Thursday, September 29, 2011

In the kitchen

I don’t know about you, but I do my best during the summer to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.  If I can manage to make dinner without use of the stove or oven, so much the better.  I grill, and we have lots of salad, but that’s about it.  By the end of August, I start longing for something different.  Something comforting.  Maybe something that takes more than twenty minutes to prepare.  Nothing hugely elaborate, just something more than greens on a plate, you know?  If you’re looking for a little inspiration in the kitchen, or even if you’re just interested in food in general, here are a few books to make you drool.

Man with a Pan, by Jon Donohue, et al.  Subtitled “Culinary Adventures of Men Who Cook for Their Families”, this features recipes and stories from men (professional chefs, writers, etc.) who cook.  Most notable among the contributors are Mario Batali, Michael Ruhlman, and Stephen King, who all weigh in on what their families love to eat, and what they, themselves, love to cook.  Interspersed with stories about recipes gone horribly awry and what they grew up eating as children, this is sweet, funny, and comforting.  A great read with lots of heart, highly recommended.

Four Kitchens: my life behind the burner in New York, Hanoi,Tel Aviv, and Paris, by Lauren Shockey.  If you’re a Top Chef fan (guilty), you’ll know some of the names Shockey drops from page 1, including Wylie Dufresne and David Chang.  This is a chef’s memoir that makes me think a bit of Anthony Bourdain’s KitchenConfidential: honest, gritty, and more than a little raw.  Added to the mix is a woman’s point of view in the restaurant kitchen, and this becomes a story of more than chef and food, but also cultures both kitchen and geographic.  Absolutely fascinating.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, by Ree Drummond.  Ree, best known for her gorgeous blog by the same name, is one of the first bloggers I ever read with any regularity.  A wife and stay at home mom on a ranch in Oklahoma, Ree started her blog as a hobby, chronicling her adventures in cooking for her husband (The Marlboro Man) and her children (her punks).  Funny and full of her decadent recipes and delicious photos, this is a great read in addition to being a fabulous cookbook.  As a fan, I’ve tried Ree’s recipes on several occasions and can personally attest that her recipes are out of this world (her cinnamon rolls in particular are divine).  If you enjoy her cookbook, you might try reading Ree’s blog, too, which has expanded to include segments on home & garden, entertainment, homeschooling and photography, as well.  (PS, Ree’s got a show on the Food Network, too.  Check her out on Saturdays at 11:30am.)

See you next week, when we kick off a month of riveting thrillers and creepy horror novels!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reading ahead

Since October will, of course, be chock full of posts about suspense, thrillers, mysteries, and horror, I thought maybe I’d finish out September with a couple of posts of things to look forward to.  Fall tends to be one of the big “push” times for new books from popular authors, sure to be bestsellers. You know I’m a sharing kind of person, so here are titles coming to the library in November. 

Kill Shot, by Vince Flynn

Hotel Vendome, by Danielle Steel

The Drop, by Michael Connelly

Explosive Eighteen, by Janet Evanovich

V is for Vengeance, by Sue Grafton

Zero Day, by David Baldacci

I’ll be back with more things to look forward to on Thursday!

(ps, the lists I give in my Reading Ahead posts are in no particular order.  I simply keep a running list as I see them become available to order for the library.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What I read on my summer vacation, part 2

Picking up where I left off on Tuesday, here is the rest of what I read over the summer!

Growing Up Amish, by Ira Wagler.  I went to college near a large Amish community in upstate New York, and ever since, I've been fascinated with the Amish.  I found Wagler's memoir moving and insightful.

Bag of Bones, by Stephen King.  This is a re-read for me, or rather, a re-listen.  I adore the audio version of this book, read by King himself.  One of my all-time favorites--it was like revisiting dear old friends. 

A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin.  Yes, the series really is that good--I can't wait to find out what happens, and the wait for book six just may kill me!

The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo.  I've mentioned this title several times on the blog over the summer, and it really is that good.  All the reviews were right!

The Best of Times, by Penny Vincenzi.  This was my book club's choice for our September meeting (we skip August every year).  I knew that there would be plenty to discuss, and I really enjoyed it!

Finally, here's what I have on my list of "can't wait to reads" for this fall!

The Favored Queen, by Carolly Erickson.  This is about Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII.  It's no secret that I'm a total Tudor England buff, so this is right up my alley!

The Cat's Table, by Michael Ondaatje.  Ondaatje also wrote The English Patient, and this is his first publication in four years.  There's lots of critical buzz about this one, and I'm eager to see if they're right.

The Night Eternal, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  The third in this modern take on vampire lore comes out soon.  The first two have been hugely creepy, as only del Toro (writer and director of Pan's Labyrinth, among other things) can do it, so I'm really interested to see how the story ends.

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides.  I am a huge fan of Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex), so I have been waiting for this one with baited breath.  Just a little longer now!

My question to you is:  What are you most looking forward to reading this fall?

Leave your answer in the comments!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What I read on my summer vacation

One of the things I'm asked by colleagues and patrons alike is, "How much do you read?  And how much of what you recommend have you read?"

It's not always that simple.  I have been an avid reader my whole life.  And I do read a lot.  I was an English major in college, and that was a lot of reading, too.  I'd say on average, I read 1-2 books a week, so between fifty to one hundred titles a year, in a good year.  However, I also read lots of book reviews and watch and listen when patrons check items out and return them.  If I'm hearing consistently great reviews on a title, I'll often pass that along to my fellow readers.  I may not have read every title I recommend, but I never recommend something I wouldn't want to read.

So, to give you an idea of what I do read, here's my list of what I read over the summer, and why:


A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.  I waited until after the first season of the HBO show was over before I started in on the series.  All I wanted to do was sit and read this one--I couldn't put it down.  The same is true for the rest of the series.

The Doctor's Wife, by Elizabeth Brundage.  The title for my bookclub's July meeting.  It was one I was looking forward to, and really appreciated all of the subtleties in the plot.  It made for an excellent discussion!

Love You More, by Lisa Gardner.  It's no secret that I love Gardner's work, and this latest title had so many twists and turns!  Every time I thought I had it figured out, I would find out I was wrong.  Absolutely gripping.

Faith, by Jennifer Haigh.  I have read all of Haigh's work over the last decade, and always enjoy it.  While this included some rather uncomfortable subject matter, I thought it was handled very well.  Haunting and beautifully told.

A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin.  I have been taking small breaks between books in the series, spreading them out to savor them.


The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman.  If you haven't read Alice Hoffman, I really think you're missing out.  She uses language like a paintbrush, and her pictures are so vivid and detailed, I'm always in awe.

Fly Away Home, by Jennifer Weiner.  This was a nod to summer reading, but it turned out to be slightly more emotional and less light and fluffy than I had anticipated.  The feel-good ending was perfect, though.

A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin.  Are you sick of hearing me talk about this series?  Because I'm not sick of talking about it--at all!

Never Knowing, by Chevy Stevens.  Love.  One of the best thrillers I've read.  Period.

Then Came You, by Jennifer Weiner.  Perhaps I read this too close to Fly Away Home, but I found it a little weighty.  As is often the case, sometimes I'm just in the mood for something, and sometimes I'm not.

Thursday, I'll finish the list and talk about what I'm most looking forward to reading this fall.  But I really want to know--what did you read over the summer?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Something a little serious

If you’ve spent your summer reading lots of fluffy fiction and beachy books, then you might be feeling the need to tackle something a little more gritty, or serious, or dark as the weather changes and we’re getting back to business as usual.  I’ve been on a slightly more serious kick myself, but we’ll get to me and what I’ve been reading next week.  Today, however, I have a few suggestions on what to read after all lighter beach reads.

Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson.  It’s not long now until we’ll be bombarded by candy, jack-o-lanterns, and round-the-clock monster movie marathons, so if you’re looking to get into the creepy spirit a little early, you cannot go wrong here.  Imagine waking up every morning and not knowing where you are.  The person in your bed swears they’re your spouse, but you don’t remember them…or anything that has happened in the last twenty years.  This is Christine’s life—every night, she falls asleep and loses the day’s memories.  Every morning is a blank slate, not remembering her husband or half her life.  Her secret doctor calls to remind her to write the days events in her journal every day, and she relearns her recent history every morning through this journal.  But she opens it one morning to find that she has written “Don’t trust Ben”, and now she must wonder who she can trust, if not her husband?  What kind of accident caused her condition?  Can she trust her doctor?  Herself?  A brilliant psychological thriller, and a total sleeper hit, one guaranteed to give you the goosebumps and keep you thinking long after the last page.

State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett.  When pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh is sent to the Amazon for work, it is for several reasons.  First, she is to collect the remains and effects of a colleague who recently died under mysterious circumstances.  She must also locate another colleague studying the fertility of a local tribe, as their women often bear children well into middle age.  It is this second colleague, Dr. Swenson, who was once Marina’s mentor, that troubles Marina the most, as their past together is something she has tried to leave behind her.  Deeply atmospheric, emotional and detailed, this is Patchett at her finest.  If you love this, you should also try Patchett’s Bel Canto.

In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson.  Does that name ring a bell for you?  It should.  I reviewed another of his books, The Devil in the White City during the summer.  Larson has been getting rave reviews on this most recent work, both by critics and by patrons, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t pass this along to you, my readers.  This one is a non-fictional account of Berlin during the early years of Hitlers reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: William E. Dodd who in 1933 became the first US ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his scandalously carefree daughter, Martha.  While Ambassador Dodd, conservative and worried over Hitler’s ambitions, is disliked and unheard by his fellow Americans in the State Department, his daughter Martha is entranced by the glamour of Berlin’s salon society, getting involved with a number of high profile individuals, including the head of the Gestapo.  Larson does what he does best here: keeps us reading with baited breath like the best thriller writers, even though we already know the outcome.  I cannot recommend this highly enough.

I told you we'd get to what I've been reading, and we will.  Next week, we'll talk about what I read over my summer vacation.  I'm interested to see what made your list, too!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Delicious Mysteries

As days start to get a bit cooler, other things start to change, too.  Iced tea gets traded for mugs of hot chai.  Comforting stews and chilis start to sound appealing.  Even light beach reads get traded for something a bit meatier.  So if you’re looking to sink your teeth into a tasty mystery this autumn, you know I have you covered!  (Enough with the puns, too, ok?  Ok.) 

Alexander Campion, the Capucine Culinary Mysteries.  Start with The Grave Gourmet.  Young, elegant Parisian judicial police Lt. Capucine Le Tellier is bored with her desk job investigating white collar crimes.  So when a high profile businessman turns up dead in the refrigerator of a three-star restaurant, Capucine leaps at the chance to aid in the investigation.  Gastronomy, Paris, and murder--who could ask for anything better?

Isis Crawford, Mysteries with Recipes series.  Start with A Catered Murder.  Sisters Libby and Bernie, daughters of a retired police chief, become amateur sleuths when a nasty local author dies at a party celebrating his best-selling status.  As he was surrounded by more than a few ill-wishers, the list of suspects is a long one.  Clever prose and likable characters will keep you coming back to Longely, NY again and again.

Joanne Fluke, the Hannah Swensen Mysteries.  Start with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.  After her father's death, Hannah Swenson returns to her hometown of Lake Eden, Minnesota and opens The Cookie Jar, which soon becomes a center for gossip as well as sweet treats.  When she comes to the shop early one morning to find the well-liked milkman dead in the alley behind the shop, Hannah begins collecting clues as well as gossip.  Plenty of plot twists, red herrings, and great recipes (readers have recommended the Pecan Chew recipe, particularly!).

Feeling the need for something a little more serious?  I'll be back on Thursday with some suggestions

Thursday, September 8, 2011

School Days

New notebooks, pens and pencils.  Ah, the first weeks of school, there’s nothing else quite like them.  And while grownups don’t necessarily get the same experience in the fall that we did when we were kids, memories of school years past are no further away than a shelf here at the library.  For little taste of those days gone by, here are a few titles to take you back.

Miss Timmins’ School for Girls, by Nayana Currimbhoy.  Set in the 1970s, in the hills of western India, this story of youth and murder at a British boarding school follows Charu, shy and sheltered teacher of Shakespeare, as she grows up and is introduced to a world outside of her family.  When a body is found in a monsoon one night, Charu is implicated in the crime, and her real education begins.  Atmospheric and surprisingly funny, this is a school story you won’t soon forget.

Daughters of the Revolution, by Carolyn Cooke.  It’s 1968, and  the prestigious Goode School in the town of Cape Wilde has fallen on hard times.  It is run by its aging, philandering headmaster, Goddard Byrd, known to both his friends and his enemies as God.  God has confidently promised coeducation “over my dead body.” And then, through a clerical error, the Goode School admits its first female student: Carole Faust, a brilliant, intractable fifteen-year-old black girl.  What does it mean to be the First Girl?  For a slim book, this packs an enormous punch.

Big Girl Small, by Rachel DeWoskin.  In a voice as raw and darkly funny as any I’ve ever come across, narrator Judy Lohden comes to tell readers just how, in a world that values the creative and simultaneously shuns the different, she came to be hiding in a seedy motel room instead of singing onstage at her local performing arts high school.  For everyone who ever felt like an outsider in high school; FYI, DeWoskin has even been compared to John Hughes. 

See you next week, with tasty mysteries you can really sink your teeth into!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

About time…

Better late than never, right?  The good news is the library is open!  (So is the catalog, which means all my nifty links here in the blog posts work again, too!)  The bad news is my posting schedule has gone right out the window.  So bear with me this week while I get back on track.  In the meantime, how about some fiction about time?

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.  While Henry and Clare Detamble may seem a perfectly normal Chicago couple to the casual observer, they are anything but.  Henry, mild mannered librarian, met Clare, artist, when he was in his thirties, and she was only six.  Henry travels through time, without intent or control, occasionally even helping his “other” self out of a jam.  What was hard on a man is harder still on a relationship, and the result is a deeply moving love story through time and space.

The Eye of the World, Book 1 of the Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan.  For those who are caught up on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series for now, and are looking for a nice engrossing fantasy series to get them through til the next installment, here’s one to try out.  A war in the west means little to peaceful villagers until suddenly the war is on their doorstep and three young men must confront a destiny writ centuries before.  Richly detailed, this epic fantasy series should keep you happily occupied for awhile.  Now, Mr. Martin, get writing!

Only Time Will Tell, by Jeffrey Archer.  New work and the beginning of a new series from the ever-popular Archer, Only Time Will Tell is the epic tale of Harry Clifton.  The story begins in 1920, with the death of Clifton’s father (you know me well enough by now to know that I’d never spoil a book for you, right?), and as Clifton reaches adulthood, he must wonder if what he’s been told about his father’s death was true.  Then again, was Arthur Clifton really his father?  Against backdrops like English docks and 1940s New York City, Archer’s characters could walk right off the pages.  A great beginning to Archer’s new saga.

With a little luck, we’ll be back to regular on Thursday.  See you then, with a few books about school days!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fiction in Beautiful Climates

After the wild weather this past weekend, and an ode to stormy weather reads earlier this week, I think it’s really only fitting that we spend a little time in more peaceful (reading) waters.  Again, hoping all of our readers and patrons are safe and sound!

Night on Fire, by Douglas Corleone.  Hotshot NYC defense attorney Kevin Corvelli left big city life to hang his shingle in glorious Hawaii, hoping for less stress and more Mai Tais.  When an argument between newlyweds breaks out in a resort bar one night, Corvelli all but ignores it—he doesn’t do divorce law.  But when a fire breaks out at the resort later the same night, Corvelli barely escapes with his life, though some guests aren’t so lucky.  The prime suspect, one of the newlyweds, becomes Corvelli’s new client, and now the attorney must play detective to see if he can prove his client’s innocence.  Mystery and gorgeous scenery—what more could you ask for?

One of Those Malibu Nights, by Elizabeth Adler.  PI to the stars Mac Reilly is just out for an evening stroll when he hears a woman scream.  An unknown woman in his neighbor’s home tries to kill him, the gun winds up in his car, and Reilly’s neighbor thinks he’s being followed.  Reilly is quickly pulled into a web of intrigue and deceit…and romance?  Light easy reading and a bit of mystery thrown in, just what you might need to unwind after a harrowing few days!

The Island, by Elin Hilderbrand.  Hilderbrand has earned herself quite a bit of popularity for her Nantucket-set romantic romps, and The Island is no exception.  If you’re looking for a sunny, end-of-the-summer beach read, with just enough drama to get you from one gorgeous beach setting to the next, this is your escape.

I hope these bits of paradise are just what the doctor ordered for you.  Next week, we’re going to get cooking!  See you back here next Tuesday!