Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Sweet Potato Soul

Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul 

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony (February 6, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451498895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451498892

  • In an Introduction which details the author's background, and a description of Southern food,  we are given short but informative subsections such as 
  • Five Healthy Food Rules I Live By
  • What To Expect From This Book
  • Tools to Stock Your Soul Kitchen
  • Southern Pantry Staples
  • Varieties of Sweet Potatoes 
  • How to Slice Sweet Potatoes
  • Greens
  • Creole Seasoning
  • Flours Sweeteners

  • After that, we have the recipes which are listed in the following categories:
  • Breakfast
  • Salads and Soups
  • Greens and Sides
  • Mains
  • Sweets and Drinks
  • Pantry staples & Sauces

  • Then Acknowledgments
  • and
  • Index

  • Each recipe section takes one page and lists ingredients, cooking directions, and a homey or helpful blurb

  • Okay, i loved this book! I'm not even from the south. With only a few exceptions (purple sweet potatoes, coconut sugar, miso, tamari, dulse, nori, flaxseed meal, etc), the ingredients are easily-found especially if you live in or near a large city. Happily most of the recipes use regular items.

  • The dishes are sometimes veganized versions of old favorites such as sweet potato hummus, stalwarts such as pecan pie, and fusions such as Cajun Blackened Tofu Sandwich, cream cheese pound cake (made with soy milk) or Spicy fried cauliflower "chicken.". 

  • This is a book for folks who want that down home cooking while eating vegan. You shouldn't have to give up on your culture to eat vegan. The book is vegan. It is not gluten-free cooking or even healthy non-sugar cooking. 

  • Highly Recommended. I got this book free in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

  • Thursday, February 01, 2018

    Pok Pok -- The Drinking Food of Thailand

    Pok Pok -- The Drinking Food of Thailand
    by Andy Ricker with J J Goode

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (October 31, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607747731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607747734
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1 x 10.8 inches

  • I decided to review this book because I love South-east Asian food and figured if I learned to cook them, I'd spare myself major bucks. Why go to a restaurant when you can cook? I say all that because the title might turn a few folks off. Basically, the book is about foods you might find in a Thai bar, or a Thai home. So while there are tons of foods that are snacks, and a few that are cooked in alcohol, for the most part this is a recipe book with the same categories one would find in most recipe books. Alcohol is not necessary.

    The chapter headings are:
    About this book
    Using a Mortar and Pestle
    Chile dips
    Fried Foods
    Grilled foods
    Stir Fries
    Late-night and morning food
    Sundry Items

    The book reads like a travelogue of bars and personal memoir. The reader also gets to know Thai culture, especially Thai bar culture.

    First of all this is a meaty book. Yep, a lot of meat recipes. A lot of pork and seafood, so if you're not into pork and seafood (or pig brains) you might not get a lot out of this book. I love shellfish but i don't eat it, and I never touch pork. BUT, I'm not averse to substituting beef or fish in a recipe.

    Another thing is that this book has a lot of fried and deep-fried recipes. Again, if you're not into frying food, this book might not be your taste.

    And yes, there is the aforementioned alcohol. Lots of recipes use various kinds of local alcohol (which can probably be switched around with western alcohol.)

    There are a few raw meat recipes and most of the recipes require finding some kind of South-east Asian spice, but I'd say...if you want to learn how to cook with a Thai flavor, this book is a good buy so go for it! Although... i don't see myself using a mortar and pestle or going to a bar anytime soon.

    I got this book free in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

    Tuesday, December 26, 2017

    Review: When God Made You

    When God Made You Hardcover – February 28, 2017

  • Age Range: 3 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: WaterBrook (February 28, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1601429185
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601429186

  • This is one of those Christian picture books that challenges social issues by not making a big deal about it.

    There really isn't a story per se. The book follows a little girl on her creative adventure through the park. She has a little sister whom she loves and the story begins in the world as we know it, then her creativity connects to the entire creativity is wont to do. After the creative adventure, it returns to the bedroom of the two siblings with the older sister reading to the younger sister.

    It's a picture book that celebrates creativity and individuality. Let's face it, although we Christians often go about saying that God made us all different, the truth is that often the artistic spirit is not celebrated in some homes because many people can be quite rigid and they like having their children conform to normalcy. The story reads like a blessing given from a parent to a child, or as a blessing given from an older sibling to a younger one.

    I liked this book. The little black child on the cover is also a treat. We need more books with Black characters, even if the artist and writer are white.

    The illustrations are vivid, and --like the story itself-- rhapsodic.  The language is accessible although there are a few words (such as cyclone, and glory) that will need to be explained to younger kids. It's written in rhyme

    One of the best lines:
    'Cause when God made you, thus much is true
    The world got to meet who God already knew.

    I highly recommend this book. I received this book free in exchange for a free and honest review.


    Matthew Paul Turner is the best-selling author of "When God Made You," "Churched,"and "Hear No Evil." He, and his wife, Jessica, along with their kids, Elias, Adeline, and Ezra, live in Nashville, Tennessee.

    Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Review: a box of awesome things matching game

    a box of awesome things matching game
    wee society
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 12
  • Game: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; Brdgm edition (September 26, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1524759546
  • ISBN-13: 978-1524759544

  • This is not a book but a collection of 20 pairs of matching cards. The cards are about 2 inches b 2 inches and are brightly colored with images created with that trademark stylized minimalist geometric art that wee society does. So it's basically a matching game. 

  • On the surface, the set seems a bit arty. I'm not sure that young kids would recognize some of the pictures being depicted, even though they could match them. Older kids would recognize the trapdoor card, the skull with the eyepatch, and the lava flow mountain. And i guess those things are pretty awesome in their own right. But for me, i was expecting more. Kids who are young will be able to see the patterns, older kids will understand what all the patterns mean.

  • I guess if you're looking for a matching set, this is good and less complicated than a deck of cards. 

  • The pictures are cute and the cards are on heavy-duty glossy stock. There are words that go along with the pictures so kids who are learning to read will like it. It's not that expensive at only $10 on amazon, so if you're looking for a good present for kids this would be a good set. You can't find many educational kid toys for ten dollars nowadays. I'd recommend it for holiday stocking stuffers or gifts.

  • This was given to me free in exchange for a fair and honest review.   
  • Sunday, August 06, 2017

    Review: NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Large Print Bible

    Okay, I'll admit it. I wasn't too thrilled at the thought of this Bible. Which is weird because I'm always marking up and writing in my Bibles. When my Bible starts looking like a rainbow-colored ultra-highlighted mess, I know it's time to start scrawling in another one.

    But the more I think about this Bible, the more I like it.

    First, there are those verses to color. Many of the verses are the big ones that every Christian knows and every Christian parent wants their kids to know. Some of these verses have great calligraphy, some are not really colorable because they are more about design than fill-in-the space coloring. But most of them are words and pictures that one can color. My caveat would be to use colored pencils or crayons, NOT magic markers. I can see Sunday School or Bible Class teachers copying some of these pictures for their students' use in their classes. How easy it is to memorize a Bible verse if you're coloring it. Those who like coloring, will find coloring the page meditative.

    Secondly, this is a large print Bible. It's not Extra large print but it is an easy read for kids and normal folks.

    Thirdly, this Bible has generous columns on each page, with ruled lines, for note-taking. It's a pretty heavy Bible so --unless you're accustomed to carrying around large Bibles-- you might have to leave this at home and use it for family Bible study and note-taking.

    This Bible comes with a strong heavy cloth cover and a ribbon placeholder.  I have often wished that Zondervan would quit using the same all-purpose preface it uses in all its Bibles. This time around they added a neat "Letter from the Editor" which helps the reader feel that the reason for this Bible.

    So, yeah, I'm liking this Bible a lot.

    I was given this Bible free in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

    Friday, June 23, 2017

    Review: NIV Kids' Visual Study Bible

    NIV Kids' Visual Study Bible, Hardcover, Full Color Interior: Explore the Story of the Bible---People, Places, and History Hardcover – June 6, 2017
    • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
    • Grade Level: 3 - 7
    • Hardcover: 1952 pages
    • Publisher: Zonderkidz (June 6, 2017)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0310758602
    • ISBN-13: 978-0310758600

    This Bible is set up as follows:
    Table of Contents 
    The Bible
    Table of weights and measures
    Infographics index
    Maps index
    Color Maps

    This is a good Bible, with great explanatory notes on almost every page. It has a sturdy hardcover. The pictures, photographs, and graphs are good and helpful, depicting certain fundamental truths carefully.  The notes are especially informed and insightful. They will definitely help readers understand the Bible.

    So, if this Bible has all these good things, why am I not really impressed with it as a Bible for kids? It might just be me being picky but what we have here is a marketing failure.

    First: The title. The word "kids" implies (at least to me) that the book is for tweens and under. This book is more fit for 13 year olds and over. The title is misleading because one expects a kid-friendly book for littler kids.

    Second: "Visual." This Bible has many pictures but it's not really as visual as all that.

    Third: the lightness and size of the font. The font is light and small. It should be darker and larger .Even teens will have a problem with this font. The column for the notes should be smaller, and the column where the actual Bible is written should be larger. That might've helped the font issue.

    Fourth: A general laziness. If this Bible is to be presented to a child, the design and presentation should have been better. For instance, the preface isn't written for kids. I'm not sure but it might be the same-old same-old  preface . Why? Shouldn't they have gotten a kid-friendly kid-understandable version of that preface?

    This leads to my FIFTH complaint: The designers and editors of this book saw the trees, but not the forest. A kid's Bible should have a timeline, several in fact. In the front or back of the Bible, there should be overviews of the Bibles, of the kings, of Israel's history, of the prophets, of the miracles, of the parables. Kids haven't known it all or seen everything; they aren't like us older folks. There really should be more guides to the basics.

    Upshot: This book should have been called the TEEN'S STUDY BIBLE. A mere title change and this book would be perfect. Please do not buy this Bible for little kids or for kids with bad eyes.

    This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for a fair and honest review.


    Wednesday, June 07, 2017

    THE FAN: This Present Reality

    The Fan: This Present Reality
    By Carole McDonnell

    Hello there, Dear Readers, Watchers, and Fellow Creatives.

    No doubt you all understand the power of a passionate obsession. And, some of you might remember my embarrassing addiction to stories that send the viewer off into a rabbit-hole of dislocation. Well, I will just say that an obsession is not easily dropped. Lord knows, they’re even harder to drop if the obsessed has no intention of actually dropping the obsession. So, yes, I waded through my usual drama crack of singularities, quantum physics, string theory. Yep, films such as B4, Orange, Beautiful Prison, and Penitent Man. But, true to my promise to spare you my time-travel and dislocation rambles, I’m not gonna review any of that. Nor will I review Apocalypse Kiss which was my first --and, yes, undoubtedly my last-- venture into dystopian porny horror. (Yes, there are some things in this world that one’s mind cannot unsee.)  Instead, let’s get to the speculative stuff that entranced me this summer in the fantastic universe of creativity.  

    Embers --- Written by Claire Carre and Charles Spano. Directed by Claire Carre, J​ason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fern├índez 2015  1 hour, 26 minutes ​Available on iTunes, Amazon Prime, YouTube

    I love living in these post-gatekeepers days. Sure, the big filmmakers/publishers/music companies are good at making big films, books, and music with big stars and blockbuster production. But there is something about indies. Yes, yes, some of them are pretentious, some are precious, most have bad acting. But, all that said, indies do tell some good stories sometimes.

    Embers was on Kickstarter and I’m sure the folks who donated to help this little indie are proud of it. The story takes place at some near-distant time in the future. It’s a few years after a viral pandemic killed much of the world’s population and left the rest with semi-amnesia. The survivors have forgotten their past memories and can’t create new memories. They remember certain basics or habits -- like how to ride a bike, how to speak their language, how to open the odd can of food they’ve found somewhere. But for the most part, their present memories tend to last about fifteen minutes, disappearing several times throughout the day and when they sleep.

    This is speculative fiction at its best, and the best aspect of speculative fiction is how it deals with the ramification and consequences of a particular idea. In this film, we follow several characters who have pretty much gotten used to their present circumstances. There is no whining about living in a bleak world, no grief about the loss of the old ways. Because no one remembers the old ways.

    So who are the main characters? Well, this is an indie film so we have “types” as opposed to characters. There’s a character called Chaos, who walks around chaoticly, doing chaotic things, in a chaotic state. Even with memory loss, he’s a nasty piece of work. Personality is resilient in this world, apparently, and an amnesiac with a selfish nasty personality will be selfish and nasty no matter what. We have “the lovers” who give each other new names every time they wake. They wear cloth bands made from the same material so they’ll know they’re supposed to be together. We have a nameless little boy who probably has known only this life. It’s not clear if he inherited the universal memory issues or has a kind of memory adapted to this world. There is a teacher/writer who lives in the woods. He is one of three characters who knows his own name. And the only reason he knows that is because it’s on a book he’s written and he’s consciously trying to train his mind to know how to remember. And there is a father and a daughter who have lived in a bunker since the outbreak began. The daughter wishes to explore the world outside the bunker but the father fears dangers and the loss of memory.

    A word about the tension in this film. This is one tense film, because there is mega-suspense in worrying about human issues such as separation, safety, isolation. But if you’re someone who has a problem with films where nothing big really happens, you will be bored to tears. This film is not altogether silent but don’t expect mega-dialog and action.

    Embers has received various awards in many film festivals and I’m glad the donors to its kickstarter campaign enabled me to see it. As I wrote earlier, the gatekeepers of distribution can no longer prevent art from reaching the masses. I accept that. For me, it means everything old is new again. The ancient paradigm of art was local; artisans shared their work with the neighbors and villages nearby. Then education, wealth, and the notion of fame came about, and artistry was joined to the idea of being super-famous.​ Now, in the internet age, we're back again to the roots of art distribution, to a smaller kind of fame. Yep some folks will have super contracts and mega wealth but most artists/singers/artisans/writers are happy to just share their stories in their little community and internet worlds. youtube, ebooks, indie films, fabric design places, etc. I wouldn't mind a few of my books being ultra-famous but I like this return to normal art-making. More films like this, books, music, etc for me to encounter. Kudos to Kickstarter.

    W --Two Worlds ---  Written by Song Jae-Jun Starring: Lee Jong-Suk, Han Hyo-Joo. 16 episodes. South Korean television series. July 2016 to September 2016. Fantasy, Suspense, Melodrama, Romance. Streaming online on and other sites.

    Korean dramas are nothing if not predictable. But every once in a (long) while, something unpredictable comes up. Don’t get me wrong; I like all the typical tropes. But I like organic storytelling as well. And nothing is better than organic speculative storytelling because there are so many ramifications and consequences and one’s heart just squees when a writer shows she’s aware of the implications of her story. This drama was written by my favorite Korean writer, the writer that brought the world Nine: Nine Times Time Travel and Queen InHyun’s Man, both dramas that dwelt with the rabbit trail of ramifications. In W - Two Worlds, the traveling is not between decades, centuries, or altered timelines. It’s about alternate realities: the characters in the real world versus the characters in the world of a webtoon which is being written by (at first) the real-world manga-writer.  

    The story of the webtoon goes off-the rails when Kang Chul, the hero of the popular manga W, refuses to die at the hand of his maker. In the comic book story, he has returned home to find his family brutally murdered. Next thing he (and the readers of the comic he lives in) knows, he is put on trial for their murder and a nemesis prosecutor is out to prove his guilt. Kang Chul decides to kill himself. Well, his creator decides to kill him. The character, however, is quite stubborn. Instead of jumping off the bridge which he was “drawn” to, he struggles to live. In spite of himself, the manga creator sees the pages of his drawing table and of the published webtoon  change before his eyes. He knows he has not drawn the story in this way and is furious that his character is insisting on living. Angry, he suddenly finds himself inside the manga --yes, yes, there are portals-- and tries to kill off Kang Chul directly. (This is reflected in the manga website.) After the Artist/Creator leaves the manga, Kang Chul’s desire to live drags someone else -- the daughter of the Creator-- into the manga world. This is Oh Yeon Joo, and Yeon Joo is destined to become the OTP. Why was she brought into this world? Well, like everyone else reading the webtoon, she wants the noble/perfect/vengeance-seeking Kang Chul to have his happy ending.

    And so, we are off. Other people --people inside the webcomic and people in the real world-- are affected by the story. For instance, two small but important examples. The manga creator had not created a killer with a face. In fact, he had no idea what the killer looked like or why the killer had killed Kang Chul’s family. It was a trope he wanted to use to help his character suffer. The manga-readers might have been crying out for the killer to have a face, reason, and personality -- heck, even the killer was crying out for that-- but not the Creator. Second example -- the love interest in the webtoon becomes unimportant because the hero of the comic -- Kang Chul-- has gone off-track by falling in love with a girl from the real world. What is the comic book female lead to do when her very reason for existence ceases to be? Well, she starts to disappear before her very eyes.

    This drama is a combination of mega and speculative fiction and watching the writers mine the tropes and possibilities of the premise is an absolute fun ride.  

    Ku_On  --- Director, Takayuki Hatamura; Actors: Haruna Isaoka,  Sou Sato, Nana Seino, Seiko Seno,  Hidemasa Shiozawa,  Shizuka,  Yusei Tajima; Genre: Science Fiction, Drama, Action  Japanese  2015  Amazon Prime
    First things first: This is not the Kuon horror video game or Ku-On, the horror cutscene video. (A hyphen, an underscore, or no hyphens at all can make a whole lotta difference.) First things over with.
    Second things second: If you’re anything at all like me, when you see a movie involving spirits possessing other folks’ bodies, you’re usually not on the Possesser’s side. You’re on the side of the folks whom the bodies rightly belong to. Par for the course. After all, none of us like thieves. But forget that pesky trope for the nonce. It’s not important in this flick. Okay, so that’s that.
    Some two hundred years ago, a meteorite fell on a village in Tokyo. The fallout -- yes, pun intended-- of that cosmic happening was that the descendants of certain villagers all now have the power (I won’t call it a “gift” because immortality does have its drawbacks) to jump out of the body they’re inhabiting and into the body of another person. The only caveat is that the “possessee” has to be the same sex. AND also the same age the possessor was when his gift manifested. Our hero realized he had this power when he was twenty-seven so he can only jump into are 27-year-old male bodies. There are other little rules but those are the basics that our hero needs to know and discovers at the beginning of the film.
    As luck would have it, our newbie possessor jumped into a new body and into a new life at the worst time possible.   One of their fellow immortals, a serial murderer, is scheduled to be transferred from one prison to another and has to be stopped. If there is anything worse than an immortal who steals bodies, it’s an immortal whose only joy in his immortality is murdering folks, especially seventeen-year-olds because that was his age when he first turned.
    So what we have here is a catch-the-serial-killer caper. Except that pursuers and pursued keep changing bodies. Think Fallen meets Highlander meets The One.
    Ya know what? I liked this. It was a fun little indie that knew what it wanted to accomplish and didn’t go wild doing unnecessary stuff. Lean and mean, that’s how I like my films. Of course, not every ramification of every speculation is always shown. And this movie is a clear example of ignoring consequences that aren’t necessary to the immediate plot. For instance, while we explore why such a community of immortals could be whittled down, there is the whole other issue of human bodies being taken over and discarded. So that could be problematical because one requires a certain amount of sang-froid and indifference to simply not care about those dead or comatose discarded bodies. Some questions, such as “What happens to the soul of the body’s original owner?” are not answered and perhaps would be if this were a series. We viewers don’t know if the original soul is repressed/conquered by the new spirit, squelched, nullified, and/or temporarily neutralized? And neither do we care. The ramifications don’t matter in that world, although they would in this present reality.
    Happy Creativity, all.

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