Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Cafe

Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Cafe
by Ana Sofrun and Maura Kilpatrick

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (October 11, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607749181
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607749189
Wow! What a great tempting book! Generally, I don't like cookbooks created by chefs who are giving readers their formerly secret recipes. For one, cookbooks made by chefs tend to be a bit pretentious and oriented toward the foodie types. For two, I generally hate food fusion...which a lot of these chefs do for upscale customers. For three, the books are often created to advertise the chef and his/her restaurant.

Well, imagine my surprise! This book has none of those drawbacks! Well, some of the dishes definitely look westernized but not to the smug foodie fusion extreme. I'm wondering if I should keep it -- because I may just try making (or looking for) everything in this book-- and I can't do that because I'm not really supposed to eat gluten.  

The recipes are of foods that are found in the Middle East. Think, Yemen, Greece, Israel, Iran, Morocco, and Turkey.

The chapters and categories are:
Savory Pies
Cookies and Confections
Specialty Pastries, cakes, and desserts,
Pantry (which includes recipes for several basic Middle Eastern spices)
Essential ingredients
Friends and Resources
About the Authors

The book is primarily about pastries, so there aren't a lot of meat recipes. But those that are present look so good! Meat, veggies, chocolate, dairy, nuts, seeds, fruits, flowers, squashes, and beans joined with different kinds of doughs to form breakfast, snacks/appetizers (or mezes) desserts, and larger meals. Then there are the beverages --namely three teas, one lemonade, and one hot chocolate!

Most of the ingredients are available in grocery stores but a few might only be found in your local middle eastern stores or via Amazon. Generally, the authors don't tell the cookbook user how nd what to substitute for the missing ingredient.

 The recipes are clearly stated and the pictures are temptingly beautiful. Most of these recipes are unknown to me. So don't expect to find recipes for stuffed grape leaves or tabbouleh. Yeah, I kinda wish they had included some of the foods we know...but you know...the real versions of them. But its a great book, nevertheless. If you're a baker, and you want to experiment with new kinds of pastry --the sweets and desserts in this book reminded me of Turkish candies-- definitely buy this book.  Or make it a present for the cook you know.

This book was sent to me free in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review: 365 Devotions for Finding Rest by Christina Vinson

Review: 365 Devotions for Finding Rest by Christina Vinson

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (November 8, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310083532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310083535
I'm seriously amazed. I like this book. I generally avoid Christian non-fiction/self-help/spiritual books because hey, if you've been around for as long as I have...well, you already know a lot of this stuff and you're pretty impatient with newbie Christians straining themselves to tell you some new spin on Christian discipline, teaching, fellowship, living or whatever.

But honestly, this is a good book! I was trying to learn how to rest -- something we Christian women re very bad at because we re brainwashed into being active no matter what. (Although we are supposed to enter into Christ's rest.)

Anyway, I generally find Christian devotionals to be a bit shallow but this time I was pleasantly surprised. The writer assumes her reader is equal to her. She's not teaching down to you or being patronizing or uber-spiritual. And while the devotionals have insight and depth, they are neither pretentiously pseudo-deep nor watered down. The vocabulary is accessible.  The themes that are tackled re surprising. Whoever thought of having a rest from procrastination? I highly recommend this book for anyone --male or female-- who needs to understand the importance of resting.

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: NKJV Study Bible

This Bible was formerly titled The Nelson Study Bible New King James Version. Copyright 1982, 1997, 2007.

I have a love-hate relationship with study Bibles. On the one hand, a new student of the Bible can get insights (philosophical, anthroplogoical, theological, spiritual, historical) into the verses and passages by reading the commentary. On the other hand, the human mind is a tricky thing. Bible students have been known to accept/merge the insights (wrong or right ones) into the passages and verses. Basically, if it's written on the page --even if it's not gospel-- it's taken as gospel. Depending on the denomination of the editor and publishing house, one can find some strange commentary. So yeah, we have to be careful about which study Bible one reads.

This Bible has the following features:
New King James Version of the Bible, Cross References with sub-headings and center column reference notes, Prophetic cross-references, Annotations (very accessible language), Introductions and Outlines to each Bible book, Time Lines, Articles on Christian doctrine, Bible time and Culture Notes, Charts, Word Studies, Maps throughout the book and Full-color maps at the back. an article on how to understand what the Bible means, Tools for Bible study, Teachings and Illustrations of Christ, Prophecies of the Messiah, Parables of Jesus, Miracles of Jesus, Prayers of the Bible, Subject Index to Annotations, and a Concordance. And, of course, a table of Contents, a list of Editors and Contributors, and Special Abbreviations..

The commentary on the thorn in the flesh ( 2 Corinthians 12) and the commentary on the gifts of the spirit (1 Corinthians 14) made me smile. I sometimes feel amazement, sometimes wonder, sometimes disgust, sometimes commiseration when I see how the commentators try to show their own viewpoints and interpretations. Thomas Nelson is pretty standard Baptist and although the editors and writers try to give as many opinions as possible, they often use the well-worn line "most interpreters agree,"( which is pretty loaded...after all we don't know which school of interpretations they are using) to direct the reader to their opinions and doctrines.  On the whole, though, it's a solid book. I did, however, find myself wondering how much they had updated the book. After all there have been so many new linguistic, historical, and archaeological discoveries since 1982. It doesn't seem to have been updated too much.

The type font is good. The Bible is solid, big and somewhat heavy but not unbearably so. The cover is aqua and dark blue pleather (I think) and there is one ribbon bookmark.
I got this book free in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review: The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen illustrated by Sanna Annukka

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (October 4, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039957848X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399578489

I had totally forgotten why I disliked Hans Christian Andersen. After reading The Fir Tree, I remembered: Andersen is seriously melancholy. I don't think I have a problem with sad fairytales, per se. But I'm not sure about sad fairytales being told about young kids.

Ah well, I read the book. So I should  just suck up and accept the story.

First: story -- sad, melancholy, humanistic but vaguely nihilistic. It's a story about enjoying the good times while you're young because you'll end up getting old and being burnt.
Second: font and typestyle -- I found the font  bit small. Too tiny for tiny kids' eyes or for squinty grandparent's eyes.
Third: illustration -- beautiful, creative, ethnic tribal natural style, but somewhat cold. The illustrations don't really illustrate the story, they decorate it. Most kids would prefer seeing depictions of the various scenes and pictures of the characters mentioned.
Fourth: vocabulary -- an elementary school kid should be able to read this.

Upshot: I think this is a book for older people who like fairytales. Not for young kids.

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


Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: The Dim Sum Field Guide

There's a Dim Sum place down the road from me. I've never gone because I get all panicky about how to do the whole Dim Sum thing. This book will definitely help me understand what I'm ordering. Plus, because it describes the foods so well, I'm thinking I could use it to make my own little tidbits.

Imagine you're out in the wilds of a Chinese restaurant, Asian Market, or Street Vendor and you spot the elusive "Deep Fried Shrimp Pouch." Wouldn't you want to know how to identify it, its basic fillings, its nestng habits, origins and various species and genera -- not to mention its typical dipping sauce? of course you would!

The book is divided in the following sections: Introduction, How to use this guide, Key, Savory Dim Sum (which contains the sub-headings Steamed Wrappers, Unwrapped Proteins, Baked Dim Su, Pan and Deep-Fried Dim Sum, Delicious Extras) and Sweet Dim Sum (which are further broken down into Hot and Warm Sweets, Sweet Buns, Chilled Sweets, Cakes and Tarts.), Acknowledgments, About the Author, Index.

The Introduction explains the various teas and etiquette one should know in a Dim Sum restaurant.

Each variety of food is introduced with a hand-drawn illustration on the left page and brief descriptions on the right.

If you ever had one of those field guide books -- for birds, butterflies, mushrooms, whatnot-- you'll get the hang of this book. It's a cute, fun, and handy idea because the book is easily-carried and can fit into a bag easily.

I like this book a lot. I highly recommend it. I'm sure some folks would prefer photographs to the illustrations but I'm cool with the illustrations. They're nicely old-fashioned and they are part of the marketing gimmick. If I were giving a dim sum guide to a friend, though, I would probably give them one of the many guides which have photographs.

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

Here's an Excerpt:

Welcome to the delicious world of dim sum. This is an exquisitely leisurely way to brunch, a meal that, when done right, can easily stretch out for a couple of hours into the afternoon. Each one- or two-bite morsel of dim sum is essentially a small packet of unique flavors—just enough to grab your attention and whet the appetite—but small enough that you can move on to the next tantalizing dish before your palate becomes bored.

This book explores the Cantonese form of dim sum, which was born in the teahouses of Southern China—specifically, the capital city of Guangzhou that straddles the great Pearl River—about two centuries ago. Of course, the history of dim sum stretches back much farther than that ( jiaozi-like dumplings, for example, were discovered in a Tang dynasty tomb dating from thirteen hundred years ago), and many other parts of the country boast of wonderful arrays of teatime snacks and petite sweets. However, I would have to agree with those who claim that the culinary art form known as dim sum reached its absolute pinnacle in Guangzhou.

Perhaps the secret lies in the land. Located on the lush, fertile plains of southern Guangdong, this area has an almost endless selection of vegetables, starches, fruits, animals, crustaceans, and seafood. Or maybe it’s the people, for Guangdong has been the destination for immigrants from all over the country who longed for more peaceful lives and who made Guangzhou synonymous with gracious living. Or maybe it’s the tropical weather, the type of climate that encourages a person to laze in the shade with a hot pot of tea and some savory snacks, a trickle of water and the rattle of bamboo leaves in the warm wind coming together to form a natural lullaby. Or maybe it is because Guangzhou was a nexus between East and West, as well as North and South, a place where foreign culinary inspiration gave birth to marvelous ideas in the kitchen, while imperial and Muslim tastes added their own rich notes to this culinary symphony. Or maybe it is because all of these great food traditions eventually made their way down the Pearl River to Hong Kong, where ancient history crashed into the modern world, and many dim sum dishes evolved into their delicious, present-day incarnations.

Whatever the reasons, dim sum remains one of the most delightful ways ever invented for whiling away a few hours in the middle of the day. And despite what some think, dim sum is a whole lot more than “dumplings,” a sort of catchall English term for anything vaguely starchy and small in the dim sum brigade. There’s nothing inherently wrong, of course, with calling these dumplings, but it’s sort of like labeling scarlet, chartreuse, and bronze simply “colors,” when they are so much more thrilling than that. The fact is that dim sum covers an intense spectrum of flavors, aromas, textures, and ingredients, and they are very much worth getting to know on a personal basis.

Which is where The Dim Sum Field Guide fits in. My hope is that this book will inspire you to explore the many offerings in dim sum teahouses, whether you carry it with you on your next field excursion, or simply flip through it at home. If dim sum ends up giving you even half the pleasure it has handed to me, I know you will be a dedicated fan for the rest of your life.

Another Excerpt:


GENUS 滷雞 lǔ jī lou5 gai1 
IDENTIFICATION A whole chicken is slowly cooked in broth seasoned with ginger, green onion, sand ginger, black pepper, and traditional Chinese herbs. The sauce may be slightly sweet or deeply savory. The bird is generally poached over very low heat to keep the meat tender and to prevent the skin from tearing. Unlike Roast Chicken, the fat and skin remain attached to the meat. It is often hung up to dry a bit and then chopped before serving. Exterior is slightly sticky and glossy; interior is juicy and contains bones.

Savory meat juices for the dark varieties; lighter birds are often accompanied by bowls of shredded ginger and green onions bathed in hot oil and salt.


A quarter, half, or whole bird is chopped into chunks and served on a plate; deeper-hued varieties will often be perched on a scattering of braised soybeans.


Most probably traveled to Guangdong from Eastern China, where red-cooked and poached chickens are still enjoyed to this day.

Poached Chicken 白切雞
báiqiē jī baak6 cit3 gai1 
A bird cooked in a pale broth, this subgenus includes Consort’s Chicken
貴妃雞 guìfēi jī gwai3 fei1 gai1.

Master Sauce Chicken
chĭyóu jī si6 jau4 gai1 
The bright, dark skin and juicy flesh are courtesy of a rich, seasoned soy sauce broth.

Crispy-Skinned Chicken
cuìpí jī ceoi3 pei4 gai1 
Pale poached chicken is coated with a maltose mixture and then fried until reddish and crunchy; usually served with fried shrimp chips.

Magistrate’s Chicken
tàiyé jī taai3 je4 gai1 
Smoked master sauce chicken.
Excerpted from The Dim Sum Field Guide by Carolyn Phillips. Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Phillips. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About the Author

CAROLYN PHILLIPS is a scholar, author, and artist whose work has appeared in Lucky Peach, Huffington Post, Alimentum, and Gastronomica. She is the author of All Under Heaven, the first comprehensive cookbook on the 35 cuisines of China (with more than 300 recipes), which will be co-published by Ten Speed Press and McSweeney’s in April 2015. Visit her at

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review -- Wee Alphas: 26 A to Z Postcards, from Angelfish to Zebra Cards

Wee Alphas: 26 A to Z Postcards, from Angelfish to Zebra Cards
Published by Wee Society

  • Age Range: 2 - 5 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten
  • Cards: 26 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; Pos edition (August 23, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553459783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553459784
Ah gee! I feel seriously out of the loop. I've never heard of the Wee Society. I must've seen their artwork before though because apparently they are a thing.

Wee Society aims to bring the concept of design art to kids.  They also must have been thinking of easy ways for older folks to communicate with their grandkids, young nieces, and nephews. Or vice versa.

The package contains 26 postcards. All the postcards are useful and official and can be used as regular postcards. One side of each postcard shows an animal illustrated on glossy paper in such a way as to depict one of the letters of the alphabet. For instance the K is a koala. The drawing is made up of easy to see (and even easier to draw) lines, curves, circles, rectangles, and arcs.  The other side of the postcard contains a place to put a USPS stamp, lines for the recipient's address, and a section with copy where one can fill-in-the-blanks, or write a small note,  

I like these postcards. They aren't as useful as they could be. Or maybe they are useful for building up friendships by encouraging people to send a friendly card to a good friend. Because of the copy on the back of these cards, they definitely cannot be sent to just anyone.  They are postcards, after all. Some of the postcards have room for a message or a short note. Some postcards, however, have words that take up the space. The S card, for instance, which features a squirrel, has the addressee section on the right but the left side has the following copy:

You are:
Sassy                 Smart
Special               Stunning
Sweet               Sorta Silly

Secret Handshake,


PS Can you spot the hidden letter in Sidney the Squirrel?

There are boxes beside the descriptions for the sender to check. But you see what I mean. Unless you're close with a friend or family member, the cards are limited. I think this collection of postcards would be perfect for grandparents who would like to send these postcards to their grandkids... or for older relatives to send to younger relatives. The alphabet inspired pictures are just perfect for kids to puzzle out and the back copy would be fun for kids who like wordplay.

I was given this set of postcards free in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Saturday, September 03, 2016

Review: Tox-Sick - From Toxic To Not Sick by Suzanne Somers

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1 edition (April 14, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385347723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385347723
I really like this book. But dang, it's scary. It's scary for me and I've already had my eyes opened to the scary facts of the American diet and environment. I can imagine how formidable it must be for those who know little or nothing about the toxic stuff we eat, drink, breathe, and live in.

Everyone, sick or otherwise, should read this book. Young or old. Because one is never too young to learn how to truly take charge of one's health. Nothing worse than closing the barn (to mold, to GMO's, to plastics, to outgassing furniture, EMF's, and an assorted number of health-destroyers) after the horse (of health) has run off.

Confession: I generally do not like books written by Celebrities. Even when they are self-help or written for the public's own good, I often find myself rolling my eyes. Because the Celeb often sounds so glib, superior, and patronizing. But there are a few -- like this book-- that are perfectly written and after a while one actually begins liking having a celebrity preaching to you.

The book consists of facts, research, interviews, all told in a very accessible conversational manner. Okay, okay, sometimes a couple of the inserts and comments by some of the doctors need to be read once or twice for the reader to get some complicated point. But that's not often. This is a good book...and I suggest everyone get it and give it to family members and friends who are sick, tired, or sick and tired. But only give it to those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired because being healthy in the USA requires a heavy commitment to changing one's lifestyle.

It's best to start working on one's health when one is healthy. But the book also helps one get better. Some of the therapy might be expensive and most require commitment to a whole new way of life but this book will help everyone who doesn't know (or is not yet convinced) that the American way of life is really the American way of death.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Review -- Misconceptions: A look at God’s Word through First Century Hebraic Eyes

MISCONCEPTIONS: A look at God’s Word through First Century Hebraic Eyes
by Steven Reider
  • Paperback: 146 pages
  • Publisher: WestBowPress (January 28, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1512728993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1512728996
I'm a writer so I don't like being hard on fellow writers but this book was either wrongly-titled or --for lack of a better word-- chintzy.

The writer has about six or seven main points or --one could even say-- "agenda." And that agenda is pretty "meh" because most Christians who read their Bibles probably have picked up on all the insights this writer is showing us. We have 146 pages of the salvation message with certain twists or different meanings/translations of words wedged together. It's as if the writer sat through several episodes of Sid Roth or some other Messianic Program and decided to write a book. The book is scant, the insights and new "look" is pretty old by 2016 standards.

Who doesn't know that the camp of the Israelites was in the shape of a cross? Who doesn't know about the different names of God? Heck, who doesn't know that the name of the Christian God is Yahweh? Who doesn't know that the Hebrew language is numerical, pictorial, and alphabetical? I kept reading this book and saying, "Really? This is new to you, but most modern Christians who study their Bible know this?

I really dislike panning a book but the title felt so misleading. Better to spend a bit more money and buy an archaeological or anthropological Bible than to buy this. I'm so sorry I couldn't praise this book more.

I don't mind non-clergy and non-scholars studying the Bible, and obviously this author must have thought his insights were important and necessary for the rest of the Christian community, but really? Oh gee! I so hate panning this book but I have to. If I didn't have to review it, I would just have ignored it and let it go.

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


Review: Punderdome the card game

by Jo Firestone (Author), Fred Firestone (Author)
  • Game: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; Box Gmc Cr edition (June 21, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1101905654
  • ISBN-13: 978-1101905654
Every once in a (great) while, a book/movie/game I set out to read/see/play and review turns out to be too much for me. By "too much" I mean that I come face to face with the limits of my own intelligence.

Based on the description of the gameplay, the game seem serious enough. A group of 3 or more players, take turns choosing two cards with different words or phrases on them. The goal is to come up with puns that somehow links the words/phrases of one card to another. Hey, it need not be funny. It just has to bring both these cards together.

So let's say the two cards chosen are "Going to the bathroom" and "flowers." How many puns can you make out of that?

Alas, I came up only with one. And I couldn't even put the pun into a sentence.

So I thought Punderdome would be fun. Who doesn't like puns, that wonderful game of word play and the subversion of expectation? Even folks who hate them love them. But even the worst pun takes either incredible intelligence and a fast wit OR a lucky blip/spark in the brain.

In this generation, too, where one is surrounded by rap (which itself is full of wordplays that often make you wince and cringe), one would think I would've been somewhat good at this game.

But no!!!! Let me just admit it right now. This game is very very very difficult and it felt as if I was in a serious SAT test as I tried to play it. So yes, if you aren't already gifted with making puns, do not get this game. If, however, you are a genius-pun-maker, buy the game and enjoy the cringe.

The perfect player for this game is someone who already has a mind that plays around with homonyms, homophones, double entendres, etc. It'll be a fun game for folks with active, quick minds. Not me alas.

I got this game free of charge in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review: Vegangelical by Sarah Withrow King

Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith
 by Sarah Withrow King
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (June 7, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310522374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310522379
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x

 There are so few books that present a Christian answer to worldwide issues. The world tends to have spiritual takes on many situations, issues, etc but when a Christian attempts to write about a worldview, either the Christian sounds uninformed, utterly flaky, pseudo-Christian (or non-traditional/un-Orthodox), like a copy-cat jumping on some trendy bandwagon, or seriously arrogant and proudly-pious.  Those are a few of the reasons why I avoid reading Christian non-fiction.

Imagine my happy surprise when, after taking a leap of faith to read a Christian non-fiction book, that the book is incredibly well-done.

This is a book I want to give to my Native American friend who interprets Christianity as a nature-hating religion. A book that shows that our interpretation of certain verses about dominion/stewardship might very well be interpreted wrongly, but also a book that shows how loving the Christian God is toward all His creation.

The book is divided into two major parts. The first is theological and deals with theology, semantics, religious ethics. The doctrinal discussion is accessible but well-researched, coming together as conversational and passionate but grounded in Scripture.  It's such easy reading and could be read in an afternoon if one wished. Also the implications of the author's doctrinal stand are so clear that there is no confusion or inclination to debate the author. We Christians generally open Christian non-fiction books with one of two attitudes: either we are geared to disagree with the writer or we are geared to totally agree with them. Whichever kind of reader we are, this book will open our eyes and will definitely make us see some Bible verses with new eyes, and will make us notice others we hadn't seen before. There are a lot of verses to support the author's point but I did wish she had included a whole spate of verses in the back. I'm not an easy reviewer. But this book was worth my time. And the second part is about how we humans have treated animals.

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

Review: Broth and Stock from the Nourished Kitchen

Broth and Stock from the Nourished Kitchen: Wholesome Master Recipes for Bone, Vegetable, and Seafood Broths and Meals to Make with Them 
Jennifer McGruther
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (May 31, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607749319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607749318

Maybe I had a bad idea about broths. After all, the front cover of this book hints at the basics, and feeding sickly folks who can't keep down "real" food. Luckily, the back cover shows that the book is more than just for invalids.

This little book will probably be treasured by those who buy it. It contains recipes for broths that can become foundations for other meals and it has lots of helpful nutritional information.

The Table of Contents are:
Broth maker's kitchen
Master broths and stocks
Where to shop
Measurement conversion chart

I liked this book a lot. It's definitely informative and contrary to the impression given by the cover, this book doesn't only have broth and stock recipes. It's got some really great stews and chowders as well. Like every good recipe book, this book generates ideas. For instance, it has never occurred to me to take soft peas and make a veggie soup out of them. Nor did I really know what to do with veggies in my fridge to turn them into a good soup or vegetable stock. And although I'm always boiling hamburger for my son, it never occurred to me that instead of boiling down the water I could actually make a beef broth. The use of vegetables, seafood, meat, and poultry makes this recipe book perfect for everyone.

I've got to say that this is also one incredibly well-written recipe book. Very MFA. But not pretentious, and not inaccessible. Just well-written.

I recommend this book for all cooks: those interested in good nutrition, those who want to add tasty recipes to their repertoire, and those who want to learn how to cook.

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

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Review: The Elements of Pizza

The Elements of Pizza: Unlocking the Secrets to World-Class Pies at Home Hardcover – April 19, 2016
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (April 19, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160774838X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607748380
The Elements of Pizza is a new book that shows the history, making, and varieties of pizza -- traditional and artsy.

I seriously now know more about the history of pizza and the making of pizza than I ever dreamed of. The question is, of course, "Will I commit to all this knowledge?" I mean, that's what knowledge is about, right? Just how much of one's learning one actually uses.
For instance, in the section on dough-making, detail four states, "Mix your pizza dough by hand, not by a machine." So yeah, I won't use a machine. But....Sorry, I'm not going to be making pizza dough by hands either. I am just that lazy. Neither do I see myself getting perturbed over the varieties of good pizza cheeses. I might buy some of the recommended equipment though.

The chapters are:
The Soul of Pizza
Pizza Styles
Eight Details for Great Pizza Crust
Ingredients and Equipment
Pizza Dough Recipes -- with subchapters: Saturday Doughs, Refrigerated Long Doughs, Naturally Leavened Doughs, Specialty Doughs
Pizza Recipes -- with sub-chapters: Sauces, Italian and Italian Inspired, New York and New York Inspired, Ken's Artisan Pizza Classics, Trifecta Flatbreads, Vegetables and Just Because
Measurement Conversion Charts

The book has many wonderful photo illustrations (although for some reason at least one of these photos was repeated, which seemed odd to me.) Like any great recipe book, the photos are often enough to spur a cook's creativity. But still, all that said, the recipes are very detailed. I'd almost say a tad too detailed. I prefer all the steps of a recipe to be given as distinct different steps. The writer of these recipes numbers each steps of the recipe yet each step is often a collection of two to three different steps lumped into one. This makes prospective cooks have to re-read each numbered step. I would've liked things broken down a bit more so I could easily tick off each step.

I'm a lover of pizza but I simply refuse to make dough. I tend to buy dough made from the store. So the sections in this book that showed how to make various doughs is totally lost on me. I will however use their sauce recipes. The fun of this book for me is that it widens my horizons about what kind of stuff I can add on top of the dough. But for people who want to experiment with making traditional and perfect pizza, this is the perfect book.

For people who like their foods healthy and who wish to avoid processed foods or foods they are allergic to, for folks who want varieties in their pizza, and to folks who want to avoid processed foods and for folks who want to stop eating out so much.

So I recommend this book, especially if you're a baker or if you fear casein, soy flour, etc in your pizza. You'll also learn how to make your own version of traditional pizzas. Which is always good. Store bought pizzas are generally pretty crappy.

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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review of the Netflix series Zoo

Zoo, 13 forty-minute episodes CBS/Netflix, based on the novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

I'm posting this now because a second season of Zoo is due the summer of 2016

Confession one: I tend to harbor ill will towards what I perceive to be false advertisement. Even when the false perception was primarily my fault. I was hoping to see humans living hiding out from marauding wild-eyed vengeful lions. Therefore I had to shake off my annoyance that this book turned out to be more spy-medical-thriller than sci-fi.

Confession two: One of the effects of watching Korean dramas is that whenever I return to American storytelling tropes, I feel just a might underwhelmed.  So, yes: I had to get my mind sorted out.

The first thing I noticed was that Zoo presents viewers with a cosmopolitan multicultural world. I never know what to do with this sort of thing. Should I praise the writers for doing the quota thing? Or should I cringe because it’s so dang aggressive and yet --no matter how hard it tries-- it is so rooted in ya know...whiteness?

But -- my qualms and uneasiness aside-- let us move on: Meet Jackson Oz a (white) zoologist who lives in Botswana and is pretty chill. His best friend is a happy, philosophical, stocky (aren’t we all happy and philosophical, though?) African safari guide named Abraham. Not that we see a lot of friendshippy moments between these two but hey, the friendship is established. So the plot can move along. Jackson’s dad went mad while developing a radical-enough-to-knock-him-out-of-responsible-academia theory of animal uprising. “A manifesto, of sorts.” But, yeah, you know how it is with prophets -- or the prophetic trope: no one paid attention to him.

Then there is Jamie, a blogger with a passionate axe to grind against Big Food/Big Corporation Reiden Global. You know this kind of axe; if the sun doesn’t set, Jamie would find a way to blame Reiden Global. Then there are the mysterious Chloe and animal pathologist, Mitch. And a whole bunch of other people.

The plot begins when some lions escape from the Los Angeles zoo and go on a murder spree. Wouldn’t you know? Some African lions are doing the same thing. Then there are missing cats in LA, dogs, rats, and birds. Ah, yes, birds. See, this brings me back to where this drama lost me. I was hoping something more was going on. Ya a natural “reset.” Heck, I’ll say it. I was hoping for a kind of Walking Dead with zombies replaced by animals. But no, this epidemic is man-made and greed-caused. Which is cool, I guess. After all, that’s how many zombie apocalypses begin. But my heart sank when the hordes of terrified fleeing humans didn’t really materialize and the story took a detour into medical investigation.

Something else bothered me. The tropes. Tropes galore. The story felt like screenwriting by the American cultural book. There are gun-toting rednecks, Black men who will say wise insightful philosophical paternal stuff one minute then make piropos at non-Black women the next, a young scientific-minded African boy, a possibly-shifty FBI operative, a sick dying little girl who speaks like no real sick girl but like all the sick dying kids ever in Hollywood movies, a gang, a Charles Manson type (complete with southern accent and Bible), a rich Asian safari-hunter and many others. The drama had a kitchen sink feel and if the writers hadn’t aimed to shoehorn all these tropes/beats into one story, I would’ve been more interested. But in their rush to hit all the templates, none of these sub-plots touched the heart.  

Okay, so did I like it? Once you accept the tropes, the rushing about from country to country, the convenient-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness-plot, the iffy CGI, and the dang slow mystery, it’s really an okay show. Writers will be ticked off by the stereotypical beats, even more stereotypical people, and cringey dialog but kids and non-writers might like it. It’s pretty safe. No major sex scenes. I will also say that James Wolk, who plays Jackson Oz is seriously hot and boy-next-door hotness does wonders to keep this female viewer watching even after she realizes a story isn’t going the way she wants it. So yeah, good for teens who like medical thrillers. And hey --a multicultural cast and a Black person helping to save the world. Aggressive multiculturalism covers a multitude of bad plotting.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Review: Shatterworld by Lelia Rose Foreman

This is the first Christian fiction book I’ve read in ages; the first I’ve really actually liked, and the first where I’m actually tempted to read the sequels to. This surprises the heck out of me, because usually I find reading contemporary Christian fiction (and non-fiction for that matter) a hard row to hoe. Christian though I am, whenever I read Christian books, I usually peeve, complain, and quarrel with every other sentence.

That’s not to say I didn’t find myself groaning a few times, because seriously, reading Christian fiction requires a certain mindset, especially because the rules for Christian fiction are a little different than the rules for general fiction. But even then, Lelia Rose Foreman plays with those rules quite well and also quite humourously.

Shatterworld is primarily a young adult book. Therefore it has all the required tropes such as teenaged rebellion, generational gap issues, preachy parents who –because they don’t want to upset their kids-- aren’t telling their kids the “entire” family story.

But Shatterworld is also speculative fiction, and this is where it excels an even surpasses most Christian speculative fiction. The novel recounts the voyage of the Star Flower and its settling of New Earth by spiritual pilgrims who fled their oppressive country. The comparisons between the settling of the Americas and the settling of New Earth goes even further. But, there are subtle differences. For instance, the star-traveling pilgrims are very respectful of the aboriginal sea-dwelling hexacrab natives of New Earth. They struggle to understand each other’s phyla/species/order/kingdom and grow to understand each other’s linguistics, culture, history, and fears. Our Pilgrims are very careful about bringing theology into their conversation and so far – the book is part of a trilogy—have not set about attempt to save any hexacrab souls. The settlers are respectful and as curious about hexacrab history as the hexacrab are. There is no notion that the hexacrabs are the Hivites/Perrizites/Jebusites etc who must be overthrown in order for God’s people to have their manifest destiny. There is sharing of resources and goodwill between the pioneers and the hexacrabs who are seen as perhaps members of The Creator’s Other Folds.

At least that’s what it seems like so far. The new settlers are of all races – a multicultural Christian community a bit like the Amish or Mennonites,  so they are respectful of sentient life wherever they find it and however it has evolved or been created by the Creator. It’s a rigid, (some might say over-disciplined) community. And perhaps they had to be all those years of warp travel, but some youngsters-- like Rejoice, our main protagonist—chafes under it. There is the basic truth that they have to farm and terraform the new world, but there is also the age-old rural vs urban /agrarian vs industry /utilitarian vs heart’s desire issues.    Rejoice wants to be an astronomer but, like every other Christian teen, has more than her share of rules to obey and has to endure parental spiritual speeches all meant to challenge what they believe is her selfishness.

So I liked this book a lot and I’m even interested in discovering more of this community, and learning more about hexacrab communities, and wondering how the two worlds will grow together. I also liked the “puritanical” names. Very funny.

As for what I don’t like: The book is a bit light on description. I would’ve loved to see the world better.  There are many characters and many times there are scenes where the author throws many characters at the reader so that we can get the communal overview. But still, there could’ve been a less crowded way of doing that. In the end, many secondary characters are reduced to their job description or their personality. It makes the book read faster because we know what each character is like. But still. Certain sections feel rushed: The growth of the friendship between the hexacrabs and the humans. The ending  of the book. But all in all, it was a fun quick read.

The book comes with a study guide at the end.

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

Review: The Whole Coconut Cookbook

The Whole Coconut Cookbook
by Nathalie Fraise
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (January 26, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607748053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607748052
Since I started trying to be gluten-free, I've been experimenting with chickpea flour and coconut flour. Plus I can't really drink milk either. Plus coconut oil is good for massages. Plus I'm Jamaican. So all this comes together to make me want to reacquaint myself with coconut again.

Hence this book. It's one of a few coconut cookbooks out there so it looks as if coconuts are making a comeback. The good thing about the coconut is that it can be used in many forms; the other good thing is that it's a staple of many cultures. So it's in different kinds of cuisines: Thai, West Indian, etc.

So: the good thing about this book: the recipes are easy and healthy.

The good (but also possibly bad) thing about this book is that it's made for a foodie generation. I was hoping for a lot of  Southeastern, African, West Indian, etc dishes. No such luck. The recipes here are the kind of recipes one would find in a healthfood store. Tasty but healthy and seemingly created by the author or  I guess that's okay because Americanized taste buds may not connect to anything too exotic-tasting or too full of fat, meat, wheat etc. So that's good.

Coconuts, in all their forms, are present in all the dishes...whether it's flour, sugar, "aminos," milk, vinegar, kefir, water, nectar. Sometimes the coconut is a large portion of the meal, sometimes it is merely present as coconut milk or coconut oil (which might feel like a bit of a cheat but I guess the taste of coconut does go a long way.) The chard chip recipe, for instance, consists of chard, sea salt, and coconut oil.

The book's chapters consist of the following:
A guide to coconut ingredients
Cooking with coconut
Breakfast dishes
Main Courses (which includes mostly vegetarian dishes)
Salads and sides
About the Author

It's a small book and for those who generally don't eat coconut or veggie meals, this is a good introduction. It's a good-enough book, I think. Not bad, but not great.

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


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review: Koreatown: A Cookbook

Koreatown: A Cookbook

Published by Clarkson Potter
Feb 16, 2016 | 272 Pages | 8 x 10 | ISBN 9780804186131

I love this book! This is yet another recipe book that I will actually use.

Unlike most recipe books, this recipe has little anecdotes about how and why certain (famous) folks became Korean food-lovers Which is odd, right? Most recipe books don't deal with the cachet of why the author is doing a book on ethnic cuisine. I guess part of the reason is because the book is also trying to show the culture of Korea and Korean foods in addition to give us the recipes.

The authors are a chef of a famous Korea restaurant and a food writer who has lots of food cred. So yeah, this is not just a regular recipe book. There's a lot of fame, style, cred, "hauteness" ;-) in this book.

The book  is divided into the following chapters:
Ingredients & Equipment
Kimchi & Banchan
Rice, Noodles & Dumplings
Barbecue: Grilled, Smoked & Fired
Drinking Food: Pojangmacha
Soups, Stews & Braises
Respect: Guest Recipes
Sweets & Desserts

As in all good books on ethnic cuisine, one learns a lot about the culture's cooking style, food, and people. And of course one learns a lot about many Koreatowns across the nation.

There are full-colored pictures of the dishes and of food-workers and food eaters and drawings of the guests whose anecdotal histories with food are included. I'll say that the important people who are included to tell us about their love of Korean food was a bit off-putting. This book is great without famous people telling us about themselves. But some readers might like that. And mercifully these folks -- food critics, actors, etc-- don't take up more than two pages each.

The photos are amazing. The description of each recipe and the layout of each recipe is accessible and helpful to all readers.

Highly recommended.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

CURE: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body

CURE: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant.

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (January 19, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385348150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385348157

  • I set out to read this book with an open mind. Actually, I was very happy to read it because since I battle certain so-called incurable illnesses and since my son is diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum I figured I would read a book to give me faith in the human body and spirit. And hey, it’d be a scientific book so that would be better!

    But the book pretty quickly got on my last nerves. First there was the introduction where she pretty much disses anything (and anyone) who might be “unscientific.” It wasn’t even her idea about homeopathy, which really to me is pretty much the precursor of vaccines. They both deal with something being diluted and “like curing like,” after all? It was her insistence on how science validates the flaky stuff New Ager types have been saying. Yes, I thought to myself (although I’m not a New Ager), here we are dealing with someone who looks down on any kind of knowledge or tradition which isn’t rooted in the Western Scientific medical tradition. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. Cause I want to believe, and all that. After all, the book is written by a science journalist who was going to –in a small way—affirm some of the stuff flakes like me believe. She was, after all, on our side. Kinda.

    So the first chapter: Marchant discusses the secretin trials and how it had seemed as if secretin would be a cure for autism because a young boy suddenly improved. But then in subsequent trials – between secretin and a saline solution—it was shown that people of both the secretin group and the saline group had some improvements. Hence, she hints, there is a placebo effect. (The first chapter is called “Faking it” by the way.)

    While I do believe in the so-called “placebo effect,” I really had to groan at this particular scientific methodology of supporting the mind over matter placebo effect. Why? Because from the first chapter I began to see the narrow-mindedness of the scientific mind. I expected Marchant to discuss other trials that did not include the saline solution. Why? Because perhaps saline is not really a placebo. And in a science trial –or a book about a scientific trial--, shouldn’t a scientist or writer step back to see if an assumption is being made. But that is the point, the scientific mind doesn’t realize its assumptions. An example, there are countless studies and papers detailing the fact that people on the autism spectrum are often dehydrated, and often their mothers were dehydrated during their pregnancy. Shouldn’t a science writer be aware of this and include a chapter to help build her case? In addition, what happens to people who go to hospitals? They are usually put on a saline drip? There are scientific reasons for that. And in hospitals in Asia, going to the hospital to get hydrated is common. Doesn’t this science reporter know this? Shouldn’t a writer know how to build her case for science?

    And that was just the FIRST three pages of the first chapter. This kind of thing goes on throughout the book! If one has eyes to see it, one can see clearly how scientific types don’t seem to understand their assumptions.

    Once one accepts that the trials Marchant espouses often miss out on some  aspect because the scientists and scientific journalists don’t even see, then reading the book becomes a kind of perverse search for What Is Missing. I swear! It was just plain infuriating.

    And i did laugh when I read on page 212: "Carol feels that the doctors ignored factors such as her caffeine addiction and how anxious the tests were making her." Cosmic moment: Because I (Carole) had been spending the book thinking, "These scientists and their trials are ignoring factors." I love serendipity and weirdness like that.

    I’m not saying this book is bad. It’s actually quite good in some places. The “Looking for God” chapter was quite good, for instance. It wasn’t as sneery as I expected it to be. But for those who already believe in the power of the mind this book is old news. Buy this book as yet another book to put beside all those other self-help health books that encourage and inspire you. Or buy it for someone who thinks he’s scientific who won’t see through ignored factors (the assumptions and unexplored holes) in these examples and trials.  I suppose I should recommend this book. It’s flimsy, definitely (or perhaps it is only the scientific methodology of scientific trials that are flimsy) because it says nothing new. But it might be able to help those who are afflicted with stress-related illnesses, or illnesses rising from the feeling of being unloved.

    Of course, religion has already told us all that.
    Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23

    Jesus did say:
    But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. -- Matthew 15:18-19

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

    Saturday, January 30, 2016

    Film Review: 11 am

    11 a.m. South Korea 2013 CJ entertainment. Written by Lee Seung-hwan. Directed by Kim Hyun-Seok.

    It’s no secret that I am a lover of time travel movies. After dwindling down the choices from the many time travel flicks I’ve seen this month, the remaining contenders were Time Lapse and 11 a.m. So, the first: 11 a.m. because I like Korean (and non-US) speculative fiction.

    The story is pretty basic. Our hero Woo-seok is leading a time travel research project called Trotsky -- so named because it concerns the past and alternate timelines and because Trotsky would’ve been the great Soviet leader instead of Stalin had if time had turned out differently. I need not tell you that Team Leader  Woo-seok has a past he wants to change, do I? We pretty much know that all Mad Scientists have some horrible event that happened in the past from which their passion came. So, yes, this passion for time travel originated in the death of our hero’s beloved wife. Ah, if he could only go back in time and fix things.

    But her death happened waaaaaaaay back when. And so far the Trotsky team have only been able to (theoretically) go back in time for 24 hours. Not a bad start! But apparently not good enough for the Russians who have been backing this project and who now are on the verge of shutting it down.

    Disappointed but valiant --and (as I’ve already stated) led by a somewhat obsessed Team Leader, our scientists decide to try to send Trotsky into the future. “For real, this time.” No more theories or transporting non-humans into the future. Woo-seok and Young-eun are sent a day ahead. At exactly 11: a.m. But when they arrive there, they find much amiss. The station’s ablaze, some crazy guy is attempting to murder Woo-seok folks have died, the CCTV tapes are scrambled and the walls are crumbling.  Dear me! What do these things mean? How did matters come to this pass? Have the Russians been doing shady things? Or has knowing the future caused this bad future to happen?

    This is a fun flick. It’s fast-paced and it comes together well. I didn’t find any plot holes -- which is what one looks for in time travel flicks-- but it’s possible I was so caught up in the story I missed them. This film is streaming on the web.

    Time Lapse 104 minutes  USA 2014  Written by Bradley D King and BP Cooper. Veritas Production

    Time Lapse is not exactly a time travel pic. It’s more of a fortune-telling advanced infomation pic. And it turns out to be the perfect complement to our Korean time travel piece, 11 a.m. We have three best buds -- consisting of Callie, Finn, and Jasper. Finn and Callie are dating and Jasper is well, hovering around them as best friends who are in love with their friend’s girl often do.

    A neighbor goes missing. In their search for him, they discover a camera that takes pictures of coming events. Exactly 24 hours in the future. Dear me! What a difference a day makes! Well, for one, it can make a difference between winning a lot of money on gambling and winning a little. It can prevent -- or cause?-- murders. And if one or two of the main characters are obsessed with greed or lust or passion, well, who knows what will happen?

    The funny thing about the course of events is that yet again knowing the future creates the future. In 11 a.m., the characters try to fight against what seems inevitable. In Time Lapse, the hipster ever-so-sure-of-themselves friends believe that since a future scene appears in a photograph, they are obligated to recreate what they see in the picture. But like the scrambled CCTV tapes in 11 a.m., these folks are working with incomplete information. I definitely recommend this movie. This film is available on DVD and is streaming online and on Netflix.

    Friday, January 15, 2016

    Review: Art Students League of New York on Painting

     Art Students League of New York on Painting
    Lessons and Meditations on Mediums, Styles, and Methods
    James L. McElhinney and the Instructors of The Art Students League of New York.
    • Hardcover: 304 pages
    • Publisher: Watson-Guptill (November 10, 2015)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0385345437
    • ISBN-13: 978-0385345439

    Back in the day, I used to paint. And play the violin. And play the piano. And do calligraphy. But I've kinda let those arts and crafts fall to the side as I focused on my writing and my fabric designs. But this book is seriously inspiring.

    If you've seen art books, they tend to fall into the following categories: art how to's, art history, art culture, memoirs by art professionals. This book is a little of all those categories. First of all, it's a book with really great paintings. In this day of photoshop and illustrator, one generally doesn't see acrylic, oil, etc paintings unless one visits galleries and museums. And realistic paintings are often done by cameras. This book reminds the reader of the craft of painting. Simply speaking, it's not a book that one has to read. But I would recommend reading it.

    Cause these artists have some important stuff they want to say.

    I've run into this before where people have been resentful because of the way critics and teachers of modern art have derided realism as passe and unimportant. So yeah, there is a whole lot of that. But hey, they're telling the truth and they're speaking their art. With the advent of people like Lucien Freud and Philip Pearlstein and others, realism with an emphasis on figure realism has come back into vogue in many quarters of critical opinion.

    The commentary and personal histories of the artists will definitely help many modern artists understand the paths and pitfalls of the art life and will also give information on the state of contemporary realistic painting to future artists. This is a great book to give to any artist interested in realistic painting. I will add though that there are a lot of nude paintings. I don't really mind it. (I was a model for painters in college but I was one of those models who never removed her clothing. Imagine then me being dressed and my partner being fully nude! Ah, those days!) But some folks who have a problem with seeing the nude human body --even in a painting-- might be perturbed.

    Founded in 1875, the venerable Art Students League of New York still instructs some 2500 students each month. In this copiously illustrated  book on painting, we get an in-depth look into the methods and inspirations of contemporary artists teaching at the League. The book is divided into three parts: Lessons and Demos, Advice and Philosophies, and Interviews. Some of the artists  in Part One include Henry Finkelstein (On Painting, with a Critique); Thomas Torak (A Contemporary Approach to Classical Painting); Naomi Campbell (Working Large in Watercolor); and Costa Vavagiakis (The Evolution of a Concept).
        Part Two features, among others, William Scharf (Knowing that Miracles Happen), Peter Homitzky (inventing from Observation), and Deborah Winiarski (Painting and Encaustic).
        Part Three features three interviews: Frank O'Cain (Abstraction from Nature); Ronnie Landfield (On Learning and Teaching); Knox Martin (Learning From Old  and Modern Masters).
        Most of the art is representational, with emphasis on the human figure. After every chapter there is a student gallery which reproduces recent paintings from the students.
        There are lots of good tips in the illustrated demos that would profit an  experienced artist as well as the beginner. I received this book free of charge in exchange for a honest review.



    Thursday, January 07, 2016

    Review: Money-Making Mom by Crystal Paine

    Money-Making Mom How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference

    By Crystal Paine

    • Hardcover: 240 pages
    • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 3, 2015)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1400206480
    • ISBN-13: 978-1400206483
    Okay, I'll admit it. I was prepared to hate this book. I assumed it was a get-rich-quick kind of book written by some happy peppy mom which promised happiness and wealth for anyone prepared to work hard. It's kinda like that but not really.

    As a writer I read a lot of blogs and books about how to make a living as a writer. Because... let's face it, the internet has opened up and anyone can use his or her talents to make a little cash. And writers aim to make more than a little cash: writing is a bit like a mom-and-pop store nowadays. It is a lifestyle, a commitment, a vocation to bring goods to others, and a means of helping to make ends meet.

    Like other books that promise advice on success, it must be read and applied. There is no real good to reading a book like this -- a book crammed with insights such as finding your talents, marketing yourself, building your business, budgeting one's time, money, and affections-- without actually committing to act on the advice.

    And this is where the book excels. Crystal Paine gives solid advice. It's not hype and it's not superior. It's like a good friend sitting you down and telling you what she has had to do in order to make her own life successful. She's spiritual too and believes in giving back, which isn't a bad thing.

    Now, the reader of this book (writer, artist, typist, butcher, musician, baker, candlestick-maker) might not become as successful as Crystal Paine is but I suspect that any woman (or man) who reads and diligently applies the suggestions in this book could definitely find a way to create extra bucks for their family's income.

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

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