Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 5 Minute Snack Diet by Benjamin Swartzman

I'm just not sure where to begin with this book. I was excited to get to review a diet book and this one sounded like a great one. However, pages into this work red flags began to pop up for me. This is one scary book and I hope people are not so caught up that they don't notice. The first thing that caught my eye was the author mentioned studies but didn't cite a single one. For me, that's important. It says several things - one the author is honest enough to share the data's source, two the studies are real and three the author has enough education to know how to write a real paper (even grade school kids learn to cite their information).
I started wondering what the author had to hide and I wanted to know who this man was that wrote the book. The book does not come with an author biography. I checked his website - none there, not even so much as a mention of anything personal about the author. I went to Smashwords where I got the book - nothing there either. This is where I begin to have problems with self published books. There is a reason why it's difficult to get a nonfiction book published - you have to have some expertise. When it comes to dieting, you really need someone who has some medical or nutritional background. I'm not saying that the author has to be a registered dietitian but have working knowledge of health.
With that aside, this is a terrible book and had it not been for the fact that I feel like I need to warn the world away from this book I would have totally skipped reviewing it. It's poorly written. The information is confusing and contridictory. The description of the book claims that the reader will learn to cook their meals in five minutes but the book lacks standard recipes. There is some cooking information but it's poorly designed and a small part of the book. The language is off putting. I don't care why someone diets but having the author tell me every few pages that this diet will make me "hot" makes me want to buy him a thesaurus. There is probably some good information in this book but I can't tell you where. It's not worth anyone's time to find out.
If you want a good diet book - there are tons out there or better yet join a group that will support you while you work towards becoming more healthy. Maybe it's my age but I found the idea of being "hot" to be less important than trying to be healthy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bearded Women Stories by Teresa Milbrodt

I'm not even sure how to categorize this book. It's beautiful and touching with just a touch of sarcasm and wit. This collection of short stories has to be the best I have ever read.
The description from NetGalley is this: Welcome to the contemporary Freak Show. A woman trying to have a child has a parasitic twin, an extra lower torso, and set of legs named Bianca—should she have "Bianca's Body" removed to improve her chances at conception? A bearded lady considers coming out of the closet about her hirsute nature, while carrying on a battle of wills with an overeating patron in "Mr. Chicken." A woman with four ears gets a chance to make extra money as the mascot of a tattoo parlour, and encounters a middle-aged, cookie-baking stalker who believes she is a sign that the end of the world is nigh. Meet the "freaks"—they're mothers, wives, and lovers: all of them trying negotiate a world that is quicker to stare than sympathize.
I figured it was up my alley. What I didn't expect was something so visceral and emotional. This is not a freak show but an expose of what it's like to live as someone who is different. The first story Bianca's Body was more than a tale about a woman with a parasitic twin. This nameless woman struggles with jealousy over that part of her body that seems to be more receptive to her husband, the pain of not being able to maintain a pregnancy and the identity of who she really is. It's the perfect introduction to Teresa Milbrodt's world.
The writing is a little odd which only adds to the work. Many of the characters are unnamed and the stories a brief snapshot of their lives. Some left me wondering and others felt complete. This is one I am glad to review and such a gem that will sadly be overlooked by those who would appreciate it most.

Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts

Martha Stewart never fails to please with her craft books. There is always something for everyone in each of her collections. I enjoyed looking through the crafts and have a few slated to be completed over the next month.
There were many things I loved about this book - it had a variety from easy to do with the kids to something elegant and showstopping. She hit all the major holidays and gives us projects for the whole year.
What I didn't like was how quick some of the instructions were. Some of the projects I would have liked more detail and more pictures. I was able to find more instructions on her website but not much. I like her projects but it's a little frustrating going in blind. I know that I will most likely figure out the project on my own but it makes me less likely to do more projects.
I love her eye for crafts and really like the ideas she offers. This is definitely one worth checking out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

Little did I know when I picked this book up that I was going to be completely swept away. First Food52 is a website created by the authors to support home cooking. I could spend a day there just looking over their dinner and a movie section.
The cookbook represents a year's worth of recipes that the authors gathered from their website. These are not just any recipes but the winners of a variety of contests they hold.
The recipes are real world recipes - sophisticated and yet homey. I can imagine my family eating these foods at the dinner table. I pictured my son enjoying buttery cookies and exotic soups and loving them.
I can't even begin to pick out a favorite and I'm sure my days will be consumed with fitting these recipes into our menus.
I liked that the recipes stretched beyond my comfort level but not so much that I was intimidated. The cookbook its self is open and honest like sitting down with friends to talk food.
The recipes are adult but can easily be served to children (minus the numerous inventive cocktails). I like that there are whole foods in these recipes and they are not too complicated. This is definetely one that is going on my shelf at home.

The 25 Greatest Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur

I remember my first Top Secret Recipes experience. A friend had loaned me her copy of this cookbook which had a recipe for something we had been talking about (I believe it was a candy). I can't remember what the recipe was because a few pages in and I was in love. Todd Wilbur has become famous for breaking down popular processed foods so that the average cook can make them in their kitchen. After many books, Todd is coming out with a greatest hits (a first in cookbook history).
This book is only available in e-book and is designed to help smooth the way for those who love e-books. This is the first Top Secret Recipes book to go digital.
If you are not familiar with Top Secret Recipes, recommend this book as a great introduction. If you are already a fan, this is a condensed version with his most popular recipes.
The recipes range from popular sweets like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Oreos to restaurant standards like McDonald's Big Mac and Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion. Each recipe comes with a short introduction to the company and the dish.

Real Cidermaking on a Small Scale by Michael Pooley

I make up my own version of cider and have for years but I really want to learn how to use a ciderpress. When the opportunity to review this book came up, I jumped at it and hoped I could make use of the information while I still have access to apples.
This is a well written book on making cider. It defines apple qualities, press options and finishes with fermenting choices and recipes for using the cider.
The only complaint I have is that the author is from England and the apple selection is available in the UK and not the United States. That won't stop me from using the press information, it just means more experimenting with the apple choices I have (which here is Washington is vast).
There are plenty of instructions for making a ciderpress but I may cheat and purchase one. Regardless of where the press comes, I still can't wait to play with the recipes at the back of the book - fish baked in cider, yummy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dark Eden by Patrick Carmen

This was an interesting book. I'm familiar with Patrick Carmen's work and it was nice to see something darker but what made it interesting is that you can choose to read the book or experience the book through a multimedia app found here. The first chapter is free but I found I preferred the flow of the book.
The story follows Will Besting as he attends Fort Eden, a camp to cure him and six others of their fear. It's a good concept and just experiencing Will's part made for an entertaining read. However, more is going on at Fort Eden and even though I had some guesses - I was wrong and there were surprises I didn't see coming. I give Patrick Carmen kudos for that.
This is a young adult book with young adult themes but it's an enjoyable adult read. I'm not sure how this would go as a movie but I'd be willing to see that. It's a great book for most ages. It's dark but not overly scary so a young or sensitive reader would do well with it. There is some slight romance but nothing beyond hand holding and the occasional kiss.
I like how the chapters focus on each of the characters and their cures. At the end, there seems to be several epilogues but they don't detract from the story.