If you’re willing to get a jump on chili season before the hooded sweatshirts come out, you can save a mint due to the glut of local tomatoes.  Just walk into any break room across this great land of ours and nab the bag of tomatoes labeled “TAKE…PLEASE!”    Cut them up and dump them into a pot on top of browned meat of your choice and an onion.    Add half a bag of dried beans you soaked overnight.

Congratulations, you’re eating for a week for no money and didn’t get carpal tunnel opening a dozen tin cans.

If you’re looking for a thriller that’s engaging and scenic, The Ghost Writer fits the bill. Both Martha’s Vineyard (actually Germany) and a cast that includes Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor are easy on the eyes. The windswept beaches and desolate rainstorms are forbidding yet stunningly beautiful.

Ewan McGregor plays a professional ghostwriter who is hired to finish the memoirs of  Adam Lang, a Tony Blair-like ex-prime minister. The book takes on more importance when Lang is accused of war crimes, and it becomes apparent that the job of ghostwriter may be a highly risky occupation.

Directed by Roman Polanski and based on The Ghost by Robert Harris, the movie is intelligent and full of twists and turns right up until the last moment.

This is not the type of book I would typically choose.  Turns out, I couldn’t put it down.

When I go on vacation, I often look for books that take place in the same locale.  Since I was heading out on a vacation to Maine, this one fit the bill.  Granted,  it had also received several excellent reviews, so I wasn’t just going by the title or the picture on the cover, though I’ve  selected books that way a time or too, as well.  Popular authors such as Nelson DeMillie, Tess Gerritsen, John Lescroart and C.J. Box were all singing the praises of this debut novelist, whose day job just happens to be editing Down East: The Magazine of Maine.  Plus, the book also landed on Booklist’s best crime novels of 2010 list.

The Poacher’s Son opens with Mike Bowditch, a game warden in Maine, receiving an alarming message on his answering machine from his estranged father, Jack, whom he hasn’t seen in two years.  The next day, Mike discovers that his father is the prime suspect in the murders of a beloved cop and a lumber executive.  Though Mike knows his alcoholic father makes his living poaching illegal game, he cannot bring himself to believe that the man is capable of murder.

What distinguishes this book from more plot-based suspense thrillers is the realistic no-one-is-perfect characterizations.  Also, the author seems to have a natural knack for pulling the reader into the setting, be it the rocky coasts or the forested wilderness that makes up much of Maine.

No, I won’t tell you the ending.  But I will recommend that you read this book and that you keep a lookout for the series of other Mike Bowditch mysteries to come.

In June, when the FBI arrested 10 Russian spies who had been living and working in the U.S.  , it brought to mind books and movies that were based on this very plot. These two films were filmed near the end of the Cold War – an era that seems very distant now.

No Way Out (based on the book, The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing) starred Kevin Costner as a heroic  Navy commander. In a labyrinthine plot of deceit and betrayal, Tom Farrell, as played by Costner, is forced by the Secretary of Defense (Gene Hackman) to search for a KGB mole. The Secretary begins the investigation to distract everyone from an affair and accidental murder, but, it turns out, there is a surprising twist in this  extremely complicated plot.

Sleepers was a 4-part TV series in 1991 about two KGB agents who had been in England for 25 years. They were to establish themselves as native British citizens who would,  theoretically, be called to action someday.  However, as the Soviet Union collapsed, they were forgotten. The two men, by this time, are well established and are not anxious to disrupt their English jobs and lifestyle.  One is a factory worker with a wife and young children, the other is a playboy and  investment banker. Their accidental discovery is played out as a comedy, but there is real emotion in their dilemma.

 What is truly fascinating is the long-forgotten replica of  English kitchen, living room, etc. where the spies had learned to be British. This gives insight into what it means to be British and Russian (in the ’60’s and the ’90’s).

The title of The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman is indicative of the book’s style. The cookbooks in question aren’t introduced until well into the story, and is just one of several plotlines. The book has been compared to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility but I get a Dicken’s vibe, myself. There is an abundance of characters; many of them quite eccentric. There is also a sense that, in this book and for these characters, morality is an actual consideration in how they conduct themselves and the choices they make.

Two sisters are contrasts in lifestyle and general philosophy. Jess, the younger sister, is a free spirit, environmentalist, and perennial student.  Emily is the CEO of a computer startup company (this being the late ’90’s and San Francisco).

Romantic tension abounds between Jess and her boss, the owner of a used and rare book store; they argue about everything –  books, authors and whether books should be collected and owned or shared (via the public library system!). The dialogue between these two is witty and erudite, but not pompous.

Book lovers, library users and patrons of book stores, will all find something in The Cookbook Collector to chew on.

It turns out that second only to Christmas, computer manufacturers depend bigtime on back-to-school demand to fuel the sales of computers.  Well, according to major player Intel, the kids (or cash-strapped moms and dads) didn’t want near as many as anticipated and they are stuck with a surplus on their hands.  If you’re willing to wait a month or so, this soft demand might mean an excellent deal if you were on the fence about a purchase.

Every night before bed, I try to catch the newest episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  So I was surprised and excited when I saw that one of my favorite Daily Show correspondents, Samantha Bee, had just come out with a book of humorous essays about her life.   In her new book I Know I Am, But What Are You?, Bee covers everything from her upbringing by her Wiccan mother to teaching her friends about the birds and the bees using her Barbie dolls to trying to come up with the perfect gift for her husband and failing miserably.  I was reading this book on a road trip to Chicago and found myself laughing out loud and sharing  passages with my sister and husband, who couldn’t help but laugh out loud themselves, particularly at the passage where she described her son wanting to put the family cat in his mouth in order “to be kept safe forever in a protective human boy suit.”

Though she stays out of the realm of political humor that she is famous for on The Daily Show, Bee has no problem finding hilarious situations in her own life to write about.  One of my favorites is her story of how she met her husband, fellow Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones:  they were both in a traveling stage production of the childrens cartoon Sailor Moon, complete with anime-style outfits and a lot of very displeased children in the audience.  You don’t have to be a fan of The Daily Show to enjoy this book; you just have to be looking for a good laugh.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks is an unique combination of cookbook and sociological essay. Ree Drummond got sidetracked on her journey from L.A. to Chicago, when she stopped in Oklahoma and met the cowboy who was to become her husband.

The photographs of horses, dogs, cowboys and rainbow straddled fields are sometimes cute and  funny, sometimes striking and romantic. They alone make you want to pack your bags and move to a ranch out West.

The recipes are clear and simple, and each step is accompanied by a photograph. They are not definitely not for someone looking for low-fat or low-cholesterol meals. However, if you go to her blog, http://thepioneerwoman.com, you’ll find a “Cowgirl Food” category with dishes like lettuce wraps and sundried tomato pasta salad. Drummond actually got her start as a blogger, and both the book and blog are breezy, personal and easy to digest.   🙂

Wow! That went by fast – today marks the traditional end of Summer. Labor Day was created to honor the hard-working men and women of America, whose dedication make life a little better for everyone. Give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy a relaxing day!

The Davenport Library will be closed today so that our own hard-working staff can spend the day with family and friends. We’ll be open our regular hours tomorrow – Main, 9:30am-5:30pm, Fairmount, noon to 8pm and Eastern, 9:30am to 5:30pm.

Have a great holiday!

submitted by Georgann

I was stunned by this movie, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. It is a documentary, telling the story of the 20-year-long civil war in Liberia, and how a group of women brought in peace. The women were sick and tired of the atrocities and human rights abuses caused by both sides of the war. Their villages, their families and their children suffered horribly. The civilians were constantly on the run, hungry, jobless and in constant danger from death and worse.

Finally, one woman could take it no longer. She tells of her breaking point and how she began the woman’s peace movement in Liberia. Christian and Muslim women banded together to bring peace to their devastated nation. They did not use arms or politics, but by non-aggressive measures gave their all to demanding peace from both sides.

Although I knew how the movie would end, it was still a suspenseful story. I just watched, still in disbelief that this movement could possibly work, knowing that somehow, it did. This is an amazing sotyr and well worth your time to watch!