If You Liked Station Eleven…

 

If you liked one of the biggest books of 2016, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, then you need to check out Before This Is Over, by Amanda Hickie.

While Station Elven looked at the national consequences of a fast moving pandemic, Before This Is Over focuses on one family, and the radical changes in their comfortable suburban life necessitated by a modern plague.

An unknown, flu-like illness sweeps around the world, catching Hannah and most of the society unaware. Quick witted, if somewhat naive, Hannah races to gather her family and prepare for the undefined threat. But how much food is enough? How much water, energy, basic resources western civilization takes for granted, will the family need to survive a threatened quarantine? How long will they need to hold out, and will they be able to endure?

Most of us have never been forced to make hard decisions regarding the survival of our loved ones, let alone face the consequences of choices made regarding neighbors, children, community and friends. What emotional cost, what damage to our psyche is too much to bear?

The premise to the novel may seem farfetched to some, but author Amanda Hickie’s life in Canada gave her a unique perspective on this apocalyptic tale. Hickie and her family were living on Toronto when it became the epicenter of the 2003 SARS outbreak in that country.

Compelling, frightening and intensely personal, Before This Is Over looks at one woman’s battle for her family in a suddenly unfamiliar world.

Four out of five stars.

Netgalley provided me with a complimentary copy for review.

Here be Monsters

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You may think it is hard to go home again, but you haven’t seen a tough homecoming until you’ve read “The Grave Tender,” by Eliza Maxwell. A moody, atmospheric thriller, “The Grave Tender” explores the lines people are prepared to cross defending their families, even when they are fearful of some of their supposed nearest and dearest.

Dark tales susurrate across the across hardscrabble east-Texas farmland, whispering secrets about lost children, raped girls, and a disfigured man hiding in a patch of thorny brush designed to keep all but the most determined, or foolish, out. Like old patched maps of uncharted territories say, here be monsters.

But who are the monsters in this twisted story of family loss and redemption, and can widowed Hadley Dixon make a home for herself, her child, and the unknown babe she carries?

Secrets come home to roost in this satisfying read.

 

Three stars out of five.

Lake Union Publishing provided a complementary review copy for review.

MYSTERY/SUSPENSE

The Grave Tender

Eliza Maxwell

Lake Union Publishing

 

 

“The Readymade Thief” by Augustus Rose: Review

The Readymade Thief

Rarely have I felt so passionately about a new author and debut novel that I not only called a regional bookstore about an author signing, I emailed my friends to encourage them to attend.

“The Readymade Thief” by Augustus Rose has sent me into an unpaid, handselling frenzy. The blurb from Penguin Random House may mislead some readers, letting them think this one of those ubiquitous teen coming-of-age fantasy novels featuring an at-risk young woman. Rose takes many of the themes found in genre novels and spins them into a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of physical and metaphysical insight.

While this may sound challenging, at its heart “The Readymade Thief” is a literary mystery-thriller, featuring a secret society, disappearing teenagers, uber-geeks, the darknet, drugs, raves, and…oh yeah… a kick-ass heroine. Somehow, Rose manages to meld physics and art without losing track of the twisty plot or sacrificing the novel’s pace.

To read an excerpt, go to:

http://www.firsttoread.com/books/the-readymade-thief-augustus-rose/9780735221833#

 

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I received an advanced copy of this book in electronic format from firsttoread.com in exchange for an honest review.

This review has been posted to:

Goodreads.com

Amazon.com

wrotetrips.wordpress.com

Facebook.com/WroteTrips

 

 

 

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

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Amazing near cli-fi, in which New York is a drowned city as the result of catastrophic climate change. The big money movers and shakers have not learned their lesson though, and are once again leading the world to the edge of economic and physical disaster. Engaging characters are far from stereotypic as they fight the good fight to save the world and their city.

 

Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence by Michael Capuzzo

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Can’t get enough of shark week? This is the book for you-a nonfiction account of a series of shark attacks along the Jersey shore during July, 1916. The Gilded Age is over, and the US is on the cusp of entering WWI. Americans from all financial stratus head out to a new vacation destination, the beach, to beat the summer heat. Few people knew anything about sharks; most fishermen considered them harmless, timid scavengers. Shock and horror at the discovery of great white sharks, and their need of large prey, sent beachgoers fleeing from beaches. This gripping sea saga may have served as inspiration for Jaws by Peter Benchley.

 

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Credit: Chris & Monique Fallows/

 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

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I am surprised by how much I liked this book. Generally, I don’t read books written by men about women, but Cleave seemed to get the characters right in the world he has created. I realize avoiding novels written by men about women is a particular bias of mine, but I’m also sure that other women share this bias.

But author Chris Cleave seems to perceptively characterize the women in this “sweeping epic” about WWII, as well as the many other characters peopling his novel. In a rare nod to diversity, Cleave shines his authorial light on the plight of blacks during the London blitz, sharing a perspective I’ve not seen before. It has made me want to read more, to determine the veracity of his descriptions.

Over all, the novel sensitively depicts love, loss and courage. It shows the trials endured by ordinary people in extra-ordinary circumstances, and how they find the grace and courage to endure. Would be a good read for a book club.

 

Cooking the Book: The Little French Bistro by Nina George

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“White witches should be very skilled at baking,” Pascale said as she showed her how to prepare the gâteau breton, but however hard she tried, Marianne’s cakes never tasted as luscious and as enticing as Pascale’s.”  -The Little French Bistro, Nina George, 2017.

With a title like “The Little French Bistro,” you know food is going to play an important role in the novel. Armchair traveler foodies will delight in the descriptions of classic Breton cuisine. In fact, the ability to cook is critical to the protagonist. It helps her find employment and a place in her new community.

If you are looking for something sweet to enjoy while reading the book try Gâteau Breton, also known as kouign-amann, Brittany’s shortbread. Perhaps you will even discover a bit of magic in your first slice.

“Some said that it took a sprinkling of magic to make a kouign so good that it would enchant a person’s heart forever, so they would never forget where they had eaten their first slice. -The Little French Bistro, Nina George, 2017.

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Gâteau Breton

Ingredients

350g plain flour

350g salted butter

300g sugar

6 egg yolks (+ 1 extra for brushing over)

A splash of rum (optional)

Method

Mix together the flour and sugar then gradually mix in the butter.

Add the egg yolks as you knead the dough – normally by hand – and the rum if you wish. Don’t knead the dough for too long, only long enough to incorporate all the ingredients.

Spread out the dough in a deep, round ovenproof dish or springform mould.

Using a fork, etch diagonal stripes onto the surface, then coat with a yolk egg-wash for a golden finish.

Bake for around 45 minutes at 180°C, leave it to cool then take it out of the dish or mould.

This cake keeps for a long time and some believe it tastes even better after a few days. It is usually served in slices with a cup of good coffee. It can also be served with a little jam or prune conserve – but whichever way it’s served, it’s delicious.

Sources:

First image: finisterebrittany.com

Second Image: Unattributed via Pinterest

Recipe: finisterebrittany.com