Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale  is a lovely blend of fantasy and fairy tale, with a strong female lead facing not just the challenges of society, but those of nature and myth, too. As with other books built on Slavic legend, there was a bit of familiarity to those of Ukraine, with a slight difference, like the tartness of a crab apple to a Pippin plucked fully ripe from the tree. I was singularly surprised , but not disappointed, when the elements I expected or anticipated didn't play out. Arden did a good job at capturing the ugliness of crowd mentality in the townspeople, depicting personalities of the jealous and disappointed, relating the interplay of that which we delegate to fantasy with real life, and showing different sorts and strength of love. Overall, I enjoyed this book and will look for more by this author.

Thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for sending this copy my way.

Tags:  2016-readalternate-historycreaturesearly-review-librarythingfirst-novel-or-bookfantasyi-liked-itmagical-realismwill-look-for-more-by-this-authoradvanced-reader-copy 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World

I received this book nearly two months ago, but just was able to finish it. This was not because I was busy, or didn't like the book, but more because Javaczuk, my ex-bartender husband, who lived in NYC for a bit, and who still holds a fascination for the art of spirits tucked it away to read. (To be fair, I knew he would, and as I had other books to occupy me, and a good bit of art as well, I was fine. My only qualm was that it delayed my thoughts on the book for Blogging for Books, and the publisher, from whom I got my copy.) This review is a combination of both our thoughts: the expert and the novice.

For both the mixologist and the lover of fine cocktails who knows nothing about making a proper drink, this was an interesting book. It is praiseworthy for its comprehensiveness, Simonson's ability to make the reader feel as if they are observing these pioneering mixologists with short, simple descriptions, and its ability to put the modern cocktail movement in historical context. From my point of view, I was happy it spurred Javaczuk on to try some of the recipes provided. It also was just plain interesting reading, introducing the novice (me) to some of the finer nuances in crafting a cocktail. The general index, and the index of people interviewed/corresponded with were also helpful, but made me realize this was essentially just one (plus a few outliers) city, which made me wonder who else was out there, in untapped regions. It also made me realize that my personal slap-dash method of making a drink would make most people shudder.

Only thing other thing that would have been nice to have seen would be some pictures of the bartenders and bars, as some of Simonson's media articles have done, but understand that there are cost considerations in publishing a book.

This certainly will hold a place of esteem (and be a point of reference) in our collection of Mixology books.To end with Javaczuk's thoughts, for he certainly knows far more on the subject than I do; "As far as I know, this is the best book existing on the subject. Brilliant piece of research.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Gates of Hell (The Shards of Heaven, #2) by Michael Livingston

The demons of the internet have eaten my review two times now, which is really not very nice, especially since this is a book I looked forward to reading, enjoyed while reading, and looked forward to telling the online world. (insert swearword of choice, because all of them have probably gone through my head, when I realized my first review was gone, and when the replacement review blinked away before my eyes.)  But back to the point:

When last seen by the reader, the characters from The Shards of Heaven had seen better times. Antony and Cleopatra are dead, their children held captive by Octavian, probably the only character in the book having a good day.  As Caesarion and his companions carry the Ark of the Covenant through secret tunnels to bring it to safety, they meet misfortune, battle, a cave-in and shard enhanced battle with Juba of Numidia. It was very much of a cliffhanger.

The dust has settled a bit in the The Gates of Hell. Selene and Juba, despite a forced marriage have found joy together. The peace in their relationship is threatened as Juba is called by Octavian to once again wield the Trident of Poseidon to defeat Rome's enemies. And that's just the start of things.

Once again, Michael Livingston has taken history, and tucked a little fantasy and supernatural into the crevices and crannies of known time. As a reader, this delights me no end. Livingston's writing is crisper, sharper in this second book, helping the mind create clear depictions from description. His characters have grown also, exhibiting a complexity very true to life. The tug of good and evil forces, whether in a battle or within an individual, helps bring even more humanness to both the heroes and villains of the story. The tale begins in Rome, then heads on a journey through the old world, to the waters of the Nile, to even the very Gates of Hell, all with history, intrigue, and a little magic.  And yes, I did cheer out loud at a few happenings, and laugh at the Easter eggs I caught. All in all, it was a good adventure.

2016-read, advanced-reader-copy, alternate-history, great-cover, made-me-look-something-up, met-or-know-the-author, part-start-of-a-series, read, secret-history, taught-me-something, thanks-for-the-map, tor

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Longbourn by Jo Baker

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader in possession of a comfy seat and a cuppa, must be in want of a good book.

This was sent to me by a friend, who knows my love of books and Austen. It's essentially the Upstairs-Downstairs of Pride and Prejudice. The problem is I like the originals of each so much that this inevitably fell short. It had moments, but overall, didn't engage me.  I think if someone was unfamiliar with how the things we now depend on appliances and devices to do  were done in days when electricity wasn't around, it might have been a bit more interesting, but I know a little about that, having lived in a third world country for a bit in the days before electricity was around or reliable and a telephone was a new and amazing device. I've heard there's a series on TV now (probably cable or PBS), but I'm not sure I'll watch. I prefer my Austen firsthand.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let There Be Laughter by Michael Krasny

Interesting commentary, but there were times I found myself using the "Playboy Technique": reading it just for the jokes. There are definite characteristics of Jewish humor that the author explores, both scholastically and, of course, with humor and examples. Though not all of the jokes stem from the Ashkenazi and immigrant experience, many do, so it was a bit like revisiting my mother's Uncle Izzy at his candy store on the corner, or sitting in Tante Sophie's kitchen hearing the women of the family chatter and sip tea through sugar cubes held in their mouths. Many of the jokes and stories only confirmed my wish that I knew/remembered more Yiddish. Such a wonderful language that risks disappearing, even though many of its colorful words and expressions have become part of our everyday lexicon. It is one of the biggest regrets of my life that I haven't retained the language I heard my mother and her siblings speak during my childhood.

And, for the record, I actually got to use one of the jokes, appropriately, the very day I read it.

Thank you to librarything early reviewers for sending this my way.

tags: 2016-read, early-review-librarything, funny, made-me-laugh-out-loud-for-real, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-think, nonfiction, places-i-have-been, read, taught-me-something, advanced reader copy

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Driving home from class the other week, I heard an interview with Gayle Forman on NPR about this book. I came in midstream, and couldn't hear the end because grocery shopping didn't allow for a driveway moment. Nonetheless, the discussion and the snippet read grabbed my attention. It was not particularly because I related to adoption, or being an overworked mother of twins, or having a heart attack (though I do sometimes have chest pain, but it's always been relieved by albuterol, and thus far, stemmed from my lungs. My dad conked out at 61 from Coronary Artery Disease, so the question does wiggle around in my head.) I've never wanted to just walk away from it all and start anew, though have had at least two friends who wanted to, one who did, and one who got 141 miles down Interstate 26 before deciding to turn around and go home to her husband and two sons. Something about the personal backstory, the whys behind Forman writing this book, and also the tone in her voice when she talked about the experience grabbed my attention, so very shortly after, I grabbed the book. It was a quick read for me, (it's not been 24 hours since I picked it up, and I'm done) and I liked it. It fit the need for a book that took me out of my own experience, without making me grimace in pain, or plod through sorrow. For all the issues it deals with (early onset heart attack, abandonment, stress, relationship stuff. motherhood, adoption, running away) it was approachable, and the characters, while confused, even deadened emotionally, remained of interest for me. And yes, there was growth and resolution, and humor, which is always a bonus. It was a romantic book, not in the sense of heaving breasts and bed hopping, but it the way the author crafted a dark time optimistically, and let frozen lives thaw.

To be fair, I was very underwhelmed by a previous novel by Ms Foreman, and had no intention of reading this until I heard the interview. It's a good reminder for me to stay open-minded.

Tags: heard-interview-with-author, i-heard-about-it-on-npr, read, rounded-up-in-star-rating, thank-you-charleston-county-library
From the publisher: For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.

Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.

With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I'd heard good things about this book, and also had read an earlier book by the author which I enjoyed, so picked it up. All in all, 'twas a pleasurable read, though there were some style issues I wasn't so crazy about with the writing. But that's just my taste-- I was wanting a straightforward tale and should have known better than to follow a path in the woods. Barnhill has brought some interesting elements to the tale, making it seem familiar and both totally fresh at the same time. If she keeps writing, I'll keep reading.

From the publisher:
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge--with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

The author of the highly acclaimed, award-winning novel The Witch’s Boy has written an epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to be a modern classic.

Tags: 2016-readan-author-i-readfantasygreat-covergreat-titlereadrounded-up-in-star-ratingthank-you-charleston-county-library