Reviews

Jul. 5th, 2015 05:02 pm
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
The more observant of you will have noticed that I haven't been posting reviews for the last couple of months. This is due to a couple of reasons:

  1. my head kinda broke a bit—mostly reaction from stress. The workstress is pretty much over, but I'm still reacting to it, and the homestress is ongoing, although with a lower intensity level. As a result I cut back on some committments and also online communicating. It was all a bit too much.

  2. LOTNA, the SF group in London that [personal profile] the_eggwhite and I go to, has a bimonthly fanzine produced by and for the members. I've given them a my review of A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, but my thought is that I will give them two reviews for each magazine, which I will then post here, so there will be a gap whilst I move to the new schedule.


My criteria will remain the same for choosing the books.
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
I am late this month, thanks to organising a mini-gaming con, and also getting distracted into reading both Wolf Hall and Bringing Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (the latter two occupied nearly a week of reading time each).

Still, after racking my brains for what I did read this month, I do have a review offering for you. And it's a good one!

Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Copyright:2014
Publisher: self-published but has been picked up by Hodder & Stoughton - see below
Obtained: e-book from Amazon
Author Website: Other Scribbles
Reason for review: This is an ensemble cast novel and only one of the least-used viewpoints is a white male (and he is hardly heroic). The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is self-published and was shortlisted for best debut in the Kitschies Awards, but has since been picked up by Hodder & Stoughton, been given a new cover and will be out in hardcopy in August this year (I plan to pick up a hardcover too). I read it twice in a week, made [personal profile] the_eggwhite read it—and he enjoyed it.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry, Planet is readily available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, and I believe also from Kobo.

Blurb:Welcome aboard the Wayfarer.

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.


So, this is a delightful romp of a sf novel. As the title suggests, it is all about the journey not the destination (although as could be anticipated the destination isn't ideal and is then final climax of the book). Essentially the main job of the crew of this ship is creating wormhole tunnels for other ships to use (handwaved generally with enough plausible-seeming info for this non-sciency person) and with the arrival of their new clerk, submit a bid for and win the tender for creating a major new wormhole. They just have to travel for a year to get to the start point first! Ensembles are far more common in TV than books and it is nice to see a true ensemble book.

Our cast include several humans: Ashby the Captain who keeps the show on the road, who has to be friendly with his employees since he's living on a tin can in space with them, but also has to be their boss; Kizzy, the engineer, who reminds me of a cross between Kaylee in Firefly and Abby in NCIS; Jenks, the computer software engineer who also does some electrical engineering; Corbin the awkward white male algae farmer who makes the fuel and is obsessed with making it the best possible mix (almost but not quite the most minor viewpoint); and Rosemary, the ship's clerk who is new to the ship and to space which gives lots of good excuses for info-dumping. She is also the primary recurring viewpoint character (if this book could be said to have one),. The non-humans crew include Lovey, the ship's AI; Sissix, the reptilian Aandrisk pilot; Ohan, a Sianat Pair, an alien, who, because of a virus, is basically a wormhole calculator; and Dr Chef, a Grum, who is both the ship's medic and the ship's cook. Given the long trip they are on, reasons are found to meet family of, visit planets or learn backstory for most of the crew but particularly the non-humans.

First of all, I love that their clerk is the one that makes this possible. Paperwork is important guys! It isn't quite competent bureaucracy porn but it's respectable. I could stand to see more of Rosemary being a competent ships clerk. In addition, being print rather than screen, Chambers is not limited in how her aliens should look, and like James White, takes advantage of this. Also, humans are not the most powerful species in the galaxy which is often nice, and earth is ruined thanks to humans—the latter seems quite realistic to me.

This book is a slice-of-life novel. Nothing wrong with that—I quite like slice of life novels, particularly when they are done as well as this one is. For those of you who read fanfiction, it reminds me a bit of fic; for those of you who don't, the reminder is not a bad thing. I considered whether it reminded me of the Nathan Lowell Quarter Share series (another slice-of-live living-on-spaceships book, originally published in audio) and concluded that it didn't: whilst I enjoyed Quarter Share, later books in the series were a bit too creepy for me and I gave up on them. Also, they were all first person from one character's perspective, neither of which The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet are. Nor is it creepy, which yay.

On this ship, the crew works on the legit (but blue-collar) side of the law; they have a job, which they are good at; and the rest of the book is about the crew's relationships to each other. We do not quite go on a tour of each person's background, but throughout the book we do learn about some of the history for each character, but also what is important to them now. It focuses on the relationships between each character, and Chambers keeps things going with a deft hand. The relationships are not entirely what you would expect, and clearly illustrate the sf romance trope that humans can fall in love with any being (it is important to note that these loves are not all the eternal-love type of romance, but they are important now and it is worth trying).

One of my favourite quoteable bits is Sissix complaining to Dr Chef about humans and how they smell, Dr Chef saying he'd put odor neutralising formula in their soap and the humans hadn't noticed!

Language and use of gender is important. There is an underlying message about respecting people and how they wish to be perceived and called. Thought has also gone into body image both internal and external and how to be comfortable with yourself.

If elements of this book, upon reflection, seem a bit formulaic, moralistic or predictable I am fine with that, particularly since it fits in generally with left wing views. The storytelling is engaging, with a fairly light hand and it is, quite frankly, just a fun book to read. It never gets heavy or overwhelming and that sense of fun and the authorial light hand with drama makes it an easy and enjoyable read.

I will be keeping an eye out for more fiction by Becky Chambers.

If you like Firefly or Farscape or ensemble slice-of-life stories, then this is the book for you.

Other books I could have reviewed instead this month: Half-Life and Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang, Talk Sweetly to Me and Trade Me by Courtney Milan,
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
Title: Spirits Abroad
Author: Zen Cho
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Buku Fixi
Obtained: e-book from Amazon
Reason for reviewing: short story collection by a Malaysian woman living in London, set in both London and Malaysia
Author website: ZenCho.org

Spirits Abroad is readily available in ebook from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Google Play, and Smashwords and in print from Amazon and Fixi

Blurb: “If you live near the jungle, you will realise that what is real and what is not real is not always clear. In the forest there is not a big gap between the two.”

A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.

Straddling the worlds of the mundane and the magical, SPIRITS ABROAD collects 10 science fiction and fantasy stories with a distinctively Malaysian sensibility.


Spirits Abroad is one of those rare short story collections in which I don't actively dislike any of the stories. The hit rate for really liking the stories is also much better than usual (four or five rather than two), but I genuinely enjoyed the rest as well, although they currently blur into one another.

Each story is written with a light and deft hand. As would be expected from the book title, spirits are very much present, but they are presented as fact rather than fiction and something you just need to placate or manage as you would any other aspect of your life from work to family. I should probably note that the spirits mentioned (almost without exception) are not Western ghosts or dragons and that generally they are referred to by their Chinese or Malaysian name - I am not familiar enough with either language to know which is which.

The book is divided into locational sections: Here, There, Elsewhere and Going Back, but throughout these, there are two other main themes. The first is family: loved, liked, irritating, close or distant, pressuring but always important. I adored the first story ('The First Witch of Damansara'), in which the main character returns to Malaysia for her grandmother's funeral, and works out a way to collude with her younger sister to placate their Nai Nai's ghost. It is an excellent start. 'The House of Aunts' is all about family being somewhat interfering but ultimately wanting the best for the POV character. On a side note, I was amused by the author noting afterwards that while the aunts are made up of an amalgam of her aunts, they wouldn't be happy about this so please don't tell them!

The second theme is education and the importance thereof. Vivian, in 'The First Witch of Damansara' moved away for her education and to get a good office job and fiance (she did this in the right order); Ah Lee in 'The House of Aunts' is still at school and her Aunts are very keen that she get a university degree before marriage; in There, 'One-Day Travelcard for Fairyland' is set at a UK boarding school - actually all of the stories in There either revolve around school or university or the characters are at school or university. 'The Fish Bowl' is a somewhat worrying story about exams.

Other stand out stories for me were 'The First National Forum on the Position of Minorities in Malaysia', which anyone who has had to organise or moderate a round table discussion of experts should appreciation, 'Prudence and the Dragon' and its follow-on 'The Perseverance of Angela's Past Life' were both engaging and delightful. I enjoy both Prudence and Angela's different practical perspectives. 'The Mystery of the Suet Swain' was also excellent commentary on stalking and how it's not cool, but also how you can support your friends if someone is being that sort of douchebag. And for people like me, who don't pick up on this sort of thing very well, helps to identify when that sort of thing is happening.

The protagonists of these stories are almost all young Chinese Malaysian woman (as is the author) and thanks to the author's notes at the end on most of the stories, I know that the characters are strongly influenced by events in the author's life or people she knows. This means there is a certain similarity to most of the POV characters, but the situations are different and her hand is light enough that this isn't an issue in this collection. I will, however, be interested to see what she decides to write after she feels she has exhausted those ideas.

In short, therefore, this is an engaging collection which is well worth the read and one I would like in hard copy so I can loan it out to other people to read.

If you like Miyazaki films, anime about the family or home, books about being at school, or if you like your heroines to be practical and sensible (with the occasional touch of whimsy), then this is the collection for you.

Other books I have read this month that I could have revised instead: Invisible City by AC Buchanan, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho, Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, Dominica Malcolm editor and Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard. All of these are also well worth reading.
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
The Background: I am going on trip to New Zealand imminently, and rather than pack many many hardcopy books, I am stocking up my kindle with things I want to read. I asked my friends on some social media for genre recommendations, noting that I had a particular interest in diversity, namely race or gender.

The Realisation: The majority of recommendations came in and were mostly for books written by middle-aged white men (or women). I realised that amongst the people who responded, I probably read more diversely than many of them (or at the very least recommend more diversely).

The Resolution: to do a series of posts/reviews over the year for books that fit my very broad criteria. I plan to be relatively realistic, given time and energy, and write one per month. If there are books you'd like me to recommend or there's something you'd find useful for me to consider in a review, do let me know.

My criteria for a book to review currently is:

  1. is not written by a white male;
  2. has a protagonist that either is a person of colour or is non-heteronormative or is disabled or is part of a minority that I have not specifically named here;
  3. preferably not by a really well-known author;
  4. ideally was published within the last three years; and
  5. only one book per author per calendar year.


I recognise that this is very broad but I want to be inclusive rather than exclusive. In practice this means I will probably not review Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan or Sharing Knife series, nor anything by Octavia Butler (although both are excellent authors whom I enjoy reading and whose books fit the criteria above) but instead plan to focus on authors like N.K. Jemison, Aliette de Boddard, Wesley Chu, Lauren Beukes, Nnedi Okorafor and others. Conveniently, N.K. Jemison and Aliette de Boddard both have books coming out later this year.


Just to note: I read and enjoy many books written by middle-aged white men and will continue to do so—but those books are not the point of this review series. Instead, I want to share some of the recent books with that focus on diversity I mentioned that I have read and enjoyed with others in the hope that you might also enjoy them.

Expect the first review shortly: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.

Life, etc

Jul. 27th, 2014 10:02 pm
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Default)
Some months ago, my livejournal account was going to be renewed and thanks to my bank being overprotective, the payment was declined. I decided not to renew my paid LJ account and have finally set up one at Dreamwidth instead. I will still read in both places.

Haven't posted since May, but oh, well. In the intervening time, we have booked flights to New Zealand for January and done some of the booking for our travels around too. We still need to book accommodation for a night in Fox or Franz Josef, decide whether we are staying an extra night in Queenstown (and if so, book accommodation for that night) and also book flights back up north afterwards. It is in pretty good shape.

Since I have voting rights, I have dutifully been reading my way through all the Hugo nominations. There are some outstanding entries and some that left me cold. I will vote this week - I think it closes on Thursday! My bonus came through so I have also picked up a few new ebooks, including The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison which I have been resisting because it's 9GBP for the e-book! Also a couple of new James Hetley books - [personal profile] tamarillow you may be interested in checking them out (same universe as Dragon Eyes etc).

We came back from a week away with friends in Somerset on Friday and it is back to work tomorrow. I am not quite ready to be going back to work tomorrow—there is so much to do in the next two weeks! The week away was lovely; glorious weather, I cooked dinner for 21 once, ate and drank to my heart's content (and body's occasional displeasure) and swam daily. Also did lots of crosstitch and am making good progress on the wedding present for May.

In a couple of weeks there are two science fiction and fantasy geekery conventions: Nine Worlds and LonCon3. I feel more prepared to face them now (but have still not brought myself to look at the programme).
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Ladybirds)
I work on level 23 of a 26 story office building near the waterfront. Because there's another road parallel to the one my building is on that is a good seven stories or more above road level by my building, I rarely notice how high I am. Except when I see seagulls gliding below my window. One day I'll get a photo.

Cooked lots over the weekend (I forget what we had for dinner on Saturday night but also boiled a chicken for stock that day, gumbo using some of the stock and shredded chicken for dinner on Sunday), and cooked again tonight. I made this, but forgot to add the parmesan and butter to the polenta, so it wasn't as creamy and was a bit more lemony than I really prefer (I used half a cup of stock and some lemon juice and some water to make the polenta). Oh, and I used pork mince instead of lamb mince.

These things aside, it wasn't too bad. If the polenta was creamier, I think I would have liked it more. The flatmates seemed to like it though.

Note to self: do not leave prepared ingredients by the coffee-maker. You'll forget them.

Last weekend was the annual DCM bookfair. Normally, it's early September, but they had to shift it this year due to the Rugby World Cup and not being able to get a big enough venue during that time period. Worst weather we've ever had for it, I think. It was absolutely freezing. [profile] purplesparkler joined us for her inaugural trip down and we ran into [profile] darthsappho there. Both of them joined us for lunch at Leuven. I managed to get a small pile of Pratchett (for the first time ever) and Pegasus in Space which I was actually looking for, and picked up Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, Paul Gallico's The Lovel of Seven Dolls" (which is creepier than I rememebered - and that's saying something!).

Work hasn't been too bad lately. I am gathering all the information I need to give to my responsible partner for my legal exec registration. But somehow it keeps getting put aside so I can do chargable work...

Am still having trouble installing Alice: The Madness Returns on Annabelle. I eventually worked out that I needed to upgrade my system, and figured I'd just go straight to Windows 7, but no, that didn't work. Have finally got XP Service Pack 3 installed (which it should work on) and am still having issues. I'll try again this weekend.

This week I have read two thirds of (and finished) The Bonehunters by Steven Erickson. Reading the Tor commentary is helping me pick out more aspects, although they're a couple of books behind — they've just started House of Chains. I also read Deceiver by C J Cherryh today - big contrast in writing styles!
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Red Umbrella)
I have spent most of my spare time for the last couple of weeks trying to install Alice, trying to upgrade Annabelle so that I can install Alice (possibly I need to upgrade my motherboard, dammit), reading books both physical and electronic, and editing metadata. I also woke up every workday morning over that time desperately wishing I didn't have to go to work. So I arranged to take today off.

I slept in, hung out in the lounge in the sun, was sat on a lot by Jemima (who was determined to sit on me even when she was grumpy about it), read some and finished editing H in Calibre. The book I spent most of the day reading is The Madness of Angels: Or the resurrection of Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin. I think N. K. Jemisin recommended her books at some point.

It's interesting — quite disjointed in places and for a while I wasn't sure if some of the disjointedness, particularly in terms of spacing on the page was due to coding or if it was intentional. Having read most of the book now, I think it's intentional, but I would be interested in seeing a hardcopy for comparision. Main character slips between I and We a lot, even in the same sentence, and the grammar changes depending on where he's using I or We, and this is also where the spacing tends to change. Urban fantasy and a sorta a classic one man alone against the night, but not, and in a completely different way from Rivers of London — for one thing, it's his own death that Matthew is looking into.

I need to go to sleep before 3am tonight. I bet that will help.

Boosting the signal received from [livejournal.com profile] sraun: the fourth book of Diane Duane's Tales of the Five.

AKA The Door into Starlight, the fourth in the series starting The Door into Fire and continuing in The Door into Shadow and The Door into Sunset - go read Diane's post on it. And then pass along the word.

Also, she just released a newly updated e-book version of the omnibus here.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Neon cupcake)
Long weekend is almost over. Had [livejournal.com profile] callie over on Friday night, discovered that mixing average vodka and apple sourz together for shots improves both, and the resulting hangover took out most of Saturday. Note to self: do not drink good riesling (or good anything else for that matter) before drinking apple sourz or if the drinking is to get drunk.

Haven't done much else over the weekend. Went out for a walk on Sunday, lit the fire a couple of times, did laundry, checked a lot of meta data, cooked a bit...

Actually, I did have another go at getting my preferred sleep cassettte tape digitalised using Audacity, but gave up—for the amount of annoyance getting it right will cause me, I think it'll be better just to pay someone to do it. I have the original, and I won't be able to replace it when it wears out—it was hard enough finding a replacement some eight or nine years ago. New Zealand people, any recommendations?

I read some of the gay romance ebooks I picked up recently (the ones with an actual publisher rather than being self-published with obviously photo-shopped covers). They were terrible and not in the awesome way. I read them anyway. Most of the slash fic I read is better (it's better than most of the harlequins I read too). Maybe some fic writers should branch out.

...and the cooking. Despite my distinct preference for Annabel Langbein's style of cooking (I can only say that the meals are clear, somehow), I've made a couple of things from Tessa Kiros' books and one from Stephanie's Cook's Companion this weekend.

Dinner last night was fish in a chopped tomato/celery/parsley/garlic mixture cooked for an hour and a half or so in the oven. Flavour wasn't as deep as I'd like and you could taste the celery, but hey, food. Doubt I'll make it again, or if I do, I might add some tomato puree or tomato sauce and make it a bit less pure tomato flavour (I'm not a fan of raw tomato or plain cooked tomato).

Dinner tonight was a pie I've made a few times: a rich steak pie that is essentially casseroled for two hours on the stove top before even putting it in the pastry shell. I added carrots and dried mushrooms that had been soaked for half an hour in brandy to the filling mixture. I made the pastry as well. It was excellent and I will have some for lunch tomorrow.

I also made a chocolate cake from Stephanie's Cook's Companion for dessert. I forget its name, but it had a bit of rice flour in it, and has chocolate brandy buttercream icing. Used [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose's Kenwood Chefette for most of the mixing and it's strange (for one thing the bowl spins, rather than than the beaters rotating and the beaters don't stay up very well when they have mixture on them for another). I don't need to use an actual mixer very often, but when I do I wish the ceramic bowl on mine hadn't cracked (Kenwood no longer makes ceramic bowls and replacing it will be a bitch).

Anyway, the cake: a nice dense chocolate cake with excellent icing. Good with plain yoghurt or cream. Cake's more effort than I can usually be bothered with—it's nice, but nothing spectacular. The icing is really good though (but could have done with more brandy).

Unfortunately, no frisbee tomorrow as it clashes with German. I must go for a walk at lunch to wear it off.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Pancakes!)
The food show was at the Westpac Stadium this weekend and I decided that the best time to go was after church today. [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow was in Tawa for lunch and [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose had to write an assignment, so I went by myself. It was quite a different experience compared to going with someone and I missed being able to share the experience. I think it meant I moved faster—I tended to get impatient with the crowds at some of the stalls more easily and I was done in about two and a half hours.

The only thing I wish I'd gone back for was the smoked garlic carmelised balsamic vinegar. I did taste an even better caramelised balsamic vinegar, but it was about twice the price, even at food show prices.

I resisted pretty much everything we already had in the house. The only thing I didn't resist was some of the Cow Collective yoghurt, because they were doing 3 for $10 and it tastes amazing. I got the black plum (probably my favourite flavour), the mango, and plain.

In no particular order, I also bought sheep's milk parmesan; basil pesto, sun dried tomato pesto, tomato and olive pesto (3 for $10 again); 3 flavours of harvarti in one block; a very sharp cheddar for [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose; 2 packets of feta-stuffed pepperdews and one of olives in balsamic vinegar (another 3 for $10); and a bottle of scrumpy. I also took away a card for the Doctors rieslings (since they'd sold out), and a free Sunday Star Times.

And if I see Piako lemon curd frozen yoghurt in the supermarket, I want to buy some. They didn't have any containers for sale, but were doing mini-ice creams for $1. I had a cone and it was really good. I was quite disappointed that they didn't have any containers for sale. [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow will be interested to note that they also do feijoa.

[livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose made us a beef roast for dinner—I'd forgotten how good roasts are. It's been ages since we last had one. They suit the cooler weather, and after the cold snap at Easter, it just hasn't been cold enough. I don't even have flannel sheets on my bed, and I usually put them on the last couple of weeks in May! I have lit the fire tonight and the lounge is snuggly warm.

Am making progress on the meta-data. Some of them are rather annoying to find the meta data for, and I solved this by deleting the annoying ones (Buffy & Angel novelisations which I will never read) and all the Anne Rice. For some reason, a search for Anne Rice also brought up Crown of Stars by Robert Jordan...
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (with laptop)
After the downpour last weekend, I noticed my curtains were disgusting and mildewy and what I had thought was dirt on my ceiling was actually mould. This weekend I have washed my curtains (still somewhat gross, but so much better) and wiped down the ceiling. I feel much better about my room now. I have also won a dehumidifier on trademe, and will get that picked up sometime this week. It's the same as the one we already have, so I know it will be decent.

Still working my way through Calibre. I now have all my ebooks loaded into it (I think) and am going through it, checking metadata. I am being quite restrained for me and am not insisting that the cover loaded into Cailbre match the cover on my copy, if I own it in hardcopy. Yeah. I have a lot of ebooks - this is going to take a while. Especially since I keep forgetting to make sure that I don't load .rar or .zip files.

Have not yet managed to choose a blackwork pattern to bookmark at work, but have stitched a couple of tiny patterns on [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose's and [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow's aprons - a drunk green ant on [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose's and a slightly more sober blue beetle on [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow's. I used waste canvas for the lines, since I cannot stitch straight on plain fabric without it. I will probably put a ladybird on mine. Pictures below the cut.

Blackwork insects in colour )

Didn't cook anything remotely exciting this weekend - I made chicken stock and a Tuscan vegetable soup (with some of the stock), and that's about it. Used about half the stock in the soup and have frozen the other half in two-cup lots. I do like having home made stock to use. It's one of the really good throw in your old vegetables and simmer for two hours soups, and it tasted really good and hearty with lots of flavour. Chuck in a bit of bread at the end for thickening and away you go. I will probably have it for lunch for the next couple of days. No pictures of the soup, because ait doesn't look particularly attractive.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (I've seen better days (Saiyuki))
For once, we have sychronised and are all tired and grumpy. I've interacted with some people on the internet, but apart from the flatmates, haven't spoken to anyone in person, and I'm quite okay with that. I might leave the house this weekend, but if I do, it will be tomorrow, and probably only to the letterbox or the garden.

I spent most of last evening and today reading various Eloisa James Georgian or Regency romances (they're fun) and got dressed sometime after 2:00pm and had lunch around 3:00pm. Haven't left the house, which is more or less what I wanted.

Managed to do laundry and make dinner, so while I have spent all day sitting on the couch, I don't feel completely unproductive.

Didn't think I'd finish it, so rather than loose all the witing, I have backdated and posted my rightup of Kapcon without rereading, further editing or finishing. I set it for 24 January, if you're interested in reading it.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Yay! (penguins))
I have pictures of nephew, who is cute (as expected) and a tiny baby only by virtue of being a baby (he's a pretty decent size for newborn). They went home on Tuesday and are doing well. Although I did get a text from my sister saying something along the lines of: well, he's born, he's home, now what do we do with him?

Most of my Christmas present shopping is done, which is a relief. Only a couple more shops to venture into and I know what they are. On the other hand, since I work in town, there's no escaping the mad crowds.

Ended up skipping out on my last weeknight event (the firm Christmas do) due to catching [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose's cold. I was more or less sent home after the settlement was completed, and ended up napping on the couch. Being out of the air-con helped immensely, and hopefully I will be all go for the next three days, which are going to be a bit crazy at work. I am kinda hoping that the settlement on Monday (a purely commerical event) doesn't end up going through so we have actual time to sort out the new A&I issue. Christmas presents for lawyers are all finished, but one more card to write.

I was pretty lazy yesterday; got some washing done but didn't get around to hanging it out. It wasn't until this morning that I worked out that it was partially due to not having had a cup of coffee in the morning. Of course, the rest of it was due to being plague-ridden, so I think I get a pass.

Actually, I've spent a fair amount of the last few days reading. Now that Alessan finally convinced me to read the first one, I've been devouring CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series. How did I not get around to reading this before - cultural politics are usually right up my alley. I am now up to book 9 (or book 3 of the third trilogy), and understand the fourth trilogy is not yet finished. I will try some of her other books as well - fortunately, I have most of them as ebooks. I've read books four - 8 since Thursday.

I also read Indigo Springs by A M Dellamonica, which was and wasn't what I expected from the blurb. The blurb, for example, gives no hint that one of the view point characters is a civilan crisis negotiator, and that the surround story is set after everything goes to pieces. The two halves - then and now - eventually come together in an unsurprising, but competently written fashion. I'm not sure how much I liked it, certainly won't be buying it, but I will be looking out for the sequel in the library. I think I picked this up as a book rec either from Unshelved or [livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll.

On Friday I read Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk. There were a few surprises, but it was mostly reasonable urban fantasy. I'll read others if I see them, but they didn't particularly grab me and I won't be looking for them.

No pictures this week; it's been raining since sometime on Friday. The garden needs it, but the farmers up north need it more. My grandad's family email this week said they got an inch and a half of rain, which helped, but wasn't nearly enough. I think we've had at least that today.

I should probably go and get some more cleaning done - we have a flat inspection tomorrow and it's the new person.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (I have a sign)
This weekend has mostly been about food and the making thereof. We had friends around for tea and scones, followed by dinner last night.

[Unknown site tag] made the scones and I was flicking through assorted cookbooks to try and find a second recipe that didn't use white flour (since we'd run out), and from The Joy of Cooking (1979 edition that used to be my mother's), I found a recipe for corn puffs that we had all the stuff for. Next time, I'll reduce the salt content by half, but they were easy and tasted really good with butter. A make again afternoon tea snack, best served straight out of the oven.

Dinner was the brown rice, butter and parmesan risotto from one of Tessa Kiros' books, with a green salad and lemon curd and ginger souffles. Souffles were done before the ristto, so we had dessert first, as I didn't want them to sink. They turned out pretty well. I've made all these before, so there was nothing exciting about them.

I have also made three batches of my standard shortcrust pastry this weekend, as I also made mini-samosas. They taste delicious dipped in sweet chilli sauce, but are definitely a weekend project, what with the pastry and the rolling and the making up and all. A dozen and a half are currently in the freezer to freeflow before bagging, we have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and ate them for dinner tonight as well.

As well as all this (as if everything else isn't enough, you say), I attempted lentil cake things, which didn't work out. They're like a really thin fritter, and I just couldn't get it thin enough to fry easily. In the end, I gave up. Oh well, it was worth a go.

As for my other creative arts, I did most of the crossstitch for another Christmas decoration gift, a few stitches on the dragon, and drew most of a page for the book. I take these into work and scan, so eventually I'll post the images before I start stitching and they're gone forever.

Read most of the book on the history of the Bayeux Tapestry which S. loaned me. A tad too art-history for my taste, but interesting nonetheless. I hadn't known previously that the wool was dyed before it was spun, for example.

Started a reread of UnLunDun, and and was distracted into five of the Pangur Ban (the white cat) books that are books [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow loved when she was a child (this is why I didn't get to frisbee practice on Saturday). I can see why, and if I'd read them as a child, I would have loved them also. Now, I read them, and why, hello, Christian allegory, nice to see you again. Apparently there's a sixth, but [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow has never found it nor read it.

Also read Pegasus, which is Robin McKinley's new one. It is very much the first half of a book (even more blatantly than Beguliement by Bujold is), and reminds me of Dragonhaven which came out a couple of years ago.

Finished a rewatch of the second half of Princess Tutu since I mainlined it last weekend, and felt the need to take it somewhat more slowly.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (WTF - Ironman)
So a wee while ago, [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow picked me up some of the volumes of Marion Zimmer Bradley Presents Sword and Sorceress and I'm currently reading Volume VIII for the first time. This has the short story 'Wings of Fire' by Mercedes Lackey in it, and features, along with Tarma and Kethry, a k'Shenya mage named Stormwind.

The thing I want to know: where else does Stormwind turn up?

A brief skim through of some of the relevant books fails to turn up the name and I can't be bothered getting the laptop out to search the ebooks at the moment, and I don't really want to reread the entire series (which I'm more likely to end up doing than searching the ebooks, seeing as its been a while since I read them all).

To give it its due, Volume VIII is a vast improvement on Volume VII (which has the most awful Cthulu rip-off that I've ever read and I can't believe she published it).

We have three more people joining the brightly coloured fantasy roleplaying game, which is awesome (particularly since [livejournal.com profile] purplesparkler is one of them). First game with them is tomorrow night. It should be awesome.

And Confusion went well. I finally got around to typing up all the notes I talk when I spoke to artmeis at the beginning of the year, so now I have a file which I can pass onto whoever runs it after me.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Say What?)
I am stubbornly resisting the urge to read the eARC of Cyroburn, Lois McMaster Bujold's latest Vorkosigan book. This is mostly because I dislike ARCs in general, and particularly eARCs. I was fine with waiting until November until the eARC was released recently and my flist (and the Bujold ML) just exploded. Also, I've had enough of reading not-completely finished books, as I've been doing some editing for friends recently.

...I still haven't read the five sample chapters available at Baen. Bujold has also noted that in preparation for Cyroburn's release, The Warrior's Apprentice has been moved to the Baen Free Library. For those of you who have not yet been sucked into the world(s) of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, I can highly recommend it. In the meantime, I'm going to try to wait until November for the hardback. I have the suspicion that this means I'm going to back-collect all the Vorkosigan books in hardback, to accompany my paperbacks.

Work went well today. It took me the entire week, but I managed to complete three tasks that I wanted to get done: settlement yesterday (which was easy, part purchase so all I needed to do was organise the the money to be paid over); settlement today (which would have been easy, except the money didn't come in overnight, which meant I got to sort that out, my supervisor being in Auckland the last three days for a conference - this was actually fun); and filing the printing for one file since 19 July (the stack of paper was about 10cm high).

Tomorrow, of course, is Confusion. People appear to be looking forward to it, which is great. By dint of some chasing around assorted GMs, I mostly have blurbs, player numbers, and a rough timetable.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (what are you reading)
The cold I had last week turned into a nasty hacking cough last weekend due to the dancing and singing at my work midyear followed immediately by going outside into the cold night air and getting home at 2.30am, and a full day of frisbee at the Indoorpendence development tournament on the Sunday. I went to work on Monday (and had to keep explaining that I felt better than I sounded) and some of Tuesday (and had to keep explaining that I felt better than I sounded), before seeing the doctor and getting sent home for the rest of the week.

Accordingly, I mostly avoided cooking and cleaning until the flatmates told me that they didn't care, whereupon I made up for lost time. In between sitting and reading in front of the fire over the last three days, I have also done ridiculous amounts of laundry, done my woollen handwashing, kept the kitchen mostly clean, and made a start on cleaning the barbeque to put it away for winter.

As Wednesday night was grocery shopping night, I refrained from going out and had shredded chicken toasties for dinner. Thursday, since I was home all day and had the time, I decided on pie that requires a couple of hours casseroling on top of the stove. It's awesome pie - red onions, garlic, beef, butter, a bit of brandy and I chucked carrots in this time, in a rich self-gravy, cooked until tender before being moved to the pastry shell. I made the pastry too.

I discovered when I went to put the pie in the oven, that that not all the burned sugar had been removed from the floor of the oven by dint of smoke billowing from the oven. Having temporarily fled the kitchen and closed all the doors from it to have a giant coughing fit, I went in briefly to open all the doors and windows, and retreated to the bathroom to soothe my lungs in steamy warm air. Eventually, I returned to the kitchen and cleaned the oven. Then the pie to go in. More smoke came out, but not nearly in the same quantities as before and by then I didn't care enough to do anything about it. Cleaning the oven (again!) is on the to-do list for this weekend.

Last night, I avoided using the oven, and made blue bayou gumbo for dinner. Flavours include onion, garlic, smoked paprika, thyme, basil, cayenne, allspice and. Not having any spicier sausages, I used sweet-chilli kranskys (the recipe stated that the heat of the dish depends on the heat of the sausages you put in), plain shredded chicken - which deshredded a lot in the soup, and fish. It was good. I had leftovers for lunch today. [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose thinks it was about the right heat. I think it could do with being a bit spicier, particularly the next day. Maybe I'll add a wee bit of chilli next time, if we don't have spicier sausages. A half recipe, which I did, was supposed to serve three for dinner. We had enough for four...

[livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose and I occupied the rest of our evening by watching Hot Fuzz, and two Donald Strachey murder mysteries - A Shock to the System and On the Other Hand, Death which are actually kinda fun and I think we have another one yet to watch.

Today I have completed my re-read through the Dresden Files, finishing with the new one, Changes and rather want the next volume soonest. Talk about a cliffhanger - I want it more than the next Liaden book, but less than CyroBurn (at least in part because I know when CyroBurn is coming out). I have also mostly caught up on my borrowed-to-read pile (I have a book and a half left). I still sound worse than I feel.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Maidenly delicacy of speech)
So last night, I stayed up until 2.30am reading a couple of romance novels by Julie James that [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose put me onto. They were relatively entertaining. In both, she was a workaholic dedicated senior associate at a law firm, who was about to makes partner (in one, he was the world's most famous movie star, in the other he was another workaholic dedicated senior associate at the same firm), and they were neat because there was no suggestion of her giving up her job for love and babies. Plus, they had a light engagaging style and I work in a law firm (although not in litigation) so bits of it were vaguely recognisable.

Consequently, this morning I didn't wake until after ten, and when I did, I looked outside at the weather, got breakfast and a cup of tea, and went back to bed to read fic and listen to the rain. My cat joined me on the bed for a bit, but then decided to perch on the windowsill in that way that cats have when they look uncomfortable and tense yet stay that way for ages.

Eventually, I migrated from my bedroom to the lounge, [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose and [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow brought up more firewood, and the fire has now been going for an hour or so, and between the fire and the dehumidifier (to help dry the washing), the lounge is toasty warm. We have even (finally!) ordered more firewood for this winter.

I could have gone out to the Day of Games, I suppose, but I think I have something on every weekend from now until sometime in July and a day or so of doing nothing in particular sounds really good right about now, particularly given the weather.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Woman and book)
I got The Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon out of the library recently - it was recommended somewhere on my flist in the last year or so, and I figured I would get it out when I saw it. It's a nice, fairly light, non-Western coming-of-age in a fantasy setting young adult book. It was fun, but I'm not going to buy it. Although our here (an unmarried woman of seventeen) almost does something stupid in the usual fashion, but doesn't end up doing so, which was a nice change.

Something I read today that I will be buying when it comes out in paperback is an anthology called The Dragon Book, which has short stories in it by people such as Naomi Novik, Kage Baker, Peter S. Beagle, Diana Gabaldon and Samuel Sykes, Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce, and other well-known and not so well-known names in fantasy. I would buy it just for the Naomi Novik and Tamora Pierce short stories (Skysong, whee!), but the others are pretty good, too.

Robin McKinley's website tells me that she has a novel called Pegasus coming out in November this year. By the summary, if it was anyone but McKinley...

And then, of course, CyroBurn comes out later this year, and I have the dilemma of whether to buy it straight away in hardback, although the rest of my Vorkosigan books are paperback, or wait, or buy it anyway and replace it with a paperback later, or replace all my paperbacks with hardbacks, although some of the paperbacks are signed... decisions, decisions.

I think I'll leave off reading for a while, and go watch something on a competely different level, but still made of awesome (and is hilarious): Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (what are you reading)
Last night I had a hard decision. Do I read the Supreme Court Decision of Susan Couch v The Attorney General, which was just released, or do I finish reading The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway?

I ended up finishing The Gone-Away World last night, lying in bed and reading, and starting to read the case today. The summary on the blurb of the book (below) is a good starting point:

The Jogamund Pipe is the backbone of the world, and it's on fire. Gonzo Lubitsch, professional hero and troubleshooter, is hired to put it out - but there's more to the fire, and the Pipe itself, than meets the eye. The job will take Gonzo and his best friend, our narrator, back to their own beginnings and into the dark heart of the Jorgamund Company itself.

From rural childhood in Cricklewood Cove to military service in a bewildering foreign war; from Jarndice University to the sawdust of the Nameless Bar; their story is the story of the Gone-Away World. It is the history of a friendship stretched beyond its limits; a tale of love and loss; of ninjas, pirates, politics; of curious heroism in strange and dangerous places.


And there are mimes.

It starts off with the pipe on fire, then at chapter 2, reverts back to childhood and then follows through chronologically continuously to the end. The Gone-Away War was caused by this new weapon of mass destruction, which makes things Go Away and in their place is void. Most of the world has Gone Away. Spilling out from the void or cracks is Stuff. Stuff makes reality flexible, and tends to work with the subconscious - which is all you can imagine in a war zone -although not everywhere is a warzone, so you get all sorts of things, including, but not limited to buffaloes who want to be bigger and meaner than they actually are. The Pipe makes reality solid and unchanging.

About two thirds of the way through there is a twist that I didn't expect to the twist that I saw coming, and this changed my entire perception of the rest of the book. That was awesome. There is also a lot of thought into the nature of business and corporations, as if the company really is a separate entity, and not just the separate legal entity that we're accustomed to. And where do you draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not? Who gets to make that decision on behalf of the masses? This is how I prefer my philosophy - in fiction.

The narrative is first person and somewhat rambly with lots of extended metaphors and analogies. For all that, it doesn't tend to have a lot of info dumps, and the style of writing is engaging enough that I don't mind the extended metaphors, although occasionally my response is more 'wtf?' than 'neat!'.

It's made it onto my to-buy list. I should also pick up Purple and Black while I'm at it. And now I should finish reading the Supreme Court decision, because it's really interesting.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (what are you reading)
I have managed to get my tabs down to one row (with room to spare) on Annabelle. Admittedly, I have mainly accomplished this by tagging things on delicious with 'toread' as one of the tags, but still! Success!

We had dinner at home tonight after going grocery shopping - a roast chicken, pesto and cheese on bought bread. Oh, and feta stuffed baby pepperdews. It was yummy, but I much prefer our usual method of going out to dinner first and then going grocery shopping, not least because the supermarket is less crowded later.

[livejournal.com profile] katrin passed Nocturnes: five stories of music and nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro onto me some months ago, and I finally got around to reading it at the weekend. Beautifully bittersweet and I really enjoyed them. Thanks!

I am also working my way through the series by Sherwood Smith. I loved the Crown Duel/Court Duel duology when I was a teenager (I always preferred Court Duel of the two, and still do), so when I started following her blog ([livejournal.com profile] sartorias) and found out she'd written a lot more than I'd realised, the city library not being in the habit of collecting them, I went and bought Inda.

And I found it lacked some of the lightness and joy of Crown Duel/Court Duel and I miss that feeling. Rather than buy the rest - I want to read them, but not own them - I asked the library to purchase them and most of her other books (it turns out you can submit one list with one author/multiple titles with isbn and they're okay with that). My request was successful and as a result, I am now slowly working my way through Book Four of Inda: Treason's Shore, which has the same problem as the previous ones.

The world building is well done - it is complex, clearly thought out, there is no one obviously superior country, they all have their own cultures and languages and these make a difference. It is crafted really well. Craftwise, they are much better than the earlier ones. Yet they lack something, and words fail me. Maybe I should have done some more any English Lit at uni and then I might be able to explain properly.

I have similar problem with some of Carol Berg's books, but in that case, I wasn't able to get into an entire series at all and thus didn't read any of it. The Inda books differ because I can get into them, and I am interested in seeing how the story ends, but I'm struggling.

Does anyone else have this problem? Not with these books, necessarily, but in general - respecting the crafting of a book, and liking other books by the author, but just not being able to be caught up by that one (or four)?

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