Ben-Hur (2016)

Reviewed by Judy B (Library Staff)

This 2016 version of the story of Judah Ben-Hur and his troubled life during Biblical times has a much more manageable time frame at 2 hours than the 4 hour version with Charlton Heston released in 1959. It catches the essence of the story, but does not encompass the dramatic fullness of the original. Watch the 1959 version if you have the time, otherwise the 2016 version will do. Actually the book Ben-Hur: a tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace is still my first choice.

Located in DVDs (DVD BEN-HUR)

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl & Cheese Souffle

“Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to make something special to cheer Mother up. I found a recipe for cheese souffle in the Beacon Journal, and I knew Mother would like that–especially because it didn’t use a single rationed ingredient. I’ve always heard that souffles are hard.” ~Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

Cheese Souffle


Butter, room temperature, for greasing the souffle

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/3 cups milk, hot

4 large egg yolks (2 1/2 ounces by weight)

6 ounces sharp Cheddar

5 egg whites plus 1 tablespoon water (5 1/2 ounces by weight plus 1/2 ounce water)

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


  1. Use room temperature butter to grease an 8-inch souffle mold. Add the grated Parmesan and roll around the mold to cover the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the freezer for 5 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the butter. Allow all of the water to cook out.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the flour, dry mustard, garlic powder, and kosher salt. Whisk this mixture into the melted butter. Cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Whisk in the hot milk and turn the heat to high. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks to a creamy consistency. Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, constantly whisking. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Whisk until incorporated.
  7. In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until glossy and firm. Add 1/4 of the mixture to the base. Continue to add the whites by thirds, folding very gently.
  8. Pour the mixture into the souffle. Fill the souffle to 1/2-inch from the top. Place on an aluminum pie pan. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

“Hillbilly,” a term that most of us would take as pejorative, is a badge of honor to author J.D. Vance. He is proud of his roots in impoverished Appalachia, and he doesn’t mind telling the reader so in this excellent memoir. He adored his gun-toting, foul-mouthed, big-hearted grandma, and thrilled to stories of the ancestor who supposedly began the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Pride, self-sufficiency, and devotion to family are some of the hillbilly values Vance and his people hold so dear.

But he is also remarkably clear-eyed when it comes to criticizing the failings of white working-class culture. Vance calls out his fellow hillbillies for abandoning their faith, ignoring the importance of education, refusing gainful employment, and abusing drugs. He doesn’t make excuse for his people, but unlike some social critics of the white working class, Vance criticizes from a place of love.

I wish the author would have given more concrete suggestions as to how the decline of the once-proud hillbilly culture can be reversed. But I suspect he thinks it’s too far gone to be saved, and all a loving son can do is elegize it.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (305.567 VAN)

Weekly Book List: Week 13 (Set in the Middle East)

The Arabian Nights 

Presents a collection of tales, including “Aladdin,” “The Wonderful Lamp,” “Sinbad the Seaman,” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” (398.22 ARA)


An Unnecessary Woman / Rabih Alameddine (Lebanon)

A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, this is a nuanced rendering of one woman’s life in the Middle East. (FIC ALAMEDDINE)


The Blood of Flowers / Anita Amirrezvani (Iran)

After her father dies without leaving her with a dowry, a seventeenth-century Persian teen becomes a servant to her wealthy rug designer uncle in the court of Shah Abbas the Great, where her weaving talents prove both a blessing and curse. (FIC AMIRREZVANI)


The Sandcastle Girls / Chris Bohjalian (Syria)

lizabeth Endicott accompanies her father to Aleppo, Syria, to bring aid to the Armenian deportees. While there, Elizabeth meets Armen Petrosian, an Armenian engineer working for the Germans and searching for his wife and child, though certain they are already dead. In spite of the loss and horror around them, they fall desperately in love. (FIC BOHJALIAN)

Jerusalem Maiden / Talia Carner (Israel) 

Sacrificing her dreams of becoming an artist after tragedy strikes her family, Esther Karminsky, a young ultra-Orthodox woman in Jerusalem at the end of the Ottoman Empire’s rule, devotes herself to becoming an obedient “Jerusalem Maiden.” (FIC GARNER)


The ZigZag Kid / David Grossman (Israel)

Set in a little boy’s imagination, a comic tall tale follows an international outlaw and a would-be detective on a rollicking quest for the trademark purple scarf of a great actress. (FIC GROSSMAN)


The Kite Runner / Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan)

Traces the unlikely friendship of a wealthy Afghan youth and a servant’s son, in a tale that spans the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the atrocities of the present day. (FIC HOSSEINI)


Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books / Azar Nafisi (Iran)

From 1995-97 in Iran, Azar Nafisi gathered with seven of her former students, all young women, to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. Reserved at first, the women soon learned to speak their minds and share their repressed dreams. (955.054 NAF)


Silent House / Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)

Awaiting the arrival of her grandchildren in her home outside Istanbul, bed-ridden widow Fatma shares memories and grievances with her late husband’s illegitimate son until his cousin, a right-wing nationalist, involves the family in the Turkish military coup of 1980. (FIC PAMUK)


The Bastard of Istanbul / Elif Shafak (Turkey)

From one of Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken writers comes a novel about the tangled histories of two families. (FIC SHAFAK)

Firestorm at Peshtigo by Denise Gess & William Lutz

Reviewed by Pat P (Library Patron)

If you have never read a book about the great Peshtigo fire, you must read this book. If you have read other books on the great Peshtigo fire, you must read this book! I have read other works on this great, devastating fire and find Gess & Lutz’s additional information on the weather, land clearing practices, politics, and the accounts of a ship captain, the governor and his wife, and the wisdom of Increase Lapham and others, give intriguing facts into the development of this horrific fire – it was a perfect storm, literally. The tornado force wind and fire sent fireballs into this town that lifted houses and threw them a hundred feet, destroying the town in less than one hour and killing 2,000. A vivid, compelling account of the October 8, 1871 Wisconsin night.

Located in Nonfiction (977.533 GES)

Better Off Dead (1985)

Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

Better Off Dead blends perfectly with our Friday Night Cult Classics and stars John Cusack as a high schooler desperately attempting to regain the affection of the ex-girlfriend who dumped him for his enemy. Unrequited crushes, dangerous skiing competitions, Camaro races with Howard Cosell and homicidal paper boys make this movie a comical gem worth having in your collection.

Available through the BRIDGES Library System

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais & Machli Ka Salan (Fish Curry)

“I suspect my destiny was written from the very start, for my first sensation of life was the smell of machli ka salan, a spicy fish curry, rising through the floorboards to the cot in my parents’ room above the restaurant.” ~The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

Machli Ka Salan (Fish Curry)


about 1 pound of fish fillet (firm white fleshed fish)

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 medium onion, sliced

4-5 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger

1 cup yogurt or coconut milk

1 teaspoon green cardamon seeds, crushed

2 black cardamoms

2-3 cloves

A pinch of carom seeds

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

1/4 cup vegetable oil


  1. Marinate fish in salt, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and lemon juice for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a deep pan. Fry onions until golden brown. Remove from oil and add to a blender or food processor with ginger, garlic and yogurt. Make a smooth paste.
  3. Add the dry spices, green cardamom seeds, black cardamoms, cloves, bay leaf, carom, turmeric, and chili powder to the oil in pan. Saute for 2 minutes or till the spices don’t smell raw.
  4. Add the yogurt paste to the pan. Keep cooking for 7-8 minutes or till the masala separates from oil.
  5. Add the fish pieces to the masala. Keep spattering a little water, a few tablespoons at a time to keep the fish and masala from sticking at the bottom.
  6. Once the fish has been added to the masala, don’t use the spoon to move it around or the fish pieces will break. To stir grasp the pot by the handles with pot holders and swivel the pan.
  7. Cook like this uncovered for 5 minutes or till the fish changes color. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of water, cover the pan, reduce heat to minimum. Let the broth simmer for another 5-7 minutes.
  8. Garnish with green chili peppers, coriander, and garam masala. Serve hot with steamed rice.


Sushi Go!

Reviewed by Diane Basting (Library Staff)
Players should pretend they are walking into a fast paced sushi restaurant and putting together the best dinner they can from an a la cart menu. The game is structured to be played in three rounds, each round consists of players choosing a card from their hand then passing it to the left. Once the cards go around the circle the round ends and you tally up points. The different types of sushi each have special properties or challenges that need to be filled in order to get the most points with them. I would recommend this game as a great starter game on your game night as it takes about ten to fifteen minutes to play a round and about five minutes to explain all of the rules.

Located in Games (GAME SUSHI)

Weekly Book List: Week 12 (Weather/Seasons in Title)

House of Sand and Fog / Andre Dubus 

Three fragile yet determined people are drawn by their competing desires to the same small house in the California hills and become dangerously entangled in a relentlessly escalating crisis. (FIC DUBUS)


Fall of Giants / Ken Follett

Follows the fates of five interrelated families–American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh–as they move through the dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. (FIC FOLLETT)


Cold Mountain / Charles Frazier

After Inman escapes from a war hospital in 1864 and starts walking to Cold Mountain, Ada struggles to save her mountain farm with the help of Ruby, an illiterate but efficient farmer. (FIC FRAZIER)


Drums of Autumn / Diana Gabaldon

Twice, Claire has used an ancient stone circle to travel back to the 18th century. The first time she found love with a Scottish warrior but had to return to the 1940s to save their unborn child. The second time, twenty years later, she reunited with her lost love but had to leave behind the daughter that he would never see. Now Brianna, from her 1960s vantage point, has found a disturbing obituary and will risk everything in an attempt to change history. (FIC GABALDON)

The Sun Also Rises / Ernest Hemingway

The story of a group of Americans and English on a sojourn from Paris to Paloma, evokes in poignant detail, life among the expatriates on Paris’s Left Bank, during the 1920s and conveys in brutally realistic descriptions the power and danger of bullfighting in Spain. (FIC HEMINGWAY)


The Snow Child / Eowyn Ivey

Alaska in the 1920s is a difficult place for Jack and Mabel. Drifting apart, the childless couple discover Faina, a young girl living alone in the wilderness. Soon, Jack and Mabel come to love Faina as their own. But when they learn a surprising truth about the girl, their lives change in profound ways. (FIC IVEY)

Prodigal Summer / Barbara Kingsolver

Wildlife biologist Deanna is caught off guard by an intrusive young hunter, while bookish city wife Lusa finds herself facing a difficult identity choice, and elderly neighbors find attraction at the height of a long-standing feud. (FIC KINGSOLVER)


Cloud Atlas / David Mitchell

Many characters live out their lives from 1850 to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii and eventually their disparate lives intertwine. (FIC MITCHELL)


A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France / Caroline Moorehead

In January 1943, the Gestapo hunted down 230 women of the French Resistance and sent them to Auschwitz. This is their story, told in full for the first time–a searing and unforgettable chronicle of terror, courage, defiance, survival, and the power of friendship to transcend evil that is an essential addition to the history of World War II. (940.5344 MOO)

The Winter of Our Discontent / John Steinbeck

A New Englander learns the bitter lesson that it is not possible to be a little dishonest. (FIC STEINBECK)

Zen Dogs by Alex Cearns

Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

Award-winning Australian photographer Alex Cearns has focused his newest book on the priceless bond we share with our pets. Zen Dogs features eighty beautifully colored photographs of the dogs we love in their most “zen” moments. Pet lovers recognize a relationship shared with an animal enriches life by making us more tranquil, happy, healthy and kind to others. Pets by definition, but family in all regards, this compendium of personalities exhibiting pure joy will leave you melting.

Available through BRIDGES Library System