Category Archives: food in speculative fiction

Sunday Post – 23rd July 2017

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Last week was once again, a busy social one. On Tuesday I spent the morning with a good friend – we visited Highdown Gardens and had lunch there, before making our way to the pier at Littlehampton to enjoy the cooling sea breeze as it was a wonderfully hot day. In the afternoon Himself and I went to see Frances in her school play which was devised by the students about the difficult subject of bullying. It was a passionate and moving piece and we were very proud of her. I fitted in my Fitstep class on Wednesday morning and taught Tim in the afternoon. I was able to listen to the professional recording of the cast singing the songs that Tim wrote for the film – it was amazing to actually hear them being sung and a fitting end to a fantastically successful year.

On Friday I ran my one day Creative Writing course at Northbrook. Though it was rather hot, we had a very enjoyable day listening to students’ writing and working on exercises designed to spark creativity through the summer break. Both my classes for the autumn term are now full. In the evening I went out to celebrate Sally’s birthday with a meal at The Fish Factory. She had an extra present – the wonderful news that Tim has passed his first English external exam. Last night we went round to my sister’s for a lovely meal and played some games in what is fast-becoming a really enjoyable weekly routine.

This week I have read:
The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.
This is a real treat. The spiky characters we met in the first book are now tested as they struggle in a very personal way with this latest threat to the fabric of the world. We also get to meet more of the Fae – and a thoroughly annoying, self-centred bunch they are. I loved the depiction of this fantastic version of Venice – highly recommended. Review to follow.

 

One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to a particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.
This series just goes on getting better and better. I love the steady character development and how we learn more about Dina and her family in each book. This time around, we discover a bit about her sister’s adventures in between another cracking adventure. This is one of my favourite series of the year. Review to follow.

 

Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon
It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.
When author Jackie Kingon read my review of Sherlock Mars, she got in touch and asked if I would like to read the prequel, which gave an account of how Molly got her nickname. I jumped at the chance, finding this quirky read had stuck in my head. I enjoyed this science fiction cosy mystery. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 16th July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant

Teaser Tuesday featuring Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Star Witch – Book 2 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – June Roundup

Friday Face-off – Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it… featuring The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

Review of The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

50 Word Stories: The Catch https://richardankers.com/2017/07/21/50-word-stories-the-catch/
A nicely sharp story from talented wordsmith Richard Ankers.

Untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/untitled-110/ I love this rippling effect on the building, which turns it into something far more interesting…

…Istanbul is Constantinople… however many letters it takes to spell it… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/07/20/istanbul-is-constantinople-is-istanbul-however-many-letters-it-takes-to-spell-it/ This recollection from best-selling indie author Seumas Gallacher reminded me of hours of fun playing similar word games when going away on holiday with my grandparents…

Reverse Bucket List https://dogdaysanddelights.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/reverse-bucket-list/ I really like this idea – as well as striving for more adventures, why not celebrate and recollect those we have already experienced?

British Fantasy Awards 2017 – Good News! https://hierath.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/british-fantasy-awards-2017-good-news/ Good news indeed! This is an impressive and astonishing number of nominations for a small indie press – and I’m honoured to be one of the authors they have signed up this year…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Advertisements

Teaser Tuesday – 18th July, 2017

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon
45% When I look up my jaw drops. I think there is no ceiling, only infinite black sky. I think it’s more convincing than the real black sky that I saw when I first came to the Moon with Drew. My sweaty hand grabs Cortland’s sweaty hand.
A robotic porter approaches. “Happy anniversary, Mr and Mrs Summers. Welcome to Nirgal Palace.”

BLURB: If you struggle with your weight, and was offered an opportunity to become light, fit and have a wonderful life without dieting, would you accept?

Molly Marbles wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus sized set and is delighted to discover that 287 Earth pounds instantly become 47.6, without so much as passing up a piece of pie.

But when her boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes especially when the popular candy, Chocolate Moons is found poisoned.

I recently read and reviewed Kingon’s quirky space-based cosy mystery Sherlock Mars – see my review here – and was delighted when author asked if I would like to read the prequel.

Ostensibly, this is a story about some nefarious double-dealing where unscrupulous characters try to get richer quicker at the expense of hapless chocolate lovers. In reality, it’s an examination of our relationship with food. Kingon’s bouncy prose and quickfire one-liners uncover our issues with what we love over what is good for us – or is it? I’m really enjoying the nonsense, along with the underlying message that many of us are really, really messed up now that food has become something more than mere fuel to keep us alive.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Standard

I loved the cover for this fantasy offering when I saw it on NetGalley, so jumped at the chance to review it. Would I enjoy it?

magicbitterMaire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. However, when she is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being, she finds herself beginning to change…

I have drastically shortened and edited the very revealing blurb and recommend you avoid it, as it reveals far too many major plotpoints in the first quarter of the narrative. Fortunately, I have a policy of not reading blurbs so didn’t find my reading experience compromised – which I’m glad about, because it would have been a real shame. Told in first person viewpoint, Maire is an appealing protagonist who enjoys her job of baking positive emotions and feelings into her cakes. The writing is sensuous and effective, giving a real sense of the process of baking and I completely believed in Maire’s pleasure as she cooks magical treats for the people around her.

Once she is overtaken by catastrophe, though, the nagging sense of her lost past turns into a burning issue as it is clear the ghostly winged being, who continues visiting her, is desperate for her to regain her memory. The catch is, although he knows who she is, he is unable to tell her – she has to find out for herself. The premise certainly gripped me, as she also finds herself having to cope with a wilful, obstinate being who demands she perform a number of tasks. Shades of familiar fairy tales pervade this tale of loss and longing, as Maire struggles to discover who she used to be – and how that knowledge can save her.
Holmberg weaves an intricate tale with echoes of Hansel and Gretel, the Gingerbread Boy and Frankenstein providing a rich backdrop to Maire’s struggles to discover who she is. I really loved the atmosphere she creates – a slightly heightened tone to the writing that doesn’t quite tip into Gothic, but certainly reflects the style of Grimm’s tales. The character of Allemas, the main antagonist, is beautifully done and when it becomes clear exactly who he is and his role in Maire’s life, I was left with a lump in my throat.

One one level, this is a pleasing fantasy tale spun from the lingering wisps of familiar childhood stories, on another – the themes of loss, yearning and identity twine throughout this thought-provoking book that has been sliding into my head since I’ve finished reading it. I haven’t read anything else Holmberg has written, but after reading Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet I shall definitely be tracking down her other work. A copy of Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 21st June, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
6%: He zooms forward so quickly I lose sight of him. I stumble back from the magicbitterwoods’ edge, my heart in my throat as he appears before me, his face close to mine. His hands jut forward as though to grab my shoulders, but he is as ephemeral as a spectre, and they pass right through me.
“Your name!” he shouts, breathless. “Your name, tell me your name!”

BLURB: Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. And then this ghostly winged man starts to appear to her – and nothing is the same, again…

I’ve significantly tweaked the blurb, because once again, it insists on telling one of the major plotpoints in the narrative that I think is far better experienced as a reader. This book is an interesting approach to the slew of fairytale retellings we’ve seen appear – a story that weaves a path between a number of them… It is a tale of loss and longing and Maire’s struggle to recall who she is and what has happened to her. I’ve really enjoyed reading it and my review will be appearing shortly.

Food, Glorious Food…

Standard

I always appreciate books that include food. Dickens is famous for it and while modern writing styles are far more pared back than Victorian floridly detailed descriptions, characters talking about food immediately connects readers with the universal experience of eating.

darkedenIn speculative fiction, food can be a really useful way of helping to set the world. I’m currently reading Dark Eden by Chris Beckett – I’ll be writing a review of it when I’ve finished as it is a really engrossing, interesting story – but one of the main plot engines is the constant and growing scarcity of food. In describing what the humans stranded on the alien planet are eating, readers immediately appreciate how much the small colony is struggling and emphasise the different nature of the flora and fauna they are forced to hunt and consume in order to survive.

It’s no accident that some of the most successful and well established authors in both science fiction and fantasy dodgeruse food as a way of showing how advanced the culture is – and how prosperous the protagonists are. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is renowned for the inventive and colourful world of Ankh-Morpok (think of Cut me own throat Dibbler and his pies) – but Pratchett’s YA book Dodger, an examination of the life of a Dickensian street urchin, gives us plenty of information on what Dodger eats – and what he’d like to eat given the chance.

ghosts of columbiaThe prolific writer L.E. Modesitt is most famous for his Recluse series, but my favourite is his excellent alternative historical fantasy trilogy, Ghosts of Columbia where Dr Johan Eschbach, academic and retired secret agent for Columbia, one of the major nation states that inhabit the continent we know as the USA, finds that ex-agents tend to suddenly get yanked out of retirement when a crisis flares. Eschbach isn’t a particularly flashy protagonist, but his fondness for good food is an endearing characteristic that helped me bond with him and established the fact that he is now at a stage in his life where he appreciates more comfort in his life.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s respected Miles Vorkosigan series also pays significant attention to food. There are numerouscivilcampaign meals depicted, ranging from formal banquets, family meals and food scrounged and crammed in the middle of a hectic adventure. Lois uses food to demonstrate how rigidly hierarchical Barrayaran society is. Miles, her driven and very alpha-male protagonist, suffers from a whole range of physical conditions due to an attack on his mother before he was born. Lois also uses food to show us how healthy Miles is feeling – he suffers from a reduced vampirestateappetite when unwell.

The best speculative fiction authors use food to give us a nifty insight into the way their society operates. By depicting the quality and quantity of food available, readers are able to immediately gauge how equitable, prosperous and sophisticated that society is – and as eating is a universal activity, we are also able to bond with protagonists who love chocolate, even if they are only partly human and kill monsters for a living, like Jessica Grant in Jane Lovering’s Vampire State of Mind.

What are your favourite foodie speculative fiction reads?