Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Domestic Chic

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Domestic Chic (Waldorf, 2015).

I have grown to really enjoy reading cookbooks. I go through them slowly and deliberately, lingering over the photography and the lists of ingredients, marking the ones that seem the most amazing and appealing with post-it notes, and hoping, occasionally with a slight bite of the lip, that Marie will play with what she found for a Sunday dinner.

I didn't get that opportunity this time. We were invited to look over an advance copy of Domestic Chic by Kristin Sollenne, a chef and nutritionist, and Marie claimed the book first. She really liked the breezy, fun, keep-it-simple attitude that Sollenne advocates, and the book vanished for several days. When I next saw it, Marie had it propped up in the kitchen one Sunday evening, prepping what turned out to be a delicious dinner of Chicken Piccata. Click that link and you can read all about it over at our food and travel blog, Marie, Let's Eat!. But wait! What about my post-it notes?!

Sollenne has worked with the New York City Restaurant Group since 2008, and currently oversees a chain called Bocca Di Bacco that specializes in southern Italian cuisine, which has three locations in that city. She's written a remarkably readable cookbook that we're certain to use for many years to come. It's broken down by seasons, with many full menus throughout to help planners arrange their meals in full, rather than pairing individual dishes from different parts of the book. That's not to say anybody's obliged to follow the menus that she's created, but it certainly makes it easier for readers who wish to.

The chicken dish that Marie prepared was really tasty, and I'm looking forward to whatever she creates next. I see that she's marked a page with Mixed Stuffed Peppers. We'll be on the road this Sunday. Maybe next?

A copy of this book was provided by the publicist for the purpose of review. If you'd like to see your books (typically comics or detective fiction) featured here, send me an email.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Helium (Rebellion, 2015).

One of the most interesting things that I've read recently is the latest story by Ian Edginton for 2000 AD. It's called Helium, and it launched in July with a twelve-part opening serial illustrated by D'Israeli.

Helium takes place in the future, when chemical warfare has rendered all low-lying lands poisoned by chemical warfare. Survivors built new civilizations on higher ground, above a toxic cloud that instantly kills. Three hundred years of peace and trade and progress later, and airships start disappearing. Something is active underneath that cloud, with its own technology.

Edginton does his usual job creating a unique and awesome lead heroine. Her name is Constable Hodge, and she's a no-nonsense officer who puts the safety of her community first, and, as the story unfolds, is revealed to have a pretty interesting rogue's gallery from prior arrests. She's accompanied by a very curious cyborg called Solace and there's a lot we still have to learn about him, and I can't wait. On the other hand, I was really disappointed that Edginton fell back on an old trope of having the heroine's warnings that something really needs to be investigated falling on the deaf ears of a council obsessed with orthodoxy and not wanting to cause panic. If I never read such a thing again, I'd be grateful, especially since the structure of this story would barely change if the government had said this was worth investigating.

I really enjoyed the first serial despite this, thanks in part to D'Israeli's amazing artwork. He's an artist who doesn't take shortcuts, and this time out, he gets to use a beautiful color palette. I love his designs for absolutely everything - the homes, the staircases, the cyborgs, the big floating ships, the tanks, and the lightweight aircraft. It's a gorgeous series and I can't wait for more of it.

That brings me to the other flaw. Unfortunately, as he often did in some of his other series, especially The Red Seas and Brass Sun, Edginton ends this first 12-parter on a cliffhanger, but these are never the best structured cliffhangers. Since, by 2000 AD's design, each individual episode ends on a shock or a revelation, I wish that he'd always move the story to a good place to leave it. There's clearly a lot more going on in Helium that we've not learned yet, and I'm very keen to know more, but building each published chunk of the saga as a story in its own right, to a defined conclusion to each part of the narrative, will make each chunk much more memorable. Especially since the vagaries of 2000 AD's publishing schedule means that it will probably be quite a few months before this cliffhanger is resolved. Dang it!