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IQ

posted by: May 10, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for IQThis is Sherlock like you’ve never seen him before. Joe Ide’s IQ is a fresh take on the famous detective that really boils down the essence of the character and reimagines him in an entirely new context. This is not just another “update” where Sherlock becomes a quirky PI with a psychiatric disorder and a nicotine habit, nor is it a recasting where they take a cranky doctor or a malcontent police officer and throw in some brilliant deductive reasoning. Ide crafts an entirely new character who embodies the spirit of the great detective while breaking new ground; in this story he is a young African American man, growing up poor but smart in south central Los Angeles. It feels like a breath of fresh air for a story that, even when done well, has been done to death.

 

The story spans a couple of time periods. It begins present day where IQ (the nickname of Isaiah, our titular character) has become well known as a problem solver, and is called in to solve an attempt on the life of a rap mogul. It flashes back and forth with the past where Isaiah takes steps down a dark path while simultaneously beginning the journey to become a positive force to the world around him. In the present, a bevy of suspects and an unusual crime scene confuse the field for Isaiah and his assistant/frenemy/partner Dodson, while in the past we see the pair in their earlier days, striking out at others and themselves as they struggle with the curveballs life throws their way and the questionable choices they make.

 

At times, the story may feel distant from the experiences of many of its readers, but the author does a good job of including threads we can all identify with. We may not be poor and growing up in the inner city, but we all understand struggling with grief, giving in to temptation and making bad, easy choices, or trying to help people even when they won’t help themselves. If anything, Ide’s IQ is more generous and well intentioned than most of us — going above and beyond to help others even at real cost to himself. Rather than being alienating though, I found it inspiring. Plus Ide includes a cast of oddball true-to-life characters that keep the story moving and the reader’s interest piqued.

 

I really enjoyed this story — especially the tension of the mysteries and the well-developed main characters. If you like this story, you’ll probably enjoy a lot of Sherlock stories — both the originals by Arthur Conan Doyle and many of the derivatives by a batch of other authors. I would highly recommend BBC’s recent adaptation of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It shares the modern setting and a certain irreverent sense of humor.


 
 

Foxlowe

posted by: May 8, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for Foxlowe"Don't go Outside. Don't let the Bad in." In Eleanor Wasserberg's debut novel we see the inner workings of Foxlowe, a commune where a group of people, who call themselves the Family, live by a different set of rules. Freya is the leader of the group, and as long as you follow her rules and listen to what she says, everything will be okay. If you break the rules, you are punished or you become a Leaver.

 

The story is presented through Green, a young girl living at Foxlowe, who Freya treats like a daughter. In the main part of the story, Green remembers what her childhood was like at Foxlowe and she recalls when Blue became a new family member and the down fall of everything. She follows and believes Freya blindly and doesn't understand the unsettling truth of who Freya really is. While much of her telling shows a beautiful and happy life, there are dark and disturbing moments throughout the story.

 

Later, Green recalls her life as an adult, where she goes by the name of Jess and lives on the Outside. She misses Foxlowe as her life is difficult and she is unsettled. Her life on the Outside is met with strange feelings and unhappy moments. Remembering the reason she no longer lives at Foxlowe, we see the deeply dark moments that have brought her to her current struggle in life.

 

Though you may be left with questions in the end, some things are better left unanswered. The mysteries of Foxlowe and what happened to everyone is intriguing and left up to the reader’s imagination in many ways. The beautiful language and point of view gives a sense of a magical and secretive world that is also dark and disturbing. Foxlowe is a captivating new story that will keep you guessing.


 
 

The Second Mrs. Hockaday

posted by: May 4, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for The Second Mrs. HockadayDear Readers,                                                                       May 4, 2017

 

I am writing to you to offer a glimpse into the book The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers. A first novel for this accomplished playwright, if you enjoy reading in letter and diary format—once you pick it up, it will be difficult to put down. A historical fiction, mystery surrounds the main character, Placidia Fincher, and through her writing you learn how it was to be a young woman left alone to face the responsibility of maintaining some type of normalcy at home despite being surrounded by the chaos of the Civil War.

 

At the start of her entries, dating back to 1865, we find out that 19-year-old Placidia has recently been arrested and is corresponding with her cousin behind bars. It is obvious that she is not willing to reveal the circumstances behind her predicament—at least not easily—which adds to the mystery. What is established, prior to Placidia being in jail, is at the young age of 17, she finds a respectable union with Gryffth Hockaday, a high-ranking confederate soldier. Adhering to the social customs of the time, this union was one where marriage came first, above love. However, before any romance blossomed, the major received his own letter calling him to the frontlines of battle.

 

Switching between different time periods, you will be anxious to find out what happened during the two years that they were separated. What you realize is that hidden within the diary entries and letters is a snapshot of life in the South during this chaotic time. Susan Rivers does not stray away from the complicated history of this time period—touching on topics such as slavery, isolation and brutality. Despite the dark aspects, the story is also one of hope and redemption, especially for the leading lady of the story. If you enjoy this style of historical writing, then you may enjoy The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer or These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 by Nancy E. Turner.

 

I hope this blog finds you well.
 
Yours Truly,
Elna


 
 

The Shadow Land

posted by: May 1, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for The Shadow LandBulgaria, which lies along the Black Sea coast in Europe, is an ancient country whose capital city of Sofia dates from the Fifth century. Ottoman Turks, tsars and Soviet-style communists have all had a crack at ruling the country, which is now a parliamentary democratic republic. The legacy of Bulgaria’s shifting governance and political instability drives Elizabeth Kostova’s novel, The Shadow Land.  

 

New college grad Alexandra Boyd is an American abroad. She’s just arrived in Sofia and reaches out to help an elderly couple struggling down the steep steps of the upscale Hotel Forest. No good deed goes unpunished as a cab ride later, she realizes she’s accidentally mixed a piece of their luggage in with hers. With the help of her taxi driver, nicknamed Bobby, Alexandra starts a journey in attempt to return the bag which contains a deeply personal item: the ashes of a man named Stoyan Lazarov. And while Americans like Alexandra turn to the police for help, Bobby isn’t as trusting of the new state’s authority. As the pair crisscrosses Bulgaria tracking the elusive Lazarov family, they realize they, too, are being followed.

 

At its heart, this story is gripping historical fiction. As Alexandra and Bobby gradually piece together the life of Stoyan Lazarov, they also uncover the horror of government-sanctioned “work camps,” survivor’s guilt and unending atonement. A recent past that won’t stay hidden looms, threatening all of Bulgaria with its darkness. Readers who enjoy historical fiction with a political bent, such as The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna or Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, should add The Shadow Land to their reading list.


 
 

This month's BCPL's Reading Challenge is read a book set in Asia. Here are some of our suggestions. Select any title to learn more or to request a copy. You can participate in BCPL's Reading Challenge on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #Bwellread to earn prizes at the end of each month!

 

 BCPL Reading Challenge 2017 In Partnership with WBALTV

Cover art for The Arab of the Future Cover art for Black WaterCover art for Cambodia Noir Cover art for China Rich Girlfriend Cover art for The Coroner's Lunch Cover art for A Fine Balance Cover art for Four Years in the Mountains of Kurdistan Cover art for The Good Earth Cover art for Henna House Cover art for Hiroshima Cover art for Hunters in the Dark Cover art for In Order to Live Cover art for Island of a Thousand Mirrors Cover art for Jade Dragon Mountain Cover art for The Kite Runner Cover art for Memoirs of a Geisha Cover art for Midnight in Siberia Cover art for The Morning They Came For Us Cover art for Music of the Ghosts Cover art for The Quiet American Cover art for Sarong Party Girls Cover art for The Secret Chord Cover art for Selection Day Cover art for Shogun Cover art for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Cover art for A Strangeness in My Mind Cover art for The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories Cover art for The Temporary Bride Cover art for The Translation of Love Cover art for Waking Lions Cover art for Walking the Himalayas Cover art for The Wind Up Bird Chronicles Cover art for Women of Silk Cover art for A Word for Love


 
 

Salted and Cured

posted by: April 17, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for Salted and CuredSeveral years ago, Jeffrey Roberts authored the Atlas of American Artisan Cheese. His atlas highlighted carefully crafted, locally made cheeses and their makers, who hoped to lure American consumers away from those weirdly orange “pasteurized processed cheese foods” at the big grocery stores. The movement he championed in that first book has succeeded in a big way — now even the grocery store chains offer extensive cheese departments that often stock locally made gourmet cheeses.

 

With the publication of Salted and Cured: Savoring the Culture, Heritage and Flavor of America's Preserved Meats, Roberts hopes to provide the same service for locally cured meats. This new book delves into the historical hows and whys of curing meats, then introduces readers to the contemporary farmers, chefs and even bloggers who are champions of naturally made, carefully crafted, cured meats.

 

Roberts’ book shows readers how unexpected things like weather conditions affected the history of meats: desert versus swamp makes a big difference in how you cure your meats. From tales of ancient China and Egypt to how Native Americans taught explorers to make jerky, and from Italian prosciutto to Jewish corned beef at your favorite deli, Roberts tracks down the origins of cured meats. In the process, he tells the story of the waves of immigrants that brought their food traditions with them when they came to America.

 

Like this year’s BC Reads selection, Eight Flavors by Sarah Lohman, Salted and Cured tells the story of America’s melting pot by looking at the ingredients various ethnic groups have brought to our kitchens. Fans of Mark Kurlansky’s Salt and the works of Michael Pollan should also enjoy this fascinating glimpse into food history and customs.

 


 
 

Eight Flavors

posted by: April 10, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for Eight FlavorsSarah Lohman is a historical gastronomist who immerses herself in her work. In Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Lohman selects eight flavors found most frequently in American recipes. (She found 10, but excluded coffee and chocolate because she felt so much had been written about each.) Beginning in archives and searching through economic and scientific records, Lohman studies cookbooks and manuscripts dating back to the 18th century to discover when each of the flavor profiles first appeared in American kitchens and why.

 

The eight flavors uniting our vast melting pot of a country are black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG and Sriracha. Lohman introduces the explorers, merchants, farmers and chefs who influenced our culinary story. Unknown figures dot this fascinating history. John Crowninshield was a New England merchant who traveled to Sumatra in the 1790s in search of black pepper. Edmond Albius was a 12-year-old slave who lived on an island off the coast of Madagascar and discovered the technique still used to pollinate vanilla orchids today. Sriracha was the creation of David Tran, a Vietnamese refugee who combined elements of French and Thai cuisine and, using peppers grown on a farm north of Los Angeles, produced a hot sauce whose sales now exceed $60 million.

 

Recipes, research and illustrations all serve to illuminate the reader on the history of the flavors, each of which comprise a chapter in the book. Lohman also shares her personal adventures with the ingredients, and readers will be compelled to try some of the recipes (updated to modern tastes) such as Thomas Jefferson’s French Vanilla Ice Cream or the Rosemary House Garlic Carrot Cake. In an interview, Lohman noted that researching the book "really upended my idea of these flavors that always stood on the shelf in my kitchen. I would always pick up a pepper grinder or a bottle of vanilla extract and would never think about what it was and where it came from."

 

Meet Sarah Lohman at the Arbutus Branch on April 13 at 7 p.m. Copies of her book will be available for sale at a book signing following the program. Don’t come hungry! This program is just one of the many events scheduled for BC Reads: Eat Up!, BCPL’s month-long community discussion promoting reading and the arts.

 


 
 

Truffle Boy

posted by: April 6, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for Truffle BoyIan Purkayastha’s background is unusual for a powerful player in the world of fine dining. He shares his remarkable story and the crazy adventures along the way in Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground. The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian was 15 when his family left Houston for rural Arkansas. While he'd always loved cooking and eating well, it was his uncle, an avid outdoorsman, who taught him how to forage for wild mushrooms. When he first tasted a black truffle ravioli dish with foie gras sauce, he was instantly obsessed with the earthy, unusual truffle flavor.

 

Truffle Boy is part coming-of-age story, part elite restaurant tell-all, part travelogue. Readers journey with Ian from Manhattan to Oregon, from Serbia to Hungary. The characters met along this adventure are larger than life, ranging from shady businessmen to raving chefs to colorful gypsies. Despite setbacks and failures, Ian rebounds and achieves astonishing success at a young age in a ruthless world. He now owns Regalis, a specialty food company, which sells not only truffles but also caviar, wild mushrooms, Wagyu beef and other nearly unobtainable ingredients demanded by his Michelin-starred clients.

 

In a recent interview, Ian encouraged those who haven’t tried this delicacy to do so. “I would say if someone is wanting to try an ingredient that literally smells like nothing else you've ever had, then the truffle is the ingredient for them. Truffles have been, you know, lustful and highly regarded for centuries for having this intoxicating aroma and flavor. So I would definitely encourage interested, adventuresome eaters to seek out truffles.”

 

Meet Ian Purkayastha at the Towson Branch on April 9 at 2 p.m., where he will be in conversation with Doug Wetzel, the executive chef at Gertrude’s at the BMA. This program is just one of the many events scheduled for BC Reads: Eat Up!, BCPL’s month-long community discussion promoting reading and the arts.


 
 

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