Book review: pirates, food, mystery & quilts.

Hello BOOK REVIEW time. I'm actually imposing a bookless period (eek) to force myself to spend my time illustrating instead of reading. Ug. But meanwhile, I have some fun reads from the summer.

‘Cinnamon and Gunpowder’ by Eli Brown; ‘Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore’ by Robin Sloan; The Elm Creek Quilt series by  Jennifer Chiaverini.

‘Cinnamon and Gunpowder’ by Eli Brown; ‘Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore’ by Robin Sloan; The Elm Creek Quilt series by Jennifer Chiaverini.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder: Pirates and cooking?! Yes, please. It’s a pirate adventure book (there's totally a wooden peg leg). And oh is there cooking. It’s 1819 and a chef is kidnapped by a pirate. He won’t be killed on one condition—he cooks an exquisite meal for the captain every Sunday. Small problem: cook with what foodstuffs? And the stove and cookware? Questionable. But he does it—with ingenuity and glistening detail of a brandy mango tart, smoked eel, mole sauce, and the tender dedication to a bread's sponge starter.

The book has adventure. Characters. Love. Appetite. Perspective. But it touches, too, on cultural implications of the spice trade and opium. It’s a heavy nod to shadows of the East India Company. Fascinating, all around.

24-Hour Bookstore: Sure, I’m a little late to the party with this read. But here we go. The book meddles in modernity and the allure of technology, meanwhile set in a charming old-world, high-shelved bookstore. With strange customers. Meet Clay—an out-of-work web developer and now night-shift worker at Penumbra’s—his wealthy techy friend, and his new love interest at Google. Together, they discover a secret society, coded books and a mystery waiting to be solved.

It somehow reminds me of the Scooby Doo gang. Except for these characters? There are no missteps. It’s effortless problem solving. Maybe that’s too quaint for some of you. But it’s a quick read, interesting reflection on books and technology and is altogether enjoyable. 

Elm Creek Quilt novels: On that redwood road trip, we stopped in a small town. With an even smaller used bookstore. There, I found 'The Quilter’s Legacy.' Although the cover’s a little kitschy, I am a quilter. So I grabbed it. Very quickly I discovered it was book #5 of a series of Elm Creek Quilt novels. Whoops. I read it anyway. A smooth, charming novel you can complete in one gulp. Perfect for a campsite and headlamp. I tried finding book #1 at another used bookstore, but only turned up #4. Ok. Read it. Then I found #1-3. And read them all.

They’re books that span generations of women, with a history of quilting at the core. Quilts used as signals for the Underground Railroad, for instance. I was so inspired by traditional design that my current quilt project is just that—but with a modern twist. Stay tuned.