Sunset Eating Up the West Coast: The best road trips, restaurants, and recipes from California to Washington

four-stars /5

EATING_UP_WEST_COAST_MBR072215Filled cover to cover with beautiful photography, delicious and simple recipes, and local attractions, Eating Up the West Coast is an innovative hybrid between a cookbook and a West Coast guidebook.  With six routes that cover sections of Southern and Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, readers truly get a taste of the road less traveled and the recipes that are infused with back road traditions.

As a California native and a foodie with a serious case of the travel bug, this book caught my attention right away. The recipes provided are eclectic and easy to make and the “On the Road” attractions offered ideas I never would have thought of<Unfortunately, the format of this book left a little to be desired. It seems that the author forced her road trip path to conform to predetermined restaurants and attractions, rather than following a logical route and allowing the featured restaurants to arise along that course. This makes it impractical to actually follow the featured routes and instead had me picking and choosing from the attractions listed. The recipes also follow these unconventional paths and jump from course to course, instead of leading the reader through one complete meal.

Originally published on Manhattan Book Review.


Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds

stars /5

INTO_NEST062515We watch birds fly past our windows with twigs or bits of fluff. We see their nests in trees. Sometimes, we even build them houses. Yet, few people know much more about birds than that. Into the Nest gives readers a peek into the nesting and baby bird rearing of common, backyard birds. Broken up into short sections such as “Pairing up,” “Nesting,” and “Parenting,” this book looks at over twenty species of birds and the unique behaviors that characterize their family lives. While managing not to be too wordy or academic, Into the Nest provides interesting facts about some of the most beautiful common birds.

Growing up on a few acres in the Sacramento area, one of my favorite childhood memories is of a mallard duckling my parents rescued from a coyote before it had hatched. The rest of the nest was destroyed, so we bought an incubator and turned the egg every few hours until suddenly, I was peeking in at a fluff ball, instead of a white egg. This book tugged at those memories and others of finding hummingbird nests and halves of eggshells. It was a great insight to be able to read about many of the birds I was already familiar with, and the pictures just reminded me how adorable baby birds are—once you give them a few days to sprout some feathers, that is.

Originally published on Manhattan Book Review.


stars /5

FIG_MBR072215Straddling the line between the Young Adult and Literary genres,Fig is filled with both delicate and searing language that speaks to the ever-changing demands of childhood and growing up in an imperfect world. This modern bildungsroman follows Fig’s perspective on childhood and becoming a woman as her mother battles mental illness. Faced with the prospect of loving a sick mother or loving no mother at all, Fig devotes herself to her mother in a way only a child can, but as she grows older she begins to understand that her love may not be enough to patch the unraveling fabric of her mother’s fragile mind.

This book drew me out of my comfort zone one word at a time with beautiful language and the protagonist’s convincing and innocent perceptions. I was presented with a sympathetic perspective on mental illness and a relatable struggle against bullying. Fig was a captivating protagonist whose coping mechanisms kept the reader both concerned and hopeful as you watch her pick apart herself and her life.

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz takes the reader to the outermost edges of reality and leaves you with greater empathy than when you first opened Fig.

Originally published on Manhattan Book Review.