Shelf Life Blog

01/28/2013 - 6:18am
The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized Ame

The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff.  Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization.  Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.

Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role.  At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged.  Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.

01/23/2013 - 4:37pm
Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insec
The amateur naturalist in me was piqued when this book came up in my Goodreads list. I was certainly not disappointed. Wicked Bugs is a fascinating presentation of the darker side of our relationship with bugs. Amy Stewart presents a small sampling the most dangerous, painful, destructive and horrible ones that humans have encountered. 
 
Bugs have indeed changed the course of history from the louse that wiped out Napoleon’s army during the French Invasion of Russia to the locust that wiped out crops in the Great Plains. You cannot read this book without developing a deeper respect for nature or learning something new. 
01/22/2013 - 3:33am
Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist

A relative of one of my customers called me from Hawaii to tell me that I had to read this book. I can always tell it is he when I pick up the phone and hear, "Aloha!!!"  He didn't want to tell me too much about Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist, because he didn't want to spoil anything for me. However, he did want me to call him to discuss the book as soon as I finished it.

After reading it, I have to say that if you like Stephen King, you would enjoy Little Star, which focuses on two girls—one of whom is a sociopath and another who idolizes and wants to be just like her.

01/21/2013 - 7:37am
The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman gives readers a look at America’s past while at the same time encouraging them to take a hard look at its present. The novel centers around a 13-year-old girl named Sophie who lives with her recently divorced mother in New Orleans, Louisiana. The story opens with Sophie being taken to a rural part of Louisiana to spend the summer with her maiden aunt and ailing grandmother at the family’s crumbling plantation house while her mother stays in the city and studies to become an accountant.

01/18/2013 - 11:02am

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold: "Set against the backdrop of early 20th-century San Francisco during the heyday of such legendary illusionists and escape artists as Harry Houdini, this thoroughly entertaining debut by an amateur magician with an M.F.A. in creative writing is a fanciful pastiche of history, fantasy and romance." (Publisher's Weekly).

If you liked this book's use of historical setting, humor, and interconnected plots, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat, smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book.  (worldcat.org)

 

 

 


 

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Their friendship compromised by the belief systems of the racially charged 1970s, Dylan Ebdus and Mungus Rude share a series of misadventures based on their mutual obsession with comic book heroes. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

 

 

 

01/17/2013 - 3:32am
Goldilocks and The Three Dinosaurs

In Goldilocks and The Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems, Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur and another unnamed Dinosaur visiting from Norway just happened to make three big bowls of delicious chocolate pudding and leave them out in the open while they went “someplace else.” Of course these dinosaurs did not know that Goldilocks would be coming around soon, and they certainly weren’t terribly hungry...

01/16/2013 - 3:33am
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Australia—a land of kangaroos, koala bears, 12-foot earthworms, killer seashells, and Prime Ministers who disappear in the surf—provides a rich adventure for those who are not afraid to possibly encounter some of the world’s deadliest creatures and forbidding terrain.  Bill Bryson, author of the bestseller A Walk in the Woods, invites us on his treks throughout the Land Down Under from the comfort of our own homes (away from the deadly box jellyfish and toxic caterpillars) in his book, In a Sunburned Country.

01/15/2013 - 9:04am
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

I’m pretty certain I must have been an explorer—famous or otherwise—in a past life. Reading the globe-trotting adventures of others can entertain me for hours as I practically salivate over the descriptions of the sights, the culture, the food…you name it; hence my interest in Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven. Author Susan Jane Gilman details her story of what started as the trip of a lifetime for two recent college graduates, until something went terribly wrong.

01/14/2013 - 7:43am
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

A Covenant and a Code

In Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel, it’s been hundreds of years since the mysterious Hill Folk went to war with the people of Remalna to defend their groves of colortrees, whose rich hues of blue and red and gold made them valuable for trade. The Hill Folk fought back with their all of their magical powers and easily defeated their foes. At last a truce was reached. The Remalnan settlers would cut no more wood, and in exchange the Hill Folk would give magical Fire Sticks to last them the winter.

01/11/2013 - 3:31am
Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander: First of a series featuring Sir John Fielding, a magistrate who in the 18th Century co-founded London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners. The narrator is Jeremy Proctor, a 13-year-old orphan who serves as Fielding's eyes. Fielding is blind. The series opens with the "suicide" of a lord known for his gambling and extra-marital affairs.

If you enjoyed the characters, mystery, and era of the novel, here are some other titles you may enjoy. (You can also see this book match in the catalog here):

Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross
To the ranks of great sleuths of ages past, add a new candidate - Julian Kestrel - a detective as historically authentic as Brother Cadfael and as dashing as Lord Peter Wimsey. Kestrel is the reigning dandy of London in the 1820s, famous for his elegant clothes and his unflappable sangfroid. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

 

 

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