By Thomas M. Sullivan
Wayman Publishing, $15.00, 245 pages
So Much Time, So Little Change is a compilation of humorous essays written by Thomas M. Sullivan. This is Sullivan’s sophomore effort; his first published work, a memoir titled Life in the Slow Lane, was published in 2010. The topics of the essays here are broad in range, but they do have one thing in common: they are all quite entertaining. Sullivan is a perceptive people watcher and skilled storyteller. Sullivan transforms ordinary subjects like a trip to the DMV, fixing and selling a house and the relentless up-selling tactics of sales clerks into funny, memorable tales that will delight readers. The stories in So Much Time, So Little Change are as comical as the monkey gesturing obscenely on its cover.
Reviewed by Kimberly Logan-Elwell
The Mexican Cuisine You Thought You Knew
By Pati Jinich
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.00, 288 pages
In her new cookbook Pati’s Mexican Table, Pati Jinich, host of the PBS series of the same name, has boiled down “the secrets of real Mexican home cooking” to just under 300 pages of approachable, delicious recipes. From salads and vegetarian dishes to breakfast and desserts, Pati’s Mexican Table contains a panoply of recipes to try and enjoy.
While some of the recipes in the book are typical to Mexican restaurants, others are a little more obscure to those of us from different cultures. However, Jinich makes the recipes seem simpler than you’d think. Her anecdotal introductions to the book’s chapters show her passion for the food, and the lovely color pictures throughout the book serve to inspire.
Worth having for anyone who is interested in learning the art of Mexican cuisine and whose interest extends beyond enchiladas.
Reviewed by Ashley McCall
Chicken Coop Castles for Any Skill Level
By Kevin McElroy & Matthew Wolpe
Storey Publishing, $19.95, 190 pages
One no longer need live on a farm with hundreds of acres to be able to raise chickens. Many city dwellers have taken on the challenge and rewards of having a few backyard chickens. Of course, one key piece of equipment needed to keep chickens is a chicken coop.
Kevin McElroy and Matthew Wolpe have made the process of creating a chicken coop a whole lot easier with their book Reinventing the Chicken Coop. Their well-organized book begins with chicken coop essentials such as space requirements, run setups, roosts, protection, ventilation and nesting boxes. The book then moves on to coop-building basics and outlines the tools and materials needed as well as necessary techniques. There are specific directions and plenty of pictures showing the reader how to cut notches and make joints, doors and hinges. I love how the book clearly outlines two simple classics (the standard and the A-frame) for the beginner. Either design can be built in a weekend, and a specific materials list is provided. Step-by-step directions are outlined with photos, drawings with measurements and written words. There are a total of four beginner designs, eight intermediate designs and two advanced designs. The authors offer a variety of looks, such as a garden roof coop and a mid-century modern version. Some coops even begin with recycled materials such as pallets and containers.
Readers can use this book at face value or as a beginning point for creative inspiration for their own designs. Nonetheless, the authors definitely make the reader believe that the sky is the limit and that the task is not as daunting as it might first appear.
Reviewed by Seniye Groff
Start Handbuilding Your Masterpiece
By Jacqui Atkin
Barron’s, $24.99, 192 pages
Since prehistoric times, people have been making pottery by hand, creating functional vessels and beautiful masterpieces. Handbuilt Pottery Techniques Revealed, by Jacqui Atkin, is an amazing resource for modern-day potters looking for guidance when using their hands to work with clay. This extended edition has 32 all-new pages. Beginning potters will appreciate the sections introducing tools to purchase, types of clay to choose from (earthenware, stoneware and porcelain) and how to prepare and care for clay. The book’s four technique chapters (coiling, pinching, slabbing and molding) offer step-by-step instructions along with color photos showing the entire process. After the specific technique is explained, individual projects offer variations on the basic form that potters can try. Choose from a garden sculpture, bowl set, widow box, butter dish, ginkgo vase, clay birds and more.
What makes this book so unique are the cutaway photographs that show what is happening on the inside of the project. This takes the mystery out of handbuilding because it shows the hand positions inside and outside the pot. Red and green arrows demonstrate how each hand should move during each step (i.e., whether it should pull, lift, support, push, shape or reinforce the clay). High school and college art teachers could easily incorporate this text into their curriculum. Photos of the finished pieces and a gallery section at the end of the book will inspire any artist to pick a project and begin handbuilding a work of art.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin
Pirates vs. Cowboys Is a Simple Misunderstanding
By Aaron Reynolds, Illustrated by David Barneda
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 32 pages
When Burnt Beard and his band of ruthless pirates find too much loot, they are forced to go ashore to bury their treasure. As they make their way onto land, the pirates meet Black Bob McKraw and the other cowboys of the Wild West. Trouble starts up when the troupe of pirates asks the cowboys (in fluent pirate, of course) where they might find a place to eat. The cowboys don’t understand what they’ve been asked and misinterpret the strange words as insults. Back and forth they argue, neither side understanding what is being said. Finally, Pegleg Highnoon – the pirate cowboy who understands what both groups are saying – steps in. Pegleg helps the pirates and cowboys find some common ground, and explains they need to work to understand each other. Then they all enjoy the afternoon together.
Pirates vs. Cowboys is a fun way to show children what can happen with a misunderstanding. Author Aaron Reynolds is able to demonstrate that speaking a different language or coming from a different culture can sometimes mean miscommunications happen. Resolution comes from taking the time to understand each other and find common ground.
The illustrations by David Barneda enhance the pirate/cowboy tale. Kids will laugh at the critter characters of Burnt Beard the octopus pirate and Bob McKraw the ring-nosed-bull cowboy. The book is suitable for children up to age 10, and will be enjoyed by all.
Reviewed by Sophie Sestero
Gunn’s Style Secrets
By Tim Gunn with Ada Gunn Calhoun
Gallery Books, $28.00, 288 pages
Tim Gunn is probably best known for his role as co-host and mentor on Heidi Klum’s reality show “Project Runway.” But over the years, he has put his knowledge about fashion and design down on paper and has written several successful books. His newest book is Time Gunn’s Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet. His book covers clothes and styles ranging from an 1899 corset to Madonna’s coned bra. He examines JFK’s relaxed style and Justin Bieber’s hair and vests. His 20 chapters cover suits, pants, shoes, sweaters, hats, belts, ties, scarves and everything in between. His writing is full of sassy and sarcastic remarks and quick wit. Gunn offers useful tips and tricks, such as a guide to help women find the proper bra size. The included images are fun, especially the 1906 “How to tie a tie” photo. Fashionistas, fans of Tim Gunn and people interested in the history of design and style will devour this book. Gunn writes with pizzazz and humor. Every home should have this bible.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin
By Kent Haruf
Knopf, $25.95, 258 pages
Benediction, by Kent Haruf, is a story about life, death and what happens in between the two. During the last days of “Dad” Lewis’s life, he is made as comfortable as possible by his wife, his daughter and the various community members who drop in regularly as he slowly succumbs to terminal cancer. Dad loses himself to his illness, but not before he takes readers through flashbacks and imagined meetings with friends as he says good-bye.
Haruf spins his story well, drawing a quaint picture of small town life by offering little stories about different people who make up the community of Holt, Colorado – all of whom tie into Dad’s life somehow. Overall, the book is encouraging and heartwarming. The only problem for some might be the punctuation, or lack of it. Haruf does not punctuate dialogue at all, while other areas are punctuated sparsely. The good news is that his style is not impossible to get used to; but for those readers who care about punctuation and would notice if an appositive weren’t punctuated correctly, approach with caution.
Reviewed by Nicole Green
Which Year Will It Be This Session?
By Andrew Sean Greer
ECCO, $26.99, 290 pages
Ever get that feeling when starting a new book that there’s no pull – no character, no plot, no setting that sucks you in right off the bat? I don’t know if I experienced this sensation because I started reading Andrew Sean Greer’s The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells at 3:30 a.m. or because I had a hard time trying to figure out whom or what Greta is depressed over losing. Time will tell if there is, in fact, “pull,” as I call it, or if it’s just a bad idea to start a book that late in the day (or early in the morning, depending on how you look at time).
When I picked this book, I was intrigued by the story. Greta, the main character, starts electroconvulsive shock therapy as a way to overcome her depression. From that starting point, we see Greta in different time periods as the story progresses. After finishing this story, I think it was a combination of the 3:30 start time and trying to figure out where Greta transports to next that was the trouble. As she moves in and out of three time periods – 1918, 1941 and 1985 – she tries to figure out her role and the roles of those who matter most to her in each. We also meet her ex-husband, Nathan; Felix (not sure if there was one or two of them); her aunt Ruth; and Alan, her brother and Felix’s partner.
In the end, I felt no “pull.” However, as I was reading I felt glad that this was written as it was and not made more complicated – it’s an easy read when you need one. And an enjoyable read as well. In the end, remember that love can get you through anything in life.
Reviewed by Annie Hicks
Francophiles Unite in this Beautiful Book with Tons of Practical Advice
By Claudia Strasser
Gibbs Smith, $24.99, 160 pages,
Claudia Strasser’s Paris Flea Market Style leads the reader in a journey through the Paris streets on the lookout for the perfect piece of furniture or fabric. The book is divided into nine chapters ranging from furniture, lighting, collectibles, paper goods, textiles and outdoors. Strasser provides details about the four main markets in Paris: Clignancourt, Vanves, Aligre and Montreuil. She shares each market’s information, history, hours and location. Strasser suggests details to look for, upholstering ideas and ways to decorate your home with your Parisian finds. She asks the reader to keep an open mind and consider how an item might do “double duty” as one learns to appreciate the French detail. This book is littered with over 150 colorful photos displaying different pieces of furniture and even some close-ups of the wonderful details of the numerous market finds (including carvings and hand painted finishes).
“What appears to be damaged, such as cracked wood in a table, can often add character. Sometimes a defect may even work in your favor, as it could lower the price tremendously.”
The resource page (literally one page) was skimpy — the only real disappointment within this book. Even if you are not a Francophile, you will definitely consider yourself one when you finish reading this delightfully delicious book.
Reviewed by Seniye Groff
Long Lankin, Short Coming
By John Banville
Vintage International Trade Paperback Original, $12.95, 96 pages
Originally published in the UK in 1970, prize winning author John Banville’s first book Long Lankin is finally being published in the U.S., alongside his critically-acclaimed novel Ancient Light.
Long Lankin is a collection of nine short stories about murder, death and relationships. Although the story’s characters differ in gender, age and circumstance, each story’s plot structure is similar. Often, two characters are having a somewhat tense discussion when an interloper arrives with cryptic messages. The interloper is usually a stranger with mischievous intent. Also, each story uses the blurring of reality with the surreal quality of the unexpected, leaving the reader questioning the sanity of some of the characters.
As a debut, it’s a promising piece of work. However, compared to Banville’s mature works, it’s repetitive and plain. Unless you’re a hardcore short story fan, or a Banville aficionado who wants to read all his work, you may want to skip Long Lankin and pick up one of his novels instead.
Reviewed by Sarah Hutchins