Usually when I am considering whether or not to buy a new cookbook, I have a rule. I have to at least intend to make at least half the recipes in the cookbook to actually buy it, otherwise it’s good to check out from the library to read through the couple recipes I’m interested in. Often, if the cookbook has them, the breakfast and the dessert sections are a lock. (It’s hard not to like those…) Its the main dish sections, usually the reason I’m interested in the cookbook in the first place, that tends to disqualify them. As a rule, we eat beef, chicken, and vegetarian recipes most often. If a cookbook is heavy on pork/ham recipes, or seafood, I usually pass it by. This is why, when I came across Poulet, a cookbook entirely comprised of chicken and side dish recipes, I was so excited. Most of the recipes call for either a whole chicken, something I’ve finally gotten used to working with, or chicken thighs, which are, admittedly, easier, but don’t make as frequent of an appearance.

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I honestly sought out this book because the movie is coming out. I'd love to say I knew about it well before Hollywood did, but, however hipsterish that statement would be, it'd also be untrue. Still, I'd heard the books were good, and I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games Trilogy, which this has been oft compared to, so I thought I'd try it out.

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The Dreamkeeper.

The Dreamkeeper is an enchanting book written from Robert Ingpen to his granddaughter, Alice Elizabeth. It tells tale of The Dreamkeeper, whom we never quite see, but about whom a fair amount is known. The book reads as though it's intended to be comforting, that this Dreamkeeper takes away the bad dreams that try to become real and returns them to the DreamTree where they belong. It misses the mark on comfort a bit though, as it seems very realistic and descriptive about what exactly is out there. Still, I enjoyed reading it. 

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The Devil in Pew Number Seven.

Sellerstown, North Carolina. A community so small it wasn't technically a township. It was here, in the early 70s, Rebecca Nichols lived through the worst six years of her life.  Rebecca's father, Robert, was a preacher. For most of his life, he'd been a revival preacher, traveling all over the south preaching where he was needed. In 1969, however, he became the pastor at the Free Welcome Church in Sellerstown, and settled with his family there. Soon after moving, he made some changes at the church, and, in doing so, upset the man who would then make his life hell for the next six years.

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The Secret Life of Bees.

The Secret Life of Bees
By Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, is a story about Lily, a young girl raised in South Carolina in 1964. She is cared for by Rosaleen, her nanny, and alternately abused and neglected by her father T. Ray. When Rosaleen's life is threatened in their small town, and her father does nothing, Lily conspires to run away with Rosaleen. They follow clues left behind by her mother, who'd passed away ten years before, and find a life neither Lily nor Rosaleen knew anything about.

This novel is both heart wrenching and inspiring. It is filled with life and death, joy and pain, all intertwined so tightly that they are nearly indistinguishable at times. I found myself drawn into Lily's story, not wanting to let go of the book until she was at least a bit happier, a bit safer than where I found her. This story shows that finding your true family doesn't always have to be limited by blood, and that it can come in many forms. If you don't mind your heartstrings being pulled often by a story, I do recommend this. Enjoy this with a large cup of tea, a comfy blanket, and a box of tissues handy if you so desire, but don't miss this one.


Moloka'i, by Alan Brennert

Moloka'i is the life story of a young Hawaiian girl named Rachel Kalama, who contracts leprosy, (later known as Hansen's disease,) at the age of 8. It is a rich tale, at times both grotesque and beautiful. Much of the story takes place on Kalaupapa, the leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Those who are afflicted with leprosy are quarantined there, with no medical aid beyond what the priests and nuns who volunteer there can provide.

This story is based on true events, with some of the characters being based on real people. Some true accounts are woven in, painting a vivid picture of what life was like for those suffering from leprosy at the beginning of the 20th century. Mr. Brennert pulls no punches when discussing the hardships faced, including what leprosy can do to each and every part of the body. For this reason, I can't recommend this book for any but adults, as some content is simply very mature. However, it is so well written that I can't help but recommend to any adult who finds the premise intriguing. I gained a new perspective on the actual historical events woven in throughout the story that I knew of, and learned of many more. Wonderful read.

Cook School.

Cook School
By Amanda Grant

Cook School, by Amanda Grant

Jonathan loves to help in the kitchen. At three, there are a few things he's learning to do, such as how to use measuring cups, how to stir without spilling, and how to mash things. Sometimes though, I'm at a loss as to how he can help. This book is wonderful for not only teaching him techniques, but also for giving me guidance on what's age appropriate to teach.

Cook school is sorted into three stages. Stage 1 is for ages 3 to 5, Stage 2 is for ages 5 to 7, and Stage 3 is for ages 7 to 11. (I love that this will be useful for years to come!) Each recipe lists the skills that it teaches, tools needed, and, of course, ingredients and directions. This book is clearly made for children to work with – the font is clear and easy to read, the instructions are simple and short, and VERY few instructions in any of the recipes call for adult intervention. (Of course adults should always supervise, especially with younger kids.)

Jonathan's favorite recipe so far is the berry crunch, mainly because he gets to mash strawberries with a potato masher. :) He's also looking forward to making fizzy strawberry crush, a strawberry orange fizzy drink, for the same reason. Overall, I can't wait to delve deeper into this book with him and see what he creates!

Tender - A cook and his vegetable patch.

Tender - A cook and his vegetable patch,by Nigel Slater

This book is pure romance. Surprised? I was too. Mr. Slater writes of his garden as many would the love of their life. There is a charm in the way he waxes poetic about asparagus, cheerfully grumbles about the friendly foxes that invade his garden, and with surprising frankness names those vegetables he could do without the existence of. Transformed from a young boy who would eat no vegetables other than peas and, if forced, finely chopped carrots, to a man who revels in the hearty flavor of the rutabaga, Mr. Slater shares recipes, tips and tricks to bring out the best in all those that he loves, (and even some of those vegetables he still doesn't.)

Tender has me itching for the day I have ground of my own to cultivate, and hurrying to the store to experiment with those vegetables that I have long thought I hated. (Beets being at the top of that list...) I can't wait to wade through the beautifully laid out recipes provided hear and I mildly lament that this is a library book, and not one I can turn back to infinitely for inspiration,

The printed book is rather larger than I was expecting when I went in search of it. I was expecting a small paperback, perhaps an inch thick, and what I found was a hefty hardcover nearly three inches thick. Not that I'm complaining...this book has a joy to it that very few cookbooks choose to delve into. Humor, too, though that seems to be more pervasive in the cookbook world. All in all, I would heartily recommend that you get this book, especially if you have a love for gardening, as it is equally a gardening manuel as a cookbook. The price tag is higher than I would usually be willing to spend on a cookbook, at $40.00, but in this case it would be worth it. 

The Art of Eating In.

This is the tale of how the heroine, Cathy Erway, gave up eating out in New York for two years. She goes through all the different varieties of not eating out, from simply cooking at home, to supper clubs, to foraging and dumpster diving. Along the way she shares other details of her life: romance and heartache, new jobs and boredom, failures and discoveries. It's inspiring and demonstrates that anyone, anyone, can cook at home if they only have the desire and tenacity to do so.

There are recipes included throughout, most that are more adventurous than I would normally make, and some that are extremely appealing to try right away. There are asian influences in many of the dishes, which makes sense as Cathy is half Chinese, and comes from a family in which experience and community are shared over delicious food of many varieties.

As I generally try to cook at home, the concepts in this book weren't earth-shattering to me, but rather commiseratingly wonderful. I enjoyed following along with her cooking adventures, and was intrigued by the foraging chapter especially. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone with even a mild interest in either learning to cook or eating in more often. Great read.