Monday, July 20, 2015

Mailbox Monday (7/20/15 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
Received through TLC Book Tours

Paper Moon meets the Blitz in this original black comedy set in World War II England, chronicling an unlikely alliance between a small-time con artist and a young orphan evacuee.

When Noel Bostock—aged ten, no family—is evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombardment, he lands in a suburb northwest of the city with Vera Sedge—a thirty-six-year-old widow drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she's unscrupulous about how she gets it.

Noel's mourning his godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette. Wise beyond his years and raised with a disdain for authority and an eclectic attitude toward education, he has little in common with other children, and even less with the impulsive Vee, who hurtles from one self-made crisis to the next. The war's provided unprecedented opportunities for making money, but what Vee needs—and what she's never had—is a cool head and the ability to make a plan. On her own, she's a disaster. With Noel, she's a team.

Together they cook up a scheme. Crisscrossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to turn a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life. But there are plenty of other people making money off the war—and some of them are dangerous. Noel may have been moved to safety, but he isn't actually safe at all. . . .



The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Received through Blogging for Books

Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill in this astonishingly original, terrifying, and darkly funny contemporary fantasy.

Carolyn's not so different from the other human beings around her. She's sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn't gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient Pelapi customs. They've studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She's sure of it. What she doesn't realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she's forgotten a great deal about being human.
 



Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich
Received through Netgalley

Clayton Burroughs comes from a long line of outlaws.  For generations, the Burroughs clan has made its home on Bull Mountain in North Georgia, running shine, pot, and meth over six state lines, virtually untouched by the rule of law. To distance himself from his family’s criminal empire, Clayton took the job of sheriff in a neighboring community to keep what peace he can.  But when a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms shows up at Clayton’s office with a plan to shut down the mountain, his hidden agenda will pit brother against brother, test loyalties, and could lead Clayton down a path to self-destruction.  

In a sweeping narrative spanning decades and told from alternating points of view, the novel brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the mountain and its inhabitants: forbidding, loyal, gritty, and ruthless. A story of family—the lengths men will go to protect it, honor it, or in some cases destroy it—Bull Mountain is an incredibly assured debut that heralds a major new talent in fiction.
 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

QUICK REVIEW: Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook

Synopsis

There are good recipes and there are great ones—and then, there are genius recipes.
 
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink the way we cook. They might involve an unexpectedly simple technique, debunk a kitchen myth, or apply a familiar ingredient in a new way. They’re handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacies. And, once we’ve folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. In this collection are 100 of the smartest and most remarkable ones.

There isn’t yet a single cookbook where you can find Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, and Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake—plus dozens more of the most talked about, just-crazy-enough-to-work recipes of our time. Until now.

These are what Food52 Executive Editor Kristen Miglore calls genius recipes. Passed down from the cookbook authors, chefs, and bloggers who made them legendary, these foolproof recipes rethink cooking tropes, solve problems, get us talking, and make cooking more fun. Every week, Kristen features one such recipe and explains just what’s so brilliant about it in the James Beard Award-nominated Genius Recipes column on Food52. Here, in this book, she compiles 100 of the most essential ones—nearly half of which have never been featured in the column—with tips, riffs, mini-recipes, and stunning photographs from James Ransom, to create a cooking canon that will stand the test of time.

Once you try Michael Ruhlman’s fried chicken or Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s hummus, you’ll never want to go back to other versions. But there’s also a surprising ginger juice you didn’t realize you were missing and will want to put on everything—and a way to cook white chocolate that (finally) exposes its hidden glory. Some of these recipes you’ll follow to a T, but others will be jumping-off points for you to experiment with and make your own. Either way, with Kristen at the helm, revealing and explaining the genius of each recipe, Genius Recipes is destined to become every home cook’s go-to resource for smart, memorable cooking—because no one cook could have taught us so much.


Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Ten Speed Press
ISBN 1607747979 (ISBN13: 9781607747970)



My Thoughts
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacies. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. 

Let me start by saying that this is an absolutely beautiful book! It has a hardbound embossed cover, thick high-quality pages, and beautiful pictures. It feels expensive, and something about it reminds me of the cookbooks of yesteryear, but it is modern and updated.

There is a clear index, organized by Breakfast, Snacks & Drinks, Soups & Salads, Meaty Mains, Meatless Mains, Vegetables, and Desserts.  

The book offers up recipes that include "genius" techniques and twists you may not have thought of. For example, mashing up onions and cilantro into a paste, and folding that into mashed avocado for a smooth guacamole. Or cooking a whole chicken at super high heat with no basting to create a really juicy and delectable meal. Some things may seem contrary to what you would expect, but the results speak for themselves.

I can't wait to work my way through this book and make other delicious recipes like Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. This book will hold a respected position on my cookbook shelf. Food52 knows how to do cookbooks right!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound 


Rating: A+ 


Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through Blogging for Books, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

QUICK REVIEW: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Synopsis

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me...

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love--all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine's life.


Hardcover, 359 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Harper (first published 2011)
ISBN 0062060554 (ISBN13: 9780062060556)




About the Author

S J Watson was born in the UK, lives in London and worked in the NHS for a number of years.

In 2011 Watson's debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, was released to critical acclaim. It has now been published in over 40 languages, and has become an international bestseller, winning numerous awards.

The movie of Before I Go To Sleep, starrring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong, is due for worldwide release in Autumn 2014. Watson's second book is out in Spring 2015.


Check out the author's website


My Thoughts
I was born tomorrow
today I live
yesterday killed me.
-- Parviz Owsia
Every morning Christine awakens with limited memories of her life.Sometimes she awakens thinking she is but a little girl in her childhood bedroom, other times maybe she's a teen. Sometimes she may see a man standing in her room and expect when he turns around she'll recognize her father. However the man in her room is always a stranger, and when she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees what she thinks is an old woman instead of a young girl. 

Christine suffers from a rare form of amnesia, causing her to lose her memory while she sleeps at night (think Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates). She awakens in the morning not knowing the man who sleeps beside her, or how she aged decades, or what has transpired during those decades.

Christine keeps a journal hidden away, documenting what happens each day, what she learns of her past. Then one day she takes out her journal and it warns her not to trust her husband. Now she begins to question everything. Who can be trusted? Are these people who they say they are?

My final word: I made a prediction on the second page of the story regarding how I thought it would end, and it turned out that I was essentially correct. However even though I knew where the book was going and my final destination, I kept reading to find out what kind of trip the author would take me on to get me there. It was interesting. Not fantastic writing, complex characters or breathtaking suspense, but an enjoyable enough fast read.

My Rating:
 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie

Synopsis

In the tradition of Elizabeth George, Louise Penny, and P. D. James, "New York Times" bestselling author Deborah Crombie delivers a powerful tale of intrigue, betrayal, and lies that will plunge married London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James into the unspeakable darkness that lies at the heart of murder.

Recently transferred to the London borough of Camden from Scotland Yard headquarters, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his new murder investigation team are called to a deadly bombing at historic St. Pancras Station. By fortunate coincidence, Melody Talbot, Gemma s trusted colleague, witnesses the explosion. The victim was taking part in an organized protest, yet the other group members swear the young man only meant to set off a smoke bomb. As Kincaid begins to gather the facts, he finds every piece of the puzzle yields an unexpected pattern, including the disappearance of a mysterious bystander.

The bombing isn t the only mystery troubling Kincaid. He s still questioning the reasons behind his transfer, and when his former boss who s been avoiding him is attacked, those suspicions deepen. With the help of his former sergeant, Doug Cullen, Melody Talbot, and Gemma, Kincaid begins to untangle the truth. But what he discovers will leave him questioning his belief in the job that has shaped his life and his values and remind him just how vulnerable his precious family is.


Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by William Morrow (first published September 1st 2014)
ISBN 0062271601 (ISBN13: 9780062271600)



About the Author

Deborah Crombie is a New York Times bestselling author and a native Texan who has lived in both England and Scotland. She now lives in McKinney, Texas, sharing a house that is more than one hundred years old with her husband, three cats, and two German shepherds. 

Check out the author's website
Like the author on Facebook 
Follow the author on Twitter
Connect with the author on Google+ 





My Thoughts
In the first moment of waking, he had no idea who he was.
A protester detonates a phosphorous grenade at an outdoor concert, and the friends of the suspected "bomber" (whose remains are beyond identification) can't believe him capable of such a thing. A mystery revolves around the bomber's identity and motive, whether he killed himself or was killed, whether he was the intended victim, and who knew about it.

This is my first introduction to Deborah Crombie, and this book is the 16th in the "Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James" series. I wasn't sure whether I could easily jump this far into a series, or if I might feel a little lost.

Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James have a growing family and manage different forces. Kincaid, formerly of Scotland Yard HQ, has recently been promoted and has a new team working under him, but he isn't above looking to former co-workers for help when needed. Gemma has her own murder case to solve, but this novel mostly involves her as a wife and mother, and you don't see much of her work life.

The story is told in third-person with a host of characters. Other than Duncan and Gemma, there is Melody, Andy, Doug, Tam, Duncan's new DI Jasmine Sidana, and more detectives, and then a host of other characters playing witnesses or otherwise involved with the cases. Sometimes when the point-of-view would shift, it would take a few seconds for me to orient myself and figure out who this character was and how they related to the other characters. I think this is a side-effect of being unfamiliar with this series. For someone who has been reading Deborah Crombie and is familiar with this particular series, I think it would have come much more naturally.

One of the drawbacks to jumping so far into a series is that there isn't going to be a whole lot of character development-- it's already been done in past novels. And another drawback is that there are little allusions to past occurrences and quirks and things from past novels that leave you feeling that you are sort of missing out on a private joke.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, June 9th: Becca Rowan
Wednesday, June 10th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, June 11th: FictionZeal
Friday, June 12th: Books That Hook
Monday, June 15th: Mystery Playground
Tuesday, June 16th: 5 Minutes For Books
Wednesday, June 17th: Book Him Danno!
Monday, June 22nd: Worth Getting in Bed For
Tuesday, June 23rd: Lavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, June 24th: A Utah Mom’s Life
Thursday, June 25th: Bell, Book and Candle


My final word: That all being said, I really enjoyed the author's writing style, which was very easy to read and engaging. The story was suspenseful at moments, and a little sentimental at times, but always well done. I can see why the author is so popular! She paints a good mystery with a colorful palette of characters, and I can imagine it’d be fun to follow the lives of these recurring characters over the years, from book to book. Even though I haven’t read the first 15 books in the series, I want to find out what happens with the characters from here, and will be keeping an eye out for the next in the series!


Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound


My Rating:






Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.


Friday, June 5, 2015

ON MY RADAR (6/5/15 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel's mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel's salvation is their maid Adelle's belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle's daughter. But Rachel's life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father's business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Frederick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.

I believe I've only read Alice Hoffman once before, and the one I chose to read came off a bit YA, but this one appeals to me. I've got it on my Wish List. 


The Incarnations by Susan Barker
 
I dream of us across the centuries.
I dream we stagger through the Gobi, the Mongols driving us forth with whips.
I dream of sixteen concubines, plotting to murder the sadistic Emperor Jiajing.
I dream of the Sorceress Wu lowering the blade, her cheeks splattered with your blood.
I dream of you as a teenage Red Guard, rampaging through the streets of Beijing.
I am your soulmate, Driver Wang and now I dream of you.
You don't know it yet, but soon I will make you dream of me...


A stunning tale of a Beijing taxi driver being pursued by his twin soul across a thousand years of Chinese history, for fans of David Mitchell.


I'm not really big on fantasy, but this one has intrigued me. 


Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins’s story collection, Battleborn, swept nearly every award for short fiction. Now this young writer, widely heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent, returns with a first novel that will more than meet readers’ hopes, harnessing the sweeping vision and deep heart that made her debut so arresting to a love story set in a devastatingly imagined near future.

In a parched southern California of the near future, Luz, once the poster child for the country’s conservation movement, and Ray, an army deserter turned surfer, are squatting in a starlet’s abandoned mansion. Most “Mojavs,” prevented by armed vigilantes from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to encampments in the east. Holdouts like Ray and Luz subsist on rationed cola and water, and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.

For the moment, the couple’s fragile love, which somehow blooms in this arid place, seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. Heading east, they are waylaid in the desert by a charming and manipulative dowser – a diviner for water -- and his cultlike followers, who have formed a colony in a mysterious sea of dunes.

Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins’s novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own.


This one caught my eye. It seems like one I could really love or really hate. I may have to give it a try.