Friday, 26 December 2014

Review: 'Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking' by Eric V Copage

Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking by Eric V. Copage, 1991, William Morrow and Company, $25.00, hardbound, 356 pages. Cover: nice. Category/Genre: cookbook. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

This book is a cookery book, but it's also an introduction to the cultural holiday of Kwanzaa. If you're interested in celebrating, you may like to know that Kwanzaa doesn't take the place of Christmas; it falls from December 26 – New Year's Day, so you can celebrate both if you want.

In case you don't know anything about this holiday, this book offers a bit of history along with a guide to help you celebrate Kwanzaa the way its creator first conceived it. How you celebrate is strictly up to you, however, and there are some other ideas included on how to personalise your Kwanzaa celebration.

If you're already familiar with Kwanzaa, you still might find this book useful, as there are over 125 recipes from people of African descent from all across the globe in it. Even if you've been celebrating for years, you're likely to discover some new recipes here.

Next each recipe is the recipe's country of origin and a bit about the person who contributed the recipe. You'll find appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, side dishes, vegetables, breads, beverages, and desserts. Plus there's an index of mail-order sources and a list of suggested menus.

Countries included are: Kenya, South Africa, Antigua, Barbuda, and the United States (with heavy emphasis on the US).

Recipes include: 'Spicy Matoke: Beef and Plantain “Cake”' from Kenya; 'Antigua Fruit Salad with Lime-Nutmeg Dressing' from Antigua and Barbuda; 'Conkies: Individual Cornmeal and Raisin Puddings in Banana Leaves' from Barbados; and 'Mavis's Pineapple-Papaya Punch' from the US.

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Review: 'The Litter of the Law' by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

The Litter of the Law by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown, Illustrated by Michael Gellatly, 2013, Bantam, $7.99, softbound, 292 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: very nice. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

This series is a bit unusual in that a cat named Sneaky Pie Brown helped write it. Perhaps because of that, there are a good deal of animal characters (one of whom reportedly looks astonishingly like Sneaky Pie Brown), all of whom can talk to each other but who are not understood by humans. The animals' antics are surely one reason this series is so popular – it's a New York Times bestseller – but the human characters are also interesting, and the mystery is intriguing.
Mary Minor 'Harry' Haristeen and her husband, Fair, have a farm and a number of animals – not the least of whom are Mrs Murphy, the grey tiger cat; Tee Tucker, a corgi; and Pewter, a grey cat who loves eating more than just about anything else in the world. It's these three animals who do the most to help Harry when she's trying to solve a mystery, although they also enlist help from the other animals: crows, a possum, horses, a fox, and others.

In this installment, Harry, Fair, and their brood come across a scarecrow – a familiar sight in farmland, especially in October – but what isn't familiar is the attention the scarecrow is getting from the local crows, who are pecking at the scarecrow as if it's some sort of delicacy. Which, it turns out, it is, at least to crows. The scarecrow is actually a murder victim dressed up.

This grisly discovery is only the start; as Harry digs deeper, she uncovers an insidious plot that she and the other inhabitants of Crozet find both horrifying and enraging. But it's only a matter of time before the perpetrator realises Harry is getting too close and decides to cut his losses . . .

A good, quick read, The Litter of the Law will no doubt satisfy both those new to the series and those who are steadfast followers of Mrs Murphy and her gang of animal sleuths. If it were up to us, though, we'd opt for a bit less of the talk of crops and more from the animals' points of view. All in all, well done, and there's a handy reference guide at the beginning so you won't get lost amongst all the characters.

If you like this one, try: Wish You Were Here, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown; and The Cat Who . . . books by Lilian Jackson Braun. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Review: 'The Wreath Book' by Rob Pulleyn

The Wreath Book by Rob Pulleyn, 1988, Sterling/Lark, hardbound, 144 pages. Cover: not bad. Category/Genre: how-to. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

This book, filled with colour photographs, gives you all the information you need to make the over 100 wreaths in the book, plus any of your own invention. Handy tools are listed, and you're told how to make a base and attach materials. It does take a few hours to learn, so be prepared.

These wreaths are for the holidays, but they're also for any other time of the year, and for every room in the house.

Among the different types of wreath highlighted are 'collection wreaths' for teen rooms; culinary wreaths for the kitchen; quilted and appliqued wreaths for a sewing room; edible wreaths for a party table; and a moth-repelling wreath for a closet door. Plus there are 'Childhood Memento' wreaths for using discarded toys and 'Wearable Wreaths' for brides, hats, and jackets.

The 'Scented Wreaths' use items such as potpourri, cinnamon sticks, and fraser fir; the 'Herbal Wreaths' use elements that are often insect-repellent or fragrant; and there's a shell wreath, as well. Pulleyn also suggests putting a wreath on a table as a centrepiece.

In addition to all the wreaths, you'll learn how to make and use bows; cleaning and preserving techniques; and how to make a wreath with meaning (Pulleyn lists common plant and flower meanings, both secular and religious).

A lot of the projects look like fun, and wreaths can be made as gifts, too.

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?  

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Maccabee on the Mantel by Abra Liberman Garrett and Four Day Weekend, Illustrated by Ivan Escalante, 2013, Viper Comics, $14.99, hardbound, 18 pages. Cover: very good except his beard looks like it's part of his armour. Category/Genre: religious. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon.

This book comes with a plush toy Maccabee (a Jewish warrior), who features prominently in the book.

The book is meant to teach children a bit about Hanukkah and to help them celebrate this Jewish holiday. The basic story of Hanukkah is told in very simple, rhyming verse, along with clean, breezy artwork. The Maccabee (which means 'hammer') toy is to be a friend and companion to remind you that miracles do happen.

Several suggestions for games to play with the Maccabee are given, and readers are encouraged to give their Maccabee a name (first, middle, last, and Hebrew). There's a page of Hebrew blessings, as well.

This is a clever book, and a fresh way of introducing religious history to Jewish children.

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?