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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: American MaleWhore in Tokyo by Rowen Boozewell



Title: American MaleWhore in Tokyo
Author: Rowen Boozewell
Format: Paperback, Fun Fact Edition, 372 pages
Pub. Date: February 14th 2014
Source: Author


Book Description:



American MaleWhore in Tokyo tells the tale of a loveable (alright, likeable (alright, tolerable)) douchebag who moves to Tokyo to become a host and live out the modern day male American dream. It’s an explicit and groin-grabbingly entertaining story that sheds light on a little known world where fun-loving, good-hearted people can often inflict heart-wrenching, irreparable damage. A ribald study in relationships, relations, and laughter.

This is the Fun Fact edition, and as such it contains a mind-blowing and/or crassy fun fact by the main character, John Box, at the end of each chapter. The addition of fun facts is the only difference between the versions.

WARNING: This book is intended for mature audiences. Well, maybe not “mature” audiences, it’s more for immature audiences. People who laugh at the word poop, but who have somehow managed to learn to read, and are admitted into R-rated movies. But I guess it’s also for mature audiences looking for a break from books that deal mainly in descriptions of the smell of colors, the sound of light, and the feel of words, and other such poppycock.

For Fake Praise and other info, please visit: https://www.createspace.com/4644781






Review:


★★★★

This book is well outside my normal wheelhouse of books. I do love Japan, and I like to laugh, so I decided to give this one a go. That said, I am so glad that I got a chance to read this, because it's fucking funny.

It follows the saga of Piston Honda, a douchebag who works at a Japanese host club. It's full of clubs and sex and debauchery and Japan and it's one beautiful disaster of hilarity.

I don't understand why "Piston Honda" aka John Box is so likable, but he is. Picture that one rock star that you're a little bit in love with. Even though he bangs everything, and has a coke problem, and is always in the tabloids. The one who you'd still chill with and who cracks that smile and you overlook all the manwhoring tomfoolery (how old AM I that I use that word?). That's similar to how I feel about this guy. He's a douchebag, but in the lovable kind of way. The guy who tells you the best stories at the bar that you wonder how he's still alive.

It's also pretty educational about Japan, from a perspective that you don't normally hear about, which was pretty cool. Life over there isn't all Hello Kitty and hentai like the internet suggests, yanno? Still want to visit, but with all sorts of new information in mind.

This book is definitely a "guy" book. Not that women can't enjoy it, blah blah blah. But if you don't find dick jokes, poop, or sex entertaining or funny.... This is gonna be your personal hell, buddy. If that's right up your alley, or if you like Japan, or if you love a good asshole rogue as a main character, or if you are just looking to laugh, this is a great book to fill the void.

The author was awesome enough to send me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review with no shenanigans.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: The Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve



Title: The Beauty and the Beast
Author: Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve
Illustrator: Mina Lima
Translator: James Robinson Planché
Format: Hardcover, Illustrated with interactive elements, 208 pages
Pub. Date: January 31st 2017
Source: Mother in Law, Valentine's Day Gift


Book Description:



MinaLima, the award-winning design studio behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film franchise and the creators of the illustrated Jungle Book and Peter Pan, reimagine the beloved French fairy tale The Beauty and the Beast in this deluxe unabridged edition illustrated with stunning full-color artwork and nine 3-D interactive features—published to coincide with the release of the blockbuster Disney live-action musical film starring Emma Watson, Ian McKellen, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, and Emma Thompson.
Generations of readers have been bewitched by the epic love story of a beautiful young girl imprisoned in the magical castle of a monstrous beast. Now, the classic fairy tale is brought to life in this spectacular illustrated edition as originally envisioned by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740.






Review:


★★★

Honestly, I wasn't familiar with the original story of Beauty and the Beast. Like most other people, I'm familiar with the animated Disney version, and now the 2017 live-action rendition of it also by Disney. I was really excited to read this when I got it as a Valentine's Day gift from my mother-in-law. I appreciate her thinking of me, because she knows it's my favorite of the princess films.

The physical book itself is stunning. The cover is very striking and classically designed. It comes in sealed clear plastic, so that the hidden elements in it stay in tact. The illustrations are beautiful, and go along with the text perfectly. I love that there are interactive components to this. Almost like a pop-up book, but for an older demographic. You can open the wardrobe, look at maps, and other neat little additions to the story. It's a beautiful look that I intend to keep on my shelves.

The actual story, however, is less of a victory to me. I understand that it was written centuries ago, and that it's been translated into English. But with that being said it was just kind of... Well, boring. It's long. It's tediously written. It's dry. I imagine this is how most high schoolers feel when they get assigned Shakespeare for summer reading. You know, the trope on sitcoms where "when will I ever use Shakespeare?!" comes up? Similar feel.

The story itself isn't bad, though it's very different from the version that most people know. Beauty has sisters, for example. And there's no Gaston character. But she's also just kind of there. Not particularly interesting, and it was a struggle to work up enough "care" to get through the story.

I think it's worth reading once, for comparative reasons. But I don't anticipate reading it again, unless maybe in French to brush up on my language skills.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mini School Review: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris



Title: Clybourne Park
Author: Bruce Norris
Format: Paperback, 210 pages
Pub. Date: Published 2011
Source: SIU Bookstore


Book Description:



CLYBOURNE PARK spans two generations fifty years apart. In 1959, Russ and Bev are selling their desirable two-bedroom at a bargain price, unknowingly bringing the first black family into the neighborhood (borrowing a plotline from Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun) and creating ripples of discontent among the cozy white residents of Clybourne Park. In 2009, the same property is being bought by a young white couple, whose plan to raze the house and start again is met with equal disapproval by the black residents of the soon-to-be-gentrified area. Are the issues festering beneath the floorboards actually the same, fifty years on? Bruce Norris's excruciatingly funny and squirm-inducing satire explores the fault line between race and property.





Review:


★★

I had to read this play in one of my American literature classes in college. It was my least favorite piece of literature of the semester.

The book is a sequel of sorts to Lorraine Hansberry's play "A Raisin in the Sun". For the record, that's not one of my favorite plays either. I know it's a classic, but I went into reading "Claybourne Park" without the expectations that other people who loved Raisin in the Sun did.

It's boring. I know that's the least helpful word to describe a book, but it's what it was. It was loud, full of people talking over each other but not really going anywhere. While this made it easy to read in class, it's really easy to struggle with set, the bigger plot, and even character descriptions because that's not really what the constant talking is about. The jokes (yes, there are some) aren't funny. The drama seems anticlimactic. The characters seem no different from characters I've seen before, which makes this book/play pretty forgettable. Like a show on TLC I don't want to watch: generic people yelling at each other

I understand the message and the point the play is trying to make, and I appreciate it. But when it comes to the actual piece, not for me. Maybe if you enjoyed "A Raisin in the Sun", or actually get to see this played out on stage, you'll have a better time with it than I did.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Review: Donabe by Naoko Takei Moore & Kyle Connaughton



Title: Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking
Author: Naoko Takei Moore & Kyle Connaughton
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 27th 2015
Source: Netgalley/Ten Speed Press


Book Description:



A beautiful and lavishly photographed cookbook focused on authentic Japanese clay-pot cooking, showcasing beloved recipes and updates on classics, with background on the origins and history of donabe.

Japanese clay pot (donabe) cooking has been refined over centuries into a versatile and simple method for preparing both dramatic and comforting one-pot meals. In Donabe, Tokyo native and cooking school instructor Naoko Takei Moore and chef Kyle Connaughton offer inspiring Japanese home-style recipes such as Sizzling Tofu and Mushrooms in Miso Sauce and Dashi-Rich Shabu-Shabu, as well as California-inspired dishes including Steam-Fried Black Cod with Crisp Potatoes, Leeks, and Walnut-Nori Pesto or Smoked Duck Breast with Creamy Wasabi–Green Onion Dipping Sauce. All are rich in flavor, simple to prepare, and perfect for a communal dining experience with family and friends. Donabe also features recipes from luminary chefs such as David Kinch, Namae Shinobu, and Cortney Burns and Nick Balla, all of whom use donabe in their own kitchens. Collectible, beautiful, and functional, donabe can easily be an essential part of your cooking repetory.






Review:


★★★★★

So real talk, this the best cookbook that I've read in a long time. I got this book because I love Japanese food, but I've never cooked it myself. This book made me want to, immediately.

The recipes are divided by technique/type of pot. There's an intro, a section of how to use the pots, how it's made, there's a section for planning menus, one for sauces and stocks. And at the end, there's a glossary and resources.

The photography is absolutely stunning. It's like an art book. Everything looks professional and delicious and like I want it. And I think that's what the photos of a cookbook should do.

It seems to be middle of the road, difficulty-wise. It's not super easy, 101 level stuff, but there's nothing here that looks like only an Iron Chef can prepare it. It seems both approachable and elegant at once.

The recipes are well written, with plenty of tips on cooking and technique catered to each dish. Each recipe includes how many people it'll serve, the courses, and what equipment you'll need to make it. There's also personal stories that make this seem like a book from the heart, as well as history about the dishes.

I like that they tell you "if you don't like it, change it". It encourages personal twists and substitutions, which sets a relaxed tone that follows throughout the book. A lot of the recipes, because of this, are vegetarian friendly or easily adaptable.

The things that jumped off the page by being super delicious sounding include Smoked Duck Breast with Creamy Wasabi-Green Onion Dipping Sauce, Fried Scales-On Tilefish with Winter Melon Tagliatelle, and Green Tea Rice Balls.

I highly recommend this if you love to cook, love Japanese food, or even if you just like to flip through cookbooks for the pictures. It's worth it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Review: Ballpark Eats by Katrina Jorgensen



Title: Ballpark Eats
Author: Katrina Jorgensen
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: February 1st 2016
Source: Netgalley/Capstone Young Readers


Book Description:



Forget peanuts and Cracker Jacks! America’s Ballparks now offer a dizzying array of edible options. These make-like stadium recipes give young chefs and sports fans a culinary road trip at home. From the famous fish tacos at the Giants’s AT&T Park in San Francisco to the mouthwatering Cuban sandwich at the Tampa Bay Rays’s Tropicana Field, these diamond dishes are perfect for any seventh-inning stretch.





Review:


★★★

Batter up! I love baseball. You almost have to when you're from Chicago, since there's two teams, and a whole lotta history and rivalry. So, I knew I'd enjoy this one. Overall, it was a pretty good cookbook, but there were a few issues.

First, holy curve balls Batman, there is a LOT of information here. There's information about all of the baseball stadiums. There's park information like why/how/when it was built, nicknames, how many people it seats. There's information and background story for the recipes included, like how they came to be and where they're popular.

The recipes are divided by division, which makes it easy to navigate. There's also a glossary and a map in the back, and there's even fun facts and quizzes sprinkled throughout.

As this book is written with kids in mind, this is a super approachable book. The recipes are all pretty idiot proof, and it's great for people who aren't big cooks. There's easy to follow, step by step instructions.

Some of the recipes are even too simple. For example, adding onion to a hot dog or putting garlic salt on popcorn. Not really a recipe so much as "yeah, that's a thing..."

Other than that, there's a pretty good blend of drinks, snacks, meals, and desserts. And, there's plenty of pictures.

And then we come to the bones I have to pick with Ballpark Eats- on behalf of Chicago. Not all of the information is accurate. At the time of printing, the home of the Chicago White Sox was US Cellular Field (at this point in time in 2017, it's Guaranteed Rate Field, so it's already outdated). Anyway, the book says that its nickname is "The New Comiskey". Which...no. It's either called The Cell, US Cellular Field, or Comiksey Park out of stubbornness, the way we still call it the Sears Tower (because what the hell is a Willis Tower?).

There's also an issue regarding the "Chicago Style Hot Dog". It's what we do, what we love, and there is a very specific ingredient list that makes it so, and the book misses the target. They're missing celery salt. It also says "jarred hot peppers"- but it's specifically sport peppers. And a poppy seed bun. And if we're being super nit picky, neon relish. It's really weird, because it says in the facts that these are the ingredients, but then they're omitted in the actual recipe. Maybe it's meant to be substitutions for things not sold outside of Chicago? Not sure, but it's pretty annoying. Also, their recipe for elotes is just frozen corn and cheddar cheese. Which is weird, because elotes has not just cheese (cojita) but also butter, lime, cayenne, and mayo. And... Frozen corn? Blech.


US Cellular- i have never heard it called "the new comiskey" we just, out of stubbornness still call it comiskey, same as sears tower.

Chicago style hot dog- not right. missing celery salt. has "jarred hot peppers" - it should specifically be sport peppers. relish should also be neon, but i get where that's picky. also poppy seed buns. don't call it something it's not. says right in the facts it should have sport peppers and salt and poppy seed bun, but doesn't have it in the recipe- weird. also, corn is just frozen corn with cheddar cheese, whereas elotes is mayo, cayenne, lime, butter, and cotija cheese.

Anyway, I'm done picking the Chicago section apart.

The recipes (with the above exceptions) sound pretty delicious. The three that I think sound the yummiest are Poutine with Apple Blondies with Maple Glaze (Toronto Blue Jays), BBQ Ribs with Homemade Pickles and Cornbread Muffins (Kansas City Royals), and Cheddar Bacon Stuffed Burgers with Apple Pie on a Stick (Minnesota Twins).

All in all I think this is a fun book for a sports fan, whether that's a tailgating adult or a little leaguer child. The recipes are easy, and it's fairly educational on top of it. Though now, it's a little out dated.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Cookbook Review: Dining at The Ravens by Jeff & Joan Stanford



Title: Dining at The Ravens: Over 150 Nourishing Vegan Recipes from the Stanford Inn by the Sea
Author: Jeff Stanford, Joan Stanford
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: February 9th 2016
Source: Netgalley/BenBella Books


Book Description:



At The Ravens, dinner is more than just a meal. It’s a feast for your spirit.

Located on the Mendocino coast at the only vegan resort in the United States, The Ravens Restaurant at the Stanford Inn by the Sea embodies a mindful, compassionate, and sustainable dining experience in an enchanting and unforgettable setting. Now in Dining at The Ravens, Jeff and Joan Stanford, the Inn and restaurant founders, bring the Ravens culinary experience into your home.

Teeming with beautiful photographs, Dining at The Ravens features more than 150 delicious vegan recipes and shares the charming history of the Inn and restaurant, cooking tips for perfect recipe execution, and even inspiration for creating your own garden.

Discover one of the restaurant’s most popular breakfast dishes, Citrus Polenta with Braised Garden Greens and a Creamy Toasted Cashew Sauce, and many others, such as:

Ravens Sea Palm Strudel
Indian-Spiced Polenta Napoleon
Mushroom Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Burger
Ravens Spicy Peanut Curry Sea Palm
Sweet Summer Corn Bisque
Peach Huckleberry Cobbler

Pull up a seat and find out why vegans and non-vegans alike flock to The Ravens for an extraordinary dining experience.






Review:


★★★★

First, let me preface this review by saying that I'm not a vegan. That being said, I'm always up to try new vegan dishes.

The book is divided into two sections. The first part is dedicated to information about The Stanford Inn, USA's only vegan resort located in Mendocino, California. This is in addition to The Ravens, which is the (obviously) vegan restaurant that's at the inn. It was interesting and well written, but not something that I was particularly interested in. I came for the recipes, which is what the second part of the book is.

These recipes are divided into smaller sections by course. Chapters include Morning Food, Sauces Dips and Spreads, and Salads and Dressings.

This collection of recipes is certainly impressive, but it's a bit complex for a beginner. Though there's numbered steps, there's a lot of technique and components involved here. Seems like it might not be easy for beginners, but should be easy enough for a new vegan with prior cooking skill. The amount of components kind of threw off the flow of the recipes, because so many of them are on different pages from the recipe that calls for it. It's annoying to flip through.

But, the photography is fantastic.

Some of the recipes that I think sound the most delicious include Forbidden Risotto with Sunchoke Lemon Cream, Sun Dried Tomato Polenta with Foraged Mushrooms and Arugula, and Candy Cap Mushroom Creme Brulee.

I think this is a great cookbook for the vegan foodie, and it would make a great gift for a vegan/vegetarian or a healthy eater. I'd recommend it.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Soaper Short Review: Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola



Title: Pure Soapmaking
Author: Anne-Marie Faiola
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: January 8th 2016
Source: Storey Publishing LLC/Netgalley



Book Description:



The pure luxury of soaps made with coconut butter, almond oil, aloe vera, oatmeal, and green tea is one of life's little pleasures. And with the help of author Anne-Marie Faiola, it's easy to make luscious, all-natural soaps right in your own kitchen. This collection of 32 recipes ranges from simple castile bars to intricate swirls, embeds, and marbled and layered looks. Begin with a combination of skin-nourishing oils and then add blueberry puree, dandelion-infused water, almond milk, coffee grounds, mango and avocado butters, black tea, or other delicious ingredients -- and then scent your soap with pure essential oils. Step-by-step photography guides you through every stage of cold-process soapmaking.





Review:


★★★★

Soap making is something that I've always wanted to try doing. I've recently started doing wax and candles, and I was happy to get a chance to read this one. I think it's a pretty good guide.

The photography is what makes this book stand apart. It's so high definition, and so pretty. It's easy to become motivated to learn the craft when you flip through all the soap goodies that Faiola demonstrates in this book.

There's also photos for each step. Each "recipe" (is that the word when it's not food?) has photo step by step instructions that make it a good tool for the newcomer to the soap game. The instructions seem pretty straight forward.

There's also a lot of really helpful information in this book. The author explains the different kind of oils that can be used and for what purpose, what kinds of methods are used to make soaps, what scents can be used, and what dyes are best for what types of soap. As someone who doesn't know a lot of information like this, it was much appreciated.

That being said.... I know this is designed as a beginner's guide, but I still thought it was a bit over my head. It was intimidating. I feel like I needed things a bit more broken down, and a bit less complex. I'm sure this is just me- I'm notoriously bad at arts projects. But, I didn't walk away going "YES I CAN MAKE THE SOAPS!", but instead "Oh so that's how it works.... Maybe I should google Soap Making for Dummies".

I think that for crafty people, this is probably a great guide. I think it'd be a good gift to give to people who enjoy DIY and craft projects.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.