Category: Non-fiction

One Pot Weight Loss Plan
December 7th, 2019 by diane92345

Do you know the feeling you get when you pick up a new cookbook and realize it will be your new go-to cookbook? The ingredients are the food you already love and always have on hand? The recipes teach innovative ways to combine the ingredients for completely new flavor experiences? The One-Pot Weight Loss Plan is my new favorite cookbook! My last favorite was published by Pillsbury in the 1970s so I’m pretty discriminating when I choose a favorite.

This cookbook uses common and healthy ingredients like canned beans, fresh vegetables, inexpensive meats, and common spices to create delicious meals. I’m on WW (Weight Watchers) blue program and the recipes here are all extremely low points as long as you use lean meats and cheeses. The book includes its own 28-day diet plan that includes a shopping list. However, these recipes will work for most non-extreme diets. Full nutritional data is listed for each recipe. The book indicates recipes free of the common allergens and those recipes that are vegan and vegetarian.

The book divides up its 85 recipes by the single “pot” needed to cook them. Though many can be cooked by another method or with a simple pot on the stove with some timing and water changes. Many of these pots are actually available modes within the typical instant pot like a soup pot, slow cooker, and skillet. The other “pots” within the book are blender, one-bowl, Dutch oven, casserole, and sheet pan.

Okay, I can hear you say but what about the recipes? All types are here: soups, salads, Buddha bowls, roasted meat-and-potato bakes, smoothies, stir-fries, curries, breakfasts, quiches, oatmeal, enchiladas, tofu curry, and vegetable lasagna. Also included are many desserts from puddings to cheesecake.

The One Pot Weight Loss Plan is already becoming my go-to cookbook. I’ve already made six of the recipes. They were easy and delicious. It’s use of common ingredients, low-calorie but tasty flavors, and easy one-pot clean-up make for an easy weekday meal assistant. Check it out and see if it will be your favorite cookbook too. 5 stars!

Thanks to Rockridge Press and Callisto for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch
December 2nd, 2019 by diane92345

Baby boomers loved the original show and Gen Xers loved the reruns as children and teens. Adults not so much. For a relatively low-rated show, how does everyone still remember every characters’ name? How We All Became the Brady Bunch attempts to explain the show’s enduring popularity.

Every American has perfected the middle girl Jan’s jealous whine of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” Who doesn’t remember Marcia’s football to the nose, Bobby’s experience with laundry soap, and Peter’s cracking voice? The moments all seem iconic to me as a watcher at the same age as the youngest son, Bobby during the show’s original run.

The Brady Bunch is still relevant today through memes, SNL skits, and the recent HGTV rehab of the home used for the exterior shots of the Brady house. In addition, all five seasons of the show are on Hulu and all but season five are on Amazon Prime.

How We All Became the Brady Bunch is an excellent outsider look into the Brady enterprise. Secrets I haven’t heard before are included. For example, the show’s producer originally wanted Gene Hackman to play the father but the studio rejected him as being too inexperienced. Gene would go on to win two Best Actor Academy Award for The French Connection and Unforgiven. Instead, Robert Reed was hired. A closeted Shakespearean actor seems like a strange choice for a father on a goofy sitcom. Indeed, Reed himself often battled unsuccessfully over the scripts with the showrunners.

Overall, if you are a fan, you should pick up How We All Became the Brady Bunch. Due to its outsider perspective, it doesn’t have an agenda to push like some of the actor’s memoirs. However, I am taking one star off for the complete absence of photographs. A televised show is by its nature visual. It seems strange to have a book about one not be visual too. 4 stars!

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Atlanta Underground
December 1st, 2019 by diane92345

Beautiful and haunting black & white photographs show the history of Atlanta beneath its modern streets in Atlanta Underground.

Atlanta began as a meeting of three major railways in an obscure spot in the South. Jobs created by those railroads brought people. But the rail lines also brought Sherman to Atlanta to destroy it. After the Civil War, Atlanta was quickly rebuilt into a bustling hub of commerce that also focused on railroads to prosper.

All I know of Atlanta is in the movie Gone With the Wind. Atlanta Underground shows me that world abandoned and built over by the progress of the modern day city of Atlanta.

At once both a history and an urban archaeology, this book connects modern day Atlanta to its past by revealing still existing ruins of its railroading history. It is recommended to Atlanta residents and visitors as well as railroad enthusiasts. 4 stars!

Thanks to Globe Pequot, Rowman & Littlefield and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Monsters and Mythical Creatures from around the World
November 28th, 2019 by diane92345

This book is filled with 240 Monsters and Mythical Creatures from Around the World. From recent creatures like Chupacabras, Jackalopes, and the Australian Drop Bear to ancient foes like the multicultural dragon and the horse-lion Durong Kraison of Thailand, the full range of time is explored here. Creatures are ordered by region, which is why the dragon is described in three separate entries. Many of the monsters will be familiar but many will be new to most people. About every third creature is illustrated using bright colors.

Monsters and Mythical Creatures from Around the World is an excellent tool for horror writers to use for new ideas of horrifying creatures to include in their fiction. The pictures and text are created in a non-dramatic way, which makes this a perfect gift for older children who like monsters. The explanation of the possible cultural reasons for the monsters’ creation was fascinating. For example, the hairless deformed Huallepen is found in Chile and Argentina. When it mates with local sheep and cattle, it causes offspring that look like it—explaining common local birth defects. There is another story explaining how the jackalope was created by taxidermists and later used as tourist bait in a small Wyoming town.

Overall, the book is an interesting read for anyone interested in mythology or monsters from around the world. 4 stars!

Thanks to Red Feather, Schiffer Publishing Ltd. and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Buy the Book here

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Stretching for Beginners
November 25th, 2019 by diane92345

If you want to have a more active and pain-free life even though you hate exercise and sit down all day at work (like me so no judging here), you need to read Stretching for Beginners.

The book is filled with sixty-seven easy stretching exercises with easy-to-follow colorful illustrations and instructions targeted at individual areas of the body. Each exercise has sections explaining what the exercise is good for, hints to follow, and how to level up the stretch when you become acclimatized to the basic level. At the back of the book, there are routines of exercises focused on everyday stretches, stretches for aches and pains, and stretches to strengthen the ability to play specific sports. My favorite routine is the 10-15 minute office stretches, which is perfect for a single break time. No laying on the dirty office carpeting. Everything is done standing up. There are only five stretches, which even the couch potato inside of me can commit to. Kudos to the authors for calling “Driving” a sport. I’m an athlete and I didn’t even know it!

Overall, if you aren’t active Stretching for Beginners is a good starting point for a New Year’s Resolution. The speed and simplicity of the stretches will motivate all but the most unmotivated to continue the program. 5 stars!

Thanks to Rockridge Press and Callisto Publishing for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Kindle Unlimited, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Essential Air Fryer Cookbook
November 24th, 2019 by diane92345

The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook has a massive amount of recipes. Basically, any dish you have ever heard of is included. And don’t assume they are the traditional fried foods either. This cookbook includes cheesecake, roasted fennel salad, French onion soup, chili cheese dogs, corn on the cob, and even ham and eggs. Most countries are also represented by Scotch eggs, curried sweet-and-spicy scallops, coconut jerk chicken, crispy pierogi with kielbasa and onions, fried wontons, chicken gyros, croquet monsieur, easy carnitas, miso-rubbed salmon fillets, pork schnitzel, to Moroccan-spiced carrots. Variety is not an issue here.

This cookbook bends over backward to be usable no matter what size, type, or brand of air fryer you have. It includes tags for fast, easy, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, can be gluten-free (a hint to check the pre-made ingredient labels), and the number of ingredients needed. There are also pairings listed from drinks to sauces to other recipes within the book.

However, before you agree with the book’s cover and decide this is “the only book you need”, there are three negatives to the book. It has no nutritional information, including calories, for the recipes. It only has a few recipe pictures in the back. There is no way to look for just vegan (or any other tag listed above) recipes throughout the book. Hopefully, the index that wasn’t included in my advanced copy will contain a way to do it.

With over 300 extremely varied recipes, the Essential Air Fryer Cookbook makes up for the deficiencies I named earlier. 4 stars and happy air frying!

Thanks to Voracious; Little, Brown & Company; and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Broke
November 23rd, 2019 by diane92345

Detroit was Broke. Through seven people’s stories, the author attempts to explain what went wrong, what went right, and what was the end result of Detroit’s trip through the Great Depression and bankruptcy.

Detroit was an urban oasis of jobs and industrial might until the 1960s. Then, race riots encouraged white flight to the suburbs reducing tax revenues. Deindustrialization and movement of factory jobs to other lower-wage countries decimated jobs in the city. Lack of jobs led to increased crime and mortgage defaults, which led to abandoned houses and squatters making them unsellable. Lack of jobs also forced subpar credit scores on local residents.

All of these factors led to opportunists buying these houses cheaply in bulk. After repackaging them, the investors used predatory lending practices to sell them to local residents who could not qualify for bank loans. The new homeowners were at an increased risk of default making them defacto renters of properties they were required to bring up to livable condition. And one missed payment and they were out with all their previous payments, improvements, and sweat equity lost with no legal recourse.

In the meantime, city government was forced into bankruptcy by the state. 30% of city jobs were cut. City bonds went into junk status making getting money substantially more expensive just when tax revenues were cratering due to the city resident issues detailed above.

How Detroit turned itself around from this domino effect of disaster after disaster makes an empowering read. The author attempts to not point the finger at race and Republicans for Detroit’s issues with minimal success. However, there were many issues caused by globalization and the economic crash that were clearly out of the city’s control. Overall, Broke is an intriguing story of failure, resilience, and hope—both individually through the seven people’s stories and on a national scale. 4 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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The World at Night
November 21st, 2019 by diane92345

Filled with beautiful photographs of The World at Night, this book also highlights some of the world’s most beautiful places. From Stonehenge to Red Square to Mount Everest, all the photos highlight the night sky. There are pictures of star trails and eclipse paths captured with camera wizardry. It is surprising how much color a camera lens picks up in an aurora that is not seen by the naked eye.

Whether you want to marvel at the pictures or perhaps take some for yourself, The World at Night has you covered. There is an explanation of how each shot was taken. In addition, there is a chapter explaining what you need to be your own astrophotographer. Plus a compelling section on how light pollution is ruining the feeling of awe and connectedness shared by mankind with our ancestors when gazing at a star-filled sky. 4 stars!

Thanks to White Lion Publishing, Quarto Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Plant Based Diet Guide for Beginners
November 19th, 2019 by diane92345

The Plant-based Diet Guide for Beginners is a combination of a health guide, diet book, and cookbook. It provides a brief overview of all of the modern diets even the meat-based ones like Atkins and Keto. It also describes what diseases each have been reported to prevent, cure, or maintain (without worsening the condition) along with warnings for potential health issues with some of the diets.

The fifty recipes are the stars here. Many are unusual—in the US at least. Miso and Sweet Potato Soup, Spicy Sweet Potato Enchiladas, Lemongrass Pumpkin Soup, Chickpea-free Falafel with Coriander, and Peanut Coconut Curry with Eggplant and Zucchini all contain new and innovative flavor combinations. However, the raw bread and crackers made from gluten-free ingredients in a slow low oven or dehydrator are what set my taste buds on fire. I have never tried raw bread or crackers before but it sounds delicious. I can’t wait until I can try it.

Each of the recipes includes nutritional information, preparation and cooking time, which diets it works with, what ingredients are necessary, and clear instructions on how to prepare it. The book also offers five different seven-day meal plans following a specific diet goal: paleo/vegan, high-protein, weight loss, anti-inflammatory, and child-friendly. My only complaint is the lack of pictures of most of the completed foods.

Overall, the Plant-based Diet Guide for Beginners is a good entry point for someone who wants to be healthier through the food they eat. It has both book and documentary references in case you want more information about a particular diet. After all, you may not be able to control your genetics but you can control what you put in your mouth. 4 stars!

Thanks to the author for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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30-Minute Vegetarian Cookbook
November 18th, 2019 by diane92345

Becoming kinder to animals is much easier with the 30-minute Vegetarian Cookbook. Whether you are a full-time vegetarian or just looking for some innovative ideas for Meatless Mondays, this book will show you how with its impressive collection of both fast and easy recipes.

From breakfast to dessert and every meal in between, the 30-minute Vegetarian Cookbook clearly labels each recipe when they are gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, vegan, dairy-free, and nut-free. There is also nutritional information for each dish. Most recipes come with some substitution ideas adding variety to the recipes. The ingredient lists are simple and don’t include many expensive “vegetarian” products. Most of the items are found in any kitchen pantry.

This is an excellent cookbook. I just wish it had a picture of each of the recipes. But other than that one qualm, the recipes are yummy and budget-friendly. I’ve been gluten-free for years and even the recipes that are not labeled gluten-free can easily be made so by using non-wheat-based flours, breads, and tortillas. The recipes are mostly low-calorie and are perfect for those watching their weight. Many of the ingredients are zero point foods on the MyWW (Weight Watchers) blue plan. Finally, the recipes come from many cuisines like Italian, Indian, Middle-Eastern, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, and American. Overall, it’s a great cookbook to save some money, time, and animals’ lives. 5 stars!

Thanks to Rockridge Press and Callisto Publishing Club for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Manhunters
November 14th, 2019 by diane92345

Fans of the Netflix series Narcos will be enthralled with this true-life story by the two Escobar Manhunters in their own words.

Working up the Drug Enforcement Agency’s power structure in the 1980s as an undercover agent in Austin and tracking illegal shipments of cocaine in Miami. Javier and Steve, respectively, are soon tasked with rooting out the Medellin Cartel chief, Pedro Escobar, from the depths of Columbia. With hefty bounties on their heads and only the Columbian National Police as their backup, they succeed in finding Escobar. However, what happens after Escobar is extradited to America to face charges?

If you are not that familiar with the Escobar story and especially with how the drug trade worked in the US in the 1980s, Manhunters will be a fascinating look at a completely different and violent world coexisting with the 80s “Greed is Good” philosophy. If, however, you were living through it, there is nothing “never-before-published” within this book. 3.5 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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A Marvelous Life
November 12th, 2019 by diane92345

Comic book and Marvel movie fans rejoice! A definitive biography of Stan Lee, particularly his Marvel years, is here! Stan Lee, creator of iconic superheroes like Spider-Man and Iron Man truly led A Marvelous Life.

Beginning with his poverty-stricken childhood and ending with the lawsuits for elder abuse still waiting to be heard in the courts after his November 2018 death, this book tells the full tale of Stan’s life. And what a life! Stan began his career in comics as a person getting coffee for his cousin’s staff at Timely Imprint, the publisher of Marvel Comics #1 and Captain America Comics #1. Eventually, he would be the face of Marvel Comics and even Marvel movies through his cameos within each of them.

If you love comics or the Marvel Universe of movies and television, A Marvelous Life is a marvelous book for you to read. Many details are mentioned that were not in Stan’s previous autobiography, Excelsior! 4 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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The Great Pretender
November 11th, 2019 by diane92345

The author was initially misdiagnosed as schizophrenic. Instead, she had autoimmune encephalitis, an organic brain disorder often called The Great Pretender for its ability to mimic the signs of psychiatric disease. Even though she was labeled as a mental patient for only a week, wondering what would have happened if the initial diagnosis wasn’t overturned compels her to investigate the US mental health care system. In fact, she finds someone who spent years in the mental health system before being correctly diagnosed with the author’s disease with unfortunate consequences.

“The brain is a physical organ and physical disease occurs within the brain. Why does that make it a ‘ psychiatric condition’ instead of a physical ‘ disease’?”—from a father of a son diagnosed with psychosis quoted in the book

The Great Pretender makes an excellent case that psychiatry is the study of neurological disease for which we have no cause or cure…yet. Both autoimmune encephalitis and syphilis were originally diagnosed as mental disorders. Once a cause and cure were found, they were moved to neurology.

Originally all mental diseases were thought to be caused by the devil. Next, medical science thought it was a weakness in the person’s character, which could be solved by drastic measures like lobotomy and shock therapy. Now, a person’s history is blamed with talk therapy and strong drugs as cures. Who is to say that that is the final solution to psychiatric disease.

The heart of the book concerns the landmark study in 1973 by Stanford professor David Rosenhan, On Being Sane in Insane Places. He and seven of his students and colleagues self-reported symptoms of psychosis to get placed in one of the facilities. Once there, they acted normally until someone released them. The average time to get out was fifteen days. The study’s conclusion was that psychiatry had no clear way to diagnose or cure mental illness. It was unable to separate the sane from the insane. The author finds additional notes from the study’s now-deceased author. She finds one of the living pseudopatients and interviews him. The author also finds a ninth pseudopatient who is mentioned only in a footnote within the study. His story is told in the book.

Currently, four percent of the US have serious mental illnesses. Many will have their lives shortened by ten to twenty years because of their condition. If you, or someone in your life, have one of these issues, you must read this book for a different perspective. Even if you are just interested in psychology, like me, The Great Pretender is highly recommended. 5 stars!

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Vegan Spiralizer Cookbook
November 7th, 2019 by diane92345

With 101 vegan recipes, the Vegan Spiralizer Cookbook has something for everyone. From breakfast to dessert, all types of recipes are included.

Each recipe has nutritional information. All of the recipes are vegan and labeled when gluten-free, nut-free or soy-free. They are also labeled with a cryptic “under 20”, which isn’t explained in the text and I couldn’t find a diet named that online. It’s also not the number of ingredients. Hmm…

Overall, I like the recipes in the Vegan Spiralizer Cookbook. I just wish I could have seen them too. Having only one picture per chapter is an unforgivable sin for a cookbook. So for that reason, 3 stars.

Thanks to Rockridge Press, Callisto Media and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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No Gluten, No Problem Pizza
November 6th, 2019 by diane92345

Frozen and fast casual gluten-free pizza is always thin as a cracker and rather flavorless. But in the No Gluten, No Problem Pizza cookbook, the authors provide a plethora of pizza options including Chicago Deep Dish and New York-style pizzas.

Variety is no problem. For you thin crust fans, there are four variations on roman cracker dough and four more on tavern dough, which is less crunchy but still thin. There are grilled, filled, flatbread, focaccia, breakfast, buckwheat, cauliflower, zucchini, dessert, and California-style pizzas too. For several of the doughs, there is a long (50-hour) rise version and a fast one too.

All the recipes have full-color photographs. There is no nutritional information but if you are eating pizza you probably don’t want it anyway. The recipes sound and look delicious. The authors took many of the recipes directly home from Italy so you know they are authentic.

My only issue with the book was the difficulty in sourcing the flours and other ingredients for the doughs. They weren’t in either of my two local markets. Surprisingly, they weren’t even available through Thrive Market. They did have them in Amazon—but they were pricey. However, as long as you make the recipes a few times, it would be about the cost of three or four delivered pizzas (and sure to taste much better).

One of the foods I miss the most are my delicious gluten-full and cheese stuffed calzones. With No Gluten, No Problem Pizza in hand, I can have that experience again. Highly recommended for gluten-free people looking to expand their pizza choices. 4 stars!

Thanks to The Experiment and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Dangerous Charisma
November 5th, 2019 by diane92345

The author of Dangerous Charisma is an expert of political personality profiling. He ran a pilot CIA program to profile world leaders including Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat at the height of President Carter’s search for peace in the Middle East.

However, since Dangerous Charisma is about the most controversial President ever, Donald Trump, I can tell how you will rate it based on your party affiliation. Democrats will love it. Republicans will hate it. So if you are Republican move on and read Piety and Power about Mike Pence or Witch Hunt about Trump himself. There are books on each side of the aisle and actually the Pence book is very good.

Now, back to the Democrats. I don’t think calling Trump narcissistic or “mirror hungry” is particularly new. You hear it multiple times per day on MSNBC. That being said, it is new to wrap these issues in the official psychological jargon from the DSM, the manual to diagnose behavioral disease. Plus there are some great talking points for cocktail parties like that Citizen Kane is Donald’s favorite movie, which is about an unhappy wealthy narcissist much like Trump himself.

I enjoyed the look at the psychological underpinnings of Trump’s diehard supporters. It states that in times of stress, like being unemployed and seeing all their nearby factories close, leaves people looking for a voice in the wilderness stating follow me to the promised land where America is great again. Obviously, if you are a Trump supporter, you are not going to like hearing yourself characterized in this manner. You could be comfortably reading the Art of the Deal again and now you are so upset that you are planning on trolling me on social media. I’m just repeating what the author is saying. Please troll someone closer to the source material.

Speaking of the book, despite being a lifelong Democrat that held her nose while voting for Hillary in 2016, I don’t think Dangerous Charisma Is very good. It won’t change anyone’s mind and instead will just drive our fractured political system further apart. It also reads like an undergrad textbook. However, the cogent summary of the Trump presidency’s effects on the public’s mental health, strategies of the Democratic Party, and the United States’ ongoing foreign policy pulls my rating up to 3 stars.

Thanks to Pegasus Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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