Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul by Jenn Claiborne

I'm always a little put off by recipes from vegan chefs/cooks who go a long way to make things taste/resemble the foods they no longer eat, and use lots of seitan and TVP in the process. Happily this is not the case with this book. While there is some use of the aforementioned stuff, for the most part, the recipes are clean, simple and approachable for anyone. I was a little sad that I'd allergic to wheat, because some of the recipes that use it look marvelous, but I was too uncertain in the substitutions of flours to experiment.

Thank you Blogging for Books and the publisher for my copy.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

Will try and come back for a more thorough review, but in the meantime, this was well written, thought provoking, and doesn't travel the usual paths that might be assigned to a coming-of-age novel (which I usually can't stand). Venus went to prison after committing a horrible crime that pretty much tore her family apart. And in the midst of it all, while she is incarcerated, her developmentally disadvantaged brother goes missing. Five years later, she's out, still estranged from her mother, but wants to find her brother. Into that, weave a variety of people who populate her new world and the threads tangle and twine, trying to make whole cloth out of a torn life.

Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewer  program and to the publisher for my copy. I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did.

2018-read, advanced-reader-copy, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, early-review-librarything, first-novel-or-book, made-me-think, new-yorker-or-nyt, read, review-still-needed, thought-provoking, will-look-for-more-by-this-author, ya-lit

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley

I read this book in 2017 and neglected to post my thoughts on it. Blame it on the holidays and end of the year. There are possible spoilers after the 3rd paragraph/tags, but there's a warning, so proceed at your own risk.

Perhaps it's just the political climate in which I read this book, but a thriller with aliens and political conspiracy suddenly didn't seem so bad. The book does present a rather clear view of our society in regards in the lengths people will go to find a missing loved one and a bleak view of the lengths others might go to keep them from doing so.

The author has put a lot of time, research, and details from his own experience into the story. And like almost any thriller, there were the times I wanted to yell "don't go into the woods alone!" Though I didn't necessarily warm to the characters, I was interested in the journey the author mapped for the reader to follow. There was a little too much conspiracy theory for me, particularly with the asset in the WH right now, but ultimately, it all came together.

tags: advanced-reader-copycreaturesfirst-novel-or-bookgreat-covermade-me-look-something-upmade-me-thinkreadread-in-2017science-fictionsuspense-thriller-mystery

A few possible spoilers: 
The big reveal about Lynn's illness as a child, and subsequent loss of memory was not such a big reveal, but that may be because I am a pediatric nurse and the cover story just didn't jibe for me. 

I liked that this was a different slant from many alien encounters, and though I found some elements of the alien behavior interesting, it was a bit confusing in presentation. I keep remembering that Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man"-- it's good to remember not every visitor is coming in peace, nor is each conquest won via battle, sometimes disruption and breakdown of systems works just as well. (Conquest via disruption?)

The methodology and technology for the control of humans also was interesting. Lynn is awfully lucky that the little device in her head hadn't chosen to explode (yet).

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. My thanks for the opportunity to read the book.   The book will be out in June 2018.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

This book had me at "bookstore", sucked me in as it headed toward cozy mystery, then hooked me to the finish with the thriller/ bookstore noir developments. All this and good characters/writing too? A great start to the new year. When I turned the last page, I was genuinely distressed that it didn't go on longer so I could stay immersed in the story. What a great first novel!

tags 2018-readdidn-t-want-to-put-it-downe-bookreadread-on-recommendationsuspense-thriller-mysterythank-you-charleston-county-library 

From the Publisher (and Goodreads):
Goodreads Debut Author of the Month and an Indie Next Pick!

“Sullivan’s debut is a page-turner featuring a heroine bookseller who solves a cold case with clues from books—what is not to love?” —Nina George, author of The Little French Bistro, and the New York Times bestselling The Little Paris Bookshop

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.​

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

I'd read more in this series. I originally heard about it at YAllfest, then read an article in the New York Times about sensitivity readers, and a response in Kirkus to the kerfuffle from the starred review given. I'm writing my thoughts late, but in an era where the highest office in the USA can refer to other countries as sh!thole, and not see that this is racist, I'd say sensitivity training is a necessity.

New York Times: In an Era of Online Outrage, Do Sensitivity Readers Result in Better Books, or Censorship?

Kirkus: On Disagreement

The Washington Post: Turmp attacks protections for immigrants from shithole countries in Oval Office meeting

From the Publisher:
Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I guess I had higher hopes for this from the author's previous books. Again, it's ordinary people in everyday situations trying to make a life, but, even with the musical references, I wasn't drawn in. Frank is a big bear of a man, devoted to keeping vinyl alive as a source of audio listening, and he has the knack of finding just the right bit of music for someone at exactly the time it is needed. He carries wounds from his past and is surrounded by a band of misfits who inhabit the street where his somewhat lackadaisical vinyl shop resides. And then, one day, a woman faints outside his shop door, and for all in the book, the world changes.

I really wish I liked this book better. Even with the references to music, the little explanations and stories attached to various pieces, and some moments of beautiful writing, I never was fully drawn into the story. But, I've liked two other works by this author, so I am not giving up on her.

Thank you to the publisher and to LibraryThing Early Readers program for sending me this copy. The book is due out January 2, 2018.

Tags: 2017-read, advanced-reader-copy, an-author-i-read, early-review-librarything, everyone-else-liked-it, mixed-feelings, ok-but-not-great, read, somewhat-disappointing, thought-i-was-gonna-like

Friday, December 22, 2017

Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby

When I was three, we had a house fire. I was tucked in my bed in a tiny upstairs bedroom. A fireman rescued me, and when he set me in my mother's arms, I told her "he carried me out, just like Superman." I knew a good hero when I saw one. When I was offered the chance to read an ARC of Smoke Eaters, even though I wasn't sure if this was my kind of book, I said sure, because Firefighters vs Dragons? Heck yeah.

This was a good romp in a future world, where not only has the United States devolved into city states, but a plague of dragons is pretty much boiling up from the center of the earth, hellbent on feeding, mating, and consequently ravaging everything in their path. Cole Brannigan, a firefighter for 30 years, is just about to fight his last fire, when he finds out he one of the few people who are immune to dragon smoke. He is recruited into a group called the Smoke Eaters, an elite cadre of people who can withstand the smoke, and fight the creatures destroying the civilization above ground.

Things get dicey as the dragons get stronger, and political intrigue, in the form of a dastardly plot to take over the city, is discovered. Brannigan and his cohorts spring into action to fight the baddies, be they scaled or human. It's a pretty entertaining story. Oh, did I mention there are also wraiths? And robots? And some kick-ass battles?

Aside from my early firefighter interaction, my knowledge and appreciation of these men and women grew when my own son, also age three, developed a major fire truck (and firefighters, by extension) fascination. From that experience, and the inside views a hero-struck boy was given by very kind firemen* the details Sean Grigsby used in the novel all ring true, thanks to his firsthand experience as a firefighter.

It's my understanding that this may develop into a series. If so, I think it could be something fun to follow. I'd like to see a little tightening in the descriptions and rules of the world as it unfolds (but, I do like the cicada theory) and the interactions between the former US and Canada or other countries. The strengths of the book lie in the realism of the characters and of their work in fighting fire. One can extrapolate that the techniques applied to fighting dragons also rings true, but personally, I hope we never find out. But it settles one thing. I do want a robot dog.

I received my copy from the author's agent, for which I am most grateful. The book is due out in March 2018.

*There were no women that we met as firefighters in the early 1990's, though there are many now.