Friday, October 1, 2010

Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst and Dan Yaccarino

Henry wants to have a cooking show with his little sister Elliebelly. He’ll start by demonstrating one of his favorites: raspberry-marshmallow-peanut butter waffles with barbecued banana bacon. Elliebelly is two and she has some ideas for the show that involve her doll and her pirate hat. Who said show biz is easy? With a little help from mom and some real waffles, it all works out. This is a perfect read for kids (under 4 or 5) who love to cook or watch the Food Network, but it’s also great for a kid with a challenging younger sibling.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris

It is rare that a follow-up book is better than the first, but as much as I really enjoyed Ferraris’ first Saudi Arabia mystery, Finding Nouf, the second one is even better. The main characters are Nayir, a devout Muslim desert guide, and Katya, a forensic analyst caught in the dilemma that is Saudi’s policing system - there is strong disapproval of women who have jobs; men are not allowed to interview female suspects or touch female corpses; there must, therefore, be female police officers and analysts, but women shouldn’t have jobs… You get the picture.
In City of Veils, a young woman’s body has been discovered and Katya would like to be part of the team that solves the murder. She is lucky to have an ally in a convention-breaking senior detective, Osama, who allows her to participate in the investigation. As they go about solving the girl’s murder, Nayir is drawn into helping Katya again and their uneasy connection is tested and made stronger.
I was surprised, in both books, at Ferraris’ ability to allow me to relate to characters whose lives would seem to be so very different from my own. I was on the edge of my seat from the story, while at the same time thinking about the lives of men and women in Saudi Arabia in a way I hadn’t before.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The City & the City by China Miéville

Good Science Fiction uses an altered reality to reveal something about the real world that couldn’t be revealed without that altered setting. Great Science Fiction does this and entertains as well. China Miéville’s The City and the City is really great Scifi. It begins feeling like a dark, well-written, noir-style mystery – a body has been found in the city of Beszel, detective Borlu has been assigned to investigate – but the story quickly takes a sci-fi turn. Beszel exists, somehow, in the same place as the completely separate, foreign city of Ul Qomo. The book is both about the murder and about how these two cities exist intermingled the way they are. Yes, it is sometimes a little confusing, but I trusted Miéville to make it clear as I went along and I was not disappointed. This is the best book I’ve read this year. If you’re up to it, it would make a fantastic book club selection.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Elegy for April by Benjamin Black

We put all of Benjamin Black’s (the pen name for Booker-prize winning author, John Banville) books in our Mystery section, but it’s more accurate to call them Crime Novels. There is a whodunit element, but their real strength is in atmosphere and character. In the opening pages of Elegy for April there is an unseasonable fog flooding the streets of 1950s Dublin. Black evokes it so well, with such gentle intensity, that I was sorry when the weather began to clear. This story again features the alcoholic, brooding pathologist Quirke from Christine Falls, his complicated family connections, and the power system in Ireland. Even in the moments when the pace began to almost lull me, I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I’d gone back in time, like I was right there at Quirke’s shoulder as he made a hash of his relationships, struggled to resist the Bushmills, and doggedly did not let anyone get away with murder.