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Jul 19


Posted on July 19, 2016 at 3:34 PM by Craig Jacobson

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Who wouldn’t like to take the whole summer off and spend it on Nantucket Island?  In The Island House, Courtney was able to do just that.  It all started when she was in college and her roommate, Robin, invited her to stay with her family while she worked on the island.  That was eleven years ago and she returned to the island every summer.  She is now a university professor in Kansas and she is still drawn to the island.  Her life in Kansas is as different as it can be from that on Nantucket.  Two different lifestyles and two different men.  Summer is back and she’s drawn once again to the island not just out of habit, but also to figure out just what she wants out of life.

Jacket.jpgIf anyone can write about Nantucket, it’s Elin Hilderbrand.  This comes across once again in her newest book, Here’s to Us.  In this story you get to meet the whole family of the recently deceased, Chef Deacon Thorpe.  His three wives have two things in common.  They all loved and married him and they all detest one another.  While Deacon was married to his first wife he purchased a ramshackle cottage on Nantucket.  This place was very special to him so it would only seem logical that when he died he left it to all three wives.  You can only imagine what it would be like to have all three of them gathered together in a very small cottage with one bathroom as they sort through their life with Deacon and decide what to do with the cottage.

Jacket (1).jpgLittle Beach Street Bakery takes us to a little island off the Cornish coast.  Polly Waterford has gone there to escape from a bad relationship.  She needs a diversion to stop thinking about the past so she takes up her hobby of making bread.  The more she kneads the bread to get her frustrations out the better her breads turn out.  Soon the whole island can smell the bread as it is baking.  A hobby turns into a passion and a passion turns into her own bakery.  You get to meet all the people of this quaint little resort town including the handsome beekeeper who may be interested in more than just selling honey.  Should you like this book you may also want to read Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery.

Jacket (2).jpgOur next island is Fire Island in The Last Summer of You and Me.  Every summer Alice and Riley return to their family beach home on Fire Island.  For as long as they can remember, summers have been shared with their friend Paul.  Paul returns this summer having missed the last three summers. It should be the same as always but some things have changed, including their feelings for Paul.  As the summer unfolds with changes and secrets, how will their relationship with each other hold up?

{9917E253-A937-4B5A-8506-E831FD33B202}Img200.jpgIn We Were Liars, Cady vacations on a private island that her grandfather owns on Cape Cod.  She is joined by her mother, two aunts, two cousins, and a friend of her aunt’s.  Cady is experiencing crippling headaches from an accident that happened two years ago.  She’s trying to remember, trying to put the pieces of that summer together, but she can’t and everyone around her refuses to help her with the puzzle.  What possibly could have happened that no one will talk about it?

Jacket (3).jpgThe Miracle on Monhegan Island is told through the eyes of the family dog, Ned.  Well sort of the family dog.  Ned was stolen by one of the Monahan family members and given as a gift to someone else in the family.  Ned’s new family is about as dysfunctional as a family can get.  Their story is about obsession, religious fervor, and mental illness.  While thought-provoking, the story unfolds in a touching and humorous way.

So if an island isn’t in your immediate future, happy reading.

Book covers courtesy of Easicat.

Jul 07

As Wise as an Owl?

Posted on July 7, 2016 at 1:40 PM by Craig Jacobson

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As wise as an owl? As sly as a fox? Can that old dog learn new tricks? Or is the bird brain just parroting everyone else? People have – rightly or wrongly – ascribed a wide range of traits to animals. But how smart can animals really be? New research has begun to explore animals’ intelligence and their relationships with humans.

For a background primer on other animals whose intelligence science has investigated, try Inside Animal Minds, a 3-episode PBS series that explores the smarts of dogs, birds, and dolphins.

Animals - Alex and Me.jpgBirds in particular have received a lot of attention in what are known as “animal cognition studies” in recent years. Irene Pepperberg and Alex, the African grey parrot, met in 1977. For 30 years, the two of them tested the limits of what birds could understand. When Alex died, he knew over 100 words and could count to 6. He had teased Pepperberg’s other parrots and refused to answer questions when he was bored. In doing so, he upended what science thought it knew about intelligence in animals that weren’t part of the primate family.

Animals - Genius of Birds.jpgBeyond Alex and other domestic birds, The Genius of Birds explores the intelligence of everything from pigeons to crows to bowerbirds. Some make their own tools; others remember hundreds of songs or remember thousands of miles of territory. Birds can share, give gifts, manipulate, play, and compete for status. Ackerman explores what these actions mean for the birds themselves and our view of what intelligence really means.

Animals - Soul of an Octopus.jpgBirds aren’t the only surprising source of animal intelligence these days. While they may be spineless, octopuses (or octopodes) are far from boring. They use coconut shells to hide themselves, jet water to bounce balls around, and regularly escape their enclosures as well as their human handlers. The Soul of an Octopus traces scientists’ attempts to understand the mind of these “wild, solitary shape-shifters.”

Animals - Are We Smart Enough.jpgThe debate over whether or not animals is argued from many sides. What makes an animal intelligent? Using tools? A sense of self? Something else entirely? Can the intelligence of animals be accurately evaluated by human standards at all? Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?explores this conundrum, drawing on his own work as well as recent research and a range of stories from the field.

Animals - Being a Beast.jpgCharles Foster tries to answer that question from a different perspective. To understand the lives of animals, he tried to live as a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer, and a swift – catching fish in his teeth, following the swifts on their migration route, and rooting through London garbage cans, among other things. Being a Beast explores how well people can ever understand the animals we share the planet with and, ultimately, the boundaries of the human experience.

Jun 29

Summer Cooking: Eat Your Vegetables

Posted on June 29, 2016 at 2:12 PM by Craig Jacobson

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Looking for new ways to prepare the vegetables this summer? Are you growing a bounty in your garden or will you be picking up fresh treats at the farmer’s market this summer? Instead of making a salad every day, check out some of these fun vegan and vegetarian cookbooks for healthy and tasty meal ideas that will make the whole family want to eat their vegetables.

Peas.jpgSarah Matheny’s Peas and Thank you: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love is perfect for parents looking for family-friendly plant based meals. Matheny’s recipes are meant to appeal to even the pickiest young eaters. Her decision to feed her family vegan meals stemmed from her desire to support a more vibrant and healthy life, not a restrictive and deprived one.

Nom Yourself: Simple Vegan Cooking by Mary Mattern is an excellent introduction for anyone interested in trying vegan cooking. The cookbook offers colorful pictures with each recipes providing mouth-watering glimpses at all the wonderful vegan treats you can make.

Betty Goes Vegan: 500 Classic Recipes for the Modern Familyby Annie and Dan Shannon takes all of your favorite dishes and remakes them vegan style. The Shannon’s provides an excellent introduction to orient the novice vegan cook to the unfamiliar food jargon, in addition to recommending handy kitchen tools to have.

Thug Kitchen.jpgThug Kitchen: Eat like you give a f*** The Official Cookbook by Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway is a curse-word-filled, humor laden guide to vegan cooking. The authors attempt to confront and dismantle the ideas that vegan eating is too expensive for the average person, or is appealing only to those uninterested in taste, enjoyment, or satisfying food. They do so by providing a wealth of traditional recipes redone in vegan style with some mildly offensive humor.

Dirt Candy.jpgDirt Candy: Flavor-forward food from the upstart New York City Vegetarian restaurant by Amanda Cohen & Ryan Dunlavey with Grady Hendrix is a humorous cookbook and memoir mixed into one. The book is written in the form of a graphic novel making it a fun read, while also being a great place to pick up outside of the box vegetarian and vegan recipes.

First Bite.jpgFinally, if you are interested in a more in-depth study of the development of dietary habits, First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson delves into the curious evolution of the human palate, from childhood to adult. Wilson argues that as omnivores, humans are not born with an instinctual taste for specific foods, but instead develop preference based on numerous outside factors. An excellent read for anyone interested in learning about the development of eating habits within culture and how to take control of personal '‘preferences’ and ‘tastes.’