Top Ten Tuesday — New-to-Me Authors

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

This week‘s topic / January 25: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

I generally read more new-to-me-authors these days than known ones. I used to read series after series, but have changed my reading habits in the last few years. I already posted my Top Ten Tuesday—the ten best books of 2021 and I will not mention those books again. Funnily enough those were mostly known-to-me-authors. Oh well.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #1) by Tade Thompson — Weird. Disturbing. Creepy. Off-putting. Slightly disgusting in parts. Horror, as you might have guessed by now. It‘s like a train wreck—pretty horrible, but I couldn‘t look away. The writing is very good. I was totally immersed in the story, the characters and Molly‘s world. I will probably read The Survival of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #2) at some point.

Rosewater (The Wormwood Trilogy, #1) by Tade Thompson wasn‘t quite as good for me. An alien lands on Earth, burrows into the ground and presents as a illuminated dome. We follow Kaaro, a „sensitive“, in the employ of some shady secret agency. His life story is told in three separate timelines, set around the biodome. He is a thief, he is sexist, he felt like a clueless, self-centered, mysoginistic idiot to me. I can appreciate the inventive world building, but the rest was a slog.

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler — short story. A human colony living as little more than slaves, joined to an insectoid race. Love, possesiveness and self-sacrifice are themes. Butler voices her surprise in the afterword, that readers see this as a story of slavery. But are we looking at symbiosis or at a parasitic relationship? Is it really consent in a situation, where your personal rights have been curtailed and there are no equal rights? I think not. 

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1) by Octavia E. Butler — Lilith wakes up into a world of bipeds reminiscent of Cthullu with a touch of octopus biology. The world as she knows it has ended, the Onkali have rescued her and other humans. A classic. It was ok, but I won‘t continue with the series.

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur — A queer rom-com debut with a social media astrologer. Give me a break! And Darcy, an actuary, her terrible blind date, is a total bitch (at first). Gorgeous though. Fake relationship trope! Well written, very readable. Oh, this is supposed to be a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I didn‘t see it, to be honest, besides the first name.

Becoming by Michelle Obama — Michelle Obama‘s memoir, from her early childhood to the end of her second term as FLOTUS. Entertaining.

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith — I was entertained. And I learned new things.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell — potential m/m romance in an SF setting, marriage of convenience, potentially a murder mystery and court intrigue, hints of space opera.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badge — YA. UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. Author and female main character are Lipan Apache. Ellie is 17 years old and has the power to call animal ghosts into being.

The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter — the author covers a vast amount of linguistic topics. The author‘s casual dismissal of places and people outside of the US was a bit irritating at times. It was interesting.

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron — Enjoyable, humorous, not too silly and not too much drama. There is baking and sourdough starter and delicious Indian/East African food… If you are looking for a book that represents Islam and Muslim life, this is not it. If you are looking for light romance and great food though, you are bang on. 

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen — Androids, a claustrophobic spaceship, a mysterious ice planet and a conspiracy with a dash of horror. 

Ok, that was ten new to me authors. I had an interesting year.

Sometimes I bake…

Spelt and Polenta Sourdough 

Ingredients:

400 gr strong spelt flour

100 gr Instant Polenta (i/o corn flour)

9 gr fine salt

60 gr bubbly spelt sourdough

350 gr warm water

I did 4 stretch-and-folds 30 minutes apart, let it rise for about another 2 hours and then popped it in the fridge over night. 

I fail at shaping, so in the morning I sort of lightly folded it in its bowl with my spatula, then transferred it into a bread baking pan and let it rest for about an hour or a little more. When it looked nicely puffy, I sprinkled it with Polenta, slashed the top (tricky, as very sticky still). Put it in the over at 230C, with another baking pan full of boiling water. Turned the pan by 180 degrees after 20 minutes. After another 20 minutes I removed the bread from the pan and baked it another 5 minutes to crisp up the bottom.

#sourdoughbread #speltsourdough #polenta

Talking about sourdough, this is a German book about baking with sourdough, that is challenging, but good:

Brotbackbuch Nr. 4: Backen mit Sauerteig (hardcover)
by Lutz Geißler

Not a book for beginners in my opinion. When I started baking bread with sourdough about a year and a half ago, this book completely overwhelmed me.

I now use it as a reference for the theory and technique of sourdough baking.

I haven’t really baked many recipes yet, but I plan to remedy that.

Catching up with the Reversereadathon

Good morning! So, I stayed up a little longer last night to catch the beginning of the readathon. Read a few pages in my ebook—not making much headway with it yet—and listened to one of my audiobooks for a bit. Woke up shorty after 9 a.m., lay in bed and listened to my audio for an hour. I felt really knackered, when I finally got up. Still feel knackered, actually.

Puttered around with my tomatoes—a friend thinks they have some kind of illness, so I cut off some of the uglier leafs. No idea. Then I got my sourdough loaf out of the fridge and carefully decanted it into the prepared baking tin. I am useless with the whole shaping thing. My dough is always so soft, if I try to do it, I always end up with a really big mess.

Anyway, books! While I was sleeping, this happened…

Hour 3 – exploring the online bookworld

What are some of your favorite bookish sites online? Do you have any book blogs or booktubers you like to follow for reading suggestions (or just for fun)? Do you have a book blog or other bookish social media site?

You are currently reading my bookblog, I am on Goodreads and I use Netgalley. Sometimes I add bookish photos to my Instagram. In the early days I used Livejournal for blogging. I also used Librarything for a few years and although I was quite active for a while, I eventually found it too chaotic and visually unappealing and moved to GR permanently. I tried some smaller sites, but was never really happy. My favourite buddy reading group is where I spend most of my time there and we did indeed start having the odd Zoom meeting during Covid!

I follow a few bookbloggers via WordPress, but I am crap at keeping up and I am not very persistent or regular. I apologize! I do have a look every now and then! I do not follow any booktubers. Idk, I just find it deeply odd somehow to watch people talking about books.

Hour 5 – the weirdest place you‘ve read

… tell us some of the weirdest places you’ve read! Have you ever gotten any looks or comments about it?

Where haven‘t I read? Brushing my teeth, in the cinema waiting for the film to start, boarding a plane… The oddest one is probably reading a physical book whilst walking. That was before the days of smartphones and audiobooks, obviously. Nowadays I just listen and walk. These days, whenever and whenever I have to wait for something, I read on my smartphone. Which is nothing unusual, half the world stares at a smartphone at any given time. Other places? Anywhere sitting down, really. Mainly with my kindle. I‘ve been know to read in hotel elevators on my way down to the restaurant, where I obviously continue reading. The elevator thing probably garners me odd looks.

Hour 7 – how do you read?

What books are on your TBR for this reverse readathon?

How do I read? Well, mostly on my kindle paperwhite. I always have one audiobook on the go. I read a lot of comics, mainly via kindle app or comixology app on my iPad, so I have a large screen and can zoom in.

Hour 9 – summer book recommendations

I don‘t get this whole summer / winter thing. I read what I read and the weather or season doesn‘t influence my decisions. Do you vary your reading based on the seasons and why?

Hour 11 – hobbies in books

I started sourdough baking during the first lockdown. And yes, I have read some cozy mysteries and romances involving sourdough. For example Sourdough by Robin Sloan. I am open for recommendations!

I recently came across knitting vampires, so there are all kinds of funny themes around… Tomato-growing werewolves? Not yet. Wasn’t there some fierce gardening in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)?

Ok, I think I am caught up enough. I will now return to actually reading something… oh, and I should probably switch on my oven! 😏

Romcom with baked goods

Accidentally Engaged: deliciously romantic and feel-good – the perfect romcom for 2021
by Farah Hero

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The book blurb roughly sums up the first half of the book. Enjoyable, humorous, not too silly and not too much drama. Well, ok, there is some slightly unnecessary drama in the middle and a lot of drama towards the end, but that is par for the course in contemporary romance. The characters remain likable, including the family and friends and nobody is TSTL. I wanted to smack Reena‘s mum once or twice, but it all turned out well. 

Reena‘s actions at one point confused me, as they seemed to come out of the blue and didn‘t make much sense to me. Grown-ups in contemporary romance don‘t always behave as such and failure to communicate is often a given.

There is baking and sourdough starter and delicious Indian/East African food…

“I know you think I’m weird, but you’re the one who brought a sourdough starter for a weekend in the country.”

It made me feel slightly bad for keeping my sourdough starter in the fridge so much and for declining a friend’s offer to look after it during a short holiday. I am pretty sure I will try Reena‘s parathas at some point. I would buy the cookbook, too. 

I read some reviews by Muslim readers and can see why they are not happy about the book. If you are looking for a book that represents Islam and Muslim life, this is not it.

If you are looking for light romance and great food though, you are bang on with this. I almost cried twice towards the end and I am somewhere between 4 and 5 stars. I want samosas now…

September Wrap-up

Towards the end of the year my reading always seems to go down. Not sure why. Anyhow, I just finished one audio and will post the review later. And I am about to start the next audio. I have one credit left with Audible and yet again I am contemplating to cancel my membership. Sometimes I enjoy listening to audio, but most of the time it feels more like a chore to sit and listen. My listening comprehension is not as good as my reading comprehension and I do have to make more of an effort to understand and follow the stories.

There are a few notable exceptions. One exception are the Peter Grant novels—not because they are fun, but because they are so excellently narrated. And the Expanse novels by Corey were a fun ride as audiobooks. So there is at least one more audiobook in my future, for that I would revive my Audible—the last Expanse novel, Leviathan Falls, to be published sometime in 2021…

So, what did I read in September?

Buddy reads:
– Mindtouch, ebook, ★★★★★, pastoral SF, non-sexual not-quite-romance, finding your place in the world… Another one of Hogarth‘s offerings in her Pelted Universe.
– Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5), ebook, ★★★★½, all the Ilona Andrews fans go „Yay“. Enough said.
– Sourdough (zombie), ebook, ★★★★☆, techy San Francisco and a mystical sourdough starter. This made me bake.
– The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, ebook, ★★★¾☆, solitude, books, family, trivia and romance.

Comics, aka my guilty pleasure:
– Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 1: Not My Captain America, ★★★☆☆, Sam Wilson takes over as Cap. And turns into a werewolf. The bad guy is Donald Trump in disguise.
– Pretty Deadly #1, ★☆☆☆☆, weirdWestern, allover the place, no plot.

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5) by Ilona Andrews Captain America Sam Wilson Vol. 1 Not My Captain America by Nick Spencer Pretty Deadly #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers, #1) by M.C.A. Hogarth The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman Sourdough by Robin Sloan 

Doughy goodness

Sourdough
by Robin Sloan (Goodreads Author) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I raised my own sourdough starter in May 2020, while we were in lockdown and I worked short time, aka only 20% of my usual hours. There was no yeast to be had for any money. I am more of an accidental baker, but it sounded like fun. Little did I know. Four months later, my starter is alive and well, although its three offspring, given to friends, have all perished. My attempts at baking bread have so far resulted in fairly flat offerings. I seem to be overproofing.

No such problems for our heroine Lois. She inherits a starter and bakes beautiful bread from the get-go. But, alas, her starter sings and is a mystical creature. You will also meet people eating a Matrix-like slush and robots learning to crack eggs. And a mysterious underground market…

Bizarre, in a nice, if somewhat creepy way.

If you have to ask why it says „Still too skinny“, read „Hänsel and Gretel“ in the most original form you can find. Brush up on your fairytales! And, no, I don‘t mean Disney…

Sourdough Playlist:
– Croatian choral singing, mostly a capella—also called Klapa
– Robin Sloan‘s favourite: “A Beautiful Name” by Klapa Sinj

Interview with the author

My bookish week

I am currently buddy reading this ebook:

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (Goodreads Author)

Good so far. I feel the urge to bake! Hermann came out of the fridge last evening for a feeding. I am going to feed him again tonight and commence with baking tomorrow, maybe… I‘ll see how my mood strikes me and if he sings!

My current Audible:

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Goodreads Author),  Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Narrator)

Very weird. I thought I had gotten a grasp on the plot. I made it halfway and something drastic happened and now I am lost at sea again. I am really slow with audiobooks, because it‘s not really my preferred medium, so it could be a while until I finish.

I keep thinking about cancelling my Audible subscription, but somehow I never manage to use up all my credits, even with taking the optional three-month-pauses.

And my current comic selection:

BLAME! Vol. 4 (BLAME! MASTER EDITION #4) by Tsutomu Nihei

I haven‘t made much headway with this yet. There is too little plot to hold my interest. The art is still good, but has become repetitive. Many fight scenes, where I find it difficult to understand what is going on exactly. We‘ll see how that progresses. I own the complete series and plan to read them all. Two more to come.

And I shopped at HUMBLE BUNLDE yesterday:

HUMBLE BOOK BUNDLE: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: R.A. SALVATORE SHOWCASE

This series keeps popping up on my Goodreads feed, so I snatched up this opportunity. I got the smallest bundle, which is not much of a loss at 84 cents, if I don’t like the books. Unfortunately the books are only available as pdf or epub, which means I will read them on my iPad. Not my preferred reading device. But oh well, they came at a good price. Drawback #2, the books start in the middle of the series. I guess I will be adventurous and simply jump into the action midway!

Baking time….

Ladies and gentlemen, it‘s another flatish sourdough bread. The crust looks good though and it smells great. It tastes good, too. Come to think of it, sourdough bread bought at a German bakery doesn‘t look all that differently. So I guess I am happy enough with the result.

I roughly followed a recipe by #theclevercarrot.

Yes, I didn‘t only use wheat flour. Therefor, I guess I should not expect the same results regarding the rise. 

This time it was with mystery flour from the local farmer‘s market. Two villages over is a family-owned (I think) mill — when I was at the market yesterday, wanting to buy strong wheat flour, the daughter recommended their „gristmill mix“. It contains wheat, rye and a bran-mix —> the mystery part. More wheat than rye and the bran is clearly visible.

I mixed the water and flour first and let it rest 30ish minutes (autolyze), before adding the starter and salt. Compared to the original recipe, I doubled the starter (100g) and added 60g of sesame seeds as well at this stage. Next time I need to add more sesame seeds, because I barely noticed them just now, when eating my first two slices.

After the four sets of stretch-and-folds I let the dough rest for about 4 more hours. So roughly about 7 hours of bulk rise? The dough looked puffy-ish, I saw some bubbles and it had risen. I plonked it onto my worktop (gently), shaped it, let it bench rest and tried to shape it again — didn‘t manage to flip it. Alas, I still haven‘t bought a bench scraper. It did have a decent consistency though and was definitely better than last time.

I chilled the dough over night in my proofing basket for maybe 10 hours. Unfortunately it did the pancake-thing again, after I moved it into my cast-iron pot. It did rise a little, while I pre-heated the oven, so I was pretty optimistic. Maybe I just have to live with a limited rise with this type of flour?

In the recipe the shaping is done after chilling the dough over night. Something to consider for next time. Maybe that way I can avoid the pancake thing… So far I have had a hard time with shaping my dough, as I have had high hydration doughs so far and the dough is too sticky.

Anyway, bottomline, slowly getting there…

@theclevercarrot #theclevercarrot

The sourdough baking book that I didn‘t like so much…

And another excursion into baking with sourdough. I posted about this book already at the beginning of May. Here is an update:

Sauerteig: Echtes Brot und mehr
by Sarah Owens,  Ngoc Minh Ngo (Illustrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I used the buckwheat pancake recipe with some light changes and tweaks and liked it.

Right now I used another pancake recipe, for oven-baked pancakes with a fruit filling. It reminded me strongly of Clafoutis. My fruit of choice was rhubarb (which is actually a vegetable, I think) and it was very tasty!

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Bread next… because someone over on Goodreads told me that he scales the recipes to fit his needs all the time and it works. I always thought that is a no-go with baking. But ok, I will try it at some point and halve one of the bread baking recipes…

Right now I am a little happier with this book. If the next attempt works as well, I might raise my star rating…

Yes, the wine is just for the cook, it‘s not part of the recipe…

Everyday Sourdough

Artisan Sourdough Made Simple: Practical Recipes & Techniques for the Home Baker with Almost No Kneading
by Emilie Raffa

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I got this for my current sourdough obsession. I followed the sourdough recipe of the author in her blog and decided to try out her book as well. I leafed through it from front to back and liked the look of it and the bits I did read so far.
This looks like a good beginner‘s book with clear instructions, with accompanying photos of how to knead, shape, etc…

32-AD8393-42-DB-4751-9208-4-B45-EC050-A3-F

It tickled my funny bone that she recommends Le Creuset as a dutch oven for baking… guess what I have sitting in my kitchen for roasts… score!

07-BFEBDF-DBEF-407-C-A60-B-9-ECF98-C3-BB4-B

I raised my sourdough starter for almost two weeks and at the end of last week finally dared and made the Everyday Sourdough Bread. It‘s the first bread recipe in this book, aka the beginner‘s loaf.

60-B22-B5-A-929-A-400-E-9898-A4-F3-CD7-E84-CE
0-B76-B374-D71-C-4-DA4-9-A7-B-1-EF23-E300-DF6
DA33-BF15-E23-F-4-D29-AB29-1-F524-AA03267
3-D23-ACFC-34-F8-4-DF9-9-DBB-28-FFCC6-AF1-EF

And here it is, a little flat (I probably overproofed it), but with a crunchy crust and a mild, tangy flavour. Yay!

22-B66155-7591-403-E-958-B-60-A393998474

I am pleased with this book and it’s hands-on, practical recipes and and step-by-step photographs. Recommended! I will continue to work my way through its recipes.