Category Archives: Shelf Awareness

How to Instant Pot

You already know that I’m obsessed with my Instant Pot.  Chances are, you’re either giving one to someone for the holidays or you’re getting one for yourself.

It is a little intimidating at first, though, even for the most experienced of cooks. Daniel Shumski’s How to Instant Pot aims to shorten the learning curve by breaking down each function (pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, steamer) into its own section.

Few cookbooks have as definitive of a subtitle as this one. Indeed, it will help you master all the functions of the one pot that will change how you cook.

More of my thoughts on How to Instant Pot can be found here, in my full review in today’s issue of Shelf Awareness. 

 

 

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Book Review (by The Husband): Grant, by Ron Chernow

The Husband made his debut in Shelf Awareness yesterday as a published book reviewer. He took on the mammoth tome (more than 1,100 pages!) that is Ron Chernow’s Grant.

You can find his review here.

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Book Review: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, by Caitlin Doughty

The Husband says that I have a morbid fascination with death.

And he’s absolutely correct.

For the longest time, I thought that it was perfectly normal to read the obituaries every day — at 15 years old. (What, didn’t every teenager do that?)

I have a Spotify playlist titled Funeral Songs that I’ve selected as my personal soundtrack for that occasion. There’s a file folder on my laptop with the exact photos I would like displayed.

Maybe it’s the former special events planner in me. Most likely, it’s something embedded deep in my psyche as a result of my father dying suddenly and unexpectedly at age 44, when I was 15. (Hence, the reason for the daily obit readings.) I should probably bring all this up to my therapist at some point, not like we’re lacking for agenda items. Regardless, these are important details that can’t be left to chance. Besides, The Husband says he’s grateful for this vital information because should he wind up being the one in charge of these logistics, he expects to be in no shape to do so.

As well he should be.

Needless to say, I was pretty certain that I was going to love reading From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty and it did not disappoint. Curious to learn more about other cultures’ approaches to death, Doughty traveled to remote corners of the globe (and several United States locales) to observe and participate in rituals that may initially seem bizarre and macabre, but are rich in tradition, dignity and deep meaning.

Let me tell you, this sounds like my kind of trip. I found myself feeling slightly envious of Doughty, getting to experience such Mexico’s Días de los Muertos parade (today is All Soul’s Day, hence the reason for telling you about this book today). She travels to Indonesia for the ma’nene‘, an elaborate annual ceremony where the mummified dead are exhumed after several years, outfitted with new clothes and marched around the village in house-like structures. Who wouldn’t want to see that?!

*adds seeing the ma’nene’ to Bucket List*

In Spain, families rent rooms in oratorios (chapels) and “spend the entire day with their dead, showing up first thing in the morning and staying until the doors close at 10 p.m.,” while the deceased is visible under glass. (Note to The Husband: plan on that for my funeral, please. An all day party sounds perfect.) Green burials are explored in North Carolina; an outdoor cremation on a natural pyre is held in Colorado. A swipe of a coded key card at Japan’s high-tech Ruriden columbarium allows mourners to instantly identify their loved one’s resting place among 600 other souls represented by an illuminated wall of Buddhas.

As I write in my Shelf Awareness book review, From Here to Eternity is my kind of book. Part travelogue, part memoir, and part commentary on America’s corporatized, sterile death industry, Doughty writes with a keenly sharp wit and wry humor.

This one has earned a spot on my Best Books of 2017 List, absolutely. For more, read my full review here.

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
by Caitlin Doughty 
W.W. Norton
272 pgs.
2017 

 

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The Grip of It, by Jac Jemc

Anyone who has ever moved into a new home knows that sometimes there’s just something a little bit … off … about some aspect of the house. I mean, if The Husband and I had a dollar for every time a perplexed contractor turned to us and said, “Well, I’ve never seen that before,” all the while knowing that they’re wondering what the fuck the previous owners were thinking and simultaneously thinking that we must be the stupidest schmucks alive, then we would be rich enough to own several vacation homes.

What? Just us? OK, well, then.

There’s something wrong with Julie and James Khoury’s new house. An odd, unexplainable sound. And then, even more troubling incidents. Unexplained bruises. Cryptic writing on the walls (literally). You know, the usual.

Their marriage is in trouble, too. James has a gambling addiction. They’re trying to make a fresh start. Oh, and Julie and James’ reclusive, eccentric neighbor seems to know something about what nobody seems to want to tell them.

The Grip of It is a psychological horror novel by Jac Jemc, which I was delighted to review in today’s edition of Shelf Awareness. It’s a quick, fast read, perfect for a rainy afternoon in autumn. If you’re participating in R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, this would be an excellent choice to add to your reading queue this season.

 

 

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Two Perfect Late Summer Reads

With the turn of the page to August, it seems like summer’s pace has a way of intensifying. What better time, then, to savor what remains of this time through a perfect summer read that offers just the right blend of substance without being too heavy and dark.

Here are two books that I recently reviewed for Shelf Awareness that would be perfect for summer days at the beach, by a lake or wherever you seek rest and relaxation.


Cocoa Beach sweeps readers across war-torn Europe to the tropical landscape of Central Florida in this breathtaking family drama set amid the backdrop and aftermath of World War I.  Bootleggers, bandits, criminals and conspirators are in abundance here, along with unconsummated marriages, grand estates and deception galore.

This was the first book I read by Beatriz Williams (who I also had the pleasure of interviewing for this piece in Shelf Awareness) and it won’t be the last. If you enjoy historical fiction spiced with romance and danger, Cocoa Beach is definitely where you want to be.

Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams
William Morrow
2017
384 pages

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo captures the silver screen era with such luminosity that it is easy to forget that these are fictional actors and actresses. Evelyn Hugo’s seven marriages have been tabloid fodder for decades, but now that she is approaching 80, she intends to reveal all about the one true love of her life and hires a relatively unknown writer, Monique Grant, to pen her biography.

I’ll admit to judging The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by its cover, assuming this was going to be a light, frivolous romance. I was wrong. It’s a fast-paced read with much more substance here than one might think.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Atria Books
2017
400 pages

Visit Shelf Awareness for my full review of Cocoa Beach (as well as to read my interview with Beatriz Williams) and my full review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

I am an Amazon Affiliate. Some links may take you to Amazon’s shopping pages. By making a purchase, I will receive a small commission which helps to sustain this blog, its content and its author.

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Book Review: The Boy Who Loved Too Much, by Jennifer Latson

The Boy Who Loved Too Much: A True Story of Pathological Friendliness
by Jennifer Latson
Simon & Schuster
304 pages
2017

Before reading The Boy Who Loved Too Much, I wasn’t very familiar with Williams Syndrome, a genetic neurological condition characterized by developmental delays, cardiovascular issues, visual-spatial challenges, distinct, elfin-like facial features and above average musical and language abilities.

Eli D’Angelo is among an estimated 30,000 people in the United States with Williams Syndrome. For three years, journalist Jennifer Latson followed Eli and his mother, Gayle, to explore the impact of Williams on their family. The result is this informative book, which I reviewed in today’s issue of Shelf Awareness.

You can find my full review here.

 

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The No Meat Athlete Cookbook (spoiler alert: you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy this one)

I’ve become somewhat of a slacker with running. There are enough reasons for that to warrant a separate post, I think, and I do want to get back to more of a fitness routine. I’m starting with walking; The Girl and I did two 2-mile walks on the beach last week and that felt good, so that’s something.

When I started running last fall, I went back to eating chicken. I thought I needed the additional protein for my increased workouts. That experiment lasted only a month or two because a) I didn’t really notice a difference (it’s not like I suddenly became a triathlete) and b) after 20 years of not eating meat* the stomach woes were too much. Within a month or two, I was happily back to being a gluten-free pescetarian.

Around this time I discovered the No Meat Athlete  site and podcast, which reinforced that it was definitely possible to eat a plant-based diet while partaking in high-intensity fitness activities like marathons. Even though I’m nowhere near that point — and may never be — NMA offers a lot of great information, strategies and recipes for athletes of all abilities.

I was thrilled to review The No Meat Athlete Cookbook by Matt Frazier and Stepfanie Romine  in Tuesday’s issue of Shelf Awareness. They offer athletes at every level 125 plant-based recipes providing a powerhouse of essential nutrients for strength and endurance.

“It’s everything in the food–and the remarkably complex interactions of countless nutrients–that our bodies thrive on, not a single constituent,” the authors state. Because the body also requires less time to process whole foods, more energy is available for workouts and a full recovery afterward.

While athletes are this cookbook’s focus, there’s plenty here for people who are simply interested in eating a plant-based diet.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness for the opportunity to review The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. Read my full review here.

* There was a brief period in 2011-2012 when I ate chicken. The kids and I were still living in Delaware while The Husband commuted back and forth from Pittsburgh, and it was just easier for the three of us to eat the same thing. And then I got a job where I was on the road extensively, often in rural parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. After that ended, so did my meat consumption.

 

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