Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bell Weather by Dennis Mahoney

Bell Weather had, for me, a sort of Firefly/Serenity feel to it, though set in a colonial/revolutionary war type alter-world rather than the future. The land of Floria, with its quirks and foibles of St. Verna's Fire, winterbears, and deadfall, that brutal end of summer, were as much characters of the book as the humans whose stories unfold and intertwine. I truly hope that Bell Weather is a bellwether for more from Dennis Mahoney featuring the world and characters he so skillfully related.

Quick plot summary: Tom Orange pulls a woman from a raging river, thus changing the world as he knows it forever. Molly claims to have lost her memory, but it soon becomes clear that she is hiding much,  and that the as terrors of the world of Floria will come to the village she now resides, truths will have to be untangled. The tale is told in alternating time frames, with the backstory as compelling as the main.

An Advanced reader copy turned up at my door in a brown paper parcel. No clue how it got there, but I'm glad it did. Scheduled for publication in July 2015.

tags: advanced-reader-copy, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, fantasy, i-liked-it, read, read-in-2015, read-on-recommendation, will-look-for-more-by-this-author

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Infuse: Oil, Spirit, Water by Eric Prum and Josh Williams

The problem with writing a review on this book is that it takes me away from playing in the kitchen and garden, coming up with tasty infusions. So many recipes to try! And so many good tips to help muddle my muddles, pep up my oils, brew my beverages. Oh my! And, for the record, the mason tap these two guys invented, to fit on mason jars and help dispense defused liquids is pure genius. Having been in the amateur hour of infusions prior to this, I can see that the tap helps solve a significant problem of transferring liquids without making a mess. I've ordered two.

On a side note, they've got a recipe to help make flavor a whiskey like a certain currently popular blend (The recipe is called Birefall and rhymes with that aforementioned one), that involves a lot of cinnamon and no antifreeze.

Oh, this is a fun book. I can think of easily a dozen friends who would love it. Some of you may even read this review. Get your own copy. This one's staying here.

Thank you to the folks at Blogging for Books for sending this to me and to Eric and Josh for making me so happy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dreaming is for the birds

So, I had a dream the other night, about art. About pysanky specifically. Note: javaczuk often marvels at my brain's persistent way of coming up with vivid ideas for artistic creations, both when awake or asleep. Sometimes they're so forceful, the ideas, colors, patterns wake me up, because my brain races so hard that sleep is impossible. I try to keep a little notepad by my bedside to jot thoughts down so I can (hopefully) return to dreamland, but sometimes like the other night, that plan fails me and I have to resort to other means. Sometimes I'm even forced to get out of bed and have a one to one with my art. Sigh.

Case in point-- last night. I woke up, burning with an idea, and not a pad or pencil to be found. But, luckily, my phone was by the bedside since it doubles as an alarm. Last night it tripled as a note pad. I texted a message to myself: "ladder birds". Ladder birds. It made sense to me.

And today, kistka in hand, it began to make sense, and take shape for the world.

Stay tuned....

Shirley, I Jest: The Storied Life of Cindy Williams

I was disappointed in this memoir. Aside from the annoying (and liberal!) sprinkling of exclamation points (!), I found the writing surprisingly flat. My conclusion is that Cindy Williams is a much better actress than writer. As to the stories relayed in the book, it seemed to be more of a big name dropping opportunity (I met Gene Kelly! I met John Belushi! I was friends with Andy Kaufman! I met Cary Grant! Johnny Carson liked me!) rather than the type of story-telling I am used to in a memoir. The stories often felt dull, despite the punctuation at the end of the tale!! I only watched Laverne and Shirley a handful of times, but get the impression there may have been bad blood between the two stars. The remembrances of interactions had that same flat, anticlimactic feeling I found throughout the book. The story that moved me the most was how Marshall and Williams visited the set of the show the night before it aired, and both felt it was too shiny and new. They each went out and gathered props, like thumbed through movie magazines and old 45s, and replaced as much as they could on the set to turn it into the apartment of two blue collar working girls. That, I found endearing.

And for the record, I, too met Gene Kelly, and he definitely deserves an exclamation point, as do all the stars Ms Williams met. What I would have liked to find between the covers of this memoir would be more passion, humor, and an editor with more evident red pencil.

Thank you to the publisher and LibraryThing for sending me a copy of this book.

Tags: color-me-disappointed, biography-autobiography-or-memoir, early-review-librarything, heard-interview-with-author, ho-hum, read-in-2015, somewhat-disappointing

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb

Found this on a book exchange shelf, and took it to possibly register for BookCrossing. After reading, I noticed the book had a Charleston County Public Library inventory sticker and no "discard" stamp, which was odd for something on a book give-away shelf. So, good citizen (and sometimes-library volunteer) that I am, I checked with circulation. Sure enough, the book has been marked "lost" since 2014, and the lose-ee has already paid to replace it. It's a little tattered and battered, with indications that it may have been to the beach or stuffed in a backpack since going missing, but all pages were intact. I wonder what adventures it had while on walk-about.

As to the story itself, I liked it. Lamb has chosen to explore a number of illnesses of the mind, and done it in a loving and thoughtful manner. Almost all central characters are wounded, but not in a "poor pitiful me" way. The exploration of coming back to health (for the main character) after PTSD and after a gastric bypass (and other health issues) was so beautifully handled. What also resonated with me was the artistic expression of so many of the characters, growing into self through art, whether it be knitting, drawing, making chairs, or planting a garden. It's not often that I get teary reading a book, but there was a moment in this one, where the author had me laughing, and my eyes tearing up as my heart swelled, at the same moment. Nice.

Tags: bookcrossingdidn-t-want-to-put-it-downi-liked-itmade-me-look-something-upreadread-in-2015thank-you-charleston-county-librarythought-provokingwhat-s-another-name-for-chick-litwill-look-for-more-by-this-author

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Euphoria by Lily King

For a book that swallowed my attention up whole, now that some time has passed, I'm having trouble grasping thoughts to write. Anthropology is a deep part of my life, though it has been pushed to the shadows by other passions since the days at University when it was one of my majors. In those days, Margaret Mead was not only a fundamental name in the discipline, but she was still alive, and even came to lecture within spitting distance of where I was studying, so of course, we bundled into a car to drive to hear her speak. We weren't able to get in to the talk, but spent the time sitting on the steps, making up what we thought she might have said.

This book is also a "might have been", as the central character is loosely based on Mead. King spins a new tale, using the almost-Mead character, that of two of her husbands, and the exploration of a 1933 field expedition to New Guinea. It helped give a glimpse of what the world must have been like when Coming of Age in Samoa was published, and was considered both daring and scandalous, rather than a classic study. The story itself is passionate, complex, and well-spun, with glimmers of humor that came through. The character of Nell grabbed me with both hands and refused to let go. I was caught back in time, back in 1933, when anthropology was in its early days. What a world!

Tags: awardwinner, read-on-recommendationread-in-2015taught-me-somethingmade-me-look-something-up 

Friday, May 8, 2015

A tale of two Amys

 It so happened that a wonderful friend of mine (I'm looking at you, Luli) posted a photo of a saying that reminded her of many friends. It managed to combine multiple passions of mine, and was available online as a tee, and on other merchandise. I decided to get a non-shirt option as gifts for like-minded individuals. Time passed, and a package arrived at the mailbox for the czuk household. Tra la! I opened it up, and stared in puzzlement at the item within-- an article of clothing, and a note saying "enjoy your new tee shirt, Amy!"


Then I looked at the packing slip. Though the mailing envelope was addressed to me, the packing slip was addressed to another customer, who has the same first name I do. She lives in Delaware, and is decidedly not a czuk. But, what she decidedly is is one of my best friends in the whole world. Honest. For real. We actually know each other. And somehow,here I. South Carolina,  I got her package!

What followed was a flurry of texts between the two Amys, trying to figure out what was going on. In the meantime, the company had figured out they'd mailed a package for one customer to another with the same first name. They wrote me, explaining the error, told me my package was coming, and to keep the merchandise sent in error. 

How could I resist? It seemed made for me!
Thank you Culture Flock! And thanks to my girlfriends for being the greatest (even unintentionally, and from afar)!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

My New Roots by Sarah Britton

I first heard of Sarah Britton through her blog, "My New Roots", where I fell in love with a Thai inspired coconut soup she posted. Never mind that I drove my grocer crazy seeking fresh galangal root, which suddenly was hard to keep in stock (I suspect I wasn't the only one who read that post). The soup was a burst of flavors sliding across my palate. Luckily, I've now found a source for dried galangal and birds eye chiles, if needs be, so my grocer doesn't run when he sees me coming.

I'm terrible at keeping up with blogs, so it was with delight that I realized that Ms Britton had made a collection of her recipes and food thoughts into the My New Roots cookbook. The book is beautifully laid out, with mouthwatering photographs, and lots of text about the recipes, seasons, ingredients, and food itself. It's both a cookbook to read and a cookbook to use. I suspect that there may be some more ingredients that will make my grocer blanch when I ask for them, but that's part of trying new things. The layout of the book is by season, which has both advantages and disadvantages, as I live in an area that is more of a three-season climate, with a long growing season, so my sense of what's seasonal is different. Also, because each section has the full array of recipes for that season, you need to peruse all sections if you're looking specifics, such as desserts, or soups, etc. But, as I said, the recipes are scrumptious, the pictures gorgeous, and the palate divine, so it's a lovely journey. My New Roots really does present "inspired plant-based recipes for every season," and every palate.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for this copy of the book.