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Book Reviews

Wendy Doucette, Book Reviews Editor

Chapman, E., & Larson, E. (2017). A Beautiful Mess weekday weekend: How to live a healthy veggie life...and still eat treats

Foster, T., & Long, E. (2017). Give me back my book!

Hess, E., J. (2017). The battle of Peach Tree Creek

Spence, R. D. (2017). Andrew Jackson Donelson: Jacksonian and Unionist



Chapman, E., & Larson, E. (2017). A Beautiful Mess Weekday Weekend: How to live a healthy veggie life...and still eat treats. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. 208 pages. ISBN 13: 978-1452154718

A Beautiful Mess Weekday Weekend, from sister-bloggers Emma Chapman and Elsie Larson of Nashville, Tennessee, is an attractive, user-friendly vegetarian cookbook. The layout is colorful and clear, with most recipes accompanied by a photo. The book’s premise is to follow 5 rules during the week: “eat a variety of foods; no refined or artificial sugars or sweeteners; no refined white flour or white rice; no dairy; no alcohol. Weekend: No rules!!!” (p. 12).

Each section begins with commentary “from the nutritionists,” which may be helpful for some, but surely anyone interested in a vegetarian cookbook does not need convincing of the nutritional benefits of a plant-based diet, particularly when the nutritionists recommend the healthfulness of adding meat (p. 69). It’s as if they don’t have faith in the recipes they’re currently vetting. In the "Drinks" section, the nutritionists note that “these recipes include delicious and healthy herbs and antioxidant-rich fruits to balance the booze” (p. 180). Though I am not a registered dietician myself, the argument that adding freshly-pureed fruit or herbs raises the health quotient of vodka seems questionable. The nutritionists’ contribution strikes me as a mixed message overall, and an unnecessary one.

The dichotomy between weekday and weekend can be extreme. Weekday breakfasts include granola, oats, smoothies, frittata, and porridge; weekend breakfasts are beignets, stuffing, and pie. The shift in “Meals” is even more extreme: from weekday black rice sushi bowls and stir-fried cabbage with wild rice to weekend crispy baked fries in mushroom gravy, cheesy white wine risotto, and cream sauce pizza.

Since I am not interested in following any type of extrinsically-structured eating plan, I ignored the weekday/weekend divide. I was drawn to this book because the majority of recipes are very simple. (Any cookbook that dedicates 6 pages to “toast” and what to put on it is alright with me). As a person who does not follow recipes, I was interested by the ideas, especially for weekday lunches. I intend to try the pulled squash sandwiches, sweet potato burgers, black bean burgers, and baked falafel. The apple salad sandwich, in particular, interested me as something different I would never have thought of. I substituted most of the ingredients to suit my taste, and it was delicious. For those who follow recipes to the letter, none of the ingredients in the book are particularly exotic or difficult to find. Instructions such as pureeing brown rice or making your own cashew milk can be followed or sidestepped, according to one’s desires. More recipes can be found on the sisters’ blog, "A Beautiful Mess," without the weekday/weekend distinction.

A Beautiful Mess Weekday Weekend is the third book from Chapman and Larson. The limited number of ingredients and clear instructions make this vegetarian cookbook accessible even to those with little or no cooking experience. This title is recommended for public libraries and those with cookbook collections.

Wendy Doucette
Graduate Research and Instruction Librarian
East Tennessee State University


Foster, T., & Long, E. (2017). Give me back my book! San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. 56 pages. ISBN 13: 978-1452160405

Two amorphous animals, one red and one blue, struggle as their friendship is challenged when both claim a green book as their own. What better fight can we imagine, than a Worldstar-worthy brawl in a children’s picture book? That’s an over-exaggeration, though several marks for emphasis drawn around the characters’ limbs indicate vigor and aggression as they thrash and wrestle over ownership of the green book. The larger animal, Redd, teases and bullies the smaller animal, Bloo, by playing keep away with the green book, at one point shoving the smaller animal’s face away with his large limb. Their tousle draws the attention of a feminine bookworm whose sudden arrival ends the fight when she disappears into the earth with the contentious green book. Frustrated by this loss, Redd and Bloo band together, devising a new book which they hope to tempt the bookworm into taking so that they can repossess the beloved green book.

The primary colors, large fonts, easy words, and simple grammar should appeal, and the lesson of working together creatively to solve a problem is a fine one to convey to young readers. Although the main characters arrive at agreement that the green book is “ours,” Give me back my book! is not the best example for non-violent communication and conflict resolution. The aggressive hand gestures, bullying, and fighting undermines the potentially-positive message of working together as a team and sharing.

Likewise, the strong motif of valuing books and the information they contain is delightful and presents a positive spin on reading. Yet, after the fighting and making up, the ending ambiguously intimates another fight brewing between the two over another object. Either it’s just the way of juveniles to bicker and fight over everything, or the lessons learned here are short-term, not long-term.

Libraries who have large picture book collections may want to add this to their repertoire.

Rebecca Tolley
Charles C. Sherrod Library


Hess, E., J. (2017). The Battle of Peach Tree Creek. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 245 pages. ISBN 978-4696-3419-7

The Battle of Peach Tree Creek focuses on a Civil War battle that was part of the Atlanta campaign taking place in Georgia just outside of Atlanta. Hess’s intention is to provide an in-depth analysis of Peach Tree Creek and the strategies used by both the Confederates and Union forces during this time. This book examines not only the military actions taken by both sides but also explores the morale of troops.

The book provides a detailed analysis of the battle beginning in July 1864 during the Atlanta campaign. In the first few chapters, Hess discusses the changes in command happening with the Army of Tennessee. Hess asserts throughout the book that the replacement of General Johnston with General Hood created varied negative repercussions for the Confederate Army. Hess discusses whether the battle plans created by the generals were realistic, as well as how the personalities of the generals affected this battle that might have been avoided. He thoroughly analyzes both the Union and Confederate Armies, providing a sound and balanced presentation of the two sides. Hess also delves into the morale of the troops during this time, making the claim that morale being low on the Confederate side and being high on the Union side played a role in the outcome of this battle.

Mr. Hess is a competent and knowledgeable author who has previously published works discussing the Civil War. This book is part of the Civil War in America series which seeks to interpret the history and culture of the Civil War. The purpose of this work as stated by Mr. Hess is “Not only to detail the battle’s history in narrative fashion but to analyze and evaluate the major features of that history” (pg. x). That purpose is achieved within this book.

It is apparent that Mr. Hess’s knowledge of this battle and the Civil War is vast. He provides a plethora of information that expands our understanding of Peach Tree Creek and the overall mood of this time period. Hess provides a rich amount of detail in this complex study, complete with an order of battles, notes, bibliography, and a thorough index, making it easy for anyone to locate information within the text, and learn more about citations made within the work.

The Battle of Peach Tree Creek is a solid work for scholarly researchers looking to learn more about this battle and the Atlanta campaign. Civil War historians or enthusiasts will find the book not only informative but also an enthralling read.

Stephanie Bandel-Koroll
Library Assistant 2
Center for Popular Music


Spence. R. D. (2017). Andrew Jackson Donelson: Jacksonian and Unionist. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. 435 pages. ISBN 13: 978-0826521637

Many readers skip prefaces, but the preface to Spence’s work sets the tone perfectly: it is written by the author of another biography of Andrew Jackson Donelson, and one that makes a very different argument. Mark R. Cheathem’s Old Hickory’s Nephew: the Political and Private Struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson (2007) maintains that Andrew Jackson’s nephew-by-marriage considered his own career a disappointment. Spence counters with a biography that emphasizes Donelson’s achievements.

Andrew Jackson Donelson was one of many namesakes of Andrew Jackson, but he identified strongly with the ender Jackson. Donelson would, the author admits, become only a second-tier politician and diplomat: he would serve as Andrew Jackson’s secretary in the White House, play a crucial role in the annexation of Texas, serve as minister to Prussia, edit a major Democratic newspaper, and run for vice-president alongside Millard Fillmore on the American (Know-Nothing) Party ticket in 1856. In those numerous relatively minor roles, however, he would cross paths with prominent people and deal with most of the important issues of the day. Donelson’s assessment of his own career is not discussed in depth, but Spence demonstrates that he was very much a part of the American political scene for much of the nineteenth century.

Donelson and Jackson’s careers were so intertwined that what is ostensibly a biography of Donelson must inevitably contain a biography of Jackson. There is plenty on the timing of Rachel Donelson Jackson’s divorce; the Washington high-society “Petticoat War”; and Jackson’s feud with Henry Clay. Even after Jackson’s death, Donelson’s attempts to emulate his uncle continued to shape his career. The other major factor in Donelson’s life was his crushing debt. Like many planters, he had a large family and a lavish lifestyle, and he was therefore constantly on the lookout for the land purchase or the political appointment that would allow him to become solvent.

This relatively short (the main text is less than 300 pages) but thoroughly-researched book can be difficult to follow, not because of Spence’s writing style, but because of the mid-nineteenth-century political currents. The number of characters (many with similar names) almost warrants a biographical dictionary. However, librarians will appreciate his evaluation of sources.

Andrew Jackson Donelson is not for the casual reader, but it is worth the effort for the serious student of Tennessee or nineteenth-century history.

Julie Huskey
Head of Cataloging
Tennessee State University


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