Audiobook Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, Read by Cat Gould & Sarah Mollo-Christensen

I’ve been a bit nostalgic for anime and conventions lately, so what better way to nurse that feeling than to revisit one of my favorite geek related books, Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde.

I originally reviewed this book back in April of 2017 (you can see my review of an ARC copy of the novel here) and absolutely loved it. This review is specifically to update my thoughts about the book as it pertains to the audiobook edition with some additional commentary that I might have not written as well in the first edition of the review.

 

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Published: 31 July 2018 (originally published 14 March 2017)

Publisher: Tantor Audio

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/LGBT+

Three friends, two love stories, one convention: this fun, feminist love letter to geek culture is all about fandom, friendship, and finding the courage to be yourself.

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, is an empowering novel for anyone who has ever felt that fandom is family.

Rating: 5 Stars

CW: biphobia, body shaming, panic attacks

Rep: bisexual Chinese-Australian MC, plus-size Autistic MC, Mental health rep also inc. social anxiety & depression

What I liked a lot about the audio book was that the production didn’t ignore the characters who were Australian. This is the first time I can remember listening to a book with Australian characters who actually got Australian voices. It was a refreshing listen.

Charlie’s chapters, as she’s navigating interviews at SupaCon (a version of San Diego Comic Con), has some poignant commentary on the way women are viewed in the media. There’s a scene where she and Reese, her co-star and ex-boyfriend, are being interviewed. While Reece gets an in-depth question about method & his role, she gets asked about her diet & workout routine. 🙄

Taylor runs up against her share of difficulties from a fan perspective within the geek community. During the course of SupaCon she enters a Queen Firestone Fan Contest and overhears a fellow contestant make disparaging remarks about her that include body shaming and how she (Taylor) can’t be a true Firestone fan because of what she looks like. This is an important moment for Taylor, and for the readership of Queens of Geek, because while she’s having a reflection upon her feelings about her body and talking it through on her Tumblr, the audience sees just how ludicrous such sentiments are. Your body/appearance has no relation to what your interest in a fandom can be. If you want to cosplay, be a fan, etc., then do the thing. Enjoy the game, the book, the movie, whatever. Don’t let the haters get you down.

Queens of Geek bears up well under repeat readings, so I think it will be good for new readers and repeat readers alike, particularly those that enjoy the atmosphere of anime/comic conventions.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rockstar Book Tours Presents: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus – A Review

TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET

Secrets are intriguing, until they turn deadly.

Karen M. McManus, author of the NYT Bestseller One of Us is Lying, returns to the genre with the story of Echo Falls, a small town where once a girl goes missing, they tend to never come home. Ellery and Ezra Corcoran have ties to the community: their aunt was one such girl, twenty years ago.

What will this mean when new crimes start again? Vandalism, a new disappearance that might be connected to both Ellery’s aunt and one much more recently. Is it all one big coincidence that this is happening when the Cocoran twins have just moved to town? Ellery’s got a mind for criminal justice and she, along with her twin brother Ezra and local Malcolm Kelly, aren’t going to let things stand by.

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Published: 8 January 2018

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Category: Mystery/Young Adult/Contemporary

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.
The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.
Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

Rating: 4 Stars

CW: drug abuse (off page)

Rep: bisexual Korean SC, biracial MC/secondary character (twins) (ambiguous Latinx)

I’ve wanted to read Karen M. McManus’s work for awhile now because I’ve heard good things about her talent for crafting a well written thriller. Like Ellery, I share an interest in criminal justice stories, though I prefer mine to be fictional while her interests like more in the true crime direction.

What I ended up reading in Two Can Keep A Secret made me sure it was worth the wait. McManus’s set up of the town of Echo Ridge was hauntingly familiar to me as someone who lives in a small town, particularly one in the area of New England. From the descriptions of the environment in the late summer and fall to the interactions of townspeople, I thought that the author got the details right for this story. There was one passage in particular when a character talks about how your family, in a town that small, can end up getting known for either the best thing a family member has done or the worst.

Malcolm Kelly knows that better than anyone. One of the main characters in TCKAS, he’s in a tough situation. His brother Declan was the primary suspect when his girlfriend, Lacey, was murdered five years ago. Though there was no evidence, speculation made the family social pariahs. Declan left town while Malcolm & his mother were on the verge of financial ruin until Alicia Kelly (Mom) married Peter Nilsson, one of the richest men in town who “saved” them from social destitution. Malcolm’s step sister, Katrin, doesn’t make things easier with her elitist attitude toward him and his mother.

Ellery Corcoran, the primary main character, has an intense interest in true crime that ends up causing her a lot of trouble when put to the test in her actual life. After she and her twin brother, Ezra, move to her grandmother’s home while their mother is in rehab following a drug induced car crash, she’s stuck in her mom’s hometown with her twin brother, a town with a dark history. Girls tend to go missing and get murdered in Echo Falls. Five years after the last one, someone’s vandalism of the local cultural center promises an anniversary crime much, much worse than the last murder: that of Lacey, for which Declan, Malcolm’s brother, is still suspected.

There are a lot of threads to start the story off and they only become more entangled as the book progresses. There are a lot of ways the plot could have gone and I liked that McManus didn’t lean too heavily one way or the other. Sometimes in thrillers, if they’re done poorly, an author’s hand is tipped early and that makes the rest of the book a chore. This is not the case here, where I found myself interested in the characters as well as the mystery of who committed the various crimes around Echo Ridge. These characters, these people, felt well developed and intriguing, even if not everyone spent as much time on the page as others.

While you might expect that there would be a dark cloud over most of the book. McManus did inject some humor into the story as well, including one of my favorite quotes that comes from Ezra Corcoran:

I have a really strong feeling that on Wednesdays, they wear pink.

The Mean Girls quote just set the scene in the high school lunchroom off perfectly. lol

Two Can Keep A Secret is a well paced thriller that I think very few readers will want to put down. The secrets in Echo Ridge beg to be revealed and the very last line of the book is especially killer.

 

About the Author

 

KMcManus Color

As a kid I used to write books when I was supposed to be playing outside, and not much has changed. I’m a marketing and communications professional who also writes Young Adult contemporary and fantasy fiction in Cambridge, MA.

When not writing or working I love to travel, and along with my nine-year old son I’ve ridden horses in Colombia and bicycles through Paris. A member of SCBWI, I hold a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of the Holy Cross and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University. Which I have never, ever used professionally.

 

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

 

 

About the Giveaway

 

3 winners will receive a finished copy of TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET (US Only)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Tour Schedule

 

Week One:

1/1/2019- Lifestyle of Me– Review

1/2/2019- Paper Reader– Review

1/3/2019- Adventures Thru Wonderland– Review

1/4/2019- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

 

Week Two:

1/7/2019- Pink Polka Dot Books– Review

1/8/2019- Do You Dog-ear?– Review

1/9/2019- Adventures and Reading– Review

1/10/2019- The Phantom Paragrapher– Review

1/11/2019- Book Dragon Lair– Review

 

Week Three:

1/14/2019- A Gingerly Review– Review

1/15/2019- Confessions of a YA Reader– Review

1/16/2019- Sweet Southern Home– Review

1/17/2019- Simply Daniel Radcliffe– Review

1/18/2019- The Hermit Librarian– Review

 

Week Four:

1/21/2019- Smada’s Book Smack– Review

1/22/2019- Owl always Be Reading– Review

1/23/2019- BookHounds YA– Review

1/24/2019- Popthebutterfly Reads– Review

1/25/2019- Eli to the nth– Review

 

Week Five:

1/28/2019- The Clever Reader– Review

1/29/2019- All the Ups and Downs– Review

1/30/2019- Two Points of Interest– Review

1/31/2019- EatingbetweenthelinesINC– Review

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

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Waiting on Wednesday: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

While my earlier post today was about Disappointing Reads, this one is much happier. Waiting on Wednesday is all about a book I’m enthusiastic about, one I can’t wait to get my hands on. A world I’m looking forward to sinking into, new characters I want to meet, and so on.

This week’s featured book is We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal, a Young Adult Fantasy set in a world inspired by Arabia.

 

Waiting on Wednesday

 

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event created by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

 

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Published: 14 May 2019

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing in Arawiya, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a world inspired by ancient Arabia.

 

I’ve had the privilege to read a sample of this book and think the writing is quite good. The summary alone sounds interesting, what with two main characters who have lives that they must fight against, stakes that are incredibly high, and lives that depend upon them, whether their own or familial.

Hafsah’s writing is going to create such a world that will bring in readers that will fall in love with the characters that everyone will be talking about them. Besides the main characters, I’m also super intrigued by the Arz, the dark forest that is encroaching upon the world. It feels like there’s so much behind this, so much potential, that I can’t wait to read more.

I know May is only a few months away, but right now it feels like ages! Here’s hoping this year passes by quickly and we can all find ourselves talking about We Hunt the Flame together asap!

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 5 Wednesday: Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

Not every read is going to be a success for me. It’s a hard fact to swallow, but there it is. This week for Top 5 Wednesday, I’m sharing with you some titles that, while they may not have been published in 2018, I did read last year and was disappointed in.

One way or another, whether by hype or my own expectations, I was let down. Have you read any of these titles? Did they disappoint you as well or, perhaps, did you enjoy them? Let’s chat in the comment section below. 🙂

 

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.

 

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White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

My Review: 1 Star

 

I went into this expecting a really twisty murder mystery. It didn’t really live up to that. I thought that the relationships were way too problematic and the mystery just bleh.

 

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It’s a Book by Lane Smith

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

 

I thought this book would be a celebration of books. What it turned out to be was, I thought, a rather patronizing read that was anti–books-in-any-other-format-than-physical.

 

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Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

My Review: 2 Stars

 

This book was a case of visually stunning, characteristically flat. I couldn’t get into it with any of the cast, but especially Odessa, the main person the reader is meant to be following through the action. She was difficult to like or remember, her relationships & connections to side characters lackluster, and aside from all that, the pacing of the book at large suffered.

 

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Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

My Review: 2.5 Stars

 

I really wanted to like Ace of Shades because the premise sounded like books I’d enjoyed in the past. The pacing and the flip flopping personality of one of the dual perspectives (Enne) bothered me a lot, though, and I thought it was too dry a story to interest me in spending any more time in this world.

 

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

My Review

 

When I read the description for this book, a story about a siren princess, I was expecting a certain something. I liked the promise of a bloodthirsty princess that hunted princes, even of the prince that has been seeking revenge for humanity.

That wasn’t really what ended up being in the book, though. Lira fell so far short of being what a siren is mythologically speaking that I can’t think of any word but disappointed. There was also something off about the pacing (what a common theme among these books!) because the action bunched up until the last 13% and WHOOSH!

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018

One of the best things about reading is finding new stories. While I have favorite authors, there’s only so much time in a day and they can’t keep up with my reading appetite (writing books takes time!). So, what else is fun about reading? Finding new authors!

2018 was a great year for being introduced to new writers and their literary works. This post has a mix of traditional books and graphic novels, as well as genres. Hopefully when you have read through this post, you’ll be inspired to add these authors and their stories to your TBR.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. Upcoming topics and past TTT topics can be found here.

 

Ceillie Simkiss (Learning Curves series)

 

Ceillie introduced me to two of my favorite new favorite women in literature: Elena and Cora. This series of novellas and short stories is diverse and full of life, bringing to life not only the main characters but their families as well. To date there are three books/collections in the series: Learning Curves (Learning Curves #1), The Ghosts of Halloween (Learning Curves #1.5), and Wrapped Up in You (Learning Curves #2).

 

Robin Talley (Pulp)

 

I’d heard of Robin previously, but 2018 was the year that I finally picked up a book by Robin to read for myself. It was a very good book, but it was also a hard one to read, considering that a good chunk of it took place in the 1950’s and the main character in that time was a closeted, just-figuring-out-she’s-a-lesbian teen.

 

Laura E. Weymouth (The Light Between the Worlds)

 

I don’t remember exactly when I started following Laura on Twitter, but I loved her feed so much, so it might have been before I got around to reading her book. She’s such a great personality online and her writing is so otherworldly. It has a depth to it that while at times familiar also has an eerie unfamiliarity that grabs you because you just have to know what happens to the characters. That’s why I loved The Light Between the Worlds so much and look forward to Laura’s next stories.

 

Martha Wells (All Systems Red)

 

Martha’s book All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) introduced me to one of my favorite new characters of 2018, Murderbot. They are so relatable and so vastly interesting, I can’t believe I’m so late to this series! Martha’s writing was engaging and created such a sympathetic character ing Murderbot that I was instantly sad when the story was over and craved more of their thoughts, their quest for knowledge, whether it was about the next serial story installment or just what it means to be who/what they are.

 

Nnedi Okorafor (Binti)

 

Nnedi is someone I’ve followed for awhile online because I find her to be an amazing speaker. I picked up Binti in 2018 because it was recommended as a good place to start for reading her books, plus it’s getting a bindup soon so it’s getting a bit more press. The audiobook of this is amazing, so I’d totally recommend listening to it if you get the chance (Robin Miles is fabulous as the narrator).

 

Cassandra Khaw (These Deathless Bones)

 

I think this particular story (These Deathless Bones) was recommended to me via a Tor.com email and wow! I am so glad I read it and discovered Cassandra’s writing. It was so incredibly atmospheric and creepy. I want to read everything Cassandra writes, it was that good. ❤

 

Molly Knox Ostertag (The Witch Boy)

 

If you know me, you’ll know how much I love manga, comics, and graphic novels. Last year I read my fair share and one of my favorites was The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag. Shapeshifters and witches take the stage in a society where boys learn to be one thing and girls the other, but the main character of the story wants to be something different. What will his family think? The art is beautiful, the story does have some heartache, and there is a sequel!

 

Claire Kann (Let’s Talk About Love)

 

Claire’s story about Alice, a biromantic asexual Black girl, was one of the most familiar stories I read last year. It cemented her as a writer I had to to auto-read in the future.

 

Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children series, etc.)

 

Of all the authors on this list, Seanan is probably the one whose catalog I most widely ended up reading. After reading Every Heart A Doorway, I fell in love with her books and read all of the Wayward Children books that were published at the time. Then I went through her other books and started looking for what others I might enjoy, starting with some short stories and her Girl in the Green Silk Gown series. There are a LOT more, but it’s been a LOT of fun, this journey. 😀

 

Jen Wang (The Prince and the Dressmaker)

 

Jen is an illustrator of immense talent. I found her work through The Prince and the Dressmaker, a graphic novel about a genderfluid prince and a dressmaker. Their story has so many different visual elements to it that it’s a pure feast for the eyes as well as a literary one.

 

 

 

Were there any authors you read in 2018 that were new to you? What books/stories/etc. of theirs would you want to share with others? Let me know in the comment section below! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider (2018-) #1 by Seanan McGuire (Author), Rosi Kampe (Illustrator), Bengal (Illustrator)

As a fan of Seanan McGuire, I knew I’d have to pick up any comic that she’d written. This is especially true after I recently saw the movie, Into the Spider-verse, and fell in love with just about every version of the Spider therein. There’s an immense back catalogue to work through and, obviously, new comics such as the Ghost-Spider series to work through, so thankfully I’ve got at least one of my favorite authors as a place to more or less start.

 

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Published: 24 October 2018

Publisher: Marvel

Category: Sequential Art/Superheros

A SPIDER-GEDDON TIE IN! What? You thought we were done with Gwen Stacy after the first two landmark volumes of her series?! GET OUTTA HERE. It’s a whole new spin on Gwen and her world of Earth-65, brought to you by none other than SEANAN MCGUIRE & ROSI KÄMPE! We pick up with Gwen right where we left her – fighting crime through her home reality, unaware that it sits on the precipice of interdimensional calamity! Someone’s gonna be late to band practice…

Rating: 4 Stars

I liked that, even though I haven’t read the preceding comics, I was able to get into this issue pretty well. There are asterisks next to key moments of dialogue that clue me into what issues I need to check out, which was something I appreciated. When you get into one series and realize there’s a LOT to wade through if you’re going backwards, it really helps to have the writer give you a hand.

That being said, Gwen’s been through a lot and is getting back into her life in her dimension at a rough time. Freshly out of prison, she’s trying to decide where her alter ego and her human identity separate when someone from her past comes to her for aid. The other Spiders are in danger and that leads to a conflict which strands Gwen in a unfamiliar world. That’s saying something considering all the action she’s been through in her past.

It almost sounds like there’s too much to digest in a single issue, but the action flowed smoothly for me. There were familiar characters such as Gwen herself, Harry Osborn, and Spider Ham, as well as a baddie that I’m fairly certain is new? I could be wrong, but anyway, the tension this character added was just the right amount for issue one. It lead to a cliffhanger that definitely made me interested in getting the next issue.

Art wise, the colors are quite nice and the lines are clean. The style is a good one that makes it easy to track the action without being too busy. The colors, as I mentioned, are nice because there’s a good balance between the bright and the dark, blending well in the shadows and the light of the cityscapes Gwen traverses.

Have you read any of Spider-Gwen’s previous adventures? What about this one? Let me know in the comment section below. 🙂

 

 

 

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Audiobook Review: Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

Books about food are an endless garden of recipes and methods and techniques, some far more complicated than others. Samrin Nosrat, in this that can act as a companion to her new Netflix show, narrates it all with a warm poise that embraces the reader and engages your interest in all the elements of cooking knowledge she shares.

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Published: 22 August 2017 (originally published 25 April 2017)

Publisher: Simon Schuster Audio

Category: Food & Drink/Nonfiction/Science

Now a Netflix series!

Winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook and multiple ICAP Cookbook Awards 

Samin Nosrat reads “The Four Elements of Good Cooking,” Part One of her New York Times bestseller Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

A visionary new master class in cooking that distills decades of professional experience into just four simple elements, from the woman declared “America’s next great cooking teacher” by Alice Waters.

In the tradition of The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everythingcomes Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, an ambitious new approach to cooking by a major new culinary voice. Chef and writer Samin Nosrat has taught everyone from professional chefs to middle school kids to author Michael Pollan to cook using her revolutionary, yet simple, philosophy. Master the use of just four elements—Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food—and anything you cook will be delicious. By explaining the hows and whys of good cooking, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will teach and inspire a new generation of cooks how to confidently make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients, anywhere, at any time.

Echoing Samin’s own journey from culinary novice to award-winning chef, Salt, Fat Acid, Heat immediately bridges the gap between home and professional kitchens. With a lighthearted approach to kitchen science, Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking for everyone.

Rating: 4 Stars

Samin navigates her way through the culinary landscape of seasoning, in particular salt, educating as she goes, without becoming pretentious. Always mindful that the reader/listener may not be a professional or educated in the myriad of ways in which salt can be used, she espouses the different types and the best ways in which they can be used based on personal experience.

She lets the homecook know that their senses are the ones to be trusted. Her guidelines and the teachings of others are great bases, but it is your taste, your intuition, which is truly important if you want to make a memorable dish.

While I enjoyed the audiobook because it was narrated by Samin herself, and her voice was a truly soothing one, I would recommend picking up a physical or e-copy at the same time because there are recipes included at the back that are not read aloud in this version. Otherwise, I think the text benefits from being read aloud because it’s like being taught by the chef herself, like she’s right there in the room with you imparting all this wisdom. You can’t get that from print on the page in the same way.

Samin is an interesting chef and I hope to see more books from her in the future. Her viewpoint on cooking is a relaxing on in the face of more stuffy ones and one that I think I would like to take to heart in my own kitchen.

 

 

 

 

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