Tag Archive: book club

My Crafty Book Club meeting was last Thursday and I was so much looking forward to it. Getting out of the house, even with my child, is a welcome relief. My son managed to charm all the ladies that attended (which is kinda crazy really as he was running around, bumping into things the entire time), and but we didn’t manage to get much book discussion done. I am still trying to read Hitler’s Piano Player: The Rise and Fall of Ernst Hanfstaengl: Confidant of Hitler, Ally of FDR, which is actually a really excellent biography. I’m just incredibly slow when it comes to reading nonfiction biographies. I discovered the subject matter, Ernst Hanfstaengl, when I was listening to Erik Larson’s book In the Garden of Beasts, which is about Hitler’s coming to power in the 1930s, as seen through the eyes of the American Ambassador to Germany and his family. I found it fascinating that this guy went to Harvard and lived in the States for awhile and yet was a German in Hitler’s Inner Circle, and then later betrayed him by becoming a spy for FDR. So I’m reading this biography, which as far as I know, is the only book written on the man, apart from his personal biography. I am also  finished with the audiobook version of Lirael (Abhorsen, #2) by Garth Nix.

Aside from that, I have been having some luck in the job search. I got an email about another position in a local library and interviewed for it last Tuesday. Still no word back, but I’m still hoping that good news will come out of it. I’ve also got an interview coming up with a local museum that I hope will pan out, if the library one doesn’t. I know it’s only been about 2 1/2 months, but I’m going stir-crazy in this house and we could use the extra income. Well anyways, on to the book reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.


Bearskin by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

I found this book after looking up other Trina Schart Hyman illustrated books and it looked interesting. The storyline was predictable and seems like it had just borrowed elements from other tales. Basically the king wants to prevent a prophecy from coming true, so he pays off the miller and takes his son and tells his huntsman to get rid of it. The huntsman’s wife takes pity on the baby and they leave it in the woods and bring the king back a rabbit’s heart. The baby is then raised by a motherless she-bear, who later helps the man, called Bearskin, out on his quests. He prevents the princess from marrying a deceitful steward of the king after it is revealed that he, not the steward, actually slew the dragon. The illustrations were great and featured an African princess and wise man, as well as other characters scattered through the story who were from a variety of different cultures. This was a nice change to your traditional fairy tale. I also like that the illustrator included top of page illustrations, so it made it look like a much older book. Recommended for ages 5-10, 3 stars.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

I enjoyed this quick easy read from Mo Willems. I think the combination between the whiny slightly annoying Pigeon and the super cute Duckling is fantastic. Basically the Duckling asks for a cookie wit nuts(politely) and gets one, then the Pigeon rants and raves about how he always asks for things but never gets them. Then the Duckling gives him the cookie, and the Pigeon is blown away. Afterwards, the Duckling asks for a no-nut cookie. My son loved this book, I think mostly because I loved doing the voices for it! Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Queen Esther Saves Her People retold by Rita Golden Gelman

I never really knew the story of Esther so I figured getting a children’s picture book would be one of the easiest ways to find out the story. Well that and I’m trying to find more books to put on my Biblical Children’s Book list. The story is basically this: The King of Persia (called Ahasuerus in the Bible but in actuality it is Xerxes) has banished his wife for refusing to dance, and a few months later, he is lonely. So his advisors look for a woman to replace the queen. Esther is a beautiful young Jewish woman who lives with her cousin Mordecai. She is soon found by soldiers and brought to the palace. She lives in the harem with the rest of the young women brought to see the king, and one day she meets him and she is named Queen. Mordecai stops a plot to kill the king. Now Hamen, was the king’s vizier and he demands that people bow down to him. Everyone but Mordecai does because he will not bow before another human, only God. Hamen vows to kill all the Jews because of this, and Mordecai finds out and tells Esther to talk to the King. So she does and saves not only Mordecai but all the Jewish people as well, so now Jews celebrate this victory in a celebration called Purim.

Now I enjoyed the overall story, but I didn’t like the way the author dumbed down the story because it was meant for children. You can always use the correct words (like harem instead of “special house” or vizier instead of “prime minister”) and have an index in the back of the book or put definitions in the book. The illustrations were really good too, and helped to put the story at a child’s level. I would recommend this book for ages 7-10, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

This book won a 2001 Caldecott Honor. Like her other books I’ve read “Giggle, Giggle, Quack” and “Duck for President,” Betsy Lewin’s illustrations are what make Doreen Cronin’s books awesome for kids. Well that and the cutesy storyline about cows that borrow a typewriter from the barn and start making demands of Farmer Brown. The best one was when they promised to give back their typewriters for electric blankets, because the barn is too cold. Now if only he could stop those ducks from making demands. My son loved the pictures. Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

So Want to Be President? by Judith St. George

This book was the 2001 Caldecott Award winner, though I must preferred “Casey at the Bat” or “Olivia” to win that year as I thought they were much better done books. This was an interesting take on the US presidents, giving fun factual information like what kind of pets each president had, who was the tallest/shortest, thriftiest/spent the most money, and what kinds of sports they liked to do. It gets the most props for the illustrations, which were amusing and full of caricatures. The back of the book featured a list of the illustrations, in case you couldn’t figure them out from the descriptions and a list of all the presidents and their major achievements in office. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This book won a 2000 Caldecott Honor award. It is a gorgeous nature-filled adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic  fairy tale, done in Jerry Pinkney’s glorious watercolor illustrations. The ugly duckling spends a year being bullied by all sorts of animals and birds before finally realizing that he is a beautiful swan that everyone now adores. I loved the paintings of the Canadian geese and the swans. Highly recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

This book won the 1999 Caldecott Award, and I must agree with some others that have said that it was nice that a non-fiction book won. I will say though that I waited forever to read this book as it was so touted as a good book that I tried to avoid reading it. Once again, I was proven wrong. Snowflake Bentley was the name of a man who lived in Jericho, Vermont and loved the winters there. He was so fascinated with the different shapes of snowflakes that he asked for and got a special camera that could photograph them. He became the world expert on snow and when he was 66 years old, with some help from fellow scientists, he finally got a book of his photographs published. The back of the book features a picture of Snowflake Bentley with his special camera, as well as some reproductions of some of his snowflake pictures.

I like how you have the main story in the middle of the page and the facts on the outskirts, for more information. I love the illustrations that are woodcuts that are hand-tinted by watercolors. They really make the story more awesome. Highly recommended for ages 5-10, 5 stars.

Olivia by Ian Falconer

I loved the diva Olivia and her zany adventures dressing up, building sandscrapers, going to the museum and unleashing her inner artist. My favorite lines are at the end where she is reading books with her mother before bed and her mother says “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” I totally know how that mother feels, as I feel the same way about my son. This book was a 2001 Caldecott honor winner. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier

This book won a 1997 Caldecott Honor award. Now it is supposed to be for kids, but really I think adults will appreciate the graphic design of it more (after all, that is what the author/illustrator’s main job is). As a reviewer on Amazon said, this book would be great for art teacher to use in their classes. It is definitely not your traditional ABC book. Recommended for ages 4+, 3 stars.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This book won a 1999 Caldecott Honor, but it would’ve been really hard to choose between this book and “Snowflake Bentley” for the Caldecott Award, because they are both excellent books in story and illustration. The author does a fantastic job in retelling the life of Edward Kennedy Ellington, otherwise known as Duke Ellington, jazz musician and composer, and his orchestra. The illustrator Brian Pinkney, who happens to be Jerry Pinkney’s son, did a fabulous job at making the pictures match the music. He did it in scratchboard renderings with dyes and paint, which makes the artwork look like it is in constant motion, just like a musician does when they feel the music flow through them. The back of the book contains a small biography of Duke, as well as the source materials used for the book, which included books, videos and a museum exhibit. Recommended for ages 7-11, 5 stars.

The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey

This was a 1997 Caldecott Honor award winner. I can see why for its lovely painted illustrations, which help depict the life of a paperboy. The young boy goes out and does his paper run in the dark and only returns to bed, just as light is about to dawn on the rest of the world. My favorite painting was the last one in the book where the boy and his dog are floating off into dreamland. Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

This book won the 1996 Caldecott Award, but I have been putting off reading it forever because there was so much press about it. It was actually a really cute book, and even my son liked it. Officer Buckle knows all there is to know about safety and regularly lectures about it at the local school. However, no one listens to him until he gets a new K-9 dog named Gloria who makes his lectures fun and everyone wants to see them. I especially liked the girl with the star-shaped paper. Cute story and good illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.


My Life As a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash

I found about this biography after I blogged about the Muppets yesterday and put a link to the Muppet Wikia, which listed this book. I had already seen the documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.” I absolutely loved the movie and it gave me a little more respect for Elmo, whereas before I just found him to be incredibly annoying. Kevin Clash has had a fascinating career and he is doing something that he loves doing (and it gets paid for it!). If only all of us were that lucky. In the book, he and his co-author give a short biography of himself and how he came to be working for Jim Henson and Sesame Street. By being Elmo’s puppeteer, he has learned love, joy, creativity, tolerance, courage, friendship, cooperation, learning and optimism. Some of the cool things I found out in this book include the following: Mo Willems (one of my favorite children’s author/illustrators) was a Sesame Street writer who came up with the concept of “Elmo’s World,” the mix of computer-generated and live action that brings out a child’s imagination. The Elmo’s World segment of the show was created in the late 90s to get to their new audience: two to four year olds. Originally the show’s audience was 5-8 yr olds. In the section on friendship, Kevin discusses Jim Henson, something I always find fascinating because he seems like he would be a really cool guy to work for, and apparently he was. I also found it interesting that in 2002, “Elmo and Kevin went to DC to testify in front of Congress at the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, to help prevent them from eliminating funding for school arts programs.” Kevin talked about his own experiences in music and drama in school, and how important he believes it is for children to be able to get the same opportunities he did. In the Tolerance section, he discussed the South African version of Sesame Street and how they had decided to put an AIDS-infected character on there to represent the thousands of infected Africans who had the disease. I thought that was a really cool thing they did to address issues of modern society that some people aren’t willing to deal with, but it’s okay to do it on Sesame Street because it is almost like it is in a neutral setting. Anyways, overall I really enjoyed the book and it was a nice quick read. 5 stars

Preacher, Vol 3: Proud Americans by Garth Ennis

Overall, didn’t like this one as much as the last one, but they did explain a lot more storyline in the second half of this volume. I guess the title is about Jesse being overly full of pride and an American, which is one of his downfalls. Continuing the storyline of the last volume, the Grail organization has control of Cassidy and they are slowly killing him. Jesse doesn’t want Tulip to get hurt, so he leaves her at a motel and asks to meet up in a couple weeks in NYC. He goes on to Masada alone. Starr’s mutiny plans aren’t quite working out as the Allfather decides to show up with the actual Grail (inbred offspring of Christ)and figures out that Starr is working against him. Oh yeah, and the Allfather is distantly related to the L’Angelle family, so he’s pissed that Jesse killed Aunt Marie (Jesse’s crazy grandmother). The Saint of all Killers finally catches up with Jesse and almost kills him, until they find out that Jesse knows the secret of what really happened to the Saint’s family. The only problem is he has to be able to access Genesis’s memory, which is currently locked up, according to the angel father of Genesis (who was cast out of heaven and has been imprisoned by the Grail organization). God appears to Cassidy and tells him to tell Jesse to back off and stop trying to find him. Jesse and Cassidy manage to escape and head to New York. The end of the volume we learn of Cassidy’s story, and turns out he’s not quite 100 yrs old. The funniest part was learning Cassidy’s first name. 4 stars.

Preacher, Vol 4: Ancient History by Garth Ennis

This was my least favorite volume of the Preacher series so far. It was solely about minor characters, in this case, the Saint of Killers, Arseface, and the rednecks Jody and T.C. who used to torment Jesse Custer. I will say that my favorite, though definitely the bloodiest/gun-riddled part of the story was about the Saint of Killers and how he got that title. I’m still not sure exactly what miraculous thing Jesse is going to reveal about him and his family, but we will have to wait and see. The Arseface section is where the son of Sheriff Root earns his name and appearance, and vows to hunt down and kill Jesse Custer for his role in his father’s death. You kind of feel sorry for the kid, even though he did it to himself. The Jody and T.C. section just explained how bad-ass they were, despite appearances, and how they took care of business. Overall, I give it 2 stars.

Preacher, Vol 5: Dixie Fried by Garth Ennis

This was much better than the last one as it actually involved storyline. In this volume, we see the less glamorous side of Cassidy. We see his past, where he meets up with another vampire in New Orleans, decides he’s a douche and kills him. Herr Starr goes back to San Francisco to meet up with Featherstone as the new Allfather and is pissed at Jesse for scarring his head, and vows to kill him. Tulip meets up with Jesse and Cassidy in New York and can’t decide whether she wants to stay with him or not, but a conversation with her friend Amy, helps her decide after Jesse swears that he will always trust her. Ever since Cassidy saved Tulip, he has developed feelings for her and finally tells her in NY, which she naturally gets really pissed off about (as she loves Jesse and Cassidy just swore a vow that he would stay with them till the end of this conflict). Arseface returns and eventually finds the gang (Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) but the boys manage to convince him to stop and take him with them to New Orleans. They are going there to get a friend of Cassidy’s who can hypnotize Jesse and help him remember Genesis’s memories. Only things don’t go quite according to plan for anyone, and Cassidy’s stupidity/selfishness is partly to blame. The only major thing we find out is that God is responsible for the existence of the Saint of Killers and the death of the Devil, and that makes Jesse even more determined to find him. 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 6: War in the Sun by Garth Ennis

This volume is like volume 3 as it is chocked full of storyline and action! It starts out with Herr Starr’s story of how he got into the Grail and worked his way up the ranks. The new Allfather enlists the help of the American military, via his connections to the President, to help kill the Saint of Killers, so he can get to Jesse Custer. Cassidy apologizes to Tulip for his behavior, then ends up hanging out with Jesse philosophizing about life. The gang (Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) head to Monument Valley, where Jesse brings some peyote and plans on accessing Genesis this way, only things don’t go according to plan. They run into the Saint of Killers, and Jesse tells him that God is who made him what he is and the Saint swears that they’re even. Despite shooting him with a tank and about a million bullets, the Saint doesn’t die. The gang tries to escape on a plane, but the Allfather drops a nuclear bomb on the Saint (which still doesn’t kill him), and Jesse ends up falling out of the plane. Tulip goes into a horrible depression thinking Jesse is dead, but he miraculously survives and only loses his left eye. One of my favorite parts is when Jesse meets up with the guy out in the desert, Johnny Lee Wombat. After a month goes by and Jesse is healed (thanks to Johnny), they go out to drink beers and smoke in the desert. Johnny is explaining himself and his choices and says “See, you gotta remember, man…It doesn’t matter who you are, or how good you got things. Sooner or later, sh*t goes wrong for everybody. Sooner or later, there comes a time when all you want to do is shout f*** you to the world.” Jesse manages to make his way to Phoenix, where he believes Tulip is and finds her with Cassidy, and he is blown away. Can’t wait to see what happens next! 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 8: All Hell’s A-Coming by Garth Ennis

So for whatever reason, someone decided to permanently borrow Preacher Vol 7 from the library and I’ve not been able to find it anywhere else in the area. So I had to skip it and go to Vol 8. From what I can tell, not much happens anyways, so there ya go. Tulip has had enough of Cassidy keeping her drugged and drunk, so she skedaddles outta there right quick. We finally get to see Tulip’s back story, how she was raised by her dad, met Amy and Jesse, and eventually meets up with Amy in the present. Amy informs her that Jesse isn’t dead, and that he’s coming to her house to get her help in finding Tulip. Jesse and Tulip reunite and she spills the beans on Cassidy and what he did to her. Jesse finds someone from Cassidy’s past that tells all his secrets and Jesse means to punish him for what he did. Meanwhile, Herr Starr is trying to get rid of the one person that can screw his plans up. Arseface has been disgraced and lost everything. It ends with an episode from Amy, Jesse and Tulip’s past that explains a bit more about Jesse’s cowboy tendencies. Overall, it was action-packed edition that explained a lot of storyline that was left out in the past. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 9: Alamo by Garth Ennis

I enjoyed this volume, but the ending was a bit disappointing. Jesse teamed up with the Saint of Killers to give God his comeuppances for the havoc he’s caused. He plans to have his final showdown at the Alamo, which is rather fitting given that he is a Texan, with Cassidy. Herr Starr finds out his plans and plans an attack of his own. Arseface finds Salvation, Texas (where Jesse was in Vol 7) and meets the girl of his dreams there, and decides to settle down. Jesse tries to save Tulip again by drugging her, but she wakes up in time and reeks mayhem on Herr Starr and his men. Cassidy and Jesse beat the crap out of each other, and then they both pay for their crimes. Or do they? Can’t give away more because you’ll want to read it. 4 stars.

Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies by Artemis Morris

I picked up this book because I have joint issues and thought that this diet would help, as it is supposed to help those that suffer from asthma, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes due to inflammation. It very plainly outlines anti-inflammatory nutrition, how certain foods can be toxic for your body and cause allergies/sensitivities, and some really great recipes to use on the Anti-Inflammation diet. Anyways, they break down their food requirements like this: heavily dependent on fresh organic fruits and veggies, beans/nuts/seeds make up 3-4 servings per day, at least 3 servings of omega-3 rich seafood per week, only 1 dairy serving per day, 3-4 servings of whole grains per day, 2-4 servings of lean meat per week, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices to be used at least once per day, and anti-inflammatory oils (olive, sesame, sunflower or coconut) 2-4 Tbsp per day. So basically I need to cut out red meat and eat more whole grains, legumes, seafood, healthy oils and spices. Also stop eating so much professed food, white sugar/flour, and drink more water. While I may not be able to get my husband on the anti-inflammation bandwagon, I will try to be healthier and hopefully that’ll help with some of my issues. 4 stars.

The Inflammation Syndrome: Your Nutrition Plan for Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain-Free Living by Jack Challem

A bit too technical/doctor-speak for my liking, this book was pretty much a much more in-depth look at what I previously read in “Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies.” Mr. Challem’s diet varies slightly from the Dummies version in that it follows more of the Paleolithic caveman diet that has become so popular lately. I get that organic is healthier for you, but it is also more expensive and with the cost of grocery products rising every day, it is sometimes hard to justify the cost. Also as much as I like fruit and veg, I don’t see myself getting 5-10 servings per day. Other than a couple good recipes, the only other good thing I got out of this was the section on fish oils improve mood, which detailed how “omega-3 fish oil supplements were helpful in treating depression, reducing impulsive behavior and hostility, and those that take it are less likely to develop cognitive problems and Alzheimer’s disease.” 2 stars.

Vegetarian Indian Food & Cooking: Explore the Very Best of Indian Vegetarian Cuisine with 150 Dishes from Around the Country, Shown Step by Step in more than 950 photographs by Mridula Baljekar

I found this one browsing the new cookbook section at the library. I have been looking for more vegetarian recipes since I started looking at starting the anti-inflammation diet, which expects you to eat 5-9 servings of veggies a day. I love Indian food, so I figured it was a good place to look. It is a well-done cookbook with a whole introduction section on every province of India and the type of food they cook before getting to the actual recipes, which all had gorgeous photos with every recipe. My biggest issue with the book was that most of the recipes were fried (shallow fried vs deep fried, but still), which I am trying to avoid. Aside from that, it had some really yummy-looking food, like Plantain Curry, Chickpeas in a spice-laced yogurt sauce, Masala Dosai (rice pancakes filled with spiced potato mixture) from South India, not to mention Wheat-flour flat bread with spiced greens, Cardamom-and rose-scented mango drink, and Soft mango fudge. 4 stars.

Vegetarian Entrees That Won’t Leave You Hungry: Nourishing, Flavorful Main Courses That Fill the Center of the Plate by Lukas Volger

I picked this up at the library this past weekend as I’m trying to eat more veggies/fruit, but have run out of ideas of what to do. This book caught my attention as it is frequently the problem I and my husband have with vegetarian food, i.e. it fills you up but you’re hungry afterwards. While I’m not a fan of squash, which the author is fond of in the book, overall I thought it was a great cookbook that definitely expanded the world of vegetarian cooking outside of pasta and pizza (though those are in there too). I found the vegetarian Kimchi to be intriguing, as well as dishes like Bulgur Salad with Kale and Feta, Pumpkin Risotto with Spinach and Chestnuts, and Soba Noodles in a Mushroom-Ginger Broth. He also had five marinades for tofu, which is excellent for me because I am no expert on it either but it is full of calcium and protein and a non-meat source, which I’ve been trying to eat more of. Plus I get bored with my traditional tofu marinade, i.e. soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar and chili-garlic sauce. I wouldn’t mind owning that book. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Five-A-Day Cookbook: 200 Vegetable & Fruit Recipes by Kate Whiteman, Maggie Mayhew, and Christine Ingram

I’ve been looking for more veggie-themed recipes lately and thought this book would help, so I picked it up at the library yesterday while I was browsing. I definitely marked more desserts than entrees, but found a few good recipes like Spinach in Filo with Three Cheeses and Gnocchi with Oyster Mushrooms. I think the only reason I would give it three instead of two stars was because of the fruit and veg dictionary parts at the beginning of each section, as they were very thorough and I discovered some things I’ve never heard of or seen before. 3 stars.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

I had no idea that this place or the cookbook existed until I saw it mentioned a couple times on one of my favorite food blogs, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Now I don’t have an ice cream maker, but this cookbook definitely makes me want to buy one right away. Jeni has such amazing and intriguing flavor combinations that I would’ve never thought to put together, like Sugar-Plumped Cherries and Earl Grey tea, Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries, Gorgonzola Dolce with Candied Walnuts, or Cucumber, Honeydew and Cayenne. I definitely would also want to try the Tuscan Sundae, which involves whipped cream, Salty Caramel Ice Cream, Honey/Vin Santo (a sweet Italian dessert wine) Sauce, and topped with a real cherry and Biscotti on the side. Yum, ’nuff said. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth and Other Useful Guides by Matthew Inman

I had looked at a few of “The Oatmeal” comics online via some of my friends, and thought they were pretty funny, so when I found this at the library the other day, I checked it out. I will say that most of the comics were definitely geared towards guys, and would probably be more funny to them. However, I did enjoy the grammar and other food-related guides, even if you learned totally useless facts, which I happen to enjoy. Like I learned that if you’re lactose intolerant (which I think I am), you can have cheddar and other aged cheeses because it doesn’t really contain that much lactose. I loved the section on Nikola Tesla, which just made me want to read a biography about him. 4 stars.

The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur

I liked that new Israeli food is much more diverse than people think of as traditional Jewish food. There are so many different cultures and languages spoken in the country that the food can’t help but be changed by that. Israeli food has influences from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia, Russia, Poland, Spain, Austria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Iraq. The cookbook recipes reflect these countries with dishes such as Shakshuka (traditional Israeli breakfast with eggs, tomatoes and hot sauce) with Spinach and Feta, Chreime-North African Hot Fish Stew, and Chicken Albondigas in Tomato Sauce (Sephardic chicken dumplings). I am very much looking forward to cooking items from this cookbook. 4 stars.

Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson

I’m pretty sure I’ve been on her blog before, to check out a recipe or two, but never really looked at it. This cookbook was awesome, full of not only amazing recipes like Chocolate Malted Buttercream Frosting and Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones, but also it had a really personal funny family touch as well. I enjoy it when bloggers/cookbook writers tell you about family history and anecdotes and not just make it all about the food. It gives their story personality and makes you want to come back and read it again. This is one of those books. Can’t wait to try out the recipes! 5 stars.

Book Censorship

I went to my Crafty Book Club on Thursday and had a great time. Granted the attendance was low, only me, the Youth Services Librarian that runs the program and her teenaged son, but we talked the entire 2 hours about good books, banned ones and the ones we had read for the club. The Librarian had read Fifty Shades of Grey, that new erotic romance that is being dubbed as “mommy porn”. All the women I know are reading it, and I was wondering if it was any good. She pretty much said that it had just as much sex in it as other romances, but with light BDSM, and that the writing was pretty bad. She didn’t think she would read the second book and that pretty much made me lose interest in ever reading it. It’s funny because she compared it to Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, saying that “You know how bad Stephanie Meyer’s writing is in the series, well this woman’s [E L James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey] writing is even worse. According to this article from the UK Newspaper The Telegraph, James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey as “fan fiction”, in homage to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.” The book review article above  is actually quite good and funny, especially where they say that the book is “a middle-aged mum’s fantasy of what it might be like to kiss “beautiful” Robert Pattinson and tell him, “Have your wicked way with me, do whatever you like!”

Moving on, the real point of this post, which is about book censorship. I mentioned the above book because I read somewhere that libraries were trying to figure out whether or not to have it on their shelves, which is in and of itself, a form of censorship. This topic has always been a bit touchy of me because I’m never 100% sure how I feel about it. On one  hand, I believe in Intellectual Freedom and the right to free speech. I think Banned Book Week is important because it highlights books that people have tried to ban and you can discover some really excellent books that you might not have read otherwise. I mean let’s face it, people like to explore things that they know they’re not supposed to, liked books that are banned or places they’re not supposed to go etc. I think this is especially true with teens, who are trying to push the boundaries and see how far they can get. This is one reason I think Banned Book Week is targeted at them, although they do have children’s books on there as well. Here is the list of Banned/Challenged Books from 2010-2011, the most recent list. On the other hand, I agree with what this author said in this blog post about censorship, “I do believe in a parent’s right to keep an eye on what media their child is consuming and their right to remove items from the pool if they deem it necessary, but I do not believe it is one parent’s duty to police an entire school district’s reading material and choose what is appropriate for all students.”

I never realized that my parents may have been censoring what I read until I got to graduate school and had to do a project on banned books. The book that I eventually picked, Chris Crutcher’s Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, I had never heard of before even though it would’ve come out when I was about 12. I thought the whole concept of the book was interesting, i.e. Eric staying fat for Sarah because she’s got these serious burns over her face (they’ve been friends forever partly due to the fact that he’s obese and she’s scarred) and trying to navigate life together as two teenagers. I’m not gonna lie, the book is filled with reasons why a parent or concerned adult might want to ban it: the 30+ drops of the f-bomb and other curse words, discussions of physical/emotional abuse, suicide, abortion, masturbation, child neglect and more. It’s not an easy book to read at times, but there is a redemptive quality about the book that makes it awesome. Susannah Scheffer says it best in this article:

There are no easy, television endings to [this book]. Good does ultimately triumph over evil, but people remain just as complex as they ever were, and there’s no suggestion that they forgive or heal quickly. In Crutcher’s world, the weak don’t necessarily become strong all of a sudden, and the evil don’t necessarily see the light and repent. Yet the strong, the courageous, the good people do somehow manage to persevere. Love, loyalty, and risk do triumph, so that even if we aren’t left feeling hopeful about humanity in general, we are left feeling a passionate desire to be one of the adults who deserves kids’ trust. These aren’t just books for kids, and they aren’t even just for adults who like young adult literature. They’re for those of us who share Crutcher’s commitment to being one of the good ones, one of the people who does what’s necessary. May we live up to the standard he sets.”

If you are interested in learning more about Intellectual Freedom, check out the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The Kids’ Right to Read Project is an organization that is part of the National Coalition against Censorship, which promotes freedom to read what you want and advocates for people fighting against book challenges/bans. I like that they include a Book Censorship Toolkit for teachers, parents and kids, and authors, as well as an LGBTQ Right to Read page. For teachers, there is an Anti-Censorship Center through the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). There’s also the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CLBLDF) which is very active in issues of free speech and censorship.

Book Club and Book Reviews

Sorry I have been MIA lately, but not much to say really since I lost my job. I finally got my hands on the final book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, entitled Timeless. I did start going to a new book club, which is on the first Thursday of the month. I like it because not only are the readers in the group crafty (all either crochet or do fabric arts), but the book selection is entirely up to the reader. The group just picks the kind of book to read and we get to discuss it at the meeting. I intend on finding some yarn for a scarf for the next meeting. I picked the book The Perfect Nazi for the June meeting, since I wanted to learn more about how the German people could’ve wholeheartedly submitted to the ideals of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime and Hitler, after listening to the book In the Garden of Beasts a few weeks prior. Our next book for July has to be a mystery, so I think I already have a book picked out for that one. Since I’ve been reading a bit more lately, I figured it was time again to post some book reviews. As before, I rate the books from 1-5 stars, 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. Enjoy!


Bumble-Ardy by Maurice Sendak

I must admit that I was curious about the book as I knew that it was the first book he had written/illustrated in a while (apparently for 30 years). I had no idea that Bumble-Ardy was originally an animated sketch created by Sendak and the great Jim Henson, who he was apparently good friends with. That point alone makes it awesome.  The story starts out with poor Bumble-Ardy, a pig who never celebrated a birthday until he was nine years old. He is taken in by his aunt, who promises him a great party. He decides to have a party without her and invites everyone to a masquerade ball, which quickly gets out of hand. I liked the rhyming text and the illustrations in the beginning of the book, but as the book progressed the story/pictures got weirder. Recommended for ages 5+, 2 1/2 stars.

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Press Here was very fun and imaginative book, which will make kids laugh and smile (it sure did for me). I would love to add this book to my collection! Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

This Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein

I picked this one up for my son’s summer reading because it looked cute. I liked it more than he did. Apparently the author was trained at a Spanish cooking school, so this book was a natural extension for her as baker and mother. Chef George has a desert cooking school and his new class is about to begin. However, his students don’t know the first thing about cooking deserts, so he must teach them the basics: how to train their noses, learning how to measure correctly, teamwork, and concentration. In the end, Little Bunny is the only one who successfully bakes a dessert, which everyone can eat. I especially like the end pages with CG’s (Chef George’s) dessert recipes. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

 Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Jerry Pinkney

I picked this up on the recommendations of the Children’s Dept at our local public library, and I’m glad I did because I loved it. Mr Pinkney not only did an imaginative take on a classic children’s bedtime rhyme but it also has amazing illustrations. With the song, we follow an adventuresome little chipmunk who flies through the air and into the water and finally back home in his own bed. Even the end pages are gorgeous, depicting both the dawn and after the chipmunk drifts into sleep. I enjoyed the Artist’s Note in the back explaining why he used the chipmunk and why children dislike bedtime. Recommended for children ages 10 months – 8 yrs, 5 stars.

Pomelo Begins to Grow by Ramona Badescu

I tried to read this to my son, but he got bored after awhile. I thought it was a rather clever way of looking at growing up and how it changes a person (animal in this case). Pomelo is a tiny garden elephant who learns that growing up isn’t as scary as he thought. It is about making choices, making discoveries and having new experiences. However it is also about being able to laugh at old fears. Pomelo is ready for big adventures. I loved the whimsical illustrations, especially the ones about him trying new things (sushi and hot peppers), but I’m not sure most kids, especially younger ones, would get this book. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby

A very cute picture book about a little rabbit named Squish, who was so small he was frequently forgotten or stepped upon. Squish is lonely and so creates a pretend friend, but that doesn’t last for long. It’s not until he throws a tantrum and kicks an apple, does someone notice him and think he is playing. So Squish gains a squirrel friend. The illustrations are simple but adorable and my son liked this book. Recommended for ages 1-5, 4 stars.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin

I found the first Pete the Cat book online by accident, so when I found this book in the new kid’s book section at the library, I immediately picked it up. I Love My White Shoes was a really cute book with a really catchy song attached to it, so I knew this one would be fun. With its bright primary colors and one really cool cat named Pete, my 10 1/2 month old really liked this! Plus it’s a fun way to learn about subtraction. Highly recommended for ages 1-6, 5 stars.

Marvin Wanted More! by Joseph Theobald

 I picked this up for my son for summer reading because it looked cute. It reminded me of  The 300 Pound Cat that I used to read as a kid. Marvin the sheep was sad because he wasn’t as big as the other sheep and couldn’t run and jump like they could. So he started eating and didn’t stop. He ate trees and mountains, and drank up lakes. Soon he started gobbling up countries until he jumped up on the moon and ate the world. But then he was sad again and missed his friend Molly. So he threw up everything and things went back to normal. Moral is liking yourself no matter how big or little you are. Recommended for kids ages 1-5, 3 stars.

Noah’s Ark by Jerry Pinkney

I normally don’t read picture books of Bible stories, but with my son here now, I feel like I should at least check them out. He enjoyed the illustrations as did I. I thought they were masterfully done by Mr. Pinkney. This book won one of the 2003 Caldecott Honor awards, and so I’m reading it for the challenge, but also because I have lately become obsessed with reading as many Jerry Pinkney books because I think he’s an amazing illustrator. I also thought I would try to create a list of Biblical picture books which I could share with a friend of mine in Christian Education. I thought the story was really well done. Recommended for ages 1-8, 4 stars.

Maisy Goes to the Museum by Lucy Cousins

I didn’t read these books for the longest time because I had heard one person say that they were really annoying and too simplified. I enjoyed this one, even if my son’s attention wasn’t completely there when I was reading it to him. Maisy the mouse goes to the museum on a rainy day with her friends Charly, Tallulah, Eddie and Cyril. They see dinosaur bones, and old cars, toys, bikes, planes and a double decker bus. They see brightly colored stuffed birds, a bug exhibit, and a woolly mammoth. I like that they have so much fun at the museum because there is so much to do there. Recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems

I liked this one much better than Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! I think the Duckling made the book, so I’m glad he’s come out with more Duckling/Pigeon books. I like the way he almost manages to trick the Pigeon into giving him the hot dog, but the Pigeon figures it out and tells him to get his own, but they end up sharing it in the end. My son liked this book. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator by Mo Willems

A cute picture book with 6 1/2 stories about Amanda, a young girl who likes to read and her stuffed animal friend Alligator. While he waits for her, she brings him back a friend named Panda, so he is not lonely. This is my least favorite Mo Willems book so far, though I did like the illustrations. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

 This book won one of the 2005 Caldecott Honors, so I am reading it for my Caldecott Challenge this summer. I was hoping it was something I could read with my 10 1/2 month old but his attention span isn’t long enough for a wordless picture book. It is a cute story about a girl who finds a red book who points to a lonely boy on an island, and he finds another red book with a snowy cityscape. They realize that they are looking at each other through the book, and so the girl takes a bunch of balloons to find the boy on the island. Then the red book is picked up again. Not sure this should’ve won a Caldecott honor. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

I will admit that I put off reading the Pigeon books forever because they were so commercialized. But I love Mo Willems and seeing as this was a 2004 Caldecott Honor Book, I figured it was time to read it for my challenge. While the text and illustrations are very simple, reminiscent of the Elephant and Piggy books, the Pigeon reminded me of a toddler frustrated at not getting his way (which is probably why it is so popular with kids, because they can relate to him). Overall, I liked the book and would be interested in reading more Pigeon books. Recommended for ages 1-7 yrs, 3 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: Vol. 4 – The Devoted Friend/The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by P. Craig Russell

I picked this up randomly while looking for books for my son, for summer reading. The book features two fairy tales created by Oscar Wilde, but they (The Devoted Friend and The Nightingale and the Rose) are rather dark tales. The Devoted Friend is about little Hans, a generous soul who gives and gives to his “friend” the Miller, while the Miller gives nothing in return. Little Hans dies at the end. I had never read this story before, but I had read the second story before. The Nightingale and the Rose tells the story of a young student in love with a vain young woman. He wants to take her to the Prince’s ball and spend an evening with her, but the only way she will come with him, is if he has a red rose. He can’t find one and the Nightingale, who has been watching the whole time, prepares to sacrifice herself on the thorn of a rosebush, so he can give the rose to the girl. When he turns up with it, the girl rejects his gifts for other better ones that she has received. He comes home dejected and studies instead. Honestly, the main reason I liked this book was for the fantastic comic-style illustrations by P. Craig Russell. Definitely want to try out more of his books in the future. Recommended for ages 8-12, 3 stars.

Young Adult

Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) by Garth Nix

This book was a little strange and took me awhile to get used to all the terminology, and then it started out slow, but once I got into the story, I was hooked. Tim Curry was absolutely perfect for this book as the narrator and does great voices, especially Mogget and Kerrigor.

I will try to explain the story as best I can, but I warn you that the terminology can get a bit confusing. Sabriel has been thrust into the role of Abhorsen, a title previously claimed by her father, which basically equates to a good necromancer who helps the dead stay dead, or cross over if needed. She spent her life in an Ancelstierre boarding school, while her father stays and works in the Old Kingdom (both of which are divided by a wall, which basically contains the magic and spirits). The Old Kingdom has been falling apart for 200 years, but was once ruled by Charter magic, which is what the Abhorsen possesses and uses on a daily basis. Sabriel, a seemingly normal 17 yr old girl, is equipped with a sword covered in Charter magic and a set of seven bells which “bind the dead to Death.” She eventually teams up with Mogget, a Free Magic creature bound in the shape of a cat, who helps her on her mission to find her father who may or may not be dead. She later meets Touchstone, a young man she originally found as wooden figurehead on the front of a ship, but brought back from death. As the story goes on, we realize that Sabriel’s new job is to kill Kerrigor, a Free magic being bent on controlling the Old Kingdom and generally causing destruction and mayhem. Will Sabriel succeed in killing Kerrigor? Will she save her father? Will she finally find love? To find out, read this great book by Garth Nix. I am now very curious to read the second book in the trilogy, and I hope Tim Curry continues to narrate the series. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.


Simply Truffles: Recipes and Stories that Capture the Essence of the Black Diamond by Patricia Wells

I was first introduced to the black truffle in Italy, and fell in love. I had Tartufo, a black truffle sheep’s milk cheese and later in Scotland, I had Truffle Butter. Now I know the black truffle in Italy and France are supposed to be different, but I think this cookbook is more of a celebration of the black truffle in general. She researched her materials well, which shouldn’t be hard given that she lives in Provence in the middle of truffle-hunting country and the markets. Her introduction is very thorough and informative and I enjoyed the timeline, as I never knew the history behind the truffle which was “black as the soul of the damned” according to the Spanish Inquisition. I also enjoyed the quotes and stories scattered throughout the text, such as this one on page 62: “Lord Byron (1788-1824) kept a truffle on his desk because he believe it fed his imagination.” The legend about Napoleon was my favorite story. Most of the recipes I liked were because they featured both truffles and goat cheese, which sounds amazing together. 4 stars.

100 Magnificent Muffins and Scones by Felicity Barnum-Bobb

This was a British author’s take on muffins and scones, though not a very original one in my opinion. There are about four recipes in here that I would like to try, which caught my attention: Blueberry Cinnamon Scones, Sticky Ginger and Golden Syrup Muffins, Oatmeal and Raspberry Muffins and Lemon & Lavender Birthday Muffins. 2 stars.

The Korean Table: From Barbeque to Bibimbap 100 Easy-t0-Prepare Recipes by Debra Samuels

I did not know too much about Korean food, aside from their most famous noodle dish Japchae and Korean BBQ, so I decided to give this book a gander to see if I could learn some more about it. I like that it was written by a native Korean who cooks professionally and lives in Japan and an American  who discovered Korean cooking through her teacher, the other author of the book. The book gives a solid foundation for learning about Korean cooking and how it was developed. It is similar to Japanese food, in that it is based on five colors, though I believe it differs in the five tastes. The reader is introduced on how to stock your Korean pantry and a starter kit to Korean Cooking, which include rice, sauces, pastes and dressings which form the building blocks of each recipe in the book. Though I am pretty familiar with Asian food and ingredients, I’ve never eaten Daikon Radish, however the Daikon Kimchi is intriguing and might be my entrance into making homemade Kimchi. Aside from the basic sauces and pastes, I would be interested in trying the Egg Custard Beef Soup, Pan Fried Tofu with Mushrooms, and their recipe for Japchae (as the last time I tried to make it, it failed). 4 stars.

Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies

I picked this up by accident one day when I was at the library, and figured I would give it a try as it was a 2005 Eisner Award winner. It is a true story of the author/illustrator Brian Fies and his mother’s struggle with stage IV lung cancer and the brain tumor caused from it. It shows the effect not only on his mother, but what it did to him and his sisters as they took care of her through the rounds of chemo. I’ve known several family members and friends with cancer and I’m not sure I could be as strong as they would’ve had to be to survive, so I am very impressed with their strength and determination. Four stars.

Hanoi Street Food: Cooking and Travelling in Vietnam by Tom Vanderberghe

I really enjoyed this travel food diary by the author and culinary tour director, Tom Vandenberghe. He really gives you a behind-the-scenes view on street food in Hanoi, the Northern Vietnamese city most American recognize. I like that the book featured not just traditional favorites like Bun, various fried dumplings/rolls and Pho, but also a lot of recipes I had never heard of before, like the Vietnamese version of Beef Bourguignon called Bo Xot Vang. Learning how to make Bun cha (Grilled Pork with Rice Noodles), something I always get when I go to my local Vietnamese restaurant, is going to be awesome! 5 stars.

 Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaption adapted by Seymour Chwast

I read about half of Dante’s inferno in college with my Italian professor, so I know the basic storyline. But when I picked this up by accident at the library, I thought it would be interesting to see the Divine Comedy explained in graphic novel form. It was a good interpretation for the complicated text, which is filled with politics and Italian history, and is sometimes hard to get through. I really enjoyed Chwast’s adaptions of the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. 4 stars.

 The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather’s Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation by Martin Davidson

After listening to the most excellent biography “In the Garden of Beasts,” which was about the American Ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler, I was curious to know about how the common people fell under Hitler’s spell. This book was a good introduction to the reasoning behind while everyday Germans fell for the persuasiveness of National Socialism (Nazism to the rest of the world). The book is about the author’s grandfather, Bruno Langbehn, who joined the Nazis in the 1920s when membership was under 40,000 people and was committed to them until the war ended in 1945. He joined the SA when they were out terrorizing and beating up Communists in Berlin, then when their effectiveness was waiving, he managed to join the SS. While he didn’t help with the concentration camps, he knew the people that did and instead worked with foreign spy interests. He managed to escape persecution by changing his name and it wasn’t until after his death, that his family knew the extent of his crimes.

While Bruno’s story was interesting, I found the more commonplace history post World War I (the Weimar Republic), much more informative. When the Germans lost WWI, they blamed the Communists in Germany for their defeat, hence their enmity towards them which continued throughout the war and was the reason for the Eastern Front campaign. The Germans believed that “they had suffered not just military defeat, but a complete failure of nationhood. Only an act of national salvation could make Germany rise from the ashes (pg 69).” The country’s reasoning behind the hatred of the Jewish people was because they believed “they were financial predators, Communists, and global conspirators (pg 78),” therefore they needed to be eliminated, hence the Final Solution. This was the thinking of the party elite, but I wondered if common people really thought this, to which my answer came later in the book. After the Nuremberg laws were passed in 1938, more restrictions came on the Jewish people. They were being fired simply for being Jewish. As one older German told the author, “You have to understand, the Jews owned everything – the department stores and the newspapers. It just couldn’t go on (pg 192).” When the Stock Market crashed in 1929, it not only created a Great Depression in America but also Europe. Germany got his especially hard because they had a complete withdrawal of American money, which caused massive unemployment. “In 1929, 31,800 Berliners were out of work. By April 1931, the number was over 700,000 (pg 115).” All of these factors let to Germany supporting Hitler and his messages of support and nationalism, and eventually to WWII.

One thing I found intriguing was something that was mentioned “In the Garden of Beasts,” about a song that was always played at Nazi functions but I had never heard of before. It is explained in this book. Goebbels, as head of propaganda for the Nazi party, played up how members of the SA found and beat up Communist thugs and how this made them martyrs and fallen heros. One young man, Horst Wessel was killed and Goebbels raised him up as the ultimate hero, to the point that they “composed a marching song, which they entitled the Horst Wessel Song, and became the movement’s most potent anthem (pg 127).” They played it at every major party function and even just normal occasions, and everyone was meant to stand up and Heil Hitler while listening to it. Overall I thought it was a well-done history and biography, so I give it 4 stars.

The Meat Free Monday Cookbook by Annie Riggs

I had found the website for this idea of a Meat Free Monday awhile back and thought it was a great idea, so naturally when I found out they had created a cookbook for it, I had to get my hands on it. Convincing my husband to have a meat-free meal is another thing entirely, but I’ll definitely have ammunition now with all these great recipes. They broke the book down into seasons, and have 13 weekly menus per season. Every weekly menu has recipes for breakfast, lunch, packed lunch, side/snack, dinner and dessert. While I don’t particularly like the menus the way they have them listed, I think that there are a lot of fantastic recipes in there, that you can make up your own. Some of the tasties recipes are for Banoffee Pie, Spinach Tart, Peanut Butter and Banana Cupcakes, Apricot and Oat Bars, Basil-Scented Braised Fennel, Potato and Gruyere Foccacia and so many more. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

 The Healthy Baby Meal Planner: 200 Quick, Easy, and Healthy Recipes for Your Baby and Toddler

I had read the 2010 version of this book, and was excited to find a new one when I went to library the other day. This one has even better recipes, especially for stage 3 weaning (nine to twelve months) and toddlers, which is where my son is right now. Since he is getting older, I’m always on the lookout for easy to chew food for him, since he’s not really a fan of the purees anymore but he can’t chew very well either. This cookbook has recipes for Healthy Fish Sticks, Lovely Lentils, Popeye Pasta (with you guessed it – spinach, Gruyere and cream cheese), and Summer Fruits Muesli, just to name a few. 4 stars.

Classic Artisan Baking: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Muffins, and More by Julian Day

I found this in the new cookbook section of the library and decided to give it a try, as I love baking cookbooks. Turns out the cookbook is from an artisan bakery business in England that makes traditional baked goods, like Dundee Cake, Christmas Pudding, Rock Cakes etc. I know most of the recipes due the fact I’m married to a Brit, but they did have some interesting interpretations of classics that I wanted to try. The Ginger Cake, Coffee and Walnut Cake, Bakewell Slices, and Lavender Loaf all looked intriguing enough to try. 4 stars.

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