28 February 2011

Dreaming in Green


I made these beds last year.


I grew these plants.

I am dreaming in green again.  In seeds and grass and flowers.  In food to give my family.  

In plants to tend and sun to shine and dirt to run between my fingers.

I am dreaming in green.

Aren't you?

Percolating on Ebooks

I needed a couple days and a few cups of coffee to get my thoughts in order for this post.

I don't tend to write too directly about my work here on my blog. I fully admit that I am a librarian. Not one that you will find facing the general public, but one who sits in an office and works with librarians and library staff and supports the automated services they use. One of those services is OverDrive, and I have been out with colleagues training library staff over the last months as ebook lending has taken off. I have been in a lot of libraries, with lots of coffee to get me through. However, I am still a librarian, and when the news hit the internet airwaves about OverDrive having to start a new licensing model with "certain publishers," and the revelation that HarperCollins is that publisher, it has been easy to be swept into that virtual vitriol going on since Friday morning.

For those who may not know, as of the first week of March, any libraries that use OverDrive and purchase HarperCollins titles will be subject to a license of only 26 checkouts per title. This means that, like patrons who see their ebooks expire after two weeks, libraries will see the same thing happen after about one year. If we want the title again for more patrons, we will have to buy another copy.

It seems they arrived at this model by noting that many libraries have to replace items after a year of circulation. Which, most librarians will state, is hogwash. Oh sure, there are many books that need to be replaced due to wear and tear, loss, or otherwise degraded conditions, mostly bestsellers and mass market paperbacks. I have never spilled my coffee on an ebook. However, for each of those books there are probably a dozen on the shelf that are in decent condition, going from hand to hand for many years. Yet now we are to be forced to adopt a model where digital content has to be repurchased after a year?

If libraries are lucky, they will get a full year. One benefit of ebooks through OverDrive is that patrons can return them early if they are finished with them, which means that there will be several titles in the collection for which libraries will not be able to give their patrons a full year of access. In an extreme example, this could mean if every patron returned a book after 24 hours, libraries might only have a book for around 27 days.

Also within these terms will be some sort of guarantee that libraries are adhering to some type of geographic limits, which will mean that OverDrive will need to supply publishers with patron information. On top of that, the publisher is also getting leery of resource sharing by consortia and large library systems, and wants to ensure that those systems are not buying ebooks at the expense of print books.

So, there have been lots of words about this topic, from Librarian By Day (which is where I first saw the letter) to Library Journal (where Josh Hadro broke the news about the publisher being HarperCollins) to numerous other colleagues across Twitter such as Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (@smartbitches), Loose Cannon Librarian (@itsjustkate), theanalogdivide (@theanalogdivide), and many others, linked to stories or not. Just take a look on Twitter at the #hcod hashtag for all the talk.

While not all publishers have jumped on board with ebooks circulating in libraries at all (Macmillan and Simon & Schuster to name those parties), most have moved from a delay in publishing ebooks to a simultaneous launch of the digital format along with the print. To be part of a library network that can supply ebooks to our patrons is a good thing, but (as individual libraries do) we struggle with keeping up with demand and shrinking budgets. Pooling our resources, with libraries supplementing through the year, has been beneficial. Take away a consortium's ability to share resources, and individual libraries will be forced to buy only the titles highest in demand, limiting the range of the collection. Would you expect your library to only carry the New York Times Bestseller List titles and nothing else?

I have touted the benefits of OverDrive to library staff, patrons, family, and friends because it has given libraries a platform for digital books and kept working at it. Is it perfect? Obviously not. When someone has to play nice with legalities and publishers, I am happy to rely on an outside company to do that, but now my libraries and patrons will be forced to comply with rules by people in companies that never walk through our doors.

I think that a subscription model for ebooks has been coming down the line as more and more content is being made available. However, to base ebook circulation on print circulation isn't really a viable comparison. There is no real basis of cost comparison for digital book acquisitions vs. print book acquisitions within library collections (that I know of at this point), and the additional work that will result in having to pull records from catalogs if titles are not repurchased is rather daunting to think about (and will require more coffee). On the flip side, there is no set standard for ebook formats or preservation of digital files. These are things that the publishers are thinking about, but honestly, so are we.

No one seems to be happy with this decision by HarperCollins, but it also the first deal of this kind, and deals can be revisited and revised. They have even invited emails from librarians and others on the topic to be sent to library.ebook@harpercollins.com. Please, if you do take the time to write to them, show them your passion for your profession, but also your professional courtesy.

I will be interested to see what the next steps we as librarians take to try to ensure that the next publisher wanting to go subscription on ebooks does it on our terms, not theirs.  

I'll be taking it with more coffee too, I am sure.

24 February 2011

Review: Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

The Book:

Zoe Ardelay's life in her small village is turned upside down. Right after her father's death, Zoe is informed that she is to become the king's fifth wife.  Ruled by the element of water, coru, Zoe follows the ambassador to the city, only to walk away from the edict and go to the edge of the great river to hide and rediscover herself.  What Zoe finds is that not only does she carry the power of water with her, but she is coru Prime, a power unto herself.  Faced with the challenge of rediscovering her family's place in the palace, and the challenge of the secrets that had laid buried within the palace walls, Zoe must decide for herself how much power she has, and for whom she will use it?

The Yarn:

Sharon Shinn sets forth into a new world where the elements rule.  Each child is given three blessings upon their birth, traits that comes from five elements (earth/skin, air/breath, fire/mind, water/blood, wood/bone).   Zoe's blessings include beauty, love, and power, a trait that is shown more and more life as the story goes on.    More blessings can be drawn at temples for guidance, and Zoe finds more reminders and clues to her life and choices at various times in the book through this.  I loved the use of the elements and the blessings as stones, charms and such as those are things that I relate to in my own life.

Zoe grew up fast.  Her mother died many years ago, and she and her father lived far away from the palace that sent her father away in disgrace.  Both her internal and external conversations - with herself and others - show that she has not been a child for a long time.  However, as many of those who had to grow up quickly, Zoe proves herself prone to selfish feelings and rages, especially when faced with facts about the father she relied on for so long, and truths that she has to accept.  Another facet of that acceptance are the friends and family she picks up along the way.  From the river banks to the palace to her grandmother's house to the palace, Zoe learns the value of the people that surround her, along with the value of the secrets kept by them.

From beginning to end Darien Serlast, the king's advisor, proves an enigma, a friend, and possibly a foe.  More unyielding and blunt (being hunti - with power in wood/bone) compared to Zoe's more restless and mercurial coru, she isn't sure what to make of him much of the time.  The reveals that come through book prove surprising, although sometimes not, at least in terms of the obvious attraction between the two.  Shinn gives a lyrical voice to the ups and downs between Zoe and Darien, their draw towards and fight against each other, and the ebb and flow of the water that Zoe controls both in benefit for and against those around her.

Troubled Waters is a beautiful story of a young woman trying to shape her own life among those who are used to being in control.  Like the water that is the base of her power, Zoe's story flows from a slow roll through the beginning of the book to a storm-fed river racing to the end.  Anyone who has read Shinn's other books, especially the Twelve Houses series, will recognize the strength of her characters and their journeys as ones that bring resolution in a meaningful way.

The Ink:

Title:  Troubled Waters
Author:  Sharon Shinn
Publisher:  Ace Books
Date: October 2010
Read:  Library Hardcover

22 February 2011

Review: Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Note:  Some possible plot spoilers from previous books in this review.

The Book:

Rachel Morgan has been accused of practicing black magic and shunned as a witch.  She has three days to make it to San Francisco, where the annual witches conference is meeting, to plead her case and have her shunning overturned or be forced to the ever-after forever.  Blacklisted from flying, Rachel must team up with Trent Kalamack to make it to the West Coast in time.  However Trent is on a quest of his own, and trust is little afforded between these two.  With witches, elves and demons on the hunt, Rachel, Trent and her team are in a race against death, and that is even before the sentence is carried out.

The Yarn:

I have read all of Kim Harrison's Hollows series from the beginning.  Pale Demon is the ninth book of the series. Rachel Morgan has developed a lot since her days being a runner for the Inderland Bureau Services, but her past is coming to catch her.  This is mostly due to the elf that is traveling with her, Trent.  Having known her since childhood, and having fathers that did some unknown experiments on Rachel to ensure her survival, Trent now needs Rachel as part of his quest, plus she needs to still lift the familiar curse that she placed on him.  With an uneasy truce and 3,000 miles to travel, Trent and Rachel, along with Ivy and Jenks, cross the country on their own quests for validation.

Rachel has been working through a lot of relationship issues these past books, and it was good to see this one start to lay the final path stones down for some of them.  Kisten, Ivy, Pierce, Trent and even Al are all spindled through Rachel's heart and mind at one point or another through the book, and Rachel's issues with love and connection finally start to slip into place as she comes to terms with her powers in both black magic and as a possible demon.

Harrison draws a vivid landscape for her readers: whether traveling across the United States or through the ever after, and the action doesn't stop for a moment in Pale Demon.  I had a lot of trouble putting it down because I had to see what was going to happen next, and every time I thought Rachel could go no further, she did.  There are enough twists leading to final pages to keep the reader guessing exactly what the results are going to be. Rachel both wins and loses in this story and her world is laid wide open for the next book.

With plenty of action and suspense, strong characters and exciting storyline, I consider Pale Demon one of the strongest books in the Hollows series so far.  Harrison brings back the Rachel Morgan of old, and I am looking forward to seeing what she does next!

The Ink:

Title:  Pale Demon (The Hollows, #9)
Author:  Kim Harrison
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date: February 2011
Read: NetGalley ebook

21 February 2011

In My Mailbox (3)

This is the third edition of In My Mailbox, hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  Here I highlight books I received the past couple of weeks.  All titles link to Goodreads, authors to their websites (when available).

For Review:






Burn Down the Sky by James Jaros (HarperVoyager, April)  A post-apocalyptic tale sends one mother in search of her daughter, abducted by a religion that makes female children a commodity.  Many thanks to HarperCollins for providing this ARC to me.

From NetGalley, I picked up Tomatoland by Barry Eastabrook (Andrews McMeel, June), Chasing Chiles by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft and Gary Paul Nabhan (Chelsea Green, April) and The Deadliest Bite (Orbit, June) by Jennifer Rardin (this is the final book of the Jaz Parks series, written before Rardin's death).

From the Library:

I have been good!  Really!  Only three books!






Ash by Malinda Lo.  I was fortunate to read an ARC of Huntress a couple weeks ago and really wanted to see where this world leads to.

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball.  An urbanite-becomes-farmer story, but one who not only farms for herself, but for the community.

Homesteading by Abigail R. Gehring.  This book covers a lot of topics I am personally interested in.

Purchased:

Told you I couldn't stay away from used bookstores. Or any bookstores.




I am slowly working on gathering a full collection of Tamora Pierce's books.  Having been reading them for several years, it is definitely a "To Buy" set of series.  In this round of shopping, including digging through several boxes in a back corner, I acquired Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness, #4), Wild Magic (The Immortals, #1), and a first edition of The Will of the Empress (standalone, but with characters from the Circle series).

I also hit the Borders out in western MA that unfortunately has been put on the closing list.  I picked up one title for my daughter (Cardcaptor Sakura) and for myself, The Week by Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook by Ron and Jennifer Kujawski.  I want to improve my vegetable production in my garden this year, and the idea of having plans for each week helps.  

While these titles were not purchased by me, they were purchased for me.  I have participated in SantaThing from LibraryThing the last two years.  Unfortunately this year's delivery was delayed by overseas shipping and weather and customs, or whatever other story you might have heard.  But they arrived!





Archangel by Sharon Shinn.  A futuristic tale by an author I love.

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey.  I have really enjoyed Carey's Kushiel series, and this is world shift to an alternate earth filled with military occupancy, oppression, and one woman who defends her town.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.  This has been on my Goodreads "To Read" list for a while, so I am thrilled to have received it.

Thank you to my Santa for choosing these for me.

Happy Reading!

17 February 2011

Review: Grilled Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin

The Book:

Cheese between two slices of bread is immortalized in most people's childhood.  In Laura Werlin's new book, Grilled Cheese, Please!, grilled cheese is all grown up.  With 50 new recipes to share, you will find "...everything from basic grilled cheese to exotic, from nostalgic to modern, from ethnic to all-American, from savory to sweet." (pg. 11)



The Yarn:

I was quite happy to find this book in my NetGalley searches.  As the mom of two growing kids grilled cheese is a staple, but having the same-old white-bread-and-American is getting a bit stale for us.  Finding new ways to try this sandwich is a welcome addition to my household.

The chapters include breakdowns by filling types (cheese only, with meat, with vegetables), recipes influenced by other countries and other sandwich shops that Werlin has visited. Some of the recipes can be a bit exotic for children's tastes; the "Anything Goes" section includes sandwiches with cherries, gaucamole, crab meat and hazelnut butter.  However the chapter on U.S. regional grilled cheeses is sure to please everyone with a familiar style of sandwich.  There are also a few side dish and condiment recipes included to enhance the grilled cheese, but not upstage it.

Another good thing about this book is the opening chapter, with tips on how to make the best grilled cheese.  Some are obvious, like putting any butter or oil on the bread, not the pan, and a thinner bread crisps better while cooking.  Other tips such as grating the cheese or covering the sandwich while cooking to ensure the cheese melts may help that next sandwich you make.  Werlin lists several different types of cheeses, including several American artisan types, and explains which ones melt better than others.  She also gives some alternate choices for substituting types of breads, for those days you cannot find that pain de mie.

Being released in time for National Grilled Cheese Month in April, Werlin has presented a nice range of grilled cheese recipes that will please any palette.

Hopefully even my kids.

The Ink:

Title:  Grilled Cheese, Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes
Author:  Laura Werlin
Date:  March 2011
Publisher:  Andrews McMeel
Format:  NetGalley eBook

15 February 2011

No Moar Kittehs

I haz a sad.

I have no more cats.

I wrote about my little cat, Juniper, and her loss back in November.  I knew that Mookie was not far behind, but definitely couldn't think about it over the holidays.  My daughter has gotten very attached to him the last few years and I wanted to wait as long as possible.

Last week I realized that his food dish wasn't being emptied the way that it used to.  That he wasn't in the upstairs hallway meowing at 5 AM for someone to come turn on the tub faucet so he could drink.  Wasn't sleeping with my daughter at night.

I called the vet yesterday, got an appointment for today and talked to my kids about the fact there was a possibility that Mookie wasn't coming home.  And he didn't.

I detailed my story about how I got him a couple years ago in this post.  He's been with me since my senior year of college, and almost 19 years of ups and downs.  Not many cats get to reach near the age of 21, and I feel so blessed that we got to journey together for so long.

For Juniper, for Mookie, enjoy the Summerlands, my kittehs.  You will be missed.



Review: Double Take: One Fabulous Recipe, Two Finished Dishes, Feeding Vegetarians and Omnivores Together by A.J. Rathbun and Jeremy Holt

The Book:

It can be difficult to get people to agree on a meal, but when you put vegetarians and omnivores together, it is near impossible at times to please everyone.  Double Take attempts to bridge the gap and bring common meals for both in one recipe.  With just a couple substitutions, dishes can be prepared for both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.  From appetizers to soups to entrees, A.J. Rathbun and Jeremy Holt bring both of these lifestyles to the table.

The Yarn:

As an omnivore dating a vegetarian, I was looking for common recipes that could be adapted for both of us and still satisfy my kids.  The premise is good:  one recipe that is started in one pot, but when the meat is introduced, it is split off and finished separately to keep some portions vegetarian.  There are clear instructions for the recipes, and each has notes to make it all vegetarian or for just omnivores.  At the beginning is a good description of kitchen tools and 'Meat Alternatives 101', plus handy tips from both authors throughout the book.

However, the cookbook really seems to be mostly recipes that are meat-based, then adapted for vegetarians using meat substitutes.  Most of the vegetarians I know rarely use meat alternatives on a regular basis, so it seemed a rather narrow view of what could be adapted for both kinds of diners.  It had an overtone of  "the only way to please omnivores is to make sure there is MEAT".  I don't have to have bacon in my quiche, nor do I see it necessary to split a recipe of French Onion soup up just to make half with beef broth and half with vegetable stock. I think this book is more focused on entertaining guests than being an actual family meal cookbook, although the 'Comfort Entrees' chapter contains recipes for macaroni and cheese, fish sticks (using tofu or cod), and biscuits and gravy.  I also found the lack of photographs or any dessert recipes a bit sad, but I guess there is no need for separation of chocolate chip cookies for vegetarians and omnivores (unless they are BACON chocolate chip cookies....).

All in all, Double Take is a nice beginner's cookbook for ideas on common meals for both the vegetarians and meat-eaters who sit around your table.

The Ink:

Title:  Double Take: One Fabulous Recipe, Two Finished Dishes, Feeding Vegetarians and Omnivores Together
Author: A. J. Rathbun and Jeremy Holt
Publisher:  Harvard Common Press
Date:  January 2010
Read:  Library Paperback

14 February 2011

In The Kitchen

When I get stressed, I bake.

I grew up in a house watching my grandfather bake almost every other day.  You name it, he baked it.  Pies, cookies, cakes, donuts.  I spent many a weekend morning watching him roll out pie crusts, cutting out donut holes, rolling molasses dough balls in sugar.   I always liked to cook on and off through the years, but the last couple I have found baking, the entire process, a way to get my zen on.

This weekend, I was all about the cake.  I have to admit I have been one to head to a box mix the last years, but I am trying to get more and more done from scratch.  Especially since I have been told it is no harder, in most cases, to make a cake from scratch than from a mix.  While chocolate cake goes far around here, I wanted to make one for me!  This meant spice cake.  I adore spices: ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon.  And nothing pairs better with spice cake than cream cheese frosting.  Cheese, in all its forms, should be a part of every meal.

Which led me to a recipe of Buttermilk Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, courtesy of The Hungry Mouse.

Finishing up in the oven.

Turned out on the platter.

This brought me a lovely cake, although the crumb is a little denser than I would have liked.  The recipe suggests that you use cake flour, which I didn't have, instead of all-purpose flour.  I also seem to have a tempermental electric oven that heats anywhere from 15 to 25 degrees higher than what it is set at.  So, I think it was slightly overbaked, but still delicious.

Mmm.  Cream cheese.

But the frosting!  The frosting was divine.  Not too sweet, with enough vanilla to smooth but not drive away the tang of the cream cheese.

I don't frost half bad, I must say.

Of course all of this led to some cookbook reading, which I will be reviewing this week on the blog.  Stay tuned!

10 February 2011

Review: Roast Mortem by Cleo Coyle

The Book:

Clare Cosi was hoping to reclaim a roaster that used to belong to her coffee shop, Village Blend, but instead ends up in an explosive meeting - literally.  When the local fire station assists in saving her friends, Clare goes out of her way to help support them with showing them how to use their new espresso machine.  Things start to get hot when other coffee shops get torched in the city and firefighters from the station begin to die.  Add to that family trouble leading to a troubling accusation for her detective boyfriend, Mike Quinn, and Clare is determined to tie the events together before everything goes up in flames.

The Yarn:

Roast Mortem is the ninth novel in the solid Coffeehouse Mysteries series by Cleo Coyle.  Clare is a smart heroine and she believes that the explosion at her friend's coffeehouse wasn't an accident. Working with two seemingly different sets of crimes, Clare is able to solve them and bring them together in a not-completely-unbelievable manner.  She has a no-nonsense focus that keeps her basically in control of her situations, her staff and those that she works with outside of the coffeehouse.  Her relationships with her ex-husband and ex-mother-in-law as partners in the business add another layer of fun secondary characters.

I found the focus of this book on Mike Quinn and learning a bit more about his background refreshing after his peripheral character status in the previous books. Having finally reaching a point in Clare's life where her ex-husband has settled into his own relationship more, this started as a good story to strengthen Clare and Mike's relationship. I did find it a little disconcerting to have Mike's cousin Michael thrown in and pursuing Claire.  While circumstances revealed in the book seem to make this believable on some levels, to me it gives the impression that Clare always has to be in some emotional crisis about her relationships.

The one thing that really bothered me about this book had nothing to do with the story.  It was the typos.  Missed edits always jump off the page for me, and I found three within pages of each other.  I think I was a copy editor in a past life.    

Roast Mortem is another fun entry in Coyle's series.  Fans of Diane Mott Davidson will enjoy this book, and as with many cozy mysteries, includes tasty recipes of some of the dishes included in the story along with an explanation about coffee roasting.

The Ink:

Title:  Roast Mortem (A Coffeehouse Mystery)
Author:  Cleo Coyle
Publisher: Berkley
Date: August 2010
Read:  Library Hardcover

08 February 2011

Review: Berried to the Hilt: A Gray Whale Inn Mystery by Karen MacInerney

The Book:

Off the coast of Maine, Cranberry Island is buzzing with excitement over the find of a sunken ship.  Rumors of its identity take over - could it be legendary sea captain Jonah Selfridge's missing Myra Barton?  Or possibly even Black Marguerite, the pirate ship which disappeared in the 17th century?

The excitement swells as marine archaeologists and treasure hunters come to the island.  Better even for Natalie Barnes and her business, Gray Whale Inn, until a body shows up near the wreckage.  Finding herself again in the middle of a murder, Natalie races to find the killer - and the treasure - in time before she finds herself lost at sea.

The Yarn:

Berried to the Hilt is the fourth book of the Gray Whale Inn Mystery series by Karen MacInerney.  Natalie once again finds herself in the middle of a murder, but with a local friend on the line, she is willing to investigate even after her near drowning from her last experience.  The story focuses on the murder and hunt for the sunken ship, however the fun secondary storyline of Natalie getting ready to judge the annual cranberry bake-off, and starting to think of her upcoming wedding to artist and deputy John Quinton, lightens the load.

Cranberry Island is full of great characters: from Natalie's best friend, Charlene, who is also the postmistress/general store owner and hub of gossip, to Adam, college-kid-turned-lobsterman who is also in love with Natalie's niece, Gwen.  Other island regulars carry from book to book and bring a quirky small marine community to life.  MacInerney doesn't stint on the details.  From boat rides across choppy ocean water to the numerous baked goods flowing through the kitchen doors of the Inn, I felt transported to this isolated island town.

Natalie works hard to help her friend be proven innocent, although her tactics can leave something to be desired.  She is a definite snoop, although a caring one, and some may find that a difficult trait to deal with in a main character.  The suspense builds right up to the end, and makes Berried to the Hilt another strong entry into the cozy mystery genre.

A component of any good cozy, the recipes do not disappoint either!  Based on the meals that Natalie serves through the book, and the winner of the Cranberry Bake-Off, they are a great addition to anyone's recipe box.  I also like that the publisher doesn't take the normal stance of blazing "RECIPES INCLUDED" on the cover, and just leaves them as a nice addition to the book.

The Ink:

Title:  Berried to the Hilt (#4, The Gray Whale Inn Mysteries)
Author:  Karen MacInerney
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Date: November 2010
Read:  Library Trade Paperback

07 February 2011

In My Mailbox (2)

Welcome to my second post of In My Mailbox.  In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and is my biweekly chance to highlight the books I received for review, purchased or borrowed from the library.

Received for Review:





From NetGalley I received the latest Walker Papers book from C.E. Murphy, Spirit Dances (LUNA, March), and a novella trilogy, The Knitting Diaries (MIRA, March), by Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery and Christina Skye.

Borrowed:

Oh dear.  Someone really should keep me out of the library sometimes.

I am kidding.  Really, You'd have to chain me to a fleet of horses and have them drag me far, far away.  They'd have to stop sometime.  Hopefully somewhere in my library network.

Anyways, this is what I brought home these past two weeks.






Cast In Chaos (Chronicles of Elantra, #6) by Michelle Sagara.  I have loved the development of Kaylin Neya through these books.

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes.  The definition of "homemaking" has changed through the ages, so what does it look like now?

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn.  Shinn's Twelve Houses series has been one that I always scoop up as soon as I see them, so I am excited to see what she writes outside of it.

Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper by C. Marina Marchese.  One woman's memoir about finding her love for bees and making a business out of it.

How to Wed a Baron by Kasey Michaels.  I am sure I have read a couple of her romances.  This is my "what I read in between review books" book.

Howling at the Moon. On the Prowl.  Leader of the Pack by Karen MacInerney.  This is MacInerney's urban fantasy series Tales of an Urban Werewolf.  She also writes the Grey Whale Inn Mysteries, which I have really enjoyed and will be reviewing the latest one tomorrow.  I may review these as a group.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman.  I have seen other blogs gearing up for Eona, which looks terrific, so I want to read this.

The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality In Local Food by Ben Hewitt.  It's locavore at its best.  And in Vermont!

The Viking in the Wheat Field by Susan Dworkin.  In 1999 wheat fields began dying. Scientists began looking for strains of wheat that could survive this disease and to make them available without the confines of privatization and patents.

A Stitch Before Dying by Anne Canadeo.  Besides being a cozy knitting mystery, I picked this up because of the cover, which includes a bonsai, and that the mystery is set in the Berkshires.

The Cruel Ever After: A Jane Lawless Mystery by Ellen Hart.  I have read this series from the beginning.  The eighteenth book finds restauranteur Jane having to defend her ex-husband from a murder rap.  Obviously I need to start at the beginning again because I didn't even know Jane was once married!

Purchased:

A Christmas gift card from my sweetie allowed me to acquire these two titles, otherwise I would still be scouring used bookstores.  Well, I will still do that anyways, just not for these:




The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond.  If you do not follow the Pioneer Woman on Twitter or read her blog, you are missing out on some amazing recipes.  I am thrilled to have a lot of the ones that I have liked, and a few that I haven't tried yet, bound together and not relying on my internet to provide them to me.  The pictures are amazing, and she writes like you are sitting in front of her at the kitchen table.

Hit By A Farm by Catherine Friend.  I picked this book up a while ago from the library and have been on-and-off searching for a copy to own.  When Friend and her partner acquire land enough for their dreams of farming, they realize there is a lot to learn, and laugh about, along the way.  Friend also writes children's books.

Happy Reading!

03 February 2011

Review: Trio of Sorcery

The Book:

Mercedes Lackey brings three strong heroines in a trio of novellas spanning the decades.  Arcanum 101 has Diana Tregarde, witch and Guardian, heading into her freshman year at Harvard with a kidnapping, a psychic and a courseload looming.  In Drums, Osage shaman and private investigator Jennifer Talldeer faces off against an old and angry ghost looking for his lost love.  The final story, Ghost in the Machine, brings in  "techno-mage" Ellen McBride and finds that the power of online gaming isn't always just computer chips and code; it can be magic as well.

The Yarn:

When I was in college and working at the local Waldenbooks, I came across the first Diana Tregarde book, Burning Water.  After devouring the next two (Children of the Night and Jinx High) I was sad to learn there would be no more stories about her.   When I saw this book sitting on the shelf at the local bookstore, 20 years later, I was thrilled to have her back.

This story goes even further back: back to the early 1970s, when Diana was a teen, heading off to college and newer into her Guardian powers.  Called on by contacts in the local police department to sniff out a fraudulent psychic. Diana soon discovers this psychic is no fraud, and must use her power to bring a kidnapper to justice.  Lackey brings a little more of Diana's back story in, her parents' death, her grandmother and her first Guardian battle.  Lackey also brings the time period into focus with vivid scene descriptions.  Diana was always older than her years, being a witch and a Guardian (one who is tasked with helping and protecting others) brings a maturity that is balanced by the other college students living upstairs from her, especially as they become involved in her investigation.

During that time (early 1990s) I also picked up a copy of Sacred Ground.  Jennifer Talldeer was another strong heroine, battling evil spirits and bad businessman as an apprentice shaman and private investigator.  Lackey brings her back right where she stopped: reforming her relationship with her boyfriend David, sparring with her grandfather, and bringing her strength as an investigator and a shaman together to help a young man discover why his girlfriend was dropping out of sight.  While he was fearing a difference in their Native American backgrounds, no one was expecting a ghost to be in the middle of this investigation.  Jennifer Talldeer's relationship with her powers as a shaman and spiritual warrior were balanced by her intelligence and prowess as an investigator.

Ellen McBride is a brand new heroine.  While I do not partake in MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), I have played *cough* several online games and know that the amounts of personal energy that go into them can be tremendous.  Between the players and the programmers' belief in their creation, they bring a Wendigo to life in their game, one that threatens to break out of the machine and enter the real world.  Ellen comes in with her coding abilities - and her magical ones - to help take the creature down.  The interactions between Ellen and the other programmers is quick and smart, and this story is hopefully  (please, pretty please?) the start of a new series from Lackey.

Mercedes Lackey is a skilled author, pulling from many different traditions and beliefs to create the various worlds in her books.  Time and technology actually followed through all three stories: from the lack of it in Diana's college days in the 70's, to Jenni and David lamenting about needing cell phones that were not the size of bricks, to Ellen's elaborate workstation set-up that would make a programmer weep.  Her magical familiar/robot dog was a treat too, especially for those who loved K-9 from Doctor Who.

While the stories here are self-contained, I would definitely recommend reading the previous Diana Tregarde and Jennifer Talldeer books.  Trio of Sorcery is a wonderful collection for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy with smart female leads.

The Ink:

Title: Trio of Sorcery
Author:  Mercedes Lackey
Publisher: Tor Books
Date:  November 2010
Read:  Library Hardcover

01 February 2011

Review: 666 Park Avenue

The Book:

Can fairy tales really come true?  Architect Jane Boyle has felt like she has been in one the last month, after meeting the most handsome and wealthy Malcolm Doran.  With a diamond on her finger and love on her side, Jane leaves her home in Paris to move with Malcolm to New York and start her happily-ever-after.

However, in New York Jane's tale takes a darker turn as she meets her soon-to-be mother-in-law and the rest of the Doran family.  Being groomed for a position in one of Manhattan's famously infamous families may be like becoming a princess, but what will happen when Jane discovers that magic isn't just between the covers of books, but alive in her world and herself?

The Yarn:

Gabriella Pierce's debut novel takes a bit from fairy tales and present-day romance.  In fact, this book is hard to put a strict label on. I was never sure if I was reading chick-lit, urban fantasy or paranormal romance at times.  For those who tend to be purists in their reading, this may be a little difficult at the beginning while Jane jumps from being romanced by Malcolm in Paris to figuring out her magic in New York.  As Jane learns more about the family she is marrying into and locks wills with Malcolm's mother, Lynne, the action speeds up and Jane goes from being an overwhelmed girl to a woman confident in her self and her abilities.  I enjoyed Jane's utter acceptance of her magic in the modern world, which many times doesn't happen in other books.

With writing that is descriptive and a plot without too many holes, Pierce still leaves room for a sequel.  666 Park Avenue conjures a tale that both modern romance and fantasy readers will enjoy.

The Ink:

Title:  666 Park Avenue
Author:  Gabriella Pierce
Publisher:  William Morrow
Date:  February 2011
Read:  LibraryThing Early Reviewer