Staff Choices

Posted by Katie M on 11/20/17
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If you love reading cookbooks and have an interest in Southern cooking, there are 2 excellent additions to our collection:
 
First up is Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook by Pamela Strobel, which was out of print until the Lee Brothers discovered a copy of the book and had it reprinted. Starting with a detailed introduction that tells you about Princess Pamela and her beloved recipes and restaurants, it also provides notable information about the history of soul food cookbooks. The Lee Brothers have tested many of the recipes and the result is a series of helpful instructions, and while there are no pictures, there is a poem by Princess Pamela for nearly every recipe, full of self-deprecating humor and witty observation. Overall, I found it to be a fun and informative read. I made the Sauce Beautiful and Hot Slaw, which were both tasty, and plan to try more recipes, like the Brown Coconut Pie that calls for freshly grated coconut and the Molasses Pie with pecans.
 
Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen is a picture-filled tribute to her Raleigh, N.C. modern diner, Poole’s. This beautiful book is full of Southern-influenced recipes and ingredients, with many professional tips and tricks, and a focus on fresh ingredients. I made the Chow-Chow, a Southern pickled staple, and the Marinated Avocados with Apples, Blue Cheese and Almonds, which uses sorghum in its dressing; both were wonderful. The book has what looks like a definitive recipe for a savory tomato pie, Homegrown Tomato Pie, and a recipe for Chilled Corn Soup with Cherry Tomatoes that recommends a professional cream whipper for best results, as well as a host of other drink and food recipes. I think these recipes span both home-style Southern staples and aspirational reinterpretations, and I found the instructions, notes and pictures useful.
Cookbooks
Posted by Lucy S on 11/16/17
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This is a peculiar story about a woman who has been gifted a tantalizing sourdough starter by two brothers who ran a delicious but illegal restaurant out of their home kitchen. Starter is a living thing and this one makes sounds as it ferments and gurgles in an almost melodic tone with a hint of gleaming light emanating from the brew. Each time the bread bakes a distinctive face appears on its crust. In her day job, Lois is a software engineer who programs robotic machinery and is now compelled to bake.
 
Veering away from the breadline, the book also brings up issues of following your own path in life, being creative, exploring the relationships you make and finding satisfaction in the work that you do.
 

An enjoyable, wholesome, quick read that just might make you hungry. Fans of author Robin Sloan’s earlier novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Book Store and Brian Doyles’ Chicago will enjoy reading Sourdough.

 
Fiction
Posted by SherriT on 11/13/17
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Karolina's Twins by Ronald Balson is a different sort of Holocaust novel. The contemporary/historical legal thriller is third in a series dealing with the cases of private investigator Liam Taggart and lawyer Catherine Lockhart. The story centers on locating twins who have been missing since WWII.

Lena Woodward, a holocaust survivor, asks Catherine and Liam to help her find twin girls that her best friend, Karolina, lost during the war. Part of the novel is Lena telling her story of what happened to her during the war. It flashes back in time to Poland in the late 1930s and early 1940s when Lena was a young Jewish girl who came from an influential and wealthy family. This is a completely captivating tale about survival and sacrifice. The other part of the story takes place in the present and centers on Lena's adult son, Arthur, who claims his mother suffers from a senile obsession with the past, and that the investigative couple are trying to fleece her out of her money. Balson is a Chicago trial attorney, and he skillfully leads readers through the tangled legalities of Arthur’s petition and Catherine’s daring response to it.

I have read quite a few novels on WWII, yet I still found myself completely caught up in Lena's story. Lena’s account of survival and immense bravery was inspired by the real-life experiences of Fay Scharf Waldman, a Holocaust survivor. Fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, Martha Hall Kelly’s The Lilac Girls, and Peter Golden's Wherever There is Light, will delight.
Posted by Elcin A on 11/09/17
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Life is never perfect! When option A is not available, there is option B…

Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook’s chief operating officer. Option B is about how Sheryl Sandberg was able to put her life back together after the unexpected death of her husband Dave Goldberg.

Sheryl is extremely open throughout this book, which makes you feel that you are reading her memoir. She explains her own experiences along with research and principles for building resilience in personal lives and in workplaces. Sheryl Sandberg questions what helps people cope with distress and move on. Self-esteem, optimism, or self-compassion? Why do we only find compassion for others, but not ourselves? She tells us how self-compassion and journaling became a key part of her recovery.

This book is beneficial for both men and women. It is not only for people who suffer from losing someone, but also who lost a job, has a serious illness, or is a victim of sexual assault…
self help
Posted by NealP on 11/02/17
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The Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one went out and started a band...
 
Rolling Stone music critic Anthony DeCurtis’ new biography on Lou Reed is essential for fans of the iconic rocker.  Tracing his life as a troubled teenager in postwar suburbia, complete with electroshock therapy, through his years with the Velvet Underground, and later solo work, DeCurtis makes a case for Reed’s enduring influence.
 
The intensely private Reed despised rock critics, so it’s striking that he respected DeCurtis’ work enough to open up to him.  Their introduction came at an airport bar, both of their flights delayed, with Reed asking how many stars DeCurtis gave his latest album New York (he gave 4).  Reed declared it was a masterpiece, and he should have given him 5. 
 
This book will be fascinating for fans of Lou Reed, as well as, anyone interested in rock music.  Anecdotes about Andy Warhol and the factory scene, David Bowie, Nico, and others display the intersection between the art and music scenes in New York in the 1960s-70s.  DeCurtis does a nice job of providing backstories to some of Reed’s most famous songs, giving us a glimpse at his creative process.
 
Reed’s music can be challenging -- however, it is never ordinary.  If you are a fan of his or just a fan of music, this book is worth your time.  Do yourself a favor and pick up some of the excellent music he created, too.  You can find those here.
 
Posted by jonf on 10/19/17
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The second book in Colin Cotterill's mystery series featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun. Siri is the chief coroner of 1970's communist run Laos. Siri and his assistants the spinster Dtui and the challenged Gueng start with the strange bicycle death of two men in the streets of Vientiane. The progress on the crime is slowed by the killings of two woman who appeared to be mauled by a large animal.
 
Dr. Siri is then sent to the old Royal capitol of Luang Prabang to investigate the charred body's of two men in a helicopter crash. Dr. Siri summon's the help of his spirit world as he is connected to the spirit world by a dead shaman, Yeh Ming.
The mystery is filled with the powerful connection the Laotian people have to the unseen and presence of spirits in all living things.
 
This book is filled with strange and colorful characters and the exotic and mystical world of Laos. The dialogue is crisp and filled with humour, Siri is memorable and charming, well written and a fun series.
 
Mystery
Posted by BARB W on 10/17/17
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Agnes, by Swiss writer Peter Stamm, begins with a startling revelation. The narrator tells us, “Agnes is dead. Killed by a story.” I am a sucker for a great opening line, and that one did it for me. In this brilliant short novel, Stamm explores the relationship between reality, and the reality we would like to create with our words.

We are all guilty of telling stories that do not accurately mirror the authenticity of actual events. If a narrative imagines future events, to what extent can these shape the direction of our lives? Agnes and the narrator meet in the Chicago Public Library and begin a curious relationship. She wants to be remembered, so she asks her lover to chronicle their experiences. But the line between fact and fiction begins to blur, and life begins to imitate art.

Stamm ponders an intriguing subject here. Can we control our own destiny, and can we shape it with our words? Can we script life as we would like it? Interesting characters, a suspenseful plot, and perfectly controlled prose make this an excellent addition to your fall reading list.
Posted by Katie M on 10/17/17
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The Crash Reel offers a straightforward and honest look at professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s traumatic brain injury and his rehabilitation afterward. Kevin was an elite snowboarder in direct competition with Shaun White leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics. In the ever-competitive arena of professional sports, both were training to master new, higher-flying tricks and on a training run in 2009 in Park City, Utah, Kevin hit his head and ended up in the hospital for months.

The film captures Kevin’s rehabilitation, as he and his family and friends tackle the intensive process of rebuilding his permanently altered life. While touching on the competitiveness of professional sports and the potential negative impact of subsequent concussions on athletes, this film is also about the encompassing love and support of the Pearce family as Kevin learns to live with his injury.

I highly recommend this insightful and touching film, full of both the stunning footage of elite snowboarding and intimate coverage of a devoted family navigating a life-changing event.
 
 
Posted by Lucy S on 10/11/17
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Lorena Hickok (a.k.a. Hick) was a self-made woman. She became the first woman reporter for the Associated Press (AP) in New York shortly after women earned the right to vote. In 1932 Hick began a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt when she reported on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s campaign for president. After the election, Hick accompanied Eleanor on many trips and was a frequent guest in the White House. Media-savvy, Hick encouraged her to become the first presidential First Lady to hold regular press conferences for an audience of women reporters and to write a newspaper column expressing her own views.
 
Hick soon found herself breaking the AP’s cardinal rule to stay out of the story. She got too close to the Roosevelts to remain objective. She left her AP job to work as an investigative reporter for FERA, the Federal Emergency Relief Act, at the height of the Great Depression. The deplorable conditions Hick saw across America affected her greatly. Again, unable to stay out of the story she enlisted the aid of Eleanor to try to bring assistance.
 
At times, author Susan Albert Wittig’s novel, Loving Eleanor, reads more like a recitation of facts but these two women lived in a rapidly changing world. Through the years, they kept in touch via letters. It is through these letters that a picture emerges that suggests they were more than friends. The extent of their relationship is still of some dispute. Whether it was an intimate relationship or an extremely loyal friendship almost seems too private to pry into.
 
The reporter and the reluctant First Lady’s friendship lasted for the rest of their lives. I most enjoyed reading about their many accomplishments, their enduring companionship, their compassion and tolerance. A woman of privilege who became a social activist and a small-town woman of humble origins who paved her own way.
 
Posted by SherriT on 10/09/17
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Something Like Happy by Eva Woods is one of those books that will stay with you. This heartwarming novel gives you a look into the meaning of true friendship.  It delves into how others see life and death, and how someone can deal with the struggles presented to them in their own different way.
 
Annie Hebden does not think there is anyone more miserable than she is. Everything in her life changed, crashing around her suddenly. At thirty-five, she had hoped to have a nice house, a husband, and several kids. Instead, she is in a dead-end job, spending her time at the hospital because her sixty-year-old mother is suffering from dementia. Then, charismatic Polly Leonard, who seems to know everyone in the hospital, barges into her life.  Polly has a brain tumor and three months to live. Therefore, she challenges Annie to participate in the "Hundred Happy Days" project with her. Together, they will find one hundred things to be happy about. "You're just meant to do one thing every day that makes you happy. Could be little things. Could be big."

This interesting story was all about what determines happiness. Parts of it were funny, parts sad and of course, you knew how it would end so definitely a bit teary. I had heard about the “100 Days of Happiness Challenge” that the book is based on, so it made me really think about what little things I can do in my life that may ultimately change my attitude.

Something Like Happy is more than a book about second chances- it is about making the most of your first and only chance at life. Every day you are alive is another chance at being happy. I think this book will appeal to readers of Liane Moriarty and Taylor Jenkins Reid.
 
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6.012 Patron-Generated Content

04/27/2011
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