Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review: All Things Bright and Strange

All Things Bright and Strange
James Markert

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 30, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718090284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718090289

  • I generally don't like Christian speculative fiction -- yep, even though I write books in that genre. But this book was a pleasant surprise. It's not imitative -- written in the Left Behind, Narnia, or Divergence mode-- as so many Christian specfic books are.

    The characters are not cookie-cutter and do not speak in on-the-nose preachiness. There is no undercurrent of a woman looking for her Boaz or a Hosea type. This is a good book. It's not perfect but what book is?

     I'll write a longer review of this on the christian fiction review blog where I'll go deeper in depth into the characters and discuss how challenging it might be to the "typical" Christian reader, and my ideas about how it succeeds or fails.

    And yes, there is such a thing as a typical Christian reader. So there might be issues about whether the story is truly Christian or not. Christians come in all sizes and shapes, and the question of hell and who gets saved is iffy. I tend to avoid putting people in hell but i do believe in a hell. Some Christians don't believe in hell. Upshot? Depending on how you have built your Christian foundations, this book might be offensive...or not.  The type of Christian who thinks anything supernatural is demonic or weird and "unChristian" will have a problem with this book. Racist Christians who don't like to be stressed about race issues will have a problem with this book. It deals with someone who is not in love with his life and is pondering suicide, stuff that some Christians often don't want to deal with. It has its tropes and for the most part they work. The author is trying to walk the fine line of writing a book for a particular audience and at the same time trying to write a book that will challenge that audience. 

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

    Review: Vegan comfort classics -- 101 recipes to feed your face

    Hot for Food
    Vegan comfort classics -- 101 recipes to feed your face

    • Print Length: 240 pages
    • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (February 27, 2018)
    • Publication Date: February 27, 2018
    • Sold by: Random House LLC

    First off, we have to get our definitions straight. Vegan means no animal products. Even eggs, milk, cheeses, etc. I guess vegans eat honey but I'm not sure.

    Speaking of honey, we get to the second point. Vegan doesn't necessarily mean healthy, sugar-free, non-GMO, or non-refined.

    Once you understand those two points, you can really enjoy this book.

    The chapters are:
    Hey, hot for food fam
    Badass brunches
    Finger foods
    Veggie sides & big salads
    Hearty soups
    Stacked sandwiches
    Oodles of noodles
    The main event
    Sweet things
    Get savory

    The recipes are written clearly and the photos of the dishes are tempting.

    What all these recipes have in common is tasty home-spun meals. For those who miss non-vegan foods and who can't tweak the recipes, this is a good book. There are tofu, miso, etc in some of these dishes but often there are workarounds such as almond bacon and an exotic fruit or two like jackfruit but it's basic Americana stuff all put in one book. You don't have to be a committed vegan to cook these recipes but once you get a knack for substitution, you'll be eating vegan without too much trouble. The sauce/dressing/aioli section and the various ways of making fake bacon are the best parts of the book, especially because those sections are helpful to folks who don't know their way around a health food store.

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

    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 universe....as 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.


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