book blog

Book Blog: The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison

Posted by on Jan 17, 2020 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.

whole fromage

The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

New life goal: become a cheese knight.

That is a real thing in France, if you are so blessed by one of many local brotherhoods/sisterhoods of local cheese. The facts of cheese knighthood are among many very real delights described in this book by Kathe Lison, a Wisconsin native who arose from humble beginnings of Kraft boxed macaroni and cheese to explore the cultural and historical nuances of French fromage. If you’re a history geek (ME!) who loves cheese (ME!) with a yearning to travel, even if vicariously through literature (ME! ME!) this book will hit all of your sweet spots (and savory spots besides).

I found out about this book by listening to a podcast of the author in conversation with travel guru Rick Steves upon the subject of French cheese. The book delves much deeper into the subject, and does so in an easy-to-relate-to breezy tone. Chapters focus on cheeses such as Salers, chevre in southwestern France, Camembert and the mythology around it, Reblochon, Comte, Roquefort and its caves, sheep cheese of the Pyrenees, and of course, Langre and its cheese knights. There is a great deal about traditional methods of cheesemaking, the ever-changing industrialization of it, and the peculiarities of AOC labels and terroir.

This was my first book of 2020 and I hope it sets my destiny for the year–one filled with delicious artisanal cheese.

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Book Blog: Little Apocalypse by Katherine Sparrow

Posted by on Dec 20, 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.

 

little apocalypse

Little Apocalypse by Katherine Sparrow
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

 

I received a gratis copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

Little Apocalypse feels like a delightful mash up of Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint, all wrapped up in a middle grade package. There’s a level of darkness here–a wise, thoughtful look at how adults can make children into monsters–that is accessible to kids, and thoroughly enjoyable for adults as well.

Celia has been awfully lonely in her new city, at her new school. Her solid relationship with her parents can’t make up for that. She’s trustworthy enough that her parents leave her alone for a weekend to go take care of her grandmother–and that’s when awful things happen. A terrible earthquake hits the city, cutting off the island from the outside world. She sees a strange, sad boy–a boy who happens to love books like she does–but his strange behavior and stranger friends make her leery. It turns out there are monsters around. Big monsters, little monsters, and a war that involves kids, and Celia is at the center of a prophecy that could change the world.

I loved everything about this book. It’s so intense, I blazed through in about a day. Every single character feels vivid and real. As fun and entertaining as the book was, I loved what it said about major issues like relationships, self-control, and what it means to be a monster. I’m adding this to my shortlist of children’s books to nominate for the Norton Award for the year.

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Book Blog: A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

Posted by on Sep 13, 2019 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: A Song for a New Day 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.

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

song for a new day

 

I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

I’m a big fan of Sarah Pinsker’s work. I adored her collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea [reviewed here] and have been genuinely excited that her first novel would be inspired by her fantastic novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road.” The book absolutely lived up to my high expectations.

Pinsker’s science fiction is eerily plausible: a near-future world where a series of terrorist attacks and illness with high mortality have led to laws against congregations of people. Society fully embraces the digital and insular, relying on drone delivery for most all goods and on virtual experiences for dating, sports events, and–most notably for this book–concerts, with StageHoloLive being the major purveyor of much entertainment.

Enter the two protagonists: Luce, a gifted musician on the cusp of going big when the world fell apart, and Rosemary, a young woman rendered agoraphobic by her parents and culture, but who perkily heads out to find undercover musical acts as part of her new job for StageHoloLive. All of the characters in the book are nuanced and realistic, and Pinsker’s own background in bands completely grounds the world. This develops into a book with some shades of Charles de Lint’s works, yet with an original, fresh approach to a timeless theme: a celebration of music, of EXPERIENCING music, of how much more is involved than merely listening.

This book is beautiful, and its deep message will linger with me for a long while.

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Book Blog: The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Posted by on Sep 6, 2019 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

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 Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

okay witch

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

The Okay Witch is more than okay. It’s absolutely charming. I adored this graphic novel and everything about it–art, story, characters, EVERYTHING. Moth is thirteen and doesn’t fit in at school–and when she suddenly discovers she has magical powers, that doesn’t exactly help much. This is a story packed with genuine heart. The tone is light, but there are heady issues addressed with a delicate hand. Moth is a wonderful, relatable heroine, but the entire cast is fantastic–including a talking cat who threatens to steal the whole show. I loved, loved, loved how inclusive it is. A subplot involving the said talking cat and a beloved actually made me get teary-eyed at one point.

I mean, really. Start reading because it’s about magic and a smart girl and because the art is fantastic, and keep reading because you find everything about this book is fantastic. This is not only a 5-star read for me, but I’m adding it to my nomination list for the Norton Award.

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Book Blog: Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made by Josh Frank, et al

Posted by on Aug 16, 2019 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made by Josh Frank, et al

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.

Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made
by Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, & Manuela Pertega

out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

 

 

I don’t usually go for weird fiction or art, but I adore the Marx Brothers, and the almost preposterous nature of this graphic novel piqued my curiosity. I tried to win a galley from the publisher, and didn’t luck out. Then I was on a dream-come-true trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, of all places, and in the Transreal Bookstore. Lo and behold, there was the book. I had to buy it as a special souvenir.

Even having read the book, I can’t help but shake my head in awe of the incredible story behind its making: Salvador Dali struck up a friendship with Harpo Marx and decided to write a Marx Brothers screenplay. He wrote up a film treatment, and with Harpo, he pitched it to Louis B. Mayer in Hollywood. The idea was shot down. It was the kind of thing that earned mention in Dali and Marx interviews over later decades, but no one living person seemed to know much about the project.

Author Josh Frank set out to change that, doing some heavy-duty research–hiring a translator, meeting Harpo’s son Bill Marx–and pieced together bits and pieces of Dali’s surreal movie concept. He made it into a graphic novel, lavishly illustrated by Manuel Pertega.

Again, I don’t typically go for surreal stuff, but this book is incredible. I found it even more so when I reached the end to find pictures of Dali’s original treatment. Pertega did an admirable job of translating Dali’s vision–dripping roast chickens strapped to musicians’ heads and all. To my utter delight, they really researched their Marx Brothers, too. The banter between Groucho and Chico feels genuine and is laugh-out-loud funny, though a bit anachronistic at times. The story follows a wealthy, ambitious young man, Jimmy, who scorns his controlling fiance as he falls in love with Surrealist Woman–a woman whose fantastical imaginings become real. In true 1930s style, there are even songs written into the book!

The book is totally bonkers, but that’s totally true to concept. I found it to be a joy to read, and I’m so grateful that the author and team took a weird historical footnote and gave it life at long last.

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Book Blog: Cry Pilot by Joel Dane

Posted by on Aug 9, 2019 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: Cry Pilot by Joel Dane

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.

Cry Pilot by Joel Dane
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

By the description, I expected far-future sci-fi. Cry Pilot is that, and a whole lot more–like a cyberpunk and military scifi combination, all in an original take on post-climate-change apocalypse Earth.

Kaytu is a complicated young man trying to do right. He’s a gutter rat, a former refugee, and he has set his eye on military service with one of the major corporations that holds dominion over Earth. With his background–which only emerges in perfectly-paced detail across the book–he’s forced to take a more criminal route, which gets him assigned to be a cry pilot–essentially, a piece of meat dropped into an AI-driven mecha that does battle with other bio-machines that threaten to undo the resettlement and terraforming of the planet. Most cry pilots die. He does not–nor does the flighty drug addict with him. Together, they soon find themselves placed in different roles as they train to face a horrific threat unlike ever seen before.

With some scifi books with a far-future setting, it feels like the emphasis is on the world and tech and the characters are outright tropes. Not so here. Everyone feels vivid and alive. Kaytu’s peers are an eclectic bunch, and as he became attached to them, so did I (a dangerous thing when they are facing some pretty nasty threats). The world is incredibly immersive and detailed, and it builds in just the right way; I never felt overwhelmed. Not only is the tech advanced, but social constructs are radically different, too, but this is handled in a casual, natural way. Poly relationships are common (and make perfect sense, given the need for humanity to repopulate) and sexual preference is fluid.

I found the book to be absolutely enthralling. Not only is the story fantastic, but as a writer, I can only admire the elegant pacing of the world’s construction. This is a book to point to as an example of how to do scifi right.

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