Saturday, June 24, 2017

Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch

The right book makes its appearance at just the right time? I like to think that is serendipity.  

My first steps along the pondering path of plotting a future program for our library led me to learn more about Cynthia Riggs, the author of a cozy mysteries series that is set in Martha's Vineyard.  Riggs began writing in her eighties and, as she gained notoriety for her writing, she was finally reunited with a long ago love. Both of them had full, separate lives and families. They soon married and had four lovely years together until Howard's death in February of this year.  

"A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

Following this Martha's Vineyard inspiration, where does one go next? Leafing through nearly everything that can be found on that subject, I looked for ways to enhance our visitor's experience with the literature.

Here comes the serendipitous part! I uncovered three books with a Martha's Vineyard connection. I absolutely adore them as much as a new old flame. The author is Susan Branch who, as you may recall, created the cookbook in the 1980s, Heart of the Home: Notes From a Vineyard Kitchen. She has written many books on entertaining and is perhaps remembered most for designing countless cheerily ornate note cards, calendars, mugs, and more.  I chose Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams to start. What could be more perfect?

Isle of Dreams is a memoir and you will find it within our Biography collection. The story begins after Branch's longtime relationship and marriage has come to an end.  She wants to leave the west coast and take up temporary residence in Martha's Vineyard for three months as she sorts things out.  During her search for a house to rent, her real estate agent takes her on a side trip to photograph a small cottage in the woods that had recently become vacant.  The home had belonged to a single, elderly lady that had passed away and was not yet on the market.  The quaint tiny cottage, called Holly Oak, spoke to Susan and she decided to purchase it.

Over the next months, Susan worked her magic on this lonely little cottage, personalizing it with charming touches that are her signature style.  Here you will watch her rebuild her life and realize a long dream of becoming an author, sharing her experiences along the way.  In all of her books Ms. Branch combines her artistic talents with storytelling, embellishing each hand-lettered page with nostalgic drawings, photos, and quotes.  Also sprinkled in among the pages are favorite recipes and book suggestions that have inspired or influenced her life.  Her story will lead you on a stroll down memory lane if you have fond remembrances of events and styles that were popular from the 1980s to the present.  For me they triggered a reflection on my own life during those decades. This book is also sure to spark your creativity if you are a fan of artistic journaling.

Isle of Dreams, published in 2016, is really book number two of three.  Fairytale Girl precedes it and is also a memoir.  It was published in 2015 and can also be found in Biographies. Here she tells tales of California.  She has captured moments with the same wonderful illustrations, hand lettering, photos, and quotes in keeping with her home state's motto "Eureka!" The motto of course may be translated as "I have found it!"   She even found herself meeting the Beatles in the 60s on one of their first tours to the States.

Book three is A Fine Romance and is written as a travel journal about her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary trip to England aboard the Queen Mary 2.  It is found in Adult Non-Fiction by the Call Number:  914.2 B816f.  It is a fabulous story of a two month romp across the English country side and visiting old friends, historic homes, and famous places from literature and beyond.  It made me want to pack my bags right now.  Please take your time and scour through each of these books.  They are works of art in more ways than one.

I hope a future published retreat is in the works, but in the meantime her musings are ever available at  Thirty odd years later, she is still in Martha's Vineyard and now she resides in a lovely house built in 1849 that once belonged to a sea captain.  

Martha's Vineyard, here I come!  (If only as an imagined traveler at present.)


Friday, June 23, 2017

Edible DIY: simple, giftable recipes to savor and share

Time to switch gears.

184 days until Christmas! Are you ready? Are your tactical plans in place for Black Friday shopping? Are your Christmas lists created and budgeted for? Obviously, I take planning seriously. If you’re a DIY’er, planning is even more imperative. What kind of items will you create? How many are you planning? Do you have your supplies, as well as time budgeted? Do you have any upcoming distractions such as school, vacation, or other projects? Are you overwhelmed yet? When it gets to be too overwhelming, simpler is always better. Take a tip from Lucy Baker in her book Edible DIY: simple, giftable recipes to savor and share.

When it comes to cooking, it can be easy to recreate. When it comes to DIY, not so much. Luckily, Baker has a knack for boiling a recipe down to its simplest elements. She also proposes changes to the recipes, such as additions and substitutions in case one wants to try something new. She also shares little snippets of her life and childhood at the beginning of each chapter and recipe. This beautifully photographed book is separated into different categories such as crunchy, boozy, sweet, and more. She also offers packaging suggestions to make your gifts shine.

Edible gifts may not your cup of tea. However, you can still create gifts for family and friends. Try 100 Little Christmas Gifts to Make by Search Press Studio, which has a variety of different kinds of gifts, including sugar creations and papercraft. Maybe the tried and true Last-Minute Knitted Gifts or its sequel More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson is more your speed, previously reviewed by Sara. Need more ideas? Check out recommendations in our tagged craft projects or crafts or knitting posts. And have a merry, early holiday planning session.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Peter Ash series

The first two books in the Peter Ash series 
by Nicholas Petrie

A suitcase full of cash and explosives.
A very large, very ugly, very stinky dog.
Lots of bad guys.
An ex-Marine with a bad case of PTSD
that puts his military training to good use.

A hungry bear.
A hidden treetop observation platform
in the middle of the forest.
A beautiful woman.
A black-ops government agency.
A top-secret, high-tech surveillance system that could take over the world.
The Yeti.

Peter Ash is an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran that suffers from PTSD.  Whenever he is in a building or around too many people he experiences a serious form of claustrophobia. He refers to it as "white static".  Peter has been spending his time since separating from the Marines hiking around the country, camping and sleeping under the stars.

Fans of the Jack Reacher and the Bourne series will enjoy this character.

Review by Kathryn

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cooking For Jeffrey by Ina Garten

At the library you may be familiar with the fact that, in Adult Fiction, there are stickers on the spine labels that indicate the book is a Romance Novel.  Cooking for Jeffery, though found in the cooking section of non-fiction books, should have one of those stickers.  Because the Barefoot Contessa's latest cookbook is a love story.

Whether you are a fan of her earlier books, her show on Food Network or her website and blog, you already have a hint that Jeffrey is at the center of Ina's life.  In Cooking for Jeffrey, you get a glimpse of their early life together with sweet nostalgic photos and back stories.  From a sweet young couple arm in arm on a tennis court, the details of their first meeting or smiling newly weds cutting into a towering wedding cake, you can see the love that set them on their life's journey together is still blazing in the present day photos of them included with the recipes in this book.

If you are looking to recreate some of Jeffrey's favorite dinners, scrumptious desserts or appetizers for entertaining at your next party or just sharing for two, there are plenty of delicious ideas to inspire you. The mouthwatering photography is also an incentive to don your apron and roll up your sleeves and have those comforting aromas wafting through your house the next time your loved one comes walking through your front door.   For lighter fare, there are soup, salads and lunch ideas too, that showcase Ina's simple but elegant style of cooking for the people she loves.  Isn't that what motivates most of us anyhow?

This book includes Ina's pantry staples, her starter and professional kitchen supply lists in the back of the book after her recipes.  There is source information included by referring you to the Barefoot Contessa website to aid in find recommended ingredients and cooking tools you may find helpful in recreating some of these marvelous dishes.

You can always find other simple elegant recipes in any of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks, but you might also try something new.  Ina always says to embrace surprises.  The PBS Television Series: A Chef's Life, seasons one through four, plus a holiday special if you wanted to follow a young family's journey with their culinary life in the south.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Complete Slow Cooker: a paleo cookbook for everyday meals that preps fast and cooks slow, by Karen Frazier

Summer is finally upon us! How will you spend your time? Some like to go on vacation, or stay busy outdoors, with friends and family. Still more folk enjoy a laze-about in the hot, humid days. Whatever your plans are, they most likely do not include slaving away in the kitchen over a hot stove. That’s where Karen Frazier has your back, with her new book The Complete Slow Cooker: a paleo cookbook for everyday meals that preps fast and cooks slow.

If you’re looking for amazing pictures of glorious food, this is not the book for you. Close it and leave quietly. There are no photos, at all. But, if you are willing to look past that, you’ll discover easy recipes made with simple ingredients. The best part is not that this is a “fix it and forget it” book, but instead that most recipes include items in my pantry or already on my shopping list. It’s a relief not to have to buy a one-time-use item which ends up forgotten to molder and on a dusty back shelf. The recipes themselves range from “pretty easy” to “incredibly simple”. The steps are all quick, with prep work pared down to 20 minutes. Then, just set it and walk away.

In the mood for more easy cooking? Check out the classic Fix-it and Forget-it: feasting with your slow cooker, by Dawn Ranck for simple slow-cooker recipes. Are you looking for more healthy slow cooker recipe books? Check out Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: knockout quick fix and slow cooker recipes by Gina Homolka or Cooking Light for Slow Cookers: 600 healthy, low-fat recipes for your slow cooker, by Phyllis Good, queen of Fix-it and Forget-it cookbooks. And have a lazy, happy summer.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Great, Now We've Got Barbarians!

by Jason Carter Eaton

Do you have a little one in your household and are you having a hard time convincing them they need to clean up after themselves?  This book may help or could make things even worse.  It puts a humorous slant on what kind of infestation you could suffer if you don't clean up those cupcake crumbs.

The story revolves around a little boy whose mother warns him that they will get pests if he doesn't start cleaning up after himself.  The little boy thinks "What's the worst that could happen?  A couple of ants? A few flies? A little bitty mouse?"  But no, they end up with Barbarians!

Does this look like the room of someone you know?

More books by this author:
How to Track a Truck
How to Train a Train

Similar books:
The Messy Book by Maudie Powell-Tuck
The Loch Mess Monster by Helen Lester
How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps by Jennifer LaRue Huget

Review by Kathryn

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters is written as one side of a correspondence between two devils: Wormwood, and Screwtape. Through the book we see Screwtape's advice and admonishments to his nephew, Wormwood; an inexperienced junior tempter on his first assignment. Screwtape endeavors to help his incompetent nephew undermine the faith of, "the patient" (the human Wormwood has been charged to encourage toward sin).

Written as a religious satire, The Screwtape Letters is an eye-opening perspective on human nature and Christianity. Well written and witty, C. S. Lewis perfectly captures one small truth; that the events that degrade the human spirit can be (and often are) far simpler and subtler than we suspect.

If you enjoy The Screwtape Letters, look for The Great Divorce and Mere Christianity, also written by C.S. Lewis. These books and many more are available at your local Virginia Beach Public Library location.