Non Fiction November

This year I planned to participate in Non Fiction November. Leave it to me to very late to the party! Well, I joined up at Goodreads, even though it’s this late in November.

This November I read and reviewed the following and I’ll finish it up with a book about astronomy.

Ghost Signs by Frank Mastropolo

The Year of the Dog by Vincent Musi

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Christopher Ingraham

Dark Skies is a Lonely Planet publication and creates a guide to astrotourism.  It is divided into categories such as stargazing, meteor showers, eclipses, launches. space flight and best of all (to me) dark places.  If you live in or near a city you probably have light pollution that keeps you from seeing some of the night sky.  In a truly dark place you will be gobsmacked by the stars and celestial sights.

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It’s very unlikely my husband and I will get to many of these places but it certainly gives a proverbial bucket list for places in the USA to travel and stargaze.

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This would be a lovely book to gift for your astronomy minded friend or family member this Christmas. The photos are great and it has very detailed resources.

That’s my roundup for Nonfiction November!

The Weight Of Blood by Laura McHugh

weightBlod This is a gritty first novel by Laura McHugh. The setting of the story is the small town of Hensbane in the Ozark Mountains. It’s a clannish town and everybody knows everyone else’s business. It starts with sixteen year old Lucy Bane, a beautiful young woman who is the spitting image of her mother. This bothers the locals a great deal because her mother, Lila, an outsider to the close knit community, disappeared just months after Lucy’s birth.

Backwards and superstitious, they believed Lila to a witch and it was rumored she once turned a man into a snake. Don’t let this descriptor turn you off to the book because it’s a wonderful mystery and plays out well.

The chapters are titled after the characters names (same as Maeve Binchy or George Martin patterned their books). The first few chapters are titled Lucy and set the ground work for Lucy’s friendship with a girl named Cheri. Cheri was slow, perhaps not retarded but very dim-witted; it seemed her only friend was Lucy. She disappeared one day and this had Lucy thinking about the mother she never knew. Where did these women go? What became of them? Lila never turned up during those 16 years but Cheri was later found butchered, placed in a tree near Lucy’s Uncle Crete’s restaurant.

Now the chapters go back and forth between Lucy and Lila. You learn Lila Petrovich arrived in Hensbane to work at Crete Bane’s farm and restaurant. She had no family, was orphaned at a young age and nowhere to go once she turned 16. Crete offers a job with room and board and she takes this a chance to start fresh. She is a beautiful young woman with striking features. She stands out from the community in looks and poise. Women are concerned she’ll take their husbands and she finds no friendship with the exception of her waitress co-worker at the dinner. Crete Bane has sinister ulterior motives but I won’t give a spoiler.

Once Lucy starts into Cheri’s life and digging for clues about her friend’s murder, she also turns up some information about her mother. She backs herself into a dangerous situation and you will be pleased that the ending isn’t predictable. Nice first novel, good mystery and I felt that small town clannishness as I read the story.

Simple home cooked fare was offered in this book. While I won’t attempt the squirrel dumplings Lila made for her neighbor I will offer a grilled steak, field peas and sweet potato for supper.

Here I am reading with my shiba inu Kobe. He’s got his thundershirt on to calm him from the storm.

Loving mysteries I will be delving into Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books soon.
Happy reading!

The Tastemakers by David Saxon

tastemakers The Tastemakers by David Saxon was an interesting and humorous read.

This insightful book delved into food crazes and their origins, how the agriculture and marketing parts fit in and how they weave together.

Cupcakes dominate the beginning chapter. I never thought of the reason they seemed so popular these days. In some cases, they are a popular choice for weddings instead of a traditional wedding cake. How does that happen? Well, David Saxon will tell you. It’s a craze that started before Sex in the City (a misconception I had about the cupcake popularity). His research is well done and not a dry recounting of facts. He’s quite humorous actually. As you read about the accidental popularity of the cupcake and it’s rise to fame you’ll find you want one more than ever.

Marketing and business sections explain the economics of bacon. Yes, the meat that has become a star ingredient in its own right in everything from breakfast to dinner to desserts. An explanation of marketing and pork belly futures isn’t boring. Well, not the way Saxon presents it. Usually I hear the word bacon and someone (me included at times) will quote Homer Simpson; “Mmmmmm……..bacon….” in a dreamy tone.

I liked this part in the book where he talks about people embracing a particular food or diet because another culture, who eats XYZ, is healthy and long lived.

“We also buy into a narrative…that simplifies a complicated lifestyle down to a single ingredient. The seductive power of many of these super foods lies in their place in remote, somewhat mystical cultures. Whether it’s the longevity of Greek goat herders, Okinawan fisherman, Amazonian tribesmen, or Mexican tribal joggers, the tremendous difference between their health and ours has a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that we drive cars, sit at computers, and have access to super-sized sodas than the fact that they eat yogurt, salmon, acai, or chia…”

Right?! I am not a goat herder. I drive to work and sit in front of a computer a good portion of my day. While I limit my intake of fast foods and convenience foods, my American lifestyle is vastly different from an Okinawan fisherman. Back when the Mediterranean diet was all the rage there were always the folks who thought adding olive oil and drinking red wine would transform their health and waistline.

This non-fiction appraisal of food trends is an easy read. It also had me go to one of the popular local cupcake shops. Smallcakes in Tallahassee Florida has it going on!

They have some amazing cupcakes and different specials every day. After reading The Tastemakers I was aware of 3 different specialty cupcake shops in my area. Didn’t even think about it before reading this book.

Let’s hope this doesn’t become a habit!

Coincidentally, Tallahassee Florida is mentioned in the last chapter where Saxon talks about fondue. The Melting Pot restaurant has been in business here for as long I remember living here. It started in the underground section under a popular seafood/oyster joint called Barnacle Bill’s. Now it’s located in a big stand-alone restaurant on Monroe Street in Tallahassee.

What Saxon write about the fondue restaurant is absolutely true. It seems a by gone fad but it is the place I think of for celebrations and very special events. As our 30th wedding anniversary is approaching (this June) we may just enjoy a long evening at The Melting Pot.

Kudos to David Saxon for producing an informative and enjoyable book about the food fashions and trends. Will have to check out his other books now.

Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series. This book was on my list for the The Eclectic Reader Book Challenge

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Mr. Willy Wonka, the eccentric owner of the greatest chocolate factory in the world, has decided to open the doors of his factory to five lucky children and their parents. In order to choose who will enter the factory, Mr. Wonka has five golden tickets hidden inside the wrappers of five of his famous chocolate bars.

The newspapers descend on each of the winners of the golden tickets. Augustus Gloop, a fat child whose only hobby is eating, gets the first ticket.

The second ticket is “won” by Veruca Salt. Veruca is a spoiled obnoxious child and is only in possession of one of the winning tickets because her rich father employed his factory of peanut shellers to unwrap chocolate bars until they found a ticket. That’s not very fair, is it?

Third ticket is discovered by Violet Beauregarde as she takes a break from gum chewing. She is trying to set a world record for gum chewing – lofty goal indeed.

Ticket #4 belongs to Mike Teavee, a boy who is obsessed with television. Get the play on words with his last name? Teavee = TV

The last ticket is found just the day before the tour of the chocolate factory is scheduled and it’s found by our unlikely hero – Charlie Bucket. Charlie is very poor and he lives in a drafty shack with his parents and both sets of grandparents. . There are just two rooms and the grandparents share the only bed while Charlie and his parents sleep on mattresses on the floor. They barely have enough food to fed the lot of them and then, Charlie’s father loses his job. It looks as if they will starve to death.

Fortuitously, Charlie finds a dollar one day, just sitting near the roadside in the snow. To celebrate his good fortune he purchases two chocolate bars. The same sort he gets once a year on his birthday. In the second chocolate bar he finds the last golden ticket. The very next day the five children, accompanied by their parents and Charlie accompanied by his grandfather, line up at the gates of the factory. There is much fanfare over these children getting a tour of the factory as no one has been inside for many many years.

As all the children except Charlie are insufferable brats and never listen to anyone’s instructions – thus..they suffer appropriate consequences to their poor behavior. I enjoyed that very much. The Oompa-Loompas would sing songs about each spoiled child as each suffered their punishments, noting in song all the shortcomings of their behavior. How awesome is that!

Near the end of the book all four of the bad children are sent home and Charlie “wins” the tour. A great prize it is too as what he’s won is ownership of Willie Wonka’s factory.

My Cook the Book’s submission is posted with recipe and photos at Squirrel Head Manor as well as Goodreads.

I am placing this review on