Friday, August 31, 2012

Highly Recommended Reading: "Gone" by Mo Hayder.

Mo Hayder's thriller Gone is a first-rate mystery, full of tension and plot twists.  Winner of the 2012 Edgar Award, Gone features Detective Jack Caffrey of  Bristol's Major Crime Investigation Unit.  The unit is investigating a car jacking.  Rose Bradley was loading groceries into her car when a man wearing a Santa Clause mask rushed up, threw her aside, grabbed the keys off the seat, started the vehicle and roared away.  Bad, yes.  But here is what's really awful:  Rose's 11-year old daughter was in the back seat of the stolen car.  

Caffrey knows that when a carjacker realizes that he has made a mistake such as this, statistics show that 'jacker drops off the passenger within three hours.  The trouble is, the clock is running down and the girl is not back.  Was the thief after the car or the daughter?

To avoid spoiling any bit of the suspense in Gone, that's as much of a plot summary as I will provide for this clever, chilling - but not macabre - book.  Mystery fans and fans of police procedural books will definitely enjoy reading Gone.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Excellent Book for the Middle School Crowd: "Liar & Spy" by Rebecca Stead.

Liar & Spy is an engaging book for young readers.  Written by Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead, it delivers good ideas about big issues, such as coping with changes in family life and the challenges of friendship, without sermonizing or being stilted.

The story is narrated by the book's protagonist, a 7th grader named Georges (the 's' is silent).  Georges lives in New York with his mom and dad.  Dad has lost his job.  Mom, a nurse, is now working extra shifts while dad tries to launch a new business.  Also as a result of their changed economic circumstances, Georges' family sells their house and move into an apartment.  One of Georges new neighbors is a boy his age, Safer.  Safer has a spy club which Georges joins and the two boys investigate a mysterious tenant in their building.  There is suspense with Georges and Safer's activities, but it is gentle and entertaining.

Although Georges faces many changes on the home front, he continues to attend his same school. At school he is a little shy, a little different, but smart and kind.  Accordingly, he is the target of bullies.  The development of his strategy to cope with the the bullies is a positive one.  As with Safer and spy club, Georges makes good choices in an appealing manner.

In fact, all of Liar & Spy is tremendously appealing.  The themes are interesting and the story is full of warmth, surprises and humor.  If you are looking for a good book for your middle school child, pick up Liar & Spy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Amazing Clouds Yesterday.

I was driving around northeast Wisconsin yesterday, completely amazed by the beautiful clouds.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Morning Coffee with "The Essential Rumi".

Early morning is a great time for reading poetry.  This morning I sat outside with a cup of coffee and read The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne.  Rumi lived from 1207 to 1273.  Born in Afghanistan, his family later fled to Turkey to escape the invading Mongol armies.

I heard about Rumi some years ago when NPR ran a story about Barks' book.  Here is a link to that story.  When you get to NPR's page, click the word 'download' found to the right of the gray, rectangular box.  The story is fascinating and I highly recommend you give it a listen.

Rumi's poems are amazing.  As Coleman Barks writes, "Rumi's poems are not well-trimmed, Persian miniature gardens.  They are more like, as scholar Annemarie Schimmel says, the paintings in the Turkoman style - full of abrupt movement, odd flowers and bushes, demons and talking animals."   If you enjoy being dazzled, astounded, consoled and inspired by language and ideas, check it out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child.

One hundred years ago today, Julia Child was born.  If you are interested in reading about Julia, check out My Life in France in which she writes about the development of her love for French food and cooking.  It's a terrific book.

In addition to My Life in France, I use a number of Julia's cookbooks.  But if someone said to me that I could have only one cookbook to use for the rest of my life, I would probably select a book by Marge Poore called 1,000 Mexican Recipes.  With terrific recipes and clear descriptions of techniques, this is my go-to book for both everyday cooking and fancy dinners.  I love French food, but I love Mexican cuisine more.  Poore's book has a ton of flavorful dishes that use ingredients that are easy to find.  If you like to cook, check it out.

Cooking something today with Marge Poore's book, or your favorite cookbook, would be a great tribute to Julia.  Julia Child reminded us that food should be delicious and we should seek out and relish quality meals; Julia's genius was in telling and showing us that we could prepare wonderful food at home.  On her birthday, let's commit to cooking and eating well.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Another Good Addition to the Alex McKnight Mystery Series: "Die a Stranger" by Steve Hamilton.

I'm a big fan of author Steve Hamilton's mystery books featuring retired Detroit police officer Alex McKnight.  The Alex McKnight books are set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  There Alex, who retired from the force after being shot, owns a string of cabins that he rents to tourists and hunters.  In Die a Stranger, Alex's best friend and only neighbor on the road to the cabins, Vinnie LeBlanc, goes missing.  As Alex tries to find his friend, he begins to worry that Vinnie has been caught in the cross-fire of a deadly turf war being conduct by gangs important illegal drugs from Canada.  As the search continues, things get complicated; and as always with Alex McKnight, things also get dangerous.

Die a Stranger is another exciting, entertaining Alex McKnight mystery.  If you're not familiar with the series check it out.  If you're already a fan, enjoy!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's August: Books to read before summer ends.

Summer is going by so quickly.  It's already August 4 and I've made barely a dent in my stack of summer reading. So now it's time to prioritize; Gone Girl is going closer to the top of the pile, as well as Tell the Wolves I'm Home.  

What about you?  What's on your 'must read' list for August?