Random (but not really)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock

We’ve actually been out to Coopers Rock several times this year, but the weather has been so gloomy, I carried my camera solely for weight-bearing exercise, apparently.

But Saturday was snowy and pretty, so we hiked down to Mont Chateau, one of my favorite hikes.

Location: Coopers Rock State Park
Date: 2017-01-28
Distance: 6.2 miles
Elevation: 1483-2412 feet
Trails: Advanced Ski Trail, Mont Chateau Trail
Temperature: 28 F

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20170128_Coopers_Rock_048

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What? Doesn’t everyone clamber along streams in 30 F weather?

Here are the previous hikes, if you were interested in the hikes.

Date: 2017-01-21
Distance: 5.7 miles
Elevation: 1806-2350
Trails: Advanced Ski, Resovoir Loop, Clay Run Trails
Temperature: 60 F

Date: 2017-01-15
Distance: 3.3 + miles (GPS cut out for part)
Elevation: 1768-2420 feet
Trails: Advanced Ski, Resovior Loop, Roadside Trails
Temperature: 35 F

New Years Day Hike! (Lots and lots of people out)

Date: 2017-01-01
Distance: 4.7 miles
Elevation: 1961-2393 feet
Trails: Roadside, Scott’s Run Trails
Temperature: ~40 F

Written by Michelle at 9:40 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pizza

For Kimby!

Homemade Pizza

The dough is from The New best of BetterBaking.com by Marcy Goldman. This was actually the first time I tried that dough recipe–usually I make pizza with a thinner crust, but this was good! (Especially since it was fast–the other recipes I was thinking of using wanted an overnight sponge. NOT the thing to read at 2PM when I want dinner at 5PM.)

Dough:
1 3/4 cup water
2 tbsp instant yeast (yes, TWO TABLEspoons)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
3 cups (13.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 – 2 cups (4.5 – 9 oz) bread flour

Mix together all ingredients except 1 cup of the bread flour. Knead on lowest mixer speed and add more flour, two (2) tbsp at a time, until the dough comes together.

Let dough rise for 45 minutes, or until almost doubled (I totally let it rise twice that, because: busy.)

Sauce:
~1 tbsp olive oil (Yeah, totally didn’t measure here)
1 pint canned crushed tomatoes
2 – 4 tbsp tomato paste (YAY! A use for the tomato paste I canned last summer!) (A)
1 – 1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic (B)
~3/4 tsp dried oregano (See above comment)
~1 tsp dried parsley (See above)
~1/2 tsp salt

Put sauce ingredients into a small pot, and allow to simmer on low while the dough rises.

Once the dough has risen, roll it into on large or two smaller rectangles. Dust with flour then cover with a clean cloth to rise for half an hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 400F for at least 30 minutes. If you have a baking stone, make sure it’s in the oven for the whole pre-heat. (C)

Uncover the dough and drizzle it with olive oil. (D)

Spread the sauce over the dough.

Sprinkle a bit of shredded Parmesan, then sprinkle shredded mozzarella. I used part of a ball of fresh whole-milk and a block of the part-skim stuff with the longer shelf life, because that’s what I had. If I have Provolone, I’ll add some of that as well.

Add toppings of your choice. This choice was black olives and mushrooms.

Dinner : ready for the oven

Bake 15-20 minutes. The crust should be browned. If it’s not, let it bake longer.

Dinner : Ready to eat

Brief note on yeast. If you think you’re going to do any amount of baking, then buy a container of yeast, and just store that container in the freezer once opened. That’ll keep the yeast longer.

—–

(A) I have always HATED tomato paste–it always tastes like the tin to me, so making my own paste was MARVELOUS. It’s YUMMY and I use it ALL THE TIME NOW!
(B) I discovered that you can freeze garlic! (I tried pickling it last year and hated it.) So I mince a couple heads at a time, then freeze in 1 – 2 tbsp servings (An ice cube tray is what you want to use here if you don’t have a Food Saver.) Freeze the garlic into cubes then put those cubes into a ziploc bag and EASY! I do the same thing with lemon and lime juice, so it’s in tbsp servings, and I’m not wasting what I don’t use.
(C) If you have a baking stone, the easiest way to transfer a pizza is to roll it onto a sheet of parchment paper. Then use a flat cookie sheet to transfer the pizza back and forth. (Because I am NOT buying a pizza peel when a rimless cookie sheet and parchment work perfectly.)
(D) I’ve listened to enough food shows and read enough cooking magazines that I avoid Imported Extra-Virgin Olive oil, since much of it is adulterated. I can get California Olive Oil in our stores, which is what use now. I think it’s only an issue for EV Olive Oil.

Written by Michelle at 6:30 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Food  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Project: Floors, Part II

After putting the living room back together, I moved onto the NEXT room, the guest bedroom (or, as I still sometimes refer to it, Grandmom’s room).

This floor has a lot more deep damage to it–quite a number of burns that predated our purchase–but I still think damaged hardwood is a zillion times better than carpet.

And if you needed further evidence I’m weird:

See that line along the bottom of the door? That’s where Grandmom’s walker would sometimes scrape the door as she maneuvered in an out.

I still, after 6 1/2 years, can’t bring myself to permanently repair that scrape.

Written by Michelle at 8:56 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: House & Garden  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Music for the Day

Here’s some happy music I’ll be listening to today.

R.E.M – Exhuming Mccarthy

Mexican Institute of Sound – Yo Digo Baila

Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder


(more…)

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: music,Non-Sequiturs  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

PROJECT! Floors

Our wood floors have need some aid for a while now, but it’s a huge hassle, so we’ve kept putting it off.

UNTIL NOW!

Obviously, I’m not stripping the floors and refinishing them, just cleaning them up as best I can and putting down quick-drying polyurethane. (There IS such a thing! It’s pretty good!)

Because we can’t go somewhere else for a week while I’m redoing the floors, I chose a quick-drying polyurethane, which is allowing me to do part of a room, then (carefully) move the furniture and the do the other part.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a huge hassle to be cut off from half the house for 2-4 hours while the floor dries, but 2 – 4 hours is doable. Especially since there are bathrooms in both halves of the house now.

And because our house is so small, it’s not like I can just move everything into an empty space.

But is IS manageable, and I’m delighted to finally get this taken care of.

And in case you were wondering–here are the contents of part of one of the living room bookcases.

Written by Michelle at 1:03 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: House & Garden  

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.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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)

Written by Michelle at 9:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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.

Written by Michelle at 12:00 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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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Written by Michelle at 9:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
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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Written by Michelle at 9:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Food  

The Books of 2016: Fantasy

These are some of the better fantasies I read this year, most of them falling into the urban/supernatural category, but with a couple historical fantasies thrown in (from when I couldn’t find a historical mystery I wanted to read).

 

Supernatural and Urban Fantasy

Paul Cornell : Lychford
These are two utterly delightful urban fantasy novellas. The three main characters are women, one of whom, Judith, is elderly. All are strong characters—and highly amusing.

“You said he was a being of tremendous power and evil, but I’ve looked him up. He’s got a wife and family. He’s on LinkedIn.”

The telemarketers who called her up now seemed either desperate or resigned to the point of a mindless drone, until Judith, who had time on her hands and ice in her heart, engaged them in dark conversations that always got her removed from their lists.

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

Shadow Police
Paul Cornell’s other series is very different from his Lychford series; I can see that it may well not be to everyone’s taste. I, however, really like it.

This is the second book in his Shadow Police series, and although you could read it on its own, I think you’d be better served going back and reading London Falling first, because a LOT happens in that first book.
The Severed Streets (2014) Paul Cornell  9/10

 

Charles de Lint : Newford
Charles de Lint is one of my favorite authors.

He writes urban fantasy—magic/fae exist, but they’re not the super-sexy, uber powerful creatures of supernatural fantasy. The magic in his books is that of folklore and myth—the Green Man, the Raven. It is the magic that exists just out of the corner of your eye.

Charles de Lint also writes some of the strongest female characters of any fantasy writer today. And I read a LOT of fantasy with female characters. His women are faliable creatures with whom you’d love to have coffee or go to a show with.

But these are not children’s stories any more than the original Grimm’s tales were stories for modern children. There are often monsters in his stories, but they tend to be human.

How can a smile, a laugh, a good deed, stand up against the weight of such a history?”

“I… I guess it can’t,” Jilly said. “But you still have to try.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s all you can do. If you don’t try to stand up against the darkness, it swallows you up.”

And I adore the Crow Girls.

 “And now I feel like I’m forgetting what it’s like to be happy,” I said, finishing up. “It’s like that stupid ghost boy stole all my happiness away, and now, ever since I talked to him, all I meet are unhappy people with very good reasons to be unhappy, and that makes me wonder, how could I ever have been happy? And what is being happy, anyway?”

Zia gave a glum nod. “I think it might be catching, because now I’m feeling the same way.”

“You see? That’s just what I mean. Why is it so easy to spread sadness and so hard to spread happiness?”

All of these books are short story anthologies—you don’t need to read them in any order, because in addition to being one of the best writers of strong female characters, he is also the best short story writer of any I can think of.

I just wish his Dreams Underfoot would come out as an ebook so I could easily reread it.
Muse and Reverie
(2009) Charles de Lint : 10/10
Tapping the Dream Tree (2002) Charles de Lint : 10/10
Newford Stories: Crow Girls (2015) Charles de Lint : 9/10

 

Daniel José Older : Bone Street Rumba
There are not enough squees in the world for how I feel about Daniel José Older.

The Bone Street Rumba books are not YA books, but they have an utterly marvelous teen character, Kia.

A textbook lies open on the counter in front of me; I don’t even remember taking it out. It’s trig, some shit I already know how to do, and can’t be bothered answering a bunch of mindless questions about. I know this is a terrible reason to be getting Cs, but the truth is, I’m bored out my mind almost every day in school.

I also don’t have enough squees for how much I love Kia.

I mute the TV— you have to stand up and turn the remote at some hypotenuse-ass angle while pressing the button eighteen million times to get it to work…

Midnight Taxi Tango is the second book in this series; you should definitely read the first book before this one, because it’s just as awesome. But if you’re not sure if this is for you, check out his short story collection, Salsa Nocturna. It’s also marvelous, and will give you an idea of whether you’ll like his stories or not.

Also, he is the reader on his audiobooks, which initially concerned me, but he is quite good. (Although I’ll admit that although I like the idea of his daughter reading the raps Kia listens to, I’m afraid she’s not quite strong enough to do them justice.)
Midnight Taxi Tango (2016) Daniel José Older : 9/10

YA Standalone
This is a standalone set in a similar (the same?) world as the Bone Street Rumba series, but is not a part of that series, and doesn’t have boinking and quite as much language as that series.

But he understands teens—and women—very well.

(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.

Further down Gates Ave, a couple of guys were throwing dice in front of the Coltrane Projects. “Why you frownin’, girl?” one of them called out as Sierra walked past. “Smile for us!”

Sierra knew the guy. It was Little Ricky; they’d played together when they were small. He’d been one of those boys that all the girls were crazy about, with big dreamy eyes and a gentle way about him. A few years ago, Sierra would have been giddy with excitement to have his attention. Now he was just another stoopgoon harassing every passing skirt.

“I ain’t in the mood, jackass,” Sierra muttered, hugging herself. She was still shaky from the horrible night and she knew any sign of weakness would encourage them.

The guys let out a chorus of ohs and pounded one another. “I’m just saying, Sarcastula,” Ricky called after her. “C’mon back when you in the mood …”

This is such an amazing book, I really cannot encourage you enough to read it.
Shadowshaper (2015) Daniel José Older : 9.5/10

 

Mercy Thompson
I’m currently re-reading this series for the second time this year, which probably tells you how I feel about it.

Mercy is a half Native American WV mechanic who can change into a coyote, but aside from that doesn’t have much in the way of super powers, although she does have a propensity for getting herself into trouble.

This book continues the issues with the Fae and the rest of the US, and takes us for the first time Underhill.

This is the 9th book in this series (there are currently four books and a novella in the Alpha & Omega series) AND graphic novels, so if you want to start at the beginning you have your work cut out for you, but I do love this series, so I think it’s well-worth your time to do so. Additionally, there are generally no cliffhanger endings, so you can read a book and then stop with no ill effects.
Fire Touched (2016) Patricia Briggs : 8/10

 

Faith Hunter : Jane Yellowrock
I am a huge fan of the Jane Yellowrock series—in fact I’ve been slowly working through the audio versions (I listen to audio books when I’m doing repetitive tasks or exercising, but it has to be something I’ve read before or else I get nothing done).

Jane Yellowrock is a skinwalker and a vampire hunter. She is also currently the enforcer for the head of the New Orleans vampires.

Shadow Rites is book ten of the series, and although you could start here, you probably want to go back to the beginning, because Jane does a lot of growing and learning through this series.

And there is Beast.

Beast perked up at the description of the food. Gator. Human killed gator? Human man is good hunter! Hungry for gator. And the picture she sent me was a whole gator, snout, teeth, feet, claws, tail, skin, and all, crusty with batter. I chuckled and sent her a more likely mental picture. Inside she huffed with disappointment.

You can, however, pick up the short story collection, Blood in Her Veins, if you’d like an idea of Faith Hunter’s writing and Jane’s world. The Jane books do not have cliffhangers, so you can read one and come back to the series.
Shadow Rites (2016) Faith Hunter : 8/10
Blood in Her Veins (2016) Faith Hunter : 8/10

Soulwood
Soulwood is a new series that parallels the Jane Yellowrock books.

Nell Ingram appears in a Jane Yellowrock short story, and I was quite pleased to discover that these is also a good series. Some of the characters from the Jane stories appear here—one being Rick LeFleur, who I don’t much care for. But at least he isn’t a love interest for Nell.

One thing I especially liked about this series is that although Nell left the religious cult in which she was raised, and the cult is seen as very negative in the short story, Nell’s relationship with her family is far more complicated than “escaping a cult” would make it sound. I may not be religious, but I appreciate the effort to make Nell’s family and religious faith complex.

One thing I did not like is that the second book ended on a cliff-hanger of sorts. I despise cliff-hangers. Let me be clear, I like story arcs that develop over the course of several books. I love bits that crop up again several books later. But I hate left in the dark as to what has happened when the narrator knows damned well what has happened. So the second book was dinged for the ending.
Blood of the Earth (2016) Faith Hunter  : 8/10
Curse on the Land (2016) Faith Hunter  : 8/10

 

SPI Files
This is an utterly delightful series. Mac is a seer for the SPI—the group in charge of policing the supernatural. Her only talent is that she is a seer, which puts her at a disadvantage when going up against supernatural monsters, which is one of the things I like about this series.

Mac knows her limitations. Which is something I very much appreciate.

As soon as the elevator doors closed, Ian drew his gun, which was loaded with silver-infused hollow points. “Stay here,” he told me.

“I can do that.” Not only could I do that, I was glad to do that.

We’ve also listened to the first two books of this series, and they were quite enjoyable.
The Brimstone Deception (2016) Lisa Shearin : 9/10

 

Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls (1994) Jane Lindskold : 9/10
This is a single book story that is part fantasy, part SF, but only that there is advanced technology (a technology that is in some cases indistinguishable from magic). I read this years ago and was pleased to enjoy it just as much coming back to it the second time.

 

The Dark Side of The Road (2015) Simon R. Green : 8/10
This is a Simon R. Green story that is—best I can tell—not part of a series, which is unusual for him. Nope. Just checked, it’s a new series, but it’s certainly written as a stand-alone.

I tend to either love or hate Simon Green’s series. I adore the Nightside series, but didn’t care for his Secret histories. This book fell into the Like Very Much category.

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.

 

 

Historical Fantasy

The Sarantine Mosaic
Guy Gavriel Kay is an author I absolutely love, but whom I have to be careful reading for two reasons. First, his books are complex and absorbing—not something I can pick up and put down, or read in a couple hours. Second, his writing and story-telling are phenomal, and I usually have trouble finding something to read after I finish one of his books, because everything else pales in comparison.

This series is set in alternate Byzantium, and the main character is a mosaicist, gone to the capital to decorate the rebuilt sanctuary.

To say of a man that he was sailing to Sarantium was to say that his life was on the cusp of change: poised for emergent greatness, brilliance, fortune— or else at the very precipice of a final and absolute fall as he met something too vast for his capacity.

Although there are touches of magic, this isn’t a fantasy in the traditional sense. It is instead a past the was never quite ours, and a glimpse into a great empire at its peak.

If this was the world as the god— or gods— had made it, then mortal man, this mortal man, could acknowledge that and honor the power and infinite majesty that lay within it, but he would not say it was right, or bow down as if he were only dust or a brittle leaf blown from an autumn tree, helpless in the wind.

Do not look to Guy Gavriel Kay if you are looking for a quick read, or a book you can easily put down. Look here is you want to become immersed in a world so like our past, yet that never happened.
Sailing to Sarantium (1998) Guy Gavriel Kay : 8/10
Lord of Emperors (2000) Guy Gavriel Kay  : 9/10

 

Magic and Manners (2016) C.E. Murphy : 9/10
This is historical fantasy of the what-if-magic-existed type. The world is much as we know of it, except that humans have the ability to use magic. It’s a re-telling, of sorts, of Jane Austen.

I was looking for some escapism, this fit the bill to a T.

 

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
This is a prequel of sorts to Swordspoint, written by various authors as a serial novel. If you have not read Swordspoint, there it is difficult to explain Tremontaine to you. There is no magic here, just a world and time that could have been our past, but wasn’t.

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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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Cookies 2016: Biscotti

Every December I find myself scrounging around trying to find last years list of proposed Christmas cookies, and trying to remember what cookies I made, and what cookies everyone liked best.

This year I’m making note of everything.

I’ve made several different kinds of biscotti, and I have Many Thoughts on how biscotti should be properly made.

Biscotti aren’t supposed to be “high fat”; a biscotti recipe without butter is the correct way (or the traditional Italian way) to make biscotti. I hate the “less fat” designation because it makes you think something is missing, rather than something is made correct.

Biscotti are for dipping into hot drinks. They are supposed to be crunchy and hard. If you make biscotti with butter, they may hold the flavor better, but they don’t properly absorb the liquid when you dunk them in tea or cocoa (or coffee).

Trying some biscotti and cocoa.

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

Chocolate Biscotti with Less Fat

These “low-fat” biscotti are very delicious, and my new favorite biscotti recipe–dutch process cocoa AND chocolate.

YUM.

 

Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett

Cranberry Ginger Spice Biscotti
Spiced Chocolate Biscotti

Nope. The spices were interesting, but the butter made the texture all wrong, so I gave them all away. I learned my lesson–don’t even try making biscotti if the recipe has butter. I won’t like it.

 

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

Orange-Cranberry Biscotti

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The KAF cookie book has two recipes for biscotti–Traditional Italian or American Biscotti. You then try any of the variations with your choice of base recipe.

I of course used the Traditional Italian base.

Couple things I’ve discovered making biscotti. First, even when using parchment paper, lightly grease the paper. It makes it much easier to slide the hot biscotti loaf onto the cutting board without burning your hands. Second, in a tip I learned in David Lebovitz’s Room For Dessert, once you blop the the dough into a log (or logs), wet your hands to shape and smooth the log–it makes the sticky dough much easier to handle.

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Categories: Books & Reading,Food  

The Books of 2016: Mystery

These are some of the better mysteries I read this year. With the except of the three series at the end, I’ve noted only the books I particularly like. If you’d like to see all the books in the series, click on the author and you’ll see all the books listed in publication order at the top of the page.

I read a lot of mysteries this year–more mysteries than fantasy at current count (this could change as I am currently tearing through the Mercy Thompson series for the second time this year).

Most of the mystery I read was historical. For those who are particular about the historical mysteries, or just interested in reading about an unfamiliar era, I’ve noted the years in which the stories were set. (I recently started this, so if you go too far back in the archives, you won’t see the year(s).)

 

Mystery

Inspector Rebus
This is a collection of all the Rebus stories, including a couple written just for this volume.

Rebus is a fascinating character, with a past in the military before joining the Edinburgh police. He’s a loner and has a sense of justice that doesn’t always see following the rules as the best course of action. If you like police mysteries, this is a good introduction to Rebus. (I think the first story is one of the weaker ones, so don’t judge Rebus on that story.)

I own this series mostly in paperback, and am hoping the ebooks go on sale soon so I can re-read them.
The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories (2015) Ian Rankin : 9/10

 

Inspector Montalbano
I adore Inspector Montalbano, even though in real life I might be tempted to punch him.

If you are not familiar with Montalbano, then this short story collection, Montalbano’s First Case and Other Stories, would be an excellent place to start. It’s in no way a complete collection (Andrea Camilleri is very prolific) but it gives you a good taste of the characters and the stories.

Some of my favorite exchanges in this series are between Montalbano and Cat. I especially like how Montalbano’s attitude towards Cat changes over the course of the series.

“Catarella, I want you to do me a special, important favor.”

“Chief, when y’ax me poissonally in poisson to do yiz a favor poissonally in poisson, yer doin’ me a favor jess by axin’.”

The baroque courtesies of Catarella.

A Voice in the Night (2012/2016) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli 8/10
Montalbano’s First Case and Other Stories (2008/ 2016) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli : 8/10

 

Susanna Horenbout and John Parker
Set in England in 1525

I read all available books in this series, but this one I particularly liked. Susanna Horenbout is a Flemish painter sent by her father to the court of King Henry VIII to be his illuminator. John Parker is a trusted courtier of King Henry. Both were real historical figures about whom little is known, aside from their names and that they eventually married.

There is boinking in this series.
In a Treacherous Court (2011) Michelle Diener : 8/10

 

Regency London
Set in London in 1812.

Giselle Barrington is the daughter of a folklorist with a fascination for cooking. After witnessing the murder of her father, she goes into hiding with the hopes she can pass on the message her father died for.

Although they are not historical characters, they are historically grounded, and the mystery was very good.

There is boinking in this series.
Banquet of Lies (2013) Michelle Diener : 9/10

 

Lady Darby
Set in Scotland, England, and Ireland 1830-1831

The first book was interesting, but didn’t especially impress me. The succeeding books were much better done, and very enjoyable.

Lady Darby has spent the last year and a half hiding in Scotland with her sister and brother-in-law, after the death of her husband and the scandal that arose following that. Sebastian Gage is the son of a famous London inquiry agent. When a murder occurs, both Gage and Lady Darby look into the death—Gage because of her father and Lady Darby because of her past scandal.

The mysteries here are particularly good.
Mortal Arts (2013) Anna Lee Huber : 8/10
A Grave Matter (2014) Anna Lee Huber : 8/10
A Study in Death (2015) Anna Lee Huber : 8/10
As Death Draws Near (2016) Anna Lee Huber : 8/10

 

Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch
Set in London in 1818

This is an interesting series that often jumps back and forth in time—the books are written jumping through time, although most of the books stick to a single timeline. This book is latest in the timeline, and like all the books in the series, can be read without the previous books.

Malcolm and Suzanne are spies—Malcolm for England and Suzanne for France. In this book, Malcolm knows of Suzanne’s past, and they are continuing to work through the issues caused by this (and other) revelations.
London Gambit (2016) Tracy Grant : 8/10

 

Sebastian St. Cyr
Set in England in 1813.

I picked up the first book in this series What Angels Fear  back when it came out in 2005, and I’ve pre-ordered every book in the series since then.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is a young noble who returned from the Napoleonic wars far more bitter than when he left. A lot has happened to Sebastian since the start of the series, including a marriage and a child. I love this series, but you really should start at the beginning, for there are all kinds of revelations as the series progresses.
When Falcons Fall (2016) C.S. Harris : 8.5/10

 

Kat Halloway
I started the Captain Lacey series and abandoned it several books in. Theoretically there are supposed to be more Kat Halloway mysteries coming, but I haven’t seen one yet.

Set in London in 1880.

Kat is a cook for Sir Lionel Leigh-Bradbury, and better than he deserves, but since he allows her an unusual numbers of days off, she is fine with the situation. They mystery is good, and I especially liked Kat.
A Soupçon of Poison (2015) Ashley Gardener : 8.5/10

 

I tore through several series–some completely through from start to finish–so rather than listing the books and ratings, I just listed them all in order. If you click through to the author page you can find my reviews on the individual books (and any other books written by that author).

The Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne
Set in England and Ireland in 664-

This is a series I own most of in paperback, and am trying to find on sale as eBooks so I can re-read them. Peter Tremayne was the pseudonym for the scholar Peter Berresford Ellis, and the books are full of historical tidbits, many of which are surprising to the modern reader.

Clergy, even bishops, took spouses; even the religious of houses, whether mixed or not, could have wives and husbands, under Brehon law and custom. But the position of an abbot and abbess was in a different category for they were usually bound to celibacy.

‘Easter?’

‘The Saxons have accepted most of our teaching of Christian faith but as for the Paschal feast they insist on naming it after their pagan goddess of fertility, Eostre, whose rituals fall at the time of the Spring equinox.

The mysteries in the first two books are fine, but improve (IIRC) over the course of the series.
Absolution By Murder (1994), Shroud for the Archbishop (1995)

 

The Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters
This series is set in England and Wales from 1137 to 1144.

Brother Cadfael is a Welsh Benedictine monk and herbalist living in Shrewsbury, on the Welsh border. He lived a full life as a crusader before he came to take his vows, which makes him far more worldly that many others in his abbey. This series intertwines the fictional characters of the abbey with the historical events of the English Civil War between factions of Maud and Stephen.

The mysteries are good, but what I like best is brother Cadfael.

Meet every man as you find him, for we’re all made the same under habit or robe or rags.

(L)eave agonising too much over your sins, black as they are, there isn’t a confessor in the land who hasn’t heard worse and never turned a hair. It’s a kind of arrogance to be so certain you’re past redemption.”

What you yourself did, that you may rue, and confess, and do penance for, to your soul’s content, but you may not lift another man’s sins from his shoulders, or usurp God’s right to be the only judge.

There is no one who cannot be hated, against whatever odds. Nor anyone who cannot be loved, against all reason.”

A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977), One Corpse Too Many (1979), Monk’s Hood (1980), The Leper of Saint Giles (1981), The Virgin in the Ice (1982), The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983), The Devil’s Novice (1983), Dead Man’s Ransom (1984), The Pilgrim of Hate (1984), An Excellent Mystery (1985), The Raven in the Foregate (1986), The Rose Rent (1986), The Hermit of Eyton Forest (1987), The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988), The Heretic’s Apprentice (1989), The Potter’s Field (1989), The Summer of the Danes (1991), The Holy Thief (1992)

 

The Owen Archer series by Candace Robb
This series is set in England and Wales from 1363 to 1373.

Owen Archer was the Captain of the Duke of Lancaster’s archers until he lost an eye, after which he became the Duke’s spy. After the Duke’s death, he takes a position for John Thoresby, Lord Chancellor of England and Archbishop of York. The first book is all from Owen’s POV, but the following books (with the exception of A Gift of Sanctuary) splits POV between Owen and Lucie Wilton, the apothecary of the first book.

There are both fictional and historical characters throughout this series, and the author tried to be as true to both the historical characters and the time as she could. Lucie is a Master Apothecary not because women in such positions were common, but because the town needed her services and the Archbishop owed them a favor.  It is these historical bits that most fascinate me.

“Lucie examined her, Tom. Got her hands in all that blood. What will that do to the child, Lucie looking at all that blood? And the horror of it all?”

‘With each visitation of the pestilence folk have become more inventive with their precautions. A wealthy merchant asked yesterday for enough crushed diamonds to strew round his bed and cut Death’s feet to shreds.’

Yet some things remain the same.

‘Do not leave,’ Phillippa said as Lucie began to walk away. ‘I am relieved to have spoken of it. But I do not remember— oh Lucie, it is the cruellest curse, to be witless one day, lucid the next. It is as if I have been sleepwalking and everyone has witnessed my foolishness. All look at me with such pity— and fear that they, too, might come to this end if they live so long as I have. It is horrible. Horrible.’ Her jaw was set in anger and frustration.

The Apothecary Rose (1993), The Lady Chapel (1994), The Nun’s Tale (1995), The King’s Bishop (1996), The Riddle of St. Leonard’s (1997), A Gift of Sanctuary (1998), A Spy for the Redeemer (2002), The Cross-Legged Knight (2006), The Guilt of Innocents (2006), A Vigil of Spies (2008)

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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The Books of 2016

It’s the end of 2016 (which seems nigh near impossible to me, yet there it is), so it’s time to look at the books of 2016.

The following links will be live as I publish (or write) those posts. This is just a handy place to link to everything.

In this year-end round-up, I’ve made note primarily of books I have not read before. I made an exception for two authors I hadn’t read in years. I figured if I didn’t have a real review for the books, I was good mentioning those books here.

Mystery
Fantasy
Romance
Graphic Novels
Non-Fiction (aka Cookbooks)
Good Covers of 2016
Modern
Historical

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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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Books of November

The year is pulling to a close, which seems utterly ridiculous to me, yet there it is.

I read a LOT this month, for a variety of reasons, some of which were spending an inordinate amount of time in hospital waiting rooms. Let’s just say the past two months have not been the best.

But, I read a lot of GOOD books, some of which were in published in this millennia!

I read two Paul Cornell books, The Severed Streets (2014) and The Lost Child of Lychford (2016), both of which were very good. In fact, Paul Cornell gets kudos for his second Shadow Police book, as it took me COMPLETELY by surprise. Also good was Faith Hunter’s latest Soulwood book, Curse on the Land (2016). If you are a Jane Yellowrock fan, then you’ll like Soulwood, but if you haven’t read any of the Jane books, you’ll be OK jumping into this series. All three of these are supernatural fantasy, but without much boinking.

I also stumbled upon C.E. Murphy’s historical fantasy, Magic and Manners (2016), which was utterly delightful. It’s a Pride & Prejudice with Magic retelling, and there was much to love here–especially the fact it was boink-free. There was also a new Inspector Montalbano, A Voice in the Night (2012/2016) by Andrea Camilleri. This book isn’t a good starting point, but as a series it is well-worth starting if you like police mysteries or loving descriptions of fabulous meals. (No, seriously, Montalbano’s meals are a character all their own in these books.)

So here’s what I read this month.

Mystery
Inspector Montalbano
A Voice in the Night (2012/2016) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli (8/10)

Historical Mystery
Sister Fidelma
Absolution By Murder(1994) Peter Tremayne (8/10)
Shroud for the Archbishop (1995) Peter Tremayne (8/10)
Brother Cadfael
The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988) Ellis Peters (8/10)
The Heretic’s Apprentice (1989) Ellis Peters (9/10)
The Potter’s Field (1989) Ellis Peters (9/10)
The Summer of the Danes (1991) Ellis Peters (9/10)
The Holy Thief(1992) Ellis Peters (9/10)

Supernatural Fantasy
Shadow Police
The Severed Streets (2014) Paul Cornell (9/10)
Soulwood
Curse on the Land (2016) Faith Hunter (8/10)
The Witches of Lychford
The Lost Child of Lychford (2016) Paul Cornell (9/10)

Historical Fantasy
Magic and Manners (2016) C.E. Murphy (9/10)
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)
Glamourist Histories
Shades of Milk and Honey (2010) Mary Robinette Kowal (7.5/10)
Glamour in Glass (2012) Mary Robinette Kowal (8/10)
Without a Summer (2013) Mary Robinette Kowal (8/10)
Valour and Vanity (2014) Mary Robinette Kowal (5/10)
The Escapement of Blackledge (2016) Mary Robinette Kowal (7.5/10)

Anthology
Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy (2013) Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Audio
Midnight Taxi Tango, Audible Version (2016) Daniel Jose Older, read by the author (8/10)
The Dragon Conspiracy, Audible Version (2015) Lisa Shearin, narrated by Johanna Parker (8/10)
Broken Soul, Audible Version (2014) Faith Hunter, read by Khristine Hvam (8/10)
Salsa Nocturna, Audible Version (2012/2014) Daniel Jose Older, read by the author (8/10)

That’d be 23 books for the month, the most so far this year, bringing this years total to 170; I’ll probably break my previous record for books read in a single year (2013 and 174 books).

Format-wise, no paper books this month, but I did get around to finally reviewing a bunch of audio books I’d finished and forgotten to write up.
eBook: 19
Audio: 4

This month was NOT all historical mystery! Not that the historical mysteries weren’t good–I just ran out of ones I wanted to read, and none of the new-to-me series I started caught my interest.
Fantasy: 15
Mystery: 8
Romance: 2
Anthology: 1

As far as authors, I actually read some male authors this month, but female authors (including those using pseudonyms) were still ahead.
Male: 7
Female: 9
Male Pseudonym: 5
Anthology: 1
Joint: 1

And those are the books of November. If you haven’t read Paul Cornell, I really enjoy his writing and both of these books. However, the Witches of Lychford and the Shadow Police are quite different, and I wouldn’t recommend the latter for people who don’t like monsters (including human monsters who do terrible things).

Written by Michelle at 5:40 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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