Blogger Books

I have found myself recently going through a lot of bloggers-turned-authors new books. I guess I feel obligated to read them, to support the blogging community and also, to see what all the hype is about, to be honest.

I have been wary to share my reviews, out in the open (though my Goodreads friends have access to my recent ones) because I feel like my reviews have a definite air of negativity and I didn’t want to hurt people’s feeling or have readers jumping down my throat over my opinion. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I did want to share my opinions. Because unbiased, albeit negative, opinions matter. And maybe it’ll help you guys to filter through all the glowing reviews written by other bloggers and readers that maybe have a little bit too much celebrity clouding their vision.

Peas & Thank You

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(Read & Reviewed August 2011)

As far as cookbooks go, it’s pretty entertaining. But that’s not really what cookbooks are about though, right?

As far as the actual recipes go, there isn’t anything really new or innovative. I was a little disappointed with how much faux meat and tofu were in the recipes. I’m not vegan, not even vegetarian, but I think if you are going to be, or even a flexitarian, it is important to focus on real foods – fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains. But that’s just my omnivorous opinion. I only bookmarked 3 recipes that really got my attention to try and if I am going to drop $25 on a cookbook, I want more than that to feel like I got my money’s worth so I’m glad I borrowed this from the library before investing in it myself, as much as I’d love to support a fellow food blogger.

The photos in the book bothered me and maybe this is just me being nitpicky. I found that many of them (namely the ones not taken by Ashley) were yellow-y and could have been better with a white balance adjustment. Many were also far too close to actually distinguish what the food was and thanks to huge full page and even double spread photos, you had to stretch the book out away from you to actually see the picture. I think the book would have benefited from a little bit more food styling and tablescape photos.

As far as the stories associated with the recipes were, as I said, entertaining. But like Mama Peas blog, I found myself losing interest after the fifth time a joke was made. I’m not fond of beating dead horse’s and there is only so many Tommy Bahama and lack of shower jokes this girl can handle. I’m sure many find it wildly entertaining, and maybe I don’t just because I don’t empathize with SAHM’s.

I did really enjoy the layout of the book, especially the introduction and the "peas pantry" sections. I also really liked the "peas points" tidbits next to each chapter but the extensive use of the "peas" cracks started to agitate me. I get it.

All that being said, it was one of the better blog-to-book’s that I’ve read so it gets 3-stars instead of the 2 I would probably otherwise give it.

Plate to Pixel

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(Read and Reviewed July 2011)

I really enjoyed this book. I found it most beneficial to actually look at her pictures and the settings that she used to achieve that photo. The tone was very informal, which I appreciate. She’s obviously knowledgeable in food styling and photography. I did disregard a lot of the information, especially on artificial lighting, because I eat what I prepare and photograph and don’t have lengthy photo shoots. Reading this book did give me a little more confidence and renewed my desire for good photography for my blog. I found myself immediately wanting to try new things, acquire a few more props, and experiment more. While I borrowed this from the library, I feel like it is a book I wouldn’t mind having on hand to reference regularly. I made sure to follow her on twitter and added her blog to my Google Reader so I can pick up tips along the way.

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

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(Read & Reviewed July 2011)

I really enjoyed the storyline of the book – city girl falls in love with cowboy is a classic. Ree’s humor that she displays on her blog is every present. The one thing that didn’t work for me was the flow of the first two parts of the book – they were clearly blog posts adapted for the novel but were in dire need of some editing. The segments, while they would work as posts that were read days apart, were nice insights into the blooming relationship, there was a certain repetitiveness that was annoying when you read it all in one sitting. The inundation of brand name dropping and references to the golf course/country club living that represented Ree’s previous life were off-putting after the tenth time and she certainly was rather self-involved but I suppose all bloggers a bit narcissistic. The third part of the book, the part not specifically written for the blog then adapted, was written and flowed better and was a sweet ending to the love story. Overall, it was a quick, light, and entertaining read that I know die-hard PW fans will (and probably already have) eaten up. (Pun intended.)

Carrots n’ Cake

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(Read & Reviewed June 2011)

I was really disappointed with this book and the worst part is that I knew I would be when I picked it up. Actually no, before that. I knew I would be disappointed when I heard she was writing it. I feel bad but I really tried to be supportive of a fellow food blogger. She really just isn’t a writer. It wasn’t witty or funny, there wasn’t eloquent narrative, it is exactly like her blog which I have read off and on for the past couple years and lately, mostly off. And picking up this book reminded me why. I have outgrown that style of blog and apparently books of the same caliber.

There is nothing new or exciting, it’s just a recount of her life and how she lost and manages her weight. The sheer number of "I" and "me" in the first few chapters is a good indicator of her style of writing. I only completely read the first third of the book then skimmed the rest. The recipes looked fine but I didn’t feel the urge to try any of them. I know that she has received glowing reviews from other bloggers out there but I have a feeling they are more "star struck" than actually critiquing the work. Just my opinion…

***

Other blog-books I’ve read have been Operation Beautiful and Julie & Julia but that was pre-Goodreads and I don’t have written reviews.

So what are your thoughts on blogs-to-books? I know there are many more out there – any I should read? – and many more on their way to hit the shelves.

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27 Responses

  1. I’m looking forward to reading Jenna’s book. I enjoy her writing and I think she’ll have a good story to tell (some of her recipes seem copied from elsewhere, but most recipes are, right?). But I haven’t read any others…just not interested.

    • I am definitely interested in reading Jenna’s. Not sure when it is supposed to come out though… I don’t read her blog because it is blocked at my work. (I’m a terrible employee.)

  2. Thank you for the honest reviews! I feel like going from blogging to a book, while seemingly a natural progression, is odd. If I can already see the recipe online, why would I buy the book? I’m also not a recipe follower, so the only cookbooks I own are ones that can teach me to cook things that I don’t know how to cook (i.e. bread/baking which require specific ratios). In other words, I only own the Bible (a.k.a The Joy of Cooking) and I want to own Julia Child’s cookbook but only because I love Julie/Julia.

    I can’t stand the Pioneer Woman and doubt I would like her book – although I am suspect it’s due to the realizations I have come to after doing a little more research on who she REALLY is and I also wanted to host a gathering called High Heels and Tractor Wheels at my farm way before I ever knew who she was or what she was about so I feel like she somehow snatched my name (even though I know that’s not true) or that people would think I stole hers (also not true as I was unaware of her existence when I made up that rhyme).

    As far as Operation Beautiful – I am uninterested in the concept but probably because I’ve never suffered from failure to recognize my good points (narcissist here) and after growing beyond my young 20’s I feel like it’s not my thing.

    Since I read very few food blogs, I am probably not one to give a rave review to any of these people. I am glad they have found success in something they love, which I am also jealous of, but my reading habits lie elsewhere.

    I do love Mama Pea, but again – I read her blog and her cooking interests me far less than her adorable family.

  3. I’m more likely to flip through a bloggers book in store but I definitely do not buy them automatically because I follow their blog. I’ve skim read OB and Pioneer Woman Cooks in store but neither interest me to own.

    Actually, the only three bloggers books I’ve read are in your post. To me Black Heels was the most disappointing. It was like re-reading the original posts just to read about the actual wedding. I was surprised by CnC, I read it recently (after the hype) and liked it because it was easily relatable.

    • I should have mentioned that I didn’t buy these books – I borrow them from the library. I have had to specifically request them but the library quickly orders them then I’m the first to get them! 🙂

  4. I appreciate the fact that you aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid. I feel like certain bloggers get TONS of comments, tons of hits for no reason. I mean, really, how many posts can be written about the same bowl of oatmeal with 10 “artsy” photos at different angles of said oatmeal.

    I feel like the blog world is very high-schoolish and cliquey. The popular blogs are getting book deals, and like you’ve mentioned, some aren’t worthy of those book deals. If there’s no substance, no good story, why are we reading? Simply because it’s popular? Because everyone else loves them? I’m more discriminating in what I read and I appreciate your honest reviews!

    • I agree completely – their is definitely a social structure to the blog world, and especially healthy living/food blogs. I have stopped reading the head honchos and haven’t looked back!

      • I’m the same way. I was so annoyed by certain blogs I gave up on them and didn’t miss it. Once in awhile I check back in and see that it’s the same posts, the same boring lack of content.

  5. Glad to hear an honest opinion on the blogs. You never seems to see a bad or even mediocre review of blogger’s books. I read both the CNC and Mama Pea books. I would agree with the CNC review….it was exactly like her blog and they weren’t the type of recipe I would run and make. I like her blog but wouldn’t buy another book.

    However, regarding the Mama Pea book I’ve made about 10 recipes from the book and they are pretty good. I skipped most of the main meals though…ugh at the thought of tofu! And I got kind of sick of the jokes by the end too!

    • Yeah, I haven’t actually made any of the recipes yet, but I did scribble down a few of them. And none of them have tofu or faux meat. 😀

  6. GREAT reviews! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks for sharing! I have read Julie & Julia and quite liked it. Of the others, the only one mentioned that I’m even remotely interested in reading is Peas and Thank You. I wanted to flip through it in store before buying, though, so I will continue with that plan.

  8. CNC blog disappoints me greatly and so I knew I would never want to buy her book (too much of a commercial and too much talk of oats…a lot like KERF).
    I did buy, and read, Mama Pea. I like her blog and as a vegetarian I like the remake of traditional meat and potato meals. The recipes in the book though (with a few exceptions) are not found on the blog so you aren’t paying for something that you could get for free.
    I love that you weren’t afraid to put it all out there on your reviews and I like when people take the time to not just blow smoke up someone’s behind.

    • I’m sure that P&TY definitely has a good demographic for vegetarian families – no doubt about it! It just doesn’t suit me, which is fine.

  9. I’m really glad you did these reviews. Honestly, the only one that I’ve read was PW’s and found it entertaining, but I totally agree with you on the repetitiveness- that should’ve been edited out! Your reviews really do seem fair, though, and I don’t think any readers or bloggers would or should take offense at them. I think it’s sort of sad when we just agree with the rest of the blog world without actually forming well-educated opinions! That being said, I’m still interested in reading those books which I haven’t read, even if I know I’d probably have a similar reaction to yours!

  10. Great reviews! I’ve read all of the books you mentioned except for Tina’s. But that’s because I feel like it’s aimed towards the “beginner dieter” and I am sooooo past all of that now. I couldn’t even cough up the money to support her. I read the Black Heels to Tractor Wheels posts way back when and LOVED them then. But agree the book is just a repeat of that. I feel like I would have enjoyed the book more if I hadn’t read those posts first. And I am so not the demographic for the Operation Beautiful book (her new tweens book may be a better audience for that concept). I really liked the Peas and Thank You book, although agree on the faux meat thing. Like I blogged about, I just went ahead and used chicken in one of her recipes anyways.

    I’m already working with a fellow reporter on the concept and outline of my own book. So far thinking of making it about life lessons learned through cancer. Something inspired by cancer, but you don’t need to have cancer to find it interesting or helpful. Definitely not a memoir or self-help book.

    • I wholeheartedly support you writing a book but I think that is how you are different than most bloggers – you are a writer, before a blogger. Blogging is just an outlet. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  11. I love that you have honest reviews – there’s way too much “yay blogger books!” without really giving a real review out there. I’ve read that studies have shown reviews that are somewhat (but not overly) critical actually make consumers more likely to buy things. So you’re helping!

    (i have a mention in Mama Pea’s book cause I’m famous but I haven’t bought it. Because I’m a terrible person. Also because I am cheap.)

  12. thanks for your reviews. I only own P&TY and I’ve enjoyed it so far, but I’m not going vegetarian! 🙂

  13. I just recently went vegetarian (3 weeks ago) and I am going vegan with the 21 day kickstart next week – I agree with your intuition on faux meats. I don’t really see the point to them. The only faux meat I use is a black bean burger. it reminds me of when Oprah went vegan for a week and all she and her staff ate was veggie burgers and tofurkey – not too vegan if you ask me! The whole point is to have a plant based diet – not to try to imitate the flavor and taste of meat in everything you cook. Thanks for your honest reviews!

  14. Great reviews, I think you missed your career calling. I haven’t read P&TY or CNC, but they don’t interest me. I enjoyed Ree’s book for what it was meant to be, light reading. The book that I really like is Plate to Pixel! She’s totally inspiring me to do more with props and not just food shots. I’m reading “Food Photography, From Snapshots to Great Shots” right now. She’s a little more techie but has given me some other good points to think about.

  15. Thank you for this. I have not read one even slightly critical review of any of these books, except for PW’s. I was so disappointed I paid almost $20 for less than 100 pages of new content in Black Heels. Also, I agree that as blog posts, they were great, but as a book, the writing style was trite, overly simplistic and so repetitive. Also, she ought to have been more forthcoming about her little ‘aw schucks’ cowboy’s family wealth. Reading the entire book without being informed that she is marrying into a millionaire’s family is disingenuous. Hardly a truthful memoir. CNC blog is so dull I couldn’t imagine reading a book of more of the same.

  16. I had no idea that so many bloggers turned into authors…thats a revelation!

  17. I like the honest reviews. I’m intrigued to read the Plate to Pixel…I need help with food pictures but will check it out.

    I like CNC Tina’s book because I need the reminders on how to balance when life gets hectic. Her recipes don’t fit and think they are too simple but I relate to that style of writing…just me.

    I don’t like PW blog so I didn’t read her book. I just skimmed the cookbook at the library and it didn’t interest me.

    P&TY I bought to share with a friend. After reading the recipes I was very disappointed with the amount of tofu and faux meat. For someone transitioning to vegetarian or veganism it may be good but for an omnivore who just wants a meatless meal or a vegetarian there’s no reason to put tofu in everything. The pictures were pretty but the stories felt like the same from the blog.

  18. very interesting post! everything i’ve read on any of these books has been *glowing* and i honestly wondered how they compared to the cookbooks i already know, love, and use every day 🙂

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