Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hungry Girl

Hungry Girl. Recipes and survival strategies for Guilt-free eating in the real world by Lisa Lillen

I love cookbooks. Unfortunately, I usually only find one or two recipes in each one that I actually use. This is why I get them from the public library. For a matter of pennies, I can photocopy that one great recipe and return the book for someone else to read.

I've found a couple of ideas in here that I'd like to try. Tonight it's going to be the onion rings. Their baked and dredged in ground bran cereal. Onions are cheap, it's worth trying. One of these days I'll probably make the time to create the oatmeal pizza crust, too.

Ms. Lillen includes a few great tips for eating out as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dewey by Vicki Myron

I work in a library, and I love a cat. "The small-town library cat who touched the world" should be my new favorite! But it's not.

I began reading in earnest, and enjoyed a few chuckles at the scene about opening the library before the start of the day. They discover the kitten. It changes their staff. Dewey rekindles a community's faith in one another. And then I started skipping pages and skimming for good parts. I wanted less Spencer, Iowa and more Dewey the cat.

Myron does an admirable job of using the book to teach people about libraries - how they run, what happens "behind the desk." I wish I could say glowing things about her prose. But honestly, library operation is not that interesting - even to those of us who do it.

I hope this book becomes a juvenile book, or a picture book. I can see either of those scenarios working out incredibly well. But I thought this book was slow. Even the dramatic events seemed to lack drama.

So I'll admit I skimmed it, then let it go for the next patron on the hold list. Who may just learn a thing or two about the way a library operates and its importance in a community.

Two Dudes One Pan by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo

For all the hype, I wanted a book on fun regular food with no fuss. "One pan" - and "dudes" - it can't get too complicated with a name like that, can it? Oh, yes it can.

The title is a misnomer. The contents page breaks the book down into these sections: the big bowl, nonstick skillet, classic skillet/frying pan, dutch oven, roasting pan, and baking dish. And the dudes? Trained chefs with a catering company.

Admittedly, the recipes are much simpler than, say, Martha. And the "dudes" really do seem to have fun in the kitchen. But the cover photo with a tattooed arm plucking chicken pieces from a skillet? Just slick marketing from another set of Food Network starts.

At Work by Annie Leibovitz

I have been a huge fan of Leibovitz since college. Her 90's portraits for Rolling Stone made the magazine worth the price of subscription. She's published several books of photography over the years, but this volume combines her own words about how she works with choice photos from across her career's trajectory.

It was interesting to hear her own nostalgia, or regret, concerning some of the most famous images she's captured. I've always loved her portrait of Keith Haring, and her reminiscence here makes it all worth while.

But the small scale bothered me. I wanted bigger pictures. I want to re-appreciate them in glorious color and grand scale. Instead, the book is easier to handle at a scant 7.5" x 9.75" and pictures are reproduced in snapshot size.

I'm afraid that if you're not already a fan, this book won't make you one. Which seems a shame.

American Thighs by Jill Conner Browne

Browne returns with style in this, her eighth "Sweet Potato Queens" book.

I discovered the SPQ's back in 1995 or so - early on in their development. Back then, they were advertised as the trashy younger sisters to the Red Hat Society. Sassy, sexy, drunken, and debauched: they were the girls I wanted to hang out with. The gang I wanted to be in.

Today, the originals SPQ's could qualify as Red Hatters themselves - but none would lower themselves to that level. Over the years, Boss Queen Jill wrote a couple of laugh-out-loud books, a couple clunkers that were still fun, and compliled a recipe book that every kitchen should posess. This one's good again - give "American Thighs" a chance. Or go back to the original "The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love."

And make sure you say hey to your mama!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Bears in the Bed and The Great Big Storm

The Bears in the Bed and the Great Big Storm by Paul Bright

My eye was first drawn to this book because Jane Chapman's bears on the cover made me think the author was Karma Wilson. Even with a different author, this book lends itself well to expressive reading. The "monster" at the end of the book happens to be the voice I do best with a puppet in hand. My inspiration for that voice comes from a CD by Brent Holmes whose music sends little library visitors into gales of giggles.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Cute, kicky and fun to read. That's "How to Ditch Your Fairy" in a nutshell.

Charlotte Adele Donna Seto Steele is a 14-year old all-star athlete training at a special sports-only high school in New Avalon (a made up place kinda like the US, but also sorta Australian - just go with it). In her world, it's normal to have a PR class in high school (you're going to need it). Statistics class ... oh, we're all about the numbers in sports, aren't we? And many people have some kind of personal fairy working magic in their lives. That's just the way it is.

Except Charlie's got a parking fairy - every car she's in finds a primo parking spot instantly. Other people have never-getting-into-trouble fairies, or finding-loose-change fairies, or grip fairies, or ... well, anything's better than a 14-year old with doos parking skills. (You'll walk away from this book with a pulchy new vocabulary, too!)

It's a fun book. The kids act like kids (not necessarily responsibly) and their troubles seem monumental to them at the moment. But it's fun, funny, and the fantasy elements aren't unbelievable.

Monday, February 9, 2009

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

I listened to this in the car. As fascinating as it was, I know I'd never have finished it in print form. I've been reading the ingredients list on everything lately, and can't believe how many things are barely natural. Everything has been processed for shelf-life, and then processed again to reintroduce the nutrients that were stripped the first time.
I always thought I ate pretty healthfully, but now I feel like my whole diet needs to be revamped. I love vegetables, but never thought about the fact that farmers now produce for yield over nutrition, so we now get far fewer benefits from fresh fruit/veggies than we did in the past. Suddenly, I can't wait for farmer's market season.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Sword of Maiden's Tears by Rosemary Edghill

This book was recommended to me because 5 of the 6 main characters are librarians. Fantasy! Elves! and butt-kickin' librarians? Sign me up!

And it was a nice diversion. It was nice to see a depiction of librarians where we aren't stodgy bun-wearing spinsters (there are even MALE librarians in this book!).

But 15 years have not been kind to this story, which was first published in 1994. As the characters struggle to locate one another, struggle to find accurate maps, and delve deep for elven lore - you want to shout: Get a cell phone! Go on Mapquest! Just Google it! One of the characters is a "hacker in training" - a setup to ensure all other characters mistrust him ... because he uses a computer.

This is just the first book in Edghill's "Twelve Treasures" series. I'd be curious to see if the others have fared better.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When Santa Turned Green

When Santa Turned Green by Victoria Perla

It seems Santa has poor access to news up in the north pole. Until the snow on his roof melted, he was unaware of the concept of global warming. Now that he knows, he's out to reverse the whole process. This is a relatively cute picture book that gives kids an simplified version of the problem and makes the solution seem like it can happen overnight. At the least, it can put a few good ideas into kids' heads.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Do you love gory stories? Supernatural spirituality? This will be your new favorite book.

We find out from page one that our narrator survived a horrible burn accident. His descriptions of burn treatment and his accident's details are graphic and terrible - and just when you think you can't take it anymore, he starts to tell you about his pre-burn life ... as a pornographer. Nice!

But the book's really a series of stories: love stories, religious stories, morality stories. These tales are what really hooked me - I wanted to know how they were going to come together, and what we and the narrator were learning through their telling.

In the end, I loved this book. But I'm not sure how to recommend it - it's gross, it's despicable, it's beautiful, and it's literary. Give it a try, and stick with it. You'll be glad you did.