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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Review : Cinnamon and Gunpowder

Cinnamon and GunpowderCinnamon and Gunpowder
by Eli Brown

Farrar Strauss & Giroux, June 2013

What a great book season this has been for me!  My rep friend, Tom Leigh at MacMillan sent me this advance copy — did you know I’d get such a kick out of it, Tom?

Set in the early 1800s, and told through the journal entries of a man named Owen Wedgewood, this is a pirate story, a history lesson, and an adventure in culinary delights all rolled into one.

Wedgewood is an artiste.  Highly trained, he works as the personal chef for a wealthy and powerful man. But when that man is murdered in a surgical land strike by a flamboyant red-tressed pirate named Hannah Mabbot, Wedgewood is taken captive onboard the Flying Rose, and is later informed that he would cook for his life, literally.  Captain Mabbot wants him to cook for her on Sundays, “...the finest supper.  You will neither repeat a dish nor serve foods that are in the slightest degree mundane…

As can be expected, supplies onboard the pirate ship are less than gourmet, and the equipment is worse. The beleaguered Wedgewood despairs of surviving, but sets to the task, and creates a really amazing meal from weevil infested cornmeal, hardtack, jerky, and fresh caught seafood. Meanwhile, he gets to know the crew, including the first mate, Mr. Apple, a giant of a man who spends his free time knitting, the Chinese twins who serve as Mabbot’s bodyguards, the syphilitic cook, the deaf cabin boy, and many more.  He also begins to learn more about Captain Mabbot and the mission the Rose is on — the pursuit of a mysterious pirate named The Fox and eluding the agents of the Pendleton company. Along the way, he also learns something about world politics, religion, and human suffering.

If you follow my reviews, you may know that I do love a good battle scene, and this book does not disappoint!  Flying cannonballs and gunpowder abound, there are bloody battles, bloodless raids, and plenty of booty. There are dastardly villains and dastardly good guys, and a few people that are harder to define. Other action includes bar brawls, underground labrynth chases, men overboard, lost limbs, squalls, and sabotage. So much fun!

But the very best parts of this novel are the cooking scenes.  Week after week the Flying Rose and her crew sail the seven seas in pursuit of the elusive Fox, and Wedgewood outdoes himself with the dishes he brings to Captain Mabbot’s cabin each Sunday.  Other reviewers have compared this part of the story to Scheherazade’s stories, and this is an apt analogy.  As Wedgewood acquires new ingredients like miso paste and fresh papayas, he applies a certain genius to his own kind of alchemy, which Brown describes in exquisite and philosophical details.  He makes bread leavening from scratch, nurtured in a little can he carries on his person at all times, builds equipment from scraps, and even uses a cannonball for a rolling pin . Here is how he prepares an eel that one of the pirates catches for him:

“The eel I handled thus: after cleaning it, I rubbed salt and a little honey into the body cavity and coiled it on the grill of the improvised smoker above a small pile of red-hot embers.These coals I covered with a handful of steeped tea leaves.  The lid I left slightly ajar and returned every ten minutes to add more coals or tea until, with the daylight waning, the eel was finally done.  The honey had caramelized into the meat, which came easily from the bones, As for the smoke: when one has been on the road, tired and rained on, and catches, long before seeing any sign of a house, the faint but unmistakable odor of a chimney and with it the promise of drying off next to a fire–that is the feeling that the tea smoke imparts, not the actual arrival, but the comforting nearness of home.”

I’m not sure how I feel about eel, but I think I’d eat anything this man made!

So, all ye foodies, adventure lovers, and historical-fictionados, this is your must get beach read of the summer!

Thanks, Tom.

review by Annie Leonard

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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews

 

Book News for May 14th, 2013

Inferno Inferno by Dan Brown

Kept under wraps until today, so I haven’t read it yet, but the newest thriller from the author of The Da Vinci Code is out, to much fanfare!!  As before, the hero is Robert Langton, the erudite and adventurous hero of Brown’s previous books.  I’ll keep you posted as to whether it’s as awesome as Code!  Better yet, you let me know!  Write a review, and I’ll post it!

Guns at Last LightThe Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson

The long awaited final volume in the Liberation trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winner, Atkinson is finally here.  I’ve been reading this one for a couple of weeks, savoring one incredible, rich, revealing chapter at a time; learning something new in each one – even though I would have thought I knew a little something about WWII in Europe.  This book is amazing, and will forever change the way I look at war in general, and the last World War in particular.  If you haven’t read the first two in the trilogy yet – An Army at Dawn, and The Day of Battle – I’m stocking those as well.  Congratulations, Mr. Atkinson, on a remarkable achievement.  Read more.

Sleeping in EdenSleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart

For those of our customers who so enjoyed Far From Here (about the wife whose pilot husband disappeared over Alaska, and the secrets she unearthed about his life), here is the newest offering from Iowa native, Baart.  This time the past and the present are on a collision course in Blackhawk, Iowa, when a doctor filling in for the coroner is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, and then finds the body of a young woman buried under the floor of the barn, just below the suicide’s body.  With the atmospheric and beautiful prose we’ve come to love from Baart.  Read more.

Sinners and the SeaSinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife by Rebecca Kanner

This novel is getting lots of buzz, and is being compared to the Red Tent, and it certainly has a beautiful cover!  This is the story of a girl who remains unnamed because of a birthmark, which is seen as the mark of a demon.  When she is nearly too old to be married, her father gives her to a strange old man named Noah.  Yes, that Noah.  And this unnamed, but incredibly strong woman is destined to be the mother of all the generations after the flood.  This is her story.  Read More.

5th WaveThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

If you keep an eye on books in cyberspace, like I do, you’ll find that this one is prompting some serious chatter.  Described as “The Passage meets Enders Game”, this young adult post-apocalyptic is being hailed as the next big thing.   I just lost about 15 minutes as I was writing this up, so no doubt you’ll be getting the report from me on this one!  So, here’s the scenario: Cassie is a girl alone in the world, maybe not the last human on earth, but one of the last, after an alien invasion.  She’s smart, tough, and very afraid, and she has to decide whether or not to trust the few people she encounters, because you never know if someone is really human, or if they are Other.  If you loved Hunger Games, check this one out   Just in time for summer reading!  Read more.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews

 

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Book News for May 7th 2013

It’s Tuesday, which means our book shipment is in, so I’ve got some great new titles to share with you and some new releases in paperback, etc.

Just Released!

Silken PreySilken Prey by John Sandford

The 23rd book in Sandford’s Lucas Davenport thriller series set in Minnesota, and Booklist gives it a Starred Review!  This time, Davenport, the lead investigator for Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is asked by the governor to investigate a stash of kiddie porn found on the computer of a Republican political candidate, a grade school friend of the governor.  Then the story is leaked to the press, and the opposing candidate, a beautiful and ruthless woman, begins to gain ground in the polls, and a political operative disappears.  “This is the best [Davenport novel] in a long time. It’s suspenseful, witty, and wise in the ways of modern politics. And the conclusion is darkly unforgettable. A superb thriller.” (Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)  This is one of our best-selling series, so if you love a razor-sharp thriller and haven’t picked up a Sandford yet, now’s a good time!  Filled with politics, crooked cops, dangerous women and plenty of action. By the way, John Sandford is a native Iowan.  Read more.

Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

This is one of my personal favorites of the year, continuing with my little riff on Middle Eastern fiction, but definitely of more universal appeal. It is the story of two mythical creatures, one anciend and one newborn, one a captive Syrian jinni named Ahmad, and the other Chava, a Golem made of mud by a renegade Rabbi, living among their traditional peoples in the immigrant neighborhoods of New York City a century ago. As they struggle to make sense of the teeming humanity around them, they encounter each other and become unlikely companions. And then an ancient evil begins to stalk them through the streets and workshops of the ethnic enclaves populated by folk with one foot in the old world and one in the new, where everything is shifting, and enemies can hide in plain sight.  I found Ahmad and Chava’s story profoundly moving and suspenseful, sometimes eerie and strange, but at others intimately familiar.  Even if you’re not a fan of the fantasy genre, give this beautifully haunting tale a spot in your reading pile this year.  Read More

Just out in Paperback!

WildSome of the past year’s best sellers are just out in paperback, including Cheryl Strayed‘s raw memoir Wild : From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which has been selected for Oprah’s Bookclub, won a Midwest Independent Booksellers Choice Award, and has appealed to many of our customers here at The Next Chapter.

 

 

Bring up the bodiesAlso out in paperback this week is Bring Up the Bodies, the second part of Hilary Mantel‘s fictional account of Thomas Cromwell’s life after Wolf Hall, and winner of the Man Booker Prize. In the words of New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin, Bring Up the Bodies is “beautifully constructed… The wonder of Mante’l retelling is that she makes these events fresh and terrifying all over again…Sublime.”

 

 

Agent Garbo

If recent history is more your thing, Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephan Talty is another new release about master spy Juan Pujol, a Barcelona poultry farmer who posed as a Nazi spy inside of England and “created an imaginary million-man army, invented armadas out of thin air, and borugght a vast network of fictional subagent to life.” He convinced the Germans that Allied forces approaching Normandy were just a feint, and that the real invasion would come at Calais.  This incredible, true story is based on years of research and interviews, and is a pulse-pounding true espionage thriller.

Crucible of GoldFor fans of Naomi Novik‘s Temeraire series, the wait for the 7th installment is over!  Crucible of Gold is now out in paperback, and this time Will Laurence and his faithful dragon Temeraire come out of retirement in Australia to fight Napoleon’s forces once again, this time in South America! This series is alternate history fantasy at its most entertaining, and although it’s aimed at adults, it is a great choice for teens transitioning out of the children’s section.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews

 

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