Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn: Book Review

Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitera Agrawal (2017) is a diverse book of Indian recipes that includes stir-fries, curries, soups, stews, and lentils, rice, chutneys and others. There are sure to be dishes to satisfy every vegetarian’s needs, as well as introduce curious eaters to a broad array of Indian dishes. Some recipes are simple to make, such as the Stir-Fried Corn with Basil and Leeks and Basic Red Lentils. However, some other dishes are more complex to make, such as the Pineapple and Peppers in Red Coconut Curry and Cilantro Coconut Chutney. The desserts are tempting, such as the Apple, Ginger, and Coconut Hand Pies, and the Cardamom Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Golden Raisins.

Some of the recipes call for spices, such as asafetida and sambar powder, that will most likely not be available in your local grocery store. You will need to order spices or go to an Indian grocery. The author does provide a list of online Indian groceries.

The introductory material on Indian Cooking Techniques and Tips is helpful as is the information provided in the South Indian Pantry section.
The cookbook is enhanced with stunning photographs of food and prepared dishes as well as beautiful artistic graphics as chapter dividers.

This book was provided for review by Blogging for Books.

Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence For An Afterlife: Book Review

Leslie Kean has written a well-researched book, with compelling examples, that examines the possibility of life after death. Even the most die-hard skeptics may question their beliefs and consider the likelihood of another way of being after death. Kean describes trance mediumship, apparitions (or ghosts), object movements, and voices, among others. Kean gives fascinating case studies, with credible evidence, and some eeriness.

Despite her richly developed evidence, Kean’s observational data and recounting of past lives still leaves much that is unknown and uncertain, with no real proof. But, with such detailed explications, as Kean divulges, one who wants to believe in near death experiences and life after death may find real reason to do so. However, there really are so few verifiable cases, given the billions who have died, that one would need to trust in his or her judgment, intuition, and core beliefs to accept what Kean is saying. Kean details her personal experiences in exploring the evidence for life after death. For instance, she writes about the true facts that two different mediums disclosed to her about her deceased brother.

Kean talks about children’s memories of past lives and many other inexplicable events that give credence to the possibility of life after death. The photos in the book help to reinforce her stories and add another element of reality to some incomprehensible accounts.

With death, nothing is knowable for sure, but for those seeking some reassurances, Kean’s investigative journalism about life after death may gain some comfort. As Kean herself says, “there is so much we don’t know.” Kean says her own personal experiences have had more impact on her than the “convincing studies and case accounts.” Kean presents her case, and after reading her evidence, it is up to you, dear reader, to make your own conclusions.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

One Pan & Done: Hassle-Free Meals From The Oven To Your Table: Book Review

Molly Gilbert‘s One Pan & Done: Hassle-Free Meals From The Oven To Your Table (2017) book will surely delight its readers with the breadth of recipes. Many are easy to prepare such as the Baked Salmon with Dilled Bread Crumbs and the Halibut with Wilted Greens & Citrus Salsa. Some recipes are more complicated, such as the Pork & Pineapple Pizza, and the French Chicken Stew Gilbert also includes some innovative or out-of-the ordinary recipes such as the Broiled Watermelon with Balsamic & Feta and Greens & Goat Tart.

If you like more trendy dishes and like to stretch beyond your comfort-zone in food, you will probably find a recipe or two that you like. The attractive photography enhances the book. The range of serving sizes for the dishes range from 2 to 8, depending on the recipe. The recipe instructions are specific and don’t leave you guessing about what is meant in the description of the steps.

One shortcoming is the number of recipes that require high heat (45O degrees or higher) or the broiler. If you are not a fan of the aroma from smoking you will be more limited in your choice of recipes. You will also need to calculate the total time needed to prepare the dishes and cook them. Starting out, you will have no idea because she does not estimate the time for preparation and total time for cooking. Gilbert also assumes some knowledge of cooking as she uses terms such as “shimmering” oil, without explaining further. She also has a fondness for the term “scatter” that she uses in many of the directions. Gilbert’s writing style is inconsistent in her personal asides for each recipe, but clear. I found some of the slanginess a little off-putting. Finally, while preparing the dishes in one pan may help in the clean-up, the complexity of some of the recipes doesn’t make that such a strong selling point for the book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books.

Everything You Need You Have: How to Be at Home in Your Self: Book Review

Everything You Need You Have: How to Be at Home in Your Self (2016) by Gerad Kite is easy to read pep talk with sparse research. Many of Kite’s assertions are based on his years of practice as a Five-Element acupuncturist. He includes many trite assurances that he backs up with his patients’ stories. If you are looking for a simplistic, easy to implement path to nirvana, you might find this book helpful. For others, the book may seem naïve in its claims and tactics for finding peace with one’s self. For instance, Kite says, “Finding your way Home is really just a good old-fashioned love story. It’s about falling head over heels in love with your Self.”

Kite goes through 10 steps that will help you find your way Home, which he says are cumulative in their nature. Each step is designed to bring you to “true rest.” He defines true rest as “the name given to any activity, thought or action that brings you Home to the calm.” He continues this line of thinking as he works through each of the steps that will bring you closer to your Self. For example, Kite says “Step 7 is Love and Home on earth – your physicality – your world. It is your key to the door of Home. If you answer yes to the following two questions, you are ready to pass over to the World of Home. “ Are you aware of your own existence? Do you exist?. Can you feel (with your senses) that you have a physical form? Does your body exist?”

Kite’s belief is that you can be “at Home in your self” by searching inside you. He gives you the 10 steps to perform that search. It is not a compelling presentation, but it is basic and, according to him, grounded in Chinese philosophy.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Own It: The Power of Women at Work: Book Review

Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck is an extremely disappointing book especially since she has such stellar credentials for writing the book. The book lacks any real specificity and is broad in its assertions. Krawcheck does a great job of touting her accomplishments and “owning her power” to get ahead .

Most of her advice is really trite and insultingly simplistic. For instance, in her chapter on networking, she says, “Should we network with women? You know it.” She follows with her four core rules of networking: meet at least one new person in your area of interest every month, spend time with professionals who are different from your, do something nice for someone in your network every week, and don’t take it personally if someone you reach out to doesn’t respond. As she says, “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”. In the chapter, “Out with the Queen Bee. In With New Approaches to Mentoring and Sponsorship” Krawcheck goes into a diatribe about queen bees and the importance of not being one.
The essence of her advice in the chapter, “Make Sure Success is Well Defined” is summed up by her as “Remember: defined metrics = control. There’s power in knowing exactly what your goals are and owning what it will take to achieve them.”

You will not finish the book without recognizing Krawchek’s key thoughts, “money is power” and “own your power.” You will be left to figure out how to do it and become the successful businesswoman like Krawcheck.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Weapons of Math Destruction: Book Review

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (2016) by Cathy O’Neil is mind-opening expose of the nefarious use of data and its impact on day-to-day lives. Her book is well researched, insightful, and alarming. In one of O’Neil’s examples, it seems disingenuous the way resumes are scanned and eliminated, often solely because keywords were missing. O’Neil states: “In fact, some 72 percent of resumes are never seen by human eyes.” She further suggests that electronic gatekeepers are resulting in unequal treatment in the review of resumes. In another example, O’Neil excoriates the way data was used to target poor people through predatory ads to recruit them to enroll in online universities.
O’Neil goes on to further discuss the ramifications of data compiling and its negative and unequal treatment in decision making and outcomes for those affected by the criminal justice system, college admissions, and employment.

She presents solid evidence to back up her assertion that potential employees can be blackballed through erroneous use of data, and some may never know why. For instance data brokers may compile a dossier with wrong and harmful data, such as erroneous criminal history or debt problems, with a person’s data profile that they sell. Once it is associated with a person’s record, even if it is wrong, it is often difficult to correct, and may resurface in a data broker’s files. This is a stark warning to those who freely give out their information on the web in the form of surveys and contests or on social networks.

While O’Neil recognizes that the collection of data can have some positive outcomes, she is forcefully sounding the alarm about the misuse of data and its threat to democracy. O’Neil says, “The growing science of microtargeting, with its profiles and predictions, fits all too neatly into our dark collection of WMDs. It is vast, opaque, and unaccountable. It provides cover to politicians, encouraging them to be many things to many people.”

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Veranda: The Romance of Flowers: Book Review

Veranda: The Romance of Flowers (2015) by Clinton Smith is a stunning display of gorgeous floral arrangements and oversize pictures of flowers. The pictures are large and visually appealing with a detailed eye for expression and color. The quotes add charm to the book. The quote, “It’s always best to start at the beginning –and all you do is follow the Yellow Brick Road.” (Glinda the Good Witch, The Wizard of Oz) starts the section on the use of yellow flowers along with a vivid depiction of yellow roses. The book includes a few tips on floral arranging and flowers, but the photographs are its strength as well as the lore about flowers. You are sure to be inspired by the book and will only deepen your love of flowers. Alas, the book is very expensive and I would love to have a personal copy. However, I was able to get several weeks of enjoyment through my library copy. As another quote in the book says, “The Amen! of nature is always a flower.’ (Oliver Wendell Holmes, poet). You will certainly be uplifted after perusing the book.

SuperForecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction: Book Review


Super Forecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (2015) by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner should be required reading for those who want to improve their prediction skills. While forecasting is a gamble at best, for those who dare to call themselves forecasters and stake their reputation on their confidence in their judgments, this book provides sensible advice and warnings of overconfidence. As the authors state, you want to avoid misses and false alarms. Surely, all the prognosticators and polling experts could benefit from a refresher on blindness to opposing views or outliers that could sway their opinion or negatively skew the conclusions. Just look at what happened with the recent election results.

Tetlock and Gardner say we are all forecasters, but superforecasters (those with accurate predictions) have a special set of skills that can be learned to improve forecasting ability. The authors suggest that “how predictable something is depends on what we are trying to predict, how far into the future, and under what circumstances.” The authors suggest that your ability to be a superforecaster is largely dependent on how you think. Your thinking must be “open-minded, careful, curious, and –above all – supercritical.”

So do you have the potential to be a superforecaster? According to the authors, if strongest predictor is “the degree to which one is committed to belief updating and self-improvement.” Intelligence helps, but it is not the top driver of accuracy. Philosophically, superforecasters tend to be reflective, good with numbers, analytical, pragmatic, and thoughtful updaters (continuously evaluating the facts and changing minds as a result).

This book will not tell you how to be a superforecaster, but the illustrative examples will give you clues about what it takes to up your game in forecasting. Remember, it’s an art and a science; and nothing is infallible.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing: Book Review


Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing (2015) by Jamie Holmes is a research-based exposition of uncertainty and its effect on decision making and life’s decisions. In many situations, the need for certainty can lead to less than desirable results. If you are not sure where you lean on the need for closure, the Need-for-Closure scale will help you determine where you fit on the scale.

For anyone grappling with medical decision making under uncertainty, the chapter, “Overtested USA: When to Resist Momentum” will be especially informative and will lead you to delve deeper into test results and recommendations before making a decision.

Holmes builds a case for embracing uncertainty and being comfortable with not knowing. Insights can emerge when you allow new information to enter the gaps and leave room for the ambiguity. While some readers may find the emphasis on research a bit overwhelming, others who require substantiation prior to belief will find the research focus helpful. If you are avid reader, much of this information will be familiar and you are not likely to find new information. Overall, if you would like to lessen your need for uncertainty, you might find useful insights in this book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Designing Life’s Celebrations: Book Review

Designing Life’s Celebrations (2016) by DeJua Stroud is a phenomenal photogenic book of ideas for festive events. The photos of floral arrangements are astounding in their beauty and creativity. For normal (meaning of average means) they aren’t realistic and not likely to be used in the floral arrangements as part of life’s celebrations. However, one can still glean some ideas that can be potentially adapted for a smaller scale budget. The text supporting the pictures is minimal and not very enlightening for day-to-day applications.

The section on floral arranging tips is sketchy and very basic. Overall, this book is “eye-candy” as a coffee-table display book. Its price of $50.00 is very high (discounted at Amazon for $34) and not worth the investment if you are more interested in specific and prescriptive information. However, if you are looking for a treasure trove of inspiring pictures you might find it worth the expense.