Coffee – Boosting Brain Power and Late Night Reads

If you’re looking for coffee in Cheshire, you don’t have to stray far to find a good cup. You can go to one of what seems like fifty Dunkin Donuts (or is it just Dunkin now?) or stop in to Cheshire Coffee for one of their seasonal pumpkin spice blends. But as crafty and creative person, I’ve always wanted to perfect the art of brewing my own cup at home. Usually I just pop a pod in the Keurig, and add some overly sweet creamer. But if you’re looking to learn a bit more about coffee, or add some books to your late night reading list, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve gone through the shelves and picked out a healthy selection of books on the art of brewing, and a few thrillers for library night owls like myself.

 

First off we have Craft Coffee : A Manual – Jessica Easto

Written by a coffee enthusiast, for coffee enthusiasts, this beginners guide to craft coffee explores different techniques of coffee making at home. Learn about different techniques, pour over, immersion, and cold brew, using up to ten different devices. This guide also goes over the basics of selecting brew by roast, selecting equipment, and deciphering the coffee bag.

 

Next, if you’re looking for something to keep you up at night, try Stephen King’s The Outsider .

In the aftermath of a boy’s brutal murder in Flint City, a local detective is forced to arrest a popular Little League coach who, in spite of an alibi, presents with open-and-shut evidence that is called into question when the suspect’s true nature and the realities of the crime come to light. King never fails to disappoint, and his latest novel is no different.

 

If you’re more interested in how your coffee gets from the farm, to the store, and to the cup, then Robert W Thurston’s book Coffee – From Bean to Barista is for you.

This engaging guide to coffee explains its history, cultivation, and culture, as well as the major factors influencing the industry today. The first book that coffee lovers naturally will turn to, it will also appeal to anyone interested in globalization, climate change, and social justice. This book has it all, especially if you’re   a person who needs to know every detail about what they enjoy.

 

If you’re looking for a fresh take on thriller, try Gillian Flynn, specifically my favorite of her novels, Gone Girl .

When a beautiful woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, her diary reveals hidden turmoil in her marriage and a mysterious illness; while her husband, desperate to clear himself of suspicion, realizes that something more disturbing than murder may have occurred. This book is really a treat, the way the author describes her characters makes you both love and hate them at the same time. I didn’t know which characters to hate and which to root for, which is a testament to her writing ability. If this book draws you in, you’re in luck, it’s also a movie! Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, it’s a faithful adaptation of a great book.

 

Last but not least, it’s important to take a break, smell the roses, and sip the coffee. Check out The Little Book of Fika .

While the Danish concept of hygge as caught on around the globe, so has lagom—its Swedish counterpart. An essential part of the lagom lifestyle, fika is the simple art of taking a break—sometimes twice a day—to enjoy a warm beverage and sweet treat with friends. This delightful gift book offers an introduction to the tradition along with recipes to help you establish your own fika practice.

 

You can find all of these books, and more, at the Cheshire Public Library! Take a mid day Fikagrab a cup of joe and indulge in a good book.

 

Winter is Here, Jon Snow

Some people love winter, love the brisk air, the blinding glare, the crystal-clear night skies, soft fluffy snow and cups of steaming hot chocolate. Other people hate the freezing cold, the knifing winds, the treacherous roads, bare trees, and endless brown mud and slush clinging to shoes, cars, and pet feet tracking through the house.

For me, winter is a romantic time, curled by a fireplace (wood, gas, or electric) before a window with long velvet drapes (one of my favorite possessions), reading a book in a favorite chair while snow swirls outside the window and an animal lounges at my feet. It means a stew bubbling on the stove, fresh bread in the oven, or perhaps fresh shortbread cookies and a cup of Earl Gray tea by that fire. Perhaps it’s a holiday, with candles and lights and decorations, waiting for company to make it through the snow. Yeah, yeah, there’s no groundsman to shovel the walks when it’s over, I have to do it myself, but for a few hours I’m lost in an old English fantasy, there’s a mystery in the air, a challenge ahead, but love and fortune win in the end (note: I have never achieved this fantasy, but I keep hoping).

English Tales of Winter

Which made me think: why are all those images we cling to English fantasies? Sure, that period of literature is within what’s called the Little Ice Age, which ran from the 1300’s to the 1890’s, killing off the Vikings in Greenland and creating all those iconic Currier and Ives scenes, but it also put those chunks of ice in Washington Crossing the Delaware, and in 1816, with the dust of the exploded volcano Mount Tambora in the air, summer never arrived, and temperatures were still below freezing in June. Where is the American winter tale? American stories tend to be about blizzards, hardship, starvation, and ghosts. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, and Washington Irving are hardly on par with Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Reading about the Donner party probably isn’t a good idea before eating stew.

American Tales of Winter

The only American “winter” tales I know well are children’s literature: The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Left By Themselves by Charles Paul May, the semi-historical Seven Alone by Honore Morrow, and the absolutely timeless endearing tale of Mandy, by Julie Andrews Edwards (Yes, Mary Poppins herself. Adults will love this, too!). But where are the adult books? Problem is, not much adult American literature of that period gives off that type of security.

That period of literature we think of is called the Romantic movement and includes Gothic literature, dealing with mystery, spiritualism, ghosts, hauntings, and torturous love – Frankenstein, Les Miserables, Dorian Gray, Hunchback of Notre Dame, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist – some of our most famous classics, running from about 1760 through the Victorian age, around 1890.  America in 1776 was not only new and still forming, it was mostly unsettled, and people in the colds of Fort Duquesne, Fort Niagara, and Fort Cumberland were more concerned with staying alive than writing literature. Of course you still had authors, but not to the degree England – a stable civilization for 1200 years – did. While Heathcliff was brooding the lonely moors, Americans were exploring and giving us stories like Last of the Mohicans, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Moby Dick, and The Scarlet Letter. Not the same, and certainly not the same as being snowed in and wringing one’s hands on the family estate. The American experience is uniquely American in that regard.

Just because our snow stories don’t go back to King Wenceslas (ok, Wenceslas was Bohemian/ Czechoslovakian, but the song, 900 years later, is English) doesn’t mean American literature isn’t good, it just means it’s different. Maybe you’ll have to settle for cotton twill drapes and a medium double-latte with a space heater and a Snuggie. If you love gothic literature, delve into a classic or something newer; there are hundreds of books (and films!) to choose from. If you love reading about snowy days while curled in a chair listening to the winds howl, try some of these modern tales (and films):

Office Girl by Joe Meno

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

 Snow by Orhan Panuk

 

  Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

The Snow Child  by Eowyn Ivey

Wolf Winter by Celia Ekback

Winter Solstice  by Rosamunde Pilcher

The Book Thief by  Markus Zusak

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

 The Shining  Stephen King

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg, 

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I (Finally) Read “It”

I am not a fan of horror. I would not shut the shower door for ten years because Kolchak: The Night Stalker scared the daylights out of me. My father’s description of the movie Killdozer made me terrified of construction equipment – as if I wasn’t already, from a preschool nightmare involving dump trucks. I watched the original 1931 Dracula and got a bloody nose in sympathy. I won’t sleep in a room with a vacuum cleaner thanks to Zenna Henderson. I like sleeping at night, and I don’t need any more anxiety in my life. I have kids for that.

ZX0AYe8 It was my mother who got me reading Stephen King. I was about twelve, sick in bed, and Night Shift, his book of short stories, came out. Wouldn’t you know it, the light from the bathroom at night struck every knob on the dresser at just the right angle so each one looked like an eye staring at me, just like the cover story. I only dared read half of them, and never enjoyed going to the dry cleaners again. But I read The Shining (I will NOT go into a hotel bathroom without a light on), read The Stand (his best, I think), Cujo, The Dead Zone (more my style), Firestarter (I needed a book for the train back from Canada) and Christine (Like I didn’t suspect that already). One thing you can say about King without ever reading his books: he doesn’t write short volumes.

Jacket.aspxBut by Christine, I was Kinged out. The books were were getting to be too similar, and I moved on. That was how I missed reading It, the book everyone seems afraid of. I avoided it for the longest time, but it popped up in a series of references this year, and I decided the time had come to tackle it. I’d re-read The Stand, and The Shining, but nothing new of King’s in 30 years.

“It” tells the story of an evil presence that takes over4775612-3278691654-IT.jp the town of Derry, Maine, until a ragtag band of seven misfit children decide to take it on. Although the entity takes the shape of what scares a person most (werewolves, mummies, giant birds, etc), it often lures children to their deaths by taking the shape of a clown, Pennywise. I’ve never been afraid of clowns, though I understand the psychology behind it (like Daleks, you can’t read a clown’s frozen face, and it makes some people uneasy). I’m still not afraid of clowns; but I’m now nervous about balloons. Calling the evil “It” is a brilliant stroke of semantics – think of all the times you use the pronoun It: It was calling me. I tripped over It. It snuck up on me. I’m scared of it. You can’t help it; you can’t escape it. You talk about it all the time. Because you know it’s there. “It” can be anything, and you know it to be true.

But for everything anyone told me about the book, I think this is his worst that I’ve read. He’s written 55 novels, 200 short stories, comic books, films, has awards oozing out his ears – he knows what he’s doing. I don’t mind the back and forth nature of the story, bouncing between 1958 and 1985. The characters and style are classic King, but it is soooo long (1100+ pages), it really, really could have had sections of character description cut. It drags in places. It’s not the length: Game of Thrones is 1200 pages, scatmanbut I read it with more gusto. King’s name-dropping of characters from his other works grated on me. One is cool, but not several. Don’t stick Dick Hallorann in your book, a man with a strong sense of Shining (or, if you’re a Simpsons fan, Shinnin’), and have a catastrophe or a presence about that he doesn’t get ESP on. You laid Hallorann out in detail in The Shining; you let him drift in It. Sometimes the action is too cartoonish: having a victim’s head pop out of a box on a spring and go boing ruins my tension. I understand it might be appropriate to scare a child, but I’m not a child. Dolores Claiborne smashing my ankles with a sledgehammer makes me lie awake in a sweat all night. Cartoon boings don’t. I won’t tell the ending, but after fighting tooth and nail to wade through 1100 pages, I wanted more of a bang for my effort. The original Stand was 800 pages or so, and that ended with a nuclear explosion.

Yeah, yeah, I shouldn’t criticize King because he’s one of the most successful novelists images itof our time, and I don’t disagree with his talent. But perhaps he set his own bar too high. No one – not even Shakespeare – hits the nail of perfection every time. From the man who brought you Stand By Me, The Green Mile, Under the Dome, and so many, many wonderful tales, I just don’t think it’s his best.

What do you think is King’s best work – book or film?

For the Kings, writing is all in the family

The New York Times recently published an article about Stephen King and his rather literary family. King, of course, is the best-selling author of over 50 novels and dozens of short stories. His wife Tabitha is also an author with 8 published novels to her name.  Perhaps it was inevitable, with writers for parents, that 2 out of the 3 King children would also pursue a career in fiction.

Eldest son Joseph Hillstrom King, writing under the pen name Joe Hill, published an anthology of his short stories in 2005, and his first novel Heart-Shaped Box in 2007. His second novel Horns is being make into a feature film starring Daniel Radcliffe. Younger son Owen King (whose wife, Kelly Braffet, is also a writer) joined the family business this year with his debut novel Double Feature. No one can doubt that talent runs in the King family!

Next time you’re in the library, check out some of the books by the prolific Kings:

Stephen King:

http://ibistro.libraryconnection.info/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/57/5?user_id=CHESHIREPUB&password=PUBLIC&searchdata1=9781476727653

Dr. Sleep (coming Sept. 24)

Under the Dome (2009)

Joyland (2013)

Tabitha King:

The Book of Reuben (1995)

Survivor (1998)

Candles Burning (2006)

Joe Hill:

Heart-Shaped Box (2007)

NOS4A2 (2013)

Horns (2010)

Owen King:

Double Feature (2013)

Six Picks : Summer Thrillers

With the new crop of mystery and suspense novels coming out,  your summer reading could be extra thrilling this year! A few top picks:

Inferno by Dan Brown. In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces–Dante’s Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science.

The Kill Room by Jeffrey Deaver. Renowned investigator and forensics expert, Lincoln Rhyme, is drafted to investigate the sniper-killing of a U.S. citizen in the Bahamas. While his partner, Amelia Sachs, traces the victim’s steps in Manhattan, Rhyme leaves the city to pursue the sniper himself.

Joyland by Stephen King. Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz. Odd Thomas journeys through California and Nevada after a vision about the murders of three children, an effort throughout which he befriends a series of eccentric helpers who become allies in a battle against a sociopath and a network of killers.

The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo. Christmas shoppers stop to hear a Salvation Army concert on a crowded Oslo street. A gunshot cuts through the music and the bitter cold: one of the singers falls dead, shot in the head at point-blank range. Harry Hole–the Oslo Police Department’s best investigator and worst civil servant–has little to work with: no suspect, no weapon, and no motive.

Choke Point by Ridley Pearson. Hired to investigate allegations of a sweat-shop operation in Amsterdam that is enslaving young girls, John Knox and tech information expert Grace Chu embark on a rescue mission that is challenged by a crime organization that has seduced local neighborhoods with showy goodwill practices.