Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rob P. Is Recommending:

In Fine Bonsai: Art and Nature, the most notable bonsai trees in the world are seen through the lens of renowned botanical photographer Jonathan Singer. This magnificent volume is the result of an extensive photographic campaign, in the course of which Singer was granted unprecedented access to the most respected public and private collections in Japan and the United States, including the Omiya Bonsai Village of Saitama, Japan, called the "mecca of bonsai," where photography is normally prohibited. Three hundred stunning full-page images and four lavish gatefolds present bonsai of all types, from quiet representations of nature to bold sculptural forms. The horticultural and aesthetic characteristics of each bonsai are concisely and authoritatively described in the narrative captions by William Valavanis, head of the International Bonsai Arboretum in Rochester, New York. And because the container is considered an integral part of any bonsai—indeed, the literal meaning of “bonsai” is “tray plant”—the book also includes some twenty-five photographs of traditional bonsai containers, with descriptions. A further sequence of twenty-five photographs is devoted to the related art of suiseki, or miniature stone landscapes displayed in the same manner, and often alongside,

With his groundbreaking first book, Botanica Magnifica, Jonathan Singer established a new style of botanical photography, characterized by an exceptional clarity of detail and richness of color, as well as a painterly chiaroscuro. These qualities are just as evident in the present volume; Singer photographs each bonsai with an artist’s — one might even say a portraitist’s — eye. Whereas most books on bonsai aim to instruct readers on techniques of care and cultivation, Singer’s book takes the reader on a visual journey. His images encompass many different species, from azalea to red maple, as well as a variety of blossoms and fruits. Alluring and serene, Singer's photographs make the experience of leafing through Bonsai not unlike entering a real Japanese garden. Fine Bonsai not only documents the masterpieces of an ancient horticultural art, but is a masterpiece in itself.

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible.  Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food.  Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen.  It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.   

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Knives—perhaps our most important gastronomic tool—predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention. Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen—mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators.  Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog.  Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture.  The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.

A beautiful, rich, and sensuous historical novel, John Saturnall’s Feast tells the story of a young orphan who becomes a kitchen boy at a manor house and rises through the ranks to become the greatest cook of his generation. It is a story of food, star-crossed lovers, ancient myths, and one boy’s rise from outcast to hero.

It is the early-seventeenth century and John Saturnall is a young boy grow­ing up in the village of Buckland. He is bullied by other children, who claim that his mother is a witch. When many of the children in the village become sick, John’s mother is blamed, and she and her son are chased out of the village. They move to a forest, where it is said a witch called Buccla once grew a legend­ary garden. Giving what little she can forage to her son, John’s mother soon dies of starvation, but sees to it that John is taken in at the Buckland Manor house, where he begins working in the kitchen.

At the manor, John’s keen palate and natural cooking ability allow him to quickly rise from kitchen boy to cook. However, he soon gets on the wrong side of Lady Lucretia, the aristocratic daughter of the lord of the manor. In order to inherit the estate, Lucretia must wed, but her fiancĂ© is an arrogant buffoon whose face Lucretia thinks resembles a water parsnip. When Lucretia takes a vow of fasting until her father calls off her engagement, it falls on John to try to cook her delicious food that might tempt her to break her fast. As John serves meals to Lucretia, an illicit attraction grows between the pair, but fate is conspiring against them. Lucretia’s betrothal cannot be undone, and soon the household is thrown into chaos as Cromwell’s Roundheads go to war with the loyalist Cavaliers and the English Civil War begins.

Reminiscent of Wolf Hall, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and works by David Mitchell and Peter Carey, John Saturnall’s Feast is a brilliant work by a writer at the top of his powers, and a delight for all the senses.

Two years ago, on the same day but miles apart, Finn Darby lost two of the most important people in his life: his wife Lorena, struck by lightning on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, and his abusive, alcoholic grandfather, Tom Darby, creator of the long-running newspaper comic strip Toy Shop.

Against his grandfather’s dying wish, Finn has resurrected Toy Shop, adding new characters,and the strip is more popular than ever,bringing in fan letters, merchandising deals,and talk of TV specials. Finn has even started dating again.

When a terrorist attack decimates Atlanta,killing half a million souls, Finn begins blurting things in a strange voice beyond his control. The voice says things only his grandfather could know. Countless other residents of Atlanta are suffering a similar bizarre affliction. Is it mass hysteria, or have the dead returned to possess the living?

Finn soon realizes he has a hitcher within his skin... his grandfather. And Grandpa isn’t terribly happy about the changes Finn has been making to Toy Shop. Together with a pair of possessed friends, an aging rock star and a waitress, Finn races against time to find a way to send the dead back to Deadland . . . or die trying.

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