Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves from Korea, Japan, China, India, and Beyond by Karen Solomon

Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves from Korea, Japan, China, India, and Beyond - Karen Solomon

**Thank you Ten Speed Press and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

This is an excellent book for a pickling novice. I had never pickled anything in my life, and I'm happy to say, the two recipes I've made so far have turned out great. I chose to try the Cucumber Arame Pickles and "Wasabi" Pickled Carrots. Both have very few ingredients and very short sit times. I planned on my first few attempts at pickling to be fails. I wanted to use recipes that would be easy to make a couple times until I got it right. They both came out great the first time.

Solomon writing is wonderful. So many cookbooks have that text book feel to them. Solomon's personality made this a joy to read. Her instructions are easy to follow and many of the ingredients she used can be found at your local grocery store. This book covers recipes from China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Each selection starts with a introduction to the region's pickle basics and explains when and how to serve the dish. The end of the book provides a helpful glossary and measurement conversion chart.

My only real complaint is the lack of pictures. I would have liked to see a picture of each finished recipe. On average you get a picture every 2 to 3 recipes.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One by Paige McKenzie

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One - Paige McKenzie, Alyssa B. Sheinmel

***Thank you Weinstein Books and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**


I have never seen the YouTube channel this is based on, so I have no clue how it compares. As a book, this was a really fun story.


Sunshine and her mother, Katherine, have just moved half way across the country to Ridgemont, WA. Her mother has been offered a position in the new Neo-Natal unit at Ridgemont Hospital. Sunshine mourns the loss of having her BFF with her all the time and, well, sun shine. Not only does she have to adjust to life in grey skied Washington, she also has the feeling that something just isn't right at home. Sunshine and Katherine have always been close. They've been together almost everyday since Sunshine was abandoned at the hospital. Katherine happened to be working the night Sunshine was left. She from the moment she laid eyes on Sunshine, Katherine knew they were meant to be mother and daughter.


Sunshine knows there's something wrong on the first night in their new house. She hears the voice of a small child. Soon, someone is pulling all of Sunshine's toys out. Board games are set up to be played. There are screams in the night. The scariest part? Sunshine is the only one who notices or remembers any of this.


I really enjoyed this. The characters are fun and likable. Sunshine is the kind of girl you want to root for. She is smart, brave, and isn't boy crazy. The story has a great creepy feel to it. There is a second POV that pops in every now and then. I did find this a little confusing at first. You don't know who it is or what they're talking about. Their voice feels a little forced until the pieces fall into place. After that the second voice flows nicely with the rest of the story. The romance was allowed to form gradually. It had a very natural feel and was a breath of fresh air as far as YA romances go.


I will definitely continue with this series

As Red as Blood (Lumikki Andersson #1) by Salla Simukka,

As Red as Blood  - Owen Witesman, Salla Simukka

Lumikki is a loner. She has built walls around herself as a form of survival. She was ruthlessly bullying during elementary/middle school years and couldn't even find solace at home. To her, home was just as bad but for different reasons. She knew her parents loved her, but always felt they kept her at arms length. Now she is living alone while she attends a prestigious art school. Here she has finally been able to find a place where she is truly happy, the school's dark room. She is one of the few students who uses the room. So imagine her surprise when she finds thousands of blood covered euros hanging up in the dark room. Once she finds out where the money came from, she wants nothing more then to forget she ever saw it. Unfortunately, life has other plans for her.


I feel like something must have been lost in the translation of this novel. I notice most of the reviews written in Finnish and/or Swedish are pretty high, while a good number written in English are kina low. Lumikki was a strong, likable character. I just couldn't believe her back-story. She is a 17 year old who has super ninja skills and spy skills the would put the FBI to shame. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. There was never any mention of training in her past, and only one incident of her standing up to her former bullies. There is mention of Lumikki working out in the gym, but do not try and tell me she learned everything she knows at Planet Fitness.


The villains in this are out right laughable. You have a Finnish Mafia that can be taken down by small group of teenagers. All the side characters were pretty flat, with the exception of Elisa. She didn't have a fully fleshed out feel to her, but she at least strong presence and had something about her to make you care. Elisa is the one who brings out the best elements of Lumikki's personality. I had a hard time connecting with Lumikki until she became entangled with Elisa. When you get down to the bare bones mystery, I liked it. Average people get in over their heads with a crime syndicate, one mistake/misunderstanding is made, big chain of events is set off, innocents are dragged in, people die. Its a story-line that's been used thousands of times, but its one that works. Kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure. I fully believe you could give it to a hundred authors, and they's turn it into a hundred completely different books. Its the author's personal pixie dust they add that makes them so different. Simukka had all the elements for a unique, edge of your seat mystery. Sadly, the execution fell flat.


I would be willing to try another book by Simukka if it was translated by someone else. Even though I didn't like this particular book, I liked everything Simukka brought to the table. You have two female characters who could have carried the slacking parts of the story if the characters had been just a little bit stronger. There is a touch of fairy tale to it. The fairy tale connection wasn't very strong, or needed for the most part, but I still liked it. And even if it is over used, I still enjoy the story layout used.

The Dark Victorian: Risen (The Dark Victorian #1) by Elizabeth Watasin

RISEN (Dark Victorian, Vol. 1) - Elizabeth Watasin

**Thank you A-Girl Studio and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**


HRH Prince Albert's Secret Commission is a branch of law enforcement full of Raised beings who fight the supernatural during Victorian London. The newest member of the commission is Artifice (Art). She has been paired up with Jim Dastard, a seasoned member of the commission. Their first case together involves tracking down and stopping the person responsible for the murderous zombie children that have started plaguing London.


Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The first 10% or so is a little slow, but then the story picks up steam and keeps right on to the end. The zombie children were a nice twist on the Steampunk genre. The characters were unique and likable. Art can go back and forth from solid  to ghost form. While she doesn't have her memories from her past life, she kept the traits of her personality that meant the most to her. She was a Quaker in her former life and is still very much one. Her reluctance to kill the reanimated children, even though they had no qualms about trying to eat her, gave her a real human feel. Jim is a talking skull, and by far the funniest character. Many of his remarks come from time periods well after the Victorian era, which makes me wonder if there will be a time travel element added later in the series.


My only complaint is the story felt too rushed in certain parts. This is a short book, only about 130-140 pages, and there was just too much crammed in. We have the main story, Art dealing with the everything that comes with just brought back to life, and parts of her past trying to push themselves into her present. There were characters or places that had a very brief mention early on, then were brought back for towards the end for important happenings. There were a few times where I had to do a search in the book to remind myself who a character was or what a place was. If this been a full length novel, or broken up into two 130 page novels, I think this would have been a solid 4 star read. 


One thing that I absolutely loved about this title was the lack of romance. I don't mean in a "I hate romance" kind of way. Too many authors add a romance that the story neither needs or or can fit. They cram in a story that just feels forced and takes away from the overall enjoyment of the title. Watasin must have realized she already had more then enough in the title and left the romance for future titles. This title did plant the seeds for what could be a likable romance later in the series.


I will continue with the series

Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr

Roomies - Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando, Becca Battoe, Emily Eiden

Elizabeth (Eb) and Lauren(Lo)have been paired up to be roommates at Berkeley


Lo isn't too happy. She lives with her parents and five siblings. She hasn't had any personal space since the younger children came along. She had requested a single room, but that was obviously denied.


Eb is thrilled. Its just her and her mother at home, and she's really looking forward to the "closeness" her and Lo are bound to share. She also hopes to possibly reconnecting with her father. He happens to own a Gallery in San Francisco. Eb excitedly sends off an email to Lo just minutes after receiving her roommates info.


This is one of the most adorable books I've ever read (or listened to). I absolutely loved both girls. Both were realistic, likable, and had their own distinctive personalities. I listened to the audio version, and while I think this would have been a great story to "read", I think the narrators are what really brought this book to life for me. Everything the girls have ever known is about to change. This is thrilling, sad, and at least a little terrifying. The narrators did a beautiful job with bringing each girl to life.


I have a hate/love feel for the ending. I really wished the book had gone on for one more scene. I almost feel cheated that it didn't. However, it really is the perfect ending to the book. I think ending it any other way may have taken away the special feeling the book gave me.

The Edge of Life , by Joe Hart

The Edge of Life: A Short Horror Story - Joe Hart

Imagine you and the family are home. You're all off in different sections of the house and everyone one is making their own noises in the background. The door bell rings and you answer it. There's this freaky little man on your doorstep and he basically says "Hey there! So, I just killed your whole family, BUT if you're a good little man I'll give them life again if you kill someone else for me". You automatically think this guy is off his rocker. First off, who goes to someone's house and says something like that? Second, you know yourself. You would not and could not kill an innocent person for any reason. You shut the door,turn around, and realize your house has gone quiet. Not the types of quiet where maybe things are in a lull, but that silence that tells you that you are the only living being in the house. Are you really sure you couldn't kill another human being to save your own children?


This was an excellent little short story! This year I decided I wanted to read at least 52 short stories/novellas. The number of them I have is starting to get out of control. This recently came up on my feed when friend read it. She rated it 5 stars, so I thought it was worth at least a try. I was not disappointed. For me, short stories tend to have an unfinished feel to them. I didn't get that at all from this. More titles by Hart will definitely make their way to my TBR pile.

In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods  - Tana French, Steven Crossley
During the summer of 1983, in the small village of Knocknaree, three children go missing. The three children were seen playing together, just like they had been doing for years. This day would not end like the others. Three children go into the wood, but only one of them ever comes out. Not even the bodies of the other two children are ever found. The little boy, Adam, is found in a catatonic state, and even after he recovers, never remembers what happened after they entered the woods.

Twenty years, and a name change later, the boy who survived, now named Rob, returns to Knocknaree as a Inspector for the Dublin Murder Squad. The body of a little girl has been discovered at a archaeological site in Knocknaree. Some of the people believe this new murder may be related to the 1984 murders. Others believe it has to do with the heated dispute over the new motorway that's being built through the village. Along with the pressures of a high profile case, Rob must also deal with his inner demons of the past.

I think this is a first. The book was a solid 5 Star read, but I will never read it again. The writing, characters, and plot are fabulous. However, this is a brutal book. It completely wore me out mentally and emotionally. But again, everything about the book was phenomenal. Even though I cringed through almost the entire thing, I couldn't wait to get home, press play on my laptop and find out what was going to happen next. I need a little time before I can handle another book in the series, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

**Thank you Penguin and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**


Lee is a second generation Vietnamese American who is trying to find her place in the world. She has recently finished her PhD, and like many recent graduates of her generation, can't find employment. After awhile, she admits defeat and returns home. While this never part of anyone's plan, most people would receive a sense of comfort from returning. Most people would receive support from their parents. They would be returning to home, a safe place where they can be themselves and know they would be accepted. Unfortunately, home doesn't feel that way for Lee. Her mother is a first generation Vietnamese American and still lives by many of the traditions and rules of her mother country. She puts her son up on a pedestal, while Lee feels she is treated like a second class child because she is the second child, and even worse, a girl. Her brother, Sam, is given cars, money, and one day will be given whatever business their mother happens to own at the time. All this even though Sam has repeatedly stolen from their mother and leaves the family without warning. Even though Lee and her mother have a rocky, at best, relationship, Lee has always tried to do right for her family. The one saving grace for her at home is her Ong Hai. He has always showed her love, respect, and support. He has always tried to keep the household as peaceful as possible. He understands why his daughter can't let go of the traditions she grew up with, but he also understands why they make Lee feel trapped.


Ong Hai is the one who plants the seed that will begin Lee on her journey. In 1965, Ong Hai owned at cafe called Cafe 88 in Saigon. One day a American women steps in the cafe. Her name was Rose, and she was a reporter sent to write about the war from a women's perspective. Ong Hai is delighted when the women continues to return to hear more of his stories. On her last visit, Rose leaves a gold pin behind. Ong Hai saves the pin, but Rose never returns for it. The pin is one of the few things Ong Hai and Lee's mother bring with them to America. It is this little pin that will send Lee on here back and forth journey to find out the true history of the pin, and maybe find her self along the way.


Ok, confession time. I have never read any of the Little House on the Prairie books or watched the show. I vaguely remember reading parts of Farmer Boy in 4th grade class and it boring me to tears. I never felt the urge to seek out anything to do with the series after that. I might have liked the story more if I had, but even as a non-LHotP fan, I still enjoyed it. My sister is going through the same thing as Lee profession wise. She has just completed her Masters (is going for PhD), and she can't find anything out there. She is still working as a waitress and has had to return home a few times when tips just weren't paying the bills. I can easily see Lee's frustration and the little amounts of defeat Lee feels every time my sister has to turn home. You spend years going on almost no sleep just so you can go to college and work. You're always tired, stressed, and just one frozen burrito away from a mini-freak out. And what do you have to show for it when you graduate? You're back home working at the same restaurant you were at before all of it. It was really easy for me to connect with Lee because of that. I can't imagine how someone could deals with the normal stress of college life along with the added cultural pressures some second generation Americans must receive from their families.


Well worth the read. I really enjoyed Nguyen's storytelling and plan to read her Short Girls novel soon.

Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura

Last Winter We Parted - Fuminori Nakamura

The basic story is very much like In Cold Blood. A writer is sent to interview a convicted killer. The killer is a photographer who has been found guilty of burning two women to death. There is no doubt that he is guilty. He stood there and photographed the women as they burned. But the more time the writer spends on the story, the more he starts to question this. Did the photographer really kill these women? Or is there a important piece of information missing? A piece that could change everything?



I used to read a lot of mysteries as a older teen/young adult. I don't remember why I started shying away from the genre, but it probably had something to do with predictability. Just recently I've started reading them again, and this was a great "jumping back into a genre". The story full of twist and turns and predictability is nowhere in sight. I didn't love it, but I didn't have it either. The story is told from multiple POVs. You're not always told what POV you're reading. Add that to the fact that a few of the characters have very similar names, and you have a recipe for extreme confusion in parts. Something that should have really bothered me but didn't, was the fact that none of the characters are likable. They're all awful, despicable people. I think the reason it worked for me was because the author didn't try to hide how awful they were. He didn't try to say "yeah, that was a really fucked up thing to do, BUT they meant well". He let them be exactly who they were.



I would read anther title by the author.

The Rose Master by Valentina Cano

The Rose Master - Valentina Cano

**Thank you Netgalley and REUTS Publications for providing this in exchange for an honest review**


A Victorian Gothic, retelling of Beauty and the Beast? How could I not love it?


Anne has been a parlor maid at Caldwell House since she was a little girl. On her 17th Birthday, she finds out she is being let go from the only home she has ever own. She is now going to be employed by a distant relative of her current employer. She will have to leave the busy hustle and bustle of London for an isolated Manor in the country, Rosewood Manor. Anne can tell right away that there is something wrong with Rosewood, and it doesn't take her long to realize her life could be in danger.


This book was absolutely delightful. The characters smart, witty, and refreshingly proactive. The world building was wonderful. I felt like I had actually seen the grounds of Rosewood, rather then just read about them. The romance was allowed to gradually grow over time. It felt very natural, not forced or rushed, and there wasn't a love triangle. I knocked one star off the rating because the end didn't feel complete. If it turns out there is going to be a sequel, I will change my rating to 5 stars

The Killer Next Door: A Novel , by Alex Marwood

The Killer Next Door: A Novel - Alex Marwood

**Thank you Netgalley and Penguin for providing this in exchange for an honest review**


This was excellent!


Collette has an easy job. Sure, deep down she knows she is paid with dirty money, but its a lot of money. One night she sees something she shouldn't have and has to go on the run. After a few years of constantly moving around, she eventually makes it to 23 Beulah Grove. At first, she thinks this is the perfect place to stay for awhile. Due to a family issue, she must stay put for awhile. She needed somewhere to stay where people wouldn't be too curious about her. Somewhere the neighbors wouldn't ask too many questions. One walk through the building tells her 23 Beulah Grove is that kind of place. The only reason the other tenants would live in a slum-hole like it would be because they also were hiding from someone or something.


I loved, loved, loved this book. The characters and surroundings were well developed. While Collette is technically the main character, there was no secondary character feel to the "side" characters. This story was equal parts character and story driven and told from alternating POVs. When you were with one of the "secondary", you felt like they were the one that the book was actually about. The only reason for 4 stars instead of 5 was a short romance that took place. I can take or leave a romance story line. The aren't usually a selling point for me, but its very rare that they ding my opinion in a story. This one, unfortunately, did cause a ding. It came across forced and really had no impact on the overall story. It felt like an after thought that was thrown in because...well, why the hell not. This will definitely be a reread for me and I look forward to reading Marwood's The Wicked Girls


Snow and Shadow by Dorothy Tse

Snow and Shadow - Dorothy Tse

**Thank you Netgalley and Muse for providing this in exchange for an honest review**


I believe this may be the weirdest book I've ever read. I'm a bad reader when it comes to Anthologies. I usually read the first few stories and set the book aside. I always say I'll pick it back up soon, but that very rarely ever happens. To be honest, I'm pretty sure I've only ever finished one Anthology, besides this one, and that was only because there was a main story connecting everything together. Really, that's my main issue with anthologies. Short stories are exactly that. Short full stories. I know how the last story I read ends. Its too easy for me to say "Ok, I know how that ended. I'll just finish this novel sitting here beside me and then I'll read this next story". Problem is, I'll say that over and over again. Without a continuous story to keep my full attention, Anthologies are set back on the shelf and forgotten. This title took me forever to finish, BUT I did finish it. That should say a lot as to how much I enjoyed it. The stories were so different from anything I've ever read read before. I tend to avoid books that are loaded with sex. I'm glad they're out there for the readers who enjoy them, but they just aren't my cup of tea. The sex scenes in these stories were so bizarre, they weren't like anything I've come across before. The violence, while extreme, wasn't done in a gross-out kind of way.


I really hope to see a full length novel by Tse someday. Her storytelling is definitely unique

Whisper the Dead by Alyxandra Harvey

Whisper the Dead  - Alyxandra Harvey

**Thank you Bloomsbury Childrens and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**




5 stars is just not enough for this book. I think this might be tied with [book:The Supernatural Enhancements|18782854] as my favorite book of the year. Everything about it was endearing. I absolutely love those girls

Review to come closer to the publication date.




Ok, the full review will not come because I misplaced my notes. I knew I should have just written it out and saved it immediately. I can tell you it would have been full of nothing but absolute fangirling.  I really liked Emma's POV in the previous book, but I loved Gretchen's in this book. I really hope Penelope gets the staring role in the third book.

Ramadan Sky by Hunter, Nichola

Ramadan Sky - Nichola Hunter
  **Thank you Netgalley and Harper Collins for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

Hunter has a gift for realistic writing characters. People are never 100% good or bad, and she was true to that. The low rating is because while the writing was wonderful, I didn't care for the story or the characters so much. Just because characters are realistic, doesn't mean they're actually likeable. You have a grown woman who taunts a teenage girl. The teenager has stalkerish tendencies. And Fajar is just a fucking dick. I'm not sure if I'd read anything by the author again. I would definitely give her another try, but I wouldn't be able to read a full length book with such unlikable characters


Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

Small Blessings: A Novel - Martha Woodroof

**Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

I have a confession to make. I could not read the ARC which St. Martin's was kind enough to provide for me. I tried. I really did. I must have picked it up and put it down no less then 4 times. I just couldn't do it. It bored me to tears. I accepted it was a DNF and moved on. While I was at the library last week, I saw the audio for this on the shelf and figured "what the hell, I'll give it one more shot". I'm glad I did. The narrator (Lorelei King) did a beautiful job bringing these characters to life.

While the story itself is pretty predictable, the characters were all wonderfully unique. They weren't over the top quirky just for the sake of being quirky, which is a nice change. All the characters were well fleshed out and likable. The story was very cute and light hearted. While I don't think I'll read anything by Woodroof again, I'll definitely give audio versions of any future titles she writes a try.

Written version: 1 Star
Audio version: 4 Stars

The After House

The After House - Michael Phillip Cash

**Thank you Netgalley and Chelshire for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

I wasted too much time reading this to spend anymore time on it with a proper review.

What I liked about it: The description before reading it.

What I disliked: Everything. Everything about it is flat and boring.

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