Chocolate is a traditional holiday gift, but what if you could create your own chocolate masterpieces and wow your holiday guests with them? A new book called Couture Chocolate a Masterclass in Chocolate by William Curley, Photography by Jose Lasheras (Jaqui Small, LLC) $29.95 in paperback offers chocolate lovers and chefs a chance to try such delights as truffles and chocolates infused with unusual ingredients and some of the most mouth-watering photography of chocolate goodies you’ll ever see on paper. At least the photography, is calorie-free. The book is nicely laid out with everything you might want to know about chocolate, it’s origins, the differences between beans, cocoa content, types of chocolate, and so forth. And then there are the techniques one would need to work with chocolate, such as how to temper it, and how to make a bar of chocolate, how to add flavors, and other ingredients, and so forth. The recipes are fantastic to read, but honestly, as a novice, a lot of them would make me quite intimidated, even though the recipes are broken down into understandable parts with photos. But this is a masterclass with a professional. Consider it a bit like getting through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Take a deep breath, and dig in. Don’t try this if you are hoping to lose weight in 2014, unless you plan to give all your efforts to joyful friends and family. Still, it’s a beautiful book that would make a great gift idea for an adventurous home cook, and a coffee table delicacy for anyone who loves chocolate, or “food porn.” It won the Guild of Food Writers Cookery Book of the Year in 2012. In paperback, it’s a bargain at under $30.00
Not long ago I went to Saks Fifth Avenue’s shoe department and tried on a pair of Christian Louboutin stilettos. They were shiny black patent leather with fire engine red bottoms and they made my legs look miles long, although I could barely walk in them. In that moment, I new that rush of emotion that “Carrie” (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) felt in the famous scene in Sex & the City when she spied some fabulous, must-have shoes in a shop window and sighed: ‘Hello Lover” to them through the glass. For women who loves shows, there is a gift you can afford to give: Do You Speak Shoe Lover”? Style and Stories from Inside DSW by Linda Meadow and the Shoe Lovers at DSW (Wiley 2013). You can get it for under $128.00 which is probably cheaper than most shoes you’ll find at DSW (and you can buy it at DSW.com, too).. But oh what fun it is to sit down with a cup of tea, and oogle the photos and read the quotes and stories from the likes of show lovers we all know and love. Sure it’s a thinly veiled advertorial for DSW (That’s Designer Shoe Warehouse, just in case you didn’t know), but who cares? With 225 colorful pages of shoes, shoe stories, shoe tips, and even some “shoe porn” for guys, it’s going to be the gift book of the year for anyone you know who is shoe obsessed…..and who isn’t?! Affordable, unique, and fun!
Satisfy your hunger for something sexy with Learning Curves 1, French Cooking 101 by Olivia Regal (Lady O Publishing 2013). Served up delicious and hot (but not too spicy) in both a book and Ebook version, is a series of sexy mini-novels that unfold like a slow striptease. The plot in this first book is simple: The voluptyous “Ariane,” owner of a cooking school in France, has has organized an intensive weekend workshop that brings together a likeable cast of characters including an author, a newlywed couple, a cute actor, and a middle aged woman and her younger brother,. The recipe for success in this book is not obvious at first, but soon, the students’ lives start to blend together (in couples) like the ingredients in a delicious recipe. The story unfolds in effectively romantic tangents that only a skillful French author could whip up. The “sexy” is more like a silky soufflé than a hot tamale, less erotica and more love story. But that’s not really the point of the book. You’ll finish French Cooking 101, feeling satisfied and waiting for another “meal” of the author’s writing. And that’s just the way it should be! I loved the actual recipes at the end along with a tempting sample of what might be coming next from this author. The book isn’t huge…I read it in one sitting, and enjoyed every minute of it. After being exposed to so much raunchy writing, this was a breath of fresh air that had me believing that love and romance does still exist. Thank heavens! If you plan to buy Learning Curves 1 you might as well get Learning Curves 2, Advanced French Kissing — I should have, because I can’t wait to see what happens next!
After food and love, there’s wine and spirits. And I’ll admit that I often find cocktail books the height of food porn. I’ll look at the color photos of beautifully crafted cocktails in gorgeous glasses with pretty garnishes and I’ll think to myself: “wow, I’d love someone to make me one of those.” Then I’ll buy the book, look at what must be done to create the drink (let alone buy the ingredients, purchase the right glasses and garnishes), and I put the book on my shelf, where it looks tempting. I never make the cocktails. But a new book called the Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending with Flair, An Incredible Collection of Extraordinary Drinks by Jeremy LeVlanc and Christine Dionese (Page Street Publishing, November 2013) might just be the bo0k that breaks my bookshelf habit. This book really has enough to inspire just about anyone who might be a bit shy (or lazy) about mixing up the magic. From the aperitif through classics with a twist to exotics, refreshers, punches, and fancier stuff, plus tips and tricks of the trade, somehow this book makes it all look do-able, even easy. The drinks look tempting, not bizzare, and most of them are limited to half a dozen (or less) ingredients so they’re not going to take a masters in mixology to do properly. At under $20.00 it’s a great gift for your foodie (or booze-y) friends and family, but although the book would make a great gift, I’d suggest buying one for yourself, (or you can download the Kindle version for just $8.89) so you can wow your friends and family all year long. And who says you can’t try these for yourself or that special someone “just because?”
My final book suggestion is a somber but fascinating one about one of the sexiest women of all time who embodied the best and the worst traits, the strengths and the weaknesses that made her a Hollywood star. That woman was Marilyn Monroe. The book is Marilyn Monroe on the Couch, Inside the Mind and Life of Marilyn Monroe, By Alma H. Bond, Ph.D. (Bancroft Press 2013). It is no secret that even 52 years after Ms. Monroe died, people are still obsessed with her. In fact, according to the press literature that came with my review copy of the “on the couch” book, , there are more than 13,000 products on amazon.com alone associated with her name. At age 90, the author of Marilyn Monroe on the Couch, Alma Bond, would be a contemporary of Marilyn Monroe, who would be 87 if she was alive today. Alma Bond is a psychoanalyst biographer and the author of 19 books. This one could be considered historical fiction, and I’m not quite sure why she felt there was a need to create a fictional account of what could have been Miss Monroe’s therapy sessions, But apparently, that is what the author does, she gets into the minds of her subjects “on the couch” and tries to figure out what they might have actually said in their sessions. It’s a bit like being a voyeur, I guess. In truth there isn’t any way that anyone could really know what, or how, Ms. Monroe expressed herself (other than her own analyst). But written “as if” and in “what could have been” Marilyn’s own voice, this fictional set of therapy session conversations are yet another, fascinating and somewhat creepy way to look at Marilyn Monroe as a woman, not just a star. The book is overly “wordy” by the very nature of the format, but that’s the nature of a therapy session. It’s just set up to be Marilyn contributing her (supposed) thoughts to her analyst. You have to believe, and you might just, that these are real notes from real sessions, and that the words are really Marilyn’s possibly transcribed from tapes or notes. You have to remember that it’s not real. But the fictional portrait that this genuine analyst paints of Marilyn is crafted from facts. We know the facts, or at least we think we do. We know the ending. Or we think we do. But while there really isn’t anything to solve, no secret to unlock, no real way to “know” the “real” Marilyn, it’s still an interesting way to learn about the actress and her personal life. The book will be a must have for any Marilyn fan, and download it to your Kindle if you’re taking a trip– it’s great for a long airplane ride.