February 2011 Archives

Who's in Charge? edited by Alexander Cox

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From Madison to Cairo and around the world, government, politics, political participation and protest are in the news. Whether you are answering your children's questions about current events or want to brush up on government and civics yourself, DK Publishing's primer, Who's in Charge? How Governments Make the World Go Round is an informative and engaging look at how countries and groups around the world organize society. It offers both an historical and wide-ranging perspective on how different political systems function and the way government and citizenship are defined in different countries. You can read it cover to cover or dip in for trivia that may surprise even the most avid political junkies.

Submitted by KW @ Forest Home


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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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With A Discovery of Witches, debut novelist Deborah Harkness has created an enchanting read that is equal parts history and magic, with some suspense and romance to boot. Diana Bishop is doing research in Oxford's Bodleian Library and comes across an alchemical manuscript. She makes a few notes and then returns it to the stacks, but the old text has been lost for centuries and its reappearance unleashes long dormant creatures of the underworld. Enter demons and witches and vampires. Of particular interest is Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist, yoga practicioner and wine connoisseur--as well as vampire. Why is he so invested in Diana?

A truly addictive story, at least for me, and it stirred up my curiosity. Harkness suggests these nonfiction titles, all of which inspired some aspect of A Discovery of Witches. Diana Bishop is descended from a long line of witches. In The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen you will find out more about some of those witches--the Bishops and the Proctors--while reading a classic interpretation of what happened in Salem in 1692. Bruce Moran's Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution is a fantastic book which is extremely readable. It will give you a new appreciation for the alchemists. And, The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes provides an introduction to the study of genetics, and to the legacies that are carried from generation to generation among the population.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL


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The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

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Did you love to read mythology as a child? Do you love fantasy and adventure? If so, do I have a series for you! Rick Riordan wrote the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Starting with The Lightning Thief, which was also released as a movie in 2010, and ending with The Last Olympian, many of Rick Riordan's fans were sad to reach what they thought was the end of their favorite demigods. With the release of Lost Hero: Heroes of Olympus, Book 1, fans can again cheer on their favorite demigod. This new adventure series introduces us to three new teens, Jason, Piper, and Leo. They have been labeled as "troubled teens", but are really three unclaimed children of the gods. The narration of the book rotates between three teen demigods as they discover and cope with their new found talents. The story is fast paced and the plot moves along with the teens going from one problem to the next. I truly enjoy how Riordan weaves information about Greek & Roman mythology into the story. Who is Jason? Why does he keep using Roman names for the Gods and other creatures? What about the Great Prophecy? And where in the world is Percy Jackson?

Submitted by Gail @ Zablocki


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Have you read the Oscar nominees for Best Picture?

This year the Academy has nominated ten films in the Best Picture category, and five of them are based on books. Join the age old debate of which is better; the book or the movie? Read and decide for yourself...

Ralston.jpg Aron Ralston's Between a Rock and a Hard Place was the inspiration for the film 127 Hours. It is his account of the six days he spent trapped in the remote canyon lands of Utah. He is an experienced mountaineer and outdoorsman and took off for this hike alone and without telling anyone where he'd be or when he'd return. Things started out fine, but while climbing down a narrow slot, a rock suddenly came loose, falling and pinning his right hand and wrist against the canyon wall. He didn't have a lot of water or food and wasn't dressed for the cold nights. After pondering possible options of escape or rescue, he wondered, would he simply die of dehydration? So, Aron starts recording videos to his family and friends, saying good bye and hoping that whatever happened to him someone would find the camera and share it with his family. For a non-mountaineer, some of this book is quite technical, but I found it possible to skim over these parts without missing the gist of the experience. The chapters alternate, with him telling about his previous climbs/adventures during even numbered chapters and describing this ordeal in the canyon during odd numbered chapters. Mezrich.jpg

The Social Network, the movie about the founding of Facebook, was based on, Accidental Billionaires. It tells the story of the Facebook phenomenon. Sort of, this is something of a tabloid version of what happened. Ben Mezrich spins a fascinating story of betrayal, huge amounts of cash and two friends who changed the way we connect with each other. The end result was a colossal falling out. Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg were awkward Harvard undergrads that wanted to be cool. Eduardo tried to gain acceptance into one of the school's semi-secret Final Clubs. Mark hacked into Harvard's computers to create a 'hot or not' site exclusive to campus. The prank nearly got him kicked out, but he and Eduardo realized the concept could be something big. Eduardo talked with Mezrich, but Zuckerberg did not; making this a somewhat limited view of the truth. So, while the framework of the history of Facebook may be correct, it's only an outsider's version of it--for something more authoritative, try The Facebook Effect. It explains how Facebook went from a dorm room pastime to having 500 million users. It's become an essential part of social life for many teens and adults worldwide and as it spreads it produces amazing effects. David Kirkpatrick had Facebook's key execs go ahead in researching the company and its impact on our lives. Pointing out successes as well as mistakes, he gives readers the Facebook story that can't be found anywhere else.
true grit.jpg True Grit was first published in 1968 and was adapted for a film starring John Wayne in 1969. The Coen brothers, who directed the 2010 movie, have been clear that their film is not a remake of the earlier film, but an even more faithful adaptation of the novel. Written in the first person, the story is told by Mattie as an old woman, looking back 30-40 years on her adventure. When she was 14, a drunken hired hand killed and robbed her rancher father. When her mother sends her into town to collect the body she finds the US Marshal, Rooster Cogburn and convinces him to go with her to avenge her fathers death. A Texas Ranger is also on the trail and they all have different ideas about how justice should be served. Mr. Portis did an incredible job with his characters; the Bible verse spouting Mattie working alongside foul mouthed Cogburn lends a lot of humor. He also took care to use accurate terms from the time period and the region; for example, blue john is used for skim milk and kerosene is referred to as coal oil.
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Winter's Bone is about 16 year old Ree Dolly, who is growing up in the poverty stricken Ozarks. When the sheriff shows up and tells her that her father used the family home and land as collateral to get out of jail, and that they'll lose the house if he doesn't show up for court, she sets out to find him. He's disappeared before; skipping out due to charges that he runs a crystal meth lab. Her younger brothers and her mother depend on her and while all she wants to do is join the Army and escape, she knows her first duty is to her family. This is the first Woodrell novel that I've read, but I'm looking forward to reading more. Since they are mostly set in the Ozarks, where he grew up and still resides, he can really give life to his stories. At first I thought the dialect he used would be difficult to read, but after a few pages it just started to flow and the impact of the story would be lessened if he'd done it any other way. He calls his writing, 'country noir' because of the setting and the unsentimental portrayal of crime.

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The Kings Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy by Mark Logue is about Britain's Prince Albert, known as Bertie. As the son of King George V, and younger brother of Edward VIII he developed a stammer when he was young, which effectively made him shy about communicating. Sometime after marrying Elizabeth, Duchess of York, Bertie started working with Lionel Logue, an Australian-born speech therapist to improve his speech; they met many times and eventually succeeded in helping the Duke gain more self confidence and speak more clearly. Their success was especially important when King Edward VIII abdicated, leaving the throne to Bertie. Now he was required to make a number of speeches in person and on the radio. While it was still extremely difficult, he was able to speak well enough to satisfy his toughest critics and lead his nation through some of its darkest times of war and economic downtimes. This biography is written by his grandson, Mark Logue and a co-author, Peter Conradi. It is based, in part, on Lionel's diaries and case files and will be of great interest to historians and anyone dealing with speech difficulties.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central


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The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin

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The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin by James Norton & Becca Dilley (c2009)

Who makes our cheese? The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program was created to acknowledge the immense depth of experience and talent that exists within the state's dairy industry. Forty-three master cheesemakers are interviewed and photographed for this book organized by section of the state. A brief history of cheese making in Wisconsin and the basics of how to make cheese introduce the main entries focused on each cheesemaker. There are photos on every two page spread and each master has two to four pages to share why they love making our cheese. After reading this book, I'm ready to tour one of my local cheesemaking operations. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by RC @ Zablocki


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Orchid Beach by Stuart Woods

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First in a series by Woods, featuring a female lead, Holly Barker, Orchid Beach is loaded with action. Ms. Barker, who left the army after a sexual harassment complaint against a superior, takes a job as police chief at Orchid Beach. The police chief she was to replace is found shot not long after she arrives. For a while, he's in a coma. His best friend is found murdered. Holly inherits the friend's dog, Daisy (a Doberman who can retrieve a can of beer from a refrigerator), as a protector, and a police department full of resentment toward her for coming in from the outside. There's something fishy going on at an exclusive resort in Orchid Beach. Holly investigates. The FBI gets involved. Lots of action makes up for a lack of character development in this first book of the series. Readers will find out a lot more about Holly in future installments. The Holly Barker series are fun to read and include: Orchid Blues, Blood Orchid, and Hothouse Orchid.

Submitted by Kathy R @ Zablocki


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The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

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This charming, clever novel features three sisters born and raised in a small Midwestern college town. Their father is an English professor at the college and his focus is on Shakespeare, which is why each daughter is named after a heroine in a Shakespeare play. Shakespeare is quoted throughout the novel and alluded to in many ways, adding to the story without overwhelming it. Brown also tells her story using first-person plural narration. It's used infrequently in fiction so it seems strange at first, but quickly takes on a comforting feel.

Rose (Rosalind from As You Like It) is the responsible oldest daughter and has spent her whole life in the town where the sisters grew up. She's even a math professor at the same college as their father. The middle child is the attractive Bean (Bianca from The Taming of the Shrew). She ran away from small-town life to New York City as quickly as she could. Cordy (Cordelia from King Lear) is the youngest sister. She's a college dropout and has spent her 20s wandering the country.

The three sisters surprise each other by moving back into their parents' house at the same time. They each claim they are there to help their homemaker mother through her breast cancer treatments and surgery, although their true reasons soon reveal themselves. As Rose, Bean and Cordy figure out who they are and who they want to be, it's a joy spending time with them. As a bonus, the story feels honest and includes plenty of light, humorous moments to even out the dark, serious ones. This is Eleanor Brown's first novel and with it she has proven herself an author to watch. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Amy @ MPL Central


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The Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer.

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This series is awesome! It's action packed, full of wit and humor topped off with unique well developed characters. Artemis Fowl II is a super genius too smart for his own good. His initial scheme in the first book involves him and his body guard Butler building a scheme to steal gold from the leprechauns who live underground with other faerie folk unbeknownst to all humans... well almost all. Thus far there are seven books in the series with at least one more yet to be published. The first two books have been made into graphic novels which are more awesome (if that's even possible) than the regular books. Although this series is considered to be for children, the humor and adventure can also be enjoyed by young adults albeit at an easier reading level. I recommend every single book and graphic novel in the series. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Click on the book cover above to check the catalog for available copies.

Artemis has his own website. You may have guessed...it's awesome!
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Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves

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Blue Lightning is the fourth and final book in the Shetland Island Quartet series. Cleeves has an incredible gift for making the reader feel he is right there with Inspector Jimmy Perez, his lady friend Fran, and the rest of Cleeves' cast of characters on the remote, bird lovers' paradise found in Fair Isle, one of the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. A band of extreme, dedicated birders, some already acquaintances, some meeting each other for the first time, gather for what is only supposed to be a few days to check off a few birds on their birding bucket list. Then people start dying, and the weather falls dark and treacherous, keeping Inspector Perez, Fran, and the birders all on the remote island in the finale of the Shetland Island Quartet series.

Cleeves is an amazing mystery writer and I strongly encourage you to check out this series and Cleeves' earlier works. Other titles in the Shetland Island Quartet are Raven Black, White Nights, and Red Bones.

Submitted by Becky @ Zablocki



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I'm sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf of your better selves

I am sick
Of having to remind you to breathe
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self.

-from Bridge Poem by Kate Ruskin, epigraph of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

In the span of eight breathtaking narratives Danielle Evans' debut collection of stories has the power to convert even the most ardent of short story detractors. Fresh, poignant and funny, the stories in Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self are about race, relationships and navigating the time between childhood and adulthood. Evans' characters, mostly African American and mixed young women and men, live in a world of difficult choices with resounding consequences. A standout story like "Snakes," about a biracial girl's ill-fated summer with an un-accepting grandmother, shows Evans' strengths best - a strong narrative voice, relatable characters and situations that can't help but elicit emotional responses. Evans is a wonderful new voice in fiction, here's hoping she continues to share her vision with readers.

Check the catalog for availability.

Submitted by Kristina@ MPL Central


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Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt

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Open and Shut is a legal thriller narrated by lawyer Andy Carpenter, a rather charming fellow with a lovely golden retriever named Tara. He takes on the appeal of a death row inmate at his father's urging. Then Andy's father has a heart attack, dies, and ends up leaving him 22 million dollars (Andy had no idea he had the money) and an old photograph. The story of trying to save Willie, the death row inmate, is told in the present tense with the readers discovering what's happening right along with Andy. Engaging characters make this work. Carpenter has a terrific sense of humor and is a sports buff. His private eye (former cop) girlfriend, Lauren, adds a lot to the book. The reader will want to race through it to find out what happens, reacting along with Andy to discoveries. Carpenter's courtroom histrionics give one pause, but seem to work for him. Highly entertaining. After finishing this one, I read all the books in the series - at the moment, there are seven others; First Degree, Bury the Lead, Sudden Death, Dead Center, Play Dead, New Tricks, and Dog Tags. Hopefully, there will be even more to come.

Submitted by Kathy R @ Zablocki



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After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

after_ever_after.jpgAfter Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick (c2010)

Eighth grade is not the easiest grade to handle. Most of us want to forget our middle school days. Now imagine being known as the teens in remission. Jeff and Tad have spent most of their childhood in and out of hospitals dealing with cancer. The two friends have a special bond because of the struggles they endured as children surviving cancer. The two survived but suffer the aftereffects of the treatments. Jeff has a limp and has problems concentrating in class. Tad is in a wheelchair. Now throw in the eighth grade standardized tests that must be passed in order to graduate and move on to high school. Other students don't understand the aftereffects and are thinking the two have an easy life, because they get some perks from the teachers. To make things even worse, Jeff's older brother, Steven, who has always been there for him when he needed him, day or night, just up and decides to go to Africa for the year to study drums and cut off all ties with Jeff. Jeff is feeling the pressure at school and home. The characters and their relationships with each other are very well developed. A good read that depicts the everyday life of teens that have faced many, many challenges. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Gail @ Zablocki


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iPad: The Missing Manual by J.D. Biersdorfer

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Did you get yourself an iPad this holiday season and now you're stumped on how to get the most out of your new device? This is "the book that should have been in the box." With screen shots and large print on every page, this book will appeal to the visual learner. It covers the basics including getting online, setting up your email and iCalendar, mastering iTunes, playing games, watching videos and viewing newspapers, magazines and books. This is a great resource for beginners new to Apple products and the personal media device. Check catalog for availability.

submitted by RC @ Zablocki


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It's rare that I rave about a cookbook. It's not for a lack of fabulous cookbooks out there; it's just that something has to be truly spectacular for me to venture beyond my easily-accessible stash of mom's specialties or my trusty Internet connection.

This cookbook is worth it.
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First of all, I never knew that I could make café-quality espresso drinks in my own kitchen without some $300 contraption I'd need a Ph.D. to operate. But I can! And a cup of homebrewed deliciousness is just the thing to complement the scrumptious coffee cakes that don't require a thing I didn't already have in my cupboards. I've been blissfully eating apple-cranberry ginger loaf for breakfast all week.

If you have a taste for something a little special, there's also a mouthwatering section on European café treats (think chocolate-strawberry sachertorte) and some innovative All-American cakes (daquiri chiffon ... mmmm...) Plus, gorgeous pictures make these recipes as almost as delicious to look at as they are to eat.

Easy, delicious, and beautiful. As far as I'm concerned, that's pretty much cookbook heaven.

The Ghost by Robert Harris

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The Ghost is a fine example of a timely political thriller. Harris writes of mystery, intrigue, and the type of political scandal that will have the reader second guessing the meaning behind each character's words as you try to separate the truth from the lies and cover up stories. The ghostwriter, played by Ewan McGregor in the 2010 movie The Ghost Writer, is hired to ghost write the memoirs of the former prime minister Adam Lang played by Pierce Brosnan in the movie. The ghostwriter finds himself secluded in a remote compound in Martha's Vineyard having to rewrite the recently deceased previous ghostwriter's work for an absurd amount of money in an equally absurd short period of time. As the ghostwriter delves deeper into his predecessor's manuscript and as he becomes better acquainted with former PM Adam Lang, his wife Ruth, and his staff, the ghostwriter wonders really how involved was Lang in the War on Terror and the CIA. Both the book The Ghost and the movie The Ghost Writer tell an amazing tale which has distinctly different conclusions. I strongly advise you to check out the book and the movie yourself.

Click on the book cover above to check the catalog for available copies.

Submitted by Becky @ Zablocki



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Whiplash by Catherine Coulter

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Whiplash by Catherine Coulter (c2010)

Lacy Sherlock and Dillon Savich, FBI agents extraordinaire, tackle two tough cases, the murder of a pharmaceutical troubleshooter from Germany and the possible haunting of a US Senator by his dead wife. Is someone trying to kill the senator? Is the shortage of an effective cancer fighting drug a true shortage or has the drug shortage been created to force patients into using another much more expensive drug which is not as effective? Two new characters, private investigator and ballet teacher Erin Pulaski and FBI field agent Bowie Richards are introduced and hopefully we will see more of them. A colorful cast of characters moves the story along quickly. Coincidence plays a little too big a role here, but there's plenty of excitement and the cases are resolved in a highly satisfying manner. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Kathy R @ Zablocki


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Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson is the second book in the Seeds of America trilogy. The first book, Chains, was a National Book Award Finalist. This may be a historical fiction for older youth, but adults will appreciate the writing and details of the Revolutionary War and slavery. The research done by the author in writing this novel truly shines through the book. Each chapter starts with a famous historical reference from the Revolutionary War. The book Chains is where we first meet the characters Curzon and Isabel, but that is Isabel's story. The second title, Forge, is Curzon's story, a 15 year old former slave who enlists in the Continental Army. Curzon narrates the story and enables us to visualize the everyday life of a soldier in the Continental Army, the cruelty of war and the bloody battlefields. We view the harsh cold winter of Valley Forge encampment, the lack of food, lack of shelter and lack of tools. The book helps us see the politics, the greed, as well as the camaraderie that occurred while fighting for liberty among the soldiers. Also covered in the book are the subject of slavery and the lives of slaves during the revolutionary war. This book is available in hardcover and audio book. I listened to the audio book and I just wanted to keep listening to find out what happened next to the various characters.

Submitted by Gail at Zablocki


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Babushka's Beauty Secrets by Raisa Ruder

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Let's face it; winter is unkind to our skin. I like to moisturize as much as the next gal, but I am not keen on all the unknowns in some ingredient lists. Peeking into my pantry and refrigerator I have much of what Raisa Ruder recommends in her book Babushka's Beauty Secrets. Avocado? Check. Canola oil? Check. Vodka? Check! Ruder's light-hearted introduction about her Ukrainian grandmother's kitchen "salon" leads into a great little collection of recipes for crow's feet, calluses and puffy eyes. We have several DIY beauty books on the shelves, but this one is worth a look. Another option with solid recipes, minus the chit-chat, is Lisa Sharon Belkin's The Cosmetics Cookbook. You may be surprised by how many things you can whip up right out of your kitchen. Carry on, winter. Carry on.

Submitted by Erin @ Central


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The Secret Diary of Ashley Juergens is written by Ashley Juergens, the 13 year old younger sister of Amy Juergens, the main character in the ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Ashley has a great deal on her mind including her 15 year old sister's pregnancy (a souvenir from band camp), trouble in school (a result of pushing the dress code boundaries), her first crush (a boy she meets at the bus stop), and the rest of the drama that follows a 13 year old. For anyone that watches Secret Life, this book is a good summary of the earlier seasons with the twist that everything is from Ashley's perspective. For those of you that have not watched Secret Life, this book is an excellent introduction to the intricacies of the Juergens' family's life, told from the perspective of their younger teenage daughter.

Submitted by Becky @ Zablocki


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As backyard gardening increases in popularity, more books are being published to help the urban gardener. Each of the 39 building projects list the materials, tools, tips and instructions for building the piece for your garden and yard. There are projects for the novice that will only take a few hours such as the lattice shade cover and the A-frame bean and pea support. The more skilled woodworker has a choice of more intensive projects that may take a weekend, such as the garden swing or the solar dryer. The photos and diagrams on every page make the projects accessible and inviting. My first project will be the window sash cold frame.

Click on the book cover above to check the catalog for available copies.

Submitted by RC @ Zablocki



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The Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. 1 by Mark Twain

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Mark Twain was undoubtedly a very funny guy. His wit is legendary in literary circles and his writings often poked fun at very serious social issues. But for every funny anecdote he put to paper, there also was a mean-spirited cynical side to the man, especially after losing both his wife and a daughter. His profound grief invaded his writings in the later part of his life. Before his death, Twain requested that some of his more cynical writings not be published for at least 100 years after his death. True to his wishes, the Mark Twain Project has published the first of three volumes of the complete Autobiography of Mark Twain exactly 100 years after his passing in 1910.
If you are expecting a "birth to death" life story of Twain then don't read this book. These are mostly short vignettes and scraps from stories that Twain wrote throughout his life and do not follow any chronology. There are still plenty of light hearted stories that Twain recalls from throughout his life, but I personally find his cynical side more enlightening.
I found one short piece about what Twain said to President Grant the first time he met him to be as classic a Twain story as any I've read. I also enjoyed a story about how a boyhood friend in Hannibal, Missouri fell off the family roof chasing two loud tomcats away. Check catalog for availability.

If you're a fan of Twain's writings this is a must read book.

Submitted by Dan@Central


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The Cruel Ever After by Ellen Hart

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Ellen Hart writes a series of Jane Lawless mysteries. Jane is a restaurateur in Minneapolis who had wanted to be a private investigator until her brother almost dies in a case she was working on. In this latest book, Jane's ex-husband, Chester, returns to the city and is between fortunes (broke). Chester's new business is selling artifacts that may have come from the Baghdad Museum. Chester finds a buyer, but that person is murdered before the deal happens. Chester is now the main suspect. He needs Jane to find the killer, which she is reluctant to do. There are a couple of more murders, a street preacher, and the kidnapping of someone who is very close to Jane. We also find out how Jane financed her restaurants; a secret that Jane thought would never surface. This book had a lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing and entertained. I will now have to go back and read the series from the beginning. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Connie @ MPL Central


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Alice Medrich, author of numerous award-winning dessert cookbooks, re-visits the cookie. Something so very appealing in this unique book is that the cookies are grouped by texture--a first I have seen. She also swaps out bleached, all-purpose flour (which she says makes for tender cookies) for unbleached and finds they taste and smell even better. Each cookie is charmingly introduced with tips and notes and ends with "upgrades" (otherwise know as "variations"). Also included is extra information about her resources, equipment and ingredients.

Several really cool lists in the "smart search index" include cookies that are wheat-free or dairy-free or whole-grains or quick and easy or 2-point cookies (Weight Watchers) as well as doughs that freeze well and cookies that keep at least two weeks. WOW!

There is so much variety in this book you will be sure to find what pleases your palate. Lemon: check. Nuts: check. Chocolate: big check. Cinnamon, nutmeg, toffee, caramel, espresso, mint, ginger, coconut, vanilla, orange, cardamom, bourbon: all check. Now you must check this out!

Submitted by Rebecca D at Central


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