Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Irish Table

This is a review for My Irish Table by Cathal Armstrong & David Hagedorn.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 4 stars, I liked it a lot.

The main author, Cathal Armstrong, is a Dublin, Ireland native.  This book describes his journey from his Da's vegetable garden to owning his own restaurant in Virginia and all the steps in between.  Armstrong fondly reminisces about his childhood and the work ethic and love of food his parents instilled in him.  He doesn't shy away from mentioning his own mistakes.  He has come a long way but he isn't haughty or entitled about it.  This book is the work of a street smart, Irish lad with common sense and humility.

The recipes in this book range from the incredibly simple, basic staples of Irish food to the fancy, decadent dishes served in a fancy restaurant.  As you read through the book there are stories and anecdotes about all of Cathal's family.  You get a real sense of who he is and for me that makes trying his recipes all the more fun.

The recipes in this book cover all the Irish basics including fish & chips, beef stew, shepherds pie, rack of lamb, scones and a wide array of potato dishes.  I haven't tried all of the recipes in here but what I have tried has been delicious.  Each recipe includes detailed instructions.  There are recipes for people of all skill levels.  Every recipe uses ingredients that are readily available.  You may have to stop at more than one store but you should be able to find most everything you need if you live in a decent sized town.  You will need to track down a butcher for some things like sheep kidneys for steak & kidney pie and a few of the rarer ingredients have websites listed where you can look for things you may need as well.

If you like traditional Irish food or want a really well written recipe for something a little fancier you should check out this book.  If you want a mix of the two then this is definitely a book you should get your hands on!  This cookbook will be staying in my kitchen for years to come.

You can check out an excerpt of this book on the publisher's website here.

I received this book from blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Alice in the Country of Joker: Nightmare Trilogy 1: A Dream Before Dawn

This is a review for Alice in the Country of Joker: Nightmare Trilogy 1: A Dream Before Dawn

I give this book ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 3 stars, I liked it.

For those of you unfamiliar with this series here is a little background info.  Alice in the Country of books are based on a japanese video game series.  Alice was kidnapped by the White Rabbit and brought to the Country of Hearts.  The Country of Hearts is very different than the world Alice is used to, some of the inhabitants have animal ears, some of them have faces that are hard to see, violence is everywhere, and life is not considered precious because everyone can be replaced.  To return to her own world Alice has to fill a small vial, the vial fills with the medicine of heart every time she interacts with the strange inhabitants of the Country of Hearts.  The vial was filled and Alice chose to stay with her new found friends.  The Country of Hearts is a strange place and as soon as Alice got used to it everything changed and she found herself in the Country of Clover.  Some of her friends were missing in Clover but there were new people around.  Now in this series it is April Season and each area of the land is in a different season.  All of her friends are back and there is a circus with the enigmatic Joker in charge. 

Ok, background info out of the way, on to reviewing this actual book!
Alice has chosen to stay in Clover tower and has taken a job working for Nightmare.  He is weak and sickly and avoids work as often as possible.  The regular people in this world are scared of him but Alice thinks he is kind.  Nightmare doesn't seem to mind other people being scared of him but he really wants to impress Alice.  The results are disastrous for Nightmare but hilarious for the reader.

I really enjoy Nightmare as a character. I was hoping to enjoy this series more. I was put off by the sloppy art style compared to the other books in this same franchise. There are small variations between the various series in this franchise but most of them are more refined than this one. This one relies more heavily on exaggerated expressions and chibizations than some of the others. The story itself is still good and I am interested to see where it goes. One other thing that bugged me is the cover art/color pages; every other cover or color page that has had Nightmare he has been shown with grey or blue-grey eyes and suddenly this one he has red eyes. Not only did the artist not match with the other series, but also failed to match his eyes with their own previous art.

That said; if you enjoy this franchise and like Nightmare you should pick this one up