13 December 2010

Book Review: Twice Bitten

The Book:

The third installment of Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series (Twice Bitten follows Some Girls Bite and Friday Night Bites) finds Merit continuing to try to balance her personal life and issues with the more public one of being the Cadogan House Sentinel, a lead guard of one of the three vampire houses in Chicago. The vampires are growing in popularity, causing shifts in the supernatural world that was once hidden away.  The shapeshifters are now convening in Chicago to possibly make themselves public, plus heal old wounds with the vampires from years past.  Merit's master vampire, Ethan Sullivan, has offered her services to protect the Alpha, Gabriel Keene.  No problem, right?  Wrong - Merit not only has to deal with the assassins who are after Gabriel, but also a master who wreaks havoc with her senses and emotions, a best friend (and sorceress) with whom she is on the outs, and finally an offer from an outside group that could put Merit's loyalties to her house in question.

The Yarn:

I have read all three of this series and am happy to say that the storyline is steadily being built forward and sideways where Merit is concerned.  The dialogue Neill has created, especially between Merit and Mallory, her best friend before and after her transformation, is quick, chuckle-causing and normal to any two twenty-somethings.  Age is a definite factor in the vampire world, as those who look young have been around for centuries, and power increases with age.  Merit's quick rise to Sentinel of Cadogan House has caused some challenge since she is so new, and as the relationship between Merit and Ethan continues to heat up, Merit finds that the age difference is still a factor with her master's near four-hundred years of walking the earth.

As a librarian I am really enjoying that she tends to fall asleep with books, does a lot of research again in the House library, and in this book actually runs into the House librarian for the first time. 

Neill does a nice job of having the characters give quick snippets of backstory in the first chapters so a reader picking up this book wouldn't be leaping into a pile of unknown characters and history, but who would want to miss any of the rise of this English literature graduate student turned feisty vampire elite?

The Ink:

Title:         Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires #3)

Author:      Chloe Neill
Publisher:  NAL Trade
Date:        July 2010
Read:        Library Book

04 December 2010

Book Review: Mockingjay

Note:  Some spoilers in the following review.

The Book:

Suzanne Collins finishes off her highly acclaimed Hunger Games series with
Mockingjay.  After reading the first couple of chapters at a friend's home, I ended up picking up the ebook for my Nook and have finally finished the book while waiting for my Thanksgiving meal to digest.

Katniss Everdeen survived the Games, not once, but twice.  Rescued by the rebels of District 13 but separated from Peeta, Katniss finally accepts that to finally break the chains that the Capitol has on the rest of the Districts, she must fully pick up the mantle as the Mockingjay.  First in the hands of President Snow, now in the hands of the rebels' President Coin, Katniss discovers that being the face to the rebellion is not the same as being in control.  Katniss must deal not only with her pursuit in assassinating Snow, but with her conflicted feelings for Gale and Peeta.  Everything Katniss discovers puts her on the path leading to the final battle at the Capitol, where winning the war isn't the same as winning freedom, and the truth is not always easy to live with.

The Yarn:

Living was a theme that permeated this book: Katniss had to make and eventually live with many choices that resulted in several deaths throughout the book.  Her sense of responsibility for her family, for Gale and Peeta, for her styling team and final squad is in conflict with her own need to make things right for her - to kill President Snow and help the Districts live free from the Capitol's rule.  But with each new discovery that all is not as obvious as right and wrong, Katniss makes a climactic decision after the last battle which changes everything, including her thoughts on who should live and who should die.

I wasn't surprised by Katniss' slant from altruistic to selfish motives of revenge and back, not even when she voted in support of running the Games again at the end.  What did surprise me was how the Gale vs. Peeta storyline kind of washed out.  Who she ended up with was not too much of a stretch, but the lack of dynamic collision between the characters made it seem like Katniss just let life throw the person at her, as opposed to her making decisions, as she lamented about during the conversation Gale and Peeta had about her before the final battle.

I believe that Mockingjay is a solid ending to the series, but I was not as swept into the story as I was with its predecessors, especially Catching Fire.

The Ink:

Title:         Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)

Author:      Suzanne Collins
Publisher:  Scholastic
Date:        August 2010
Read:        Barnes and Noble Nookbook

30 November 2010

Book Review: Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden Files

Note: Some spoilers from Changes in the following review.

The Book:

Jim Butcher's Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files (2010) is a collection of stories about Harry Dresden: his world, his work, and the varied characters of friends, family, colleagues and enemies. All but one have been previous published. Highlights include "Restoration of Faith", one of Butcher's first works where readers can first meet Harry, glance at Officer Murphy, and see that Harry mantle of "protector of children" has always been worn. "Last Call" is one of two stories that shines a light on the ever dour but enjoyable Mac and his bar, and Harry's friends Will, Georgia and the rest of the young werewolves bring unfortunate work during Harry's "Day Off". Not all are told from Harry's perspective, as his brother Thomas' lead in "Backup" shows Harry outside of the droll internal monologue that is the normal point of view in the novels.

In the last story, the brand-new novella "Aftermath", which begins just after the final scene in Changes, the view shifts to the ever-present Murphy. We find that Murphy may not be carrying her badge anymore, but her cop instincts are tested to their limits as she steps up to investigate the disappearance of werewolves in the wake of the decimation of the Red Court, while simultaneously dealing with the increasing evidence of Harry's death.

The Yarn:

While I had read most of these stories before in various anthologies, being able to read them all together and in order gave me a more cohesive view of Harry and the intricate web of secondary characters. These relationships are what makes Harry shine in his role as investigator and friend, and I look forward to diving into the stories about each of them as much as I do about Harry. Butcher's continuing development of Harry's brother Thomas, his assistant Molly, and (among my personal favorites) "allied enemies" like the Valkyrie Gard give Dresden a broader life beyond his supernatural PI role. It is because of this large number of characters that I would not recommend this book to those who have never read any of the Dresden Files before. However, it is a great refresher for those (like me!) anxiously awaiting the next book. While "Aftermath" gives no relief to the climactic ending of Changes, it will make the reader resolve to believe as Murphy does, and keep going "until Dresden gets back."

The Ink:

Title:       Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
Author:    Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Date:       October 2010

16 November 2010

Reading, Writing, Reviewing

I read.  I read a lot.  Not as much as I used to when I was younger, I admit, but then I didn't have a life beyond my homework, my art  and my books.  Now, I have a job and niblets and a house and a cat and friends and...well, a bit more than I did in my teen years.  But, I do still have books.  Not as many as I used to keep and cart around, but some that have traveled with me since I was a child.  Hopefully some of those my children will eventually pick up.  I also admit to being a fast reader due to skimming more than reading, at times.

I loved being a cataloger and acquisitions librarian in my previous jobs, as that gave me the chance to buy books for my libraries, to make decisions on what to add to the collections, for patrons (including myself) to have access to and read.  Such joy!   Part of this joy was reading review sources: Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Ingram and even websites like B & N and Amazon.

I always wanted to be one of those reviewers.  However, one thing I never got the hang of in library school was reviewing.  My only experience with it was in my Childrens' Literature course, and I never made my instructor happy with my reviews.  I would compare what I wrote to what I saw in those publications, to my fellow students in class.  I lost faith in my ability to do them, much like I lost my faith in my art when I compared myself to what I saw others produce.

I thought I couldn't write, but here I am putting pieces of me in posts for the whole world to see.  Of course I can write.  I am just my harshest critic.

My current job is out of libraries, but I am still a librarian.  I handle library catalogs and webpages instead of books and CDs.  But I still love reading, and sharing that with other people.  Being a LibraryThing Early Reviewer has made me dip my toe back into reviewing books.  I have also just signed up for NetGalley and received my first couple of items from Harlequin there to read and review.  You will start seeing some of those reviews here too, along the way.

If I can put my thoughts about my work, my home, my kids - all things that I love - here on my blog, why not about something else I enjoy?  Why not?

04 January 2010

Books and Bread

I know - this blog is about books and yarn and ink, right? Trust me, I have yarn, and I WILL have yarn. I have projects on hand and in the head. More will be forthcoming...as will ink.

But for now...

It has been a bookish year for me - not only in reading, which I always have a stack on hand from the library - but actually keeping track of what I read. I love that my library account lets me track my reading history. I know that some people, some librarians won't due to issues with the Patriot Act and believing the less records the better. But dammit, Homeland Security, I don't care if you know that I checked out Catching Fire, A Year of Ritual, and Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Workshop this past week!

Thanks to LibraryThing, I have been able to not only track them better, but compare them to my friends and fellow bookaholics online. I also participated in SantaThing this year, and not only was thrilled with the titles sent to me, Gardening for the Faint of Heart and Storm Born, but had my own passion for young adult literature reignited with playing Santa for another. I completely recommend it!

I picked up the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day not long after reading one of its first reviews. I love artisan bread, but not always its prices. The idea of being able to get a loaf of fresh bread on the table in around an hour was quite exciting, but it sat on my shelf for a while. I did run through one attempt while still living in my apartment. The bread was fine, but the dough was very wet.

Now settling into the house, both my husband and I love fresh bread. Plus I had to pick up the 5 Minutes a Day sequel (Healthy Bread in 5...)this fall when it came out, so we determined it was time to try again. Knowing the issues I had with the loose dough before, I increased the flour by 1/2 cup.

This time - the dough seemed to be right! Loose enough to rise and flatten in the container in the fridge, but not slide through my fingers as I grabbed a large handful to shape into the next loaf.

How successful?

Is that not the most beautiful thing?

And tonight I moved forward in the book and tried a new loaf shape:

Oui, oui...une baguette!

But, that's not all! We also got a manual pasta roller and cutter for Christmas (thanks, Mom!) and while at first my husband was a little bemused about receiving it (The current argument from him in the house exactly how many kitchen accoutrements we must have. Since between us we have three French presses, and two are not mine, I win.) after pulling its shiny silver shape out of the box enthusiasm took over. Last week he made a batch of pasta dough and cut it took spaghetti, then hung it to dry.

He came up with the curtain-rod-as-drying-rack idea. He's smart and handy like that. The dinner was delicious: fresh pasta, fresh bread and sauce made from crushed tomatoes, spices and agave syrup.

So, winter is rearing its head here in MA now. It snowed through most of the weekend and the temps are finally staying low enough to keep the snow around. However, I now have a bright spot in January:

I think these are almost as pretty as the bread. Almost.

I will be waiting anxiously until the yard becomes clear again. You see, this year I will get to create my garden. From scratch. Our home's owner didn't plant outside, and has pretty much given me free rein to garden. I have lots of plans, plans for vegetable beds and herbs. For a couple flower beds too. With the fences bordering parts of the property, there is plenty of space for berry bushes and lilac bushes too!

Plenty of space, and lots of plans. Lots of work also, and probably far more than my budget will allow. But a girl can dream.
This girl does.