Saturday, November 22, 2014

Best Comfort Food Cookbooks

It's the time of year when snow is falling. The roads are slushy and not many people want to go out in the cold. Even the people who love snow end up longing for some nice hot soup or a home cooked meal to warm them up when they come inside. When your desire for something warm strikes open one of these great cookbooks for some wonderful recipes. You and your family are sure to love these delicious home cooked meals.  

Comfort Food Cookbooks

Bake Until Bubbly The name says it all. Visions of creamy, tender casseroles with a crust that is a bit crunchy and bubbling with flavor. These are simple one dish meals that will definitely warm you up! 

Comfort Food These are family favorites that have been passed down from generations. The beautiful color photography and great tales about each recipe will have you craving them before you are done reading the recipe. 

300 Sensational Soups This is the definitive collection of recipes for soup lovers everywhere.

The Italian Slow Cooker Finally a book that combines the fresh exuberant flavors of Italian food with the ease and comfort of slow cooking. 

Fix It and Forget It Christmas Cookbook 600 delicious recipes from home cooks across the country who want to feast with their loved ones without being exhausted, frazzled or getting stuck in the kitchen all day.

The Ultimate Slow Cooker Cookbook You'll never run out of flavorful meals with this massive photo filled compendium of delicious recipes.  

Make It Fast, Cook It Slow These recipes are affordable, delicious and nutritious gluten-free recipes which will please the whole family. 

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook This comprehensive collection of 350 recipes combines the ease of slow cooking with the fresh, wholesome ingredients and exciting flavor's of today's kitchen.

Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook 200 recipes that show you how to make delicious comfort food with little fuss.

Taste of Home Comfort Food Cookbook Diet A common sense approach to healthy and happy living. These recipes are nutritious and delicious!

The Gourmet Slow Cooker Regional Comfort Food Classics
Fall in love with your slow cooker again. These are sophisticated easy to prepare recipes that focus on comfort food across America.

If you have a favorite comfort food cookbook, which I did not list, tell me what it is, I'd love to give it a try.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Man-Made Disasters: Environmental, Nuclear, and Terror

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial
Since September 11th was the 13th anniversary of one of America's greatest  tragedies, I thought I'd highlight the books and authors that are part of a genre called disaster books.  The definition according to Wikipedia is:

"Disaster books are a literary genre involving detailed descriptions of major historical disasters, often based on the historical records or personal testimonies of survivors. Since reportage of both natural disasters and man-made disasters is commonplace, authors tend to be journalists who develop their news reports into books."

This final week we will be covering more man-made disasters.  


Bhopal Chemical Leak--Bhopal, India--Dec 3, 1984--3, 828 dead--worst industrial accident in history--around 1 am at the Union Carbide plant, forty tons of deadly MIC gas was released in a cloud that spread over 15 square miles, killing victims in their sleep--lies, misinformation, and under equipped medical facilities led to even more deaths--today it is estimated that 10-15 people die each day from chemical exposure in the areas surrounding the plant.

--Chemical Accident by Alex Woolf

--Catastrophe: the 100 Greatest Disasters of All Time by Stephen J. Spignesi

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill--Prince William Sound, Alaska--March 24, 1989--after running aground on a reef, 10.8 million gallons of oil spread over 11,000 square miles--$3-$8 billion in losses--it is considered one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters in history--25 years later, marine life is still dying and Exxon still owes Alaska $92 million in settlement money.

--The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill by Peter Benoit

--Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill by Riki Ott

Gulf Oil Disaster/Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill--Gulf of Mexico near the Mississippi River Delta, USA--Apr 20, 2010-Jul 15, 2010--a gas explosion killed 11 crew and spilled 210 million gallons of oil over 68,000 square miles--dolphins and marine life are still dying in record numbers--health consequences for marine life and humans may last generations--as of Sep 2014, BP was found primarily negligent and reckless--with billions owed in settlements and fines, the company's future remains unknown.

--Fire on the Horizon: the Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by John Konrad

--Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster by Abraham Lustgarten


Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident--Middletown, PA--Mar 28, 1979--$1.1 billion in damages--the worst nuclear power plant accident in US history--radiation was released into the air but caused no deaths--took 11 years and $973 million to clean up--it is still to early to know the full impact on the environment and population in the surrounding areas.

--Three Mile Island: Thirty Minutes to Meltdown by Daniel F. Ford

--Three Mile Island: a Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective by J. Samuel Walker

--Atomic Accidents: a History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters... by James Mahaffey

Chernobyl Nuclear Accident--Chernobyl, The Ukraine, USSR--Apr 26, 1986--31 dead, 335,000 evacuated--the worst nuclear accident of all time--an explosion in the power plant blew radioactive gasses and debris almost a mile into the air--2 workers were killed instantly and 29 died of radiation poisoning over the next few weeks--the radiation exposure is expected to cause hundreds of thousands of new cancers and tens of thousands of deaths in the future.

--Visit Sunny Chernobyl: and Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell

--Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and Kate Brown

--Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl by Robert Polidori

--Heavy Water: a Film for Chernobyl (DVD)


The Oklahoma City Bombing--Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma--April 19, 1995--168 dead--before 9/11 it was the single worst act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States--it was carried out by 27-year-old American in retaliation for the raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, TX two years earlier--he was executed in 2001--on the site of the bombing is a memorial park with 168 chairs for the victims, including nineteen small chairs for each child that was killed.

--The Third Terrorist: the Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing by Jayna Davis

--In Their Name: Dedicated to the Brave and the Innocent... ed. by Clive Irving

--American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing by Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck

--One of Ours: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing by Richard A. Serrano

The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks--New York City, Washington, DC, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania--2996 dead--the worst terrorist attack on American soil--carried out by Al Qaeda terrorists--3 high-jacked planes were flown into both towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--the 4th plane was taken over by passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania--a large amount of fatalities occurred when the towers collapsed--411 emergency service people died after rushing to help--over 6000 people injured.
American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the WTF (92 dead plus approx 1600 at the tower)
United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the WTF (65 dead plus approx 900 at the tower)
American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon (64 dead plus 125 at the Pentagon)
United Airlines flight 93 was heading towards Washington DC but passengers and crew fought back and the plane crashed in a field in PA (all 44 on board died)

--Dog Heroes of September 11th: a Tribute to America's Search and Rescue Dogs by Nona Kilgore Bauer

--Tower Stories: an Oral History of 9/11 ed. by Damon DiMarco

9/11 Pentagon Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

--Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11 by Patrick Creed

9/11 Flight 93 Memorial
--Flight 93: The Story... by Tom McMillan

Mumbai Terrorist Attacks (Taj Hotel)--Mumbai, India--Nov 26, 2008-Nov 29, 2008--164 killed and over 600 wounded--twelve coordinated attacks including shootings, bombings, and hostage taking--carried out by Pakistani members of an Islamist terrorist group--10 attackers killed, 1 tried and executed--the attacks drew widespread global condemnation.

--The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy

Victims of the Boston Terror Attacks
The Boston Marathon Terror Attacks--Boston, Massachusetts--April 15 and April 18-19, 2013--2 pressure cooker bombs are detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon--3 people killed--2 brothers of Chechen-Avar descent are suspected--a MIT policeman is murdered--shootouts with police end with the death of the older suspect--the wounded younger suspect is later captured--at least 280 were injured--the remaining suspect will go to trial in 2015

--Stronger: Fighting Back after the Boston Marathon Bombing by Jeff Bauman

This is dedicated to all the victims. May we never forget your names.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Gift

We all have a finite number of days to live our lives before skipping off into the light, but what if you could be given more time? What would you do with it? Would you waste it doing the same old things you’ve always done, or would you make a change? Novelist Cecelia Ahern (of PS, I Love You fame) tackles these questions and more in her heartfelt Christmas fable, The Gift. We’re introduced to philandering executive Lou Suffern, a man who always seems to have two places to be in at the same time. Lou is so dedicated to succeeding at his job that he routinely neglects those who love him the most: his wife, children, parents, and siblings. Neither the cold weather nor the approach of Christmas can slow him down (not when there’s a big promotion at stake), but one morning he meets a homeless stranger who stops him right in his tracks: Gabriel, or Gabe. Thinking that he’s doing both himself and Gabe a favor, Lou hires Gabe to work in the company mailroom, but the plan backfires. Gabe seems to know more about Lou than he should, and he has an uncanny knack of popping up when least expected. In fact, every time Lou turns around, there’s Gabe giving him unwanted advice about his inability—or unwillingness—to give his family the same amount of attention that he gives his job. It’s enough to drive Lou insane, but when Gabe offers him a magical gift of unparalleled value, Lou finally begins to see the error of his ways. Ultimately, this is a story about a good person who’s lost sight of himself and what’s important in life over the years, and how, with a little bit of faith, he finds himself again before his time runs out. If you love Christmas stories, you should definitely give this one a try! 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

November's In the Queue

If you enjoy reading the hottest new releases and best selling novels, than it's time you got in the queue. This month there are spy thrillers, love stories and memorable biographies, which are sure to keep you turning pages.  


Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Rita Mae Brown
A gripping new foxhunting mystery which is full of colorful characters, gorgeous country landscapes and the thrill of the hunt. 

A Map Of Betrayal by Ha Jin
A riveting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century.

Dead But Not Forgotten Stories From the World of Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris
A group of writers chosen by Charlaine Harris have written short stories that pay tribute to our southern, mind reading heroine. 

Family Furnishings Selected Stories from 1995-2014 by Alice Munroe
These stories illuminate the quotidian yet extraordinary lives of men and women, parents and children, friends and lovers as they discover, sex, fall in love, part, quarrel and suffer defeat or even find their way in the world.

Chain of Events by Fredrik T. Olsson 
This is a thrilling debut  novel about humanity on the verge of crisis.

A New York Christmas: A Novel by Anne Perry
An irresistible tale of love, greed, murder and selfless devotion. 

Citizen's Creek by Lalita Tademy
This is a breathtaking tale of identity, community, family and above all, the power of an individual's will to make a difference.

New Novels from Best Selling Authors

The Escape by David Baldacci
The Promise: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel by Robert Crais
The Mistletoe Promise: A Novel by Richard Paul Evans
Die Again by Tess Gerritsen
Saving Grace by Jane Green
Saint Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean R. Koontz
Hope to Die by James Patterson
Private India: City on Fire by James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi
Hush by Karen Robards
Betrayed: A Rosato and Associates Novel by Lisa Scottoline

Non Fiction
41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush 
An intimate biography from the 43rd President about his father.

So, Anyway by John Cleese
This is a rollicking memoir by the legendary Monty Python comic as he traces his humble roots to his ascent in the entertainment world.

There Was a Little Girl: The Story of My Mother and Me by Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields explains her mother's role in Brooke's ascent into stardom.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Truth Be Told

On November 19th, Washington-Centerville Public Library will be hosting author Hank Phillippi Ryan for a brown bag lunch discussion. The event is in conjunction with The Dayton Jewish Community’s 2014 Cultural Arts and Book Festival. Ryan will be discussing her most recent release, Truth Be Told, during an interview with library staff. There will also be time for audience Q & A and book sales directly following the discussion.

Truth Be Told is Ryan’s seventh mystery novel; the third novel in the Jane Ryland series. The novel opens with Boston reporter, Jane Ryland, investigating the rise in real estate foreclosures. She’s intent on focusing on the people affected by the foreclosures—the true human cost of these losses. However, things take a turn when a body is found in one of the foreclosed homes. Implications of wrongdoing begin to surface and grow as Ryland investigates the connections between the foreclosures and some surprising characters.
If you’re familiar with the Jane Ryland series, you’ll know Jake Brogan, Boston PD detective, can’t be far behind. The covert relationship between the two continues to simmer in this new book. However, Brogan is occupied, not only with Jane’s discoveries, but with a man walking in off the street to confess to a decades old murder. Not to mention, there might be some competition for Jane’s affection on the horizon.

The difficulty with reviewing mystery writing is to not spill the beans, but rest assured that Ryan deftly ties all of the plot lines together into another fantastic novel. If you aren’t familiar with Hank Phillippi Ryan’s work, she is worth investigating for both her writing skills and her many accomplishments in journalism. For her mystery writing, she has received three Agatha Awards, an Anthony, a Daphne, a Macavity, and the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark award. These awards are in addition to her 32 EMMYs and 12 Edward R. Murrow awards for excellence in journalism. The woman is a force to be reckoned with!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Martian by Andrew Weir

The Martian by Andrew Weir is amazing in that it is fiction that it has an impressive amount of solid science woven into the story. Apparently, Weir did a fair amount of research to make sure that he had the fact right, only disregarding the facts at one point for the narrative. The story itself is a classic man versus nature survival tale, just taking place on a completely different planet. Astronaut Mark Watney, mechanical engineer and botanist for the Ares 3 expedition to Mars, find himself in a precarious position. His crew had to abandon their habitat and leave him behind in a terrible storm that holed mark’s suit a storm and swept him Mark away. Now, Mark has no way to communicate with Earth, he has to figure out how to make a few months worth of food last a few years, how to keep the Hab running, how to travel a few hundred kilometers in a rover designed for a tiny fraction of that, and, worst of all, how to survive on the disco and old sit-coms that are the only entertainment on hand.

Comparisons have been made with Apollo 13 and Castaway (apparently Tom Hanks would be a killer Mark Watney). Being the more literary type, I mentally compared it to the survival elements seen in Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and the scientifically accurate adventure seen in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Frequently, science fiction reads just like fantasy, just with lasers and spaceships instead of magic and dragons.  Really good science fiction is a gem, but it’s even better when you find a science fiction novel that is so heavy on the science part.

It might be worth noting that apparently, The Martian has already been optioned out for movie production with Matt Damon, not Tom Hanks, cast as Mark Watney and with Ridley Scott directing. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fantastic Audiobook Narrators!

I have truly begun to enjoy listening to books. This is especially true on long commutes. A great book and a great narrator make the trip fly by! Some of the best narrators can make anything they read sound exciting and intriguing.

When I find a narrator I love to listen too, I do a search for other materials they have narrated. It doesn't matter who wrote it or necessarily what the story is about, if I know the narrator is good I will listen to the story. I have chosen several audiobooks strictly based on who the narrator is and it may sound crazy, but I can honestly say I have not been disappointed yet. When the narrator understands the story and the characters, then listening to the story becomes a true delight.

One of the great narrators of all time is Jim Dale. He is the narrator for the Harry Potter Series. He did well over 140 different voices for the Harry Potter series. He made each character stand out and brought the book to life. His amazing narrations have made him a winner of The Golden Voice award from Audie Books and also won him a Grammy award and Grammy nominations for his narrative skill.  His list of narrations include: The Night Circus, Peter and Secret of Rundoon, Around the World in Eighty Days and many more.  

Simon Prebble's British voice is also among Audio Files Golden Voices. He is best known for his narration of British novels but his works include A Christmas Garland by Anne Perry, 1984 by George Orwell and Sherlock Holmes mystery novels. He won best voice award in 2010 for his narration of The Coral Thief. Anything Simon reads, I am willing to listen too. He takes care with his craft using his imagination to fully immerse the reader in the story.

George Guidall, another Golden Voice recipient has narrated such wonderful titles as American Assassin, Bone Deep, Cell and Burnt House. His favorite book to narrate in recent years is I Know This Much Is True because it touches readers on many different levels; love, relationships, wives and first impressions.

Neil Gaiman's British accent and vocalizations make the stories he has written leap to life. The Ocean At The End of The Lane is beautiful and magical. Neil's storytelling held me enthralled and made me want to hop into the car so I could listen to more of the story. In fact I enjoy his narrations so much I checked out all the books he has narrated including his children's book, Fortunately, the Milk...which was wonderfully funny and full of fantastical characters. He is truly a joy to listen too.

Lorelei King is another of my favorite narrators. She is an award winning narrator as well and narrates stories for Debbie Macomber, Janet Evanovich, Patricia Briggs and Darynda Jones. A few of her award winning narrations are: First Grave on the Right, The Cabinet of Wonders, Tallgrass and Fearless Fourteen.

Mark Deakins is also a narrating treasure. He is an actor, author and narrator. I first listened to him as the narrator for the Maze Runner series. He has also narrated the following books: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie, Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, and Look Me In the Eye by John Elder Robinson. The last book listed is the one that made one of my friends a believer in audiobooks. Look Me In the Eye is a nonfiction story that is funny, poignant and absolutely awe inspiring.  Perhaps anyone could read it and make it capture your attention,...but I really believe it takes special talent to read a story and bring it to life.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of excellent narrators--just a few of my favorites. If you have not listened to a good book find a book read by one of these narrators and get ready to hear an excellent story. Perhaps you'll find yourself enjoying your ride to work or even find that doing housework is not as bad as chore when you have a fantastic story to listen to. If you already listen to audiobooks and have a favorite narrator...tell me about him. I am always up for listening to another great story.