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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review: Cheers to the Publican by Paul Kahan



Title: Cheers to the Publican, Repast and Present: Recipes and Ramblings from an American Beer Hall
Author: Paul Kahan
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 19th 2017
Source: Publisher/Netgalley


Book Description:



The highly anticipated narrative-rich cookbook by Chicago's superstar chef, Paul Kahan, whose destination restaurant, The Publican, is known for its incredibly delicious pork- and seafood-centric, beer-friendly cooking.

The Publican, often named one of Chicago's most popular restaurants, conjures a colonial American beer hall with its massive communal tables, high-backed chairs, deep beer list, and Kahan's hallmark style of crave-worthy heartland cooking that transcends the expected and is eminently cookable. Cheers to The Publican is Paul Kahan's and Executive Chef Cosmo Goss's toast to the food they love to make and share, the characters who produce the ingredients that inspire them, and the other cooks they honor. Larded with rich story-telling and featuring more than 150 evocative photographs and 150 recipes for vegetables and salads, fish and seafood, meat, simple charcuterie, and breads and spreads, Cheers to The Publican is sure to be one of the most talked-about and cooked-from cookbooks of the year.






Review:


★★★★

I was super excited to get my hands on a copy of this book. Though I haven't gotten a chance to dine there yet (unfortunately :( ), Publican is a well known Chicago establishment. I'm in the neighborhood all the time, and I am happy to have gotten a peak behind closed ovens with this cookbook.

The book is divided into sections by ingredient: vegetables, shellfish, fish, meat, charcuterie and sausages, offal, and breads and spreads.

There are a LOT of photos in this book, which is a huge plus for me. And not only are there a lot of them, but the ones that are in there are gorgeous. There's also a lot of personal stories, and background information about the restaurant and the people behind it. Sure, it's gorgeous to flip through the pictures, but I really enjoyed reading the non-recipe information. It has a warm, welcoming tone that shows the passion for ingredients and cooking as a whole, which then comes across well in the recipes.

The recipes are a bit complicated with lots of components, but the steps are well written and to the point.

Some of the dishes that I'm most excited to try from this cookbook include Dry Aged Duck Breast with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette, Pork Country Ribs with Watermelon and Sungold Salad, and Blood Pasta with Sea Beans, Fava Beans, and Mussels

This is a great book for someone looking to be a bit more upscaled at home, prepare for a date night, or who is big into the culinary scene in Chicago.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Adultolescence by Gabbie Hanna



Title: Adultolescence
Author: Gabbie Hanna
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 19th 2017
Source: Publisher


Book Description:



From Teen Choice Award-nominated comedian and vlogger Gabbie Hanna, known on YouTube as The Gabbie Show, an astounding debut poetry collection that captures the essence of what it means to come of age in today’s world.

Full of confessional, whimsical, and darkly humorous observations about life, love, and the early years of adulthood, this collection of over 150 poems, each illustrated by Gabbie herself, will introduce you to the unique point of view of one of the internet’s most remarkable voices.






Review:


★★★

This is the first book by Gabbie Hanna, more commonly known as TheGabbieShow. She's a pretty well known YouTuber, and I have to admit I'm a fan of her story time videos. I was happy to get a copy of her book, because I relate to her in a lot of ways. I was pleasantly surprised that it's not just another vlogger biography, but a book of poetry. That's pretty cool.

The book is filled with doodles and artwork that are nice. They look very "something I drew during math class" to me, which works with the title and theme of the book, and they matched well with what was going on in the poems.

The poems themselves for me were hit and miss. They're in different forms- some that rhyme, some that don't, some that are long, some single verse, etc. Some of them were really good and thought provoking, or hit pretty close to home. Others, not so much. Some of them are just kind of one liners that seem like funny tweets or facebook statuses. Some of them also use chat speak, which I "get" but find really irritating.

Some of the poems I liked best are "Dollhouse", "Dolly" and "Worry".

Overall, I enjoyed reading this. It's a pretty short read, but as I mentioned, some poems are longer than others. It's a nice collection to my YouTuber shelf, and I'm sure fans of hers will enjoy it.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Kids' Review: If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece by Carole P. Roman



Title: If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece
Series: If You Were Me and Lived in...
Author: Carole P. Roman
Format: Paperback, 56 pages
Pub. Date: March 17th 2016
Source: Publisher/Author book mail


Book Description:



Join Carole P. Roman and travel through time to visit the most interesting civilizations throughout history in the first four books of her new series. Learn what kind of food you might eat in Ancient Greece, the clothes you wore in 15th century Renaissance Italy, what your name could be in Elizabethan England, and what Colonial American children did for fun. If You Were Me and Lived in...does for history what her other award-winning series did for culture. So get on-board this time-travel machine and discover the world through the eyes of a young person just like you.





Review:


★★★★

This is such a cute book. I was really happy when I got a copy in the mail. I have a degree in classic civilization, so I love seeing educational books for kids about Greece and Rome. This one didn't disappoint.

The illustrations are cute. They well match the text, and they have good coloring so it holds your attention.

There's a LOT of information in these books. There's maps, fun facts, pronunciation guides, definitions, and little blurbs about different gods and goddesses throughout the book. You learn all about daily life- what food people ate, common chores, how houses were designed, how people were named. Sometimes the writing got a bit dry and text book like. I'm not a child, nor do I have children, so I can only speculate, but I think at some points it'd be hard to keep their attention.

I was a little annoyed that it's a boy-centric themed book. It's "if you were a boy" and "if you had a little sister". It's a little grating that even in a picture book, girls are secondary. It would have been just as easy to say "or if you were a girl..." without going into a little sister role.

But, that one complaint aside, I think this is a pretty good book. There's a lot of information shoved in these pages. I think it's an approachable way for kids to learn about Greece in an age appropriate, small dose. It fills in a lot of details without going too far (wars, sacrifices, things that are definitely present but not for the kiddos!).

It's a welcome addition to this picture series from Carole P. Roman.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Kawaii Doodle Class by Zainab Khan



Title: Kawaii Doodle Class: Sketching Super-Cute Tacos, Sushi, Clouds, Flowers, Monsters, Cosmetics, and More
Author: Zainab Khan
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 1st 2017
Source: Publisher


Book Description:



The Japanese word kawaii translates to "cute," and this how-to book is chock-full of super-adorable images of tacos, sushi, smoothies, clouds, rainbows, cacti, doodle monsters, Christmas trees, lipsticks, teacups, and more for your adoration.

Popular kawaii artist Zainab Khan shows you how to draw 75 super-cute characters with simple step-by-step illustrations and instructions. She has also included fun search-and-find images and inspiration boards that show you how to give your characters different facial expressions and zany accessories.

Thanks to this crash course in Kawaii Doodle Class, soon you will be enhancing your notebooks, stationery, artwork, and more with your own unique kawaii world!






Review:


★★★

This is such a cute book idea. I mean look at the cover. It's pastel and adorable! I'm not really artistic, but I do consider myself a "Doodler"- that is, I sketch or draw here and there but I don't really put a lot of effort into learning how to make good art. So, this book was the perfect fit for me.

The book is divided into chapters: Adorable Food & Drinks, Lovable Nature, Cheerful Doodle Monsters, Everyday Cute, Charming Holiday Decorations, and Fun Time!

Adorable Food & Drinks includes a Popsicle, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Sushi. Lovable Nature has a planet and a succulent. Cheerful Doodle Monsters contains a cute little cast of different styled monsters. Everyday Cute has household items such as a cooking pot and a bottle of foundation, and Holiday Decorations has a Christmas stocking and an Easter Egg. Fun time has coloring pages and puzzles.

The good thing about this book is that it's simple. None of the doodles are extra complicated, and many only need a few strokes. The steps are numbered, and are written in very understandable terms. Each step is also illustrated, so you can see step by step how the illustrator made each design. I appreciate that level of detail in the writing.

Each chapter has a few blank pages so that you can practice what you've learned. This is a great idea if you have a physical copy, but loses something in a digital format (also true of the coloring pages, but I love that those were included!). There's also "get inspired" pages that show other, similar doodles from the author. I liked this, because the purpose is that hey, anything can be cute! But I was also a little bummed because I liked quite a few of these "bonus" doodles better than the ones that are in the chapter, and I'd rather they be featured. I also think it's a little weird that the author suggests that you study their facial expressions for inspiration, but they almost all have virtually identical features. It got a bit boring after awhile.

Some designs are a little too simple- like a heart or a star. Some don't really look much like the intended item (like the fried egg).

All in all, I think this is a cute book. I think it'd be a good children's gift, perhaps for a child who's just starting to get into drawing. It's also a good book if, like me, you're not really good at drawing. It'll ensure that you can at least draw a few new cute things. I enjoyed this book, but I probably won't go back to it in the future.

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mini Review: Mabon by Llewellyn Publications & Diana Rajchel



Title: Mabon: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Autumn Equinox
Series: (Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials)
Author: Diana Rajchel
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: July 8th 2015
Source: Netgalley/Llewellyn Publications


Book Description:



Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials series explores the old and new ways of celebrating the seasonal rites that are the cornerstones in the witch's year. A well-rounded introduction to Mabon, this attractive book features rituals, recipes, lore, and correspondences. It includes hands-on information for modern celebrations, spells and divination, recipes and crafts, invocations and prayers, and more!





Review:


★★★★

Mabon is a great addition to Llewellyn Publications' line of sabbat guides. It conforms to the rest in the series, in that it is a guide with history, prayers, advice, and facts. But it is unique, because each one of these books has a different author, so it has a personal voice and touch to it.

These books are a good step for those who are new to paganism/Wicca. It's sort of a Cliff's Notes version. Not to say that this is a cheating guide, but instead a condensed version of "things you need to know" in a fairly short amount of page space.

I felt this one had exceptionally good prayers in it. I liked the way that Rajchel writes, and drew me into her own path a bit and allowed me to metaphorically walk alongside her for Mabon.

If you have the other books in the series, this will be good on the same shelf. If you're an "experienced" pagan, there's some nice bits of information you'll pick up here. If you're learning or exploring, this is a good foundation to start with.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler



Title: Afterparty
Author: Ann Redisch Stampler
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: January 7th 2014
Source: Won


Book Description:



Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother -- whose name her dad won't even say out loud. That's why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her...and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she's everything Emma is not.

And it may be more than Emma can handle.

Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It's more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop.

This follow-up to Ann Redisch Stampler's Where It Began, reveals how those who know us best can hurt us most.






Review:


★★

Sometimes, every once in a while, there comes a book that feels like a case of "it's not you, it's me". I believe that this is one of those times. I'm glad a lot of other people seem to have enjoyed it, but it wasn't for me. This review will be vague, because there's a lot of potential spoilers.

The writing style wasn't one that I found enjoyable. It was full of long, flowery sentences that seemed extra detailed just for the sake of a word count. I thought maybe I'd warm up to it as the book went on, but alas I did not. The pacing was also rough. Sometimes the book jumped forward a day, sometimes a week. It was jagged and awkward and hard to keep up.

And then there's the characters. 99% of the time when I don't like a book, it's because of the characters, and this isn't the 1% for me. I didn't care for any of them. Not like "oh, I connect and understand these characters but I dislike them" but as in, I don't care at all what happens in your lives. For me it was a hyper-dramatic version of the 2003 film Thirteen. There's a good girl who doesn't want to be so good. Enter the super crazy, abusive, manipulative cool bad girl who is her downfall. There wasn't anything about her that made her unique, or someone that I could understand being friends with in the first place, let alone the friendship that follows. Think of all the things parents think are the end of the world: drugs, sex, and alcohol, and multiply the drama by 100, and that's what Siobhan gets them into. The main character is generic and forgettable, and doesn't really grow that much by the end of the novel . So, it felt largely predictable in parts.

And the end? What a let down. It didn't make up for my other issues with the book, so I was just left frustrated.

I will say that though it has nothing to do with the story, the cover is gorgeous.

As I said, I think this is a case of it's not you, it's me. So, if you like teenage drama type stories like Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl or things like that, go for it. Maybe you'll have a better time.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe



Title: The Tragic Age
Author: Stephen Metcalfe
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Pub. Date: March 3rd 2015
Source: Won


Book Description:



This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.
 
Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. 

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It's the age he's at. The tragic age.

Stephen Metcalfe's brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.






Review:


★★

I really wanted to like this book, but I ended up not being a fan of it. I love a good coming of age story, but this one just didn't click with me. I didn't relate to a lot of characters, which made me struggle to finish it.

I started off really liking the main character, Billy. I appreciate that he's sarcastic and a smart ass, because I myself am both of those things. But his personality, the more I read, turned to being abrasive and annoying. He's not a person I'd want to spend a lot of time with. But, at least he was well developed. I give him that. Comparatively, the other characters fall flat, and seem to be there only to move along Billy's plot. I couldn't tell you much about them.

What turned me off of this book the most was the stereotypes. The Latina female is portrayed as slutty. There's smart Asians. There's some definite slut shaming and other things that are not part of the plot: these are not things we will learn to overcome through evolution of the characters. I don't want that in a book, and especially a coming of age story aimed at teens.

I did appreciate Billy's pop culture/topical references, but I feel like it'll date the book in the future.

This isn't a book I'd recommend.