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The Ultimate HTML Reference
The Ultimate HTML Reference
by Ian Lloyd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.73
85 used & new from $0.06

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reference, February 3, 2009
If you've ventured at all into web sites, blogging, and social media, you find yourself running into HTML. Visual editor tools are fine for getting the effects you want into writing, but that is slow and limited. For the greatest flexibility in formatting text, creating tables and lists, inserting pictures, and many other tasks, a knowledge of HTML is handy. The Ultimate HTML Reference by Ian Lloyd is a reference book that should be close by a dictionary, thesaurus, or volume on English usage.

I've found myself frequently reaching for it when trying to remember how to control a table layout in a blog entry or double-checking how to get a link to open in a new window. The material is complete so far as I can tell, and the organization, including TOC and index, is strong and lets me easily find what I need. At $45 it isn't a cheap volume, but could easily save you its cost in time efficiency in your first time or two of using it.

I do wish that the index were more complete and cross-referenced. But still a good book to have close by when dealing with HTML.

Soon I Will be Invincible
Soon I Will be Invincible
by Austin Grossman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.85
221 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever parody and examination of a genre, July 17, 2008
Austin Grossman's debut novel Soon I Will Be Invincible rests on two points of view: that of super villain Doctor Impossible, who has an IQ of 300 and rookie superhero female cyborg Fatale. And there is the battle between good and evil, with people trying to take over the world in one way or another, but it's not always clear exactly who is doing what. Addressing childhood, shame, love, lust, and the weird twists of fate that make us who we are, the book shows how sometimes the difference between one path in life and another might be a chance word, a bit of kindness, and someone understanding. My daughter wasn't too fond of the writing, though for the most part I enjoyed it, with trite comic book dialog craftily placed to create a kind of character chiaroscuro, only the contrast not being between literal light and dark, but the metaphoric public and private parts of someone's psyche that help define the whole person. There were times that I thought the story got badly out of hand - for example, one character realizes the real identity of another and states it, when a hint would have done the trick and left one area of tension and suspense for resolution at the end for greater effect. But overall, worth the read and a book I can recommend.

Cake Art: Simplified Step-by-Step Instructions and Illustrated Techniques for the Home Baker to Create Show Stopping Cakes and Cupcakes
Cake Art: Simplified Step-by-Step Instructions and Illustrated Techniques for the Home Baker to Create Show Stopping Cakes and Cupcakes
by Kate Cavotti
Edition: Hardcover
50 used & new from $5.99

63 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great reference for bakers with some experience, May 9, 2008
The Culinary Institute of America has come out with yet another beautiful and useful book: Cake Art. If you've ever had an interest in interest in creating dramatic desserts, this is a volume for you, although I wouldn't call this a book for beginners. It starts with an overview of tools and components that I found myself wishing had a bit more to it: more individual photos of each item rather than trying to discern elements in group photos, more explanation of what to do and how to do it, and more tips.

However, it's not a paralyzing shortcoming, as you can get some of that from browsing online retailers, stores, and catalogs. Where the book really shines is in the techniques and instructions. For example, on page 31 there is a photo with three spoons of meringue, one stiff, one medium, and one soft-peaked. There are formulas for both hard and soft ganaches (Books often don't explicitly set the two side-by-side, and there's a big difference in the resulting texture and use.) as well as modeling chocolate. You can learn to make ribbons and coverings of fondant. Pipe a flower from buttercream (with a tip on how to reconstitute the mixture if it separates) or mold it from molding chocolate, marzipan, or fondant. In short, there is a lot to learn.

And that might be the big problem for many would-be cake decorators. Some of these techniques require practice, and a lot of it. If you go directly to the projects and try to work your way backward into the techniques, the results are going to be disappointing. If you want to undertake a given project (each, smartly, tells you how far in advance - weeks in some cases - to start different parts), then read through, write down the techniques that are necessary, and practice well in advance. You don't really think that pastry chefs start on this level of work their first day of class, do you? However, if you are willing to spend some time, this book should be well worth your while.

Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook
Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook
by Ralph Brennan
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from $35.68

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific seafood cookbook, May 9, 2008
I can often tell how good a cookbook is by seeing how many small bookmarks my wife places among the recipes. Between bits of newspaper coupons and paper napkins, or whatever else was at hand, the top of my review copy of Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook has become a veritable forest. The recipes actually come from Brennan's restaurants. Given the extended family into which he was born - New Orleans restaurant royalty, with members owning a number of major names in that city's eating establishments - there is little surprise that he went into the business.

The beginning of the book has a "manual" for how to select, store, and handle various types of fish and seafood. I would have liked to see a bit more - for example, not just filleting a whole fish, but also gutting and cleaning it. However, even in the section on fin fish, there was a tip I had never heard for telling if a fish is done. Insert the tip of a knife into the thickest part of a fillet. Then put the tip against the inside of your wrist. If it feels hot, then it's done. And there's plenty of other useful information, like an explanation of the difference among different types of crab meat and crabs.

The recipes look fabulous: crab cakes with ravigote sauce, chilled smoked scallops with tomato-and-onion marmalade (making your own stove top smoker is in a tips appendix), oyster and artichoke bisque, baked catfish with sweet potato scales and andouille sauce, shrimp and spinach cannelloni with champagne butter sauce. This is upscale fish cookery.

Oddly enough, my eyebrows frowned when I came upon the dessert, side dish, and drinks sections. Heaven knows I love dessert, and there are some terrific recipes in here, and I've also been known to tuck into side dishes and even take the occasional drink (including a rum-based milk punch during a "Breakfast at Brennan's" at the famous restaurant owned by some of his kin). But there are so many general and even restaurant cookbooks, I found myself wishing that they had just concentrated on the fish alone, expanding those sections even more (not that they are skimpy by any means). But that's just me; my wife happily bookmarked through the rest of the pages as well.

It's a hefty $45, but you get a hefty amount of hardback for the money. It could make a great gift, whether for someone else or yourself.

Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide
Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide
by Steven Aldana
Edition: Paperback
137 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different kind of scary read, February 7, 2008
There are books that amuse and a few that shock. But if you partake of fast food in any of its forms - whether a burger joint or upscale chain café - get ready to be dumbfounded. The Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide by Steven Aldana, Ph.D, shows calories, fat (split into various categories), sodium, and dietary fiber of a wide range of the snacks, meals, and drinks you could find at close to 70 chains ranging from A&W to White Castle. Entries are color-coded in a green, yellow, and red motif to show relative healthiness of of the chow.

Let's take an example or two. Like the Starbucks apple fritter? That's 790 calories, with 37 milligrams of fat and a whopping 830 milligrams of sodium. Death on a dish. A plain old 16 ounce latté? That's a grande at 260 calories. How about a Hardee's Big Country Breakfast Platter with country steak? Just 1150 calories, 455 milligrams of cholesterol, and a completely astounding 2660 milligrams - otherwise known as almost 2.7 grams - of sodium. Personally, I'd double check the numbers for the green, yellow, and red coding: a Subway sweet onion chicken teriyaki 6-inch sub may have only 5 milligrams of fat and 370 calories, but it's got 1220 milligrams of sodium.

Take it with you when you're out and get rid of some weight, because you'll surely lose your appetite.

How Good is David Mamet, Anyway?: Writings on Theater--and Why It Matters
How Good is David Mamet, Anyway?: Writings on Theater--and Why It Matters
by John Heilpern
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.96
60 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Reviews Are Good Reading, February 6, 2008
I'll admit (and, probably, commit) the tediousness of many reviewers. Sanctimonious and certain, they often slash and burn their way across a landscape that they know only as outsiders. But now and then you find someone who understands a topic deeply, has experience in it, and a sharp and humane eye, all while being amusing. I'd place John Heilpern in this category if his work didn't do so itself.

Theater critic for the New York Observer, Heilpern is passionate about the topic, has seen his own plays produced, and has an unusually keep wit. Although his latest book is a biography of the British playwright, John Osborne, I came across How Good Is David Mamet, Anyway?, which came out in 1999, in a used book store. I'll confess to never having read Heilpern's work before - it was the title that got me, as I'm not the world's largest Mamet fan, at least in the non-fiction of his that I've read of late. And it's fairly unusual for someone in the theatrical community to take on a contemporary icon.

But take him on Heilpern did, as well as writers at the New York Times, American anglophilia, Disney Land (the new name for Broadway), and other topics. At the same time, he's anything but mean-spirited. Many of his pieces put praise where he thinks it's due and tries to analyze what is good and bad about productions. Many of his observations run from the droll to the uproariously funny. And where else can you get a delightful transcript of a lunch between Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson.

If you've any regard for theater, or for intelligent criticism of any sort, you should be tickled with this book. Now I'll have to get hold of a copy of his Osborne biography.

The Country Cooking of France
The Country Cooking of France
by Anne Willan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.49
72 used & new from $10.35

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous addition to French cooking references, December 24, 2007
Many years ago, I remember reading through cookbooks. Anne Willan's La Varenne, named for her cooking school, offered tremendous insight into technique applied to based French dishes, and I learned much from it. So I was delighted this Christmas Eve day to receive a review copy of her new book, The Country Cooking of France. There are many books on French country cooking, and, yes, you'll find Salade Niçoise and Pot-au-Feu, but she pulls in many recipes that I hadn't heard of - for example, Galettes Bretonnes au Sarrasin, or Breton buckwheat galettes, in which buckwheat crepes can wrap around such fillings as ham, cheese, or egg (and I'll be trying these tomorrow morning, as we're having ham tonight, and I'll want to do something with the leftovers). There's Turbot Vallée D'Auge (turbot with apple and cider sauce), the Burbundian cheese puff called Gougères, and Salade Tiède de Pommes de Terre, Saucisse À L'Ail (warm potato salad with garlic sausage). The book is beautifully produced - hardback with great photography by France Ruffenach. The only fault I can find is that when I opened the back cover, it started to come away from the spine, which might have been a singular defect, but at a list price of $50 it is a shortcoming that should not be tolerated. All in all, a marvelous new text from someone who deeply understands French cooking and how to write and structure a useful cookbook.
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Modern Indian Cooking
Modern Indian Cooking
by Hari Nayak
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An uncertain concept, August 10, 2007
This review is from: Modern Indian Cooking (Hardcover)
If you're looking for traditional Indian dishes to make at home, then Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna isn't for you. My wife, who loves traditional Indian food, was disappointed because it wasn't what she expected.

The introduction says that this is "an attempt to recreate classic Indian dishes by using simplistic techniques along with a delicious juxtaposition of non-Indian ingredients." Many of the recipes struck me more as an attempt at a type of fusion cuisine, only driven by the spices of the southern, and not eastern, part of Asia. But this sort of combination is tricky - you can get a new take on classics, in which case you need to be grounded enough there, or you can try for something in between two cooking cultures, but that requires maintaining a balance and offering adroit flavor blends that offer complementary hints of each.

I find Modern Indian Cooking to stumble about this ground, so that you will see in the same soup and salad section a take on carrot and ginger soup (not all that startlingly new, even with mustard seeds and curry powder) and a curry corn chowder with roasted poblanos (and if you drop the curry powder, is similar to a corn chowder recipe I saw in Fonda San Miguel).

That's not to say that the recipes look bad. On the contrary, I'm looking forward to trying a number of them. But it's the overarching concept that I find weak. I think it would have been better to pick one ground: either simplifying Indian for western cooks, or sticking to modern approaches to Indian cooking. That said, it does offer many ideas for starting to incorporate Indian spices into western dishes, which could open new ways of practicing cooking for many.

40 Digital Photo Retouching Techniques with Photoshop Elements (Go Digital)
40 Digital Photo Retouching Techniques with Photoshop Elements (Go Digital)
by Youngjin Com
Edition: DVD-ROM
Price: $16.99
19 used & new from $1.29

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to photo retouching, July 23, 2007
I had received a review copy of 40 Digital Photo Retouching Techniques with Photoshop Elements (published by Young Jin) from the US distributor, O'Reilly Media. It's thin as such guides go - 208 pages - but if you haven't yet gone beyond taking a digital picture into actually manipulating images, this a good introduction.

It's based around Photoshop Elements - a "lite" version of Photoshop that I've mentioned before - and even comes with a trial version on an accompanying CD. This isn't a comprehensive title on the subject of digital retouching; you can literally read a number of books on the subject and still not know everything about it. But as a way of getting your feet wet, it's solid.

Instead of learning one general technique after another, the book guides you through, as the title says, 40 different things you might want to do, incorporating what you need to know for each one. It's actually not all retouching in the classic sense of fixing a visual problem, though there is plenty of that. You start with learning how to correct contrast, move into gaining control over the colors in a photo, then get to a chapter called Enhancing Portraits, with some tricks I haven't seen before, like adding eye shadow to the image of a woman who wasn't wearing makeup. The book finally moves into general editing, adding special effects, and even such topics as adding motion blur and making greeting cards and web banners.

Of course, you can't expect to have all the information you would get in a larger volume. For example, they show one technique for creating high contrast black and white images from color ones, but there are at least three ways I can think of to also create black and white results, but with even more control. However, for someone new to photo manipulation - or someone, like me, who knows a fair amount but is always looking for new things to learn - this is a good book.

Cucina del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking
Cucina del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking
by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $29.95
71 used & new from $0.20

26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sends you to southern Italy, July 19, 2007
There are three things that immediately irritate me about Cucina Del Sole, a "celebration of southern Italian Cooking," written by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. One is calling it a celebration. Sorry, but the word is overused, and I see no streamers and party hats in my office at the moment. The other is a blurb by Alice Waters, who seems to have become a professional book promoter, as I run across her name on the back of one book after another. (Alright, maybe it was just two in a row, but that was too many.) And then there are no pictures, as happens all too often in cookbooks these days.

But the lack of images makes more room for the writing, which is engaging, and I'm delighted to find someone whose penchant for rambling sentences exceeds even mine. The recipes are marvelous and often surprising. For example, I had done a lot of research into pizza last year as I finished writing the Complete Idiot's Guide to Pizza and Panini, but I had never seen an approach that called for a biga - a starter slurry of flour, water, and yeast that is variously called a poolish, levain, or sponge, depending on where in the world you are. (And certainly I hadn't seen the tip of adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to adjust the pH of the dough and make it easier to work.) There's a recipe for making semolina-based pasta, rather than the ubiquitous northern Italian approach of eggs and regular flour. There are terrific seafood recipes (no surprise in southern Italy) and meat dishes with variations that are usual in English texts, like Sicilian Braised Rabbit in a Sweet-and-Sour Sauce. The delights continue through vegetables (Marsala Carrots - what a natural pairing) and desserts (Olive Oil Cake with Walnuts). The book is worth every penny of its price - and is a lot cheaper than flying to Italy to collect the recipes and know-how yourself.

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