book blog

Book Blog: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim

Posted by on Jul 12, 2019 in Blog, book blog | 0 comments

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

Spin the Dawn

 

I received an early galley through NetGalley.

Spin the Dawn takes a myriad of genre tropes and spins them in an incredible way, resulting in a book that’s surprising, fast to read, and immense fun. The back cover copy pitches it as Mulan meets Project Runway, and that’s certainly an apt description of the book’s first third; after that, it becomes a fresh take on a fairy tale romantic adventure.

Maia is the Mulan prototype, but instead of dressing as a boy to become a soldier, she disguises herself to compete to be the emperor’s tailor. This competition is still a kind of war, though. Not only are her peers sabotaging her efforts, but the emperor’s fiance is uncooperative and sets up impossible challenges–and then there’s the fact that if Maia is outed as a girl, she’ll be killed for lying to the emperor. When she finds out the scissors gifted to her by her father are magical, she doesn’t want to use them; to my delight, she truly wanted to succeed by her own merits. I loved Maia for that.

Of course, there’s a romance, too, and it’s an incredibly well done one. I enjoyed how it developed and yikes, did the end deliver some major surprises.

I added this book to my list to consider for the Norton Award for next year. It’s that good. I hope its release is heralded by lots of positive attention, and I’ll certainly look for other books in the series.

Read More

Book Blog: The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

Posted by on May 3, 2019 in Blog, book blog | 0 comments

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

Library of Ever

Oh my goodness, I adored The Library of Ever. This book is everything a cozy middle grade book should be. I wish I could go back in time and press it into the hands of my ten-year-old self with a conspiratorial wink.

Lenora is ignored by her wealthy parents and her nanny, but this comes in useful sometimes–like at the library. She makes her escape to the children’s section where she confronts a man in a bowler hat who is trying to tell a young boy that books on science are too advanced for him. After seeing the boy get to the books he wants, a fantastic archway appears in what had been a blank wall. She walks through, and finds the Library of Ever.

I envisioned her adventures in the library like a Hiyao Miyazaki anime. Everything is fantastical and weird, yet within this world, absolutely believable. Lenora is quickly dubbed a library worker of low rank, bestowed a badge and everything, and happily goes to work. As she helps patrons–jumping ahead in time to resolve a calendar issue, wandering a massive globe and befriending whales and penguins (and finding out some purported facts about the longest town name and highest mountain aren’t true)–her rank advances, as do her responsibilities.

While the book is sure fun, there’s also a powerful message behind everything about the dangers of censorship and the power of knowledge. The men in bowler hats are a threatening force. As Lenora is scolded at one point, “I thought you were wise enough to understand that children must be discouraged from asking questions that will make them curious and fretful. Perhaps I overestimated you. After all, you’re just a child yourself.”

“Maybe,” said Lenora, with equal frost. “But I’m also a librarian. And I’m not going to hide the truth from anyone.”

Just typing that up again gives me chills. This book is powerful. It’s charming. It’s an inspiration. Plus, it’s hilarious. Sure, there’s a message, but it’s wrapped up in whimsy and joy. This would be a great book to read aloud to a group or class. I found it to be a fast read, too; I zoomed through in about 45 minutes.

Read More

Book Blog: The Modern Cheesemaker: Making and cooking with cheeses at home by Morgan McGlynn

Posted by on Apr 15, 2019 in Blog, book blog | 0 comments

 

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

 

The Modern Cheesemaker: Making and cooking with cheeses at home by Morgan McGlynn
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

Modern Cheesemaker

I received an electronic galley of this book via NetGalley.

I am known for my passion for artisan cheese. For me, it’s a Pokemon-like gotta-catch’em-all joyful hunt. However, I’ve never tried making cheese, even though I’m a baker and I love experimenting with diverse recipes in the kitchen. What little I had read about home cheese-making left me very intimidated.

That attitude has shifted after reading this book. Morgan McGlynn is a cheese-monger and cheese-maker in the UK, and she has written a book in which I feel like she gently took me by the hand and showed me step by step how to make my own cheese. The book is organized by level of difficulty, too–start with fresh cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta, and work up to hard cheeses (hard in texture, harder and more time-consuming to make) like aged Cheddar and Brie.

This isn’t simply a recipe book, though it does indeed feature recipes for 18 cheeses plus some 40 recipes for utilizing that cheese. This is a book about the basics: the science of cheese explained in straightforward terms, a breakdown of the equipment needed to safely and successfully make cheese, and also information about professional cheese-makers along with a list of some of the best cheeses in the world to seek out. To make this all even better, there are abundant full-color photographs that illustrate the steps and show what the finished results should look like.

Oh, and I should add that all of the information is presented in measurements friendly for readers/cooks in Britain, America, and elsewhere. The recommended places to buy supplies are also not focused on one specific locale. McGlynn wants to help you make cheese, no matter where you live.

I think I’m going to get a large pot and a few other new additions for my kitchen and finally give homemade cheese a go. The idea does still intimidate me, but now I feel like I have a guide to help me on my way.

Read More

Book Blog: Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker

Posted by on Mar 29, 2019 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

 

 

I received this galley through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Sarah Pinsker is among my favorite writers, and I was thrilled to read her new collection from Small Beer Press a few months in advance of release. When I say she’s among my favorites, that also means I’d read most of the stories in this book before; four were new to me, but one sees its first publication in this book.

All of these stories are worth re-reading. Actually, they are worth studying on a technical level to understand why stories work. Pinsker doesn’t write about big drama. She writes about people being people in sometimes extraordinary circumstances. There’s a sense of subtlety to her works. In “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” a man loses his arm, and along with his prosthetic he gains an awareness of being a road in remote Colorado. “Remembery Day” addresses PTSD and the effects of war on the next generation, without ever becoming preachy. In “And Then There were (n-one),” one of my very favorite novellas, period, she brings a brilliant spin to Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” by envisioning a cross-dimensional conference of hundreds of Sarah Pinskers on an isolated island in a storm–and one of them is murdered.

Because of this collection, I started my document to track my favorite 2019 releases to nominate for awards in 2020. Yes, this collection is that good.

Read More

Book Blog: The Vela by Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, S.L. Huang, and Rivers Solomon

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: The Vela by Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, S.L. Huang, and Rivers Solomon

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

The Vela by Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, S.L. Huang, and Rivers Solomon

available in text and audio, in episodes or in full, from the publisher, Serial Box

The Vela

Summary from the publisher:
In the fading light of a dying star, a soldier for hire searches for a missing refugee ship and uncovers a universe-shattering secret.Asala Sikou is used to looking after number one while crisis reigns in her dying planetary system. But when she’s hired to find a missing refugee ship, she discovers that this is no ordinary rescue mission, and she must play a role in deciding the fate of the whole universe.

What I thought:
I was sent an early copy of this book from the publisher.

I’ve heard good things about Serial Box–and had friends work with them–but I had yet to read any of their serialized novels. I admit to some skepticism. In the case of The Vela I’ve read and loved three of the four authors in the project, and they have unique styles. How would a book flow together? Would it feel disjointed?

To my delight, yes, the book flowed together, and to my surprise, no, it didn’t feel disjointed or like related short stories. It worked–and very well at that, as these are among the best science fiction writers out there right now. Their individual approaches were noticeable if the reader is familiar with their works (S.L. Huang writes breathless action; Becky Chambers has a knack for subtle, emotional touches) but they flowed together seamlessly.

The Vela is action-packed and visceral, full of emotions, insight, and punch-to-the-gut revelations. The sun is dying, the planetary system with it. The worlds closest to the sun struggle onward as the outer planets succumb to frigid temperatures. Asala is a child refugee from a dying world, grown to become a skilled assassin and bodyguard. When the president of a privileged planet tasks her finding a lost refugee ship, she balks. She has no desire to revisit the dark memories and places of her past. The fact that the president is including his meddlesome hacker child in the mission makes it even more unappealing. However, an uneasy partnership is struck, and Asala soon finds that the search for the Vela will uncover secrets that could save–or destroy–the entire system.

Every character in this is complex and real. Asala has a grittiness to her that is still relatable. Niko, the nonbinary hacker, is idealistic to a fault; I want to add that it’s fantastic to see a nonbinary lead character, and it fully showed how gender wasn’t necessary to define who Niko was or how they behaved. The pacing of the book is extraordinary, especially in light of the alternating chapters by different authors. This is a space opera that really has it all–intense action, near-death scrapes, and tear-inducing scenes. I came to love these characters, and the dramatic conclusion left me in awe.

I’m adding this book to my shortlist for best novel nominees for this year. It’s that good.

Read More

Book Blog: Miss Violet & the Great War by Leanna Renee Hieber

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: Miss Violet & the Great War by Leanna Renee Hieber

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

Miss Violet & the Great War by Leanna Renee Hieber

out this week; order at Indie Bound, B&N, or Amazon

Miss Violet

I received this book through NetGalley.

Hauntingly hopeful, Miss Violet & the Great War explores the tragedy of the first World War with poetic grace. I found this not to be a book to blaze through in one sitting, but one to savor and appreciate in little bites. That’s not to say it’s a slow read, either. This is a book that felt like immersing myself into a cozily hot bath.

I’ve read one of the related books in Hieber’s world, The Eterna Files, and that was a few years ago now. I jumped into this fourth book in the current series and had no problem following along, and I immediately loved a number of characters. While The Eterna Files seemed to be more of a supernatural mystery to me, Miss Violet & the Great War comes across as more like a spiritual gothic in the very mode of early 20th century novels.

Though the book is about the horrific aspects of war, Hieber’s main focus is on the goodness and creativity of humanity. I’m rather left in awe by the grace of how she handled that. Miss Violet grows up haunted by visions of the War to come throughout her childhood, and prepares herself with intelligence and practicality; so many books are plagued by impulsive protagonists, and it’s refreshing to encounter one with such thoughtfulness and diligence. The latter half of the book is in the War itself, with battles of physical and spiritual natures.

I highly recommend this to readers interested in the Great War and historical fiction with a fantastical bent.

Read More