Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: November 7-11, 2022

The Vermilion Emporium

Book Cover
Jamie Pacton
Peachtree Teen
Hardcover $18.99 (416pp)
978-1-68263-488-2
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The magic system of Jamie Pacton’s delightful, haunting fantasy novel The Vermilion Emporium pays tribute to the Radium Girls, who met tragic ends.

Quinta is an orphan who fears she will never live up to her mother’s magical life. Twain, also orphaned, scrambles to survive. The teenagers bond after a chance encounter that brings them to the doorstep of the Vermilion Emporium, a shop with magical goods that beckons to them both. Though the knowledge of how to make starlight lace has been lost for generations, Quinta and Twain stumble upon those very secrets and learn about the dangers inherent in accessing magic that everyone, from gossips to scholars to monarchs, wants.

At first, Quinta is nettlesome and Twain is distant, but their starlight project draws them closer and earns them a wealthy patron. Despite Quinta’s determination not to become attached, she begins to develop feelings for Twain, though it is uncertain whether their paths will continue to intertwine. Malicious forces then conspire to separate the teenagers, and they each encounter the dangers tied to this particular form of magic, which can suck the very life out of its users. The backdrop of the Vermilion Emporium, a shop that is much more than it seems, injects yet more wonder into a world that is largely devoid of magic itself, apart from the starlight lace that Quinta and Twain make together. And the notion that magic demands sacrifice is handled in deft and sensitive ways. While nothing comes without a price, those who learn to love and change for the better are rewarded.

A fantasy novel clothed in romance and adventure, The Vermilion Emporium weaves together themes of loyalty and destiny, delivering a heartfelt and dazzling triumph.

JEANA JORGENSEN (October 27, 2022)

Chinese-Ish

Home Cooking Not Quite Authentic, 100% Delicious

Book Cover
Rosheen Kaul
Joanna Hu
Armelle Habib, photographer
Interlink Books
Hardcover $35.00 (224pp)
978-1-62371-799-5
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Chinese-ish is a vibrant collaborative cookbook created by Asian Australian friends Rosheen Kaul and Joanna Hu. The pair share a passion for food and the experience of growing up in millennial Melbourne as the children of immigrants.

Born in Singapore, Kaul is Kashmiri, Peranakan Chinese, and Filipino. Hu was born in Hunan, China and spoke Mandarin at home while learning English at school. “Chinese-ish” is the term both women often use to describe themselves and their complex backgrounds; rather than an ethnic simplification, it reflects a sense of emergence, fusion, and how “multiple heritages can settle in harmony.”

Kaul is head chef at Melbourne’s acclaimed Etta restaurant, and Hu also has years of restaurant experience. Though Kaul notes that Chinese-ish isn’t an introductory or regional cookbook, basic techniques and pantry ingredient lists are included, along with a captivating variety of recipes for stocks, condiments, rice, noodles, wontons, and dumplings, alongside the wry, heartfelt advice that true stir-fries shouldn’t involve bags of “haphazard vegetables” smothered in gloppy sauce.

Here, a “golden cloud” Chiffon Omelet can be filled with Cantonese barbecued pork, ham, shrimp, crab, mushrooms, or bean sprouts, while Three Earthly Treasures combines crispy potatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers. Beijing Hot Chicken expands upon the Nashville fried chicken method, and the Fiery Sichuan Fondue adds garlic, chili oil, lager beer, and chopped herbs to the standard melted cheese pot. The classic yet Very Inauthentic Prawn Toast is enhanced by pancetta or guanciale, dill, and lemon. And among the enticing assortment of desserts are Lychee Plum Wine Shaved Ice, Mango Pudding, and a distinctive Wonton-Skin Cannoli with Sweet Potato Custard.

Chinese-ish is illustrated by Hu’s quirky, delightful artwork. Crafted out of a desire to share family and personal experiences, new tastes, and a legacy of adapted recipes, Chinese-ish is a cultural and culinary testament.

MEG NOLA (October 27, 2022)

Saha

Book Cover
Cho Nam-Joo
Jamie Chang, translator
Liveright
Hardcover $22.00 (224pp)
978-1-324-09088-5
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The residents of an abandoned apartment complex eke out an outskirts living in Cho Nam-Joo’s dystopian novel Saha.

Thirty years ago, Saha Estates was a bustling apartment community. Then a corporation bought out the nearby town and surrounding land, founded it as an independent nation, and made changes to the rules of the citizenship, leaving the residents by the wayside. By turns tolerated and ignored, they live without basic amenities, cobbling together a system for education, food, water, and even a resident’s association. Life is difficult but bearable.

When a young woman is found dead in a nearby parking lot, authorities suspect foul play. They turn a convenient eye toward Saha, sending a ripple through the community. Like spokes on a wheel, the novel branches out into several directions, using the apartment complex as its center. With apartment numbers acting as entry points to each new life, the novel peers into the lives of several people and explores their relationships with other residents and with the corporation that is now a country. Jin-kyung, the sister of the missing murder suspect, is desperate to find her brother. Woomi, a survivor of an illness thought to be fatal, has a complicated relationship with the health care system. Granny Konnim is not a grandmother at all, but her skills and tenacity earned her the respect of others.

The novel becomes darker as it reveals the deeper social underpinnings that made Saha possible. It delves into the corporation’s slow takeover, the quiet acceptance, and the unrest of those deemed unworthy. In this microcosm of society, inequalities and contradictions are inescapable. Yet this is no tragedy: it is a triumph of resilience and an indictment of societies that find value only in certain people.

Saha is a compelling, insightful novel of social commentary and revolution.

DONTANá MCPHERSON-JOSEPH (October 27, 2022)

While You Sleep

Book Cover
Jennifer Maruno
Miki Sato, illustrator
Pajama Press
Hardcover $17.95 (24pp)
978-1-77278-267-7
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A young girl is tucked into bed with her three stuffed rabbits, imagining all the essential chores they will accomplish while she sleeps—polishing the sun, dusting the butterflies, and stuffing clouds among them. Rhyming couplets create a whimsical melody while the collage art illustrations will captivate children with their colorful layers and textures—until they drift off to sleep to dream of the brand new world they’ll wake up to.

DANIELLE BALLANTYNE (October 27, 2022)

The Man Who Fell to Earth

The Official Movie Adaptation: Volume 1

Book Cover
Dan Watters
Dev Pramanik, illustrator
Titan Comics
Hardcover $29.99 (128pp)
978-1-78773-701-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

An alien seeking salvation for his planet falls prey to the vices of human beings in the graphic novel adaptation of The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Based on the 1976 science fiction film of the same name, which was itself adapted from a 1963 novel, this story revolves around Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who lands on Earth. He appears to be a normal man in most respects. Newton trades on advanced alien technology to amass a fortune, with the goal of sending crucial water supplies to his home planet. He runs up against industrial intrigue, espionage, and his own budding addictions to alcohol and television, leading to a quiet, tragic conclusion.

The graphic novel preserves much of the look of the film, including the appearance of Newton, modeled on actor David Bowie. In a more difficult and impressive task, the art also delivers many of the feelings evoked by the story, including loneliness, isolation, and resignation. Newton has room for love in his heart, but it’s squeezed out as the story proceeds. He begins the book savoring every drop of water he tastes; by the end, his easy substitution of gin for water is a clear marker of just how far he has been pulled down on Earth.

At the end of the book come fun contextual extras, including commentary on character designs, scripts, and pages of on-set photographs from the film.

A classic tale about an alien who is used and corrupted by the worst elements of human society, The Man Who Fell to Earth is a memorable graphic novel whose cautionary notes still ring true.

PETER DABBENE (October 27, 2022)

Barbara Hodge

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