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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

     Here is a novel written entirely in personal letter format. It was co-authored by Mary Ann Schaffer, who became ill before the final editing process and her niece Annie Barrows, a children’s writer, who prepared the book for publication.

    The setting of the novel: Post World War II Guernsey Island, a part of the United Kingdom that was occupied by the Nazis during the war. The main character, writer Juliet Ashton, a straightforward and goodhearted woman in her early thirties who has had some literary success but now is searching for a new project. Her personal life is a mix of successful relationships (we read her correspondence with her close childhood friend and the friend’s older brother who also is Juliet’s publisher) and uncertainty (she is in a whirlwind courtship with an attractive but overbearing American publisher.) Then Juliet receives a letter from a Mr. Dawsey Adams, the purchaser of a book about Charles Lamb once owned by Juliet. Juliet is intrigued when she finds out that Dawsey and his friends formed a literary society during the German occupation; its original purpose was to provide relief from the restraints on their lives. Surprisingly, many of these members who never read much before now enjoyed it. In short order, several other society members begin writing to Juliet about their experiences. Juliet decides to visit these new friends and in doing so finds her life changed forever. Humor, sorrow, romance, strength in adversity, and more are all feelings that the characters, and the reader, experience in the telling of this story.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Lost Years: A Novel

     Mary Higgins Clark is the author of over thirty suspense novels featuring self-reliant young career women who are able to emerge triumphant from attacks by criminals and other evil individuals. In The Lost Years, we find Mariah Lyons reeling from the murder of her biblical scholar father Jonathan Lyons; it appears that he was killed by Kathleen, his wife of forty years and an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer. But appearances aren’t always as they seem. Although police initially believe that Kathleen is the culprit because of her enraged feelings towards Jonathan and his mistress Lillian, another possible motive soon is revealed. Jonathan may have discovered an extremely rare document from biblical times, a letter from Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea. If this document was real, Jonathan intended to return it to the Vatican Library. But perhaps the exorbitant amount of money an article of this value could earn in the marketplace might tempt someone to murder. Jonathan’s discovery may have been shared with his inner circle of friends, four men who also are biblical scholars and Lillian.

     Short, rapidly-paced chapters follow the suspense as seen through the eyes of each character in turn, reaching a peak of excitement and a satisfactorily happy ending. Although the book might not be considered fine literature, Clark does have a fortunate talent for concise character depiction and lush description of the visual.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cupcakes: The Latest Trend in Baking

Why are cupcakes so appealing? Because they’re easy to decorate! And you can create a different look for every one! And they are portion controlled – unless you eat more than one! Here are some recently published books about cupcakes.

Cake Pops by Bakerella: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats is written by Angie Dudley, who hosts the blog site Here she presents forty different cake pops, with accompanying photos and clear step-by-step instructions.

Celebrate with Cupcakes: Designs and Techniques for Creating 30 Gorgeous Cupcakes, written by Lindy Smith, a professional baker and baking author who lives in Great Britain. Her book includes the basics of baking, decorating and painting the cupcakes, then progresses to the creation of seasonal/holiday and animal-modeled examples.

The Cupcake Diaries: Recipes and Memories from the Sisters of Georgetown Cupcake is written by Katherine Kallinis & Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne, authors and sisters who recount their life story here. Both college graduates, Katherine and Sophie left promising careers to open a cupcake shop, DC
Cupcakes that took off. They now have a second shop and a hit television series on TLC. Their stories are interspersed with recipes and photos.

Two-bite Cupcakes , written by Viola Goren, presents 70 cupcake recipes that range from those that include special fillings, to toppings, to chocolate and to savory ingredients. Celebration cupcakes for holidays and special events also are given. The importance of proper equipment and correct ingredients are emphasized. Easy-to-follow instructions and photos accompany each recipe.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional

       What if you have boundless energy, are restless and have mood swings from high to low. Does this mean you are bipolar? Or, if you like everything very orderly, arrange things by size, shape, or color, and have unreasonable recurring thoughts. Do you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? Not necessarily, according to the theories espoused in this book by Dr. Dale Archer. The author, who is a psychiatrist, media presenter and website host, conjectures that eight of the psychiatric disorders highlighted in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, are not full-blown psychoses but instead are normal human qualities that each of us possess, whether nearly absent, dominant, or superdominant, along a continuum. So, the person with ADHD may simply be adventurous, an individual exhibiting social anxiety may be shy, and the narcissist is very self-focused. Dr. Archer also compares schizophrenia with magical thinking on the continuum, histrionic personalities with dramatic ones, and people with generalized anxiety disorder with the hyper-alert.

       Although Dr. Archer recognizes that individuals who are super-dominant on the continuums for any one of these psychological traits probably will require psychotherapy and/or medication, he believes that we should appreciate these traits that we all possess to a greater or lesser degree. The easy-to-read book contains several in-depth examples of these behaviors, a list of bibliographic sources, and eight brief questionnaires designed to help the reader determine where he or she falls on the continuum for each.