Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland: A month-by-month growing guide for beginners (2013)

fearlessfoodThe Peterson Garden Project, which is based in Chicago, has created a simple, yet informative, guide for growing vegetables and herbs in your backyard or patio. What better way to connect with nature than eating food grown from your own garden! Check out Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland—and check out seeds from our Seed Library to get started.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Hotspur by Rita Mae Brown (2014 and 2002)

sleepingdogsSister Jane Arnold, Master of Foxhounds with the Jefferson Hunt, would never return with a fox tail flying from her horse’s mane, but rather puts out treats (some with embedded worm medicine) to keep her clever red-furred friends in fine form for the next chase. These two novels give an engaging overview of the Virginia foxhunting scene as well as good murder mysteries, literally dug up after decades under the earth.hotspur

On occasion, author Rita Mae Brown allows the foxes, horses, and foxhounds to tell parts of the story from their own viewpoints to better help the reader understand the finer points of the hunt. Thus the reader can gently learn of foxhunting traditions while following the unfolding mysteries of both Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Hotspur.

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay (2015)

brokenpromiseDavid Harwood is the main character in Linwood Barclay’s latest novel. He is a down-on-your-luck guy, a widower and father of a young boy. The newspaper he worked for has gone out of business, and he and his son live with his parents in Promise Falls, New York. A cousin he is close to has recently been accused of kidnapping a baby and killing his mother.

Since David has a lot of time on his hands, he sets out to prove his cousin’s innocence. In the meantime, there are several strange occurrences happening in Promise Falls, and the police are scrambling to find answers. Broken Promise is a good novel filled with suspense. The author left the ending open with several unanswered questions. Maybe there will be a Promise Falls sequel?

Lock In by John Scalzi (2014)

lockinRequired: a willingness to suspend disbelief and go along for the gripping ride. In this near futuristic thriller, newly minted FBI Agent Chris Shane gets thrust into a complicated case on his first day.

NPR summarizes the premise best: in this world, Haden’s Syndrome is “a global, meningitis-like pandemic that, in addition to killing lots of people, also left a certain percentage of them completely paralyzed. This paralysis is called ‘lock in.’” Shane is a Haden and uses a personal transport device to navigate the world (hence the futuristic technology part).

Science fiction isn’t my go-to genre, and it may not be yours, but if you enjoy fast-paced adventures with a mystery to solve, give this one a shot. In John Scalzi’s Lock In, the world is grounded in enough reality that theoretically it could happen. And Will Wheaton does a fantastic job narrating the novel. Highly recommended.

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale (2015)

paradiseskyThis is a good addition to the genre of humorous tall tale westerns. Something of a cross between Little Big Man and The Sisters Brothers, Joe R. Lansdale’s Paradise Sky is the story of Nat Love, a black man, set shortly after the end of the Civil War who must flee his Texas home and takes off to the Wild West. As a story of a black man in 19th century America, there are, of course, sad moments, but Nat’s darkly ironic tone make for a read that hits many emotions from laugh out loud to frown in sadness or exasperation.

The Prince by Vito Bruschini (2015)

princeFive hundred years after Machiavelli wrote The Prince, Vito Bruschini appropriately named his novel the same. One might regard this later The Prince as a prequel to Puzo’s Godfather but the characters are not the same. Bruscini gives us Prince Ferdinando Licata, a respected land owner in 1920-1930s Sicily who does not hesitate to use charm and strong strategies to control the peasantry.

With the advent of Mussolini, he has conflicts with local fascists and flees to New York to escape a possible murder charge. In New York, Licata, helped by a few others from his home area of Sicily, becomes powerful and a man to be feared. When other powerful leaders seek his removal, he joins with U.S. intelligence (OSS) in planning the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. Thus he is able to avenge some of the wrongs he received from the fascists and begin building a new basis for power in his area of Sicily. This book shows how violence, terror, and revenge was used to gain a position of power.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson (2003)

devilwhitecityErik Larson takes an unusual approach in The Devil in the White City and ends up telling a tale of two men who played a role in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago in this classic true crime book. Architect Daniel H. Burnham’s story focuses on the building of the impossible, creating an extravaganza in spite of time, budget, personnel, and weather constraints. It was the showcase of technology that ushered in the 20th century and still has remnants in Chicago to this day. On the other hand, serial killer Herman Mudgett’s story is filled with terror and gruesome details of the killings that went on in the background of the wonder of the World’s Fair.

Larson masterfully balances the sick cruelty of Mudgett with the financial and architectural details of the creation of the fair along with interesting tidbits of Chicago history to tell the story. Just when the reader cannot take the unspeakable horrors any longer, he changes gears to the most minuscule detail of the fair planning or statistics of attendance. It doesn’t create confusion, but rather makes the reading bearable. And it is a story that needs to be read.