Friday, November 23, 2012

Latest Graphic Novels

Lately I've been finding it difficult to commit to a novel - mostly because I keep picking up books that are entirely written in present-tense.  I can't stand present tense in novels. It denotes edge-of-the-seat action to me, and I can't keep that amount of anticipation going for a whole novel.  I do not have the energy.   And it's a pity, because the books I brought home to read looked really good.  So I have been reading graphic novels like a fiend.

FreakAngels:  Volumes 1 - 4
I've talked about FreakAngels before, so I wont go on about it too much here. It is totally different reading this on paper than it was reading it online, and I'm finding that there are a lot of little details that I either glossed over or have lost in the bigger picture of the series that I'm picking up now. And there are little details that I remember from my first reading (for example "CHICKENZ!").  It also seems more coherant.  There is something about the immediacy of turning a paper page that I don't feel when waiting for the next page to load in my browser.  There's more...  connectedness.  Anyway, if you have read the series online, try reading the hard copy, and if you haven't done either, I don't know what to do about  you.


Orbiter
Another Warren Ellis graphic novel, but totally different to FreakAngels - for a start it's a one-off story.  When the last space shuttle to leave Earth returns ten years after it went missing, top scientists in the now defunct field of space travel research and development gather to investigate the ship, and its sole surviving crew member.  I can't say much more because it would spoil it, but I enjoyed it.  I wasn't dileriously happy with the ending, and I think a bit more explanation could have been put into the background of the world that the story takes place in, but I'd at least give it three out of five stars.


Farscape:  Volume 1
I love Farscape.  Absolutely love it; I love the humour, the action, the premise, the characters, the pop culture references, everything except (SPOILER) the deaths.  I can rewatch Farscape over and over.  Now this love of the original four-season series and its movie conclusion was bound to colour how I felt about reading what is basically the next season of the show in graphic novel form (think of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer comics).  And I liked it, a lot.  Because I haven't watched the last season and movie in a while, there were tiny details I had forgotten, but there was no real need for a recap, as the story is almost fully contained - know the characters, the premise, and have a vague idea of what's been happening and you'll be fine.  I think I would have enjoyed it a little more if I had just watched some episodes.  Trying to get John and Aeryn's voices right in my head was a little distracting.  I think to make a full judgement on them, I will have to read more issues.



The Lovecraft Anthology Volume 1
I had tried reading Lovecraft years ago and it didn't grab my attention.  Recently, however, there have been a few of his stories produced on one of my favourite podcasts, The Drabblecast, and I just loved Norm's reading so much that it renewed my interest.  I had been planning to take home one of his books, but I was checking in books at work and a graphic novel version of some of his most well-known stories was returned.  I really enjoyed it, and it even spooked me a bit.  Each story is illustrated by a different person, so with each new story there's a new interpretation of the weird and creepy - which makes it even more weird and creepy.  The only issue I had with it was that the stories were quite brief - but that's less to do with the editing and more to do with the original material.  Most of his original stories are short, or at least the ones I've heard/read.


Ex Machina
I'm reading this on the suggestion of a collegue (the same that encouraged me to try the Farscape graphic novel), and I don't know about it yet.  The main character has power over machines and is also the mayor of New York.  I don't really understand it.  And nothing much is happening yet, except some drama over a painting, and a lot of (necessary) backstory.  I kind of feel like I've walked into the middle of a long-running series even though it is the first volume.  Also, I don't know if I like the lead character.  I don't understand what his motivations are, or even if he's a goodie or a baddie.  But I will read on, I won't make up my mind until I have finished it, and if I end up liking it, I'll post about it.


Although most of the graphic novels I've read are in series, I particularly like one-off graphic novel stories, where I don't have to commit to a huge storyline over multiple volumes.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to read Spiderman or Batman or the Phantom (yup, the Phantom, I like him!), but with all of the multiple timelines and generations... it's hard to know where to start.  Do you like graphic novels?  Do you have any suggestions?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Escape Pod

Hi all.  Yes, I am aware that I haven't posted in a while, despite my best intentions, and yes I'm aware that I haven't finished off my previous post about buying my domain and not being able to update the look of the blog.  But I'm quite excited that I am finally up-to-date with a podcast that I love, so want to do a post on that instead :-)

Escape Pod is a weekly science fiction podcast that runs stories from authors such as Tim Pratt, Lavie Tidhar, Vylar Kaftan, N K Jemisin, Cat Rambo, Cory Doctorow, Mike Resnick,  Saladin Ahmed, and Catherynne M Valente.  Impressive, right?  The podcast is also totally free.  The good news doesn't stop there, the narration and production is impeccable, and each episode comes with monster surf rock theme music by Dai Kai Ju (who are pretty cool).

When I thought to write this post, I tried to compile a list of my favourite episodes, but it's very hard to choose, and sometimes it's difficult to remember just how much I enjoyed each story as I was listening to it.  I think this is one of the features/flaws (depending on how you look at it) of audio fiction - it obviously lacks the physical presence of written prose, and so becomes kind of like a sandcastle; beautiful but impermanent. Click on the image below for some of the episodes that really stood out for me.




I started listening to Escape Pod in February of 2010, and liked it so much that I downloaded all of the back issues I could.  Which meant I was perpetually behind, but I didn't mind so much - the stories don't exactly go out of date.  But after a couple of dozen episodes, listening to the feedback segment made me want to get involved with the Escape Pod community by posting and discussing the latest story on their forums.  But I was never able to catch up, until now.  I guess long bus rides to work every day have one benefit!

I can't recommend Escape Pod highly enough, just go and download all of the episodes you can and start listening!  Do you listen to any podcasts already?  Are they fiction or non fiction?  Do you listen to audiobooks?  Tell me about them in the comments!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A More Permenant Home (updated)

Hi all!  I bought a domain!  I'm going to speak in short exclamations!  Because I'm excited!

Okay, that's enough of that.  My friend Miss C said to me at work the other day "why don't you just buy newoldfashionedgirl.com, it's only like $10 a year or something".  I had never thought of actually doing this, so I looked into it.  This is what I found out:
  • It really does only cost $10 a year!
  • It's pretty simple to do once you find the right set of instructions (blogger's instructions seem to skip some details)
  • I should have done this ages ago!
So today I'm going to work on a revamp to celebrate my new address.  A spring cleaning and redecorating.  I realised we've been staring at the same d├ęcor on this site for about a year now, and it needs to change (though I do love it so).  I will also post about how I went about buying the domain, and the tricky issues I had (mostly because of skipped instructions!).

This may take more than one day...

Update:  So, looks like it will definitely take more than one day.  My template will not update, and apparently a lot of people are having the same problem, and have been for a while.  One person on the forums said they'd not been able to change anything since the end of August!  I hope blogger gets its act together soon!  For now, we shall stay pink and pretty.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bonus Post: Redshirts

While hunting for a cover picture of Redshirts, I found some awesome redshirt-related pictures on google.  Enjoy these:

Go to thinkgeek to buy this as a t shirt.  Awesome!



 So there!



The scent of Redshirt...  Even available in New Zealand!



This is my favourite Redshirt reference*.



*Also note Kirk's pose/expression - doesn't he just say "Oh man, I am so cool"?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review: John Scalzi's Redshirts UPDATED

I've been told I was not critical enough in my review, so I have added a sentence or two to this post in the spoilers section.

Those of you who know anything about my reading habits can probably already see a Scalzi obsession forming. I have a reputation (mainly with myself...) for finding an author that I like, and reading most of their back catalogue. But this time, instead of reading on in the Old Man's War series (the next book is called The Ghost Brigades), I decided to go straight to his latest book- Redshirts.

I wrote a recommendation for this book as part of a requirement for work, and managed to make it less than 200 words:
John Scalzi’s Redshirts
What would you do if you discovered you were expendable, an extra in a story that is simply using you for dramatic effect?  Dahl and his crewmates decide to take action, to find out why their fellow ensigns aboard the Intrepid keep dying in ridiculous situations, and why, at times, the Captain makes decisions that take them directly into the path of danger and drama.  Scalzi’s knack for presenting heavy ideas (in this case predestination, taking action against insurmountable odds, and being the protagonist in one's own story) in a light, often humourous, and enjoyable read is why I think I will carry on reading his back catalogue.  If you enjoy this book, you might also like Scalzi's 'Old Man's War', and Connie Willis' 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' for more big ideas wrapped in a humourous, seemingly light read.
Like what I did there?  Remember TSNotD and how much I liked it?  I genuinely believe that if you enjoyed that, you will easily see the same appeal in Redshirts.  Now I look at it and think "there's not all that much more I want to say".  Don't get me wrong, I am really excited about the book, but I don't think I want to pull it apart like I have most of the books I've reviewed on here (also, I'm writing this review a while after I finished the book and I have already returned it to the library!).  So there are very few spoilers if you click on the picture below.



Okay, spoiler-free now.  I know this review is not as well put-together as (I think) the others have been, and I have no real excuse other than writing it in pieces and only now putting them together about a month after finishing the book.  I shall try to be good next time - I'm currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Joy the Baker

It's been a long time since I have added a new feed to my list or gushed about a blog here, mainly due to the limited time I have to explore new sites.  But I have to tell you about Joy the Baker.  I was innocently checking in books at the library a few weeks ago when I saw this:




How could I resist a book that is 'A Celebration of Butter and Sugar'?  I placed a request on the book, and reluctantly put it on the shelf to fulfill someone else' request.  Soon afterward, I opened my account to find that it was available, and with great enthusiasm, I took it home.  I read the introduction on the bus and knew I would need to read the whole book, rather than just browsing the recipe titles for something appealing.

Joy Wilson has an engaging writing style that made me subscribe to her blog posts and podcast (yes, she's THAT cool), without even thinking about it.  Her website is the same mix of humourous anecdotes, tips, and mouth-watering recipes (that in this case are not limited to baking - see this as an example).  Go have a look, now!

"And what about the recipes?" I hear you ask...  Well, I haven't tried any yet, but the first on the list to try is 'Single Lady Pancakes'.  I know, right?  Noone publishes recipes for baking yummy things for one!  Fabulous!  Other must-makes include 'Perfect Kettle Corn', 'Carrot Cake Pancakes', and 'S'mores Brownies'.  But it's not all decadence - 'Kale and Spinach Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie' and 'Seaweed Parmesan Popcorn' sound like enough to justify your having an extra slice of cake later on...  Expect to see more mention of her recipes here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Living in the Future: The first bus-written post


I know I keep moaning on about how I have such long bus journeys, and how this means I have very little time for blogging.  And I keep apologising for my extended absences.  This must seem disingenuous as it keeps happening, but it's not that I don't WANT to blog, it's that there are far easier things to do to relax and be creative when I do finally get home from work.  Miraculously I have kept up with reading, crochet, and computer games, as well as perusing my absolute favourite blogs/websites (geekcrafts, pinterest, mr x stitch, and bookporn, I love you so).

But I've just downloaded the blogger app and discovered that I can write posts (all be it without my usual resources) on my ipod, whether I have an internet connection or not!  I am not promising I'll be posting more often, but at least now I feel like posting more often is actually possible!

I have some projects to share, such as my spectacularly succesful attempt at pink-iced finger buns, the lemon baby blanket, the discovery of caramel drops, and my current project (yup, it's another present, and yup, another surprise, so no posting about it until it's done).

But for now, a will sign off; typing on an ipod is tricky - it's taken 25 mins to write just this small post!   Here's to living in the future!

(PS:  I'm not on the bus right now, I was when I wrote this, I am just publishing it now - NZ is not THAT far into the future that there's wireless on the busses, woe is me)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: John Scalzi's Old Man's War

You may remember that weeks, or even months ago, I posted about starting Connie Willis' All Clear, and how excited I was about it.  You may be wondering why I haven't told you more...  Sadly, I have to admit that I have had to put the book on the back burner (which means 'returned it to the library') for now.  It's such a heavy book so I can't take it on the bus to work, and I've had trouble reading in bed lately (lonnng days at work and lonnng bus trips = yawn).  Please don't take it as an indication of the quality of the book!  It's still fabulous, but as I've said before, I find it hard to get into Connie Willis' books at first, and despite this really being the second half of Black Out, it's still a new book.  I can't wait for Christmas when I have some time off so I can get back into it!

Meanwhile, I picked up John Scalzi's Old Man's War while wandering through the science fiction and fantasy section at the library (yeah, I know, right?!  We have a science fiction and fantasy section!).  I almost literally could not put it down, and I finished it in less than two weeks (you may have realised, I'm a very slow reader)!  Not only is the book gripping with brilliant character development and subtle but striking themes, but it is the most honest and funniest piece of science fiction I have read.  Ever.  Not to mention hostile aliens, galactic war, cloning, posthumanism, military technology, extra-solar colonies, faster-than-light travel...  Basically, everything  you could want from good science fiction.  Except length.  It was over wayyy too fast for my liking.  On with a spoiler-free review (just trying something different!), that's still pretty long (so nothing new there) - so click on the picture to continue.





I highly recommend this book if you're looking for something amusing, that's light enough to read in a day (if you're that way inclined) but has enough substance to really make you care about what's going on and to stay with you when you're not reading it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Domestic Minxes (Ooo Errr!)

Time to share a blog!  My friend (and kind of boss) co authors the Domestic Minxes blog where she and her friend document their somewhat disturbingly obsessive interest in nail polish.

Pretty right*?  And that's just one!  There are millions of gorgeous photos of pretty colours, so when you're feeling girly, go take a look.  And leave a comment, this girl loves the comments :-P

I've been inspired to make a small post about makeup and nailpolish and things, but because I wear very little makeup, and stopped painting my nails when they got super brittle, I thought I'd have a look around the internet for things I think are gorgeous or amazing.  Here, have some more link love!


Castiel and the Impala.

Need. I. Say. More?  Check out more of these brilliant custom nailpolishes inspired by pop/geek culture by clicking the picture.


Stormtrooper Nail Art

And the awesome continues.  Cute Polish has a whole heap of geek and non-geek nail art tutorials, go watch!



R2I2?

Another Star Wars pretty (and we all know how I feel about Star Wars) but it's just way too cool to pass up!  Again, click on the link to find more awesomeness.

I found all three of these through Geek Crafts, one of the few blogs I am still religiously keeping up with, now that I has the work thing going.  I forget, did I mention this new job?  I think I wrote a post about it and forgot to edit and publish it.  I shall post about it shortly!


*I'm thinking I would like to use this nail polish as the background for a picture of the Enterprise, following the method Cute Polish uses for her One Direction (oh no!) tutorial

Friday, April 27, 2012

After another long absence

Hi there!  Yes, I know, I have been very bad, it's been ages since I've made an entry here.  But I have a great excuse!  I have a full time (well, almost, 38 hours) job!  As you can tell, I'm excited about this!  Very excited!  I'm now a proper library assistant in circulation at the big library in the city - checking out books for people, checking them in, looking for missing books, working in the basement stack (SO cool!  It's like a whole different library on its own!), finding holds for people.  It's a lot of fun, and a lot of walking and climbing stairs and talking to people, so I'm enjoying it.  What I'm not enjoying is the amount of time I spend on buses!  But I can't complain too much, driving would be even worse.

I haven't stopped baking, reading, or crafting, though.  In fact, I've just finished a big project for a friend who's just had a baby.  As usual, I have to wait til she gets the present to post about it, but it's worth the wait, I'm really proud of how it turned out.  What I can share though is the blanket Mum and I are making.  I didn't know that there was such a thing as a knitted granny square, but Mum's taking them on...  well...  If you know my Mum, you know she's very good at crafts, but terrible at actually getting them done.  But I'm doing my bit; I've made three granny squares now in crochet, and have almost finished a fourth.  I really like doing them; they're pretty quick to make, and a great way to practice stitches I've seen but haven't had an excuse to try.  I'll get a few more done, and then I'll start posting pictures and references to where I found the patterns.  I'm also starting another present project today, and I'm REALLY excited about it.  When I can post about it (which wont be for like three months!), you'll see why - it's REALLY cool!

How's everyone doing?  What are you up to?  Any projects in progress?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Not A Review: Blackout by Connie Willis

Hi there, I just finished reading Blackout by Connie Willis, and usually that would mean my posting a review and trying to convince you to read it.  However, Blackout is the first part of a two part story that is concluded in All Clear, so I don't feel like I can really give the book justice, not knowing how the story ends.  So, I'm going to wait until I have read All Clear to tell you about both.

For now, let me tell you that this is well-written, compelling, and interesting, despite the fact that this is the first book in the time travelling Oxfordian set where the present is completely absent (see what I did there?) from the narrative further than when the last person travels back in time.  Oh, that's another thing we haven't seen before - Blackout follows more than one time traveller.  And it's set during World War II - which seems to be Willis' favoute time period.  But this is all I will say for now!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Cat with Umbrella


First she was scared of it, and then she sniffed it, then she sat under it as it dried on the deck.
Our little loony kitty.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Latest Non-Fiction Reads

Lately I've been tearing through non-fiction at a vastly accelerated rate, and forgetting to share all of the awesome things I've found!  So here's a catch up, 

Science Ink




I read about this book online only last week and immediately posted two of the pictures from the review to Pinterest, and then put the book on hold through our library.





I can't believe in all of my years of studying science-adjacent subjects, I've never thought of getting a science-themed tattoo.

I'm not inked, but I've always wanted a tattoo...  just never settled on something that means enough to me and is unchangeable enough to be forever on my skin.  Maybe now I have no excuse?








There are so many brilliant pictures in this book, but my favourites include a tree of life...









And some palaeoanthropological pretties, of course :-)



















The AWW Cooking School




The best part of this book is the double page spreads that compare different types of the same food group, for example, pasta (click to embiggen):







There's one for salad greens, one for vegetables, one for rice, one for noodles, and more.  There are some brilliant technical lessons, and techniques for making the most basic things - you know, those things that everyone notices if you screw up!

It's such a hefty volume, and includes food inspired by many of the different cuisines that influence Australian and New Zealand home cooking, that it might be all you need (other than Edmond's).  There's also a version for kids (I saw this in the library and it looks just as fabulous!), and both versions are marked down over at Mighty Ape right now (use the links above).



The Modern Library:  The 200 Best Novels in English Since 1950


I never really like books like this because everyone has a different opinion of what the 'best' of this or that is, and I rarely agree.  This book, though, is well-written, took input from people from around the world, and doesn't seem to dwell on the same books that everyone is told they should read.

Of course Lord of the Flies is there, Catcher in the Rye, Lolita, and The Bell Jar, but there are others that I've never heard of, like Lucky Jim, The Little Girls, and What a Carve Up!*.  Some are even set outside of America and the UK!  Maurice Gee and Janet Frame feature, and there are stories set in China, India, South Africa, and Australia too**.  If you're looking for a list of books from outside of your genre, this might just be it.

*Please don't tell me how ignorant I am of brilliant literature - as I've said before, I don't claim to know everything (or anything) about literature!
**All links are to the cheapest editions on Mighty Ape at the time of writing this post, but most have other editions to choose from.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Love Your Bloodstained Heart

Yeah, I know it was a few days ago now, but I don't care, happy Valentine's Day!




Darren Hayes loves you :-)  (and so do I...  a little :-P )

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Book Review: Tajore Arkle by Jackie French

I know I've only been doing book reviews and not craft or recipe posts lately, but believe me, I haven't been cooking anything new or working on my craft projects at all.  I have another canvas sewing project half in my head and half done (I have painted the canvas, just need to do the sewing), but it's been like that for months now.  And I'm reading five books at once at the moment, so these reviews help me keep somewhat sane.

(Sorry about the resolution on this picture, it's the only one on the internet, and is from Jackie French's website)

One of the books I'm reading, that has made me put all of the other books on hold, is what I have recently realised is my favourite book*.  I've never been one to settle on favourites for long, and very rarely will reread a book, but I've just finished my third reading of Tajore Arkle by Jackie French, and I still love it as much as the first time.  Set on a world where everywhere but the poisonous Rift is barren, rocky, and dry, and life is tough, Anya is special.  Anya is a pastseer, remembering things that, in her short life, she's never actually learned or experienced.  When her warning about impending disaster comes true, the people of her isolated village believe that she is the cause of the disaster, even if she did not intend it, and she is sent away with a traveling trader.  What follows is a great and world-changing adventure that I'm not going to spoil!  Just pick up this book, it's only 200 or so pages (and aimed at older children or young adults), and well worth it.

Although it is aimed at older children or young adults, the story of searching for a place to belong, or making changes in your world until you belong, is something I think everyone can understand and relate to.  The characters and settings are so lovingly detailed that, especially upon multiple readings, I feel as if I know each of the named characters intimately.  The aridity of the land suitably dictates social practices (such as cutting one's hair very short and resisting the urge to cry), the struggle for survival (in Anya's concern for the supplies of sweetwater and mana), and the level of technology (thin slabs of rock are used in place of paper - it is so dry that trees are very rare and precious).  The animals - scitters, belsboks, harriers - also suit the landscape.  All of these factors lead to world-building that is exquisite, which is natural considering Tajore Arkle is the world that Jackie French lived in as a child, and the novel is only one of the world's many stories.  In the space of a few hundred pages, Jackie French describes an entire world, and leaves me desperate for more.  Unfortunately this is the only book she has published about this amazing world, and so I must be content to make up possible futures for Anya and her friends.

My only complaint about this perfect book is that it is no longer in print and I do not own a copy.  Our public library system has only two copies (our library system is the biggest in Australasia with 55 libraries to borrow from), so this is a tricky book to get hold of.  I have a dream that I will be casually exploring a second-hand bookshop on the other side of the world, and will find a copy hidden at the very back of the shop, waiting for me.  But I don't know if I can wait that long!  So, if you do find a copy, and do not want to keep it for yourself (you're mad, by the way!), please consider selling/giving it to me.  I would forever be in your debt.

Do you have a favourite book that you find yourself returning to over and over again?  That you can't stop talking about to anyone who will listen?  That, once you find out someone is interested in reading, you have to ask "have you read this book?", and badger them until they read it.  I hope that you own a copy of yours**!

*This is my all-time-forver-favourite book.  My favourite grown-ups' book is The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder (I think - so far I have only read it once).
**I once read an article about someone who insisted that one must have at least two copies of your favourite book - one that can be lent and become dog eared and dirty without making you upset, and one special copy that is all yours.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Link Love: Bookshelf P*rn

I've found a new favourite picture blog!  If you love books, and love the idea of having this in your house:




This as your bedroom:




Or this as your local library:


You'll love this blog as much as I do; find Bookshelf P*rn here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pinterest

Hi there!  It's been a long time since I have done a links of the week post, and I think it'll be a long time until I do another one.  Instead, I've been pinning.  And pinning, and pinning, and pinning.  I'm obsessed with Pinterest.  There is a button on my firefox tool bar so that wherever I go on this great wide internet, I can pin pictures that link to articles/shops/blog posts/websites.  You can find me on Pinterest here, and see what I spend all of my days and nights doing instead of being productive here.  Does anyone else pin?  Leave me a comment so I can go visit your boards and follow you!

If you have no idea what Pinterest is, I'm looking at you like this O.o


These are my boards.  As you wander the internet, you can pin a picture to your board by going to your account and putting in the url of the site where you found the image.  Pinterest looks for images on that site, asks you to choose which one if there's more than one, and then asks if you'd like to comment on the picture.  It then puts all of your pictures in one place, organised into boards you name.  I love being able to pin a half a dozen pictures of shoes and then look at them all at once before choosing the pair I like the most (and then not buying them because I'm not rich).

As you can see, I have a lot of work to do in the Books Worth Reading section, and have gone overboard on the wearables.  But such is life.  Go look!  One of the best things about Pinterest is that you can click on the image, and it will take you to the original website where you found the image, so, if you're not like me and are in fact rich, you can buy those shoes.  :-)  Happy pinning

Follow Me on Pinterest

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I've been wanting to read a Sherlock Holmes book for a while now, and after watching Sherlock (BBC) and Sherlock Holmes (Hollywood), I figured I should get to it.  So I started at the beginning, with A Study in Scarlet (1886).

I was suprised by how easy this book was to read.  I found myself comparing the prose to that of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which was published only 16 before ASiS.  If you have ever heard me talk about 20,000 Leagues, you know my opinion of this work, permanently dubbed The Fish Directory in my memory - it is DULL.  But ASiS is fast-moving, includes just enough detail for the purposes of the story and to introduce the characters that we all know - Holmes, Watson, the slightly hopeless police detective/s that take all the credit.  This surprised me, as I was expecting long, drawn-out descriptions of the minutiae of the murder scene and Shakespearean soliloquies exposing the identity of the murderer.  This was so refreshing, compared to my (admittedly limited) experience with other classics, and showed great restraint on the part of the author.

Another surprise came in part two of the book, which tells the story of a man and a young girl stranded in a desert in the US.  It took me a very long time to work out how this fit into the original plot, which either says something about my inability to see things coming, or about the author's ability to surprise the reader even in as straightforward a case as Sherlock deems this to be.  I also liked the application of scientific techniques to the investigation of crime (no surprises there!), something that at the time would have been virtually unheard of.  As Holmes and Watson meet, Holmes has just invented a liquid that reacts only when in blood is present - information that is still vitally important in criminal investigations today.

I don't think any further spoilers are necessary for this review, but I will say this:  I recommend this book to anyone who is entertained by the Sherlock Holmes stories, or anyone interested in an easy introduction to the classics.  However, those looking for a story similar to those of modern-day crime writers may need to set some expectations aside - there is very little that could be called 'gruesome detail' to be found here.



  
If I have inspired you to buy this book, please consider purchasing it from Mighty Ape. Using this link doesn't cost you anything and earns me credit to spend on more things to tell you about!

Book Review: Connie Willis' To Say Nothing Of The Dog

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't repeat myself, but I just looked at my stats, and it says that noone's found their way to this post (remember that blogger backdated the post to when I started, rather than when I finished it?).  I really enjoyed this book, so I'm hoping someone will read the review so they're inspired to read and enjoy it too!

It's official, I love Connie Willis.  Yes, I know, I'm only three books into her repertoire, but until I find evidence against it, I stick by my statement.  This is the second novel in the Time Traveling Oxfordians universe (I don't think the series has a title...), and is almost the polar opposite of Doomsday Book in tone, setting, and characterisation.

Ned is busy in the past trying to find out what happened to the monstrosity that is the Bishop's Bird Stump, last seen in Coventry Cathedral before its bombing in 1940.  This almost impossible task has been set him by Lady Shrapnell, who has basically taken over the history department (with her 'generous donations') to aid her in recreating the Cathedral exactly as it was moments before the bombing.

Because of the number of drops (ie time traveling trips) Ned has done in a short amount of time, he becomes ill with time-lag, causing "Maudlin sentimentality, difficulty in distinguishing sounds, fatigue... tendency to become distracted by irrelevancies.  Slowness in answering.  Blurred vision" and his almost being hit by a steam locomotive.  The only cure for this is rest, but because of Lady Shrapnell, that just wont happen in (Ned's present) 2057, so Mr Dunworthy (yes, the very same from Doomsday Book and Fire Watch) sends him to 1888.  Where else could be more relaxing - punting on the Thames, playing croquet, and drinking tea.  Except that Mr Dunworthy has set Ned a task, something that Ned has since forgotten due to the time-lag. And here's where the spoilers start!  Click the picture below for a much shorter than usual review...






I think it takes a really skilled author to be both entertaining and thought-provoking, especially in both a lighthearted story and a serious story.  If you found Doomsday Book too heavy to finish, do try To Say Nothing of the Dog.  Also, give her short stories a try.  I dug Fire Watch out of the library's stack (it was published in 1984) to read the Hugo and Nebula award-winning titular story, set in the same universe as Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Blackout/All Clear (which I'll definitely be reading soon*), and read on through the rest of the stories.  I found A Letter from the Clearys (Nebula award winner), And Come from Miles Around, and Service for the Burial of the Dead the most enjoyable, though the imagery of Daisy in the Sun (Hugo award nominee) has stayed with me.

If I have inspired you to buy this book, please consider purchasing it from Mighty Ape.  You can also get the book that inspired the title here, and you can get second-hand copies of Fire Watch here.
Using this link doesn't cost you anything and gives me credit to spend on more things to tell you about!


*Because this has been sitting in my draft-posts for so long, I'm now actually on to reading Blackout.  I'm only three or four chapters in and I'm already hooked.  I don't think it's a spoiler to say Colin (from Doomsday Book) makes an appearance!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Year in Blog

2011 was a pretty eventful year for me, and for this blog.  Although I started my blog years ago as a journal for my time in Australia, it was never used, never read, it just sat stagnant.  But once I finished my thesis, I felt the urge to keep on writing.  I picked the thing I was most enjoying doing at the time - cooking - and wrote about that.  And it worked, I kept it up, adding in links to my favourite food websites, and then eventually crafts, and book and dvd reviews.

Although I don't have many readers, I love the idea that someone I don't know is learning a new recipe or technique here from something I figured out or found out, or is inspired to read a book or watch a movie I love.  So thanks to everyone reading this, even if you've just accidentally stumbled upon this post looking for this little piece of awesomeness from Geek Crafts:

Party like it's x = (2^3) + 80 (5^2) + (36/9)!!!

Top posts for this year:
  1. Shell Lace Scarf (With Pattern)
  2. Webcomics/Graphic Novels (review)
  3. seaQuest 2032 (geek-out)
  4. Cameras (pretties-to-buy)
  5. German Onion Cake (recipe)


My Favourites of the Year:

Book of the Year:  Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Album of the Year:  Bruno Mars - Doo-wops and Hooligans
Song of the Year:  Colbie Caillat - Brighter than the Sun
TV Show of the Year:  Supernatural (read about it here and here)
Movie of the Year:  Another Earth
Recipe of the Year:  Oreo Truffles (from Chocolate and Carrots)
Craft of the Year: Triolobite Sampler (from Adventures in Stitching)

Picture of the Year:  Princess Bride Reunion


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog

This new blogger interface has me a little confused.  I started writing a review of the second book in Connie Willis' series about the time-travelling Oxfordians as soon as I finished the book a few months ago, but had a few tweaks to make before I could post.  So it sat in 'draft' purgatory until a few minutes ago.  Imagine my surprise when I hit Publish, and it didn't appear on my blog.  I finally found it, under the date when I started writing it.  I hope this was some kind of glitch, because I'm not at all interested in posting into the past!

Anyway, here's the link to the review because I don't want to repeat myself.

Also, I'm half way through A Study In Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes book, and have had Connie Willis' Blackout sitting on my bedside table since before Christmas.  So I've decided to read Sherlock on the bus and Blackout at home.  Wish me luck in reading two books at once - it's something I've not done in years!

PS:  Yes I am avoiding writing about New Year's Eve, not because it wasn't fantastic, but because in all the fuss and time management issues... somebody forgot to take photos.  Yes, somebody is me.  I'm sorry.  There are a few, but none of my delicious cheesecake, so, poor us, I'll have to make it again soon so I can put up photos!  The things I do for this blog :-P  To make up for it, here's a photo of Christmas Cat* (ie Kashka):



*Every year Kashka really gets behind Christmas, I don't know if it's because it's also her birthday month or what, but she loves it.  So I'm going to make taking a photo of her enjoying Christmas every year.

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