Book Review: The Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole Plakias

Book Review: The Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole PlakiasThe Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole Plakias
Published by Avery on April 5, 2016
Genres: Business
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
The founders of Brooklyn Grange, the world’s largest green rooftop farm, share their inspirational story of changing the world through entrepreneurship.

In their effort to build the world’s first and largest commercial green rooftop farm, the founders of Brooklyn Grange learned a lot about building and sustaining a business while never losing sight of their mission—to serve their community by providing delicious organic food and changing the way people think about what they eat. But their story is about more than just farming. It serves as an inspirational and instructional guide for anyone looking to start a business that is successful while making a positive impact.

In The Farm on the Roof, the team behind Brooklyn Grange tell the complete story of how their “farmily” made their dream a reality. Along the way, they share valuable lessons about finding the right partners, seeking funding, expanding, and identifying potential sources of revenue without compromising your core values—lessons any socially conscious entrepreneur can apply toward his or her own venture. Filled with colorful anecdotes about the ups and downs of farming in the middle of New York City, this story is not just about rooftop farming; it’s about utilizing whatever resources you have to turn your backyard idea into a sky-high success.

Book Review:

THE FARM ON THE ROOF caught my eye because I’m considering growing vegetable crops. However, I live on a farm in the country, and I couldn’t imagine running a farm on a roof in New York City. But I thought the idea of a rooftop farm was genius, because there are so many advantages to using such an underutilized space.

THE FARM ON THE ROOF is the story of Brooklyn Grange, a business that focuses on the triple-bottom-line: people, planet, and profit. The farm started as a way to prove that yes, urban farming can be fiscally and agriculturally sustainable. They started operations in 2010 and are still going strong five years later, having learned a multitude of lessons and how to, in their terms, “monster it.”

I thought the book was quite interesting. Much of it deals with setting up and launching the business, finding opportunities for growth, and developing alternate revenue streams. Although the subject is, of course, the rooftop farms, it’s easy to apply those lessons to other businesses. Entrepreneurs with super crazy ideas might find some tips too, because who would have thought of fundraising for an urban farm?

I enjoyed the author’s writing style. It’s very readable, entertaining and informative. You know how business books can be dry or boring? That wasn’t the case here. Anastasia Cole Plakias is one of the founding partners of Brooklyn Grange, and it was easy to see her passion and pride in every page. I liked that she wasn’t afraid to admit to her own faults in the business world, and how she relied on her partners to help out there, just as she helped them.

Reading THE FARM ON THE ROOF left me feeling hopeful. It was so great to see a business that wants to help its community prosper. It was also great to see a “crazy” idea really take off, to show that yes, you can follow your dreams, succeed, and leave the world a better place all at once.

Socialize with the farm:

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– leeanna

Book Review: Fast into the Night by Debbie Clarke Moderow

Book Review: Fast into the Night by Debbie Clarke ModerowFast into the Night by Debbie Clarke Moderow
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 2, 2016
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
A captivating memoir of one woman’s attempt to finish the Iditarod, led by her team of spunky huskies with whom she shares a fascinating and inextricable bond.

At age forty-seven, a mother of two, Debbie Moderow was not your average musher in the Iditarod, but that’s where she found herself when, less than 200 miles from the finish line, her dogs decided they didn’t want to run anymore. After all her preparation, after all the careful management of her team, and after their running so well for over a week, the huskies balked. But the sting of not completing the race after coming so far was nothing compared to the disappointment Moderow felt in having lost touch with her dogs.

Fast into the Night
is the gripping story of Moderow’s journeys along the Iditarod trail with her team of spunky huskies: Taiga and Su, Piney and Creek, Nacho and Zeppy, Juliet and the headstrong leader, Kanga. The first failed attempt crushed Moderow’s confidence, but after reconnecting with her dogs she returned and ventured again to Nome, pushing through injuries, hallucinations, epic storms, flipped sleds, and clashing personalities, both human and canine. And she prevailed. Part adventure, part love story, part inquiry into the mystery of the connection between humans and dogs, Fast into the Night is an exquisitely written memoir of a woman, her dogs, and what can happen when someone puts herself in that place between daring and doubt—and soldiers on.

Book Review:

FAST INTO THE NIGHT is a memoir about running the Iditarod, failing, and trying again. Debbie Moderow isn’t your typical Iditarod competitor. She was forty-seven for her first attempt, following in the footsteps of her son. The entire family mushed, but the kids were more competitive than the parents. Debbie’s son ran the Iditarod when he was 18, and when he finished, he told her she had to do it, too.

A retired Iditarod dog named Salt played an important role in Debbie’s life. He helped her recover from two devastating miscarriages by reigniting her love of the outdoors and adventure. And then the whole family got into sled dogs and mushing, spending their vacations mushing to a cabin and watching the kids compete in junior races.

FAST INTO THE NIGHT is primarily a remembrance of Debbie’s 2003 Iditarod attempt and her 2005 finish. Running the race is never something I’d do myself. I’m a total wimp in 20F weather, I can’t imagine racing with the temperature in negative degrees, facing blizzards and wind storms and more. But Debbie brought the course of the race to life for me, through sparse yet descriptive writing. I felt like I was there, and I knew all the difficulties she went through. She also delved into the personalities of each dog, which really showed her connection to the team.

I liked that Debbie showed herself in all lights, good and bad. She didn’t edit her thoughts to make herself look better. Her honesty made me feel like I could trust everything she wrote.

FAST INTO THE NIGHT wasn’t my typical read, but I’m happy I came across the book and read it.

Socialize with the author:

Debbie Clarke Moderow:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson

Book Review: The Art of Language Invention by David J. PetersonThe Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson
Published by Penguin on September 29, 2015
Genres: Non Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
An insider’s tour through the construction of invented languages from the bestselling author and creator of languages for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the Syfy series Defiance.

From master language creator David J. Peterson comes a creative guide to language construction for sci-fi and fantasy fans, writers, game creators, and language lovers. Peterson offers a captivating overview of language creation, covering its history from Tolkien’s creations and Klingon to today’s thriving global community of conlangers. He provides the essential tools necessary for inventing and evolving new languages, using examples from a variety of languages including his own creations, punctuated with references to everything from Star Wars to Michael Jackson. Along the way, behind-the-scenes stories lift the curtain on how he built languages like Dothraki for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Shiväisith for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, and an included phrasebook will start fans speaking Peterson’s constructed languages. The Art of Language Invention is an inside look at a fascinating culture and an engaging entry into a flourishing art form—and it might be the most fun you’ll ever have with linguistics.

Book Review:

THE ART OF LANGUAGE INVENTION is a thorough, funny introduction to the basics of creating a language. Apparently, making a new language involves a lot more than making a word list or alphabet. Who knew?

I tend to geek out over learning how things are done, and I learned a lot reading this book. I swear I learned something on every page. The author gives information on a ton of topics, such as the different types of oral sounds, how grammar plays a role, and even a quick primer on font creation. There’s also sections on how language evolves in different ways and why that’s important, morphology, and thinking about how aliens might speak. I had no idea just how much work and creativity goes into language creation, nor did I know that there are communities of people who create languages for fun.

THE ART OF LANGUAGE INVENTION really could be a textbook. It is a bit dense at times, but I’m just a layperson, not a linguist or beginning conlager. To keep things from getting too dense, the author includes case studies on how he created languages for shows such as Game of Thrones and Defiance. I could see those sections being super interesting for fans of those shows, since it really was cool to see how he evolved Dothraki from a few words in the books to a real language. Lastly, the author has a humorous writing style, and he uses jokes and pop culture references to make his examples easy to understand.

I’d recommend THE ART OF LANGUAGE INVENTION for fans who want to know more about Dothraki, Castithan, Irathient, or any of the other languages created by the author; people who want to dip their toes into creating a new language; or even sci-fi/fantasy writers, because just thinking about how a language might evolve could help with worldbuilding.

Giveaway:

Thanks to the generosity of Penguin, I’m offering a copy of this book for giveaway! US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Socialize with the author:

David J. Peterson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

Book Review: Headstrong by Rachel SwabyHeadstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science--and the World by Rachel Swaby
Published by Broadway Books on April 7, 2015
Genres: Biography, Non Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Blogging For Books
Goodreads
5 Stars
Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists.

In 2013, the New York Times published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the Times had devoted several hundred words to her life: Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary—and consequent outcry—prompted were, Who are the role models for today’s female scientists, and where can we find the stories that cast them in their true light?

Headstrong delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals these 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

Book Review:

HEADSTRONG: 52 WOMEN WHO CHANGED SCIENCE — AND THE WORLD is a needed book. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. Even in 2015, women still struggle to make their way in male dominated fields like physics, astronomy, computer science, mathematics, etc.

I experienced discrimination based on my gender when I was a computer science student. I’ve been told I’m not a “real geek” because I’m a girl. Although I’m no Yvonne Brill — the inspiration for this book, whose accomplishments as a rocket scientist were overshadowed by her domestic abilities by the New York Times — I understood the struggle every woman mentioned in this book went through. And I’m ashamed to say I’d heard of maybe 4 out of the 52.

HEADSTRONG is separated into 7 sections: medicine, biology and the environment, genetics and development, physics, earth and stars, math and technology, and invention. To be included in the book, the author picked “only scientists whose life’s work has already been completed (xiii).” Due to that, the author admits the book is not very diverse, as opportunities opened up first for white women. She also didn’t include Marie Curie, because if you think of a woman scientist, that’s likely the one you picture. But did you know Marie Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, also won a Nobel Prize?

The profiles are relatively short, 3-5 pages, and focus on the woman’s contributions to her field. I read one or two sections a night and felt like I learned a ton about women in science. For example, I never knew a woman invented Kevlar, or wrinkle free cotton, or the Apgar score. The profiles are easy enough to understand for young girls, and interesting enough to hold the attention of older readers.

What will you learn?

Socialize with the author:

Rachel Swaby:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm

Book Review: Ravensbrück by Sarah HelmRavensbrück by Sarah Helm
Published by Doubleday on March 31, 2015
Genres: History, Non Fiction
Pages: 768
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
A groundbreaking, masterful, and absorbing account of the last hidden atrocity of World War II—Ravensbrück—the largest female-only concentration camp, where more than 100,000 women consisting of more than twenty nationalities were imprisoned.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the architect of the Holocaust, oversaw the construction of a special concentration camp just fifty miles north of Berlin. He called it Ravensbrück, and during the years that followed thousands of people died there after enduring brutal forms of torture. All were women. There are a handful of studies and memoirs that reference Ravensbrück, but until now no one has written a full account of this atrocity, perhaps due to the mostly masculine narrative of war, or perhaps because it lacks the Jewish context of most mainstream Holocaust history. Ninety percent of Ravensbrück's prisoners were not Jewish. Rather, they were political prisoners, Resistance fighters, lesbians, prostitutes, even the sister of New York's Mayor LaGuardia. In a perverse twist, most of the guards were women themselves. Sarah Helm's groundbreaking work sheds much-needed light on an aspect of World War II that has remained in the shadows for decades. Using research into German and newly opened Russian archives, as well as interviews with survivors, Helm has produced a landmark achievement that weaves together various accounts, allowing us to follow characters on both sides of the prisoner/guard divide. Chilling, compelling, and deeply unsettling, Ravensbrück is essential reading for anyone concerned with Nazi history.

Book Review:

I have read a lot of books on World War II and the Holocaust, from history textbooks to historical fiction to survivor memoirs. There’s a lot of literature out there, and for good reason. It’s something we should never forget or allow to happen again. But RAVENSBRÜCK is one of those books that stands out, and for another good reason: it’s about the only concentration camp designed for women.

I spent almost 21 hours reading RAVENSBRÜCK, and consider every one of those hours well spent. I learned an incredible amount while reading. Have you heard of the Polish students — the “rabbits” — that were experimented on at the camp? They smuggled out letters written in urine to tell the world their story because they feared the Nazis would silence them forever to cover up the crimes. When women were beaten for punishment, Heinrich Himmler personally approved each beating. Ravensbrück trained women guards for the rest of the concentration camps. I learned more about satellite camps than I have in any other book. I also learned that many Soviet women were imprisoned again upon release, because Stalin considered them traitors.

I really feel like the author did an incredible job of making a readable history of Ravensbrück. Yes, it is hard reading because of the atrocities, but I so appreciated that the author didn’t gloss over those, but instead told me how the women survived. I was in awe of the women mentioned, at their thirst to live in horrendous conditions. How they rebelled a hundred tiny ways, sometimes escaping punishment and sometimes suffering the ultimate fate for their rebellion. How many of them returned home and never said a word, because nobody wanted to hear about Ravensbrück.

In RAVENSBRÜCK, Sarah Helm combines historical evidence (records, trial transcripts, etc.) and the voices of the survivors to create a biography of the camp, from founding to liberation. If she couldn’t corroborate an account, she told the reader what the survivor said anyway, adding additional evidence for or against, if there was any. Many, many voices are represented, from guards to Soviet prisoners of war to Polish doctors and students to German communists and more.

I do have one small wish: a list of all the women who had a voice in RAVENSBRÜCK, along with their fates, would have been a good addition in my eyes. There were so many interesting women mentioned, and I doubt I could ever track down information about them.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you have any interest in WWII, concentration camps, or even women’s history in general.

YA Connection:

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein is a YA historical fiction book set, in part, at Ravensbrück. So far, it’s the only historical fiction book, YA or otherwise, that I’ve read set in Ravensbrück. After reading Sarah Helm’s history of the camp, I feel that Elizabeth Wein did a respectable and realistic job of describing life there.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara CooneyThe Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney
Published by Crown Publishing on October 14, 2014
Genres: Biography
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging For Books
Goodreads
5 Stars
An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power in a man’s world.

Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt's throne without status as a king’s son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her inconceivable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of king in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular twenty-two year reign as co-regent with Thutmose III, the infant king whose mother Hatshepsut out-maneuvered for a seat on the throne. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays with the veil of piety and sexual expression. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut had to shrewdly operate the levers of a patriarchal system to emerge as Egypt's second female pharaoh.

Hatshepsut had successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt’s most prolific building periods. Scholars have long speculated as to why her images were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power—and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.

Book Review:

Lately I’ve been on an ancient Egypt reading kick. It’s so bad I’ve been rereading a couple of historical fiction novels over and over. So Kara Cooney’s biography of Hatshepsut, THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, came along at an excellent time for me.

Actually, I would have enjoyed it anytime, because I found THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING to be an enjoyable read. It’s quite informative, covering from before Hatshepsut’s birth to after her death. This gives as complete a picture as possible about the world she lived in, the customs of the 18th dynasty, religious practices, etc. I find that kind of thing fascinating.

In the Author’s Note, Kara Cooney explains that any biography of Hatshepsut will have little certainty, because of the time that has passed and because so much of Hatshepsut’s reign was erased. So there’s a fair amount of conjecture and speculation in THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, but with Cooney’s background, I think she’s qualified to do so, and she’s careful to mention when she’s venturing into the realm of guessing, and to back up those guesses with reasons.

This book is very readable and easy to understand. I’d recommend it for readers new to Hatshepsut, or others who want a deeper look into her kingship and how she forged it. I was only vaguely familiar with Hatshepsut before, but now I feel like I know a lot more. Such as how religion and ruling power were connected, and how Hatshepsut used her understanding of the gods and their mysteries to pave her way to being pharaoh, not just a regent.

THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING includes a section of photographs of statues, Hatshepsut’s obelisk, temples, and temple reliefs that helped me visualize Hatshepsut’s many building projects. The footnotes at the end are also interesting reading, all 30+ pages. Lastly, the author includes a long list of books to turn to for further reading.

When I finished THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, I wished I could take Cooney’s course on women and power at UCLA. I’m really into the idea that one of the reasons Hatshepsut was forgotten is because she did everything right: no scandals to mar her reign, successful military and trade campaigns instead of disasters, and a peaceful death.

Socialize with the author:

Kara Cooney:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Life in Motion by Misty Copeland

Book Review: Life in Motion by Misty CopelandLife in Motion by Misty Copeland
Published by Touchstone on March 4, 2014
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
"Picture a ballerina in a tutu and toe shoes. What does she look like?"

As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has made history. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious thirteen-year-old to become a ground-breaking ballerina.

When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life (culminating in a highly publicized custody battle), she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

With an insider's unique point of view, Misty opens a window into the life of a professional ballerina who lives life center stage: from behind the scenes at her first auditions to her triumphant roles in some of the most iconic ballets. But in this beautifully written memoir, she also delves deeper to reveal the desire and drive that made her dreams reality.

Life in Motion is a story of passion and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

Book Review:

Before reading LIFE IN MOTION, I had never heard of Misty Copeland. But I’m always on the lookout for ballet books, especially books by dancers, so I dove in eagerly. I finished the book in a day, and found it easy to read and interesting. In other words, I’m now happy I know who Misty Copeland is, because she’s had quite the life, and I’ll follow her career in the future.

Misty didn’t come from the typical ballet background. In fact, she didn’t take a ballet class until she was in middle school. She’d always loved dancing and was the captain of the middle school drill team, but ballet? Nah. By fifteen, Misty was considered a prodigy in the ballet world, and had been offered scholarships by top ballet schools. Around the same time, Misty was in the middle of a legal battle between her mother and ballet teacher; the teacher had encouraged Misty to file for self-emancipation to move forward in her ballet career, but Misty’s mother fought to keep her.

Misty’s story is almost like a fairy tale. Only the third African American to be promoted to soloist in the American Ballet Theatre, she came from a life of poverty and struggle. At one point, she and her siblings lived in a motel. She’s had to overcome racism, both subtle and overt, as well as body changes and injuries. Throughout the book, she has a pretty positive attitude about everything, rarely succumbing to pity. It was rather inspiring to read.

I do feel like this book was written early in Misty’s career, because I’m sure she’ll eventually be promoted to a principal dancer. However, I was never bored during LIFE IN MOTION, and really enjoyed reading Misty’s journey.

Socialize with the author:

Misty Copeland:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer

Book Review: Dancing Through It by Jenifer RingerDancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer
Published by Viking on February 20, 2014
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
A behind-the-curtains look at the rarefied world of classical ballet from a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet.

In her charming and self-effacing voice, Jenifer Ringer covers the highs and lows of what it’s like to make it to the top in the exclusive, competitive ballet world. From the heart-pounding moments waiting in the wings before a performance to appearing on Oprah to discuss weight and body image among dancers, Dancing Through It is moving and revelatory.

Raised in South Carolina, Ringer led a typical kid’s life until she sat in on a friend’s ballet class, an experience that would change her life forever. By the age of twelve she was enrolled at the elite Washington School of Ballet and soon moved to the School of American Ballet. At sixteen she was a professional dancer at the New York City Ballet in Manhattan, home of the legendary George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

Ringer takes us inside the dancer’s world, detailing a typical day, performance preparation, and the extraordinary pressures that these athletes face. Ringer shares exhilarating stories of starring in Balanchine productions, working with the famous Peter Martins, and of meeting her husband and falling in love at the New York City Ballet. Ringer also talks candidly of Alistair Macauley’s stinging critique of her weight in his 2010 New York Times review of The Nutcracker that ignited a public dialogue about ballet and weight. She unflinchingly describes her personal struggles with eating disorders and body image, and shares how her faith helped her to heal and triumph over these challenges.

Book Review:

DANCING THROUGH IT is the memoir of Jenifer Ringer, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. I hadn’t heard of her, nor seen her perform, but I’m always on the hunt for books about ballet.

The book did succeed in that aspect for me. There’s tons and tons of information on ballet, dancing, training, a dancer’s daily life, the different ballets and choreographers, the adrenaline rush of performing, and so on. I really enjoyed the glimpse into a working ballerina’s life, from the benefits to the sacrifices. I found all of it absolutely fascinating, and did think that Jenifer Ringer described ballet in a way a non-dancer could understand. She also answered a lot of questions, such as what happens when a dancer falls or forgets choreography.

But what I didn’t like about DANCING THROUGH IT was the heavy emphasis on faith. I’d say the book is split 50/50 between ballet and faith. I’m not a religious person, but I understand other people have their beliefs. However, when Jenifer mentioned God or praised him for what she had in what felt like every paragraph, it got to be too much for me.

Overall, the book is good for information about ballet, but not as interesting as it could be due to the emphasis on religion.

– leeanna

Book Review: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Book Review: Sous Chef by Michael GibneySous Chef by Michael Gibney
Published by Ballantine Books on March 25, 2014
Genres: Memoir, Non Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

Book Review:

SOUS CHEF is a book I devoured. Twice. It’s as tasty as the dishes and food it describes.

An excellent look into the daily routine of a chef, it’s told in a creative style that puts the reader behind the knife. Second-person narrative (You pick up a dish, you make carrot puree) is really difficult to pull off, but I think Michael Gibney did a great job with it in this book. For me, that style made it much easier to learn about a kitchen, being a chef, various techniques, etc., rather than watching a character do it, or being in their head.

The only downside of the second-person narrative is that near the end, when talking about why “you’re” a chef, the book got a tad too philosophical for me, which is one reason why it wasn’t a 5 star read.

I learned a ton reading SOUS CHEF. I’ll admit, I love reality shows like Chopped, Top Chef, and Kitchen Nightmares, but I’m not always sure what’s going on when looking inside a professional kitchen. Now I have a much better idea. For example, I now know what “all day” means, the different positions on the line, and the general operating routine of a restaurant from open to close.

SOUS CHEF includes a helpful kitchen floor plan diagram and a comprehensive terminology section at the end. The only confusion I had with the book were the Spanish exchanges between “you” the sous chef and some of the kitchen staff. There’s not any translations for those, and I couldn’t always figure out what was being said.

SOUS CHEF has jumped to the top of my favorite culinary books, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading it in the future. It’s a book that’s super readable, has a style that will stick in your head, and is very easy to sink into and enjoy.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Borgias: The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer

the borgiasInfo:
Title: The Borgias: The Hidden History
Author: G.J. Meyer
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Bantam
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? No
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Page Count: 512
Rating: [2/5 stars]

Summary:

Forget everything you think you know about the most infamous family of the Italian Renaissance-here in every colorful detail is the real story of the Borgias and their indelible, tumultuous world, written by the gifted author of the acclaimed A World Undone and The Tudors and timed to coincide with the upcoming new season of the celebrated Showtime series, The Borgias.

Meet Rodrigo Borgia-Pope Alexander VI; Cesare Borgia-the reputed model for Machiavelli’s The Prince; Lucrezia; and Juan-the members of one of the most notorious families in European history. Epic in scope and set against the beautifully rendered backdrop of Renaissance Italy, The Borgias is a thrilling new depiction of these celebrated personalities and an era unsurpassed in beauty, terror, and intrigue. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I fully admit that I might have liked THE BORGIAS more if I had been in the proper mood to read it. However, I must also say that it wasn’t the book I was expecting. From the summary and title, I expected a book on the Borgia family. But THE BORGIAS is not just a book about the Borgia family: it’s a book about the history of Rome and Italy, the papal system, and a lot of other information.

Now, as a reader with a history background, I normally enjoy massive amounts of information. The more I learn, the better. But with this book, I just couldn’t concentrate. I think it was due in part to the author’s style, which I just couldn’t get into. I felt like G. J. Meyer was trying to stuff in every single detail he learned while researching.

I made it to “Part Two: Rodrigo” before giving up. It took me about twelve hours to get through approximately 80 pages. To give a comparison, usually I can read a 250-300 page book in about two hours. I know a book like THE BORGIAS will take longer, but it shouldn’t take that long.

I am giving THE BORGIAS two stars, even though I didn’t finish it, because I think it IS a good book for the right reader in the right frame of mind. I’ll probably try it again myself in the future, but for now, it just didn’t work for me. If you’re thinking about reading it, I recommend using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to get a feel for the book.

– leeanna