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It's All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook

Gwyneth Paltrow. Grand Central Life & Style/Goop, $35 (288p) ISBN 978-1-45558-421-5

Continuing her restorative eating approach, actress and cookbook author Paltrow (It's All Good) presents a collection of 125 favorite recipes for "the chronically busy." Recipes have a family focus and feature kid-friendly, healthy breakfast dishes such as almond-orange or chocolate cinnamon overnight oats and a ginger chia pudding. "Pick-Me-Ups" include prepare-ahead chicken or shrimp chopped salads, wraps, and vegetable-rich Mexican and Thai style noodle pots. Main dishes include polentas and pasta with rapini or curry lime roasted cauliflower, and there are plentiful seafood dishes. For "Something Sweet," choose fruited shakes or coconut-heavy confections such as pudding, key lime tarts, and cookies. Paltrow's trick for uncomplicated, delicious meal-making is her list of go-to pantry basics from specialty food shops: Asian sauces and pastes, a spectrum of vinegars and oils, gluten-free whole grains, and other items such as kuzu root, bonito flakes, hemp seeds, and coconut sugar. Not all the recipes are quick to assemble, but they are "approachable for cooks with any lifestyle and any skill level," making it easy to eat well and mindfully. Paltrow's recipes offer refreshing ways for home cooks to regain balance in their lives and on their plates in face of today's on-the-go lifestyle. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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83 Minutes: The Doctor, the Damage, and the Shocking Death of Michael Jackson

Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne. St. Martin's/ Dunne, $27.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-250-10892-0

In this tiresome account, Richards and Langthorne provide the already well-known details of Jackson's dysfunctional family, his alleged pedophilia, and his descent into drug addiction following the burns he suffered during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. Richards and Langthorne attest that January 27, 1984, was the beginning of the end for Jackson, as he grew more and more dependent on narcotics to ease his pain. After Jackson meets Conrad Murray in 2006, Murray assumes the mantle of the King of Pop's personal physician, and their lives are intertwined forever. The authors ramble on needlessly about Murray's native country of Grenada in addition to pointing out that the debt-ridden Murray was just as much in need of Jackson as Jackson was of easy access to drugs. Sprinkling their allegedly objective chronicle with judgments about "bizarre" nature of the "tragedy," they conclude that Murray was negligent in his care for Jackson and speculate against all evidence that the singer might still be alive if Murray had practiced good medicine. In the end, the authors succeed in illustrating little more than what readers most likely already know. Agent: Carrie-Ann Pitt, Blink. (June)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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I'm Just A Person

Tig Notaro. Ecco, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-226663-7

For four months in 2012, stand-up comedian Notaro descended into a decidedly unfunny period of her life: she survived a bout with the life-threatening bacterial infection, Clostridium difficile, only to find out that her mother had died; not long after she buried her mother, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy. In this deeply captivating memoir, Notaro opens her raw wounds, candidly sharing her most intimate thoughts about life before and after her illnesses. Notaro chronicles her early struggles with her mother and stepfather, and her departure from her home in Houston to make it on her own in Los Angeles. She discovers her gift for comedy, performing night after night at open mikes, and eventually lands an audition for a show that the comic Sarah Silverman has written just for Notaro. In a moment of uncertainty, she panics and exclaims "I'll go on, I can't go on," a theme that echoes throughout the book: "When you're struggling to secure the role of yourself, you do wonder whether you know who you are. Up until that audition, I felt confident I did." After her illnesses, Notaro slowly returns to the stage, gaining a large following when she introduces her new routine with the words: "Hello. Good evening. Hello. I have cancer, how are you?" By January 2013, Notaro feels reborn and ready to set out on a new life, and these days she's happier than ever. Notaro's searingly honest and sometimes humorous memoir will wrench readers' hearts and inspire them in equal measure. (June)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The United States of Beer: A Regional History of the All-American Drink

Dane Huckelbridge. Morrow, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 9780062389756

Huckelbridge (Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit) switches his focus to "the ubiquity across the length and breadth of American civilization" of beer, of which Americans consume six billion gallons on a yearly basis. As in his earlier work, Huckelbridge delivers a fascinating look at American history, arguing that the local production of beer—"beginning with the earliest American settlers, and continuing on up to the craft brews of the present day"—reveals how local beers "actually helped to shape the distinctive regional cultures that would cohere and combine to build a nation." Displaying an enormous understanding of American history as well as a fine wit, Huckelbridge starts with the beer shortage that was a "source of stress" for all aboard the Mayflower, and notes that drinking beer was "as much a part of office life in New England" as Excel charts today. He engagingly analyzes the Dutch influence on beer-making in New York, explains the role of local corn production as an influence on the beer made in the South, details how the German migration to Midwest America in 1848 led to the darker lagers that of breweries such as Busch and Schlitz, explores how Prohibition led to the production of the "sweeter, more watery, and less flavorful" beers that still dominate the market, and looks at the "unexpected innovations" of West Coast companies such as Anchor Brewing that led to the birth of microbrewing. (June)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Paint by Sticker Kids: Create 10 Pictures One Sticker at a Time

Workman. Workman, $9.95 paper (34p) ISBN 978-0-7611-8941-1

This nifty activity book riffs on the paint-by-numbers concept, instead using colorful numbered stickers—included in 11 sheets at the end of the book—that readers can use to complete 10 geometric pictures of a truck, puppy, rabbit, shark, and more. Applying the stickers transforms the white outlined shapes into colorful tableaus that resemble digital 3-D models; perforated pages let readers tear out the finished images to display. With its combination of number-matching, precision, and art-creation, it's a clever idea that ought to appeal to left- and right-brained readers alike—even if they don't lay the stickers exactly right. "Don't worry if the lines are a bit off," assures the introduction. "They look like the irregular stones in a mosaic." A companion book for adults is available simultaneously. Ages 5–9. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Legend of Zippy Chippy: Life Lessons from Horse Racing's Most Lovable Loser

William Thomas. McClelland & Stewart (Penguin Random House, dist.), $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7710-8159-0

It takes a special kind of horse to deserve a biography, and Zippy Chippy, horse racing's most famous loser—0 for 100—is that horse. Humor columnist and author Thomas (The Dog Rules—Damn Near Everything!) has chosen a subject rich in everything but wins. Following the horse's story from upbringing to retirement, readers are in for an enjoyable ride on a wonderful character. Zippy's aversion to winning is only part of the humorously told story. Since the subject, a "world-class scamp" with a sweet tooth, can't speak for himself, his various owners, trainers, jockeys, and stable hands help tell his story, which made headlines in the 1990s. Thomas's descriptions of the horse bring the book to life: "Typical Zippy Chippy—whenever trouble was not following him around, he'd go looking for it." The book does share one of Zippy's problematic traits and runs out of steam in the backstretch. Loss heaps upon loss and becomes repetitive. The asides, occupying their own chapters, have topics ranging from relevant (a similar multi-time loser horse in Japan, a profile of one of Zippy's trainers) to puzzling (the city of Buffalo, the author's nephew, a history of taunting in sports) and serve mostly as filler. Nevertheless, the story is good fun even for readers who are not horse racing fans. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The River

Helen Humphreys. ECW (PGW/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $22.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-77041-255-2

In this unassuming but quietly affecting work, poet and novelist Humphreys (whose novel Afterimage won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize) examines the small portion of the Napanee River that runs near her cabin in eastern Ontario. Her mission—"to write about nature as it was, not as I wished it to be"—takes her on a remarkable journey into the worlds of the creatures whose lives intersect with this waterway. Serene in appearance, Humphrey's river is infused with danger, violence, and loss, home to treacherous whirlpools, fish-eating water snakes, and cast-off human belongings. In the past, the river attracted frog hunters and fishers; others came here to kill the herons whose feathers were once prized as adornments for women's hats. Humphreys artfully mixes vignettes about these individuals with historical research, archival photos, and artwork to show the many ways people have made use of the river and tried to tame it. Her own firsthand observations from years as a riverside resident focus more on the river's flora and fauna and its irrepressible wildness. Humphrey's spare and meditative text is perfectly complemented by Tama Baldwin's luminous, painterly photographs. Like the river itself, this work holds wonders below the surface for anyone willing to take the plunge. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Associates (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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A Ceremony Called Life: When Your Morning Coffee Is as Sacred as Holy Water

Tehya Sky. Sounds True, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1622037131

Sky's debut urges her millennial audience against building "spirit dams" that isolate spiritual experience from the everyday. She encourages readers instead to see duality as a gift, human incarnation as a unique expression of the Divine, and how inconspicuous moments in people's daily lives can be "a huge invitation to see what is inside" while recognizing everything in their lives as sacred. But for all of her ideas about staying grounded and her background in the music industry, Sky's teachings are focused on the head rather than the heart or body, and they lack both juiciness and practicality. She offers Zen-flavored theories of identity and self, and abundant talk about channeling divine expression and relinquishing the idea of control, but she includes only one exercise near the end of the text and no specific rituals or practices. Her few real-world examples feel generic, and her analogies are often contrived; Sky may be telling her readers to dig into the "wild scheme of emotions and feelings" that make up human experience, but she's not getting dirty with them. (July)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It's Killing Us

Shane Claiborne. HarperOne, $17.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-234737-4

George Junius-Stinney Jr. was so small "that his head didn't reach into the metal helmet of the electric chair." At age 14, Junius-Stinney was the youngest person ever executed in the United States. The guards brought the biggest book they could find for him to sit on: the Bible. With a characteristically engaging voice, Claiborne (The Irresistible Revolution) delves into how, as a white Southern evangelical Christian, he changed his mind about capital punishment. Through stories, interviews, history, and cogent scriptural reflection, Claiborne takes the reader on a moral journey that's often hard to undertake on one's own. He tests common beliefs, including the ideas that all murder victims favor the death penalty, prison officers feel justified in carrying out executions, and prisoners on death row have been fairly judged and are guilty of their crimes. He also looks at how the courts operate against victims who request that the death penalty not be applied in the prosecution of their loved one's killer, even denying them access to victim assistance funds. Claiborne's latest is a timely release as an increasing number of U.S. states move to more effective forms of justice and Pope Francis calls for a global moratorium on capital punishment. (June)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Find Your Brave: Courage to Stand Strong When the Waves Crash In

Holly Wagner. WaterBrook, $17.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-60142-879-0

Wagner (GodChicks), international speaker and co-pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles alongside her husband, champions standing strong with Christ in the face of the worst that life can throw at you. She opens her text with a stark memory of living through an earthquake in the 1990s that left her with psychological scars and a long-lasting fear for her own security. Wagner then discusses her bout with cancer and the terror that the diagnosis brought. In "finding her own brave," she creates a system that allows her to de-stress and deal with uncertainty, techniques she shares in bullet points of wisdom from which readers can glean perspective on how Wagner mustered the hope to keep going. Throughout each of the topically presented chapters, readers gain inspiration and practical steps to overcoming fear-based obstacles with God's sustaining power. Christians will take a fresh look at Paul's trials and tribulations as written in Acts 27 as Wagner provides insights that apply to today's dangerous world. (June)

Reviewed on 05/20/2016 | Details & Permalink

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