Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Now, none of these chefs or cooks claim to be promoting healthy lifestyles. I know when I pick up a Barefoot Contessa cookbook that I'm not going to be getting low-cal recipes. And Gordon Ramsay is a professionally trained chef. What do you expect? They don't use skim milk and margarine in their recipes. But, is it just me or does it seem like quite a few cookbooks and cooking magazines are including ingredients that for the last 10+ years were viewed as no-no's? It seems like Cooking Light magazine has been putting more sugar and butter/cream cheese/cream, etc. back into their recipes (albeit still in moderation). Even Jamie Oliver, who is big on healthy, uses ingredients like blue cheese and bacon and has a recipe for fried pork skin in his new cookbook Jamie's America. (He does encourages readers to pair his recipes with a salad and to use rich ingredients only occasionally and in moderation.)
The Physician's Committee doesn't mention what cookbooks they did like, but I think Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook has wonderful, simple, healthy recipes that emphasize a variety of fresh fruits and veggies and minimal meat. I wonder how the Physicians Committee felt about Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient by Jennifer McLagen....
Monday, December 20, 2010
Here is an interesting tidbit: Remember Pop Rocks? Pop Rocks contains sugar, corn syrup, flavor and coloring, and carbon dioxide gas compressed at 600 pounds per square inch! Yikes.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
by Amanda Hesser
-Hesser, a food columnist for the New York Times, has updated and compiled more than 1,000 of the best recipes from the past 150 years. It's a hefty one, but the title says it all: it's essential.
The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion by Bill Yosses
-Yosses is the executive pastry chef for the White House. This is a mouth-watering collection of sweets with gorgeous full-color photos. I'll be honest: I've never tried any of the recipes. I just like reading them and looking at the photos. Food porn for dessert lovers.
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
by Anthony Bourdain
-Anthony Bourdain. Enough said.
Fannie's Last Supper : Re-Creating One Amazing Meal From Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook
by Christopher Kimball
-Fannie Farmer was the author of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which was first published in 1896. Christopher Kimball is the founder of Cook's Illustrated magazine. When he attempts to re-create a meal using recipes from Farmer's cookbook, he goes through quite an ordeal to get it just right.
97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in one New York Tenement
by Jane Ziegelman
-This book traces the social history and culinary revolution of immigrant life through the histories of five families who all lived at 97 Orchard Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, between 1863 and 1935. Fascinating reading for history and foodie buffs.
The Dog Who Ate the Truffle : A Memoir of Stories and Recipes from Umbria
by Suzanne Carreiro
Carreiro's reflections on life in Umbria aren't as poetic as Frances Mayes's Tuscany books, but this is still a wonderful memoir about life in Italy. Carreiro meets wonderful "characters," learns to cook traditional Umbrian food, and yes, goes truffle hunting with a dog who eats the truffles. Also, I would buy this book just for the recipes. Simple, delicious, traditional Umbrian recipes.
Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado (this was retitled as My Life From Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a Time when it was released in trade paperback.)
-Bullock-Prado is the sister of Sandra Bullock. Fed up with Hollywood, she leaves her career as the head of her sister's production company to move to Vermont and open her own bakery. A humorous and touching story filled with recipes from her bakery.
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter
-A resident of Oakland, California, Novella decides to become an urban farmer, squat gardening in an abandoned lot and keeping chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, bees and even pigs in her back yard. Interesting, humorous, and a wonderful read.
Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do
by Gabriel Thompson
-Gabriel set out to investigate jobs that are traditionally done by immigrants, which happen to be food related. Gabriel's experiences harvesting lettuce, working in a chicken processing plant, and delivering food illustrate how the food industry treats its workers. A great read for those interested in food politics.
The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook's Illustrated
-Ok, so it's from 2004, but I just got this one and it's become my new go-to cookbook. It has all the basics, and the numerous recipe testings and lengthy explanations we expect from Cook's Illustrated. I've made a very successful pumpkin cheesecake and the best creamy tomato soup I have ever eaten.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
On another note, the Runner's World article also mentions Laura Hillenbrand's struggle with severe vertigo and chronic fatigue. Apparently it's incredibly disabling for her. She researched and wrote both of her books from home because she is not able to get out much. It took her seven years to write this latest story. Who knew?
Monday, December 6, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
And it's not all for serious, long-distance runners. There are plenty of articles about eating right, staying healthy, and tips for beginning runners. I think I've found another magazine to add to my monthly pile!
Monday, November 15, 2010
I didn't really learn any secrets that have improved my running. I did get some chia seeds(yes, like the chia pets), which the Tarahumara supposedly eat and credit with their endurance. They aren't bad, but I don't think they are doing much for my running. And I'm not trading in my running shoes for some flimsy sandals. But, the book did introduce me to a whole world of running I never knew existed. There are people (besides the Tarahumara) who actually run 50, 100, even 200 miles or more for fun! It's called ultra running or ultra marathons. Can you imagine? It's fascinating to read about the athletes that train for these runs, what the runs are like and what it can do to your body. So, I'm still struggling with my running and have no desire to ever undertake ultra running, but it is a fascinating and inspiring book. Definitely worth a read, even if you aren't a runner.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Out of hundreds of entries, the Deerfield Public Library was selected as one of the Top 10 finalists in the Playaway Picture This Contest! The object of this contest was to submit the most creative pictures of a display promoting Playaways, and Deerfield Public Library was voted a finalist! Online voting begins November 1st, and closes on December 17th, 2010. We need your support and votes to help us win the $10,000 prize for our library, so vote today at http://vote.playaway.com/deerfield
Our children's department is so creative. They come up with the best displays. I love the giant earbuds. I bet they would be the perfect size for Grawp.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
"And the more people asked him, Is this good? the bolder he became, going from a hesitant Mmmyeah to an openly disparaging, Not bad, then soon to a frank, Good? It is downright awful. Very quickly the idea of selling books that he himself would not advise people to read infuriated him. By July, when the store opened again for the summer, Ivan had resolved the contradiction. All that remained in his little shop were those books which enchanted him. Van would open the boxfuls of books sent automatically every week by the major publishers, and as soon as he had unpacked them and had a look through, nine times out of ten he put everything back in the box and returned it." [Can you imagine? I need a job at this place!]
But when members of The Good Novel's secret selection committee are suddenly terrorized by thugs, mystery and mayhem ensue. This is another wonderful, subtle French novel, filled with intriguing characters and sly humor.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Peanut Butter Tea Sandwiches:
1 Cup natural smooth peanut butter
2 Tablespoons ketchup
2 Tablespoons finely chopped sweet pickles
1 loaf white bread, buttered and thinly sliced
1 head iceberg lettuce
"Make a paste of the peanut butter, ketchup, and pickles. [Yep. That's right. A paste of peanut butter and ketchup. Ugh.] Spread on thin slices of bread. Top with a lettuce leaf and another buttered slice of bread. Cut off the crusts and slice the sandwich into three fingers."
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Fortunately, Rebecca Johns has told Erzsebet Bathory's story in her new novel, The Countess, set to be released this month. The novel begins as Erzsebet is being walled inside her castle tower. As she endures her imprisonment, Erzsebet recollects the events of her life: her childhood, her betrothal and marriage to Count Nadasdy, her husband's death and her fear for her and her children's survival. Oh, and her killing of a few maidservants.
The Countess is not a typical bloody, gruesome horror story, which is why I liked it so much. Johns has written an exceptional, well-researched historical novel, slowly building this ominous and creepy tone throughout the story. Her choice of telling the story from Erzsebet's point of view also adds to this feeling. Erzsebet's calm demeanor, downplaying of violence and rationalization of her crimes is chilling. But at times, I found myself empathizing with Erzsebet, unable to believe her capable of such crimes, which I think is a credit to Johns's talent. This is a captivating story that kept me eagerly turning the pages.
*So it turns out that Johns's book is not the only fictionalized account of Bathory. In 2008, Andrei Codrescu published The Blood Countess, which did get some good reviews. Johns also mentions in her acknowledgements that she relied on Tony Thorne's book Countess Dracula: Life and Times of Elisabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess. I'm fascinated by Bathory, so I'd like to read them as well.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
(or bookstore); it may even be tough to identify the real author. Libraries and stores, of course, are busy public places, constantly in flux. Where’s the book I want, we ask? The answer so often is that it was moved. Why? So many books, so many categories; or so many books, so little space. And many books, these days, are written by authors (or author teams) using pen names. Figuring it all out can be exhausting.
Take The Housekeeper and the Professor, a first novel by the young Japanese writer
Yoko Ogawa. The book was written by written by a first-time novelist using her own name. It should be simple to find in any bookstore or library, right? Well, the book is a lovely, spare novel that could be read by adults or teens. It also includes more than a small dose of mathematics, right there on the page. So—is it a young adult novel or an adult novel or math book? As those commercials for kitchen choppers and cleaning cloths might say, it’s all three! Really. It is. So the decision is the publisher’s initially. How to market it? Math book? Nope; it’s a novel. For teens or adults? Both, of course, like Harry Potter or Twilight. Well, then, who wants to read a novel with math in it?
Not me, or so I thought until Ogawa captured me with her spare, elegant prose and the reminder that math is really about the symmetry of everything, from a leaf to an archway. Near the end of the novel the professor asks a young boy he has grown to love to picture 1 +1 = 0 this way: one bird lands, and then another. Both fly away, and we are left with sky and a tree and a complicated, imaginary number. Now where to you put a book like that? I don’t know about you, but I’m keeping my copy in a backpack these days.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Since I've been so busy lately, I've been too distracted and tired to read much, so I've been turning more and more to one of my other favorite past-times: knitting. Knitting is something I can do without having to think much and the result is something beautiful, so I find it very relaxing and satisfying. Plus, I can listen to audiobooks at the same time, which makes it even better. I came across Adrienne Martini's memoir Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously and it had a picture of colorful balls of yarn on the cover. For you non-knitters: knitters are easily drawn in by colorful balls of yarn. Like moths to a flame. I was hooked.
But as I was reading, I realized something. I have a number of friends who knit and we knit together regularly. But we don't talk about knitting while we are doing it. We don't debate the merits of various techniques or the history of certain patterns. Why? Because it's boring. In her memoir, Martini chronicles her attempt to knit an intricate sweater using a technique called Fair Isle. To many knitters (and non-knitters) Fair Isle seems quite difficult and can be very intimidating. And the particular pattern she attempts seems impossible for any but the very advanced knitter. So I thought this might be an entertaining and funny story of dropped stitches, misshaped armholes, and fights with the hubby over how much money was being spent on yarn. Meh. She delves into various knitting techniques, the background of Fair Isle knitting and the background of the woman who created this particular sweater pattern. I'm a knitter and I was bored. There were a few parts where she talked about meeting other knitters that was semi-interesting, but that was about it. This is definitely not a book for someone who isn't really, really in to knitting. And even then.... I get that there is something satisfying in reading someone's memoir about something you also enjoy or have also experienced. Cooking? Yes. Running a marathon? Sure. But I don't think it works well with knitting.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I found the whole thing hard to believe, so I decided to check it out for myself when we stopped in another Twilight location: Forks. Sure enough, the town was teeming with vampire fanatics buying up Twilight gear and signing on for Twilight tours. A local real estate brochure encouraged would-be entrepreneurs to buy commercial real estate in the hot new “vampire” area. And (why not?) you can buy “vampire blood” (syrup?) along with your Tully’s coffee at the local café.
The whole thing had me thinking of people who select vacation fiction that features the area where they will be traveling. I’m not that organized, but I did find myself fondly remembering a charming old memoir by Betty MacDonald called Onions in the Stew that details the author’s life with her young daughters on Vashon Island. MacDonald, who died in the late 1950s, was better known for The Egg and I. But her obscure memoir stayed with me for years and sprang to mind as I rode the ferry from Seattle toward the Olympic peninsula.
The amazing trees in Washington’s national parks also reminded me of how much I want to read Timothy Egan’s new book, The Big Burn, about the 1910 forest fire that inspired Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation efforts (in Montana and Idaho, not Washington).
So before you pack that next vacation book, why not consider choosing something related to your destination. Wherever you go, there you are, with a great book in your hand.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
I am having a hard time coming up with titles. I have repeatedly used Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and The Joy of Cooking for reference, but I don't know if I would put them on the "best cookbooks ever" list. Let's hear from you: what would you put on your list?
Friday, August 13, 2010
My relationship would survive for weeks in the zombie apocalypse!
Take the How Long Would Your Relationship Survive in the Zombie Apocalypse? Quiz at JessePetersen.net
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I spent a little time browsing the site. For research purposes. I don't think there are many people using this site yet, because most of the searches I did resulted in the same 3 or 4 guys each time. None of which were of interest to me. But that got me thinking: is it a dealbreaker if your mate doesn't like the same literature as you? My husband is not a reader, but this has never been a problem for us. Whenever I talk to him about something I'm reading, he just nods his head and pretends like he is listening. And he tolerates my need to listen to audiobooks in the car, even if he'd rather be listening to some horrible death metal. I'm not sure if I would want a partner who is as into books as I am. At least he balances out my nerdiness and makes sure I am exposed to things like Jersey Shore and Ice Road Truckers.* What do you think? Is the same taste in literature important in a relationship? What if your mate is not into literature at all?
*In his defense, my husband does watch a lot of decent TV, like the History and Discovery channels.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Novella's farm gives me hope. Perhaps I can have a chicken or some bees after all. My village's code is a little vague. I just read that Novella is working on a how-to book for urban farming, due out in the Spring of 2012. Yay! Maybe by then I'll have convinced my husband this is a good idea.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Stockett claims writing the novel helped her deal with homesickness in the wake of 9/11, and, although she did more conventional research as well, she also revealed that Grandaddy Stockett (98!) supplied many of the family stories that allowed Kathryn to understand an era before her time. It seems to me that all great writing is an ability to inhabit the lives of diverse characters different from ourselves. It would, after all, be difficult to populate a fictional world with only a narrow range of characters similar to the author.
Besides, Stockett worked hard to publish the novel. Although she became so discouraged at one point that she stopped tracking her correspondence to agents, she estimates that 60 of them rejected the novel before it finally found a home. So, I’ll stop envying Stockett her success and hope that Grandaddy Stockett is telling her some good stories about the Great Depression, which is the topic of her second novel in progress.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Normally, I don't care for these kinds of stories. Stories with serial killers, rapists, psychos, etc. keep me awake at night, so I usually steer clear. But Stevens's novel got some good reviews and sounded intriguing, so I gave it a try. I was up pretty late last night. Not because I was scared (although it is disturbing), but because it is such a page-turner I couldn't put it down. The story is a little graphic and creepy for my taste, but I was hooked immediately, and a little twist in the middle kept me guessing right up to the end.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
I was intrigued by her book The Butcher and the Vegetarian because lately there have been so many foodie books advocating either vegetarianism or eating less meat, but Tara went the other way: from vegetarian to carnivore. Tara was raised as a vegetarian, but had some health issues and was advised by several doctors to start eating meat. Although the meat doesn't improve her health, she embraces the challenge. Her experiences buying meat for the first time at the butcher shop, learning how to cook it properly, and trying to overcome her squeamishness eating animals are entertaining. I appreciated her ability to see both sides of the vegetarian/meat-eating argument, unlike Jonathan Safran Foer, who is ardently opposed to eating meat and makes sure you know it in his latest book Eating Animals. The only downside was that she didn't include any recipes. Probably because her first attempts at cooking meat didn't result in any fabulous dishes, but I would have loved to see some recipes for the vegetarian dishes she mentions.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Jennifer 8. Lee talked to GalleyCat about Kindles. While she likes the Kindle, she points out some obvious flaws: you can't get them signed at book signings and you can't read them in the bathtub. She also points out that you can't see what others are reading on the subway and therefore they are less social. And I would add, they also don't have that book smell. The musty smell of an old book or the crisp, sharp smell of a new book is one of life's greatest pleasures. Although, now that the Kindle has come down even further in price, I must admit that I'm tempted.
The long list for the 2010 Man Booker Prize was announced Tuesday. Andrea Levy, David Mitchell and Peter Carey make the list.
Daniel Craig will star in the English adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Anne Rice can't seem to make up her mind. The author of the popular vampire novels, who was an atheist for many years before being "Called Out of Darkness," has apparently returned to the Darkness, declaring that she quits Christianity. Oh well. At least she got a best-seller out of it.And last, but not least, I give you: the Jane Austen Fight Club.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Ten years later, she is living a happy life in New York with her fiancée when the police knock on the door. Soon Kerman is trading in her comfortable apartment for a cell and the bizarre culture of prison life, where inmates earn as little of 14 cents an hour and toiletries like toothpaste are a treasure to newcomers. At times, prison is as awful as she feared, complete with strip searches and creepy guards. Yet gradually Kerman adjusts, finding small unexpected joys (illegal pedicures and cheesecake? Who knew?) Her eventual affection for her fellow prisoners is touching as is her epiphany that her offense, though nonviolent, was part of a larger industry that destroyed the lives of many of the women she comes to know and care about during her stay. If you’re looking for an offbeat, nicely written memoir, try Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Anyway, I recently picked up The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway. For some reason, I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. In fact, I had only planned to skim it, but I found myself drawn into her story and pleasantly surprised at how much I was enjoying it. I even found myself comparing it (favorably) to Julie and Julia. Although not as humorous as Julie and Julia, it has some similar qualities. Cathy is a New Yorker, and although she is not a professional cook, she enjoys cooking. But like most New Yorkers, she eats out for most of her meals. When she realized how much she was spending on eating out, she decided to swear off restaurants and cook for herself. And like anybody who takes up a project these days, she started blogging about it. She experiments with new recipes and cooks meals for her friends and family. She is also introduced to new lifestyles, such as urban foraging, underground supper clubs, and Freeganism, which I first learned about in Tristram Stuart's book Waste. These were fascinating chapters, and although I have been told to "step away" from the idea of trying out Freeganism, I am interested in reading more about (and possibly trying) all of these. Interspersed with her cooking adventures are stories of her friends, family, dates, and moving in with (and later, out) her boyfriend. It's a fun, light-hearted, interesting read and should please fans of Julie and Julia.
P.S. Is it just me, or does it seem like New Yorkers stay up really late? This seemed to be a theme in both Julie and Julia and Erway's book. It seems like they don't get home until late and then they are eating at 10 o'clock at night. It seems common for friends to call or come by after 10pm. Is this a New York thing? Or a young people thing? I'm not that old, but I'm in my PJs well before 10pm and unless ice cream is involved, I rarely go out after 8pm.
*Are you intrigued? Stay tuned.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Although no one beats Bourdain in my book, Shelf Renewal has some suggestions for other good books by cooks. Marco Pierre White? Love him too.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Thursday, July 8th - 7:00pm at The Book Stall in Winnetka
Mary Karr, whose first memoir The Liars' Club kick-started a memoir revolution, talks about her third memoir, Lit, the story of her recovery from alcoholism and mental illness.
Thursday, July 8th - 7:00pm at the Borders in Lincoln Park
Jonathan Tropper talks about his successful novel, This is Where I Leave You.
Friday, July 9th - 6:00pm at The Book Stall in Winnetka
Scott Sigler signs his novel Ancestor, a horror thriller tale of genetic experimentation gone awry.
Saturday, July 10th - 2:00pm at the Warren Newport Public Library
Nancy Woodruff discusses and signs her novel, My Wife's Affair, about a failing writer who witnesses the blossoming of his wife's acting career and her increasing obsession with her portrayal of a famous eighteenth-century actress.
Tuesday, July 13th - 7:00pmat The Book Stall in Winnetka
Lily King speaks about her new novel Father of the Rain, a sharply insightful family drama in an upper-middle-class suburb, where she traces a complex and explosive father-daughter relationship from the 1970s to the present day.
Wednesday, July 14th - 7:00pm at The Book Stall in Winnetka
Laurence Gonzales, author of the bestseller Deep Survival, talks about his novel Lucy, the story of a girl rescued by an American primatologist from the war-torn Congo when the girl's father, a scientist, is brutally murdered. The child, it turns out, is the result of an experiment-part human, part ape.
Friday, July 16th - 7:00pm at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Oakbrook
Best-selling author Brad Thor discusses and signs his latest novel, Foreign Influence.
Tuesday, July 20th - 7:00pm at the Warren Newport Public Library
Carrie Bebris, author of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series, will discuss and sign her latest novel,The Intrigue at Highbury.
Saturday, August 7th - 2:00pm at the Warren Newport Public Library
Jamie Frevelleti discusses and signs her new novel, Running Dark, about a chemist who investigates a Somali pirate ship that may be carrying a new weapon of unknown origin.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Hoarding is receiving increased attention these days thanks to reality TV. Doctorow also tackled the topic last year in his novel Homer and Langely, about the famous Collyer brothers of New York, two eccentrics who walled out the world, living and dying in a decaying mansion packed to the rafters with stuff. This nonfiction take explores the causes of compulsive hoarding and potential treatments—from self-help groups to expensive forced cleanouts ordered by city governments worried about citizens’ safety.
Most hoarders, it turns out, are highly intelligent and creative; many are self-aware despite their inability to conquer their obsession with things. For them, every cast off object represents a lost opportunity or a failure to imagine how the strangest, smallest objects might find a new use or a new owner. Clearing away the mess requires an ability to focus, decide, and let go that are beyond the reach of hoarders. From children who weep when dirt falls off their shoe (because it belongs to them) to man who rents secret storage space to hide his hoarding from his wife, the book is packed (I couldn’t stop myself) with fascinating portraits.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Seymour Herson is the most unpopular boy in his class at his private school in Manhattan. When Elliot Allagash transfers to his school, Seymour finds an unlikely friend. Elliot comes from an extremely wealthy family. When he tells Seymour "I could buy you all the popularity in this school...With a little research and some well-placed investments, I could make you a king..." Seymour jumps at the offer. What follows is a series of twisted schemes masterminded by Elliot and aided by his chauffeur. But Seymour's desperate wish to belong keeps him entangled in Elliot's dysfunctional life, and begins to send him down the same path. Publisher's Weekly criticizes Rich for his lack of character development, but I disagree. I thought Seymour was very well-developed. I found him to be sweet and funny, and he touched me in a way that few characters have. All of Rich's books are fairly short and are easy to get through quickly, so you can read it in an afternoon or two.
BTW: What's up with these Harvard grads? Nick McDonell is also a recent Harvard grad and the same age as Rich, and he has three novels under his belt already. I was pretty impressed with his latest, An Expensive Education.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Even before the boyfriend makes their home unlivable for Rat and her brother, Rat (Ratkin to her mother) longs to meet her absent father and mysterious grandmother, a former model and film star. Eventually, Rat and Morgan hit the road, heading for London and a reunion with Rat’s father. Rat is a sensitive kid and a sweet, protective older sister. She forgives her mother’s mistakes and draws her somewhat aloof, artist father into a relationship.
With easy, realistic dialogue and an engaging plot, Eberstandt lures you into Rat’s world. A charming read for both adults and older teens.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
In related news, Apple will allow Ulysses Seen, a graphic novel adaptation of Ulysses to be published as an iPad app. Apple previously asked the creators to crop out scenes with nudity, but after protest, decided it will allow it to be published as is.
For those interested in reading Ulysses but are a little intimidated, the Evanston Public Library is starting a year-long book discussion series, Mission Impossible: Ulysses. "Enjoy the support and encouragement of others on this journey to finish a seemingly impossible novel." The first meeting is, of course, tonight.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
On a positive note, Philip Pullman is an extraordinarily talented narrator. I would put him up there with my favorites, Jim Dale, Scott Brick, and Kate Reading. His voice is just magical. He could make a living just narrating audiobooks. Maybe I'll start listening to His Dark Materials again.
Friday, June 11, 2010
The premise sounds like your typical mystery or thriller. Francis is an aging author, whose wife and daughter were killed in an accident several years ago. His surviving daughter, Alice, has suddenly and inexplicably vanished without a trace. With no help from the police, Francis hires an old friend to investigate her disappearance. Now, in a typical American best-seller, this would become a fast-paced thrill ride, with Francis getting involved in the investigation, chasing after bad guys, etc. But thankfully, this is not like a typical American best-seller. The novel takes a much slower pace. Francis is consumed by his feelings of helplessness and worry. The strain takes a toll on his already failing second marriage, and he reflects on his marriage, his relationship with his daughter, and the accident that changed their lives. The conclusion to his daughter's disappearance is not a shocking event, but the outcome nevertheless changes everyone's lives forever. A compelling and contemplative story that examines the lives of very flawed individuals and explores the question of forgiveness. A best-seller in America? Doubtful.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The book raises interesting questions about medical ethics. Should we care if doctors routinely use discarded tissue for medical research? Should patient consent be required? Should the companies who convert these materials into medical products be the only ones to profit from their use, or do they owe something to the people who provided their raw materials?
Skloot is a gifted writer who profiles the characters in her tale as carefully as any novelist and makes complex scientific topics understandable and engaging reading. The book reminds us of the real, ordinary lives behind every scientific discovery and every historical event. And it illustrates once again how considerations of medical ethics lag behind technological and scientific advances.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
And as the novel proceeds, there’s plenty to consider. Did Marshall rescue Polly and the girls in the nick of time or was he the one who caused their peril? What connection does Marshall have to the fortune teller Polly meets? Why is Marshall’s brother always hovering nearby, and can Polly trust him when he warns her about Marshall?
13 ½ is a decidedly creepy little novel told from multiple points of view, including a disconcerting deadpan voice with an interest in famous serial killers. And then there are the axe murders; did I mention the axe murders?
Fast-paced and tightly written, Barr’s novel made the New York Times best of the year list last year. You won’t be able to put it down.
Now it’s time to read about something nicer. Anyone know of a good novel about kittens drinking warm milk?
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
It’s a nearly perfect novel, funded by the author’s generous friends whose Christmas gift one year allowed her to leave her job in airlines reservations and take time off to write.
Harper Lee, of course, never wrote anything else, but, really, why would you bother? She divides her time between New York and Alabama, still shops at the Piggly Wiggly and likes to drink coffee at Hardee’s. Her work is done. The characters live on. Boo Radley has become the namesake for everything from a rock band to a toy novelty shop in Spokane, and folks in Monroeville plan serve up “Tequila Mockingbirds” come July. I guess I should be horrified that people want to cash in on art this way, but I’m guessing that it doesn’t bother Lee that much. When you’ve written the nation’s favorite novel, you can afford to be generous.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
She's right about its appeal for Jane Austen fans. This is an entertaining mystery set in Regency England. When Mr. Richard Montague abruptly leaves his home and new fiancé and a murdered woman is found in the shrubbery, Miss Dido Kent*, the spinster aunt to the jilted fiancé, attempts to uncover the answers to these mysterious events. Dido is clever and plucky, making her a very likeable main character. Dean does a wonderful job with the language and social customs of the time, as well as creating an interesting mystery. A fun read.
*Was Dido a popular name back then? I've never seen it used in fiction before that I can recall. Wonder why the author chose this name?
Monday, May 17, 2010
"Harry Potter aficionados: remember when Buckbeak, Hagrid's pet Hippogriff, was put on trial by the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures? This crazy idea was not invented by Harry Potter's creator, J.K. Rowling. In fact, from medieval times all the way up to the 19th century, animals and even insects were often charged with crimes, arrested, imprisoned, tried, convicted, and sometimes executed."
I had to find out more. I marched over to Youth Services and found The Sorcerer's Companion, and it does contain a description of how animals were tried for crimes as early as the ninth century up to as late as the 19th century. Caterpillars, flies, locusts, worms, rats, pigs, cows, horses, etc., etc., etc. have been imprisoned and tried for crimes, sometimes tortured and even hanged. Surely, I thought, this has to be a joke someone is playing on unsuspecting kids. It's too absurd to be true. Sure enough, a little research on the Internets confirmed this. Animals have been tried for murder, theft, fraud (?), destruction of property; tortured for confessions, and even executed (unless they got a pardon). In 1386 a pig accused of murdering an infant was tried, convicted and hanged. Her six piglets were charged with being accessories to the crime but were acquitted "on account of their youth and their mother's bad example." Now, I abhor cruel treatment of any kind to animals, but this really just makes me laugh. People were really stupid.
I love my job. This is the kind of awesome stuff I learn every day.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Although the topic is well-worn and the prose is just average, Wright develops well-rounded characters, creates believable dialogue and keeps the plot moving, tossing in a few twists and turns along the way. Love in Mid Air is a quick, engaging read from an interesting new novelist.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
The Edgar Awards, presented by the Mystery Writers of America, were recently announced. John Hart's novel The Last Child won for best novel, and Stefanie Pintoff won best first novel for In the Shadow of Gotham.
The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) recently announced their awards. Stephanie Alexander won for best cookbook with her Kitchen Garden Companion. Jeri Quinzio's Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making won for best culinary history. Tristram Stuart's Waste won for literary food writing. You can see the entire list here.
Nancy Drew turns 80 today. Boogasm celebrates with some fun facts about this famous amateur sleuth.
The Huffington Post has a list of all the latest classic monster mashups. Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter slipped by me.
The Bookstall in Winnetka has some great author events coming in May, including Kathryn Stockett on May 3rd, Scott Turow on May 10th, and Yann Martel on May 19th. Check out their website for more information.
Jen Lancaster will be signing her new book, My Fair Lazy at the Oak Brook Borders on May 27th at 7pm. Maybe I can talk to her about that new novel she is working on.
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead by Saralee Rosenberg
There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell : A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble by Laurie Notaro
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Rhino With Glue-On Shoes by Lucy Spelman
Nim Chimpsky by Elizabeth Hess
Sometimes I do judge a book not only by its cover, but by its title too. Without these creative titles, I might never have picked these books up. What are some of your favorite titles? Or better yet, what would you title your book so it would grab attention?
Thursday, April 29, 2010
P.S. Here's a great little ditty you can use to remember what plastics are safe to use (check the number next to the recycling symbol): "4, 5, 1 and 2. All the rest are bad for you."
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
NYT bestselling author Jen Lancaster's APOCALYPSE HOUSE, which follows a couple from the city through the frustrating and hysterical process of buying and renovating their first home in the suburbs, to Danielle Perez at NAL, in multi-book deal, by Kate Garrick at DeFiore and Company.
Don't get me wrong, I love Jen Lancaster and am so thrilled to hear she'll be writing fiction. But once again, another author has beaten me to a book I could have written! Just like Gimme Shelter. I'm telling you, I need an agent. Or whatever one needs to get a book deal.
Sheff’s story is compelling: his charming and intelligent son turns into a virtual stranger, an unpredictable drug addict who lies, steals, and breaks into his own parents’ home. Unfortunately, the natural course of the disease is a seemingly endless cycle of recovery and relapse that can exhaust the patience of even the most loving family. Similarly, Sheff’s carefully crafted prose keeps looping back over the same territory one time too often as Sheff facilitates his son’s recovery then agonizes over the inevitable setbacks. Real life, unfortunately, doesn’t shape itself into a neat narrative arc, but the best memoirists find ways to make the patterns of their lives resonate more deeply each time the writer and reader revisit them. I think of Joan Didion’s brilliant memoir The Year of Magical Thinking with its haunting refrain “life changes in an instant.”
Near the end of the book, Sheff makes the difficult but painful choice to let go of trying to control his son. He enters therapy and begins to live his own life more fully, breaking the heartbreaking cycles of recovery and despair that are so excruciating to read.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
I guess I should have paid more attention to the title. The stories are quite engrossing and the characters are very well-developed, but they are all seriously imperfect. The characters are so flawed that it became a little depressing. But I stuck with it. I was engrossed with these characters' lives, and I hoped that in the end there would be some kind of redemption or happiness for someone. But when something very bad happens to the only likable character, a basset hound named Schopenhauer, that was it for me. I'm mean, really? Was that necessary? That totally ruined it for me. After that, I gave up on these pathetic characters. None of them seemed to experience any growth or to even want to be happy. Maybe that was the point. Imperfectionists, indeed.
I need an Alexander McCall Smith novel to redeem my faith in humanity.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
*Publishers and agents: call me. We'll talk.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Unfortunately, I did not have time to do more than skim this book, but I was particularly focused on (what else?) the food chapter. Shell outlines how advancements in technology and government subsidies have allowed us access to extremely cheap food. But the price of food in American supermarkets does not reflect the true cost, which is our health, the environment, and the social welfare of other countries. I could go on forever about this chapter, but since your eyes will start to glaze over, I will leave you with a few of the most outstanding facts I took away.
*In a world where there is absolutely no shortage of food, there are 925 million people who are starving.
*Outlet malls near the Alamo and the Liberty Bell draw more visitors than these historic landmarks. (OK, not related to food, but too good not to mention.)
*In 2009, consumption of fruits and vegetables decreased, while consumption of fast food increased.
*In 2008, the stock market lost a third of its value. On the Dow Jones, only two companies saw their share prices rise. Three guesses who it was....McDonald's and Wal-Mart.
*In terms of calories per dollar, $1 will get you 3000 calories of M&Ms. $1 will get you about 30 calories of spinach. What's the better deal?
*The USDA, who is in charge of inspecting imported meat and poultry, only inspects about 16% of imported food. The FDA, who is in charge of inspecting fruits, veggies, and other foods, inspects less than 1% of imported foods. In 2006-2007, the FDA rejected 1,901 food shipments from China, 1,787 from India, and 1,560 from Mexico because they were found to be tainted with toxins, illegal chemicals, antibiotics, or bacteria. If that's less than 1%, imagine what's getting past them.