Back on Track

New reviews coming soon! I'll be importing my work from the past two years, but in the meantime,
I'm reclaiming my small place on the web.

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Non-Fiction Review

Mountain Magick - Folk Wisdom from the Heart of Appalachia
by Edain McCoy
ISBN-10: 1567186718
Review by Heather Froeschl

Living in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I was excited to review this title. When I learned that the author is a descendant of the famous feuding Hatfields and McCoys, I was thrilled, as I have been a friend of an eighty-something year old Hatfield descendant for some years now. Some of my favorite Appalachian tales have come from his mouth, and memory.

I have often wondered where the folklore he told me of came from originally. Many of those who settled in the eastern mountains of America had come from Scotland and Germany. Having these heritage genes running through my body I notice similarities to family history and I have often suspected that some of this heritage was responsible for certain folk healing and beliefs found in Appalachian ways. "Mountain Magick" confirmed these suspicions.

Edain McCoy has uncovered and researched a wonderful collection of "Granny" wisdom and presented it in a delightful, insightful and useful guide to folk wisdom from the heart of Appalachia. Here you'll find a wealth of information, from how to determine what your baby's future occupation will be, to how to hold a Charivari (or Chivaree: an old American tradition of making a lot of celebratory noise at the consummation of a marriage.), to home remedies for everything from asthma to yeast infections (of course, these are cautionary and are not to be a substitute for a doctors care.).

Because the Appalachian populations lived in virtual isolation from the rest of America for so long, their ways and beliefs have remained intact and practiced until the modern world intruded upon them. Edain McCoy has given us a rare glimpse into the magical world of mountainfolk. She has presented her findings, not with the comedic insinuations of Hollywood, but as a scholar and one who is proud of her heritage.

I very much enjoyed learning about the roots of folk magick in Appalachia and some of its Native American connection in folk healing. I also enjoyed the lessons on "witches", not wiccans, and Granny Women. Weather watching, removing curses, bad omens, love and romance spellcasting: it's all in this excellent guide and entertaining read.

If you ever wondered how Johnboy Walton's Granny knew so much - now you can learn what the writers might have found for their character research. In any case, you can put to rest the myths of the media and learn the truth about this large part of American culture.

Sunday, October 1, 2000

Non-Fiction/Spirituality Review

Halloween: Customs, Recipes & Spells
by Silver RavenWolf
ISBN-10: 1567187196
Review by Heather Froeschl

Have you ever wondered where the idea of Halloween came from? This topic has been one of heated argument and probably will continue to be, unless more people read this complete guide to the holiday and understand what it is all about. Long before the now popular Trick or Treating, Celtic peoples celebrated Samhain, a Summers end festival, and more importantly, the Celtic New Year. Samhain does not refer to any god or deity but it was a day to remember those loved ones who were departed.

Samhain - Halloween has a very long history and this title truly illustrates it very well. These lessons have been debated for centuries and never before have I found a more thorough lesson plan. Todays traditions may seem nonsensical and unconnected to true meaning at first glance, but in reality we have held true to many Celtic practices. This would surprise many a Halloween protestor!

Unraveled here are the mysteries of the backgrounds of Jack-o-lanterns, trick or treating, bonfires, scarecrows, costumes, and such. The light is shined on the many myths and superstitions that surround the holiday as well, such as the dreaded, or cherished, black cat, ghosts, witches, werewolves, vampires and bats.

Understand the holiday and all of its components and you will enjoy it all the more. Spark up your celebrations with traditional corn husk doll making, tasty festive treats and maybe a "trick" or two, like pumpkin seed divinations. A very special section that I personally enjoyed is the chapter on getting back to one of the original meanings of the day - honoring our deceased loved ones.

This well researched, inclusive book is a must for any parent with children who want to know why we carve pumpkins, dress up as ghosts and hand candy out to the neighborhood. What American child hasn't wondered these things? Here are your answers! Not just for parents, this title will entertain, and bestow knowledge to any individual who has ever pondered these same things. Poems and greeting card verse, dispersed throughout are a delightful addition to this resource, while the list of those wrongfully condemned at the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 proves that ignorance is a dangerous thing that needs remedy. "Halloween..." is a delicious dose of that remedy.

Saturday, July 29, 2000

Cookbook Review

The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook ; Recipes that Sizzle - Sauces that Cook!
by Linda Matthie Jacobs
ISBN-10: 1894202708
Review by Heather Froeschl

The hottest little cookbook outside of Texas, "The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook" is full of recipes that sizzle and sauces that cook, but it also packs a punch full of interesting information. Did you know that chile peppers have been associated with cures that include lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and alleviating the discomfort of arthritis? You may have noticed that the sinuses open up when you are consuming a dish that includes chiles or hot sauces; this guide to the hot stuff will remind you of this proven beneficial effect the next time you have a cold.

So, why a cookbook on hot sauces? There has been a rise in consumer use and interest in the spicy concoctions and a hot trend has developed in collecting various types and brands of sauces. This book highlights ten companies and manufacturers, explaining how they came to be, what their inspirations are and gives us a glimpse into the magical mixes that fill the colorful bottles. Akin to an owners manual, the recipes included for each variety give you the best opportunities to use the flavors to their fullest potential.

A novice when it comes to heat in a bottle? No you will learn the differences in the four basic sauce styles, from Louisiana to Caribbean. You will be surprised in what kind of recipes can be enhanced by a drop or two of liquid pepper; from pancakes to ice cream, this guide will encourage you to take a chance and spice it up. You may be inspired to start collecting and get fired up with your cooking!

Cookbook Review

Light the Fire: Fiery Food With a Light New Attitude
Linda Matthie-Jacobs
ISBN-10: 1894202554
Review by Heather Froeschl

Now this is one hot little number of a cookbook. Wow! How can you omit salt, cut down on fat, yet increase taste in your meals? Spice it up! From soup to nuts - African Peanut Soup to Sherried Pine Nut Yogurt, here you can find recipes for appetizers all the way to lip smacking desserts!

Linda Matthie-Jacobs has created light fare dishes that pack a punch, sizzle and snap, and just plain leave you satisfied. You can tame the fire a bit, if need be, but you will certainly not be at a loss for something different to stir up at chow time.

I love the tidbits and trivia that are sprinkled throughout the book. I never would have thought of roasting watermelon seeds or that capsaicin (the chemical found in hot peppers) has been used medicinally for centuries. While you are stirring up a four course meal you can flip the pages and learn something new. Keep the water jug and a loaf of bread handy to put out the fire, and dig in!

Monday, July 10, 2000

Cookbook Review

Millennium Fruit Soup Cookbook
by David Woods
ISBN-10: 0595001823
review by Heather Froeschl

This book is a refreshing look at soup, and offers up a truly refreshing taste. Have you ever had the urge for something light but full of flavor? Something different but also a dish that you already have the ingredients for? I am certain that you can find the recipe that you are craving here. The Millennium Fruit Soup Cookbook offers a delectable variety of recipes that will tempt your tastebuds and pique your curiosity to try them. From the hearty, homey, apple stew to the heavenly ginger peach and cherry soup, there is a taste for everyone. Simple straightforward directions are so easy to follow that even children will enjoy creating these treats. What better way to get kids to eat their fruits and vegetables? And I promise you, that even the pickiest of eaters will dig in. This title is a must for any kitchen needing a little something special.

Monday, June 19, 2000

Children's Book Review

Spread Your Wings and Fly: An Origami Fold-And-Tell
by Mary Chloe Schoolcraft Saunders, and Carla McGregor Mihelich (Illustrator)
ISBN-10: 0966289218
Review by Heather Froeschl

"A piece of paper has a special purpose as you will see. You are like this piece of paper, for you, too, have a special purpose." "Spread Your Wings and Fly" is a wonderful tool of exploration into an ancient art and into the self. An origami fold and tell, this book guides in simple steps and through story, to creating a flapping crane. But it does more than that.

This book touches on life's lessons and builds self esteem. How? By demonstration - the first fold makes a triangle from a square, by bringing the opposite points together. The author encourages "think of two of your good points and bring them together." In this gentle affirming way the reader/participant is learning not just a relaxing, satisfying art, but is learning about herself as well.

Mary Chloe Schoolcraft Saunders served for eleven years as an elementary school speech-language pathologist where she used origami to foster the development of speech. Fold and tell is a proven training method of this art but it also serves as a means of helping children to open up and communicate. My young daughter loves the book, the art and the process, as I am sure you will. The illustrations are beautiful and rich, while the diagrams are precise and clear. A wonderful addition to any educators, troop leaders or your own personal library.

Monday, June 12, 2000

Non-Fiction/memoir Review

On Writing
by Stephen King
ISBN-10: 0340820462
Review by Heather Froeschl

How does one become a writer? You might do better to ask, How does a writer not become? Stephen King tells the tale of his life journey as a writer to date. "On Writing" starts with his childhood and the bits and pieces of it that made him into the writer that he is. It is a personal, up front story of reality. How to become a writer? Mr. King doesn't tell us that. Rather he tells us how he developed as a writer, what he has done to improve his craft and that you can do these things for the good of your own work. Above all, he lets us know that it can be done.

Aside from the personal side of what created the man, the writer, Mr. King does give lessons on the basic tools of the art. Editing, rewriting, research and references to Strunk and Whites' Elements of Style, comprise of a great guide for the writer. I would venture to say that Stephen Kings "On Writing" should be right next to Strunk and White, on the shelf of every prospective writer.

You don't have to be a Stephen King fan to enjoy, embrace or simply take into consideration this memoir on writing. Be prepared though, to learn about the man, the business, and the art of writing, along with a thing or two about yourself, if you take the lessons Mr. King learned and reflect.

What I liked best about this writing guide was the eye opening, slap-upside-the-head realization that yes, Mr. King is not just a mere legend in the publishing world but very much a human being (who most likely will never again mistake poison ivy as a harmless leaf) and if he can do it, so can I, so can you. If he cannot not write, I can be free to not not write as well. Thanks for the permission to follow my dreams Mr. King!

For those who are Stephen King fans, witness for the first time in print, the tragic accident that almost took his life, how he got through it and what writing has to do with his ongoing recovery. I think that in itself is the greatest reward this book will bring, but as an added benefit to the rest of us it will inspire you to break out the pen or laptop and get down to it.