BOOK REVIEW: The New York Times : Footsteps

Literary travels are incredibly attractive to me. What was the author looking at, how did a place influence his vision and story development? I was always curious about this story-place connection. A  new book called The New York Times: Footsteps explore this in a delightful collection of essays that were originally featured in The New York Times travel section.

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The essays touch almost every corner of the world-  Americas, Europe, Middle East and South East Asia. Some places I would never associated with a particular author (such as Mark Twain and Hawaii, probably for me having a limited knowledge of his works). I loved essay on Mary Oliver, exploring Prince Edward Island with L.M. Montgomery was another favorite. Those two I went after first.  It was fascinating to read about Rimbaud in Ethiopia and I particularly enjoyed a peak at Carroll/Dodgson’s  Oxford. I am slowly working through this book, savoring each little essay and possibly making travel plans of my own. I am not reading it in any particular order, focusing for now on beloved works and making a list of those I haven’t got a chance to read yet.

I enjoy this book so far, it is very interesting to see the place through a personal connection of an essay’s author and still imagining what it must have looked like to a book author at the time. I wonder if I can make at least few of these trips myself. Interestingly enough I imagined this book as a sort of a tourist guide originally, but I am glad it turned out to be almost diary-like experience. 5 stars.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. 

BOOK REVIEW: DINNER by MELISSA CLARK

I don’t often see a cookbook that deals with specific meal of the day, or rather when I do, it’s focusing either on breakfasts or special occasion. It’s the first time I came across a book that is dedicated specifically to dinners. Melissa Clark, a writer for a number of cooking publications offers an astonishing collection of recipes that are meant to “change the game” of typical dinners by adding new flavors and giving new options to a home cook.

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The recipes are organized by main ingredient, which is helpful (although I’d prefer to have all the poultry in one section, rather than chicken separate). There is a good number of light dishes and a plenty of vegetarian choices. The author uses lots of ethnic flavors too. Most of the recipes are kid friendly. We tried a few simpler ones, and they turned out pretty yummy. Most of the ingredients look easily attainable.

Overall impressions: With over 200 recipes to choose from this book looks like a delight. It will take me a while to cook through it, which means lots and lots of new dishes for my family to enjoy. The recipes are easy enough to put together and directions are fairly straightforward. Gorgeous photography.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

BOOK REVIEW: 32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

Memoirs are so fascinating to me. The beginnings are always the most interesting -how do people even start, how do they decide this is it and embark on the journey. Culinary memoirs are a whole special category. This time I read Eric Ripert’s 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line. Eric Ripert is a French-born chef, who owns the famous Le Bernardin in New York. He is also the author of numerous cookbooks and a TV personality.

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In his memoir Eric talks about his early years- the childhood in Antibes and Andorra, dealing with his parents’ divorce and brutal treatment from his stepfather, challenges he had to overcome on his journey of learning the art of fine cuisine. The book is laced with Eric’s love for food, it almost seems that his future as a top chef was predestined from his earliest years. I loved his descriptions of the warm atmosphere of family gatherings and important people and mentors in his life. The story of his time in cooking school and apprenticeship made me appreciate the hard work that goes into creating a meal worthy of a Michelin-star even more.

Overall impression: I enjoyed this book. My version was the audiobook and the narrator Peter Ganim has a very pleasing and soothing voice. It was an interesting read. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in fine cuisine and the process of becoming a chef. I will have my children listen to it when they’re older (there are some topics that they’re not quite ready for just yet, plus some strong language here and there).

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

Book Review: Spaceman by Mike Massimino

In his autobiography “Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” Mike Massimino, a NASA astronaut and Columbia University professor describes his journey from a childhood dream of being an astronaut to actual walking in space (of which he and his team set records). As soon as I started reading this book, I was absolutely captivated by Mike’s tale.

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His manner of writing is very frank and straightforward. He just tells his story like it is, and it’s impossible to put down. His journey wasn’t always smooth, neither was it always aimed for the space. I admired his determination when he made a decision to get into space program. How he overcame stumbling blocks on his path, his personal ethics – everything is admirable. His story is full of the most important lessons in life -the value of education, the value of public service, deep desire to be a better person, true friendship.

Overall impression: Loved this book to pieces. My 11 y.o. son is reading it now, and I am sure it will make a difference in his world perception, and no doubt will inspire him . Absolute must read.

 

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

A Holiday Read: A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

I am always on a lookout for good holiday-time reads as my family has a tradition of reading special holiday stories every December. The newest addition to our “Book Advent” library is “A Boy Called Christmas” by Matt Haig. We opted for an audiobook this time, read by Stephen Fry.

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The book is a take on a story of Santa Claus, who he was and where he lived before he became, well, what he is now. It is a story of a small boy Nikolas, nicknamed Christmas for being born on Christmas Day. He lives in Finland with his father, until his father goesaway in search of evidence of an elf village. Nikolas heads in search of his father and goes through plenty of trouble before he reaches elf village. He has to deal with his awful aunt Carlotta, help a stray wounded reindeer and fight a murderous troll and a crazy elf. There are cute sidekicks such as tame mouse, a kidnapped elf-child and little Nush (another elf) and her grandpa. The story was exciting and kind, there were moments that almost brought my kids to tears, and those that made them roar with laughter (i.e. a reindeer getting a sweet revenge on a dreadful aunt).

Overall impression in my son’s words: “I enjoyed the story, except the part with Aunt Carlotta. It taught me that people are not what they seem and that things that you believe can actually be real.” My daughter says: ” I loved this book because it was full of wonderful adventures.” They are listening to it again as I type it, so it’s definitely a favorite for this holiday season.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

BOOK REVIEW: FAR AFIELD by Shane Mitchell and James Fischer

Have you ever wondered about this or that faraway place? What it would be like? What are the people like? What foods can be found there? I know I have. Although at the moment a mere armchair traveller, I am fascinated with tales of places beyond my reach, faces and flavors. Shane Mitchell and James Fischer, both contributors to  Saveur bring their amazing experience traveling the globe and exploring the food in their new book Far Afield.

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The book allows us to glimpse into life in India, Uruguay, Kenya, Mexico, Hawai’i, Iceland, Peru, France and Japan. Shane’s almost diary-like travel notes were very interesting to read, especially Kenya, Uruguay and India bits, as I have the hardest time imagining what life must be like in these places. The Calais Jungle in France was the most powerful part of the book for me. Now, the photography is amazing in this book! Gorgeous vistas, small details of everyday life, people’s portraits made me feel like I almost know them. The food notes were fascinating as well, some ingredients I have never heard of and now even more curious to try. Although some dishes I won’t even attempt to re-create, a handful is quite do-able and the list of places providing ingredients can be found in the end of the book.

Overall impression: this book is a treasure and a rare chance to learn more about life in regions most people never get to visit. The photography is gorgeous, even if I wasn’t curious about the food, I would have gotten this book just for the photography. This book would help with my children’s multicultural studies as well. 5 stars.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

BOOK REVIEW: Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss

Classic German Baking, the recently released cookbook by Luisa Weiss brings back the old-world nostalgia for me for sure. There is nothing like a comfort of a good cake or cookies full of flavor. A hot fresh from the oven roll or potato pie on a  cold winter day brightens up your day immediately. I appreciate all that this book stands for and what a perfect timing for it to come out- just before the holidays!

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The book includes famous treats and some less known (at least to me) recipes. Here are the sections the book consists of: Cookies, Cakes, Yeasted Cakes, Tortes and Strudels, Savories, Bread and Rolls and (most importantly this time a year) Christmas Favorites. All recipes are fairly straightforward and adapted to the produce available in US stores. More unique ingredients such as quark can be made at home, and recipes are included as well. I love the photography in this book (although I wish every recipe was accompanied by the picture, insecure baker here) it gives me a “diary vibe” with the mix of recipe photographs and postcards of German towns.

Overall impression: This book will be treasured in our household, the recipes are easy to follow and can be re-created even with limited baking experience. Terrific collection of holiday baking recipes.  I highly recommend this book for anyone, be it someone craving European baking goods, or someone looking for family friendly, no too sweet baking goods. Excellent gift idea.  5 stars.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.