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Archive for the 'Reading' Category

Monday, February 11th, 2013
and another thing

I forgot to mention that I won a book on GoodReads Giveaways! It’s the new, not quite out yet Seanan McGuire novel Midnight Blue Special. It’s an Incryptid novel
and I really like the first one, so I’m excited to read the second. And I won something! I never win things.

Sunday, January 20th, 2013
Meet Krista Ball and Learn Very Cool Things

A little while ago, I was asked to read with the possibility of blurbing Krista Ball’s new book, What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank. It is currently available in electronic form and will shortly be available in print form. I LOVE this book. It’s one of those that you read slowly to savor and mark up a bunch for notes. It’s not just excellent for researching books, but just learning cool stuff. I talked Krista into doing some blog posts here (twisted arm, whatever) and she kindly agreed (feared for her life).
kings ate

A little bio:

According to her mother, Krista D. Ball tells lies for a living. She is the author of several short stories, novellas, and novels. Krista incorporates as much historical information into her work as possible, mostly to justify her student loan payments. Whenever she gets annoyed, she blows something up in her fiction. Regular readers of her work have commented that she is annoyed a lot.

A link to Krista’s publications.

So without further ado, here is the first visit from Krista:

Beer, Brains, and Butter: My Adventures with Historical Food

I love food. I mean, who doesn’t? We all have a favourite food or a family recipe. Many of us have special attachment to the way Grandma made something and, try as we may, we can never replicate that same meal even when following her recipe. But why do we feel that way?

We don’t need elaborate cakes, cookies, and meat pies to live. Yet, every culture throughout history has developed different local tastes and preferences that eventually developed into regional and cultural identities. Food is much more than just mere survival; it is an extension of who we are.

It is this history and culture surrounding food that has always fascinated me. Bread riots, starving soldiers, Corn Laws: all of this tells us so much about what it means to be human. Whip a man and he’ll continue to obey your orders. Stop feeding him and he’ll desert to the enemy. Don’t pay the peasants and they’ll grumble; tax their grain and they’ll storm the castle.

It was early 2011 and I was neck-deep in writing the second book of my epic fantasy series when Tina Moreau of Tyche Books called me up to chat. We knew each other, so this wasn’t too crazy or anything.

Tina “casually” mentioned that I should write a proposal for a fantasy writer’s guide about food. Oh my. I’d been threatening to write something along those lines for quite a while, but never got up the courage. I ended up running my ideas by some writer friends, who then threatened to tie me to a chair if I did not submit a proposal. So, I wrote out an outline and the rest is history.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to chat about researching and replicating old recipes and skills (including grinding my own flour with rocks), and what it was like reliving some of the past.
Here are one of the fun recipes from the book:

Plumb Porridge (Okay, I asked if it was really supposed to be spelled with a -b- and yes, it is–note from Di)

Boil a leg of beef in ten gallons of water until tender. Strain out the broth, wipe the pot, and put the broth back in. Thinly slice six small loaves of bread (cut off the top and bottom) and pour some of the broth over into the bread. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then put the bread into the pot and boil for 15 minutes.

Add five pounds each of currants and raisins, and two pounds of prunes, along with three-quarters an ounce of mace, half an ounce of cloves, two nutmegs (all ground together and mixed with cold stock). Stir into the broth and bread.

Remove the pot from the heat and add three pounds of sugar, salt to taste, a quart of sack (sweet white wine imported from Spain), a quart of claret (a type of red wine from Bordeaux), and lemon juice. Serve.

What are some of your favorite food memories? Please share!


Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
books you hate or can’t read

Sf Mindmeld had a post on books that people hated (and why) or why they couldn’t read them. I thought it was fascinating. There are a fair number of books in the ‘classics” kind of area that I have not liked or haven’t been able to read. I keep wanting to try because they are supposed classics, but I find that either they, or I, simply are not in tune.

I think it’s interesting what turns each person off and what turns them on. There are a fair number of books I agree with on this list. Books I’ve started but not finished. And yet I haven’t quit trying. I have not read a lot of Heinlein and I have not read Stranger in a Strange Land. I read other Heinlein as a kid and didn’t like it. What I remember was that the books had flat characters and bored me to tears. As I got older, I never could pick them up again with any liking. But I haven’t tried seriously in awhile and I feel like I should.

I have to admit that I’m not terribly fond of reading Tolkien. I admire the language and the story, but I don’t find the characters that developed and I think there are a fair number of digressions that I don’t care for. I have trouble getting through the books. But I love the movies. I do love the worldbuilding though.

When it comes to issues of women, I do tend to look for good portrayals of women and I do not like rape stories or stories where women are simply receptacles for men, or cardboard stereotypes. But then, same about men. I like good fully developed characters. I don’t mind violence in general (obviously), but I do need it to be appropriate to the story. I like complexity and difficulty, but I also like breezy reads.

I’ve not had luck reading American Gods, but I wonder if it’s me and I need to try again. I never liked Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey. Or I should say, I couldn’t get into the book. I kept putting it down. It was beloved by many people. Nor do I like the Twilight books. Or rather, the first I couldn’t read. I started, but I can’t get past anyone going back to high school on purpose, nor can I get past the whole stalker element. There are a lot of books that I have on my TRB shelf (oh, they are really packed in boxes many of them) that I’ve been meaning to read and haven’t been that interested in, despite how acclaimed the books are. The thing is, as an academic, I want to read things that stretch me and ask more of me than just pure entertainment value. I think it’s good for my mind, my soul, and my creative spirit. But I do not like to be bored.

I’m curious though, what books have you tried that a lot of people/critics like and you’ve found wanting?

I’ve been tempted to start some sort of reading group here on the blog. Maybe read one book a month and do a discussion here. Would anybody be interested? I don’t know what sorts of books we’d pick. Probably things that have been recommended to us by reviews or other readers or by general acclaim. Thoughts

Sunday, December 30th, 2012
I’m a tea whore

I admit it. I buy more tea than I can possibly drink and I might not do anything for it, but I will do a fair bit. Anyhow, headed to Portland today with a friend to slip into Teavana. And they were having a 75% off most of their teas sale. Yowza. I’d gone to get some green tea. Ended up with four different teas. Yeah. Then tried to find a B&N nearby to sign stock, but no luck. Did find a B&N at Bridgeport Village and signed there, though they didn’t have much. But at least I got on their radar. Maybe.

Ate a great salad at Sweet Tomatoes, and then came home and walked dogs. In the meantime, the man was subjected entirely to the children. Bwhahahahaha! Ahem. Did I laugh? I don’t know why I would do that.

I also finished Maria Snyder’s Touch of Magic last night. I enjoyed it a fair bit. It’s light fantasy and has a number of anachronisms that I think are deliberate. I liked her ensemble cast and their relationships and I liked the main character–Avry. She was strong and though there was an element of–why didn’t they just talk to each other to straighten things out? It was decently legitimate that they didn’t and everyone made assumptions, which were reasonably natural to do. It’s got some romance, and there is clearly more to come. In fact I downloaded the next book and will start it soon. The third book is probably a ways out on the horizon. I think this one stands alone, though, so if you’re looking for a fast, lighter fantasy with a slight romance, then you should dig in. It begins with some great action and you’re in the thick of it by the second page.

Monday, November 19th, 2012
Here’s a problem

I just got Martha Wells’ the Siren Depths. I want to read it. A lot. I didn’t think it was out for another month. But I feel this deepseated need to reread the first two in the series. I LOVE these books. So I don’t know what to do! *scream*

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
when books fail

I started a book today. Reading it, that is. I didn’t get far. Maybe two chapters, and I don’t really like it. I’m going to keep reading, because I thought the premise was so interesting, but I hope things improve. Here’s the major issue I’m having: over-explaining. For instance, a new character enters and begins talking to the other character, and the conversation is very As-You-Know-Bobish. The dialog is fairly stilted as well and instead of letting me sort through the clues, the writer gives clues, and then explains just in case I missed it. I’m not that stupid.

This is a common problem for newer writers (This is the writers fourth or fifth book, so . . . but I digress). It’s really easy to not trust your readers and yourself. It’s easy to say too much and not trust that your descriptions and your dialog will tell the story. It’s like saying: “Don’t do that!” he shouted. Do we need he shouted? I mean, isn’t it redundant? Or take this from my WIP:

He slipped her arbret sprinkled on a goldfruit, knowing she’d pleasure herself insensible with little help from him. As it was, he chewed malda bark to keep his prick hard and sat her on his lap facing away so that she couldn’t see the agony etching his face as she vigorously rode him. There was no danger—or hope—for pregnancy, the malda bark saw to that.

I’m hoping you figure out by the description that they are about to have sex, that he isn’t all that into it, that he’s sick and doesn’t want her to know, and he doesn’t want to get her pregnant. That, to me, should be fairly obvious. I could add on to it and actually say it again, but really, I only do that on some important enough to merit repetition. Sadly, the book I’m reading has a lot of obvious stuff that is then explained, yanno, just in case. So it’s driving me nuts. And like I said, I picked the book up because I love the premise. I should have downloaded the sample, I guess.