Iron to Iron by Ryan Graudin

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Iron to Iron
Ryan Graudin
Goodreads

Once upon a different time, there was a boy who raced through a kingdom of death.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Lowe has one goal in mind: Win the 1955 Axis Tour and become the first Double Cross victor. If he can accomplish that, maybe his father will finally see him as a worthy son. He’s completed the grueling trek from Germania to Tokyo before, but this time is different. Luka never expected to meet Adele Wolfe, another racer posing as her twin brother and with a singular dream–to live life on her own terms.

When Luka and Adele form an alliance, an unlikely bond forms, and even possibly love. But only one person can win the Axis Tour….Can everything Luka and Adele built together survive the race?

Review:

This is a short novella set before Wolf by Wolf that gives up some much appreciated backstory on Luka Lowe, one of supporting characters in the first book.  While Luka was mostly a shadowy, mysterious figure in the first book due to us seeing him through the eyes of someone who knows him only through files, this piece turns him into flesh and blood, a boy shaped by his cold father and the society surrounding him.

Luka starts off the book with one thing on his mind: winning.  He believes that by winning the Double Cross (basically winning the Axis Tour race twice), he will finally show his father that he’s weak.  Along the way, he meets Adele Wolfe and falls in love with her.  He struggles with trying to figure out if this means he is weak or if his father just hadn’t ever felt this before which made him the weak one.

But Luka is betrayed in the worst way, heart crushed, dream crushed, and left hollowed out by the book’s end.  He had everything he’d always wanted within reach and it was snatched away by the very person he was counting on to give him the life he always wanted.

Luka proves to be a very sympathetic, engaging character.  He’s flash and spice on the outside but wounded and sad on the inside.  He wants to be seen as good by his father and great by the Reich but he’s willing to throw it all away for a girl.  This novella, while fleshing out the character, gives light to what motivates Luka in Wolf to Wolf.  He’s a changed man, a harder man but there’s still that softness inside of him that yearns to be free.

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Wolf by Wolf Ryan Graudin

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Wolf by Wolf
Ryan Graudin
Goodreads

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Review:

I picked this book up because it sounded like an interesting alternate history adventure and I was looking for something fast paced and exciting.  And while this book absolutely was what I thought, it was more too.  The story of the Third Reich, Hitler, and the atrocities committed against those who were not Aryan can be a tricky one to navigate but I though this book was both a great adventure, beautifully written, and handled with care topics that can be very, very sensitive.

The story centers around a young girl named Yael, who was put into a Jewish death camp as a child and experimented on by Nazi doctors until she was able to skinshift, change her appearance to anyone she set eyes on.  Once she escapes from the death camp, it makes her the perfect weapon in the fight against Hitler.

First though, she has to win a grueling cross country race to get close to the Fuhrer and that’s what the book mostly centers on.  It’s chock full of beautiful descriptions of the landscape that’s clearly been withered and torn to pieces in spots that the Reich doesn’t care about.  It’s gorgeous in New Delhi but ragged in small villages that go overlooked and uncared for.

The character of Yael is a difficult one to pin down because we don’t really know her just as Yael herself doesn’t know her.  She’s been stripped bare, opened up, hollowed out and changed into something so many times that she sometimes can’t remember who she is.  She is sympathetic and exhausting but in a way where you feel like you’re constantly running running running to figure her out and not in a way that you’re tired of her.  She’s a question mark and by the book’s end, you wonder if you know truly who Yael is or if you just know who Adele Wolfe, the woman she spent the book posing as, is.

Since this is the first in a series, I get another book to really dive into Yael’s character and to see how the big, twisty ending unravels in the next book.

Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova

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Elaine Khosrova
Goodreads

It’s a culinary catalyst, an agent of change, a gastronomic rock star. Ubiquitous in the world’s most fabulous cuisines, butter is boss. Here, it finally gets its due.

After traveling across three continents to stalk the modern story of butter, award-winning food writer and former pastry chef Elaine Khosrova serves up a story as rich, textured, and culturally relevant as butter itself.

From its humble agrarian origins to its present-day artisanal glory, butter has a fascinating story to tell, and Khosrova is the perfect person to tell it. With tales about the ancient butter bogs of Ireland, the pleasure dairies of France, and the sacred butter sculptures of Tibet, Khosrova details butter’s role in history, politics, economics, nutrition, and even spirituality and art. Readers will also find the essential collection of core butter recipes, including beurre manié, croissants, pâte brisée, and the only buttercream frosting anyone will ever need, as well as practical how-tos for making various types of butter at home–or shopping for the best.

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Pretty certain that the simple act of reading this book, let alone enjoying it as much as I did next levels my nerd game. The historian/anthropologist in me got to come out and play, roll around a bit in this, and then carry on. I have a soft spot for domestic history, especially well written ones as it is such a deceptively simple part of our lives that we take it for granted.

Sometimes histories aimed at the general public suffer from being incredibly dully, overly repetitive, or just kind of smarmy. This was none of those things! You can tell that Khosrova is passionate about her subject. This book practically oozes enthusiasm (like melted butter).

It isn’t for everyone. You probably have to be into nonfiction and food histories to start with, but I liked it. Now I’m going to bore my friends and family with butter facts until the end of time. Whee!