Archive for March, 2021

Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger, by Lisa Donovan

March 29, 2021


This is a very satisfying and moving combination of memoir and food writing. I wasn’t familiar with Lisa Donovan before this book was recommended to me – what a story‚Ķ I’m not sure exactly what to say except that this made me think in some ways of Ruth Reichl’s writing. Life and food and heartbreak and cooking and family and the world all somehow wrapped up in one book and it all fits together. Find it in our catalog.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

March 23, 2021


Looking for a comfort read? This whimsical, gentle fantasy really hit the spot for me during turbulent times. It tells the story of Linus, who works for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is a rule follower whose job is to check in on orphanages for magical children, to make sure they are safe and that the children’s magic is being handled (contained) properly. While not particularly inspired in his position, he does believes in the work he is doing. However, when he is assigned to spend a month at a house for the magical children who are considered the most dangerous, his world view begins to shift. Along with Linus you get to know and love the unusual, magical children who live there. Linus also begins to fall for Arthur, the mysterious head of the orphanage. This is a lovely, big-hearted, hopeful book about creating your own family, and finding your own voice and power. You can find this book at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune - Wait list

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix

March 21, 2021


More, please! I loved this book — I would read 100 more in a booksellers series. Are you listening Garth Nix??

I’m a librarian, so any weapon-wielding, superhero, secret book people society is going to be right up my alley. Then throw in that the first left-handed bookseller that Susan (more about her in a minute) meets is named Merlin and his sister (a right-handed bookseller) is Vivien and I’m in.

It’s 1980’s London and when Susan Arkshaw sets out to track down the father she’s never meant with only her nearly untethered mother’s “clues” she stumbles into the shadowy realm of the booksellers. Or maybe it is more that they stumble into her, it’s hard to say. Merlin and Vivien are the generation that is starting to push back against the old way of doing things and teaming up with Susan speeds it up.

Merlin is completely hilarious – he can barely get out of his own way – and Vivien is the total opposite, always in control and super capable. Yet neither one could succeed (or survive) without the other – and it turns out they both need Susan. One reviewer said this reads like Derek Landy, Lev Grossman, and Neil Gaiman all in one — I already thought Garth Nix was in this camp, and it’s a decent way to describe his writing. I do think this is quite a bit lighter than I expect from Grossman or Gaiman but the humor, playfulness, and sharp dialog are here.

Will Susan learn who, or what, her father was/is? Are the booksellers on the side of good or evil – or somewhere in between? And, what about Susan’s mother? There are a lot of questions and mysteries in this book and the ride is so fast and so fun I wasn’t in a hurry to get the answers! You can find this book at the Library, and as an ebook and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann

March 15, 2021


While I love learning about women who have made amazing contributions to the world, it also pains me in some ways to think about why these stories aren’t more widely known. I certainly felt this way reading Vanguard by Martha Jones about the history of Black women fighting for Voting Rights. It was especially poignant for me learning about Judy Heumann since I have been directly impacted by the things she worked on, and yet I only just learned about her from my daughter. So for this Women’s History Month, I want to recommend Being Heumann, Judy Heumann’s fascinating memoir. Heumann is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Judy contracted polio at 18 months, and uses a wheelchair. Her parents were advised by doctors to put Judy into an institution, but their experiences in Nazi Germany led them to reject that idea. Her mother fought for her right to a public education, which she had been denied. Judy naturally grew into her activism, inspired by the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s Rights movement, as well as by her parents. To me the most riveting part of the book was the story of the weeks long 504 Sit-In that Heumann led at the San Francisco US Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare in 1977. The Sit-In was part of a nationwide effort by disability rights activists to persuade the US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to finally sign the regulations that would enable Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities by any program receiving federal funds. This is very much, as the title indicates, an activist’s memoir, and while there are important aspects of Heumann’s personal life that come through, the focus of most of the book is on the fight for the civil rights of people with disabilities. This was an eye-opening book for me and one I very much recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about this fight, and this extraordinary woman. The book is available at the Library.

Being Heumann by Judith Heumann and Kristen Joiner

7 Ways, by Jamie Oliver

March 6, 2021

[Lesley] I really should leave the cookbook reviews to Cindy, but this one is my speed! I was immediately attracted to the structure: 18 common ingredients, each with 7 different recipes. In my house, we do use some foods over and over again: chicken, broccoli, eggs, fish, potatoes… And there are days when I feel like if I have to make another quiche, I’m going to run away from home.

Now I can make cajun coddled eggs or cauli chicken pot pie. My family occasionally eats red meat, can be picky about vegetables, needs leftovers for lunch, and includes a vegetarian. That can make dinner tricky. This cookbook is the epitome of flexibility. A steak recipe that sounds like flavors the vegetarian would enjoy? Swap out one of the other ingredients (eggplant, sweet potato, mushrooms). Like the preparation of this main ingredient but not the sauce? Find some other sauce that you can use.

The ingredients lists on the recipes are nice and short and each recipe fits on one page with a picture facing. For the most part, I found the ingredients to be things I usually have at home, though a few recipes would be a challenge for my basic pantry. Still, I felt like it would be easy to substitute something that I did have in those cases.

I made the potato lasagna which was delicious. Oh, and I had more than my baking dish would hold so I made a second one with broccoli – see, flexible! As often happens with a new recipe, I learned a few things that I would do differently, but given how yummy it was, I will definitely make it again with those tweaks.

I can also see how I could make it with different ingredients or spice combinations. I liked the technique of incorporating chopped up asparagus stalks into the sauce – the sauce stayed smooth but was thicker than with a roux alone and the flavor was much richer. That’s something I’ll use in other dishes.

I flagged a bunch of other recipes my family wants to try (swapping things in and out) including:

  • Cauli Chicken Pot Pie
  • Sweet Potato & Chicken Chop Suey
  • Eggplant & Ricotta Pasta
  • Asian Egg & Bean Salad
  • Beef & Guinness Hot Pot
  • Cajun Coddled Eggs
  • Quick Stuffed Potato Naans
  • Mushroom Toad-In-The-Hole
  • Quickest White Fish Terrine

Click here to find 7 Ways by Jamie Oliver in our catalog.