Friday, July 11, 2014

Historical Mysteries

Want to try something new to read?  How about a historical mystery series?

I found a newer author not too long ago and I think anyone who likes historical mysteries will love these books.  The author is Alex Grecian.  Here is a look at the first book, The Yard from the author’s website:  

1890, London. Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror is finally over, but a new one is just beginning…Victorian London is a cesspool of crime and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives – known as “The Murder Squad” – to investigate countless murders every month.  Created after the Metropolitan police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt.  They have failed their citizens.  But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own…one of twelve…

When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley.  Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad…but why?

He has two more in the series Black Country and The Devil’s Workshop, which I think is the best of all three and that is saying something because they are all excellent reads!!

When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village—and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird’s nest—the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard’s new Murder Squad. Fresh off the grisly 1889 murders of The Yard, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith respond, but they have no idea what they’re about to get into. The villagers have intense, intertwined histories. Everybody bears a secret. Superstitions abound. And the village itself is slowly sinking into the mines beneath it.

Not even the arrival of forensics pioneer Dr. Bernard Kingsley seems to help. In fact, the more the three of them investigate, the more they realize they may never be allowed to leave.

London, 1890. Four vicious murderers have escaped from prison, part of a plan gone terribly wrong, and now it is up to Walter Day, Nevil Hammersmith, and the rest of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad to hunt down the convicts before the men can resume their bloody spree. But they might already be too late. The killers have retribution in mind, and one of them is heading straight toward a member of the Murder Squad, and his family.

And that isn’t even the worst of it. During the escape, the killers have stumbled upon the location of another notorious murderer, one thought gone for good but now prepared to join forces with them.

Jack the Ripper is loose in London once more.

Everything that Rises Must Converge

Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor (1965)
Find it in the catalog!
Depressing and beautifully crafted, the first I've read from O'Connor stands out as something like I've never read before. Being on a short story kick for the past couple of months, and trying to read every book from the best of the best, it made sense to throw her in the mix.

I started with Raymond Carver but it took quite some time to get my hands on most of his books. I can't read anthologies and prefer more the specific books in the order they were published (if at all possible). A benefit of which is that sometimes you get your hands on something very rare, a book that was published as a work of art not intended to be anthologized. This rang true of Carver's collection of poems, Winter Insomnia, which I got through interlibrary loan from the Northwestern University rare book archives, illustrations and all. But, that's besides the point...Everything that Rises Must Converge was not O'Connor's first work (so my process is broken) but it is something to write about.

O'Connor weaves religion into death into sanity into insanity into love into the overall crumbling of lives in such a way that makes you wonder whether you're reading a bible verse or a eulogy for a well-respected-narcissist. At times, she reads like a preacher and at others, an undertaker. Long story short, if any of these topics interest you, I highly suggest this book.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer reading recommendations

Adults in the summer reading program have filled out many Recommended Read entries, sharing books they've read and enjoyed over the summer. Each week, several entries are randomly pulled to win a $10 Target gift card. Here is a sampling of recommendations for you to check out!

Keith recommends The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry:

"An exciting trip through the history of Lincoln and the Mormon church. Just the right mix of fact, fiction, and action."
Shannon recommends Summer Sisters by Judy Blume:

"It is a fun, fast read. Takes you back to your first times: best friends, loves and losses. Reminds me of times of freedom, possibilities were endless -- nothing was off limits."
Jennifer recommends The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle:

"I love the series! The main characters are smart and savvy. I loved the reveal at the end that tied the mystery up in a neat package. I look forward to the next one."
Debbie recommends I've Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark:

"Good whodunnit. Lots of possible suspects. Keeps you guessing. Fun summer read."

Judy recommends The Skin Collector by Jeffrey Deaver:

"Just when you think you know the outcome, Jeffrey Deaver twists the plot."
Louise recommends The Circle by Dave Eggers:

"Do you wonder what will happen to the world when 'everyone' has instant communication with everyone else? Eye opener!"
Sue recommends Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford:

"Interesting scenario of the Asian community in Seattle during the 1920s and 30s. The story was compelling and touching and addressed decisions made and regretted. Your heart goes out to the characters in both sadness and triumph."
Melissa recommends Tempting Fate by Jane Green:

"It's a realistic portrayal of relationships and how easy it can be to be led astray, even when you never thought it was possible."
Mary Beth recommends Mary Poppins, She Wrote by Valerie Lawson:

"Great story about a character origin from my youth. P.L. Travers had a hard life and it took Walt Disney 20 years to talk her into the movie version -- amazing (so glad he did)."
Kathleen recommends Wonder by R.J. Palacio:

"My 5th grader recommended me to read this book and it was REALLY good! It was so heart-felt, sad, and funny. It's a good book at any age!"
Jackie recommends The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schawlbe:

"It was an amazing story and I got a lot of suggestions from them on what to read."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Recent Reads

I've been more slack in my summer reading progress than usual, thanks to True Detective and good weather.  However, I have discovered a few good titles so far.  Two of the books are rereads that I remembered liking, but not necessarily what they were about.  The third is a new title that I checked out mostly because I liked the guy's glasses on the cover. 

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (2006).
Find it in the catalog!
I first read this book shortly after graduating from college and really enjoyed it.  However, I could no longer remember much about it other than the cover and that it was British and had a kid that stuttered.  So naturally I checked out again just to refresh my memory.  Based loosely on author David Mitchell's childhood, the book follows 13-year-old Jason Taylor who is dealing with a garden variety of life issues.   His parent's marriage has hit a rough patch.  His older sister is going away to college. He's also secretly a published poet, which he keeps secret to avoid being picked on in school.  Like most intelligent, sensitive kids, Jason deals with some pretty intense bullying at school, which is intensified by his speech impediment. The book is set in 1980s Margaret Thatcher era England.  I wasn't all that familiar with that period of history, which includes the Falklands War, but Mitchell does a good job dropping the reader into that era. 

The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld (2006).
Find it in the catalog!
I first read this book while I was in graduate school.  I remember immediately relating to the main character, Hannah Gavener, who's kind of a socially awkward loner.  Imagine my horror later on to read reviews of the book describing Hannah as irritating and a "sourpuss" (thanks a lot, New York magazine!).  After rereading the book recently, I can see how some people find Hannah to be a difficult character.  She is stubborn, usually says the wrong thing, and is primarily responsible for her own misery (isn't everyone?).  However, I think that makes her more of a realistic and sympathetic character.

Sittenfeld follows Hannah's life from early adolescence, where she struggles with having an emotionally volatile father, to her late twenties.  The book primarily focuses on Hannah's relationships with the different men in her life.  In high school and college, Hannah frets over her lack of a love life.  However, even after she starts dating, she finds her actual relationships wanting.  Instead, she longs for Henry, the on-again, off-again boyfriend of her more glamorous cousin, Fig.  Throughout the book, we see Hannah struggle with her low self-esteem and poor social skills while trying to become a functional adult.  I especially enjoyed the depiction of Hannah's relationships with her more together sister Allison and her beautiful but irresponsible cousin Fig, which seemed pretty true to life. 

Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman (2014).
Find it in the catalog!
I'm a sucker for a man with thick glasses, so naturally this book called to me from the book cart.  However, the main character Samuel Cooke didn't turn out to be the bespectacled hunk the cover alludes to.  Instead, he's a cantankerous 34-year-old disabled computer geek turned public school teacher.  In spite of their age and size difference, Samuel quickly develops a crush on Greta "Cass" Cassamajor, a 46-year-old, tough as nails gym teacher and girls' basketball coach.  In spite of her tough exterior, Samuel decides to ask her to dinner, thinking she will immediately rebuff him.  Much to his surprise, Greta agrees and the two start an awkward and uncertain romance (aren't they all?).  Both Samuel and Greta has a whole host of issues.  Samuel is super neurotic, bitter, and doesn't really take care of himself in the way that he should.  He also has never been in a relationship before.  Greta is a woman of very few words, a lot of rules, and she's been badly hurt by men in her past.  However, despite her tough attitude, Greta is very caring and fiercely loyal.  This is a very sweet romance, but Hootman doesn't spare the character's darker sides or the awkwardness of their courtship.  The book is also frequently funny, especially Samuel's jaded perspective on life.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Taste summer with these cookbooks

I don't know about you, but when I think of summer, hot grills, cold ice cream, picnic tables, and corn on the cob immediately come to mind. Here is a selection of cookbooks that will help you taste summer!

Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries, & Shakes by Bobby Flay
641.662 FLA
In addition to unique burgers, this cookbook includes recipes for fries and onion rings, condiments and seasonings, and milkshakes.
Find it in the catalog!

The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up: Grilling, Tailgating, Picnicking and More
by Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen
641.578 DEE
In this cookbook the Deen brothers feature summer recipes that are divided into the fun categories On the Grill, On the Field, On the Blanket, and On the Beach. You'll find dishes for a variety of tastes, including burgers, sandwiches, flatbreads, salads, finger foods, dips, skewers, and more.
Find it in the catalog!

The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide From Bon Appetit
641.5784 RAP
This cookbook features more than 350 recipes, plus grilling tips and how-to guides.

Find it in the catalog!
Recipes from an Italian Summer
641.5945 REC
Check out this cookbook if you enjoy Italian food and dishes that make use of simple, seasonal ingredients. A helpful seasonal food calendar is also included at the beginning of the book. Unfortunately, few photographs accompany the recipes.
Find it in the catalog!
The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen Grilling Cookbook: 225 Sizzling Recipes for Every Season
641.5784 GOO
There is no shortage of recipes in this cookbook; brightly colored tabs divide the types of dishes. Helpful icons in the each section's table of contents denote recipes that are 30 minutes or less, heart-healthy, low-calorie, and make-ahead.
Find it in the catalog!
Home Made Summer by Yvette van Boven
641.564 BOV
A whimsical cookbook inspired by the author's summers spent in Provence, France. Gorgeous photographs, although some recipes include ingredients that aren't readily available. 
Find it in the catalog!
Bobby Flay's Barbeque Addiction by Bobby Flay
641.5784 FLA
Recipes for everything you need to have a great barbeque, including cocktails, salads, sides, and the main protein (fish, poultry, beef, pork). When it comes to grillin' and chillin', Bobby Flay is the man.
Find it in the catalog!
People's Pops by Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell, & Joel Horowitz
641.862 JOR
Fresh fruit and herbs and quality ingredients go into these refreshing ice pops.
Find it the catalog!
Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich by Tessa Arias
641.862 ARI
This book pairs cookie and ice cream recipes for your own homemade ice cream cookie sandwich creations. Follow the suggested combinations, or mix and match depending on your tastes. Or do as I did-- simply make and enjoy ice cream without worrying about the cookie and sandwiching component.
Find it in the catalog!

The Perfect Scoop:Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz
641.862 LEB
This cookbook includes traditional (chocolate ice cream), fun (butterscotch pecan ice cream), and out-there (black pepper ice cream) recipes. Lebovitz also includes recipes for a variety of sauces and toppings for your ice cream.
Find it in the catalog!

Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough
641.862 HOO
The recipes in this book come from Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco. Each ice cream flavor sounds and looks so delectable you'll have a hard time deciding which kind to make first -- brown sugar with ginger-caramel swirl, white chocolate raspberry swirl, cookies and cream...
Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Non-Fiction

Here's a sampling of some new non-fiction titles that just hit our shelves:

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik. The why behind the properties and attributes of various everyday objects like glass and paper clips. Find it in the catalog!

Coolhaus Ice Cream Book by Natasha Case & Freya Estreller with Kathleen Squires. Ice cream, gelato, and sorbet recipes. Need I say more? Well, I'll add that a handful of cookie recipes are included as suggested pairings so you could make ice cream sandwiches if you wish. Lots of delicious photos. Find it in the catalog!

8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies For Parents & Schools by Signe Whitson. Written by a licensed social worker and school counselor, the books presents a straighforward plan to address bullying. Find it in the catalog!

Carsick by John Waters. Infamous filmmaker Waters relates the tales of his hitchhike across America. I can just imagine. Find it in the catalog!

If I Can't Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris. True crime book detailing the heartbreaking saga of Susan Powell, her husband, and children. Includes photos. Find it in the catalog!

Proof: The Science of Booze by Adam Rogers. Ever want to get extra geeky about alcohol? This book's for you. Find it in the catalog!

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport. Focuses on the last Russian Czar's four daughters before they were assassinated during WWI. Includes photos. Find it in the catalog!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Recommended Read: Drink This: Wine Made Simple

Drink This: Wine Made Simple (2009) by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
Call #: 641.22 GRU
Find it in the catalog!

While I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to craft beer and cocktails, I've always been a novice wine drinker at best.  Overall, I was mostly okay with this, in spite of the occasional twinge of embarrassment when ordering off of a wine menu.*  However, when I traveled to Italy last fall and was forced to drink wine like an actual snob (swirling and sniffing) and I sort of fell in love with the stuff.  Of course it helped that I was drinking what would be fifty to a hundred dollar wine stateside (just a little nicer than 4 buck Chuck).   So I decided to actually learn a thing or two about wine by following the tastings in Drink This. I haven't finished all the grapes yet (good wine is expensive), but I have vastly improved my taste.

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a wine writer from the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area.  Her writing is very funny and practical, making Drink This a super accessible guide for those new to wine.  However, even relatively seasoned wine drinkers could probably learn something here.  The book is organized into nine major wine grapes: Zinfandel, Sauvingnon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvingon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Pinot Noir. 

For each grape, she gives the background on it (where it's grown, its history, what to love and hate about it, etc.).  Then she describes the major styles of wine from the grape, what they taste like, examples of brands, and what to pay.  Finally, she gets to the fun part: tasting the grape!  Here she picks out 5-6 styles of the grape for you to buy and taste at home.  You can have a party or drink solo.  She gives you ideas of what food to pair with the wine. 

Whether you're looking to become a wine connoisseur or just want an excuse for a party with fancy wine, I heartily recommend Drink This. It's an enjoyable and informative read that gives you a really solid plan for learning about wine (and having a good time while doing it!).   After that, if you want to step up your wine game further, check out Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

*"Excuse me, waiter, do you have anything pink?"