I like baking. I like baking far better than I like cooking meals. One of the things I bake with relative frequency is bread. I make decent bread, butI like baking. I like baking far better than I like cooking meals. One of the things I bake with relative frequency is bread. I make decent bread, but there are some things I still struggle with. Working with a more sticky, slack dough is one of those. I've read countless articles and online postings about baking bread, but there has still been something missing.
Cue my youngest daughter. My birthday was this month, and she gave me this book as a gift. I started reading it and immediately thought: This is going to be really help. And it has. I tried the basic recipe from the book this week, and while I did over bake the loaves a bit (I'm not used to preheating the oven so high and forgot to turn it down when I put the loaves in), the taste and texture are really good. And I got nice oven spring, something I'd not with some breads before.
The book is a bit textbook-like, and that may put some people off. I will admit that the first couple chapters on the chemistry part did make my head spin a bit. I have never been the science-y, math type. But there was a lot of interesting information on the why and how of what happens with the simple ingredients that bread is made up of. And who knew there was so much research done on bread? I sure didn't!
The book startst with the basics: ingredients, measuring, and an overview of the process. Then it delves into the science with chemical reactions described and explained, and how different ingredients and reactions affect the dough either positively or negatively. There are chapters on preferments and starters, mixing, fermentation, shaping (really good tips here), proofing and baking, as well as a few recipes and storage information. It has a bibliography that lists the sources for the research cited, an appendix of units and conversions, and a glossary of terms.
This is not a cookbook, as such. It is more of a class in bread making. Some of it is a bit hard to get through, especially if chemistry isn't your strong point, but I picked up some valuable information anyway. If you want to improve your bread making, and learn a bit more in depth about the whole process, this book is quite an interesting read....more
Fuzzy Nation is a re-working of H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy, a wonderful first contact story. Jack Holloway is an independent surveyor for ZaraCorp,Fuzzy Nation is a re-working of H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy, a wonderful first contact story. Jack Holloway is an independent surveyor for ZaraCorp, exploring the planet looking for resources that can be mined. He causes a large scale cliff collapse, and ZaraCorp is in the process of canceling his contract, when Jack discovers a large vein of extremely precious jewels. He manages to lay claim to the vein, and negotiates a deal with ZaraCorp that will make him a very wealthy man. As with all planetary exploitations, ZaraCorps claim to this one is based on the lack of sapient native life on the planet. However, when a "Fuzzy" shows up at Jack's remote cabin, bringing his family with him, Jack begins to doubt that lack. The Fuzzies show more and more evidence that they are truly people and not just smart animals. And ZaraCorp seems willing to stop at nothing to keep their claim on the planet intact.
Is this Piper's story, simply retold? No. It's a fully reimagined version of the story. Scalzi keeps the original framework, updating the details and characters. It is Piper's story only in a broad sense, and, as it stands, is a pretty good read unless you are looking for a simple retelling. Characters are changed, left out, and combined in new ways. The corporate greed element is here, as are the questions of what, exactly, constitutes intelligent life. Jack Holloway here is a bit of a con man, selfish, and not above a bit of trickery to get what he wants. Still, the story is anchored in its predecessor, and is a nice homage to Piper.
The book is a fairly quick read, the action moves at a good pace, and the twists are nicely done. The future world is believable, the technology makes sense, and characters are interesting. All in all, I found it an enjoyable read....more
I interviewed Jeffrey Cook about this book for my Monday Blog Post He provided me with the Kindle edition and that is what I am reviewing here.
Let meI interviewed Jeffrey Cook about this book for my Monday Blog Post He provided me with the Kindle edition and that is what I am reviewing here.
Let me start by saying I am a fan of Shakespeare- all of Shakespeare: plays and poetry. And I was intrigued by the idea of taking some of those classics and giving them a 'punk twist. I also enjoy a good steampunk or cyberpunk story now and again.
There are five stories in the collection: Mac based on "Macbeth", The Green-Eyed Monster based on "Othello", Prospero's Island inspired by "The Tempest," "A Town Called Hero" inspired by Much Ado About Nothing, and "The Winter's Tale" inspired by The Winter's Tale.
All are nicely done, and serve their inspirations well. The base story from Shakespeare is preserved in each one, and the 'punk settings don't get in the way of the telling. You don't have to be intimately familiar with the original works to enjoy them, but a grasp of the basic storyline does help. There are many places to find synopses of the plays, including the Writerpunk website.
The authors know their source material, and work well within the various 'punk genres. There are quotes from the original plays, but nothing overly daunting or extensive. These stories are written as stories, not the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare. Characters are true to their roots, but molded to fit in their new worlds. Settings are varied, depending on the genre.
This is an enjoyable collection, and I recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed a Shakespeare play, and to the many fans of the various 'punk genres.
All proceeds from the sale of this book go to PAWS, an animal shelter in WA....more
This is the third book in Kowal's Glamourist Histories, and it is quite as good as the other two. In Without A Summer, Jane and Vincent are commissionThis is the third book in Kowal's Glamourist Histories, and it is quite as good as the other two. In Without A Summer, Jane and Vincent are commissioned to construct a glamour in London. They bring Jane's sister, Melody, along because Melody's "prospects" (chances of finding a husband) will be better during London's society season than at the family estate. While working, Jane uncovers evidence of a plot to change the balance of power in the government.
The story takes place in 1816, the Year Without a Summer, and the weather figures into the plot on several levels. We are also introduced to Vincent's family, and learn more about the coldmonger glamourists. But the main element here is still the relationship between Jane and Vincent. Their lives had been torn apart in more than one way in the last installment, and they are still recovering from the emotional scars. Woven around the political intrigue is the relationship that is central to these stories, and it is portrayed in real terms with all the fear, doubt, tenderness, and love that make up a marriage. We learn more about not only Jane and Vincent, but also Melody, who is, if not central to the story, at least a strong secondary character.
The world continues to grow around the Regency era setting. The addition of glamour, the magical ability to create illusion by bending strands of light, is a good fit for the time period. We are treated to wonderful gowns and bonnets, manor houses and estates, and the upper levels of London society of the period. At the same time, the story doesn't suffer. Kowal draws together the strands of social commentary, budding technology and those who don't trust it, science versus superstition, and political intrigue as deftly as Jane creates a glamour.
These are wonderful, intriguing stories that have been called "Jane Austen with magic" and the description is accurate. Fans of historical fiction, fantasy, and light romance will all find these enjoyable. ...more
I did not read the first book in the series. I got this one in a contest, and decided to give it a try and if I needed to read the first, I could alwaI did not read the first book in the series. I got this one in a contest, and decided to give it a try and if I needed to read the first, I could always shelve this until I did. As it turned out, I don't think it is necessary to read the first before this one. Sure, some of the nuance may have been lost, but most of what I needed to know was recapped as the story went along.
As this second book opens, Tiber Adolphus is gathering his Deep Zone allies and preparing for the coming assault from the Constellation. Adolphus and his rebels broke from the Constellation and have established their own Deep Zone alliance. The Constellation is sending a huge fleet, commanded by Escobar Hallholme, the son of the man who defeated Adolphus in the first book. The Deep Zone rebels have their own fleet, and the help of the native aliens on Hellhole, most of whom are preserved as consciousnesses in the slickwater pools on the planet. If a human chooses to enter the pools, a Xayan consciousness will meld with the human in a symbiotic relationship. There are also a few of the original Xayans still alive. The Xayans possess telemancy, which is a bit like telekinesis blended with telepathy. Sort of. The plan is to use the telemancy to assist in the defeat of the Constellation armada. But as things come to the final confrontation, a new, separate threat arrives which changes the plans of both the rebels on Hellhole, and the Xayan natives. And sets up book three.
Overall, it was not a bad story. It dragged a bit in spots, and seemed a bit wordy and long-winded through the middle. The space-faring worlds are typical for the most part. The stringlines which link the planets and proved the "highways" for the ships to travel are an interesting twist on space travel. Characters are a bit typical. Adolphus is the honorable Robin Hood, leading his followers against the oppressive Constellation government. His second and lover, Sophie, is strong and competent, but still has an emotional side. The Diadem, leader of the Constellation, is scheming and politically savvy, despite her age. And her underlords are scheming and ambitious. There isn't one that stands out as really different, but all are interesting in their own way. The plot is full of intrigue, political maneuvering, and a fair bit of action.
The story is part space opera, part political thriller, and part alien contact story. It's not terrible, if a bit slow in spots. I haven't read a straight science fiction story in a while, and this was a decent re-entry to that part of the genre....more
A nicely plotted first book in a new series, Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi is the story of VIncent Graves. Or, at least, that is what he is called noA nicely plotted first book in a new series, Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi is the story of VIncent Graves. Or, at least, that is what he is called now. Vincent is dead, and has no memory of who or what he was before he died. His soul is reincarnated in the bodies of those who have died by supernatural means, and Vincent is tasked with solving the murders, and bringing the supernatural entity responsible to justice. When Grave Beginnings opens, Vincent awakens in a coffin. He breaks out and begins the search to find the killer of his current body, a museum curator named Norman. Along the way, he meets federal agent Camilla Ortiz, and together they fight their way through fire-breathing salamanders, Elementals, and statues come to life to get to the real bad guy.
The premise of the book is intriguing: that a soul can come back to inhabit another's body in order to avenge a murder committed by a supernatural being. This first story is well-concieved, with some nice twists and surprises. Vincent is fun to read. He's a bit of a smart ass, with a sardonic sense of humor that lends itself to the style of the story. Ortiz is a bit stereotypical, in that she is the skeptic who thinks Norman/Vincent is simply crazy until she is faced with some very real, very otherworldly threats. She does serve her purpose well and when she is in danger, you worry for her- always the sign of a good character. Vincent's contact from the afterlife, known only as Church since he appears to Vincent in churches, is somewhat archetypal, but is enough of an enigma that he left me wanting to know more about him.
The story is fast-paced for the most part, and the action moves along at sometimes break neck speed. The style is reminiscent of hard-boiled detective stories' with a gritty, dark feel. There is enough mystery and action to keep the pages turning.
So, with all that, why three stars? Because the book fails where many independently published book do: the errors. There are mechanical errors, like missing commas and other punctuation mistakes. There are several instances of a noun being used as a verb. The run-on sentences, which often don't do much more than restate the same thought in different words, often interrupt the quick, sharp flow of the style. And there is one physically impossible scene that popped me out of the story near the end. It's not a long book as it stands, but could do with some judicious editing to improve pacing and avoid reptition.
I don't want to say don't read this, because I truly did enjoy the story, and the premise intrigues me. It is a first in a series, so I do hope the problems can be improved as it goes on. I am looking forward to reading more about Vincent Graves and his next assignment....more