Blogs

Holiday Cookbooks Have Arrived

If there’s one good thing about Michigan’s frigid winter, it’s a getting a much-needed excuse to stay indoors and cook. With winter’s looming arrival, we’ve ordered cookbooks for every kind of eater—whether you’re looking to cook a rich, southern-inspired holiday buffet; a brand new dessert; or a variety of gluten-free or vegan recipes. You can place a hold on our newest holiday cookbooks below.

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Christmas Cookie Swap! by Nicole Fisher
Best Holiday Sweets and Treats by Daniella Malfitano
Superfun Times Holiday Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Christmas with Southern Living by Southern Living Staff.
Against All Grain Celebrations by Danielle Walker

Cursed No More: Look Back on the Cubs’ Tumultuous History with These Books

Though the Halloween season just ended, it was baseball that had people talking about curses this year. With the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 years, much of the public conversation about the team has involved a six-decades old curse. The Cubs’ “Billy Goat” curse started in the mid-’40s after Billy Sianis, a dedicated Cubs fan, was asked to leave Wrigley Field for bringing his pet goat. Sianis promised a losing record to the Cubs, who would later lose that 1945 series to the Detroit Tigers. After the Cubs went decades with no World Series wins, it instilled a deep superstition within fans worldwide.
While the curse is one major aspect of the team’s history, these “lovable losers” have built a rich story that goes beyond superstition. Take a look at some of our material on the Cubs, as well as a few resources that will enhance the baseball experience for fans of all ages.
A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at 100 by George Will
The Golden Era Cubs, 1876-1940 by Eddie Gold
Baseball History for Kids: America at Bat from 1900 to Today with 19 Activities by Richard Panchyk
My First Book of Baseball by Beth Bugler

Bryan Cranston Details the Evolution of TV’s Greatest Anti-Hero with New Memoir

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In the early 2000s, it would’ve been hard to picture Bryan Cranston as one of television’s greatest actors. Cranston had received his fair share of notoriety, sure, but his mainstream roles—from the oafish dad Hal on Malcolm in the Middle to dentist Tim Whatley on Seinfeld— were rooted in network TV comedy. But beneath Cranston’s slapstick performances lurked a more sinister character in Breaking Bad’s Walter White, the high-school-chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-kingpin who evolved into one of TV’s greatest anti-heroes. The show ran for five seasons between 2008 and 2013 on AMC, earning 16 Emmy awards in the process. To put Cranston’s impact in perspective, Breaking Bad has the Guinness World Record for being the most acclaimed television show of all time.

This success wasn’t a fluke, as the actor’s performances since Breaking Bad prove. In 2014 he won a Tony award for his role as President Lyndon Johnson in the stage play All the Way. This week Cranston released a memoir titled A Life in Parts. While the book details his decades-long path to success, Cranston has also written a bold testament to long-term artistic dedication. As Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan writes in the introduction, “If I’d known Bryan could tell stories this well, I would’ve had him writing episodes of Breaking Bad.”

Aside from Cranston’s new memoir, JDL also has many of his iconic performances. Check them out below.

A Life in Parts

Breaking Bad, Season One

Malcolm in the Middle, Season One

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Provides an Opportunity to Reexamine Recent Laureates

In 2016, it’s not shocking to hear the electric twang of a Fender Stratocaster at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. The multi-day event, which began in 1959, was created to celebrate traditional folk, country, blues, and bluegrass—none of which featured electric instruments in Newport’s early years. It was Bob Dylan who shook the folk community in 1965 by brandishing a Fender Stratocaster on stage at the festival. He might have been booed by the audience, but Newport Folk—and popular music—eventually caught up with his electric vision.
The 75-year-old songwriter was in the middle of an artistic controversy again this week, but it had little to do with music. Dylan received the Nobel Prize in literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Many Dylan fanatics already saw his lyrics as poetry and thought the prize was a justified nod to decades of critically acclaimed work. In the literary community, however, many saw the unusual selection as a slap to the face of lesser-known poets and writers.
Regardless of your position on Dylan’s prize, JDL has material worth your exploration. We’ve listed a few of our best resources on Dylan. If his “poetic expressions” aren’t your taste, though, we’ve included some books from alternative Nobel Laureates in literature.

Books


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Chronicles (Vol. 1) by Bob Dylan


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Dylan Goes Electric! by Elijah Wald

Films


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Don’t Look Back (Criterion Collection)

CDs

Modern Times
Blood on the Tracks

Nobel Prize Winners in Literature

2014: Modiano, Patrick: So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood
2013: Munro, Alice: Dear Life: Stories
2012: Mo, Yan: Frog: A Novel

Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run is a Must-Read for Aspiring Musicians

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Legacy musicians like Bruce Springsteen don’t enjoy successful, four-decade careers by accident. Part of Springsteen’s longevity can be credited to the quality of his music, with rock albums like Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River still sounding relevant and vibrant as ever today. But Springsteen also appealed to the masses as an American everyman—one who penned songs about small-town romances, grueling shifts at the factory, and the American Dream itself. Songs like “Badlands,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” and “The River” might’ve given listeners a small taste of the songwriter’s working class rootsbut fans have waited decades for the New Jersey rocker to tell his own story. If book sales are any indication, those fans are still interested: Born to Run debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times’ non-fiction bestseller list last week.

 

In Born to Run, Springsteen gives readers all the details. He explores his childhood in New Jersey, the formation of his legendary E-Street band, the multi-platinum records and arena tours, and a crippling depression that began in his early sixties. Unsurprisingly, Springsteen wrote his memoir much like his music: the language is direct, unpretentious, and lighthearted enough to inject his own brand of humor. The book is an addicting read, both for musical historians and casual fans alike.

 

Aside from Springsteen’s new memoir, we also have many of his CDs in the JDL system. You can place holds on the following titles today:

 

Born to Run (Book)

Born to Run (CD)

Greatest Hits (CD)

Live in New York (CD)

The Rising (CD)
Nebraska (CD)

Highly Recommended by Tessa: The Midnight Watch: A novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer

It took me three tries to finally get into this book, but it was so worth it. The Midnight Watch is a fine work, carefully crafted and rich with images and emotion. Dyer sticks closely to the known and the facts, and these inform the book with poignancy and immediacy.

Over here is the Californian caught up in the frigid darkness and a treacherous ice field, stopped, telegraphing to alert other ships to the danger. Over there is the new and renowned cruise liner telling them to shut up, shut up, shut up, they have passenger messages to send out. Everyone on the Californian goes to bed, leaving their Midnight Watchers to the cold and dark. Everyone on the Titanic wakes up to peril and bitter death.

I originally gave it five stars, but after thinking about it for a week, I lowered it to four. Maybe 4.5. The main character just never became vivid nor central enough for me. Other characters felt out of focus and changing, as if subject to unknown currents. But the sea and the sky are so real and vivid. They feel seductive and dangerous and hard and intense and so much else. “The stillness pressed in…the ice seemed to suck everything from the world.” Daylight brings “a torrent of white light,” a “burning, unforgiving light.” Sunshine becomes a masterful literary device, torturing the vulnerable guilty parties.

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This will be an excellent choice for book groups, who will be able to discuss the literary devices expertly wielded in the book, as well as the many issues that arise. The carelessness exposed by this account is breathtaking, even when one knows that radio communication was in its infancy. The lack of oversight and attention to the life boats and evacuation are a glaring contrast to our own overly reactive, overly protective culture. The interplay between the captain’s cold character and the weakness of the third officer are great for discussing how we affect those around us, for good or bad.

Even though it has no love story, no war, only sunshine, tragedy, and cold darkness, this story is one for the ages. “The midnight watch: a time of loneliness, demons and trances.” ~ Tessa 4.5 out of 5 Stars August 2016

Not Recommended by Tessa: Slade House, or any book, by David Mitchell

Over the weekend I finally finished, sort of, reading Slade House. I say sort of because I got bored at the halfway point and skipped towards the end, dipping in and getting bored again before finally finishing. This is very similar to my reaction to Cloud Atlas, also by David Mitchell, which won several awards, including the Nebula Award, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I gave that book 100 pages—more than usual. Since science fiction is one of my favorite genres, these were both surprising disappointments.

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Before writing this review, I scanned Goodreads for several of Mitchell’s books’ reviews, including this one. I was taken aback to find lots of the GR people I follow abandoning Mitchell’s books, too! Some of these readers are literary enthusiasts, some are science fiction fans, but most of them have read a lot of books, both widely and deeply. Therefore, I feel it is justifiable to say these books affect many people as they did me. That is, they don’t affect us. They bore us and fail to pull us into the story or characters.

My main issue with Slade House in particular is the content. Grotesqueries are NOT what I want. I have created a new Goodreads shelf for them, since many current authors seem to be falling into this category. Neil Gaiman, Mitchell, Paulo Bacigalupi, and China Miéville are on the shelf for sure. Also Cherie Priest and James S. A. Corey. (Even though I like Corey’s Expanse series a lot. See my November 9, 2015 review.)

But the biggest problem with Mitchell’s books is his habit of nesting stories. I find them not so much nested as scattered. Mitchell and some literary types think this is great literary mechanism. But most people seem to find Mitchell’s jolting POV changes pretty tiresome. I think he just gets bored (yeah, me, too) with a piece of his own writing and jumps to his next plot outline point. As I said, I jumped, too, about halfway through both the books. There were no surprises and nothing that I couldn’t understand. I just didn’t really care to. Sad, really, cause the guy’s got skills. Not recommended ~ Tessa 2.5 out of 5 stars August 2016

Tessa Talks About Dissonance | new novel by JSO Composer-in-Residence Jonathan Bruce Brown

Amazing! It is truly hard to believe Dissonance is Bruce Brown’s first book. There would be little for an editor to do with this work, since it already has great plotting, atmosphere, and dialogue, and few weak areas. By the end of this suspenseful adventure, the main characters are vivid and as real as any neighbor.

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Both Wil Walker, the composer who claims to being framed in the murder, and Peter Jones, the detective who wants to believe Wil despite all the evidence, are finely drawn and sympathetic individuals. This mystery is neither gritty nor cozy: it is just right. And halfway through I commented that I had no idea who the killer was—a sure sign of a great mystery!

Rich with music and creativity, the book reflects the author’s own musical life. The descriptions of the symphony members’ lives give authenticity and originality to the book’s bones. The scenes are saturated with glowing images and rhythmic impressions, and the gorgeous Lake Michigan scenery doesn’t take a back seat to anything. It is as much a character in the book as any of the humans. If you love our state’s green places, this book won’t disappoint.

Overall I am delighted give this gripping debut a well-earned four stars. It built in intensity throughout and had me rushing to the final breath-taking chapters. I hope he’ll write more! Encore! Bravo! ~ Tessa 4 out of 5 stars

Tessa Recommends Tana French’s book: The Secret Place

In her fifth book, The Secret Place, in what is now dubbed The Dublin Murder Squad (DMS) series, Tana French brings familiar characters into a new Dublin setting: an expensive girls’ boarding school. This exceptional atmospheric suspense begins when a familiar figure visits Detective Stephen Moran at work. Holly Mackey has come bearing a card with a photo and caption. The caption says, “I know who killed him.” The photo is of young Chris Harper, murdered the previous year on the grounds of Holly’s school.

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Unfortunately, this case isn’t actually one of Moran’s. Currently assigned to Cold Cases, Stephen desperately wants onto the Murder Squad. Card in hand, Stephen visits the newest Murder Squad detective, Antoinette Conway. She allows him to come along to the school and investigate this new development. In a non-stop tense ordeal, they interview the students again, while flashbacks tell the story from the girls’ point of view, gradually approaching the night of the murder.

Two groups of girls quickly become the focus—Holly and her friends and a clique that hates them. As we sit in on the interviews and experience the flashbacks, we become immersed in the life of these eight teenagers—its drama, cruelty, risk-taking, and experimentation. In a fascinating step into magical realism, French describes Holly and her friends discovering secret powers and the whole school seeing the boy’s ghost. Many aspects of the girls’ lives are left open to speculation, so I wonder if we will see more of them in the future, as we often do with French’s DMS characters. Five out five stars for this fifth book! French hasn’t written a dud yet. (Her next one, The Trespasser, comes out in August!) Highly recommended. ~ Tessa June 2016 5 out of 5 stars

Tessa’s Recommendation: A Light-Hearted SciFi Adventure Trilogy: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

EarthGirlDon’t expect too much from this trilogy by English author Janet Edwards, and you’ll love it. Earth Girl is written with young adults in mind, it isn’t terribly complicated, but the world-building works for me. There were no glaring errors or inconsistencies, which is always nice. And Edwards’ characters were pretty great. The basic story is built around Jarra, a reject of society because she is Handicapped. Orphaned, Earth-bound, and brought up in care because of her physical inability to step through a portal to another planet, Jarra has never had a family and never been off Earth. She has resented her status all her life, even attempted to portal anyway and almost died, and worked hard to show that she isn’t an Ape, as the Handicapped are often called. Many otherworlders actually believe the Apes are throwbacks–smelly, ugly, and stupid. They aren’t aware that the Handicapped don’t even have the right to vote on how things are run on Earth.

Now ready for college, Earth Girl begins with Jarra’s plan to pretend she is from another planet, join an advanced off world class studying at an archeological dig, and prove to everyone that they can’t even tell she isn’t one of them. She does such a good job, that she gains lots of responsibility on the dig, and makes some great friends. She even falls in love with one of them. (Who’s surprised?) But will they still be her friends when they find out the truth?

Along the way, we learn some great future world slang, get oriented to the way future college works, and begin to figure out which planet everyone is from and what that means. There are some typical college shenanigans, and we discover that Jarra’s professor is a fine human being. Others in the class, not so much. We’d be nardle to expect everything to be blizz, wouldn’t we? No romantic triangles, but lots of adventures from across the galaxies that Jarra and friends solve. Of course. ~ Tessa June 2016 4 out of 5 stars

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