Book Review – Q & A a Day : 5-Year Journal

QA

WAY too long ago, I requested & received a copy of this book Q & A a Day : 365 Questions * 5 Years * 1,825 answers.

I love this journal. The daily prompts are interesting enough to jot a few lines down, and I think I’ll probably get different answers over the years–and where my response stays the same, that’s interesting, too!

I write in it almost every day (& have for the aforementioned WAY TOO LONG.)  I just bought a few for xmas gifts.

And I remembered that I never did review this.  Which is dumb.  And lazy.  Because I really do like it a lot.  I spend so much time writing fiction that my own journalling practice gets neglected, and oftentimes, there’s a lot going on that I’m thinking about or pondering, and I’ve always enj0yed looking back on journals.  I miss that, even if I am too busy to do it these days.  But this journal is a really easy, fun way to stay in the habit.

Besides, who doesn’t like answering questions about themselves? I know I do!

I received the book from Blogging For Books for this review.

Book Review – The Baby Book by Robin Silbergleid

 

When I was offered the chance to review The Baby Book by Robin Silbergleid I jumped at the chance, both because she’s a friend who’s been through an awful lot on the reproductive front, and also because she’s an amazing writer, and I’m always looking for a way to get more poetry into my TBR pile.  I’m lazy like that- while I enjoy reading poetry, I don’t always go seek it out the way I should, and here someone’s offering to drop a book of poetry into my lap? I’m IN!

I expected it would be well-written, because, as mentioned, she’s an amazing writer (and more importantly, her words resonate with me even on blog posts. There are plenty of good writers out there whose work leaves me cold. Hers speaks to me.)

What I didn’t expect was the emotional punch it would carry.  Having been through a lot of what she writes about, having witnessed much of her journey-to-motherhood as it happened, the book was stunning, both in its beauty and in its devastating ability to bring me back to a time in my life I thought I’d pretty much blocked from my mind.

This is not a complaint. Just a testament to the power of her words.

Had I found this book while I was still in the midst of my own IVF horror, this slim book most likely would have become my touchstone, my guide, a map I would use to try to illustrate my experience for others.  I would have handed my dog-eared copy to friends who were earnestly trying to understand my grief & exultation, my terror and jubilation.  “Read page fifty. That’s what I really mean to say.  Now read the third poem.  Read the one where she names her daughter ‘Hannah’.”

But of course, I’m past that devastating time in my life (as long as–apparently–I choose not to think about it.)  Most of my real-life friends these days have no idea what I went through six years ago. I no longer need a field guide to those emotions, those awful days, where all I wanted was a map to show me the way out.

So what I’d like is to see this book in every RE’s office.  This book of poetry (with the subtly gorgeous cover!) would have been so much more welcome to find on a side table in a waiting room than the latest copy of ‘Parents’ or an ancient edition of ‘Runner’s World.’ That probably won’t happen, but I can dream. And in the meantime, anyone who’s going through this, or who knows someone who is, this is an important book. Terrifying. Horrifying. Beautiful.

Just like baby-making, for those of us for whom it does not come easily.

***

The publisher is CavanKerry Press, (www.cavankerrypress.org or www.upne.com) and I’ve also found it available for pre-order on Amazon (link above, & know that I do receive advertising fees from Amazon if you purchase anything through this link) or Barnes and Noble.  Publication date is November 3, 2015.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing an honest review.

Book Review – CITY of STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett

CoS

I read fantasy – a lot of it.  Though I’m getting tired of all the grim, mysterious-men-in-cloaks that seem to be taking over the genre.  So when I saw this book in the store, all gray & prominently featuring a mysterious Man-in-Cloak, I’ll admit I walked right on by.

Not true. I actually remember picking it up, reading the back copy, then setting it down again & moving right on by.

Total mistake. This book is better than anything I’ve read in a long time.

I like diplomatic dramas. I like empire vs. colonials. I like plot twists. I like when the underdog isn’t maybe quite so noble & valiant as we’re led to believe, and I like when the good guys are maybe a bit more complicated than it seems at first. I like when the story itself is much more complicated than it appeared initially, and I REALLY like it when the author can fidget an incredibly detailed, intrinsically important world-building structure into a complex, believable, UNIQUE story without dropping any of the myriad of balls he’s got in the air.  And I like when the book ends as strongly – no, stronger – than it began.  Give me all that & I’m a very happy reader.

I really liked this book.

Truly well-written, truly masterfully plotted, and truly original.  I loved the characters, their inner & outer conflicts were interesting and came together in the best possible way.

This is one I’m recommending to all my friends. If you like unusual, well-written fantasies where you’re discovering things about the world all the way to the end, this is one you should definitely pick up.  Ignore the cover art, ignore the back copy. I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

Book Review – TAMALES by Alice Guadalupe Tapp

tamales

Ok, you guys.  Christmas is coming.  Cookie time, right? Plum puddings and candy canes and rare roast beasts?

WRONG.

It’s tamale time.  Which, if you live in Tucson or Santa Fe or Moab, or even a lot of southern California is awesomely easy to partake in.  ie: the lady down the street sells them door to door (the best) or from a shopping cart in some grocery store’s parking lot (awfully good), or even at a restaurant or tamale shop (super-convenient & delish.)

New Hampshire seems to have, approximately none of these things.

I’ve spent far too much time trying to replicate Christmas-season-tamales-past, with very little bang for my time/money buck, because I don’t know what I’m doing, and it’s hard to wing something that’s traditionally undertaken by a houseful of people, when you’ve got a hangry preschooler whining for dinner, and “is it SUPPOSED to look like this?” is a valid question.

That has all changed.  This book.  Seriously, this book.

Alice Guadalupe Tapp illustrates & discusses different wrapping methods, different masa types commercially available, and sauces/condiments to complement her tamales. There are recipes for vegan tamales & dessert tamales & nose-to-tail tamales (innards & ‘odd’ cuts of meat.) She’s attempted to make tamale-making a simpler, more forgiving process, offers tons of shortcuts that manage to save time without compromising taste/texture.  Seriously? This is a reference book for those of us who love tamales, but didn’t have an abuelita & a bunch of aunties to learn from.

Out of the 50-odd recipes in this book, I can only find one ‘dessert’ recipe I do not want to try (Oreo-filled, because I’m not a big fan of those cookies), and a couple of the nose-to-tail ones, because I’m not a fan of tripe or tongue.  But everything else?  I’m sold, I’m there, I’m working my way through the book methodically and happily.

So happy holidays to all, and to all, a happy tamale-making experience every night this month if you wanted to (and if I wasn’t the adult in charge of dinner for three people, I think I just might be making them every night for a while.)  Honestly, this is the most awesome cookbook I’ve found in a LONG time.  Anyone on your list who’s a fan of steamed masa should get a copy of this for xmas or solstice or Chanukah or New Year’s or Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate at this time of year.

Tamales, folks.  Happy tamale days to everyone!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review – The New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz

 

NewISlowCooker

Ok, so anyone who knows me, knows my slow cooker rarely gets put away in the winter months.  They also know that I lovelovelove spicy food, particularly spicy Indian food.  So when I was offered the chance to review this book I jumped at it.

Neela Paniz is also the author of The Bombay Cafe, so I was intrigued to see what she would have to say in The New Indian Slow Cooker.  Oh my.  I’ll confess, I’ve had this book for over a month now, and I kept putting off this review because “I want to try just one more recipe first!” I think I’ve finally decided that I’m not going to be able to cook ALL the recipes before I write this, but understand it’s not through lack of trying!

The recipes I’ve cooked so far have been perfect – easy to put together, with authentic (but not overly difficult to source) ingredients that make a world of difference. Couple this with an easy cooking method that means I might actually cook my favorite cuisine more often than once a year?  Oh yes please!  I’ve only made two dishes so far, “Cauliflower with ginger & cumin”, and “Brown(ed) Lentils with onions, tomatoes, and ginger.” I have my eye on a half-dozen more, with shopping lists made out for the next time I’m near the international grocery (which is about 45 minutes away,) and I’m looking forward to them much the same way I might look forward to going out to a restaurant where I have not yet chosen my favorite go-to dish because EVERYTHING’S so good.

Other than a few obvious typos like the one noted above (it’s brown lentils, not lentils which are browned–somehow–on the stove), the directions are simple, straightforward, and I really appreciated the separate discussion of ingredients – it made going off in search of unfamiliar ingredients much easier when I had an alternate item to search for (amchur) when I failed to find it labeled with the English translation (green mango powder).  Yes.  Chicken curry with green mango powder is actually next on my list of meals to try.

I also appreciated the fact that despite this being a cookbook specifically for use with a slow cooker, the author includes many dishes/accompaniments where the use of a slow-cooker isn’t necessary or even possible.  Raita, yogurt, chutneys, paneer – all important parts of a meal, and although I already have my own recipes for many of these things, I thought it added to the book’s usefulness that she included recipes for anyone who might not have a shelf full of Indian cookbooks already!

The photography is lovely.  Mouthwatering, in fact. The brief anecdotes never take attention away from the recipes themselves (something I occasionally notice & am annoyed by in otherwise-lovely cookbooks.) and I honestly think I might cook my way through this entire book – something I’ve only done a handful of times.

Go out.  Buy the book.  Locate your nearest import grocery store.  Dust off that slow-cooker (it IS autumn, after all.)

Buy food.  Cook food.  EAT FOOD!!!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Small Bookish Things – My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

www.randomhouse.com

First off, I’m not a French cook.  That is to say, I’m not overly fond of cream sauces, picky cooking techniques, or extravagant supply lists.  Happily, neither is David Lebovitz.  Written by an American cook living in Paris for ten years who also happens to love other cultures’ cooking, the book is delightful to simply page through and read/admire. Lots of anecdotes which rarely stray too far into the narcissistic. Lots of gorgeous photos that make me want to go to Paris and wander the streets before I eat my way through it.

And then there are the recipes.  OMG the recipes.  Want a nice Coq au vin recipe whose sauce isn’t thickened with chicken blood?  Here you go.  How about a recipe for shallot marmalade? (this one’s on my short list for something to play with once it’s no longer above 90* inside my house!) Right here.  Salted Butter caramel sauce? Yes please.  Something a little lighter, and maybe North African in origin? How about a hummus seasoned with homemade dukkah?  Yep.

I’d totally give this book as a gift, but when my husband suggested giving this copy away as a Christmas gift to another family member who likes cookbooks, I grabbed it to my chest and shook my head.  “Mine.” I told him–sounding remarkably like my preschooler.  “Buy her her own copy. This one’s mine.”

I have a feeling I’m going to be cooking my way through this book, come autumn and cooler temperatures.

To buy My Paris Kitchen through Random House. To buy other titles by David Lebovitz through Random House.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Small Bookish Thoughts 7-2-14 – Hild by Nicola Griffith

Hild by Nicola Griffith turned out to be astonishingly good.  I like Middle Ages history anyway, and I adore nicely-done historical fiction.  This blows everything in either category out the window–this is really amazingly good stuff that would appeal to just about anyone who likes, um, books? Antiquities? Fantasy? Straight up history lessons presented in an astonishingly readable way?  Awesomely strong female protagonists? Really excellent writing?

I’ve seen this book show up on everything from my Goodreads suggestions to Twitter feeds, & I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t picked it up before.  I’m a fan of her writing–she was an instructor when I was at Clarion West, and I found her completely intimidating because she was just so damned good.  No idea why it took me so long to lay my hands on this.  But really, my life is poorer that I wasn’t waiting in line to buy this the day it was released some time in 2013.  That’s 6 months to a year and a half of time I should have had this book in my brain already.

Really.  Go buy it now.