This cookbook will be used often

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Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried and Made Into Pie

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Sweet potatoes are one of my very favorite foods and always have been.  So I was delighted to get a copy of this cookbook, featuring nothing but sweet potato recipes.

The book starts off with the basic cooking of sweet potatoes – steaming, roasting, boiling, pureed and fried.  The only recipe I’ve tried so far is the fries.  The author offers two recipes – the hard way and the easy way.  I have to admit I took the easy way and the result was delicious!  I know, all of these delicious recipes and the first thing I do is make fries!   But I had some veggie burgers that I wanted something good with and these were perfect.

Next up, I’ll be making Sweet Potato Risotto.  The book says that in this recipe, sweet potato puree flavors and lightens the risotto while keeping it saucy and reducing the amount of dairy traditionally used.  Sounds great to me!

And how can I resist Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Garlic-Maple Glaze?  And being a vegetarian, I have to try the Sweet Potato “Big Macs”.

There are so many of the breads and backed goods that I’ll be trying this winter, such as the sweet potato biscuits, maple pecan sticky buns and the cake donuts.  Oh, and the sweet potato waffles!

But is the book finished with all of that?  Of course not, there has to be dessert!  And such desserts they are:  Black-Bottom Sweet Potato Pudding Pie, Sweet Potato Ice Cream, Sweet Potato and Sherry Flan and Summer Fruit Cobbler.

There are quite a few recipes that contain meat which I won’t be making but there are plenty here for me to try.   Some of the recipes are a little daunting with ingredients that I’m not familiar with or needing certain appliances that I don’t have.  Also, not all of the recipes contain photos.  But the photos that are included are gorgeous.

I know sweet potatoes will make their way to my table a lot more than they used to!

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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A quiet book with a powerful message

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Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Sentaro feels like such a failure.  He’s working in a little confectionary shop when all he wants to do is become a writer.  He drinks too much and the shadow of his time in prison hangs over him.  He spends his days making mediocre dorayaki, a sweet composed of two little pancakes filled with sweet bean paste.  One day he has a visit from an elderly woman, Tokue, who wants to work for him.  When he tastes her dorayaki, he knows he must learn her sweet bean paste secrets.  Their friendship grows until society’s prejudice cause their lives to change.

This is a slow, beautiful book that I absolutely loved.  It touched my heart in so many ways.  A part of the book explores a chapter of Japanese history that was so dark and sad but the book really isn’t a dark, sad book but rather is very uplifting and inspiring.  This a profound story about the meaning of everyday life that brought me to tears but with a smile on my face.  Gorgeous book that I’d love to read again one day.  I’m going to see if I can get my hands on a copy of the movie, which is called “Sweet Bean”, as I would love to see it.

Oneworld Publication is fast becoming one of my favorite publishers.  There was a list of some of their books on the last page of this ebook and I realized that the list included some of my best-loved books of 2017, including “They Know Not What They Do” by Jussi Valtonen, “The Temptation To Be Happy” by Lorenzo Marone, “The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman” and “The Postman’s Fiancé” by Denis Theriault.  Now I can add this book to that list from a publisher who has a knack for finding unique, one-of-a-kind authors.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

This is literature at its best

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One Station Away by Olaf Olafsson

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Magnus is a New York City neurologist.  He’s had three women in his life who have had a profound effect on him – his mother, Margaret, who is a pianist who has finally found fame; his fiancé whose time with him is far too short and one of his patients who is comatose.  The author expertly weaves the stories of these three women into a compelling and masterful book.

The gorgeously told love story between Magnus and Malena touched my heart and then broke it.  Their relationship is brought so vividly to life.  The author’s delving into the relationship between Magnus and his parents is told meticulously and expertly and I could feel his confusion and longings so clearly.  I found the medical studies concerning Magnus’ patient to be fascinating and suspenseful.  In each area of Magnus’ world, the author brings us his powerful and insightful interpretation.

I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.  Mr. Olafsson is the Vice President of Time Warner and is best known for his introduction of PlayStation while working at Sony.   I wish he’d devote all of his time to writing but there are a few past books of his already published that I’ll be getting soon.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

A thriller with a lot of heart

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The Dry by Jane Harper

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Aaron Falk has returned to his home town.  He and his father had been run out of that town when Aaron was a teenager due to suspicion of their involvement in a young girl’s death.  Now Aaron’s good friend, Luke, has apparently killed his family and then committed suicide.  Luke’s parents ask Aaron to look into what really happened.  Was Luke so despondent about the future of the farm during the area’s horrendous drought that he lost his mind, killing those he loved?  And will the town accept Aaron back or will the young Ellie’s death still haunt him and all who loved her?

I very much enjoyed this thriller.  It’s as suspenseful and engrossing as you would want any thriller to be but it also is an excellent study of how the past can affect the lives of so many for years to come.  And it’s also a look at how an environmental catastrophe can tear apart a community.  There are many layers to this absorbing book.  This is the author’s debut novel and she’s already nailed how to bring her characters to life.  These were people I knew and cared about, which made the stories of the past and the present all the more heart rending.  You’ll feel the heat from this town, both due to the weather and the anger that has been nursed for years.  An explosion is inevitable.  Perfect plot and perfect character development.  And the best part is that this is only the first of the Aaron Falk series.  There’s more to come with “Force of Nature” to be published in February, 2018.  I’m very much looking forward to it.

Highly recommended.

Meditative look at glorious silence

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Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Erling Kagge is quite an impressive man.  He was the first person in the world to walk alone to the South Pole.  He was also the first to surmount the “three poles” – North, South and the summit of Mount Everest.  He’s the founder of a publishing house and a well-respected author.  I was thrilled to read what he had to say about the value of silence in our noisy world.

Kagge believes that there is power in silence.  Silence is not a negative thing but seems to be something that many of us avoid.  We try to keep ourselves constantly distracted through the internet, TV, radio and books.  The author shows studies proving that people are often afraid to be alone with their own thoughts.  Many would rather endure a painful electric shock than sit in silence for 15 minutes.  The author writes of how he has learned to appreciate the little things – a moss covered rock, for example – and of course, silence.  But to him silence is not a little thing but something that is essential to our wellbeing.  Silence is a luxury that we can’t afford to take for granted.

This is a fascinating look at silence and our world’s essential loss of it.  It’s a meditative type of book which I would love to dip into again when my world becomes too noisy for me.  My only disappointment was that I had hoped for more tips on how to find silence in this noisy world.  Mostly he recommended going out into the woods or find another quiet place to get in touch with silence.  I want to be able to block out the noise around me.  My ultimate goal, which may be unrealistic, is to sit in Grand Central Station at its busiest time and not hear a thing.  I know when I become engrossed in a really good book, sounds around me disappear, but I can’t seem to do it intentionally.  But I found this book to be a beautiful one, filled with profound wisdom, as well as gorgeous art and photography.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

What a very special treat for readers!

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Sleep No More:  Six Murderous Tales by P.D. James

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

There was a reason P.D. James was the “Queen of Crime”.  She knew how to capture her readers.  I’ve read all of her work and was so pleased to see these new-to-me six stories being published.  They were such a very special treat!

I think “The Girl Who Loved Graveyards” was my favorite, if I had to pick a favorite as I loved each of them.  This was the most chilling tale.  A story of a young girl who fell in love with a graveyard and who couldn’t remember the first ten years of her life.

While some of these stories will give you chills, some of them will make you laugh, like “Mr. Millcroft’s Birthday”.  They take place in the 1920’s and 1930’s and have a wonderful old-fashioned feel about them.  Ms. James must have had so much fun writing these witty, delightful short stories.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Poetically written dystopian novella

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The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

A mother gives birth to a baby. However, the parents’ happiness is marred by the floodwaters that are rising all around them. They’re forced to evacuate with the newborn infant. They need to keep moving to find land above the flood levels. The news that is coming to them is not encouraging. Panic has spread and the world is no longer a safe place.

What a contrast – the beauty of the birth of a child and his discoveries of the fascinating world around him against the harsh reality of a planet that may soon be covered in water. This is a hauntingly beautiful novella that I was totally captivated by. Just the author’s brilliant capture of early motherhood is enough to make this one a winner. But the suspense of the ongoing flooding adds such a touch of horror that I was dismayed at the prospect of these lovely people. The author has managed to pack an enormous amount of emotion into such few words. This is an amazing accomplishment and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead from Ms. Hunter.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

A powerful, moving novel

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They Know Not What They Do by Jussi Valtonen

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Joe Chayefski is a highly respected American neurologist. At the beginning of his career, he moved to Finland to marry the woman he loved.  They had a child, Samuel.  But Joe has difficulty adjusting to Finnish life and work.  When his marriage falls apart, he returns to the US, leaving his ex-wife and child in Finland.  His work flourishes in the US and at the present time, he’s married with two daughters.  Animal activists start targeting Joe and his family and it appears that his estranged son, Samuel, may be involved.

This is a many-layered novel which I can’t praise enough. There are all of the social issues it addresses – animal testing and activism, the dangers of social media and internet news and the futility of trying to fix the world but still the need that steps must be taken.  And then there are the in-depth characterizations that Mr. Valtonen has created.  He bares his characters’ hearts and souls to the world.  As Joe struggles to save his work reputation, to protect his family from the violence directed at them by animal activists and to protect his daughters from the internet dangers they’ve been exposed to, the author then turns his readers’ attention to Samuel and his mother, showing the other side of the coin.  To watch these characters’ actions that lead them deeper and deeper into misunderstanding is absolutely riveting.

Animal testing is an issue close to my heart and I find it hard to read bout. Thankfully, this novel, while it delves deeply into both sides of the issue, doesn’t go into specifics about the testing being done.

This is the first of Mr. Valtonen’s novels to be translated into English and I am now longing for his others to be translated.

Most highly recommended. This may well be my top read of the year that has been filled with wonderful books.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review

Entertaining but without the emotional punch promised

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The Goddesses by Swan Huntley

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Things haven’t been too great for Nancy and her family. Her husband has cheated on her and her teenage sons are lighting illegal fires. It’s time for a change. Their move to Hawaii is an effort to make a fresh start. And things do seem a bit better there. Nancy and her husband have some romantic evenings and she’s hopeful that their relationship has a chance. She begins a yoga class where she meets Ana. Ana is very different from Nancy. She isn’t married, has no children and is a free spirit. Nancy is quickly pulled under Ana’s spell. Instead of calling her Nancy, Ana calls her Nan, which is the letters of the alphabet contained in both of their names – ying and yang. But as their friendship grows and Nancy is pulled more completely into Ana’s world, things take a darker turn.

The blurbs I read about this book promised an emotional punch but I never became emotionally involved in this book at all. I didn’t care about any of the characters and found the two women to be quite annoying. The story does pick up towards the end and I found some interest in it. I was saddened to see the teenage boys taking the brunt of their parents’ poor choices. Overall to me it was an average book with some entertainment value.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Positive approach on aging

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Ageless Soul:  The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy by Thomas Moore

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Thomas Moore has written a very compassionate and optimistic book on aging and how to do it well. He points out that it’s not just our bodies that age but also our soul.  And while our bodies may have its limits when it gets older, our soul knows no limits and can mature and improve throughout our lives.

We have all of our past ages now residing in our soul. We have a youthful soul that it’s important to stay in touch with.  We need to keep those souls in harmony, not too much of an old soul, but not too much of a young soul either.  We’re not a complete person if we not retain each of the ages of our soul.  We start our aging process as soon as we’re born and we need to continue to build our character as we age.   Some of us only age physically, while our soul remains stagnant and never really develops.  We need to remain open to new opportunities and learning and how to connect with others.

Mr. Moore writes about how older people can become “elders” and help mentor the young. That’s something that seems to be missing in our society.  It’s a youthful society and the merits of learning from the wisdom of its elders is not as important as it once was.

We need to embrace the experience of growing older instead of dreading it. Mr. Moore has written a beautiful book that can be referred to again and again throughout our lives.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.