Early Book Review: New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads; With Recipes for Birote, Bagels, Pan de Coco, Beignets, and More by Bryan Ford

New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads; With Recipes for Birote, Bagels, Pan de Coco, Beignets, and More by Bryan Ford is currently scheduled for release on June 16 2020. Learn how to make a sourdough starter, basic breads, as well as other innovative baked goods from start to finish with Instagram star Bryan Ford's (@artisanbryan) nontraditional approach to home baking. With less emphasis on perfecting crumb structure or obsessive temperature monitoring, Ford focuses on the tips and techniques he's developed in his own practice, inspired by his Honduran roots and New Orleans upbringing, to ensure your success and a good return on your time and effort. Ford's recipes include step-by-step instructions and photographs of all of the mixing, shaping, and baking techniques you'll need to know, with special attention paid to developing flavor as well as your own instincts.

New World Sourdough offers readers exactly what the title promises, an accessible guide to sourdough and recipes to use the starter. The descriptions and instructions are well written and easy to follow, and the photographs of the dough and finished product are very well done. I am still not a fan of the ingredients list being off to the side rather than at the top of the recipe, but it worked better for me here than it has in other cookbooks. I like the approachable style of this book, and it has made me a little more comfortable with my attempts at sourdough, which was feeling a bit too much work after some less than successful attempts while home  maintaining social distance from the rest of the world. There are a few recipe that on my list of things to try out soon, and we will see if they turn out nearly as well as I hope.

Book Review: Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert

Conventionally Yours 
by Annabeth Albert is the first book in the True Colors series. Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all, but in reality he's scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control. Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection but even he can't help but feel a little broken inside. When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way—even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.

Conventionally Yours is a slow burn, frienemies to more romance. I really enjoyed the slow  reveal of the characters and their individual problems. The getting to know the characters as they really got to know each other was paced very well. Unraveling their fears and problems was intense and I felt for both of them as I took the road trip with them. I found the exploration of new adults facing very different crisis in their lives coming together and getting to better understand each other, and themselves hit me right in the feels. Conrad is always trying to hide his difficulties behind a happy face, not wanting anyone to see what he is going through while Alden just wants to find his place and be accepted as he is without being obsessed with labels. I enjoyed their banter and how well they balanced each other, and I could relate to much of the fear each had about the future and just figuring out who and what they want from it. I thought the neurodiversity and family problems in the book were handled very well, and acknowledged how varied experiences can be, and how people on all sides of the circumstances can react, for good or ill. 

Conventionally Yours is an engaging read with realistic characters. I enjoyed the read and will continue to read anything I find by this author.

Book Review: Honeymoon Alone by Nicole Macaulay

Honeymoon Alone by Nicole Macaulay is a contemporary romance. When irrepressibly romantic Lucy Gray is ditched at said wedding by her date in front of her whole family, the promises of a psychic seem better than her pity-riddled reality. The psychic’s advice seems insightful: stop ignoring fate’s signs – fate will lead you to love. But when “fate” leads Lucy to London, she finds herself tangled in a web of lies. In a story about finding independence and taking chances, Lucy learns that leaving everything up to fate can be dangerous – and jeopardize her chances at happily ever after.

Honeymoon Alone is a story that caught my attention right at the begin. Lucy is sweet, reliable, and tired. Everyone expects her to do what they need and while they care about her they never seem to think about what she wants, only what they think is best for her. I could very much relate to her position and emotional state. She takes a chance, takes an impromptu trip, and comedy, romance, and a dash of danger are the result. I like that all of the conflicts and bumbles felt completely natural, and rather like things that would happen to me. I like how the characters were all well developed an d that the story does not frame Lucy as incomplete without romance, but that it would simple not be unwelcome. In much of the book romance takes a back seat to figuring out just what was going on and enjoying Lucy's discovery of London. For those looking for steam, there is none of that here- nothing more than some kisses- but the journey is very much worth the read.

Honeymoon Alone as much a story about Lucy finding herself and figuring out what she wants. I enjoyed the story and am glad I requested it from NetGalley. 

Early Book Review: The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon is currently scheduled for release on June 9 2020.  Samiah Brooks never thought she would be "that" girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she's been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other "girlfriends," London and Taylor, have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men, no dating, and no worrying about their relationship status. For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she's always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy, honey-eyed Daniel Collins at work. What are the chances? When it comes to love, there's no such thing as a coincidence. But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?

The Boyfriend Project is a romance with extremely well formed characters. Some of the secondary characters, even those we only see briefly, reminded me of people I have dealt with in real life. Even better, I honestly liked Samiah and Daniel, and their closest friends/family, both as characters and people. Both have drive and compassion, wanting to get ahead but also wanting to do the right thing and help people. Seeing their interactions and how they dealt with everything that came their way was compelling and engaging from the very start. The story was very well built, and even when I had a notion as to what was coming next, and how things might go wrong I still very much enjoyed the ride. I am hoping to see more about London and Taylor in later books.

The Boyfriend Project is a practically perfect contemporary romance. I cannot wait to explore other books from the author.

Early Book Review: Game Changer (Wynn Hockey) by Kelly Jamieson

Game Changer is the fifth book in the Wynn Hockey series by Kelly Jamieson, and is currently scheduled for release on June 9 2020. You do not have to have read the other books to enjoy this read (I have not read them) but I think returning readers will certainly enjoy it more with the amount of characters that make their appearance in this book.
Jackson Wynn did not want anything to do with my crazy family's drama, which I've been watching unfold from a distance over the last year, but now my grandfather has Alzheimer's and I feel I need to at least make a quick visit to see him. My hockey season's over, all I have to do is get through my teammate Steve's wedding, and then I'm on a plane to Los Angeles to do my family duty. After that, I'll head home to Manitoba for some summer R&R at the family lake cottage. Molly Flynn defies expectations at her wedding, which becomes pandemonium. I need to get out of there. Fast. Who do I turn to? Jackson Wynn, one my fiancee's teammates. He's been a friend to me since I met Steve. For one night, we hide out in his condo, but he's leaving in the morning for California. I want to go with him. On this  trip, neither of us expect Molly to bond with my bonkers family and neither of us expect to bond with each other.

Game Changer is a friends to lovers story with a few twists. I really like Molly- she is sweet and strong with a good head on her shoulders. She just needs to escape for a bit to deal with the drama of telling off her groom at the altar for cheating. Jax is a good guy, with a difficulty in dealing with emotions and relationship problems. I liked the pair as friends, and watching them each slowly see that they wanted something else. The story starts as a slow burn, as each barely seems to know what they want, but they are just so nice together. I really like that even the best characters have some issues, and even those you might think of as the bad do have redeeming qualities and are worth a story of their own. The people were all multidimensional, and felt real, even if the situations they find themselves are well outside my reality, I feel like people in that position would really feel and act like them.

Game Changer is a fun and engaging read. Fans of this author, and this series, will definitely want to readers, and it might encourage new readers to check out the previous books.

Early Book Review: Not Your Idol, Vol. 1 by Aoi Makino

Not Your Idol, Vol. 1 by Aoi Makino is a manga style graphic novel currently scheduled for release on June 10 2020. It is a psychological suspense series about a girl who has given up her life as an idol after being assaulted by a fan. After that day, she stopped being a girl. In the wake of an assault, Nina Kamiyama, a former idol in the group Pure Club, shuns her femininity and starts dressing as a boy. At high school she keeps to herself, but fellow student Hikaru Horiuchi realizes who she is. What secrets is she keeping? The shocking drama starts.

Not Your Idol is a well drawn and suspenseful story. I liked the pacing, including the action and the character backstory and development. I really enjoyed the character dynamics of Nina/Karen and how her life and perspectives have changed over time. The issues of sexual assault and related issues are handled very well, and how different people react to them is an issue we all need to think about. The story is very engaging, and kept me turning pages to learn more about the characters and what might happen next. It is not an easy read, as there are a number of tough moments and some things that survivors might find very triggering, and others will find upsetting. However, it is well written and I am very eager to see where the story goes from here, and learn more about the major players as the story continues. My only complaint is the cliffhanger that the volume ends in. Be prepared to be left wondering, and eager for the next volume. 

Not Your Idol is an intense and engaging read. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Early Book Review: The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Wild, Wacky Names by Matthew Murrie, Steve Murrie

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Wild, Wacky Names,  written by Matthew Murrie and Steve Murrie, and illustrated by Julie Benbassat, is currently scheduled for release on June 9 2020. It is a a science-based illustrated celebration of creatures notable for their bizarre, baffling, and just-plain-funny names. Meet the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog, who lives high in the forests of South America—the “waxy” refers to its skin secretions and the “monkey” comes from its long, simian fingers, perfect for climbing. The White-Bellied Go-Away Bird—guess what its cry sounds like? Plus the Fried Egg Jellyfish, the Sparklemuffin Peacock Spider, the Bone-Eating Snot Flower Worm, and many more. While the names of these species are undeniably curious, the heart of the book is their just-as-curious habits, appearance, abilities—and the stories of how they acquired their unusual monikers. There are over 70 creatures in all,  with full-color illustrations and photographs and detailed text.

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Wild, Wacky Names was a really interesting read. I have always been a fan of learning about the weird and wacky of the world, so some of the animals described (like the naked mole rat and blobfish) were not new to me. However, most of the creatures were at least partially unknown to me- and frankly man of their names could double as awesome band names. The artwork was simply amazing. The images were very well done, with great detail, and added significantly to the book as a whole. The text was well written, and while some of the terminology was advanced definitions and explanations were woven perfectly into the text. I like that there was also a glossary at the end of the book, along with some resources for further reading and information on conservation. I also liked the use of text boxes and small commentary on almost every page. I found the balance of science and humor kept the reader's attention and interest which in turn keeps them reading. My daughter just might be getting this book for her next birthday.

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Wild, Wacky Names is a fun and informative read that I think will be a favorite for middle grade and older readers.

Book Review: Celtic Mythology for Kids: Tales of Selkies, Giants, and the Sea by Chris Pinard

Celtic Mythology for Kids: Tales of Selkies, Giants, and the Sea by Chris Pinard features twenty famous and lesser-known myths from places like Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany, this is your introduction to a faraway world of wonder. Colorful illustrations begin every myth. There is a glossary of Celtic mythology terms to better understand words like banshee, brownie, and selkie.
Celtic Mythology for Kids is not an introduction to Celtic mythology, which is what I was hoping for from the title. It is a selection of stories from the region, with questions at the end of each story, basically asking about the moral of the story. I know that fairy tales and oral tradition often are morality tales, or at least started that way, but I was rather hoping for more information about the creatures unique to the Celtic mythos than stories and questions that seem pointed at making readers behave. I wanted to learn more about a mythology and was disappointed with what I found.

Book Review: In His Kiss (Unrequited) by Ava Alise

In His Kiss is the first book in the Unrequited series by Ava Alise. "This was a mistake" were the words that sunk my entire world. Jordan should have been my first, he was already my everything. My best friend, my secret crush. We were closer than siblings. Our family's weaved together an intricate pattern of lines never meant to be crossed, until that night. We had a bit too much to drink and the heated way he stared at me made me feel that we could finally be something more. Things got a little out of hand and once the kissing started I didn't want it to stop. The time felt right and I gathered courage and told him how I felt. If only I knew how awkward things would be the next morning.

In His Kiss 
is a book that had me almost constantly holding my breath waiting for something horrible to happen- and each time the the issue was less horrible than I expected. It is emotionally charged and draining, but in the best way. Xia and Jordan have been best friends forever, and each crushing on the other almost as long. When things heat up the insecurities and family struggles they each have are the first barriers to their happiness, but not the last. I do love that they talk to each other, even if they delay it too often. There is just so much going on for all the characters, and one of the twists I considered right away- but some of the moments were really unexpected. Their friends and family are also well developed, and have so much going on in their own stories. I will admit that there were moments that I found Xia and her reactions to be immature, but this is also about college age characters and their is self-awareness about maturity levels that really balanced out those moments of annoyance.  I am invested in this circle of individuals, and am very much looking forward to the next book, which the afterward promised me. 

In His Kiss is an intense read with a happy ending. I enjoyed the read and look forward to more.

Early Book Review: Procrastibaking: 100 Recipes for Getting Nothing Done in the Most Delicious Way Possible by Erin Gardner

Procrastibaking: 100 Recipes for Getting Nothing Done in the Most Delicious Way Possible by Erin Gardner is currently scheduled for release on June 1 2020. Sometimes you need to take a mini vacation from the demands of daily life, and the kitchen is the best space for it. How can you return those emails when there’s dough on your hands? It would be counterproductive to handle clean laundry after dipping chocolates all afternoon, right? Whether you’re avoiding work, the news, or just trying to keep your hands busy, baking offers the perfect escape.

The digital galley for Procrastibaking landed in my hands at the perfect time- as my family were stuck working and learning from home and not going much of anywhere. When better to turn math lessons into treats, or delay dealing with a problem that really should not belong to you than by producing edibles in the kitchen? I enjoyed testing and planning to try out some of these 100 recipes. Some call for an hour, some call for a weekend, and all end in something yummy to eat. I still have several of the recipes bookmarked for further testing. I enjoyed the small asides that were between the recipes. Sadly some of the suggestions, like running down to the store for the perfect fruit or gourmet chocolate were not a good idea when I was reading the book I still enjoyed the sentiment- and could spend that time to see if I could order the same things online for delivery. As a whole; the recipes were easy to follow, the tone of the writing was fun and conversational, and I really enjoyed this book.
Procrastibaking is a fun and well written collection of recipes to try, regardless of if you should really be doing something else.