Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Reincarnationist

This is a Mother Talk book review.

The Reincarnationist, by M.J. Rose is a fun read. Josh Ryder, a photographer, is badly injured in a terrorist bombing. This triggers in him memories, or lurches, when he experiences the life of Julius, a pagan priest in Rome in 391 A.D.. Julius is attempting to save his temple as well as the life of his vestal virgin lover Sabine. These memories lead Josh to The Phoenix Foundation, a group that works with children experiencing past life memories.

His work with the Phoenix Foundation leads him to Rome again, to a tomb being excavated. When Josh discovers this tomb, it causes another memory for him and as he's pursuing that memory, the archaeologist working in the tomb is killed and a pouch of gemstones is stolen. Josh is held as a suspect but the other archaeologist on the team, Gabriella Chase gets him released.

Josh and Gabriella have the inevitable feelings for each other, but they are beset by break-ins, chases and kidnapping, all further attempts to discover the mystery behind these stones and to discover who wants them badly enough to kill for them.

The story is woven together well. There are a few predictable moments, but for the most part, the suspense is there and the book is a page-turner. There are some reviews that compare this book to The DaVinci Code, but I didn't really get that. I found this book to be much better written than TDVC and there weren't any real similarities in topic to that book.

I thought this was a fun, entertaining read. I really enjoyed the historical aspect of Julius's time. My knowledge of what happened when the Christians took over is a bit sketchy - I knew it wasn't pleasant but I didn't realize it was so violent. This book did a great job describing the fear Julius had of the Christians and the Christian's treatment of those who didn't agree with them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Diabetes Fit Food

I love to cook. I don't get to cook the way I want to cook a lot of the time because I have two toddlers and a picky teenager and it's difficult to get things done, what with the whining and screaming and throwing of toys. And that's just the teenager.

A while back - actually, an embarrassingly long time back now - I was asked to review a cookbook geared towards people with diabetes. Since I'm a bit of a cookbook freak, I said I'd review it. They aren't paying me for this one. It's called Diabetes Fit Food and was compiled by Ellen Haas, founder of a website called Several celebrity chefs contributed to this cookbook, including Todd English (sorry about that cheesy music on his site) and Alice Waters.

The book is broken down into food types, like grains, vegetables, fruits and proteins. Those sections are then broken down further into things like stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc.), fall vegetables, poultry, etc. Each section gives you nutritional information as well as a bit of history and general info about the foods in question. There are then ten or twelve recipes using the featured ingredient. It's very informative without being overwhelming.

I made several recipes from the book. The first was Aztec Quinoa Salad. I'd never used quinoa before. It reminds me of bulgar wheat, only larger. The salad recipe I made was similar to tabbouleh, using cilantro and tomatoes, but the quinoa gave it a more rustic feel. The salad was excellent - I brought it to a party and there was nothing left when it was time to go home.

Next up were Whole Wheat Griddle Cakes. The recipe, as made, made a very thick, yet fluffy pancake. The whole wheat flour gives the pancakes a slightly nutty flavour. I added blueberries to half of the pancakes I made. They were delicious with and without berries. Unless you're a fan of the IHOP-style mushy, thin pancake (*cough*my husband*cough*), these will probably be right up your alley.

I lucked out one day and got a buy one, get 2 free on shrimp rings (whatta bah-gin!) and the next night, found a recipe for Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp. Oh. My. Goodness. This was delicious. My husband, who doesn't like Parmesan cheese (freak!), was practically licking the plate, he enjoyed this so much. My toddlers ate it up, too. Olivia even enjoyed it and she is the Queen Of Picky Eaters. This would make a great side dish, but is definitely enough for a main.

The only dish that I didn't care for was the South-of-the-Border Soup. It's similar to chili, only with pork tenderloin rather than ground beef. It also called for pasta, which was odd, but good. The downfall of this recipe was a lack of flavour. I loaded it up with cumin, chili powder, hot paprika and oregano and it was still kind of off. I'm not sure what it was lacking, but it was definitely lacking.

One of the nicest things about this cookbook is the nutritional information. If you make the recipe as is and serve it in the suggested portion, the nutritional information is on every recipe. You don't have to break it down - something I have a lot of trouble doing when I cook from scratch. This book does it for you. That is a huge help.

My other beef (arf!) with the book is the index. It doesn't always give recipes based on an ingredient. For the South-of-the-Border soup, for instance, you'd have to know that the recipe called for pinto beans in order to get the recipe. And if you just look up soup, you don't get anything. That, to me, is odd. You don't want to have to read an entire cook book, and remember significant ingredients, in order to be able to locate said recipe again. It's not a huge flaw, but it is pretty annoying, especially for someone like me, who likes to glance thru the index of cookbooks when I want, say, soup, just to see what recipes are there and if I have the ingredients in my pantry to make it.

Overall, though, I would recommend this cookbook. It's simple. None of the recipes call for outlandish or hard-to-find ingredients or special pans or equipment. If you have a halfway decently equipped kitchen, you can make just about anything from this cookbook. Most of the recipes are not complicated. They are laid out well, with large print and easy instructions. Having the nutritional information and the blurbs about the featured ingredients before each chapter adds a friendly touch to the book. It's food for people with diabetes, but it's not a bland, supermarket Diabetic Cookbook. It's just good, healthy food that's easy to make. And really, you can't ask for much more.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Mama Knows Breast

Mama Knows Breast: A Beginner's Guide to Breastfeeding by Andi Silverman is a handy little book for anyone considering nursing their baby. Whether you're a first-timer or a veteran, there is information in here that will come in useful. The style is friendly and down-to-earth, with sensible advice, the kind you'd get from a friend or big sister (not the bossy big sister, either, the nice, let's-you-borrow-her-favourite-sweater sister).

There are loads of tips and information that, even now, after having nursed three babies, I wish someone had told me. The tip about getting a footstool seems so basic, and yet I didn't figure that one out until baby #2. The advice about what to keep at hand while nursing is also key - I never remembered to keep the phone next to me. Never. Water I had, the phone, eh, not so much.

There are tips for getting your spouse to help (and I won't insert any sarcastic remarks about my husband here), how to take some time for yourself and even some snappy answers to give to pesky questions and comments. Even the size is great - you can read it with one hand, as illustrated on the cover. The pages are thicker than normal, too, making it easier to handle one-handedly than a regular paperback.

All in all, this is a good, useful book. I'd definitely keep this in mind as a baby shower gift. I know I certainly could have used it.