Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson captures the events taking place in 1930's Berlin as we follow American Ambassador William Dodd and his family during this tumultous and complex time. Meet Dodd's daughter Martha as she flirts, dances, attends nightclubs and 'salons' and mingles with Gestapo officers and communists, all the while unaware at first (so she says) of the true goings on in Germany. Meet Ambassador William Dodd, the gentle academic historian who wants nothing more than to have time to write his "Old South" epic but spends more and more time defending his beliefs about the dangers of what is happening in Hitler's Germany to his fellow American politicos. This was a fascinating look into what Berlin was like at the start of Hitler's rise to power. Erik Larson is the author of Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck. SG

Monday, January 30, 2012

The power of the sea...

Dr Ruth Galloway,forensic anthropologist, is back, in this third mystery of the series. Taking place on the coast of England these mysteries have a definite sense of place as well as interesting characters. Dr Ruth is a harried single mom, trying to have her career and take care of her unexpected but much beloved young daughter. The sea has washed away the dirt over buried bones, the bones of six young men. When did they die and why? The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths is atmospheric and suspenseful, a good read for a cold night. ML

Saturday, January 28, 2012

DYI Wedding

According to statistics, the average cost of a wedding today hovers somewhere around what it would cost to buy a new car or put a good-size down payment on a house (Or even buy a house. The housing market is bad, after all). That in mind, I've been doing absolutely everything I can do in order to save $$ on my upcoming nuptials. Although my crafty-ness veers more toward pencil and sketchpad than hot glue gun and sewing machine, I decided to pick this one up. An Affair to Remember, the third DYI Bride book, contains recipes for several of the typical craft book staples, such as how to make a rope-wrapped vase or how to construct a wall hanging from ribbons. Others (the crape paper flowers) are pretty tacky. Still, I got a couple ideas. Maybe not for stuff I can do myself, but certainly for lower cost (but still cool) alternatives.

One thing I did like about this book was this: Rather than assume the reader is a regular Martha Stewart, it breaks "how-to" part of the crafts down in easy steps even a total clutz like me could follow without botching too severely. Additionally, each craft breaks down the average cost of the materials, letting the reader know exactly how much they're looking to spend (which can then be compared to the cost of the store-bought alternative). This is especially helpful to those of us who are trying to stick to a certain budget. Overall, a cool book. I just might try some of the simpler crafts. And who knows...I just might surprise myself with my craftiness! --AJL

Friday, January 27, 2012

Here Comes the Bride...

In the small town of Fowler, Michigan there is a bridal shop. In this bridal shop there is a special room--it’s the place where hopes and dreams, disappointments and first and even second beginnings are launched. Becker’s Bridal is known to generations of women in central Michigan and beyond. It has been in business for over 70 years. It all began in 1934 when Grandma Eva, owner Shelley Becker Mueller’s grandmother, drove to Chicago and brought back a wedding dress to sell in the family general store. The store has remained in the Becker family ever since. Shelley has expanded the number of selections to 25,000. There are more gowns than town residents. The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow tells Becker’s story, Shelley’s story and lets you glimpse into the lives of the Becker brides. An infatuating read! DB

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Before It's Too Late

Last Chance to See is the story of an epic journey that began 20 years ago, when zoologist and wildlife photographer Mark Carwardine teamed up with the late writer Douglas Adams to visit some of the most inaccessible places on Earth. Their mission was to locate 9 of the world's most endangered species in their natural habitats, and they did. Now for this documentary, Carwardine and Adams' close friend, actor Stephen Fry, return to the same places and species to see what has become of them, 2o years on.

Also check out the Douglas Adams book of the same title, published in 1990. HM

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Speak is a National Book Award Finalist by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is a teen crossover (meaning adults will enjoy this story) about a High School freshman named Mel who has become an outcast from everyone she knows. It’s a misunderstanding but Mel finds that she can’t speak about it. Little by little she swallows her words until she is barely talking. This book is about everything we dreaded during our High School years, from the teachers to the bullies to our own parents and it’s about learning to speak. This book has also been made into a movie with Kristan Stewart (pre-twilight) and was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival. SG

Friday, January 20, 2012

The tragic demise of a neighborhood family in 2000 spurred Peter Lovenheim into action. He wondered if knowing your neighbors could have prevented the horrendous murder-suicide in his upscale New York community. He vows to get to know his neighbors. Not only does he intend to converse with them, he actually wants to spend time in their homes and observe their daily rituals. He asks to spend the night. While this bold move is met with many declines, he actually does sleep over at a few homes nearby. His interactions pay off when he introduces few neighbors and they begin to interact. Lovenheim’s premise, although somewhat assertive, is truly captivating. His experiment ultimately proves beneficial, both for him individually and for his neighbors. Check out In the Neighborhood by Peter Lovenheim for a thought provoking read! DB

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The coincidence of human affairs.

When Charlotte Rainsford is mugged on a London street, the consequences ripple across the lives of acquaintances and strangers alike. While we get to know this collection of folks and how a random act affects them, we also become more aware, what part does coincidence play in our lives? Penelope Lively's book How It All Began explores this question in ways humble yet profound. Have you ever had an accident? What if the car you ran into was five minutes later or the dog you tripped over was tied up that day? A fascinating question wrapped up in the form of a novel. Lovely! ML

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In the Land of Mordor?

Where the Shadows Lie by Michael Ridpath is not your ordinary police procedural. When Icelandic expat and Boston detective Magnus Jonson finds his life threatened, he is whisked away into temporary witness protection via the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police. He attempts to swallow his bitter memories of his homeland as he is called to investigate the murder of a professor of Icelandic literature. What follows is a web of greed, buried history, and family secrets involving a supposedly cursed ring, a long-lost saga, and two half-crazed Lord of the Rings fans. Though I found myself having to suspend disbelief at several plot points in Ridpath's tale, it was a quick and enjoyable read that kept me guessing til (almost) the end. HM

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

scratch cooking...yes or no?

In Jennifer Reese's book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, she chronicles her life after she lost her job. She wondered about making food at home from scratch, is it really cheaper? Her experiments range from the doable (bread, bagels) to the truly ridiculous (butchering your own turkey, making vermouth!) Reese also includes "the hassle factor" and a cost comparison. I also found this book to be laugh-out-loud funny as she takes an ironic tone to describe her adventures in say, goat keeping or curing her own meats. Informative and witty, I loved this book! ML

An elegy for a lost world

This love story set during WWII is a story of a lost world, pre-war England and a beautiful country house. Nineteen-year old Elise grows up in Vienna to a cultured and wealthy family. As the Nazi's gain power her family sends her to England to be a maid at a country manor. She struggles with her change in status and the sheer amount of work required of a servant at that time. As war comes to England the old ways of doing things change as well as her life. Romantic and touching, if you like Downton Abby you will love this novel, The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. ML

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


For recovering alcoholic and Oslo detective Harry Hole, waking up with a pounding headache isn't that unusual. But waking up to a headache, no memory of the night before, and the discovery that his ex-girlfriend -- who he had spent the previous night with -- has been murdered is slightly out of the ordinary. Can Harry clear his name and track down a ruthless bank robber terrorizing the streets of Oslo?

Nemesis is the second book in Jo Nesbø's series to be published in English. Also be sure to follow Harry Hole in his other adventures in The Snowman and The Leopard. HM

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Magic in everyday life

Among Others by Jo Walton is the story of a young girl, a teenager who is an outcast at the English boarding school she attends. She is also estranged from her mother, a witch, and her twin has died in a mysterious accident in which she herself was crippled. Her escape is literature, specifically science fiction, and her reading list is all the great science fiction and fantasy available. How she survives and prospers in spite of the difficult circumstances of her life is an inspiring read. Great character development and an original story line elevate this coming of age story. ML