Thursday, May 28, 2015

We Are Not Alone

Footsteps in the SkyFootsteps in the Sky by Greg Keyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The intriguing thing about this novel is that it places some Hopi/Pueblo lore at the center of a space drama, utilizing the tropes of invaders vs. colonists, advanced science vs. magical powers, tradition, politics, ethics, opposing and complementary worldviews, and first contact to draw the obvious parallels. And turns expectations upside down and crossways.

It was beautiful, violent, and strange, just like my native Southwest. Keyes is respectful of native traditions as he explores love and honor in the cosmos. I have read and enjoyed Keyes' fantasy novels and am happy to report he can handle science fiction also. Particularly recommended for those who enjoy scifi with a Native American twist, or the works of Dan Simmons and Greg Bear (this is short, though).

Though I received an EARC for review from the publisher and Netgalley, I ordered a copy for my "real" bookshelves.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Worth the Cost

Survivor (Vicky Peterwald, #2)Survivor by Mike Shepherd

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vicki Peterwald: Survivor is better all around than she was in "Target," edging up from 3 to 3.5 stars. Shepherd hits the right notes in this second entry in the series. Kris Longknife's example lurks in the background, but Vicki is coming into her own. Lots of action (mostly outside the bedroom, this time, yay.) Vicki gains valuable experience, compassion and gumption--and the support of the real Navy. This Peterwald is saving people from hunger, economies from collapse, and working hard for good, for once. Well done! Recommended for Kris fans, and anyone else who enjoys a light space opera.
I received an EARC from Ace and Netgalley for review.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Well Met on the Path

The Canterbury SistersThe Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Canterbury Sisters

Is a great book for a long weekend read—or an anytime read. The blurb: “Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.”

It won me over despite its first person, present tense narrator. Perhaps it was the “outsider” perspective—Che joins a pilgrim group at the last minute. Along the way, in Chaucerian fashion, the eight women tell stories that reveal their hopes and dreams for the journey.  All women will find something to relate to in these stories.

Wright has the perfect balance between tragedy and comedy in the perspective, language, and stories of her pilgrim group. This is a perfect book club book. Highly recommended.
I received an EARC for review from the publisher and Netgalley.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Plant Yourself and Read

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miss Em feels the wonder she first felt upon reading Novik’s Temeraire: the joy of finding a new take on old tropes, but even more, the satisfaction of being in the mind of a master wordsmith. Away to another world, where cultural assumptions are terribly and wonderfully suborned. This is a Polish-flavored fairytale for adults, with a wicked forest, a mysterious dragon magician, and an unconventional heroine. Magic, danger, love—and the twist of a sister-friend quest.

Miss Em does dot give five stars lightly. Nor do Robin Hobb and Maggie Stiefvater. And Sherwood Smith gave it an excellent review as well. These are reviews from her peers, not cover blurbs, mind you.  And, there’s closure enough, doesn’t matter if this is a series or not. Miss Em highly recommends. Will she thenceforth read anything Novik writes? Yes, and again, yes.

Miss Em received an EARC of the book from the publisher and Netgalley for review.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Baking is Life

The Art of Baking BlindThe Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden’s “The Art of Baking” became Britain’s “Joy of Cooking.” Eaden was the “face” of her husband’s grocery store chain and has recently died, and the company is looking for a new expert baker. Five amateurs are selected to compete for the title. (A contest, not reality show, BTW—but you’ll be familiar.)

“There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved.”~from The Art of Baking

Baking blind is a challenge for every pastry chef. It means baking the crust previous to filling the pie, and despite precise measurements and practiced skill, it doesn’t always fulfill expectations. In this case, the crust baked well and the filling makes for a pretty good piece of pie. The filling, of course, is the back story behind Mrs. Eaden’s “perfect” life, and the contestant’s own hopes, dreams, and realities.

The more things change, the more they stay the same—Mrs. Eaden’s struggle for fulfillment is not that different from these other women’s—fifty years later. Most women can relate to that.  Fine descriptions of food and baking along with good storytelling make for a hearty, savory pie. It’s a bit heavier than I expected, more soap opera than dramedy. Would make a good book club book.
(I received an EARC from St. Martins and Netgalley for review.) 

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Sunday, May 3, 2015


Bitter CreekBitter Creek by Peter Bowen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Worth the long wait for the 14th book. If you've never had the pleasure of meeting Gabriel Du Pre, Metis fiddler, Montana brand inspector, start with Coyote Wind, the first entry. I own the entire series. Du Pre must help right an old wrong and clear up old murders in this welcome return of a master to his craft. Rural Montana. Cranky old medicine men. Pink wine and smart kids. It's an angry book, though, angry about lives wasted in fear and poverty and greed and hatred. And joyful, seizing the pleasures of family and food, music and beauty. Like McCall Smith's novels of Botswana, the character and the setting, the place and the voice and the stories combine to form an inimitable and irresistible whole. Literature at its best, that takes us to a completely different place and shows us ourselves.

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