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The Interior Design Handbook: Furnish, Decorate and Style Your Space

Frida Ramstedt, trans. from the Swedish by Peter Graves. Clarkson Potter, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-13931-8

Swedish home design blogger Ramstedt debuts with a savvy and sensible guide to her specialty. She covers design principles, such as the golden ratio (in such variations as the golden spiral and golden rectangle) and the rule of thirds, and advises considering how a house’s inhabitants will move around it over the course of a typical day. Another valuable tip: take into account the space’s age and character, and possibly even do some research into its historical context, as Ramstedt did with a townhouse hailing from the 1930s Functionalism movement, which helped her make sense of various architectural and design details: the “rounded window, the pitched roof, the large areas of glass, and the limestone windowsills.” Wondering whether paint that is gloss (“more forgiving” on blemishes), semi-gloss, or matte (easier to keep clean) is right for a space? Ramstedt explains what works best in different scenarios. She also covers redesigning children’s rooms to better suit kids at different ages, and using mood boards to bring together one’s various ideas and spark new ones. This guide is a first-rate way to ensure decorating success. Agent: Federico Ambrosini, Salomonsson Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Cook Anime: Eat Like Your Favorite Character—From Bento to Yakisoba

Diana Ault. Tiller, $19.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-98214-391-6

Ault serves up Japanese cuisine that she either discovered or saw depicted in anime in this dutiful collection. Recipes begin with a brief story line synopsis and a mention of how the dish figures into the plot. A typical example, based on the Tokyo Ghoul series, begins, “In an alternate Tokyo, ghouls live secretly in society and survive on the flesh of humans,” before describing the comforting power of the stewed meat and potato dish, nikujaga, which is served at one point to an ailing character. Recipes are peppered with cultural and culinary facts; cream stew, readers learn, was created to aid Japanese school children in their dairy intake after WWII and turns up in more than 15 anime series. Difficulty levels run the gamut from a simple spaghetti with ketchup sauce to a much more involved miso chashu ramen made with a flavorful braised pork. There is a handy chart for composing bento boxes, as well as an insightful chapter on street food options, like the pancake and octopus balls, takoyaki, that turn up in Mob Psycho 100. But, while many of the main dishes are lovingly photographed, there is not a single illustration to showcase any of the hundreds of anime tales that are referenced. It’s a no-brainer for anime buffs, but those less well-versed in the genre will likely feel left out of the picture. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Friends: The Official Cookbook

Amanda Yee. Insight, $29.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-68383-962-0

In this fun cookbook inspired by the hit sitcom, Yee celebrates “the pleasure of eating together and sharing a meal with friends.” She bases most of the recipes on plots of individual episodes (“When Rachel botches her attempt at a Thanksgiving dessert, she serves half a trifle and half a shepherd’s pie,” Yee writes in the introduction for Half a Shepherd’s Pie), while others come from the preferences of each of the characters, such as fried cauliflower for Phoebe, who doesn’t eat “anything with a face.” Callout boxes appear as tips from Monica, who is a chef, to provide helpful advice for less experienced cooks. (For stock: “You can use any vegetables in this recipe, including trimmings from vegetables you would have originally discarded.”) From Janice’s artichoke dip to duck rillettes, from xi’an lamb noodles to PhilloSophie’s Cajun catfish Alfredo, the recipes range from easy to difficult, with a wide array of flavor profiles. Complete with photos and quotes from favorite episodes, this cookbook will please any avid Friends fan. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Primal Gourmet Cookbook

Ronny Joseph Lvovski. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-35816-027-4

Lvovski, a self-taught Canadian cook born to Moldovan and Lithuanian Jewish immigrant parents, brings his cultural identity to bear in this solid debut collection of hearty recipes, nearly all conforming to the Paleo or Whole30 diet. Standouts include the Ukrainian-style Bronia’s borscht, his grandmother’s recipe for a lush red concoction of beef short ribs in a soup of beets and other vegetables. The slow cooker mojo pork is based on a menu item from Toronto’s La Cubana restaurant and features pork shoulder in an orange juice marinade. And there are plenty of tasty salads, including a grilled shrimp cobb with a touch of dill. Indeed, dill is a favored ingredient throughout and shows up in everything from matzo balls to pan-fried salmon. Substitutions in the name of dietary restrictions include Greek lamb burgers with the bun replaced by slabs of iceberg lettuce, dairy-free broccoli cheddar soup that gets its cheese-like tang from nutritional yeast powder, and "miracle" fish and chips made with a batter that uses cassava flour (an ingredient Lvovski notes can be hard to find, but doesn’t provide any tips on where to source it). Among the many sauces, dressings, and spice blends offered is a Lebanese sauce dubbed “the Dracula killer,” aptly named given its 15 cloves of garlic in a cup and a half of avocado oil. Roots, both familial and vegetable, supply plenty of depth and flavor, and readers who adhere to any number of eating regimens will welcome the robust fare. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness & Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World

Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick and Jenn Curtis. Familius, $16.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-64170-288-1

In an earnest and instructive guide, educational consultants Muchnick and Curtis offer strategies to help parents navigate their kids’ challenging adolescent years. The authors include anecdotes, input from experts, and their own observations as parents themselves (Muchnick is a mother of four, and Curtis of two) while warning parents to avoid overbearing parenting styles and to mind how social media and academic competitiveness place pressure on teens’ emotional health. They address concerns including dealing with technology, succeeding in school, and finding a college that “fits,” rather than one that is highly ranked. Throughout, the authors encourage promoting “self-advocacy” in one’s children and avoiding the urge to speak for them. Muchnick and Curtis scold parents who ghostwrite college application essays or push kids to repeatedly retake the SAT in search of higher scores, citing the “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal as an example of how far this behavior can go. Finally, Muchnick and Curtis stress how resilience, grit, and independence are fostered when parents listen, empathize, and help their teens learn from disappointment, rather than try to act as a “fixer” for all of life’s problems. Parents of teens will appreciate the authors’ well-reasoned and practical approach. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Animal Embroidery Workbook: Step-by-Step Techniques & Patterns for 30 Cute Critters and More

Jessica Long. Landauer, $19.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-94716-346-1

Embroidery instructor and pattern maker Long offers advice for novices and experienced hand embroiderers alike in this (almost too) adorable pattern book. She provides detailed instructions for embroidery novices, on everything from how many strands of floss to use for each project, to what kind of fabric works best on which hoops, to how to manipulate hoops to get a tighter fit. More advanced embroiderers will appreciate the tutorials on thread-painting, a particularly precise form of embroidery that uses single strands of floss in conjunction with long and short stitches to create shading and depth. Long dispenses tips on selecting the fabric best for projects and reminds crafters, “Our medium is forgiving and cheap, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” At times, the patterns themselves—a dancing unicorn, cuddling koalas, and an embroidering panda, among others—strike a childish note that some may find cloying, though it’s hard to imagine many embroiderers objecting to an excessive dose of adorableness right now. Any embroiderer will be able to find something that speaks to them in this whimsical volume. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Korean Patchwork Quilting: 37 Modern Bojagi Style Projects

Choi Yangsook, trans. from the Japanese by Sanae Ishida. Tuttle, $15.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-8048-5281-4

Choi, an embroidery teacher and artist, introduces the Korean art of bojagi in this beautiful and practical volume. The style began, she explains, as a way to recycle bits of fabric into cloth in which food or valuables could be wrapped. Since its 15th-century introduction, bojagi has developed into a textile art whose completed pieces suggest an oil painting or stained-glass window transferred to silk or gauze. Choi turns these lightweight fabrics into patchwork with a distinctive window pane look, while stressing bojagi’s cultural associations with good fortune and historical significance as a traditional craft of Korean women. Readers will find the designs pleasing, but the detailed instructions (which include intricate diagrams) and final products will likely come across as more intimidating than Choi, who says the projects are for novices as well as experts, might realize. Among the projects are home decorations such as café curtains; coverings for “foodstuffs and furniture”; place mats and runners for tables; and wraps, including a sewing case. She also adds special projects in the nubi style, the “Korean equivalent of quilting,” and machine-stitched designs, in addition to the traditional hand-stitched bojagi designs. Crafters up for a new challenge will find this hits the spot. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm

Daniel Mays. . Storey, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-63586-189-1

Farmer Mays draws from nearly a decade’s worth of experience running his five-acre Frith Farm in Maine for this useful primer on “intensive no-till vegetable production.” Arguing that large-scale agricultural production is at the heart of modern ecological problems, he proposes a less-is-more ideology that suggests “the best approach for caring for the soil is usually to stop messing with it” and employs a strict “no-spray policy.” The book’s definitions of farming terms nicely illuminate Mays’s philosophy; tillage is “a largely unnecessary application of mechanical power to a biological system,” which ends up killing beneficial organisms and driving erosion, while sustainability is “a comprehensive effort to maximize positive environmental, social, and economic impacts simultaneously.” He takes a deep dive into the nitty-gritty of soil science before advising on planting, irrigation, weeds, mulching, compost, cover crops, fertilizers, and harvesting. Candid about starting costs, he gives instructions on writing a business plan; keeping records; securing land, materials, and labor; and finding places to sell the harvest. Straightforward and encouraging, Mays’s insightful and detailed account is a one-stop source for small farmers looking for both inspiration and practical advice. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Let’s Brunch: 100 Recipes for the Best Meal of the Week

Belinda Smith-Sullivan. Gibbs Smith, $24.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-42365-535-0

South Carolina Living food columnist Smith-Sullivan (Just Peachy) puts a Southern twist on brunch in this satisfying collection. Breakfasts, meat-and-vegetable-centric dishes, desserts, and sparkling cocktails comprise the enticing lineup of both sophisticated and down-home fare. Savory items include buttermilk biscuits with sweet potatoes and ramps, and her brisket-stuffed skillet cornbread is comfort food at its best. For appetizers, Smith-Sullivan suggests salmon blinis, paté, or Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops, shrimp, and crab in a creamy Gruyère sauce). Hearty egg dishes include Italian baked eggs and sausage in a marinara sauce; an omelet with feta, spinach, and hollandaise; and a salmon-asparagus quiche. Soup and sandwich options feature butternut squash bisque with scallops and pulled pork and collard sandwiches on a grit cake, while classic Southern dishes include succotash, fried green tomatoes, and mac and cheese. Among the cocktails, Smith-Sullivan serves up fruity pomegranate mimosas and a bourbon lemon drop. Jams, syrups, and flavored butters abound, and a lemon curd and ginger snap trifle is a scene stealer. These accessible recipes make brunch a classy, bountiful affair. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Natural Mistake: Why Natural, Organic, and Botanical Products Are Not as Safe as You Think

James MacGregor. James MacGregor, $14.99 trade paper (244p) ISBN 978-1-73338-800-9

Toxicologist MacGregor issues a buyer beware warning to fans of herbal remedies and diet supplements in this educational if sometimes heavy-going volume. While the Food and Drug Administration (for which he has worked) maintains “rigorous requirements for safety, identity, and impurity content” for the sale of pharmaceuticals, there are “minimal requirements... applied to botanical products” that are widely available in supermarkets and health food stores. MacGregor sounds loud warning bells with declarative chapter titles like “Plants Are Not Benign: Chemical Warfare and Plant Evolution,” which observes that over 100,000 chemicals can be found only in plant species, often with the evolutionary function of defending against plant-eating creatures like humans. While MacGregor shows the notion “that natural products are inherently more safe than synthetic ones” is mistaken, given the presence of toxic chemicals in some plants and the regulatory safeguards in place for many synthetic products, his talk of subjects like chemical spiking in dietary supplements and illegal adulteration sometimes get more analytical and involved than necessary. While he succeeds in making a forceful argument, nonspecialist readers may eventually lose interest. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 07/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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