Thursday, November 23, 2017

Revenge of the Nerd by Curtis Armstrong, 336 pages

Risky Business. Revenge of the Nerds. Better Off Dead. Moonlighting. Supernatural. American Dad. New Girl. What do all of these movies and television shows have in common?

Curtis Armstrong.

A legendary comedic second banana to a litany of major stars, Curtis is forever cemented in the public imagination as Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. A classically trained actor, Curtis began his incredible 40-year career on stage but progressed rapidly to film and television. He was typecast early and it proved to be the best thing that could have happened.

But there’s more to Curtis’ story than that.

Born and bred a nerd, he spent his early years between Detroit, a city so nerdy that the word was coined there in 1951, and, improbably, Geneva, Switzerland. His adolescence and early adulthood was spent primarily between the covers of a book and indulging his nerdy obsessions. It was only when he found his true calling, as an actor and unintentional nerd icon, that he found true happiness. With whip-smart, self-effacing humor, Armstrong takes us on a most unlikely journey―one nerd’s hilarious, often touching rise to the middle. He started his life as an outcast and matured into…well, an older, slightly paunchier, hopefully wiser outcast.

In Hollywood, as in life, that counts as winning the game.

Death Overdue by Allison Brook, 327 pages

Carrie Singleton is just about done with Clover Ridge, Connecticut until she's offered a job as the head of programs and events at the spooky local library, complete with its own librarian ghost. Her first major event is a program presented by a retired homicide detective, Al Buckley, who claims he knows who murdered Laura Foster, a much-loved part-time library aide who was bludgeoned to death fifteen years earlier. As he invites members of the audience to share stories about Laura, he suddenly keels over and dies.

The medical examiner reveals that poison is what did him in and Carrie feels responsible for having surged forward with the program despite pushback from her director. Driven by guilt, Carrie's determined to discover who murdered the detective, convinced it's the same man who killed Laura all those years ago. Luckily for Carrie, she has a friendly, knowledgeable ghost by her side. But as she questions the shadows surrounding Laura's case, disturbing secrets come to light and with each step Carrie takes, she gets closer to ending up like Al.

Now it's due or die for Carrie in Death Overdue, the delightful first in a new cozy series by Allison Brook.

Unfortunately this book didn't measure up to my hopes. While the story wasn't bad, the personal interactions just didn't ring true to me and it kept distracting me from the book.
 

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky, 397 pages

Award-winning New York Times-bestselling author Mark Kurlansky takes us back to the food and eating habits of a younger America: Before the national highway system brought the country closer together; before chain restaurants imposed uniformity and low quality; and before the Frigidaire meant frozen food in mass quantities, the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional. It helped form the distinct character, attitudes, and customs of those who ate it.

In the 1930s, with the country gripped by the Great Depression and millions of Americans struggling to get by, FDR created the Federal Writers' Project under the New Deal as a make-work program for artists and authors. A number of writers, including Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, and Nelson Algren, were dispatched all across America to chronicle the eating habits, traditions, and struggles of local people. The project, called "America Eats," was abandoned in the early 1940s because of the World War and never completed.

The Food of a Younger Land unearths this forgotten literary and historical treasure and brings it to exuberant life. Mark Kurlansky's brilliant book captures these remarkable stories, and combined with authentic recipes, anecdotes, photos, and his own musings and analysis, evokes a bygone era when Americans had never heard of fast food and the grocery superstore was a thing of the future. Kurlansky serves as a guide to this hearty and poignant look at the country's roots.

From New York automats to Georgia Coca-Cola parties, from Arkansas possum-eating clubs to Puget Sound salmon feasts, from Choctaw funerals to South Carolina barbecues, the WPA writers found Americans in their regional niches and eating an enormous diversity of meals. From Mississippi chittlins to Indiana persimmon puddings, Maine lobsters, and Montana beavertails, they recorded the curiosities, commonalities, and communities of American food.

Big Nate What's a Little Noogie Between Friends? by Lincoln Peirce, 176 pages

Nate Wright’s a winner--in his own mind, anyway. So when things go wrong, he’s at a loss to explain why. How does his soccer team manage to lose to a school with a sixty-game winless streak?  What’s he doing at the movies on a Friday night . . . with GINA? And why, oh why is one of his classmates (hint:  she’s Nate’s dream girl) suddenly moving 3,000 miles away?  It’s all enough to make a sixth-grade superstar feel . . . well, not so super.

But you can’t keep a good man down, and Nate’s still got pals like Teddy, Francis, and Chad to cheer him up. Sure, their methods aren’t always warm and fuzzy, but Nate doesn’t mind. After all, what’s a little noogie between friends?

Turkey Trot Murder by Leslie Meier, 353 pages

It’s late autumn in Tinker’s Cove, Maine, and the last surviving flowers on Lucy Stone’s porch have fallen victim to the first frost of the season. But as the part-time reporter learns, this cold November morning will claim more than potted plants . . .
 
Besides the annual Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving Day, Lucy expects the approaching holiday to be a relatively uneventful one—until she finds beautiful Alison Franklin dead and frozen in Blueberry Pond. No one knows much about Alison, except that she was the daughter of wealthy investor Ed Franklin and struggled quietly with drug addiction. Police blame her death on an accidental overdose, but Lucy can’t understand what terrible forces could lead a privileged woman to watery ruin . . .

Alison’s funeral service is just as puzzling. Many believe Ed’s young—and very pregnant—new wife, Mireille, divided the family, leaving Alison to wither on the vine. Did Mireille truly adore her stepchild as Ed claims, or did she pit father against daughter for personal gain?
 
As a state of unrest descends on Tinker’s Cove, Lucy is thrown into a full-scale investigation. Now, in a race against time, Lucy must beat the killer to the finish line—or she can forget about stuffing and cranberry sauce . . .

The Many Lives of Catwoman, The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale by Tim Hanley, 293 pages

For more than seventy-five years, Catwoman has forged her own path in a clear-cut world of stalwart heroes, diabolical villains, and damsels in distress. Sometimes a thief, sometimes a vigilante, sometimes neither, and sometimes both, the mercurial Catwoman gleefully defies classification. Her relentless independence across comic books, television, and film set her apart from the rest of the superhero world. When female characters were limited to little more than romantic roles, Catwoman used her feminine wiles to manipulate Batman and escape justice at every turn. When male villains dominated Gotham on the small screen, Catwoman entered the mix and outshone them all. When female-led comics were few and far between, Catwoman headlined her own series for over twenty years. True to her nature, Catwoman stole the show everywhere she appeared, regardless of the medium. But her unique path had its downsides as well. Her existence on the periphery of the superhero world made her expendable, and she was prone to lengthy absences. Her villainous origins also made her susceptible to sexualized and degrading depictions from her primarily male creators in ways that most conventional heroines didn't face. For good and ill, Catwoman serves as a stark counterpart to the typical evolution of the history of women in comics, and in popular culture generally. The standard tropes rarely applied to Catwoman; instead, her adventures have charted an inimitably varied journey of empowerment and exploitation. Exploring the many incarnations of this cultural icon offers a new perspective on the superhero genre and showcases the fierce resiliency that has made Catwoman a fan favorite for decades.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth, 347 pages

Lovers of historical mystery will relish this chilling Victorian tale based on real events and cloaked in authenticity. Best of all, it casts British literature's most fascinating and controversial figure as the lead sleuth. (UK title: Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders). Published in the USA simultaneously in hardcover and paperback.

Lovers of historical mystery will relish this chilling Victorian tale based on real events and cloaked in authenticity. Best of all, it casts British literature's most fascinating and controversial figure as the lead sleuth.

A young artist's model has been murdered, and legendary wit Oscar Wilde enlists his friends Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Sherard to help him investigate. But when they arrive at the scene of the crime they find no sign of the gruesome killing -- save one small spatter of blood, high on the wall. Set in London, Paris, Oxford, and Edinburgh at the height of Queen Victoria's reign, here is a gripping eyewitness account of Wilde's secret involvement in the curious case of Billy Wood, a young man whose brutal murder served as the inspiration for The Picture of Dorian Gray. Told by Wilde's contemporary -- poet Robert Sherard -- this novel provides a fascinating and evocative portrait of the great playwright and his own "consulting detective," Sherlock Holmes creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.