Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cookbook Review: 'Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook' by the Editors of Southern Living Magazine

✰✰✰✰ Now that school is back in session, it's great to find a cookbook that features quick and easy to prepare chicken dishes. Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook is just that book; it features step-by-step directions that are easy to follow and ingredients that are convenient and easy to find. This handy cookbook also includes a tutorial to help you get the most out of your store-bought rotisserie chicken and a handy checklist to help you save time and organize a well-stocked pantry.

Recipes for soup, salad, sandwich, and pasta dishes are plentiful like Fiesta Chicken Soup, Vegetable Patch Chicken Salad, Grilled Chicken and Cheese Sandwiches, and Chicken Marsala Tetrazzini. Additionally, besides chicken dishes, there is also a section featuring recipes for sides like Lemon Broccolini and Spring Potato Toss. The recipes all feature tips in one of several styles: 1.) "Grab and Go" ideas to supplement your meal, 2.) "Simple Swap" ideas for recipe substitutions, or 3.) "From the Kitchen" tips. To make choosing recipes even easier, each page features a heading like "make-ahead," "healthy & hearty," "kid-friendly," or "ready in 30 minutes." Furthermore, each recipe includes a full page full color photograph of the finished dish. Finally, a page of charts for metric equivalents and an index can be found at the end.

Taste Test Notes: I've been looking for a tasty, easy-to-prepare chicken salad recipe, so for my taste test I chose to prepare the Chicken-Horseradish Salad featured on p. 82. The ingredients were easy to find at my local Jewel store. However, I did opt to pick up the roasted chicken breast rather than the whole chicken. Overall, the recipe was very easy to prepare. I only used 2 Tbsp. of the refrigerated horseradish, but the next time I make this recipe, I'll use 3 Tbsp. I used the finished recipe in a sandwich. It was mild with a nutty flavor. While the Hands-on Time is listed at 10 minutes, I think that was for the mixing portion of the recipe. It took me a lot longer to chop and prepare all the ingredients. From start to finish, including cleanup time, I took 90 minutes.
Preparing to mix the Chicken-Horseradish Salad

The finished salad
This recipe is plentiful, and I had leftovers. Since I like salads with a little zip, I decided to add more horseradish and 1 Tbsp. of pickle relish to the remaining portion the next day. The result was a tangy treat.

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a cookbook featuring recipes that are delicious and super easy to make, then look no further. Southern Living’s Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook is for you. These recipes are sure to please your family and friends. Many of these dishes will appeal kids of all ages. This cookbook is great for cooks of all levels, but especially for beginning cooks or busy moms and dads. This cookbook is versatile and would be a great addition to personal cookbook collections as well. It’s a lot of fun to page through and look at the gorgeous food photography. The only thing missing was a chapter featuring chicken appetizers.

Details: Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook: 101 Hearty Recipes with Store-Bought Convenience by the Editors of Southern Living Magazine. Paperback published by Oxmoor House in 2012. 224 p. ISBN: 978-0-8487-3702-3

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review: 'Princesses Behaving Badly' by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

✰✰½ Forget the silk party dresses, glass slippers, royal carriages, banquets, and Prince Charming. The stories of these princesses tell it like it was back in the day. This book is divided into seven sections of very different kinds of women including princesses who were warriors, usurpers, schemers, survivors, partiers, floozies, and madwomen. Each section features three to five short chapters about specific princesses. The short biographies are chock full of tantalizing tidbits of royal lives gone wrong. Additionally, there are shorter sections featuring mini biographies of other lesser known princesses. Featured princesses include Hatshepsut, Catherine Radziwill, Lucrezia Borgia, Caraboo, Clara Ward, and Pauline Bonaparte to name just a few.

The Bottom Line: On the positive side the author made a good effort to include princesses from many cultures and countries instead of just the European princesses. The women hail from China, Egypt, India, and Mexico as well as Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and many more places. There's even a Native American princess.

On the negative side, the author uses a writing style that was much too casual and flippant for me. For example, Prince Camillo Borghese is described as "dumb as mittens on a cat." (p. 224) Upon reading about each princesses' foibles and follies, I wasn't entirely convinced that all of them were "bad." Perhaps some were simply responding in self defense to their unpleasant situations.

Princesses Behaving Badly is a quick read. However, while the tone is humorous, at times it is just too chatty. This is an optional purchase that might appeal to teens. Note: I did not see the introduction, bibliography, or index in the advance reading copy I received for the purpose of reviewing. 

Details: Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriquez McRobbie. Hardcover published by Quirk Books in 2013. 288 p. ISBN: 978-159474-644-4 Note: I received a copy from Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Book Review: 'Seven Little Mice Go to School' by Haruo Yamashita

✰✰✰✰✰ Seven little mice are starting school tomorrow. They have new hats, book bags, and shoes, but there's just one problem. None of the little mice want to go to school. Each has an excuse for not wanting to go. "School is too far away!" said one. "There will be a snake on the path!" exclaimed another. Oh, what a fuss the little mice made. What is Mother to do?

Late that night, Mother comes up with a plan. When her children wake up in the morning, they are surprised to discover that the train for school is leaving soon. With each little mouse holding the tail of the one in front, they become the Mouse Train. They chug along through the forest until they come to a dark tunnel where there is a surprise waiting for them. Will they get to school on time or will they all turn around and run home? Read this charming picture book to find out.

The Bottom Line: First published in Japan in 1981, Seven Little Mice Go to School is a classic tale of first day of school anxiety. Through Yamashita's gentle storytelling, the little mice learn that going to school can be an adventure. Soft watercolor illustrations by Kazuo Iwamura perfectly complement the story by adding humor. Anxious little ones heading off to preschool or kindergarten for the first time will enjoy this picture book. Highly recommended for kids ages 3 - 5. Also, be sure to check out the other adventures the seven little mice have.

Details: Seven Little Mice Go to School written by Haruo Yamashita & illustrated by Kazuo Iwamura. Hardcover picture book published by North-South Books in 2011. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-7358-4012-6

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book Review: 'A Sense of the World' by Jason Roberts

✰✰✰✰ In a time before airplanes and luxury cruise ships, a solitary, sightless man named James Holman traveled around the world from 1819 - 1832. As a child, Holman dreamed of traveling, but his father had other plans for him. When joining the clergy did not pan out, Holman joined the British Royal Navy. As Holman pursued his naval career, the rigors of sea life caught up with him. He became bedridden due to "exquisite pains" and was deemed “unserviceable.” While Holman recuperated at a spa, his pain subsided. Unfortunately, he was suddenly stricken with complete blindness. With few opportunities available to the blind at the time, Holman joined the Naval Knights of Windsor. Hoping to find a cure for his own blindness, he also became a student of literature and medicine during that time. Eventually, Holman sought to relieve his pain by visiting a more favorable climate...alone.

Due to the success of that journey, he was hooked on solitary travel. With only a natural aptitude for languages, a curiosity for other cultures, and limited funds, Holman became a solitary world traveler. Known simply as the Blind Traveler, Holman survived being held captive in Siberia, fought slave trade in Africa, climbed Mount Vesuvius, and helped chart the Australian outback. He even circumnavigated the globe, an impressive accomplishment for any individual, but especially for one without sight. His adventures were legendary, and he was quite famous during his time only to be forgotten over the years. Fortunately, by picking up this book, the reader can once again travel along with Lt. James Holman as he explores uncharted lands and discovers native cultures.

The Bottom Line: Lt. James Holman was an extraordinary man who was ahead of his time. When repeatedly faced with insurmountable challenges, he continually adapted by reinventing himself. Holman was a man who tested the limits of his disability instead of wallowing in pity. During his lifetime, he was a sailor, knight, student, physician, tourist, and author, but always a traveler. Additionally, Holman easily adopted the latest technology and developed echolocation on his own.

A Sense of the World is an enjoyable and entertaining biography. It is a great example of nonfiction that reads like fiction. In fact, it’s almost as if the author had the uncanny ability to walk in Holman’s shoes. Additionally, Roberts explains the social expectations of the time in a language that is reminiscent of the era. Roberts also includes many short biographies and anecdotes of the fascinating people Holman met during his travels. The paperback edition I read included maps of Holman’s travels and an interview with the author. The only thing missing was an index.

Highly recommended for fans of biographies, travelers, and armchair travelers. This epic tale of one blind man’s quest to “see” the world will transport you to another time and leave you amazed. By simply living his life, Holman became an inspiration to others. Holman, also, remains somewhat of a mystery as his memoir was never published.

Book Club Notes: This inspirational biography of Lt. James Holman provided ample material for an engaging discussion. This book is full of details and is written in a style that prompts discussion. Holman lived during a great era of exploration and invention. Furthermore, he lived his life fully despite his disability. Through reading about Holman’s travels and challenges, the group was able to discuss his examples of life lessons. We were also eager to discuss the mystery of what caused Holman’s blindness and what happened to his unpublished memoir. On a rating scale from 1 – 5, the group gave it an average of 3.25 because some members felt that the first 100 pages were a little too detailed and dry.

Book clubs interested in discussing this book can find discussion questions at LitLovers. Finally, book clubs can supplement the discussion by taking a look at A Voyage Round the World, Volume 1 by James Holman which is available through Project Gutenberg.

Details: A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts. Paperback edition published by Harper Perennial in 2007. 400 p. ISBN: 978-0-00-7161065