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Magnolia Table, Volume 2: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 352 pgs.
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Magnolia Table (Vol. 2): A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines is the second volume of recipes from Gaines, and this one was more thought out and planned than her previous volume, according to the introduction. Her previous volume focused on family favorites that she makes all the time, while this one chronicles her journey to learn about new foods, ingredients, and more. I really loved the substitutions chart because that will help me a great deal when I don’t have certain ingredients. I never know what to substitute. There are some great full-color photos in the book, but given the pandemic, there are some things that I couldn’t do at all, especially recipes requiring yeast (this has been non-existent for months).

The first recipe I tried was for Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes. We had just gotten some delivered from the local farmer’s market, so I was eager to try this recipe. One drawback is that there were not pictures for this recipe, but we assumed that Gaines cut the potatoes into french fry form, which is what we went with. It was pretty easy to follow, though for my family, I would definitely cut back on some of the rosemary and black pepper — several people said it was too spicy (my daughter included). The other thing I found was that 40 minutes was too long at 450 degrees. My over charred some of these fries, so I think next time I’ll just cook them for 30 minutes or keep a closer eye on them. But they still were tasty.

Gaines recommends serving these with Rib Eye Steaks, but we didn’t have any of that. We had meatloaf with beans.

The next recipe I tried was for French Silk Pie, which had some really easy to follow steps. I really enjoyed this recipe and will be making it again, since it was a big hit even if there was a problem with my crust. I think pre-made crust is best for me. This recipe does have a full-color picture that helped me determine if my ingredients were working together as they should.

Everyone ignored the terrible crust and said the pie itself was delicious. I really enjoyed making this one, and I’ll be happy to make it again. I already have plans to try making it with a graham cracker crust.

While I didn’t get to make the pizzas I wanted to because of the lack of yeast, I plan to make those when things are more available in the stores. Some of the recipes in this book, however, we probably won’t make unless my kiddo and mom become more adventurous in their eating. I do want to check out the first volume of recipes in the first book, because I suspect those recipes will be better for my family.

Magnolia Table (Vol. 2): A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines is a good cookbook with a ton of information for budding chefs at home. While not everything suited my family’s taste, I’m sure that it will be a big hit with others. I do wish there were more pictures in the cookbook, but that’s because I love full-page photos of food. It helps me see how delicious it will look when I’m done cooking.

RATING: Quatrain

Turn It Up! A Pitch Perfect History of Music That Rocked the World

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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From National Geographic Kids, Turn It Up! A Pitch Perfect History of Music That Rocked the World, is a collection of fun music facts in a condensed format with colorful photographs and more. I enjoyed the parts about sound waves, and rhythm (which I don’t have) and harmony versus melody as a way of introducing music fundamentals to kids. My daughter was amazed that the earliest instrument was 40,000 years ago and was a flute made of bone. She was a bit creeped out by that knowledge, but she did find the other early instruments inside the book interesting. She already knows a little bit about the types of notes, thanks to Yunique Music School.

The most fascinating parts of this book for me were there tidbits about the actual musicians, like how Niccolo Paganini had sold his soul to the Devil in order to play so well every time he appeared before an audience while on the road. I enjoyed learning about Antonin Dvorak, one of my favorite composers, and the influence of America and Native Americans in his work — which makes absolute sense when you listen to his New World Symphony. I also learned something I didn’t know about one of my mom’s favorites, Glenn Miller, who apparently vanished while fighting in WWII. Cab Calloway is a figure I vaguely recall seeing as child and probably on Sesame Street, but I just loved his energy as a kid, and I had no idea that he used cartoon characters as part of his shows.

From National Geographic Kids, Turn It Up! A Pitch Perfect History of Music That Rocked the World, is chock full of information about musical composers, instruments, and the evolution of music, but it also has so much about recent musicians toward the end. It seems like it is heavy on new artists, which is probably because of the younger audience, but it is good to see how these younger artists are being remembered now, rather than years and years into the future.

RATING: Quatrain

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Source: Gift
Paperback, 144 pgs.
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Nancy Clancy: Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, is the first in this chapter book series about a girl who loves Nancy Drew and wants to be a detective just like her. While Drew’s cases take her on scary adventures and the criminals are creepy, Nancy Clancy’s adventures are tamer, often involving classmates and her sister, among others.

Nancy and her best friend, Bree, are amateur detectives and when they overhear Rhonda and Wanda talking about a secret in their year and how one doesn’t want to tell Nancy and the other one does, Nancy and Bree get to sleuthing. They even go through the girls’ backyard looking for clues while Rhonda and Wand are at soccer practice. What my daughter loves about these books is kids working together to solve mysteries (I used to love mysteries, too, as a kid). What I love about this series is the harder words that she has to sound out, like “concentration,” and the sprinkling in of French words that we had a great time using repeatedly after I explained what they meant.

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, contains more than one mystery to be solved, which keeps the excitement going. I would recommend these early chapter books for other kids who like mysteries.

RATING: Cinquain

The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic by Dori Hillestad Butler

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, starts where the last book left off in which Kaz is still mourning the loss of his ghost family, but is eager to help his new friend Claire with her ghost detective agency and hopefully help himself find his own family.  In their first case, Kaz and Claire have to navigate how they will get Kaz to new places to find ghosts. At Mrs. Beezley’s house, Kaz takes a trip in a water bottle so he doesn’t float away on the way to the “scene” of the haunting. The attic they check out is dusty and the woman’s home always has all of the windows open, which poses a significant danger to Kaz.

My daughter was always eager to read this book each night, sometimes reading two chapters per night. We finished it really much faster than I expected. Kaz and Claire are fun young characters that she identified with in terms of emotion and curiosity. We were a little astounded that Claire would go out on Mrs. Beezley’s roof and climb down a tree, but I suspect most kids her age would do dangerous things if their parents are not watching.

The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is a fun read, with delightful illustrations. We love the idea of ghost detectives and hope that Kaz finds more of his family as the series goes along.

RATING: Cinquain

Alone with the Stars by David Gillham (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 2+ hrs.
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Alone with the Stars by David R. Gillham, narrated by Hillary Huber and Emily Bauer, is a dual narrative short story about Amelia Earhart’s last flight and her disappearance and Lizzie Friedlander, a young girl who idolizes the flying heroine. This Audible original imagines what Earhart’s last hours might have been like on that flight before she disappeared over the Pacific. Lizzie is eager to be a strong woman, just like her idol — someone her teacher says she can be with a little practice.

The short story illustrates how trailblazing women and others can become role models for the youngest among us. Friedlander was ignored by the coast guard in Florida when she brought them everything she heard over her father’s radio.

Alone with the Stars by David R. Gillham, narrated by Hillary Huber and Emily Bauer, seems like a surface tale, like so much more could be explored. Lizzie’s concluding passages seem like there could be more to come with her story even in her later years. So much more could be explored with Earhart as well, but the short story is engaging.

RATING: Tercet

 

Said Through Glass by Jona Colson

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 84 pgs.
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Said Through Glass by Jona Colson is a keen observance of ordinary life and how we deal with not only grief, but our feelings of “otherness” even among family. There are several poems in an interview style throughout the collection, which I felt disconnected from.The one “interview” style poem I did enjoy and did feel connected to was “House for Sale,” where readers get a sense of a distracted home buyer who has lost his father and is trying to navigate life after.

However, I really loved Colson’s use of language to demonstrate ailments like arthritis and so much more. In “My Mother’s Hands,” the narrator speaks about his mother’s arthritic hands in a way that makes them beautiful: “Now, her fingers turn and twist against themselves,/like stems of wild roses–reaching out/into delicate air.” And in “Retina,” the narrator talks about the darkness of an eye out of sorts and the joy of being able to finally see again: “And the next day: surgery,/to fasten the retina, like wallpaper, back to the frazzled/optic nerve and satisfy its hunger for impulse/and clear astonishment of light.//” There is so much beauty in this collection.

Honey

It pours from a jar, amber and combed
too thick to understand.

It softens the parched skin
rubbed in small fingerfuls.

It soothes the throat
when we stir it into tea.

At breakfast, it sweetens the morning toast
while we talk of summer --

hopeful as a bee toward a tulip
promising pollen.

In part three, we switch gears in a way with a series of ekphrastic poems after a painting from Diego Velazquez called Las Meninas. When I saw this, I wanted a QR Code, like in Jessica Piazza’s latest collection, This Is Not a Sky, but it’s not necessary as this painting was easy to find online. These poems carry a heaviness that makes it easy to visualize the kids/women in this painting, including the Spanish Infanta Margaret Theresa. In the first poem, Theresa is the central figure and her “hoop skirt” is heavy like her heart later in the poem, signifying the weight of obligation she carries. “Heart-heavy, she rises, oiled and/drowsy, surging on, with no anchor,/only a painting of her, here and there./” Colson breathes new life into the Infanta, and the journey is intriguing as it touches on the royal life lightly.

Said Through Glass by Jona Colson speaks and readers must listen, but more than that they must interact with the lines and stanzas on the page — becoming a second observer. Readers will see through this window unique ways to look at the ordinary — from honey to an orange — and examine loss, grief, and change in a way that is not only sad, but beautiful. This beauty ties the collection to its grief to create an arc of healing.

RATING: QUATRAIN

About the Poet:

Jona Colson is an educator and poet. He graduated from Goucher College with a double Bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish and earned his MFA from American University and a Master’s in Literature/Linguistics from George Mason University. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Ploughshares, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. In addition to writing his own poetry, he also translates the Spanish language poetry of Miguel Avero from Montevideo, Uruguay. His translations can be found in Prairie Schooner, Tupelo Quarterly, and Palabras Errantes. He has also published several interviews for The Writer’s Chronicle. He is currently Associate Professor at Montgomery College in Maryland where he teaches English as a second language. He lives in Dupont circle area of Washington, DC. Visit his website at jonacolson.com

Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri

Source: Purchased at Gaithersburg Book Festival
Paperback, 250 pgs.
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Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri (listen to this interview), poet laureate of Maryland, is part of Alan Squire Publishing’s legacy collections and includes a selection of poems and plays, as well as interviews from her The Poet & the Poem public radio series.

I just had to get my hands on this collection when I was at last year’s Gaithersburg Book Festival and I had the honor of greeting her and escorting her about the local festival before her appearance was required on a panel and at the announcement of our 2019 high school poetry contest winners.

Selection from "Work Is My Secret Lover"

Work
takes the palm of my hand to kiss
in the middle of the night
it holds my wrist lightly and feels the pulse
Work is who you'll find with me
when you tiptoe up the stairs
and hear my footsteps through the shadows

I love that her poems take on a personality of their own and many of them are so different, tackling not only the angst of the writer’s life and the love we have for our work (which can take precedence over other things), but also the voices in which she speaks not for others but with them. From Anna Nicole Smith’s to Mary Wollstonecraft’s voice to poems styled after William Carlos Williams, Cavalieri’s imagination brings a new life to these women’s voices. Even the selections from her plays are lyrical and full of whimsy (in a way). Her persona poems imbue the public perceptions of women with a compassionate eye.

If you listen to her interview, at about 5:06, you’ll hear her read “Moderation,” which is my favorite poem from this collection. It’s deeply moving. A moment where a man knows it is time to pass into another world, and he hopes to never inconvenience anyone with his death. This silent man who doesn’t live outside the lines. Cavalieri displays her keen observations about her father and others, but she also observes herself as an outsider, an observer full of emotion. Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri is a deeply emotional journey through her work, and it always rings true. I’ll be seeking out her other collections in the future.

Grace Cavalieri needs no introduction in Maryland as our state Poet Laureate, but damn she is smart, observant, kind, and deliciously cognizant of how to imbue others with humanity through her own compassionate lens.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Grace Cavalieri is an Italian American writer and host of the radio program The Poet and the Poem, presented by the Library of Congress through National Public Radio. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Poems: New and Selected (1994), Pinecrest Rest Haven (1998), and Greatest Hits, 1975–2000 (2002). Her collection What I Would Do for Love: Poems in the Voice of Mary Wollstonecraft (2004) was awarded the Patterson Poetry Prize; Water on the Sun (2006) won the Bordighera Poetry Prize. Further collections include Anna Nicole: Poems (2008) and Sounds Like Something I Would Say (2010).

I Shimmer Sometimes, Too by Porsha Olayiwola

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 96 pgs
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I Shimmer Sometimes, Too by Porsha Olayiwola, who is Boston’s poet laureate, is a collection of hard truths. I first heard about her from this interview, which is a must listen. Her poems are raw and pull no punches, and they shouldn’t. She’s speaking for a very marginalized group of people in our society – queer black women.

Her opening poem brings to the forefront the rawness of our immigration policies in this country and the damage left behind when her father was sent to his homeland and her mother was left in the United States to raise their children. Olayiwola imagines what life would have been like had her father been able to stay in “Had My Parents Not Been Separated After My Father’s Traffic Stop, Arrest, and Deportation From the United States of America.” This serves as a lens through which her life has unfolded – the discrimination that follows her as a black woman who is queer — and her light amidst all of it. Even in the darkest moments of arrest, her poems shimmer with hope and light.

From "Interlude at a Neighborhood Gas Station: 2001"

the music peeled back the air
as the ivory chrysler swerved and jolted
into a spot behind our parked toyota

From modern subjects of finding and losing love, struggling with mental illness, dealing with discrimination at every turn, Olayiwola has a keen eye and slices through the malarkey of our society and reveals the whole truth of life in America. She tackles history and the present with aplomb. My favorite poem is “Unnamed.” Take a listen as she performs the piece in the video below:

Buy this collection today. I Shimmer Sometimes, Too by Porsha Olayiwola will challenge you, force you to look twice at your own behavior and comments, and move into a future where there is a bit more understanding and empathy for others. In a world where compassion is minimal at best, these are the collections that will have use recollecting our humanity.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Porsha Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston

The Floating Door by M. E. Silverman

Source: the poet
Paperback, 92 pgs.
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The Floating Door by M.E. Silverman is a collection of poems that explores several schoolyard rhymes — “Step on a Crack” — and the experience of growing up in America, alongside the feeling of being an outsider in “The Last Jew” in Afghanistan. Silverman’s poems are a spiritual journey that is at times disconcerting, but also comforting. His poems look at American consumerism in a way that causes the reader to look at the life they imagine — the clean lines and everything in its place — and the life they lead, full of chaos and love.

One of the best looks at this is “Sitting in a Simulated Space at the Atlantic Station IKEA in Atlanta, Georgia,” in which the speaker is comfortably sitting in one of those staged rooms that the store is famous for, takes a book of poems from the shelf and begins to read. In this moment the speaker becomes part of the simulated room. But the illusion is broken when he decides to save the pages and rips them from the book and is caught by the eyes of a child in the store with her family. Silverman’s poems have children or child-like reactions in them to call attention to how discerning kids are to social cues and the visual moments around them, even if they don’t necessarily understand the words. In “‘I Don’t Believe,’ She Said, ‘In You.'” the narrator says, “He listened the way a/child presses an ear to a keyhole,” and readers can see the intensity of that moment — a spying on an adult conversation when one adult is exasperated with the other. The whole of the poem calls attention to a lack of attention we all have in arguments and moments of frustration — when we take less care in choosing our words and how those words can be interpreted by the listener a different way than what they were intended.

Silverman’s imagination is on full display in his descriptions, like this from “Response to: I Can’t Get Off the Couch”: “Look, the couch/would love nothing more than to waste the day caped with a shawl, laying/ burdened on someone’s back like Atlas, but honestly the couch is waiting for/the right cover to turn it almost youthful & beautiful, waiting for the vibrating/wonder of the vacuum so it can come clean, eyeing the shapely Victorian/curves of the love-seat, waiting & waiting for it to make the first move.” Oh, this unrequited love, the longing from across the room. Just beautiful.

Many of these poems offer surprise reactions in them: sensuality, families that have grown distant except for the love of a child that appears constant, and mirror images of suffering and displacement. There is a disconnect that is explored between being American and the Jewish religion, but within that feeling of disconnect, the narrator of the poems takes a journey to reconnect. The Floating Door by M.E. Silverman is a collection that moves the reader in and out of detachment in an effort to demonstrate that the feeling is fleeting and there is more to connect us with others than first appears to the eye.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

M. E. Silverman is the author of The Floating Door (Glass Lyre Press, 2018), The Breath Before Birds Fly (ELJ Press, 2013). The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary American Jewish Poetry (2013), which he co-edited with Deborah Ager, The Plume Anthology of Long-ish Poems (Madhat Press, 2018), which he co-edited with Andrew McFayden-Ketchum, and a forthcoming Holocaust anthology co-edited with Howard Debs. His work has appeared in over 90 journals including: Crab Orchard Review, Blood Orange Review, December, Town Creek Poetry, Chicago Quarterly Review, North Chicago Review, Battersea Review, The Naugatuck River Review, Many Mountains Moving, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The Los Angeles Review, Pacific Review, StorySouth, I-70 Review, UCity Review, Tupelo Quarterly Review. You can also check out his journal, Blue Lyra Review, and his press, Blue Lyra Press.

Drift by Alan King (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 1+ hrs.
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Drift by Alan King, from Audible and narrated by the poet, is a new experience in poetry, providing listeners with their own personal poetry reading. With jazzy music, sound effects, and the lyrical sounds of his poems, King transports listeners into an urban landscape where comic book heroes don’t live, but young boys still wish they would and that they could be them to battle the ugliness.

There is beauty in this collection, and it is a creative use of music, sound effects, and poetry. Tired of podcasts, depressing news, and television, enter the poetic world of Alan King and have your own personal poetry reading.

For more about the individual poems, my review is here.

Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 97 pgs.
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Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis, is a fun mystery that younger kids can read without parents worrying about too much danger. These are mysteries that kids could do on their own with little adult help. I loved Nancy Drew as a kid, but I knew that the ones I read in middle school were not right for my younger daughter. These, however, are perfect. Nancy, George, and Bess are the Clue Crew and they love solving mysteries. All are invited to Deidre Shannon’s eighth birthday party (sweet half sixteen birthday party). At this party, each guest is told to wear a sea creature or similar themed costume. Deidre, of course, is a spoiled, popular girl with a blog who wants all of the attention on her at her party. She is the queen of the sea.

Nancy, George, and Bess learn about topiaries, interact with teenagers, and meet a mystery guest who doesn’t speak but has pink toenail polish. When the party’s big surprise — Marina, Queen of the Mermaids — is ruined by a snake in the pool, the clue crew gets to work on solving who slung the fake snake into the pool to ruin the party. I love that they write down possible suspects and investigate each one by not only talking to them but also listening to their conversations and following them into joke shops. These books still have illustrations, which my daughter loved, especially since she’s never seen a topiary before.

Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis, also offers younger readers an opportunity before the big reveal to think about all the suspects, write down their own clues, and come to their own conclusions about who the culprit is. My daughter and I discussed all the clues and suspects while reading and before the big reveal. She was happy to learn that she had guessed correctly at who the snake slinger was.

RATING: Cinquain

Seed by Ania Ahlborn (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 6+ hours
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Seed by Ania Ahlborn, narrated by Eric G. Dove, is a creepy story that reminds me of the Exorcist in that there seems to be a demon child running around its pages. Jack Winter and his family live in Louisiana and they are far from rich, but they seem to be a pretty happy family. But following a car accident, something happens to his daughter, Charlie, that brings to the fore echoes of Jack’s past.

“The craziest of them all seem nice and normal and happy until some vital part of their brain fries like bad wiring.”

The narration is great, though there is one point in which he forgets to modify his voice for Jack’s wife but it didn’t deter me from listening to the story. I wanted the story to be creepier, but it definitely wasn’t gory, which is perfect for those who do not like those kinds of horror books. Charlie is creepy, but she really doesn’t become overly creepy until nearly the end of the book, so her change is very gradual and not as dramatic as I would expect from a demon-related story. The interconnection between Charlie’s story and her father’s past, however, gets really juicy.

Seed by Ania Ahlborn, narrated by Eric G. Dove, has elements of a good Stephen King novel like Cujo, but at the same time, it seemed to lack a certain amount of depth. The characters felt flat as I listened and I wanted more from Jack. His motivations to lie at every turn are murky at best, and why he lies seems to be a plot device. I wanted it to be more developed than it was. Charlie is definitely creepy, but her character also seems to act older than her six years even before the takeover. This was a quick read but had some faults.

RATING: Tercet