FOR THE COOKBOOK COLLECTION:
I I recently net cookbook author Lisa Lillien at a lunch for The Laughing Cow’s three new flavors, where she was sharing cooking tips (see the blog post ), and promoting her new cookbook: Hungry Girl 1-2-3, The Easiest, Most Delicious, Guilt-Free Recipes on the Planet (St. Martin’s Press March 30, 2010) (she’s holding it in the photo I took). Lisa is a prolific cookbook author, and these recipes are easy and health-oriented. They sound delicious, and I like the fact that the recipes that show you calorie counts and nutrition information right up front. You’ll feel good just knowing you’re doing more to eat healthy and low-fat. Alas, to make creation of them quick and easy, the recipes often rely on prepared items that are not necessarily low sodium. Lisa’s solution to her use of fat-free chicken broth or canned veggies, is to rinse them. But for those who suffer from high blood pressure, this may not be enough. Still, it’s hard not to love a cookbook that has an entire section dedicated to French Toast. Like our President, these recipes are easy enough to make even non cooks exclaim: “Yes, I can!”
In most parts of the country, it’s nearly time to take the cover off the backyard grill, and start making meals, outside. Latin Grill: Sultry and Simple Food for Red-Hot Dinners and Parties by Rafael Palomino with Arlen Gargagliano, photographs by Dan Goldberg (Chronicle Books March 2010) has over 80 recipes for grilled dishes, and drinks recipes, that will make your mouth water. The author of several cookbooks, Palomino was born in Bogota, Columbia, and has restaurants in Port Chester New York, New Haven Connecticut, and Center Valley Pennsylvania, and Greenwich, Connecticut. Most of the recipes really are fairly easy, and fairly unusual, and use easy to find ingredients, such as Yellow Tomatoes stuffed with grilled wild mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, or grilled lamb chops with sun-dried tomato chimichurri. The drinks section (mostly not grilled, as you would imagine), features lovely photography by Arlen Gargagliano and an array of alcoholic and alcohol free coolers that will make you the “host with the most,” come picnic time. If you are looking for a cookbook for Mother’s or Father’s Day, or perhaps, for a new graduate or a couple-to-be, this is a great pick!
NOVELS WITH A HIT OF “FEEL GOOD”
Leaving Unknown by Kerry Reichs (Avon A, March 30, 2010), is a charming, feel-good novel that I think is the perfect pick-me-up for an ailing friend, or just because. Maeve Connelly’s life hasn’t been easy. The young woman is a cancer survivor who hasn’t quite been able to leave it behind, and start living her life again. She runs (in a car nearly as old as she is) from everyone, and everything, taking her potty-mouthed bird with her on a road trip to California. When the car breaks down in a town that is called and is, literally “Unknown,” Maeve is forced to wait for the town’s mechanic to return…and no one knows quite when that will be. She settles into life in Unknown, only to flee again when her car is fixed. But this time, something will be different. The characters are interesting and believable, and for once, like-able, too. You want to find out whether Maeve finds her way…and you will. For anyone who has been traumatized, for anyone who just wants a quick and fun read, it is a perfect put-in-your-tote-bag, book.
Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson (Avon Books, April 2010). is a chick lit delight. Ms. Gibson is a queen of the chick-lit-with-happy-ending, genre. While this latest book is predictable, it is still the kind of feel good that every girl needs, now and then. The book focuses on former Chinook Hockey Captain Mark Bressler, who is badly injured in a car crash. He not only has to stop playing hockey, but he has to learn to deal with constant pain, getting help from others, and being constantly reminded of what he used to be. Enter Chelsea Ross, the “slacker” actress sister of the team’s PR executive. With a fondness for designer clothes and a need to pay for them, she accepts the job to be Bressler’s personal assistant. Apparently, the hockey player has dismissed (or sent fleeing) so many assistants sent to him by the Chinook organization, Chelsea is offered a bonus of $10,000 if she can stick it out for three months. Of course, it is an offer she can’t refuse, but the deal might bring her a lot more than she bargained for. The characters in the book are believeable, and pleasing. You want them all to succeed. Will they?
FOR FAUX–LEBRITY LOVERS:
The thing I found most amusing about How to Be Famous by Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt (Grand Central Publishing, 2009), is that I didn’t even know who Hedi and Spencer were, when I received the book to review! I guess that’s because Heidi and Spencer (“Speidi“–how cute) say that if you’re over a certain age, you’re clueless and too old to become famous. You’d better manipulate your way to fame when you’re still young, fabulous and hot, or don’t aspire to it at all. Is this a genuine “how-to” book, or just a joke? It has elements of both, actually. The “authors” are so into themselves, it is difficult to read the book without feeling queasy. But as to honesty, they do appear to put it all out there in terms of how they manipulated the press, and other people (including those on the reality show that helped them to become famous. There are lots of attractive photos of the cooing, kissing, smiling couple, and I like the “tabloid” tell all format (clever). The most interesting part was how to get attention from the press and get on the cover of trashy mags, by manipulating the “paps” (paparazzi) so they get the lovely photos they want to sell. I guess the book is fairly entertaining. I did manage to read it from beginning to end. I hope and assume the authors were just trying to make fun of the celebrity culture they owe their “careers” to and make some quick cash before their stars, fall. If so, I’d call the book clever and funny. If it was supposed to be serious, I’d call it, “distressing!”
FOR INSPIRATION FOR MIND/SPIRIT:
I never tire reading inspiring stories about the trials and triumphs of others, especially when the stories have deeper messages to deliver. Such is the case with When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How To Stick Their Necks Out by Nikki Stone (Morgan James Publishing, 2010). Nikki Stone is an Olympic champion –America’s first ever in the sport of aerial skiing at the Olympic Winter games in Nagano, Japan. What made her story so inspiring is that she suffered from a chronic spinal injury just two years earlier that was so debilitating, she could barely stand, let alone jump or ski. She earned 35 World Cup medals and a long list of other awards and titles, and now is a motivational speaker. The book shares some of her tactics for surviving and thriving, using examples from her own life, plus those of 40 other sensational people that most would consider celebrities, such as designer Tommy Hilfiger, jazz musician Brandford Marsalis, Prince Albert of Monaco, and even NFL quarterback Steve Young. Each story in the book demonstrates one aspect of “sticking your neck out” while being true to your own, soft inside and hard shell (like a turtle–get it?). I liked the stories and thought the messages were beneficial. In short, I liked the book. The one thing I didn’t really like was that Nikki felt she needed to inject her own life as “comment” at the end of each of her guest’s stories. It made the book meatier, and longer, but a lot of it seemed like padding. No need to bludgeon readers with “the truth.” Even the least savvy reader can understand the meanings in the stories with little to no effort and without pages of additional “help.” However, if you are feeling down, or discouraged, or you are afraid, literally, to stick your neck out and try something, this book may be just the pick me up you need to move forward again.
I am not a fan of religious or spiritual books, and I wasn’t even going to read The Book of the Shepherd: The Story of One Simple Prayer, and How it Change the World By Joann Davis (Harper Collins, 2010). But the little book with the crook on it’s cover, grabbed me, as did the story. Storytelling has always been a popular way to grab someones attention and to teach concepts. It’s a technique that generations have been using and it is older than the Bible. This book is a short parable about three people on a journey: Joshua, Elizabeth, and David. They seek a new, more peaceful way to live. Along their way, they meet others who offer them (important & inspiring) lessons to help them reach their goal. So far, so good. The book takes it’s inspiration from a popular prayer (the St. Francis Prayer) which is often sung as” Make Me a Channel of your Peace” (FYI: the hymn chosen for Princess Diana’s funeral). If you don’t know it, the prayer is at the back of the book. But this is where I have to reluctantly end my review. I don’t want to offend the truly religious, but while this book tells an entertaining and educational story on it’s own merits as a story, the religious focus was for me, a total turn-off. I am not sure who the intended audience really is, but I’m guessing it is for those who believe strongly in God and who are Christian.” But if this doesn’t describe you, you may still find that the book may spark lively discussion about faith and belief, with others.
FOR A VIEW OF THE WORLD BEYOND YOURS:
The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World by Michelle Goldberg Penguin Books Paperback March 2010 is not light reading, but it is a fascinating look at the global battle over women’s rights. The struggle of women to maintain dignity and control over their bodies is a global, ongoing one, with issues that range widely from abortion in the United States and elsewhere, to more cultural concerns, such as sex-selective abortion in India, or the supporters and detractors on the issue of female circumcision. Who really controls a woman’s body? That is a question without any clear consensus. To me, a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body is the most important right of all, but not everyone sees the issue the same way. Goldberg makes (some) sense out of this complex discussion, stating that the very state of the planet is tied to women’s ability to control their own bodies. Agree or disagree, you’ll find this weighty book to be a well researched, well written, thoughtfully crafted book on a topic that impacts us all.
Jennifer Mascia, the atuhor of Never Tell Our Business To Strangers, a Memoir Villard Hardcover, February 2010 is a news assistant at The New York Times and a student of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. When she was a young girl, she thought her life was fairly normal, but then the FBI came and took her father away. Her mother consoled her by saying: “It’s not real, They’re making a movie.” Somehow, Jennifer believed her. The family moved quite often, but Jennifer never realized just why, or what it is that her father did, or other truths about her mother and father. Her parents tried to protect her through a web of lies. It must be shocking beyond belief to learn, as a young adult, that everything you thought was true about your family, was a fiction and worse, that the truth was pretty ugly. The book is well written, and readers will be fascinated by the author’s account of how her family lived, while heartened by a positive ending. In the long run, love might not conquer all, but it does go a long way, and forgiveness is the best way to heal emotional wounds.
FOR A BIT OF SELF-IMPROVEMENT:
Maybe looks shouldn’t matter so much, but I’m willing to get that looking fat and/or getting old, are two things most modern women, simply dread. Former Glamour editor and Author Charla Krupp offers baby boomers two “how-two” books that offer some easy, if not necessary novel ideas on how to look better, especially if you’re over a certain age. Her book, How Not to Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better (Hachette Book Group, 2009) takes the “old” out of women’s image (without making them look inappropriate junior) turning them from OL (old lady) to Y&H (young and hip). While there’s nothing earth shatteringly new in the suggestions (e.g. wash away your gray, or don’t wear mom jeans and spectacles on a chain), if you haven’t heard them before, they could help your image to be fresher and more modern, if not actually, more youthful. Krupp’s other how-to book is: How to Never Look Fat Again Over 1,000 Ways to Dress Thinner Without Dieting (Hachette Book Group/Springboard Press, March 2010). It has lots of suggestions and lots of photos to back up the “before” and “after” effects. Like her other book, the suggestions are the type you would find in any fashion or women’s magazine, and they are simple, sound, and effective. There’s nothing you can’t find elsewhere, and none of the suggestions are unique, but the book is chock full of a lot of them. There is bound to be something to interest you in there. While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a woman with “love handles” looks much better in a one piece, well constructed bathing suit, than a bikini, I still like her non-threatening, “good advice from a savvy girlfriend” style of writing. Ditto the call outs and get this…not that type of advice that lets you find easy image solutions, quickly. If you’re a baby boomer, and you’re not a regular reader of a lot of fashion magazines, but you are wondering whether you need to update your look, these books are a great reference and a must-have.
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