Category Archives: book review

Cooking with the Kitchen Overlord: A Parent/Kid Whovian Food Review

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Originally ran May 30, 2015:

Images: Lisa Kay Tate

I recently had the privilege of talking with Kitchen Overload creator Chris-Rachael Oseland about her work on a “Regenerated” edition of her popular Dining with the Doctor unofficial Doctor Who cookbook for GeekMom.

The book, funded with the help of a Kickstarter campaign through June 2, will offer more than 140 Whovian recipes, including 60 from the original cookbook and more than 60 new recipes, high-quality photography, interior artwork by Tom Gordon (illustrator for Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord’s Illustrated Geek Cookbook), bonus chapters for cocktails and Fish Fingers and Custard, and an updated index with dietary restrictions.

“Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated is going to be a brick of a book because I’m including a recipe and mini recap for every episode of series 1-8. So if you’re into NuWho (the 2005 reboot onwards) I’ve totally got you covered,” Oseland said.

Oseland also shared a few favorite Whovian recipes for myself and my family to try out, and the Minion Feeding 101 clan was more than anxious get started.

We had been familiar with Kitchen Overlord for sometime, and even used The Doctor’s Yorkshire Pudding recipe during Christmas dinner. This was the first time, however, the girls took on the task of creating a recipe themselves.

zygonbread

Five-year-old Erin took her job of creating Zygon French Bread Pizza Heads very seriously. That didn’t mean she couldn’t sneak a few mini-pepperonis.

The first recipe we attempted was the Zygon French Bread Pizza Heads. This was the easiest of the three, and the best suited for my youngest daughter, Erin, a recent Kindergarten “graduate.” My only part in the process was slicing the bread and peppers, and adding the “nostrils” afterwards. Erin adeptly arranged the Zygon heads, and followed the recipe perfectly with the cheese, pepperoni and roasted pepper placement. She was extremely thrilled at these coming out looking close to the ones in the official recipe, and couldn’t have been happier if she’d made a perfect soufflé.

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My awkward little eggs, compared to the official image from Oseland’s beautifully crafted recipe. They were, however, still extremely nummy.

I tried the Deviled Ood With Horseradish and Bacon myself, primarily because it allowed me to face long-time culinary fear — hard boiling eggs. I’ve been able to get away with shoddy boiling jobs during the annual Easter egg hunts, but I really wanted to get this one right. The filler mix was easy enough, and temptingly good. If I didn’t want to go Whovian, I would have just mixed the egg whites, bacon, cucumber and basil in with it to make a sandwich spread…which I may do in the future, because it IS that good.

Now here’s the embarrassing part….of the three recipes Oseland suggested, it was the “grown up” who messed hers up the most. Despite thinking I have followed every “how to boil an egg” instruction to the letter, my poor Oods’ heads looked like they were still waiting for their skin to clear up after those awkward teen years.

I also didn’t realize until after they were half-consumed how squishy I had their heads, so they weren’t only battling a skin condition, they were getting over that adolescent Ood baby fat. Poor things. Despite this, they were still presentable, and very edible.

bowtiebread

Molly, now 14, spent her last day as a 12-year-old perfecting the art of dough-making…with a little help from official “glaze-master” and companion, Erin.

My oldest daughter, Molly, wanted to do the Pull Apart Bow Tie Rolls, because the little scientist in her wanted to see the process of making dough from scratch. She also confirmed, of course, that “bow ties are cool.” I was at first worried about her attention span in making the bread, but creating dough by scratch worked perfect for the tween. She got to take an hour break, to play on her “three Ps,” Pinterest, Polyvore, and Pottermore,” before getting to punch a big wad of dough. The assembling of the bow ties was also great fun for her, and they looked really good.

They turned out really nice, and the consistency and taste of the bread was wonderful. We saved them, and had them for her birthday breakfast with tea the next morning. And, she made them, all by herself…almost. Little sister insisted on helping so much, we designated her official glaze-master. She handled the task like a true companion. Better, actually (we don’t always have the highest confidence in the Doctor’s people collection).

This one turned out to be our favorite recipe of the three, and we plan on making this one again soon.

Once we successfully created all three recipes, my girls offered their official on-the-record opinions:

“The recipe was fun to make, and it was really, really easy. I thought the dough would be hard to make, but it wasn’t at all. I was very happy with the way they came out. It was delicious. My favorite thing about making it was eating it!”

— Molly, age 12

“I thought these pizzas were really tasty. I really liked putting the cheese on them the most, but I also liked eating the pepperoni when we were putting them on the heads.”

— Erin, age 5 (who I estimate consumed a good two Zygons worth of mini-pepperoni pieces)

The final consensus from all of us was the recipes were simple, but not “simplistic.” There was actually something to them, not just a configuration of prepackaged foods made to resemble a pop culture character. The only one to actually come close to this description was the pizza bread, but that was a perfect fit for the busy hands and easily-distracted mind of an active five-year-old.

As for my older daughter, the bow ties were easy enough to not get discouraged, but involved enough to not be bored. Plus, you can never go wrong with “The Doctor” in our household. Most importantly, though, everything we made was genuinely yummy. Everyone in the family enjoyed all three recipes. Cooking and baking are fun, but what good is a recipe if you can’t have just as much fun consuming it?

Other books by Chris-Rachael Oseland we recommend. These aren’t “kids” cookbooks either, but recipes that are just fun to make and eat for geeks of all fandoms.

Other books by Chris-Rachael Oseland we recommend. These aren’t “kids” cookbooks either, but recipes that are just fun to make and eat for geeks of all fandoms.

The entire Minion Feeding 101 wholeheartedly recommends cooks of all ages and levels check out Oseland’s books and website to find a fandom befitting their culinary and pop culture tastes.

We’re looking forward to picking up a copy of her “Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated Edition” next year, as well as “going on an adventure” with another favorite of ours, Bilbo Baggins and crew with An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery.

One of the best ways to maximize that important dinner-table family time is to get my girls in the kitchen beforehand taking part of the process. These were a perfect excuse to get them laughing together, talking about their day, arguing over who the best “Doctor,” is and just enjoying each others’ company. This isn’t easy with two strong-willed kids separated by seven years.

Being able to compare the results of their labor, and be proud of learning something new  and showing it off to Dad, Mom and Grandpa was a positive as well. Plus, this gave them a huge pool of ideas for parties, summer projects and other boredom killers.

When else can you get to hear at the dinner table, “can I have another Zygon?”

Find more great recipe, tips and product reviews on Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord website, or pick up her books online at Amazon.

Read the entire interview with Oseland at GeekMom.

— Lisa Kay Tate

Five Offbeat Books To Help Readers Discover The Bard

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Titan brings English Language Sherlock to U.S, U.K. Readers…At Last!

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Finally, there’s an English language BBC series-based Sherlock Manga in the works.

This original Japanese language Manga version of BBC’s Sherlock will get an English version for US and UK readers this summer. Image: Young Ace!

This original Japanese language Manga version of BBC’s Sherlock will get an English version for US and UK readers this summer. Image: Young Ace!

After unsuccessfully searching for the book at local venues, we went online to find this beautifully-illustrated piece by Manga artist Jay was only available in Japanese. Despite my daughter still wanting it for the artwork and the hopeful optimism that she will learn Japanese (a goal she still maintains), I balked.

Somehow, I felt, a story this originally interpreted will make it’s way into the hands of English-speaking readers.

As a fellow lover of all Sherlock Holmes stories (modern and classic), I really kind of wanted to get my hands on  this as well, but eventually forgot about it among the busy misadventures of my everyday life.

Thanks be to Titan Comics, this Manga will be released this June in the United States and United Kingdom in an English language version. The original artwork

Artist Alice X. will give her well-loved images to Titan’s Manga Sherlock English Language version. Images: Titan Comics

Artist Alice X. will give her well-loved images to Titan’s Manga Sherlock English Language version. Images: Titan Comics

by Jay will still be part of this adaptation with script by Sherlock series writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, but there will also be more content exclusive to this new version. This includes covers and art by artist Alice X Zhang, and if her absolutely gorgeous covers with Titan’s Doctor Who comics line are any indication, these should be spectacular.

The comic has offered in a limited edition “English/Japanese” bilingual version, with the help of Gatiss and Moffat, by the English Agency in Japan, but it isn’t an easy find for UK and US readers.

Even though Series 4 of television’s Sherlock isn’t scheduled until 2017, at least Sherlock fans can be treated to a new look for a familiar adventure this summer.

Keep Reading:

mangarecommendationsWhile we’re still waiting for this much-anticipated volume to hit the book shelves, here are four other Mangas I recommend that even non-Manga readers should love:

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (DC Comics) These retro-style stories date back to the 1960s when Kuwata wrote a 53-chapter serial for a manga magazine. Now, these stories are available in three beautiful paperback volumes for Batman fans of all generations.

Star Wars Manga (Dark Horse). In 2015, Hisao Tamaki put out a Manga interpretation of Star Wars A New Hope, based directly on George Lucas’s script. There have since been Manga interpretations of all the first Star Wars episodes by a variety of artists like Toshiki Kudo, Kia Asamiya, and others. Like everything else Star Wars, chasing down and collecting this entire series is half the fun.

Big Hero 6 (Marvel). Anyone who saw Stan Lee’s “cameo” in the Disney animated film Big Hero 6, should realize the hit movie is Marvel. The movie is based on a 1998 Manga-style, relaunched via Marvel in 2008 by David Nakayama and Chris Claremont. This original Tokyo-based story will give readers a closer look at the edgy adventure that spawned one of Disney’s cuddliest characters, Baymax. Although Marvel doesn’t plan on creating any new comics featuring the Big Hero 6 team, there are newer film-based Manga adaptations by Haruki Ueno from Yen Press.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney Press). In 2005, The Tim Burton cult classic film got some Manga treatment, suitable for younger readers. Although this one-shot is only a simple interpretation of the film, the Manga style images are a wonderful tribute the imagination and characters created by Burton, including Jack Skellington, Sally and Oogie Boogie. Perfect for any Burton fans in need of drawing and sketching inspiration.

— Lisa Kay Tate

Doodle Lit Gives Readers of All Ages Interactive Experience

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Doodle Lit

Catch the Doodle Bug with Doodle Lit, the recent publication by the creators of BabyLit.

The colorful simplicity of the Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver BabyLit series has been introducing beginner readers to the world of classic literature since 2011, by teaching simple concepts like counting, weather, colors, and opposites with classics like Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, and Anna Karenina.

Now, readers of all ages can increase their literary appreciation through the ageless practice of doodling with their interactive book, Doodle Lit.

The book includes several doodle prompts based on the works of authors like Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Charlotte Brontë, and others.

Doodlers can doodle some autobiographic sketches inspired by illustrations from Jane Eyre’s life, compose a Shakespearean-style love letter, try their hand at tattoo design inspired by Moby Dick character Queequeg, and even “Hot Rod” up an 18th century buggy.

Both Adams and Oliver explain the importance of the act of doodling in the book’s introduction, as well as what this simple artistic practice means for them.

“Doodling is such a simple form of being creative,” Adams says in her introduction comments. “When you doodle, you usually allow yourself to do it freely—you’re not worrying about trying to make a final piece of art or worrying what someone else will think.”

This book maintains the simple look of the BabyLit series, only in the black-and-white line style indicative of the many popular “doodling” books available from different authors and publishers.

Another nice feature are the periodic “historical footnotes” included throughout the book. Young doodlers can learn such diverse facts as what a scrimshaw was to sailors and what the national bird of India is (peacock), as well as which Brontë sister wrote what.

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Fans of the BabyLit series will recognize the clever minds behind Doodle Lit.

Although the BabyLit series is geared towards toddlers and beginning readers, don’t make the assumption that Doodle Lit is also just for children. The book may be created with the intention of helping get kids more excited about classic books, but this is something even adults will love doing.

Young children will relish the sheer pleasure of coloring, drawing, writing, cutting out masks, and creating collages using classic literature as source material. Tweens and teens can even get into the prospect of adding their own contemporary creative aspects to timeless classics. This will even be a gateway for young adult readers to be inspired to learn more about the stories and books behind these projects.

For adults, it is a chance to rediscover the classics they may have already read, as well as have an incentive to read those classics they may never have gotten a chance to yet. This would be a fun coffee table book to add to now and again, or you could keep a set of drawing implements nearby for guests to contribute their own “works of art” to a favorite story.

Adams has written two classic lit-inspired books for adults, including Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent Shakespearean ABC Book for Grown-Ups Hardcover, which would be fun companion gift with Doodle Lit.

There are plenty of books and authors who seemed to be noticeably missing from this series. J.R.R. Tolkien and Jules Verne come to mind, but there is only so much space in one book. This volume is primed for follow-ups; maybe with some focused on specific genres, like poetry or science fiction. Adams and Oliver have certainly opened up the possibilities.

Whether Adams and Oliver ever decide to create a second Doodle Lit volume is up to them, but as for the reader, the question remains “To “Doodle” or “Not To Doodle.”

The answer is clear—and written plainly on the cover—by all means, “Doodle.”

“When you’re young, you’re smart enough to know that art is fun,” Adams says in the introduction. “When we get older, sometimes we forget that. Art is fun. Just doodle.”

Review originally ran in GeekMom on June 1.

Watching the Detective: “The Encounters of Sherlock Holmes”

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sherlock book coverI have to confess. I love all the 21st-century re-inventions of Sherlock Holmes. I didn’t want to, as I consider myself a true book lover who has often stood on my “don’t mess with the classics” soapbox of guarding the works of authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from the likes of today’s literary graffiti artists. Unfortunately, the characterizations have been just so much fun — Guy Ritchie’s dark and high-speed gothic movies, BBC’s perfectly-cast and eloquently written modern day retellings and even Johnny Lee Miller’s edgy and slightly touched Holmes-meet- New York portrayal.

Now add to this list of  “The Encounters of Sherlock Holmes,” which I wholeheartedly recommend.

Edited by George Mann (Titan Books), this collection features well-selected stories about the master sleuth, his closest companion (were Holmes to admit it) Dr. John Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lustrate and many new characters (including some cameos from classic literature).

This volume includes work by Mark Hodder, Mags L. Halliday, Cavan Scott, Nick Kyme, Paul Magrs, Stuart Douglas, Eric Brown, Richard Dinnick, Kelly Hale, Steve Lockley, Mark Wright, David Barnett and James Lovegrove, as well as by Mann himself. All contributors are appropriately from, or based in the United Kingdom, with the exception of Hale who’s works like “Erasing Sherlock Holmes” and the Doctor Who novel “Grimm Reality” give her true British “cred.”

I don’t want to venture too far into the details, because the journey through the mystery for Holmes and his cohorts is as vital as the mystery’s conclusion, but true standouts in this collection include Nick Kyme’s “Post-Modern Prometheus,” “Mann’s own “The Case of the Night Crawler” and  “The Tragic Affair of the Martian Ambassador.”

In “Post-Modern Prometheus,” Kyme ventures beyond Holmes’s capacity for reason, and ventures into a familiar supernatural horror story, creating an unexpected mash-up of characters that stays surprising until the end.

George Mann

George Mann

Eric Brown’s “Tragic Case of the Martian Ambassador” is similar to Mann’s story in that steampunk aficionados will eat it up, but it follows more of the classic turn-of-the-century science fiction ala (coincidentally enough) H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. The story addresses some tricky cultural relations as Holmes is called to investigate the suspicious death of a Martian ambassador 10 years after the alien species came to live among humans on Earth. This “Alien Nation” situation with a “War of the Worlds” air took me by surprise in the sense of Holmes’ “solution” to how he handled the mystery’s conclusion. But, I’ll say no more about that.

Calling any collection of writings by various authors “inconsistent” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because holding every author to the same style would miss the point of variety altogether. I did have my favorite stories, however, and a couple in which I found myself less interested due to the lack of that distinctly Holmes “aha” moment.

There were some surprises, though. I found Paul Magrs’ entry, “Mrs. Hudson at the Christmas Hotel,” for example, to be a light story of Holmes’ savvy landlady on a romp with her malformed sister, it’s tone grew increasingly darker, eventually ending with a threat — or promise — of a further related tale.

The only real flaws I found with the book draw from my own personal wannabe sleuthing (or rather my O.C.D.) were the common compilation woes of one or two hidden typos that tend to get under my skin the way a slightly mislaid tie on an otherwise perfectly tailored suit would. I’m sure I’ve made a few of those myself.

This shouldn’t stop Holmes fans, both old and new, from finding this a page-turning and riveting read, which it certainly is.

What all the contributors of this volume have done brilliantly, however, is continue Doyle’s legacy of seeing Holmes through the eyes of others, mostly Watson, keeping the sleuth himself always a bit of a mystery.

Mann’s collection, and its contributing authors take the reader as close to the workings of Holmes’ mind as you can without actually being him.

Although the long-suffering Watson himself has referred to him as in this collection as “cold” or “inhuman,” he called him, upon his “death” in Doyle’s original series, “the wisest man I’ve ever known.”

To me the mind of Sherlock Holmes is like the mouth of a volcano. You are both fascinated by and afraid of what’s in there, and you want to get as near to the edge as possible to watch it work. But do you really want to dive in there?

After reading this compilation, I’m almost tempted to try.

Homework time:

I stated in my review I am unashamed to admit I love the recent reinventions of Sherlock Holmes an the newfound interest in the character, but with any re-discovered classic, I have to urge every fan of Robert, Benedict and Johnny Lee  (and often in my case Jude, Martin and Lucy…but mostly Martin) to give the original source a look, as Doyle’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” is as exciting and intriguing as any modern classic.

Also, here are a couple of suggestions for further reading:

• “The Crimes of Dr. Watson: An Interactive Sherlock Holmes Mystery” Edited with an introduction by Duane Swierczynski. (Quirk Books).  This interactive is a chance for a hands-on Sherlock Holmes experience that invites to reader to “help” Watson in solving a century-old mystery complete with ticket stubs, personal correspondence and the removable pieces of evidence. Yes, the solution is tucked away at the end, but try to solve this on your own first. That’s 90 percent of the fun. No peeking.

• “Holmes on The Range” by Steve Hockensmith. (St. Martin’s Minotaur). This is mystery writer Hockensmith’s first book in his mystery series placing a pair of ranch hands in the Holmes and Watson roles, narrated, of course, by Big Red.  Set in the 1890s, Holmes fanatic, Old Red, stumbles upon a real-life murder mystery and takes it upon himself, and his brother, Big Red, to crack the case.  This mystery/western mash-up may not seem like a likely pairing, but Hockensmith’s keen talent for non-conventional mysteries (including zombie mystery “Cadaver In Chief”) has created a fan-favorite series with these Old West sleuths.