book review: The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen

I’m not sure if I’ve ever said this before, but please don’t ever buy the e-version of a cookbook.  They are never formatted correctly, no matter which app you use and the page references are all messed up.  Unfortunately, The Pho Cookbook was not the e-exception.

Parts of the text were suddenly a light gray color, which made it very difficult to read against the white background while other parts of the text were black.  I really shouldn’t have to change the background color in the app just so that I can read the text all the way through.  The page references (the author refers to other recipes in her book) are all off because the page numbers never match up on the electronic version.  Sometimes pictures are cut off in the middle of a page and sometimes you get text saying that a recipe is continued in the middle of the page because it was in the hard copy version of the book.  I would absolutely love it if editors/publishers could edit the books so that they were formatted correctly … even if they say something like we recommend using such and such app for correct formatting.

I found the book itself to be okay.  I liked the basic beef and chicken recipes and the “quick” versions were a neat idea, but they fell flat in taste.  Plus, the “quick” versions only serve 2.  Pho takes a lot of time and a lot of ingredients.  Even if you’re only making the “quick” version that takes about 40 minutes to cook, it’s going to take longer to prep the condiments, toast the spices, etc.  Do you really want to go through the expense and time of doing something like that for only 2 servings?  Personally, when I make pho, I make it in a huge pot so that I can get at least 2 meals out of it for the family.  Here’s my recommendation: don’t bother with the quick version.  Make a huge batch of the real pho (yeah, you’ll have to set aside a weekend day to do it), eat some yummy pho, freeze the remaining broth and then just reheat that when you want some more pho.  Your pho broth will taste so much richer and be so much more yummy than the fake stuff made with store bought broth.

The other problem I had with this book is the pressure cooker recipes.  I hate it when recipes call for special equipment that aren’t found in most homes.  The other issue is that unless you have a large pressure cooker, you’re not going to be able to make enough broth for a family of 4 to have 1 meal.  Again, if you’re going through the expense and time to make the pho, just make a huge batch.

I did find the section on other things to do with pho interesting.  There were many items that I had never heard of, like the chicken pho noodle salad.  I wanted to try the homemade hoisin sauce, but it required ingredients that I don’t usually have on hand (miso paste, Japanese rice vinegar, tahini, rice flour), so I haven’t tried it yet.

All in all, this was an okay book, but nowhere as good as the Banh Mi Handbook.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review from NetGalley.  This book will be released February 7, 2017.

Book review: The 13th Gift

The 13th Gift was an easy, fast warm-your-heart holiday memoir about a family who is spending their first Christmas without the Dad, who died of a heart condition.  Presents start appearing 12 days before Christmas with cards that contain modified versions of the 12 days of Christmas song on them from “true friends.”  The gifts are small items like a poinsettia, candles, etc., – little gifts that remind the family of Christmas.

The author did a nice job of portraying the pain and anguish that her family felt.  She also was very honest about how she didn’t want to celebrate Christmas and how even buying presents for her children were difficult.  It was interesting how, once the author started getting into the Christmas spirit more, she encountered more people who were willing to help her (furniture store) instead of rude people (guy in the parking lot).  At the very end of the book, the author does finally track down the “true friends.”

This book is exactly what you would think it would be.  It was fun to read and I’m glad that there are good people out there who help others without any recognition.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Book Review: Doctor Who: The Blood Cell

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell was an easy, fast read.  The book started out slowly, but got better towards the end.  Honestly, if I weren’t already a Doctor Who fan, I probably wouldn’t have finished it.  The book is told in first person from the point of view of the governor of a prison on an asteroid/ship.

In this book, Doctor Who was a prisoner, trying to convince the governor that he is trying help.  Something on the ship is killing people and it’s up to the Doctor to, not only convince the Governor that he’s innocent of the crimes, but to also save everyone on the ship.  The biggest problem with this book is that none of the characters are sympathetic.  I found myself not particularly caring about what happened to the characters.  I didn’t like them, but I didn’t dislike them enough to see them fail either.  The story was too plot-centered.  Unfortunately, the plot wasn’t good enough to carry the book.  It was overly convoluted and a bit ridiculous, even for a science fiction book.

The use of deus ex machina in the form of Clara was disappointing.

Despite my criticisms of the book, it wasn’t horrible.  It read like fan fiction.  If you come in to it with that frame of mind, you probably won’t be disappointed.  All in all, though, I’d rather watch an episode of the television show.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review from Blogging for Books.

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

I try not to read much about a book before reading the actual book. That way, I can form my own opinions.  If I find a book interesting, I usually look up information about the book afterwards.  Most of the time, I’m glad that I do things this way because it makes books more interesting.  It helped me with this book.  If you haven’t read this book yet, stop here.  Don’t read any reviews on it.  Just start reading the book.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a fictional novel written by John Green and David Levithan.  John Green is the same author who wrote the very popular “The Fault in Our Stars.”  (I read “Will Grayson” before I read or saw any movies based on books by John Green.)  I was impressed.  The book is told in first person narrative.  What I didn’t know (but should have guessed from the title) is that there were two teenage characters named Will Grayson.  At first, I was confused because one of the Wills talked about living with only his mom and the other Will talked about both parents.  I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a flashback or if he had some sort of mental disorder (I’ve probably been reading too many books on psychopaths and sociopaths lately) or if he was trying to live in some sort of fantasy world.  One of the Wills is straight and the other is gay.  They meet when the two end up in the same store and are surprised that they both have the same name.  The gay Will was in the closet and was meeting an online friend that he had been corresponding with for the first time.

I won’t give away anymore of the plot, but I’ll talk about some of the things that I liked.  The book had a parallel universe sort of feel to it.  I’m sure everyone has had moments where they think about what their world would be like if they had been born a little different or had made a different decision.  It was interesting to see the two worlds “meet.”  It wasn’t truly a parallel universe because the two boys were different people, but I still found myself thinking about parallel universes often throughout the book.  The book also had a nice message.  It was a bit Saturday-morning-public-service-announcementy, but heck, the world would be a better place if we practiced some of those public service announcements.

This book is geared more towards teens, but if you’re like me, that won’t stop you.

Bourne Identity

I finished The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum in 1-2 days, despite starting it on a weekday.  It’s a fun spy suspense/thriller.  I enjoyed the writing, the characters, and the plot development.  The plot was outlandish, but the way it was written made it plausible.  There’s a certain suspension of belief that the reader must have with most fiction, but the way the book is written affects whether or not this is an arduous task.

The basic plot of the story is that a man has been found to have gunshot wounds and amnesia.  The only clues he has to go on are a bank account number that was embedded under his skin and survivor skills (martial arts, knowledge of guns, etc.).  He makes his way to Europe to slowly piece together his life, not sure if he is a “good” guy or a “bad” guy.

I had seen the movies starring Matt Damon prior to reading the book, but it didn’t matter (by the way, only the first movie resembles the book, the others are vastly different).  I still wanted to read the book because I enjoyed the journey with the characters.