Hello my lovely readers! Happy Halloween!
We had a rather oddly warm October here in New England right up until this week. Which was ok by me because a) cheaper heating bills and b) more motorcycle rides and outdoor activities. A particularly nasty cold has been going around the city, and unfortunately both myself and my partner caught it. I wound up having cold symptoms for two weeks. Since I started focusing on health a few years ago, it has become rare for me to have a cold for more than a few days to a week. This one knocked out pretty much everyone who got it. I am pleased to say it is finally gone, but it definitely put a damper on some of our activities this month.
In spite of the doom cold, I still managed to get out and enjoy fall! My partner and I took a motorcycle ride out to Western Mass to go to an apple orchard. Since we were on the bike, we didn’t buy bunches of apples (also, we get lots from our CSA anyway), but we did drink cider, eat cider donuts, take a hay ride, and do some old-fashioned film photography. My bf bought me a sardine can film camera recently, and I am enjoying starting to get into this photography thing. The orchard was the perfect place to try out my first roll. :-) The hay ride was also fun, as were the apples we picked to eat on our walk.
I also go to go for an old-fashioned hike on some state land with my bf and a friend. It was so so much fun to scramble up rocks again and be out in the fall colors up close. We had a lovely picnic with curry egg sandwiches and the salad I made that I mentioned in yesterday’s review. Then when we got off the trail, I warmed up with a salted caramel latte. Yummm
I hope you all have a lovely Halloween tonight! My plan is to go to the gym then have dinner and a scary movie at home with the bf. The perfect Halloween celebration for this introvert.
Cookbook Review: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites: The 250 Most-Requested, Naturally Delicious Recipes from One of America’s Best-Loved Restaurants by Moosewood Collective
Moosewood Restaurant is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York, founded in the 1970s. According to their website, they have published twelve cookbooks prior to this one. This cookbook aims to collect together the recipes that have proven themselves to be the most popular in their restaurant over the last 40 years.
Moosewood is pretty famous in the vegetarian crowd. It’s a name most vegetarians have heard, and I know some vegetarian who have even eaten at the restaurant. I’d always been curious about their cookbooks, so I was excited to see the newest one available on Netgalley. Given the fame, I was expecting something inspiring and special. Instead I found a rather ho-hum collection of decidedly average pescetarian recipes.
Moosewood claims everywhere (including on the main page of their website) that they are a vegetarian restaurant. But they aren’t. They are pescetarian. There is an entire fish section in the book. Calling yourself vegetarian when you’re not is misleading and wrong. (If you would like to read further on why it’s offensive for pescetarians to call themselves vegetarians, check out this post). I’m kind of shocked there isn’t more of an outcry in the veg community about this.
The rest of the cookbook (that is actually vegetarian) consists of: appetizers; dips and spreads; soups; sandwiches; burgers; main dish salads; curries and stews; beans; frittatas and pies; casseroles; stuffed vegetables; wraps, rolls, and strudels; tofu; pasta; side salads; sides; side grains; salad dressings; condiments and salsas; sauces and gravies; desserts; baking pan sizes and equivalents; and guide to ingredients and basic cooking. It’s a huge, long cookbook. But out of all these recipes, I only found eight I wanted to try. Usually I want to try at least every other recipe in a cookbook. The recipes here that failed to spark my interest fell into one of three categories: 1) they were painfully obvious and overly simple 2) they were deeply unhealthy, swimming in cups of oil, heavy cream, and tons of eggs or 3) they weren’t vegetarian because they contained fish.
Some examples of the painfully obvious include quinoa with veggies, basic chili, thai vegetable curry, and black bean sweet potato burritos. You don’t need a cookbook from a famous restaurant to give you these recipes. I’d say otherwise if there was anything about their recipes that at least made them a variation of the norm, but I have seen the same thing over and over again in multiple recipes in cookbooks, blogs, and websites.
As for the unhealthy recipes, beyond the already mentioned high fat and an unnecessary quantity of eggs, there were things like the suggestion to top your corn on the cob with mayonnaise. Or the fact that most of their dressing recipes contained 1/4 to 3/4 cup of oil. The recipes routinely don’t take a well-rounded diet into consideration. Protein doesn’t get enough attention. For instance, a vegetarianized jambalaya recipe has zero protein in it. And perhaps it’s not unhealthy, but I found it very odd that a restaurant’s cookbook called for canned pumpkin for their pumpkin pie.
On the plus side, the cookbook is well-organized and illustrated with beautiful pictures. Although, the recipes are written out in paragraph form. I generally prefer a numbered list. But this is a personal preference, and the recipes are easy enough to follow.
I have made one of the eight recipes I selected out as possibilities so far. I made the Winter Salad Plate (page 110). Since the recipe states it serves 8 as a side salad and my intention was to have it as a side salad with egg sandwiches with my partner and a friend, I halved the recipe. Also, since I didn’t have greens from my CSA that week, I replaced the greens with more root vegetables. The consensus was it was yummy, but the dressing needed a touch of bitterness like a vinegar and less oil. I don’t mind having to adapt a recipe a bit to get it just right but with a high-quality cookbook you don’t have to do that.
In spite of the shortcomings, the recipes do indeed work, and the cookbook is well organized and prettily illustrated. Recommended to pescetarians and omnivores who don’t cook a lot, so the recipes would be less familiar to them, who also don’t mind a high fat/oil and low protein content in their food. Also recommended to long-time fans of Moosewood.
3 out of 5 stars
Book Review: The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
Guillebeau investigated what makes microbusinesses (small businesses typically run by one person) successful by conducting a multiyear study interviewing more than 100 successful microbusiness entrepreneurs. Here he presents his findings on what makes for a successful microbusiness and offers advice on how you can become a successful microbusiness entrepreneur too.
I found this book in a list of top books for small businesses published in 2012. The title totally intrigued me, since starting up a business with very little funds is quite appealing. I’m so glad I picked it up. This is an awesome small business book. It’s written for entrepreneurs, not MBAs, and it’s easy to understand, concise, engaging, and memorable. Perhaps most importantly, the few tips and tricks I’ve tried out so far have actually worked.
The book is clearly organized with no-nonsense, easy-to-understand chapter titles like “Hustling: The Gentle Art of Self-Promotion” accompanied by memorable, informative illustrations. This organization extends to the content of the chapters. When possible, Guillebeau provides subcategories and lists, putting the information into smaller, more digestible chunks. His writing also captures this no-nonsense, straight-forward style.
Focus relentlessly on the point of convergence between what you love to do and what other people are willing to pay for. (loc 2406)
It’s pretty near impossible to misunderstand any of the points he makes. The chapters also provide graphs, illustrations, references, and guides to further aid you in following the steps laid out.
In spite of laying out steps and guidelines, Guillebeau successfully avoids promoting an unbelievable “one-size fits all” miracle model. He talks about what worked and didn’t work for the successful entrepreneurs he interviewed, but he also points out repeatedly that it’s important that the reader understand herself and her strengths and weaknesses and always remember she knows her potential business and personality the best.
People who know less about the business than me do not get to make decisions about it. (loc 3296)
This honesty that one-size does not fit all and the clarity with which Guillebeau presents his research grants the book a trustworthy, believable vibe. It instills faith in the reader and brings out her passion for her own ideas. Plus, the fact that this is based on real research and not just Guilleabeau’s own experiences means the tricks and tips are more likely to work. Nothing works perfectly every time, and the market is an unpredictable place, but having this research as a guide can help the reader avoid at least some of the hiccups, bumps, and pitfalls in starting and running a microbusiness.
Overall this is a well-organized, honest book clearly written for the entrepreneur, not an MBA. It is based on market research, not exclusively the author’s own experiences, and offers tips and advice, not a one-size fits all model. Anyone interested in starting their own small business or in what makes small businesses succeed should definitely give this book a read.
5 out of 5 stars
I post series reviews after completing reading an entire series of books. It gives me a chance to reflect on and analyze the series as a whole. These series reviews are designed to also be useful for people who: A) have read the series too and would like to read other thoughts on it or discuss it with others OR B) have not read the series yet but would like a full idea of what the series is like, including possible spoilers, prior to reading it themselves or buying it for another. Please be aware that series reviews necessarily contain some spoilers.
A nursing home contacts a researcher. An elderly man has passed away. He identified himself to them as Will Henry, but they can’t find any record of him or living relatives. He left behind four folios, telling what he claimed to be his life story. The first folio begins when his parents die in a fire, and he is left in the care of his father’s employer, Dr. Warthrop. In the 1800s. Over 100 years ago. And Dr. Warthrop is a Monstrumologist. He specializes in the study of aberrant biology, or monsters. And Will is now his apprentice. The first thing Dr. Warthrop tells Will is that Will Henry contracted a parasite from his father. Normally deadly, he is mysteriously a safe host. The parasite will make him abnormally long-living, and any contact that is too close will make him pass it along to another.
What follows over the course of the folios is the tale of the monsters Will Henry faced alongside and because of Dr. Warthrop. The anthropophagi–headless creatures with mouths in their stomachs. The wendigo–similar to a werewolf. The Typheus Magnificum–the Holy Grail of Monstrumology that may or may not exist. And finally the Titanoboa Cerrejonensis–a giant snake. There are these monsters, yes. But there are also the questionable choices and personalities of the various Monstrumologists, and the slowly unwinding monster inside a boy who has seen too much and been loved too little.
The question left for the researcher is how can Will Henry continue along an increasingly dark path when all signs indicate he eventually happily married his childhood sweetheart? And are these ramblings true or just the fairy tale of an elderly man?
Monsters and madness encircle Will Henry, Dr. Warthrop, the researcher, and the reader as the folios slowly reveal all.
It’s horror based in the realms of science and the grotesque. Wanton blood and guts, serial killers, etc… won’t be found but it also doesn’t shy away from bits of the criminal underworld or real bodily danger. Will Henry loses a finger at one point. The monsters are real and frequently either eat people or turn people themselves into monsters. It combines to elicit horror in the reader in the tradition of Frankenstein. It’s perfect for readers who shy away from slashers or crime novels but still want a dash of terror.
In lieu of a romance, the relationship at the center of the series is between Will and his guardian, Dr. Warthrop. Yes, the series repeats the common YA trope of an orphan, thereby getting rid of the parents, but just because there are no parents doesn’t mean that there’s no guardian/young person conflict. In fact, I think that having the conflict be between Will and a, to him, incomprehensible older guardian allows for a more free exploration of the difficulties that can arise in this relationship. The fact that Dr. Warthrop is not his father means that Yancey is freer to quickly move into the mixed emotions and misunderstandings that can so easily happen in this type of relationship. Dr. Warthrop has many flaws as a guardian, but he does truly love and care for Will. Will at first feels lost and no connection with Dr. Warthrop, then he grows to love him in spite of his flaws, then he slowly starts to loathe him. Whether or not this loathing is warranted is left up to the reader to decide, and I do think that Yancey succeeds at making it a gray area that each reader will reach a different conclusion on. This relationship gets just as much, if not more, time as the monsters, and it’s one of the things that makes the series worth reading.
Yancey isn’t afraid to not just use, but embrace poetic language and literary allusions. I was truly stunned at the beauty of the language when reading the first book, and that beauty continues throughout the series. It’s like reading an old, Gothic novel, setting the perfect tone for the world building. A YA reader who perhaps hadn’t previously experienced narration like this might after reading it be inclined to seek out similar writing, thus finding some classics. And even if they don’t, it’s a wonderful change of pace for YA.
Setting the story of Will and Dr. Warthrop in the context of the mystery of the modern elderly man, his folios, and the researcher looking into them lends an extra layer to the story that increases its complexity. The researcher is just as curious as the reader to find out more. He also provides some necessary historical facts and questions the veracity of some of Will Henry’s statements. Throughout the series, the researcher is wondering if this actually happened or if it’s all just the imaginings of an elderly man. The ultimate reveal still leaves this a bit of a mystery, letting the reader decide for themselves what they would prefer to be the answer.
The strength of the monsters varies throughout the series. Some are perfectly crafted, such as the anthropophagi. Others can be a bit less frightening or too predictable to be as engaging. This definitely lends to an uneven pace of suspense in the series and could be disappointing to a reader who is more invested in monsters than in the character development.
The ending. The ending must be discussed. *spoiler warning* Will Henry in the last book has turned into a dark, lawless, desperate character. He has been changed by what he has seen. His childhood sweetheart, Lily Bates, finds him frightening and lacking in morals. He blames Dr. Warthrop for all of his issues. While Dr. Warthrop definitely is at fault for not treating Will Henry like an adult and keeping him in the loop for his schemes, Dr. Warthrop also never taught Will to be so cold, desperate, or that it’s ok to wantonly kill. Will ultimately goes on an opiate and sex binge in a prostitution house. Dr. Warthrop finds him and pulls him out, in an attempt to save him. It is then that Willl finds out that the parasites he is infected with will spread with sexual intercourse and kill his partner in a truly grotesque manner, eating them from the inside out. Will gives up on Dr. Warthrop and all relationships and proceeds to travel the world aimlessly. The researcher ultimately discovers that Will later runs into Lily with her new husband. It is then that he reveals that Lily’s husband’s name was Will Henry, and he stole it as a pseudonym for these stories. So he never married Lily. Was never happy. He is now nameless. It’s an incredibly dark ending that leaves the researcher, and the reader, reeling. It was honestly a bit too hopeless for me. It felt as if Yancey was saying Will got sucked down into the monsters in his soul and could find no escape. I prefer to have a bit more hope in the world than that, particularly after spending four books with a character and growing to care for them. *end spoilers*
While I can still appreciate what Yancey was doing and what he was going for–a truly dark book–I feel that any potential readers or gift givers should be aware that it starts dark, gets darker, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
There is also a bit of a dearth of female characters in the series. In the two middle books, we get brief exposures to Dr. Warthrop’s old sweetheart and Lily Bates. That’s pretty much it. I’m ok with that, since much of the time is devoted to Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop. I also understand that the time period in which it is set definitely would not have had a female monstrumologist. I think Yancey tries to make up for this by having Lily be determined to be the first female monstrumologist, but I also think he steps back from this plotline in the final book, which disappointed me a bit. Essentially, be aware that if you’re looking for a strong female presence in the plot of your series, look elsewhere.
Overall, this is a unique series that deserves to be in any YA collection. It address young adult/guardian relationships in the rich wrapping of Gothic style horror narrated with a beautiful poetic language. Its historical setting and focus on the boy and his guardian doesn’t lend itself to a strong female presence in the series, although the female characters that do exist are good ones. Its darkness increases throughout the series, so don’t come into this expecting a happy ending. I’m pleased I took the time to read the entire series, and could see reading it again. Recommended to both YA fans looking for something different and Gothic horror fans who don’t normally do YA.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift, Audible, and Amazon
The man investigating the folios found with an elderly man who claimed to be over a hundred years old and named Will Henry has reached the final folio containing what this elderly man claimed to have been his life story. The final folio is discombobulated and poetic, and so the investigator arranges it for us to read following the style of Dante’s Inferno. And what a story it tells.
Will Henry is now a bitter, cold teenager still serving Dr. Warthrop. When a man shows up at the door claiming to have a previously thought extinct monstrous snake’s egg for sale, Will Henry takes the acquisition into his own hands. When they bring the egg to New York City for the annual meeting of Monstrumologists, Dr. Warthrop begins to question Will Henry’s loyalty, and Will Henry increasingly ignores all advice, going off on his own bloody ideas. What direction will Will Henry’s and Dr. Warthrop’s lives ultimately take?
There were hints throughout the Monstrumologist series that it was going to continually descend to a dark place. But I must admit I was slightly fooled by the idea put forth multiple times that Will Henry at least for part of his life is happily married. I thought there would be a glimmer of hope in the ending. Boy was I wrong. This is an incredibly dark book, and a series ending that surprised me. While still a strong read, it didn’t hold all the all-encompassing power and grotesque beauty I found in the first two entries in the series.
Yancey takes the poetic language found in the first three books and kicks it up a notch with the inclusion of the Dante-styled method for dividing the book into sections. Beyond that, the language itself becomes increasingly poetic. One line that is repeated a few times throughout the book is:
Time is a line. But we are circles. (page 4)
I found both the structure and the language interesting and gorgeous, and I really appreciate their inclusion in YA literature. I can imagine that many of the younger readers of the book might never have read Dante and seeing this structure in this book might spur them on to check it out. One thing that I’ve enjoyed throughout the series is that Yancey doesn’t shy away from challenging YA readers, and I’m glad to see that continued here.
The monster in this story is delightfully terrifying. An egg that hatches a snake that eats its prey from the inside out? There’s nothing not terrifying about that. Plus the monster is revealed early on, a nice change of pace from The Isle of Blood where we’re left to wonder about it for a long time. There is also a secondary, surprise monster later on that I found to be a disgustingly nice touch.
The plot is quite complex, and yet also makes sense when various aspects of it are revealed. It also manages to still be fresh, even though The Curse of the Wendigo was also set half in New York City. The plot revolves much more around Will Henry and his choices and his personality than around the monster itself, which is appropriate. Dr. Warthrop’s choices are also touched upon, but how everything has affected Will Henry is truly the focus of the plot. It’s an interesting psychiatric study, and I was left truly wondering how things could possibly have worked out differently for either Will Henry or Dr. Warthrop. There are no easy answers, and that gray area is a great setting for horror.
The book spends a lot of time wondering both what makes a monster and if madness can be avoided or escaped. The first is a question addressed earlier in the series, and I think Yancey deals with it eloquently. The second takes quite a dark turn in this book, and I was left feeling empty, hopeless, and saddened.
Madness is a wholly human malady borne in a brain too evolved—or not quite evolved enough—to bear the awful burden of its own existence. (page 170)
It’s certainly valid to view madness as an inescapable pariah for some. I suppose I just have more hope for the world than that. That’s what left me disappointed with the ending. I wanted more hope. Other readers might be less bothered by the tragic end.
Overall, this is a strong final entry in the acclaimed Monstrumologist series. The poetic language is beefed up with a Dante style structure, and the plot is complex, following the ultimate impact on Will Henry of growing up as Dr. Warthrop’s apprentice in Monstrumology. Some readers may be disappointed or overly saddened by the ending lacking a glimmer of hope but others will enjoy its incredibly dark turn. Readers of the previous three books should not miss this one.
4 out of 5 stars