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The First Breath: How Modern Medicine Saves the Most Fragile Lives

Olivia Gordon. Bluebird, $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5098-7117-9

Journalist Gordon debuts with an affecting and highly personal exploration of the medical advances that have saved babies who “would not have survived... if born 30, 20, or even 10 years ago.” In 2011, Gordon was 29 weeks pregnant when she learned her son had a rare problem, hydrops fetalis, affecting his ability to process amniotic fluid. As Gordon learns more about the condition, she reaches out to other parents who had had severe birth complications. She interviews neonatal physicians, synopsizes their field’s history, and—warning for squeamish readers—gives a graphic, firsthand description of a fetal surgery procedure that only became possible in 1997 (“the mother’s abdomen was opened and the uterus popped up like popcorn, pink and round”). As many stories are encouraging (such as about high success rates for treating spina bifida prenatally) as are heartbreaking (as when only one of a pair of premature twins survives). After her son’s (natural) birth and six-month hospital stay, Gordon arrives at a measured happy ending, with her son now eight, healthy, and still bearing a fetally implanted shunt in his chest while dealing with a genetic disorder—Noonan syndrome—apparently linked to his difficult gestation. Gordon’s audience will find this a tough but rewarding report from the front lines of fetal and neonatal medicine. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Calm the H*ck Down: How to Let Go and Lighten Up About Parenting

Melanie Dale. Atria, $16 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-9821-1436-7

In this amusing work, Dale (It’s Not Fair), a podcaster and mother of three, urges fellow parents to lighten up, warns against “competitive parenting,” and recommends setting realistic goals. For instance, rather than spending precious time on homemade lunches, Dale lets her kids purchase their meal at school: “What happens with the food they buy is between them, their mouths, and the garbage can.” Likewise, parents can get carried away with kids’ craft projects, but Dale suggests “cheating,” such as purchasing a prefab gingerbread house kit (her go-to during the Christmas season). For birthday parties, Dale’s theme is “zero clean-up,” which, depending on a child’s age, could mean a movie or a trip to a fast food restaurant, rather than an elaborate, parent-executed celebration at home. Though Dale is funny and lighthearted, she offers valuable tips on talking to kids about sex, inspiring them to do chores, and encouraging them to read (she’s not above bribery) among other subjects. Dale’s humorous outlook is a refreshing change from the more somber parenting books out there. Laughter is important in Dale’s family, and readers of her entertaining guide will find it’s contagious, too. Agent: Kathryn Helmers, Creative Trust. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Eating for Pleasure, People & the Planet: Plant-Based, Zero-Waste, Climate Cuisine

Tom Hunt. Interlink, $35 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62371-953-1

Noting that the human race is at a tipping point in terms of ecological responsibility, U.K. chef Hunt, whose Bristol restaurant Poco was named Best Ethical Restaurant in 2013, shares his zero-food-waste philosophy in this illuminating collection. Hunt offers practical tips on reducing food waste (freeze leftovers, use scraps for Leftover Beer-Battered Vegetables or a chopped salad, etc.) and presents seasonal shopping guides for produce, along with flowcharts for creating pancakes, grain bowls, and salads. Hunt includes such enticing, though multistep, recipes as Venezuelan corn cakes with “pulled” king oyster mushrooms; olive oil and brioche rhubarb tart; and mac and tapioca cheese; though he also presents simpler, crafty surprises, such as a twist on avocado toast with blended fava beans; barley and rolled oats in lieu of rice for risotto; and a quick summer vegetable ceviche. There are enough simple dishes here to get one started even if they’re not vegetarian, and plenty more to stretch their skills and palates. This is a terrific guide for ecologically conscious cooking. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill

Leela Punyaratabandhu. Ten Speed, $30 (214p) ISBN 978-1-9848-5724-8

Punyaratabandhu reaches back to her childhood in Thailand and her travels across Southeast Asia to create 60 recipes that enticingly capture the essence of the region’s barbecue. Unusual seafood options include grilled stingray covered in a chile paste and cooked atop banana leaves, and herb-filled grilled fish with a spicy tamarind dipping sauce. Ghee-smoked chicken and rice, meanwhile, provides an exciting challenge with its use of the dhungar method of smoking, in which the chicken and a container of ghee are placed into a pot, then burning charcoal is lowered into the ghee and the pot is sealed, thus infusing the bird with a “buttery, smoky flavor.” After noting that clay jar chicken is “one of thee most fun outdoor cooking activities I have experienced,” Punyaratabandhu doesn’t follow up with instructions for the process, instead offering a way to replicate it in a ceramic Kamado grill (one of the only letdowns here). Fans of Cantonese roasted duck may want to experiment with the honey-roasted duck variation, with a chile-soy-vinegar sauce that takes two days to set; simpler recipes include three different types of grilled beef skewers. Experienced backyard grillers looking to up their game will find opportunity aplenty in this challenging, brightly flavored collection. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Cooking for a Fast Metabolism: Eat More Food and Lose More Weight

Haylie Pomroy. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-358-16028-1

Nutritionist Pomroy follows up her popular Fast Metabolism Diet with more appetizing recipes featuring superfoods that she argues speeds up metabolism and can help people lose weight. She urges readers to avoid “metabolism killers” (notably wheat and alcohol) and replace them with “metabolism-boosting foods” such as fresh fruits and vegetables. The dozens of enticing recipes vary in flavor and don’t feel restricting; lemon-cranberry bread uses almond and coconut flours, taco lime shrimp salad is served with spelt tortillas, and beef lo mein features brown rice vermicelli noodles. There are also recipes that satisfy rich cravings, such as crab-stuffed bell peppers with safflower mayonnaise, white chicken chili (for which the sour cream is made from cashews), and mushroom soup thickened with a coconut cream. Some readers might forgo options that prioritize healthiness over flavor, such as a cauliflower mash breakfast bowl or crunchy broccoli and apple chicken salad, but they will appreciate much of the helpful advice (a 30-Day meal plan, for example). This is a great resource for readers who want to make healthier food choices but don’t want to be stuck with bland meals. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Strange Situation: A Mother’s Journey into the Science of Attachment

Bethany Saltman. . Ballantine, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-18144-3

Saltman, a journalist and researcher, debuts with a fascinating deep dive into attachment theory. Her interest in the subject began as she struggled with mixed emotions toward motherhood, worrying that—in part because of her own upbringing by a cold and distant mother—she hadn’t formed the “secure attachment” to her young daughter described in parenting literature. Saltman’s quest to understand the theory leads her to its formative figure, psychologist Mary Ainsworth. In the early 1950s, Ainsworth began extending and developing the theories of John Bowlby, then an outlier in psychology who, in placing the mother-baby bond at the core of infant development, went against the prevailing “cupboard theory” of behaviorism, which held that infants simply attached to the person who fed them. Saltman, bolstered by her research, provides clear explanations of attachment theory, in particular Ainsworth’s cornerstone testing tool, the Strange Situation, where infants’ attachment styles are determined as they interact with their mothers in different situations, such as breast-feeding and co-sleeping. Readers will learn along with the author what creates a solid attachment between caregiver and child, how attachment styles manifest in adulthood, and what constitutes “the telltale heart of attachment.” Carefully researched and with copious endnotes, this is an excellent resource for anyone interested in child development. Meg Thompson, Thompson Literary. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Diver’s Paradise: A Roscoe Conklin Mystery

Davin Goodwin. Oceanview, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-60809-383-0

Goodwin’s impressive debut and series launch introduces retired Rockford, Ill., police detective Roscoe Conklin, who, on the verge of 50, has moved to the Caribbean island of Bonaire and bought a small hotel. His days consist of scuba diving trips and picking out tunes on his banjo between bottles of beer. Then Conklin’s former partner, Bill Ryberg, and his wife, Marybeth, are murdered back in Illinois. After providing Conklin with a few details of the deaths, his former colleagues close ranks, leaving him with more questions than answers. Meanwhile, Conklin’s friend Tiffany and her petulant boyfriend arrive for a vacation, and an angry building contractor starts to hound him. When people on the island who have had contact with Conklin start dying violently, he realizes that he may also be a target for the murderer. The plot has a few holes, but the author knows Bonaire well and provides some tantalizing descriptions of island life, including thrilling scuba diving scenes. Fans of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee will look forward to seeing more of Conklin. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Hops and History: American History and Folklore as Remembered by American Breweries and Beers

Jim Dent. Jim Dent, $35 (336p) ISBN 978-1-987-09936-2

Dent shares the stories behind a host of craft beer names in this endearing encyclopedic survey. While Dent doesn’t share his criteria for selecting the breweries or their beers, readers will get drawn into stories such as that of Miss Fancy’s Tripel, a Belgian ale from Alabama’s Avondale Brewing Company named after a retired circus elephant; the exploits of gangsters such as Detroit’s Purple Hill Gang, for which the Atwater brewery named a pilsner; and Prohibition-era Atlantic City political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson (there’s a Nucky’s Empirial IPA from the Garden State Beer Company). Lawmen also make frequent appearances, such as the trio memorialized by Oklahoma City’s Three Guardsmen IPA, and Henry Plummer, a prolific killer turned sheriff turned criminal in Montana memorialized in a Gambler Amber. Fans of ephemera and regional U.S. history will have a field day with the profiles of places, such as Stiltsville, a tiny village outside Miami built entirely on stilts, and now home to the Concrete Beach Brewery. This deep dive into some zany American brewing history will spark a thirst in beer nerds. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Help Yourself: A Guide to Gut Health for People Who Love Delicious Food

Lindsay Maitland Hunt. HMH, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-358-00839-2

Recipe developer and writer Lindsay Maitland (Healthyish), who long struggled with digestive issues, takes a deep dive into digestive wellness and shares 125 gut-healthy recipes in this sensible approach to healthy eating. Stating that her book is not a weight loss guide or prescribed diet, Hunt expertly illustrates that diners are able to maintain good health by eating more plant-based foods (such as vegetables, nuts, beans, and legumes) in order to maintain a healthy balance of gut microorganisms. Tempting recipes include caramelized baked apples with yogurt and granola; swordfish with a simple grilled pineapple salsa; coconut chicken and rice stew; and a must-try potato salad with chive-bacon vinaigrette and sauerkraut. Hunt’s recipes use easy-to-source ingredients, and her directions are clear, ensuring confidence as well as success. While nutritional information isn’t provided, readers will appreciate the icons used to identify recipes that are quick, vegetarian, and “good for sensitive guts,” as well as suggestions for complementary dishes to round out a meal (e.g. smoky roasted fennel can be served with lamb meatballs or baked white fish). This is a lightning bolt of lucidity in a crowded and jargon-laden field of often impractical and unsustainable dietary approaches. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Friuli Food and Wine: Frasca Cooking from Northern Italy’s Mountains, Vineyards, and Seaside

Bobby Stuckey, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, and Meredith Erickson. Ten Speed, $50 (272p) ISBN 978-0-399-58061-1

In this bighearted recipe collection, restaurateurs Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson note that, while Venice is overrun with tourists, the nearby Friuli-Venezia Giulia region remains under the radar. Throughout, the authors, writing with Erickson (Alpine Cooking), incorporate loving descriptions of the dishes served at the region’s frasca eateries (usually on farms or vineyards), such as a woven lasagna crafted in a loaf pan and sliced, and spelt-flour spaetzle-like “tadpoles.” Recipes are divided into land (pheasant with fennel and apples), sea (handmade pasta with sea urchin sauce from the Adriatic coast), and mountains (porcini soup), and the authors include profiles of such figures as Mirco Snaidero, a former motorcycle mechanic who crafts high-quality custom slicers used for the local prosciutto, San Daniele. Sommelier Stuckey writes elegantly about white wines from the region that age beautifully and details local grapes such as Picolit, and a section on grappa with aperitivo recipes is a bonus. Desserts include a yeast-risen gubana, similar to a babka, and a poppy seed biscotti. Rounding out the cookbook are generous travel tips including a list of cafés to visit in Trieste. The food and wine covered are exciting and intriguing, and readers could not ask for more knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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