April 1st 2011

March’s Reads

With the completion of the entire ST:TNG series last month, I spent more time reading this month.  Not that much more time, because this month The Offspring and I started a House marathon.

The Vegan Family Cookbook by Chef Brian P. McCarthy: This is a small book filled with lots of recipes.  Most of them appear to be very simple with not too many ingredients (right up my alley, right?), I only found about a dozen that really appealed to me.  I guess that’s no too bad… there have been cookbooks with more recipes and fewer that I’d actually try to make.

You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan! by Lacey Sher and Gail Doherty: This book has about 200 recipes in it, and I found only two that weren’t too onerous for my lazy cooking ways.  That said, if you like to spend time in the kitchen, there are a lot of recipes in here that look pretty yummy.

The New Vegan Cookbook by Lorna Sass: Again, another book with lots of yummy-looking recipes, but only two that look easy enough for the lazy cook.

Vegan Cooking for Everyone by Leah Leneman:  There are some really delicious things in this book, but again… I’m too lazy to spend the time to make most of them.  I did grab one recipe, but the rest were just overwhelming.  The thing that annoyed me the most about this book was the font the publisher used for the titles… really, really hard to read.  Who does crap like that?

Raven’s Strike by Patricia Briggs: The second book in the Raven duology, this story follows Seraph the Raven and her family’s adventure to rid the world of The Shadowed.  Fabulous fantasy story, and if you like high fantasy, you need to read this (and the preceding) book!

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue: This is definitely one of the strangest books I’ve read in a long time.  So as not to be all spoilery, I’m just going to quote from the book jacket.  “To five-year-old Jack, Room is the world.  It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn.  There are endless wonders that let loose Jack’s imagination — the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells, the imaginary world projected through the TV, the coziness of Wardrobe below Ma’s clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night in case Old Nick comes.  Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held since she was nineteen — for seven years.  Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space.  But Jack’s curiosity is building alongside her own desperation — and she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.  Told in the poignant and funny voice of Jack, Room is a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.  It is a shocking, and riveting novel — but always deeply human and always moving.  Room is a place you will never forget.”  It was a tough read in the beginning, but worth the perseverance.  Definitely give this one a try!

200 Projects to Strengthen Your Art Skills by Valerie Colston: This is another of those very handy-to-have books for an artist type.  I tried a couple of the exercises, scanned through the entire book, and immediately placed it on my Amazon wish list.  If you are an artist, or want to practice honing or skills, this is a good book for you!

Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson:  This book is hysterically funny… providing you like Star Trek and have ever been to a Trek convention.  It’s still pretty funny, I think, even if you have just been to any sort of convention or conference.  Since I am a huge Trekkie and have been to many Star Trek conventions in my time, adding zombies to the mix just turns an ordinary run-of-the-mill (to me) weekend into wacky-crazy-fun!  Obviously, if you like Star Trek and/or Zombies, read this book!

Classic Vegetarian Recipes by Jo-Ann Cox (editor): The Spousal Unit brought this book home from work the other day (they were having a book exchange or something) saying, “I was thinking of you!” Bless his little heart, as they say in Texas.  After being married for 12 and a half years, he still can’t remember I hate to cook.  But it is an extremely beautiful book, with mouthwatering pictures.  Sadly, all the recipes either have too many ingredients or would take too much time and effort.  But for someone who enjoys cooking… oh, man!  This book is for you!

The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferris:  My friend Ian recommended this book.  I suspect if I didn’t hurt 24/7 from the fibromyalgia, and if the mere thought of eating food first thing in the morning didn’t make me gag, I would actually give this program a try.  But trying to eat 30 grams of protein (as a vegan!) within an hour of getting up is making me a little queasy just thinking about it.  I can manage 10 grams of protein in my morning smoothie… oh but wait!  No fruit either.  NO FRUIT?  Ok, ok, it’s just for a few weeks.  And I already know the exercises (very mild ones) that the author suggests will make me need more drugs, as I’ve tried them.  Well, not the squats because I’d fall over and break my face, but the wall-pushups.  I’d say if your problems are caused by being overweight, or your weight (either over or under) is the only problem you have, have a chat with your doctor about this program and check it out.  It’s not for me, but it could certainly work for other people.

Coyote Rising by Allen Steele:  Just as good as his first one in this series, Steele continues the story of the colonists’ struggle for freedom and independence on the new world of Coyote.  Read the first one, then 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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January 1st 2011

December’s Reads

December brought 11 extra days off work… not bad.  Of course, it also brought a funeral and visits with out-of-town family, Christmas Eve dinner with in-town family, and the yearly “pig out on a TV show over Christmas break” festival (this year it was Star Trek: The Next Generation).  So not a whole lot of reading got done.

Fade Out by Rachel Caine: This is book eight in the Morganville Vampire series.  Claire and her pals get into — and out of — another scary situation involving vampires.  You can say that about every one of these books, but each one is just as interesting as the last.

Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland: Here’s what I love about this series… I can get my police procedural fix (I am a Law & Order junkie, after all) and my otherworldly weird things fix all in the same book.  This time, we meet the creepiest vampire ever and some new fae.  Ah, and the walking stick is still following Merry around.

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs: This is book four in the Mercedes Thompson series; each one just gets better and better.

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs:  This is a wee little novella that introduces the concept of the Omega werewolf, and the character of Anna.  Oh yes… I’ve got the library looking for the next book.  I never fail to get thrown by Briggs’ description of the Marrok (the alpha of the all the Alphas) as a kid in his early 20s.

A Lick of Frost by Laurell K. Hamilton: This is the sixth book in the Merry Gentry series, and she’s finally pregnant.  And there were only two sex scenes in this book, which meant there was a lot of action.  I like that.  We also got to see just how bat-shit crazy her uncle — the King of the Seelie Court — is.

Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton:  And the seventh book in the Merry Gentry series… again, with less sex and more action, which is the way I prefer them.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the sex… but if that’s all the story is about, then it isn’t terribly interesting.  So many things happen in this book, it’s like Hamilton was making up for the books that were nothing but sex.  There’s even an fairly happy ending.  Of course, since there’s at least one more book after this, there’s bound to be more unrest ahead of Merry.  Her aunt lost the crown of the Unseelie (it seems Fairie thought Merry should have it, but she gave it back to save Frost… aww, isn’t that sweet?), her psychopathic cousin is dead, but her bat-shit crazy uncle is still around.  Stay tuned for book eight.

Divine Misdemeanors by Laurell K. Hamilton:  In the eighth book of the series, Hamilton is back to throwing in a little more sex than is strictly necessary to forward the plot.  However, there was a fairly good plot tracking down a fae serial killer.

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs: The fifth (and latest) book in the Mercy Thompson series in which Mercy attempts to return that book she borrowed from the old bookshop owner several books back.  The problem is that there are some really nasty fae type trying to find it, and Mercy has to keep it from them.  Also, the unrest in the pack over Mercy’s inclusion comes to a head.  Hell of a fun ride!

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs: The first full novel in the Alpha and Omega series has Charles and Anna off to find a rogue werewolf in the mountains of Montana.  They find something even worse.

Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton: This is the 17th (and latest) book in the Anita Blake series.  In this one, Anita is off to Las Vegas to hunt down a vampire serial killer and teams up with fellow US Marshalls Ted (Edward), Otto (Olaf) and Bernardo.  She also gets into more trouble with men.  What else is new?  Also?  Marmee Noir has a starring role, as well.

The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage:  Despite the fact that I don’t cook much, sometimes a cookbook catches my eye and I just have to have it.  There are a lot of recipes in here that I plan to try out on my chorus mates at our potluck dinners, and even a few I can try on the family.  There are others that I’d like to try, too… but they make a whole lot more food than one person can reasonably eat.

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December 1st 2010

November’s Reads

The obsession with crosswords seems to have abated slightly, and with the long Thanksgiving weekend I had a little more time to read.  Of course, this month I also caught up on Seasons 2 and 3 of Eureka, watched a whole lot of Law & Order, and performed in two choral concerts, which took time away from reading.  Oooh, look… in December, I have a whole WEEK off!

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson: I had heard from a few people that this was a good book to read, so I thought I’d give it a go.  The first few chapters were slow, but by chapter 4, I was hooked and could barely put it down.  Yes, yes… read it if you like mysteries!

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs: My new friend, Dee, told me about Briggs and said I should start with this book.  Whoa, Nellie!  Why had I not ever heard of Briggs before?  If you like urban fantasy and werewolves, you gotta read this one!

A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton:  I’ve read Hamilton’s entire Anita Blake series and have no idea why I haven’t picked up her Mercedes Gentry series before this.  But, again thanks to Dee, I read the whole book in a single day.  Yes.  It was that good.

Kindred in Spirit by J.D. Robb:  Another fine murder mystery featuring NYSP homicide detective Eve Dallas.  I have enjoyed every one of Robb’s (aka Nora Roberts) Eve Dallas mysteries.  Robb just released another one last week, but then I’ll be all caught up.  That makes me sad, because Eve Dallas has got to be one of my favorite cops in fiction.

Cape Storm by Rachel Caine:  This is the eighth book in Caine’s Weather Warden series.  Again, we find Joanne on the wrong end of the stick, getting beaten and battered while trying to save the world.  She and David do get to finish their wedding vows though… eventually.  If you’ve read the other books in the series, you should read this one, too!  And if you haven’t read the others… what are you waiting for?

In the Woods by Tana French:  Ok, you had me at “Dublin.”  I’m a sucker for anything set in Ireland, and I’m especially pleased when the story turns out to be as good as this one.  You’ve got a psychopath and a murder and and old case of missing (and presumed dead) children all crashing together in Knocknaree, outside Dublin.  It’s a book with precise writing, full of details… so it’s not one to just skim through.  It’s well worth the read, and I’ve got the other two books in the series on my TBR list!

A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K. Hamilton:  The is the second in the Mercedes Gentry series, in which Merry and her band of merry men (heh heh heh) find and do away with some Really Bad Nasty Things.  Also, even more impressive, Merry is learning how to stand up against both the Queen of the Unseelie Court and the King of the Seelie Court.  The next one is waiting for me at the library!

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs: This is the second in the Mercy Thompson series, and every bit as good as the first one.  I’ve already started the next one and the one after that has been requested from the library.  Gads, how I love my library system!

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs:  Book three in the Mercy Thompson series, and they just keep getting better.  I hope book four arrives at the library soon!

Seduced by Moonlight by Laurell K. Hamilton: The third book in the Merry Gentry series (the theme this month is obviously urban fantasy).  Paralleling the Anita Blake series, Merry seems to grow more powerful in each book.  This time around, she survives two (or was it three?) assassination attempts and wins a duel with another fae.  What kind of trouble will you get into in the next book?

A Stroke of Midnight by Laurell K. Hamilton:  The fourth book in the Merry Gentry series… and Merry is doing some serious work channeling the Goddess.  There was actually a mystery to solve, but they only got halfway done with the solving of it.  It’s interesting how an author can write 366 pages and only cover a couple of days.

Mistral’s Kiss by Laurell K. Hamilton: The fifth book in the Merry Gentry series…  Merry brings magic back to the sithen.  I picked this book up at 4pm from the library and finished it around 9pm.  Yes, it’s that good.

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