Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook by Alan Rosen

WARNING: Just looking at this book may cause you to gain weight. (But it’s worth it)

Cheesecake, that little slice of heaven on a plate, reaches new heights in Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook by Alan Rosen. Junior’s, located in Brooklyn, has been renowned for their dreamy cheesecakes since they opened in 1950. Now their secrets, including how to bake a cheesecake so that it doesn’t crack on the surface and the recipe for their signature sponge cake crust, are available to everyone.

Want some variety with your cheesecake? Look no further. Recipes range from Classic New York Style to Cappuccino to Pumpkin Swirl to White Chocolate Raspberry. There are sections for Celebration Cakes (Easter Egg to Christmas Tree), chocolate (Brownie Swirl to Heath Bar), and layered ( Strawberry Shortcake to Boston Cream Pie) Along with lots of tips for professional results, you’ll soon be an expert cheesecake baker. And very popular with your friends and family!

The Pig Did It

Looking for a fun summer read? Try The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell.

This hilarious tale takes place on the lovely Emerald Isle. The main character, creative writing teacher Aaron McCloud, travels to County Kerry, Ireland, to immerse himself in self-pity following an unrequited love. He stays with his Aunt Kitty who happens to be a very successful author herself. She specializes in re-writing or “correcting” old literary classics. (You really don’t want to know what she’s done with Oliver Twist).

On his first day there, Aaron’s bus encounters an overturned truck with pigs running amok. In an effort to impress the attractive swineherd, Lolly McKeever, Aaron attempts to catch one of them. Though unsuccessful, the pig decides he likes Aaron, and literally follows him home. Before they can return him to his rightful owner (even though Lolly won’t claim the animal belongs to her) the pig digs up Kitty’s garden, thereby revealing the skeleton of the missing Declan Tovey. Who killed him? Well, Aunt Kitty accuses Lolly of the crime, Lolly accuses Kieran Sweeney, and Aaron suspects his Aunt — thus beginning this comedy of errors. At times the main characters seem to be speaking in soliloquies, but I guess they’ve all just kissed the Blarney Stone a time or two. This is a quick read (less than 200 pages), an enjoyable romp, and the first part of a planned trilogy. Catch it while you can.

The Armchair Traveler Goes to Russia

Russia, that great giant that straddles both the West and the East, has a long and often bloody history, a unique culture and a diverse people. Many great classics have been written by Russians but what to read after War and Peace? (You have read War and Peace, right?!) Try these for more insight (and a decidedly quicker read) into the Russian soul.

The Dog Who Bit a Policeman by Stuart Kaminsky

Twelfth in the series, this follows one-legged Moscow cop Porfiry Rostnikov in a post-Soviet Russia that is rife with corruption. Among other things, Porfiry deals with an illegal dogfighting ring, the Moscow Mafia, murders, and various personal problems. This is engrossing storytelling at its best.

Russka by Edward Rutherford

Presenting a sweeping historical overview of Russia in the style of James Michener, Rutherford delivers an epic story focusing on how historical events affect the common person through the generations.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

A fictional retelling of the final days of Czar Nicholas II and his family as witnessed by a young kitchen boy who has kept what he saw secret. Now an old man and about to die, he’s ready to tell the truth. Filled with historically accurate details, this is a beautifully written novel with a surprise ending.

The Industry of Souls by Martin Booth

Mistaken for a spy, British citizen Alexander Bayliss spends 25 years in a Soviet gulag and the next 20 in a Russian village. When his family discovers he is still alive, he must decide whether to stay or return to England. This amazing novel reveals the human side of gulag life, how the collapse of the Soviet Union affected her people and the strength of the common man.

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

Introducing Inspector Arkady Renko, this modern classic is the must read novel of Soviet Russia. Cynical, honest, brilliant, Renko investigates a triple murder where the victims fingers and faces are missing. Intelligent writing, complex mysteries, dark humor and real tension combine to make this one of the best mysteries ever written. Future installments, which follow Renko thru post-Soviet Union turmoil, are also highly recommended.

Did Poirot Get it Horribly Wrong?

Agatha Christie’s mystery, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a beloved classic; however, critics have said that Christie broke a fundamental rule of mystery writing when she revealed her murderer. How could this author, so renowned for her puzzle-making ability, have have made such a mistake? And, of course, no one thought to question detective Hercule Poirot’s conclusions. Until now.

Pierre Bayard has written a delightfully enjoyable mystery about Christie’s book. (Spoiler alert: if you intend to read Christie’s book first, then don’t click on the Bayard link because the murderer [as revealed by Christie] is revealed in the book’s description.) In his book, Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? Bayard questions Poirot’s conclusions and makes a very strong case for his argument that the famed detective is wrong!

If it’s been a while since you’ve read the original, you might want to read that first and then pick up Bayard’s book (although Bayard’s book stands up perfectly well on its own). If you’re a fan of mysteries (and even if you don’t particularly like Agatha Christie) you won’t be disappointed.


The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara

64 years ago today, the Allies successfully launched the largest single-day military invasion ever and turned the tide of World War II. Known as Operation Overlord, it involved more than 130,000 troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and marked the beginning of the end of the war.

Joining the long list of books and movies that have covered this event, The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara brings this day vividly to life. Many different viewpoints are shown, from historical figures (Eisenhower, Churchill, Rommel) to the foot soldiers on the beach. They are shown as real people, with doubts, fears, faults and great courage. The horrors of war are not sugar-coated – blood is shed, mistakes are made, people die. Both an overview of the event and it’s long-term impact and an intimate portrait of the cost of this day, this is an epic page-turner that is impossible to put down.

This is the second volume in a planned trilogy; The Rising Tide covers the German invasion of Europe and the Allied invasion of North Africa.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

One of the fun things about being a librarian is that sometimes publishers will send us “advance reader’s editions.” These are books that have not yet been published and often times they have not even been reviewed. Usually when we read a book, we’ve already read upteen reviews for it or at least heard about it from Oprah. So it’s very refreshing to pick up a book without having any preconceived ideas about it. Well, okay, in this case Stephen King had written a blurb recommending it, so I did have some idea. And no, it’s not a horror book. It’s called The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski.

Edgar, born mute and communicating through sign, is a boy growing up on a farm in Wisconsin, a farm on which they raise and train the special (and fictional) Sawtelle breed of dogs. Life is pretty peaceful for the family until his uncle Claude returns and decides to stay. Later, when Edgar’s father dies unexpectedly, Edgar tries to prove that Claude had something to do with it. Unfortunately, his plan backfires, and Edgar is forced to flee into the nearby Chequamegon wilderness. Struggling to survive and provide for the three yearling dogs that accompany him, Edgar grows up quickly.

The ending may not be what you hope for or expect, but it is precisely because of it that I predict this book will become excellent fodder for future book discussion groups. Look for it when it comes out!

Photographing Your Family by Joel Sartore

Summer means lots of opportunities for getting together with family – reunions, barbeques, vacations. Today’s small, simple-to-use cameras make it easy to capture the moments, big and small. Joel Sartore’s Photographing Your Family is a great place to find information not just on how to use your camera, but how to take great pictures.

One of the terrific things about this book is that Sartore has wonderful ideas for getting photos of the everyday events – a sleeping child, cookies being baked, time spent at the park or museum. Get in close, try different angles and work at capturing the personality of the person. Great photos are not stiff, formally posed portraits but the spontaneous snapshots of life in action.

Also included are tips that won’t overwhelm you on editing your images, pointers on composition, and ideas for storing and displaying your masterpieces. Because every day should be a day worth remembering.

The Savage Garden by Mark Mills

The Savage GardenLinked murders 400 years apart create the suspense and intrigue in this literate novel of family secrets, loyalty, and betrayal. Adam Strickland goes to Tuscany to write about a famous memorial garden, but the garden hides secrets – was Flora Docci actually murdered and why? As Adam delves into the mysteries of the garden he is also drawn into a more recent wartime murder involving the son of the matriarch of the villa, putting his own life in danger.

If you liked The DaVinci Code with it’s mysteries wrapped in ancient texts, or are intrigued by twists and turns of wartime loyalties, you’ll love The Savage Garden.

The Armchair Traveler – A Day at the Beach

Day at the Beach

Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart

Heartwrenching and funny, this is a story of a friendship between two very different women. One is a loud, outgoing, aspiring actress and the other is shy, meditative homebody. They meet in the 50’s, then reunite periodically throughout their lives – at beaches in Florida, California and Hawaii.

Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer

Centered around a summer book discussion group in the Hamptons. Young socialites struggle to impress each other and, in the end, are influenced by books such as Madame Bovary and Jane Eyre that are assigned in their book club.

Killer Summer by Lynda Curnyn

Set on New York’s Fire Island, three 30-something friends share a house for the summer. Each character is given a chance to narrate and give their own point-of-view, as their plans for a fun escape are derailed when a dead body is found on the beach.

Mary Emmerling’s Beach Cottages

What is more relaxing than flipping the pages of one of our many decorating books and remodeling the house in your head? Cheaper and easier than actually going to Home Depot.

Beach Boys Classics CD

Need some music to get in the mood to get to West Lake beach or at least the back yard? How about “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Busy Doin’ Nothin’ and “The Warmth of the Sun?”

Grace from the Garden: Changing the World One Garden at a Time by Debra Engle

Grace from the GardenGrace from the Garden by Debra Engle talks about gardening of course, but really it’s about how people pulling together can make a difference. These graceful essays show how gardening and gardeners, in all their wide diversity, affect lives and make the world a little friendlier. Some of the projects described include:

-An inner city community garden run by an former professional basketball player

-“Garden Angels”, a group of volunteers who install and maintain small gardens for elderly who are no longer physically able to

-Juvenile offenders who work off community service hours in a local vegetable garden where they learn to give back

-A doctor in the United States who has built greenhouses for hospitals in famine-threatened North Korea

-The story of the Portland Memory Garden, built for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and their caregivers

Gardens, whether big or small change, heal, and draw people together making the world better for all of us.

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