My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wasn’t prepared for how much I enjoyed this book. Non-fiction, all too often, is dry if informative. It’s a rare book that is both educational and fun to read. This is one of those rare books. Often my pattern is to get a book and donate it to a library. This time I got it from the library and now am going to go buy it.
Stewart weaves botanical information with history to tell a story as to how the various plants have worked their way into our alcohol (and there are so many plants it’s not even funny). There were a couple of places where I’m not hundred percent sure of the factoid (or at least I know it wasn’t what my botany books said) and a few others where her personal preferences came through a bit too much (a dislike of chocolate liquors and a love of bourbon, which I admit, is not my personal favorite).
But overall, it’s a very accessible, wildly readable book. I’ve read a lot over the years about the atrocities of English and Spanish explorers. I can now add ‘holy crap the Dutch weren’t to be trifled with’ to the list as well. I learned a lot. I wanted to give examples but there is literally so much in here I can’t remember it all. First it deals with plants made directly into alcohol, then ones that are flavorings then mixers. I’m going to look up more of Ms. Stewart’s books.
View all my reviews
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged. This seems to be the catchphrase for this novel. I had a lot of mixed feelings about it. For one, it was written when the author was sixteen and published when he was eighteen. I’m a little jealous of that mostly because back when I was that age a publisher wouldn’t touch an author that young and now it’s kitsch. I will say that he has a very good vocabulary and is very descriptive but on the other hand, the book felt overly long and I didn’t really connect with anyone. I think my biggest problem was how did the changelings or ‘the peculiars’ as they’re called even get to be. Humans and fairies in this world are so different and so hostile crossbreeding seems unlikely on all levels.
Be that as it may, they exist and are often killed outright if discovered. Somehow or another the fairies ended up on Earth, Victorian era (this is very steampunky) and are sealed away from their home. Nine changeling children have gone missing and nothing but their empty skins have been found. No one much cares but even at that, nine is too many. It’s being batted about in congress. Mr. Jelliby is a reluctant member of the congress and has managed to catch the ire of Mr. Lickerish, the one fairy congressman and he doesn’t really care about any of it until he’s forced to.
On the other hand Bartholomew and his sister Hettie are changelings living in squalor and fear. If a neighbor sees them, especially Hettie with her tree branch hair, they’ll be killed. Barty sees the Lady in Plum take the peculiar boy next door and fears he’s been seen. All too soon he’s right and worse, his sister is taken and Barty, with Jelliby’s help will move heaven and hell to get her back.
Unfortunately the pacing is a bit off. It takes too long to get to this point. Once Barty and Jelliby meet the story moves a long well but it’s a bit of a slog to get to that point. And I didn’t realize when I bought it that it was book one of a series. The ending, while wrapping up book one’s big plot point it did feel too open too unfinished. I liked it. I’m sure Mr. Bachmann has a good future ahead of him as an author but this could have stood with better editing for pacing or maybe more likeable characters. Barty isn’t particularly likeable (to me) until Hettie is taken. Ditto Jelliby. I think I’ll look to the library for book two.
View all my reviews