Artemis – Andy Weir (2017, Broadway Books, New York)
I had such fun reading Andy Weir’s first book The Martian, and it was just as much of a romp reading Artemis. Even if you’re not a typical reader of science fiction, you’ll enjoy the entertainment value in Weir’s work – the science is palatable and light (but hardly forgotten!) and the sassy, smart, strong protagonists are just as flawed as we need them to be. In Artemis, Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is a smuggler on the titular moon colony. Lured by the promise of a big payout, Jazz gets in way over her head when a juicy contract proves deadly, and she needs to use both brains and brawn (and enlist the help of some unlikely allies) to…well…stop the bad guys from doing really nasty things to the moon and its residents. This is a good old fashioned mystery with an extremely well-crafted and planned exotic setting and a clever (and at times, hilarious) first person narrator: a delightful, cozy combination.
Lady Cop Makes Trouble – Amy Stewart (2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York)
If you remember me burbling with excitement over the first book in this series, Girl Waits With Gun, then it probably won’t come as any surprise that I liked Lady Cop Makes Trouble even more. This fictionalized story of the unconventional Constance Kopp, who in real life was one of the first female police officers in the United States, picks up where the first novel leaves off, with the newly-deputized Constance doing her best to help keep Bergen County safe from unsavoury elements (when she’s not looking after her quirky family, that is). All hell breaks loose when Constance makes a mistake while keeping custody of a high-profile criminal and she knows she must take drastic action or risk losing her job and harming the livelihood of her boss, Sheriff Heath. This book is less constrained by real events as the first book was, which may or may not matter to readers (it didn’t, to me – storytelling is storytelling and this is a fine example of what you can do with the spark of historical fact if you totally run with it). Careful, detailed character development and moments of poignant emotion and humour make this a real gem.
Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to The Door is Ajar – I appreciate your readership, you’ve been amazing! As of today, I am combining this blog with Flowery Prose, another blog I’ve been writing for nearly a decade. In addition to the topics I cover on Flowery Prose, I will maintain the same book-centric posts that you’ve always found on the Door is Ajar. If you’re interested, I’d love it if you’d subscribe: please go check out the new digs and enjoy!
Beacon 23 – Hugh Howey (2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston)
It starts off like a scratchy, unshaven version of The Martian: first person storytelling, self-deprecating humour, a protagonist who faces a lot of scrapes that he needs to MacGyver himself out of. But Beacon 23 changes over the course of five stories, and it becomes less about the minutiae of the life of a man alone in space, sent to the beacon to protect FTL travellers from fatally crashing. This is actually a darn good anti-war novel, and a deeply emotional exploration of a soldier with PTSD. The superfluous stuff – the bounty hunters, the cute alien pet – give the book a bit of levity some readers might require for balance, but for me, it is all about the way this unnamed, war-ravaged man feels and how it influences everything he does – including making the most agonizing, horrific decision anyone should ever have to.
I had one annoyance, but when reading other reviews of the book online, it didn’t seem to bother anyone except me, so take this with a grain of salt: of course these stories were originally published as five singles on Amazon, and as befitting an omnibus edition, they were just slapped together as is in their complete forms. I would have preferred to see them slightly rewritten for this format so that they ran together smoothly as one complete novel – I hated going to the next story and getting a full recap of the events that took place earlier. I found it jarring. I guess I should have read them in their original form; it wouldn’t have been an issue then.
Living Wreaths: 20 Beautiful Projects for Gifts and Décor – Natalie Bernhisel Robinson (2014, Gibbs Smith, Utah)
You’ve probably seen scads of stuff like this on Pinterest – metal frames filled with soil, moss and succulents or other durable plants, living art that you can hang on your door to welcome visitors. I’m not in the least bit crafty, so you won’t find me building one anytime soon, but Robinson does an excellent job of making the process accessible to everyone in this easy how-to book. I’m just in it for the eye candy, though – some of my favourites include wreaths made from colourful varieties of lettuce (yes, you read that right – why not?), strawberries, tomatoes, spider plants, and a beautiful mix of ivies. You can even learn how to make a wreath from cacti, for use as a centrepiece on the dinner table…just be careful when you’re passing the peas.
Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet – dee Hobsbawn-Smith (2012,TouchWood Editions, Canada)
Do you ever think about where your food comes from? Do you know your local farmers, ranchers, beekeepers and cheese-makers? dee Hobsbawn-Smith does, and she’s compiled a comprehensive A to Z guide to 72 of the talented and hard-working people that bring all that delicious food to Alberta tables. (My hubby and I participate in the CSA share program from one of the farms mentioned in the book and it was particularly interesting to read the interviews with the farmers who grow our veggies and cut flowers). Although this guide may be most useful to Alberta residents, anyone who is interested in sustainability, agriculture, and the environment will take important stories out of Foodshed.
As an added bonus, there are some amazing recipes included – everything from the (mouth-watering) mouthful Berry Rhubarb Buckle with Yogourt Cream and Berry Ginger Compote and Apple-Thyme Mousse and Carmelized Winter Fruit with Filo “Sails” to Lemon Ketchup and Cucumber Raita. Food for thought AND food – what more can you ask for?
One for the Money – Janet Evanovich (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2012 – originally published 1994)
Okay, I know, I know, I’m really late to the Stephanie Plum party – it’s not like (several, SEVERAL) people haven’t tried to get me to read these books. And it’s not like I was unwilling – it’s just that there was always something nearer to the top of my Gigantic Pile o’ Reading. I actually finished reading One for the Money the week the movie came out (so now you know how late I am with this entry) – and boy, oh, boy, I really have been missing something. Continue reading