Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Mystery of Healthy Cooking

The New American Heart Association Cookbook, 9th Edition: Revised and Updated with More Than 100 All-New Recipes – American Heart Association – (Harmony Books)

Thumbing through the new updated and expanded, 9th Edition of The New American Heart Association Cookbook, 9th Edition: Revised and Updated with More Than 100 All-New Recipes, there are a couple of things that become abundantly clear, very quickly.                                                                         

    1. There is quite literally something for every type and variation of taste bud within the pages of this book. Like it sweet; you’re covered. Like it savory; you are good to go. Spicy is your thing; they bring the heat.

    2. It is highly unlikely that as you work your way through this compendium of over 800 recipes that you will ever get bored. This book covers the gamut literally from soups to nuts.

While I a member of the anti-pumpkin establishment, having grown weary with the everything pumpkin spice foodie movement, I have to say that I was intrigued by Creamy Pumpkin Soup recipe. Like most of the recipes throughout the book it is comprised of simple, readily available ingredients that won’t take a masters hand to whip together.

The one thing that is a bit of let down is the utter lack of photography that has become the cornerstone of so many cookbooks. While the recipes might seem pretty straight forward, I can help but wonder, being a visual guy in the kitchen, does this look like it’s supposed to when all is said and cooked? At the end of the day the folks at the heart association apparently didn’t want to sacrifice the sheer volume of recipes with some pretty pictures.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Breaking the Mold

Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker – Stephen Galloway (Crown Archetype)

When Sherry Lansing made major headlines for landing as the first female head of a major motion picture studio, Paramount Pictures, it was in reality anything but a typical Hollywood story. Yet the tall and strikingly beautiful Lansing could shake the typical Hollywood stereotype; did she get there because of her good looks and by way of the executive casting couch?

Well over the course of her career Lansing proved beyond doubt that she was a skilled an operator as anyone else, leading a pair of major studios along the way and scoring big box office success with films like Titanic, Braveheart, Black Rain, Indecent Proposal, Fatal Attraction, Forrest Gump and Saving Private Ryan among many others. These were not just successful movies, but films that became keystones of the American lexicon.

Lansing’s amazing career is the subject of the new biography, Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker. The book details Lansing’s transition from model and actress to behind the camera deal maker that moved in the same circles some of the biggest names in Tinsel Town.

Langsing earned a solid reputation for being a skilled negotiator and tough deal maker. Leading Lady, is a fairly typical Hollywood memoir that gives you just enough insider insight to keep things interesting without getting too deep in the dirt.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reach the Beach - Fiction

Trap the Devil: A Thriller – Ben Coes (St. Martin’s Press)

Given the current machinations floating around about the so-called deep state, there is a real feel, ripped from the headlines quality to Ben Coes’ seventh installment in the Dewey Andreas series, Trap the Devil.

Could a group of highly placed, high profile folks, in positions of trust be at the core of a long game, coup plot to over throw the U.S. government? The wheels of this deviously plotted takeover are starting to ratchet up and the intensity of the story gets slammed into high gear early and often in this break neck thriller.

While some may choose to quibble over realism of some of the turns in this story, I for one am a willing participant, in the one man stands in the way of this fiendish plot, suspension of reality. In the Dewey Andreas character, Ben Coes has long ago claimed his rightful place among the master agents provocateur, who ply the trade craft of thriller writing. Andreas is a tough guy for all seasons, not only a burly brut, but a guy who can think and move fast in dangerous situations.

Coes firmly grounds this ambitious story with just the right amount of head scratching, “hmm…could that really happen” reality to keep things plausible. Coes also knows how to draw the bad characters so well that he will keep you pulling for the good guys win the day. Loved the high velocity nature of the plot and Dewey’s never give up, never say die attitude in the face of growing odds.

Here and Gone – Haylen Beck – (Crown Books)

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. There is just a creeping sense of dread and doom the envelopes the opening passages of Haylen Beck’s debut, Here and Gone. Acclaimed crime writer Stuart Neville, uses the Beck pen name to craft this chillingly good story about a mother trying to escape her abusive husband, when on her cross country journey with her two kids, she gets pulled over on a desolate stretch of Arizona highway.
Arrested for pot possession, that creeping finger crawling up your spine is the sense that something isn’t quite right and while assured the kids will be “someplace safe” you just know that isn’t case.

Beck/Irwin masterfully crafts a dark story that is in one sense familiar and in another utterly terrifying. The pace gets ratcheted up as the clock ticks down in a desperate search for the children; the fires up with the chilling line, “what children?”

You’ve just gotta love a guy who crafts his pen name from his two favorite guitarists, Eddie Van Halen and Jeff Beck!

The Force – Don Winslow (William Morrow)

Don Winslow has penned a half a shelf full of novels over the course of his career with some recognizable titles sprinkled in along the way. In 2015 he stamped his name in bold letters as a writer to reckon with, with his book The Cartel finding its way onto countless lists of the best books of the year.

While I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Winslow’s work, I can tell you that there is something just flat out cool about Winslow’s style that he flexes to good effect with his latest, The Force. Winslow populates the pages of The Force with cops that seem to be a throwback to a different era; guys and gals married to the job who struggle mightily with a desire to do the right thing, but who all too often prey to the temptations of an easy score.

You get the sense that Winslow keeps a firm grip on reality when developing his characters, he’s not so much inventing these folks out of whole cloth as he is depicting real people that he has crossed paths with or down a shot and a beer with in a cop bar. There is a cinematic element to the words strung together so elegantly on these pages and it’s easy to see why a big screen auteur like Ridley Scott will be at the helm of the film version of The Cartel.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Evil X 4 Divided by 2

The Fourth Monkey – J D Barker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Hear No Evil…get a victim’s ear, delivered in a neatly wrapped box tied with black string.

See No Evil…get a victim’s eyes, delivered in a neatly wrapped box tied with black string.

Speak No Evil… get a victim’s tongue, delivered in a neatly wrapped box tied with black string.

Get The Fourth Monkey, by J D Barker and get the thriller of the year, thus far, delivered in the form of a book that divides the storyline into two neatly gripping sections.

The Four Monkey Killer (4MK) has been plying his evil trade for five years terrorizing Chicago and we get dropped right into the middle of a bubbling story with the arrival of the first neatly wrapped box, tied in black string and containing his latest victim’s ear. You know the old saw about the monkeys who hear, see, and speak no evil, but this troop comes with an extra member.

Author J D Barker spins out a twisted tale of an ultra-smart serial killer who is not only hell bent on yanking the chains of those trying to catch him, but along the way he has made the case and helped the cops to roll up some folks who were doing evil that they didn’t even know about.

Is 4MK dead…the victim of an apparent suicide or is this just another twist; a curve ball to keep the cops guessing? Barker drops a malicious clue in the form of the killer diary which details the killer’s twisted childhood and the making of a future serial killer.

While Barker alternates between the current chase and the killers diary, I defy you to try not to bounce ahead to see where the next twist in either tail leads. 

This is a great concept and the execution is spot on! Barker sets the hook early and the race is on with relentless pacing, great hairpin turns and enough twists to keep you guessing until the final pages. Hands down my favorite fiction of the year and I am ready for what’s next from the devious mind of J D Barker.   

Putting Things in Perspective

Perspective in Action: Creative Exercises for Depicting Spatial Representation from the Renaissance to the Digital Age – David Chelsea (Watson Guptil)

Despite all thoughts to the contrary, artists are not born; they may be gifted with some rudimentary or even advanced skills, but artists work hard to develop their skills over the course of time. Along the way most artists will seek out instruction, information or tools that they can add to their toolbelt to aid in improving their skills.

One of the myriad of skills that most artists seek to hone is the skill of adding perspective to their work. By representing space or depth in their work they can add life and realism to the work.

One of the undisputed masters in the area of training artists to improve their perspective skills is David Chelsea. Chelsea’s third book on perspective is, Perspective in Action: Creative Exercises for Depicting Spatial Representation from the Renaissance to the Digital Age. With this book, Chelsea seems a little more focused on the hands on approach to things showing a range of examples that covers a gamut of styles and artistic mediums.

Chelsea offers some very useful tools that can not only aid artists but are relatively simple to put into action right away. He doesn’t overlook how to best utilize perspective in the digital art age we find ourselves immersed in. This one belongs on the shelf of any artists who would like to take a step in the serious direction when it comes to their work.