Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source by Terry Walters

Synopsis: Clean Food is a feast for the senses that will nourish mind, body, and soul--and this revised edition offers lovers of fresh, seasonal vegan fare even more than before. In addition to all-new color photographs and 20 entirely new recipes, acclaimed chef and nutritionist Terry Walters has updated the dishes to feature today's most healthful ingredients. Now, for example, virgin coconut oil substitutes for canola oil and maple syrup replaces agave nectar as a sweetener. In addition, those going gluten-free will find recipe variations throughout the book to meet their needs. (online description)

Review: This is a comprehensive book that has non-meat recipes, organized by season. It begins with her over-all approach to eating, which extols clean food (i.e. no processed foods), and in particular, eating only those vegetables in season. Under the section on Basics, she goes into detail about ever ingredient that she uses - herbs, vegetables, oils, nuts - writing about where they originated from, how they are used, and where to find them. Her recipes are easy-to-read and easy to follow. The recipes themselves are excellent, with lots of diverse flavors.
But here is my main issues - while there is plenty of scientific evidence that proves eating less processed foods is healthier, some of her other assertions have no scientific bases at all. She makes several firm assertions against animal protein and several about fat that are simply wrong. The science is shoddy at best. According to the back of the book, she is educated, but none of the institutions mentions seem to be those that concern themselves with hard science. Not a fan.
But I am going to keep the book for the recipes. Even we carnivores need side dishes. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4027-6814-9
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 9-11-2016
Pages: 290

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: As Chimney Sweeper Come to Dust by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce, Book 7)

Synopsis: Banished! is how twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce laments her predicament, when her father and Aunt Felicity ship her off to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, the boarding school that her mother, Harriet, once attended across the sea in Canada. The sun has not yet risen on Flavia’s first day in captivity when a gift lands at her feet. Flavia being Flavia, a budding chemist and sleuth, that gift is a charred and mummified body, which tumbles out of a bedroom chimney. Now, while attending classes, making friends (and enemies), and assessing the school’s stern headmistress and faculty (one of whom is an acquitted murderess), Flavia is on the hunt for the victim’s identity and time of death, as well as suspects, motives, and means. Rumors swirl that Miss Bodycote’s is haunted, and that several girls have disappeared without a trace. When it comes to solving multiple mysteries, Flavia is up to the task—but her true destiny has yet to be revealed. (from the online description)

Review: This was an oddity in the Flavia de Luce series, in that it took place far away from Buckshaw, in the wilds of Canada. Sent to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy by her father, she is supposed to follow in her mother’s footsteps. But when a body falls out of the chimney in her bedroom, Flavia does what she does best – meddle, and solve murder.
Flavia, as always, is precocious, delightful, and brilliant. But the story, over all, bothered me. There were so many questions about Harriet, brought up, but not answered. I wanted to know more about Harriett, her life and role. I expected at Miss Bodycote’s, to get them. But we didn’t and I was frustrated by that. However, as for Flavia, she becomes a different person, someone older, and in her own way, wiser.
Worth reading, of course, but the episode has a different feel than the other stories. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-345-53994-6
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 9-24-2016
Pages: 389

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: At the Edge of the World by Kari Jones

Synopsis: Maddie and Ivan have been friends forever. They go to school together, surf, party, and hang out all the time. But all is not well in Ivan's world, and as control of his life slips further away from him, Maddie must decide what her role in his life really is.

Review: Kari Jones’ At the Edge of the World is a young adult book that centers on the relationship between Maddie and Ivan. Maddie lives with her parents in a house by the sea, somewhere in Canada. Her best friend, Ivan, lives next door. Ivan’s father is an alcoholic, and Ivan works to conceal the extent of his father’s addiction. As the story progresses, Maddie learns all the thing Ivan is concealing and struggles to decide how to support Ivan best – to protect his secrets or the tell for Ivan can get help.
I admire Jones for tackling a subject like how the addictions of the parents can affect the child. And she handles it well.
However this doesn’t really redeem the story from the issues.
The characters have little depth and the issues they face (other than Ivan) seem trite. For example, Maddie gets into a prestigious art school with a scholarship but complains about going. I find this ridiculous and annoying. And this is probably because I haven’t been a teenager for twenty years, and there is a reality to it. Teenagers rarely understand the blessing they have. This is a “big deal” for Maddie, as her parents want her to attend, but she resists.
The story is a slow, aside from a few moments of contrived excitement – like a shed fire and a missing parent and a big party.
One bright point is Maddie’s parents. They are two men, and I appreciate that this isn’t even mentioned as part of the story. In the tale, they are just  her parents.
Kari Jones shows promise as an author, and I expect as she writes more, the issues I have with this book will be corrected. 

Note: I received this book free through LibraryThing's Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-459810-624
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 9-8-16
Pages: 243

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh

Synopsis: The Beyond started with the Stations orbiting the stars nearest Earth. The Great Circle the interstellar freighters traveled was long, but not unmanageable, and the early Stations were emotionally and politically dependent on Mother Earth. The Earth Company which ran this immense operation reaped incalculable profits and influenced the affairs of nations. Then came Pell, the first station centered around a newly discovered living planet. The discovery of Pell's World forever altered the power balance of the Beyond. Earth was no longer the anchor which kept this vast empire from coming adrift, the one living mote in a sterile universe. But Pell was just the first living planet. Then came Cyteen, and later others, and a new and frighteningly different society grew in the farther reaches of space. The importance of Earth faded and the Company reaped ever smaller profits as the economic focus of space turned outward. But the powerful Earth Fleet was sitll a presence in the Beyond, and Pell Station was to become the last stronghold in a titanic struggle between the vast, dynamic forces of the rebel Union and those who defended Earth's last, desperate grasp for the stars. (from the back of the book)

Review: After reading my first novel by Cherryh, Foreigner, resulting in mixed thoughts, I wanted to try another. I chose Downbelow Station because it is her most-lauded work. As with Foreigner, it took me at least half way through to get hooked, and even after that, I would set the book down for long stretches of time. This is a conundrum because I enjoyed the book, found the story intricate, intriguing, and well-told, and the characters complex, complete, and tangible. Several scenes even gave me the physical chills. So why did I have a hard time finishing this novel?
Perhaps it is because so much of the story is political maneuvering or the running internal dialogue of the characters? Perhaps because the action doesn’t start until near the end and the first two-thirds of the book is set-up for the bloody last third? Either way, I’m tempted to say it’s a characteristic of Cherryh, but I would need to read at least two more of her novels to really say with certainty. Cherryh’s strength is her characters. They have a complexity rare in fiction, one that as an aspiring writer, I must learn. In particular, her character Signy Mallory, will stay with me as a favorite, not just in Cherryh’s universe, but from any book I’ve read.
As with Foreigner, I finished this book certain that this is a well-told story, one worth the accolades, and one I will recommend. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

1982: Hugo Award for Best Novel:  Winner
1982: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel: shortlist Nominee
1987: Locus Award, All-Time Best SF Novel: Position 41
1998: Locus Award, All-Time Best SF Novel Before 1990: Position 25 

Year Published: 1981
Date Finished: 9-6-2016
Pages: 526

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Hiroshima: A Novella by Laurence Yep

Synopsis: On the morning of August 6, 1945, an American bomber the Enola Gay, roars down the runway of the Pacific island, Tinian. Its target is Hiroshima, Japan. It's cargo is an atom bomb. The same morning, twelve-year-old Sachi and her classmates tear down houses. It is their way of contributing to the war efforts. Suddenly, a teacher yells, "B-29! B-29!" There is a blinding light like the sun a boo like a giant drum. The Enola Gay has dropped an atom bob over Hiroshima. Will Sachi ever see family again? (from the back of the book)

Review: The uncomplicated prose and vocabulary of this book belies the impact of the story and the emotion that it stirs. Yep uses simple words to describe this horrific event in World History. He doesn’t avoid the hard truths. He explains radiation and its effect on the human body. He speaks of the flames that consumed the acid rain that fell, the piled bodies of the dead, the loss, the horror, the death. The story starts with a fictional girl, Sachi, who is pulled from the real experience of several women.  The reader walks with her, through her day, through the fire, the burning rain, the loss of her father and sister, and her eventual travel to the US as one of the Hiroshima Maidens.
This is not a book for a faint-hearted child, but it is intended to child. The language is directed at elementary-age reader. This is a profound work, and worth reading. It is a necessary addition to a home-school library, and excellent as an introduction to this event in history. 

Bookmarks: 9 of 10

Awards: An ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; A Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies.

ISBN: 0-590-20833-0
Year Published: 1995
Date Finished: 9-4-2016
Pages: 56

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: Biography of Water by Carrie Bennett

Synopsis: Carrie Bennett is an award-wining poet, and this is one of her most lauded work.

Review: I can see why modern poetry critics would laud Bennett's work. But it seems pretentious and overly vague. Even the structures of the poem seem to be trying too hard. Despite the praise, there was little passion or depth to the prose. Just mumbo jumbo, as if she tossed scrabble letters onto the floor and wrote down the works. There was no story to her work. Other may find more in her work than I. But this was not for me.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: Washington Prize Winner, 2004

ISBN: 0-915380-58-7
Year Published: 2005
Date Finished: 9-3-2016
Pages: 71

Friday, September 16, 2016

Review: Growing Up In: Ancient China by Ken Teague (Growing Up In Series)

Synopsis: Who ere the ancient Chinese? What was everyday life like for young people in a Chinese town? How did farming families live in the country? What was it like inside a Chinese house? Did boys and girls go to school? What happened at the New Year Festival? In the book, you will find the answers to these and many more fascinating questions. (from the back of the book)

Review: Written in clear prose, this book takes the reader through Ancient China. The illustrations are lively and colorful, designed to engage young readers. The book explores the culture and people of ancient China in such a way that children will understand and enjoy. This would an excellent addition to any home or school children's library. I hope to collect all the books in this series.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8167-2716-3
Year Published: 1994
Date Finished: 9-3-2016
Pages: 32

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deobrah Hopkinson, ill. by James Ransome

Synopsis: Clara is a seamstress in the Big House on Home Plantation. Slavery has separated her from her mother, and she dreams that one day they will be reunited. Walking home from the Big House one evening, Clara's Aunt Rachel points to the North Star and tells her about Canada, the free land in the north. She also tells her about the Underground Railroad - a group of people who help slaves escape to freedom. When Clara learns about the route to Canada she begins working on a special quilt - one with a secret map. But will Clara's quilt be enough to guide her and other slaves to freedom. (From the back of the book)

Review: With colorful illustrations and simple prose, this book tells the story of a young girl who dreams of freedom. But no slave leaves because they don't know the way - until Clara figures out a way to make a map. She salvages scraps from sewing, and slowly builds a map from the fabric. Other slaves gather information about the land between them and the Ohio river - the place where the Underground Railway begins. Full of courage and imagination, Clara opens the way to freedom, for herself and others. Worth reading, and excellent for children.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Reading Rainbow

ISBN: 0-590-42485-8
Year Published: 1993
Date Finished: 9-3-2016
Pages: 32

Review: Collecting with Vision: Treasures from the Chrysler Museum of Art ed. by Jefferson C. Harrison, Gary E Baker, and Brooks Johnson

Synopsis: A review of the collection in the Chrysler Museum of Art, located in Norfolk, Virginia. This book includes the history of the museum and the source of it's extensive and comprehensive collection.

Review: I had hoped this would be focused on the collection but it read more like a very expensive thank-you to donors. Not that I resent thanking donors, but the Chrysler holdings is a brilliant collection and deserve a more comprehensive survey. To it's credit, the book is lovely - glossy and colorful. But I wanted more pictures of the artifacts and arts, and less words about the donors.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-940744-72-1
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 8-31-2016
Pages: 160

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: Manga Shakespeare: Hamlet by Emma Vieceli

Synopsis: The classic story of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, interpreted by artist Emma Vieceli. The words are Shakespeare, but the world is hers.

Review: Having never read the story, although knowing the basic story, this seemed like an excellent way to explore it. I was right. This was well done - losing none of the fluidity of Shakespeare's words or themes, but expanding on them to create a visual story that engaged the imagination. I recommend! 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8109-9324-2
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 8-31-2016
Pages: 195

Monday, September 12, 2016

Review: A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now ed. by Aliki Barnstone and Willis Barnstone

Synopsis: A major anthology of poetry by women covering four thousand years and the great civilizations, this collection contains a generous selection of work by modern English, American, Canadian, and Australian poets, as well as translations from language as diverse as Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi, Estonian, Chinese, Rumanian, Apache, and Norwegian. (from the inside cover)

Things We Learned by Reading This:

1. It is possible to have an anthology of poetry that actually includes authors from every continent and tradition and era.

2. I’m not a fan of medieval poetry. Or most of the modern poems

3. I adore Asian poetry, particularly Lady Ise and Izumi Shikibu

4. Ancient Sumerian poetry is worth reading.

5. This is a worth-while collection, excellent for any home library, and I would like to have a word with the person who tossed it on the junk heap my husband rescued it from.

Note: This review is about the 1980 Edition 

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8052-0680-9
Year Published: 1980
Date Finished: 8-25-2016
Pages: 612