Thomas Jefferson was a super-foodie. His garden books and personal journals reveal a guy devoted to good eats. His favorite vegetable seems to have beThomas Jefferson was a super-foodie. His garden books and personal journals reveal a guy devoted to good eats. His favorite vegetable seems to have been sweet peas, he becomes positively rhapsodic over his delectable peaches and he favored game birds such as canvasback ducks. (All good choices IMOH.)So it was just natural that when he was appointed Ambassador to France, he would take his clever and intelligent slave James Hemmings along with him to learn the art of French Cuisine. This involved Jefferson in some small risk, as slavery was illegal in France and theoretically, Hemmings could have freed himself simply by walking out the door and Jefferson couldn't have done zip about it. However, they seemed to have had an agreement, that Jefferson would pay to have Hemmings trained by the best chefs, and Hemmings would return to Virginia and teach his art to another Jefferson family slave, whereupon Jefferson would manumit Hemmings. (Eventually, this actually happened, although with some detours and delays.)
Jefferson did pay rather exhorbitant fees for Hemmings' tuition and Hemmings acquired a package of serious skills. While this was occurring, Jefferson traveled throughout France, learning about wine and olive oil, eating regional specialties and collecting seeds and cuttings. He also learned to use the intimate dinner party as a method of furthuring diplomacy.
When Jefferson and Hemmings returned to the U.S., they introduced or popularized the French fry, ice cream desserts and macaroni and cheese. (What a debt every kindergartner owes to James Hemmings!)Thomas Jefferson bought and served fine French wines at the White House and made champagne fashionable for celebrations. Even when he was all but bankrupt, Jefferson continued to buy French wines and olive oil. His hospitality was famous and so were his desserts. James had taught his arts to his younger brother Peter Hemmings, who taught others in the household. The kitchen at Monticello had been redesigned for the use of French techniques, with a brick stove and copper pots.
All of this story is told in a lively, chatty style by author Thomas Craughwell. It is a compact book, but full of interesting nuggets such as TJ's brief carreer as a rice smuggler. (Honest! Read the book!) It is also illustrated with reprints from Jefferson's journals and Hemming's recipes. This should appeal to the social historian, the foodie, the Jefferson fan and anybody who just enjoys a good read. I would write more, but I'm going into the pantry to look for my ramekins to make custard....more
In this fast paced sequel to Ashfall, Alex and his lover Darla leave the relative safety of his uncle's farm to locate his Mom and Dad, who,ironicallyIn this fast paced sequel to Ashfall, Alex and his lover Darla leave the relative safety of his uncle's farm to locate his Mom and Dad, who,ironically, had left to find HIM. They are parted by "flensers" human refuse who prey upon the weakened populace and eat them. Alex sets out to find and rescue Darla as well as his parents. He tracks her from one band of human rodents to another. Along the way, he meets Alyssa and Ben who had been prisoners of the flensers. Ben has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and his sister Alyssa has resorted to trading herself to thugs to keep him safe. They join Alex in searching and are scooped up together by FEMA contractors who imprison them in a refugee camp. Alex has been through this before and immediately begins to plan his escape. He is shocked to discover that his Mom and Dad have organized the refugees into self protecting groups and are teaching English and self-defense. They refuse to escape from the camp because someone is kidnapping people from the camp and the guards are clearly being paid to look the other way. At this point, Ben comes into his own. Like many persons with autism, he has both high intelligence and obsessive interests. He has always loved military history and his encyclopedic grasp of strategy, tactics and arms becomes key to the remainder of this slam bang action. A particularly satisfying feature of this book is the sensitive but realistic presentation of Ben's character. Another sympathetic portrayal here is of Alex's continuing journey into adulthood. He admits to himself and to Darla that a part of him wanted to find his parents so that someone else would be responsible, but of course, he finds that events have altered both his parents and his own maturity. All of this is played out against the background of endless ice and snow, technological breakdown, famine and scarcity of resources.
I devoured this book in one sitting. I could not put it down. The world that Alex had to cope with was so awful and so real, I just had to find out what happened next. I think that most readers will be as held as I was. This one is a keeper, guys....more
It is O'dark thirty in the morning and I have just finished this Marvelous Book. You'll note I used capitals which I did on purpose because this bookIt is O'dark thirty in the morning and I have just finished this Marvelous Book. You'll note I used capitals which I did on purpose because this book is something very special. It is hard to find non-fiction which reads lyrically like poetry. Some very fine authors, most of them British, do manage this feat and Peter Ackroyd has done it here. Perhaps he was inspired by his great subject matter.
For a brief disclaimer I'll admit up front that I worship every syllable Shakespeare ever wrote. I have been privileged in the past to enact some of his plays and there is no magic quite like that. When the lines begin to flow, I'll swear you can SEE the energy flowing from stage to audience and back. It's SSOOOOO good!
Some of that energy seems to have osmosed into Ackroyd's high-spirited bio. He deals evocatively with Shakespeare's youth, of his apparent love of nature and the countyside, of the possible ways he spent the so-called lost years, of his family etc, etc. He deftly presents issues that have been debated for hundreds of years, such as was Shakespeare a crypto-Catholic? Did he have marital troubles? How did he think and feel about his writings? Which plays were written when? Ackroyd addresses them all with style and gusto. I'm so impressed with amount of research he had to have done to write this; his bibliography is eleven pages long. Whoo dogies! That's a lot of reading! Along the way somewhere he seems to have absorbed ton of data about the Elizabethan world in much the way Shakespeare himself seems to have done. There are juicy bits about legal matters, courts, deeds, fines and the training of lawyers. There is herb-craft and other medicine, music and dance, daily manners and courtly behavior, and a funny bit with a dog. (OK, I stole that last bit, but so did Shakespeare and Jonson and Marlowe and Kyd!) And did you know that at one time Will lodged at the corner of Silver and Muggle streets? Ya gotta love it! Coming in at a hefty 518 pages, there's a lot to love here.
This wonderful bio will appeal to those who love Tudor and Stuart England as well as to lovers of the Bard and literature in general....more
Nothing is more fun than to give your consciousness over to a really skilled author and allow them to take you otherwhere, otherwhen. Nobody is a bettNothing is more fun than to give your consciousness over to a really skilled author and allow them to take you otherwhere, otherwhen. Nobody is a better guide to otherland than Sherwood Smith. Her worlds are complete, no seams showing, all of the the tabs in the correct slots, believable and compelling. She is a mistress of world building and her tales derive from the essence of her worlds. Her characters are formed by their place and time, their surroundings enforcing and enhancing their development.
This adventure is set in the never-to-be-sufficiently praised word of Inda, The King's Shield, etc. However it is four hundred years later, and Inda is almost a mythical character. Things have changed and stayed the same. Kingdoms have arisen, Empires have withered and continents have drifted in more than one way.
Our narrator is Emras, a scribe in the service of beautiful Lasva, Princess of Colend, where all is graceful, and etiquette pervades every breath. Lasva is as intelligent and thoughtful as she is elegant and polite. Emras quickly comes to love and respect her employer, but her dream job is not quite as dreamy as all that. Lasva is at the top of a mountain of complex political and social plotting, and despite her kindness and charm, their are those who wish to see her fall. She is a highly desirable marital prize, and some of her suitors are fairly unusual. Even those who wish her well do not have much care for her personal happiness, as princesses do not marry for love except in nursery tales. Her first unforeseen suitor is Jurac, the King of Chwahir, Colendi's most despised enemy and neighbor. Even farther off the expected path is Ivandred, the Prince of Marloven Hesea, a descendant of the almost fictional Inda, and an obvious barbarian. Events conspire to throw Lasva into great risk and outright danger in a fashion totally unheard of in polite and correct Colendi society. Lasva and Colend depend on Emras' skills to support the Princess and the country.
I am not giving more of the plot because it is so delicious to read and I loathe people who tell the end of the tale. Let's just say that it is complex, sprawling over two continents and involving multiple plot elements. However, Smith is a very skilled story-spinner and her readers can be confident that there will be a great tie-up of the loose ends. Coming in at a huge 695 pages, the tale is long enough to encompass all its many twists and turns. The leisurely pace of its evolution really allows for pleasurable detail and satisfying sub-plots. Even after nearly seven hundred pages, I wanted more, more and more! Did I mention that I loved this book? ...more
I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. I laughed so hard my cat ran away and hid under the bed. I laughed----NO, I howled like a hyena with a hotfoot. This iI laughed so hard my ribs hurt. I laughed so hard my cat ran away and hid under the bed. I laughed----NO, I howled like a hyena with a hotfoot. This is one of the funniest books I have ever had the pleasure to read. Set in Florida, the land of the totally bewildered, we follow the adventures of Coleman, the stupid crook, Serge, the smart but looney-tunes crook, the slimy insurance embezzler, four Caribbean cocaine smugglers, George Veale the gross alcoholic dentist, Minimum, the sleazy Mobile Home salesman, and the two good guys, Sean and David as they career around Florida in pursuit of 5 million dollars. They stumble into a convergent series of the most improbable, most hilarious situations that ever saw print. There was the Running of The Hemingways, the incident of the frozen cayman in the gym bag, the fetishist who choked to death on the Barbie doll head, the school bus full of Promise Keepers, and the ultimate fate of the gay-bashing talk show host. You will like and identify with Sean and David, innocently bumbling into this kinky, quirky tangle. You will snort, snicker and LOL at Coleman, who is barely smart enough to stuff dope up his nose. You will admire the author's most brilliant character, Serge, the history spouting picture taking maniac.
This confection is spicy, salty and tasty in every way. It's written in a slam bang style that pulls you in and keeps you plastered to it's pages. I read it in one sitting and then dashed to the computer, crazed with the need to tell you all about it. I'm telling you, if you enjoy a laugh and cherish the bizarre, go for this one!...more
Every now and then, I have the pleasure of reading one of THOSE books. You know, the ones that make you feel like you are dipping into God's treasureEvery now and then, I have the pleasure of reading one of THOSE books. You know, the ones that make you feel like you are dipping into God's treasure chest. The ones that have beauty and substance. Simon Sebag Montefiore has written one of THOSE books, and I am so enriched by it that I hardly know where to begin to tell you about it. The scope of the book is impressive. Jerusalem is ancient and dripping with history. Just contemplating the research he must have done makes me dizzy. This is one of those books that tells it all. No swooping over two or three hundred year gaps to get to the famous parts. This is a thorough job. Then there is the pleasure of reveling in his use of the English language. His sentences are so beautifully balanced it makes me get tears in my eyes. His descriptive powers are considerable, but he manages to convey the essence of places and events without letting the description overwhelm the action. THAT is a rare talent and I bow before it in awe. The narrative is remarkably even handed, treating all the peoples who loved, coveted, conquered and lost Jerusalem with care. No black hatted bad guys, no red shirted disposable extras, no Dudley Doright heroes here: just human beings in their glory and mire, obsessed, loony, God-struck,brilliant and ordinary, their stories are told with gentle wit and wisdom. The fact that Jerusalem is possibly the most politically charged city on earth is something any author must deal with if he or she wants to tell the story. It is very hard to do this without taking sides, but I think Montefiore copes with this about as well as any historian I have read. All of that said, don't even try this if you are just looking for a casual read. This book needs some time and attention. If you want pop corn, leave it on the shelf: if you want the food of the gods, dig in....more
The name Sherwood Smith on the cover guarantees that I'll read it. Her books are just so entertaining! This is razzle-dazzle Ruritanian romance, kiddiThe name Sherwood Smith on the cover guarantees that I'll read it. Her books are just so entertaining! This is razzle-dazzle Ruritanian romance, kiddies, so be prepared to wallow in it. Our spirited heroine is a California girl fresh from her college fencing team, in Vienna to uncover her family history and unravel the mysteries surrounding her "Gran." She sees a ghost, meets a handsome stranger at the ballet, is kidnapped, escapes, discovers she is the very image of a missing princess, agrees to masquerade as said princess for a few days, wanders into an operetta style Balkan kingdom, meets her mysterious relatives, is kidnapped, escapes,(detecting a theme, here?)begins to fall in love with the handsome prince, discovers more about her murky family history, goes to a masquerade ball, is kidnapped, escapes,(Aha!)and I'm not ratting out the rest. This is an enormous pastry full of nuggets of literature, history, poetry and adventure. It's rich and chewy and I loved every minute of it. It appears there is to be another book and I just can't wait....more
Alex was hiking in the Michigan woods, looking for inner peace, running from the "monster" in her head. She thought that she had it bad. Her parents wAlex was hiking in the Michigan woods, looking for inner peace, running from the "monster" in her head. She thought that she had it bad. Her parents were dead and she had an inoperable cancerous tumor in her brain. Maybe she had a right to think things were bad...but then...things got worse.
Alex is pounded to her knees by blinding light and burning in her head. When she is able to think again, the world has been entirely changed. At the time of what she thought of as "the zap" she had been talking with an elderly man named Jack and his granddaughter, Ellie. When her senses cleared, Jack was dead. While Alex and Ellie are hiking down the mountain, they discover that some people have been horribly "Changed" into brutal unthinking cannibals. They are saved from an attack by one of the "Changed" by the advent of Tom, a soldier on leave. Tom and Alex compare experiences and conclude the zap must have been an EMP, an electromagnetic pulse, because electronic devices aren't working. They conclude that the EMP may have had some unforeseen effects on the brains of the Changed. Alex doesn't tell Tom and Ellie, but she suspects something has happened in her brain as well. Her cancer symptoms have disappeared and her senses of smell and hearing are much sharper.
Tom and Alex want to get someplace safer and they feel responsible for Ellie who is only 8 years old. But on their quest for a safe place, they are attacked by other refugees and their supplies are stolen, Ellie is kidnapped and Tom is shot. Alex and Tom escape but Tom is feverish and needs medical care. Alex attempts to get to a nearby town called Rule, which they have heard of as safe. She wants to get help for Tom before hunting for their attackers to retrieve Ellie. After several horrifying adventures, she arrives safely in Rule, only to discover that its safety has a high price: one she may not be willing to pay.
I won't blow the ending here, because I hate spoilers myself. Just trust me that this book is as readable and as exciting as the best I have read this year. However, it IS dark and disturbing and frightening on several levels. It portrays many of the people Alex meets as being as animalistic and aggressive as the Changed, even though they are supposedly unaffected. This is scary enough, but in fact, the reader has to reflect that this scenario or something very like it, could indeed happen. The technology exists to produce EMP's and we ARE increasingly dependent on our electronic devices for food, warmth and adequate shelter. I have to ask myself if I would blow my neighbor away over a can of creamed corn. What if I were desperate? What if it were to keep my darling grandson alive? How would I react if the lights never came back on? If you can cope with the gloomy atmosphere, this is a riveting read. It will keep you glued to the pages and you will be anxiously awaiting the next book....more
I have long maintained that the best pure storytelling is being done in the YA ranks. This book is a prime example. It boasts a spunky heroine fit forI have long maintained that the best pure storytelling is being done in the YA ranks. This book is a prime example. It boasts a spunky heroine fit for Jane Austin or Georgette Heyer's best works. It is set in London in 1815, when England was apprehensively expecting Napoleon to resume hostilities. Our feisty protagonist is making her debut, although she is viewing her future with some unease. She is not at all certain she wants to marry well and have the right kind of children and live the right kind of upper class life. She truly would like to travel to Egypt and make discoveries and study hieroglyphs and uncover forgotten tombs. So she should have been thrilled to be invited to unwrap a mummy, right? Wellllll, not so much. But she surely should have been elated when rich handsome Lord Showalter began to court her, right? Again, not so much. What Agnes found on the mummy dumps her headfirst into intrigue, danger and just possibly, true love. The tale is told engagingly and the action flies fast. Austin and Heyer fans will wallow in this one....more