Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler

Title: Afterparty
Author: Ann Redisch Stampler
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: January 7th 2014
Source: Won

Book Description:

Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother -- whose name her dad won't even say out loud. That's why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her...and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she's everything Emma is not.

And it may be more than Emma can handle.

Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It's more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop.

This follow-up to Ann Redisch Stampler's Where It Began, reveals how those who know us best can hurt us most.



Sometimes, every once in a while, there comes a book that feels like a case of "it's not you, it's me". I believe that this is one of those times. I'm glad a lot of other people seem to have enjoyed it, but it wasn't for me. This review will be vague, because there's a lot of potential spoilers.

The writing style wasn't one that I found enjoyable. It was full of long, flowery sentences that seemed extra detailed just for the sake of a word count. I thought maybe I'd warm up to it as the book went on, but alas I did not. The pacing was also rough. Sometimes the book jumped forward a day, sometimes a week. It was jagged and awkward and hard to keep up.

And then there's the characters. 99% of the time when I don't like a book, it's because of the characters, and this isn't the 1% for me. I didn't care for any of them. Not like "oh, I connect and understand these characters but I dislike them" but as in, I don't care at all what happens in your lives. For me it was a hyper-dramatic version of the 2003 film Thirteen. There's a good girl who doesn't want to be so good. Enter the super crazy, abusive, manipulative cool bad girl who is her downfall. There wasn't anything about her that made her unique, or someone that I could understand being friends with in the first place, let alone the friendship that follows. Think of all the things parents think are the end of the world: drugs, sex, and alcohol, and multiply the drama by 100, and that's what Siobhan gets them into. The main character is generic and forgettable, and doesn't really grow that much by the end of the novel . So, it felt largely predictable in parts.

And the end? What a let down. It didn't make up for my other issues with the book, so I was just left frustrated.

I will say that though it has nothing to do with the story, the cover is gorgeous.

As I said, I think this is a case of it's not you, it's me. So, if you like teenage drama type stories like Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl or things like that, go for it. Maybe you'll have a better time.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe

Title: The Tragic Age
Author: Stephen Metcalfe
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Pub. Date: March 3rd 2015
Source: Won

Book Description:

This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.
Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. 

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It's the age he's at. The tragic age.

Stephen Metcalfe's brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.



I really wanted to like this book, but I ended up not being a fan of it. I love a good coming of age story, but this one just didn't click with me. I didn't relate to a lot of characters, which made me struggle to finish it.

I started off really liking the main character, Billy. I appreciate that he's sarcastic and a smart ass, because I myself am both of those things. But his personality, the more I read, turned to being abrasive and annoying. He's not a person I'd want to spend a lot of time with. But, at least he was well developed. I give him that. Comparatively, the other characters fall flat, and seem to be there only to move along Billy's plot. I couldn't tell you much about them.

What turned me off of this book the most was the stereotypes. The Latina female is portrayed as slutty. There's smart Asians. There's some definite slut shaming and other things that are not part of the plot: these are not things we will learn to overcome through evolution of the characters. I don't want that in a book, and especially a coming of age story aimed at teens.

I did appreciate Billy's pop culture/topical references, but I feel like it'll date the book in the future.

This isn't a book I'd recommend.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Mini College Review: Christina Rossetti by Jan Marsh

Title: Christina Rossetti
Author: Jan Marsh
Format: Hardcover, 634 pages
Pub. Date: July 1st 1995
Source: Amazon

Book Description:

This absorbing biography recovers for readers the life of the author of "Goblin Market" and "My heart is singing like a bird", and shows that, far from being a pious and melancholy recluse, Rosetti was a complex and fascinating woman whose poetry is at last receiving the attention it deserves. Photos.



This is a book that I had to read for one of my poetry courses in college.

Christina Rossetti is one of my favorite poets. I've written on her a number of times, and I was really excited to have to read this. Don't waste your time.

It's really dragging, even for a memoir. It's over 600 pages, and it certainly doesn't need to be. Granted, there's some pages with photos on them, but that doesn't make up for the dry, student thesis paper type writing that this biography has.

It's also unreliable. The author goes out of her way to insert her own opinion, presented as fact. Such as, that Christina Rossetti had some intimate relations with a family member. There's no evidence of this. While it's acceptable to bring it up as a theory, or even to write a book about how you feel that's what her writing or actions in her life suggest, it's still not fact. Because she shows a bias to some theories and ideas and not others, it makes her an unreliable narrator, so I don't know if everything else in the book is accurate either.

Unless you have to read it for a class like I did, skip it. There's better books about her life.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mini College Review: A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In by Magnus Mills

Title: A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In
Author: Magnus Mills
Format: Hardcover, 276 pages
Pub. Date: September 2011
Source: Borrowed from professor

Book Description:

Far away, in the ancient empire of Greater Fallowfields, things are falling apart. The imperial orchestra is presided over by a conductor who has never played a note, the clocks are changed constantly to ensure that the sun always sets at five o' clock, and the Astronomer Royal is only able to use the observatory telescope when he can find a sixpence to put in its slot. But while the kingdom drifts, awaiting the return of the young emperor, who has gone abroad and communicates only by penny post, a sinister and unfamiliar enemy is getting closer and closer...A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In is Magnus Mills's most ambitious work to date. A surreal portrait of a world that, although strange and distant, contains rather too many similarities to our own for the alien not to become brilliantly familiar and disturbingly close to home. It is comic writing at its best - and it is Magnus Mills's most ambitious, enjoyable and rewarding novel to date.



This was a book that I had to read for my Modern British Fiction in college. I'd like to note that I have not read any other of Mills' books.

My review of it is going to be short and sweet, because I'm lacking words to describe this book. It's very unique stylistically. The plot has dark undertones but the tone is so light and nonchalant, it's a very odd mix. If a satire mated with a fairy tale and based it on the British, it would be this.

The writing is a lot of political and social commentary about Great Britain, as an American I'm sure some things went over my head. But there was a weird (in a good way) cast of characters that all circle around a ruler that is never actually in the book. It's amusing and confusing but makes you think and all and all I liked it but I can't exactly tell you why....

This is not a very helpful review, but, I say give it a go if you're thinking about reading it. It's worth it, especially if you enjoy your fantasy with large helpings of commentary.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Title: The Selection
Series: The Selection #1
Author: Kiera Cass
Format: paperback ARC, signed
Pub. Date: April 24th 2012
Source: Won

Book Description:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.



This is one of the best books I've read in the last year.

I was admittedly afraid to read this one, because SO MANY bloggers were talking about it; good, bad or otherwise. Hype makes me nervous. But I had a copy on my shelf and the time had come, and I'm so mad at myself that I waited so long to get into this story. It sucked me in hook, line, and sinker, and immersed me into the story line.

The characters were well written and well described. They were written unique from one another, and it was easy to keep track of who is who, despite the large cast of characters. By the end of the story, I was emotionally tied to America, Maxon, and Aspen. I cared so hard about what happened, and was emotional along with them on the roller coaster that is The Selection competition. The relationships between characters- be it romance, family, or friendship (or hatred, even) are well developed and evolve over the course of the story in a way that helps the plot.

Genre-wise, this book is kind of a hodgepodge of a lot of different things, but it works so well. It's definitely a heavy dose of dystopian science fiction a la Hunger Games, where there is One Good Place To Live And Thing To Be and a bunch of lessers who don't matter as much to the nation/society/kingdom. Not to mention the Girl Who Ain't Having It. There's a bit of fairy tale to it, as the girls wear beautiful gowns and compete for the love of the fair prince of the land. There's a guilty pleasure reality show component, because The Selection is like teenage The Bachelor: So You Wanna Be A Princess Edition. Which sounds awful but I love me some reality shows (I will deny this) and it works well.

The world building is also really good. I felt like I knew everything that was happening, and I wasn't left with any info-dumping to fill me in on this society, nor was I left with a million questions. It was a nice balance of the author's world design and things left to my own imagination. The dresses, the food, the mansion, they're all so gloriously described that I want to be there to see it all (I mean but also not, because, dystopia).

I will 100% continue the rest of this story. I can't wait to continue America's journey as it unfolds. I recommend it to fans of YA romance and dystopian fiction, as long as having a few common tropes won't bug you.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mini College Review: The Whipping Man by Samuel French

Title: The Whipping Man
Author: Samuel French
Format: Paperback, 84 pages
Pub. Date: November 3rd 2009
Source: SIU Bookstore

Book Description:

Drama / Characters: 3 male It is April, 1865. The Civil War is over and throughout the south, slaves are being freed, soldiers are returning home and in Jewish homes, the annual celebration of Passover is being celebrated. Into the chaos of war-torn Richmond comes Caleb DeLeon, a young Confederate officer who has been severely wounded. He finds his family's home in ruins and abandoned, save for two former slaves, Simon and John, who wait in the empty house for the family's return. As the three men wait for signs of life to return to the city, they wrestle with their shared past, the bitter irony of Jewish slave-owning and the reality of the new world in which they find themselves. The sun sets on the last night of Passover and Simon - having adopted the religion of his masters - prepares a humble Seder to observe the ancient celebration of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, noting with particular satisfaction the parallels to their current situation. But the pain of their enslavement will not be soothed by this tradition, and deep-buried secrets from the past refuse to be hidden forever as the play comes to its shocking climax. The Whipping Man is a play about redemption and forgiveness, about the lasting scars of slavery, and the responsibility that comes with freedom. "A mesmerizing drama." - Peter Filichia, Newark Star-Ledger "A cause for celebration. Mathew Lopez has come as close as any author could to producing a microcosm of the genesis of a wide range of today's Black American males." - Bob Rendell, Talkin' Broadway "I can see why director Lou Bellamy chose this play for Penumbra, whose most famous alumnus is playwright August Wilson. In its complex welter of issues, in its interior explorations...The Whipping Man is Wilsonian." - Rohan Preston, Minneapolis Star-Ledger "Succeeds with an uncanny maturity in using sharply drawn characters and rich metaphor to wrestle Wilson-like with epic American issues of race, religion, and responsibility. Someone must succeed Wilson; it might as well be Lopez" - Tim Gihring, Minnesota Monthly



I had to read "The Whipping Man" in my American literature course in college. It is the best piece of fiction that I got to read the whole semester.

This play is absolutely fantastic. I can honestly say that I've never read a story like this one.

The characters are a mix of Jewish home owners and slaves during the Civil War era. I can honestly say in all my years of education (and reading for fun) I've never read a story that weaves these two points of view together. But the incredible way that French has written this story, it seems like a common sense pairing. It works so well.

The characters are well developed. They're distinct, and they feel real. I had feelings toward them all. Not all of those feelings were positive, but I was emotionally invested in the way these characters developed and grew, the way their backgrounds are teased to the surface, the way each of them struggle and have faith in their own way.

It's rugged. It's gritty. It's real. It feels almost like you could be watching this unfold from through the window. There's a particularly gnarly leg amputation that is very well detailed, that sets the tone of dirt and blood and alcohol and grit that gives this play a distinct tone. That said, it's not all drama and heartbreak. It's rather comedic, which I did not anticipate even a little. I was pleasantly surprised, and it keeps you reading and connects you to particular characters.

It's a short play, but there's so much packed into these 90 pages.

I sincerely hope I get the chance to see this on stage. It's fantastic, and I can't recommend it enough.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer

Title: Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year
Author: Ramsey Beyer
Format: Paperback, 236 pages
Pub. Date: September 3rd 2013
Source: Zest Books

Book Description:

Told through real-life journals, collages, lists, and drawings, this coming-of-age story illustrates the transformation of an 18-year-old girl from a small-town teenager into an independent city-dwelling college student. Written in an autobiographical style with beautiful artwork, Little Fish shows the challenges of being a young person facing the world on her own for the very first time and the unease—as well as excitement—that comes along with that challenge.



I wasn't sure what to expect going into Little Fish. It's a coming of age type memoir told in a graphic novel format. It's not something that I regret reading, but it's also not something that I'd read again either.

I appreciate the unique structure of this graphic novel. Ramsey uses a collection of old lists and blog posts in her comics to show some growth of where she's come from in life. I liked the lists aspect, because I'm a big list maker myself.

Overall though, this story was just kind of vanilla. It doesn't stand out to me as particularly interesting or eventful. I was expecting some intense drama maybe, or some huge change of life decisions but, it's a pretty tame recollection. Honestly, it seemed like I was reliving my own blog posts or my personal college experience. For some people, that's probably a good thing. It brings up fond memories, or is seen as relatable. For me, my college story is just me eating Arby's and hoping for snow days for four years. Not ultimately exciting, and I certainly don't think anyone else would care about my life at that point.

That's not to say that this book is bad, because it isn't. It tells a cohesive story, and the artwork is cute. But it's a pretty vaguely written story- there's not a lot of details or specifics about her classes, or her life, that made me connect with her.

Maybe teenagers or those ready to go to college would appreciate this book more than I did. It's not a bad book, but it's not something I'll keep to reread later.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mini Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2
Series: Harry Potter #8
Authors: John Tiffany & Jack Thorne & JK Rowling
Format: Hardcover, Special Rehearsal Edition Script, 309 pages
Pub. Date: July 31st 2016
Source: Gift from my dad

Book Description:

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.



This review is going to be short and sweet and spoiler free. People seem to either think this is the best thing ever or something to be set on fire, and quite frankly, I'm just not that passionate about it either way.

I enjoyed reading this addition to the series. I went in with low expectations because there's so many reviews- both fan and media- that ripped it apart. It put me off from reading it until after the hype died down, but eventually I gave into it.

Maybe it's because I went into it expecting a big change in tone or writing style, but it didn't bother me. I felt particularly victorious when a plot twist I called when the original series came out ends up happening in this story. I liked some of the new characters, and some of the original characters who are now all grown up.

I got a little tired up doing the time warp after awhile, and admittedly that did take me out of the story a bit.

Regardless, I'm glad I read it and I intend to see it on stage when it comes to the US.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: American MaleWhore in Tokyo by Rowen Boozewell

Title: American MaleWhore in Tokyo
Author: Rowen Boozewell
Format: Paperback, Fun Fact Edition, 372 pages
Pub. Date: February 14th 2014
Source: Author

Book Description:

American MaleWhore in Tokyo tells the tale of a loveable (alright, likeable (alright, tolerable)) douchebag who moves to Tokyo to become a host and live out the modern day male American dream. It’s an explicit and groin-grabbingly entertaining story that sheds light on a little known world where fun-loving, good-hearted people can often inflict heart-wrenching, irreparable damage. A ribald study in relationships, relations, and laughter.

This is the Fun Fact edition, and as such it contains a mind-blowing and/or crassy fun fact by the main character, John Box, at the end of each chapter. The addition of fun facts is the only difference between the versions.

WARNING: This book is intended for mature audiences. Well, maybe not “mature” audiences, it’s more for immature audiences. People who laugh at the word poop, but who have somehow managed to learn to read, and are admitted into R-rated movies. But I guess it’s also for mature audiences looking for a break from books that deal mainly in descriptions of the smell of colors, the sound of light, and the feel of words, and other such poppycock.

For Fake Praise and other info, please visit:



This book is well outside my normal wheelhouse of books. I do love Japan, and I like to laugh, so I decided to give this one a go. That said, I am so glad that I got a chance to read this, because it's fucking funny.

It follows the saga of Piston Honda, a douchebag who works at a Japanese host club. It's full of clubs and sex and debauchery and Japan and it's one beautiful disaster of hilarity.

I don't understand why "Piston Honda" aka John Box is so likable, but he is. Picture that one rock star that you're a little bit in love with. Even though he bangs everything, and has a coke problem, and is always in the tabloids. The one who you'd still chill with and who cracks that smile and you overlook all the manwhoring tomfoolery (how old AM I that I use that word?). That's similar to how I feel about this guy. He's a douchebag, but in the lovable kind of way. The guy who tells you the best stories at the bar that you wonder how he's still alive.

It's also pretty educational about Japan, from a perspective that you don't normally hear about, which was pretty cool. Life over there isn't all Hello Kitty and hentai like the internet suggests, yanno? Still want to visit, but with all sorts of new information in mind.

This book is definitely a "guy" book. Not that women can't enjoy it, blah blah blah. But if you don't find dick jokes, poop, or sex entertaining or funny.... This is gonna be your personal hell, buddy. If that's right up your alley, or if you like Japan, or if you love a good asshole rogue as a main character, or if you are just looking to laugh, this is a great book to fill the void.

The author was awesome enough to send me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review with no shenanigans.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: The Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

Title: The Beauty and the Beast
Author: Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve
Illustrator: Mina Lima
Translator: James Robinson Planché
Format: Hardcover, Illustrated with interactive elements, 208 pages
Pub. Date: January 31st 2017
Source: Mother in Law, Valentine's Day Gift

Book Description:

MinaLima, the award-winning design studio behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film franchise and the creators of the illustrated Jungle Book and Peter Pan, reimagine the beloved French fairy tale The Beauty and the Beast in this deluxe unabridged edition illustrated with stunning full-color artwork and nine 3-D interactive features—published to coincide with the release of the blockbuster Disney live-action musical film starring Emma Watson, Ian McKellen, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, and Emma Thompson.
Generations of readers have been bewitched by the epic love story of a beautiful young girl imprisoned in the magical castle of a monstrous beast. Now, the classic fairy tale is brought to life in this spectacular illustrated edition as originally envisioned by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740.



Honestly, I wasn't familiar with the original story of Beauty and the Beast. Like most other people, I'm familiar with the animated Disney version, and now the 2017 live-action rendition of it also by Disney. I was really excited to read this when I got it as a Valentine's Day gift from my mother-in-law. I appreciate her thinking of me, because she knows it's my favorite of the princess films.

The physical book itself is stunning. The cover is very striking and classically designed. It comes in sealed clear plastic, so that the hidden elements in it stay in tact. The illustrations are beautiful, and go along with the text perfectly. I love that there are interactive components to this. Almost like a pop-up book, but for an older demographic. You can open the wardrobe, look at maps, and other neat little additions to the story. It's a beautiful look that I intend to keep on my shelves.

The actual story, however, is less of a victory to me. I understand that it was written centuries ago, and that it's been translated into English. But with that being said it was just kind of... Well, boring. It's long. It's tediously written. It's dry. I imagine this is how most high schoolers feel when they get assigned Shakespeare for summer reading. You know, the trope on sitcoms where "when will I ever use Shakespeare?!" comes up? Similar feel.

The story itself isn't bad, though it's very different from the version that most people know. Beauty has sisters, for example. And there's no Gaston character. But she's also just kind of there. Not particularly interesting, and it was a struggle to work up enough "care" to get through the story.

I think it's worth reading once, for comparative reasons. But I don't anticipate reading it again, unless maybe in French to brush up on my language skills.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mini School Review: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris

Title: Clybourne Park
Author: Bruce Norris
Format: Paperback, 210 pages
Pub. Date: Published 2011
Source: SIU Bookstore

Book Description:

CLYBOURNE PARK spans two generations fifty years apart. In 1959, Russ and Bev are selling their desirable two-bedroom at a bargain price, unknowingly bringing the first black family into the neighborhood (borrowing a plotline from Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun) and creating ripples of discontent among the cozy white residents of Clybourne Park. In 2009, the same property is being bought by a young white couple, whose plan to raze the house and start again is met with equal disapproval by the black residents of the soon-to-be-gentrified area. Are the issues festering beneath the floorboards actually the same, fifty years on? Bruce Norris's excruciatingly funny and squirm-inducing satire explores the fault line between race and property.



I had to read this play in one of my American literature classes in college. It was my least favorite piece of literature of the semester.

The book is a sequel of sorts to Lorraine Hansberry's play "A Raisin in the Sun". For the record, that's not one of my favorite plays either. I know it's a classic, but I went into reading "Claybourne Park" without the expectations that other people who loved Raisin in the Sun did.

It's boring. I know that's the least helpful word to describe a book, but it's what it was. It was loud, full of people talking over each other but not really going anywhere. While this made it easy to read in class, it's really easy to struggle with set, the bigger plot, and even character descriptions because that's not really what the constant talking is about. The jokes (yes, there are some) aren't funny. The drama seems anticlimactic. The characters seem no different from characters I've seen before, which makes this book/play pretty forgettable. Like a show on TLC I don't want to watch: generic people yelling at each other

I understand the message and the point the play is trying to make, and I appreciate it. But when it comes to the actual piece, not for me. Maybe if you enjoyed "A Raisin in the Sun", or actually get to see this played out on stage, you'll have a better time with it than I did.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Review: Donabe by Naoko Takei Moore & Kyle Connaughton

Title: Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking
Author: Naoko Takei Moore & Kyle Connaughton
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 27th 2015
Source: Netgalley/Ten Speed Press

Book Description:

A beautiful and lavishly photographed cookbook focused on authentic Japanese clay-pot cooking, showcasing beloved recipes and updates on classics, with background on the origins and history of donabe.

Japanese clay pot (donabe) cooking has been refined over centuries into a versatile and simple method for preparing both dramatic and comforting one-pot meals. In Donabe, Tokyo native and cooking school instructor Naoko Takei Moore and chef Kyle Connaughton offer inspiring Japanese home-style recipes such as Sizzling Tofu and Mushrooms in Miso Sauce and Dashi-Rich Shabu-Shabu, as well as California-inspired dishes including Steam-Fried Black Cod with Crisp Potatoes, Leeks, and Walnut-Nori Pesto or Smoked Duck Breast with Creamy Wasabi–Green Onion Dipping Sauce. All are rich in flavor, simple to prepare, and perfect for a communal dining experience with family and friends. Donabe also features recipes from luminary chefs such as David Kinch, Namae Shinobu, and Cortney Burns and Nick Balla, all of whom use donabe in their own kitchens. Collectible, beautiful, and functional, donabe can easily be an essential part of your cooking repetory.



So real talk, this the best cookbook that I've read in a long time. I got this book because I love Japanese food, but I've never cooked it myself. This book made me want to, immediately.

The recipes are divided by technique/type of pot. There's an intro, a section of how to use the pots, how it's made, there's a section for planning menus, one for sauces and stocks. And at the end, there's a glossary and resources.

The photography is absolutely stunning. It's like an art book. Everything looks professional and delicious and like I want it. And I think that's what the photos of a cookbook should do.

It seems to be middle of the road, difficulty-wise. It's not super easy, 101 level stuff, but there's nothing here that looks like only an Iron Chef can prepare it. It seems both approachable and elegant at once.

The recipes are well written, with plenty of tips on cooking and technique catered to each dish. Each recipe includes how many people it'll serve, the courses, and what equipment you'll need to make it. There's also personal stories that make this seem like a book from the heart, as well as history about the dishes.

I like that they tell you "if you don't like it, change it". It encourages personal twists and substitutions, which sets a relaxed tone that follows throughout the book. A lot of the recipes, because of this, are vegetarian friendly or easily adaptable.

The things that jumped off the page by being super delicious sounding include Smoked Duck Breast with Creamy Wasabi-Green Onion Dipping Sauce, Fried Scales-On Tilefish with Winter Melon Tagliatelle, and Green Tea Rice Balls.

I highly recommend this if you love to cook, love Japanese food, or even if you just like to flip through cookbooks for the pictures. It's worth it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Review: Ballpark Eats by Katrina Jorgensen

Title: Ballpark Eats
Author: Katrina Jorgensen
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: February 1st 2016
Source: Netgalley/Capstone Young Readers

Book Description:

Forget peanuts and Cracker Jacks! America’s Ballparks now offer a dizzying array of edible options. These make-like stadium recipes give young chefs and sports fans a culinary road trip at home. From the famous fish tacos at the Giants’s AT&T Park in San Francisco to the mouthwatering Cuban sandwich at the Tampa Bay Rays’s Tropicana Field, these diamond dishes are perfect for any seventh-inning stretch.



Batter up! I love baseball. You almost have to when you're from Chicago, since there's two teams, and a whole lotta history and rivalry. So, I knew I'd enjoy this one. Overall, it was a pretty good cookbook, but there were a few issues.

First, holy curve balls Batman, there is a LOT of information here. There's information about all of the baseball stadiums. There's park information like why/how/when it was built, nicknames, how many people it seats. There's information and background story for the recipes included, like how they came to be and where they're popular.

The recipes are divided by division, which makes it easy to navigate. There's also a glossary and a map in the back, and there's even fun facts and quizzes sprinkled throughout.

As this book is written with kids in mind, this is a super approachable book. The recipes are all pretty idiot proof, and it's great for people who aren't big cooks. There's easy to follow, step by step instructions.

Some of the recipes are even too simple. For example, adding onion to a hot dog or putting garlic salt on popcorn. Not really a recipe so much as "yeah, that's a thing..."

Other than that, there's a pretty good blend of drinks, snacks, meals, and desserts. And, there's plenty of pictures.

And then we come to the bones I have to pick with Ballpark Eats- on behalf of Chicago. Not all of the information is accurate. At the time of printing, the home of the Chicago White Sox was US Cellular Field (at this point in time in 2017, it's Guaranteed Rate Field, so it's already outdated). Anyway, the book says that its nickname is "The New Comiskey". It's either called The Cell, US Cellular Field, or Comiksey Park out of stubbornness, the way we still call it the Sears Tower (because what the hell is a Willis Tower?).

There's also an issue regarding the "Chicago Style Hot Dog". It's what we do, what we love, and there is a very specific ingredient list that makes it so, and the book misses the target. They're missing celery salt. It also says "jarred hot peppers"- but it's specifically sport peppers. And a poppy seed bun. And if we're being super nit picky, neon relish. It's really weird, because it says in the facts that these are the ingredients, but then they're omitted in the actual recipe. Maybe it's meant to be substitutions for things not sold outside of Chicago? Not sure, but it's pretty annoying. Also, their recipe for elotes is just frozen corn and cheddar cheese. Which is weird, because elotes has not just cheese (cojita) but also butter, lime, cayenne, and mayo. And... Frozen corn? Blech.

US Cellular- i have never heard it called "the new comiskey" we just, out of stubbornness still call it comiskey, same as sears tower.

Chicago style hot dog- not right. missing celery salt. has "jarred hot peppers" - it should specifically be sport peppers. relish should also be neon, but i get where that's picky. also poppy seed buns. don't call it something it's not. says right in the facts it should have sport peppers and salt and poppy seed bun, but doesn't have it in the recipe- weird. also, corn is just frozen corn with cheddar cheese, whereas elotes is mayo, cayenne, lime, butter, and cotija cheese.

Anyway, I'm done picking the Chicago section apart.

The recipes (with the above exceptions) sound pretty delicious. The three that I think sound the yummiest are Poutine with Apple Blondies with Maple Glaze (Toronto Blue Jays), BBQ Ribs with Homemade Pickles and Cornbread Muffins (Kansas City Royals), and Cheddar Bacon Stuffed Burgers with Apple Pie on a Stick (Minnesota Twins).

All in all I think this is a fun book for a sports fan, whether that's a tailgating adult or a little leaguer child. The recipes are easy, and it's fairly educational on top of it. Though now, it's a little out dated.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Cookbook Review: Dining at The Ravens by Jeff & Joan Stanford

Title: Dining at The Ravens: Over 150 Nourishing Vegan Recipes from the Stanford Inn by the Sea
Author: Jeff Stanford, Joan Stanford
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: February 9th 2016
Source: Netgalley/BenBella Books

Book Description:

At The Ravens, dinner is more than just a meal. It’s a feast for your spirit.

Located on the Mendocino coast at the only vegan resort in the United States, The Ravens Restaurant at the Stanford Inn by the Sea embodies a mindful, compassionate, and sustainable dining experience in an enchanting and unforgettable setting. Now in Dining at The Ravens, Jeff and Joan Stanford, the Inn and restaurant founders, bring the Ravens culinary experience into your home.

Teeming with beautiful photographs, Dining at The Ravens features more than 150 delicious vegan recipes and shares the charming history of the Inn and restaurant, cooking tips for perfect recipe execution, and even inspiration for creating your own garden.

Discover one of the restaurant’s most popular breakfast dishes, Citrus Polenta with Braised Garden Greens and a Creamy Toasted Cashew Sauce, and many others, such as:

Ravens Sea Palm Strudel
Indian-Spiced Polenta Napoleon
Mushroom Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Burger
Ravens Spicy Peanut Curry Sea Palm
Sweet Summer Corn Bisque
Peach Huckleberry Cobbler

Pull up a seat and find out why vegans and non-vegans alike flock to The Ravens for an extraordinary dining experience.



First, let me preface this review by saying that I'm not a vegan. That being said, I'm always up to try new vegan dishes.

The book is divided into two sections. The first part is dedicated to information about The Stanford Inn, USA's only vegan resort located in Mendocino, California. This is in addition to The Ravens, which is the (obviously) vegan restaurant that's at the inn. It was interesting and well written, but not something that I was particularly interested in. I came for the recipes, which is what the second part of the book is.

These recipes are divided into smaller sections by course. Chapters include Morning Food, Sauces Dips and Spreads, and Salads and Dressings.

This collection of recipes is certainly impressive, but it's a bit complex for a beginner. Though there's numbered steps, there's a lot of technique and components involved here. Seems like it might not be easy for beginners, but should be easy enough for a new vegan with prior cooking skill. The amount of components kind of threw off the flow of the recipes, because so many of them are on different pages from the recipe that calls for it. It's annoying to flip through.

But, the photography is fantastic.

Some of the recipes that I think sound the most delicious include Forbidden Risotto with Sunchoke Lemon Cream, Sun Dried Tomato Polenta with Foraged Mushrooms and Arugula, and Candy Cap Mushroom Creme Brulee.

I think this is a great cookbook for the vegan foodie, and it would make a great gift for a vegan/vegetarian or a healthy eater. I'd recommend it.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Soaper Short Review: Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola

Title: Pure Soapmaking
Author: Anne-Marie Faiola
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: January 8th 2016
Source: Storey Publishing LLC/Netgalley

Book Description:

The pure luxury of soaps made with coconut butter, almond oil, aloe vera, oatmeal, and green tea is one of life's little pleasures. And with the help of author Anne-Marie Faiola, it's easy to make luscious, all-natural soaps right in your own kitchen. This collection of 32 recipes ranges from simple castile bars to intricate swirls, embeds, and marbled and layered looks. Begin with a combination of skin-nourishing oils and then add blueberry puree, dandelion-infused water, almond milk, coffee grounds, mango and avocado butters, black tea, or other delicious ingredients -- and then scent your soap with pure essential oils. Step-by-step photography guides you through every stage of cold-process soapmaking.



Soap making is something that I've always wanted to try doing. I've recently started doing wax and candles, and I was happy to get a chance to read this one. I think it's a pretty good guide.

The photography is what makes this book stand apart. It's so high definition, and so pretty. It's easy to become motivated to learn the craft when you flip through all the soap goodies that Faiola demonstrates in this book.

There's also photos for each step. Each "recipe" (is that the word when it's not food?) has photo step by step instructions that make it a good tool for the newcomer to the soap game. The instructions seem pretty straight forward.

There's also a lot of really helpful information in this book. The author explains the different kind of oils that can be used and for what purpose, what kinds of methods are used to make soaps, what scents can be used, and what dyes are best for what types of soap. As someone who doesn't know a lot of information like this, it was much appreciated.

That being said.... I know this is designed as a beginner's guide, but I still thought it was a bit over my head. It was intimidating. I feel like I needed things a bit more broken down, and a bit less complex. I'm sure this is just me- I'm notoriously bad at arts projects. But, I didn't walk away going "YES I CAN MAKE THE SOAPS!", but instead "Oh so that's how it works.... Maybe I should google Soap Making for Dummies".

I think that for crafty people, this is probably a great guide. I think it'd be a good gift to give to people who enjoy DIY and craft projects.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mini Review: Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi by Anthony Bourdain

Title:Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi
Series: Get Jiro #2
Author: Anthony Bourdain
Illustrators: Joel Rose, Alé Garza
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 27th 2015
Source: Netgalley/Vertigo

Book Description:

Acclaimed chef, writer and television personality, Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose (Kill The Poor) return for the follow-up to their #1 New York Times bestseller GET JIRO from Vertigo.

In GET JIRO: BLOOD AND SUSHI, Bourdain and Rose examine the origins of the mysterious Jiro and what made him into the chef he has become. Born the heir to a Yakuza crime family, Jiro never longed to travel the crimnal path laid out before him, but instead chose to secretly study the rich culinary history of his homeland, something that would have significant repercussions if discoverd by his ganster father.

As Jiro's interest in the culinary arts deepens, his ability to keep his artistic and criminal worlds seperate becomes too great, triggering a great personal loss that will forever change Jiro's path.



What a bummer.

I really enjoyed the first book in this graphic novel series. What's not to love? It involves Anthony Bourdain, violence, and food. Sign me up! I was happy to see that there was a new book.... But I was left disappointed.

This second novel is a backstory. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Honestly? I found it boring. I don't know how that's possible. It's chock full of violence and sex and crime and the Yakuza and still, I was left with a "meh" feeling. Maybe it's because it's a predictable plot? I'm not sure. There's also way less focus on the food, which was disappointing for me. That was a good part of the reason why I enjoyed the first one.

I also didn't care for the art in this volume. It's completely different, and for me the change wasn't for the better. It's kind of dark and not really anything memorable. I think this added to the overall "ho hum" of the story for me.

I don't think I'll read any other books in the Get Jiro line if they continue. I think people who enjoy formulaic action movies (like the Fast and the Furious franchise) might like it. But if you loved the first one, maybe reconsider reading this one.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen by Linda Maria Steele

Title: Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen: Recipes for Seaside Living
Author: Linda Maria Steele
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: November 28th 2015
Source: Netgalley

Book Description:

With more than 60 delicious recipes, this book celebrates sharing good food with family and friends, inspired by the sweetness of living by the beach. Accompanied by food photography and beautiful Cape Cod landscapes, chapters focus on baked goods such as cakes, cookies, quick breads, cheesecake and biscotti, as well as appetizers, entrees, and salads and even summertime-perfect drinks. Many of the easy-to-follow recipes rely on seasonal and regional ingredients, such as Linda's Supreme Lemon Cake, Cape Cod Cranberry Loaf, Turkey and Cranberry Empanadas, Linda's Simple Lobster Salad, and Bella's Raspberry Tea. Children will enjoy helping with treats such as Nana's No-Fail Sugar Cookie Recipe, which the author makes with lobster-shaped cookie cutters. This celebration of Cape Cod focuses on gratitude for simple pleasures and includes reflections on life in a seaside community.


One and a half stars.

I've got to be honest, I'm super disappointed in this one. I picked it up because I used to live in Massachusetts, and I miss the food on the coast. This didn't deliver.

The recipes are sorted by course. Chapters include topics such as "The Art of the Appetizer", "Thirst Quenchers", and "The Joy of Salad". But, there's not always much meat to them, so to speak. Cheesecake, for example, has a whole chapter, but there's only two recipes in it. So, not much of a point there.

Let's talk about the good parts of the recipes. They're pretty straight forward, with easy to follow, numbered instructions. It's approachable, and not very intimidating. That'd be good if I were new to cooking. There's also a lot of personal touches throughout the book. There's little stories and poems in between the recipes. It sets a nice tone.

Now, the not so good. The pictures are awful. They're really small, and they're not even high quality. They look like photos taken off a stock page or website. There's also a lot of clip art. I don't know why there needs to be clip art, it makes it look unprofessional and dated.

I'm also disappointed that in a Cape Cod focused cookbook, there's literally only 5 seafood recipes. And one of those is for breaded fillets.

Normally, at the end of a cookbook review, I pick the three recipes that I think sound the best to highlight. I usually have more than three, but pare it down. This is a rare time where I only found two recipes that sounded worth making.

Those recipes would be Turkey and Cranberry Empanadas and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cheesecake.

All in all, this is a book I was super excited for. But the weird clip art and the "meh" recipes make it come off like a book put together by a classroom or Girl Scout troop as opposed to a published one. I wouldn't recommend it.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Review: Layered by Tessa Huff

Title: Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes
Author: Tessa Huff
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 19th 2016
Source: Netgalley

Book Description:

It’s time to venture beyond vanilla and chocolate and take your baking skills up a notch. We’re talking layers—two, three, four, or more!

Create sky-high, bakery-quality treats at home with Tessa Huff’s 150 innovative recipes, which combine new and exciting flavors of cake, fillings, and frostings—everything from pink peppercorn cherry to bourbon butterscotch, and pumpkin vanilla chai to riesling rhubarb and raspberry chocolate stout. Including contemporary baking methods and industry tips and tricks, Layered covers every decorating technique you’ll ever need with simple instructions and gorgeous step-by-step photos that speak to bakers of every skill level—and to anyone who wants to transform dessert into layer upon layer of edible art.



From cover to cover, this is an elegant guide to all things cake.

The first section is much needed for people like me, whose cakes never seem to turn out quite like was intended. There's a list of utilized ingredients, tools of the trade (and how to use them), as well as a guide on how to decorate.

And then there's, of course, the cakes! The recipes are arranged by types of cake. Sections include "Classic Cakes", "Casual Cakes", and "Whimsical Cakes". This is a little muddled for me. I'd prefer more of a sorting by ingredients type of organization. Classic and casual are sort of subjective. But, that's nitpicking and I know it.

The recipes have numbered steps, which is helpful. But I'm going to be honest- I think this is an intimidating book to a beginner baker. Its recipes are pretty complicated, and many of the cakes have a lot of components.

The biggest plus of this collection of cake recipes is the photography, which is gorgeous. I also really appreciate, as a visual cook, that there are photos of each and every cake. That's what I look for most in a cookbook, and this book didn't disappoint.

Some of the cakes that I'm most eager to shove in my cake hole include Lavender Olive Oil Cake, Sweet Tea Cake, and Blueberry Pancake Cake.

This book would be great on a baker's shelf, and with such beautiful photography would make a great gift. If this is your first time ever baking a cake, be cautious of this one.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Cookbook Review: Cookie Classics Made Easy by Brandi Scalise

Title: Cookie Classics Made Easy: One-Bowl Recipes, Perfect Results
Author: Brandi Scalise
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: May 3rd 2016
Source: Netgalley/ Storey Publishing, LLC

Book Description:

The 40 recipes in this delicious collection use a foolproof formula that requires just one bowl, minimal baking equipment, and no previous experience! You’ll find your tried-and-true favorites here — from Chewy Chocolate Chip to Oatmeal Raisin, Shortbread, Ginger Molasses, and Snickerdoodles — plus many more that are sure to become new must-haves, such as Lemon Ginger, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Rum Raisin, Pecan Delight, and Vanilla Walnut Pear. Warm, crave-worthy cookies are just minutes away!



I love to bake. Especially cookies. Cookies are my go-to when I'm in the mood to get cooking. I'm always looking for new ideas to try, and the easier the better! I wasn't disappointed with this book.

This book is divided by ingredient, which I found really helpful. It's my preference, and it was much appreciated. Chapters include "Chocolate Love", "Fruit and Nut", and "Sugar and Spice". There's also a handy dandy conversion chart for reference.

Let's start with the recipes themselves. This is a great book for beginners. In addition to being easy, one bowl recipes (per the title), the recipes are extremely detailed, with instructions on how the cookies should look and at what stages, and tips to make a better cookie. The steps are numbered, which is also a helpful step for a newer baker.

True to the title, the recipes really are easy. But, they sound delicious too! Don't mistake "easy" for "boring". There's a nice mix of cookie types here. There's something for everyone. There's even some healthier options.

The photography is pretty good, but what really makes me happy is that there's a photo for every recipe. *Hallelujah chorus intensifies*. I am a visual person, and the more photos that a recipe book has, the better!

Some of the most delicious sounding cookies include Hit the Trails Running (Trail Mix), By the Campfire (No Bake Smores) and Apples Rolled in Autumn.

This is a great book for new bakers, but if you're not new to the kitchen there's still plenty to enjoy. It'd be good for a room parent or someone who hosts a lot.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Cookbook Review: Dishing Up Minnesota by Teresa Marrone

Title: Dishing Up® Minnesota: 150 Recipes from the Land of 10,000 Lakes
Author: Teresa Marrone
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: June 28th 2016
Source: Storey Publishing, LLC/Netgalley

Book Description:

These 150 mouthwatering recipes, contributed by some of Minnesota’s best chefs, farmers, and foragers and accompanied by gorgeous photography, celebrate the state’s outstanding and unique cuisine. You’ll find dishes featuring fish from the lakes as well as morels and chanterelles, wild blueberries, wild game, beef and bison, orchard fruits, berries, dairy products, and much more. There are recipes inspired by German, Scandinavian, East Asian, and African traditions, as well as dishes from fairs and food trucks. There’s something here for everyone, from Carrot Risotto and Dry-Fried Sugar Snap Peas to North Shore Fish Cakes; Wild Cherry Jelly; Northland Venison Burger with Wild Rice; Bison, Bacon & Cheddar Meatballs; Busy-Day Pho; Egg Coffee; Gravlax; Varmland Potato Sausage; Hmong Chicken Larb; Tater Tot Nachos; Thai Peanut Caramel Popcorn; Honey Pecan Pie; Classic Pound Cake with Cardamom; and Apple Dessert Hotdish.



Three and a half stars.

Ah, Minnesota. Home of the hot dish. Being a Midwestern girl, I love learning recipes from my own neck of the woods. Minnesota is in my region, but ultimately isn't a place I associate with food. This book helped to teach me more.

The good outweighed the not-so-good in this book. I really liked the amount of information that was smooshed into it. There's all sorts of historical notes and facts about Minnesota. There's also some inviting information about places to visit, as well as a guide to all the festivals that are hosted throughout the state.

The recipes themselves sounded delicious, and came off as approachable to a home cook. The instructions have numbered steps, making it easier to follow along. There's also notes about substitutions when you don't have certain ingredients, or can't consume them. This is something that I wish more cookbooks had, and I appreciated it here. There's also quote a few vegetarian dishes, and even some gluten-free ones. This was a pleasant surprise, because I know we aren't known for our health-consciousness here in the middle of the country. There's also some drink recipes, and there's a list of sources included.

The pictures were okay, but I wish there were more photos of the finished dishes. There's pictures of ingredients, or some of the steps, but not so much of the "ta da! Here's what it should like!" type. That's mainly what I look for when I look for a new cookbook.

I like that there was an homage to the many cultures that call Minnesota home. Some recipes of Native American, German, and Scandinavian origins are in this book, and it was these types of recipes that I found the most interesting and that I most want to enjoy.

The one thing that really annoyed me about this book is the way that the recipes are organized. They're organized by type of dish. Now when I say that, I don't mean divided by ingredient, or by course, or by occasion. More like general labels of "how would this be categorized?" Some of the chapters include The Land of 10000 Lakes, Multi-Cultural Specialties, and Fairs. This leads to the recipes being in a really, really weird order. For example, blueberry pie and mushroom soup are next to each other. It's awkward, and incredibly hard to navigate.

That aside, the dishes in this book sound delicious. Some of the ones that I thought sounded great include Grilled Venison Loin with Honey, Juniper, and Black Pepper Glaze , Pickle-Brined Chicken Nuggets with Dill Horsey Sauce, and Honey and Sunflower Ice Cream.

I think this book does Minnesota justice, said as someone who isn't from there. It's full of yummy sounding things with easy to follow instructions, and I'd recommend it to those looking for more Americana type recipes.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Dishing Up New Jersey by John Holl

Title: Dishing Up® New Jersey: 150 Recipes from the Garden State
Author: John Holl
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: May 17th 2016
Source: Netgalley/Storey Publishing, LLC

Book Description:

New Jersey native John Holl searched from Sussex County to Cape May to find the best recipes New Jersey has to offer, and the result is this rich and unique cookbook celebrating the foods, flavors, cultures, and traditions of the Garden State. These 150 recipes include dishes featuring New Jersey’s own produce — tomatoes, corn, cranberries, blueberries, apples — along with deep-fried boardwalk treats, late-night diner bites, and recipes contributed by casinos, bison and dairy farms, food trucks, old-school delis, famous bakeries, and more. You’ll find Pork Roll Surprise, Cucumber Gazpacho, Ukrainian Holubtsi, Funnel Cake at Home, Tomato and Onion Salad, Jersey Green Clam Chowder, Sunday Gravy, Saltwater Taffy, Traditional Amish Chili, Classic Lawrenceville Mac & Cheese, Jersey Disco Fries, Fresh Jersey Corn Cakes, Honey Thyme Caramel, Black and Blue Cobbler — and a classic Taylor Ham, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich. Beautifully photographed, this collection is the ultimate tribute to New Jersey’s best.



Three and a half stars.

So, fun fact. I don't know anything about New Jersey, or the food that's eaten there. I'm a midwestern girl, so this was quite the informative book. I will say that at the very least, I know more now than I did before!

The book is divided by a combination of course and ingredients. Sections include "Rise and Shine", "Sweet Treats", and "Down the Shore". This is the way I like my cookbooks to be organized, so this is a big plus from me.

Each recipe has numbered steps, which I think makes this book an accessible one to those who aren't used to being in the kitchen. There's also a ton of fun facts sprinkled in this book, and the commentary that Holl provides is pretty funny- you'll actually want to read the text of the cookbook and not just the recipes.

What I thought was cool about this book is that it includes recipes from some in-state venues, as well as a festival and restaurant/resource guide. It shows a certain state pride, like "hey, don't just make this at home, come here and try it yourself!" It's inviting. There are also recipes from a BUNCH of different cultures, which I appreciated because it shows how diverse the phrase "New Jersey Cooking" can be depending on who you ask. Recipes from the Ukraine, India, Ireland, and more all are included.

Another big plus for this book is the difference in the type of recipes listed. There are some healthy dishes, some that are paleo, and some that are veggie friendly. It's a nice mix.

I do have some hang ups, though. There were nowhere near enough photos for my preference, which was a bit of a let down. Especially because so many things sounded SO GOOD. There are also quite a few really basic recipes in here, like deviled eggs and iced tea, that are just classic renditions. I'm sure they'll be useful to some people, but they were skip-able to me.

Some of the dishes that I would love to make from this book include Thanksgiving Inspired Chicken and Waffles, Taylor Ham, Egg, and Cheese Soup, and Limoncello Cheesecake.

This is another cookbook that I think is good for both beginners and the more seasoned chef, no pun intended. If you depend on photo finishes, be wary. It's a funny book with delicious sounding recipes and a good dose of Americana.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Cookbook Review: Fresh Fish by Jennifer Trainer Thompson

Title: Fresh Fish: Seafood Recipes, Techniques, and Traditions
Author: Jennifer Trainer Thompson
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: March 22nd 2016
Source: Netgalley & Storey Publishing, LLC

Book Description:

Cooking fish and other seafood at home is much easier than you think! Fresh Fish offers simple step-by-step instructions for all of the essential cooking methods, including baking, pan-frying, braising, broiling, steaming, poaching, roasting, marinating, and grilling — along with 175 mouthwatering recipes that bring out the best in everything from fish fillets and whole fish to shrimp, mussels, lobster, clams, calamari, and more. You’ll also learn how to buy fish (even whole fish) with confidence, how to serve fish raw, how to clean freshly dug clams, and much more. Beautiful photography celebrates both the food and the lazy charm of summers at the beach; this is a delightful read as well as the cookbook you need to easily enjoy your favorite seafood at home.



Overall, I really liked looking over Fresh Fish.

The recipes are divided by course and ingredient, and include sections such as "Things in a Shell", "Things that Swim", and "On the Beach". By course is my personal organization preference when it comes to cookbooks, so I was happy with this. The recipes are well written. The pages are dotted with personal connections- it feels like each recipe was carefully selected with purpose to be included in this book, which makes me want to try them more. The author shares personal stories that make the book more interesting than just a skeletal book of instructions and grocery lists.

Another thing that I found helpful about this book is the handy tips that pop up throughout, such as well detailed instructions for how to clean shrimp and mussels. I don't work with shellfish often, so these hints will definitely not go unnoticed.

The photography was gorgeous, and it'll be tough to flip through this one on an empty stomach because you'll want to eat ALL the things! That said, I wish there were more photos of the completed dishes.

Some of the things that I'd most like to try include smoked whitefish pate with fresh figs, gorgonzola dolce, and local honey, and blueberry peach cobbler with vanilla (yes I know this isn't fish, but it still sounds delicious!).

I'd recommend this to anyone who loves seafood. This is an accessible book that can be used by beginners and experienced cooks alike.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.