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Deb Nam-Krane "dnkboston" RSS Feed (Boston, MA United States)

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Bad Medicine (Lizzie Hart Mysteries Book 3)
Bad Medicine (Lizzie Hart Mysteries Book 3)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying conclusion for an older, wiser sleuth, July 27, 2015
Good news: After nearly being killed twice and losing the man she swooned over, Lizzie Hart has finally learned something and her third time out sleuthing finds her- wait for it- actually using her common sense and more than a little caution before she jumps into the latest mystery. In fact, one might even say that she has to be dragged into it kicking and screaming.

Bad news: Lizzie is still on the outs with the handsome and charming Blake, wait a minute, maybe that's not so bad. Maybe part of Lizzie's new found maturity includes moving on. At least, that's what her cousin and best friend think, and thus Lizzie finds herself on two of the most awkward blind dates ever. One of them is an unmitigated disaster, and one of them might just lead to the perfect pairing Lizzie fans have been waiting for. Or will it?

This was satisfying end to the series; as you can tell from above, I loved seeing the more mature side of Lizzie, and I loved that she was confident and having fun. (But Lizzie being Lizzie, the most fun she has is in pursuit of an insane serial killer, so there's that.) And while I wanted to strangle some of her friends- seriously, what kind of person fires their employee for living through a traumatic event?- that gave her yet more of an opportunity to stand on her own.

I am sooo sad that this is the end, but hopefully Fardig can be convinced to bring the gang back for a reunion (or to make cameos in something else).

Highly recommended for fans of chicklit and mystery.

Artisan Vegan Cheese
Artisan Vegan Cheese
Price: $8.69

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent recipes and technique that could have utilized better formatting, July 22, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Thus far I have made the brie, basic cashew cheese and rejuvelac. Oh my god- the brie is absolutely amazing, and I need excuses not to eat it. I wasn't sure the cashews were going to culture with the rejuvelac, but after about four hours it seemed to suddenly (literally) spring to life.

As others have noted, it's pretty amazing the difference just a few extra ingredients can make; the difference between cashew cheese and brie is a little salt, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and coconut oil. I am awed by Schinner's mastery of technique and based on the cheeses from her pantry cookbook I am looking forward to the other recipes.

Having said that, I took off a star because the ebook formatting is not helpful, especially compared to her pantry book. When recipes are referenced in both the index and in other recipes within the book, there almost no hyperlinks. This means that if one recipe builds off of a base recipe- as many do- you have to search through the table of contents or create bookmarks. Not entirely useless, but more difficult than it needs to be.

Still, I highly recommend this for any vegan looking to make cheese; you will not be disappointed.

The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples
The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples
by Miyoko Schinner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.89
58 used & new from $9.40

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, comprehensive guide for vegan staples, July 22, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My hat is off to anyone who has cooked their way through this book; the variety and volume is just staggering. One week into it I'm nowhere close to that, but thus far I've made soymilk, yogurt, cashew cream, cheddar, mozzarella, Unribs, Unsteak, Flax Eggs and Flax Meringue.

While all of them have been successful, special mention to the flax meringue. Vegans who have dreamed of meringue cookies, go get yourself some whole flax seeds right now. Amazing- and delicious. I am very excited about using this in cookie recipes a la Milk Bar. I also used this to make a chocolate mousse (combined with coconut whipped cream and a little cocoa). So good!

How good are these recipes? My husband and sons, who regularly groan about vegan fare, can't keep their hands off some of these creations, particularly the Unribs (and I don't blame them).

Only caveat so far is that while the soymilk was delicious and "unbeany", it didn't work as a base for the yogurt (although commercial coconut milk did). Next time I'll grind the beans a little longer than specified and hopefully get more of the protein.

I'm very excited about trying almost all of the other recipes, but it should be noted that if you have nut, soy or wheat allergies or intolerances, this book is not for you.

Viva Labs - The FINEST Organic Hemp Protein Powder, Cold-Milled for Higher Absorption, 3 LB Bag
Viva Labs - The FINEST Organic Hemp Protein Powder, Cold-Milled for Higher Absorption, 3 LB Bag
Offered by Premium Vitamins
Price: $39.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Smooth, earthy protein powder, July 22, 2015
I received a free sample in exchange for an honest review.

This powder, while tasting recognizably of hemp, is much milder than other hemp protein powders I've tried. This added a nice earthy taste to a green smoothie but didn't add grit. I've used it in three smoothies since I received it and found it blended well with fruit and nut flavors.

FYI, I used one tablespoon in a 1.5 cup smoothie, not the recommended serving size of 4 tablespoons. That would be too strong for my tastes.

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
DVD ~ Orson Welles
Price: $7.99
48 used & new from $5.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic take on the classic romance, July 12, 2015
This review is from: Jane Eyre (DVD)
One of the best takes on Jane Eyre ever put on screen

+ Orson Welles is convincing as an older, manipulative romantic interest
+ Joan Fontaine plays Jane Eyre with the perfect combination of desperation, hope and strength
+ The cinematography and music contribute to the spooky atmosphere of the story

Overall stays faithful to the novel, though it downplays the horrific abuse Jane suffered as a child and skips the marriage proposal she receives after she left Rochester. I also wish they hadn't skipped as much of the story about Jane's reconciliation with her family as they did. As a young reader, that aspect rounded out Jane as a character for me. However, the other strengths of the film far outweigh this omission. Highly recommended for fans of the classic Bronte novel.

Skyfall (Blu-ray/ DVD + Digital Copy)
Skyfall (Blu-ray/ DVD + Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Daniel Craig
Offered by cds_dvds_guaranteed
Price: $23.67
79 used & new from $2.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Must-see, even given the dramatic overreach, July 9, 2015
Here's what didn't work: Skyfall was trying to be "better" than a James Bond movie. I don't understand this. People love James Bond movies; I love James Bond movies. We're not there for, you know, character development and plots that make sense. We watch them the same way other people watch Star Wars movies: completely uncritically (and yes, I realize there is an overlap of those audiences). I bet I'm not the only one who was introduced to the franchise via the ABC airings in the Seventies and Eighties. Do you know how much editing they did on those things? Most of the time I had no idea what Bond doing; what was important was that he was super cool doing it. So that they would go to the trouble to not just have a discernible plot but one that was interesting to "mainstream" audiences seems like silly overkill.

And what is the plot? I'm not going to give it away, but it's not a stretch to say that it's one of the classic quasi-psychological plots. Yes, "family" and origin issues- but if you saw Casino Royale a few years ago, you knew this was coming. Throw in a little yuckiness with a Komodo Dragon (I think that's what it was), a survivor of the Macau sex trade and a literal deus ex machina (or is it deus ex aqua?) and yeah, that's the movie.

The villain? Javier Bardem does a really good job... with the role they gave him. I'm going to tell you his character Silva is bisexual; now you're going to fill in every stereotype about someone with that orientation and you'll understand his character. He's creepy; he's untrustworthy; he's lascivious; he's grotesque; he's brilliant; he's out for himself; he's misunderstood; etc and so forth. Er, nice to know Sam Mendes kept some of the Bond canon?

So why did I like this? Because:

Daniel Craig. He's symptomatic of the over-development of character, I think, but he's also a really good actor. Despite myself, I do want to know why he's so broody and snappish.

James Bond. Bond is Bond, even when he's a little compromised. And this was the first time a James Bond movie made me genuinely laugh. When a lascivious Silva comes onto a bound Bond (heh- and please, you knew that was coming) and tries to unnerve him, Bond is cold as ice. "What makes you think this is my first time?" Perfect because 1) Bond is obviously trying to show Silva how unintimidated he is and 2) it's a wink to the audience. "Since I've bedded almost everything in a skirt, why would you think I wouldn't have touched something in pants?"

The weapons- or lack thereof. In the aftermath of the countless shootings the last few years have brought to the US, it made me smile to see Bond protected by a weapon that wouldn't fire. I also nodded when Bond (and company) had to take down a small militia of criminals with much more limited gun power. As I've said elsewhere, what's cool about Bond and guns is that he knows how to use them- not that he has rooms filled with them.

Naomie Harris. Bond girl? Oh... maybe.

Ralph Fiennes. A good enough actor that even when I didn't know where his character was going, I still wanted to watch.

Ben Whishaw. Because Q always makes me smile- particularly when he's admonishing Bond to bring back the goods unharmed.

And of course Judi Dench. Damn you, Dame Judi- must you make me care about M?

Recommended for all Bond fans. (Of course, I say this about everything except maybe the Timothy Dalton movies, so maybe you should take that with a grain of salt.) Yes, it's silly, sexist and really just a British action movie with good looking characters. But isn't that what you want in your Bond movies?

Kung Fu Panda 2
Kung Fu Panda 2
DVD ~ Jack Black
Price: $5.00
105 used & new from $0.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Just the right balance of funny, touching and daring (as animated characters go), July 9, 2015
This review is from: Kung Fu Panda 2 (DVD)
If you wondered how a panda came to be raised by a goose, this film will answer your question. A villainous peacock named Shen with delusions of grandeur (obviously, because he's a peacock) and mommy and daddy issues is behind both Po's displacement and an impending attack on all of Kung Fu. When I first heard this line in other trailers, I scoffed. No, seriously, how do you attack Kung Fu? And then I saw this, and I got it. Shen is going to use the cannon he has created to destroy all of the Kung Fu masters. I thought this was more than a clever plot device: it's an accurate commentary on our times. The kids might not get it, but I think other parents will.

You can guess what happens- or doesn't happen, because this is a funny animated children's movie. It's also effectively touching and genuinely exciting. I felt kind of silly as I gasped watching the daring feats of, well, animated characters, but when you take into account how impressed we are by what Yoda can do in the later Star Wars movies, and that's all CGI, maybe it's not too shameful.

Perhaps most importantly, this is the right kind of funny. The moments open with something serious, but then riff into something to break the tension. Fortunately, it doesn't go on forever either, because that can get pretty old. One scene went something like this:

Shen: I scarred you.
Po: I've got news for you, scars heal.
Shen: No they don't.
Po: Oh, you're right. What, wounds heal? What do scars do, they fade?

It's almost as if the animated characters are ad-libbing, but they have enough self control not to go too far. Almost.

It was also nice that this didn't have a lot of gross-out humor, unless you consider Po's huge appetite "gross". That's noteworthy these days. The last few films I've taken the kids to have depended a lot on that, and it sounds like that's the trend in adult comedies too. Mental note: animals are not as gross as human beings.

Highly recommended for anyone over the age of seven.

The Suspect [Blu-ray]
The Suspect [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Gong Yoo
Price: $16.54
28 used & new from $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A fast-paced meditation on corruption, June 29, 2015
This review is from: The Suspect [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I would give this 4.5 stars if that were an option. Great movie, but the beginning was confusing. However, after about half an hour, the important details started falling into place and I could enjoy the (extremely high velocity) ride.

A North Korean agent has defected to the South after the murder of his young family; while he's looking for a way to avenge them, he's implicated in a murder of the wealthy Chairman who employs him. While on the run from the police and looking for the man who murdered his family, he's chased by a cynical former military agent he tangled with in Hong Kong- an assignment that left both of them compromised (I only half-jokingly thought of them as something like Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive"). He's aided by a journalist who lost her job while tracking down North Korean refugees who were trafficked into China. As both chase down leads from other ends, they realize that the South Korean government is implicated in what happened to both the Chairman and the agent's family. The meat of the movie is figuring out why and seeing if the agent can get not just vengeance but justice.

While there was plenty of action in this movie (remind me to put my car in reverse the next time I have to take a super steep hill), what stood out for me was the atmosphere of conspiracy and corruption. It was clear that the dangerous agents were only the muscle for the corrupt people who really pulled the strings. If modern South Korean cinema is to be believed, the South Korean government is far more dangerous than North Korea could ever be.

Recommended for fans of Korean action cinema.

Confession of Murder [Blu-ray]
Confession of Murder [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Jung Jae-young, Jo Eun-ji, Jang Gwang Choi Won-young
Price: $12.99
32 used & new from $7.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Wildly uneven, but on balance worth watching, June 17, 2015
The rating I would really like to give this is 3.5 stars, but I rounded up. There is on balance more right/done well than not, but when it goes off the rails it's *really* bad.

What I love about Korean cinema is that overall its films do an excellent job of marrying very serious or tragic elements with light and comedy. Korean studios also allow their movies to have a range of settings and atmosphere; one film can include glamour, grit and action seamlessly. Unfortunately, while this movie has a lot of elements, the director didn't meld them together very well.

The basic story is a detective obsessed with the Villain Who Got Away, complicated, as we later discover, by a personal connection. When the statute of limitations runs out on the crimes, a book is published that details the murders in ways only the murderer would know. The catch: the detective is a beautiful man who attracts groupies- and mainstream media attention. As macabre as it is to watch news organizations fall over themselves to get a confessed killer in their studio, anyone who's watched modern media knows it could happen. However irritated and disgusted the detective might be, the detective then finds himself in the unenviable position of having to protect the killer from the family members of his victims. What's going to put a stop to the madness? And who, really, is after what?

This movie is two hours long, but it could have been cut down by half an hour if the gratuitous action scenes had been cut. Don't get me wrong: I like action when it's well done, and the opening sequence certainly qualifies. It's fast-paced, brutal and informs the rest of the story. Those things cannot be said of the other sequences, some of which were so unrealistic I couldn't suspend my disbelief. (How do two people fight on top of moving cars on a highway and not fall off? And can you really stab a windshield and only crack it, not break it? And don't get me started on the trucks...) And while foolish action scenes don't have to ruin a movie, the writing choices that are necessitated by those scenes came pretty close.

However, strip away unnecessary action and set ups, and you have a story that shines an uncomfortable light on modern media that makes you genuinely gasp (and tear up) as it unfolds. It's a shame the writers didn't choose to flesh out the characters and rewrite the action scenes to showcase a little bit less mobile camera work. Still, if you like Korean cinema and crime dramas, you'll find a number of things to enjoy in this.

Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP
Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP
by Victor Gold
Edition: Hardcover
73 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars What Would Barry Do?, June 16, 2015
Twenty years ago, Barry Goldwater was still code for "reactionary conservative". It is saying something about developments in the Republican party since then that if he were in office now he would either be considered a moderate or even a liberal compared to many current GOP office holders. Victor Gold, who worked as a deputy press secretary during Goldwater's 1964 campaign and stayed in politics long after that, reflects with equal parts humor and bitterness on what happened in to the party he once called home. While this book was written in anticipation of the 2008 presidential election (it might cause a few smirks to read that he assumed Hillary Clinton was going to be the Democratic nominee), the criticisms he leveled there are even more relevant today since the advent of the Tea Party.

Gold does not mince words about almost every major political figure of the last fifty years, and party affiliation is no insulation. As much as he disdains Bill Clinton for his insincerity, Newt Gingrich was the narcissist who forgot that all politics was supposed to be local, not personal; while he got a first hand taste of how ruthless and duplicitous Johnson and his staff could be, Bush 43 and Cheney made disagreement tantamount to treachery. Written almost a decade before allegations of sexual abuse, Dennis Hastert, whom his contemporaries are currently falling all over themselves to describe as having a "clean" reputation, was well known for his pork barrel politics; and Tom Delay used his position to leverage lobbyists for his personal gain. Of course, he doesn't have one positive thing to say about Donald Rumsfeld, who first earned his contempt during the Ford administration when he kept trying to thwart...Bush 41.

Admittedly, those actors are low-hanging fruit, but Gold is equally merciless about Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, the two usually considered reluctant participants in the march toward the Iraq War. Gold does not buy the "good soldier" narrative Powell apologists have been peddling for over a decade, and concludes in the case of Rice that she swallowed her intelligence (and principles) to tow the party line. (For the record, he refers to Madeline Albright's activities as "nation building".)

Aside from Goldwater, the two figures he has the most respect for are Reagan and Bush 41. Reagan was someone who was able to get the numbers he needed to get through and controlled the coalition he'd built better than any of his successors. As Gold notes, he had the ability to make people hear what they wanted to (and what he needed them to); while he shouldn't be praised for laying the groundwork that enabled the "theo-cons" to take over the party, at the time the strategy was to "keep them so close they couldn't move their arms". As for Bush 41, Gold doesn't offer one criticism; on the contrary, he considers him an energetic, shrewd, intelligent politician who was more pragmatic than dogmatic and eschewed trading on pathos of any kind to gain sympathy (or votes). (I'll note that his biography of Bush 41 makes it sounds as if he came to Texas as a pioneer in a covered wagon, which isn't true. While he did turn down the opportunity to work as a stockbroker for the family firm, he did have a significant investment from his family to set up his business endeavors.)

As Gold notes, the culture of cynical, win-at-any-cost politics and corruption isn't new; what's so frightening about the current climate is the acquiescence to the practice of executive privilege. Thus Gold uses the "d-word" (as in "dictatorship") several times. Again, this was written before the outcome of the 2008 election, but perhaps his most important point in the book is that once established, that privilege will live on, never mind which party is in charge. In light of what we've discovered about domestic surveillance, it's a shame more people didn't share his concerns.

Recommended for anyone who follows politics.

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