Monday, November 11, 2013

Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night
I feel like I haven't really been posting much here recently, it's not because I've forgotten about it. It's because I've been struggling through this book, and boy, oh boy, I thought it would never end. That's not to say I didn't like it, exactly. It's just that there was a whole lot more of it than I wanted to read.

Shadow of Night is Deborah Harkness's sequel to A Discovery of Witches, and there will be a third novel, which I don't believe has been released yet. The first book introduced the story of Diana Bishop, a modern day scholar with witching in her blood, and her relationship with the vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont. Diana's witch education has been neglected, and she and Matthew decide to time-travel back to the 16th century to try to augment her education.

This book deals with what they find there. I found the treatment of real historical figures (Queen Elizabeth, Kit Marlowe, Walter Raleigh, Dr. Dee, to name a few) fascinating, and was only annoyed by the constant references to Diana's troubled relationship with Matthew. (Yeah, she loves him, he loves her, they're tied forever... I get it, already!) Other Amazon Readers liked the relationship stuff, and wanted less history. Go figure.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Necessary Endings

Necessary Endings

I've read a lot of self-help books in my life, and by now it's rare that I stumble across something new. Necessary Endings is in that category -- an excellent book, and very novel in it's attitudes.

Dr. Cloud talks about endings, and how they're sometimes necessary in order for us to make progress. He deals with personal life, and with businesses, and he offers a lot on both counts. My favorite section was when he talked about hope, and makes the point that hope not only buys time, but it spends it.

I can't possibly do justice to this book in a short review. Just know that it's different, and it's wise.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

After You with the Pistol

After You with the Pistol
After You with the Pistol is what's generally categorized as a "Caper" novel. It features the Honorable Charlie Mortdecai, thief, forger, sometime assassin, and knave. In this book, Mortdecai finds himself unexpectedly married and inveigled into a plot to assassinate the Queen.

The book was first published in the 1970's so some of the references are a bit out of date, and others, I'm afraid, I just didn't get. (Lots of Britishisms that I didn't understand.) It was mildly amusing, and started out as kind of fun, but by the time I finished, I found myself considerably glad it was over.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Feast of Ice and Fire

A Feast of Ice & Fire
This is a beautiful, beautiful book. It's a cookbook based on meals referenced in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, with beautiful photographs and reasonably authentic recipes. There's a nice introduction by Martin himself. The recipes are arranged by region -- the Wall, the North, Southron lands, etc. -- and most dishes have both an authentic medieval recipe and a version that would be more in tune with modern tastes. Quotations are given from both Martin's books (where the particular food is mentioned) and the reference source for the recipe.

(The medieval recipes are from medieval Europe of course, and the Ice and Fire series is actually set in a fantasy world that closely approximates it, so you can't really say that they're 100% authentic. And there are differences between the worlds. Martin's world seems to have potatoes and peppers, for example, which didn't come to Europe until a bit later. But still, the two worlds are extremely similar.)

This would make a terrific Christmas gift for:

  •     George R. R. Martin fans
  •     Fans of the TV series, Game of Thrones
  •     "Renaissance" people -- fans of Renaissance Faires, Society for Creative Anachronism people, etc.
  •     Foodies and Gourmets
  •     People who like to cook
  •     Anyone who likes food

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monkey Mind

Monkey Mind
Monkey Mind is the story of author Daniel Smith's personal experience with anxiety. It's been promoted on NPR, and generally has been acclaimed as an excruciatingly funny and extremely honest account.

Well, it's excruciating all right, but it's not really funny. And I'm not sure how much help it would be to someone who actually suffers from anxiety. It struck me as being self indulgent, more than anything else. I don't suffer from anxiety, so I suppose it could be argued that I'm not sympathetic enough, but really, I don't think that was my problem. I tended to not be very sympathetic with the author, which is not at all the same thing. Somehow, I just couldn't get past the feeling that he could help himself if he really wanted to. And that's not helping anybody.

Monday, November 4, 2013

PreSchool Gems

PreSchool Gems
I happened to notice Preschool Gems on the New Book shelf at the library and flipped through it quickly and decided to check it out. It's a collection of bon mots from the younger set, and the few that I glimpsed look cute.

"I'm feeling poisonous, baby kitty."

This is a real cute book of the cute-things-kids-say genre. I liked it because it seemed more genuine than a lot of other books of that type: the quotes aren't earth-shatteringly perceptive, or side-splittingly funny. They're the kind of thing that little kids say every day. Some of them have their own brand of childlike logic, and some of them seemingly no logic at all.

"Um, she chopped my hand with a piece of bark because I said her ice cream wasn't real? But also, I want some?

Leslie McCollom, the author, is a preschool teacher. I liked her book particularly because she's not condescending toward the children, and she doesn't go in for all the double entendre stuff that a lot of authors of this type of book do. She also has a Twitter Feed that you might want to sign up for.

It's a good read.

" Know what? I really, really, really...I forgot what I was going to say."

Friday, November 1, 2013


This is technically considered Young Adult fiction, and it's been a lot of years since I was considered a young adult. Still, I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Divergent .


This series is definitely worth a read, although, I have to say, I didn't like this book quite as well as the first one.

At the end of Divergent , Tris -- our main character -- had successfully transitioned from the family's faction of Abnegation to her new home with the Divergent. And a horrible war had just broken out.

Insurgent continues the story, as the now homeless Divergent population finds temporary refuge with Amity, and then with Candor, giving us a look at both of those factions, too. It's becoming more and more evident that none of the factions is entirely without merit, or blame. (Well, except for the Erudite, but I'm sure we'll get to them in the next book.)

I particularly admire the way the author handles the romance in this series. It seems relatively authentic for a young girl like Tris, and yet it's neither cloying nor exploitative. I'm eager to see what the next book will be like, but I guess I'll have to wait until it gets published. Sigh.

Watch the Book Trailer for Insurgent: