Homemade Food: World Flavors by Terrapetti Publishing

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: Terrapetti Publishing (2016)

Length: 3 hours 51 minutes

Author’s Page 

Connecting traditional recipes with culture and history is what this book is about. This book contains nearly 70 recipes from 13 different regions around the world. This book was written by 3 different people who live in different cities around the world, though the book never names who these three people are.

I’ve listened to other cookbooks as audiobooks but this one was more of a conversation about food that happened to have recipes tossed in. I was amused to see the book starts off with poutine as I find that such a heavy meal suited for cold weather and ice fishing. However this North American section talks about the great melting pot that the continent is and what that means for typical, tasty meals in that location.

The book does a great job of providing this context for all the regions discussed: North America, Central America & the Caribbean, South America, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Western Africa, Middle East along with South & Central Asia, East Asia & Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia & New Zealand. With the lens of traditional food, the world gets divided up a little differently than in the world of politics.

Each meal starts with an introduction, Meal Presentation, about how that meal came about, what significance it has in the local culture and the very basics of what make it. Then we get the How to Cook This Meal which is a very basic recipe without measurements. It’s more of a conversation about how to make this dish. I really liked this approach because I often view recipes as suggestions of how to make a meal rather than strict guidelines.

There were plenty of meals that I didn’t have a clue how to pronounce and had not heard of before but sound really interesting. Mofongo. Charquican Stew. Kjotsupa. Tochitura. Chorba Frik. MaPo Doufu. Kiwi Hangi. I could go on, but I expect this gives you an idea of the diversity of recipes in this book. All together, it was a delightful and enlightening book on food from around the world.

The Narration: Denise Kahn did an OK job. Her recording sounded tinny most of the time. I really don’t know if she pronounced everything correctly but the Spanish and Germanic words sounded correct to my novice ears. For some reason she read out the entire table of contents. Now this might have been a requirement of the publisher. It was really boring and didn’t really give me anything.

What I Liked: It’s a big conversation about food and not a recipe book; the lovely cover; the world divvied up by food culture; plenty of meals I haven’t tried.

What I Disliked: The recording was a bit tinny.

What Others Think:

Aural Addiction

Quiet River by Natasha A. Salnikova

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: Natalia Salnikova (2016)

Length: 10 hours 1 minute

Author’s Page

Set in and around Seattle, Washington, the Collins are learning to deal with tragedy and move on. Lisa and Matt work at a small magazine and were expecting their second child until tragedy struck. In recovering from such a loss, Matt buys a small place in Quiet River. They recently had a lovely vacation there and Matt hopes that Lisa and Evan can be happy their during the week while he visits them on the weekends. However, there’s a quiet evil in this little town.

There was much to like about this tale, though it did drag on a bit at times. The story started off very happy happy. Lisa, Matt, and young Evan are all happily expecting a baby. Evan looks forward to being a big brother and Matt is great at tending to Lisa’s crazy food cravings. While they do have an odd experience while on vacation in Quiet River, it wasn’t much. Eventually, the plot does get a kick in the pants when Lisa unexpectedly loses the baby. She’s suffering from depression and pushing her loved ones away. Matt feels a lot of pressure and also sadness and loses himself in an affair.

This too goes on for a while becoming a bit dull. Then Matt decides that Lisa and Evan would probably be happier out in Quiet River, so he makes it so, and indeed, it does seem to help Lisa. She even makes a friend with a lonely neighbor, the elderly Trouby. Meanwhile, Evan has made a few friends with the local kids. They like to play by the river, which makes Lisa nervous but Mandy (one of the other parents) doesn’t seem to be that concerned.

During this time, there’s a lot of suspense being built up even if it drags for a bit. There’s definitely something odd about Trouby, but she might simply be a bit socially awkward. Then there’s Kristine, the woman who Matt had an affair with. She’s rather territorial and needy. Matt called off the affair some time ago, but Kristine is having trouble letting it go. Then someone very unexpected shows up in Quiet River and we have a body! Yes! The plot moved forward once again!

Nearly all the action happens in the last fifth of the book. Because the majority of the book was pretty mellow, having all that violence at the end was a little shocking and it was definitely a shift in tone. I would have liked to have things evened out a bit. All around, the story was OK with the best bits being the scenes that got the plot to move forward.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Denise Kahn was really good at imbuing the characters’s voices with emotions. She had distinct voices for all the characters and accents for a few of them. Her recording does sound a bit tinny here and there and the volume does go up and down throughout.

What I Liked: The setting; the building suspense; Lisa’s character; the mystery of Quiet River.

What I Disliked: The plot does drag here and there. 

What Others Think: 

Readers’ Favorite

Hot Air by Denise Kahn

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: 4Agapi (2017)

Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

Author’s Page

Sean’s roots start in Ireland with a girl on the cusp of womanhood. She eventually flees to the USA to get a fresh start where she meets the man who will become her husband. Together, they raise Sean who becomes a pararescueman and goes on to battle terrorists in Afghanistan and at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

I really wanted to like this story but it needs quite a bit of polishing. We start off with young Sean and we have several chapters of him being a kid. This part of the story is suited for kids. The sentences are shorter and the vocabulary easier than what we have later in the book. The story shifts when we get a long story about Fiona, Sean’s mother. We spend several chapters with her and then a few with her and Tibi, the Navajo man who becomes her husband and Sean’s father. Yet then we get another shift once Sean joins the military. There’s lots of cussing and some practical joking along with military stuff. Altogether, it felt like I had read 3-4 short stories, all with their own flavor, that had been smashed together in this book. It felt disjointed.

The description of this book makes me think this a thriller full of action and suspense. However, the terrorists and action really don’t come into the story until sometime in the second half. There is a little glimpse into this with the prologue but then we have half the book or more before we return to it.

The lengthy section about young Sean stands well on it’s own. He’s fascinated with the hot air balloons that are common in and around Albuquerque a good chunk of the year. There’s this mystical quality to his dreams as he travels back in time to witness the first European attempts at hot air ballooning. This section is decently written even if I find that it doesn’t really fit the description of the book.

In Sean’s late teens, we get a very lengthy flashback of Fiona’s history. Again, I liked this section on it’s own. There are parts of it that did seem over simplified, but for a short story explaining a character’s motivations for leaving Ireland and making her own way in a foreign land, it was OK. This section includes Fiona meeting Tibi, a native New Mexican and full-blood Navajo. Their romance is sweet, if simplistic.

Once Sean joins the military, things do pick up. There’s plenty more characters to enjoy, like Niko (Sean’s best friend) and later a little more romance as the men find love. I did find the terrorists to be simply drawn, not having much depth. The action follows Sean home and he has to do some heroics at the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

As a New Mexican, I just wanted to point out that there is a difference between salsa and sauce and typically when ordering a New Mexican dish with ‘Christmas’ on it, you are getting both red chile sauce and green chile sauce, not salsa (as the book has it in one chapter). These little inaccuracies just added to the over all feel that this story needed yet one more edit before going to print.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Denise Kahn could do with some polishing on both her narrating skills and her audio production skills. This recording had a tinny quality for most of it and the volume ranged throughout it. Also she took several chapters to settle into 1 pronunciation for Tibi; since she is also the author, I felt this was sloppy. She does make a solid effort to give each character an appropriate accent and for the most part, she is consistent (though I can’t speak to the accuracy of some of her foreign accents). The book does have some nice little bits of music in between each chapter.

What I Liked: The cover art; the over all concept; Sean’s love of being up in the air; the action scenes.

What I Disliked: The book feels like multiple short stories were smashed together and they don’t flow from one to another well; the narration and audio production were tough on this book.

The Ring of Minos: At the Palace of Knossos by N. P. James

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: Cv Publications (2016)

Length: 21 minutes

Author’s Page

The author visited the Palace of Knossos in 2005 and wrote up this little travelogue that includes his personal experience on the tour as well as his observations about the beauty and history of this place.

This book takes us on a tour of the Palace, starting with where the tour bus picks up the tourists. The history of the site is briefly covered and then we head into the royal apartments. I really like that the author includes the various materials used to create this Palace. A more detailed accounting of the founding of the Palace and the excavation is covered towards the end of the book.

There’s also a bit about the Minoan culture, especially the hierarchy of the society. I found it was a bit odd there was no real army. Perhaps this was because of the natural protection provided by it being an island. I was surprised by how wide-spread Minoan trading was. Minoan mythology is also briefly referred to. Of course, this mythology is reflected in the Palace’s architecture and art. Tales of the Minotaur!

There are a few references to either the tour guide or the other tourists throughout the book. I found these amusing and they were well-suited for this travelogue. Smaller Minoan bits can be seen at the tourist center & gift shop. I enjoyed the descriptions of the seals and how they were used in the Minoan culture. Then there’s the accounting table!

Definitely interesting for archaeologists and those with a keen interest in Minoan culture.

The Narration: Denise Kahn had multiple voices and accents for various people in this short book. While I don’t know about the accuracy of these accents since I’m not familiar with the Greek accent, Kahn was consistent throughout the book. Her recording does sound a little tinny. She does a great job of pacing, sounding interested in the topic, and clear enunciation.

What I Liked: The cover art; it feels like a travelogue all the way through; very approachable; peaks my interest in the Palace of Knossos.

What I Disliked: The recording is a little tinny.