Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian isn’t afraid of tackling social issues in his books, and The Guest Room is no exception. His latest novel deals with sex slavery. Richard Chapman hosts a bachelor party for his brother, but after one of the “entertainers” kills her handler, things go from bad to worse. Richard’s life is completely turned upside down. Told from multiple points of view, readers get to see how this tragedy affects Richard, his wife, and one of the entertainers.

I am a huge fan of Chris Bohjalian’s books, and his newest didn’t disappoint. The ending was completely unexpected, and left me reeling. I couldn’t put this book down until I read the very last page. 

If you liked this book, you should also try The Stolen Ones by Owen Laukkanen.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Rumor: a Novel by Elin Hilderbrand

Remember the game “Telephone”? You probably played it as a child. Here is the version that my friends and I played: Person A whispers a secret to Person B. (You can only say it once.) Then Person B whispers what they heard to Person C. (Again, only said once.)  Person C then whispers it to Person D. And so on and so on. Finally, the last person says the secret aloud. Of course, everyone starts laughing because usually the secret sounds nothing like it did when it originated with Person A.

 This pretty much sums up the plot for Elin Hilderbrand’s newest novel, The Rumor.

Grace & Madeline are best friends, living their seemingly perfect lives in Nantucket. But of course, nothing is perfect. Madeline’s a writer with writer’s block and has a son that is in love with her best friend’s daughter who may be seeing someone behind his back. Grace’s daughter is trying to have her cake and eat it too, and Grace’s husband is keeping the fact that they are almost broke a secret from his wife. Plus Grace finds herself more and more drawn to the handsome landscape architect. This is just the beginning of the secrets that are inside the public image that these ladies have worked tirelessly to maintain.

So how are the secrets exposed? Well, through rumors of course. And we all know what can happen when a rumor gets started. That’s right…Telephone!


Read-alike author: Dorothea Benton Frank

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker

The Dorito Effect is a food book in the same vein as Salt, Sugar, Fat and The Omnivore's Dilemma, in that it discusses how the food industry is manipulating (and in many cases making worse) the food that we eat. Schatzker focuses on the flavor component of manipulation, and not just how adding flavors that were once upon a time associated with healthy foods (like strawberry flavoring in yogurt that contains little to no actual strawberries) messes with our intake of nutritional ingredients, like vitamins and amino acids, but also how healthy food that was once succulent and flavorful, like tomatoes and chicken, now taste bland and need an abundance of ranch dressing (among other flavorings) to make them palatable.  This book illustrates that when people from older generations say they remember juicier and more flavorful fruits, vegetables, and chickens from their childhood, they may actually be speaking the truth. While I thought this book was interesting and provided a new perspective on the food industry, I also found it to be less engaging than Salt, Sugar, Fat and The Omnivore's Dilemma. If you haven't delved into reading books about the food industry yet, I would definitely start with one of those two over The Dorito Effect. However, if you've already read a couple (and found them interesting) this is a nice addition.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

It’s likely there have been enough books on the Wright brothers to fill up every inch of a small, or maybe even a medium size, library, but in The Wright Brothers, his new biography of the pioneers of flight, award-winning historian David McCullough adds another very worthy and very accessible volume on Wilbur and Orville. The book focuses more on the Wright brothers’ accomplishments than on any juicy tidbits about their personal lives. While Orville and Wilbur do mention a few times the “handsome” women that surround them once they become celebrities, nothing seems to have gone beyond that. In addition, neither brother seems to have shown an interest in socializing with royalty nor the rich and famous beyond what was necessary for promoting their business interests. That’s not to say they were boring. While humble in regards to his achievements, Wilbur did show a bit of flash by flying up the Hudson River and on another flight circling the Statue of Liberty. The Wright Brothers illuminates the paradox of the brothers being hard working and practical while also trying something that most people at the time thought to be pure madness.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Cookbook Club - Weeknights with Giada,204,203,200_.jpg 
January's Cookbook Club brought in recipes from Giada de Laurentiis's Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner. Overall this book went over well. The recipes were actually simple and easy to follow, with little to no tweaking needed to make them work - most of the changes were done by preference of the person cooking (e.g. the Apricot Oat Bars were made with cherries instead of apricots and the Creamy Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup was made with a bit less broth to make it thicker). The only small complaint was that not every recipe had a picture, and sometimes it helps to know what the final product should be. Everyone enjoyed the dishes that were shared and thought the book was true to its name, they could could easily be made during the week.

We Tried the Following Recipes:
Creamy Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup
Penne in Almond Sauce
Pastina with Peas and Carrots
Peach and Cherry Frittata
Apricot (in our case Cherry) Oat Bars

Next Book: Comfort Food Makeovers,204,203,200_.jpg

Copies can be picked up at the Adult Services Desk
Next Meeting: Sunday, February 14 at 1:00pm

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

Like many people, I have always been fascinated by the Kennedys. For a long time, I knew nothing about Rosemary, so I was excited to read that a credible author was telling Rosemary’s story. But it turned out to be a lot more than a biography. It is really the story of the entire Kennedy family and how Rosemary affected each of them. From Rose not really being able to deal with a special child to Joe not wanting any “talk” about his family that may impact his, and later his sons, chances for a political career. Then on to the Kennedy siblings, where the older ones were instructed to watch out for their sister instead of having their own fun to the younger siblings who, never really knowing their sister, still went on to be champions for the disabled. And finally, the guilt felt by all after Rosemary's "surgery".

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter is an interesting look at one of America’s most well-known families. And not necessarily interesting in a good way.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Big Data Baseball by Travis Sawchik

The Pittsburgh Pirates had one of the longest streaks of losing seasons in professional sports history (20 straight) before posting a winning record in 2013. Travis Sawchik’s BigData Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak explains in depth what The Pirates organization did to finally get back on the right track. Not having money to go after many, or even a few, big name free agents, the team invested greatly in statistics wizards and analysts. The team signed veteran catcher Russell Martin after researching the value of catchers like him who are able to consistently get borderline strike calls from umpires. They also picked up pitcher Francisco Liriano, who most teams thought was washed up. The Pirates coaching staff was able to get Liriano to better utilize his sinking fastball, and they also put a much better defense behind him than he had had on his previous teams. This defense was perhaps The Pirates biggest leap forward both in terms of their success and in how many other teams were copying them in the next two years. The Pirates used radical shifts, particularly with their infielders, and used these shifts on multiple hitters from opposing teams. These moves, and many similar ones, were a large part of what ended The Pirates losing ways.

Big Data Baseball will obviously get comparisons to Money Ball by Michael Lewis. I doubt that it will have the broad appeal of Lewis’ book, but it’s still an entertaining read that tells a wonderful David versus Goliath story. The book shows that teams can have success without signing players to $200 million dollar contracts.