Random (but not really)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Books of 2016: Stats!

I love statistics and manipulating and Excel more than is normal, so when I have a data set, I love looking to dig into it for meaning.

Because: geek.

I read a LOT of books this year. More than any other year since 2003 when I started keeping track.

2016 – 189
2013 – 174
2014 – 167
2006 – 164
2012 – 160

That turns out to be an average of 15.8 books a month.
with a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 23 in a single month. Interestingly, nine has been the minimum number of books read in a single month for four of the past eight years.

Here is something that shouldn’t come as a surprise, and yet it does. I read zero mass-market paperbacks this year. Zero mass-market paperbacks.

Paperback : 0
Trade Paperback : 5
eBook : 173
Hardback : 2
Audio : 9

We got our first ereaders in December of 2010. It was a nook and I wasn’t especially impressed with it.

That changed once I got my first Kindle.


(The numbers are off by one because I finished the chart a couple days ago)

But even I’m surprised that I didn’t read any mass-market paperbacks this year.

But that’s reflected in the fact there were 50 books that I have in multiple formats. Nine of those were audio books, which means the rest were books I had in paper and got again as ebooks, so I could read them a second time.

Multiple Formats : 49
Re-read : 68

There are actually a LOT of books I’d like to re-read, but when I have the paper book, I’m not willing to pay $8-12 for a second copy.

Which means I don’t re-read those books.

I’ll note right here that the Shelfie app has allowed me to got reduced price ebooks when I own a paper copy of the book. So kudos to them–and I wish more books were available.

Genre-wise, mysteries came out on top this year, but not by a lot, though this is the second year in a row I’ve read more mysteries than fantasy.

Mystery : 87
Fantasy : 79
Romance : 33
YA : 7
Anthology : 6
Comic : 4
Cookbook : 3

If you’re curious as to that drop in the number of mysteries, Grandmom died in 2011, and she loved mysteries, so I didn’t feel like reading mysteries for awhile after that.

Now comes the bit I find super interesting: author gender.

Female : 120
Male : 40
Male Pseudonym : 18
Initials : 8
Joint + Anthology : 3

120 is a pretty big number, however, the actual number of books written by women is 146, once you add in women writing under male pseudonyms or their initials.

This is, I admit, a confusing graph, but it’s also the clearest way I found to look at both author gender and book genre at the same time.

And that should be the final geek out of 2016.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Written by Michelle at 9:54 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Geek  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Books of 2016: Great Covers (Historical Settings)

Since the majority of the historical fiction I read was old, there weren’t many books that qualified for inclusion. But there were some.

To be clear, I don’t know much about historical costuming, and I know less about the accuracy of such, so it’s quite possible that the clothing is completely ridiculous for the time period, but I’m okay with that.

 

magic-and-manners

This is an obviously photoshopped cover, but despite that, I like it. It evokes the tone of the book, and the main character is neither passive nor submissive, while still looking reasonably like a creature of her time.

Could it be improved? Yes. But for what it is, I think it’s pretty good.

Published by Miz Kit Productions

Magic and Manners (2016) C.E. Murphy (9/10)

 

tremontaine-series-cover

This cover is quite simple, but I think it does an excellent job evoking the feeling of the time and place of the book.

I love the silhouette of Riverside, and even more I love the sword hair sticks.

Published by Serial Box

Tremontaine: Season One Volume One (2016) by Patty Bryant, Joel Derfner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ellen Kushner, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese and Paul Witcover (7.5/10)

 

As-Death-Draws-Near

All of these covers are good, but I particularly liked this one.

On most of the covers, the main character is facing away from the viewer, and generally looking like she is moving away from you, with some building or structure in the far background.

What I liked about this cover is the use of color–her purple dress against greens and greys of the background.

As I said, all these covers are good, but I especially like this one.

Published by Berkley
As Death Draws Near (2016) Anna Lee Huber  (8/10)

 

A-Talent-for-Trickery

I have no idea of the historic accuracy of her clothing, but as I said, I’m not particularly worried about that part of the cover (I’ll leave that criticism to fashion historians). I just know that I like pretty much everything about this cover.

This is a boinking romance, yet she is fully clothed, and there is no guy looming over her.

I love how she is looking back over her shoulder and the look on her face–and the fact that although she’s not being particularly active, she’s definitely not passive or submissive.

And I find the color scheme especially appealing.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
A Talent for Trickery (2015) Alissa Johnson (7/10)

Four books here, and four different publishers, although one of the publishers is Berkeley, of which Ace and ROC are imprints.

If you click through any of the Amazon links and buy something, it’ll get me hapenny or so, which will eventually let me buy another book.

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Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Cookies 2016: Not Cookies

Poticza from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook by King Arthur Flour

Thank you again to Tania for introducing me to this.

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Cranberry-Walnut Bread from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

I made this regularly through the winter, because it’s really delicious. And it has some whole wheat, that makes it healthy, yes?

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Chocolate Truffles from Fine Cooking Cookies: 200 Favorite Recipes for Cookies, Brownies, Bars & More by the Editors of Fine Cooking

These were a PITA to make, at least using their directions.

But they were delicious, albeit ugly.

Pumpkin Pie

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Sweet Potato Pie

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Eggnog (with eggs I pasteurized, because I couldn’t find pasteurized eggs in the story)

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Categories: Books & Reading,Food  

The Books of 2016: Great Covers (Modern Setting)

I complain a lot about terrible book covers, so I figured that I should make a point of noting good covers, and why I like them.

Sadly, that doesn’t seem to stop the terrible covers, but I keep hoping.

To make this post, the books had to have been published in 2015 or 2016. I decided to break these posts into two parts–modern covers and historical setting covers.

First up, the covers of books with a modern-day setting.

 

The Witches of Lychford

lychford the-lost-child-of-lychford

Paul Cornell gets some very good covers. I also love the covers for his Shadow Police series, but The Severed Streets was published in 2014 and so missed my cut off.

These covers are deceptively simple, but you can tell they are in the same series, and the fog evokes the mystery of the books themselves.

Published by Tor
Witches of Lychford (2015) Paul Cornell (10/10)
The Lost Child of Lychford (2016) Paul Cornell (9/10)

 

Jane Yellowrock

Blood-in-her-Veins shadow-rites

The Jane Yellowrock series is a good example of what I think are good covers. They had difficulty getting a good model (you can see that one model looks Native American while the other, not so much) but they’ve done their best to make the model on the cover look like Jane.

Although I think that Jane shows a little too much skin, and her hair is never down when she fights, but it’s not a horrible issue. At least they put her in her neck guard.

But most importantly, Jane is active and in control on these covers. She looks like a woman who is in the midst of kicking someone’s ass, which is, well, that’s Jane.

Published by ROC
Shadow Rites (2016) Faith Hunter (8/10)
Blood in Her Veins (2016) Faith Hunter (8/10)

Soulwood

bloodoftheearth curse-on-the-land

The covers of Faith Hunter’s are quite different from the Jane books, but they are still evocative, and are a good representative of Nell.

I particularly like two things: first, the use of color, which seems to represent Nell’s magic use, but most importantly, even though Nell is a magic user who does not typically fight, she is still in an active pose. I actually think that’s a good way to depict Nell’s magic use, as described in the book, so extra bonus points for that. The only marks off are for (like the Jane covers) too much skin. But all else considered, these are really great covers.

Published by ROC
Blood of the Earth (2016) Faith Hunter (8/10)
Curse on the Land (2016) Faith Hunter (8/10)

 

Bone Street Rumba

Midnight-Taxi-Tango

This is, hands down, one of my favorite covers.

There are three main characters in this story: Carlos, Reza, and Kia. Not only did they make Kia, the teenage girl, the cover character, she looks like a teenager girl and is not sexualized.

I look at that and immediately know it’s Kia.

But even better, she’s 1) in an active pose 2) wearing a leather jacket and showing minimal skin and 3) has wild, natural hair.

Even though Kia is just standing there looking like a tough and surly teenager, it’s still obvious there is action in this book from everything happening behind her.

Kudos to ROC for putting out such amazing and marvelous covers.

Midnight Taxi Tango (2016) Daniel José Older (9/10)
Published by ROC

 

Mercy Thompson

fire touched_front mech.indd

Although I could quibble with some elements of this cover (why do they always have Mercy exposing her stomach and showing boobs? She’s a mechanic, she’s not going to dress like that. And she’s too skinny.) I generally let them slide because 1) Mercy looks like a capable human being 2) she is never in a passive or submissive pose.

Published by Ace
Fire Touched (2016) Patricia Briggs (8/10)

 

The SPI Files

The-Brimstone-Deception

Despite the cartoonish look of these covers, I do like them.

Mak is in the forefront with the male character behind her, she is in an active pose, and the figure looks like the character–small and unassuming.

Published by Ace
The Brimstone Deception (2016) Lisa Shearin (9/10)

 

 

Crow_Girls

I love Charles de Lint’s writing, and I love the covers to his older books. He’s been reissuing his older books himself, and although I realize that the art of the original covers belongs to either the publisher or the artist, I miss those covers.

But this cover actually does a very good job of evoking the Crow Girls.

Published by Triskell Press (the author)
Newford Stories: Crow Girls (2015) Charles de Lint (9/10)

 

 

The Dark Side of The Road

What is interesting about this cover is that–like the descriptions in the book–you really have no idea what the main character looks like.

My reflection met my gaze with a cold, mistrustful stare. A very familiar face because it hadn’t changed in so very long. Not the one I would have chosen; but good enough. I was tall, slim, dark-haired and handsome enough if you weren’t too choosy. A long rangy figure who appeared to be in his mid twenties. Dressed well, but anonymously. The kind of stuff you can buy anywhere, so you can fit in anywhere. An easy smile, a casual look, and dark eyes that gave away absolutely nothing.

I also like the feel that something untoward is possibly going to happen. Plus, of course, snow, which I love.

Published by Severn House Digital
The Dark Side of The Road (2015) Simon R. Green (8/10)

 

YA

Shadowshaper

I have so much love for this cover and almost can’t stand it.

The model is Sierra Santiago. No really, here’s a quote from the book.

(T)he words crept in, made a home in Sierra’s mind no matter how much she fought them off. Her wild, nappy hair. She ran her hands through her fro. She loved it the way it was, free and undaunted. She imagined it as a force field, deflecting all Rosa’s stupid comments.

And although she is just standing, she is not an a submissive position–she looks strong and capable. And the colors (along with the brick behind her) evoke the painting Sierra does.

This is a marvelous cover, and I am so very happy that Daniel Jose Older gets such great covers.

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Shadowshaper (2015) Daniel José Older (9.5/10)

Here’s an interesting thing. There are 12 covers here, all fantasy in some way.

Tor has 2 covers
ROC has 5 covers
Ace has 2 covers

But ROC and Ace are both imprints of Berkely (which is now part of Penguin I believe). That means that just over half of the great covers I loved this year come from a single publishing house.

I didn’t have any covers I utterly despised this year, but Avon has released the cover for Ilona Andrews upcoming book and it is just as horrific as the cover for first book in that series. (1)

I don’t know what is wrong with Avon that they keep putting out such abysmally bad covers, but I wish they’d take a good look at what ROC and Ace are doing.

(1) Ilona Andrews has no say in their book covers. That horrificness is ALL on the Avon.

If you click through any of the Amazon links and buy something, it’ll get me hapenny or so, which will eventually let me buy another book.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Books of 2016: Graphic Novels

I didn’t read very many comics this year–no particular reason, just the way things worked this year.

Graphic Novel

Rivers of London: Night Witch (2016) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan, Luis Guerrero : 9/10

The second Rivers of London comic served to give me something to tied me over while waiting for the next book (that keeps getting delayed).

What I particularly like about these comics is that we get stories that most likely wouldn’t fit into the books, in this case, with the Night Witch Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina.

 

Thor Vol 1: Goddess of Thunder (2015) Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman : 8/10

I’ve not read many of the mainstream Marvel comics, but a female Thor? I’m interested.

I actually have the next volume, but haven’t gotten around to reading it.

If you click through any of the Amazon links and buy something, it’ll get me hapenny or so, which will eventually let me buy another book.

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Categories: Books & Reading  

Christmas Cookies 2016: Cut-Out Cookies

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

Lemon Thins
Twice-Baked Shortbread

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Lemon Thins

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Shortbread

 

Fine Cooking Cookies: 200 Favorite Recipes for Cookies, Brownies, Bars & More by the Editors of Fine Cooking

Butter Cookies

Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich

Lemon Curd

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Butter Cookies with Lemon Curd

 

The Essential Baker: The Comprehensive Guide to Baking with Chocolate, Fruit, Nuts, Spices, and Other Ingredients by Carole Bloom

Lemon Shortbread Coins

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The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook by King Arthur Flour

Sugar Cookies

Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever

Vanilla Frosting

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Sugar Cookies with Vanilla Frosting

Written by Michelle at 9:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Food  

The Books of 2016: Cookbooks

I finally got around to reviewing some of the cookbooks I’ve been reading and enjoying.

I’ve always loved baking, and I like cooking, but all my recipes were for families, so we’d eat the same thing for a week to eat all the leftovers, and, well, meh.

I started to enjoy cooking when I started using a recipe app that had a “scale” option, so could automatically recalculate the servings from four or six to two.

Baking, however, is a little different, since leavening doesn’t scale linerally, so the discovery of books with tested recipes for baked goods? Fabulous.

Non-Fiction

Dessert For Two: Small Batch Cookies, Brownies, Pies, and Cakes (2015) Christina Lane : 9/10

This is the first cookbook for two that I found, and it’s marvelous. If I want to tweak the recipes, I have the base from which to do it. But many of the recipes are marvelous as is (although they really are more than two servings).

Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two (2015) Christina Lane : 8/10

I got this because I liked the dessert book so well, and was pleasantly surprised to find dinner recipes I liked just as well.

 

The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook (2014) America’s Test Kitchen : 8/10

This has more recipes, and like all of the America’s Test Kitchen recipes, you get the reasons why things work. But mostly I just like having recipes that are quick and I know will work.

If you click through any of the Amazon links and buy something, it’ll get me hapenny or so, which will eventually let me buy another book.

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Categories: Books & Reading,Food  

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Cookies 2016: Drop Cookies

Fine Cooking Cookies: 200 Favorite Recipes for Cookies, Brownies, Bars & More by the Editors of Fine Cooking

Cranberry Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

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Maida Heatter’s Cookies by Maida Heatter

Cookie Kisses

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The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook by King Arthur Flour

Chocolate Walnut Holiday Cookies

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Categories: Books & Reading,Food  

The Books of 2016: Romance

I read a fair amount of historical romance this year, and a great deal of it was dreck. (Mostly my fault, since I tend to buy historical romance almost solely when it’s cheap.) But there were some good books.

Historical Romance

The Thief-Takers
Set in London in 1872

I picked up the first book because: Thief-Takers. That makes it a mystery of sorts, right? Well, not so much a mystery, and there is boinking, but it was interesting enough that I got the second book.

I quite like the second sister. Esther, like her older sister Charlotte, is damaged. Their father raised them to be good thieves and con artists, and it’s been difficult for Esther to move past that.

No one person’s good opinion should mean so much that another person should feel compelled to change who they are to obtain it.”

But she slowly does, and she and her sister come to terms with their past and how it shaped them.
A Gift for Guile (2016) Alissa Johnson : 8/10

 

Courtney Milan : The Worth Saga
Set in London in 1866

Courtney Milan writes a lot of damaged characters, but she does it very well, and the damage is often something that would less damaging in the modern world than it was at the time. In this story, both the hero and the heroine’s younger sister have what would today be classified as mental illnesses. It’s enlightening and distressing to see how such characteristics that are today mostly accepted were hidden and treated.

Demolition, then division: He’d separated the bits first by size, and when that seemed unsatisfying on some gut level, by deviation from roundness.

Then, he’d very carefully started eating— from the most irregularly shaped crumb toward the most symmetrical.

He was almost finished with the infuriatingly oblong bits when Judith came in.

Once Upon a Marquess (2015) Courtney Milan : 8/10

The Brothers Sinister
A Kiss for Midwinter is set in England in 1863.

Miss Lydia Charingford has been ruined. But thanks to her best friend Minnie, no one knows about her ruin except Minnie, her family, and the doctors who saw her.

Jonas Grantham is a doctor–it has been his dream. And once he became a doctor, he vowed never to allow anyone to act against his principles as he did when a doctor he was following all but attempted to murder the pregnant young girl he was seeing.

The Suffragette Scandal is set in England in 1877

This is set more than a decade after the other books in the series, which allows it to be set during the first calls for universal suffrage.

I like both characters in this story, but what I especially like about her writing is her dialog and humor.

“Are you really left-handed?” Mr. Marshall asked.

“No. I’ve just been pretending to use my left hand my entire life because I enjoy never being able to work scissors properly.”

Lots of boinking in all her books.
A Kiss for Midwinter (2012) Courtney Milan : 8.5/10
The Suffragette Scandal (2014) Courtney Milan : 9/10

The Turner Series
Unclaimed  is set in England in 1841.

Why do I like this story?

“But, Sir Mark! She’s wearing scarlet. She made you give up your coat. You can’t really believe she’s an innocent. She…she could be a fallen woman!”

“There is no such thing as a fallen woman—you just need to look for the man who pushed her.”

“When someone falls,” Mark said, “you don’t throw her back down in the dirt. You offer her a hand up. It’s the Christian thing to do.”

That’s why.

Unraveled  is set in England in 1843.

You have to feel sorry for a man whose mother named him Smite. He is badly damaged by his past, but what I particularly liked is that although he found someone to love him, he is not miraculously healed by that love. He is still a prickly difficult person–no magic adoration can change that.
Unclaimed (2011) Courtney Milan  : 8/10
Unraveled (2011) Courtney Milan : 8.5/10

If you click through any of the Amazon links and buy something, it’ll get me hapenny or so, which will eventually let me buy another book.

Written by Michelle at 7:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Cookies 2016: Bar Cookies

Aside from brownies, I think the only time I made bar cookies is at Christmas.

Probably because the recipes make entirely too many cookies, and I either eat them until I’m sick, or they go to waste (or Michael eats too many).

 

Christmas Cookies by Oxmoor House

Cranberry-Caramel Bars

I follow this recipe only vaguely–primarily I just drizzle the caramel over the shortbread and cranberries, and then sprinkle the other bits on top.

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Fine Cooking Cookies: 200 Favorite Recipes for Cookies, Brownies, Bars & More by the Editors of Fine Cooking

Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

This is my first year making these, and I think they need some work as far as presentation. The dough is gloopy like a drop cookie, rather than sandy like a shortbread cookie. But if they taste good, I’m willing to tweak the recipe.

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Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett

Praline-Pecan-Coconut Bars

OMG. I love these so much. I like to trim the edges off because it makes the bars neater, the cookies fit back in the pan better once sliced, and because then I have to eat those edges, since they won’t fit into the pan neatly.

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