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Randal

Randal

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History - William Woys Weaver

An excellent, and extensive book of heirloom vegetables (almost 500 pages!). The author has been saving old vegetable varieties his entire life, with some of the seeds from his grandfather from the 1930's! He also includes a very comprehensive history of people saving seeds. The list of plants is very extensive, from artichokes to yams. Each vegetable gets a thorough discussion.
This is the kind of book that you want to read over and over again, especially when one is stuck inside on a cold winter day, and are dreaming of what to plant in the spring.

Naive and shallow

— feeling bad smell
The One Percenter Encyclopedia: The World of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs from Abyss Ghosts to Zombies Elite - Bill Hayes

This book is confusing to me, at the least. It claims to be, in his words, an "education that gives the devil-and his death's head- his due. It gives respect and recognition to the righteous god who placed the tattooed flesh and the crossed bones into the body of modern biker culture". Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Like the author is really going to tell us something? No, what the book consists of is a encyclopedic listing of motorcycle clubs throughout the United States. An occasional blurb by a member of a group, but nothing in depth.
The author has managed to identify many of the "outlaw" biker groups in America. He gives a very brief, thumbnail sketch of each group. Information that could have been found in a simple search of the web. But, hey, at least the groups are listed all in one place. You could use the list to start more substantial research into the clubs.
The author states in the beginning, "this book is dedicated to the positive energy and power of the motorcycle club community". He states that he is not interested in listing the "clean-living" motorcycle groups. He even presents an old, pre-internet, portion of a law enforcement manual about motorcycle gangs. Sure, it is comical in today's world, but, as a retired law enforcement officer myself, it is what we had available to us at the time. Laugh if he will at it, but I assure the author that the information law enforcement has today is much more serious and thorough.
Also in the beginning, the author quotes a member of the Bandidos motorcycle group, defining what a "1%-er" is. "One percenter - it only means that we're the best....but all it means is we're the best of the best". I find that laughable, as I am sure the guy who told the author it does. I had 28 years of experience dealing with outlaw motorcycle gang members, including candid conversations with many of them while they were incarcerated in Federal prisons. One percenter means the member is deemed to be the worst of the worst, the 1% who openly defy societies rules and norms. And they are extremely proud of that status. And woe onto a guy who wears the patch without earning it. A true 1%er will teach him a lesson he will never forget.
The author seems to have stars in his eyes, buying into the myth of a 1%er as a noble knight riding his horse. He fails to even touch on the seedier side of outlaw motorcycle gangs. The dealing of drugs, the stolen merchandise, the abuse of women.
I would be willing to bet that there are true one percenter's out there reading the book and laughing their butts off at how naive the author is! It almost makes me wish I was still working, so I could share this with them and see their reaction.

 

Fascinating!

President Carter: The White House Years - Stuart E. Eizenstat, Madeline Albright

It's well past time to give President Carter his due. This book sets out to do just that. Eizenstat has had an up close and personal relationship with Carter for decades. One would think that this would mean that he would only see the "good" in the President, but he also points out the flaws.
While Carter has been stuck with the "aw-shucks" depiction of his personality by the media, the truth is that he is a decent human being who cares deeply about the country. His fault was in taking on too much. Nobody can ever be the most informed and knowledgeable person about so many subjects. But he tried, mightily. Perhaps if he had not bitten off more than he could chew, and learned to delegate more, he would be considered one of the greatest Presidents. He certainly tried!
Given the state of the White House today, I long for a return to having an intelligent human being occupying the Oval Office. One who reads and thinks before he acts impulsively. A return to an adult running the show!
This is a LONG book. There is so much information in it, you would almost think Carter wrote it himself. I found it fascinating. You should read it, if for no other reason than to get the true story of the "killer rabbit"!

Gambino: The Rise: A Novel Based on the True Story - James E. Pierre

This should be made into a movie! It's the story of Carlos Gambino, head of the Gambino family of the La Cosa Nostra. His beginnings, how he came to America, and his rise to become one of the major organized crime figures in America. And of the various "gangsters" he was involved with. It flows along very well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As to those who are trying to diminish the author through the leaving of negative reviews.....it's a novel! It states that right on the front cover! So the author made some mistakes, having people traveling on the interstate instead of a highway. So what? Go with the story, which was the rise of Gambino. Quit being so negative. I, for one, cannot wait for the next installment of the author's story. I hope it comes out soon!

Excellent For Beginners

Know It All Wine: The 50 Essential Topics, Each Explained in Under a Minute - Gerard Basset

As a "wanna-be" oenologist, I love reading books about wine. This one is a treat! Short, concise, easily readable, and in bite-size "sips", it would be of great benefit for anyone wanting a brief introduction into wine. The book is divided into sections, then further broken down into 50 very short articles covering a wide range of topics. The sections are the vineyard, the winery, classic grapes and wines, history, iconic regions, the business of wine, and the enjoyment of wine. This would be a wonderful book to learn the basics. You can find out the difference between different types of wines and the grapes used to make them. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, they are all covered and explained. Learn about the different regions wine comes from....Bordeaux, Tuscany, Napa Valley. Learn how to taste wine. Have you ever been at a party where one of your wine "snob" friends are going on and on about a wine? By reading this book, you can offer one of these tidbits to show them that you, too, are conversant on the subject. That alone is worth the price!

Unsurpassed in detail!

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. 4th Edition - Val D Greenwood

An outstanding, incredible body of work! Updated now, to include lots of methods of online help to assist you in your searches.  From beginner to expert, everyone interested in genealogy could benefit from this book.  And you will be referring to it, over and over again.  

Be Prepared!

Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter: The Pocket Guide to Everyday Conversations - Ilana Kukoff, Jessica Yuppa Huddy

This is a good resource for parents to use to tread the dangerous waters of dealing with teenage daughters.  Very easy to read.  There is a lot of good information in here.  Even if you do not agree with all of it, it gives you a basis to start thinking about how you will respond when these situations come up (and they will).  Be prepared!

Good Story

The Alaskan Chronicles: The Provider - John Hunt

A modern day Swiss Family Robinson. The author imagines a scenario where solar flares wipe out all the electronics in our world. He does this through telling the story of a normal, everyday family in Alaska. The main character is a (possibly slightly autistic?) 16-17 year old boy in the family. After the flares, the family, along with some friends, relocates to the wilds of Alaska, to avoid the chaos occurring in the cities.
The story progresses through the first seasons spent in the wilderness, the struggles, stumbles, and triumphs. It really takes hold in the final third of the book, when outside influences occur.
I don't want to give away too much of the plot. I enjoyed the story very much. It was not anything earth-shattering, as I said before, it was a modern day Swiss Family Robinson.
But the ending! Wow! Just when you thought you could see how it was going to wrap up, the author throws a huge wrench into the mix. I was very surprised! It enables the author to really keep the story alive, and to greatly crank up the action. I can't wait for the next installment!

Cruel!

Amsterdam Exposed: An American's Journey Into The Red Light District - David Wienir

This is a tough book to review. It left me feeling sad. While I was somewhat amused by the author's take of the Netherlands and the Dutch people, the main subject matter of the book is disturbing.
Several (many?) years ago, the author spent a semester of law school in Amsterdam studying International Law. At least, that was what he was supposed to be doing. His real motive in going to Amsterdam was to indulge his voyeuristic tendencies and explore the "red light" district. He wanted to discover why women chose a life of prostitution. And to write a book about it.
To do this, his methodology was to hang around the district, trying to befriend prostitutes, to get them to open up to him about their career choice. He found himself shut down, time after time. Eventually, he finds one woman who indulges him, meeting him for a few lunches.
On his last night in Amsterdam, he finally convinces her to meet with him and be interviewed. He then proceeds to drag the woman through hell, pulling out her darkest, most disturbing secrets about her upbringing and life. While this might be helpful if done by a trained psychologist, in a controlled setting, it most definitely should not be done by a untrained person, for the purposes of satisfying his own voyeurism! And, after he drains the woman of all her memories and shames, he just leaves her! Up and leaves the very next morning.
That would be a sad enough ending for the book, but the author is not done. He returns a few years later, and finds the woman again. For what purpose, I have no idea. She has turned her life around. She's out of the prostitution business, is engaged, and has a young child. But upon seeing the author again, she tells him that she will give up all she has, all she has worked for, if the author will take her. And what does he do? He leaves her again! How cruel!
So, here it is, several years later again. He finally writes his book. And ends it with the hope that the woman, who he has lost touch with, sees it. As if to torture her one more time. What a prick!

Informative and Terrifying!

The Korean Crisis: One People, Two Nations, A World On The Brink - Jack Van Der Slik

Very informative! And timely! And terrifying! The author presents an interesting, well written book on the current crisis in North Korea. He delves into the history of the Korean peninsula, in a clear and easily understood manner. Into the Korean War. It's causes, and which world leaders were involved. How, after the war, North and South Korea developed, and how they got to the state that they are in today. And the history of the current North Korean leadership, it's quirks and goals. And why China continues to support the Kim regime, and why the US and Japan support South Korea.
The author ends with his thoughts on the future of the Korean peninsula. While he does not (no one can) predict the long term future, he does identify several factors that can affect the future. In his opinion, the only way to peace is through intercession by China, and responsive negotiations by South Korea, Japan, and the US. Without which, we risk a nuclear disaster.
This is a frightening book. You will not sleep well after reading it. But it is important to know what we are up against. Let's all hope and pray that it ends well.

French Fun!

F Is for France: A Curious Cabinet of French Wonders - Piu Marie Eatwell

A highly enjoyable, fact-filled book. It is one that you can pick up and read a few entries, then set it aside until you have more time. Broken down alphabetically, it covers SO many subjects. Everything from absinthe (what it is, it's history, and how to prepare it), to wine (descriptions, history, types of wine glasses, and serving it). And much more! Ever wonder if you can get fast food in France (you can)? French perfume? This book will explain it. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. This is a really fun, easily readable book. If you have any desire to visit France, or are just curious, this is a great book for your nightstand!

Ugh!

— feeling bad smell
The Simplicity of Cozy: Hygge, Lagom & the Energy of Everyday Pleasures - Melissa Alvarez

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
Rarely have I found a book that I cannot find something good to say about. But, this is one. Talking in circles, never actually making a point, trying instead to mystify the reader with buzzwords and mumbo-jumbo.
For example, "now that doesn't mean you'll never experiences (!) difficulties - you will because some lessons chosen prior to birth are hard....". (Sorry, I'm not aware of lessons that I chose PRIOR to my being born!)
Another example, "as you sit there, purposefully imagine the positivity of white light moving though your frequency, your own personal vibration, the energy of all that you are". Yeah, okay. Maybe too much coffee?
I honestly could not finish this book. Maybe somewhere after the first quarter of claptrap the author settles down and makes some sense? Perhaps, but I know I won't be finding out.
Skip it!

God Bless Italian Grandmothers

Cooking with Nonna: Celebrate Food & Family With Over 100 Classic Recipes from Italian Grandmothers - Rossella Rago
In the spring of 2017, I had the distinct pleasure to be able to visit one of my former exchange students at her home in Italy. While Giulia stayed with us in the U.S., she enthralled us with tales of her "Nonna's" (grandmother) cooking (and wisdom), and made us many delicious dishes that Nonna had taught her. It was wonderful, but meeting Nonna was even better! My goodness, for someone in her nineties, that lady could cook! Meal after meal, course after course, for Giulia, her family, her aunts and uncles and their families, and us! I have never had so many great meals!
So, when NetGalley offered me a chance to read and review this book, I jumped at the opportunity. The author had her own Nonna. In fact, she jokes that she attended "Nonna's Brooklyn Basement Culinary Academy". That developed into her idea to start a cooking show, "Cooking With Nonna". She based the show on her grandmother's recipes. And that led to this book, a collection of 110 recipes from many Italian "Nonna's". 
And what a collection! There are a lifetime of great recipes to try. 
Rago breaks the book down into sections. Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Vegetables and Sides, Pasta (OF COURSE) and First Courses, Second Courses, Pizzas Breads and Savory Bakes, Desserts, and Cookies.
So many delicious ideas! My wife and I have tried several already, and quite successfully. It gives us great pleasure to cook together. Hopefully, this book will tide us over for the next couple of years, to a time when my wife retires also, and we make the move to Italy. I can only hope that we will find our own "Nonna" there!
A great book. Kudo's to the author for preserving these recipes, before they are lost to time!
 
 

 

Delicious!

Palate Passport - Neha Khullar

Khullar, in her journey to understand herself, has discovered the ability to embrace and appreciate the small things in life. She know she is fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit. She found that one consistency in her journeys was food. Food was a common ground that brought people together. The book is about her experiences of these people, as well as their recipes.
The recipes are great. From all over the world. And her descriptions of the interactions she has are even better. But where the book really shines is in the photographs. Beautiful, vivid photos that can make your mouth water!
Here's hoping the author does a follow-up book!

Different than the norm!

(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living - Mark Greenside

Greenside presents a familiar tale of visiting France, falling in love with it, and purchasing a home there. You know the type, the American who buys a 100+ year old house, and then shortly thereafter writes a book about his experiences. The difference in this book is that he has continued spending his summers there for around twenty five years. The book draws on much deeper details than one of someone who has only been there a year or two.
Greenside has spent enough time there that you think he should practically be a native, but, as he very capably describes, that hasn't happened. He admits the terrible time he has with the French language. The adventures in driving. The surprises he finds when needing medical attention, or dealing with banking. And the best part of all, the food. It seems the author is willing to eat anything! His descriptions make the book worth it by themselves.
Through the years, he has found a core group of friends in France who are willing to help the American. With their help, he survives, maybe even thrives. He is unflinching in his descriptions of his mistakes, as well as the successes.
In what I think makes a book a sucess, is the fact that I really think the author is someone who I could be friends with, who I can relate to, and who I would enjoy exploring with. To me, that is what I really want in a book.

Encouraging

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book - Jeffrey S. Warren, Carlye Adler, Charlaine Harris

Reading this is like having your own, personal meditation coach.  One who understands how easily distracted a person can be, and relates to you like a friend.  Who takes the time to tell you it's okay to not be the perfect Buddha.  It's given me a lot to think about, and is very encouraging!