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“The best way to learn about a new country is to experience its native food and culture,” Tünde, our tour director, said before we left the bus. “We have the opportunity to have a traditional Hungarian dinner and see a folk performance afterwards. It’s optional, or course, but I highly recommend it.”
The dinner, which started with a shot of hard liquor offered to us before we even crossed the threshold of the large, brightly lit restaurant, was, let’s say, interesting. Since I left Russia in 1990, I hadn’t seen so much alcohol splashing around. There was a lot of food, too: goulash (meat stew in a thick, paprika-infused sauce), a dish called galuska (dumplings), and – for dessert – another galuska, this time with raisins, nuts and ice-cream.
Then the concert began. It was exactly what I had envisioned – lots of jumping and loud singing with several fiddlers accompanying the action. But, with help of plenty of wine, everybody seemed to enjoy it. In fact, several tourists joined the folk dancers, while my husband kept raising his eyebrows and rolling his eyes. (What can you expect from a guy who doesn’t drink? It’s a miracle that he can have fun at all!)
Our “official” introduction to Budapest started the next morning. A local tour guide told us that the name came about by joining the names of its twin cities: Buda, which is hilly and more historical, and Pest, flat and more commercial – with the Danube River dividing the two, and a series of bridges connecting them. We learned that the cultural fabric of the city had been woven by Hungarians, Slavs and Jews. We were shown the city’s major attractions: the Castle District, Heroes Square, the Hungarian Parliament, the Opera House and others. And, in the afternoon, we were left alone to shop and do other touristy things.
First, my husband and I had a lunch in an outdoor cafe, from where we enjoyed the view of St. Stephen’s Basilica and soaked up the atmosphere of the city. Then we continued our exploration. We walked for hours, passing by imposing buildings and statues, posters for upcoming concerts (it’s not for nothing that the Franz Liszt Museum is located in Budapest!), street vendors and restaurants, until our legs began to ache and the city began to grow on us.
It was cloudy, but the temperature was pleasant. For a while, I moaned about the lack of blue sky, but soon I stopped complaining and began enjoying the city. Budapest rewarded me grandly. From the hilly grounds of the Castle and the Royal Palace on the Buda side, we admired views of the Danube and its bridges, the Pest skyline across the river and busily shuttling tour boats. On the Pest side, we happened onto a qualifying race for the 2015 Ironman World Championship. At the beautiful Chain Bridge, we witnessed the arrival of a Viking Cruise boat. Once again, we circled the Parliament building and, finally, headed back along the Danube Promenade.
As we walked, I noticed some brown shoes sitting on the river bank – several people were taking pictures of them. What was that about? But then I remembered the tour guide’s story.
The shoes, 60 in all, were made of cast iron and set into the concrete of the embankment. They were a memorial to the people killed by the Hungarian Fascists in the winter of 1944-45. A vast majority of the victims were Jews, but there were some non-Jews, accused by the Fascists of “Jewish activities.” (The courageous efforts of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved almost 100,000 people. Still, some 600,000 Hungarian Jews died during the war.)
The war was in its final stage, and the Fascists had no means of deporting people to Auschwitz. The easiest way to get rid of them was to shoot them by the Danube and let the river carry their bodies away. Before the Fascists murdered their victims they ordered them to take off their shoes, for the shoes could still be used or sold on the black market. Then people – men, women and children – were positioned on the edge of the embankment and shot, and their bodies fell into the river. Sometimes the militiamen tied several Jews together and then shot one of them, so that the dead body would pull the living into the river. If any of them survived the fall, the militiamen used them for target practice. This didn’t happen often, though. Most of the people – especially the children – died quickly in the freezing water.
I, too, took some photos, then we headed back to our hotel – quiet and suddenly tired. Oh, humanity – I thought to myself – how can you be so inhuman?
Luckily, that wasn’t my last memory of Budapest. At dusk, the ever energetic Tünde brought our group back to the river. We boarded a dinner boat, and while we ate, we listened to yet another tour guide and stared at the darkening city through the windows.
By dessert, magic happened. All the prominent buildings along the Danube suddenly lit up, transforming the river into a vast, Christmas-like alley, and the city skyline into geometric formations of glimmering stars. It was drizzling, but nobody paid attention. Budapest stood out in the dark – golden, enchanted and unforgettable.
At 11 p.m., the lights were switched off, and night overtook the city once again. We boarded our bus and headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow we would travel to Salzburg.
I saw a wonderful film not long ago called “Kill the Messenger.” That phrase is an old saw about taking out one’s displeasure on the one who brings bad news. This particular messenger was the San Jose Mercury reporter Gary Webb, and the message was his work tying the explosion of crack cocaine in the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the 1980s to important leaders of Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras. The Contras were mercenaries who fought against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and who (believe it or not!) were supported by drug sales in Los Angeles and other cities after Congress voted down funding for Reagan’s war in Central America. Turns out they were protected by the CIA and the mainstream press, as well as functionaries close to the White House.
The film was a thriller with a bit of pathos thrown in to demonstrate what happened to a reporter who embarrassed the US “deep state.” It can be found online (if you have a credit card), but in any case, DBRL has Webb’s book “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion,” as well as a few other interesting titles on the subject.
If you find it difficult to believe that the government prioritizes the “War on Drugs” and at the same time elements within the state are supporting the importation of those drugs, check out Douglas Valentine’s “The Strength of the Wolf,” which elucidates the many connections between the “deep state” and drug trafficking as discovered by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics prior to 1968 when the FBN was dissolved.
We also have Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall’s “Cocaine Politics,” perhaps the first to document the drug trafficking of Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries (the Contras) and the complicity of mercenaries and US government leaders and institutions. Here I bow to another reviewer, Marilynn Larew, who reviewed the book for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (September 22, 1991, N9):
“Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall expand on revelations in the Iran-Contra scandal and the 1989 Kerry Committee Report. They assert persuasively that the CIA has long-standing alliances with men who deal drugs while doing dirty tricks for us in Latin America. The links go as far back as 1961 and the Bay of Pigs. Their story, however, is about the contra war, in which drug money paid for arms, the planes that carried ‘humanitarian aid’ in [and] flew drugs out, and Latin American colonels [who] made fortunes on drugs destined for American streets, all with our government’s connivance….The core of the book, the adventures of Jack Terrell…the soldier of fortune who tried to blow the whistle on the contra drug dealers, is taut as a thriller….The authors appear to evaluate the murky evidence in the government documents and news stories temperately. The thesis rings true.”
Congratulations to Nila Palaniappan! She is the lucky winner of DBRLTeen’s “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” Book Giveaway. She will receive a free autographed copy of “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” on CD. If you’d like the chance to win more free books or a gift card to Barnes & Noble, be sure to support your favorite book in the upcoming March Madness Teen Book Tournament. Through a series of votes, we will narrow our list of the 32 most popular teen books to one grand champion. If you’d like to be informed of when voting begins, be sure to subscribe to our blog updates!
Originally published at Audiobook Giveaway Winner Announced.
In January, our One Read reading panel will begin narrowing down the list of more than 100 books nominated for our community-wide reading program. In the meantime, we are highlighting just some of these suggested titles so you can see what other local readers are enjoying.
Each year at least one local author’s book is nominated, and this year is no different. “The Weight of Blood” by Laura McHugh received multiple nominations. This suspenseful tale, set in the Ozarks, focuses on seventeen-year-old Lucy Dane and her mother Lila, who disappeared not long after Lucy’s birth. The discovery of the body of a long-missing school friend compels Lucy to look into both disappearances, but few are willing to help her. One of our nominators writes, “The book is a well-written mystery and a page-turner. It deals with the closed culture in southern Missouri, family secrets and human trafficking.”
Read about some of the other books nominated for One Read 2015.
Alex believes she is going to die. The tumor growing in her brain, she expects it to be her end. When an electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, all of Alex’s expectations change. Suddenly, everyone in the age range of 20 to 60 is dead. Technology no longer works, and the world Alex knew no longer exists. Alex bands together with a little girl and a young soldier to survive, finding family and friends in them she never expected.
Obviously, by my description of “Ashes,” you can tell it’s apocalyptic fiction. I admit I’ve never been a big fan of apocalyptic fiction. For me, I find it a hard genre to read because reading about the world ending can be a pretty depressing topic. But Ilsa J. Bick is an amazing writer, and “Ashes” is easily in the top five best books I have read in the past two years.
It’s a fast read, and if you like the TV show “The Walking Dead,” I’m pretty sure you’ll love “Ashes” too. “Ashes” has the same feel as “The Walking Dead.” Odd characters come together, they fight together, create bonds, and then bad things happen. You’ll scream internally for the characters, root for them and cry for them, all because Bick creates them so beautifully. Before you know it, you’ll have finished the entire book in a few days.
Bick is an amazing writer, and although “Ashes” is considered YA, I would highly recommend it to the adult reader. Bick’s writing style is very honest. She’s got a unique take on action scenes, and I believe this is due to her background as an Air Force major. Her writing has a militaristic aspect, which happens to be perfect for apocalyptic fiction. Between this and her beautifully rendered characters, “Ashes” stands apart from the other reads in its genre.
The post Young Adult Books For Adults: Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick appeared first on DBRL Next.
VOTE NOW through February 20 for the Sweet 16!
A new season of book rivalries has begun. Vote for your favorite titles from a pool of the 32 most popular teen books of the year. Your votes will narrow down the list to the 2015 Mid-Missouri teen book champion. For added excitement, each round you vote, your name will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win cool prizes like free book sets or a Barnes & Noble gift card.
Vote at your library, or online at teens.dbrl.org, until February 20 for the Sweet 16; then four rounds of weekly voting will take place in March. We will announce the winner on April 7.Who can participate?
March Madness is open to all teens ages 12-18 who live in either Boone or Callaway County, Missouri.
How It Works:
- Round 1: VOTE NOW through February 20 for the Sweet 16.
- Round 2: Vote March 4-11 for the Elite 8.
- Round 3: Vote March 12-18 for the Final 4.
- Round 4: Vote March 19-25 for the final two contending titles.
- Round 5: Vote March 26-April 1 for the book tournament champion.
- April 7: The champion is announced!
- “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
- “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins
- “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
- “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner
- “Legend” by Marie Lu
- “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
- “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs
- “City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare
- “Delirium” by Lauren Oliver
- “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer
- “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman
- “One” by Kiera Cass
- “Elemental” by Antony John
- “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien
- “Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater
- “Every Day” by David Levithan
- “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
- “The Raft” by S. A. Bodeen
- “Reached” by Ally Condie
- “The Probability of Miracles” by Wendy Wunder
- “Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25” by Richard Paul Evans
- “Chomp” by Carl Hiaasen
- “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore
- “Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo
- “See You at Harry’s” by Johanna Knowles
- “Breaking Beautiful” by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
- “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell
- “Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
- “Ashfall” by Mike Mullin
- “The Night She Disappeared” by April Henry
- “Out of My Mind” by Sharon M. Draper
- “Anna Dressed in Blood” by Kendare Blake
Originally published at 2015 March Madness Booklist Announced.
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2014 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year.
“The Joy Luck Club” is a book about four Chinese immigrant families. It goes through the perspective of the mothers and daughters. The first story is about a character’s childhood, and the second story is about present times. The main character’s mother has just passed away, and she is about to embark on a journey to China to meet her mother’s twin girls from another marriage. I loved this book. It is so heartfelt and makes you want to go and hug your mother.
Four words that describe this book: mother, daughter, love, relationships
You might want to pick this book up if: You want a good cry. The stories in this book are so amazing and touching you will surely cry your eyes out. It is also an amazingly written book with so many life lessons.
December 24 and 25 our buildings are closed and the bookmobiles are parked in the garage, but the digital branch is always open. Visit dbrl.org and check out an eBook, research a purchase, watch a movie and more. Below are just a few of the ways you can use the library online this holiday or any day. All you need is Internet access and a library card.
- Entertain the kiddos with animated picture and chapter books from Tumblebooks or electronic books from StarWalk Kids Media.
- Watch a movie using Hoopla, including award-winners like “The King’s Speech,” “Billy Elliot” and “The Iron Lady.”
- Download an eBook.
- Spend your gift cards wisely and research your possible purchases using Consumer Reports.
- Browse our digital magazines available through Zino, and get some help with your holiday menu: download “Food Network Magazine,” “Bon Appetit,” “Saveur” and more popular titles.
- If your living relatives are making you crazy, try researching your dead ones.
- Get a book recommendation from our blogs: DBRL Kids, DBRL Teens and DBRL Next.
Works of fiction with real historical settings allow us to explore a past time and place in an intimate way. The nominator of “The Chaperone” by Laura Moriarty feels that the community would enjoy experiencing 1920s New York.
Our nominator writes, “[This is] a fictional story inspired by a real-life movie star Louise Brooks. This novel follows the life of the woman who chaperoned Brooks from Wichita, KS to New York City at the start of her film career. This book will appeal to the community because it is a fascinating story and written in a manner that pulls you in from the first page. The characters are truly drawn and easy to connect with; I did not want to put this book down when I was reading it. I think it will inspire lots of discussion – about the ’20s in the US, women’s role in the country during that time, old-time movies and much more.”
Read about other books nominated for One Read 2015.
It’s cold and dark outside, so warm up with a recommended book from LibraryReads! The January list is full of thrills and mystery, just the thing to get your blood pumping. Here are the top 10 books librarians love that hit the shelves next month.
“As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” by Alan Bradley
“After the unexpected recovery of her mother’s body brings the de Luce’s family secrets to light, Flavia’s life is turned upside down. Now on her way to a Canadian boarding school, she must survive her first term – and more importantly, uncover the mystery of a corpse found in her dorm room chimney the night she arrives. A delightful installment in the series!” – Lizzie Gall, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI
“The Rosie Effect” by Graeme Simsion
“Don Tillman and Rosie are back again, and they’ve relocated to New York. Rosie is continuing her studies, while Don is teaching and even adding to his small circle of friends. But when Rosie announces that she is pregnant, Don is once again out of his depth. What follows are crazy situations that could only happen when Don is involved. Funny and heartwarming.” - Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
“The Magician’s Lie” by Greer Macallister
“Arden is a famous illusionist whose show involves sawing a man in half, but one night, she grabs an axe instead of a knife and her husband is found dead under the stage. Can Arden, an expert at deception, get away with murder – or is she really innocent? Recommended to anyone who likes historical fiction, strong women characters and surprisingly twisty plots.” - Paula Jones, Brockton Public Library, Brockton, MA
Here’s the rest of the January list with links to these on-order titles in our catalog for your hold-placing pleasure. Enjoy!
- “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
- “Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy” by Pierce Brown
- “The Dress Shop of Dreams” by Menna van Praag
- “The Bishop’s Wife” by Mette Ivie Harrison
- “Vanessa and Her Sister” by Priya Parmar
- “First Frost” by Sarah Addison Allen
- “Full Throttle” by Julie Ann Walker
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The January 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
Family Game Day
Columbia Public Library
Tuesday, December 23 • 9:30-11:30 a.m. –OR– 2-3:30 p.m.
Drop by to play board games. We’ll have favorites, old and new, but feel free to bring your own games, too. For families with children of all ages.
Wii U Family Game Night
Columbia Public Library
Thursday, January 8 • 6-7:30 p.m.
Try out the library’s Wii U game console. Become a dancing superstar in “Just Dance 4″ or a bowling champion playing “Wii Sports.” Pizza served. Ages 10 and older. Parents welcome. Registration begins Tuesday, December 23. To sign-up, please call (573) 443-3161.
Originally published at Program Preview: Family Game Days.
At my house, we have quite a few electronic devices: MP3 players, cell phones, digital cameras and e-readers. It’s a mess, and I can never find the right cord and charger when I need it.
That’s where the handy repurposed book comes in! It’s the perfect place to keep all of those devices out of sight, organized in a lovely, old-fashioned book that looks nice sitting next to your bed or on your bookshelf. You will find complete instructions to make your own at studenthacks.org.
When you are selecting your book to repurpose, make sure it is roomy enough to fit all the things you want to hide with a bit of space to spare for airflow and easy removal. In fact, you may want several books for several devices. Or, you can just find an enormous title that’s big enough for all of them while making you look like a serious reader. (“War and Peace,” anyone?)
These hidden charging stations make a great gift for anyone else you know who might need a bit of help corralling their stuff, too. Bonus: This project can also be modified to fit those ugly remote controls that always seem to make their way into the crack of the couch cushions.
If you enjoy crafting with recycled odd and ends, you should borrow the following titles from your library:
- “Trash to Treasure” by Pam Scheunemann
- “Cool Odds and Ends Projects” by Pam Scheunemann
- “The Art of Forgotten Things” by Melanie Doerman
- “1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse” by Garth Johnson
“Make & Give: Simple and Modern Crafts to Brighten Every Day” by Steph Hung
- “The Repurposed Library: 33 Craft Projects That Give Old Books New Life” by Lisa Occhipinti
If you’re an online learner, check out our Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center. You can access this website for free with your library card number; your PIN is your birthdate (MMDDYYYY). You’ll find many fun project ideas available with instructions and inspiration for all sorts of interests.
Originally published at Homemade Holiday Gifts: Hardback Charging Station.
For me, the mark of an especially good book is how firmly it grabs hold of me. It’s always a pleasure to stumble across a novel that captures my attention so tightly that it has me longing to get back to it during those moments I have to pause in my reading. Here are a few of my favorite thrilling finds from 2014 that I think other readers will also be captivated by:
- “Blood Work” by Michael Connelly. Readers may be familiar with Connelly’s two series featuring detective Harry Bosch and his half-brother, lawyer Mickey Haller. “Blood Work,” a novel set in the same “universe” as the books about Bosch and Haller, follows former FBI agent and recent heart recipient, Terry McCaleb. Upon learning that his heart donor may have been murdered, McCaleb becomes deeply troubled that his own life was saved at the cost of someone else’s. Despite doctor’s orders not to, he sets out to discover just what happened to his donor and soon finds himself in the web of an insidious killer. I could not put down this book and was unprepared for the story’s twist-filled conclusion.
- “Trouble in Mind” by Jeffery Deaver. I am a big fan of Deaver’s Lincoln Rhymes books, which follow a quadriplegic former NYPD detective who uses logic and science to find the solution to mind-boggling puzzles. This collection of short stories proves that Deaver can venture outside of the world of Rhymes and still produce a whopper of a tale. I enjoyed each of these short stories, but a few stood out for me. Rhymes makes two appearances in the book, including one that begins with the disturbing revelation that he has passed away – or has he? In another tale, a man returns to his hometown where he learns his long dead father was not what he seemed. The book concludes with a fantastic novella that follows a crime statistician who believes a series of deaths are not as random as they appear. Even readers who do not normally read short stories should consider this exciting collection of thrillers.
- “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks. This is probably my favorite read of the past year. Brooks’ fabulous novel begins with scholars examining the bits of materials found in between the pages of an illustrated Jewish manuscript called the Haggadah, in the hopes of determining the book’s history. Chapter by chapter the story unfolds in reverse, introducing the book’s previous owners and through this, revealing how the materials found their way into the book’s pages over the centuries. Although not a traditional mystery, this story unwinds in a way that will keep readers guessing as to the exact journey the Haggadah took through the centuries. I know readers will be as enthralled as I was by Brooks’ moving novel.
Nominations for the 2015 One Read program are now closed, and we are highlighting just some of the titles area readers think the community should read together. Next up is “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel.
This novel opens with a famous Hollywood actor dying onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve as a fast-acting and deadly strain of the flu spreads around the world. Our nominator writes, “This is very different take on a well-worn narrative – post-apocalyptic fiction. The topic is timely (pandemic – echoes of Ebola), and the book is beautifully written. It’s about the importance of love and art, the social contract, and what matters when the world we know falls away.”
Handmade gifts are not just for people. Here is a fun and easy gift to make for your cat; or, skip the catnip and make it for a special puppy. I made this in a single evening after dinner. It took me about an hour and a half, but I had all the materials on hand.
- Sewing Machine or sewing needles
- Fabric batting
- Catnip (I got mine at Clover’s Natural Market)
Make a pattern.
Cut out the pattern pieces and choose your fabric. I chose a scrap of colored cotton and some felt from an old sweater I washed/shrank.
Trace the pattern on the cloth with a pencil. Double the cloth and pin it so it won’t move while you cut it. Cut two pieces at once; one for each side of the fish. I used pinking shears so the fabric wouldn’t unravel.
When you are ready, sew with the right sides out. Pin the felt fins so that they are well inside your fish and will be securely caught by your sewing.
Sew around the fish about 5/8 of an inch inside the cut edges, catching the felt fins with either a sewing machine or by hand. Backstitching works best for hand sewing. Check out this YouTube tutorial for a live demonstration. Make sure to leave a gap so that you can fill the fish with a combination of batting and catnip. A funnel or chopsticks can be helpful when stuffing your fish.
Sew up the gap and sew around again if you think it needs to be extra secure. Now it’s ready to be presented to your special pet. If you’re interested in making other kinds of pet toys check out “Pet Crafts: 28 Great Toys, Gifts and Accessories for Pet Lovers” by Heidi Boyd at the library!
Originally published at Homemade Holiday Gifts: Catnip Fish.
It’s hard to find a good subject for a book column in December. It’s not a good time for serious subjects. (Who has the time to concentrate at the height of a shopping season?) It’s too early for books about reinventing yourself (wait till January) or humor (better for April ). So, after contemplating my options, I decided to write about books that revolve around food. (We do eat a lot this time of the year .) These are not plain cookbooks, mind you, but books that describe places many of us would love to travel to and lives that have been marked by memories of food.
The first book I’d like to feature (also my personal favorite) is “The Language of Baklava” by Diana Abu-Jaber. It is a touching memoir of a girl coming of age in two worlds: the American world of her mother and the Jordanian world of her father. Growing up without a clear sense of belonging is very disorienting for Diana, but she is not the only one who feels disoriented. So does her immigrant father, who doesn’t seem to be able to decide where he – and his family – should live. He tries to hold on to his identity by cooking his native dishes, and for his daughter, that food becomes a trail she can follow down memory lane. With recipes for all occasions – festive and sorrowful – Abu-Jaber’s book is a joy to read and a joy to use in the kitchen.
“There is something to be done at this season,” begins Nina Mukerjee Furstenau in her book “Biting Through the Skin,” as she contemplates which holiday or festival she – a person born into a family of Bengali immigrants and a raised in the American Midwest – should celebrate. Like Diana Abu-Jaber, Furstenau struggles to define her identity and her culture and to bring order to her life. She solves her longing by cooking, and – later in her life – by embracing the faith and traditions of her ancestral country. Filled with the flavors and aromas of India and peppered with recipes, Furstenau’s book is a pure sensory pleasure, as well as an eloquent meditation on one person’s life.
Would you like to go to dinner with a New York Times food critic? If you said, “Yes,” then let me introduce “Garlic and Sapphires,” by Ruth Reichl. Reichl, a Los Angeles restaurant critic, takes a similar job at the New York Times. Now in New York, she finds herself in a position that can make or break a restaurant reputation, which means that many fashionable restaurants try to prepare for her visit. To make sure that she is not recognized, Reichl decides to wear disguises: wigs, fake jewelry, etc. This allows her to see restaurants through the eyes of their average customers. Unobserved, she witnesses the rudeness of the staff, notices different portion sizes (higher-status customers get bigger portions) and even different menus (unimportant customers are offered fewer dishes). Sincere and entertaining, Reichl’s book is an eye-opener on the world of New York restaurateurs.
No food column can be complete without mentioning French cuisine, and Ann Mah’s “Mastering the Art of French Eating” is just the book to show it off. Food writer Mah comes to France with her American diplomat husband, but she soon finds herself in Paris alone, for her husband is called to Iraq. To quell her loneliness, Mah travels around the country researching its iconic dishes like cassoulet, steak, andouillette sausage and crepes – ten in all. Mah talks to butchers, restaurant owners, chefs and other food aficionados, and she learns how the history of different regions of France is reflected in the evolution of their food. Liberally peppered with French expressions and recipes (I tried her steak recipe and it worked very well!), Mah’s book is a true ode to French food.
If you like spicing your food with stories, try “Secrets of the Tsil Café” by Thomas Fox Averill or “Cinnamon and Gunpowder” by Eli Brown. And, if you want to add a little mystery to your plate, don’t forget about experienced literary chefs like Diane Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke and Tamar Myers. Whatever your food preference, you can always find a taste of it at your public library. As they say in the restaurants, “We’re here to serve you!”
Well-reviewed and popular when first published in 2010, Piper Kerman’s best-selling memoir “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in A Women’s Prison” gained even more attention after Netflix launched a series based on the book. The narrative follows the author’s incarceration for drug trafficking, during which she gained a unique perspective on the criminal justice system and met a varied community of women living under exceptional circumstances.
The reader who nominated “Orange Is the new Black” for One Read writes, “This book is a very accurate and eye-opening description of life in a women’s prison. Discussion topics include: the war on drugs, the overpopulation of American prisons, women’s issues, prisoners’ rights, mental illness, incarceration and opportunities to volunteer in prisons. As a women’s prison volunteer myself, I highly recommend this book.”
Thank you to everyone who suggested books to be considered for the 2015 One Read program. As the reading panel begins its work, we will continue to highlight nominated titles so you can learn what others in the community are reading and discussing.
The best way to read a book is to read it without knowing anything about it. But of course there’s only so much time to read, so it’s nice that there are gentlemen out there recommending awesome books. A gentleman doesn’t review a book, he merely recommends it and maybe adds some details about the book so his posts aren’t just absurd rambles or thinly veiled political rants or pointless introductions. But the book review industry is, in large part, in the business of summarizing works and spoiling as much fun as possible. And the book review industry is an unstoppable behemoth that eats books and poops cash and then doubles back to grab some of the cash. Yes, I’ve got a finger or two clasping at the beast’s tail. How else would I be able to afford the tremendous amount of pancakes a gentleman requires to start and end his day?
I’m going to tell you some stuff about a great book, but really you should just close this page, then open and close it several more times, electronically mail the link to all your friends (encourage them to open and close it several times), regular mail it to all your enemies, post the link on your social medias, shave the URL into your hair and read “The Book of Strange New Things” by Michel Faber. Really, one of the most satisfying things about this novel is the way details and plot are slowly released. If you prefer blog posts to novels or you like to know more about a book before you read it or you’re my mom, then keep reading. Might as well grab a snack. The gentleman recommends pancakes.
Michel Faber wrote this book, about a man and wife separated by immense distance, while his wife was dying of cancer. Pretty intense. Here’s a nice article if you want more details about Mr. Faber and the creation of his book.
“The Book of Strange New Things” begins with a husband and wife on the way to an airport. The husband will be whisked away for a substantial time, and though both parties see it as a necessary (glorious even) whisking, they are terribly sad to be separated. Then, matter of factly, we learn the man is going away because he’s to do some missionary work on a distant planet. Peter gets into one of those moist bed things that helps science fiction characters sleep whenever they must travel incredible distances. Bea goes home to their cat and their church. Peter arrives on Oasis (named by a contest held by the corporation that owns it) to minister to the aliens. Turns out he’s the third pastor they’ve had.
Since I didn’t read a bunch of reviews I had no idea whether the aliens were friendly or disturbingly hungry or basically just a bunch of pasta that some corporate bigwig thought it would be funny to have a pastor talk at. I also didn’t know what happened back on earth while Peter was ministering to the Jesus-loving aliens (whose faces resemble something like a walnut crossed with a couple of fetuses). I also didn’t know how Peter would acclimate to his new planet while natural disasters and human cruelty made a devastating mess of life on earth. The book is haunting and sad, but not hopeless. Kinda like eating a pancake without an absurd amount of toppings, except much more fun to consume.
I never wanted the book to end, but great things must. Also, as much as I’d like to mention pancakes again, this post must end. Have a great day, Mom!
One extremely popular title on the New York Times best seller list this fall is the legal thriller “Gray Mountain” by John Grisham. Like in all great thrillers, there is a hero pitted against a villain. Grisham’s hero is Samantha Kofer, third year associate with the prestigious Lehman Brothers law firm in New York until the financial crisis of 2008 upends her life and transplants her to the Appalachian coal country of Brandy, Virginia. There she works as an intern for the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic. While defending the citizens of the county and meeting the handsome litigator, Donovan Gary, she stumbles onto deadly secrets surrounding Big Coal mining!
This highly sought after title has created a rather lengthy waiting list at the library. So, if you are currently on this list, you might like to try these titles! (Publisher’s descriptions included)
“Raylan” by Elmore Leonard
When Federal Marshall Raylan Givens squares off against a known offender, he will warn the man, “If I have to pull my gun I’ll shoot to kill.” Except this time he finds the offender naked in a bathtub, doped up and missing his kidneys. Raylan knows there’s big money in body parts, but by the time he finds out who is making the cuts, he is lying naked in a bathtub himself, Layla, the cool transplant nurse, about to go for his kidneys. It turns out all the bad guys Raylan is after are girls this time.
“Stand Up that Mountain” by Jay Erskine Leutze
This is the true story of an outdoorsman living alone in Western North Carolina who teams up with his neighbors and environmental lawyers to save a treasured mountain peak from the mining company. One day the author got a call from a young woman, Ashley, and her Aunt Ollie. Ashley and Ollie said they had evidence that Clark Stone Company was violating the Mining Act of 1971 up on Belview Mountain, one of the most remote and wildest places in the eastern United States. They wanted Jay, a non-practicing attorney, to sue the company to put a stop to their mining operation. This is an underdog David vs. Goliath story with lots of good guys you love, and bad guys you love to hate. Not only did the case against the Clark Stone Company set groundbreaking legal precedent, but also the good guys won a complete victory. How they did it is chronicled in this book.
“The Perfect Witness” by Iris Johansen
She had the perfect life. She had the perfect cover. She was the perfect witness, until they found her. From the blockbuster bestselling author of the Eve Duncan novels comes a new, stand-alone thriller about a woman with a photographic memory who has lived her life in the Witness Protection Program. What she once saw put her entire family in jeopardy and now, years later, her cover is blown. She’s on the run, and the lives of those she holds dear hang in the balance.
We continue our review of just some of the more than 100 books local readers nominated for next year’s One Read program. Next up is “The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing” by Jacob Mira. In this emotional and atmospheric debut, decades after an interrupted visit to his mother’s home in India triggers a haunting series of events, brain surgeon Thomas Eapen begins having conversations with his dead relatives, prompting his career-beleaguered wife to investigate a painful family history.
The nominator of this book describes it as “a book about about the uneasy generational divide among Indians in America and about family in all its permutations … Similar issues haunt immigrant families from everywhere.”
Want to know what others in the community are reading and enjoying? See other books nominated for One Read 2015.
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