Archive for the 'Non-Fiction' Category

June 1st 2011

May’s Reads

I spent way more time watching House and Stargate SG1 and The Big Bang Theory than I did reading.  Still, I did finish a few (a pathetically few) books this month.

Hallowed Circle by Linda Robertson: This is the second in the Persephone Alcmedi series, and every bit as enjoyable a the first.  She’s a solitary witch who’s been talked into competing for the position of High Priestess of the Cleveland, Ohio, coven.  Those trial and tribulations are a large part of the book, but let’s not forget the werewolves and vampires that return from the first novel.  Oh, and her cantankerous grandmother, who is both annoying as all get-out and oddly likeable.  This book adds in the Fae, as well.  Ah, urban fantasy!  How I love you when you’re well written!

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime by Jasper Fforde: Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall, and it’s up to Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his new partner, Mary Mary, to solve the crime.  Fforde is a genius at taking unlikely characters and ever-so-slightly out-of-kilter settings seem absolutely normal.  I’ve read nearly everyone of his books now (one more Thursday Next and a new one called The Last Dragonslayer that isn’t available at the library yet), and every one of them is extraordinarily fun for this English major turned computer programmer.  If you’ve never read one of Fforde’s books… what are you waiting for?

Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff: Have I mentioned I’m a language buff?  Language and linguistics fascinate me even more than database design.  If you’re interested in language, and particularly cognitive linguistics, this is the book for you!  It’s meant as a guide for Progressives to frame the various issues that are “hot button” topics in our society in ways that are not merely reactionary to the Conservative talking points.  I was vaguely disappointed in the very subtle “us versus them” tone of the book.  Yes, Progressives and Conservatives have basic, fundamental mindsets that cause them to generally take polar opposite stands on a number of issues.  And yes, Lakoff does provide suggestions for ways Progressives and Conservatives can converse without the usual nuclear reactions that seem to happen when people of differing viewpoints try to converse.  If you’re a Progressive, it’s likely you’ll enjoy this book.  If you are Conservative, you should probably skip it.  If you’re somewhere in the middle… well, give it a shot.  I am glad I read the book, but I suspect I might enjoy his more thorough and scholarly book, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning: Not everyone can see the Fae… in fact, it’s a pretty rare talent.  After her sister is murdered, MacKayla Lane leaves her home in a tiny Georgia town and travels to Dublin, Ireland to prod to local police in being more aggressive in the search for Alina’s killer.  There, she learns that not only is she a sidh-seer, but so was her sister… and that’s why she was killed.  Fine urban fantasy made even better by the fact that it’s set in Ireland!  (Have I mentioned that I love all things Irish?)  The next four books in the series are already in my request list at the library!

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May 1st 2011

April’s Reads

More House marathons and I also added a Castle marathon this month, but also remembering to read more at lunchtime.

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter: This is Slaughter’s first book in the Grant County series.  I’d already read the last book in the series (Beyond Reach), but since I read it so long ago, I barely remembered any of the characters.  (But I have NOT forgotten what bad, bad thing Slaughter did in the final book).  This is another one of those books I picked up at the library because it was similar to something else I’d read.  I’d actually completely forgotten that I’d already read a book by Slaughter until I was about half-way through the book and some of the people were seeming somewhat familiar.  It’s definitely worth the read.  As in the last book, the crimes are twisty, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad… but unlike the final book, there are a number of characters who are neutral, and who could go either way.  Now I feel like I need to read the four other books in this series to find out whether some of these neutral people turn out to be bad guys or good guys.

Space (Creative Painting Series) by Gemma Guasch and Josep Asunción: I really thought I was going to love this book.  I requested it from the library because I thought it might help me paint better paintings.  But what I figured out is that this is a great book if you’re planning out your paintings before you painting.  Or, heck, if you’re planning out your paintings as your painting them.  But I don’t plan anything when I paint.  It’s all kind of go-with-the-flow and very emotional.  So, this book (even though it had a small, very interesting section on abstract paintings) wasn’t as helpful to me as I’d hope.  My disappointment in the book, however, shouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it.  There is a lot of very, very good technical information packed in there.

The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison: This is Harrison’s sixth book in The Hollows series, in which Rachel is once again fighting bad guys with her partners Jenks and Ivy.  Of course, there are the usual cast of demons, as well.  In this book, a Rachel also has a family reunion and learns some rather interesting family secrets.  If you’ve been following this series (and I’m sure I mentioned that you should), this book reveals more clues about Rachel’s affinity for demon magic.

White Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison:  The seventh book in The Hollows series brings in a new type of character… a banshee.  Oooh, and banshees are not nice at all.  Also, we finally find out who killed Kisten back in book five, and there are some new and interesting people to populate Rachel’s world.

Queen’s Own FBI Trilogy by Mark Phillips: A zany pulp fiction series about telepaths, teleporters, and spies, and the FBI agent caught up in the middle of it all.  The three stories were each a heck of a lot of fun, and appear to be available only on the Kindle (or for Kindle apps on the myriad devices that support them).  Definitely worth the read… highly amusing!

A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen W. Hawking:  Thought I’d read a serious book for a change, and was absolutely thrilled to have finally read Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.  He explains complex ideas in the field of theoretical physics in a way that anyone can understand.  I didn’t have to try to refresh my memory of calculus or even the high school physics class I took forever ago.  This book is education, entertaining and exceptionally well-written.  Everyone should read this one!

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February 1st 2011

January’s Reads

Back to work in the new year, and that means most of my reading time is at the office while eating lunch… and on the weekends when I don’t schedule every minute away on other things.  Also, I spent more time than I normally do in front of the TV… I blame Star Trek: The Next Generation, of course.

Raven’s Shadow by Patricia Briggs: The first in a new (to me) fantasy series.  Without Briggs’ skill with creating characters, it could have turned into a fairly ordinary sword and sorcery story, but she manages to create interesting characters who aren’t really like anyone else you’ve ever met.  I’m looking forward to the next book!

Total Eclipse by Rachel Caine: This is the ninth book in the Weather Warden series, and probably the first one with a fairly calm ending.  If Caine wanted to end the series here, it would make a very satisfying conclusion.  However, if she wanted to keep going, that would be a-ok with me!  I do enjoy the adventures of the Wardens and Djinn, especially when they’re working together.

Creative Composition & Design by Pat Dews:  I watched one of Dews’ videos on creating underpaintings (or “starts”), and was completely fascinated by the process.  This book appears to be out of print, but I’m happy that the local library system has a copy for me to borrow.  It’s an interesting book, and I’ve tried out some of her techniques.  If I could find a copy at a reasonable price, I’d probably buy it just to refer back to it on a regular basis.

Kiss of Death by Rachel Caine: Here we have the eighth book in the Morganville Vampire series, wherein our heroes do something new and different… they take a trip to Dallas!  Of course the actual Dallas part of the trip is really just the epilogue of the book.  On the way to Dallas, they get to fight (and — gasp! — save) a bunch of crazy, infected vamps in another town.  Here’s the craziest part of the book… I think I’m actually starting to like Oliver.

Encaustic Workshop by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch:  Holy moly!  I had this book in my Amazon wishlist and got it for Christmas.  I love, love, LOVE this book!  There are dozens of great ideas to add variety to my artwork… not just the encaustics, but mixed media stuff, too.  Woohoo!  Gotta go run to the studio!

The Likeness by Tana French: In this somewhat-sequel to In the Woods, Cassie goes undercover to find a murderer.  But it really isn’t as simple as all that.  French writes incredibly detailed books, and the plot lines are woven together so artfully and tightly that you can’t help but applaud.  The story is fantastic… the writing is some of the best I’ve come across in years.  Also… she makes me want to visit Ireland SO badly.  It’s not often that I’m this impressed with a book (or author) outside the science fiction / fantasy genre.  In other words… go read this book!

The Vegan Scoop by Wheeler Del Torro:  There are times (granted, not often) when I crave a bowl (or half gallon) of really good ice cream.  But since I’m vegan, that’s not easy to find.  Del Torro has been good enough to share some of his experiences and recipes for making gourmet vegan ice cream.  There are a handful that I want right now.  I guess it’s time to replace that old ice cream maker that broke about 15 years ago, huh?  Even if you’re not vegan, these healthier versions of ice cream will get your mouth watering!  If I ate more ice cream than once or twice a year, I’d pick up a copy of this book to have on hand.  As it is, I’ll jot down a few of the ones I know I’d actually make and take the book back to the library.

Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann:  This book contains dozens of recipes that are geared to finicky eaters (i.e., kids) and pack easily in a lunch box for meals on the go.  Don’t let that fool you (as it almost did me)… there are also great breakfast and dinner recipes in here, too.  Though I picked up this book at the library, there are enough recipes in here that are relatively hassle-free that I may pick up a copy for my kitchen.

Vegan Recipes for All Occasions by Tony Weston and Yvonne Bishop: This book was more disappointing than the previous two.  I found only one recipe that I’d probably make more than once… a recipe for baba ganoush (mmmm, I love me some baba ganoush!).  While several of the food items looked really delicious, the recipes were far more complicated than I have patience for.  (I don’t enjoy cooking, so if something takes more than 30 minutes, or makes more than two bowls or pans dirty, it’s too much trouble for me.)  People who actually enjoy cooking would probably be more interested in this book than I was.

TrueBlood and Philosophy by George A. Dunn and Rebecca Housel (editors):  The individual authors in the collection take up the task of explaining various philosophical (classical, ethical, feminist, existential), psychological, sociological and psychological theories in terms of The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlene Harris and the HBO series True Blood.  The book is both entertaining and thought-provoking.  If you’re interested in thinking about the human condition, you’ll enjoy how these authors have tossed vampires, faeries, werewolves and shapeshifters into the mix.

Storm Cycle by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen: This was a fast-paced action-adventure novel, with a bit of Egyptian history tossed in to make it really interesting.  Oh, and there’s some medical mysteries, betrayals and saving-the-world stuff, too.  It’s hard to say much about it without giving away key points.  I certainly enjoyed it!

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October 18th 2009

Memories of the Future, Volume 1

If you loved the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation as much as I did (that is to say, you kind of wish they had gone right to season three or four) and if you adored Wesley Crusher as much as I did (i.e., you wanted to beat him into a coma with a TI graphing calculator), then you will absolutely want to read Wil Wheaton’s Memories of the Future, Volume 1 (and by that I mean you really, really, really will want to read it).

In a slim volume packed with snark, Wil takes you back in time and behind the scenes of ST:TNG’s first season (well, the first half of the first season).  Each episode recap includes a laugh-out-loud funny synopsis of the show, examples of sparkling dialog, technobabble and Wil’s memories of way back when.  If you ever watched ST:TNG (whether you loved it, hated it or were completely ambivalent), you’ll want to read this book!

It’s only available at… and let me add a few words about Lulu:  I ordered the book after work on Wednesday, and the nice FedEx driver dropped it at my house on Saturday around lunchtime.  I hadn’t expected it to show up until the middle of the week!  Way to go, Lulu!

I am somewhat patiently awaiting Memories of the Future, Volume 2.

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July 1st 2009

Catching Up Again

I’ve been reading a lot.  These are just the ones I can remember reading since my last post.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Spending by Mary Gordon

Tips for Your Home Office by Meredith Gould

Irish Whiskey by Andrew M. Greeley

Irish Mist by Andrew M. Greeley

Irish Eyes by Andrew M. Greeley

Irish Stew by Andrew M. Greeley

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

Ergonomic Living: How to create a user-friendly home and office by Gordon Inkeles

How to Plan Perfect Kitchens by Kathleen M. Kiely

The Telling by Ursula K. LeGuin

Through Wolf’s Eyes by Jane Lindskold

Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart by Jane Lindskold

The Dragon of Despair by Jane Lindskold

Wolf Captured by Jane Lindskold

The New Smart Approach to Kitchen Design by Susan Maney

Gone, But Not Forgotten by Phillip Margolin

Body Count by P. D. Martin

Shadow of Power by Steve Martini

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

Darkness Falls by Kyle Mills

Perspective Made Easy by Ernest R. Norling

The Last Victim by Kevin O’Brien

Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly

Wool Pets by Lauri Sharp and Kevin Sharp

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Zen Brushwork by Tanchu Terayama, Thomas Judge and John Stevens

Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy

Live Bait by P. J. Tracy

Dead Run by P. J. Tracy

Snow Blind by P. J. Tracy

Abstract and Colour Techniques in Painting by Rolina van Vliet

Critical Conditions by Stephen White

Embracing Encaustic by Linda Womack

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October 23rd 2008

Armageddon in Retrospect

I’ve read nearly everything Vonnegut has written, and haven’t come across a bad read yet.  Normally, when one of the many book clubs wants to send me a book, I decline (which makes me wonder why I still maintain membership in them, but that’s another discussion).  But when the Quality Paperback Book Club let me know about this gem, I told them, “Oh yeah!  Bring it on!”

Here’s what they have to say about this fabulous little book:

True to form until the very end, Kurt Vonnegut concluded the last speech he ever wrote with the following no-nonsense declaration:

“And I thank you for your attention, and I am out of here.”

Fortunately, our own farewell to the late literary legend need not be nearly so abrupt. Vonnegut returns from beyond the grave (well, sorta) in Armageddon in Retrospect, his first and only posthumous collection of unpublished writings. Featuring an introduction by his son and fellow author Mark Vonnegut and tackling topics ranging from war to peace to the proper term for a shih tzu/poodle hybrid (we’ll leave that one a surprise, thanks), it’s a powerful, and powerfully funny, reminder of why we loved him so much in the first place.

This wide-ranging collection spans Vonnegut’s career from that final speech to the letter he wrote to his family after being freed from the Nazis during World War II, from harrowing meditations on the horrors of war to hilarious stories about its survivors. POW, painter, protester, parent, peacemaker: every side of this complex, brilliant thinker and writer—and the human comedy he so astutely chronicled—is on glorious display.

Now.  YOU go read it.  Because, seriously… it’s darn good.

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October 20th 2008

Murder in Little Egypt

I must admit to being a fan of true crime stories.  It doesn’t really matter who writes them, because they’re almost always the same.  (That said, I do have a fondness for Ann Rule’s books… the criminals she writes about are somehow more interesting.)

Darcy O’Brien writes about a doctor from southern Illinois, who was convicted of murdering one son and suspected of murdering another.

The unimaginable crime of filicide takes on the cast of tragic inevitability in this haunting true tale of violence, greed, revenge, and death. Fusing the narrative power of an award-winning novelist and the detailed research of an experienced investigator, Darcy O’Brien unfolds the story of Dr. John Dale Cavaness, the southern Illinois physician and surgeon who in December 1984 was charged with the murder of his son Sean. Outraged by the arrest of the skilled medical practitioner who selflessly attended to their needs, the people of Little Egypt rose to his defense.

In the trial, however, a radically different, disquieting portrait of Dr. Cavaness would emerge. For throughout the three decades that he enjoyed the admiration and respect of his community, Cavaness was privately terrorizing his family, abusing his employees, and making disastrous financial investments as well as brawling and womanizing.

What was not revealed in the trial, however, was that seven years earlier, in a homicide that had never been solved, the body of Cavaness’s firstborn son, Mark, had been found shot dead in the woods of Little Egypt.

In addition to a compelling chronicle that uncovers the truth behind two ghastly crimes and lays bare the Jekyll–Hyde psyche of their perpetrator, Murder in Little Egypt brings into stark midwestern light the hidden, gothic underside of an America bred on violence and bathed in blood.

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October 14th 2008

Your Hate Mail Will be Graded

For those of you who don’t know, John Scalzi has been writing a blog for ten years.  Ten years! That’s pretty much forever in internet time.  Whatever (said Scalzi blog) is a blog I read every day.  Why?  Because Scalzi is smart, funny and entertaining.  Even when he manages to say something I disagree with (not often), he’s smart, funny and entertaining.  So what’s not to love?

(In addition to being a blog writer of note, he writes highly entertaining science fiction novels.  His most enduring fame, however, comes from the Bacon Taped to a Cat incident.  Apparently, he has a bacon fetish.)

To commemorate the auspicious event of Ten Years Blogging, he’s published a book containing some of the best posts of the last ten years.  When I say you need to read this book, I’m quite serious.  You will laugh (unless your sense of humor was surgically removed at a young age).  You will think (unless the public school system trained that quality right out of you).  You will be entertained.

And as a bonus, the introduction was written by Wil Wheaton.  Wil Wheaton, people!  Not only do you need to read this book, you need to own it!  Seriously.

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September 14th 2008

God’s Debris

I have yet to read anything by Scott Adams that I didn’t love.  God’s Debris is his first non-Dilbert book, and it’s a doozy.  Is it fiction?  Is it non-fiction?  The jacket blurb is almost as good as the book, so I want to share that with you.

Adams describes God’s Debris as a thought experiment wrapped in a story.  It’s designed to make your brain spin around inside your skull.

Imagine that you meet a very old man who — you eventually realize — knows literally everything.  Imagine that he explains for you the great mysteries of life: quantum physics, evolution, God, gravity, light, psychic phenomenon, and probability — in a way so simple, so novel, and so compelling that it all fits together and makes perfect sense.  What does it feel like to suddenly understand everything?

You may not find the final answer to the Big question inside, but God’s Debris might provide the most compelling vision of reality you will ever read.  The thought experiment is this: try to figure out what’s wrong with the old man’s explanation of reality.  Share the book with your smart friends.  Then discuss it later while enjoying a beverage.

I’m going to pass this book along to some of my smart friends (and then eventually release it through Bookcrossing).  I’ve got a tasty beverage ready and waiting.

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September 8th 2008

Why You Should Give a Damn About Gay Marriage

It seems like a no-brainer to me.  This is America, and we should all have the same rights, responsibilities and obligations.  Why should I have access to 1,049 different Federal benefits just because I happened to have married a man?

And that bit about how gay marriage is going to destroy the institution of marriage?  Oh, puh-lease.  Like all the divorced heterosexuals in this country haven’t trashed it all to hell and back.  I honestly cannot see how any of my gay friend’s marriages affect my relationship with my husband.  Nope, just can’t see it.

Oh wait!  Maybe he’ll decide to divorce me and take up with that hunky guy down the street.


Whew.  Ok.  Now that I have my breath back and my ribs have stopped hurting from all that laughing, let me suggest you go read this book if you don’t think gay marriage is a big deal.  Cuz, you know, it is a big deal.

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