Wednesday, April 30, 2014

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back

The rebellion has just defeated the death star. They have retreated to the planet Hoth, and it is here that the Empire's patrols discover the hidden base. Han and Leia flee in the Millennium Falcon to meet up with the rest of the Rebel fleet, while Luke goes to Dagobah in search of the Jedi Master Yoda. Neither group has things turn out the way that they plan.

One of the main differences from the first book in the trilogy Verily, A New Hope was the lack of chorus to explain action scenes. I personally did not mind the chorus as other people have seemed to. I have to say, I was absolutely tickled when I read the Wampa's speech. I stopped where I was reading and read it aloud to my husband. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I found another speech from the Wampa, and one from the space slug. It was an excellent way to portray some of the action scenes.

I knew I would like this book, but I was surprised by the little changes that made me truly enjoy it. Another great piece for Star Wars fans. I love how Doescher gives new life to the familiar and loved story of Star Wars. I am so excited to see what he does with The Jedi Doth Return.

This book is a must read for Star Wars fans.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook

I won a copy of The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in a contest they held*. I love to try new food, and I could not wait to see what recipes I would discover in this cookbook. I was absolutely delighted with the variety of recipes in this book. The history presented along with the recipes made this beautiful cookbook even more spectacular. I do not think I could say enough wonderful things about this cookbook. I have been using it for awhile, and thought I would share some of the recipes I tried from it.

Tortilla Soup

This was a tasty soup that was perfect for a first course. The main ingredients were tortillas, squash, tomatoes, and different kinds of peppers. I was able to use some of the tortillas I tried making that did not turn out perfectly in this soup, as you crisp some tortillas and break them into pieces. It had a very good flavor and can be paired with a variety of main courses. It is also an easy soup to make.

Blue Corn Bread

I had never used blue cornmeal before, and I thought it made the bread look very pretty. It is a delicious version of cornbread, and goes well with many different dishes. This is a simple way to change your typical recipes.

Salsa Fresca

I really like fresh salsa, both as a snack and as a topping for different meals. What made this salsa stand out from other recipes was how many different vegetables are in it. There are several different kinds of peppers that give a lot of flavor, as well as tomatoes and onions. The little bit of oils and herbs included enhance the flavor in a very pleasing manner. This is a salsa I would be happy to use repeatedly.

Cranberry Crumble

This was an amazing dessert! It was very simple to make, but had a lot of flavor. I topped it with a little bit of greek yogurt, but a little ice cream would also go well with this crumble. What I liked about this dessert was that it mostly used natural sweeteners such as: berries, honey, and maple syrup instead of a lot of processed sugars.

Other recipes that I have made are: Quinoa Salad, Guacamole, and Salmon Cakes. I am looking forward to making many more recipes from this book, but a few that are top of the list are: Red Onion and Herb Fry Bread, Chicken Tamales with Spicy Peanut Sauce, Smoked Pork and Quinoa Soup, and Buffalo Chile.

Some of the things I like most about this cookbook are the beautiful pictures it provides of the food, historical information about who would make this food and what area it was from, historical pictures, a guide on the techniques needed to make some of the recipes, and an excellent glossary of terms for some of the ingredients, and where you can typically find the ingredients. I loved the combination of history and food that is beautifully presented in this cookbook.

I highly recommend this cookbook!

*The Smithsonian Museum did not require a review of the book won or stipulate what type of review should be given if the winner was inclined to review it. It was merely a chance to give more people a chance to know about the museum and this cookbook. This review is my own after reading the book and trying out some of the recipes, and is not changed because I received a free copy of the book. It simply provides me with a book I might not have got to as soon as I did or heard about otherwise. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fables: Legends In Exile

The Fables lucky enough to escape from the Adversary's armies have been exiled to the mundane world where they live in secret--hiding who they really are from regular people. At the start of this book, the Fables are getting ready for their annual party to remember their homelands. Tragedy strikes as Snow White's sister is reported misssing and the discovery that her apartment is covered in blood splatter. Snow must work with the Fable sheriff Bigby Wolf to figure out what has happened to Rose Red.

This is the first book in a series with a totally new take on the old fairy tales. It is a great introduction to this series. We slowly learn why the Fables are living in secret in New York. The annual celebration begins with a reading that details their struggle with the adversary, and provides a neat way of telling us what the larger issues facing the Fables are. There is also refereces to the farm where Fables that do not pass as normal must stay.

The world building is excellent while still giving us an engaging hook in the Rose Red mystery. I also really enjoy the blending of myths and tales in this series. It is well balanced between the new version of the tales while still acknowledging, and often in a humorous way, the original versions of the stories we know and love. The Fables series is really well done, and is on My Favorite Books list.

If you enjoy fairy tales, I highly recommend reading the Fables series.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Ugly Princess: The Legend Of Winnowwood

This is a fairy tale about Princess Olive who is the last of the Winnowwood. The Winnowwood have magical powers. The problem is, the more they use their magic, the uglier they get. A witch puts a spell on them that they will turn beautiful if they give up their magical abilities. This was an easier way to defeat the Winnowwood instead of engaging in battle with them. Princess Olive is under great pressure from her father and others to give up her abilities. Her father cannot stand how ugly she is. Princess Olive struggles to prove that what is inside is more important than how she looks.

I won a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads Program*. This was an interesting fairy tale, and I had high hopes for it, as it claimed to be more about what is on the inside than focusing on they typical tale about a pretty helpless princess. This book largely met that ideal, but I was disappointed in the ending because I thought it negated that message. I will not spoil the ending, but I wish it had been different. It was still a fun book to read, but I would have liked it more if it had followed through completely.

Overall, it was a fine book. It was geared towards a younger audience, but fans of fairy tales will probably enjoy it. There is a lot of magic, animals that talk, and some battle scenes. I did like that the book talks about choices and consequences and trying to figure out what is really important in life. I thought it was a different take on The Frog Prince or Beauty and the Beast tales.

If you are looking for an easy read, and enjoy fairy tales, this might be a fun one to try.

*The Goodreads First Reads program does not require winners to give a review. Winners are encouraged to review the book, as the authors and publishers offering the books for free are trying to get the public interested in their book. If a review is given, it is not stipulated that it should be positive or negative, only an honest review. Winning this book does not change the nature of my review, it merely provides me with early access to this book.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Last Witch Of Langenberg

In 1672 Anna Fessler is recovering from giving birth when a neighbor brings her a cake for Shrove Tuesday. Not long after eating it, she dies a painful and mysterious death. Controversy immediately is raised as the neighborhood tries to determine if Anna was poisoned by the cake as part of a witch's plot, if it was a complication from childbirth, or some other cause. Anna Schmieg the Miller's wife that made the cakes becomes the main suspect. Schmieg becomes embroiled in a case where she must prove that she did not murder her neighbor, and is not a witch. Now every aspect of her life comes under scrutiny and is magnified as proof of her being a witch.

A fascinating account of a witch trial in the seventeenth century. Robisheaux provides great detail about what happened during the trial. I found the several angles presented for Anna Schmieg's trial very interesting. There are court records, witness statements, and public opinion all brought together to provide a detailed account of what happened to Anna Schmieg. I liked learning more about the government's role in a witch trial. There were rules about confessions and torture, and it was interesting to see how it applied to an actual trial. I also liked reading about what officials did when they did not get the answers they wanted from the accused and other people involved in the case.

I thought it was an important book to read for anyone that is curious about witch panics that took place, and how they would result in the death of members of the community. In this book, not only do we learn about the witch trial, but how life in a village was in the seventeenth century. It is surprising how much influence village life had on Schmieg's trial. There is a personal and legal aspect to this case that makes it a significant book in the history of witch trials.

People interested in the history of witch trials will enjoy this book. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Painted Girls

The story of the van Goethem sisters takes place in Paris in 1878 as they struggle to make a living after their father's death. Told from the perspective of the two oldest sisters: Antoinette and Marie as they deal with the difficulties of supporting their mother, who is addicted to absinthe, and their younger sister Charlotte. Antoinette has left the ballet and is trying to find other work when she falls in love with a young man that leads her away from her family and all she has been working for. Marie works hard for a place in the ballet, and catches the eye of Edgar Degas. She models for him in his art studio, and is in some of his famous pieces. Yet, all is not perfect in their world. They face enormous challenges in their lives.

A beautifully written story of the van Goethem sisters, and what life as a ballerina was like. The two very different perspectives of Antoinette and Marie work very well together. It is easy to switch perspectives and feel completely engrossed by the character you are reading. The characters grabbed me immediately, and I felt compelled by their story to keep reading to discover what would happen to them.

Buchanan writes a well researched historical fiction piece. The Painted Girls is based off real sisters, and I am looking forward to learning more about them. There was an excellent balance between telling the story of these sisters and supplying historical information. I really enjoyed the story and Buchanan's writing style. I look forward to reading more of her books.

I highly recommend reading The Painted Girls.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

It is a time of civil war. The Empire is trying to squash the Rebellion. Darth Vader is pursuing Princess Leia because she has stolen plans to the Empire's new space station for the Rebellion. He is determined to retrieve the plans before the Rebellion can make use of them. Luke Skywalker unwittingly becomes entangled in this plot along with Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Chewbacca. They all struggle to survive and defeat the Empire.

It is Star Wars as you have never read it before. Told in iambic pentameter, the original Star Wars tale comes alive as you hear it told in the bard's words. It is a play told in five acts, and one I hope to see acted on a stage someday. I thought this was an intriguing idea, and was thrilled when my brother sent me a copy knowing how much I love Star Wars. This book is amazing! It is fun to read aloud to appreciate how perfectly Star Wars and Shakespeare have been combined.

This perspective on the story provides new depth to the characters. C-3PO is normally a whiny annoying droid. Here, his speeches fit well and gain a slightly nobler tint. Luke Skywalker is shown to be the young inexperienced boy that is in over his head. You will have fun reading about your favorite characters in this version. There is a marvelous picture of Jabba the Hutt in costume that should not be missed.

I highly recommend reading this book if you like Star Wars or Shakespeare.