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Wednesday
Mar262014

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin

John Rebus, cranky Scottish policeman, has become one of my favorite contemporary fictional detectives. It took a book or two for him to earn his place in my imagination, but now I’m tickled the prolific Rankin uses him often. Rebus portrays himself as a cynic, a tired-old-policeman of a now forgotten world, but in his head he’s as sharp as ever.

Rebus is near retirement age, disliked by the police establishment where he’s made many enemies over the decades, yet highly regarded by those who recognize his old-fashioned police skills. He’s like an old hound dog, in the sense that he ferrets out truth and follows leads nobody else even realizes exist. More than once in Saints of the Shadow Bible, people tell Rebus they didn’t know he was even still alive. 

Saints of the Shadow Bible is a complicated tale with a long backstory. Inhabited by interesting characters connecting in surprising ways, Rebus’ inability to go along with department rules creates tension at every opportunity. His relationships are tricky, evolving, but always interesting and often fruitful. For a guy holding most of his business meetings in pubs, Rebus gets a lot done.

Saints of the Shadow Bible is one of author Rankin’s finest efforts. He’s a superior wordsmith; his characterization and language is commanding. Settling in with John Rebus is a privilege; I didn’t want Saints of the Shadow Bible to end.

Little, Brown

Tuesday
Mar252014

Little Green by Walter Mosley

Easy Rawlins is a longtime character of Mosley’s. He’s a private eye incorporating elements of many fictional detectives, with a laid-back perspective and lifestyle. I’ve enjoyed Rawlins’ views of life and people throughout Mosley’s books; he’s a unique character of the tough streets of Los Angeles. A WWII veteran, a tough guy with a tender side, seeing Los Angeles through Easy Rawlin’s eyes is fascinating.

Little Green takes place in the psychedelic Sixties, a new environment for the tough detective. Placing Easy Rawlins in this world creates a surprising storyline as he works to understand the people, even the psychedelic world, as he immerses himself in it. Voodoo, acid, and hippies create a very different environment for him, but murder and confusion rear their heads as usual. Living with Rawlins as he navigates society, works to solve the mystery in front of him, and realizes that people are always the same, on some levels, makes for engrossing reading.

Mosley has pulled off great things with Little Green, successfully bringing a favorite fictional detective back after a seven year absence. 

Doubleday

Monday
Mar102014

Do Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young Ever Get Old?

I wish I wrote this well...

David Dobbs and his thought-provoking Neuron Culture hits home. Rock'n'roll never sleeps, indeed.

http://daviddobbs.net/smoothpebbles/neil-young-bruce-springsteen-and-the-vain-delusions-of-time/?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=email

Monday
Feb172014

Beatles vs. Stones by John McMillian

If you’re old enough to remember rock music first-hand from the 1960s and ‘70s, as opposed to learning about it on oldies radio, you’ll have been involved in “Beatles or Stones” conversations many times in your life. I sure have, nearly as often as the old “desert island” record discussions. 

McMillian’s entertaining history of the relationship between the Stones and Beatles plays out primarily in the media and music industry of the times. The Beatles came from grungy Liverpool and paid their dues on the seamy streets and cellars of Hamburg, Germany, yet their ‘60s portrayal was of lovable mop-tops with nice smiles. At the same time, the Stones evolved out of art college backgrounds, a different class entirely, but from the early days of the ‘60s were termed dark, scary, dirty.

I was a Beatles fan; my first album purchase was The Beatles Second Album. Recently I teared up watching the Beatles special celebrating the 50th anniversary of their first Ed Sullivan Show appearance. I get all passionate about them; all these years later I still wish they’d gotten together on Saturday Night Live when they were all in town one night and Lorne Michaels was trying to convince them to show up.

But I’m a Stones guy first and foremost. To me, Keith Richards is the living epitome of a musical note. I burst into tears the first time I saw him on stage (“Not Fade Away”). Who is better than Charlie Watts as a rock drummer? Answer: not even Keith Moon! Don’t even get me started about John Bonham. 

Beatles vs Stones is a rollicking journey back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, a more innocent era when this was one of the big questions in rock’n’roll. I learned a great deal; I’d never read that Jagger and Richards were at the Beatles Shea Stadium show, for example. McMillian’s insights are plentiful ,and his perspective rings right with me. Good stuff.

Simon & Schuster

Sunday
Feb092014

It Always Comes Down to Food

The Coconut Oil Miracle, 5th edition, by Bruce Fife

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient by Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown) $40

The Ancestral Table: Traditional Recipes For a Paleo Lifestyle by Russ Crandall

The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Diseases and Heal Your Body by Sarah Ballantyne

 


Egg by Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman is one of my favorite food writers, notably his reference work (see my writeup of Ruhlman’s Twenty last year). Egg explores everything logically possible in the kitchen using the mighty egg. Dishes, sauces, and more than 100 recipes make Egg one of the new essentials for your kitchen library. Wonderful photographs by Donna Turner Ruhlman help set Egg apart from most other books devoted to a single food. Beautiful, useful and worthy of premier shelf space.

Little, Brown & Co.

 

The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne

 

I’m tired of Paleo books, notably those devoted to Paleo junk food. Ballantyne avoids this route, instead concentrating on health and lifestyle utilizing a Paleo approach. Using understandable science, relating many autoimmune diseases to decisions people make about what they put into their bodies, is the truly effective message here. This is an area worthy of more exploration, and The Paleo Approach is an effective big first step.

Author Ballantyne has positioned The Paleo Approach as a book you may end up lending your doctor. Can you imagine that relationship and how effective it could be? 

Victory Belt Publishing

 

Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

 

Hamilton’s memoir of growing up in New York kitchens, how the restaurant world pulled her from a wayward path, and her awakening love of food is compelling reading. Blood, Bones & Butter is written so well I could feel her growing passion for food. It’s almost like my taste buds were following along. I realize I’m a sucker for up-close, personal cooking histories; the irony isn’t lost on me as I read about food more than I actually cook. Hamilton has earned a place in the top of the line food memoirs. She’s gritty, she’s real, and she writes and cooks from the heart. Nicely done.

Random House, www.bloodbonesandbutter.net

 

The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife

 

I’m an advocate of coconut oil in most logical ways. I cook with it, add it to protein shakes and my coffee (yup, along with grass-fed butter!), have used it on my skin. One could make a strong case that I feel coconut oil is a significant benefit to my life. Clearly, so does author Fife; this is the fifth edition of his leading-edge coconut oil work. 

Most of you reading my site are familiar with the health benefits and easy daily uses of coconut oil. Beyond that, in the past year or I’ve been seeing reports and studies advocating coconut oil use in an effort to combat Alzheimer’s. Fife is on top of this recent research, and incorporates it into this new edition. 

I won’t argue whether the word “miracle” overstates the benefits of coconut oil. I’m standing side-by-side with Bruce Fife in agreement that this wonderful food enhances the quality of life and can be a weapon in the fight against so many of the diseases riddling our society today.

 Avery Publishing, www.coconutresearchcenter.org

 

The Ancestral Table by Russ Crandall

Here’s a Paleo-themed book, replete with appealing recipes (each fitting on one page - thank you) that makes sense to me. Author Crandall’s story is compelling; he found his way to Paleo after immense discouragement with the standard medical community’s response to serious illnesses in his 20s. Research and trial-and-error showed him that a gluten-free, nutrient-rich diet quickly resolved most of his medical issues. Thanks for nothing, doc! 

I’m so glad Crandall figured out the “nutrient-rich” portion of this equation. In The Ancestral Table he sets out a nice argument for why he includes rice, potatoes and dairy in his food plan. Most hardcore Paleo people consider these foods forbidden; I certainly do not, and neither does Crandall. 

Context comes to mind when reading The Ancestral Table. This isn’t a “take advantage of a hot theme” effort. This man’s life and health and discoveries are front and center, the true theme. His message is strong and compelling, and the story woven throughout makes The Ancestral Table special. First class.

Victory Belt Publishing, www.thedomesticman.com