Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley is a wonderful graphic novel about her lifelong relationship with cooking. Lucy grew up in a household where food was always central. Her mother ran a catering business, grew her own food, and operated a farmer’s market stall. Due to this constant exposure, Lucy based many of her memories on food. Huevos rancheros reminds her of her adventures in Mexico with her best friend. Croissants remind her of the time she backpacked through Europe with a close college friend. Sushi takes her back to her travels in Japan. Hot chocolate, burgers, and fries remind her of traveling Italy with her father. Baking sweets became her way of working through stressful times in her life. Accompanied by these recorded memories are delicious recipes that are fun to make. After reading this graphic novel, you will gain a new appreciation for the importance different types of food can have on impacting people’s lives.

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: Modern-day Mexico, Italy, Japan, New York, and Chicago.

Number of pages: 173

Themes: Family, friendship, travel, growing up, and cooking.

Is this good for a book club? This would be good for book clubs that enjoy books about food.

Objectionable content? There are discussions of alcohol, periods, and pornographic magazines.

Can children read this? Teenagers would enjoy the stories.

Who would like this? Anyone who loves food.

Rating: Five stars

Pirates: Books, Movies, and Pirate Language Lessons

September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  There are many ways to celebrate. Dress like a pirate, talk like a pirate, watch a pirate movie, and, of course, read about pirates.

What’s your pleasure, matey?

How to Talk Like a Pirate: Take Pirate language lessons from Mango Languages. Available online from the Cheshire Library’s eResources page. Click on the Languages button and login to Mango to learn the proper way to talk on the high seas.

Pirate Movies. We’ve not only got all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but  several other pirate films and TV series, too.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (DVD – Animation)
After years of failed attempts to win the Pirate of the Year Award, Pirate Captain and his oddball crew go on a race to pillage the most booty.

Pirates: Dead Men Tell Their Tales (Downloadable)
Step back in time and discover the magic of the real Pirates of the Caribbean investigating the stories of Blackbeard, Sir Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd,  Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

 Treasure Planet (DVD – Animation)
Young Jim is given a map that charts the course to Treasure Planet, a distant world where hundreds of space pirates have stashed their loot.

Black Sails: The Complete First Season (DVD)
In 1715 New Providence Island is controlled by notorious pirate captains, and the most feared is Captain Flint. As the British Navy returns to exterminate Flint and his crew, Flint allies himself with Eleanor Guthrie, daughter of the local kingpin.

Cutthroat Island (DVD)
Morgan Adams, the female captain of a pirate ship, is on a treasure hunt for millions of pounds of gold buried on Cutthroat Island. She and her uncles each hold sections of the map to the treasure, but her Uncle Dawg would rather kill everyone in his way, including his niece.

Captain Blood (DVD)
A swashbuckling classic. After he treats wounded English rebels, physician Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) is arrested and sentenced to slavery in Jamaica. But Blood leads fellow slaves in an escape and strikes terror into the Jamaicans as the pirate Captain Blood.

Books about pirates.

Pirate by Clive Cussler (Fiction)
Confronted by a determined adversary, husband-and-wife treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo embark on an international quest involving an eight-hundred-year-old relic and a brutal murder. Also available as an eBook.

 

Pirate King by Laurie R. King (Fiction)
Mary Russell, wife to Sherlock Holmes, is traveling undercover along with a film crew that is ready to shoot a pirate movie. When the crew embarks for their Morocco location, Russell feels a building storm of trouble:  a film crew with secrets, decks awash with romance, and now the the real buccaneers the studio has recruited to provide authenticity are ignoring the movie studio owner and answering only to their dangerous outlaw leader. Also available as an audiobook.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson (Non-fiction)
Pirate Hunters’ is a gripping account of two courageous divers’ quest to uncover the shipwrecked vessel of Joseph Bannister, one of history’s most infamous pirates. Also available as an audiobook.

 

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (Young Adult Fiction)
Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map, pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies. Now the only thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate Riden. Her power to enchant with song makes her a formidable foe– Alosa is only half-human, the daughter of a pirate king and a siren.

Reliability is Overrated – 10 Books With Unreliable Narrators

Recently, I was discussing two of my favorite television series’ of the past year, “Mr. Robot“, and “Legion“, when it occurred to me what I found compelling about both of them – they are both told by unreliable narrators. The narrative characters in each show have major difficulties perceiving reality, which means the viewer sees the story through their skewed lens, often having to puzzle out what is real and what is not.

It’s a challenging concept, relatively uncommon in television, but more often used in literature. In the literary device of the Unreliable Narrator, the character who leads the reader through the story cannot be taken at face value. The reason could be because this character is lying, insane, or simply seeing events from a very limited viewpoint. In every case, though, it leads the reader to form conclusions beyond what is being disclosed in the narrative. A puzzle of sorts, where questioning what everything really means becomes part of the reading experience.

As I thought about it, I realized that many of the novels that have stayed with me long after reading them have had some kind of unreliable narrator. I remember finishing some of these books, and immediately starting them over again, looking for the “tells” that would have clued me in to the real truth of the tale if I had recognized them the first time. Here, with as few spoilers as possible, are some of my favorite unreliable narrators, (and a few whose heads I could not wait to get out of):

1. Silver Linings Playbook – When we meet the  point-of-view character Pat,  he’s being released from a mental facility into the care of his parents. That’s the first indication that situations in the story may not be exactly as they seem. As Pat’s repressed memories start to come forward, we’re able to piece together exactly why Pat was institutionalized in the first place.

2. Flowers for Algernon –  Charlie Gordon is a learning disabled man who undergoes an experimental operation to increase his intelligence. The novel is told through entries in Charlie’s journal, and the reader is able to see the improvements in self-awareness and intelligence through those entries. Then, too, we witness his deterioration as the long-term effects of the operation make themselves known. Bring a hankie.

3. Life of Pi – A fantastical tale of a boy set adrift after a shipwreck, with a tiger sharing his life raft. It’s a beautiful and uplifting story, until it is revealed that it may be what the narrator’s chosen to believe rather than what actually occurred.

4. Room Told from the very limited point of view of a five-year-old boy, Jack,  who has spent his entire life in an 11-square-foot soundproofed room with Ma, his mother. When Ma devises a plan for Jack to escape, we experience the exhilaration and confusion the world for the first time along with him.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – The engaging narrator of this book is an autistic teen, so we perceive the events in the story the way he would. When he comes across a neighbor’s dog stabbed with a fork, his obsession with Sherlock Holmes takes over to help him solve the mystery.

6. Fight Club – Whether you’ve seen the movie or read the book, the twist that’s revealed about the identities of characters in this story packs a real punch (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

7. Shutter Island – In this gripping psychological thriller, nothing is quite what it seems. It starts out as an investigation into the escape of a mental patient, and well,  to say more  would be too spoiler-y.

8. Lolita – A compelling and beautifully written book told by a pedophile who is as charming as he is perverse. His justifications and attempts to win the reader’s sympathy are as fascinating to read as they are icky.

9 & 10.  The Girl on the Train  & Gone Girl – I’ve lumped both of these together even though they both contain different types of unreliable narrators (a blackout drunk and just plain liar) because they came out close together, are both murder mysteries, and if you’ve read one, you’ve probably read the other. I couldn’t wait to close the covers on both of them, though, the characters were just too unlikable for me to want to spend much time with.

Unplug for Happiness

goneoffline

How many times a day do you look at your phone? Start counting and the number may depress you. According to Time magazine, the average person looks at his or her phone 46 times a day. (Full article here.)

As the Library Technology Coordinator, it might surprise you that I strongly support limiting screen time. Study after study shows that time spent in front of devices like smartphones and tablets directly impacts your happiness. In summary, more time spent on Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, text messaging, and other online forms of communication makes you feel sadder, less satisfied with your life, and interestingly, more lonely.

Even more alarming, The Atlantic just published an article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” which underscores the detrimental impact screens have taken on post-millennials. This generation doesn’t date, doesn’t hang out in person, doesn’t care about getting a driver’s license or a part-time job or going to the mall alone with their friends.

What do they care about? “It sometimes bugs me when I don’t get a certain amount of likes on a picture” says 13-year-old Athena. “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” she said. “My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.” The article strongly concludes that “There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness” and here we have a generation more plugged in than ever. (Full article here.)

So, how do you unplug for happiness? How do you ignore the siren’s song of likes, loves, and comments, the photos of your friend’s latest micro brewery trip, the constant churn of political news? It’s easier than you think.

  1. Get an alarm clock. First of all, if you rely on your smartphone to wake you up each morning, STOP! Get yourself a traditional alarm clock. A study from the Braun Research Center and Bank of America shows more people think about their phones than their significant others when they first wake up. If you’re guilty of browsing Facebook right before bed and checking your messages the moment you wake up, keep your phone out of reach. Better yet? Keep it out of the bedroom.
  2. Give your phone a home. Quit carrying your phone in your pocket and keeping your tablet within arm’s reach. Designate a basket or drawer for your devices when you’re at home, and leave them there. Without the temptation of your phone buzzing in your pocket or your tablet lighting up on the coffee table, you’ll find it much easier to unplug.
  3. Start small. Set achievable goals for yourself. No one can go from phone junky to unplugged zen master overnight. Start off with a small amount of time for unplugging, perhaps an hour a day. The next week, increase to two hours. Leave your phone in the car when you’re out shopping. Go for a long walk each day and leave your phone at home. Be as kind to yourself as possible, and reward good behavior. You won’t enjoy long-term success if you make unplugging a punishment. Did you get through dinner without looking at your phone? Treat yourself! Buy a book. Go out for an ice cream.
  4. Have a plan. So your phone is in the other room… Now what? If you sit there counting the cracks in the ceiling, you’ll never stop thinking about what’s going on in the online world. Fear of Missing Out is a real thing (Hey, it has a Wikipedia entry!). If you don’t keep yourself busy, the temptation to check your phone will be unbearable. Make a list of things to do while unplugged and use it.

You can also take a look at The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World by Nancy Colier or The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer.

Happy unplugging! 🙂

Technology Help – Need device advice? Come to Drop-in Tech Help. No appointment necessary. We provide help with smartphones, laptops, tablets, ereaders, email, Facebook, social media, and more! Check out the calendar for our next session.

Build a Better Backyard

The concept of Outdoor Rooms isn’t new.  The idea of expanding living space to the exterior of our homes has been around a while but planning and building an outdoor space can be a challenge!

Nowadays there are some pretty lavish outdoor areas: multi-tiered decks, anything-but-square patios, gazebos, pergolas, paths, benches, bowers–you name it! Outdoor kitchens are trending in many backyards as families “add” onto their homes by incorporating the space around their houses into three-season living areas.

Getting outside is good for you. Disconnecting from your devices is healthy and there’s no more relaxing place than your own backyard.

If you need  inspiration, check out some of our newest titles on creating outdoor living spaces:

She sheds : a room of your own / Erika Kotite

Happy home outside : everyday magic for outdoor life / Charlotte Hedeman Guéniau

Backyard building : treehouses, sheds, arbors, gates and other garden projects / Jeanie & David Stiles

Gardens are for living : design inspiration for outdoor spaces / by Judy Kameon

Shed decor : how to decorate & furnish your favorite garden room / Sally Coulthard

Simple & stylish backyard projects / Anna & Anders Jeppsson

Porches & outdoor spaces / CountryLiving