Monday, August 30, 2010

Cookbook Review: Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell

✰✰✰✰ Watch out cupcakes, here come the whoopie pies. If you've never had one before, you're in for a real taste treat. Whoopie pies are soft, cake-like cookies sandwiched together with filling. These treats are set to be the next delectable craze in dessert fashion; no utensils required.

The Introduction gets you started with all the basic information for making and storing whoopie pies. It also includes fun facts and a handy list of which flavored cakes and fillings to mix and match. There are even a few vegan and gluten free options so everyone can join in the fun. However, one drawback to the Introduction is the use of white print on chocolate brown paper which can be difficult for some to read.

The main part of the book is divided into two recipe sections: one for cakes and one for fillings. Recipes are written in paragraph format and are easy to follow. The book also includes the following: Ingredients & Sources, an Index, and a Table of Equivalents. Most of the ingredients are easy to find at your local grocer; however, a few may require a bit more searching. The photos by Antonis Achilleos are colorful and charming; I only wish more had been included.

The Bottom Line:
This cookbook features both sweet and savory recipes to create the whoopie pies of your dreams. Just mix and match your favorite cakes and fillings, and the treats will be gobbled up in no time. Enthusiastically recommended for everyone looking for a new taste treat in baking. Bakers of any skill level can try these recipes although those with more experience will have better results. I've got my eye on The Happy Pilgrim and Root Beer Float whoopie pies. Additionally, the Classic Chocolate whoopie pie with matcha (green tea) butter cream filling sounds dreamy. Also, recommended for all public libraries as it fills a niche in the baking section.

Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix'em, Match 'em, Eat 'em Up Recipes by Sarah Billinglsey and Amy Treadwell. Hardcover published by Chronicle Books in 2010. 120 p. ISBN: 978-0-8118-7454-0

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Book Review: The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist by John McNally

✰✰✰✰ If you are searching for a book with a subjective look at what one needs to survive the writing life, this is the book for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a how-to book on writing plot, characterization, or grammar, this is not for you. Author John McNally brings his personal experiences as a writer in his self-described "quasi-self-help" book for those of us who are interested in the writing life. McNally's advice is loaded with anecdotes. He is brutally honest and blunt as he shares his experiences of navigating the publishing industry and the stories of success and failure that come with that pursuit. Written with wit, humor, and sarcasm, this book is both educational and great fun.

This practical book is divided into six parts: The Decision to Become a Writer; Education and the Writer; Getting Published; Publicity; Employment for Writers; and The Writer's Life. While McNally covers the different paths one can take to become a writer, a considerable amount of time is dedicated to the different types of programs available and the MFA controversy. For those interested in further reading, McNally also includes a list of titles in the Recommended Reading section. Note: The Index was not seen in the uncorrected proof.

The Bottom Line:
Whether you're considering becoming a writer or you've already written a novel and are looking for an agent, John McNally provides a wealth of information in his new book. The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist is an eye-opening look into the world of a writer and what it takes to become one. It's like a Writers' Workshop in a book. It's a quick read from start to finish, but the great thing is that the reader can choose to read only the parts that apply to her situation. I plan to keep this book in my personal library so I can refer to it as needed. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever considered pursuing a life of writing. Also, highly recommended for public libraries. Look for it this September!

Details: The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist by John McNally. Advance Reading Copy published by University of Iowa Press in 2010. 261 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58729-920-9 Note: I received a complimentary Uncorrected Proof from The University of Iowa Press in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.