Category Archives: Book Review

winter-2016-1

This collection of book is a little spooky related. We have a collection of short horror comics by Junji Ito, a suspense horror by Shirley Jackson, and a collection of comedic stories about cats, which uses a lot of horror tropes. Maybe I was feeling the super old school vibes of reading ghost stories during Christmas time? Perhaps not. I partly wrote up these book reviews in such a small grouping because I checked out We Have Always Lived in the Castle from my library. But it is nice to be able to write only 3 reviews instead of 8 all at once. 

What I am Currently Reading

Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas – I was reading an article about a vegetarian who lived only on coconuts. Surprise he died of malnutrition! The man inspired this story, and thought it would be an interesting read.

What I’ve Read

Fragments of Horror

I am a big fan of Junji Ito, he wrote my first graphic novel- Uzumaki. I managed to then search high and low for his english translations of Tomie (which a used copy of this book sells for $110 on amazon, anyone want to buy my copy?) Then he came out with Gyo, and I still loved his creativity with the horror genre. Then there was a dry spell. Not much was being translated and released in the United States, turns out Ito took a long break from writing horror comics. Fragments of Horror is his first collection of horror comics in eight years. Part of his time away from horror was filled in with his manga about the life of his pet cats (which I have a review below!)

Unlike his previous releases, there is no connecting thread with each story. Each story is it’s own individual story. Some are strong and others I could of done without. The book starts off with Futon, which is a story about a man who refuses to leave his futon due to the demons that he alone can see. The story is told from the point of view of his concerned wife. I thought this was a really strong story, short and to the point. It wasn’t anything insanely original, but the drawings are great.

The next story is a much longer one called The Wooden Spirit. A father and daughter prepare their house as they will start doing tours of the historical building. They get visited by a woman who seems to be very excited about the building. She stays with the family, but the daughter can’t quite figure out what is so weird about this woman. It ends up being a story about obsession and stranger danger.

Tomio – Red Turtleneck reminds me a lot of the Tomie series, a woman that mesmerizes men to their death. Tomio appears at his ex-girlfriends apartment asking for help, his head is about to fall off. His girlfriend is pretty distraught as she was dumped for a fortune teller they both went to. The story didn’t have too much going for it, and mostly was there for gore factors of a head coming off. Plus the “deadly hot” girl story has been done enough with the Tomie storyline.

I was much more impressed by Gentle Goodbye. Riko got married and lives with new parents. Her new home is very weird, she gets the cold shoulder from her in-laws, and she is convinced there is something creeping around the house. Turns out the family has a tradition of turning the recently dead family members into ghosts who fade away as everyone forgets them. The tradition is really weird, and Riko gets a lot backlash from her in-laws when she asks to turn her father into a spirit. It is a nice little ghost story.

Dissection-chan was a short story that I didn’t like right away, but it has grown on me. The story is about a girl who stalks a boy into adulthood, demanding he dissect her. There isn’t too much to this story, but it does create an eerie atmosphere that I can apprieciate. The story builds to the end, which I can imagine would be hard as the story doesn’t have an easy to solve plot. I am sure it wasn’t suppose to have any specific commentary, but as a vegan I saw a lot of parallels with live animal dissections.

Blackbird tells tells the story of Kume, a man who finds an injured hiker. The injured hiker is rushed to hospital, where he tells his story about how he had been hurt in the woods for an entire month to reporters. But how did he stay alive with so little food? The hiker confides in Kume about a mysterious visitor who fed him some unknown raw meat, but wouldn’t save him. The hiker was afraid he might still be visited by this women even though he was now saved. This is a really interesting story and reminds me of some of the traditional Japanese folklore. The women was a little distracting with her big puffy lips since she was suppose to be similar to a bird. 

My least favorite story from the whole book was Megami Nanakuse. The story is about Kaoru, a woman who is an avid fan of the novelist Megami Nanakuse. Kaoru sends a fan letter to Nanakuse, and hears back with a special invitation to learn how to write. When she arrives she finds out that her idol isn’t as amazing as she once thought. This story is more filled with humor, but more potty humor that felt a little awkward and misplaced. It felt more awkward that the story seems to use a cross dressing man as a punchline. The story made me think of Misery only in reverse, where the author is using their fans against their will as their muse.

The last story is Whispering Woman, which was a horror concept that was completely new to me. The story is of Mayumi who is plagued with constant indecision, should she sit? should she sit with crossed legs? On the bed? On the floor? So her father hires someone to walk with her all day telling her in detail what to do. The work is hard so they don’t last much longer than a month, until Mitsu shows up. She and Mayumi seem to form a bond that went beyond everyones expectations. Mayumi’s father is a little suspicious about the relationship, everything is seeming to work too well. I have to say the ending was very different, and surprising to me, making this a great way to end the collection.

Overall, I loved and cherished this collection of stories, but I am a fan of Junji Ito. If someone was brand new to the author, I don’t think this would be the best way to start out. Even the author Junji Ito admits that he was a little rusty with the genre after taking such a long break. It is funny reading reviews on Goodreads since there is a lot of divide on which stories were everyones favorites. It felt great to get some new material from one of my favorite artists.

winter-2016-2

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu

Another Christmas gift was Junji Ito’s comic Yon & Mu. As mentioned above, Junji Ito is a horror manga/comic artist. He decided to take a turn and write a comic that centers on some real life experiences. The story starts out with him and his wife moving into a newly built house, something that is fairly rare in Japan. His wife almost immediately asks if Junji is a cat person or a dog person, starting the the couple down the path of cat ownership. As someone who adopted a cat with my husband, I had lived with cats for a small amount of time, and he had not. So the stories made me think of when Jon first tried to win our cat Toulouse’s heart, and kind-of failed miserably at first. He tried so hard to get Toulouse to like him, but we all know cats like to have their own personal space. 

What makes the comic work is Ito’s wonderful drawing. He captures movement very well, making a joke come to life that would normally be hard to make work on paper, like his illustrations on how to play with cats. He also uses his horror background to create humor. He first draws the new cats as possessed intruders, and slowly transforms himself into an cat obsessed freak. And let’s face it, if you like cats, you probably know there is something a little weird about you. He also has other great stories that are more so cute and enduring to any pet owner, such as not wanting to disturb sleeping pets.

What is fun about this book for Ito fans is that it does give a look into his personal life. He talks about his relationship with cats, but I was happy to see that they translated Q&A that were posted with original publications. There are even questions about his life before being a manga artist, questions about the current comic, and more. At first I thought they were a joke, which there might of been some tongue in cheek found in some of the answers. But it becomes clear that they are truthful questions and answers. The book ends with a summary of why the comic comes to an end, which is pretty much because of relocation because of the earthquake.

I can safely recommend this book to any cat or comic book fan. Even if you aren’t big on comics, this is a great book since it is filled with lots of humor. It carves it’s own little unique spot in comics since Ito perfectly blends his horror and grotesque drawing styles with light hearted humor. The only downside is that if you are a new reader to Japanese comics, it might take some time getting use to reading everything “backwards.” Once you get use to it, it is really easy to enjoy.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

I picked up this book because it was recommended by a blogger… who I can’t remember which it was. The person was saying they were in the mood to read something spooky, and this book helped fill the void. I was pretty excited when picking it up, since Shirley Jackson is known for her writing in the horror genre, her most well known piece being The Lottery. The story, just like The Lottery features real life horrors, there aren’t any ghosts, monsters, or zombies. 

The story takes place in a small town, where the last of the Blackwood family live together in their mansion. Merricat and Constance take care of their physically impaired Uncle on the last of the family’s money. Constance stays as a recluses in their home after the mysterious death of the family. One night the family was poisoned with arsenic in the sugar, Constance and Merricat didn’t eat any of the sugar, and their Uncle Julian managed to survive the arsenic, but it left him physically damanged. Constance was accused of murder, was found innocent. Merricat ventures out twice a week to get groceries, where she is harassed by the local villagers.

The major theme of the story is outsiderness. We find out that the Blackwood family treated the locals poorly. They didn’t want mix and mingle with people who were lower than them on the social ladder. They blocked their lawn from being used by other people and they moved far away from the village. Merricat and Constance keep in contact with only one person from the outside who is another rich socialite, who also keeps a clear distinction between the rich and the poor. Because of this, the locals in the town hate the family, along with resentment that Constance wasn’t committed for murder.

The story is told through they eyes of Merricat. Her isolation makes her extremely childlike, which is disturbing when paired with her sociopathic mindset. There is a small air of witchcraft in the book since the girls lives revolve around ritual, gardening, and sympathetic magic. There is nothing overtly pointing out that the Blackwood family might be witches, as the Merricat seems to not be aware of her specific actions. But she has a wide knowledge of poisonous and healing plants, performs small acts of magic such as nailing a book to a tree and burying coins, and in the beginning of the book she makes a very specific reference to warewolves. Merricat is the anti hero of the novel, we shouldn’t like her so much but we can’t help be feel sympathetic to her.

I really enjoyed the book, but it does start out a little slow. Once the story hits it’s climax it really comes to an end really quickly. This is a great spooky story to read, especially if you are getting a little bored with the typical supernatural story.


cover

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When I first went vegan I did it mostly for health related reasons. In the middle of it all I started to get sucked into the raw lifestyle. I slowly branched away from it, but I am still always interested in eating more raw food. I decided to try and eat more raw lunches and decided to use some of the recipes from Ani’s Raw Food Asia cookbook. I love Ani’s simple and easy recipes, making it quick and easy to prep a lunch.

Photos

The pictures are pretty true to what the food looks like, which I really like. Nothing drives me more bonkers than seeing a photo that will never match my recipe. Ani’s food does look inspiring to make, but there aren’t that many photos of the food themselves. The photos in the book are actually more about the sights and people that are in Asia. There are photos of Ani preparing recipes, and posing at markets. I would say this is annoying in a cookbook, but honestly, I like it. I find it relaxing and I like flipping through the book to just look at the photos. And let’s be real, do I need a photo for all these salads? Answer- no.

Set-up

Unlike most modern cookbooks, Ani’s organization is a little all over the place. This might be a smart move. It isn’t often do that people sit down and read all of a cookbook. So Ani takes advantage of how people read a cookbook, by flipping through recipes, and gives information and facts throughout the recipes. Most of her tips are mostly about keeping up health, mentally, physically, and living an eco-friendly life. Before doing this review, I’ve read most of the note she has written, which I normally don’t do.

What does drive me nuts about this style is that certain recipes are scattered all over. I would of liked to have the sauces and pastes all grouped together rather than all over the place. If I just want to make that sauce, it is easier to find in a chapter devoted to sauces, rather than tucked away under the “rice” section. It isn’t a huge problem though. Otherwise, like any other cookbook there is an introduction, recipes divided up by types, suggested menus, then some more closing remarks about living a healthy life. 

Writing

Ani’s writing is always easy, but sometimes a little too dumbed down. It is a little frustrating to read some poorly worded information, that ends up being false. I might know what Ani is trying to say, but it the wording makes the information easily misinterpreted. For example she talks about buckwheat and writes “buckwheat is a seed, not a wheat, so it’s gluten-free.” Yes buckwheat is gluten-free, and yes, it isn’t related to wheat. But “not a wheat”? That is just horrible english, and makes the definition of grains even more confusing for most people.

On the flip side there is also some great information that is very much true. I have to agree with many of suggestions she makes for living a generally healthier life. So I wouldn’t say that everything is false, but when it comes for nutritional and food specifics know that she is simplifying the information a lot.

Overview

In general I like Ani’s super easy raw style of food. This book is probably better than her other books for starting out with a raw diet since most of the food doesn’t use a dehydrator. The dishes are pretty veggie heavy which is what I am looking for in a raw recipe. I do wish she offered up more recommendations for substitutes for recipes that use a dehydrator. She does recommend using the oven but it would of been nice is she suggested other substitutes like using a rice paper wrap instead of her dehydrated coconut wraps.

What I do like about the cookbook is that it isn’t very judgmental, particularly at the end chapter. Ani shares her experience with raw food over the years, and admits that she doesn’t eat raw all the time. Nor is she totally a vegan anymore, but is more so a pescatarian (or maybe a flexi-pesca-tarian? Basically fish is only a small fraction of her diet.) It takes a lot guts for a person to admit when their health isn’t 100% when their whole profession is built on it.

The authenticity of the recipes are a little up in the air. Ani doesn’t claim that these recipes are authentic, clearly since some of the originals involve cooking. Some of the Korean namul and kimchis are probably rather close to being authentic since she has Korean roots, and says in her book she visits family in South Korea. I think it bothers me when Ani tries to call a recipe after an specific dish, and it just isn’t even close. For example the samosas were delicious, but didn’t use potatoes, nor did it have a wrap around it. The only recipe that really made me annoyed was the “black rice pudding” which was a recipe for chia pudding. Neither are anything alike, and it really should of just been left out of the cookbook in my opinion.

Overall, I think I would recommend this book to anyone who is trying to eat more raw foods. There are some light dishes that are quick to make. I don’t think there was a recipe I wouldn’t make again (except the ‘rice,’ but that isn’t exclusively something Ani has made up, just give me normal rice please.) Sure there are some modifications people might have to make if they don’t have a dehydrator, but if you have a blender and food processor, you will be able to make most of these recipes.

If you are interested in individual reviews of recipes just click to expand the review.

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2015-1

Boy I am horrible at keeping up with my book reviews! I don’t read much, but I always seem to take awhile to actually write my book reviews. And then when I finish the review, I’ve read yet another book to add to the site. Well, I finally completed my reviews of the rest of 2015. I am usually good about writing reviews for winter reading, so if you want to see what I read last year around this time, check out my Winter 2015 post.

As for reading, it was my goal to try and read less comics in comparison to novels and non-fiction. I kind-of failed but that is mostly because I tackled on a really long novel- 480 pages, which is a long book for me. I have always been a slow reader, and always enjoyed shorter novels and short stories instead of long epic novels. That is probably why I like modern literature over some of the classics. The overall theme this time arounds? Booze and animals.

What I am Currently Reading

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu – I love Junji Ito’s horror comics, in fact he is the first manga I picked up to read. So I was excited to see that he wrote a comic about cats, and it is oddly suppose to be funny not scary.

We Always Lived in the Castle – I saw some blogger drop this book’s name (I can’t even remember who) so I thought yeah why not? Spooky house? Weird families? Yeah I’ll check it out of the library!

What I’ve Read

2015-2

Eating Animals

Eating Animals starts as a memoir of Jonathan Safran Foer relationship with veganism and vegetarianism. Bouncing in and out in his youth, which I can relate to. I was vegetarian in middle school, then vegan in college, but truthfully I would “treat” myself to certain non-vegan foods whenever it meant my only option would be a salad. But the book quickly turns and talks about factory farming. It is a pretty hard read for me personally since I became vegan without the horrible videos and gruesome nitty gritty details about how the meat industry worked. I honestly just had the “feels” that there wasn’t any ethical way to mass produce meat. Add in health and environmental reasons, it sealed my fate as a vegan.

The book works on many levels, memoir, poetry, and investigative journalism. Majority of the book revolves around the author visiting many different styles of farms. Factory farms, slaughter houses, and those small ethical farms. There is a thorough investigation about the smaller farms, the places that people grasp so heavily to for ethical treatment of animals. The book talks about why those farms are in jeopardy of going out business, despite having eager consumers.

What I like about this book is that it goes into the grey areas that many vegans avoid. Will people ever STOP eating animals? Probably not, at least not for awhile. So should we conserve energy to get people to stop eating meat or getting more ethical treatment for animals? Can you do both?

This book isn’t a piece of journalism. Yes there are facts, there is research, and much more. But Jonathan Safran Foer places a lot of weight and emotion into the book, which to some might be impossible not to. The books conclusions are very much his thoughts. Sure you as the reader will come to your own conclusion, I’ve know a person who read the book and has made no changes to their diet or practices with animals. Was that because the book came off too preachy? Or was he so un-judgmental that people found it easy to ignore his message? I think the ideal audience for this book is either the already vegan, or the person who is already somewhat invested in where their food comes from.

Paper Towns

I like picking up young adult fiction from time to time as an easy read. I enjoyed reading The Fault in Our Stars, and saw the trailer for the movie for Paper Towns. The trailer looked very fun and made the Paper Towns story more fun and uplifting than The Fault in Our Stars (or at least a different type of uplifting). The story follows Quentin, a teenage boy living in the burbs of Florida. He has been holding onto a crush for the girl next door, Margo. She’s popular, adventurous, and beautiful. One night she comes knocking at his window, and the two sneak out for an late night adventure. The next morning Margo goes missing, and Quentin makes it his job to find out where she went.

There are some things I loved and somethings I found annoying in the book. The slang used by Quentin and his friends sounded a little forced, and perhaps that is just to emphasis how painfully uncool the guys are. But knowing when I was a teenager, I would of found this language embarrassingly bad, and would have a hard time getting past. But there are somethings Green hit right on the head, like the social boundries falling down at the end of senior year, that new found freedom of owning a car, and friends being kind-of jerks.

As an adult there really isn’t any new profound meaning to take home, but as a teenager, I think I would of taken a lot of good advice. There is more to people that what you can see on the outside. And this largely why many people “break up” or relationships don’t work out. You might feel like your know this person you have a crush on, but there is only a certain side to our personality that we share with people. I wasn’t too fond of the ending, but I won’t go into the spoiler details. I do know that John Green addressed they did change some parts ending in the movie, which I think are for the better (I haven’t seen it yet, but I have my hunches about what it is). But it is a quick read and was still really good.

Watership Down

I saw a trailer of this movie from Criterion Collection and thought it looked cool. Added the book to my To Read list on Goodreads, and kind-of forgot about it. But I was scanning my bookshelf to pick the next book to read and saw the title! My husband took a lot of the books from his Grandmother who use to be an English teacher. The book still has the envelope in the back for students to check it in and out of the school library, which was kind-of cool.

It took a long time to read since it is much longer than what I am use to, 480 pages, when I normally read things that are 300 pages or less. I knew the book was about more than just rabbits, in the same way Babe is more than just a funny pig. I figured the book is a classic for a reason. I thought it might have a hidden “save the environment” or “respect the animals” message, and it kind-of does. The story paints a picture showing that animals can be more complex than we think. The author has done a lot of research on rabbits and their habits, so in some way we do get a great view of how an animal thinks. The book does show how humans shape animal’s lives. The rabbit’s home are destroyed by humans, they are constantly in fear of being killed by humans. But they still have some sort of understanding of our habits and will steal our produce from farms.

But this book isn’t about rabbits- it is very much about humans and the nature of war. Why do people go to war? How do we react to our homes being destroyed? What do we look for in our leaders? The story even touches about dictatorships and folklore. Many very “human” characteristics are given to rabbits but we never forget that the book is about rabbits not humans. What makes the book so brilliant is that by making the story centered around rabbits instead of humans, we as a reader can step back and think about war without any cultural constraints.

2015-3

Bee and Puppycat, Vol. 1

For my niece’s birthday I was trying to find some comics for her. I wanted to try and find some that weren’t based on super heroes. I am big fan of alternative comics, so I searched around. I randomly found Bee and Puppycat, and I loved the cartoons, so why not? I read the book before giving it to her and dubbed the books not very kid friendly. Some bits were a little confusing and the story had QR codes part of the plot. A cool thing, but I knew they would need the help of their mother. So I kept it for myself ^__~

The collection of comics are by various artists and writers so they quality changes a lot. But in some ways I like seeing the varying art styles and story lengths. What does stink is that because there are different artists working on the books there isn’t an overall theme or story arc. If I remember correctly there was even a story ending with “to be continued” but doesn’t get finished in this volume.

But I do think the stories capture the feel of the cartoon. The stories really utilize the comic medium well, which can be hard when making adaptations to an animation. It didn’t feel like they took the character from a cartoon and plopped them down on paper. I could imagine the voices of the characters and the movements that would be represented from the cartoon. I think this is a great comic for anyone who like the show, and it is fun for people who haven’t seen it as well.

Creepy Comics Volume 2: At Death’s Door

I picked up this book from my bachelorette party. Alexa wanted to check out her old comic book stomping grounds. The staffer suggested this collection since I said I liked Japanese horror manga. The book is throwback to the old Creepy anthology. The comic started in 1964 and ended in 1983. The series were black and white comics and came in magazine binding, with Uncle Creepy introducing all the stories.

The relaunch in 2007 keeps to the basics. Comics are still in black and white and the stories are still introduced by Uncle Creepy. What makes this comic collection so interesting is that there is a huge variety of artists working on the same book. Some are drawn in a very mainstream style that could be found with superhero comics while other stories have a much more indie vibe. For example Red Knife by Emily Carroll is an excellent comic with a loose narrative. Her panels weren’t always defined and the ending was open ended (but still creepy!)

The stories do truly change up a lot in artist style and subject matter. Some were very modern, some tried to give campy throwbacks, some had existential themes, some where creepy facts, and one took place in an ancient tribe. Because of this some stories were hit or miss. I think overall, the stories were pretty good, about 50% I really thought were solid stories that stood out. The stories were good enough that it makes me want to pick up another issue.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal

I originally picked up this book as a birthday gift for my niece. Both of my nieces have been reading more superheroes books and watching more shows. I am a little disappointed (and so are they) about the lack of female super heroes. So I picked up Ms Marvel. What I enjoyed about it is the representation. Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a muslim girl living in Jersey City. Then she graced by the “superhero gods” who give her special super powers. She is now the new Ms. Marvel.

The book is really a coming of age tale, focusing on two struggles with Kamala. She is a muslim growing up in American, trying to find a balance between her culture and fitting in the United States. Her parents are strict, and want her to stay faithful for her heritage and religion. But Kamala is currently rebelling, wanting to go to parties and wear “normal” clothing. The second half of her struggle is trying to balance her new powers. Controlling her rubber hand can be difficult, and she isn’t always successful with her plans.

I found the story decent, but it is much more of a story for a teenage kid. I got it for my nieces that are much younger, kindergarten and 2nd grade, but I think having an adult read the story to them is fine. There were only a few refrences that might need to be censored for kids. What is nice about the book is that it can be saved for when they get a little older. When they can read it themselves, they can appreciate the message about growing up and peer pressure.

If you want more, I suggest checking out Idea Channel’s review/overview of Ms Marvel and how her representation is important for media.

2015-4

Let’s Bring Back: The Cocktail Edition

Let’s Bring Back is pretty straight forward, the author Lesley M. M. Blume shares many vintage cocktails and how to make them. The book is less about technique and types of glasses and more about looking into the old cocktail culture. She usually gives a recipe with a cute little blurb of history, or a quirky reason to have the cocktail (celebrating something? need liquid courage?) This isn’t a book you just read cover to cover, but is more about flipping the book open to a random page to read.

What makes the book weird is that it walks a fine line of expecting you to make drinks from the book, and doesn’t. Many ingredients are left with their old name swedish punsch, vichy water, and cake of ice, things that aren’t so easily googled. There also isn’t an index which can be a bummer. If I have some absinthe and are looking specifically for cocktails that use it, I would have to search through the whole book, rather than to look it up in the index.

What is nice about the book is the variety of cocktails. So many! You can try and mix and match all the various liquors you have in your house. The drinks also don’t use that much alcohol so you can drink more often. I do know I have a heavy hand with the bottle, but I do think cocktail culture today is a little too much booze. You don’t need to be hammered each time you drink, and the smaller size lets the drinker actually enjoy a cocktail. My only complaint would be that there need to be less vermouth. Goodness did people love to drink vermouth! It is pretty much the only liquor that is hard to store since it is suppose to stay in the refrigerator.

If you have a friend who is into vintage clothing, antiques, and historical novels, I would highly recommend buying them this book. The cocktails vary greatly from time periods, and gives people authentic drinks. I might consider buying this book for myself to refer to for making drinks on the fly at parties.

The Drunken Botanist

I bought this book thinking it would be great inspiration of centralized around making cocktails from fresh plants. It did inspire me with cocktails but in a different way. The book centers around the various ways that plants are used in drinks. She starts but covering the various plants that are used in the fermentation process, and all the different ways a certain plant will get used. For example she talks in detail about agave plants and the differences between mezcal and tequila. She also covers more unusual plants like sorghum, cassava, parsnip, and bananas! What I found most helpful are the fancy differences between various brandies, vermouths, and the like.

The second part of the book is about the plants used in flavoring in a liquor. Amy Stewart breaks down the chapter further by centering around specific plant types, herbs, trees, fruits, etc. This helped breakdown and decipher all the different liquors and gives the reader a better idea of what are some good replacements. As some people are aware, unlike food, booze rarely needs to list ingredients. This can be problematic for vegans and people with allergies. The last part of the book is about the plants in actual cocktails (think the mint and lime in the mojito.) This part was rushed through and I wish Stewart made it longer. She leaves the last chapter a quick “inspiration” on how to incorporate plants into a cocktail, rather than give examples of cocktails that use specific plants (though specific cocktails occasionally sprinkled throughout the book.)

I personally loved The Drunken Botonist, it really gave me some inspiration to try new liquors. I learned the history and the importance of some of the drinks that might not be so popular today. But mostly the book makes you revel in the awesomeness that are plants. So many flavors, so many ways we found to highlight their flavors. Vermouth, brandy, wine, all made from grapes but they all taste remarkably different.

I checked this book out from my library and it is definitely on my list of books to add to my library. I can easily see myself taking this book out over and over again reading inserts from it. I am sure there are more definitive books about the topic, but this one is an easy read.


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With the Christmas season here, there is a good chance you are making cookies. And I thought it would be a good time to try out a bunch of recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. It is a classic vegan cookbook that covers the topic of… well… cookies. It goes a little further covering bar cookies, brownies, and biscotti. Some of the cookies I made for christmas, and some I’ve made in the past for daily eating.

Photos

There are lots of photos in this book, I would say about half of the cookies have a photo. All are well lit and beautifully photographed. All the cookie photos are places on brightly colored backgrounds, making the photos very kid friendly (which let’s face it, we all remember the joys of cookies as kids.) There are enough photos to spark the reader in making new cookies, but I do have a problem. There are a few cookies that are nicely clipped to have white backgrounds and randomly show up in recipes. For example the Mexican Snickerdoodles show up in the recipe for Chocolate Marmalade Sandwich Cookies. At first I found this confusing, until I noticed the same cookies photo appearing over and over again.

Set-up

The book starts with some cookie basics which truthfully I skipped. I started to read it, but it can be painfully boring to the seasoned vegan baker. BUT it is filled with important information to a new baker. For example, I think my husband could read it and feel more confident about the different flours out there. There is even a section that have various troubleshooting situations. So if your cookie doesn’t turn out right, you can fix it.

They divide the cookies up by drop cookies, wholesome cookies, bar cookies, fancy cookies, and roll and cut cookies. When flipping through, it is easy to go from one section to another without ever noticing. I think this is true for all of their baking books. I am not really sure if I care too much about having “sections” or not. 

Writing

The book has the usual fun writing styles of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. They really make you feel comfortable with baking, and make veganism seem less exclusive. They also make you smile for the “fancier” cookies, they aren’t that hard, you got this. The directions are easy and to the point, making it easy to tell if I need a stand up/hand mixer or just a big wooden spoon.

Overview

I love this cookbook. All these cookies have been winners, though I wish or rather could see this book being much bigger. Compared to the vegan pie in the sky and the cupcake take over the world, I feel like there are SO many types of cookies that I wish this book could be just a little bit bigger. There seem to be a large amount of drop cookies that used oatmeal. There also aren’t many of the classic Christmas cookies that you might find with Christmas tree decorations, or other classic cookies I grew up with. I know they can’t cover ALL cookies ever made, but I feel like there are so many that aren’t easily interchangeable like how a cupcake can be paired with different frosting to make a new flavor.

But everyone loves the cookies I’ve been making, and there are so many new inventive flavors. Carrot cake cookies? Grapefruit? Tahini lime? And out of all the cookbooks there are the least amount of “weird” vegan ingredients. Meaning I would feel pretty comfortable giving these recipes to an omni baker, who wouldn’t have to go out and buy new ingredients.

Below are all the cookies I made from the book- which is a lot. They are so good, and I recommend buying this book for any vegan who needs to make cookies from time to time.

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I am trying to keep on top of my book recaps (which I failed at). I love seeing what other people read, and what they thought about it. I started to keep track of my reading in the early spring and never finished my reviews until now. So sorry for the delays! But here is what I was reading and what I thought of it.

What I am Currently Reading

Eating Animals – I don’t actually read that much non-fiction relating to veganism or food. So after a few recommendations I picked up this book.

Food: A Love Story– My husband picked up Dad is Fat for my birthday, and then proceeded to buy Food: A Love Story for me for Christmas. It should be interesting since one book is about veganism and the other is all about foods, mostly non-vegan foods.

What I’ve Read

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ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running

This book is not going to win any writing awards. Dreyer writes poorly, repeats himself, and has many poor metaphors and jokes. At times I found the book slightly painful to read, and had a hard time plowing through the chapters. Sometimes the book comes off as a commercial cult or pyramid scheme. He is constantly mentioning the website, his classes, other books, etc, etc.

But the information in the book is incredibly helpful. Dreyer gives advice on how to run with physical suggestions and metaphorical ones. Most of the book is about how posture drastically changes how you run. I already knew some of this from Born to Run, and knowing about theories on barefoot running. A lot of the posture techniques line up with running with finger shoes. So making some of the changes weren’t hard. But some of the suggestions helped take stress off my muscles, and therefore let me run longer and have shorter recovery times. Overall, the running style is simple, keep your spine straight, muscles relaxed, engage core, and strike the middle of the foot, not the heel.

His “metaphorical” suggestions are pretty helpful. One of the biggest reasons why I got the book was that I was having a hard time being able to breath for runs lasting longer than 20 minutes. His recommended taking long but slow runs, which helped. But what really stuck out to me was the question “Why are you so upset about heavy breathing? Does it make you feel like you can’t meet your goals?” Figuring out the psychology of running expectations helped me let go and enjoy the run.

This is a useful book, but hardly an enjoyable read. It probably took me a year to finish from front to back. And even still there some suggestions I just can’t accept. For example the suggestions on diet don’t really work with my vegan lifestyle. And some health information doesn’t quite have scientific backing. This then leaves you in the realm of health with tons of contradicting methods. This is a book I might want to buy and keep on hand, and refer to it from time to time. 

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating Drinking, and Going with Your Gut

Am I the only one here that likes to read “bad” reviews for products? Not because I think they can be funny like sugarless gummy bears, but because sometimes people point out what they hate, and it is exactly why it is great.

What most people say when they don’t like Hannah’s book is that they never saw her YouTube channel before and they were disappointed that it wasn’t a real cookbook. When Alexa first told me about this book, I tried looking in the cooking section, only to find out that it was in the humor section of Barnes and Noble. After clearing that up, it became obvious that this was more in the ranks of I Like You by Amy Sedaris. The difference is that there are less helpful “tips” in this book than Amy’s.

What confuses people is that My Drunk Kitchen could be a book about “recipes” when it has absolutely nothing to do with improving your food in the kitchen. The book is made to make you laugh, and I respect that it doesn’t feature real recipes for a joke like Thug Kitchen does (which results in mediocre recipes.) But Hannah does more, and pokes fun of at all the issues 20-30 year old goes through. Plus, by having the quality of the book so high, nice glossy pages, beautiful photography, excellent graphic design, it sets a tone of seriousness for not so serious material.

The dangers of writing a humor book is that you risk your audience from just not getting it. It seems that you will either find the book a great think to pick up and read a few pages, or find it the biggest waste of paper. I personally think that if you find Hannah’s YouTube channel funny, you will find this book funny. And I wouldn’t say this is a book for “drunks,” but a book for anyone who felt like they made any wrong choices as an adult, whether it be dating, work, love, taxes, or cooking.

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Norwegian Wood

I picked up Norwegian Wood because I liked Haruki Murakami’s short story collection After the Quake. What I liked about the stories were their surrealistic story telling. But I was disappointed when I started to read Norwegian Wood. It reads wonderfully, but the world created in the story was very normal. There wasn’t anything “magical” or surreal about the storyline. Just a boy in college and him falling in love with girls. But I couldn’t stop reading. Even though the story was nothing like what I was expecting, it was giving me something else worth my time.

The story is about Toru, a quiet college student living in Tokyo in the late 1960s. He reunites with his high school friend Naoko, the girlfriend of his late best friend. The two soon fall in love, and the day after making love to each other, Naoko heads to a mental institution. The story follow Toru, and how he copes with Naoko being away from him, and dealing with what feels a little bit of a meaningless life for him.

I think this story hits people in two different boats. Some people will argue that there isn’t anything special about this story, it is too far from Murakami’s normal narratives. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to be gained from the novel. There story is well written and has important themes about love and depression. The writing kept me turning the pages and wanting to know more.

What I found most interesting are the characters. No one is particularly good character, everyone seems to have their own faults. Toru treat women poorly and dislikes his peers. Naoko is depressed and treats Toru unfairly. Midori seeks independence and respect as a woman. Nagasawa is a rich and privileged male who doesn’t believe in sexually faithful to one person. Hatsumi is Nagasawa’s girlfriend, who is conflicted about being in love with a man who doesn’t treat her as a person. And then there is Reiko, the most complex character in the whole book. She first appears to be a well natured woman, but by the end of the story I can’t help but wonder if she is the most underhanded and deceitful character of them all.

I hear many people make arguments that the story is sexist, and it is true. The women in the story get the short end of the stick. But it does offer lots of discussion. Were Naoko and Toru really in love? Is Reiko a sociopath? What is being said about homosexuality in the book? Is Reiko really a lesbian? I think a lot of these complicated relationships are comments on Japanese society, but it is very open-ended. I do recommend reading this book, though if you are a fan of Murakami keep an open mind. It is truly different.
NOTE: This book is very sexually graphic.

Princess Knight Vol 1

In heaven, angels assign hearts to babies before they are born. After a mix up, a baby is accidentally given both a boy and girls heart, and an angel is sent to earth to protect and correct the problem. This baby was born into a royal family as girl. Afraid of loosing control over the country, the King and Queen pretend this daughter is really Prince Sapphire. Once grown up, Sapphire struggles wit the role she grows up with, and the tension between his boy and girl hearts.

It is worth noting that this novel was written from 1953 to 1956 in Japan. The author, Osamu Tezuka, has a reputation of having poor female characters in his stories. This story in many ways reeks of dated views of gender, but on the flip side burst through boundaries of sexes. Many people call the story sexist since when Sapphire is a “princess” she is wearing a blonde wig, a big poofy dress, and has proper manners. When she is a “prince” fencing is her main skill. But I patiently read the story, waiting to see if the moral would be that gender makes no difference. There was naturally a slip up where for a brief moment Sapphire’s boy heart was removed and all her fencing skills and strength was sucked from her body. This wouldn’t bother me so much if Sapphire was aware her heart was being removed, as it could be chalked up to a loss of confidence.

But as I was reading it I thought of contemporary viewpoints of transgenders, being stuck in a body that doesn’t feel like your own. Falling in love with someone who might not agree with your sexual orientation. Tezuka tries to create a gender neutral character, that appeals to both males and females of the time. As the story goes on in the first volume the “prince” seems to look more and more like a girl.

Gender politics aside, the story is lots of fun. It flows fairly well and I was compelled to keep reading. The book is divided up so you are left with a cliff hanger after the first book. The art is charming, though many ideas seem to be based of Disney’s fairy tales, not Grimes’ or other written fairy tales. But I was still able to ignore all the cultural flaws to enjoy the story and art. 

So where does it leave this comic? I truly enjoyed reading the book, but it is a reminder of changes in time and cultures. Being a Westerner a lot of the story seems ignorant of our folklore. Many characters are snatched from Disney films, and there are mix ups from Christianity and Roman gods. Then on top of that there are dated roles of gender from 50s Japan, which can be a hard pill to swallow. If the story and art wasn’t so pleasant, there would be no hope of me finishing the book, or wanting to read the second one. It is now, in my point of view, like reading an old novel. We know that all classic literature are dated and sexist, but we put into context to when they are written. Princess Knight has a great story and art, and at the time paved the way for mangas. It added longer story arches to the genre. The book is still enjoyable, but perspective is in greater need to truly respect it.

Sailor Moon Vol. 1

 I decided to pick up the manga of Sailor Moon after my husband and I started to watch original TV series. We noticed that lots of ideas and plots got glossed over, and I was interested in getting more details. I figured, surely the book must of been more well rounded with the details, right?

As I started to read the manga I immediately noticed differences from the show. In some ways I found them better, for example there isn’t much information about Usagi’s evil nemesis. Bits of information is given, but I am a little disappointed that so far in the first volume we don’t get any big reveals about their goals or identity.

Although I found the art pretty and story charming, it probably isn’t the greatest thing for an adult to read. The flow might seem choppy since as a manga, it’s chapters were released in magazine publications, with other manga stories. So the start of the series is choppy as each character is introduced in each story, Mercury, Mars, Tuxedo Kamen, Jupiter. Each battle ends in a chapter probably since at the beginning of the series Takeuchi didn’t know if the story would become popular.

But there is enough going with the story that I wanted to keep reading. Most everything is set up, so the plot is open to keep going. I am definitely up to reading the next volume, and see how it compares to the two TV series.


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Many blogs have featured this newer cookbook on vegan casseroles. Since so many blogs had giveaways, sample recipes, and glowing reviews, I wanted to give the book a try. Which is a little weird since I never really grew up on casseroles. At least “all-American” casseroles. Sure we had mac and cheese, lasagna, and tuna noodle casserole. But that was mostly it. When I started to cook I was always intrigued by casserole recipes. They were so exotic and foreign to me.

So I can’t say if Julie has put all the classics in this book, but many looked familiar. She features both American classics (beans and rice, chili casserole, nacho tots) and more traditional cuisine (stuffed peppers, lasagna, mac & cheese). The overall goal of the book was to make quick dinners that give the comforts of casseroles, but were vegan and not too heavy on fats and calories.

Photos

Compared to most cookbooks reviewed on here, there aren’t that many photos. But truthfully, I doubt that you need a photo for each recipe. Casseroles aren’t the most photogenic food out there. But what I really appreciate is their choice of recipes to photograph. If the dish wasn’t as straight forward as a mixing all the food and baking, they took a picture. For example there was a photo of the stuffed cabbage or lasagna. These aren’t traditionally thought of “casseroles” but fit the definition. The photos that are available are beautiful and presents the foods as something delicious and appetizing. It is interesting to see some reviews online and see the not-so glamorous shots of the dishes. Not to say the blogger casseroles look disgusting, but the photos in the book are just a little more inspirational.

Set-up

The book opens with a very short intro. I think this was a smart choice. If you are picking up a book about specific vegan foods, there is a good chance you already know a good bit about veganism. You are going to know all the different vegan substitutes, which foods aren’t vegan, and the benefits of lifestyle. The book jumps right into the recipes, dividing them up as appetizers, dutch-oven casseroles, old favorites, pasta, vegetable, desserts, and “staples.” The staples section is filled with sauces, and crumbles for recipes. Although it was a pain to flip back and forth for some recipes between the nacho sauce and the casserole, it wasn’t too big of a deal. It was a little easier because by the end I started to memorize the sauce recipes, needing the flip pages less and less.

Writing

The writing is brief and to the point. This book had a small opening, and jumps rather quickly to the recipes. She keeps the length down in the recipes. There aren’t any long stories, cultural references, stories about the recipe development, just a short paragraph describing the dish. Sometimes she suggests how to enhance a dish (like in the Rice & Beans being served with lettuce, avocados, and salsa). This makes and easy read that isn’t distracting from the recipes.

Overview

The biggest criticism I’ve read about this book is how “unhealthy” the recipes are. I get it, what one considers healthy is subjective. I would say yes, these recipes are vast improvements on the originals. Casseroles are known for using cream, cheap meats, cheese, and canned soups. Some recipes use fake cheese, faux meats, and other processed ingredients. But realistically, you are using mostly whole ingredients that are commonly found in kitchens. Many of the “fakes” can be taken out, or is listed as “optional.” The serving sizes are huge and decently low calorie. I plugged in the ingredients in a calorie counter, and I found that the recipes have lots of nutrition.

 Another arguement for the “it’s unhealthy” debate is that some foods are not made from scratch. This is true, but Julie Hasson points out in the book, if you want you can make your own seitan, soy cheese, or tater tots, but a casserole is suppose to be easy to make. You can do this with ALL of your food. You can make your almond milk, bread, dog food, kombucha, beer, etc. But we as humans can only do so much. That is why bakers, butchers, and restaurants showed up. We can only do so much. It is just your decision.

I think the important thing to put into perspective are the goals of the book. Julie Hasson wanted to make vegan versions of classic casseroles. They are suppose to be affordable, which they were. They were also suppose to be to a certain degree less processed, which most recipes didn’t use processed products. And the final criteria was that the recipes were suppose to be easy. Each recipe varied on the amount of worked required, but overall they were pretty eat to make. I don’t think there wasn’t anything that my husband and I didn’t like. There is definitely some foods that saved better than others, or little tricks to making it turn out better. But overall, I would recommend this book to pretty much any vegan. 

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Back in December I entered a book giveaway on a blog, and won. A few weeks later I got a copy of But I Could Never Go Vegan directly from the publishers. Before the book, I wasn’t really familiar with the blog Keepin It Kind. I might of stumbled on the page once or twice, but never really read the website in depth. So I read this book from the point of view of an established vegan who had never heard of the author before. I read the book with any knowing the author’s preference of foods, styles, and writing.

Photos

There are photos for, I think, every recipe in the book. If the photo isn’t next to the recipe there is a reference number to where you could find the photo, usually found on the chapter dividers. This gives the reader plenty of visual inspiration, and a good look at the food to figure out if you totally fudged up a recipe. I think this is great since this is a book for new vegans. If you haven’t done lots of cooking with vegan foods, it can be hard to imagine what the end result will be, and might discourage people from making a recipe (I know it did when I first started going vegan).

There are also a few step by step photos for slightly more complicated recipes. For example for the tofu cheese log, there are a few step by step photos showing how to form the log. This is a really helpful visual since I find reading reading steps confusing if you don’t already have some knowledge on how to do it.

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Set-up

The book starts with a brief introduction. Although this is a book targeted to new vegans or flexatarians, there is little information about actual veganism. I don’t think this is a bad thing. If you are picking up this book, you probably know the basics. What Turner does is talk about the lesser known vegan foods, like for example she covers why sugar isn’t vegan.

Each chapter is organized by a common excuse for not being vegan, but I could never give up cheese, substitutes are too expensive, etc. Now this idea is fun and novel, but I was worried how well it would “work.” When picking out recipes I am usually concerned with using up a certain ingredient before it goes bad, or trying to find a soup to balance out the menu for the week. Surely how helpful will this new organization system be?

It wasn’t until I hit the chapter called “But Nobody Will Come Over to Eat!” that’s when it all clicked. This book in some ways is more helpful this way. I found myself thinking “next family get together I should make all these recipes.” As a new or veteran vegan you might hit a bump in the road thinking about what to make for brunch, to serve for a family get together, or have a longing for cheese, and you just need to open to those chapters. That said some of these chapters would be made this way regardless in a normal cookbook, they just have a witty name. And I am still a little annoyed to find a smoothie randomly placed in a chapter mostly filled with dinner dishes. But this system sets a new vegan up for random experimentation rather than meal planning, which can be pretty fun for the reader.

Writing

What I like about books by bloggers is that the writing style is informal and feels like they are talking to you personally. Without knowing the Keepin It Kind blog, I could easily recognize a specific voice in the book. In fact, once I started to follow the blog after picking up the book, I can say I think the book reads better than the blog.

Errors seem to be non-existant, or hard to find. The only one I know about Kristy addresses on her blog. For the Jackfruit Nacho Supreme the published recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of agar-agar when it should call for 2 tablespoons. I would assume there will be a correction in the second pressing. Otherwise, everything seems pretty solid.

Overview

This book is great, I find it great for days where you want to cook or bake to enjoy yourself. Some recipes work well during a busy weekday, but most recipes call for a little planning or a little extra time. The book still needs the reader to flip through with an open mind. It might be a little hard to “choose” things if you are looking for just a pasta dish, or something that uses chickpeas. This is a cookbook for someone who is adventurous, or doesn’t mind a spur of the moment trip to the grocery store.

There is only two complaint about this book, one is an odd odor. This is pretty silly to point out, but it is rather odd and off putting when flipping through a book full of food. I have never picked up a book with this odd odor before, and I think I am more curious about what that smell is more than anything. Anyone have a clue?

My second complaint is more a worry. I think the people who will benefit the most from this book are flexitarians, or family and friends who are trying to understand their vegan friend. Mothers who are trying to tailor dinner time for vegans and omnivores might find this book handy. My biggest worry is if this book will sell to these people. Sure it is fun to pick it up as a vegan, but the chapters are just something fun rather than helpful. I think this book has a lot of potential to reach and convert a lot people, and I hope it does. So my “problem” with this book is more about if it was properly marketed and is reaching people who want to eat more plant based foods.

Recipes

As with most cookbooks, I tried my best to try a recipe from as many sections as possible. This will hopefully give an idea of any particular strengths in the recipe selection. But there were so many sections in this book that I could only cover some  of the recipes. If there was any recipes posted online to promote the book, I left a link.
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I received this book as a Christmas gift. It seemed like a well thought out gift since I love Asian cuisine and I am a vegan. I was pretty excited about the book since it featured recipes outside of popular regions. Hema Parekh reaches out further than India, Japan, and China and puts recipes from Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, and South Korea. Parekh writes about how she got married and moved out of India to Japan, where she learned to cook. The book is a mixed bag of emotions for me, as I feel like there could of been so much potential for it.

Photos

All the photos are clustered in the middle of the book. I hate this sort of set up, especially since the book is divided by country instead of food “types.” The style of photography is very outdated, all the dishes have clay-red hue. I don’t think there was a photo that I saw and thought- that’s what I want to try and make. 

I wish there were more photos as most cookbooks featuring specific regions of cooking have recipes for dishes I’ve never heard of. So having a photo would help me visualize what the end result should look like. This particularly important for dishes where presentation is very important like dumplings and Japanese cuisine.

Set-up

I can’t help but compare this book to Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero. Terry features cuisine from a larger range of countries, and organizes all the recipes by styles, soups, salads, curries/stews, etc, etc. Parekh on the other hand groups all the recipes by nations, then divides them up by style. So there would be a chapter from India, then listed in that chapter would be soups, desserts, curries, rice, etc. In some ways it is an easier for planning dinners, in other ways it is hard to search around. Especially since many dishes overlap each other. Dumplings are eaten outside of China, so if I was planning a meal I could include them as a side for most dinners.

The book has an introduction but only as a way for the author to say hello. She jumps into the recipes, which would be find if the purpose of the book was not to teach a new cuisine. It would of been nice to have an overview of the ingredients, subtle differences between noodles, and rice types over the countries. There is an ingredients reference at the end of the book, but I didn’t find it till I got towards the end. If anything she could of put page numbers next to ingredients to help guide readers.

The visual representations of the recipes is okay. Since the photos aren’t set up next to the recipes it can be a little frustrating and demanding of the imagination of the reader. The text for the ingredients are small, making it harder to try and piece together the end result.

Writing

There is a lot of confusion in the book, much of it is cultural. Parekh is writing as an Indian living in Japan, which makes the translated names of the dishes confusing. She lists the dish as an English translation, then puts the original name in small text next to it. For example samosas are listed as Crispy Pumpkin Turnovers (the recipe mentions how they normally made with potatoes, not pumpkin) This translation problem continues with ingredients and dishes as she mentions the japanese translation over the English. The most obvious example is that she gives a recipe for Chinese dumplings, but lists them as “gyoza.” This isn’t a problem if you know some Japanese cuisine, but most American’s would recognize dumpling over gyoza.

Aside from the cultural issues, I’ve spotted several spelling/typing errors. There are even issues with recipes, as she leaves out when to add ingredients to recipes. These are not issues that only happened once, but several times. Clearly this was a rushed publication.

Overview

Parekh’s life story seems to shape the outcome of the book. There is a large bias for Indian and Japanese food. Those two chapters make up at least half of the recipes, pushing the other nations into weak collections. This bias extends to the ingredients, listing them under their Japanese names. For example many of the noodle listed for China are of Japanese styled noodles. Yes, there is style overlapping, and some differences. But the point is that if you are making a Chinese sesame noodle, it probably doesn’t call for udon noodles.

This naturally creates confusion for the book. This is a book written by a woman in Japan, for people who probably don’t live in Asia. Some ingredients are going to be easy to find, some will not be. Because of this reason it would be extremely helpful to have a very detailed ingredients guide. Going into detail about common ingredients, and what would be good replacements. Some recipes already do this, some don’t. It also worth mentioning that I live in a culturally diverse area, I live near a Korean, South East Asian, and Indian market. I am sure there are more ethnic markets, I just never found them yet. Some ingredients are hard to find, or are very seasonal.

My other problem with the book is that is wavers back and forth from super authentic to completely not. I have no problem from straying away from tradition and giving a fun twist to a recipe. But in some ways it seems that Parekh doesn’t change things in ways that could honestly make them better. There isn’t ANY innovations to try and add more flavors. Many of us know that Asian cooking use fish and meat by products (think oyster sauce). Parekh seems to take a recipe, remove the offending ingredients, like maybe fish sauce, and calls it quits. This leaves many bland recipes. Nor does Parekh seem fully educated about vegan products, listing one recipes with worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies. Yes there are vegan versions, but they aren’t common.

I have to say I am sorely disappointed with this cookbook. It was rushed, and I am unsure of who the audience is. Is it for people who live in Asia with easy access to the ingredients? Or is it for anyone, anywhere in the world? I can say there I found some inspiration in the recipes, but mostly because I wanted to make them taste better. All dishes seemed pretty bland and relied heavily on fats, which I am not particularly fond of. 

Recipes

This cookbook I tried my best to pick at least on recipe from each country spotlighted in the book. Since there were a lot of recipes featured from Japan and India, there is naturally more recipes tested from those countries.

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Isa Chandra Moskowitz is known for her decadent vegan recipes from Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance. Here recipes, although delicious, sometimes would be very complicated. I would hesitate to cook anything from her books since the amount of dishes seemed intimidating. Most recipes were set up by veggies sides, a grain, and a protein. Sure the tofu would be manageable, but making the rice and the veggie side? It’s all just seemed too much for two adults on a weeknight.

But then came Isa Does It. The book focuses on weeknight cooking for people who are cooking for themselves, or for two. It always felt like Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance was cooking for a large family setting, or perhaps for a pot luck dinner. Isa Does It is quick and most importantly cheap. Yes, the focus on cheaper ingredients really helped me take a dive into the cookbook. 

Photos

There are lots of photos in this book. I am so glad that the publishers ditched the grouped photos that appear in Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance. I always find it hard to associate the recipe with the photo that way. Although there isn’t a photo for each recipe, majority of the recipes are covered. It is always nice to see what Isa got compared to what I got. Nothing is more frustrating than when you find out your snickerdoodle looks totally different than your friends, even with the same recipe.

The photos are beautiful, each photo is more of a scene than just the cooked meal. Each photo has a story set up, making the reader feel like they are viewing a window into the kitchen. Ingredients line up against the wall, flour spreads out on the counter, and utensils are waiting to be picked up. Some plates are plopped in a bowl for your weeknight dinner, some are plated as if you are going to a four star restaurant.

There are even a few instructional photos of how to cut tofu and tempeh. Sure it is a pretty simple task, but it is always a good idea to try and have your food as close to the recipe as possible. You know, for consistent results. Plus, when you first start out on a vegan diet, tofu is REALLY intimidating. I mean scary.

Set-up

The book is set up to be read from beginning to end. She gives basics about how to cook, what to have, chopping your tofu, etc. It is pretty simple, not overwhelming for a newbie, but not too simplified to bore a seasoned chef. Then Isa moves to Soups, stating they are the best recipe to start when learning how to cook. They are hard to mess up, according to Isa. I would probably have to agree. Then she moves to salads, which are still pretty simple. Handheld foods are next, things like burgers and tacos, then moving to the other common dinner categories (stews, pastas, sautes, etc).

It wasn’t until the last few chapters I felt a little weird. She put a chapter for Sunday Night Suppers, which to me defeat the purpose of the whole book. These recipes are more complicated, time consuming meals that are suggested for nights that you have more time to kill. Then she moves to Breakfast and Brunch which is a big carb-fest. Considering most of the book centers around dinner, it felt a little out of place, and the recipes didn’t personally speak to me. Then she has a chapter for desserts, which isn’t the worst. I just feel like there isn’t many new recipes brought to the table since she has three different books devoted to dessert.

Writing

I was getting a little fed up, my husband kept complaining about dinner. He meant well, he would get a little bored with the dinners I picked out, and I get that. I was picking what I wanted, not what he wanted. I remember eating with his parents and getting tired of not choosing my dinners. So I handed him Isa Does It, and asked him to pick out some recipes. He read a little and came back saying how he could understand why I like Isa Chandra Moskowitz so much. He thought her writing was honest, fun, and non-judgmental.

Isa continues with her signature writing style with this book. She takes all the romanticism typically associated with food writing and pokes fun at it. My favorite example? Isa proclaimes that she created the perfect dish to eat outside on a porch, or maybe your fire escape, don’t have either, just open a window and stick your head of it. Pop culture and jewish references are still overflowing out of the book.

As for errors? I think I might of read one recipe that might of skipped what to do with the salt, but nothing that would make or break a recipe.

Overview

I have to say when my husband said his one co-worker picked up this book to try and eat less meat and dairy, I couldn’t think of anything better to start with. I think this out of all Isa’s cookbooks give a great collection of easy to make recipes with realistic ingredients. Sure the seitan and tofu might be a little intimidating, but she provides recipes on how to make you own seitan which saves lots of cash. And even if you stay away from all seitan, tofu, and tempeh recipes you can easily find recipes to make throughout the book. Recipes that are filling, and don’t need “vegan specific” foods like soy milk or faux butters.

I can safely say that this cookbook will be one I will be using over and over and over again. These recipes are perfect for everyday cooking since they are fast and use cheap ingredients. One average I don’t think I would spend more than $10 overall per dish, which divides up as being fairly cheap per serving. Ingredients are flexible so it is easy to switch out ingredients (if you own a CSA) and Isa tells you how.

This is a cookbook for vegans, omnivores, beginners, or advanced chefs that are just trying to give weeknights more flavor. I would recommend people pick up this book over Veganomicon, as you will find more recipes to make in this.

Recipes

I always test some recipes from a book to give personal reviews on it. This book, I have a ton. I could blame my husband (who I told to pick things that he wanted to eat, they were almost always soup) or I could blame how relevant this book is to my life. Ingredients are cheap and recipes are fast, which made weeknight menus revolve around this book.

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I’ve been a bum about documenting my reading. I wrote on post early on about what I read Winter 2014. Then I started to write about what I read in the spring but never finished the post. I would like to keep on top of these posts, so I wanted to make a compilation of what I read for the rest of the year.

What I am Currently Reading

ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running – I was trying to train for a half-marathon but never got close enough to doing it. I was hoping it would have tips on form and how to build stamina.

Sailor Moon Vol 1 – Alexa and I have been extra nerdy lately about Sailor Moon. I’ve been watching the old series, and Alexa has been watching the new one. The new series is suppose to be closely link to the mangas, so I figured I should brush up.

Norwegian Wood – I liked the short stores from After the Quake, so I picked up this novel by Haruki Murakami. I am a little disappointed by it’s lack of surrealism, but it is still very interesting historical/coming of age novel.

My Drunk Kitchen – Alexa suggested I pick up Hannah Hart’s new cookbook, and I listened. It is pretty darn funny and makes me think about how much I love humorous literature.

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