Friday, February 16, 2018

Cookbook Review: Power Plates by Gena Hamshaw

Blogger Gena Hamshaw's Power Plates is a beautiful vegan cookbook.  It contains 100 healthy vegan recipes, all of which are accompanied by lovely photographs.  Like all of Ten Speed Press' books, it is beautifully well-designed, with clear layouts and instructions.  And like pretty much any vegan or vegetarian cookbook I've encountered, it starts with a longish section about common ingredients and techniques.  I guess every vegan/vegetarian cookbook writer is hoping their book is the first and only one of its kind the reader has ever owned?  Power Plates is set apart from other vegan cookbooks I've seen because while its focus is on balanced proteins, which is suggested by the title, which I'm not super enamored of, as it makes it sound like a diet book.  Hamshaw explains macronutrients (basically complete proteins?) and how to get them by combining different types of ingredients.  Each of her recipes does this for you, but she also explains the principle so the reader can it apply to meals not made out of this cookbook.  The recipes all sound tasty, and photos are beautiful.  I really like the combination of flavors and dishes from all over the world she includes here.  For breakfast, you can make Steel-Cut Oats with a variety of suggested toppings (I love the pictured toppings of dried apricots and pistachios--yum), or kitchari, a rice and lentil dish.  The flavor combinations are sophisticated and complex, but not scary or difficult.  Beluga Lentils and Tomatoes with Tempeh Bacon and Turmeric Mustard Vinaigrette! Curried Tomato Stew with Chickpea Dumplings! Sweet Potato Falafel Bowls with Freekeh Pilaf and Roasted Cauliflower!  Almost every dish sounds and looks mouth-watering.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

Food Writing Review: L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home by David Lebovitz

L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home is baker and writer David Lebovitz's latest book, published by Crown Books.  Lebovitz is a wonderful baker and writer. I adore his blog.  As in his blog, he comes across here as charming, funny, talented, and humble.  His previous books, along with his blog, have provided excellent recipes for French food and baked goods, all explained beautifully, no matter how complicated. For anyone who has lived in a big city with expensive real estate, his addition of the details of the ordeals of making a home in Paris is the icing on the cake.  What a great combination of delicious details: French food + Parisian real estate.  The American expat details the humorous and stress-inducing trials of making a home in Paris, where he is renovating his apartment.  He of course also includes plenty of wonderful food writing, and many original recipes.  This is a delightful book for lovers of excellent food, real estate, and Paris.
(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

YA Review: Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

I'm a big fan of Kirsten Miller, one of the coauthors of this book. I loved her Kiki Strike series, and wish it hadn't ended. This book has in common with those smart-mouthed teens and excitement, but not much else. It takes place in a not distant future (the only difference from today is that they have more advanced AI and virtual reality technology, but other than that, there is nothing that would be out of place in a contemporary setting), and a new video game with amazingly lifelike play and graphics has just been released.  It soon becomes clear that something much more sinister is going on, and the main character, Simon, goes on a quest to save his best friend from being killed by the "game."  Comparisons to Ready Player One are inevitable, but while they share a basic premise, the world describe here is much less fun and much more violent and disturbing.  This was an interesting and very quick read, and it had a good mix of humor, adventure, high stakes, and social commentary.  
(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Non-Fiction Review: The Crown: The Official Companion, Volume I, by Robert Lacey

This is a gorgeous production of a book, and a must-have for fans of the lavish and delicious Netflix show, The Crown.  The title is a little strange, since it doesn't stipulate what it is a companion to: the life of Queen Elizabeth II?  The show itself?  The answer is, both.  It's an odd book because of that, and I think the lack of clarity is very much intentional.  The publisher collapses and confuse the life of the actual woman with the storytelling on the show.  It's a bit disconcerting, and probably actively problematic for those who don't know much about the Queen outside of the show.  Lacey's text, however, is very clear about the difference.  But it's very odd to have a book that implies in the title to be about the Queen, the actual person, to begin with images of the fake queen and the fake Duke of Edinburgh, etc.  Stills from the show are randomly interspersed with actual photographs, and most disturbingly, the screen stills are in black and white!  And without captions.  Can there be any doubt that the publisher is intentionally trying to elide the difference between fact and fiction here?  It's a strange choice, and I don't see why it was necessary.  The text and the image seem to intentionally mix and confuse these elements, to the point where you're not immediately sure what's real and what's TV anymore.  The gorgeous cover perfectly illustrates what this book is going for.  It's informative, but, because it is both about the show and the woman, it is not really an adequate biography.  Luckily, there are plenty of those to go around, best, in my opinion, being Sally Bedell Smith's excellent biography, which seems to me to be an important source for the show.  This book is beautiful and a lot of fun, but it's very slight, and it's a weird combination of light biography, TV show companion, and coffee table book.  
(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cookbook Review: The Grand Central Market Cookbook by Adele Yellin and Kevin West

The very first thing to say about this cookbook is that the cover is absolutely amazing.  You can't tell from photos, but this dust jacket-free book is not only printed with the design of 50s oil cloth; it's actually got the rough yet glossy texture of oil cloth.  It's such a cool touch.  The design of this book overall is excellent.  It's colorful, with cool fonts, and then are lots of photos.  There is also an excellent range of recipes from the various vendors at the Market, including both the newer hipster vendors and the more long-established old-school vendors.  This is also not the stereotype of California food that people who know nothing about California have: the food is, yes, made of whole, fresh foods, but the recipes are by no means all vegan (or vegetarian), or healthy.  There's Eggslut's famous The Slut (coddled eggs with potato puree), Market Recipe's Coconut Cream Doughnuts, Golden Road Brewing Vegan Crunchy Avocado Tacos with Corn Salsa and Chipotle "Mayo," Sticky Rice II's Drunken Noodles, Ramen Hood's Soy-Chile-Glazed Broccoli, Golden Road Brewing Artichoke Hot "Wings", and Valerie Confections Bakery & CafĂ©'s Salted Caramel Bread Pudding.  This is a great souvenir for those who love LA, both old-school and hipster, and it also has some yummy recipes.

(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fiction Review: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is American author Jennifer Ryans' first book.  It is very clearly inspired by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer's lovely and wonderful 2008 novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  The cover even reminds me a bit of that brilliant and touching novel.  This is itself a lovely novel that also takes place in a small English village during World War II.  This is an ensemble drama as well, and deals with the struggles of those left behind.  Instead of literature, it is music that provides the connection between the various voices that speak here.  This is a charming and touching novel, but it is not quite on the level of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  I can't help but be bothered, also, by the obvious way in which this book attempts to piggyback on the popularity of Barrows and Shaffer's early novel.  I do love that this novel gives us World War II from the perspective of women and others not on the frontline.  The story is told in the form of letters and diary entries.  It is a strong novel, but it is a little bit too much of what we've seen already.
(This book was received from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Self-Help/Pop Psychology Review: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin's latest self-help book, The Four Tendencies, follows on the heels of Better Than Before and The Happiness Project.  With The Four Tendencies, Rubin has written another book that approaches popular psychology from an outside perspective, although at this point, Rubin is not that much of an outsider to self-help.  She is a journalist, and brings less jargon and more practical application and explanation to the genre.  Here, Rubin has come up with a new and very simple set of personality categories.  Her book includes a very short quiz that will sort readers into one of four personality categories: Upholder, Obliger, Rebel, or Questioner.  After readers figure out their category, they can go on to read the two chapters that apply to their type, one called "Understanding the X" and the other called "Dealing with a X."  After these sections, Rubin includes a few chapters on how to date or speak to the different types.  I appreciated the stream-lined approach that Rubin brings to the overstuffed self-help personality type bookshelf.  It's refreshing to take a personality quiz that takes less than 10 minutes, and the brilliance of Rubin's categories is that they focus on how people respond to inner and outer expectations, thus making it possible to figure out your type with just a few questions.  As with all of her books, this one is well-written, clear, and straight-forward, and I enjoyed her insights. 
(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)