Tag Archives: book review

Swap-bot: Let me recommend a book #23

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Hi folks! Today’s post is for a Swap-bot swap. This one is for the group Electronic Swaps, which, as you can imagine, a group dedicated to electronic (e-mail, pintrest, etc.) swaps. Today’s swap is about a book I would recommend.

I have recently read (or listened to in the car on my way to work) that I really enjoyed. The first is “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. This book is a real life story about Henrietta Lacks, the woman who “provided” the first cells to grow in culture, and her daughters search for the truth, along with the assistance of the author. One of the reasons I enjoy this book so much is that Skloot manages to take what could be a dry topic (a woman’s medical history, and her family drama) and makes them come alive, as though you are watching them play out live and in person. I was drawn in by the narrative, by the mystery, and by the family dynamic that comes across so well. It has recently been adapted by HBO for a miniseries, which I have not watched yet, but stars Oprah as the titular characters daughter, the one who goes on the journey of discovery.

The second book I would recommend is a memoir titled “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. The story is her memories of growing up with free spirited parents in the deserts of the western United States, of the challenges of living with an alcoholic father and a mother with undiagnosed mental illness. The journey follows her family throughout the west, before the return to her father’s home town in West Virginia. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this book, aside from Walls amazing story telling abilities, is that I knew this is a true story. I was compelled to see what happened to her, to her siblings, to her parents. I found myself wanting to google her, and her family, before the story was over to see how it came out. And, there will be a film adaptation of the book coming out this summer.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and Bonus Book Review

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boo pumpkinSo my daughters first grade class went to a pumpkin patch this year. She’s in first grade and as this is our first year in Virginia, so a pumpkin patch visit for kids this age might be the normal thing to do. But I’ve never seen it. Anyway, since this was more of a fun field trip I had to pay (another thing I’ve never had to do, but I’m getting over it) and so I got what has to be the most expensive pumpkin I have ever purchased.

Before we even got out of the car that day Boo proclaimed that she wanted to make something with her pumpkin. So, instead of carving it for Halloween, we simply put it outside our front door, and a few days after Halloween we roasted it in the oven and mashed it into a lovely bright orange pulp. And then we froze it. Because I honestly had no idea what to do with the pumpkin other than make a pie.

So I went on a quest at the local library for things to do with pumpkin. I’ve always had a hobby of reading cookbooks (which should be evident by the number of cookbooks I’ve reviewed on this blog) and so I figured that I might actually be able to do something with them now.  I checked out a few books and finally found a recipe that I thought I’d be able to try.

The book is “Whoopies!” by Susanna Tee. And the recipes are simple, but not stupidly so, and Whoopies-Tee-Susanna-9781402786471are sorted by season. I found the pumpkin whoopie pie recipe in the fall section with the note that it would be wonderful for Halloween or Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving is just next week I figured it was perfect.

The first thing we did with our cookies (because they are basically just very cakey cookies) was eat them. They tasted very good on their own. I added chocolate chips to half of the batter because I’ve been missing the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that one of the grocery stores back home sells.  I also only had pumpkin pie spice. Because, while I would prefer to have the individual spices, I know I was going to be doing a lot of pumpkin baking and figured this was the best way to go about it. We used store bought frosting, because I’m lazy and didn’t want to have to wash more dishes than absolutely necessary. Boo thought that they were the best thing ever and Bud, who had a more refined pallet, also thought they were really good. I’m sure had we used the “real” frosting that the recipe suggests they would have been even better.

Pumpkin Whoopies

1/2 cup butter, softened1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice or nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
pinch of salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tbsp buttermilk
chocolate chips to taste (optional)
Cream cheese frosting

  1. Preheat over to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment, or just grease well with cooking spray.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the cream mixture. Mix well.
  4. Add pumpkin and buttermilk and mix until combined.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop or rounded tablespoon to drop mounds of dough onto cookie sheet, make sure to leave 2-3 inches between cookie for spreading. I used my smaller cookie scoop, the recipe calls for a larger, 2 inch one. The choice is yours.
  6. Cook for 10-12 minutes (mine were done in 8-9) until firm to the touch. Remove from cookie sheets to cool.
  7. When cool, match up cookies of similar shape. Frost one half and then sandwich with the other.
Pumpkin whoopie pies

Pumpkin whoopie pies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

Book Review: “Cupcakes!”

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I love cupcakes. I’ve got a whole Pintrest board dedicated to them. In fact, it was one of my first Pintrest boards that I sat up on my own when I first joined up. At last count there are over 160 cupcakes on my cupcake board. I’ve actually made a few. On this blog I’ve got several cupcake and muffin recipes that I’ve shared. Muffins are a lot like cupcakes most of the time, they usually just lack frosting of some sort. Which is why, when I saw this book on the shelf of my local library I just had to check it out.

cupkakes

“Cupcakes!” by Elinor Klivans was a very promising book. I mean, just look at the picture on the cover. This looks like a book that is devoted to the taste of the cupcake more than the look of what goes on top. There are a lot of books out there that are all about the decoration, but for me, it’s all about the taste. The recipes in this book are sound, near as I can tell. As I’ve said before, I don’t often make the recipes in the cookbooks that I read, I just like to read them for the low-fat version of indulgence. That being said, this book did annoy me just a bit.

I get that a cookbook has to speak to several levels of cook, but the recipes were all basically variations on each other, after reading the introduction and the first one or two recipes, I started to feel as though the author thought the people reading her book were all idiots. Even a novice cook will know how to remove cupcakes from a pan.

The other thing that I wish there were more of in this book were pictures. Cooking is very visual to me. Sure, I can imagine what the recipe is supposed to look like, but a picture makes it just that much better. Sadly, there were very few pictures in this book. The ones that were there looked a bit flat. The frosting looked sticky and unappetizing and quite often too sweet.

Honestly, this wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t that great either. I know there are other cupcake books out there, maybe next time I’ll grab one that is more inspiring to me.

Book Review: “People’s Pops”

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Who doesn’t love a popsicle? Even better, who doesn’t love a whole book full of how to make the wonderful juicy gems at home? Even if you aren’t a huge popsicle fan this book is still fun.

The authors of “People’s Pops”-Nthalie Jordi, David Carrell, and Joel Horowitz- are the owners of the company by the same name in New York City. They seem a bit like hipsters (I could be wrong, but that’s what they seem like) and because of that they have a very casual way of doing and thinking. All of the recipes that they include are simple and easy. And they all look good. I really enjoyed not only the recipes, but also the little stories that they share throughout.

I initially picked up this book because the cover looked good, and lets face it, that’s the most important thing really. I was pleasantly surprised by the easy of reading in the book. The recipes are simple, but they don’t assume that you’re an idiot. The recipes are written  and instructions given, so that you can adjust to your own tastes and to the fruit you have available  For example, I loved the grape pop, but would love to see a pomegranate pop. But I don’t imagine that they have fresh pomegranates in New York, they are pretty much a southern southwest thing. But their instructions, and the suggestions, make it possible for me to think about what I would need to do to make a pomegranate pop. I think I could totally do it too.

Another thing that I really liked about this book and the recipes is that it encourages you to think outside of the box. All of the recipes are sweetened with simple syrup (basically sugar and water) and they encourage the reader to infuse the syrup with all sorts of different herbs and flavorings. As a plus, the syrups also taste good in other applications where you want to sweeten things, like lemonaid.

I can’t wait for summer to try out some of these recipes. Specifically  I want to try their apricot and salted caramel pop. Apricots grow like crazy around here and there are always some to find. I can’t wait!

Book Review: “Methods of Madness”

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“Methods of Madness” by Stephanie Black is not a story I normally would have read. I don’t usually read suspense novels, nor do I usually read LDS fiction. However, the lady that I work for likes both and so I listened to, rather than read, thus book. She listens to a lot of audio books. And I mean a lot. She’s pretty much cleaned the library out of all of their books…or at least the ones by LDS authors. She doesn’t go in for sex and bad language or graphic descriptions of violence. I think she’s going to need to move on to kids books soon. Because our tastes in books are so different I usually just tune them out when she listens to them. But occasionally one of the books pulls me in. “Methods of Madness” was one of those books.

This story starts with a tragedy, Emily’s sister is killed and her fiance dispersers on the same night, which sadly happens to be her birthday. Fast forward several years and she’s moved on, newly engaged to a lovely young man named Zach, who is just about the sweetest guy you can find. But things don’t stay happy for long, there are threats and fake blood and a murder that make Emily think she’s crazy. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the ending coming. That’s unusual for me. Usually I can peg it down early on, but not this time. It came out of left field for me, which was awesome. I love being surprised.

This is an LDS fiction book, so there is an element of religion in it. That being said, it’s subtle. It explains how Emily would know and move in circles with people who are so different than her. It explains how her mother knows casual acquaintances and other things like that. And, like all faith based fiction, it gives the main character a kind of overriding faith to fall back on that you don’t see in most popular fiction these days. It’s quite refreshing.

In all, I’d say that this is a very good book. The suspense is there, the story is captivating, and while there were a few characters that I didn’t care for, the were mostly very well written.

Book Review: “Emeraldalicious”

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I’d like someone to show me a little girl in America who had not read or at least heard of the Pinkalicious books. The original story was very cute. A little girl turns pink after eating too many pink cupcakes, but she doesn’t care at first because pink is her favorite color. As the book goes on though she decides it’s not as fun being pink as she thought it would be and has to eat a bunch of icky green vegetables to turn her regular color again.

The original book was written by what I’m assuming are sisters, or at the very least sister-in-law’s, named Elizabeth and Victoria Kann. I can imagin how the decision to write the books went down, one night they were talking about a daughters love of the color pink and how funny it would be if they ate so much pink things or had so many pink things that the little girl turned pink! And then one said “Hey, we should totally write that as a book.” And the other was like “Awesome idea!” and BAM! we have “Pinkalicious” a cute silly book about a girl who loves the color pink. I’m sure when they wrote it they didn’t realize that they would be spawning an empire that would include a plethora of other books, dolls and other merchandise and even a Broadway Musical. Little girls everywhere what Pinkalicious birthday parties complete with pink cakes and tiaras and wands for everyone, in pink of course.

I loved the original book. I loved the second book, “Goldalicious” about an imaginary pet unicorn. The third book wore me out a bit, and by the fourth book I was kind of loosing my interest. By that point there were a number of other books besides the main picture books. There were easy and beginning reader books, meant to capture the aging demographic, there were sticker books, there were all sorts of books. But you know what, none of that matters. And do you know why? My just turned six year old loves them. She got a “box set” of the first four picture books for Christmas from Grandma, she reads them in the bathroom, she reads them in bed, she plays Pinkalicious. She even has the crown from Burger King that we’ve had for ages and it probably the best made toy from a kids meal we have ever gotten.

Tonight, when we walked into Barns and Noble for our usual look through the kids book section without the intention of actually buying anything, my daughter was ecstatic when we were almost immediately hit with a display of these books:

Yes, that’s right. It is a brand new Pinkalicious book. And this time it’s all about being green. I don’t really have much to say about the book. It’s cute in the way that all the Pinkalicious books are cute, and it features her brother Peter (who isn’t afraid to admit that he likes the color pink too) which is nice. And my daughter liked it, which I suppose is the most important thing considering she’s the target demographic for this book. I liked that it had a “green” message without ramming it down your throat like some books can do. The one thing I will say is that at times it seemed like it was trying too hard. While reading it to my daughter in the books store I found myself constantly having to start paragraphs lower than I normally wold because almost all of the sentences ended in an exclamation point. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but they are learning about punctuation in school and she knows that an exclamation point is supposed to be excitement, so yeah, that is always fun.

All in all, if you have a little girl in the house, she will probably love this book and want you to read it again and again and again. And really, isn’t that the point?

Book Review: “The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook: Cookies, Cakes, Candies, and More”

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I love cooking, I love baking. I also love cookbooks. I don’t necessarily cook anything in the cookbooks, but I do love them. I like to read them before bed. I’ll read them in a long bath (not that I get many of them). I take them to the doctor with me. I love to look at them at the book store. I prefer the ones with pictures (I’m a lot like my nine year old that way) because it makes the food come to life. I also read them. Not just skim them, but read the ingredients, the directions, the introductions and the hints. I pick up a lot of techniques that way. I also live on a budget. I don’t get to buy the number of cook books that I’d like to. Thank God that there is a library near me.

“The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook: Cookies, Cakes, Candies, and More”, by Lindsay Landis, was a book I picked up off the shelf at the library. I misread the title at first, I thought it was a cookie book. I was in a rush. The library runs a program for the older kids Tuesday nights and they were there and I only had like five minutes to get books before they would notice that I was gone and would come looking for me covered in glue (that’s not the only thing they get into at the library, last week they were pulling apart baby diapers to see how much water the absorbing parts held).

That being said, I really did enjoy reading this book. I can’t tell you if the recipes are actually any good, but from the amount of reading of cook books I do I can tell you that they are at least very soundly written. And they LOOK good. I loved the pictures. And I have eaten at least one of these recipes unknowingly. My sister (she’s 20 now, so I don’t know that I can call her my “little” sister any more) has made the chocolate chip cookie dough truffles for Christmas the past two years in a row. I love them. And they don’t last for more than an hour once I tell my children they can eat them.

So, as far as cookbooks go, I would say this is a good one to read. The pictures are good, the recipes are interesting to read, the short snippets that the author puts at the beginning of each of them are good hooks to the recipes and the hints are nice and helpful. It’s not a deep or moving cook book (believe it or not I have read them) but it’s a desert book, so that is to be expected. Plus, if you just read the recipes and don’t make them, then you don’t have to worry about the calories from all that cookie dough!

*disclaimer* none of these pictures are mine, click on them to be taken to the pages they came from.