Friday, April 29, 2016

Cook It In Cast Iron: Kitchen-Tested Recipes for the One Pan That Does It All by America's Test Kitchen

Did you inherit a cast-iron skillet from your grandmother or great-grandmother? If so, you are one of the lucky ones to be in possession of a well-seasoned pan from so many years of heavy use. You know that when a cast-iron pan is well seasoned, it works as well as a nonstick pan. Cooking in cast-iron is making a comeback. Why you ask? One of the reasons is that we are more aware of the fact that nonstick pans emit chemicals when they are heated and cast-iron pans are completely chemical-free. Cast-iron pans last forever and they get better with age. Other positive features of cast-iron skillets are that they cook evenly, they have great heat retention, they are inexpensive, they can go from the stovetop to the oven, and they are made in the good old USA. The cast-iron pan can cook everything from stick-free eggs and the very best fried chicken to baking bread! Who knew?

Cook It In Cast Iron: Kitchen Tested Recipes for the One Pan That Does It All by America's Test Kitchen is a wonderful book full of recipes, tips, information, seasoning, troubleshooting, cleaning, and evaluations and recommendations of cast-iron pans. Cook It In Cast-Iron is from the editors of Americas's Test Kitchen, which means that you can count on the fact that every recipe in the book is rigorously tested and tasted until they arrive at the "best version." They are also known for testing cookware products. America's Test Kitchen calls the cast-iron pan "The Original Workhorse" and they believe that a "cast-iron skillet belongs in every kitchen." That's quite a testimony!

The photographs in Cook It In Cast-Iron are very attractive and enticing. I judge a cookbook by how many recipes I would really cook from it and this book is a winner. The recipes aren't new-fangled or gourmet--they are recipes that you would actually use! Chocolate chip skillet cookie, hot fudge pudding cake, southern- style cornbread, spinach and feta frittata, Chicago-style Pepperoni Pan Pizza, paella, and beef chili are just some of the recipes in the cookbook that are calling out to me. The best chefs swear by cast-iron skillets. You can't go wrong with "the one pan that does it all!"

The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook: 150 Fresh Ideas for America's Favorite Pan by Ellen Brown and The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless Delicious Recipes are some other books on cast-iron cooking that may be checked out from the Virginia Beach Public Library.

Reviewed by Joan L.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir

Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir is an anthology of 47 stories from people of all ages who read Eat Pray Love or watched the movie and were touched and empowered to make changes in their lives. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love wrote the introduction to this book. Gilbert is amazed by the popularity of Eat Pray Love which was published ten years ago. Gilbert says that the universal message from all of the essays that were submitted for Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It is "My life doesn't have to look like this anymore."

The title Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It grabbed my attention. I found the book to be entertaining and inspiring. Even if you aren't into self-help books, there are messages in each story that might speak to you. We can't all go to Italy or Bali to find our selves, but some of the stories just might inspire you to do something in your life that you have always wanted to do. Perhaps reading Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It will be the spark that gets you to step out of your comfort zone and set off on your own journey! Happy Trails!

The original Eat Pray Love book and the Eat Pray Love movie/DVD with Julia Roberts may be found at The Virginia Beach Public Library. Other books in the same vein as Eat Pray Love are Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, and The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You're Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown which also may be checked out from the VBPL.

Reviewed by Joan L.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tru & Nelle by G. Neri

Most of us are acquainted with Truman Capote from the movie Capote and Harper Lee from To Kill a Mockingbird, but we don't know much about their early formative years. Many people are surprised to learn that Truman and Harper Lee were next door neighbors in Monroeville, Alabama. They were social misfits who connected through their love of detective stories such as Sherlock Holmes. Tru & Nelle by G. Neri is a middle grade fiction book based on the real-life childhood friendship and imaginations of Truman Capote and Harper Lee.

The author of Tru & Nelle, G. Neri is a children's author who has won many awards, among them the Coretta Scott King Honor for the book Yummy: The Last Days of  a Southside Shorty. Neri chose to write Tru & Nelle as fiction so that he could use the colorful characters, the Depression era, and the small Deep South town as part of the story.

I found this book to be a sweet story of Capote and Harper Lee. You will enjoy reading about Truman and Nelle's escapades in Monroeville. It is especially interesting to see how they formulated their love of mysteries, how they both became authors from their early experiences, and how some of the figures in their books were based on people in the town. There are some sad parts too, but they can be teachable moments for young people who don't know the history of the Jim Crow South. Tru & Nelle
Early Years in Monroeville
can be read by both youth and adults. The story is especially poignant because of Harper Lee's recent passing.
Later Years

If your interest is piqued by reading Tru & Nelle, The Virginia Beach Public Library has many books on both Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Harper Lee: A Twentieth Century Life by Kerry Madden and Real Courage: The Story of Harper Lee by Katherine Don are both Youth Biographies.   An Adult Non-fiction book which chronicles Truman's later years is, Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies. Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall his Turbulent Career by George Plimpton. The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin is a current bestseller that is a fictionalized account of the years that Capote was at the top of the New York social ladder.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Container Theme Gardens: 42 Combinations Each Using 5 Perfectly Matched Plants by Nancy J. Ondra

Do you hate to weed and mulch? Do you have little to no space for a garden and a limited budget for buying plants? Container gardening is a wonderful way to create a colorful, economical, and easy to maintain garden in one spot. Container Theme Gardens: 42 Combinations Each Using 5 Perfectly Matched Plants by Nancy J. Ondra will motivate and inspire you to make a cheery container garden guaranteed to please.

The chapters are divided by color, seasons, locations, flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, edibles, special themes, and suggestions for plantings by the type of container. Photos are included of the five suggested plants, including alternates, and the finished product for each of the themes. Included is a step-by-step guide to container planting and tidbits, tips, and tricks. The dimensions of the containers are listed as is the light and setting that is required for the different plants.

Visually this is a beautiful book. There are so many eye-catching combinations pictured throughout
that make it easy to select one and go for it. So what are you waiting for? This is the perfect time of the year to pick a container, a color scheme, five suggested plants and/or flowers, the perfect spot to put it in, and voila--instant garden to enjoy all summer!

Nancy Ondra has authored many other fine gardening books that may be found at the Virginia Beach Public Library such as Five-Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plants.

Reviewed by Joan L.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Maid-sama!, Volume 1 by Hiro Fujiwara

Misaki Ayuzawa is the Student Council president at Seika High, formerly an all-boys school. She has her work cut out for her because the boys are slobs and jerks and she just wants to make Seika a place for all students. She can constantly be seen taking the boys to task for making girls cry and trying to get the girls to do their chores for them. What they don’t know and what could possibly hurt her reputation is that Misaki is a maid at the Maid Latte café.

Misaki leads this double life out of necessity. Her father left the family and so to help her mother and younger sister, Misaki gets a job at the maid café because it works best with her schedule. She chose to work in another city because she doesn’t want anyone to see she is working there because it may ruin her reputation as the strict president of the Student Council.

One troublesome boy stands out – Takumi Usui. He is forever making girls cry and constantly makes Misaki flustered. One day when taking out the trash at Maid Latte, Misaki turns around to see Takumi standing there. To his utter delight, she is will now have to be his personal maid or he will tell all. For some reason, Takumi keeps her secret even threating others who find Misaki at the café. This causes much confusion for Misaki and devilish delight for Takumi. Will Misaki be able to keep such a secret?

Maid-sama! is a delightful shojo story about a girl with much responsibility and how it shapes her life. Hiro Fujiwara has created a fun little escape into the life of Misaki and the other students at Seika High. It also is an interesting glimpse into the world of maid cafes (and why they are so popular). The characters are rather typical of the genre, but do get fleshed out a bit more as the story progresses. The volatile relationship between Misaki and Takumi is a focal point of the story and it can be fun to see how much he does get under her skin. The artwork is typical of that of shojo manga with the additions of flowers and sparkles in the foreground. This title is a delightfully funny slice of life romance for teens and older teens (that still can appeal to adults). Maid-sama! will make you laugh out loud and return for more!

You can find Maid-sama!, Volume 1 by Hiro Fujiwara on the VBPL Catalog. If you enjoyed Maid-sama!, you may want to try Skip-Beat by Yoshiki Nakamura or My Love Story!! by Kazune Kawahara.

Review by Michelle L. ChrzanowskiNASA Langley Research Center

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1 by Sui Ishida

Ken Kaneki is a shy college freshman who loves reading horror novels. Kaneki often hangs out with his best friend, Hideyoshi "Hide" Nagachika, at a coffee shop called Anteiku. Kaneki and Hide often discuss ghouls, creatures who appear in human form but eat human flesh, and their increasing attacks in the area.

It is at Anteiku that Kaneki spotted the beautiful Rize. Hide thinks she is out of Kaneki’s league and teases him relentlessly about asking her out. One day, Rize accidentally drops her book next to their table where Kaneki notices they are reading the same book. The two makes plans to go out on a date at a bookstore. The night seems to be something out of Keneki’s dreams. On the walk home things take a turn for the worse when Rize takes a bite out of Kaneki's shoulder and he discovers she is a ghoul. Kaneki fights for his life, but he is no match for the supernatural Rize. When it appears that all hope is lost, a beam from a nearby construction site falls and appears to kill Rize. With very little life left , Kaneki is found and taken to the hospital where his life is changed forever.

This first installment of Tokyo Ghoul is an introduction to the dark world Ken Kaneki inhabits. Much of this first volume centers around building up the character of Kaneki and explaining the existence and world of the ghouls. Kaneki is a rather naive and sheltered young man who is mostly ignorant of ghouls and doesn’t realize how close he has been to them all of this time. This costs him greatly and is easily targeted by the ghoul Rize. Throughout his transformation as a ghoul, he refuses to eat because he still sees himself as a human and not a monster. Eventually, he comes to the realization that he is different and must make sacrifices to protect those he cares about.

Tokyo Ghoul really dew me in from the start due mostly to the inclusion of ghouls in this narrative. The characters seemed to be standard at first, but then were revealed to have secrets and alternate identities. It became interesting to try to figure out who may be a ghoul. During the world building, there are bouts of intense action. It was at times difficult to keep up with what was going on due to blurry artwork. This is a dark story with elements of gore, so if you have a weak stomach you may want to pass this one up. I am definitely intrigued by the characters and the ghouls and can’t wait to learn more in the next volumes. This title is better suited to older teen and adult audiences due to gore and situations. Tokyo Ghoul is a slow-paced horror that continues to draw you in for more.

You can find Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1 by Sui Ishida on the VBPL Catalog. If you enjoyed Tokyo Ghoul, you may want to try Sword Art Online by Reki Kawahara or Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign by Takaya Kagami.

Review by Michelle L. Chrzanowski, NASA Langley Research Center

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

Disclaimer: This is probably obvious just from the title, but if you're even remotely offended by profanity, you definitely shouldn't read this book.

Chances are, you've heard about or read the bestselling book on decluttering, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (previously reviewed on VBPL Recommends). I read about 75% of the book before abandoning it. Even though I didn't stick with it until the end, there were some tips that I found very helpful. I reorganized my closet and dresser drawers to make things easier to find. I either donated or tossed quite a bit of clothing, as well as other items that I no longer found useful. That being said, portions of Kondo's book are ripe for parody, which brings us to Sarah Knight's The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do.

While the book is definitely a parody, there's a surprising amount of substance also. Knight tells about how she made a scary but necessary life change: she left a successful career with a major publishing house to become a freelance editor and writer. She evaluated her life and decided that she needed to stop doing certain things that didn't make her happy--things that annoyed rather than "sparked joy" (to borrow lingo from Kondo’s KonMari method). The result is something Knight calls the NotSorry method: choosing the worthwhile areas in life that you'd rather devote your time/energy/money to, and simply not caring about those other things that drain you mentally and physically. The NotSorry method can be applied to smaller, everyday matters, like choosing not to go to a party that you really have no desire to attend; or larger life issues, like a career change similar to the one that Knight made.

A word of caution: this is not a blanket license to be a jerk. Knight makes it clear that the NotSorry method should be run through a set of criteria, such as asking if anyone else (other than you) will be affected or potentially hurt. Click here for a helpful flowchart (warning: contains profanity).

Knight writes with a sharp sense of humor combined with practical advice, as evidenced by passages like this one:
One of the central tenets of f*ck-giving is choice over obligation. You want to be able to choose how to spend your time, energy, and money so that you maximize the enjoyment of any given relationship, task, product, or event. Things you can control vs. things you can't.
And as we all know, you don’t get to choose your family. So at the very least, you should get to choose how and why you interact with them. Right?
Although I was originally drawn to this book for its comedic aspects, I found that it's just as effective as a self-help book, irreverent as it is. Search the VBPL catalog for The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck. If you enjoy this book, you will probably also like F*ck Feelings: One Shrink's Practical Advice for Managing All Life's Impossible Problems by Michael Bennett.