Friday, March 24, 2017

One Pan and Done by Molly Gilbert

I’m sure many people would agree with me when I say that cleaning up is the worst part of cooking. Because of that, I was excited to see a new book that came into the library. One Pan and Done makes the after-meal clean up simple without compromising great flavor. 

There are sections for breakfast foods, appetizers, vegetable dishes, poultry, fish, meats, and sweets. The one pan could be any common dish, from a cast iron skillet to a 9 x 13 pan or a Dutch oven. Many of the recipes still require a mixing bowl or two, but I am happy to say that everything I tried out of this book had minimal mess and easy clean up.

With over 100 recipes, I didn’t get a chance to try very much of what this book has to offer, but what I did try was great. I recommend the artichoke gratin, bacon biscuit bread, and ultimate oven mac & cheese. The baked eggplant parmesan is great, too, if you like paprika, but I’ll be cutting that ingredient back when I make it again.

For more low-mess recipes from the same author, try Sheet Pan Suppers.

Or branch out with:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Literary Wonderlands by Laura Miller

If you’ve ever wondered what the real locations might have been that influenced the voyages in Homer’s Odyssey, or which real-world scientific paper was the inspiration for H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, you need to check out Literary Wonderlands. This book offers a “journey through the greatest fictional worlds ever created” covering everything from Beowulf to Fahrenheit 451 to Inkheart and of course Game of Thrones.

The title promises a journey, but you’re getting a lot more than maps of fantasy worlds in this book. The sections on each book—usually done in two to four pages—might contain information about the author, the inspiration for the story, the philosophy behind the work, or anything else interesting and relevant. Beautiful artwork is reprinted along with each book discussed.
Learn something new about your favorite fantasy stories or discover a new world to read later.  

When you’re finished with Literary Wonderlands, try:
Curiosities of Literaturetrivia about different literary works
Plotted: A Literary Atlasmaps and information about famous literature

The Literature Booka tour through the history of literature looking at major trends and pioneering techniques 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits

Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a Danish word for the feeling of contentment, comfort, and connectedness. The word itself may not translate wonderfully into English, but the feeling is universal; it’s one of peace and relaxation in your favorite places with your favorite people. You might hygger (the act that makes you experience hygge) when you have coffee with a friend, sit down to dinner as a family, cook a meal together, or spend a summer evening around an outdoor fire. Hygge is the basic language of comfort.

This book will make you feel good, the way very few books can, as you think about just what hygge means for you.  Just reading The Book of Hygge evokes the feeling of being curled up in blankets with a cup and tea and a good book. A feeling which is also an example of hygge.

Brits never tells her readers how to hygge, believing it a thing we all do without realizing it. Nor does she aim to prescribe a certain amount of hygge that will make reader’s lives better. Even if you aren’t looking to change your habits or embrace a new routine, The Book of Hygge is a great read that will make you recall all of those lovely moments when you were perfectly content.   

There is more hygge in the Virginia Beach Public Library! After reading this try:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

Like any social theory, the origins of Queer theory are deep, nuanced, and at times contradictory. But if you’re interested in learning about it, or just reaffirming what you already know, check out Queer: A Graphic History. Barker and Scheele explain some of the things queer can be: an umbrella term for the ever-expanding LGBTTQQIA, or a verb because queer is something that you do. And also what queer isn’t: a binary, it isn’t “us vs. them” and everyone’s identity is fluid.

Queer theory is an academic discipline that has involved thinkers and theorists for over one hundred years. Barker and Scheele’s easy-to-follow and visually interesting graphic novel explains the foundations of Queer theory, its development, and its strengths and weaknesses while avoiding academic jargon as much as possible. They explain some of the ways that prevailing western culture has been critiqued over the years by different social theorists and how contemporary queer theorists seek to question things.   

After you’ve read Queer:A Graphic History, check out some of these less theoretical books on LGBT rights in the VBPL collection:

When We Rise—a memoir of Cleve Jones, a famous gay rights activist

LGBT Hampton Roads—A local look at the LGBT movement

Or if it was the graphic format you particularly liked, try:

Love is Love—a comic anthology benefitting the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

Ben Hatke’s Might Jack is a modern retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk—but beans aren’t the only thing growing out of control in this tale. When Jack’s autistic sister, Maddy, who never talks, tells him to trade their mom’s car for a packet of seeds, they’re in for a more exciting summer than they ever could have imagined.  Monsters, some of which are downright adorable, grow from Jack and Maddy’s garden. With a little help from a dragon and a little more from the eccentric neighbor girl, Lilly, Jack and Maddy take on their otherworldly overgrowth.

Mixed in this exciting fantasy are some real-world situations, too. Jack finds the responsibility of being the older sibling to a special needs sister a lot to deal with and it effects his relationship with their mom who is doing her best to take care of them on her own.  You’ll want to root for all of these characters: the frazzled mom, the boy who is trying to be a good son and brother while also taking time to be a young teen, and most of all Maddy. It’s rare to find an autistic character as a key player in a youth graphic novel, but she’s always right there holding her own in the garden with the older kids and is obviously a loved and valued member of the family.

The sequel to Mighty Jack is scheduled to be published in September 2017, but if you can’t wait that long for more, try Ben Hatke’s other graphic novel series, Zita the Spacegirl

Friday, March 17, 2017

Animal Ark

   How do you keep a love of animals alive on the printed page, in a high tech world? By combining excellent, awe inspiring photographs of animals with poetry by an award winning author.

   Animal Ark is the work of photographer  Joel Sartore and author Kwame Alexander, who won the 2015 Newbery award for his book  Crossover, a novel in verse. Alexander brings the poet's spare beauty to the language that appears around the photographs, and helps you to see the animals in a deeper way than through your eyes. Sartore, the creator of the Photo Ark, assembles a collection of the photographs of animals who may be on the extinction list. Sartore has been  taking pictures for National Geographic over the past 20 years. In this book, his skill as a visual artist includes placing of animals on a black or white background, which pushes the details to the foreground.
    This is is the kind of book that makes you drop your jaw. Why? People love seeing pictures of animals of all kinds. Any page of Facebook posts includes at least one video of kittens of puppies, and many of sloths, the most popular animal these days. In addition, young children seem to relate to photos of animals as they begin the process of learning language. Reading Animal Ark aloud to younger ones can  turn our to be one of the first poetic forays a person can make. Children who love to kiss live animals will want to do the same to the beautiful creatures in the pages of this book.
      Listen to this series of words about turtles: " homes of courage on humble backs  this is not a race". Or these, on two pages which juxtapose an elephant and a mouse: " listen to the rumble giant stomping feet calling brothers ... sisters   blink and you'll miss the hush of waves, tiny feet scurrying inside dunes."
     You may be wondering if this is the only item by this photographer in our catalog. It's not. Sartore and Douglas Chadwick produced a volume called  The Company We Keep: America's Endangered Species, published in 1996. For budding photographers, there is a DVD called Fundamentals of Photography, produced in 2012. If you want to read more by Kwame Alexander, who writes mostly for teens, there is an adorable book in rhyme called Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band  for those animals lovers.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Gentleman

Who among you would attempt to save your spouse from the clutches of Satan? It's quite a compelling question, especially for Lionel Savage, a Victorian era poet, and a bad one at that. It's all the more difficult because he married Vivien for her money. No love there. Perplexing? I'd say "Aye!".
   This is a first novel set in early 1900's amid the moneyed glamor of Downtown Abbey, without our favorite characters, threaded through with wry commentaries at the bottom of most pages by another character, an attorney. Savage's predicament is truly awful for a poet; once married, he finds he cannot write. And worse, the beautiful woman who is his wife is not a match; he finds her vapid and shallow, hosting parties and hardly conversing with him. It is only when The Gentleman, who claims to be from Essex Grove- not that horrible place that starts with H- arrives at one of these soirees, and Vivien disappears, that Lionel is prompted to take on a grand rescue effort with a company that includes his brother-in law,a worldwide adventurer, his sister, recently given the boot from her university because of a love affair, a friend who sells old  books, his butler, and an inventor who builds a "flying machine". The best thing about this book is the voice of the author, who grew up in the wilds of Alaska under the opposite circumstances of his characters. Forrest Leo has captured the British sensibility, the language, and the unique styling of an upper-class Englishman. It's a little bit Monty Python, a little Princess Bride-esque and with a surprise ending, and a nod to a woman's capacity for inventiveness, given a difficult situation. The writing is pure cleverness and that sort of suppressed humor that we have come to love from the Brits.
   Is the Gentleman of the title really the guest from Essex Grove? I think not. I believe it is Lionel himself. Is this a mystery? Perhaps. Lovably eccentric? Definitely. Worth a read. Indisputably.  
    If you enjoy this stort of a book, consider reading Sophie and the Sibyl: A Victorian Romance,by Patricia Duncker or Julian Fellowes's Belgravia, by the author and creator of Downton Abbey.