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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Stacking the Shelves [117]



Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. If a book catches your eye, *click* the picture to go to the Goodreads page of that book.

Purchased




The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney
Gothic Lolita by Dakota Lane

Little Free Library



Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Other Book Stuff

I went to C2E2 in Chicago the other weekend, and got some books signed. I'm pretty excited about it!



Friday, March 13, 2020

Review: Best Bondage Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 edited by by Rachel Kramer Bussel



Title: Best Bondage Erotica of the Year, Volume 1
Editor: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Format: Paperback, 248 pages
Pub. Date: March 10th 2020
Source: Rachel Kramer Bussel


Book Description:



Super sexy, sensual, and surprising bondage stories from Tiffany Reisz, Somer Marsden, Valerie Alexander, and more collected in this exciting volume by erotica maven Rachel Kramer Bussel!

A cameraman puts a TV anchor on display in a whole new way… Two NASA officials wage an interstellar battle between protocol and desire, and one is taken captive . . . A gender-bending bounty hunter keeps his bounty hostage for more than just the monetary reward . . . Two warring neighbors discover that bondage can be a powerful negotiating tool . . . “Merlin” and the “Lady of the Lake” invoke the magic of the woods to fuel their fiery passions . . .

Best Bondage Erotica of the Year is back with erotica maven and award-winning editor Rachel Kramer Bussel compiling the most scintillating bondage stories into this one amazing collection. With a wide variety of different pairings, genders, and genres, these stories are all united in their deep desire for the mind-bending thrills of this o-so-delectable act. Whether you are exploring your kinky side, are looking for inspiration in the bedroom, or are simply interested in a sexy read, this collection is poised to please and titillate readers of any experience level who are keen to explore the depths of their own passions and penchants for the perverse.



Table of Contents

Chained—Ria Restrepo

Impropriety—Winter Blair

Over Under—Kendel Davi

Protocol—Angora Shade

Beach Blanket Ballet—Richard Bacula

Kneel—Kate Allure

Pretty Tied Up—Zak Jane Keir

The Deepest Part of the Forest—Deborah Castellano

Connection—Lazuli Jones

BYOB—Elizabeth Coldwell

Contrary—Kim Kuzuri

Freefall—Valerie Alexander

Delicate Matters—Leandra Vane

Boundless—Sammy Rei Schwarz

Stronghold—Leif Often

Necessary Roughness—Rachel Kramer Bussel

Safe Sex—Violet R. Jones

Hold On Harder—Dena Hankins

The Student Seat—Sommer Marsden

The Beguiling of Merlin—Tiffany Reisz






Review:


★★★★

Every time that Rachel Kramer Bussel and Cleis Press release a new anthology, I get excited. It seems like the newest one is always newer, sexier, and more batshit than the last. And I mean that in the best way possible. There's newer scenarios, a wide variety of short stories, a whole manner of arrangements of kink and couplings and throuplings and beyond.

Between the pages of this anthology include stories that feature gender-bending, non-binary characters, couples (straight, gay, lesbian, the works), throuples, groups, young characters, old characters, disabled characters, POC characters, realistic stories, sci-fi stories, fantasy stories, historical stories, Dommes, Doms, role play, chains, ropes, public play, and way too much to keep listing like this. As the title of the anthology implies, the one strand that weaves all of these radically different stories together is the theme of bondage.

Because it's an anthology, I certainly liked some stories more than others. Though I always review only my top three favorite stories, I always take notes on each story and give each one a rating to help me determine the final amount of stars. I can honestly say that out of all the Cleis Press anthologies I've reviewed over the years, this book has the fewest low-rated stars out of all of them. No 1-star, and only one 2-star. The picks for this ones are pretty great to get your smut on. (In fact, 6 of them get perfect 5 stars from me!)

The ones I didn't care for as much are for various reasons- kinks that I'm not into, language that isn't my thing (I think we all have our preferred sexy words and ones that are y i k e s), one story was a bit disjointed and flowery. But, what didn't float my boat might hyper-float yours.

Because these are 20 stories by 20 authors, this book is easy to read either in one go, or in little bites of a story or two here and there.

As always, I'll highlight my top three favorite stories.

The first story that I'll highlight is actually the last one in the book, ensuring that the collection goes out with one helluva bang. It's called "The Beguiling of Merlin: An Erotic Fantasia" by Tiffany Reisz. It's a story I didn't know I wanted. It involves a hetero couple, an art book, history, roleplay, and obviously, bondage. It's a lovely blend of magic and realism, somehow reading as both a wonderful sort of fairy tale and an extremely steamy erotica. It's both pretty and dirty and I'm here for it.

The second book I'll recommend is called "The Deepest Part of the Forest" by Deborah Castellano. You'll probably notice a theme to the sort of stories that I enjoy reading. This story involves Halloween, a primal energy, a big bad wolf, a Red, a forest and, yes, more bondage. I thought this story had a fun, playful yet primal vibe to it. I love Halloween, I love a big bad wolf, and this was just up my alley.

The third one is one that I loved but also puzzles me, because Rachel Kramer Bussel's anthologies have made me acutely aware of the fact that "lesbian historical erotica" is a thing I'm into. Not weirdly specific at all! The last story is called "Impropriety" by Winter Blair. It involves a female/female pairing, a case of malaise, a historical setting, a tinkerer's workshop, bondage (shocking I know!) and an unusual device that may just give her everything she's missing and more. It's sexy, it's playful, it held my attention, and it left me wanting a longer story. I'd read a whole book of Jessamine and Ada. More of this, please!

All in all this book has a scratch to soothe any kinky itch. There's light stories, dark stories, fun stories, a rainbow of characters and a treasure trove of kinks. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and I'm happy to add it to my shelf.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Stacking the Shelves [116]



Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. If a book catches your eye, *click* the picture to go to the Goodreads page of that book.

In my Inbox




Mermaid Moon by Susann Cokal
Beauty & the Lumberjacks by Lee Savino

In my Mailbox



Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Freebies



Blood 4 Life by M. Lorrox

Friday, March 6, 2020

Review: Everyday Bakes to Showstopper Cakes by Mich Turner




Title: Everyday Bakes to Showstopper Cakes
Author: Mich Turner
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: March 10th
Source: Netgalley / White Lion Publishing


Book Description:




In Everyday Bakes to Showstopper Cakes, celebrity baker Mich Turner brings together a collection of recipes to take you all the way from the delicious everyday through to the spectacular. Starting out with simple cakes, biscuits and cupcakes, once you have mastered this first level, Mich provides you with a few extra steps to turn these into fabulous creations. If you’re looking for more of a challenge or to elevate a favourite, these bakes are easily adapted to create a true showstopper cake. Covering a full range of bakery goods as well as perfect flavours, whether you are a novice baker or already know your rum baba from your roulade, you can be easily guided through these delicious bakes and simple but spectacular decoration techniques that make the most of wonderful flavours and perfect crumb.





Review:


★★★★

What can I say? I'm a sucker for the Great British Bake Off and I was drawn into a book that promised me Showstopper Cakes.

What I really like about this book is that the recipes are divided into the two title categories: either an everyday bake or a showstopper cake. It's good for those who are more beginner who might want to start simple. Or conversely, for more experienced bakers who are looking to challenge themselves a little bit more.

This book is divided by types of bakes including: Cupcakes, Loafcakes Traybakes and Meringues, Layer Cakes, and Celebration Cakes.

There's conversions here which are helpful, given the British-ness off the book. Because of that, take note that some ingredients will need to be swapped as this book includes things harder to find in America, like Maltesers.

Each recipe has helpful hints and tips, and the instructions are written really well. I wish that some of the more complicated bakes would have included step-by-step photos. I know this book is beginner to more advanced, but I assume the audience is still home bakers. The extra help for some of them would have gone a long way!

I really like that some of the recipes are just sort of kicked up a notch, so to speak. That is, there will be a cupcake version and a cake version, or a cake version and a wedding cake version. It's nice to see the varieties of the same thing in different challenge modes.

There are a lot of photos, which I really appreciate, especially in a book like this about flashy bakes. Plus, the photos that are included are fantastic. They look like stellar cakes and so the title is accurate for sure.

There's templates included in the back for some of the design work, which is helpful. There's also a few random cookie recipes in the back which are a bit weird and out of place but, hey, I like cookies as much as the next baker.

Some of the recipes that sounded the most delicious to me include: Venetian Easter Eggs, Lemon and Elderberry Layer Cake, and The Althorp Chocolate and Salted Caramel Layer Cake.

This would be welcome on any home baker's shelf, and would make a great gift for that baker in your life who you beg to bring treats to your parties.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review:
A New Dictionary of Fairies by Morgan Daimler



Title: A New Dictionary of Fairies: A 21st Century Exploration of Celtic and Related Western European Fairies
Author: Morgan Daimler
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: March 1st 2020
Source: Netgalley / Moon Books


Book Description:



Fairies are a challenging subject, intertwining culture, folklore, and anecdotal accounts across centuries and millennia. Focusing primarily on the Celtic speaking cultures, with some material from adjacent cultures including Anglo-Saxon and Norse, A New Dictionary of Fairies has in-depth entries on a variety of fairies as well as subjects related to them, such as why we picture elves with pointed ears or where the idea of fairies being invisible comes from. It also tackles more complicated topics like the nature and physicality of the fairy people. Anyone with an interest in the Good Neighbours will find this book a solid resource to draw from.






Review:


★★★★

This is a really good reference book and a comprehensive guide for all things related to fae and fairy folk.

As the title suggests, this isn't a book so much as a dictionary, so things are listed alphabetically in an index, as a dictionary would be. Some of the entries are a really short few sentences, and some entries stretch on for multiple pages. Because it's listed in a dictionary format, it is extremely easy to navigate if you're looking for something specific to reference.

I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of items that are included in this book. It ranges from mythology/lore from all sorts of areas (such as Celtic, Norse, and Christianity), there's poets and poems and ballads, there references to actual, real historical accounts/people, and things like how the various fae folk look in appearance, or their demeanor.

Because there's such a wide canvas here, this is a good reference guide not just for magick practitioners and those interested in the fae, but authors and writers as well. There's also a lot of footnotes and research, so you can do further searching with relative ease.

The actual writing itself is a bit choppy and could use a little editing, but it was solid enough that I didn't notice too much.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, thank you!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Review:
The Illustrated Crystallary by Maia Toll



Title: The Illustrated Crystallary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Magical Gems and Minerals
Author: Maia Toll
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: June 9th 2020
Source: Netgalley / Storey Publishing


Book Description:



In the ancient world there were three medicine kingdoms: animal, vegetable, and mineral. Following her previous acclaimed volumes on animal (The Illustrated Bestiary) and vegetable (The Illustrated Herbiary), Maia Toll fulfills the call for mineral with The Illustrated Crystallary , exploring the mystical qualities of 36 fascinating crystals and minerals, including gold, silver, copper, amethyst, hematite, mica, smokey quartz, emerald, ruby, and more. Combining bits of ancient wisdom with her own insights, Toll explores the aspects and energy of each stone and, through rituals and reflections, the life guidance it might offer contemporary readers. Obsidian’s shiny surface and sharp edges reflect the shadowy corners of the self and serve as the tool for cutting them loose. The sky-like color of earthly turquoise provides balance between opposing forces. The stunning illustrations of Kate O’Hara magnify the symbolism of each crystal throughout the book, and are also featured on 36 oracle cards included in an envelope bound in the back of the book.

Also available: The Illustrated Herbiary Collectible Box Set and The Illustrated Bestiary Collectible Box Set.






Review:


★★★★★

This book is absolutely gorgeous.

There are 36 crystals in this book. Each one has a beautiful illustration to represent it, as well as a description of what that crystal means or represents, its rating on the Mohs Hardness Scale, a self-reflection guide, and a ritual that utilizes that crystal. It's easy to read in one go, but because it describes individual crystals, it's also easy to set down, or to use as a reference guide.

Peppered throughout this book are little fun bits, such as quotes, questions to ponder as you reflect, and small stories of history and mythology. There's a good variety of types of stories, including Nordic, Renaissance, ancient Egypt, Rome, and more.

Some of the crystals that are described in this book include Azurite, Salt, Carnelian, and Larimar.

If you use crystals or practice magick, this is a beautiful book to have at your reference. Or, if you just are a fan of gorgeous mystic art, this book is worth looking through.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Review: Kitchen without Borders by The Eat Offbeat Chefs



Title: Kitchen without Borders: Recipes from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs and Stories of the Journey to Make a New Home
Authors: The Eat Offbeat Chefs
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: February 18th 2020
Source: Netgalley / Workman Publishing Company


Book Description:



A cookbook with wide-ranging roots and a very deep heart: 80 authentic, off-the-beaten-path recipes for delicious dishes from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Eritrea, Venezuela, and other countries are shared by chefs who arrived in the US as refugees and found work at the Eat Offbeat catering kitchen.






Review:


★★★★

What a charming, wholesome cookbook! This book is half recipes, and half stories from the chefs. They're stories of immigration, of refugees, of family and traditions, and the importance of food as a way of bringing people together and sharing with one another. There's little bio chapters for the chefs with their personal stories as well as why they included the recipes that they did and things like personal/family photos. It was touching and I really loved they way that all these chefs from radically different walks of life come together over their love of nourishing others with their home cooking. These recipes are exotic and from a wide variety of countries, including Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Iran, Algeria, Afghanistan, and way more than listed here.

The cookbook is divided into sections by course: Appetizers and Dips, Salads and Soups, Rice and Grains, Vegetarian Dishes, Meat Dishes, and Desserts and Drinks. There's also a section in the beginning that talks about ingredients and potential substitutions, as a lot of the spices and ingredients here may be difficult for your average reader to find locally. Helpfully, there are websites included in this book, should you wish to chase these harder-to-find ingredients down for yourself.

The steps are written well and are easy to follow, and there are a lot of pictures included in this book. That's a good thing for me, since I haven't eaten- let alone made- most of these dishes. It's nice to have a reference to see if what I'm doing looks even a little bit right.

Some of the recipes that sounded the best to me include zeytoon parvardeh (olive, pom, walnut tapenade), narges kebabs (almost like a scotch egg), and fesenjan (stewed chicken).

If you're looking for bolder recipes or to become a more well-rounded home cook, or if you just want to spice things up, this is a great cookbook to add to your collection.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!