18 April 2018

Wordless Wednesday 493

Forsythia, 2018

I braved the snow flurries to get this shot! Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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16 April 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 4 Short Book Reviews

4 mini book reviewsI had my last busy, busy week of work and then ran full-speed into my annual spring lace-making workshop. Yikes! I think I'm going to need a vacation from my vacation!

I didn't think I'd get much reading or listening time last week, but I ended up finishing two books and and listening to two more. Okay, so one of the audiobooks was only two hours long, but still . . .

I was inside lacing during all the beautiful warm weather and emerged from the workshop just in time for the cold and rain. Oh well, plenty of nice days ahead.

Because last week was kind of crazy, my short reviews are going to be even shorter than normal.

  • reviews: Mrs. by Caitlin Macy; Dictionary Stories by Jez BurrowsMrs. by Caitlin Macy (Little, Brown; Feb. 13): The story revolves around three couples who seem to have little in common beyond the fact that they send their children to the same exclusive preschool in New York's Upper East Side. As we get to know the parents better, we discover layered ties among them, deep secrets, and the pressures of keeping up with the 1-percenters. I didn't connect well to the characters and was less impressed than other reviewers who compared Mrs. to Big Little Lies. You might do better. Vanessa Johansson did a good job narrating the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 10 hr, 8 min), but her rich, expressive performance couldn't really save the story for me. (freelance assignment)
  • Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings by Jez Burrows (Harper Perennial; April 10). Burrows's clever collection of short pieces (including drawings) is composed almost entirely from the sample sentences you find in the dictionary to show how a word is used in context. It's hard to explain, but this book is such a delight for anyone who loves words. My already good relationship with the dictionary has been altered forever. Don't miss this book. Oh I think it'd make a great graduation gift too. (copy provided by the publisher)
  • Reviews: Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz; Loyalty in Death by J. D. RobbThe Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz (Dutton BYR; April 10). This book, the first in the new Unicorn Rescue Society series, is geared for young middle grade readers and offers fun and diverse characters as well as good action-adventure. What if mythical creatures were real and needed humans to save them from trouble? Kids (and their parents) will love timid Elliot and gutsy Uchenna, cheering them on as they save a Jersey Devil from the bad guys. Your big decision will not be whether to read Creature of the Pines but whether to read it in print or on audiobook (Listening Library; 2 hr, 12 min). January LaVoy's absolutely fantastic performance is not to be missed. She created a variety of engaging voices, built the tension, and amped up the action. The print book, though, has some great illustrations: decisions, decisions. (Check out the video for more on the series; auidobook provided by the publisher.)
  • Loyalty in Death by J. D. Robb read by Susan Ericksen (Brilliance Audio; 12 hr, 15 min). This ninth in the In Death series was written in 1999 and was slightly creepy, considering it involves massive terrorist bombings in New York City. Although the bad guys are political terrorists and the story is set in the future, it was still kind of eerie to be listening to this book in a post-9/11 environment. Anyway, I still love the characters and their continuing personal growth as much as I like the mysteries and author Robb's vision of the future (including technology). (personal copy)
And finally, here is the promised video:

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14 April 2018

Weekend Cooking: Barista (documentary)

Review: Barista (documentary)Do you drink coffee? Do you have a favorite local coffee shop and a favorite barista? Did you know there was such a thing as a barista competition?

I love coffee, though I drink most of my coffee at home. I didn't know about the competitive world of baristas until I saw the 2015 documentary Barista, written and directed by Rock Baijnauth (Filmic Entertainment).

The film follows five people--four men and one woman--on their quest to win the International Barista Competition. To qualify for the main contest, each of the baristas had to first put in a good showing at his or her district competition.

Although 1,000 baristas enter the regionals, only about 40 move on to the finals. To compete, the contestants must make three rounds of drinks (espresso, cappuccino, and a signature drink) for four tasting judges, who evaluate taste, appearance, foam and foam art, aroma, and so on. In addition, during their 15 minutes of competition, each barista must also tell a compelling story about themselves and the coffee they're making and serving.

Review: Barista (documentary)Until watching Barista, I had no idea that it was so difficult to be the best in the barista profession. I found it interesting, but perhaps not surprising, that all five baristas mentioned that they often have to defend their chosen career. I liked getting to know the competitors and seeing them prepare for and compete in the finals.

On the other hand, there was a lack of tension in the documentary. I didn't develop a deeper fondness for one barista over the others, so I wasn't heavily invested in the results. In addition, Baijnauth made an effort to include the wives of two of the baristas in the movie, but instead of giving us more insight of the men's competitive spirit, the women ended up seeming more like props, which was a little disturbing.

Regardless, if you like coffee and are curious about competitive baristas, you'll enjoy Rock Baijnauth's  documentary Barista, which is available through streaming (currently via Amazon Prime).

BTW: I'm at a lace-making workshop most of today and tomorrow, so I'll be late visiting your links.

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.

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13 April 2018

7 New Books for Speculative Fiction Fans

Speculative fiction fans have a lot to chose from this month, with stories that reach back into the past to offer alternate histories and others that look forward to a dazzling (or despairing) future. The 7 books I feature today are on my personal reading list; this roundup is not meant to present everything new in sci-fi and fantasy, just the books that caught my attention this week.

  • 7 new speculative fiction booksThe Diminished by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson (Harlequin Teen; April 10): In a land in which twins are the norm, a foundling whose twin died as a baby and the heir to the throne who was born a single are oddities. How they may be connected to each other and to the future of the kingdom drive the plot of this new fantasy that's been praised for its solid world building and diverse characters. YA, fantasy
  • The Emissary by Yoko Tawada (trans. Margaret Mitsutani) (New Directions, April 24): Sometime in the near future, Japan suffers from environmental and economic collapse. A man who seems to have unlimited life tends to his great-great-grandson whose body has been weakened, both conditions the result of the disaster. The pair bond and look for hope in a hopeless world. Adult, dystopian
  • Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer (HarperTeen; April 10): Once upon a time a young woman is awoken from sleep and another finds her prince in this mashup of two popular fairy tales: Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. In this conclusion to a duology (Spindle Fire), the two couples continue their fight against evil and hope to bring peace to their kingdoms. YA, fairy tale retelling
  • The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg (Holt Paperbacks; March 13): Children's books, folk tales, and more take a decidedly dark turn in Ortberg's new collection of short pieces. Some stories are given deeper layers, others noir humor or nerdy threads. A must read collection for anyone who loves children's literature, the Brothers Grimm, Shakespeare, and even scripture. Adult, dark riffs on the familiar
  • 7 books for sci-fi / fantasy fansThe Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt (Saga Press, April 17): In the 23rd century, space exploration is winding down, but our heroes (this is the 8th in the Academy series) still have new worlds and alien cultures to discover and understand. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the more things change, the more things stay the same. A smart, engrossing series for space fans. YA, sci-fi
  • The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp (HMH; April 17): The ability to find lost things becomes a curse in a post-Katrina New Orleans; so much is missing that our hero is overwhelmed and goes underground. A few later when there's upheaval in the magic realm, he must reassert himself to solve a crime, save a city, and embrace his heritage. Adult, urban fantasy
  • Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller (Ecco, April 17): After climate change finally brings the world to its knees, a pocket of humanity survives on a floating city in the Arctic Circle. Crime, poverty, disease, and discontent are causing ripples in the new society; a stranger arrives; and revolution is in the air. Good world building and familiar issues (such as the great socioeconomic divide). Adult, dystopian

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11 April 2018

Wordless Wednesday 492

Barn, 2018

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