhaps Mideastern.  Arabian Nights, anyone?  On 8 of the 14 tracks singers such as Christina Perri and ZZ Ward back Stirling up.  “Something Wild,” in which she collaborated with vocalist Andrew McMahon, was composed for Disney’s Pete’s Dragon (2016).

Zoey’s Picks

Big-Sick-Poster Movie: The Big Sick 

I’m not typically a fan of rom coms but the plot of The Big Sick intrigued me enough to give it a shot. And I was not disappointed. It was driven more by comedy than by romance. Kumail Nanjiani’s writing is full of wit and sincerity. It’s a good movie to curl up and watch during a snow day.
we are okay

Audiobook: We Are Okay  by Nina LaCour 

We Are Okay is entirely character driven, but that does not mean it is lacking in plot. LaCour easily plays on the notion of isolation and loneliness while cleverly retelling Marin’s, the main character, nightmarish last year. One of the best LGBT books published in 2017.



Quoted summaries from catalog.ccls.org.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for November

Big Little Liesbig little lies

I love the fact that this is a miniseries and I am kind of hoping that they do not make a second season, as is rumored (though I’m sure I would watch anyway). Since it’s based on a book and the “first” season completely covers the material, there’s a concrete beginning, middle and end. No need to mess with something so perfect as this! The plot is enticing, and you will find yourself theorizing on the various mysteries going on amongst the children and parents of Otter Bay Elementary. The acting is fantastic; Nicole Kidman got a lot of attention for the series, but I found Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline to be the most compelling. The Monterey scenery with its beautiful bay views from these women’s luxury homes will make you want to get up and move there immediately (if only we could all afford it). The best part about this series, however, is the soundtrack and the innovative way the music is integrated into the action of the show. This was definitely one of my favorite TV shows of 2017.

The Ocean at the End of the Laneocean at the end of the lane.jpg
by Neil Gaiman

A fantastical and somewhat terrifying allegory for childhood. A small boy finds magic, wonder, and terror all contained within the country lane on which he lives. The story reminded me so much of how big a world the street that I lived on seemed as a child and the endless possibilities for adventure and discovery that my neighbors and I found there. I found myself believing that the narrator was truthful about what had happened to him, but at the same time… maybe it was just an elaborately imagined tale to cope with different things going on in his life, something that he convinced himself was real? Each scenario is somehow plausible, and the dual possibilities make the text even more interesting. I don’t think this story is extremely scary, but don’t be fooled by the fact that the protagonist is seven years old. This does not preclude him from danger, even from those who are supposed to protect him. A great tale for dark and cold winter!

Also available as an ebook and eaudiobook on OverDrive and Libby.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for October

The Guestthe guest

Summary: A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.

One of my favorite movies for Halloween! This movie isn’t really scary (which is probably one of the reasons why I like it), but it plays on horror movie tropes in the best way. Dan Stevens is decidedly not the Dan Stevens you know from Downton Abbey in this movie, and I think I love him more this way. His character has a Midwestern drawl, never seems to blink, is unfailingly charming in a creepy way, and is a Bond-worthy action villain. I also love Maika Monroe in this movie, and the way that it employs the “kids solve the mystery” trope from sci-fi and adventure movies, even if this movie is really not for kids and Monroe’s character isn’t really a kid (but she’s not the parent! And that’s all that matters). The way the soundtrack is woven into the film is fantastic, but if you don’t think you’d like lots of pulsing ’80s-esque electronica, then you may not enjoy it. I highly recommend this as background viewing while you answer the door for trick-or-treaters.

Graveyard Whistlinggraveyard whistling
Old 97’s

This newer release from the Old 97’s has their signature rockabilly sound but the lyrics are generally much darker than their usual fare. Still a highly enjoyable, solid record from this group that has been at it for so long! Rhett Miller is one of the best frontmen in the business.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for September

The Graveyard Bookthe graveyard book
by Neil Gaiman
Read by Neil Gaiman

Summary: Nobody Owens is a normal boy, except that he has been raised by ghosts and other denizens of the graveyard.

I think any Harry Potter fan would really enjoy this book. Orphaned boy? Check. Mysterious prophecy? Check. Magical underworld? Check. Someone out to kill said orphaned boy? Check. My only criticism is that I think Gaiman could go into more depth with world-building in this book, and I’m hoping he’ll eventually write a sequel (or sequels?) so that he can. I enjoyed Gaiman’s narration and the voices he did for the different characters; whenever I think of the name “Nobody Owens,” I now think of it in Gaiman’s British accent. There’s also something great about listening to characters express their lines in a book in the way that the author imagined it. Definitely worth checking out no matter what age you are!

Also available as an ebook and audiobook using the Libby and OverDrive apps here.


Summary: Husband and wife writing team Sean and Beverly can’t wait to bring their successful British television series across the pond to make it big in America. But in true Hollywood fashion, it quickly becomes a laughable, cliched sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc who not only messes with their beloved show, but rocks the foundation of their relationship. So now, even if they survive the absurdity of show business, will their marriage survive Matt LeBlanc?

Matt LeBlanc must feel pretty vindicated that this show has gotten great critical reception after his disastrous Joey spinoff. He plays a fictionalized version of himself in a timeline where he just kept going from bad project to bad project after Joey, rather than taking a break and being more selective as he did in real life. He is driven by the desire to be taken seriously, but often finds himself accepting projects for the money. This version of LeBlanc is a less lovable Joey Tribbiani, and this show in general is far more cynical than Friends ever was. It really demonstrates that LeBlanc has great comedic range, however. Joey tended toward more bombastic and expressive outbursts, while the fictional LeBlanc is far more subdued but still funny. It also helps that the show is well-written and the other cast members are great– I was a fan of Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig from the excellent show Green Wing, and have also really enjoyed Kathleen Rose Perkins’ character Carol. Also, like all good shows, this one knows when to exit: the last season is airing now.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for August


Summary: ” Former Senator Selina Meyer was a charismatic leader and a rising star in her party with her eye on the White House, then she became Vice President. VEEP follows the whirlwind day-to day existence of Vice President Meyer as she puts out political fires, juggles a busy public schedule and demanding private life, and defends the President’s interests, even as she tries to improve her dysfunctional relationship with the Chief Executive.”

A wonderfully irreverent, cringingly funny show about a power-hungry, self-absorbed politician and her bumbling staff. I was almost going to call Selina and her staff “inept,” but that doesn’t really describe it. In some ways they are surprisingly skilled, but I think they are all generally so busy trying to look good and one-up others, and get so caught up in the heart-racing insanity of running the country, that they make many, many, missteps. By the same token, though, they often find themselves bumbling their way to a win. Watching VEEP is sort of like tossing a coin to predict how these horrible people are going to come out of whatever predicament they are in. However, I think what really keeps me watching, other than the amazing performances and right-on comedic timing of this ensemble cast, is the colorful and creative insults that they throw at one another. This Office of the Vice President would be a terrible place to work if you were in it, but it’s oh-so-entertaining to watch.

If you like VEEP and are looking for something similar, we also have Armando Iannucci’s British political TV show, The Thick of It, and similarly-structured movie (which is great), In the Loop.

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell has been quite open about his struggles with alcoholism, and this album seems to address those struggles, but not in an obviously autobiographical way. Each song tells the story of a different character, addressing different aspects of life that I think Isbell can relate to as he fights his daily battle to stay sober. If you enjoy the more alternative rock side of country music, then I highly recommend checking this album out.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for June and July

Apologies for the lateness of this post–with summer arriving, the library has been very busy! Better late than never…

The Descendantsdescendants_xlg

“Matt King is an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries.”

I often refer to this movie as the male version of Steel Magnolias. It’s an emotional and touching drama dealing with family and death, but for the most part it’s funny and real. The first time that I watched this movie, I had never seen Shailene Woodley in anything before and I was extremely impressed by her performance. George Clooney, as always, is great.

Love & Hate005557654_500
Michael Kiwanuka

I checked out this album because I wanted to hear more after Michael Kiwanuka’s song “Cold Little Heart” was used as the opening credit song for Big Little Lies (which also has Shailene Woodley!). After listening, “Cold Little Heart” is definitely still a standout track amongst the highly-orchestrated retro-soul songs, but “Black Man in a White World” is a close second for its timeliness and loneliness even with its punchy hand claps. It might take a few listens to sink into this one, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

La La Land1

“A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. This original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing dreams.”

I saw this movie in theaters and I LOVED it. I’ve heard some people criticize it for being another movie where Hollywood is patting itself on the back, but I’m a sucker for the LA landscape (especially that view from the Griffith Observatory featured in the iconic scene on the poster), and I apparently can’t turn down a good “actor/musician tries to make it” story. I loved the songs and had them stuck in my head for days afterward. I also wept uncontrollably at the ending (but that also could be because I was nine months pregnant at the time…). It was heartbreaking and beautiful. I can’t wait to watch this movie again.


I think a lot of people expect all Feist albums to have the cutesiness of “1234.” Not that I don’t love “1234,” but this album definitely has a more dramatic, lonely vibe and I really enjoyed it. I also found it to be great for summer night listening. The tracks fade in and out with sounds of crickets and passing car radios which really set the scene. My favorite tracks are “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You” and “A Man is Not His Song.”


All summaries from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for May

Summer Heights HighSummer_Heights_High_DVD

“In this mockumentary series set in a real Australian high school, comedian Chris Lilley brings to life three hilarious characters: Jonah, a 13-year-old delinquent breakdancer from Tonga; Mr. G, an ego-driven drama teacher with delusional showbiz dreams; and Ja’mie, a spoiled private school girl on a student exchange.”

Probably the most well-known of Chris Lilley’s several forays into mockumentary, this series really established one of his signature characters, Ja’mie. Lilley effectively skewers several fixtures of school life that I think any student can relate to, Australian or no: the overly self-important teacher; the snobby and superficial bully; the disruptive class clown. If you enjoy shows like The Office or Seinfeld where the characters aren’t exactly the most lovable people, but their awkward antics are hilarious, you will enjoy this show (though you will probably develop a soft spot for Jonah, Lilley’s troubled 13-year-old boy from Tonga).


Youth Novelsyouth novels
Lykke Li

This album is great for both dance hits as well as more soulful, introspective tracks. Li’s voice oscillates from light and fanciful to low and mournful. I like that most of the tracks are simply-arranged– there’s definitely something to be said for going for the understated sound rather than something overly-produced. My favorite tracks are “Little Bit,” “I’m Good, I’m Gone,” and “Breaking It Up.”


All summaries from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for April

Hell or High Waterhell_or_high_water

“A divorced West Texas dad and his ex-con brother resort to a desperate money making scheme in order to save their family’s farm from foreclosure.”

This modern-day western features excellent performances by Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges, and adapts the genre to themes that are common discussion points in this day and age: the generational conveyance of poverty, the shady dealings of financial institutions, the dying off of small towns that used to be brimming with farming and industry. Every single character in this movie is fully-conceived, whether it’s the bank-robbing brothers, the Texas Rangers tracking them, or the waitresses, bank tellers, or bank customers who only appear for one memorable scene. You won’t regret taking an hour and a half to sit down and watch this movie! One of the best to come out in 2016.

Volume One She_&_Him_-_Volume_One.jpg
She & Him

This album was Zooey Deschanel’s debut as a singer/songwriter in partnership with M. Ward, and it’s completely lovely. It’s full of romantic pop songs with a vintage feel, and her voice has a wonderful soulful crackleyness. As the weather warms up, this album would be great listening for gardening outside or having a backyard picnic.

All summaries from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for March


“‘Roseanne’ is the story of a working class family struggling with life’s essential problems: marriage, children, money, and parents-in-law.”

I’ve been on maternity leave for the last few months and during the long days that I spent trapped under a sleeping infant, I discovered that Roseanne reruns were on for half the day every weekday. I hadn’t watched the show in years, but I still found it to be so funny and relevant. I particularly love the relationship between Roseanne and Dan and the way that they find humor in every day challenges, and are able to make even the most mundane life details entertaining. I think a lot of families can relate to their brand of sarcastic, sardonic humor. The writing on the show is punchy and the jokes are fresh– is it any surprise that Amy Sherman-Palladino, of Gilmore Girls fame, got her start writing on Roseanne? I highly recommend putting this show on as a backdrop to your spring cleaning, or whatever other chores you’ve been putting off– it will make it a lot more fun.


Hunt for the WilderpeopleHunt_for_the_Wilderpeople

“Raised on hip-hop and foster care, defiant city kid Ricky gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options.”

This was one of my favorite movies of 2016. Made by the director of another favorite movie of mine, What We Do in the Shadows, this movie features Taika Waititi’s oddball humor in an endearing buddy adventure.Sam Neill basically plays the same character that he plays in Jurassic Park— the grumpy adult who isn’t that into kids, but finds himself stuck with one anyway, and grows to enjoy his company– a role at which he excels. I also really liked Julian Dennison, who plays Ricky, a down-and-out kid with an attitude who starts to turn himself around when shown a little kindness and respect. A super funny and heartwarming tale!

All summaries taken from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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