Category: Non-fiction

Modern Pressure Canning
June 20th, 2018 by diane92345

Comprehensive guide to Modern Pressure Canning with mouthwatering deliciously photographed recipes.

This cookbook includes an explanation of how pressure canning works, the necessary tools and step-by-step instructions within each recipe. The recipes begin with basic vegetables like carrots, green beans and corn. Next, the author moves onto more advanced vegetables such as pickled cauliflower and pineapple-flavored zucchini. The canned fruit section also includes pie fillings and a concentrated grape drink. The meat section includes pork, beef, poultry and fish plus bacon jam, soups, ground meats, and spaghetti sauce with meatballs. The final chapter includes tomato sauce, ketchup, red/green/peach salsa, chutney, bbq sauce, and poultry/beef/garlic/vegetable broth.

Ideal for gardeners who need to preserve their summer crops and anyone who wants to taste summer farmer’s market flavor in the dead of winter. Modern Pressure Canning is highly recommended for anyone who has a pressure canner. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Quarto Publishing Group/Voyageur Press, and NetGalley for a copy.


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Bone and Sinew of the Land
June 15th, 2018 by diane92345

Tells the true story of free African-American farmers’ struggles in early to mid-1800s.

The Northwest Territories of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were initially free states where slavery was outlawed. As the area’s population grew, slavery was replaced by a lifetime of indentured servitude for many. Told through the eyes of one such free family, the book describes their struggles with the virgin farmland, neighbors, changing politics and harsh weather.

This well-researched tale is highly recommended for those interested in both African-American and midwestern history. 4 stars!

Thanks to Public Affairs and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Quick and Easy Guide to They Them Pronouns Vol 1
June 13th, 2018 by diane92345

An important graphic novel about gender neutral pronouns and why they are important.

“Pronouns are great if you don’t know something or are lazy.”

However, they are increasingly problematic in a gender fluid world. Using humor, this guide gives all the tenses for common pronouns like he, she, they and ze while gently coaxing readers to use each person’s requested pronoun. The book explains that the question “what pronoun do you use?” is better than “which pronoun do you prefer?”. The second implies that gender is a choice.

The Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns Vol 1 is a useful reference for the non-binary population and their friends, family and co-workers. 4 stars!

Thanks to Limerence (Oni) Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Vanishing Frontiers
June 9th, 2018 by diane92345

Vanishing Frontiers documents the changing nature of Mexican immigration and Mexico’s economy.

The wave of Mexican immigration to the United States is over. Both China and India send more immigrants. In addition, Mexico’s healthy economy has pushed wages higher leading to a large increase in the middle class. Cheap labor is no longer available in Mexico at least compared to other places in the world like China. Many, if not most, of the border factories have closed. Increasingly, Mexican companies are locating their factories in the United States to stay close to their selling zone. Despite these facts, 25-33% of American citizens dislike Mexico and feel Mexican immigration is a source of unfair trade competition and illegal drugs. Trump’s wall agenda feeds into those feelings.

If you are a supporter of Trump, you will not like Vanishing Frontiers’ overarching dislike of his policies.  However, there is some interesting information here about how countries move from third world to second. The world has changed with NAFTA and the book explains how the Agreement helps people on both sides of the border to better their lives. 3 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Perseus/Public Affairs, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Hanging Kokedama Potless Plants
June 8th, 2018 by diane92345

Hanging Kokedama: Potless Plants contains instructions for 25 beautiful Kokedamas. The book includes orchids, cacti, ferns, bulbs, herbs and even trees. Kokedamas are created by removing the plant’s pot and replacing it with moss tied with string or wire into a ball shape.

The instructions are clear.  The book gently teaches the necessary skills by beginning with the easier plants. There are excellent watering tips too for each plant type.

Great choice for the DIYer who enjoys a minimalist (think Ikea) perspective. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Jacqui Small Pub, and Edelweiss+ for a copy.

#FrugalFriday short review.

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June 7th, 2018 by diane92345

Soul includes 150 southern soul food recipes that look uniformly delicious thanks to great photographs.

With chapters focusing on a single ingredient, each chapter in Soul progresses from simple to complex recipes.  The chapters include: Collards, Onions, Berries, Lamb, Seafood, Corn, Tomatoes, Melons, Stone Fruit, Eggs and Poultry, Pork and Beef, Beans and Rice, and Roots.

Soul includes menus and playlists plus wine and beer pairings. It includes simple traditional soul food fused with other cuisines like Fried Green Tomatoes made with tomatillos and ancho chili BBQ sauce and Chicken and Waffles with sweet potato waffles. Some are ideas I have never seen before like zucchini slaw. Since the book doesn’t contain nutritional information, I have to take off one star leaving it at 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Southern Living, and NetGalley for a copy.

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Sex and the City and Us
June 4th, 2018 by diane92345

Detailed look at the making of Sex and the City.

What adult or teen American woman has not seen themselves as a Carrie, a Miranda, a Charlotte or a Samantha? Sometimes all four in the course of a week. Sex and the City’s characters became the new archetypes of a generation as The Breakfast Club had for the prior era. Watching Sex and the City now, it seems almost old-fashioned in our gender-fluid racial-diverse millennial culture where tiny houses and recycling are fashionable and conspicuous consumption is not.

Sex and the City and Us tries to explain the magic of the series. It is well researched and interesting. However, the book was written so far after the end of the show that it seems culturally irrelevant, at least to me.

However, Sex and the City and Us is perfect for readers wanting to break into show business as either actors, writers, directors, producers or even costumers. There are many details about how the show was created and run from each of those perspectives. It also relates some of the issues of being in the business like waiting six months for the first episode to air. Should the actors, writers, and directors take other “permanent” jobs or wait to see if the show is a hit?

Sex and the City and Us is also a good choice for hard-core fans of the show. Many of the underlying reasons for some of the quixotic decisions within the show are explained.

For most other readers, it is a long slog. Still it rates 4 stars if you fall into one of the above groups!

Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Unofficial Guide to Ancestry com
June 3rd, 2018 by diane92345

Comprehensive and well-organized handbook for

The Unofficial Guide to is a wellspring of knowledge about how find your ancestors more efficiently. Beginning with a simple description of’s menu, this book then drills down past the site’s hint system into the databases themselves. Here is a list of some of the items covered:

  • Family trees
  • Why genealogy software is worth the money
  • When to use other genealogy websites
  • Free forms to use from another website
  • Why, despite what your grandma keeps insisting, you cannot be related to George Washington
  • Census and voter lists
  • Birth, marriage and death records
  • Military
  • Immigration and travel
  • Newspaper and other publications
  • Pictures
  • Stories, memories and histories
  • Maps, atlases and gazetteers
  • Schools, directories and church histories
  • Wills, probate, land, tax and criminal
  • Reference, dictionaries and almanacs
  • DNA matches and circles
  • Associated sites Fold3 and

If you have ever used, you know it is just an intimidating mass of information. Using the Unofficial Guide to makes taming the data beast much easier. After using the book, I have found ancestors who immigrated from England and Ireland. I found a relative who died in a confederate prison and a bunch who came home safely from virtually every war from the Revolutionary to the Korean. I even found a picture of a relative during the depression.

The Unofficial Guide to is highly recommended. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Family Tree Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Fix Freeze Feast
May 29th, 2018 by diane92345

Extremely comprehensive family cookbook that includes both freezable meals and meals to be eaten immediately after preparation.

Fix Freeze Feast has a huge variety of recipes.  It has 84 meat-based main dishes: 37 with chicken, 23 with beef and 24 with pork. There are 24 seafood and vegetable main and side dishes.  25 sauces and 16 breakfast, snacks and sweets finish up the book.  Most of the recipes are family-sized but a few are for only two servings.  It would be easy to scale up or down any of the recipes to fit any size of household.  It was also easy to make most of recipes gluten-free by just using gluten-free flours, thickeners (like arrowroot), and breadcrumbs.

I tried the Chicken-Broccoli Bake, Vegetable Lasagna (small pan), Basic Red Sauce (small batch) and the Mama’s Pizza Sauce.  I used the red sauce for the lasagna as suggested. The results for all of the recipes were outstanding. The best part of this book is the clear directions for how to package for the freezer and how to reheat the food. Packaging varies depending on the item being packaged.  Most use either plastic freezer zipper bags or baking dishes.  The author has a great idea to buy foil baking pans for no clean up after the meal is reheated.  This works especially well when the item will be taken to a potluck or party.

About a tenth of the recipes are labeled with “Feast Tonight” and don’t contain a freezing step.  While I was fine with those being included, I wish they were all located at the end of each section to make them easier to find. In addition, I would have liked nutritional information including calories to be provided.

Overall, this is a good book for people trying to cook weekday meals in advance.  It would definitely be good for the family budget especially if shopping is done at Costco or Sam’s Club. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Storey Publishing LLC, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Hog Wild
May 19th, 2018 by diane92345

Well-researched story of the fight for union representation in Smithfield’s North Carolina hog slaughterhouse.

All the players in the union vs. Smithfield fight are examined in Hog Wild. The book also describes how modern vertical integration moved from chicken to hog slaughtering. It includes cringeworthy details of what the hogs endure during the birth to bacon process. Hog Wild has much to say about the use of right-to-work rural states and non-white and/or illegal workforce to lower costs. Smithfield is shown using violence, threats, intimidation and ultimately lawsuits to avoid unionization.

Union membership dropped by more than two thirds since the 1950s. Hog Wild postulates that the drop is correlated with stagnant wages and a similar drop in the size of America’s middle class. The book is clearly on the union’s side and anti-Republican. However, that is not my biggest issue with the book. The author is constantly caught up in seemingly extraneous details. Worse, there are large swaths of Hog Wild that were just boring. It reads like a Master’s thesis trying to reach a particular length. Indeed in the preface, the author states that was the genesis of the book.

Clearly, Hog Wild includes a tale that needs to be told. But it is a hard slog through so many facts. Consequently, the book receives only 2 stars from me.

Thanks to the publisher, University of Iowa, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Chickens in Your Backyard
May 17th, 2018 by diane92345

Chickens in Your Backyard is all anyone needs to know to raise chickens!

Chickens in Your Backyard is newly revised and updated. It includes how to set up a coop, a run and a home for your new chickens. There are chapters on feed, eggs, water, cleaning, disease, breeding and incubation. Showing and butchering chickens are also covered. The book concludes with the pros and cons of starting your flock with eggs, chicks, young or mature chickens. Along the way, the author provides lists of breeds for different goals (friendliest, best layers, biggest breasts).

I love the tips in Chickens in Your Backyard. They obviously come from a someone with a true love of all things chicken. Here are some examples:

  • Spring is the best time to purchase chicks and begin your chicken experience. However, young and mature chicken prices are much lower in the fall.
  • Chicken cannibalism is catching!
  • Egg sexing is a myth.
  • Butchering chickens one day can lead to becoming vegetarian the next.

As a city girl, raising chickens seems like a good way to go back to my family’s midwestern roots. Chickens are allowed where I live. I hear a rooster or two each morning. I didn’t think about how hard it would be to protect them from hawks and heat where I live in the High Desert. Maybe when I retire and have more free time, I’ll get a few bantams. When I do, I’ll be sure to have this book by my side. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Rodale Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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All the Answers
May 15th, 2018 by diane92345

Families are messed up. Even, maybe especially, famous ones.

The author of All the Answers is Michael Kupperman. He is a famous, Eisner Award-winning artist and writer. However, he continues to be haunted by his father’s aloof attitude toward him throughout his childhood and adolescence. The author believes that his father’s famous background as the longest running quiz kid may have mentally harmed his father from a young age.

Quiz Kids was a radio show during WWII and continued as a television show in the fifties. Joel Kupperman was the youngest quiz kid. He was a math wizard with a professed IQ of 200+. His mother was the stereotypical stage mother. She took him to nightclubs and together they hobnobbed with all the famous stars of the day (Milton Berle, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Jack Benny, etc.).

All the Answers depicts the author’s perception of what happened to his father when suddenly thrust into fame. Unfortunately, his father never wanted to talk about his childhood and now cannot due to dementia. His grandmother’s scrapbooks provide some answers. But much of the book seems based more on speculation rather than fact. However, that is missing the point. The setting is Joel’s childhood but the mystery is how Michael will deal with his own unusual childhood. Will he become aloof with his own son or will he break the family dynamic?

All the Answers has a great plot that veers into many areas. It’s about families, fame’s costs, dementia, and child actor mental abuse. It is an extremely compelling read. I downloaded it and read it in one sitting. The art is fabulous.

I liked it more than Fun Home and could see other fans of that graphic novel also enjoying this one. Highly recommended. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Gallery 13, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Happiness Curve
May 1st, 2018 by diane92345

Lengthy meandering summary of research studies about aging.

The Happiness Curve is found worldwide in both males and females and even in apes. The curve shows that people get decreasingly satisfied with life (the definition of happiness used here) from age 20 to their early 50s. After bottoming out, their happiness grows until old age diseases occur sometime in their 80s. Studies cited conclude that at around 50, people get more realistic about what they can still achieve. This jolt to reality is painful and may result in the stereotypical mid-life crisis of divorce, career change and sport cars. A few people may have an ascending line or a V curve depending on their life experiences. Therefore, it is possible to avoid the common depression of mid-life but it is harder then than during other phases of life.

I wanted to like and recommend this book. However, I didn’t and I can’t. The Happiness Curve is full of personal experiences of the author and people he met. I don’t think they added anything other than more pages. Please just get to the information promised in the book’s summary. 2 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Thomas Dunne Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Strategy Strikes Back
April 26th, 2018 by diane92345

Military strategies compared to Star Wars are the theme of the 28 essays within Strategy Strikes Back. Focusing on both past warfare and the wars to come, it is comprehensively researched and annotated.

I have to say that only reviewers will have the patience to read a foreword, a preface and an introduction all in one book. You can probably skip all three though I’m going to quote the Introduction later. The remaining book is split into four sections: Society and War, Preparation for War, Waging a War, and Assessment of War. There is also an epilogue.

I selected this book solely because of one of its authors, Max Brooks. I adored his World War Z book (not so much the movie though the visuals were awesome—who can forget the zombies climbing the city’s walls). Unfortunately, he only pens the introduction and first essay. However, he included some profound thoughts on why an average person should care about military strategy. As he states “to be blunt, war impacts everyone […] from the language we speak to the land we live in to the god we choose or don’t choose to worship.” Using Star Wars as an easily understood analogy was another co-writer’s idea he actually used when tasked with training South Koreans in military strategy.

The essays vary widely in style. Some read like dissertations, others like pop culture fandom. Most are written in third person. One is written in first person by the “esteemed historian of the Galactic Civil War”, who I assume is fictional.

There are a few errors within. Saying that Leia caused woman to be taken more seriously in leadership roles may be arguably true. Saying that she influenced Wonder Woman is absurd when she predates Leia by more than three decades in comics. In contrast, some things that sound unbelievable are actually true like the chapter note referencing Wookieepedia, which is the actual name of the Star Wars wiki.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Strategy Strikes Back. But it isn’t for everyone, readers should be familiar with Star Wars but not too familiar or the duplicate descriptions of battle scenes will become tiresome. I enjoyed the essays that included less Star Wars and more current or future war strategies and weapons. How is the clone army’s swarm mindset being replicated with US military drones? How did the Soviets and US militaries spend millions exploring Jedi mind tricks like Anakin’s floating fruit over a banquet table? Yes, more please. Some other essays droned on and on like the classic military strategy texts described by Max Brooks in the Introduction as “total snoozefests”. So difficult to rate, this book is. (You knew I had to do it somewhere in this review). For Star War nerds (you know who you are) or war fanciers, 5 stars. For all others, 3 stars. So 4 stars overall.

Thanks to the publisher, University of Nebraska/Potomac Books, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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80s Redux
April 25th, 2018 by diane92345

Beautiful photographs of 80s music industry veterans and short summaries of their life now fill 80s Redux.

46 people are profiled. Most are lead singers but other musicians and a few complete bands are included. Here are the artists and/or bands included:

  • Dave Wakeling, The English Beat
  • Martha Davis, The Motels
  • Michael Aston, Gene Loves Jezebel
  • Alice Bag
  • Ozn,Evn-Ozn
  • Valerie Day & John Smith, Nu Shooz
  • Ted & Susan Ottaviano, Book of Love
  • Lol Tolhurst,The Cure
  • Fishbone
  • Dean Wareham, Galaxie 500
  • Debora Iyall, Romeo Void
  • Rose McDowall, Strawberry Switchblade
  • Marshall Crenshaw
  • J.J. Fad
  • Cindy Wilson, The B-52s
  • Chris Difford, Squeeze
  • David Newton, The Mighty Lemon Drops
  • Johnette Napolitano, Concrete Blonde
  • Tommy Keene
  • Midge Ure
  • Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Pylon
  • Ivan Doroschuk, Men Without Hats
  • The Raincoats
  • Marv & Rindy Ross, Quarterflash
  • Vic Varney, The Method Actors
  • Carol Decker, T’Pau
  • Matthew Wilder
  • Johnny Hates Jazz
  • John Easdale, Dramarama
  • Modern English
  • Cindy Lee Berryhill
  • Bill Wadhams, Animotion
  • Kurt Neumann, The BoDeans
  • Laurie Sargent, Face to Face
  • Robyn Hitchcock
  • Paul Humphreys, OMD
  • Kristin Hersh, Throwing Muses
  • Paul Fishman & Baxter, Re-Flex
  • Steve Mack, That Petrol Emotion
  • Tommy Heath, Tommy Tutone
  • Jimmer Podrasky, The Rave-Ups
  • Wire

I would have appreciated a photo of each participant as they looked in their 80s heyday. The ones I remembered look completely different and I doubt I would recognize them on the street. Other than that, the photos are the best part of the book.

As far as the people chosen, it might have been better to pick one genre. There is soul, rap, pop, alternative, dark folk and punk represented here. I had never heard of about 30% of the bands despite being heavily involved in the LA music scene in the 80s. I would recommend listening to one of the listed hits while reading the short artist update. For some, I recognized the songs once I heard them again.

I appreciated hearing that most of the participants were still creative though some had moved from music to artwork. As stated by Steve Mack “There’s a certain freedom that comes with letting go of your ambitions and just letting the music take you where it wants to go.” It’s nice to hear that fame hasn’t made most of the artists bitter or regretful.

Mainly because of the eclectic artist mix and the shortness of the summaries, 80s Redux gets 3 stars from me. But depending on how many of the artists/bands you recognize in the list above, your rating may vary.

Thanks to the publisher, Schiffer Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Great American Outpost
April 25th, 2018 by diane92345

The Great American Outpost is a scattershot memoir of the North Dakota fracking oil boom and its impact on local residents.

In 2011, the first horizontal fracking oil well was drilled in North Dakota. What followed totally changed the laid back farming vibe of the state. Out-of-state workers flooded the area in search of unskilled and truck driving jobs paying upwards of $150,000 a year. Many were criminals, drunks and/or avoiding their child support orders. The jails were so full they had to take criminals to Montana to house them. With so many large trucks on the road, locals were dying regularly in traffic accidents. Enterprising locals upped their food prices over 100%. Housing was scarce. One English con man scammed international investors with a resident hotel Ponzi scheme.

While somewhat interesting, the Great American Outpost didn’t hold my interest throughout. It needed some editing to mine a coherent plot from its episodic stories of North Dakota’s oil rush. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Public Affairs/Perseus Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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