Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Fiction of the Year (that You May have Missed)


Are you looking for a good read to enjoy through the holiday break? Here are some books that may have slipped under your radar, but are worth more than just a look. Check 'em out!
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryFor Adults:
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her. Meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, he tries to find peace and acceptance.  Joyce’s debut novel is a gentle and genteel charmer, brimming with British quirkiness yet quietly haunting in its poignant and wise examination of love and devotion.
Why We Broke UpFor Teens:
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him and documents their relationship with items in an accompanying box. From bottle caps to a cookbook, the items foretell the end.  Handler, known mostly to the younger set as “Mr. Snicket, offers a heartbreaking, bittersweet, and compelling romance with a unique angle and flare.
WonderFor Kids:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan. He endures the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.  Few first novels pack more of a punch: it's a rare story with the power to open eyes—and hearts—to what it's like to be singled out for a difference you can't control, when all you want is to be just another face in the crowd.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Songs Inspired by Books

Did you Know?

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon inspired "Whip It" by Devo?


Product DetailsIn case you don't spend your time researching the internet for the meaning behind Devo's hit, I'll tell you.  Devo member Jerry Casale wrote the lyrics to "Whip It" in one night, imitating Pynchon's parodies in Gravity's Rainbow.  Casale says, "[Pynchon] had parodied limericks and poems of kind of all-American, obsessive, cult of personality ideas like Horatio Alger and 'You're #1, there's nobody else like you' kind of poems that were very funny and very clver.  I thought, 'I'd like to do one like Thomas Pynchon.'"

1984 by George Orwell inspired “2+2=5″ by Radiohead?

Product DetailsIn addition to The Clash, Judas Priest, Stevie Wonder, Rage Against the Machine, Cheap Trick and many others, Orwell’s dystopia bible was a direct inspiration for Radiohead’s “2+2=5″ from Hail to the Thief. The song’s title is a reference to 1984‘s doublethink, in which logic does not matter as much as what authority tells you matters. Lyrics like “January has April’s showers” mirror the illogicality of Big Brother’s dictum. Bonus factoid: the alternate title for “2+2=5″ is “The Lukewarm,” a reference to the works of Dante, according to Thom Yorke.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot inspired “Afternoons And Coffeespoons” by Crash Test Dummies?

Product DetailsThe refrain of “Afternoons & Coffeespoons” is “Afternoons will be measured out, measured out, measured with coffeespoons and T.S. Elliot,” which, in addition to the name drop, refers to Prufrock in Eliot’s lines: “Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” Further overlap: the song’s music video features lead singer Brad Roberts getting operated on, a reference to Eliot’s line “Like a patient etherized upon a table”; and the song’s repeated lyric “someday I’ll have a disappearing hairline,” calling to mind Prufrock’s thought about his thinning hair.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

At the Movies




Check out these books before they hit the big screen!
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z by Max Brooks

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Les Misérables

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Life of Pi (Illustrated Edition)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Anna Karenina (Pevear/Volokhonsky Translation)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Staff Recommended Winter Reads


Little Women (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Little Women continues to be one of my favorite books and I think it’s perfect for winter reading 
- Cynthia

Heresy

Nothing like a little mayhem and mystery to take you away from the Holiday rush. S.J. Parris has written  HERESY, the first book in a series. These stories bring the 16th Century to life. Giordano Bruno is a monk, poet, scientist and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition. He is recruited by Queen Elizabeth I to solve a crime in Oxford.  (The story continues with PROPHECY and SACRILEGE, with her 4th book TREACHERY to be published in May!) .  A definite page turned for historical fiction fans…and it is in a cold English winter!
- Nicola  

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant tells the story of a train that comes every December to bring gifts to the children of a very impoverished Appalacian village and of one of  the children who returns to the community as a grown up. 
- Maria

The Christmas Train

How about The Christmas Train by David Baldacci?
-Jean Malone

Our Simple Gifts: Civil War Christmas Tales

Our Simple Gifts: Civil War Christmas Tales by Owen Parry.  And for kids, The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (A Christmas-Hanukkah story.) & The Tree of Cranes by Allan Say
- Julia

The Catcher in the Rye

I love rereading The Catcher in the Rye this time of year, so I can join Holden Caulfield as he wanders around Manhattan during Christmastime.  With Holden, I enjoy the beautiful and snowy New York landmarks: Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and Grand Central Station.  Together we contemplate the pain and beauty of being human, along with the eternal question of where those ducks go in the wintertime.
- Jen

Monday, December 10, 2012

Worst Reviews of Classic Books

There are some literary classics that are near unimpeachable. We’re thinking Of Mice and Men, and The Great Gatsby: the best of the best. Except that they’re decidedly not unimpeachable — or at least they weren't when they first hit bookshelves. These books and many others that are now considered masterpieces got their fair share of scathing reviews when they first came out, and in reputable publications no less. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but we can’t help having this to say to these brutal reviewers: ha, ha. 


Product Details

"The final blow-up of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent." 
-The New Yorker, 1936, on Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

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"Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics."
-The London Critic, 1855, on Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read." 
-James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847, onWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Product Details

"An oxymoronic combination of the tough and tender, Of Mice and Men will appeal to sentimental cynics, cynical sentimentalists...Readers less easily thrown off their trolley will still prefer Hans Andersen." -Time, 1937, on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Product Details

"What has never been alive cannot very well go on living. So this is a book of the season only..." -New York Herald Tribune, 1925, on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Monday, December 03, 2012

Murder Under the Mistletoe

Measure equal portions of murder and mistletoe, add a dash of your favorite sleuths, and mix well to stir up a recipe for a crime-solving Christmas. Serve with egg nog.

Busy Body by M.C. Beaton

For the first time in her life, Agatha Raisin finds herself giving into the holiday cheer that has become infectious in the village of Carsely. However, Mr. John Sunday of the Health and Safety Board is determined to be a modern-day Scrooge. First, he declares the village shop must remove its historical wooden shelves; then he ban's the village's iconic Christmas tree. But when Sunday is found murdered shortly thereafter, Agatha finds herself with a whole slew of suspects.

A Killer's Christmas in Wales by Elizabeth Duncan

As the townsfolk of the Welsh valley town of Llanelen settle in for the snowiest winter in 25 years, an American stranger arrives. Harry Saunders charms the ladies and convinces Evelyn Lloyd, a wealthy widow, to invest money with him. When he goes missing with her money his body is soon discovered with a letter opener belonging to Mrs. Lloyd in his back. It's up to Penny Brannigan to prove her innocence.


Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Contains 3 novelettes. Hannah Swensen of the Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minn., discovers her neighbor's head bashed in; Jaine Austen's holiday stay at her parents' home in the Tampa Vistas retirement community is enlivened by the murder of an elderly lothario; and, Maine reporter Lucy Stone investigates a four-year-old boy's disappearance. Includes recipes.



A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry

Traveling up the Yorkshire coast with her husband and his acting troupe, Caroline, the mother of Charlotte Pitt, anticipates their arrival at the famed fishing village landing sight of Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's tale and develops an awareness about inviting and disallowing evil.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fairy Tale Flavored Fiction for Tweens


"If I'm honest, I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all."
~ Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993), British actress

 The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry

Fairy Tale Fantasy. Clever, independent, and mightily bored, Princess Patricia Priscilla escapes the preparations for her upcoming 16th birthday bash in this wickedly funny original tale. Donning her chambermaid's simple, rough dress and calling herself "Pat," the princess poses as a peasant girl in order to attend the village school for a week. While the princess learns a lot more than just her lessons in class, her suitors -- all repellent -- prepare for the ball, where unfortunately she'll have to pick one of them to be her husband. 

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman

Fantasy. The New York Circulating Material Repository loans out historical objects, not books, and it also houses a mysterious collection of magical items from the Grimm fairy tales. Soon after Elizabeth Rew gets an after-school job at the repository, a number of powerful enchanted objects go missing. Elizabeth and her fellow pages are suspected of the thefts and must face great danger -- and learn how to harness items like the snarky-yet-truthful mirror from "Snow White" -- in order to catch the thief. Descriptive, funny, and laced with mystery and fantastical adventures, The Grimm Legacy is a great choice for fans of Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series or the Harry Potter books.

Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley

Medieval Fantasy. Echoing the familiar Cinderella story and nonetheless spinning a whole new tale all its own, this "gossamer narrative that shimmers both brightly and darkly" (Kirkus Reviews) will spellbind readers who favor beautifully written, intricate, compelling fantasies with a medieval-like setting and a fairy-tale flair. Isabella was born to nobility, but she was raised by peasants after her mother's death during childbirth and her father's cruel rejection. Now 13, Bella (who has had a happy childhood and doesn't want to leave either her foster parents or her best friend, Prince Julian) learns of her true parentage for the first time when her father sends for her out of the blue. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas with Cupid

Get into the spirit of Christmas with these holly, jolly romances designed to be read in front of a cozy fire (roasting chestnuts optional).

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans
A successful but heartless businessman sees his own obituary in the newspaper after a case of mistaken identity, setting in motion a series of events that profoundly changes the lives of several people who have suffered due to his ruthless business practices.

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber
Beth Morehouse expects this Christmas to be one of her best. Her small Christmas-tree farm is prospering, her daughters and her dogs are happy and well, and her new relationship with local vet Ted Reynolds is showing plenty of romantic promise. But someone left a basket filled with puppies on her doorstep, that's complication number one. Number two is that her daughters have invited their dad, Beth's ex-husband, Kent, to Cedar Cove for Christmas.

Home for Christmas by Andrew Greeley

A war hero on his third deployment in Iraq, Peter is injured and finds himself both alive and dead on a wondrous spiritual journey where he is given a second chance at life from God Himself. With Christmas approaching, time is running out for Peter to complete the most important mission of his life: convincing himself that he and Mariana, the woman he left behind in Chicago, were meant to share a special message of love with the world

Lakeshore Christmasby Susan Wiggs

Prim librarian Maureen Davenport lives for Christmas--and there's nothing more magical than Christmas on Willow Lake. Finally getting her chance to direct Avalon's annual holiday pageant, she's determined to make it truly spectacular. But it might just require one of those Christmas miracles she's always read about if her co-director-- recovering former child star Eddie Haven--has his way. Is he trying to sabotage the performance to spite her? Or is she trying too hard to fit the show into her storybook-perfect notion of Christmas?

A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller

Dara Rose Nolan finds herself without a husband or income and Blue River, Texas finds itself without a lawman after the town marshal dies. Things change, though, when Clay McKettrick becomes the temporary lawman and embarks on a marriage of convenience with Dara Rose

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Turkey's Tale of Woe


by Cynthia Pfledderer

I'll be spending another Thanksgiving with the Dallas Cowboys this year, so my family and I decided to have our Thanksgiving one day early. To offer some encouragement and camaraderie to all of you who will be slicing, dicing, and roasting tomorrow, I decided to share my semi-annual adventure into holiday cuisine.

The Menu
Mushrooms stuffed with crab and almonds (Williams Sonoma's Thanksgiving)
Giada's Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus (Giada's Family Dinners)
Cornbread Stuffing with Homemade Turkey Gravy
Macaroni and Cheese (Not Kraft)
Broccoli and Rice Casserole (A family favorite, made with real Cheese Whiz. Ha!)
Bacon-Wrapped Green Beans (Thanks to my friend Bennett)
Seasoned Corn off the Cob
Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Onion
Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts



Dessert
Pecan Pie, Pear-Pumpkin Trifle, Upside-Down Apple Tart

A Turkey's Tale of Woe
The plan is to get up early and get the turkey seasoned and in the oven in time to take my little Joodle Bug (Jude is my 1-yr old grandson) to Story Time at the Library. I have been planning and looking forward to this for a week.  Story Time is 10 am in Southlake. I'm in Bedford.

8:45 am - Running late. Turkey looks like this.


I've worked late the last 2 nights and I don't have all of the ingredients for Giada's recipe. What to do?

9 am -  I decide I will stick with the plan and head to the grocery for missing items. I'm home by 9:20 am but without fresh sage and oregano. Fortunately, I grow my own rosemary and I can make do with dried herbs. Can I get this bird seasoned, in the oven and be out the door in 5 minutes? Let's see.


I love fresh rosemary, it smells so Christmasey. I am happy to report I found the Herbes de Provence required for this recipe. Thanks to Tom Thumb for that. I've used many different recipes over the year, so I do improvise with ideas I've learned from other chefs. I always wrap my bird in parchment paper because it helps maintain the moisture and keeps the foil away from the meat. I'm also a fan of using wine and spirits when I cook, the alcohol always burns off and leaves a nice flavor behind. So I add some white wine to the mix.


9:25 am - Seasoned and ready to go. Making good time.


9:30 am - A little late but it looks pretty good. I can pop it in the oven, drive over to pick up the baby and still make it Story Time for our special date.  That is, until I remember something. My oven is the Devil.

It burns 25 degrees too hot always and it's freakishly small. It's the last part that slipped my mind. The roaster won't fit in the oven! I look at the clock. Ms. Elizabeth is starting at 10 am sharp and I'm already late. What to do? Unlike the too full closet, I can't shove on the door and squeeze it in. There's no latch to hold it closed, so the oven just pops the door back out at me like a protruding tongue.

I won't share with you the harsh words I have with the oven at this point or the text I send to my husband for not having the psychic intuition to have prevented this problem for me. (Don't worry, after 16 years, he's used to this by now and enjoys the absurdity of it.) I have no time to get creative, I pull the bird out of the pan, foil, parchment, and all and throw it into the biggest casserole dish I have. This is a problem. I see it is too small for the job.  But time is ticking and Ms. Elizabeth will be singing in 20 minutes.

I run upstairs and tell my son,

"Watch that turkey in the oven. The pan is too small and I'm concerned it will start another fire in the oven."

Yes, I did say another.  We have a history - this Devil and me. My son doesn't flinch - he is also used to me. After a few words on fire prevention, I grab my purse and rush out of the door.  Halfway to my daughter's home, I call to see if Jude is ready and if I can arrange a speedy pick up. Her groggy voice tells me all I need to know. They are still in bed. Baby is not ready. Story Time will not happen.

I turn my car around and drive back home. A quick message to Ms. Elizabeth and I'm back to the turkey. My son, aka my sous-chef of the day, is in the kitchen surveying the situation. I decide to tackle the turkey issue again. The roasting pan is metal and I think a pair of pliers may solve my dilemma. We pull Tom from the oven and I proceed to deform my new roasting pan. Convinced I have shortened it sufficiently, I move the bird back to the roaster. My son is loading the dishwasher behind me.  I look at him.

"You know if I put this back in there and it doesn't fit, I'm going to have a meltdown, right?"

He nods and decides to leave the kitchen for the time being. I put the pan back into the Devil and it's within millimeters of closing. I attack it with the pliers again and finally decide it's closed enough.  Seeing it is safe to return, Sawyer comes to offer his assistance with the remaining dishes. I tell him I'm going to Starbucks to see if I can return to sanity.

"It's not going to happen," he tells me and I nod in acceptance.

One green tea and an eggnog later, I am sitting in my leopard print chair telling you my story of turkey woe.  (I cut my eggnog with nonfat milk to make myself feel better about drinking it - this makes perfect sense to me.) My sous-chef has snapped the beans during this time and is now peeling apples like a champ. It makes me happy to watch him.

So let my story help you. Whatever kitchen disasters may befall you this Thanksgiving, take heart in knowing it happens to all of us and the best part is sharing it all with your family.

Here's my sweet sous-chef hard at work. And the Devil in the background, looking sooo innocent!

 
From the Pfledderer House - We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Great New Teen Reads!

Don't start the break without a good book (or several) to keep you entertained!  Here's the latest and greatest in teen fantasy and sci-fi.

The Last Dragonslayer - by Jasper Fforde

Fantasy. In his whimsical YA debut, the bestselling author of the Thursday Next series introduces 16-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange. Jennifer runs Kazam, a combination boarding house and employment agency for sorcerers in a world where magic is fading away. But when magicians all over the Un-united Kingdoms start having visions about the death of the world's last dragon, Jennifer learns that she has a much greater responsibility than finding suitable jobs for washed-up wizards: she is the Last Dragonslayer. Often silly but also highly entertaining, this 1st in a planned series is a good bet for fans of Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books.

Adaptation - by Malinda Lo

Near-Future SF. In the chaos following a series of plane crashes caused by flocks of kamikaze birds, 17-year-old Reese and her debate-team partner, David, are in a serious car accident and receive medical treatment at a military hospital in Arizona. No one will tell them the details of what happened or how they've been healed...but after they get back home to San Francisco, both of them suspect that they've undergone something more than standard medical procedures. With bizarre happenings, clandestine government agents, X-Files-esque intrigue, and even a bit of romance, this adventure will captivate conspiracy theorists and thriller fans alike.

What's Left of Me - by Kat Zhang

Science Fiction. In this intriguingly original novel's alternate America, every person is born with twin souls in a single body, souls that take turns controlling the body's movements as they learn and grow together. But where most children have one soul that "settles," or disappears as the stronger personality takes over, teenaged Eva and Addie are still both very much present in their single vessel -- and Eva must hide to keep them safe. When Addie/Eva's secret is exposed, they're taken away to a treatment facility, where they'll have to escape in order to survive. First in a projected series, What's Left of Me is an intensely thought-provoking read that grapples with ethics, identity, and prejudice and should entice fans of Mary E. Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Who makes us laugh? What makes us laugh? Find out in these forays into the history and evolution of the belly laugh. Topics cover a variety of comedic protoypes including silent, slapstick, and stand-up as well as biographies of well-known comedians and humorists.

This Time Together by Carol Burnett

Burnett, one of the most successful and beloved comedic performers of our time, presents her second memoir.  In it, she recounts her early days as a struggling actress in New York City and her rapid rise to success. She reminisces about her costars and her friendships with luminaries including Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, and Julie Andrews while also touching on more personal and somber issues, like the tragic death of her daughter. Burnett's narration is warm and engaging; her performance is at turns humorous, poignant, and utterly irresistible.

My Life in and out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke

Fans who like Van Dyke's affable, self-deprecating characters will enjoy this first memoir, because his prose is as easygoing and comical as he appears on-screen. At the outset, Van Dyke warns readers that he is not going to dish the dirt, and he doesn't, but he will still engage celebrity watchers with inside stories of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Poppins , and other parts of his career. 

Bossypants by Tina Fey

rom her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon, comedian Tina Fey reveals all, and proves that you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's Cooking, Good Looking?

With Thanksgiving getting closer every day, there is the (gulp) enormous and scrumptious feast to prepare. Want some new ideas? Check out these great cookbooks available at the library: