At a Glance Talk Radio

Book Reviews: September 2012 – April 2013

APRIL 12, 2013

The_WatchersWell, it’s been a long literary lull which has left me a lot of time to seek out new authors.  While many of those who publish their own work through Amazon and other sites are must-skips… some prove to be worthy of your time.  Let’s not forget that the literary sensation 50 Shades of Soft Core Mommy Porn started out this way… and despite my opinion of the first chapter of the first book (see The Sommer Dump) E.L. James has created an admirable career for herself.

One self-published collection worth your time and the $2.99 the Kindle Edition costs to download is Ethan Childress’ debut short story collection, “The Watchers and Other Short Stories”.  The Watchers of the title are science fiction-esque spirits who periodically awaken to check on us mere mortals.  And while these stories were insightful and interesting, they were not my personal favorites as this genre will never make it to one of my top ten lists because of my personal preference.

But, then there are laugh out loud pieces like “The Manifesto of Women in Fantasy “,  in which the buxom blondes of adolescent fantasy declare, “

“From now on, if you send a force to kidnap us, you had better make sure there are enough of them to get the job done, because after we deal with them, we are coming for you. 

Second: Our clothing will now be functional. A silver bikini does not plate-mail make. In an effort to keep from being victims we will now no longer wear situationally inappropriate clothing.”

The two other manifesto pieces from the perspective of Men in Fantasy and Magical Creatures in Fantasy which make equally valid and humorous points including pleas from genies that humans get their act together before making their wishes  some of which “would make a satyr blush”.  

There is also a long poem, “Assault on the Dark Tower” or “Why Do Only the Good Die Dumb” which paints some pretty gruesome pictures with its lilting pentameter;

“Wat was a fine rogue ‘tis true,

And he was also very funny,

But he wouldn’t fight for anyone else,

And the jerk still owed me money.”

Hope that you enjoy this collection as much as I did.  Happy Reading.


MARCH 1, 2013

The_Playdate_American_CoverThe Playdate by Louise Millar is the story of a single mother with a sickly child, Callie an American married mother of three boys, Suzy and the new gal on the block, the nervous, middle-aged newlywed, Debs.  The lives of these three three neighbors in a London suburb are torn apart when Suzy agrees to watch Callie’s daughter after school so Callie can return to work.

While Callie and Suzy are best friends the secrets they keep from each other would never qualify them for BFF status by any sane person’s measure.  And, when these two gang up against Debs, she is rattled to her core but somehow finds the strength to show all the truth improving her marriage in the process.

A page-turner with more literary bona fides than most, I recommend this to anyone looking for a good book… but beware, mothers, you may never let your children out of your sight again.The_Playdate_UK_Cover

NOVEMBER 30, 2012

Ramen_to_the_Rescue_CookbookIn 1970, Momofuku Ando – aka founder of Nissan Foods – brought Ramen noodles to the USA and in 1973 revolutionized Americans carbo-loading habits further with the introduction of Cup O’ Noodles and thus generations of students began a love affair with cheap meals you could slurp and discard.

Top Ramen evolved with the times, developing Beef, Chicken, Shrimp Oriental flavors and later adding Picante Beef, and Chili as demographics evolved.  And now, it’s family time for Ramen thanks to Jessica Harlan’s, “Ramen to the Rescue Cookbook”.

My ission to try the recipes contained within this terrific tome to see if Ramen really is as versatile as Harlan claims.  The plus: most recipes take less than 30 minutes to prepare.  The minus, have you read the ingredients on a package of Ramen Noodles?  I highly recommend mixing these recipes with those from Harlan’s more healthful writings, “Quinoa Cuisine: 150 Creative Recipes for Super Nutritious, Amazingly Delicious Dishes”, for example.

Top_RamenBut for now, let’s talk noodle.

I started in the morning with a Ramen Omelet, page 52 if you’re interested.  And, while I don’t usually carbo load in the morning, this recipe was a nice compliment to a yummy and protein and veggie combo omelet.  It was a great start to the day.

Asian Cabbage Slaw page 87 is a refreshing and semi-healthy use of Ramen noodles as the recipe is filled with almonds, cabbage and peas.

I found the biggest surprise in the book to be how good a dessert Ramen noodles can make.  On page 208 Harlan’s creativity reaches the piece de résistance with Chocolate Peanut Haystacks.  I made these the other night – after my kids were asleep, it’s that easy and my daughter is allergic to peanuts so it seemed wisest – and found a slice of middle-aged heaven as I munched on this creation and watched “Grey’s Anatomy”.

Bon Appetit.

NOVEMBER 2, 2012 — BOO!

Scary_Stories_Book_CoversHaving survived Halloween — those with small children know what I mean by survive; no matter how much you love holidays celebrating ’em with children is stressful: “say ‘please’; ‘thank you’; don’t take more than two candies… don’t cut off the smaller children from sugar… Oh my, is there a carafe of wine in that basket if so, shove over kid!

But, once the sugar is attained, protein ingested (Anne Marvin can address why I am so very, very adamant about protein loading my small children and myself before we go on our annual sugar hunt) and we can huddle under the sheets, preferably with a flashlight, the real fun of the spooktacular holiday begins.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collected from folklore and retold by Alvin Schwartz with drawings by Stephen Gammell (there is a more recent edition illustrated by Brett Helquist which looks beautiful) that embodies the true spirit of the holiday.  I recommend this tome — filled with tales sure to keep children ages eight and up (some younger, more sensitive tykes might have nightmares) engrossed for as long as you are willing to keep reading.


How_To_Talk_BooksThis week, I will talk about Pierre Bayard’s witty tome, “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” which is truly worth reading cover-to-cover.  Want the details?  Tune in on Friday night.

Bayard, is a psychoanalyst, French literature professor and author of several books — no wonder he doesn’t have time to read.  But in reality, the Parisian’s book is an homage to the written word and is filled with references ranging from Oscar Wilde, “I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so,” to Graham Greene, Umberto Eco and others.  For Bayard, not reading a book describes a spectrum of book-adjacent behaviors; there are books one has never opened, books you’ve skimmed, great works we were forced to read for class but which we can’t remember anything about, books we’ve read reviews of and sometimes there are social situations where we asked to discuss the books we haven’t read — like on a radio program…..

For more information on Bayard:

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012 AN OUTLAW CALLED KIDD: The Reality of Billy the Kidd


Tonight we’ll be discussing An Outlaw Called Kidd The Reality of Billy the Kid by Zeke Castro who will also be a guest on the show.  In Castro’s first book, he discusses his personal connections with Billy the Kidd in addition to offering other, personal perspectives on the famed Western figure.
I wish I could say that this book is a great read.  Sadly, and while there may be a bad of self interest here, I think that Mr. Castro could’ve used an editor because within the miandering 179 pages there exists about 50 pages worth reading.   Castro claims that the book will argue that Billy the Kidd lived to a right old age.  After reading it I’m not sure what it was really about.  There are some lovely first hand accounts of encounters with Kidd but how much of them are embellished is left for the reader to decide.  Thinly researched and confusingly written, there are far better works available on this subject matter.
For more on Castro:


Ramen_to_the_Rescue_CookbookI’m thrilled to start a second season with the At a Glance gang and look forward to opining about what I read.

In celebration of the start of a new school year,  I talked about Ramen to the Rescue Cookbook by Jessica Harlan on the season premier.

When I went to college — back in the dinosaur age — Ramen noodles were a staple.  I bought a ‘bowl’ recently in preparation for this review.  Ah, the sweet taste of decades gone by.  Now, thanks to Jessica Harlan, I have 120 recipes to through which I can bring the dorm room staple into the family dining room.

Ramen-N-Cheese (on page 92) was a perfect post preschool lunch for my younger son and his friends.  I have to admit I substituted medium cheddar for the sharp cheddar that Harlan lists which worked well for the preschool palette and I think was a good compliment to the salty goodness of the Ramen.

I wouldn’t recommend making these recipes a daily treat as each package is high in sodium, calories and carbohydrates and not much else, they are a great way to make a meal quickly and share stories of ones’ youth.

I can’t wait to try her latest books, “Quinoa Cuisine: 150 Creative Recipes for the Super Nutritious, Amazingly Delicious Dishes” (which Harlan co-authored with Kelley Sparwasser and which I would consider making part of my family’s daily diet) and “Tortillas to the Rescue: Scrumptious Snacks, Mouth-Watering Meals and Delicious Desserts — All Made with the Amazing Tortilla”

For more information on Harlan: