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Friday, December 30, 2011

V is for Vengeance

The 22nd entry in author Sue Grafton’s “alphabet series” of mysteries, this story departs from the usual first person narration by protagonist Kinsey Millhone. Instead, Kinsey shares the space with two other characters, businessman/Mafia boss Lorenzo Dante and society wife Nora Vogelsang. After witnessing a department store shoplifting and reporting it to security, Kinsey is dismayed to later find out that the woman supposedly committed suicide. Kinsey is hired by the woman’s fiancĂ© to investigate whether she really was murdered. Alternating stories include that of Dante’s family problems with a thuggish brother and senile father combining with an FBI investigation of his affairs, all coming to a head; and of society wife Nora Vogelsang’s plotting of justice against a cheating husband. As usual, the occurrences of seemingly unrelated events evolve into the satisfactory resolution of main and minor mysteries. We meet a variety of criminals and law enforcement officials, both good and evil; and are observers of an illicit love affair. The tying up of loose ends is a delight.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Afternoon Book Discussions

Join us once a month, on a Wednesday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:00 pm, to discuss a fiction or non-fiction book selection. Coffee, tea and cookies are served. Books are available at the Circulation Desk four weeks before the discussion date. Our schedule is:

January 18th
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, written by Janelle Brown
Over the course of one summer, the three Miller women – Janice, abandoned by her wealthy husband; daughter Margaret, facing bankruptcy; and teenage daughter Lizzie – do battle with divorce lawyers, debt collectors, their own demons, and one another.

February 15th
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace – One School at a Time, written by Greg Mortenson
The inspiring account of one man’s campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote, and anti-American reaches of Asia.

March 21st
Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, written by Erik Larson
An account of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 relates the stories of two men who shaped the history of the event – architect Daniel H. Burnham, who coordinated its construction, and serial killer Herman Mudgett.

April 18th
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, written by Muriel Barbery
The lives of fifty-four-year-old concierge Rene Michel and extremely bright, suicidal twelve-year-old Paloma Josse are transformed by the arrival of a new tenant, Kakuro Ozu.

May 16th
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, written by Mary Ann Schaffer
As Juliet and Dawsey exchange letters, she learns about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed on the spur-of-the moment, as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans.

June 20th
Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte
The classic 1847 novel traces the doomed love affair between an orphaned, independent-minded governess and her brooding employer, Mr. Rochester.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Stolen Life: A Memoir

Here is Jaycee Dugard’s life story, in her own words, recounting the events surrounding her abduction, imprisonment and eventual return home eighteen years later. As an eleven-year-old girl snatched from her school bus stop by previously convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy, Jaycee’s horrifying experiences were just beginning. Aside from repeated sexual attacks by Phillip, resulting in Jaycee’s first pregnancy at the age of fourteen and the birth of two daughters, Jaycee also was forced to live in filthy backyard outbuildings and act compliantly towards her captors. She was instructed to tell her daughters that she was their older sister and Nancy their mother. Despite this psychological oppression, Jaycee managed to raise and educate her two daughters as normally as possible; although several times she does wonder aloud (to the reader) how her life might have been different if she hadn’t been abducted. But throughout the whole book we are in awe of Jaycee’s strength under impossible circumstances. This is a true survival story.

Friday, November 18, 2011

November is National Diabetes Month: Highlighting Cookbooks

One way to control diabetes is through appropriate diet. Here are a few current selections to help with that goal.

Just What the Doctor Ordered Diabetes Cookbook, is written by Joseph D’Amore, a medical doctor, and his sister Lisa D’Amore-Miller, a nutritionist. The book includes 125 recipes that are designed to be easy to prepare and taste delicious. The authors also include “Prescription for Success” tips that provide cooking, diet, lifestyle and diabetes self-management advice.

The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, written by Amy Riolo, presents recipes for a diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. They are based upon the typically healthy recipes found in Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and other countries in the region.

The Essential Diabetes Cookbook: Good Healthy Eating from around the World, written by Antony Worrall Thompson, includes two hundred recipes from all international cuisines that are modified to suit the diabetic diet.

The Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook: Foods to Fill You Up, Not Out, written by Robyn Webb, presents healthy versions of classic comfort foods for the diabetic. Selections include lasagna, meat loaf, macaroni and cheese, cake and more.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

Contrary to popular belief, our conscious brain is not in charge of human behavior. Author David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine, relies upon his in-depth research of medical journals and texts (listed in bibliographic format at the end of the book) to present a thorough analysis of the human brain. However, we still have a lot to learn about our subject. Below the conscious level, we rely on instincts, impulses, automatic systems and emotions to guide ourselves through life. Is brain development reliant on genetics or environment? Is free will a misnomer? There are no easy answers to any of the questions brought up in this book.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness

Author and psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi presents his premise that the most successful political leaders during times of war and other calamities are not those who are mentally healthy. Instead, it is those individuals who have suffered some of the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder and other diseases both mental and physical that are most successful in leading their people through times of crisis. These conditions provide the individual with such attributes as realistic outlook (as opposed to optimism), empathy, creativity, and resilience. These leaders, including John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and others, have been successful. Adolf Hitler doesn’t fit in with this group, the author contends, because of his overmedication with opiates, barbiturates and amphetamines. Other leaders such as George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Tony Blair and Neville Chamberlain, while mentally healthy enough to lead in times of peace and well-being were not capable of command during crisis.

Ghaemi’s theories will have some readers nodding in agreement and others totally opposed.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Tenderness of Wolves

Scottish author Stef Penney sets her first novel in the small settlement of Dove River in the Canadian wilderness of 1867. After Mrs. Ross discovers the body of her neighbor Laurent Jammett, a trapper and former employee for the Hudson Bay Company, she dutifully reports the apparent murder to the de facto legal representative Andrew Knox. Immediately, the authorities are called in: representatives of the Hudson Bay Company including the youthful Donald Moody who becomes involved in a romantic subplot. Also arriving are half-breed Indian and trapper William Parker who originally is suspected of the murder, and American trader Thomas Sturrock who, years earlier, was involved in an attempt at tracking the disappearance of two local girls.

Mrs. Ross soon regrets her discovery; she realizes that her teenage son Francis has been missing since about the time of the murder. With William Parker as her guide, she sets off in search of Francis. The company representatives are in close pursuit, interested in determining if Francis is the murderer. Surprises abound as the chase continues, with a somewhat unexpected denouement. The reader is presented with more than one mystery to solve. The multi-dimensional characters, richly detailed text, and energetic plot add interest to this novel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Big Sleep

Author Raymond Chandler’s first Philip Marlowe mystery packs a big punch for hard-boiled detective novel devotees. Set in late 1930’s Los Angeles, Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood, a dying millionaire to find out who is blackmailing his daughter. His investigation leads to a situation that is more than he bargained for when he discovers that the General’s two daughters, leading immoral lives, are involved with pornography and murder. Chandler’s poetically descriptive language and precise depiction of his gritty characters enhances the novel’s ambiance. Philip Marlowe is a noble individual who rises above the fray to bring about justice.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Here is an unusual topic for fiction. What do you think the afterlife would be like? Author David Eagleman, a neuroscientist and non-fiction writer, presents us with a collection of short stories offering a variety of alternatives. In one afterlife you might relive all of the experiences in your previous life, only grouped together, so that you would sleep for thirty years, stand on line for eighteen months, shower for two hundred days, and more. In another one, you find that after death your role is to populate the dreams of living people; eventually you will return to life and the actors in your dreams will be the dead. In some versions of the afterlife, God is a giantess, or a married couple not always living happily ever after, or a group of Collectors who run scientific experiments using us as the subjects to answer their questions. Heaven might be a comfortable lounge where you get to watch the details in the lives of your descendants. Or it might be a place where everything is immortal, even the things that we create, such as cell phones, knickknacks, old computers, etc. All of these tales and others allow the author to express his ideas of human philosophies, hopes and emotions in a concise volume.

Friday, September 16, 2011

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir

Written by Elizabeth McCracken, this is an exploration of the author’s feelings during a tumultuous time in her life. Recently married, she and her husband Edward, both writers, temporarily move to France on work assignments. Elizabeth discovers she is pregnant and the couple spends the next several months in a blissful state, enjoying both the pleasurable elements of French culture and the exciting promise of future parenthood. Then the unthinkable happens; in her ninth month of pregnancy Elizabeth senses that something is wrong with the baby. She is rushed first to the clinic and then to the hospital where she delivers a stillborn son. Inconsolable in her grief, even though her husband is very supportive, Elizabeth falls into the depths of depression. We are present in all her thoughts and feelings. Not long after this she becomes pregnant again, hoping against hope that she will deliver a healthy baby. Even when Elizabeth does deliver a healthy second son, Gus, she still has a place in her heart for their first child and asserts that this book is a memorial to him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Childhood immunization is a controversial topic; one camp insists that it is responsible for autism and other illnesses and disabilities in children; the other side maintains that vaccination is mandatory in order to prevent epidemics. Here are some recently published books on the topic.

Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten our Human Rights, our Health, and our Children, edited by Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland, presents a series of articles featuring instances of vaccinations causing illnesses to children, adolescents and adults. They contend that government mandates for vaccination violate individual rights and suggest ways to reform American health policy.

Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, written by Paul A. Offit, an infectious disease physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, maintains that the media’s presentation of anecdotal incidence of disease and disabilities caused by vaccinations is playing on parents’ fears. He asserts that epidemic, the end result of not being protected by vaccinations, is far worse, posing a threat to all of society.

The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear, written by Seth Mnookin, also contends that the media, in an effort to being fair to both sides of the argument, has encouraged certain groups to advance a health-scare hoax. He also points to various anti-vaccination outbursts over the years since the smallpox vaccine was developed as the continuation of an anti-scientific sentiment in society.

The Vaccine Answerbook: 200 Essential Answers to Help You Make the Right Decisions for your Child, written by physician Jamie Loehr, provides detailed information about specific vaccines, their side effects, when it is not recommended to administer them, and when to schedule them for your child. He also explores some of the controversies surrounding vaccines and their purported cause of disabilities.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August Birthdays

Martha Stewart – August 3, 1941
Being Martha: The Inside Story of Martha Stewart and her Amazing Life, written by Lloyd Allen, a friend of Martha’s daughter and a former neighbor, paints a flattering picture of her as viewed by her mother, daughter, brother, and others. Less adulatory and more well-balanced is Martha: On Trial, In Jail, and on a Comeback, written by Robert Slater. It is based on a series of in-depth interviews of people who have dealt with Martha. Martha herself is not interviewed. The book mainly focuses on her trial, incarceration and her future projects after release from prison.

Lucille Ball – August 6, 1911
Laughing with Lucy: My Life with America’s Leading Lady of Comedy, written by Madelyn Pugh Davis with Bob Carroll Jr., recounts the stories, both familiar and little-known, of the production of the I Love Lucy show and the other Lucille Ball sitcoms. Davis and Carroll were the show’s co-writers.

Julia Child – August 15, 1912
A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS, written by Jennet Conant, tells the story of Julia and Paul’s lives as members of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, long before Julia’s career as a chef took off. Years later, they were involved in another battle when McCarthy-era politics threatened many of their intelligence colleagues including Jane Foster, who actually may have been a Soviet spy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Shanghai Girls: A Novel

In this compelling novel written by Lisa See, two upper-middle class young women from late 1930’s Shanghai, China endure physical and emotional upheaval before their escape to Los Angeles after being sold by their father as wives to two Chinese men living there. We see the sisters, Pearl and May, developing maturity and strength as they go from a sheltered and carefree existence, to struggle, abuse and escape during the Japanese invasion, to a life of hard work and racial discrimination in Los Angeles. The book covers a twenty-year period during which the sisters strive to adapt to their new home, husbands and extended families, and to survive financially. Along the way, we examine the strengths and weaknesses of the sisters’ relationship with each other, coexisting with their petty jealousies and passionate trust in one another, and keeping their one secret from others for fear of upsetting their new lives in America. We see how the generations of the extended family interrelate. We also get a direct comparison of Chinese and Chinese-American cultures. The book ends without the expected finalization of the story; it is continued in See’s latest work Dreams of Joy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain

This incredible story, written by Garth Stein, will touch your heart and make you want to believe in its legitimacy, even though it’s a work of fiction. Enzo the dog was raised from a puppy by Danny, an aspiring racecar driver whose family eventually expanded to include a wife and daughter. The dog also was a faithful family member, honor bound to protect them all. Remarkably, Enzo is the narrator of the story as he is a self-educated canine. Thanks to instruction from television and other sources, Enzo is capable of higher thinking, although he is unable to speak and has to communicate through gestures and actions.

There are two stories here, one being the tragedy that befalls Danny’s family when his wife dies and her parents try to gain total custody of the daughter, because of their belief that they will be better guardians than Danny who they see as less than stable because of his profession. But Danny is able to succeed in the end, thanks to his racing philosophy and sheer determination. The second story involves Enzo’s desire to become a human in his next life, something he has learned about from an educational television program and that he believes he is ready for. In a book balanced by equal portions of humor and pathos, we speed through Enzo’s short canine life, cheering on this noble creature who in the end receives his just reward.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'll Walk Alone

Octogenarian author Mary Higgins Clark has successfully published a long string of light mystery/romances over the years, skillfully blending succinctly drawn characters with continuous plot progression. I’ll Walk Alone features protagonist Alexandra “Zan” Moreland , a divorced, thirty-something interior decorator whose three-year-old son Matthew was kidnapped while with his sleeping baby sitter in Central Park two years ago. In addition to the desolation she feels from this loss, Zan also worries that she is losing her mind when it is discovered that large sums of money have been removed from her accounts by her, something that she knows she has not done. When a recently discovered photograph provides proof that Zan kidnapped her own child, even her friends and associates believe it to be true, although they suspect that Zan suffers from a split personality. Pursued by the press and the police, she struggles to prove her innocence and rescue her son. After some plot surprises, the reader is rewarded with the conventional happy ending and an enjoyable read.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lost Painting

Join author Jonathan Harr as he recounts the search for and discovery of the missing painting “The Taking of Christ” created by the Italian baroque artist Michelangelo da Caravaggio. Caravaggio is an artist of outstanding ability whose popularity has waxed and waned over the centuries. Several of his paintings have disappeared from the public view. Recently there has been much scholarly interest in Caravaggio’s works.

In this book, the adventure/mystery revolves around three major players: graduate student Francesca Cappelletti, who researches the provenance and history of
“The Taking of Christ”, Sir Denis Mahon, the world’s foremost expert on Caravaggio, and Sergio Benedetti, an art restorer who discovers the masterpiece at an Irish monastery and brings it to the National Gallery of Ireland. Harr presents an abundance of detail on the workings of art history research and art restoration, allowing the general reader to follow the action easily. He also enables the reader to access the thoughts and feelings of the main characters.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Whistleblower

The Whistleblower by Kathryn Bolkovac with Cari Lynn
Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice

This is the true life story of a Lincoln, Nebraska police officer turned International Human Rights Investigator. Looking for a change, Bolkovac, enticed by the high Dynocorp salaries, made the decision to apply for a job oversees. She soon discovered Dynocorp was inundated with unqualified candidates and that landing a job would be easy. Bolkovac traveled to Bosnia and began a journey that would soon lead her to discover a cover up of massive proportions.

Bolkovac discovers her employer, Dynocorp, is covering up the involvement of its own employees and contractors in the Bosnian sex trade industry. Their involvement ranges from the taking bribes to look the other way to the actually purchasing and resale of the young women. When Bolkovac discovers the wrong doing and reports it she was fired under false pretenses.

Bolkovac is a very courageous woman and there is no doubt she helped many foreign women who were victims of sex trafficking. However, this book is so structurally flawed, that it renders the text boring and practically unreadable. The tale is told in a strictly linear fashion that reads like a police deposition and lacks any kind of story-like quality. There is a lot of extraneous information inserted into the text that adds nothing to the story, while the most interesting side story, Bolkovac’s relationship with Jan, is totally glazed over (but I imagine it was very romantic). Perhaps the movie being made of this tale will be better.

About the Author
Bolkovac is a former police investigator from Nebraska that served as an International Police Task Force investigator in Bosnia. She divides her time between Licoln, NE and Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Where the mysterious Jan lives…)
Lynn is the author of three books of narrative non-fiction and has written for numerous magazines and newspapers including O, Health, Good Housekeeping and the Chicago Tribune. She live in LA, California.

Read-a-Likes (or alternatives to try)
The Natashas: inside the new global sex trade by Victor Malarek

Sex trafficking: inside the business of modern slavery by Siddharth Kara

The Franklin scandal: a story of powerbrokers, child abuse and betrayal by Nick Bryant

Friday, May 6, 2011

Three Junes

This first novel, written by Julia Glass, focuses on relationships and the joys and heartaches that they bring. The book features the McLeods, a Scottish family, and includes father Paul, mother Maureen, and sons Fenno, David and Dennis. In three sections of the book, and using flashbacks, we experience their lives in Scotland, Greece and the United States during three points of time in the 1980s and 1990s. The author sensitively portrays the attributes and foibles of the characters, all family members, friends and lovers of one another. Three of them are serendipitously linked: father/widower Paul meets and is attracted to the young American artist Fern while on a Greek cruise; six years later at the occasion of Paul’s death we observe the adventures of eldest son Fenno, a straight-laced homosexual expatriate who owns a bookstore in New York; finally four years later Fern and Fenno become acquainted while visiting with friends in the Hamptons.

Descriptive language allows the reader to visualize the settings as though they are works of art and the plot moves smoothly back and forth through time. This is a worthwhile book to read.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mystery: An Alex Delaware Novel

Author Jonathan Kellerman presents another mystery featuring his popular character Dr. Alex Delaware. Forensic science, computer savvy, psychological analysis and plain old sleuthing play equal parts in solving the murder of a woman who advertised on an online dating site matching older wealthy men with beautiful young women.

While at a romantic restaurant, Alex and girlfriend Robin spot an attractive young woman sitting by herself. The next day, coincidentally, Alex’s friend, LAPD Lt. Milo Sturgis brings him to the crime scene at which this same woman was mutilated and murdered. Investigations lead Alex and Milo to a wealthy family with links to old Hollywood society. Twists and turns lead to the mystery’s satisfying resolution. First-rate character development and attention to detail keep the momentum moving along.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Death in Belmont

A true crime story is up close and personal for author Sebastian Junger as he chronicles the Boston Strangler serial murders that took place during the early 1960s. Before the advent of DNA evidence, some individuals were tried and convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence. This is what happened to Roy Smith, a black man and ex-convict who was working as a housecleaner in Bessie Goldberg's home the day she was sexually assaulted and murdered, the thirteenth victim in the Boston area.

At the same time, a few blocks away, Albert DeSalvo was working as a hired helper on a home construction job for one-year-old Sebastian Junger's parents. The work was completed without incident, although Sebastian's mother had a premonition about DeSalvo possibly causing her harm.

Roy Smith spends several years in jail for the murder he says he did not commit; Albert DeSalvo eventually confesses to all of the Boston Strangler murders except for that of Bessie Goldberg. Was DeSalvo really the Boston Strangler or just someone looking for fame? Was Smith a victim of racial prejudice or was he a murderer? Junger tries to examine both men fairly as to their guilt or innocence, but in the end there still are unanswered questions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Written by Dava Sobel, this is an account of the lives of Galileo Galilei and his daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, based upon the remaining correspondence between the two as well as other biographical sources. Galileo, a man of genius and of deep religious faith, spent a lifetime battling the Roman Catholic Church over his controversial astronomical theories. Maria Celeste, one of his three illegitimate children who eventually entered a convent in Florence, was of a similar bent to her father, described by him as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me.”

Through the reading of this book, we become acquainted with the historical events of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including Bubonic Plague outbreaks and the Thirty Years’ War. We learn of Galileo’s introductory works in the science of physics and his inventions which included the telescope. We are able to observe the actions of this era’s men of politics, religion and science and how they influenced the future. Most of all, we are witness to the expression of deep love and friendship between a father and a daughter.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Friday Night Knitting Club

This novel, written by Kate Jacobs, offers the reader in-depth character development, drama, sorrow, joy and more. It is the story of Georgia Walker, a single mother raising her biracial child in Manhattan, fighting the odds to achieve financial security through the growth of her yarn store business. We are witness to Georgia’s nurturing of her daughter Dakota through the difficult years of early adolescence and the return of Dakota’s father in her life. We see how Georgia’s friendships, old and new, sustain her in her personal life and how she in turn supports these friends with their circumstances. There is romance for a few of the characters, adventure for others, and a growth of independence for all. Knitting rules are placed throughout the book, intended as metaphors for life management.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America

Written by Robert Charles Wilson, this is a portrait of an imagined 22nd-century America, in which Julian Comstock reflects the political and social turmoil in today’s world. The most poignant political themes in the novel are the separation of Church and State, religious freedom, the US‘s dependency on oil and the increasing monetary gap between the middle and the upper classes. Additional themes include America’s consumer-driven society tainted by the desire for excess and the dangers of viral mutation from antibiotics.

This novel takes place after the age of oil, in feudal caste society. The presidency is no longer determined by election but is inherited or appointed. The whole of North America is the new USA and the USA is still at war with the Europeans, who are labeled “the Dutch,” over Canada’s northern territories. After the end of oil, an indentured class is created, these citizens sell the only thing they own, their own bodies, in order to survive.

Julian Comstock, a member of privileged class, sets off to find America and himself. Julian is accompanied by two companions, Sam and Adam, who are of the working or indentured classes. The three involuntarily get drafted into the army and are sent off to fight the Dutch. The three eventually return as heros to New York, now the US’s capital. Soon the group is threatened by their political ties to the president and Julian is faced with overwhelming opposition from the powerful Church/Feudal run government.

As well as a political novel, Julian Comstock is a coming of age story. I would recommend this book to both adults and older teens, especially lovers of Science Fiction.

About the Author
Robert Charles Wilson, born in 1953, has been a full-time professional writer since 1986. He has published 14 novels, numerous short stories, and several non-fiction pieces and book reviews. He lives in Concord, Ontario, with his wife Sharry, a professional proofreader. Wilson received the Hugo award for his novel Spin in 2006.


Paul Park
Alison Sinclair
Eric Nylund
Pat Murphy

Monday, January 31, 2011

Books on Baking: Ban Those Winter Blues

The book Bake!: Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking, written by Nick Malgieri, is an ideal selection for beginning and intermediate bakers. Each of its twenty chapters highlights a different baking technique; its 125 recipes include numbered steps and many photographs.

Baked Explorations : Classic American Desserts Reinvented, written by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, is the second book from the owners of the Brooklyn bakery Baked. (They now own a second bakery in Charleston, South Carolina.) Seventy-five recipes are distributed in chapters featuring breakfast, tarts and pies, cookies and bars, cakes, confections and pastry. The authors have appeared often on television with Oprah, Martha Stewart, and on the Food Network.

The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free, written by Anne Byrn, is one of several Cake Mix Doctor books from the author. Using gluten-free cake mixes in combination with a variety of other items, Byrn produces cakes, cupcakes, brownies, bars and cookies, frosting and more from over seventy-five recipes. Byrn often appears on television shows' cooking segments.

Sarabeth's Bakery : from My Hands to Yours, written by Sarabeth Levine with Rick Rodgers, is the first cookbook from the longtime Manhattan bakery owner. Scones, muffins, croissants, cookies, and other classics, often paired with the spreadable fruits for which Sarabeth is known, are featured in her step-by-step recipes accompanied by photos. More advanced recipes are presented too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books

The author, Aaron Lansky, was a graduate student who took a Yiddish language class. At that time, Yiddish was believed to be a dying language. His professor encouraged him to travel to New York to search for some Yiddish books. Aaron was able to track down an assortment of them that someone was throwing out. He realized that if something wasn’t done, soon there wouldn’t be any Yiddish books left in the world. So began Aaron’s adventures as a collector and distributor of Yiddish books.

Working with a small group of like-minded friends, Aaron created the National Yiddish Book Center. They traveled cross-country and around the world to rescue Yiddish books being discarded because their owners were moving from their homes and didn’t have room for them, or the children who inherited the books weren’t able to read them. For each donation of books, they also were showered with an abundance of home-cooked meals and colorful stories. Eventually the group established a permanent library on a New England college campus, where the collection of over one million and a half books is available, some for reference use and some for circulation. An ongoing digitization project will guarantee the perpetuation of these works.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: Grow Your Finances

Is 2011 the year you want to increase your personal wealth? Here are some books to help you.

“Debt Free for Life”, written by David Bach, offers tips on how to get out of debt and avoid incurring new debt using his Debt Wise program. He also shows how to lower the interest rates on credit cards, fix your credit report and score, get non-profit credit counseling, and more.

“Getting Started in Rebuilding Your 401(k) Account: A Comprehensive Guide to a Strong Retirement Portfolio, Second Edition”, written by Paul Katzeff, is a current handbook on restoring your investments to their pre-recession levels. From the basics of 401 (k) plans, to new rules about them, to choosing the right investments, this guide can assure your financial future.

“The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less”, written by John Robbins, focuses on finding success through health and happiness, not financial wealth. He offers tips on living on less, fitness through diet and exercise, and planning for economic catastrophes.