September 2011 Archives

Click for availability and more information What Caesar Did for My Salad: The Curious Stories Behind Our Favorite Foods, by Albert Jack
This is a wonderful collection of stories about the world's most loved dishes, their origins, and their creators. The book spotlights how some of the most popular recipes were invented due to mistakes, missing ingredients, or meals that were created on-the-fly. The book is divided into different categories such as Breakfast, Lunchbox, the Dessert Course, the Cheese Course, etc. and each chapter contains anecdotes and historical references related to each recipe. While reading the chapter called "The Name's Benedict, Eggs Benedict", several different people claimed to have invented the dish. I thought one of the names sounded a bit familiar, and lo and behold one of Greenwich's prominent residents from the past; Commodore E.C. Benedict, yachtsman and banker, was being credited with inventing the original recipe. The books is not a cookbook, but rather a group of stories woven together such as "The Surreal History of Breakfast Cereal", "Did a Satanist Really Invent the Sandwich?", and "Worcestershire Sauce: Who were Mr. Lea and Perrins?". Any foodie or trivia lover will enjoy this book.
-Debbie O.

Click for availability and more information Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation, by Andrea Wulf
A fascinating way for one to be re-introduced to four of the great minds and personalities who contributed to the initial building of the American government is Andrea Wulf's new book Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation. The title captures so much as Wulf does indeed study George Washington, John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson both in terms of their passion for gardens, trees and plants as well as their very significant roles in the creation of the American government after the Americans defeated the British in the Revolutionary War.

Wulf is an exceedingly skillful writer as these great men come alive in her book. Their worries about which types of planting to grow in and the designing of their respective gardens frames her recounting of the momentous events each participated in while the American government was being formed. With her expert use of primary documents, the thoughts and actions of these men are authenticated. One particularly interesting event took place during heated debates among the representatives at the Constitutional Convention, held in Philadelphia in 1787. Some of the arguing delegates ended up walking the exquisite gardens of John Bartham close to Philadelphia on a break from their deliberations. After this outing, there was a successful agreement on how to proceed with the formation of the American government. Wulf speculates that perhaps their stroll through these beautiful gardens helped to create an atmosphere in which a compromise could be achieve

Founding Gardeners is a terrifically interesting read and is very highly recommended.

Click for availability and more information Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War , by Hal Vaughan
Since her accession to iconic status in the fashion world, Coco Chanel has represented, with her name alone, a unique and enduring style equaled by very few other designers. Coco Chanel led a life incorporating a highly-driven work ethic, terrific creativity and a personal life associated with royalty, politicians and other mufti-faceted characters. Yet, Chanel's true activities living in Paris during the Nazi occupation has been shrouded in shadows. Hal Vaughan's Sleeping with the Enemy is an investigation into Chanel's relationship with the German occupiers in France and his findings show how she did indeed collaborate with the Nazis in spite of her denials after the war of doing so.

Vaughan covers her early years and rise to great success in Paris. Chanel enjoyed a string of lovers, many of whom were in positions of power. Perhaps her greatest success was the introduction of her perfume Chanel No. 5. She did partner with the Wertheimer Brothers to have her perfume manufactured and, while she did receive stock in their company, they retained both control of the product and a large percentage of the profits. She later regretted making this arrangement and wanted to gain more control of her perfume business.

When the Germans took Paris, Vaughan shows how Chanel began an enduring affair with Baron Hans Gunther Dincklage, a leading spy for the Nazi government. Using French, German and English archives, Vaughan details her collaboration with the Germans. Her main goal was to finally get control of the Wertheimer's company using the Nazi program of ridding the Jewish presence in French companies. Ultimately, she failed in her effort. After the war, she was interrogated by French authorities regarding her relationships with the Germans. During those proceedings, she cleverly hid the truth and was never convicted of treason to France, as so many of collaborators were.

Sleeping with the Enemy is very interesting reading; particularly for those interested in Chanel's life, how she did work with the Germans and escaped being labeled as a traitor to France. Vaughan is also skillful in writing about Paris and Parisian society both before and during the war. This book is recommended.

Alice: Madness Returns

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Click for availability and more information Alice: Madness Returns, developed by Spicy Horse, published by Electronic Arts
I'm not normally a fan of platformers (too much repetition and too little forgiveness to suit my taste), but when American McGee's Alice debuted 11 years ago, I could tell right away that it was something special; a beautiful, macabre, and deeply atmospheric rendition of Lewis Carroll's classic world and characters that continued Alice's adventures in Wonderland.

Click for availability and more information The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, by Paul Theroux
When I saw this downloadable book in the selection stream, I just knew I had to read it! So I downloaded Paul Theroux's "The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia" to my iPad 2 and I'm glad I did. Theroux decided to travel from London across Eurasia to Japan by train. His health was declining and he wanted to travel to a dry climate. He bid his wife goodbye at Victoria Station, and thus begins his adventure aboard many different railway lines: The Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Arrow Mandalay Express and the Trans-Siberian. His descriptions of the landscape as it changes from country to country are brilliant. Most entertaining are his descriptions of the various characters he meets along the way. Some are comedic, some are dark and mysterious. He soon learns that he can get an upgrade in accommodations if he bribes the conductor! Many trains don't have a dining car, so he finds himself jumping off the train at some stops to buy food from vendors. This has to be done quickly so he doesn't miss getting back on the train before it leaves. In other cases, Theroux discovers that time is not important in terms of when his train leaves. He describes the many ethnic groups he sees. Poverty is wide- spread and conditions are anything but sanitary. (Theroux describes how the women are washing clothes in the green water in Temple fountains.) He feels adventurous as he tries to travel to a town which is supposed to be off-limits. Much to his surprise, he is forced to get off and take a train back to the originating station by someone much like a CIA agent. Although this book was written in the 1970s, it's a classic memoir which deserves your consideration. You won't regret it!

Click for availability and more information The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (The Brixton Brothers), by Mac Barnett
12-year old Steve Brixton is not a detective. He has read every one of the Bailey Brothers detective series, and he's going to have to use their tips for crime-fighting and detective work when the local librarians (who are really undercover government agents) have Steve on the run thinking he is working for an international criminal.

Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days

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Click for availability and more information Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days, by Stephen Manes
Milo is through with going through life being clumsy, bullied and easily embarrassed. When the library book Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days falls off the shelf and onto his head, he knows this could be the answer. Milo will have to follow the book's instructions exactly, but perfection will be worth it.

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