Thursday, April 23, 2015

“Devil’s Pass” by Sigmund Brouwer

Sigmund Brouwer is one of my favorite authors, and he has not disappointed me with this book.  Action-packed and well-written, this adventure novel is sure to keep readers guessing what will happen next.  This book is part of a series.  The other books in the series are written by different authors and focus on different characters.  Reading this book, it never felt as if there were details left out of that it was necessary to read the other books in the series.  This book focuses on Jim Webb, who likes to just be called Webb.  When his grandfather passes away, he leaves Jim a cryptic set of directions.  Desperate to fulfill his late grandfather’s wishes, Webb sets out on his adventure.  He meets friends and foes—mostly foes.  Webb is in the wilderness and encounters wild animals, harsh climate, and many more deterrents.  The style of this book goes back and forth between the past and the present.  This gives the reader enough detail to have some fun but not so much as to leave everything predetermined or obvious.  This book has nothing inappropriate in it, so it may be suited for younger readers.  There is a violent stepfather and an unearthed corpse in the book, but the details are not graphic; readers may use discretion.  While Webb comes off as a little rough-around-the-edges, Brouwer paints him as a truly good guy who has kindness in his heart.  Throughout the book, Webb pushes aside his hatred for his life’s circumstances to find that kindness.  Overall, this is a great read full of both thrill and emotion; it has depth. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"I'm Happy for You (Sort of...Not Really)" by Kay Wills Wyma

Written in fun speech that will feel like you are talking to a long-lost friend, this book is sure to get readers pondering about the vice of envy.  With plenty of real-world examples, quotes, stories, and more, Wyma explains how playing the game of comparison steals the joy from life.  While Wyma is a wife and mother, readers of all life stages will glean wisdom from this book.  The humorous yet sobering anecdotes from Wyma's children are sure to resonate.  There is the son in a swim match who is swimming slow because he wastes too much time looking left and right to see how other swimmers are doing compared to him.  There is the daughter who reflects on not being selected for a sports team when her friends are and the emotions that come with that.  There is the author herself who compares her marriage and parenting to other families she knows.  The list goes on, but at the end of the day and the end of the chapter, we all realize that it is better for everyone to just focus on being happy for others and not worrying about how good everyone else is compared to ourselves as long as we are doing our personal best.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

“Cookie Love” by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy

“Cookie Love” by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy is a massive cookie cookbook.  From drop cookies to sandwich cookies to rugelach to biscotti to shortbread, this book has it all.  The hardcover book is very nice with the full-color pictures.  Unlike most cookbooks I review, this book has a picture of almost all the recipes it includes so readers know what the final product should look like.  That aside, there are some criticisms worth pointing out.  The bulk of the recipes are for 40+ cookies, so the average reader has to do some division to get smaller portions.  Additionally, the recipe font is a tad small, and there is no numbering system.  Rather, small paragraphs are just in order with directions on how to make recipes.  Due to the unusual layout of the recipe page (with the author’s comments on her opinions of each cookie, sometimes with a family member), the directions tend to spill onto extra pages.  This is often the case with a recipe starting on a right page and continuing onto a left page.  For average bakers who are running back and forth in the kitchen with dough-encrusted hands, it is difficult to remember where exactly on the page they were last at and then have to later flip pages on top of that.  Since most of the recipes call for fancy techniques and machinery that I do not own, I tried out chocolate chip cookies.  I figured that should be easy enough and require the least amount of technique / machinery.  The cookies did come out well and rather tasty. 

“I Can Make You HOT!: The Supermodel Diet” by Kelly Killoren Bensimon

“I Can Make You HOT!: The Supermodel Diet” by Kelly Killoren Bensimon is a fun book written by—you guessed it—a supermodel.  Included are personal stories, life events (with pictures to boot!), eating / exercise tips, fashion advice, and recipes.  The writing style flows very well, and the pages go by quickly.  The author gives advice for how to plan out each day of the week in order to be “hot.”  While the bulk of the concepts make sense, there are some parts that may be difficult for the reader to agree to.  Some of the food plans seemed to emphasize too much meat and not enough vegetables.  This obviously does not make the author fat since she is a supermodel.  However, the average reader is not supermodel height and does not run three miles a day.  That aside, the recipes in the book were very easy to follow and quite good.  The Pad Thai recipe in particular was very quick and tasty with healthy ingredients.  Overall, this was a fun book, but I would not say the lifestyle it promotes is as easy to follow as the recipes included.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Bread and Butter" by Erin McKenna

This cookbook is geared at gluten-free and vegan baking.  Baking gluten-free is not bad, and baking vegan is not bad; however, combining the two can be extremely difficult.  I tried two recipes in this book and both came out sub-par.  The flavor was lacking, the consistency was unusual, and I was overall disappointed.  Since the author of the cookbook owns a bakery, I have no doubt that the items can come out well.  However, I do not own a bakery and have no formal culinary training.  This cookbook is not for the average baker.  Considering how some breads take over 3 hours to make and use expensive flour blends, I did not try to make any more recipes from the book for this review.  On a positive note, the book is very nice with glossy high-color images.