Thursday, October 31, 2013


The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin is not a picture book but an actual story telling.  Kurin selected a variety of artifacts to be included in this book and you will be delighted not only by the object selected but by the backstories associated with each choice. By reading about everything from arrowheads to the space shuttle you will learn about important landmarks in American history.  Be sure to read about the Hope Diamond – fascinating not only for its story but for its method of delivery to the Smithsonian.  This book shows you the process of who decides what is to become an historic artifact; how and why the decision is made and how items are collected.  Makes you wonder how Julia Child’s kitchen made it into the Smithsonian, doesn’t it?  You'll have to check this book out if you really want to know!  SG

The sound of a mortar and pestle...

A new cookbook by Andy Ricker is called Pok Pok because yes, pok pok is the sound of a mortar and pestle! He developed a love of Thai food staying in Chiang Mai with friends and went to a restaurant that specialized in Northern Thai food. After his epiphany he made many trips to Thailand studying the food and eventually opened a Thai restaurant on a shoestring budget in Portland.
This cookbook is approachable, the author claims he has no recipes that have unobtainable ingredients. That said, this is not for those who want easy...there are equipment lists and pantry lists. You need a mortar and pestle. You will make chili pastes! The satay recipe (grilled chicken with peanut sauce) specifies boneless pork loin, cut into strips that are 3 inches long, 1 inch wide , and 1/4 inch thick.
 This book is beautiful, lots of big photographs woven in with recipes and stories. So if you are like me, a tad too lazy to cook authentic Thai food, then take it home and spend an entertaining evening! ML

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

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The next title on my "to-read" list is Jhumpa Lahiri's latest book, The Lowland, because she never fails to disappoint -- I honestly believe that if she wrote a technical manual on lawnmowers it would still be poetic.  I first read her debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies when I was in college, and it's a book that's stuck with me over the years.  Her description and use of language draws the reader in, and it's impossible not to become fascinated with and even care deeply for the characters she introduces you to.  Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000, and consists of nine short stories exploring issues of identity, love, and humanity -- all the good stuff.  Also be sure to check out her other titles, The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth.  HM

Friday, October 25, 2013

Small and Simple

Are you thinking about downsizing and moving to a smaller space or just fixing up an old one?  Browse through some wonderfully useful floor plans and home designs in Compact Houses : 50 Creative Floor Plans for Well-designed Small Homes by Gerald Rowan. You will be surprised at how well efficient yet open designs can complement each other. Even if you’re just looking for DIY project ideas—this book is loaded with constructive, practical information.The homes are suitable for various locations and family sizes. The author has owned and renovated over 60 small homes and cabins and taught art, architecture and design for over 30 years.  DB

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Not Your Usual Stuff

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith is a whodunit story of a famous, beautiful model who plunges to her death from her penthouse.   Is it murder? Suicide?  Her brother, believing it to be murder, hires private detective Cormoran Strike.  Strike is a character with an entertaining, enigmatic story of his own, adding a nice dimension to the storytelling by Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling.  And just like in the Harry Potter series, each character that joins Strike in this story is lively, well written, and can hold his or her own.  There is something formulaic about the mystery in this story but Galbraith does such a great job with the character development that you find yourself unable to walk away. SG

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Long Wait

Do you love medical shows, like Grey's Anatomy, or ER? Watch the real thing, it is so much more dramatic. We have a new DVD from PBS called The Waiting Room:24 hours, 241 patients. One stretched ER.
This really illustrates in dramatic fashion what people go through when they don't have health insurance. What happens is they go to the emergency room, in this case a hospital in Oakland California. Fascinating, dramatic and sometimes so sad, this viewer was riveted. The New York Times gave this a Critics' Pick and the Washington Post review said it was "As poetic and universal as a modern-day Grapes of Wrath." ML

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Electric Read

Ben Coes writes thrillers that remind me a bit of Vince Flynn.  Coes' book Power Down is full of international intrigue, government conspiracy and action packed murder, all revolving around America's need for power (as in electric, oil, gas).  It's very scary to see how dependent we are on other countries for our energy and when you bring in the story line of terrorists attacking our domestic power sources it becomes a very plausible story.  Add in ex Delta officer Dewey Andreas and you now have a full blown action packed thriller.  SG

Friday, October 18, 2013

Beautiful Buildings

Take an armchair tour this fall!  Great Architecture of Michigan by John Gallagher and Balthazar Korab takes you on an architectural tour around the state. Designers like Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Kahn and Philip Johnson are featured in more than 150 buildings. The buildings range in age from pre-civil war to modern day. Information includes not only the architect, but location and a history of the building as well.  This is an enjoyable and informative book. DB

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Small town lives

Hildy Good is a townie. A lifelong resident of an historic community on the rocky coast of Boston’s North Shore, she knows pretty much everything about everyone. Hildy is a descendant of one of the witches hung in nearby Salem, and is believed, by some, to have inherited psychic gifts. Not true, of course; she’s just good at reading people. Hildy is good at lots of things.  A successful real-estate broker, mother and grandmother, her days are full. But her nights have become lonely ever since her daughters, convinced their mother was drinking too much, staged an intervention and sent her off to rehab.  Now she’s in recovery—more or less.
Alone and feeling unjustly persecuted, Hildy needs a friend. She finds one in Rebecca McCallister, a beautiful young mother and one of the town’s wealthy newcomers. Rebecca feels out-of-step in her new surroundings and is grateful for the friendship. And Hildy feels like a person of the world again, as she and Rebecca escape their worries with some harmless gossip, and a bottle of wine by the fire—just one of their secrets.
But not everyone takes to Rebecca, who is herself the subject of town gossip. When Frank Getchell, an eccentric local who shares a complicated history with Hildy, tries to warn her away from Rebecca, Hildy attempts to protect her friend from a potential scandal. Soon, however, Hildy is busy trying to cover her own tracks and protect her reputation.  When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behavior of one threatens to expose the other, and this darkly comic novel takes a chilling turn.
THE GOOD HOUSE, by Ann Leary is a classic New England tale that lays bare the secrets of one little town, this spirited novel will stay with you long after the story has ended.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Carry on

How do people recover from horrific events beyond their control? Jenny Rowan was kidnapped at age 8 and held captive by an abuser for 18 months. She managed to escape and live in a shopping- mall until she was discovered and put into foster care. Now she is a production editor at a news station in Washington, D.C.  Jenny is a survivor. She is a decidedly private person who keeps the past and the present at a distance she can control. When Detective Jack Collins shows up at her home and asks her to help a young girl who has been rescued from captivity, she is forced to come to terms with the nightmares of her childhood  and the choices she has made since escaping it. Others of My Kind by James Sallis is a very short story that provides insight into the resolute mindset of those who persevere. DB  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Scary Circle

The latest offering from Dave Eggers, The Circle, is a work of terrifying plausibility, a cautionary tale of subversive power in the digital age. Set in the near future, it examines the inner workings of the Circle, an internet company that is both spiritual and literal successor to Facebook, Google, Twitter and more, as seen through the eyes of Mae Holland, a new hire who starts in customer service. As Mae is absorbed into the Circle's increasingly demanding multi- and social media experience, she plays an ever more pivotal role in the company's plans, which include preventing child abductions through microchips, reducing crime through omnipresent surveillance, and eliminating political corruption through transparency courtesy of personal cameras. Soon, she's not alone in asking what it will mean to "complete the Circle" as its ultimate goal comes into view; even her closest friends and family suspect the Circle is going too far in its desire to make the world a better, safer, more honest place. The plot moves at a casual, yet inexorable pace, sneaking up on the reader before delivering its warnings of the future, a worthy and entertaining read.  PW, LLC. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Beyond Bizarre...

Did you know that ants can form a bridge, there are see-through frogs, albino turtles, and a butterfly with glass wings? If you enjoy the unusual, pick up Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Dare to Look. Filled with 200+ pages of strange facts, crazy pictures and weird wisdom, it will either entertain or shock you. The book is actually divided into chapters featuring animals, art, food, sports, and more. Enjoy, but Beware! DB

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dark Continent

This impressive series kickoff from British author Sherez, A Dark Redemption introduces Det. Insp. Jack Carrigan, a Scotland Yard veteran regarded as an oddball for his obsessive devotion to his work. Years earlier, after graduating from college, Carrigan and two friends took a vacation in Uganda that ended in tragedy. The shadows from that traumatic experience weigh more heavily on Carrigan after the savage murder of Grace Okello, a student of East African history, in her London flat. The victim was studying African warlords who have used revolutionary politics as a mask for their sadistic desire for power, and it appears her research could have been a threat to one of them. The action builds to a jaw-dropping resolution. Readers will want to see more of this convincingly flawed hero.  PW

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

If you're like me you enjoy lists - the best books of all time, the top grossing movies of 2013, etc.  Here's a book of lists that is a bit more unusual than most:  100 Most Influential People who Never Lived by Kelly Knauer.  This book covers everyone from Mary Poppins to Atticus Finch from To Kill  Mockingbird.  All of these iconic figures do not exist but we all know who they are and many of them have permeated our culture and influenced entire generations.  Remember Homer Simpson?  How about Santa Claus?  One of my favorites was reading about what Mary Tyler Moore had to say about her character on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  This is a fun book even if you just have a moment to browse the pictures. SG