Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Where Every Man (Inspector James Given #4)

 

Where Every Man is the fourth Inspector Given novel by Charlie Garratt. Released 6th Oct 2020 by Sapere Books, it's 243 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

I've been following the development of this series since the first book. It's such a contemplatively and gently written book - full of well rendered characters and deeply researched background. The narrative feels very real to the period (the verge of WW2). Although this is the fourth book, it would work well as a standalone, though I strongly recommend the previous books for the quality of the writing and plotting. 

The descriptions of the French countryside and his life on the farm, the villagers in the nearby towns, and his interactions with his neighbors and family lend this such a warm and nostalgic period feel. It was a real pleasure to read.  I believe this series will have high re-readability, strictly for the characterizations and descriptive prose. Beautifully done. I really enjoyed this one a lot. I did figure out "whodunnit" by the end and had a pretty good idea of why, but was still impressed by the subtleties of the denouement which I hadn't predicted. 

The books do have some overarching plot threads - especially concerning James' extended family (a major plot element in book three was him trying to locate his uncle in France), but again, nothing that will especially spoil the plots of the previous books. I do recommend reading them in order if possible, since the writing is superlative.

One of the few series I've read lately which is consistently rated over 4 stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.



Start to Finish

 

Start to Finish is the first book in a new cozy series featuring an academic as an amateur sleuth and written by Pamela A. Williams. Released 19th Oct 2020 by NineStar Press, it's 196 pages and available in ebook format. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

I love amateur sleuth cozies. I especially love professor/academic sleuths, so the premise was definitely a plus for me. I wasn't expecting *quite* so much drama-romance content, but readers who enjoy a little mystery with their romance reads will likely find this one fits the bill nicely. The plotting and story arc are well done, I never found my interest flagging and it never felt rushed to me. It's a quick read, so the plot moves along at a pretty good clip. 

The writing is competent with engaging, well rendered characters. If some of the secondary characters were a bit two dimensional and blended together a bit, it didn't detract from the storytelling overall in my opinion. I never felt like I was lost or needed to go back and re-read to sort out who the characters were in relation to the plot.

The romance plot often overshadows the mystery; there's definitely chemistry between main protagonist Ian and his sort-of-ex, investigator Jake. The language is rough - I'd say PG-13, and the book contains several scenes of graphic sexual content (consensual and used in context - but not really safe for a work read, in my opinion). 

Engaging, with a satisfying (if not shocking) denouement - three and a half stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

FIZZ: A Beginners Guide to Making Natural, Non-Alcoholic Fermented Drinks

 

FIZZ is a tutorial and recipe guide to fermented non-alcoholic drinks. Released 7th April 2020 by BIS, it's 160 pages and available in paperback format.

This is a surprisingly comprehensive book and full of background information about the drinks covered. During the lockdown part of the current pandemic, it seemed as though everyone I knew was learning to make kombucha and fermented breads. This book fits right into the skill building - self sufficiency - home hobby genre. Kombucha is indeed contained here in a really solid tutorial chapter, along with several kefirs, ginger beer, a couple of different kvasses, mead, and tepache. An additional chapter at the end of the book includes a number of mixed cocktails utilizing the non-alcoholic brews in the book. 

The intro chapter includes a layman accessible explanation of fermentation, process, tools and ingredients, and hygiene and cleanliness. The following drink chapters include the necessary info to brew and enjoy non-alcoholic drinks at home. 

Recipes contain ingredients in a bullet point list in a sidebar. Measurements are given in standard metric (ml, grams, etc), followed by step by step instructions. Alternative brewing methods or ingredients are listed after the main/classic recipe along with serving suggestions. There are no photos, but the book is enhanced by the addition of whimsically colorful illustrations. 

Well written and presented, this would make a superlative gift choice, library selection, or a fine addition to the homebrewer's library. 

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Hungry Games: A Delicious Book of Recipe Repairs, Word Searches Crosswords for the Food Lover

Hungry Games is a fun collection of food related puzzles for readers to solve by food editor Kate Heddings. Due out 20th Oct 2020 from Simon & Schuster on their Tiller Press imprint, it's 176 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is an interesting collection of food and cooking themed puzzles. There are word searches, crosswords, and interesting and innovative "recipe repair" puzzles where readers are provided with a workable recipe into which 10 errors have been inserted. The point of the puzzle is to find and correct the errors and the reward is a usable and well developed recipe.

The puzzles run the gamut from very easy to difficult. This is a fun and varied collection. I would personally recommend the physical version of the book or access to a printer (for the ebook puzzles). Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Shakespeare's Recipes

 

Shakespeare's Recipes is a food/cooking/commentary collection of the foods and dishes mentioned in the plays of the Bard. Due out 1st Feb 2021 from the author, Rie Sato, the page count information and formatting were not provided in the excerpt given for review purposes. 

This is a very short (13 page) excerpt for review which doesn't contain any recipes. It does contain an intriguing stream-of-consciousness running commentary on some mentions of food from various canonical Shakespeare plays. The partial excerpt of chapter one mostly concerns Falstaff and his epicurean (and romantic) exploits in Merry Wives of Windsor. There are brief mentions of sweetmeats and venison, with some attendant quotes from the play(s) (Cliff notes version: Falstaff appears in three plays (Henry IV 1-2, MWoW), and is eulogized in Henry V. 

The language in this excerpt, while perfectly readable and understandable, is clearly either translated or written by a writer whose primary language facility isn't in English. It's not particularly distracting, but it is noticeable. There are numerous instances where words are substituted for other similar words, nobilities for nobles, pursues for ensues, and several others. As stated, this is an early eARC excerpt and these issues would normally be fixed in the editing process, but since this is a self-published book, it's worth noting.

As it is now, I am truly intrigued by the premise, but less than enthusiastic about the implementation.

Three stars in its current form.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.


Jeeves and the Leap of Faith

 

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith is a new Wodehouse homage novel featuring Jeeves & Wooster by Ben Schott. Released 15th Oct 2020 by Penguin Random House UK on their Hutchinson imprint, it's 352 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

Given the dreary, soul-grinding, wearying mess that is the state of the world today, I've depended more than ever on the respite offered by true pleasure reading. I've found over the last year that I've tended toward cookery books (since I have time and always fancied learning to cook), light fantasy, cozy mysteries, and other lightreading. I've been so thankful for Mr. Schott's brilliant homages to the (previously) inimitable Wodehouse that I've read and re-read both the canonical P.G. Wodehouse and the new books several times over the previous months. 

Every time I've picked up Schott's new Jeeves & Wooster books I've noticed something new I'd missed in previous reads. The pacing is perfect, the wit is rapier keen, and the dialogue pitch perfect. This book could not possibly be better or offered at a better time. The author's grasp of Wodehouse's writing is sometimes eerily precise with the added codicil of his being able to lampoon both the interwar period in Britain *and* current events without bashing it over the reader's head. This works perfectly well as a standalone. It (as the prior volume, Jeeves and the King of Clubs) ends on something of a cliff-hanger, so I am assuming and hoping there's more in store in the near future.

Brilliant and brilliantly funny, and I say, it's a civilised antidote to the current unpleasantness, what? 

Five stars. Looking forward to many many more. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Handy Book of Knots: Learn to Tie Knots for Boating, Climbing, Caving, Crafts, and More

 

The Handy Book of Knots is an encyclopedic and well arranged book of knots and their uses by Geoffrey Budworth & Richard Hopkins. Released 13th Oct 2020 by Quarto on their Chartwell Books imprint, it's a solid 240 pages and is available in flexibound format. 

Knot tying is a fascinating and ubiquitous subject of knowledge - tied (sorry) inextricably to humanity's growth and the development of society. Knots can be utilitarian to decorative (often both), and utterly simple to fiendishly difficult. There are subsets of such disparate subjects as mathematics and crime scene forensics dedicated to the study of knots and knot techniques and materials. This book gives a solid overview of knots in all situations. 

This is a well written book - the authors are extremely knowledgeable and accessible in their writing. It's not a dry or pedantic treatise at all. They're both very engaged with the craft and lore of knots and it shows brilliantly in their writing. They genuinely *want* readers to see and experience the fun and utility of knots themselves. I can imagine they're both gifted teachers/lecturers (it's not clear to what extent each of them contributed to this volume - therefore I say both). 

The book has a logical layout - knots are grouped thematically: overhand half-knots & half hitches, figures of eight, bowlines & sheet bends, crossing knots, wrap & tuck, mavericks & mutations, and a short overview gallery of crafts with knots. Each of the knots contains a clearly photographed step-by-step tutorial series which is easy to follow and includes any necessary extra equipment (poles, carabiner rings, etc). The descriptions of the utility knots also include necessary safety observations and advice for use. The authors have included a glossary, links/bibliography list for further reading, and an index. 

I was a girl scout and avid camper and even did a spot of rappelling in my long vanished youth. Some of these knots were familiar to me but the vast majority were not. I'm not familiar with a better or more thorough treatise on the subject. This would make a superlative selection for campers, self-sufficiency folks, smallholders, crafters, fiber-arts enthusiasts, general knowledge readers, and the like. Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.


Draw 62 Animals and Make Them Happy: Step-by-Step Drawing for Characters and Personality - For Artists, Cartoonists, and Doodlers

 

Draw 62 Animals and Make Them Happy is a fun tutorial drawing book for all-ages by Terry Runyan. Due out 20th Oct from Quarto on their Quarry imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in paperback format.

This is a fun and accessible drawing book with a similar format to the other books in the series. I love drawing tutorial books even though I'm a scientist and don't consider myself an artist. I like the feelings of fun and freedom drawing gives although I'm very often intimidated by starting on a blank page. This tutorial book gives the reader "permission" to just start drawing, to get ink on paper, and that's a big deal. Given the state of the world right now, being able to draw something *happy* is priceless. This might have benefitted by being something of a "right book at the right time", but if so, it's a great bit of serendipity. I spent a week drawing and doodling some of the tutorials here and it's just been so fun and entertaining. I'm still a scientist and not a brilliant technical artist, but I had fun.

The tutorials are exactly that - step by step line drawn series of pictures start to finish. There aren't a lot of extraneous bells and whistles here. There's a full table of contents with each of the animals listed - and it is a comprehensive list; from guinea pig and walrus to binturong and long-eared jerboa.They're whimsically drawn and the format for each is a two page spread with the tutorial drawings on the left page and a "try it yourself" on the facing page with a number of suggested similar poses and settings including other animals and scenery.

Great selection for a gift for a young artist, perhaps with some added sketch pads and pencils. This would also make a superlative classroom or library book.I would also recommend this book to babysitters, grandparents, parents, and basically anyone who spends a fair bit of time with small kids in order to up their 'draw with me' game. I really enjoyed this.  I will use these to decorate journals and notes for friends. I see some line drawn animal scientists in my future (emu and lemur lab nerds with microscope, lab, and test tubes)!

The tutorials are all simple line drawings but would obviously lend themselves well to coloring with other media after drawing. 

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Friday, October 16, 2020

A Pretty Deceit (Verity Kent #4)

 

A Pretty Deceit is the fourth Verity Kent mystery by Anna Lee Huber. Released 6th Oct 2020 by Kensington, it's 304 pages and available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a tightly written and entertaining British mystery series with a strong espionage element set in the early interwar period. Since the books have an overarching plotline, the individual books don't work very well as standalones in my opinion. It's worth reading them in order, which happily isn't an onerous job; the author is adept at her craft.

In this installment the multi-book espionage plot threads are counterbalanced by thefts and forgeries at the estate and manor house of Verity's Aunt Ernestine. The murder of a local handyman soon results in the arrest of his alcoholic wife, but Verity and Sidney are unconvinced of her guilt and set about investigating the crimes with the distinct disapproval of the local constabulary.

There's quite a lot of scenery changing and traveling in this book - they come and go at a breakneck pace charging around (in Sidney's Pierce Arrow) trying to solve a dizzying array of crimes and skullduggery. The characterizations are well done and I liked that the dialogue is urbane and witty (despite Aunt Ernestine being a rampaging pain in the backside - I spent most of the book wanting to throw a shoe at her).

Entertaining and well written with a satisfying denouement. I recommend it to readers of historical mystery, classic golden age British mystery, and period espionage. Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1)

 

Black Sun is the first book in a trilogy by Rebecca Roanhorse. Released 13th Oct 2020 by Simon & Schuster on their Gallery imprint, it's 464 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a lushly imagined and beautifully realized world with magic and majesty and imperfections. The characterizations are stunning and complex and really seem to live and breathe; following their own internal motivations (which aren't always apparent). Like all really well written fantasy, it feels very realistic - the author notes that the world is based on Pre-Columbian culture and it does show its bones, but the story is so much more. I stayed up way too late reading this book and even missed my bus stop reading a particularly engaging bit (totally worth it). 

This is obviously an author who's adept at her craft (she's won pretty much every major award possible for speculative fiction/SF for her earlier work). This is an impressively well written book with precisely engineered pacing and dialogue. There is a fair bit of graphic violence (always in context) including body horror on a child. There is also nuanced and very well written non-binary gender characterizations as well as depictions of non-cis attraction and love. 

I'm really looking forward to what comes next. This is probably my best read in the genre thus far this year. It's complex but definitely worth the effort.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Witch Wars (The Witches of Orkney #3)

 

Witch Wars is the third book in the Witches of Orkney middle grade reader fantasy series by Alane Adams. Due out 13th Oct 2020, it's 208 pages (print version) and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a fun fantasy series for middle grade readers. There are a lot of Norse mythology tie-ins, magical schools for readers pining for Hogwarts, lots of ineffectual (really dimwitted) adults running around trying to destroy the world (and each other in the process), and smart kids who have to keep saving the day. This is the third book in the series, and as such, it works better for having been read in the proper order. The author is adept enough at writing backstory into the narrative that it's not absolutely necessary, but I do recommend not trying to read this as a standalone. 

I like Abigail who is loyal and brave and tries hard to do the right thing even when plans go terribly awry. This time she and her friend Hugo are trying to avert catastrophe by stopping a war before it can get started. The story is full of action and thunders to an exciting battleground climax. The whole is a short and entertaining read and a nice addition to the series. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next for Abigail and co. 

Four stars. There's no graphic violence, bad language, or adult content. This book (and the other books in the series) are full of magic, magical creatures, and themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery, and good over evil. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Silent Bite (Andy Carpenter #22)

 

Silent Bite is the 22nd (!!) Andy Carpenter legal mystery by David Rosenfelt. Due out 13th Oct 2020 from Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.  It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This series is such a fun and reliable read. It's an ensemble cast featuring criminal defense lawyer Andy, his wife (a former cop), and the supporting ensemble of investigators, other lawyers, canines, and an office manager (who is allergic to work), who drive the action. This particular installment is holiday themed and Andy & co. face a challenge trying to prove their client's innocence against a backdrop of gang violence and murder.

The dialogue is rapid fire and often sarcastic; Andy's something of a wisecracking smart alec. The narrative is fast paced and engaging. I wound up reading this one in one sitting (wrecking my bedtime in the process). The denouement was admittedly a little over the top, but I liked seeing Andy and his friends do what they do best. There is some rough language, used in context, and quite a bit of violence (also in context) as the body count rises. There is no sexual content apart from some very light double entendre on Andy's part (aimed at his wife). 

Simon Garfunkel (the former K-9 patrol dog), Tara, Sebastian, and other four legged characters make charming appearances (as always), and it's a fun ride to a satisfying conclusion. This entry works well enough as a standalone, all the background info is written in - however, for fans of the series who aren't caught up - there's a pretty major development concerning Andy's colleague Hike Lynch which will be spoiled if you read this one out of order. 

Four stars. This is a super fun and positive and very well written light legal procedural with dogs. The series is one of the few I recommend without any reservations to all of my mystery reading friends.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

From Dill to Dracula: A Romanian Food & Folklore Cookbook

 

From Dill to Dracula is a culinary and cultural homage to Romanian food and folklore curated by A.M. Ruggirello. Due out 10th Nov 2020, it's 262 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

Roughly 20% of the content is used to provide a nice capsule introduction to the culture, attractions, folklore, and history of Romania. The photography is attractive and well done. I've wanted to visit the area for a long time and I liked looking at the photos of the Danube, churches, markets, and mountain castles of the area. Throughout the book, the author has included keys for extra info: Romanian language/words, folklore/culture, and food facts about specific dishes or and drinks. Admittedly, the inclusion of Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) - including a shiver-inducing period woodcut - was a little weird for a cookbook, but he's confined to the folklore/history part of the book, and he's pretty famous as far as Romanian history goes, so it doesn't detract from the overall experience in my opinion.

The recipes themselves are arranged thematically: bread & soup, vegetables, meat, sweets, and drinks. Each recipe contains an introduction with some background explanations, yields, ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar (American standard measures, no metric equivalents), and step by step instructions. Many recipes also contain alternative presentations or extra serving info. The nutritional info is not included. The emphasis is on simple ingredients, prepared well, with lots of root vegetables, meat, and grain ingredients. There are some ingredients (surprisingly not many) which may be somewhat challenging for readers to find outside of large metropolitan areas with access to ethnic/specialty groceries. The author has included an appendix with an abbreviated list of grocers who carry Romanian and Easten European food and drinks, including online retailers. There is also an index in Romanian and English. 

The photography is unusually good for this volume. All (or nearly all) of the recipes are illustrated and the serving photos are beautifully presented and attractive. Graphically the book is easy to read with a nice layout and good contrast and typesetting. 

This would make a superlative gift for a cooking fan, as well as a nice choice for library, school, or similar. 

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

What Can You Do With a Color?

 

What Can You Do With a Color? is a whimsically illustrated picture book for children (of all ages) by Gülşah Yemen and illustrated by Çağrı Odabaşı. Due out 27th Oct 2020 from CrackBoom Books, it's 32 pages and will be available in hardcover format. 

This is such an appealing and accessible little book. Thematically, it introduces the concept of color theory, what the primary colors are, what they look like, how they blend with one another into secondary colors, and a tiny bit about tertiary colors at the back. Each page has a little bit of easy to read explanatory text along with a 2 page illustration showing a red sky with red birds, a yellow lake with yellow frogs (and a smiling Loch Ness monster), blue tree with a cute bespectacled blue squirrel, and so on for the secondary colors. The "narrator" (see cover) is a little thumbprint squiggle figure who color coordinates with each of the pages. 

The art is simple and appealing and will enthrall. The illustrations are also rich in small subtle details which bear a closer look. This would be a great choice for a "read-to-me" session as well as a search and find game with toddlers and young kids.  

Five stars. This would make a superlative reading circle book, classroom library book, or gift.  

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

Death and the Brewery Queen (Kate Shackleton #12)

 

Murder is in the Air is the 12th Kate Shackleton historical cozy by Frances Brody. Released 6th Oct 2020 by Crooked Lane Books, it's 316 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

This is a gently written, engaging historical (1930s) mystery series set in England. This entry sees Kate and her partner investigating a series of incidents at a brewery in Yorkshire. I love the slow paced golden-age interwar classic feel of these mysteries and this one fits in well. For new readers, it works very well as a standalone; the author is adept at providing backstory in context without info-dumping.

There's a quite impressive verisimilitude. There has clearly been a prodigious amount of research behind the setting and workings of an English brewery of the time, and it shows. The plot is character driven and their interactions as they learn about one another and their interrelationships both past and present allow Kate to disentangle all the plot threads and turn them into a cohesive whole by the end of the book. The denouement was somewhat melancholy for me. Sometimes (most of the time?) there's no perfect "happily ever after" and this is true here as well.

I highly recommend the series as a whole, and this entry specifically to any readers who enjoy golden age interwar classic mysteries in the British style. The writing, plotting, and pacing will draw inevitable comparisons with Josephie Tey and Christie amongst the period selections, as well as Nicola Upson and Imogen Robertson's modern period pieces. This is one series I really look forward to, and this particular offering compares favorably with earlier volumes in the series.

Four stars

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Yoga for Connecting Mind, Body, and Soul: For All Ages, Sizes, and Schedules

 

Yoga for Connecting Mind, Body, and Soul is a practical and accessible guide to working yoga into readers' lives. Due out 28th Oct 2020 from BQB, it's 96 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a well presented, logical, and accessible guide to incorporating yoga in a daily routine. The exercises are presented individually, without (much) context and can be mixed and matched as needed. There's not a whole lot of philosophy or history provided, so for readers who would prefer their yoga instruction and practice mostly devoid of alternative philosophies, there's very little to dismay or distract included here. For people who *do* want all the bells and whistles (crystals, spirit guides, and all) - this book isn't overly full of those things. What it does, and does well is show a variety of sitting yoga positions from a variety of photographed models along with step by step directions.

The poses are arranged roughly thematically with coordinated sequences: lower back, core twist, heart-lung, shoulder and upper body, neck, balancing and synchronizing, bed yoga (no sexual content at all here), airplane yoga, and a short chapter on forest bathing and earthing/walking in nature. 

This is a short guide, but the gentle nature of the poses would make them a very good choice for elderly, rehabilitating, paraplegic, or other readers with mobility challenges, as well as readers starting out with yoga and meditation. 

Four stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Shadow Ridge (Jo Wyatt Mystery #1)

 

Shadow Ridge is the first book in a new police procedural series by M.E. Browning. Released 6th Oct 2020 by Crooked Lane, it's 296 pages (print version) and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

This is a well written modern procedural with an ensemble cast. Detective Jo Wyatt is a strong and intelligent female with a surprisingly balanced sense of self worth and confidence considering the casual sexism she endures from neanderthals on and off the job. Her team includes a cross section of small town investigative personnel. The story revolves around the apparent suicide of a local software games developer and the statistically unlikely number of deaths of people in his gaming orbit.

The characters are well rendered, three dimensional and believable for the most part. The disparate plot threads intertwine more closely as the book progresses until they merge about 3/4ths of the way through. One of the biggest standouts for me with this book was the expert way the author managed to explore perception. Motivation from one character's perspective which seems perfectly logical to -them- may not appear so to other characters and the author's ability to highlight both viewpoints  (for example Jo vs. Quinn) was exemplary. 

The clues are found and sifted and the denouement is satisfying and well written I did see it coming, but it was satisfying nonetheless. TI'm looking forward to more adventures for Jo and co.

Four stars. Very well done.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

The 30-Minute Cooking from Frozen Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes That Will Save You Time and Money—No Pre-Thawing Required!

 

The 30-Minute Cooking from Frozen Cookbook is a technique and recipe guide by Carole Jones. Released 6th Oct 2020 by Simon & Schuster on their Adams Media imprint, it's 192 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This cookbook embraces an interesting (and appealing) concept: how to get tasty food on the table in 30 minutes using at least some frozen ingredients. The only times I had ever done that before were for things like frozen fish fillets, frozen pizza, french fries, and smoothies. Admittedly, smoothies are included in this collection, but the author presents so many more creative ways to incorporate frozen convenience foods in everyday meals.

The recipes are arranged thematically by chapters: breakfast, side dishes, chicken, beef & pork, fish & seafood, vegetarian, and desserts. Each recipe includes an intro description, ingredients listed bullet style (measurements in American standard only, metric conversion tables in the back of the book), and step by step instructions. Nutritional info: calories, fat, protein, sodium, fiber, carbs, and sugar, are included at the end of each recipe. 

The recipes are what I would classify as "everyday fancy" - perfectly attainable and do-able but without hugely involved effort or expensive (weird) ingredients. The ingredients will be readily available at any moderately well stocked grocery store. 

The photography is not plentiful. At a rough guess, probably 15-20% of the dishes are pictured. The photos which are there are clear and well done. Serving suggestions are appropriate and attractive. The lack of photos detracted a bit from the overall experience for me. 

The recipes are varied and the ones we tried were all tasty and enjoyed by my family. Many of these would be great for cooks who are learning to cook on their own. This one would make a superlative choice for a newly-moved-out student or someone living on their own for the first time. Many of the recipes have large yields (6+ servings), so for singletons, some adjustments will need to be made for leftovers. (I saw that a lot of the recipes would lend themselves very well to meal planning/once a week cooking - so that's something to keep in mind).

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Clean Treats for Everyone: Healthy Desserts and Snacks Made with Simple, Real Food Ingredients

 

Clean Treats for Everyone is a tutorial and recipe collection for clean treats collected and developed by Laura Fuentes. Released 6th Oct 2020 by Quarto on their Fair Winds Press imprint, it's 176 pages and is available in paperback format.

This is a very well presented cookbook full of appealing and healthy treats with an emphasis on unprocessed, unrefined, healthy ingredients. The results are gloriously tasty and decadent, despite being "good for you". The author has a very contemporary informal style of writing which appealed to me. She seems friendly and open and the non-recipe parts of the book are accessible and interesting. 

The introduction covers "clean eating" and cooking and what it entails, some benefits and how to start. The introductory material also includes a useful pantry/shopping list with tips on storage as well as how to combine clean eating with other specialized diets such as gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free. There's also a useful short intro to cooking tools and supplies. The recipes themselves are arranged into chapters by baked goods, and no-bake. 

The recipes contain an introduction, specialized allergy/diet info (gluten, nut, dairy-free etc). Recipe ingredients are listed bullet style in the sidebar with both American standard, with metric measurements in parentheses (yay!). The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store. Some items may need to be sourced from health-food or co-op grocers (almond flour, coconut sugar, etc), but there's nothing that is "way out" there in terms of accessibility. Nutritional info is not included. 

The photography is not plentiful, but the photos which are included are clear and illustrative. Serving suggestions are appealing and appropriate.  This is a very nice collection of sweets with emphasis on flavor and visual appeal.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Still Life (Inspector Karen Pirie #6)

 

Still Life is the 6th Karen Pirie mystery by Val McDermid. Released 6th Oct 2020 by Grove Atlantic on their Atlantic Monthly Press imprint, it's 436 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

McDermid is a prodigiously talented and precise writer. The characters are so finely rendered and so detailed that they felt real to me. This is an ensemble cast and Inspector Pirie makes good use of her team. The plotting is well controlled and the narrative arc (despite the hefty page count) never drags or loses engagement. Something is happening all the time and it really works very well. 

One thing which impresses me very much about McDermid is the realism of her prose. There's one moment in the book which literally made me *gasp* out loud I was so surprised (and dismayed). I stayed up an hour longer than my bedtime to make sure that the situation got resolved. (No spoilers, but *wow*). The language in this one is about par for the modern procedural genre. The cursing is used in context and I didn't find it egregious (there are a number of rugged Anglo-Saxon monosyllables including the f-bomb).

It works fine as a standalone, new readers needn't be intimidated by the thought of needing to read the previous books. This is an enjoyable thriller from a master at the top of their game.  The disparate plot threads both those from current events and from the past, intertwine and resolve into a very satisfying and believable denouement. I like it very much that the author doesn't feel the need to tie every single plot thread together into one overarching solution - the solutions to the mysteries are resolved, but they're not all tied together.

Five stars. Highly recommended for fans of procedurals. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Crayola Out-Of-This-World Space Colors

Crayola Out-Of-This-World Space Colors is an appealing and colorful picture book for young readers about space, planets, and features of our universe. Due out 6th Oct 2020 from Lerner Publishing, it's 32 pages and will be available in hardcover (library bound), paperback, and ebook formats.

There are very few people who don't feel a sense of awe and fascination looking up at the night sky. This beautifully rendered short book will be a fast favorite with the youngest. The colorful photographs almost pop off the page. The text is simple, descriptive, and easy to follow.

This would make a good reading circle, library, classroom, or bedtime read. The author has included an abbreviated glossary, resource links for further reading, and a short index. The pictures and text are factual and sourced mostly from NASA and other academic institutions. The crayons in the illustrations show the color names on the labels, but there are no coloring pages or blank pages accompanying the photos (easily remedied with a blank pad of paper for drawing purposes).

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Shake Strain Done: Craft Cocktails at Home


Shake Strain Done is a basic no-frills mixology book by J. M. Hirsch. Due out 3rd Nov 2020 from Little Brown & Co. on their Voracious imprint, it's 272 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a really solid bar book full of traditional recipes. The recipes are arranged thematically, by main alcoholic ingredient - brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey (and analogues) and wine. The introduction includes some background, an overview of cocktails, bar equipment, and more.

Each of the recipes includes an introductory description and yields. Ingredients are listed in American standard (oz) only (no metric measurements) and step by step instructions. Variations and alternatives are provided at the end of the recipes. Each of the recipes is also accompanied by a signature note (warm, spicy, strong, and so forth) which can help when pairing drinks with hors d'oeuvres/snacks. There are no photographs, but it does have a nice art deco vibe with colored line drawings (also showing some bar-glass shapes and garnishes) along with cool evocative chapter headings and a deco graphic layout.

Many of the ingredients should be available at any well stocked grocery/liquor store although some might need to be sourced at specialists.

Cocktails are such a civilized interlude and this book includes a solid cross section of traditional libations to build mixology skills and impress one's friends at the next gathering. (Especially given that it really looks like the sensible segments of society aren't going to be packed into night-spots anytime soon). 

Four stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Murder on Cold Street (Lady Sherlock #5)

 

Murder on Cold Street is the 5th Lady Sherlock mystery by Sherry Thomas. Due out 6th Oct 2020 from Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 352 pages and will be available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a well written historical Holmes homage murder mystery with a strong romance subplot. The book is largely character driven and most of the characters are well rendered and interesting. The pacing was somewhat uneven for me though it picked up in the second half of the book. The underlying setup (that the investigative force behind the Holmes name is Charlotte Holmes who's not above some gender prestidigitation to walk unfettered in a man's world)  is well and sensitively written for the most part and the author makes good use of the ensemble cast including Mrs. Hudson and Holmes' sidekick "friend with benefits" Lord Ingram.

The dialogue was pretty well done, there weren't any places I felt yanked out of my suspension of disbelief (which usually happens because of  egregious modernisms), so that was very nice. The language is clean and there's nothing to dismay. There is a fair amount of casual sexism which was annoying, but obviously a fact of everyday life for women of the time period regardless of their social class. 

The book does work well enough as a standalone; new readers won't have trouble keeping the story straight, however, these characters do have a history together. There are several plot elements from previous books which are referred to here which would be fairly big spoilers if not read in order. 

It's an enjoyable escapist read which is well written. For -strict- fans of the Doyle canon, this book won't convince readers that it's a newly discovered authentic story. For people who love the time period, like their murder mysteries with a dose of romance, and don't mind that Holmes is female, this could be a good fit. Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Archive of the Forgotten (Hell's Library #2)

 

The Archive of the Forgotten is the second novel in the Hell's Library trilogy by A.J. Hackwith. Due out 6th October 2020 from Penguin Random House on their Berkley Ace imprint, it's 336 pages and will be available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a very intricately crafted book, told in 3rd person alternating PoV from the 4 main characters. There has been a shakeup in the academic library structure of Hell. Interdepartmental strife is starting to settle down and the library is establishing a new status quo when a mysterious ink begins leaking out of the books damaged in the aforementioned contretemps. Several of the secondary characters along with the main characters have theories about what is happening, if it's dangerous, and if so, how to fix it. 

For anyone who's spent much time in academia, the interdepartmental interplay will be instantly recognizable. I found it delightfully, sharply, wryly imagined and depicted. The narrative arc felt somewhat slow to me because the book is heavily character driven and ponderous - there's a lot going on. I also don't think it works well as a standalone; pick up and read the first book in the series before tackling this one.

I adore bibliomysteries; it's probably my favorite fantasy subgenre. This is definitely a beautifully well written example. For fans of Fforde's Thursday Next series, this is much more serious and somewhat darker in style and content. I would say it compares more favorably with a long story from Gaiman's Sandman - Lucien from the Dreaming's library would fit right in in this story. 

Four stars - but not a standalone read.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.