When I grow up I want to be a Lady Detective just like Miss Fisher—elegant, scrappy and clever (words that also describe my other favorite Lady Detective, Jessica Fletcher!) Phryne Fisher has been dancing around the book world for a while (see my review of the first in that series here: Phryne, Rhymes with Briney), but now we can actually see her shake her beaded tassels in a new gorgeously filmed television series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, shown in the United States on PBS.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries begins just as Kerry Greenwood’s book series does, with the Honorable Phryne Fisher, played by the seductive Essie Davis, returning to 1920’s Melbourne after being away for a decade or so. While she was away in Europe, Miss Fisher had modeled nude for artists, partied with dancers, worked as WWI nurse, and suddenly came into a title and money. Now that she is returned, Phryne decides that her charm and intellect are perfectly suited to solving murder mysteries around her old hometown. She enlists the help of her gentle butler, her communist chauffeurs/handymen, and her new maid, Dot, who finds herself constantly struggling between good Catholic values and the not-quite-legal-or-virtuous things that Miss Fisher persuades her to do. And of course, the local Detective Inspector Jack Robinson does not find Phryne’s frequent interference in his work amusing (even if he does find her annoyingly companionable.) I loved every episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but what most puts a sparkle in my eye is Phryne’s marvelous wardrobe! The silk kimonos! The slinky wide-legged pants! And the hats oh THE HATS!
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is so charming, fun and sexy while still addressing many historically controversial issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and terrorism—all while giving us a cracking good whodunit. I highly recommend this series to fans of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, and those who love history and mysteries
I picked up It’s a Disaster because I saw David Cross on the cover, and went in with low expectations (I mean, he was in all three Alvin and the Chipmunks movies). The cover on the dvd looks cheesy (a shame, since the theatrical poster is so fantastic) and the premise seemed a tad forced:
Four couples meet for Sunday brunch only to discover they are stuck in a house together as the world may be about to end.
But I was pleasantly surprised. Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, David Cross, and Erinn Hayes are all fantastic in this dark comedy. Written and performed with the pacing of a play, It’s a Disaster is for fans of live theater and comedy shows.
What makes this movie stand out from other independent comedies is the fantastic build-up. The first part of the film is paced slowly and leads the viewer to believe that this will be a standard examination of the relationships of people in their thirties. As the story progresses, there are a smattering of twists and surprises (some much more surprising than others) that help build on the film’s twisted sense of humor. Don’t be surprised if you’re left asking, how would I react if I knew I only had a few more hours to live?
Fans of The House of Yes, Igby Goes Down, and Election or anything featuring David Cross should give this movie a try.
Grandpa Frank is just a grandpa and he doesn’t seem to like anything (except pickled onions), so how could his grandson possibly talk for a whole minute about him in front of his entire class?
In The Frank Show by David Mackintosh, Frank’s grandson is nervous about presenting about his curmudgeon grandfather during show and tell. Especially since his friends have exciting people to introduce, like Fay’s cousin who “tells you if your bag is too heavy at the airport” and Hugo’s stepbrother who’s sports car has an eight-ball gearshift knob.
The Frank Show is the perfect example of a picture book that seems to have been written more for adults than for kids. I see the jokes flying right over younger kid’s heads, and not many children are going to spot Edgar Allen Poe and his raven in the illustrations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend this book — because it is fantastic. Mackintosh’s illustrations are funny and child-like, filled with subtle references and jokes. This story is as much about the generational divide as it is about taking people for granted — both topics rarely explored in picture books. Grandpa Frank’s exaggerated stories and cranky advise are entertaining, and his grandson’s fears are completely understandable. Seriously, pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed, unless you’re Frank. I’m sure he’d say that they don’t make them like they used to or something as equally crotchety.
Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen’s Genius tells the story of Ted Max, a genius weighed down by expectations and overwhelmed in his interpersonal relationships. Once a promising quantum physicist, his life seems to have come to a halt. He cannot think of any new ideas at work and is facing losing his job at a think tank. His wife has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and he doesn’t know how to interact with his budding genius daughter and future frat boy son. And to make matters worse, his crotchety father-in-law won’t tell Ted the secret that Albert Einstein entrusted him with when he was “Bert’s” bodyguard. With no relief in sight, Ted begins to see himself unravel.
There has been a biographical graphic novel trend in publishing the last few years, but despite Albert Einstein’s strong presence in this graphic novel, this is not a biography. Seagle uses Einstein as a memory or an absence in Ted’s life. Kristiansen’s absorbing, lush pastel watercolor illustrations pair well with Seagle’s sparce and straightforward text, and make Einstein’s presence known throughout the novel. There is a sense when you read the book that you’re able to see some of the beautiful inner thoughts of a quantum physicist who has a difficult time voicing his feelings. I was much more touched by this book than I expected, and really felt Ted’s frustration with trying to live in the present when the future beckons and the past haunts. Ted many not be an everyman, but I think that most of us struggle with similar worries and heartbreaks.
The supper club of the Upper Midwest is unmistakably authentic, as unique to the region as great lakes, cheese curds, and Curly Lambeau. The far-flung locations and creative decor give each supper club a unique ambience, but the owners, staff, and regulars give it its personality in The Supper Club Book.
Author Dave Hoekstra traveled through farmland, woods, towns, and cities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois, eating at salad bars, drinking old fashioneds, and most of all talking to old-timers, local historians, and newcomers. He discovered that far from going the way of so many small establishments, supper clubs are evolving, combining contemporary ideas such as locavore menus and craft beer with traditional Friday night fish fries and Saturday prime rib. He brings to life the memorable people who have created and continue the tradition, from the blind dishwasher at Smoky’s to the Dick Watson Combo playing “Beyond the Sea” at the Lighthouse and the entrepreneurs and hipster crowd behind the Old Fashioned.
Corporations have defined mainstream eating habits in America, but characters define supper clubs, and this combination oral history and guide, with more than one hundred photographs, celebrates not only the past and present but the future of the supper club. (description from publisher)
In the late 1950s, as America prepared for the Civil War centennial, two very old men lay dying. Albert Woolson, 109 years old, slipped in and out of a coma at a Duluth, Minnesota, hospital, his memories as a Yankee drummer boy slowly dimming. Walter Williams, at 117 blind and deaf and bedridden in his daughter’s home in Houston, Texas, no longer could tell of his time as a Confederate forage master. The last of the Blue and the Gray were drifting away; an era was ending.
Unknown to the public, centennial officials, and the White House too, one of these men was indeed a veteran of that horrible conflict and one according to the best evidence nothing but a fraud. One was a soldier. The other had been living a great, big lie. In The Last of the Blue and Gray, Richard Serrano weaves together American history and larger-than-life characters to create a tense and fascinating account. (description from publisher)
I require two things of a cookbook for me to check it out:
♥ There must be lots of photos.
♥ Those photos must be beautiful.
Checking out a cookbook is not the same thing as USING a cookbook. For me to actually use a cookbook, I require two additional things:
♥ Simple ingredients.
♥ Simple instructions.
Very, very few cookbooks meet these requirements (thus I am forced to make frozen pizza at least twice a week. Sigh. It is so difficult being a lazy cook with high cookbook standards). So when I discovered that Mary McCartney’s new cookbook, FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking, exceeded all of my requirements I just had to hug it. Yup, I hug that cookbook. On a regular basis. Because I love it. I really really love it.
For those of you who are not as obsessed with the McCartney family as I am, Mary McCartney is the daughter of Sir Paul McCartney and the late Linda McCartney, and thus grew up in arguably the most famous of vegetarian families. I was worried that Mary’s long history with vegetarian cooking (not particularly my favorite type of food) would result in complicated and unappealing fancy cuisine and thus dash my hopes that I would ever be able to comfortably tuck in if invited to sit at the McCartney supper table.
Upon opening the cookbook, I was first struck (and almost brought to tears) by Mary’s cozy photographs of lovely people and fresh food and how the photographs reminded me just enough of her mother, Linda, but were still very much the artist’s own. Wonderful and crisp.
Then I started looking at the recipes and I was like “HEY I CAN MAKE THESE!” I made a cold Quinoa salad, a Quinoa and white bean soup, granola bars, zucchini pasta, a coconut-pineapple smoothie and all were easy and successful. My favorite recipe was the hummus and hot pepper jam sandwich – So simple, right?! The recipes are delicious and appealing to even a non-Veggie lover like me. Mary McCartney managed to not only make a beautiful and delicious cookbook, but also to make me feel like a confident, capable cook. And that is why FOOD gets a frequent hug from me. You should probably hug it, too.
I read a lot about The Bone Season before I started reading the book, which means that I read a lot about the book’s author, Samantha Shannon. A twenty-one year old recent graduate from Oxford University, Shannon has been marketed as a literary wunderkind. Every interview and review mentions her age or her status as a “young writer”. As a first-time published author, that is to be expected (here I am doing the same), and I would be lying if I didn’t say that influenced my decision to pick it up.
But this novel stands on its own (well, at least until the next six books in the series are released.) Shannon has created a fascinating near-future paranormal fantasy novel that includes elements of revisionist history and dystopian science fiction. Set in Scion controlled London in 2059, this fast-paced novel introduces readers to Paige Mahoney, a member of the clairvoyant criminal underworld. Scion was formed to find and eliminate clairvoyants like Paige, so being a member of Jaxon Hall’s Seven Dials based gang keeps her a protected and fed member of a family. But when Paige commits a crime that leads to her arrest and capture, she finds herself in Sheol I, a penal colony for voyants run by Rephaim, a race of non-human clairvoyants. While in Sheol I, Paige is assigned to the Warden for training and care and she has to decide if she can trust him, as she tries to find a way to save herself and the other humans imprisoned for life in Sheol I.
Shannon has been called the next J.K. Rowling (pressure anyone?) and The Bone Season has been compared to the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games series. I understand why, and I would recommend that fans of both series check out The Bone Season. But I think that while there are elements of each in this book (magical powers, dystopian future, strong female protagonist), Shannon has created something different. She has said that she was influenced by Margaret Atwood, and this is apparent in her intelligent, literary take on urban fantasy. This might be my favorite read this year (but there are two more months to go, so don’t hold me to that.)
With the purchase of his newest CD, B.O.A.T.S II, #metime, southern rapper 2 Chainz is releasing a digital Instagram cookbook with some of his favorite recipes called #mealtime. While 2 Chainz is not the first celebrity to offer up a cookbook, he might very well be the first to include a digital cookbook with a CD (I’m going to bet that he is.) You may not be able to borrow #mealtime from the library, but we would love it if you checked out one of these celebrity cookbooks:
The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet by
Cher Horowitz Alicia Silverstone
Silverstone is best known for playing Cher Horowitz in Clueless, but also made a name for herself in recent years for demonstrating mouth-to-mouth feeding of children to many for the first time. This book helps vegetarians and vegans ensure that they’re getting all of the nutrition needed, while still making tasty food.
The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci
Tucci has been in a number of fantastic films, including The Devil Wears Prada, Julie and Julia, Easy A, and of course, The Hunger Games. As the grandson of Italian immigrants, Tucci has spent his life around food. In this cookbook he shares a mixture of family recipes and stories.
If it Makes You Healthy by Sheryl Crow
Crow’s cookbook is comprised of healthy recipes created by her personal chef, Chuck White. As breast cancer survivor, Crow is more concerned with the health benefits of certain foods and focusing on local and organic than with calorie counts. The title is a pun on Crow’s hit, “If it Makes You Happy” off of her 1996 eponymous album.
Cookin’ With Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price by Coolio
So, apparently Coolio had a “Cookin’ with Coolio” webseries (that no one told me about!) and as a result, he had a cookbook published. The “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage” rapper (and “Rollin’ with My Homies” featured in the aforementioned Clueless) mixes tongue-in-cheek humor, slang, vulgarity, and a plethora of drug references with simple recipes in this R-rated cookbook.
You can also find cookbooks from Gwyneth Paltrow, Trisha Yearwood, Padma Lakshmi, and Eva Longoria at the library!
Here at the Davenport Public Library, we are celebrating our freedom to read during Banned Books Week by reading frequently challenged and banned books. From September 22nd until the 28th, we encourage you to stop by one of the DPL locations and pick up one of the books that have been banned or challenged at libraries across the country. We will have many of the books on display, and as always, stop by the reference desk and we’ll help you find the book you need. You might be surprised to find one of your favorites on the list.
The 10 most frequently challenged books of 2012:
Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Scary Stories Series by Alvin Schwartz, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, Beloved by Toni Morrison