book blog

Book Blog: The Body Under the Piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #1) by Marthe Jocelyn

Posted by on Feb 7, 2020 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: The Body Under the Piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #1) by Marthe Jocelyn

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.

body under the piano

The Body Under the Piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #1) by Marthe Jocelyn
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.

I need a time machine so I can go back to 1990 to hand my 10-year-old self this book. Almost-40-year-old me ADORED this novel, and I know my 10-year-old self would love it even more. Why? Because the book is smart, savvy historical fiction with an honest depiction of the era, and a heroine with a morbid bent that reminds me lot of myself–though Aggie is actually inspired by the childhood of the Queen of Mystery Writers herself, Agatha Christie.

Aggie is a young girl in 1902, growing up in a small British coastal town. She has a wild imagination and a taste for the macabre, and she can’t help but get involved when her music teacher’s cruel mother is found dead–dead of poison! Aggie and her friend Hector set out to investigate. Their methods are smart, but they also cause a lot of problems along the way, especially when a meddlesome local reporter gets tangled up in everything.

The characters are fantastic and fun, just as you expect in a cozy British mystery village; plus, they have fun portraits at the front of the book. One of the things I loved most was the honest depiction of the past. It was not sugar-coated. The book deftly addresses bigotry (Hector is a “foreigner,” a Belgian refugee inspired by Hercule Poirot), sexism (girls can’t/shouldn’t do many things), and the complications that arise in this period from a child born out of wedlock. The book feels quite cozy with its fun mystery and whimsical characters, but also grounded in realism because of how these other issues are handled. The balance is so well done.

I highly recommend this book for kids and their parents. If the child isn’t already into classic whodunits, this novel could very well be what kicks off a life-long love of the genre.

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Book Blog: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith

Posted by on Jan 31, 2020 in Blog, book blog | 2 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.

don't read the comments

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Don’t Read the Comments is a YA book that is incredibly timely, realistic, and well done…. but wow is it a hard read at times. Frankly, this book is a horror novel about what the internet and social media are like for women in this era of Gamergate and trolls. Don’t get me wrong–I loved the book and I am absolutely adding it to my shortlist for the Norton Award for next year–but I also pushed through reading it as fast as I could because there’s no denying it was triggery.

Divya is a passionate teenage gamer with a streaming channel and social media presence. Her increasing clout have started to garner her much-needed promotional items and sponsorships, but also, trolls who don’t want a girl–especially one of color–taking up space in ‘their’ world. When a troll mob ambushes Divya and her devoted Angst Army, that’s horrible enough, but when the threats become physical in reality, that’s something else.

Meanwhile, gaming is Aaron’s whole life–or would be, if he didn’t have to put in hours in his mom’s medical practice. His real passion is writing the plot for a new game publisher-start-up (though it’d be nice if he could get paid) and playing loads of other games, too. When he and Divya meet in-game, they strikes up a friendship that feels absolutely genuine–even as troll attacks against Divya escalate and her life begins to unravel.

Smith really nailed every element in this book. Every character and relationship resounds with truth, from Divya and Aaron’s adorably geeky connection to their love and exasperation for their parents. The gaming world comes across with 100% realism. As an old school gamer myself, I ADORED the shout-outs to old and dear favorites of mine like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III (with a necessary note that this is the original American Super Nintendo release), plus casual mention of things like roms to play old games. Some revelations about Aaron’s dad were especially delightful.

Of course, part of the realism is the horror aspect: trolls, doxing, and the persistent harassment that women endure online. This is all sadly accurate, too, but I love how Smith brings everything together in the end with thoughtfulness and care. Nothing about this book is sugar-coated and easy, but there’s still a spirit of hopefulness that is necessary in their world and in ours.

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Book Blog: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

Posted by on Jan 24, 2020 in Blog, book blog | Comments Off on Book Blog: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

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.

Jinxed

 

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This tense, smart middle grade book establishes a near-future Earth where only the poorest people have smart phones. Anyone who’s anyone has a baku, which is a companion robot, computer, and accessory all in one. Lacey Chu is a brilliant young engineer with her hopes set on getting into an elite school that fast-tracks graduates to the Moncha corporation, where Monica Chan invented bakus. Lacey is devastated when she isn’t accepted, and embarrassed when all she can afford is a measly level one scarab baku. But when she finds a piece of junk and hauls it home to her workshop, she’s stunned to find it’s a cat baku unlike any other. She fixes it up. Suddenly, her school rejection is undone. She’s in! But as she starts her dream school, she realizes her baku, Jinx, is truly unique. He doesn’t obey orders, as if he…. is alive.

This book is so much fun. You can’t help but love Jinx. He’s such a cat. Lacey is a great heroine, a kid with dreams and genuine drive. I found the book breathless in pace. I didn’t want to put it down! My only complaint is that the book ends on a tortuous cliffhanger.

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

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 | Comments Off on Book Blog: Little Apocalypse by Katherine Sparrow

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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