How did I get here?

Gabrielle Hamilton's outstanding memoir "Blood, Bones & Butter" traces the crooked path she followed to her current success as chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York City. Although Hamilton is a celebrated chef, readers should not assume that this is simply a foodie book. It is much more a literary memoir about how one woman's life is formed by a combination of her experiences, values, and accidents.

Hamilton did not dream of becoming a restaurant owner and chef. Without planning it, Hamilton accumulates twenty years of experience working in kitchens. In her first job at a restaurant, she is awkward and unsure in the dining room, but feels right at home in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and scraping plates.

Hamilton writes about her childhood, her travels, and the trials of starting a restaurant without any business experience. Her writing is clear and funny. Although she is frank about her faults and those of others, she reveals a genuine fondness for people.

Eat Out at Home


Want to make food from your favorite restaurant at home and at your own convenience? Try Todd Wilbur's "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2" and "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3," the easy way to satisfy your cravings without actually having to go back to the restaurant. I've personally tried Wilbur's recipe for Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits, and was impressed by how similar the biscuits that came out of my oven were to the originals. Delicious biscuits that I could bake and have fresh, all to myself or share. You know, whatever floats your boat.

War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History


"War Made New" by Max Boot is a book about military history from the technological standpoint. The author states early in the book that the losing side in military campaigns has typically been the side that learns the most about military technology. The book describes dozens of historical battles from the last five centuries illustrating such trends as firearms against swords and tanks against horses, as well as the rise of professional soldiers and national armies as opposed to private warriors and mercenaries. Max Boot explains the development of military history from a standpoint that few other authors have. 

--Michael B., Florissant Valley Branch

“The Odds” – A good bet


Stewart O'Nan's latest slim novel "The Odds" portrays a married couple in crisis. After close to thirty years together Marion and Art Fowler are headed towards divorce. Severe financial distress and previous infidelities have brought the Fowlers to what O'Nan describes as "the final weekend of their marriage." They head to Niagara Falls where they spent their honeymoon. Art hopes to double their savings in the casino and to save their marriage. Marion hopes to remain civil so that they can spend one last weekend together before heading their separate ways.

O'Nan is skilled at portraying complex relationships. The Fowlers have been together long enough to have inside jokes and catchphrases "lifted from favorite movies or TV shows that served as a rote substitute for conversation and bound them like shut-in twins, each other's best and, most often, only audience." Despite their habitual closeness, Art and Marion also keep secrets.

eBook Review: Gregg Olsen's "Starvation Heights"


I love stumbling across little-known historical true-crime stories and much to my macabre delight, I found an eBook version of Gregg Olsen's "Starvation Heights."

In 1911, Linda Hazzard presents herself as a doctor with the key to good health - fasting. Unfortunately, the patients at her sanatorium are so emaciated that the local townsfolk refer to it as "Starvation Heights." In addition to withholding food, Dr. Hazzard obtains power of attorney over her patients and acquires their jewelry, land and money after starving them to death.

Dr. Hazzard's downfall begins with the death of a British heiress and the near death of her sister. After fleeing the sanatorium, Dora Williamson makes it her mission to avenge the death of her sister and see Dr. Hazzard punished for her crimes. Olsen uses extensive access to historical records to tell a story that is as consuming as it is horrifying - a forgotten bit of American crime that resonates in the present as much as the past. 

Reluctant Book Grouper


Much to my surprise, I am a member of a book group. I have always had enough titles on my "to do" list to last a lifetime. Furthermore, my choice in reading material is very personal and I don't much like to conform.  I have found that I can have those opinions and still be in a book group. Even after overcoming those issues, I had other concerns.

I was afraid that the responsibility to read a particular title would mean that I would neglect my own reading. In fact, I just read more.

I feared that the group's choices would not appeal to me. Sometimes the books don't appeal to me, but I can almost always finish them. If I can't, I don't attend the meeting, or I talk about why it didn't appeal to me. I'm rarely alone in that.

I was concerned that I wouldn't have anything intelligent to say and that the other members would be geniuses. The first few meetings, I was quiet; but as time has passed, I find that I do have things to say. My fellow book groupers are very bright, but they don't always notice what I notice. Besides, everyone is there to share, not to work on a Ph.D. in literature!

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