Book Review: Little Orchid’s Sea Monster Trouble, Claudine Gueh Yanting (2014)

December 19th, 2014 12:52 pm by Kelly Garbato

An Imaginative, Animal-Friendly Tale

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book for review through eBooks for Review.)

Little Orchid lives Jalan Kayu Village, a riverside fishing and farming community in central Singapore. The year is 1965, and the country is abuzz with talk of independence (or expulsion, depending who you ask) from Malaysia; just as nine-year-old Little Orchid is about to find her bigger, more grown-up self, so too is her homeland on the cusp of becoming “a grown-up country” – “driven out of the family and expected to live on its own.”

But politics is quickly overshadowed by the oncoming typhoon from the South China Sea. As it approaches the Jalan Kayu River, it mercilessly tosses fishes, lobsters, and other sea creatures into the sky. Or are one of the Giants to blame?

When Little Orchid and her older sister, Little Lotus, are invited to a wealthy classmate’s house for dinner, Little Orchid is overcome with excitement: this will be her first evening out! Not even Ma’s protestations (“Orchid will…she’ll break a bowl or spill her drink or something. She’ll bring trouble to others.”) can sour her mood. (Not entirely, anyhow.) Better yet, Sister Rainbow’s father, Mr. Chan, is a fisherman; perhaps she can ply him for more information about the sea monsters, particularly the Giant Cuttlefish who is the object of many rumored sightings.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-12-18

December 19th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-12-17

December 18th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion, #2), Aimee Carter (2014)

December 17th, 2014 12:33 pm by Kelly Garbato

Et tu, Kitty?

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received an ARC for review through Goodreads’s First Reads program. Also, unmarked spoilers abound for PAWN, while spoilers for CAPTIVE are clearly marked.)

Three weeks have passed since Kitty Doe shot and killed the Hart family matriarch, Augusta, in self-defense; since Augusta’s son, Prime Minister Daxton Hart, awoke from a coma, revealing to Kitty that his claims of amnesia were a ruse; since Celia Hart and her daughter Lila went into hiding, leaving Kitty to continue passing as Lila, both to ensure Benjy’s safety and foment a revolution.

Just three short weeks, and already Kitty and her pretend fiancé, Knox, are at each others’ throats.

After sacrificing so much for The Blackcoats, Kitty feels neglected and used; while she spent the past few weeks touring the country, speechifying and rabble-rousing on their behalf, her allies planned and plotted without her. Now she’s back, but still out of the loop; no one seems to want her opinion, let alone her help. And so she takes a silly, stupid risk, ostensibly to prove that she’s more useful than they think. She breaks into Daxton’s office to retrieve a file – proof that Daxton isn’t really Daxton, but rather an imposter – and is promptly caught, convicted of treason, and sent to the dreaded Elsewhere.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-12-16

December 17th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-12-15

December 16th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion, #1), Aimee Carter (2013)

December 15th, 2014 12:54 pm by Kelly Garbato

An entertaining political thriller/dystopia featuring an engaging heroine.

four out of five stars

(Trigger warning for attempted rape.)

I closed my eyes as my mind raced. If I refused, I was dead. But if I said yes – then what? I would be Lila Hart. For the rest of my life, I would have someone else’s face, answer to someone else’s name, live someone else’s life.

But at least I would be alive. I breathed in slowly, forcing myself not to panic. I was still me, wasn’t I? I still felt like me. They couldn’t take that away no matter what they did to my body. I might have looked like Lila Hart, but I was still Kitty Doe.

All Kitty Doe wants for her 17th birthday is to earn a respectable score on her test – nothing special, just enough to get her an average rank of IV – so that she can stay with her boyfriend Benjy. Get a relatively safe job, maybe buy a small house in the Heights of DC, even have a kid or two – with enough income to keep their “Extra” instead of sending him or her off to a group home, like Kitty’s own parents were forced to do to her. Just one little test is all that stands between Kitty and her happily ever after.

Unfortunately, Kitty’s dyslexic, and the Ministers of the Union don’t give kids like her additional time to take the test – no matter how intelligent they may be. The ranking system’s a farce, after all. Just ask the VIs and VIIs who inherited their ranks.

Kitty’s poor score lands her a III and a lowly sanitation job – halfway across the country, in Denver. If she hops on that train, she knows that her odds of ever seeing Benjy again are nil. But her options in the District of Columbia are slim: stay hidden at the group home, putting den mother Nina at risk – or get a temporary job at one of the local “clubs,” biding her time until Benjy turns 17 and takes the test himself. As a virgin, she’s sure to pull in an extra-high bid at the initial Auction; and after that, she can choose her own clients, so it won’t be that bad. And when Benjy eventually aces the test – as she knows he will – Kitty will have saved up a nice little nest egg to get them started. It’s a no-brainer, right?

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-12-14

December 15th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-12-13

December 14th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

We all bark for bisque!

December 13th, 2014 12:34 pm by Kelly Garbato

2014-12-10 - SRJ Sweet Potato Bisque - 0002 [flickr]

Sweet Potato & Corn Bisque from Simple Recipes for Joy, served with a loaf of lightly toasted sourdough bread for dipping!

There’s not much else to say about this soup – it warms the belly and is a cinch to make, and that’s enough for me – so here’s a picture of Finnick coveting my dinner from the couch while I snap some not-so-gourmet food photos. (The lighting + my yellow countertops = the ughs.)

2014-12-10 - Finnick - 0001 [flickr]

tweets for 2014-12-12

December 13th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-12-11

December 12th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Cookbook Review: Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe, Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos, and Jorge Pineda (2014)

December 11th, 2014 2:42 pm by Kelly Garbato

A Celebration of Vegan Food

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through the Blogging for Books program.)

As with many renowned vegan eateries, NYC’s Candle Café is a restaurant I’ve coveted from afar, salivating over the many mouth-watering dishes photographed, enjoyed, and shared by vegan friends and acquaintances on Instagram, tumblr, and other social media outlets. (I have five dogs who I love to pieces – but they kind of put a damper on my travel plans.) Luckily, the burgeoning vegan cookbook market – and the increasing number of cookbooks released by popular vegan restaurants, such as Candle Café, The Chicago Vegan Diner, and Jivamuktea Café – has made it possible to enjoy even the most upscale menus from the comfort of your own kitchen. Hasta la vista, age of vicarious living!

Candle Café ups the ante with Vegan Holiday Cooking, a special cookbook chock full of holiday-themed menus. While this isn’t the first vegan holiday cookbook on the market (there’s also Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas and Susan Voisin, as well as Zel Allen’s Vegan for the Holidays), Vegan Holiday Cooking is unique in its focus: rather than concentrating solely on the “big” holiday season – Thanksgiving through New Year’s – Pierson, Ramos, and Pineda extend their celebration across the calendar.

The book includes ten menus for a variety of occasions, including the Super Bowl; the Lunar New Year; Valentine’s Day; Passover; Easter; Cinco de Mayo; the Fourth of July; Thanksgiving; Christmas; and New Year’s Eve. Each menu receives roughly the same amount of attention – the 4th of July and Christmas both merit 18 pages of coverage! – resulting in a holiday cookbook with great depth and variety.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-12-10

December 11th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-12-09

December 10th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Candle Cafe’s Snowball Cookies

December 9th, 2014 1:10 pm by Kelly Garbato

2014-11-26 - VHC Snowball Cookies - 0003 [flickr]

Baked goods are always a little risky for me – cookies especially, which is tragic because I love them SO MUCH – which is why I usually stick to tried and true cookbooks. (See, e.g., Kelly Peloza’s The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I really should review one of these years.) But the Snowball Cookies in Vegan Holiday Cooking looked so tempting that I just couldn’t help myself. Caution, meet wind.

The results are a little mixed. While the cookies themselves are pretty easy to make and taste amazing, the chocolate icing (? ganache? glaze?) proved a bit of a mess. It was thin and runny and didn’t set on the cookies AT ALL, even after fifteen minutes in the fridge. Plus the recipe made at least three times more chocolate than was necessary, and now I’m stuck with an entire pint of extra chocolate sauce. Not the worst problem, but still.

In the end I added about 1/4 cup of cornstarch to thick the sauce up; while it still transformed the cookies into a sticky mess, it was much more manageable (and tastier) than the previous wet mess that was the test cookie. Next time I’ll probably just skip the recommended sauce altogether and use a magic chocolate shell or some kind of chocolate (or not! the eggnog flavor from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur would go great on snowballs!) icing instead.

tweets for 2014-12-08

December 9th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: To Find a Mountain, Dani Amore (2014)

December 8th, 2014 12:22 pm by Kelly Garbato

A Fictional Look at Rural Italy During WWII

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program. Also, trigger warning for rape.)

My children know very little of what happened to me during that time. The parts I have told them are the truth, but I have not told them everything. […]

They do not know how close to death I came. They do not know how close to death their father came. They do now know how close to death my entire village came – all because of the events that took place in my house the year the Germans arrived.

My children will learn that wars are fought not just on the front lines, but also in the dirt streets of poverty-stricken towns like Casalvieri, Italy.

They will learn that their mother killed a man during the war.

The year is 1943, and Nazi forces have just arrived in the small Italian town of Casalvieri. Located several miles north of Mt. Cassino – the single highest point in central Italy – Casalvieri is, much to its residents’ detriment, a strategic asset in the war for Italy. Seemingly overnight, the town is overrun with Germanesi, demanding food, housing, and – worst of all – male bodies to sacrifice to the German war machine.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-12-07

December 8th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-12-06

December 7th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato