Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks, by Priya Krishna

Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks is the ultimate "un-recipe cookbook." It provides real-life instructions on how to prepare basic meals, without exact proportions or fussy steps. Plus, a variety of options are provided that make these meals a cinch to assemble with low resources or for finicky eaters. For example, instead of using a specific meat, the list of ingredients frequently features "Pick Your Own Protein," which is explained to include meatless options as well. Although the premise of this book is for college students, it is a great first cooking book for anyone living away from home for the first time or otherwise unaccustomed to cooking. The meals are simple and easy to prepare, which also makes it ideal for those with little time to cook and who are often eating alone. Despite their simplicity, these meal ideas are classier and more nutritious (well, in many cases anyway!) than the title might imply. A+.

Cross-posted on NetGalley.


Simple Thai Food, by Leela Punyaratabandhu

This is a wonderful manual for recreating authentic Thai cuisine. The ingredients used in Punyaratabandhu's recipes are traditional and fresh, if sometimes hard to find in the United States. It might have been useful to include more possible substitutions, although she does give some advice on how to find the more exotic ingredients. Rather than use prepared sauces or spice blends, she breaks down the basics of how to make these staples from scratch. She explains not only the methods of cooking Thai food, but the meanings behind the names of the dishes and sometimes even their origins. Interweaving personal stories and at times a dash of humor, Punyaratabandhu makes her cookbook enticing to read as well as to cook from. The title may be misleading to some: the recipes in this book are not simple, in that they require a good deal of planning, time and effort to prepare, although they are straightforward to follow, and the resulting flavor is basic comfort food to many. A worthwhile purchase for libraries, so that readers may try their hand at cooking Pad Thai or Jungle Curry without purchasing a book that might not be frequently used for the average home chef.

Cross-posted on NetGalley.

A Draw of Kings, by Patrick W. Carr

In keeping with the first book in The Staff and the Sword series, the action takes off at a running pace from the very first chapters. High fantasy fans who enjoy the works of authors such as Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan will love the excellent story telling of Patrick W. Carr as well. Unfortunately, this installment is so heavy on the fight scenes and reversals of fate, that the development of character and relationships is not as strong as in the previous books.

Cross-posted on NetGalley.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman

The Museum of Extraordinary Things is full of extraordinarily luscious details that draw the reader in to the historical and simultaneously mythical setting. Hoffman's rich story-telling and intricate character relationships make this hauntingly dark fairytale a must-read for her fans and those new to her work. Anyone who enjoyed The Night Circus, The Golem and the Jinni, or The Rathbones will relish the similar magical quality interwoven with historical realism in this tale.

The Troop, by Nick Cutter

Not a cheap action thriller, The Troop is a chilling, meatier look into the darker parts of human nature. Guaranteed to keep you up late at night, this is not a tale for the faint of heart (or of stomach!) A modern day Lord of the Flies meets Michael Crichton survival thriller. Older teens who have enjoyed darker dystopian stories may enjoy this as a venture into adult reading, as the main characters are teens.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Dark Winter, by David Mark

Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy is a smart and loveably human lead character, haunted by his past and often torn between family and duty. His instincts as a "natural" cop often run him afoul of his boss and coworkers, when he refuses to follow the official plan or instructions, but focuses instead on bringing the right person to justice at all costs. The other characters, be they suspects, witnesses, or cops, all have believable details to bring them to life. The landscape of the setting is almost a character itself, serving to drive the plot in some instances. Although the connection between the murders becomes obvious fairly early on, the true motive and who is behind them remains a point of suspense until almost the very end, revealed through a fast-paced sequence of events. In this debut novel, David Mark has created not only a strong protagonist but a strong case for a continued series of detective fiction.


Those who enjoy Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series might want to give Detective Sergeant McAvoy a try as well.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Lion in the Lei Shop, by Kaye Starbird

Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Lion in the Lei Shop by Kaye Starbird from Amazon Publishing via GoodReads First Reads.


The Lion in the Lei Shop tells the moving story of a military family whose lives are transformed by the air raids on Pearl Harbor and the events that follow. Of the two viewpoints used to tell the story, the young daughter, Marty, is the more compelling narrator, while her mother April's parts of the tale come across cold and matter-of-fact at times. It is perhaps unnecessary for the mother to repeatedly discredit her daughter's memories of certain events, since the separate narratives of the same incidents clearly establish already that each character remembers things rather differently. Because the two tellings overlap more so than intertwine, the plot does not move along as smoothly as it might, and the second telling does not always add much in terms of perspective. The tiny details, from food to clothes to personal relationships with the loveably quirky cast of minor characters, help make this novel as vividly real as a memoir.


Fans of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet will also enjoy The Lion in the Lei Shop.