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April 4, 2016
Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products
by Eschliman, Dwight, photography; text by Steve Ettlinger
Ingredients first caught my eye for the colorful photographs of food substances on the cover and inside. The authors selected 75 of the most common food additives listed on processed food labels, obtained samples of them and photographed them. From acesulfame potassium (a sweetener) to xanthan gum (a thickener) the book is a selective encyclopedia of their history, characteristics and uses. These days consumers are advised to eat lots of vegetables, fruit and whole grains yet not all additives are bad for us. For example, beta-carotene and chlorophyll used primarily for their color also play a nutritional role in foods. Myths, such as the one surrounding monosodium glutamate, are debunked: “Starting around 1968, there were reports that someone (literally just one person) had had a bad reaction to Chinese restaurant food… The reaction to the reports ballooned, and came to be called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”
The second part of the book analyzes 25 common processed foods breaking them down into their ingredients by listing and photographing them. Heinz Tomato Ketchup is made up of just eight fairly recognizable ingredients in contrast to the iconic Hostess Twinkie which is comprised of 42. An interesting and attractive volume to browse, the dedication reads: “This book is for anyone wondering what’s in their food.” Isn’t that most of us?
--Recommended by Sue Kennedy, Irvington Library
March 28, 2016
Murder Past Due
by James, Miranda
Murder Past Due by Miranda James is the first book in the Cat in the Stacks cozy mystery series. Cozy mysteries are leisurely-paced books that contain no profanity, depictions of violence, or sex, and Murder Past Due is no exception. Of course, there is a murder, but with its leisurely pace, this novel captivates readers while they, Charlie the librarian, and Diesel, the very large Maine Coon cat, get wrapped up in solving a murder.
Murder Past Due centers on Charlie Harris, a recent widower who has returned to his small hometown of Athena, Mississippi to work part-time as an archival librarian for the local college. He runs a boarding home that he inherited from his aunt after her passing. When Charlie’s school-time bully-turned famous author returns to Athena, Charlie and his companion cat Diesel are quite fine to leave well enough alone. But when this memorable bully, who appears to have many enemies, comes to withdrawn Charlie asking for guidance in regards to being related to one of Charlie’s boarders, Charlie gets swept up into the drama. When someone ends up dead, Charlie is compelled to investigate to clear the name of someone he cares for.
All of the characters are strongly written, including lovable Diesel, and it includes a light-hearted tone with mild humor worthy of a few chuckles. Readers can enjoy unraveling the mystery at their own pace, while following the steps of one of the genre’s few male protagonists.
Readers can enjoy this novel in paperback or e-book format, and if they enjoy it, there are seven more novels in this series as well as two spinoff novels.
--Recommended by Stefany Boleyn, Haughville Library
March 21, 2016
The Killing Season
by Cross, Mason
Caleb Wardell is a ruthless killer. He’s been tried, convicted, and locked away in prison on death row in Illinois. But when the van transporting him to Terre Haute is attacked and he finds himself a free man, he decides to make the most of it. That’s when Carter Blake gets an early-morning call; Blake is the man you call to find someone who doesn’t want to be found. The FBI is also trying to find Wardell and some (most) of the agents are none too pleased to have some upstart working with them, especially a man whose methods differ so from theirs. Wardell has nothing to lose and goes about doing what he does best; the people determined to thwart him only make the game that much more exciting for him. This is Cross’s debut novel and already his character, Carter Blake, is being compared to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher: a flawed “loner” hero. The action may also appeal to readers of Owen Laukkanen, Vince Flynn, and Tom (Hinshel)Wood.
The Killing Season is also available as a downloadable e-book.
--Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library
March 14, 2016
The Andalucian Friend
by Söderberg, Alexander
A few year ago many fiction readers took up Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series. At that time I was dubious of Scandinavian Crime Fiction as a genre. Since then authors like Alexander Söderberg have reshaped my skepticism to acceptance. I recently read Söderberg’s The Andalucian Friend and was astonished by his cast of guileful characters. Söderberg begins with Jens Vall, an antihero despondently tethered to a criminal arms vector; Sophie Brinkmann, a moored hospital nurse taking a seemingly simple risk when befriending a patient; and Lars Vinge, an unhinged cop recruited by malfeasant senior police. Once the main characters are established the plot spirals towards raging swath revealing mostly vile characters, unscrupulous alliances, and visceral adversaries. Readers won’t find redemptive subtext or lyrical prose, but an author testing the limits of unabashed readers and their credulity. If you are a crime fiction devotee, or appreciate tarantinoesque showdowns, check out The Andalucian Friend.
—Recommended by Ryan Houdek, Central Library
March 7, 2016
Jade Dragon Mountain
by Hart, Elsa
Settings long ago and far away allow us to immerse ourselves in another culture and time, to become the proverbial armchair traveler. Jade Dragon Mountain, a first novel by Elsa Hart, takes place in a backwater city in southwest China near the Tibetan border. The time is late eighteenth century. Lyrical descriptions help set the tone. Vivid characters populate the novel. Li Du, the sleuth of the novel, is a librarian exiled for political reasons, a travelling scholar. There are also delightful passages in which Hamza, an itinerant Arabian storyteller, spins his tales. Tulishen, the magistrate of the city of Dayan, provides a bureaucratic counterpoint. The action takes place just before and during the Emperor’s visit during which he is expected to predict the eclipse of the sun.
To top it all off, there is a mystery. Clues are given throughout the novel, but it was difficult to figure out who might have killed an aging Jesuit astronomer. Clues are interspersed with false leads providing intriguing twists in the plot. Curiosity kept me reading. This is a thoroughly satisfying read from 1st page to last, quite an accomplishment for a first novel. Expect to hear more from this author.
Jade Dragon Mountain is also available as a downloadable e-book.
--Recommended by Janice Swan, Glendale Library