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Follower Appreciation Giveaway!

July 30, 2013 4 comments

This giveaway is now over!  Congratulations to Denise, who won all three of her wished for books!!

Hello my lovely readers!

As a part of getting ready for moving in with my partner (which is official as of August 1st, but we’ve already carried all the boxes), I wound up sorting through my piles and piles of books.  I posted everything to ebay, where some sold, and then I was going to flat-out donate the rest, but then I thought of my lovely followers.  How awesome would it be to give you guys a chance at these books first?

So. I decided to give away 3 books to you all and then donate the rest.

Here’s how it’s gonna work.  Comment leaving a list of what books you want, in order of most wanted (with the first one listed being the most wanted).  List up to 3.  If only 3 people comment, you each get 1.  If 2 comment, the first person to comment gets 2, and the second gets 1.  If more than 3 people comment, I’ll use a random number generator to randomly select 3 people to each get 1 book.  Make sense?

Here are the rules:

  1. You must be a follower of my blog!  This is a follower appreciation giveaway, please respect this rule.  I’m not running this to get more followers.  I just want to give a thank you hug to everyone who deems my ramblings worthwhile.
  2. US only.  Sorry, guys. I am not rich enough to ship worldwide.
  3. Giveaway is open through Friday, August 2 at 5pm EST, at which time I will select the winners.  A post announcing the winners will go live on Saturday, August 3rd.

To enter:

  1. Leave a comment listing the books you want (up to 3).
  2. Also state that you follow me and how/where (Twitter? Email subscription? Facebook? Feedly? etc….)
  3. You must leave your email in some way so I can contact you to get your mailing address if/when you win.

The available books, in alphabetical order by title:

  1. Across the Table / Dancing on Sunday Afternoons by Linda Cardillo
  2. Adventures in Microwave Cooking by Montgomery Ward
    hardcover, 1983, the binding is loose but all the pages are there
  3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
    paperback, 2008
  4. Bookhunter by Shiga
    graphic novel, paperback, 207
  5. Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
    paperback, 2010
  6. Dagon by Fred Chappell
    paperback, 1968, the cover has creasing and shelfwear and there is a stain on some of the pages, but it’s a copy of a Lovecraftverse story, and it’s awesome with that double cover thing where the one cover has a peephole through to the internal cover and you open it and bam there’s a craaaazy picture on the inside, so I’m really hoping it will find a loving home somewhere with another Lovecraft geek
  7. Death Island by Joan Conning Afman
    paperback, 2011
  8. The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin
    hardcover, 2009
  9. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health by Marion Nestle
    paperback, 2003
  10. The Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison
    paperback, 2011
  11. Hack the Planet by Eli Kintisch
    hardcover, 2010
  12. The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
    paperback, 2010
  13. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
    paperback, 2006
  14. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
    paperback, 1987
  15. Nova by Samuel R. Delaney
    paperback, 1975
  16. The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel
    paperback, 1991, this cover has quite a bit of shelfwear and some creasing in it
  17. Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-Li Jiang
    paperback, 1998
  18. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
    paperback, 1993
  19. Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa
    paperback, 1988
  20. Sleeping Arrangements by Madeline Wickham
    paperback, 2009
  21. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
    paperback, 1995
  22. Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede
    paperback, 2004
  23. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
    paperback, 1997, the cover has a plastic sheen on it that is peeling off a bit
  24. The New Stir-Fry Cookbook (Step-by-Step brand)paperback
  25. Trust Us, We’re Experts! by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
    paperback, 2001
  26. Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin
    hardcover, ex libris
  27. The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel
    paperback, 1983
  28. Vegetables: Simple and Delicious Easy to Make Recipes
    hardcover
  29. The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
    hardcover, 1984, does not have the slipcover hardcovers come with, but is a very pretty purple with silver lettering
  30. Yellow-Yellow by Kaine Agary
    paperback, 2006
  31. Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien
    paperback, 1987

With 31 books to choose from, I hope everyone can find something to hope for in the comments!

And thanks once again to all my lovely followers.  Good luck!

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Book Review: Rip Tide by Kat Falls (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Keith Nobbs)

Green background with a radar over it and the shadow of a person swimming with per arm extended.Summary:
Ty lives with his pioneer family subsea but he can’t convince his crush Gemma to leave Topside.  Why is she so afraid of subsea?  This was his biggest problem until his parents get kidnapped by surfs when they attempt to do a trade.  Plus, Gemma wants to convince her fugitive brother to let her tag along with him.  And townships keep disappearing, only to turn up later, chained up and anchored subsea with everyone dead inside.  It’s a giant web of mysteries but do they intertwine at all?

Review:
I absolutely loved the first entry in this scifi series, which is unusual for me, since it’s YA.  Not generally my genre.  So I was excited to see the sequel available on Audible.  It’s still an exciting adventure and interesting world but not quite as tightly and expertly constructed as last time.

Whereas Ty’s voice worked perfectly in the first book, in this one he reads a bit young.  He went through a lot in the first entry, he should have presumably matured a bit more than he has.  Similarly, Gemma hasn’t developed much since the first book either.  I think these characters should have been given more space to grow more.  Particularly in a YA series, it’s important to let the characters develop and mature at a more rapid rate.  That’s the reality for teenagers after all.

Plot-wise, I honestly felt that there was a bit of a deus ex machina at work that also didn’t fully play into the rules of the world as originally set up.  Still, though, the mystery is well-plotted and difficult to predict.  It includes real danger without being too violent.  It’s the perfect level of thriller for a YA reader who’s not so into the gore.  On the other hand, I also found it frustrating that Ty’s parents aren’t around for most of the book.  One of the things refreshing about the first one was that his parents were actually present and helpful without being too pushy or overshadowing.  This time around, Falls went the more popular YA adventure route and just flat-out got rid of them for most of the book.

But the world Falls has built is still rich and unique, and she expanded upon it.  We now get to see more of what the surf life is like, in addition to more of the shady side of things, such as the boxing/fighting rings.  We also see some more of the government and law enforcement and have a better understanding of the world as a whole.  It’s all richly imagined and drawn, right down to what styles of clothes different groups wear to what they eat.  One detail I particularly enjoyed was that the surfs, a poor outcast lot, eat a lot of fish and blubber because it’s easy to catch, whereas Ty’s family eats a lot of vegetables because they grow them.  Details like that really make a world.

The audiobook narrator, Keith Nobbs, read the whole thing a bit flat for my taste.  He didn’t have as much enthusiasm and inflection as I thought was appropriate for a book about a subsea adventure starring two young teenagers!  The production quality was high, he was easy to understand, but he didn’t really bring Ty to life.  I’d recommend reading the print book over the audio, honestly.

Overall, then, the characters are a bit slow in their development and the plot feels a bit lazier than last time, but the characters are still well-rounded and the plot maintains an appropriate level of mystery.  Toss in the richly imagined and describe post-apocalyptic and very wet world, and it’s well worth the read.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Dark Life, review

Book Review: iD by Madeline Ashby (Series, #2)

Person's face surrounded by variosu pieces of technology.Summary:
Javier is a vN. A self-replicating humanoid robot built by fundamentalist Christians to help humanity left behind after the rapture but then bought out and sold by a secular organization after the Christian company failed.  He was living on an island run by his powerful vN girlfriend, Amy.  Free from all humans and therefore free from the failsafe that makes him avoid harming them at all costs.  He wants his failsafe-free girlfriend to free him from his own, but she refuses.  So when a human shows up on the island and activates his failsafe, everything comes crashing down around him.  Now he’s on a race to save Amy….and destroy his failsafe.

Review:
I was really excited for the second book in this series about ai written by a woman author.  I love getting to see scifi topics like ai explored from a woman’s perspective.  So I was a bit disappointed to have the story shift focus from a woman in the first book (Amy) to a man in the second (Javier).

Ripping Amy out from under us is an interesting choice.  On the one hand, I appreciate series that switch perspectives like this because we get to see more of the world of the novel and gain a clearer understanding of it.  On the other hand, part of why I liked the series to begin with was that we were seeing a powerful female robot for once.  So I was skeptical about this choice at first.  Ultimately, however, the perspective switch worked for me because it basically is following the hero’s sidekick when the hero is decommissioned.  It’s still interesting to see the gender swap happening in the sidekick.  It’s also interesting because although Javier is male, he’s also a robot with a failsafe, so he is more akin to an enslaved person than to a humanoid free male.  It’s interesting but it saddens me that this perspective makes it seem like things like trading sex for travel are the only options for people in that situation.  Sex is power, yes, but it’s not the only tool women have available to them.  I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that the book seems to be saying that anyone in that situation, regardless of gender, would use these resources because they have to.  I can see not having a lot of choices. And I can understand having to choose to do something you don’t morally want to do because the end result is so needed.  But I would expect to see a lot of soul searching and thought process behind that choice because it is still a choice.  Javier doesn’t seem to do much choosing or thinking, and I think that’s not a fair representation of what it actually is like to be a woman.  We still have choices, and because it’s not always easy to do precisely what we want to do, what choice we make takes more thoughtfulness, if anything. There’s not always a good choice available. But there are always choices.  I would like to have seen Javier doing more thinking and choosing between different difficult choices rather than seeing himself as having to do X to get to Z.

The world building is still strong in this book.  Instead of being stuck on an island for the whole time, the events in the beginning of the book allow us to see much of the world, not just America, through the eyes of Javier.  There is, unfortunately, quite a bit of confusion in the world at this time so it’s difficult to understand precisely what is going on or how the world got to this place.  I believe this is just the situation that is typical of a second book in a series (or the third book in the trilogy), so I expect a lot of the confusion to clear up in the third book.  If anything the mystery increased with this book, which is not a bad thing.

Overall, this book builds further on the world presented in vN through the eyes of Amy’s male sidekick, Javier.  Some of the precise effects of the gender swapping and queering of gender in the robots isn’t as well thought-out as it could be but this does not detract from the interesting perspective on artificial intelligence presented by Ashby.  Fans of the first book should hold out beyond the first couple of chapters and give Javier a chance as our guide through the world.  The perspective he brings is still unique to the world of ai scifi.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
vN, review

Book Review: Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

Purple and white face with large eyes and open mouth that looks frightened. Book title and author's name are written over it.Summary:
A bunch of people sign up, individually, for a writer’s retreat. Telling no one where they’re going, they vow to write the next great American novel. They wind up locked away in the opposite of the lap of luxury, however. Trapped in a dusty old theater, they quickly become focused on an entirely different type of story.  What happens to these writers is interspersed with poetry about each person and short stories written by each of them while locked in the retreat.

Review:
I am a huge Palahniuk fan. Fight Club spoke to me when I was at my late teens most intense angst that is indescribable.  To this day, I view the book (and the movie) as exemplary artforms that demonstrate how genre literature can say something incredibly serious and deep.  I also point to Palahniuk as a way to say that vulgarity and horror do not equate to bad writing.  All of which is to say, I’m pretty biased toward being a fan of anything Palahniuk does.  Just so you’re aware.

I struggle with short story collections. I like them to be all connected somehow, even if it’s just by theme, so at first I really liked the idea of a collection of short stories written by people at a writer’s retreat.  It’s a good idea, but it’s not executed very well.  The short stories are awesome! The connecting bits of narrative aren’t so much.  Basically, the writers decide that they should spin what happens at the retreat to be as horrible as possible to help get a movie deal out of it after the fact. So they focus on twisting the facts and committing atrocities against themselves and each other to make for a better story.  I totally got what is being said about writers procrastinating by making drama in their own lives instead of actually writing.  I liked that part. But there also wasn’t enough realness in the connecting bits to keep me interested.  I found myself dreading them whereas I really enjoyed the short stories, which made for an uneven reading experience.

One of the short stories contained in this collection is Palahniuk’s famous “Guts.” The one that makes people faint.  (Palahniuk has made it available online for free here).  This was definitely the best short story in the collection, and I can see why it became so famous.  It also sets the tone for a lot of the stories in the collection. There’s one with people randomly getting smashed in a city. There’s also one about the possible origins of the Sasquatch myth.  My second favorite after “Guts” was actually about an inn near a hot springs in the mountains.  That one grossed me out *almost* as much as “Guts,” and also had something deeper to say, I think.  All of this is to say that if you read and enjoyed “Guts,” you’ll like the short stories in this collection.  They’re gross, horrifying, and stick with you.

Overall, it’s an interesting idea for unifying a short story collection.  Ultimately, though, I would have liked it better as a straight-up short story collection, maybe even including the writer’s retreat as a short story by itself.  This fact might make me rate the book lower, but the inclusion of so many high quality short stories keeps the book itself rating highly.  Grab this if you’ve read and enjoyed “Guts.”

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Brookline Booksmith

Buy It

Cookbook Review: Green Smoothie Magic – 132+ Delicious Green Smoothie Recipes That Trim and Slim by Gabrielle Raiz

Image of a glass filled with green liquid surrounded by brightly colored produce with the book's title underneath.Summary:
Lots of leafy greens are important to incorporate into your diet for health reasons (vitamins! fiber!) but it can be difficult to work them in.  Enter the green smoothie.  Blend up the greens with other ingredients to give yourself a delicious sweet or savory drinkable treat and get 1 to 2 cups of leafy greens into your belly in the time it takes to drink a drink!  Raiz walks you through all the steps to incorporating green smoothies into your life from the basics of what greens to use and how to what makes a good blender to recipes to how to tweak and personalize the recipes.

Review:
I picked up this cookbook when I spotted the kindle version on sale for 99 cents because I wanted exactly what it promised.  A way to work in more leafy greens into my life in a delicious way.

The cookbook is organized into sections entitled: introduction, the magic of the green stuff, not all green smoothies are green, don’t get stuck with the same green, greens, how green should my first smoothies be?, green smoothie magic basics, the pragmatic approach to health nutrition and everything!, freezing fruit, green smoothie rescue — what to do if a recipe doesn’t work out!, about blenders and blending, about drinking and storing your smoothie, green smoothie magic 101: instructions at a glance for blending any smoothie, and green smoothie magic recipes.  If that sounds like a lot of sections, it’s because it is.  Raiz has a lot of information to give the reader.  She clearly knows what she’s talking about, and I found a lot of what she had to say very useful! Particularly how to pick the right blender, the different flavors of greens and how to pick which ones to use, how to store greens, how to save a smoothie that doesn’t taste quite right, and the basic elements of a smoothie.  Also, the recipes of course!  But how this valuable information is organized is a bit haphazard and can sometimes be repetitive.  I’m glad I took the time to read it all and glean out the important bits, but I’m not sure everyone would stick it out through such a disorganized and long introduction.  A more concise introduction to the hows and whys of green smoothies is needed.

The recipes themselves are creative without going too far off the deep-end in exotic ingredients.  For instance, even though Raiz recommends making your own nut milks, she provides substitutions for those of us who would rather not do that.  The recipes are easy to read, fully utilizing bullet-points and simplicity.  I really appreciated that.  There are also full-color illustrations throughout the cookbook , although they are primarily of the ingredients and not the smoothies themselves.  I get it that green smoothies tend to be, well, green colored, but a few more smoothie pictures would be nice.

So I read through the whole book and was ready to try a recipe.  I knew from reading the book that my low-powered food processor wasn’t ideal for blending but would work with a recipe with less tough ingredients (for instance, the beet smoothie might be a bit too much for my food processor).  I also followed Raiz’s newbie caution and went with a recipe with a more traditional smoothie taste to ease myself into it.  Below is the recipe I tried out with a picture of the result.

Image of a wine glass full of green liquid sitting in a sunbeam on a wooden countertop.

My first homemade green smoothie! In a wine glass because everything tastes better in a goblet.

“Cinnamango Smoothie (location  1558)

Blend first:
1 cup water with 1/4 cup almonds (soaked overnight) OR 1 cup nut milk OR 1 cup coconut water

Then add:
1 cup mango (frozen)
cinnamon, salt, and vanilla
2 cups spinach leaves (or any combination of mild greens)
1 T chopped mint leaves

Ice and extra water to get your desired temperature and consistency.”

You can see how simple the instructions are.  It is a smoothie after all.    I left off the introductory paragraph, which is primarily featured in the earlier recipes and talks more about the ingredients, and skipped right to the actual recipe.  The ingredients introduction is nice and makes it more conversational, but it is a smoothie after all.  You just put in the general ingredients to fit your tastes and away you go, and most of the recipes utilize this simpler style I chose here.

I used coconut water for the base of my smoothie, and my mango had kind of defrosted by the time I got home from the grocery store.  I also didn’t have spinach, but I did have swiss chard from my CSA, which was listed as a mild green in the cookbook, so I subbed those in.  When I took the first taste, it felt too strong and not smoothie-like enough to me.  So I read over the section on how to fix your smoothie and noticed that Raiz states that the temperature of the smoothie affects the taste.  Perhaps my mango being defrosted mattered?  So I added in ice, blended again, and voila! An incredibly delicious green smoothie!  It was, admittedly, a bit less well-blended than I would have preferred, but I was well aware that was the fault of my food processor, not the recipe.

So what’s the verdict? Well, I got so excited about green smoothies after this cookbook that my partner got me a blender for my birthday (using the recommendations in Raiz’s book to help him choose which one).  So I’d call it a success!  The recipes are easy, adaptable, and Raiz arms you with troubleshooting techniques to help you learn to get it right.  The beginning of the book needs more focus, organization, and clarity to help Raiz’s true expertise and talent shine through but if you want to start incorporating green smoothies into your life, this book is a great place to start.  It both explains greens and green smoothies and blenders AND gives you a bunch of adaptable, easy recipes to get going.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Buy It

Friday Fun! (June: Let’s Talk About Motorcycle Racing Because That Was the Best Part of June)

Motard burning out for the crowd on his cool-down lap.

Motard burning out for the crowd on his cool-down lap.

Hello my lovely readers!

Well, July just snuck right up on me.  I even accidentally tried to use my old monthly pass on the T.  June was so busy, it just flew right by!

The most exciting thing I got to do this month was I got to take an extra long weekend and go see my boyfriend race in the 90th annual Loudon Classic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway!  Of course, I got to see all the other races too, but the best part was finally getting to see him race and be his umbrella girl and pit crew. 🙂  The racers generally camp at the track, and when we got there, they let me in as family of a racer, which made all of my insides squee, since that was the first time we were called family.  I helped him set up the camp and met his racer friends.  It’s incredible. Everyone is so competitive on the track but the direct opposite in the camp.  Our neighbors gave us coffee every morning, and we shot the shit around the campfire every night.  When our neighbor had a crash (very common in motorcycle racing), my bf immediately gave him tools and various other things to help fix it, and I knew that everyone would do the same for him.

So what did I do as pit crew?  Mostly I helped him put the tire warmers on the motorcycle and helped him get the bike on and off the stand.  Also I was the pep talk and cheerleader, obviously.  Tire warmers are these blanket like things that you put on the wheels of the motorcycle to keep the rubber warm.  Warmer rubber makes for better traction.  You have to pull them off right before going to the pit to grid up.  (Frankly, I thought they looked like wheel condoms.  Yeah, I said it).  Also, track bikes don’t have kickstands, so you have to put the bike on this lever-like stand separate from it (see one here), and it’s much easier for the racer to be on the bike already and have someone else release it from the stand.  Someone else would have helped him if I wasn’t there, but it was fun to get to do it for him.  I also got to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams and be his umbrella girl.  When the bikes are waiting in the pit to enter the track, it can be really hot, since they are in full gear in direct sun.  So some racers have “umbrella girls” (who can be either gender, actually) to hold an umbrella over them to keep them cool until it’s time to enter the track.  So I got to meet up with him in the pit grid and do that, and it was really fun to be that close to the actual track and talk to him right before his race.

Since this was the 90th annual Loudon Classic, there were a couple of special events.  There were sidecar racers, mini cars that ran on motorcycle engines, and a motard race.  The sidecar race is incredible.  In order to go at track speeds with a sidecar, the person in the sidecar, called a monkey, has to throw their body weight around from left to right to help with the corners.  It is incredibly difficult to explain, so just watch this video if you want to understand why it’s so badass.  Motards are dirt bikes outfitted with street tires.  The motard racers got to go off the track onto the grass, through the trees, and use a jump.  You can see one of the racers burning out in the photo above.  A lot of racers will do tricks during the cool-down lap at the portions of the track where there are spectators.

I learned so much by going to the track. I learned that crashes on the track are usually not that big of a deal because the racers are wearing full gear.  Our neighbor was in two crashes, one was a 5-bike pile-up, and all he had wrong with him was a cut on his pinky and a pulled shoulder.  I also learned that racing isn’t the crazy, testosterone-filled sport it’s thought to be.  It’s a fun, low-key, supportive environment.  Although, that doesn’t take away from its sexiness.  If anything the camaraderie of the racers makes the whole thing sexier.  It’s all the sexiness of motorcycles mixed with some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  Kind of the direct opposite of your typical Harley crew.

Oh, I also learned that partners of racers are called “racer chasers,” and I am deeply amused by the fact that you can now call me that.  Amanda. Writer. Blogger. Racer Chaser.

Also, I’ve officially told my bf that I want to learn to sidecar race, and we’re planning on building a mock practice sidecar to practice on this winter in the garage. So hopefully one day you can add sidecar monkey to that list. 😛