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Saturday, November 30, 2013


    A different view of the goings-on at Longbourn, the family home of the Bennetts in Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice. In this recently-written novel by Jo Baker, life is seen through the eyes of the Bennett’s servants. And while the reader does catch glimpses of the major events in the original novel, the focus here is squarely on the five servants: orphaned Sarah, a housemaid; Mrs. Hill, the cook and head servant; her husband Mr. Hill, Polly, a younger housemaid; and James Smith, a footman who is hired by Mr. Bennett after mysteriously arriving in the night. At first Sarah mistrusts James, thinking him to be a fraud. Sarah would like to escape Longbourn and travel the wide world, particularly going to London. She thinks she sees her chance to do this by leaving with one of the Bingley’s menservants, but James prevents her from making a disastrous mistake. A romance develops between Sarah and James but James has a secret that he doesn’t dare reveal to her. He had been punished for supposedly deserting the British army after battle and has been on the run ever since. With the installation of the militia in the neighborhood, James is on edge and decides to quit Longbourn and work elsewhere.

    There are other mysteries to be resolved here too: the relationship between Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Hill; the reasons for James’ journey; and how Sarah is able to locate him. All are eventually revealed through Baker’s accurate detail and perceptive characterization. This is an enjoyable read for Austen fans and for others.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Authors Celebrating November Birthdays

    Commemorate these authors’ birthdays by reading some of their books.

    November 18th – Margaret Atwood is a Canadian novelist, poet and literary critic, well-known for several titles that some regard as science fiction but she sees as “speculative fiction”. Some of her best-known works include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, and MaddAddam.

    November 20th -- Don DeLillo, a novelist, playwright and essayist, is viewed as an author of the literary postmodernism era. He has been both nominee and finalist for several book awards. Some of his best-known works include White Noise, Libra, and The Body Artist.

    November 23rd -- Rick Bayless, a chef and cookbook author, specializes in regional Mexican cuisine. His cookbooks include Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen and Fiesta at Rick’s: Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends. He also hosts the PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time.

    November 26th – Charles Schulz was a cartoonist and the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. He has left a legacy in a collection of books containing his Peanuts cartoons as well as videos.

    November 27th – Michael Stackpole is a science fiction and fantasy writer who has contributed to several volumes in the Star Wars and the Battle Tech series. He also has had a career in game design.

    November 28th – Rita Mae Brown is the “coauthor” of mysteries written with her cat Sneaky Pie Brown, featuring the feline character Mrs. Murphy. These include The Big Cat Nap and A Nose for Justice. She also has written other styles of fiction, poetry and screenplays.

    November 30th – Mark Twain, pseudonym of author and humorist Samuel Clemens, lived during the 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best known for his classic novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Craft Presents for the Holidays

    Express your creative side by crafting holiday gifts for friends and family. Here are some books to get you started.

    Vogue Knitting Very Easy Sweaters: 50 Simple, Stylish Designs features current styles using basic stitches and techniques. Color photos accompany each project. First-time knitters and those with more experience will find patterns to interest them.

    The New Crochet: a Beginner’s Guide with 38 Modern Projects, written by Marion Madel, presents 25 lessons in the art of crocheting, each including at least one, or two, projects to reinforce the stitch or technique. Illustrations and color photos assist the crafter.

    Sew Modern Baby: 19 Projects to Sew from Cuddly Sleepers to Stimulating Toys, written by Angela Yosten, offers ideas and patterns for creating infant toys and accessories out of fabric. Color photos and explicit instructions abound.

    And, for kids of all ages, here are two books each featuring 101 duct tape activities: Tape It & Make It and Tape It & Make More, each written by Richela Fabian Morgan. Create fashion accessories, housewares, costumes and more. In-depth instructions show you how.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cooking for Thanksgiving Day

    Start planning now for your Thanksgiving Day menu! Here are some cookbooks to help you out.

    Autumn from the Heart of the Home, written by Susan Branch, is a combination of cookbook and gift book designated just for Thanksgiving and Halloween. The book is brightly decorated with watercolor illustrations and appropriate quotations, and includes easy recipes, tips on entertaining, decorating ideas, and other projects.

    How to Cook a Turkey: and all the other Trimmings is produced by the editors of Fine Cooking magazine. Sure to satisfy the needs of both novices and more experienced cooks, there are a hundred recipes covering everything from appetizers, to turkey, gravy, and stuffing, to desserts – especially pies. Color photos accompany it all.

    Thanksgiving: how to Cook it Well is written by Sam Sifton, a former New York Times restaurant critic; it was named one of the best books of the year by He presents the basics and more, with many variations; helpful hints abound. The reader also will enjoy his ideas for leftovers.

    Thanksgiving 101: Celebrate America’s Favorite Holiday with America’s Thanksgiving Expert, written by Rick Rodgers, presents recipes, menus, shortcuts, variations on classics and more. Rodgers is also the author of The Turkey Cookbook and teaches Thanksgiving 101 classes.