Thursday, October 31, 2013

walk like an egyptian.

Manfriend and I were OBSESSED with The Bible over the summer.  Like the DVD, not the actual reading material. I thought the important aspects of the Old Testament were portrayed extremely well in the series, minus the fact that Samson’s character was a black man, and we all know Samson wasn’t black. But other than that, I thought it was great. Which brings me to my review of The Exodus Reality: Unearthing the Real History of Moses, Identifying the Pharaohs, and Examining the Exodus from Egypt, which was also amaze.

In The Exodus Reality, authors Scott Alan Roberts and Dr. John Ward collaborate to summarize their two concepts of Moses, based on a large amount of research (obvious from the notes/appendixes). It is an extremely helpful resource for those of you studying the topic yourselves, while also being informative yet entertaining for the rest of us less scholarly readers.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

well that was intense.

David Vann’s Goat Mountain opens with a sacred ritual between a son, his father, grandfather and close family friend on their 640-acre family ranch in Northern California during the fall of 1978. This is the eleven-year-olds first time experiencing the annual hunt, and chance at killing his first buck. It is supposed to be this great rite of passage, but no one could have predicted the tragedy that followed. The boy’s father notices a poacher, and let’s his son have a look through the scope of his gun, who unexpectedly pulls the trigger, leaving the three men with a choice. To report or not to report – their choice only leads to more tragic events.

It’s not exactly a “feel good” read, but Vann’s writing style and descriptions of characters will make you want to highlight as you go, as to not forget such powerful words of expression.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

pickles, pigs, whiskey and f-bombs.

Chef John Currence’s first cookbook titled Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some is quite the treat and is jam packed with 130 Southern-inspired recipes.

Not only does Currence supply us with amazing recipes, he also tells the story of his journey from 1983 to present day, which will help you better understand him and what he’s all about, thus making the cookbook a more enjoyable read as a whole. Chapters are divided into styles of cooking, such as Boiling & Simmering and Pickling & Canning, etc. to keep things nice and organized. Some of the recipes (not all) are a little ambitious for beginners. Pretty much anyone who’s looking for new and creative recipe ideas will benefit the most from this cookbook. Oh, and those of you who like cocktails as well.

Monday, October 28, 2013

scholarly yet readable.

In New York City’s 1920’s white women who came to Harlem to in hopes to embrace black culture were dubbed “Miss Anne”. In Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance writer and scholar, Carla Kaplan portrays six women who had the guts to head to the streets, raising hot button issues of race, gender, class and sexuality during that time period.

Lillian E Wood, Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, Annie Nathan Meyer, Charlotte Osgood Mason, Fannie Hurst and Nancy Cunard had an impact on the Harlem Renaissance that is seemingly hidden in the past. Their six biographies are well-written, and yet have some complexities, are full of insight on these women that history apparently forgot about. Kaplan does an excellent job of resurrecting stories that every feminist can be proud of.

Friday, October 25, 2013

a cookbook that tailors to large family needs.

It makes sense that Kate Gosselin would come out with a cookbook. Seeing as she has eight mouths to feed, you’d think that she’d be a relatively good cook. Turns out, she is, and proves it in Love is in the Mix: Making Meals into Memories with Family-Friendly Recipes, Tips and Traditions.

As a mother of eight, there are a lot of different tastes in her kitchen come meal time. This cookbook really is family-friendly, as it includes meals that all of your kids will love. Keep in mind that Gosselin doesn’t go too far outside the box here recipe wise and her recipes are designed for large families, so smaller ones will need to adjust ingredients. Honestly, Love is in the Mix is pretty basic, but the recipes are crowd pleasers, and who needs complicated when you have a large family? No one.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

the literal crazy and rich.

Crazy Rich by Jerry Oppenheimer is the story of the famous Johnson family. You know, the ones who brought you the Band-Aid and Johnson's Baby products that make your baby smell like a baby.  Not surprising to many of you I’m sure, but the Johnson’s have a lot of issues, and Oppenheimer is happy share all of the dysfunction so that we can feel better about our own families – 500 pages of it.

This biography begins as most do, at the beginning. The Johnson dynasty originated with three relatively uneducated, but ambitious brothers, Robert, James, and Edward Mead Johnson. Crazy Rich includes the glory, along with all of the scandals, tragedies, and misfortune. We are talking generations of skeletons here people, a giant mess. I know we shouldn’t be entertained by other people’s bad luck…but it’s just toooooo crazy not to participate. Sorry Johnson’s.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

tugs on your heartstrings.

In Weekends with Daisy by Sharon Kahn Luttrell, Daisy is a beautiful yellow lab puppy who is being trained to be a service dog by an unlikely pair. Sharron, a journalist joined the “puppy raiser program” to get over the loss of her own dog and Keith, a prison inmate whose job is to train service dogs. Basically, Keith’s role is to train Daisy during the week, and Sharon takes her home on the weekends to get her used to being out in the world. This is more than a story about an adorably cute puppy. It’s a story about two very different people who must work together for a common goal. And it’s about understanding people, where they come from, and letting judgments go. It’s a great story, and loving dogs is not a prerequisite. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

for the educated fashionista.

I like to think that I have a decent sense of style, and I actually do when I’m thinner than usual and have the time. Mostly though, I just wear what’s comfortable and not wrinkled. As a teacher, I am not looking to stand out too much with my wardrobe. However, when I go through my fashion phases, I always turn to Tim Gunn for advice because he knows what’s up.

In his book Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible there is no skimping on fashion info or photos. Gunn focuses on the history of fashion, from togas to t-shirts, giving history on each article from skinny jeans to cargos. Gunn shares funny anecdotes and bore-proof history lessons that every fashionista will love.

Monday, October 21, 2013

sometimes you just want something sweet.

I’m sorry; you can make cake in a mug? And I’m just hearing about this? Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats by Leslie Bilderback is the latest and tastiest way to get your treat fix. The best thing about this recipe book is that you can get your dose of dessert without a giant cake floating around to gorge yourself on afterward. Been there, and eating an entire batch of anything is no bueno.

Each tasty treat takes literally minutes to make. I love that Leslie includes the classics like Strawberry ShortMug Cake, and also recipes that aren’t necessarily cake like Pumpkin Mug Pie. You can be all festive with these specialty desserts, and it’s perfect for a family with all different tastes. Then there’s the Better-Than-Sex Mug Cake, hello lover.

Friday, October 18, 2013

a little history and a little mystery.

I love a good conspiracy novel, and Oliver Potzsch really delivers with his The Ludwig Conspiracy.

Ahh, the Neuschwanstein Castle. It plays a large role in the novel as the actual real-life King Ludwig commissioned its building in the late 1800’s. I visited Munich, Germany a few years back and was supposed to visit the fairytale castle, but it was closed on the day my tour group was supposed to go. I was so, so upset. I mean, as a princess, fairytale castles are my thing. I’ll have to drag Manfriend off to Germany one of these days.  Now back to our story…

The Ludwig Conspiracy moves between time periods, giving us glimpses of past and modern day Bavaria, while our two main characters from the present, Steven Lukas and Sara Lengfeld race to solve a mystery and stay one step ahead of those that would kill them for the secrets contained in an encrypted diary written by Theodor Marot, Assistant to the Royal Physician to King Ludwig.  It takes Steven's knowledge of 19th Century history and Sara's computer expertise to begin to make sense of the encrypted text, and their journey takes them to Ludwig's famous castles searching for the clues needed to crack the diary's code, all the while trying not to get murdered. History and mystery buffs alike will love this novel.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

education system comparisons, oh boy.

In the US, we are not known for our public education system. I mean, we have Yale and Harvard to brag about, but even our elite schools fall short compared to other countries. Amanda Ripley, investigative journalist wrote a book on educational policy that will shed some light on what we are missing here in America when it comes to education.

Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way is jam-packed with research and storytelling that will surprise you. The main purpose of this book is to show a more personal side to education in other countries. Readers gain a real life student view of what the education experience is like in Finland, Poland, and South Korea - three countries that score highly on standardized international tests, by following three American high school students in their exchange school experiences in these three countries. Ripley also includes research about other countries, and makes a compelling argument for educational reform.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

great storyline, great read, loved it.

It’s almost Christmas in Northern Minnesota opening William Kent Krueger’s Tamarack County novel. During a blizzard a car belonging to an elderly woman and wife of a retired judge is discovered abandoned on a country road, gas tank empty. Without much hope of finding her alive, Cork O’Connor joins the team in search for the missing person. As time passes, other strange things start to happen in Tamarack County, and ex-sheriff O’Connor has an inkling that it has something to do with an investigation he was on twenty years ago when he was a deputy, leading him to believe that he helped send the wrong man to prison.

Most of you are probably familiar with the popular Cork O’Connor series and you won’t be disappointed with this installment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

for a good time…

It’s not every day that you open a novel as fun to read as Amy Sohn’s Motherland, which is a follow up to her previous Prospect Park West. Both novels accentuate the more recently popular “mommy-lit” genre, which may help you choose whether this is next on your reading list or not. I’m no mommy and I had a good time reading both.

In Motherland, you meet up with previous characters. Five couples who have their share of issues, and that give you an honest and hysterical look into parenthood in NYC today. It’s honestly a hilarious read, and Sohn who was born and raised in the big city definitely knows what she’s talking about.

Monday, October 14, 2013

an enjoyable detective story.

A young woman is brutally raped near her apartment in Tel Aviv….to open the debut crime novel Lineup by Liad Shoham.

Inspector Eli Nachum is assigned the case, and in his eagerness to bring closure for the victim and her family, makes an error in judgment that allows the prime suspect off on a technicality that results in his release from custody. As Nachum struggles to come to terms with his error, he teams up with a newspaper reporter to try and uncover the truth. Meanwhile, our freed suspect, Ziv Nevo has to try to untangle himself from the crime mob that's got their hooks in him. When another rape occurs and Nevo isn’t identified as a suspect, Inspector Nachum realizes that he had the wrong guy all along, and the real search begins.

Shoham has an excellent writing style for someone who originally wrote the story in Hebrew and had it translated to English, so props to his translator as well!

Friday, October 11, 2013

tell your kids, tell your wife, tell your husband.

Author Danielle Walker of Against the Grain saved her own life through food, and you can too. Basically Walker has created a cookbook that cuts out the ingredients that make her sick in her favorite recipes. So she can have her ice cream, and eat it, too. Yes, ice cream. You have to admire her creativity as she brings recipes like crepes, muffins, and chocolate chip cookies to the plant-based lifestyle. Get it girl.

The only thing I have made personally out of Against the Grain so far is the vanilla frosting. A girl's got her priorities. And let me tell you, Y-U-M! If you have a restrictive diet, are gluten free, want to eat paleo, or just want to start cutting out the occasional dairy/sugar situation, this is absolutely the cookbook for you. I mean, Walker even has a (tasty) recipe for fake ricotta cheese. She's pretty amazing.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

always an adventure.

Power couple Sam and Remi Fargo has made quite the name for themselves as jet setters who travel around hunting down lost treasures.  The Mayan Secrets takes Sam and Remi to Mexico and Guatemala, searching for an ancient Mayan artifact.

Author Clive Cussler moves well from location to location and his character development of the dashing hero's, fearless heroines, and villains you love to hate will please both avid and new readers of the series. This adventure packed story is so well-written; you will forget that it’s fiction.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

a wild ride.

In Karen Chance’s October 1st installment of the Cassie Palmer series, Tempt the Stars, Cassie’s life is as stressful as ever.

Tempt the Stars picks up a week after Pritkin saves Cassie by giving her energy to live; resulting in Pritkin being taken by his demon father and essentially losing his freedom. Ever since Cassie's coronation, where she officially became Pythia, she's had to deal with all kinds of super naturals knocking on her door; always wanting something from her because she is now the world’s chief seer. In this story Cassie drops everything in hopes to get Pritkin back.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about that means you haven’t read the series and you probably should.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

1960’s north carolina.

Diane Chamberlain is a kick ass author, this is not new information. Her latest novel Necessary Lies deviates from her usual style, but it’s still just as enjoyable as the rest.

Jane Forrester, newly married and recently graduated from Woman's College in Greensboro with a degree in sociology, is hired on as a caseworker for the Department of Public Welfare in Raleigh circa 1960’s. One of the families Jane is responsible for is the Hart family. The grandmother, suffering with diabetes and arthritis, is raising her two teenage granddaughters, Ivy and Mary Ella. Jane becomes much too emotionally involved with this family (especially Ivy) to do the work of a caseworker in this time period. She spends much of the story fighting for Ivy’s rights to grow up and have her own family one day, rather than be sterilized like the government demands, while her marriage is jeopardized by her douchey husband. Necessary Lies is a tragic story spotlighting the underprivileged in a way that breaks your heart, but ends in a way that lifts you up again.

Monday, October 7, 2013

one for the catholics.

Freelance Catholic writer Emily Stimpson explains her book These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body best in a recent interview with National Review:

 “Theology of the body” refers to a series of meditations given by John Paul II during his papacy. It answers some of the most pervasive and fundamental questions that all men and women across time have asked: Who am I? For what purpose do I exist? What does it mean to love? How am I to live?”

Stimpson goes on to explain that you don’t have to be a theologian to care about these questions, or to appreciate her book. These Beautiful Bones takes the idea of theology to a new level when describing how it touches upon every aspect of human life. It’s basically a guide for all Catholics on how to live every day. So if you’re Catholic, you’re looking to live a more faith-based life, and you don’t really know where to start…Stimpson has you covered.

Friday, October 4, 2013

one magical season.

I was super excited to show Manfriend the millisecond I received Unbeatable: Notre Dame’s 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season by Jerry Barca because it upped my coolness factor by a million. Manfriend went to Notre Dame (HIGH SCHOOL) in our town, and still feels quite fighting and Irish, with dreams of attending an actual college game someday.  Wait in line dude.

Anyway, we both really enjoyed Barca’s depiction of the famous season, especially on its 25th anniversary. Although Manfriend seemed to know everything about the coach and the players already, it was interesting for me to read and learn about coach Holtz and how he restored a team of misfits to win such an esteemed championship and bring one of the greatest programs in history back to its former glory. Barca has created an excellent sports novel and everyone likes a good resurrection story.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

live forever? like in fame?

Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD gives us quite the intro in his latest biomedical research reference, The Ageless Generation: How Advances in Biomedicine Will Transform the Global Economy.

"We have begun to crack the code of life with breakthroughs in genetics and regenerative medicine that allow us to grow new organs and tissues.” Making it clear that what was unthinkable only a decade ago is now in the realm of possibility. Discovering why we age, and possibly stopping it? Don’t get too excited. The prospect of living longer is pretty fantastic; however, Zhavoronkov also reminds us that there are consequences within the advances in medicine that slow the aging process. If biomedicine is a topic of interest for you, The Ageless Generation is an excellent resource.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

the chinese afterlife.

Another gifted storyteller has graced the literary world with the debut novel The Ghost Bride. Protagonist, Li Lan, an attractive young Chinese maiden, whose mother is deceased and father was an heavy opium smoker, allowing the family finances to drain away to nothing, has been made quite the offer. Her father was approached by a wealthy family whose son, Lim Tian Ching, has died, leaving him a ghost. The family wants Li Lan to marry this deceased son, becoming a ghost bride. Although it would not be a physical marriage, she would be treated as a daughter-in-law by these merchants, her family’s bills paid and everything. Lan has no desire to marry a dead guy, but she begins dreaming about meeting him, and the rest of the novel turns into a ghost story beautifully written by author Yangsze Choo.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

for the wannabe health nuts who still need options.

Many of you are considering switching over to a plant-based or more plant-based diet. There are a ton of books you can currently find in bookstores to use as a resource, but no need to research because I already found the best one.

My Beef with Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet by Rip Esselstyn has received rave reviews as a resource that is well-researched and includes recent nutritional information and recipes (there’s pizza!) into 36 very short chapters. It’s a no brainer that eating plant-based is a healthier option for humans, what I enjoyed was the 140 recipes that include way more than just veggie soup. It was really the guacamole, hummus and spinach artichoke dip that caught my eye. This book has the potential to change your life, sounds crazy, but it’s true.