THE WORLD ATLAS OF CHEESE by Nancy Eekhof-Stork looks at cheese basics (cheese-making and the difference between soft, semi-hard and hard, for instance) before taking us on a world tour of different cheeses and cheesemaking methods (TYG’s distaste for blue cheese was intensified by learning that cheesemakers used to rely on cheese mites to deliver the mold to the curd). As a cheese lover, this was quite interesting, though it’s old enough (mid-1970s) I imagine it’s survey of world cheese is as behind the times as the reference to the East German and USSR cheese industries.
THE MURDER OF HELEN JEWETT: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York by Patricia Cline Cohen is a surprisingly dull book given the title crime involves a high-class Big Apple hooker getting done in by an axe, after which the killer tried to burn down the brothel. I normally love books that take a panoramic view of a period based on a once-famous incident but while Cohen does that (we learn about New York prostitution, the controversy about whether novels rot the mind and the media outlets that hiked circulation by covering the case) but it comes off dry as dust, in a way The Italian Boy did not (possibly my issue is that Cohen doesn’t try for any sort of chronological narrative, so the book ping-pongs between different sets of facts). That said, it’d certainly be a great research tool if I were setting anything in 1830s NYC.
RAGING SEA: A Novel of the Stone Circles by Terri Brisbin is a stock paranormal romance in which two estranged lovers in 13th century Scotland discover their destiny as Elemental Mages of Good who must stop the Mage of Doom from releasing his Dark God from a nearby stone circle. Feels like a paperback fantasy of about 40 years ago (not in a good way) and very slow—this spends way too much of the early chapters having the protagonists wandering around stunned at their new powers (and even the romance angle doesn’t get going very fast).
Moving to graphic novels, BLACK DIAMOND: Get in Your Car and Go by Larry Young and Jon Proctor has a great setting (a transcontinental elevated highway which serves as a kind of dumping ground for American criminals and troublemakers) and an OK plot (guy has to reach his wife via the highway to get her out of a hostage situation) but the execution is kind of blah. It reminds me of James Robinson’s Starman in having intellectual conversations in the middle of the action, but Young doesn’t do it as well as Robinson.
THE MIDAS FLESH by Ryan North and Braden Lamb didn’t really grab me, but it is kind of charming as three joy-riding kids discover the lost planet Earth, transformed entirely to gold by the touch of King Midas (what he touches carries the transmutation effect so in minutes the entire planet changed). When they find a way to sever Midas’ finger and store it in a stasis field, they have the most powerful planet-killer in the universe, and the oppressive Federation objects to this …
CAPTAIN MARVEL: Stay Fly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Marcio Takara didn’t work for me as well as earlier volumes in the series—even with Rocket Raccoon along, DeConnick’s space adventures just don’t seem to have the life of the comics set in Earth (and when we do get to Earth, it’s to face Toxic Doxie, who as villains go is less than interesting). Carol is still fun, though.
PRINCELESS: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin (cover by Goodwin, all rights with current holder) occasionally gets heavy-handed on how they’re pushing the envelope (I agree Red Sonja’s metal bikini is silly, but jokes about it go back at least 25 years) but overall it’s absolutely winning (moreso than vol. 2—I have a feeling it benefits from reading in order). After Princess Adrienne’s parents lock her up in a tower to await her handsome prince, she contrives to fly off with her guardian dragon (“You do realize they expect someone to kill you—oh, don’t cry!”), don a suit of armor and set off to rescue her similarly imprisoned siblings. Quite delightful.
NOTHING CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks is a high school comedy in which a fight between the cheerleaders and the robotics club leads to a cutthroat student council election, a battling robot competition and a variety of friendships being forged or tested. Fluffier than Friends With Boys by Hicks, but I liked it.