The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks #tlcbooktours

I love chocolate.

And perhaps that may be the only reason I joined this book tour.

I hadn’t heard of Karen Brooks before, although she is an author of quite a few other books. But the title had “chocolate” in it and here I am.

This chocolate of 17th century London though isn’t exactly the chocolate we are used to today.

It is a drinking chocolate and before our main character Rosamund gets involved, it doesn’t exactly sound very palatable. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…

Rosamund’s story is a bit of a fairy tale one. She works in a small inn in a small village and is abused by her stepfather and stepbrothers. And one day when she is fleeing her stepbrothers, she quite literally falls in the path of the wealthy Sir Everard Blithman who happens to be traveling through the area. Sir Everard is so taken with her, mostly because she resembles his late daughter, and pretty much buys her hand in marriage. Sir Everard is going to open a chocolate house and Rosamund becomes an important part of the business and it is booming. However, this is a family full of secrets, which Rosamund, to her horror, gradually uncovers.

I loved all the history that is brought into the book – the plague, the great fire of London, as well as the beginnings of the chocolate that we love today. Brooks brings in all the sights, sounds and smells of 17th century London, and it is rank and vile for most of it. But luckily, there is the chocolate house and its spices and flavours.

Rosamund was, for me, a bit too perfect and sweet. And as I prefer to take my main characters with a pinch of saltiness and flaws, it was hard for me to fall for her unlike all the rest of the characters in the book who are so taken with her.

But it was an enjoyable read, best with a stash of chocolate nearby to dip into whenever the craving hits.

 

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and

publisher Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book.

  
 
Grab a copy of the book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Find out more about Karen Brooks: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter.
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Moon Rush: The new Space Race by Leonard David #TLCBookTours

 

I’ve read many works of fiction that are set in space, watched many movies and TV shows set in space, but I’ve never really read much nonfiction about space.

And you can rest assured that you are in good hands here with journalist Leonard David, who has been reporting on space-related news for over 50 years.

The race to the moon began in the 1960s, between the Soviet Union and the US. But today it is a very different landscape – in January, the Chinese landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon; a spacecraft from an Israeli nonprofit crash-landed on the moon in April; India’s moon-lander is scheduled to take off later this year; or how about Japan, which plans its own lunar rover to land next year? The race to space is definitely back on and this book is published just at the right time to tell us all about the history behind it all, as well as what’s upcoming developments that we can expect in lunar exploration.

 

Some fascinating tidbits of information were gathered from my reading of this book.

Such as:

“Three sealed samples, one each from Apollo 15, 16, and 17, remain unopened, intentionally saved until technology and instrumentation has advanced to the point that investigators can maximize the scientific return on these unique specimens.”

I couldn’t help wondering when exactly that would be. How, for instance, could anyone decide, oh we should open this year, when who knows what kind of scientific advancement could happen next year? It’s not like science and technology is going to stop improving (or at least I hope not) so who makes that decision and how do they make such a decision?

Reading this book made me wonder, would I go to space if that were an option in the future? Would I want to go to the moon? I don’t know if I would. I don’t think I like the idea of hurtling up in a spacecraft powered by rockets (that’s probably why the first astronauts were pilots). How about you? Would you want to be a space tourist?

 

I received this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

 

Pick up a copy of the book: National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Emergency Contact by Mary H K Choi #AsianLitBingo

 

It was thanks to being laid up in bed due to a minor procedure that I borrowed this book. All the other books on my tablet were just too serious and heavy reading for that day and I was looking for something that would be fun and lighthearted and so I reached for YA.

I love how there is so much diversity going on in YA and while I had said earlier in a previous post, how I wished I could be a teen and reading all this, I’m just going to go ahead and get my diverse YA fix now.

Emergency Contact is definitely one book my teenaged self would have approved of. Because Penny is that kind of awkward, cynical, and not very sociable person I was (and sometimes still am). She is introduced to Sam as he is her roommate’s uncle of sorts (his mom and her grandfather were married for a quick minute). But only really talks to him after she notices him having a panic attack in the street one day. She makes sure he’s ok, gives him a ride back to the cafe where he works (and unknown to her, where he lives) and adds her number to his phone to make sure he gets home safe. She’s now his “emergency contact”.

This book has been on the back of my TBR list for a while, but I think that I’ve always been a bit hesitant because I didn’t think I wanted to read a book in which texting seems to be at the forefront. But in the end, the text conversations actually felt quite natural and comfortable to read.

And I found myself just hanging on to every word in this book. I read it in one sitting.

It seems like this is the kind of book that you either detest or love (at least judging from the polarizing Goodreads reviews). I loved it. I can see why some people may not like it but for me, this was a thumbs up.

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – romance with POC love interest

Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee #AsianLitBingo

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while but never got around to picking it up from the library. But I wanted to read a book with an Asian superhero for Asian Lit Bingo so this filled the theme perfectly.

Although when we first meet Jess Tran, she’s desperately trying to find out what exactly her superpower is – does she even have any in the first place? Why so desperate? Well, it is post World War III, and there are meta-humans. More specifically, her parents are superheroes – her father can fly and so can her older sister. Her parents are Smasher and Shockwave, the two resident heroes of Andover. C-list heroes that is.

And since Jess will be turning 17 in a week, she needs to find out what powers she has, as no one has presented with powers after the age of 17.

She doesn’t even have an “unacceptable” ability like the power to change the colour of her fingernails. She’s resigned to the possibility that she will never have powers and lands herself a dream internship instead. But it turns out that she’s working for the town’s villains (and her parents’ enemies). On the other hand, she gets to work with Abby, whom Jess has had a secret crush on.

I love that Jess is bisexual Vietnamese- Chinese, and that she struggles with trying to figure out who she is. The background to the story is fun and Jess and her friends are very appealing. The romance in the story was sweet too. But parts of the book were a bit meandering and the plot wasn’t the greatest. I don’t want to spoil it for you but it’s kind of the way Superman puts on his glasses and tada he is unrecognisable as Clark Kent.

It was a fun read though and I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Not Your Villain, which has Bells as the main character.

Reading Sweet Bean Paste and making dorayaki #weekendcooking

The title of the book – and the writer’s name (Durian? As in like the fruit? Or does it have some other meaning?)- was what attracted me at first, as well as the lovely color scheme of the cover.

And what a poignant and moving story this was.

It’s an odd couple kind of story. An ex-con working at a dorayaki shop to pay his debts and a 76-year-old woman with gnarled hands who asks him for a job at the shop, offering to teach him her recipe for sweet bean paste, which she says she’s been making for fifty years.

(Dorayaki is a Japanese confectionary with sweet red bean paste sandwiched between two small pancakes.)

Sentaro doesn’t want to hire her at first, even though she offers to accept a lower pay. But it turns out that Tokue makes amazing sweet bean paste.

“Unlike the ready-made paste, this was the smell of fresh, living beans. It has depth. It had life. A mellow, sweet taste unfurled inside Sentaro’s mouth.”

Sentaro had been using a commercially-made paste which isn’t exactly the best. He’s been pretty much grudgingly doing his work every day, it’s more about paying off his debt than anything else.

But after he hires her, business begins to improve. And Sentaro starts to be more interested in the making of dorayaki. They experiment with beans from different countries. And since Tokue doesn’t work every day, Sentaro begins to make the paste himself.

However word soon gets out – to the customers, to the shop owner – that there may be something wrong with Tokue. People stay away from the shop, the owner wants Sentaro to get rid of her. But how can he?

Sweet Bean Paste is a story about loneliness, about prejudice, about two outsiders who become unlikely friends. I loved how the focus was just on a few characters and the friendships that developed among them.

And oh, the changing of the seasons, especially with all the cherry blossoms!

“Blossom surrounds him on all sides, as if he is at the centre of a deep, sparkling lake. He senses the full force of emotion that has been dormant in the trees all year, waiting for this once-a-year explosion of joy: their pure, unadulterated happiness.”

And most of all, this book will make you long for a taste of dorayaki. Or maybe you’ll be tempted to try to make your own!

And that was exactly what I did.

One thing I like to pick up when we visit Japanese supermarkets is dorayaki. I especially love the dorayaki with chestnuts in them. I’ve never thought to make them! But I was really inspired by the book and just wanted to try making my own.

I found this recipe from Just One Cookbook and hey, I had all the ingredients in my kitchen. I had also seen a couple of recipes like this one from Chopstick Chronicles which added a teaspoon of mirin or sweet rice wine so I added that too.

So we made it just yesterday, a rainy Friday after school.

It was a nice treat for all of us, as we have all been catching coughs and colds one after another these past few weeks.

The recipe was easy enough and didn’t require any special equipment besides a whisk. The kids took turns cracking and beating the eggs, adding ingredients.

And they stood by the stove and watched for bubbles. And soon became quite good at spotting when it was time to turn the pancake. It needs about 1.5 minutes or so on the first side.

 

The pancake batter has both sugar and honey in it. So it does brown quite a bit.

 

I didn’t have adzuki beans on hand but I did luckily have this tin of red bean paste or anko.

Tada! Freshly made dorayaki. So good!

I’ll have to try making the red bean paste myself another time but for now, this was great!

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon Winchester

The topic – precision engineering – isn’t something that immediately draws me in. But having read Winchester’s books before, I know them to be well-written and thoroughly researched. And when I listened to the sample of the first pages, which he reads, I was drawn in to the story because he began with how his father used to work as an engineer in a factory and one day brought home some machined metal tiles called gauge blocks used for measuring things. And I liked how Winchester talked fondly about visiting his father in the factory and watching the machines and how Winchester started writing this book about precision.

And in the end, this book was full of fascinating insights into the world of precision – from cars to guns to airplane engines. It’s not easy to make notes while listening to an audiobook and part of me wishes I had had a printed copy alongside but I quite liked that Winchester, in his sore-throaty voice, read the book himself.

The Perfectionists is full of facts and insights that I had never thought to think about, all these big and small things that make our world go round, that enables me to type this sentence out on my phone. How our world has changed so much in what is just a few decades. You don’t have to love science or engineering to read or listen to this fascinating book. You just need a little bit of curiosity about how this world is as it is today.

Golden Tresses of the Dead

I tend not to be a series continuer. Duologies, trilogies I do manage to finish. Maybe because I know that there it is, that’s the end, I can read that and be done with it. But when it comes to series with many books, like Laurie R Kong’s Mary Russell series, or the Outlander series, I tend to take my time with them. And to be honest, sometimes I forget about them, distracted by all the shiny pretties that publishers keep churning out and bookstagrammers keep posting beautiful photos of.

But somehow this series by Alan Bradley is something I always remember to pick up. And not terribly far from its publication date either.

In this tenth book, Flavia has two cases to solve. One involves a finger found in her sister’s wedding cake. Yes, Feely is getting married. As a result we don’t see very much of her – or Daffy really. Instead it’s become the Flavia and Dogger show with a side act of Undine, Flavia’s cousin, who apparently knows quite a bit about automobiles.

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The case itself was interesting enough and I loved having more of Dogger and getting to know the snarky Undine but I did miss that banter among the three sisters. But as always, it was a delight to jump into a new mystery with Flavia, severed finger and all.