Categories
ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas

Advertisements

A summer escape she’ll never forget . . .

Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home. 

But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over! 

Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams?

Advertisements

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such savory stories and writing. I would like to thank Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for providing me with an advance readers copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially those who are looking for a refreshing travel escape while on lockdown or feeling bogged down by life circumstances.

The Story
Reading stories by Jo Thomas are always such a treat to dive right in and be whisked away to a lovely place.

Reads like the first glance at a restaurant menu, where everything sounds so delicious and you want to devour it all, a good restaurant with good conversation, one where you leave happy and satisfied.

Took me right there. First sip of morning coffee. An early day’s work of homemade pizza dough divided and ready for a lunch time feast, fired in a wood oven. Wandering around the plaza, the market, the people I might meet. The aroma of fresh cut citrus, garden basil, garlic, tomato, mozzarella bubbling, ready for your heart’s content. I was there enjoying it with Nonno and Nonna.

And this one was all about Italy, family, and love. With deeper sentiments, life circumstances, with crossroads that were unexpected, interesting, and dynamic enough to make me think about my own.

The Writing
Every book I’ve read thus far has delivered its promise and this was was no exception. Inviting and not overly descriptive. Just enough to create alluring atmosphere while just enough to allow my imagination to feel like it was my own experience.

I really liked the initial and subsequent use of Italian language and translational presentation.

Questions I had were later answered in more subtle, internal monologue and character interaction. Super gratifying when that happens and when it doesn’t feel forced, jarring, or overly-explanatory. Makes for a good reading experience that doesn’t feel either rushed or boring.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and am looking forward to the next read!

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas Pizza | Erica Robbin
Pizza I craved and ate after reading this book.
Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
Book Reviews Books Cookbooks Featured

Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence by Claire Saffitz

Advertisements

Claire Saffitz is a baking hero for a new generation.

In Dessert Person, fans will find Claire’s signature spin on sweet and savory recipes like Babkallah (a babka-Challah mashup), Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie, Strawberry-Cornmeal Layer Cake, Crispy Mushroom Galette, and Malted Forever Brownies.

She outlines the problems and solutions for each recipe–like what to do if your pie dough for Sour Cherry Pie cracks (patch it with dough or a quiche flour paste!)–as well as practical do’s and don’ts, skill level, prep and bake time, and foundational know-how. With Claire at your side, everyone can be a dessert person.

Advertisements

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence by Claire Saffitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really enjoying this cookbook.

It features beautiful, almost retro style photos. Thumbing through the book is like having a peak at yummy pastries behind the glass at a local bakery or donut shop and having a hard time choosing from all your favorites.

I like the informational tidbits at the beginning and reading the backstory behind each recipe.

The recipes overall are quite unique, well-thought out in proportion, and so far very yummy. Contains not only desserts, but a few savory ones as well which was a nice surprise.

I’m still working my way through it, mostly starting with cookies, and had a make a few ingredient substitutions which turned out lovely. But that has made it all that much more fun, especially after following along with the accompanying Claire Saffitz x Dessert Person YouTube videos where Saffitz even modifies her own recipes, which I find quite enduring as it has brought out a certain improvisational creativity that I’m quite drawn to.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Advertisements

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

Advertisements

Rating: 2 out of 5.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Enjoyed the scenes creation in this one. I read this one for the Literally Dead Book Club. I’m wondering if the audiobook version was the way to go.

The Story
I think this book is one that will speak to people differently and warrants such an individual interpretation based on certain experiences and perceptions of the past and present time.

Bits I thought were great, some a little less.

Really enjoyed a little bit of New England history. Most of the story focused on changes happening during gentrification of a neighborhood with overall increased racial and social divide that already pre-existed, told in a fore-telling way. Narrowing it down to the realization of it in a community from two points of view, highlighting differences in culture, social status, social inequality, social injustices.

An arching theme of racial subjugation. Made some social talking points in a nuanced way, some otherwise more overt. Inclusion in the lack of diversity while also pointing out the exclusion because of diversity.

Sort of spoke to a loaded point with presuppositions I was less clear about. Thriller aspects I quite enjoyed, especially the Uber scene.

My favorite scene was the hair boutique.

Definitely more of a modern take geared toward an audience likely within a certain age range. Spanned from Avon to emojis. It took a certain amount of know about of pop culture/modern references, some I understood, others not so much.

Tone
The overall tone at the beginning was negative, very hopeless. Hopeful for the glory days of Brooklyn, mostly told through neighborhood watch commentary.

I felt myself wanting to know more about these better days as the characters experienced them and what made it all so great without having any prior knowledge and I’m not sure if there was a real tipping point for the time frame since the beginning 2/3rds of the book was more of a slow burn in time, from a solidarity that was less defined.

I wondered about the familiar faces, where did they all go? I wanted more of the lived experiences rather than told in retrospect. I suppose I missed it in the book because it sounded like on page 56, that she came back to Brooklyn as an adult so I wasn’t sure her yearning because the golden years seemed to be mostly tainted from the start so it was hard to gauge if I hadn’t had any presupposition. Perhaps for her it went from bad to worse without measure and the portrayal was more nuanced.

Character descriptions like a “Hispanic teen” and mentions of Middle Eastern and Chinese restaurant businesses not being up to par with the main character’s standard, which at first hand was less credulous to her point, instead came back full circle, though I’m not sure if I understood it correctly in its entirety if that was the case.

Written as a character who was continually unhappy with her situation, with life, with herself. Action and description of those she encountered was in the most judgmental way, comparing all of her experiences to the glory days as a passive spectator, yet strong at heart and will, which was so different than the ending when pent up emotion finally came out. She took action with all her might, at least what was left of it after much time of suppression.

Her emotion from the start was worn down. I would have liked to have explored more and greater depth of her distant memories of the place and personal growth aside from being told of such things like the fire hydrant play, that would have been more unique to her as an individual aside from race and social status, as well as her friends and family as a collective experience. Maybe some points of joy to reference from in her previous relationships.

The Writing
It was like “Here’s the scene…” and proceeded to tell me about everything through a rant without any grounding into the lives and experiences I wanted to know more about.

Some of the writing I really enjoyed, brought out the curtness, loved the one liners, but other times because of perhaps the pacing, I didn’t find myself always immersed in it.

Pacing
A lot of commentary on everyone and everything as an introduction to her world and everything in it. The telling of it all became sort of repetitive. Until the end, then action, as in the writing of it. I sometimes felt like I was told after the fact and a little too late.

Characters
The characters sort of read the same to me. I only knew what was happening all around them. It wasn’t until about page 144 that the characters started to differentiate a bit in thought, though dialogue characteristics remained the same amongst them.

“You find something nefarious in everything” Marcus told her at one time. She remained hyper-vigilant and suspicious. I often wondered what life was like before Marcus because she didn’t start off with redemptive qualities to invite engagement with those different than her, so it was difficult to feel every disappointment alongside her, though perhaps it was half way through the book, when it became the point and started to make somewhat better sense. Half way I started to understand her social relationships with herself, others, friend betrayal, her mother, though I’m not sure I found all I was looking for in time for the plot to end like it did.

Dialogue
Much dialogue to plow through and because I felt the characters less distinguishable, I think likely audiobook may have helped in this one.

I’ll remember to choose the audiobook version if a subsequent book has multiple POVs and lots of dialogue the next time.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
Biography Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Nonfiction

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee

Advertisements

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him.

In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend.

He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.

Advertisements

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really appreciated this one. I read it for Life’s Library Book Club. It was certainly different than what I expected and I’d recommend it for anyone looking to write in general and for gaining insight into other people’s life experiences. It has useful information and is a book that has essays that each have different tone and approach that would be great considerations for style. For advice, example, perspective. It’s a heavy and vulnerable read, one you’ll want to set aside ample time for or one you’ll want to devote making room in your emotional space for.

It would make a great pick for writing circles and book clubs wanting to explore a very reflective, naive, age-specific/life stage, pondering of how the author viewed and processed the world around him as a teen which shaped him into adulthood as he retells it. Journeying with him and learning how he fit into the world, development of self, cultural identity, social class, sexuality, sexual maturity as a whole, belonging. Fitting in. Not only loss, but rejection.

I honestly didn’t know about this one at first. A battle of my expectations. Times I thought wow this is genius other times I was like what in the world am I reading?

The Story
I won’t speak too much about the content from the autobiographical part for sake of spoiling it. I initially went into it without taking in the blurb which I think gave me a fresh dive into it during the initial chapter. Apart from his victories/tragedies I didn’t feel like I got to know the author, but it came full circle toward the end so if you’re thinking about DNFing the book at any point, hang in there.

The content as far as writing advice was very different. Approach at times was quite frustrating for me, but wasn’t without purpose. It is a unique take on a book titled “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays.” It was a unique book for an autobiography/memoir. It turned into an almost telling a story within a story about a story while writing a story which I quite enjoyed overall.

The Writing
Really enjoyed his writing style overall when he was writing. Some essays in and of themselves were a bit disjointed but I think that may have been deliberate to show different takes on writing style? Overall I loved the style which was to the point, not overly descriptive, yet drew clever detail/simile out of the scene. Simplicity by choosing just a few, accurate and profound concepts. He is super talented.

POV/Tense
Interesting.

Tone
At times sort of less optimistic and my thoughts about certain essays reflect that in some ways. I didn’t know the last chapter would take a turn like it did at the beginning, a bit jarring mention of religion and politics, and the last paragraphs left me a bit longing, but perhaps that was the point?

A lot of writing gems both subtle and overt. A lot memory retrieval for me from a writing aspect.

Side note, my favorite Stephen King novel is also Firestarter.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Deckled Edges, always a nice touch.
Advertisements
Categories
Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Earth by David Brin

Advertisements

As scientists frantically work to prevent the ultimate disaster, they discover that the entire planet could be destroyed within a year. But while they look for an answer, some claim that the only way to save Earth is to let its human inhabitants become extinct: to reset the evolutionary clock and start over.

Advertisements

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Earth by David Brin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting speculations about Earth. I think those more well-versed in environmental science may appreciate it more than I did. I actually started this one July 14, 2018 for a Reading Rush challenge. Coin toss prompt. It was a brother sci-fi recommendation of course. I’m glad I finished it with today’s perspective because I know a bit more about the subject matter than when I started out 2 1/2 years ago. I am wondering if I may have enjoyed it more with the audiobook version.

The Story
Earth from an environmental standpoint, human interaction, anthropology, the effects of commonwealth over other countries, garbage rush.

The most interesting parts for me were about the Maori, disposable diapers, the climbing goats, the baboon. The chapters dedicated to Planet.

I got incredibly bored though. I felt like I was at 36% for forever.

I just don’t know enough about certain subjects to appreciate it and the writing and characters weren’t quite as interesting to keep me in the story like I had hoped. They all read the same to me.

It was the intermix of facts, though they were the same subject matter, weren’t really integrated into the narrative which made them feel rather dry and long-winded. Like a copy-and-paste from an encyclopedia type fashion.

It was hard enough to sift through the things I didn’t know about.

I may have liked it better if the book was cut in half, maybe thirds, maybe fourths. I was getting a little discouraged over the amount of book I had to read through.

Some parts were really clever, insightful, and funny though. Especially the more nuanced ones. Definitely a book I’m glad to have read.

The Writing
Almost like an essay style of writing at times which I quite enjoyed. I also liked the diagrams.

First published in 1990, the speculation was certainly interesting, could have been written today. Maybe I’ll revisit it in the year 2038.

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Check it out on Amazon

See it on Goodreads

Baboon Crossing, Malawi | Erica Robbin
Advertisements
Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Romance

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (Agatha Raisin #6) by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin’s marriage was put off when her ex-husband showed up, unfortunately alive. Fortunately, he was murdered and Agatha solved the crime.

Now she is off to Cyprus to track down her ex-fiance. Instead of enjoying their planned honeymoon, however, they witness the murder of an obnoxious tourist. Two sets of terrible tourists surround the unhappy couple, arousing Agatha’s suspicions. And, much to James’ chagrin, she won’t rest until she finds the killer.

Unfortunately, it seems the killer also won’t rest until Agatha is out of the picture. Agatha is forced to track down the murderer, try to rekindle her romance with James, and fend off a suave baronet, all while coping with the fact that it’s always bathing suit season in Cyprus.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love this series so much! They are such a joy to listen to. Brightens up my mood no matter what. The perfect in-between books and I don’t want them to end. 19 more to go. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Penelope Keith, always so good. I’d recommend this series to anyone looking for a plot that unfolds like an adult version of Scooby-Doo. Amateur sleuthing that’s set in semi-reality, a little love intrigue, some character frustration, and always hilariously entertaining.

The Story
Loved the comments on the socio-economic climate. Certainly insightful and relative to today, even for having this book being written in 1997.

The murder reveal, like always, a little late in the book. I’m sort of getting used to it. Though at least this time there was a little tail end of them getting settled into their lives again.

Everything else read like intriguing gossip you’d overhear at the dog park and can’t help but tune your ears to.

The Characters
I didn’t remember Charles. The ones that we met were a little dry. I sort of hoped there would be a typical Mr. and Mrs. Howell type character during the encounter. There just wasn’t a whole lot of development to set them apart. Back stories were kind of just thrown in there. Which sort of makes sense when meeting other tourists. That initial meetup, that sometimes turns into a divulging of saturated personal story. But somehow I wanted a stereotypical and distinguishable personality that made me say “Aha, I’ve met that one before.”

The Setting
Loved that it took place in Cyprus. I was absorbed in the setting, everything from historical tidbits to the brochures Agatha read along the way as a tourist.

The Writing
M.C. Beaton even called her own characters out. Hilarious. Along with so many good reading the room observations and discourse.

Always looking forward to the next in series.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Thriller

A Caller’s Game by J.D. Barker

Advertisements

“I’m going to offer you a choice.”

Controversial satellite radio talk show host, Jordan Briggs, has clawed her way to the top of the broadcast world. She doesn’t hold back, doesn’t spare feelings, and has no trouble sharing what’s on her mind. Her rigorous pursuit of success has come at a price, though. Her marriage is in ruins, she hasn’t spoken to her mother in years, and she’s distanced herself from all those close to her. If not for her young daughter, Charlotte, her personal life would be in complete shambles.

When a subdued man calls into the show and asks to play a game, she sees it as nothing more than a way to kick-start the morning, breathe life into the beginnings of drive-time for her listeners. Against her producer’s advice, she agrees, and unwittingly opens a door to the past.

Live on the air with an audience of millions, what starts out as a game quickly turns deadly—events long thought buried resurface and Jordan Briggs is forced to reconcile with one simple fact—All decisions have consequences.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Caller’s Game by J.D. Barker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such a solid read. I would like to thank Hampton Creek Press and author J.D. Barker for providing me with an advance readers copy for free. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for an action-packed, escape read. Anyone who favors thrillers will really enjoy reading this book.

The Story
From a good opening line, paragraph, scene, the tension identified early on that created this sort of intrigue for both short term and long term, very satisfying. A unifying relational dilemma, character attributes that are set apart, voices distinct enough to just sit down and enjoy the ride.

All the elements of what I want in an entertaining book were there.

Though still working out in context, I was initially a little bit less sure about some scene plausibility for such an intricate set up, for such a short time frame. However I also realized it made enough sense anyway and ultimately maybe it didn’t matter because the scenes were so tightly written, like scenes in a movie, where it’s best not to over-analyze and be nit-picking over that of which keeps the storyline afloat and just enjoy it, of which I most certainly did.

So I’d say pages 300-350 were just about my threshold for plenty of volley for my mind. Intense, fast-paced, action scenes, complete with a countdown which I found was perfectly laid out with chapter length, change in scene/POV, and character distinction in both narrative and dialogue. Amusement that builds, depth and breadth, multi-dimensional, elements that made for a complete read.

I’m also finding I’m not as keen on action scenes in urban settings with buildings, offices, stairwells, elevators. I much prefer the setting/atmosphere of suspense with eerie mansions, iron fences, the countryside, beachfront, weather changes, seasons, those things of the sort. Just personal preferences though, things I’m learning about myself as a reader.

The Writing
Always well-written and this one was no exception. Affirming and interesting. The reading experiences are always so trustworthy. I didn’t have the urge to cross-check which is always a reading bonus. I like books that I can just settle into.

Loved the end notes. It’s interesting to think back to March 25, 2020. I was just coming into country from service as the borders were closing, crazy to think about, so many unknowns, a lifetime ago, yet just one year next month. I still can’t wrap my mind around it all.

The Characters
A creepy antagonist done well again. This villain, exactly that type that gets under your skin in a psychological way.

I was a little less sure about the daughter, an 11-year-old that sounded so intelligent at times but emotionally not so much with quite the sleeping habit of newborn baby naps. But I also didn’t mind too much, just something I noted as I read along.

Loved the agency banter.

Looking forward to reading more, like the satisfying cheese pull on pizza. You just know it’s going to be good, the anticipation always is there and is maintained consistently throughout the books. Satisfying, versatile, and well-written stylistically no matter the subject matter.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
Art & Crafts Featured

Adorable Wooden Valentine’s Day Craft Decor

Wooden Christmas Craft Decor | Erica Robbin

  • Servings: As many as you want
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Isn't this so cute?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here is a simple craft decor that you can gift to that special someone or for you own office/space.

These can actually be dressed accordingly to any occasion or season by changing out the clothing and accessories.

They are a lot of fun to make!


Credit: ericarobbin.com

Ingredients

WOODEN CHRISTMAS CRAFT DECOR:

  • 1 Wood board, any shape and dimension (ask your local hardware store for any scraps or errors and keep in mind that a better quality wood will require less sanding)
  • Medium grit sand paper
  • Indoor/outdoor paint (any desired colors)
  • 2″ paint brush
  • Fine detail paint brush
  • Baby clothes such as winter hats or gloves
  • Raffia, ribbon, felt, fabric, batting

Directions


WOODEN CHRISTMAS CRAFT DECOR:
  1. Sand, paint, and decorate each character as desired.

Adorable Wooden Valentine's Day Craft Decor Head | Erica Robbin
Adorable Wooden Valentine's Day Craft Decor Close Up Face | Erica Robbin
Adorable Wooden Valentine's Day Craft Decor Beanie | Erica Robbin
Adorable Wooden Valentine's Day Craft Decor Accessory | Erica Robbin
Advertisements
Categories
Desserts Featured Recipes

Godiva Dark Chocolate Pudding Oreo Cookies

Godiva Dark Chocolate Pudding Oreo Cookies | Erica Robbin

  • Servings: 2 dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Chocolatey, comforting goodness all-around.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here is a cookie recipe combining Godiva Dark Chocolate Pudding based cookie dough stuffed with Oreos. I also threw in pieces of a Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Candy Bar for extra chocolatey creaminess. If you’re a chocolate lover, this cookie is for you!

I like to brown 1/2 of the butter measurement for a toffee, caramel taste. Baking them until just barely done and letting rest in the pan to cool will result in a crispy outside with a chewy center.

A delicious chocolately treat!


Credit: ericarobbin.com

Ingredients

    GODIVA DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING OREO COOKIES:
  • 1 cup of butter, softened (brown 1/2 cup over med-high heat, let cool, set aside)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3.6 oz Godiva Dark Chocolate Instant Pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 row sleeve of Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped
  • 1.55 oz Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Candy Bar, coarsely chopped

Directions

    GODIVA DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING OREO COOKIES:
  1. In a large bowl or mixer, beat 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/2 browned butter, sugar together until fluffy.
  2. Add vanilla and eggs, mix well.
  3. In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  4. Mix wet and dry ingredients together.
  5. Fold in Oreos and Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Candy Bar
  6. Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degree (177 C).
  8. Bake cookies for about 8-12 minutes, until almost not quite baked in the center.
  9. Let cool on pan to finish baking.
  10. Enjoy!

What are you baking for Valentine’s Day this year? Let me know as well if you try this recipe in the comments below!

Advertisements
Godiva Dark Chocolate Pudding Oreo Cookies Dough Mixture | Erica Robbin
Advertisements
Godiva Dark Chocolate Pudding Oreo Cookies | Erica Robbin
Godiva Dark Chocolate Pudding Oreo Cookies | Erica Robbin
Advertisements
Godiva Dark Chocolate Pudding Oreo Cookies | Erica Robbin
Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Advertisements

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A bit disappointed sadly. I read this one for The Poisoned Pen Bookstore Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club. I think people who swoon over descriptive, flowery writing may like this one. I however just don’t have patience for books like this unfortunately, just not my preference.

The Story
I was looking for a fun adventure, lyrical or deep-spirited, world-mesmerizing, child-hood memory retrieval, challenging, mysterious, riddle-like, realistically-unrealistic reach into my appetite for a good escape book. Loved what the premise was going to be.

Instead this was an incredibly slow, portal type fantasy that came off as loaded, with hidden agenda, moralizing, teachable lessons from mundane actions of everyday life when the main character had a much more interesting story to tell. Often read like a mash-up of fan-fiction with unnecessary depictions of social commentary, meditations on life, fantastical romantic relationships that didn’t really mesh well together nor move the story forward enough for my particular taste.

By page 130, I realized that this story was not going much of anywhere. My mind wondered. Thoughts of needing to vacuum the house turned into full on chores. Took me way too long to finish it because boredom became distraction.

My favorite parts were about the dog and the sea, though not much action was really going on with the sea scenarios like I had hoped.

Some loosely inaccurate historical events. A new president in 1903. Grocery carts.

POV and Tense
Combination of present and past/retrospective. Timeline was sometimes hard to gauge because character growth and age-appropriate observations/language didn’t shape them enough to shine through.

Pacing
Progress was too slow. In my mind, each door was going to be a clue, instead they stood independently. Independently toward a mismatched agenda/goal that was not clearly identified in the beginning. By the time the middle picked up, I was already less invested.

Descriptions
Verbose in every way. It said a lot without really saying a lot. Too many color adjectives. A good example of where less would be more. A handful were very insightful though.

Characters
I started out enjoying the initial engagement with the main character and everything she had to offer; however, she came up very short. In fact all of the characters sort of got lost in the minutiae toward the end.

Overridden by the descriptions of the environment without much development on a personal level considering all the things happening around them. As a result, I didn’t find any connection to them or purpose of excessive detail in the story. The comments about race and origin didn’t have a strong base or unifying factor, very loose presuppositions, and therefore their triumph ultimately lacked wonderful achievement.

Oh well, next time I will look forward to checking out another from this author.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Romance

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (Agatha Raisin #5) by M.C. Beaton

Advertisements

The morning of Agatha’s longed-for marriage to James Lacey dawns bright and clear. But her luck runs out in the church when Jimmy, the husband she had believed long dead, turns up large as life and twice as ugly. Agatha has a go at strangling him.

It’s all too much for James, who breaks off the engagement. So when Jimmy is found murdered the next day. Agatha and James are both suspects.

And they’ll have to work together in order to clear their names…

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Agatha! You’ve gone and done it again! I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Penelope Keith, always amazing. I’d recommend this series to anyone looking for a light-hearted, good time, appreciate a bit of snickers as it reads like a bit of juicy gossip you’d overhear at a dog park.

The Story
I loved the commentary on the world situation. It was amazing how relevant to today and this book was written 25 years ago.

The Writing
One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve read along is how the author only really gets into physical descriptions when describing what people are wearing and they’re hilarious at that, really captured the whole essence of the person.

I love this series so much!

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

George Bickham’s Penmanship Made Easy (Young Clerks Assistant) by George Bickham

Advertisements

George Bickham was an enterprising eighteenth-century engraver and calligrapher who promoted the practice of proper penmanship. This volume, an unabridged reprint of his now extremely rare calligraphy manual, The Young Clerks Assistant,provided “young practitioners” with much valuable information on how to write not only legibly but also with beauty and grace. 

The book begins with “Directions for Learners,” a series of helpful hints on forming letters, holding the pen, arm and wrist positions, proper posture, and so on, followed by a wealth of calligraphic specimens: alphabets, maxims, didactic verses, and other words of advice for elevating the moral standards of the young.

For modern calligraphers, Bickham’s guide offers an abundance of models for imitation and provides a delightful look back at the instruction manuals and teaching methods of the mid-1700s. Enhanced with many charming engravings, this hard-to-find antique teaching tool can be read as easily for pleasure as for inspiration. It will appeal to calligraphers, graphic artists, and any devotee of fine penmanship. 

Advertisements

Rating: 5 out of 5.

George Bickham’s Penmanship Made Easy by George Bickham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Practicing cursive has been so much fun and very relaxing during lockdown. I’d highly recommend this book one to anyone who is interested in learning or perfecting.

I got my copy from Townsends. Which is printed on textured paper and bound together with stitching. A very nice touch.

I’ve wanted to continue to practice for many years and have finally picked it up again, I’m especially finding it helpful for adding a bit of elegance to my crafts/card-making activities.

Originally published in 1787, this booklet is for those who want to learn the art of penmanship.

It has fancy scripts ranging from Italian to Roman style, Round-hand, German, Square Text, Old English- which is a more heavy-handed gothic serif of sorts calligraphy, to more whimsical, infinity loops/scroll, all very beautiful.

I loved the comparisons of alphabet letters, the instructions that were presented with verses, as well as story poetry lines.

Really loved that the letter “x” is not xylophone, instead the example spells Xerxes. That’s how kids learned the letter back then.

I particulary found it helpful to develop my style of: P, A, D, X, L, Q, G, C, R, S, J, f, d.

I’m looking forward to practicing some more.

View all my reviews

Sketch Book | Erica Robbin
Advertisements

“The Young Clerks Assistant or Penmanship Made Easy” was originally published in 1787. This booklet contains directions for young practitioners who wish to learn the art of penmanship. 

Begins with basic directions on the formation of letters and then contains many examples of different hands to copy.

Calligraphy Practice | Erica Robbin
Advertisements
Calligraphy Alphabet Letters | Erica Robbin
1798 Classroom Rules | Erica Robbin
This photo (above) is a copy of some 1798 school rules.

Calligraphy Letter Practice | Erica Robbin

Rule 4. Do not scribble in your own or one another’s spelling, reading, writing, or ciphering books.

In particular, I’ve tried to find my style of the following letters:

P, A, D, X, L, Q, G, C, R, S, J, f, d

Do you enjoy building on your style of penmanship/cursive?What type of pens do you use? Let me know in the comments below!

One style I want to try next is Persian calligraphy.