A fun, delicious, entertaining, and good-for-you cookbook that features plant-based foods that don’t contaOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A fun, delicious, entertaining, and good-for-you cookbook that features plant-based foods that don’t contain meat or dairy products.
Description: Bryant Terry “remixes the favorite staples, ingredients, and classic dishes of the African Diaspora to present wholly new, creative culinary combinations that will amaze vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.” He is a “food justice activist” with food justice defined as “the basic human right to fresh, safe, affordable, and culturally appropriate food in all communities.”
Thoughts: Before I received this book I found Afro-Vegan’s recipe Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens in our local San Francisco Examiner’s Sunday food section. Needless to say it was delicious. And when Afro-Vegan, became available for review I jumped at the chance. From there we have tried (I cook and eat, my husband just eats) a handful of recipes – such as Summer Vegetable and Tofu Kebabs with Pomegranate-Peach Barbeque Sauce, Stewed Tomatoes and Black-Eyed Peas with Cornbread Croutons, Glazed Carrot Salad,(in its raw alternative form) and most recently watermelon juice and Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rinds and Jalapenos. All have been winners. And the best yet is that I have barely scratched the surface of what’s in this healthy treasure of a book.
I loved Afro-Vegan,. It’s thoughtfully and logically organized, divided into sections like – Spices, Sauce and Heat; Soup, Stew and Tagines; Greens, Squashes and Roots; Cold Drinks, Tonics and Cocktails. It also includes gorgeous and colorful pictures throughout. With its small hardbound cover, it’s easy to hold and it stays open easily, so you can refer to it while cooking. Each recipe has a clearly outlined list of items needed for the cooking and easy to figure out instructions. I liked that every recipe has its own separate page, where Terry has added his entertaining thoughts and descriptions about the recipe; and there is even some fun non-foody content - he’s included music for each recipe to listen to while cooking or eating, as well as books for some of them. And, importantly, all the books and music included are created by black artists. The only thing I can say that was difficult about the book is that the recipes may be a little complex and time consuming. But I believe that after a few times cooking one of the recipes an experienced or determined cook will be able to make a few changes to make the dish easier for themselves.
Overall, the thing I liked best about Afro-Vegan is that the author has a wonderful and subtle sense of humor. Bryant Terry has added fun to the book by including recipes for some wonderful sounding cocktails such as the Amy Ashwood, the Black Queen and the Congo Square,, all of which he suggests “will promote lively conversation, dancing, and frolicking.” And for more fun he’s included menu suggestions for celebrations and get-togethers for events like a Juneteenth Sweet-and-Savory Brunch and Saint Bob Marley’s Birthday. Best yet is the book is not preachy but is educational around the need for a plant-based diet to optimize health, as well as the inequalities of food access for a significant number of US citizens. A special book with delicious flavors that has health and social activism at its heart. It’s a 4.5 star for me. ...more
An apocalyptic horror/thriller that has a parasitic insect at the core of the story.
Description: Trey Gilliard is a loner, a researcher who prefers his forays into the wilderness more than relationships. When the story opens he’s working for ITC – International Conservation Trust – in Senegal, West Africa. The horror begins when Trey hears screams and follows a trail of blood leading him to a local clinic.
He finds an examination room, where a local doctor and his headstrong daughter are guarding a dead soldier. The soldier’s midsection is a mass of shredded fabric and flesh. Although desperate to know what is happening, Trey is refused any information by the doctor and escorted out of the building. Later when informed by ITC that he’s no longer welcome in the area and told he must immediately report to Dakar, a city many miles away, Trey begins to believe that his encounter with the body must be the cause.
A man never to follow orders, Trey does the opposite and drives directly to an area in the local forest that caught his attention on his latest plane trip over the forest canopy, where he noticed unusual deforestation. He suspects that this may be the key to the apparent cover-up. There he has his first encounter with the bug.
With a heart-raising pace Trey and his team try to find other clues to this intelligent insect and what appears to be a grand global cover-up to a dangerous and world-altering threat.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is a well thought out and easy to follow read. It has great pacing and an interesting parasitic insect that will frighten most readers. It’s entertaining and is one of those nice small paperbacks with decent sized print that’s easy to read and carry, especially if you’re traveling. It fit easily into my carry-on bag and was easy to pick up and start reading where I left off.
I particularly liked that the story has some interesting science and has an in-depth take on what constitutes the concept of the insect hive-mind. So if you like biological thrillers with environmental themes and science fiction, this will probably interest you. Since it’s mostly action based with light gore and ends hopefully, the book will also intrigue readers looking for thrillers or mild horror.
My only quibble is that I did not get enough of the invasion. There just wasn’t enough information detailing the spread of the insect. It felt like the bug propagated all over the world in a matter of months, which felt unrealistic to me. But since I love science-based fiction and horror I enjoyed Invasive Species. A lot actually, so it comes recommended at 3.5 stars. ...more
Shellie’s quick take:It’s a stand-alone historical fiction novel that has horror and romance elements witOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:It’s a stand-alone historical fiction novel that has horror and romance elements with a vampire as the main character. Set in Egypt in the 1200s, the main character (Count Saint Germain assisting as a translator) and a group of European Christian pilgrims are searching for holy sites and relics in the African desert, in hopes of redemption or money.
Shellie’s description: Sidi Sandjer’min (Count Saint-Germain’s name with an Egyptian twist) has been living at a Coptic monastery with his helper and friend Ruthier, assisting the monks and their visitors with their medical needs. He knows many languages and is an apothecary and a physician with knowledge that is advanced for the time.
Due to an edict passed by the ruler of Egypt that forces European inhabitants of the country to leave the land, Sandjer’min and Ruthiers decide their best option to avoid any persecution is to join a band of Christian pilgrims on their travels to visit churches and monasteries, as they are heading into the more remote areas of the Ethiopian highlands away from the main tributary of the Nile river. Set during a time without our modern conveniences, there is ample room for hardships and excitement and the story delivers.
With the faith of the zealous at its core, this is a novel which examines the place of religion in creating the world’s history and political climate during the 1200s.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is my first Count Saint Germain novel even though it is the 26th book in the series. Happily, I was not lost at all by reading this latest novel since the book stands completely alone. And according to Tor’s blog, all the novels in the series are that way; you can start anywhere in the huge collection and not feel lost or slighted.
I devoured this novel in a few days, which is a rarity for me. It was intriguing and has well-developed characters, romance, darkness, intrigue, medical predicaments, historical detail, geographic information and an exciting story line. What may put some readers off is that the main character is a vampire, fearing that there will be all those traditional vampire characteristics that so many readers are bored with. However, the vampire aspect is only a slight part of the story line. I would consider this book foremost a historical fiction book and it’ s really light on the vampire theme. Adding to the interest for me is that Count Saint Germain is an old, wise and kind vampire.
This is an entertaining book that I recommend for historical fiction lovers, horror readers, vampire aficionados (even though it is light on traditional vampire darkness) and anyone looking for a comprehensive and attention-grabbing read. 4 stars for this historical horror novel. I will be reading more from this series and will consider Chelsea Quinn Yarbro a go-to author when I am interested in a guaranteed good read....more
Look past the cover to find a down-to-earth, mildly spiritual (Catholic), yet contemporary look into the lOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Look past the cover to find a down-to-earth, mildly spiritual (Catholic), yet contemporary look into the life a commitment-phobic middle aged male nurse. When he finds himself “home” for the first time in 20 years he is forced to decide what is truly important to him. With strong threads containing mental illness and disabilities, internal and external conflicts, sweet humor and more - it’s one of my favorite “uplifting” reads of the past year.
About: Sean is a nurse who has spent most of his adult life in areas of the planet where there are more people than resources. Places where people are grateful for what little help a medical professional can give them even if it’s only a little more time to live. Sean has chosen this hard yet satisfying life because he is running from internal demons - a fear that he has inherited a nasty form of dementia called Huntington's disease. Sean doesn’t want to know if he has the disease, refuses to be tested for it, and has “a plan” once the symptoms begin to appear.
When he receives a letter from his sister while still working in Africa, she directly states she needs him to return to take on his share of their family responsibilities. So he does, but not entirely based upon the letter. It appears the fates have conspired to bring him back home since he’s completely burned out and his back is aching so badly - so back to Boston it is.
Needless to say things are not the most functional with his family. There are A LOT of complications. His aunt (the family Matriarch) is loosing her memory, his sister deserves some of the freedom he’s enjoyed over the years (she too may have the disease) and she is resentful. But the most significant “complication” is his pre-teen nephew, who is in a precarious transitional period, and in desperate need of support. And then there’s the dog.
Thoughts: This was a rewarding and slightly funny read with its real-life aspects that takes the tone from sweet to unsentimental. There are the shocking parts about nursing in a third world country, and dealing with the devastation of dementia, abandonment, alcohol abuse, and childhood psychological disorders. This book is a real mix of true-to-life problems with complex emotions and entanglements associated with them. But they are handled seriously and with a soft touch by the author.
The story has a mild element containing Catholicism. Appropriately so, since the main character - Sean’s da/dad - is from Ireland. And since the characters are of Irish decent there is also a fun part where several of the characters take a trip to Ireland. This may intrigue many readers and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
But I think the best part of this story are the characters. They are complex, well developed and mostly likeable; even the prickly ones, giving a literary feel to the novel. It’s being marketed as women’s fiction (look at the cover), but it’s more than that. I can say that men may enjoy this novel too if they can get beyond its cover’s femininity, and its obvious design for attracting women. Publishers have to sell books and women buy the most.
Just a few mild complaints - The Shortest Way Home is another one of those reads where there is a light romantic element which was slightly too “mushy” for me, and also several of the sex scenes left me with a misplaced guffaw (not my favorite reaction for a “romantic interlude”). However, it was an engrossing and entertaining read. I devoured it in a few days and give it a 4-star rating. ...more
A contemporary and historical mix that’s based around two story lines separated by 100 years. Its complex main characters, intriguing plots, and amazing equatorial African settings (which includes lions and gorillas) immerse the reader into its pages. The question is: how will these two characters be linked together in the end?
About: The historical story line is set in 1899 when Jeremy, a young American Engineer, travels to Africa in order to manage a team of 700 men constructing a railroad line in the heart of the continent. The workers are brought in from India to work on the line which is being built for access to the area for “Western” settlers. As the railroad workers battle the inhospitable drought-torn environment and malaria-causing mosquitos, they are ravaged by two 400 pound lions. The lions target the workers, just as they have been targeting the African natives. Jeremy, the only person with a gun, feels responsible for protecting “his” workers and begins to hunt them. As he becomes entwined with a native African tracker, who helps him find these elusive man-eating cats, the entire area remains terrified as one human per night is taken, killed and devoured by the starving lions.
In the parallel story which is set in the year 2000, Max, an ethno-botanist, has been commissioned to travel to the Congo by a US pharmaceutical company. She is to find and bring back a special plant that contains a chemical which may help victims of heart attacks and strokes. While searching in the mountain forest she becomes inextricably involved with the team of scientists who are living among and studying a wild gorilla family whose survival is in question. Max also finds that she too may be in danger.
Thoughts: Three Weeks in December is a terrific read and I think it has many elements which would be perfect for group discussion due to its layered and controversial themes. Audrey Schulman addresses environmental issues, gender issues, racial issues, and includes one character with a disability, making this a rich book, ripe for discussions.
It is a wonderfully descriptive story of equatorial Africa, with visions of the Savanna and jungle mountain areas, including interesting flora and fauna. While reading I kept thinking about the similarities of humans to gorillas, the complex and huge number of unknown plants that may have life-saving chemicals in their leaves, and the contrast with the torrid, dusty and dangerous areas where the lions reside. I could not help but think how easily a huge hungry cat could make us part of their menu.
The best part of the book is its complex characters, each with interesting personal attributes, giving the story depth and color. I learned from an online interview with the author that creating these characters took her some time and included repeated re-writes. A link for that interview is included on the blog.
I thoroughly enjoyed Three Weeks in December, with its exotic setting, complex characters, and in-depth relationship with the native animals and African environment. For me it was one easy-to-read story where I lost myself, my favorite type of book to read. I will be including Schulman’s other novels on my “to-be-read” list. I completely loved her writing style. I give this wonderful book a 4.5 stars....more