Our Favorite Books of 2017 That We Haven’t Reviewed

My new year’s resolution is to start reviewing the many books I read in 2017 that were intended for review, but for now, here is a list of the favorites that Holly and I read this year that we simply didn’t have the energy to post about.  Bring on 2018!

Holly:

(It is super easy to make a list of books you haven’t reviewed when you haven’t reviewed anything in maybe two years! Holla!)

Amanda:

Happy New Year! What excellent books did we miss this year?

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Maybe the title should have clued me in…

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal

Published June 13th 2017 by William Morrow
Hardcover, 304 pages
Source: Library!
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Every woman has a secret life . . .Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.

Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.

As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s “moral police.” But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.

I’m pretty positive the delightful Reading with Hippos pointed me to this book.  The title is amazing – but really it should have tipped me off that that there were actual – you know EROTIC STORIES.  I was expecting the family dynamics, marital stress, the complicated lives of immigrants living in London.  I wasn’t shocked by the racism experienced, the religious bias, or even the question of possible murder.  But some of those stories – whoa were those a surprise!
Yes things got a bit cheesy or moved too quickly maybe – but overall this was just a fun read with more depth than you’d expect to go with the erotic stories.  When you need a book that will make you laugh and reconsider all the produce in your fridge check this out.

Overdue Reviews: Nevernight

I have 22 books on my Goodreads shelf that I still intend to review.  Oops.  Here’s my first try with a book that I devoured last year.  

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Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Published August 9, 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley 

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Let me just say Nevernight was bad ass.  I loved it so much I’m rereading it right now to get ready for the sequel.  I am not going to minimize things,  Nevernight was violent and it was vulgar but it was fabulous.  Kristoff himself sums the book up on twitter as #stabstabstab.  That’s accurate.   As I am remembering what’s coming in the book I’m cringing a bit waiting for the blood to start flowing. 

Mia is on a mission for revenge over her the deaths of her parents which takes her to assassin school out in the desert.  This is no Hogwarts – the teachers will kill the students as soon as help them in some cases.  Mia is also a darken – which brings powers she doesn’t fully understand herself – but one thing Mia can do is to manipulate shadows.  She can seemingly manufacture the dark and pull off some scary things.  She has her own shadow companion with the misleading name of Mr. Kindly.  I didn’t know I could like a cat so much!   Mr. Kindly lives off Mia’s fear which enables her to be both extra brave and extra stupid at times.  She needs to be brave while living among assassins but I did question her judgement quite a few times as well… 

So in a brief summary Nevernight has a young woman learning mad murder skills, friendships and kissing, backstabbing and gore, all in a world with three suns and fabulous new magic.  I was obsessed while reading and I loved it!  I cannot wait to see what Mia goes on to do and who she goes on to kill in the future.

I thought about trying to be clever and footnoting this – but that just seemed silly.  I’ll simply say that the footnotes made me snort laughing on a few occasions.  It seems snarky footnotes are a way to my heart – see also Jen Lancaster, Kevin Kwan.  

#stabstabstab

Thank you NetGalley and Thomas Dunne Books for this review copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review: Generation Chef

Generation Chef, Karen Stabiner

Published September 13th 2016 by Avery

Hardcover, 288 pages

Source: e-ARC received from publisher

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Inside what life is really like for the new generation of professional cooks—a captivating tale of the make-or-break first year at a young chef’s new restaurant.

For many young people, being a chef is as compelling a dream as being a rock star or professional athlete. Skill and creativity in the kitchen are more profitable than ever before, as cooks scramble to reach the top—but talent isn’t enough. Today’s chef needs the business savvy of a high-risk entrepreneur, determination, and big dose of luck.

The heart of Generation Chef is the story of Jonah Miller, who at age twenty-four attempts to fulfill a lifelong dream by opening the Basque restaurant Huertas in New York City, still the high-stakes center of the restaurant business for an ambitious young chef. Miller, a rising star who has been named to the 30-Under-30 list of both Forbes and Zagat, quits his job as a sous chef, creates a business plan, lines up investors, leases a space, hires a staff, and gets ready to put his reputation and his future on the line.

Journalist and food writer Karen Stabiner takes us inside Huertas’s roller-coaster first year, but also provides insight into the challenging world a young chef faces today—the intense financial pressures, the overcrowded field of aspiring cooks, and the impact of reviews and social media, which can dictate who survives.

I’ve become a Top Chef addict and I love trying the food of Chicago’s celebrity chefs like Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard so I was really excited to read this story of a new NYC restaurant opening and through their first year.  My husband jokes about opening a diner one day and I think this book proves my nerves could never handle it!  From the attempts to find backers, to find the perfect location and then to both hire and retain the best staff – that’s not even getting into the cooking.  You clearly need nerves of steel to open your own kitchen especially on this kind of scale, in New York – at age 26!

The access Stabiner had to the Huertas staff to put this book out was fantastic.  I can’t imagine how she basically lived at the restaurant for a year and didn’t insert herself into the story.  Just reading along I was so nervous for the critics reviews to come in so I can’t imagine how Stabiner didn’t let her own emotions show.  I thought it was so interesting to follow how Miller first conceived of Huertas and then let the concept flow a bit to meet the wants of both his customers and reviews.  I also enjoyed the glimpses into the paths that other chefs took from Izard to others in California or Minnesota; it was very cool to see how differently things move all over the country.  

I would have liked the personal stories between Miller and his partners and staff to be more in depth, but that’s just me being kind of voyeuristic perhaps.  After all these people were still working together largely when the book was published and that might have been a bit much.  I really felt like I needed to follow this with a reread of Sweetbitter for a really juicy peak behind the kitchen walls.   

Let me just say I am hugely proud of myself for stifling the urge to Google Huertas until I finished this book!  As I read I was so extremely curious to know if they were still in business or what might have happened.  I managed to control myself – yes I don’t peak at Christmas presents either – but it was satisfying search to run as soon as I put my kindle down.  Now I know where I’d like to go when I finally visit New York one day because Miller’s food sounds delicious. If you like food and watching the restaurant industry this is definitely a fun read – and hungry read. Have snacks handy!   

Thank you Avery for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart, Sonali Dev

Published September 27th 2016 by Kensington

Paperback, 352 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

28439392Dr. Nikhil ‘Nic’ Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.

Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.

Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy.  She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.

I give Sonali Dev a ton of credit just for the premise of this book.  It is extremely brave to start out by murdering a character that was so great in your last book – The Bollywood Bride.  I think it was pretty brave to make Jen a less than perfect character.  Jen’s perspective is told in very brief snippets of her journal entries and she’s not all warm and fuzzy as one might expect a newlywed to be.  This this contrasted sharply with Nic’s crushing grief and memories of his beloved – again a really bold route for a romance.  So we find Nic trying to drink himself to death on a cruise ship  2 years after her murder when Jess comes and tries to snap him into action to find Jen’s killers in India.  

Honestly the truth of Jess’s story was pretty easy to figure out and once I knew what was coming I just couldn’t get past it.  Also as much as I liked Jess, to be truthful I didn’t want Nic to get past it either!   The poor guy was suffering enough and I was anticipating some painful moments when he found out why she was really there.  That kept me from feeling all the love between Nic and Jess the way I was meant to.   Based on the other reviews I’ve seen though I’m in the minority here – maybe maybe I just need lighter overall when I’m feeling like a romance?  Romance reading is an total escape for me so I need happy.  This was busy with sexy romance, mystery, and past heartbreaks and other readers are loving it.   

I do hope Dev continues with the Bollywood books in the way that I’m guessing because I like her characters and I like seeing the interaction between books.  I will absolutely read whatever she writes next!  I’m going to have to reread The Bollywood Affair though to get back to my own original Sonali Dev love affair.

Thank you Kensington and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review! 

Reading and Stickering with Babycakes

My kiddo got her very own box of book mail!  Aside from reading those stinking Rainbow Fairy books we’ve been diving into these and I want to share our new favorites.

Polar: A Phototacular Book

Carol Kaufmann, October 6, 2015, Workman Publishing

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These pictures are awesome!  I love that this is land and water animals and even shows the Northern Lights. I want my kid bitten by the travel bug as soon as possible so she can dream of seeing the world!

Paint By Sticker: Zoo Animals

Workman Publishing, September 20, 2016

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This book is so fun!  Anything that keeps the kid entranced without help is a win but this is also really fun to do together.  This is like the classic paint by numbers but no mess!  I was even more excited when I saw Andi’s ABCs post about an adult version! I know what is going in a lot of Christmas stockings this year.

Eek! Halloween! Sandra Boynton

Workman Publishing, August 23, 2016

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If you read with littles at all and haven’t read Sandra Boynton you’re missing out!  These are always fun and silly and easy to read again – and again – and again!  My little one is getting so close to reading her self so this is a fun one for her to practice sight words on and get excited for Halloween.  She would have loved this totally a few years ago too.

Thank you so much Workman Publishing for these fun books!

Review: June

June, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Published May 31st 2016 by Crown

Hardcover, 400 pages

Source: Blogging for Books

 

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Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal.

I absolutely loved Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s last book, Bittersweet, a dark and kind of gothic summer romance and mystery.  I couldn’t wait to dive into more family secrets in June.  I’m always fascinated by a plot with a mysterious will.  When it’s the will of a movie star with a fortune – even better!  

When we meet Cassie she’s living alone in her grandparents mansion in rural Ohio.  She’s inherited the home after her beloved grandmother’s death and she’s holed up and letting the world pass her by.   I admit I  was a bit frustrated with Cassie at first.  I wanted her to do something – anything! So it was much easier to be drawn back into the past to the story of the young and beautiful June, Jack the movie star, and Lindie the girl across the street. As I became more caught up in the past it helped me to become more interested in Cassie’s modern mystery and I was glad when Cassie started getting caught up in the past as well.  I liked getting June’s story through Lindie rather than June herself.  Lindie was quite the observer and I think gave a much richer perspective than June would have. 

This was a slow burn, but Beverly-Whittemore ended in directions that I didn’t expect at all with both the past and modern stories.  What I really loved was the personality that the old house had.  Not in a creepy haunted house way at all – more a romantic and mystical presence.  This is definitely a good book to sit and finish the summer with!

Thank you Blogging for Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!