Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Trials of the King of Hampshire

Book Summary:

In 1823 the Wallop family put the 3rd Earl of Portsmouth on trial for insanity. Why would such a distinguished family let the world know their family secrets by going to court? The author seeks to answer this question. Everyone thought him a peculiar man, but he kept company with some famous people such as: Jane Austen and Lord Byron. How could he go so many years without people realizing he was insane as his family claimed? Jurors had so sort through testimony about his habits, behaviour, claims of violence and blackmail while they determined if this man was insane.

My Thoughts:

This book caught my attention because I was very curious to know why an aristocratic family would "air their dirty laundry" to get a family member declared insane. The most obvious answer is they wanted to control the family land and money (which Lord Portsmouth could not do if declared insane). While reading, Portsmouth's life is presented while learning how this would impact his later trial. It was an interesting perspective, sometimes I got tired of the back and forth. It also make me look at his life very differently than I might have if his life had been presented, and than the trial.

When I finished the book, I was left feeling very sympathetic to Lord Portsmouth. His life was controlled by those around him. His personal life was put on trial because he was different than other people. I was left wanting a clearer answer to Portsmouth. Was he actually insane, or did he simply have peculiar habits that became known? I also wanted a very clear answer about his family. Did they truly think he was insane, or was it all personal motive? I do think it possible that the line on that might not be clear, but I would have liked the author to make a case one way or the other.

There was also a little information about how people declared insane were treated. I had expected a little more of that, but was glad that some mention of it was made. I think it is very important for the reader to understand why the trial and verdict made such a difference in the lives of those involved in it.

Overall, I found this book an interesting read. The title really catches people's attention. Several people I work with added this book to their reading list because they found it so intriguing. I would have liked some clearer arguments at a couple points, but understand that sometimes the facts are simply not known.

If you are interested in this time period or how mental illness used to be treated and viewed I recommend reading this book.

*I received a free copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

*Receiving a free copy of this book does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book that I would not have gotten to as soon, or heard about otherwise.

Monday, September 26, 2016

All Under Heaven

Book Summary:

All Under Heaven is the first cookbook in English to examine the 35 cuisines of China. The author combines centuries of culinary texts with her own experience to bring us a magnificent collection of recipes. It is a comprehensive look at China's cuisine and the geography and history that shaped it.

My Thoughts:

I was immediately impressed by the size of this cookbook. I was anxious to begin going through it to find what delicious recipes were waiting. I was impressed not only by the sheer number of recipes, but by the history that is given about the different types of cuisine.

The book is organized by region: The North and Manchurian Northeast, The Yangtze River and Its Environs, The Coastal Southeast, The Central Highlands, The Arid Lands, and The Fundamentals. At the start of each section there is a map so you know what area you are in, some information and history about that area, and the role geography and history played on the food of that region. There is also a table of contents with the recipes listed for that section. Each recipe also comes with a paragraph or two note about it. I absolutely loved all the background information. It added so much the experience of selecting recipes to try and deciding what to make.

I also really liked all the added notes in The Fundamentals section. I found it very helpful. If you want to know about steamer pots or what a salt pot is you can look in this section. Or, if you are unsure what some of the ingredients are all you have to do is flip to the back of the book. I was very pleased with how easy it was to find the information I needed.

For my first cooking experience with this book, I decided to make 3 Cups Chicken, Hot and Sour Pork, and Icy Green Mangoes. I chose two main dishes because we invited my brother in law over to try the dishes with us. My husband made a salad of lightly steamed broccoli, fresh green pepper sliced, yellow onion thinly sliced, with black vinegar and sesame seeds. I served the dishes with jasmine rice.

3 Cups Chicken.

This chicken has a wonderful spicy flavor. It was delicious over rice, but was also good in a soft taco shell the next day. I really enjoyed the slices of ginger in this dish. Everyone loved the smell of this dish cooking.

Hot and Sour Pork. 
This was everyone's favourite dish of the evening. It was a little spicy, but it was at just the right level of spiciness. We all had seconds of this dish. It is one I will definitely be making again. The only thing I changed with this recipe is: I did not fry it in all the oil the recipe called for. I only had a small amount at the bottom of the Wok. It turned out great!

Both dishes ready to eat with rice.

Icy Green Mangoes

I did have some trouble getting the mangoes to freeze properly the night we made the food. By dinner the next day they were frozen the way they should have been the day before. But we made do with chilled mangoes. We placed them over Vanilla Ice Cream so they were a topping instead of a slush. We were all happy with the results. I would recommend preparing this one early in case you also have trouble with it freezing right away.

I am looking forward to trying many more of the recipes. Some of the top recipes to try on my list are: Black Bean Asparagus, Chilled Sour Plum Infusion, Hainan Chicken and Rice, Grilled Layered Lamb Pastries, Lemongrass Chicken, Malay Sponge Cake, Candied Kumquats, and Sesame Oil Chicken Soup. The list could go on and on, but this gives you an idea of the variety of recipes.

Overall, I loved this cookbook. I am always happy to combine two of my favourite things, history and cooking. The only issue I really had was that I would have liked for the author to include approximate times for some of the steps or the overall dish. It would help people new to cooking the cuisine to know how much time it will take to make everything. 

If you like Chinese food I highly recommend trying this cookbook. The flavours were amazing!

**I received a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.**

*Receiving a free copy of this book does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book sooner than I would have gotten to it or a book I might not have heard about otherwise.

Monday, September 19, 2016


A look at GMOs from a journalist and a mother who discovers health issues in her family related to GMOs. She goes on a journey around the world to discover more about GMOs, how they are handled politically, and how prevalent they are in the food industry in the States. She wants to learn how to give her family food that has not been contaminated by GMOs and why GMOs are given so much clout in the States.

I am interested in healthy eating and sustainable food, so I was interested in this book. I found it rather disappointing. First of all, I did not care for the style of writing. It was a strange mixture of personal and scientific. It would jump back and forth between the two which made it difficult to follow at some points. It also made me lose interest as I do not appreciate someone interjecting personal emotional stories while trying to present scientific facts. I think it colors the information and makes the facts she presents seem less credible.

I would have appreciated a more focused attempt at explaining GMOs and what some of the issues might be, rather than trying to have personal stories and travel logs randomly inserted throughout the book. I found it difficult to focus on what she was trying to communicate and it was a chore to finish. If you are interested in this topic, I would recommend finding a different book on the topic. Perhaps if the book had been better organized I would have been able to focus more and take more away from it.

I read this book as an ebook on my Nook. It worked fine except the contents page would not load.

I received a free copy of this book from Penguin's First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

*Receiving a free copy of this book does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book I would not have gotten to as soon or heard about otherwise.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Christmas Carol

Scrooge hates the Christmas season. He is a miser and does not like it when other people feel joy. One Christmas, he is visited by four ghosts. His old partner Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet To Come. They try to show Scrooge the true meaning of Christmas. Will Scrooge learn his lesson to enjoy Christmas and life?

I liked the annotated version of this book. I had read the regular version previously and liked the story, but I found it fascinating to have all the extra information. Terms that are no longer used frequently are explained, what some of the jobs mentioned are, and life in general during Dickens' time are explained so the reader can really understand what the author meant. I read the annotated version, but Alejandro and Paige read different versions.

I suggested this to the Bookworms to read as our twentieth book. I like showing them some classic tales so they know popular references. I also think it is beneficial to be exposed to lots of different kinds of stories and writing. That is one reason I enjoy this book club. Having three of us taking turns choosing the books keeps us all open to new books and experiences.

Here are some of the Bookworms' thoughts on the story. We talked about the different ghosts, what certain words or phrases mean, and what Christmas is about. There may be some spoilers if you have never read the book.

Q&A With The Bookworms Book Club

How many stars out of 5 would you give this book?
Alejandro 5 and a half. It was pretty good.
Paige 4

What part did you like?
Paige I liked the beginning when Marley's ghost came in and Scrooge freaked out and didn't believe at first and was really scared.
Alejandro I liked when the ghost of the future comes.
Paige I thought it was interesting that Marley was a boy. I thought at first his wife had died and was a ghost because I know lots of girls named Marley.

Who was your favorite ghost?
Alejandro The ghost of the future because how he got to the future was really interesting. He didn't use a Delorian or anything.
Paige Marley. Because he was the first ghost and was a little freaky.

Have you seen any movie versions of this story?
Paige No.
Alejandro The Mickey Mouse version.

Do you think Scrooge changed?
Both Yes.
Alejandro He raises how much he pays his employee and Tiny Tim doesn't die.

What did you think of the book?
Alejandro It was one of the best we read so far. It teaches good lessons about sharing and not wanting all for yourself.
Paige It was interesting to read.

Thank you Paige and Alejandro for reading and reviewing this book with me. I look forward to our next book.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Reader

Book Summary:

Sefia has been trying to survive in the wilderness with her Aunt Nin. Her father was brutally murdered, and she must stay ahead of his killer if she is to live and protect the family treasure. When her Aunt Nin is kidnapped, Sefia's skills are really put to the test. She clings to the rectangular object called a book, that she has been told is very important. When a mysterious stranger appears, she must decide if he is to be trusted with her life and her secrets. Sefia sets out to rescue her Aunt, discover the truth about her father's death, and punish all responsible for harming her family.

My Thoughts:

From the moment I began reading this book, I was captivated. Chee has such a way with words. I immediately fell in love with the way the words drew me into the story. I appreciated the introduction with the tone of an old tale drawing me in to an exciting world. I found myself not wanting to put the book down. The characters are compelling, and you will want to keep reading to know what happens to them.

This is the first book in the Sea of Ink and Gold trilogy, and I cannot wait to read the next two books. This is a world you will want to return to again and again. Chee creates a unique world that completely absorbs you. There is plenty of action, but there is much more to this book than that. The characters are compelling and you will enjoy getting to know them as the story unfolds.

I also appreciated that the main character is a female who is discovering her abilities and figuring out what her own goals are. She does not let anyone else dictate her future. I cannot wait to discover what happens to her and how she grows as the story continues.

I read this book as an ebook on my Nook. I had problems reading the pages that are from the book in the story. They had images on them, and would not load. Other than that I had no issues.

I was enchanted from the moment I started reading to the very end. I highly recommend reading this book if you enjoy fantasy. This series is a must read.

*I received a free copy of this book from Penguin's First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

*Receiving a free copy of this book does not change my review. It simply provides me with a book I would not have gotten to as soon, or heard about otherwise.