Book Bullets From The Dark Side - Darth Heather's 2017 reads
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Thanks for visiting, and don't worry if none of the bullets hit you - Imperial Troops have a reputation for poor aim. :)
Yipes! The force must have pulled me into this thread, I would *never* be attracted to the Dark Side otherwise. ;)
>1 Darth-Heather: But where are the cookies? They said the Dark side had cookies...
>1 Darth-Heather: I’ve been looking forward to seeing your thread for 2017! :) Based on your comment in my thread, it sounds like we have some similar reading interests.
>6 gilroy: I brought cookies!
Looking forward to being in on the journey through the Dark Side.
Starting 2017 a bit early!
Rogue Planet by Greg Bear. 3 1/2 stars
This installment in the Star Wars Legends series is set three years after The Phantom Menace, and involves Anakin and Obi-Wan on assignment to a mysterious planet in the far reaches of the galaxy.
If, like me, you feel that the first three movies do a terrible job of making the case that whiny bratty Anakin will someday become The Commanding Lord Vader, you will want to read this book. It portrays Anakin as tormented and fearful and struggling to come to terms with his connection to the Force, and does a far better job of setting up the future plotline than Attack of The Clones did.
Happy New Year, may 2017 bring you many enjoyable books and time to read them as well!
Happy New Year!
>12 Darth-Heather: I have yet to read any Greg Bear, but he's been mentioned a few times. I had no idea he'd written any Star Wars books!
>14 clamairy: I haven't heard of Greg Bear before reading this book. What other stuff does he write?
Other stuff so far this month:
Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati
an interesting colonial adventure set in the Adirondack mountains of New York. The main character travels from England, intending to teach school and live a quiet spinster life, but then Drama! Indians! Lots of snow! Murder! Intrigue! More snow! Well written, and clearly aimed directly at Outlander fans.
Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer
I don't normally read much romance, but this was recommended to me for a reading challenge, and turned out to be fairly entertaining.
Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean
Mystery involving a disaster at an Arctic expedition camp. I get claustrophobic just thinking about submarines, so it's a bit tense reading about one under the Arctic ice cap, in the winter, hundreds of miles from land.
>16 Darth-Heather: Happy New Year!
The film of Ice Station Zebra, with Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan, is one of my favourites. It is real comfort viewing.
Pub quiz trivia:
Q: What impact did the film, Ice Statin Zebra, have on the TV series, The Prisoner?
A: The story for one of the episodes of The Prisoner involved No. 6 having his appearance changed. This story was written because Patrick McGoohan was not available for filming The Prisoner as he was busy filming Ice Station Zebra and they needed another actor to play No. 6.
If you are not familiar with The Prisoner you might look it up. I think you may enjoy it.
I am not a number. I am a free man!
BTW, Das Boot is a great novel, but your dislike for submarines might make it a non-starter for you.
>18 pgmcc: Oh, I adore the film also and look on it as comfort viewing.
>15 Darth-Heather: He's on of the three Big B's of 90s SF - David Brin, Greg Bear and Simon Baxter (whom's work I don't like). Greg Bear writes SF and explores all sorts of ideas about people and how they change and respond to various concepts. He's most famous book is probably Eon about an asteroid arriving in an orbit around earth.
>18 pgmcc: What's fun is that when the East Coast got slammed with snow either last year or the year before, some friends and I pretended to be various station communicating with Ice Station Zebra (which was located in VA for the fun of it) while posting on Google+. Think I was chiming in as Ice Station Chesapeake. :)
>18 pgmcc: Happy New Year to you as well! I will certainly check out The Prisoner; I am only aware of it peripherally - people refer to it occasionally, and I know the Iron Maiden song... It was once recommended to me by a friend who also recommended Steve McQueen's "The Great Escape" (which was exceptional), so I should probably just bite the bullet, already.
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
The first of the Liveship trilogy. I love how Hobb's characters are so well designed and it's easy to get attached to them as they develop.
I will probably get into the rest of the trilogy pretty soon. I learned from reading Assassin's Apprentice that her trilogies are really just one story broken into three volumes, so nothing is resolved until the third book.
>26 Darth-Heather: Yeah, pretty much! Glad you liked it. I love Hobb's writing. There are characters in the Liveships that go on significant character arcs. One in particular I absolutely hated in the beginning and was one of my favorites by the end.
Have any of you read the Rain Wild trilogy? The Liveship books introduce that setting and now I'm curious to spend some time there. Although the start of Mad Ship seems to indicate that I will find out more during this trilogy too. (yes, I started the second book already... the ease of getting books with the Kindle App on my tablet is a terrible thing for my lack of impulse control where books are concerned)
>30 Darth-Heather: I haven't, but I want to. I’ve only thread the first three trilogies. I’ve been tentatively planning a re-read of everything (with the new-to-me stuff included) at some point after the last book in the newest trilogy is published.
>30 Darth-Heather: Not yet. I put it in my TBR challenge this year so I'll be hitting it up at some point over the next few months. It is high on my list and I already own all the books :)
>30 Darth-Heather: I've read it - it's actually four books (not sure if she meant it to be a trilogy at first and then it grew) and I think it works best if you've read the ship books first so that you understand the life cycle of the dragons. It was a total soap opera as regards the characters and their relationships, but impossible to put down.
I finished the Liveship trilogy by Robin Hobb. A few months ago, I was set up on a Blind Date with the first book of the Farseer trilogy, which is the start of this series. I loved it and immediately went right into the remainder of the trilogy. Liveship is the second trilogy, and I liked it even better than the first one and can't wait to get to the rest of the series. This blind date turned into a real relationship :)
This trilogy advanced the plotline to an exciting point, and added pirates! Robin Hobb is brilliant at giving her characters real depth, and I got very attached to them while watching them evolve. The Liveships themselves are wonderful characters, and I'm impressed with the inventiveness of this story and how skillfully she weaves various plots together. I am so totally in love with the dragons.
The Five by Robert McCammon
McCammon is my favorite horror writer, but this one fell short of the mark for me. It isn't a bad premise for a thriller - The Five is the name of a rock band, who are struggling to get noticed and find that they've attracted some unwanted attention. After two band members are gunned down, the media attention gains them sudden popularity but the killer is still after them.
McCammon is a descriptive genius, and I really enjoyed the inner workings of a band on the road and the rock-n-roll nostalgia he fits in. Like all his books, I got drawn into the scene right away.
The problem is that this story never really seems to go anywhere. He introduces a supernatural element at the beginning that never gets fulfilled and is just left hanging. The rest of it seems to be themes scavenged from his earlier books - the otherworldly battle of Good vs Evil is a theme in several of his other works, the spooky premonitions (like in Mystery Walk), a road trip chase (as in Mine), a girl with supernatural power (as in Gone South), the ancient foe (as in Night Boat or Usher's Passing). It may be that I've read too many of his in a short time and am getting jaded on his common themes, and I understand that this is probably just the way he writes, but I felt like since some years had gone by that maybe he would have discovered new elements. This book felt like a retread, as though I'd read it before.
>37 clamairy: I definitely recommend Gone South and Stinger. Mystery Walk, Usher's Passing, and The Night Boat were decent. I didn't enjoy Mine, but all of his books do have a way of drawing you into the characters and scene. Blue World is a collection of short stories, and is very worthwhile if you are a fan of Twilight Zone - I can picture several of them making good spooky episodes.
Then there's Boy's Life - I would recommend that to literally everyone. It is utterly entertaining.
I've taken some bullets for Swan Song, which is another supernatural thriller, and is in my TBR. It looks to be a large one so I haven't started it yet either. I have a half dozen others in my pile too.
I've also heard good things about The Matthew Corbett series, which as far as I can tell is a historical fiction set around the Salem Witch Trials.
Most of the ones I've read are his older works, from the 80's and 90's, but it looks like he puts out a novel every year so I'd like to check out some of his more recent works and hope that they suit me better than The Five did.
Which ones do you have waiting for you?
Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint
4 1/2 stars
Urban fantasy at it's best! This is one of the Newford settings, which is a fictional city in Canada. It is a stroke of genius to invent his own city so he can create whatever neighborhoods his story wants. The main character, Isabelle, is an art student studying under a reclusive master painter. He teaches her more than just painting technique, and once she learns how to put her heart in her work, strange things happen.
This is my third book of his, and I'm as delighted with them as I was when first discovering Neil Gaiman, and for some of the same reasons. I love mythology and mysticism and fairy tales of all kinds, and both authors draw on those inspirations in the most wonderful way. Where Gaiman involves more classic Asiatic and European mythologies, deLint incorporates Native American and earth-wise traditions, but the end results are similar - stories that sparkle with color and characters, while at the same time making you wonder what could be out there in the shadows.
>39 clamairy: We will have to compare reviews once we've (eventually) read them. I have both of those in my paperback stack, but was hoping to get the sequel to Nightbird before I start it so I can read them together.
It's probably good that I didn't know about the sale :) my eBook stack is getting big too...
Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn
3 1/2 *
Another Star Wars Legends novel. Zahn is by far one of the best writers in this series, and this novel involves his genius character creation, the Grand Admiral Thrawn of the Chiss. The setting is somewhere between Episode 1 and 2, so it is the first contact with Thrawn, who will show up again in the Heir To The Empire trilogy which is set after Return of the Jedi.
The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster
Another Star Wars Legends novel. Foster isn't one of my favorite writers in the EU collection, but tolerable. Anakin and Obi-Wan are assigned to do some diplomatic negotiation with a solar system that wants to leave The Republic. The author puts his characters through a lot of unnecessary rigors that don't add much to the overall plot, but it was a fun ride.
The next part after this book is the animated Clone Wars tv series, so I'm planning to start working through those next while I read non-StarWars books.
Doc by Mary Doria Russell
Doc Holliday is such a fascinating character, with layers of mystery and depth and motivations of noble kinds. This book fills in his early life, and his slow decline from tuberculosis in the years prior to the well-known OK Corral story (which probably didn't happen the way it has been commonly shown).
I love the way Val Kilmer played Doc in Tombstone, and his portrayal fits the vision of the character in this story so I pictured Val Kilmer throughout, with his genteel southern drawl and sharp wit.
>44 Darth-Heather: I wanted to like that more than I did - I found it easy not to pick up, so while I didn't actively DNF it I sort of accidentally did. I still have my copy though, so I should give it another go!
Since I had Val Kilmer in mind already, I decided to take on a biography that had been lingering in my e-reader for awhile.
Blessed, Life and Films of Val Kilmer is absolutely one of the most unforgivable pieces of junk I've ever wasted my time reading. The subject matter is decent - a listing of his work and some details about the making of each one. However, I counted at least FIVE spelling mistakes on EACH PAGE, as well as excruciating grammar and syntax errors. It literally reads like a rough draft written by a child who doesn't yet know to avoid sentence fragments. I can't understand at all how something like this gets published. FFS why don't writers just send it to me and I will edit it for free.
Fortunately, I didn't spend a lot of time on it, and soon moved on to:
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
This was a grand adventure. It does seem a little too convenient that they happened to wash up in a place that has literally every sort of flora and fauna and natural resource they could need, and it intruded on my suspension of disbelief a bit every time they would discover yet another new resource, some of which I didn't think could coexist. Regardless, it was very entertaining and well written.
>47 Darth-Heather: Was the Kilmer book self published? I looked on Amazon and there are only three reviews, two of which complain about the spelling & grammar.
>48 clamairy: I'm not sure of the publishing? One of the complaining reviews is probably mine.
I picked it up with the Kindle app I use on my tablet, and didn't take the time to check for user reviews - I should probably start doing that.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
A tumultuous experience with a very dysfunctional family. Tom, a high school football coach in a small town in South Carolina's low country, is summoned to the Big City of New York by his twin sister's psychiatrist, who wants his help in treating his famous poet sister after her breakdown and suicide attempt. He sorts through their family's past, including some pretty dark secrets, hoping to piece together all the damaging situations that have led their family to this point.
I didn't love the subject, but the writing is quite good and the characters are interesting and clearly drawn. The details of the low country and the fishing and small town life are vivid and well visualized.
Time and Again by Clifford Simak
This is only my second Simak so far, but I'm hooked. There is such a skillful delicacy in the way he reveals plot points and his writing style is a joy.
Simak is remarkably fun, I've only read a small selection of his somewhat vast works, and while there are some that are less good than others, I'm not sure I've found a bad one. City is one of the classics.
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The sequel to The Shadow of the Wind. I agree with other reviewers who have said that this one wasn't quite as engaging as the first one, but I am glad to have read it. It doesn't quite have the strength of engaging characters as Shadow does, but it overlaps the first one in surprising ways so is worthwhile as an adjunct to the overall story.
I have the third volume, The Prisoner of Heaven, which I hope to fit into one of the monthly challenges sometime soon.
Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
3 1/2 *
A stand-alone that isn't related to any of her series', it is a re-imagining of a Russian fairy tale. The story is fairly typical young-hero-on-a-quest plot where the main character is a prince who learns an important lesson during his pursuit of his fortune.
Lackey is very skilled at character development, and at setting description, which helps make this a decent immersive adventure.
>48 clamairy: *looks it up* I assume it is self-published, yes. There's no publisher except Amazon and CreateSpace, so... Ugh. Books like that give all indie authors a bad name. I hate that. So many of us work hard to produce high-quality work! But I'll, uh, save you all the rant. I'm glad you could move on quickly to more enjoyable books, Darth-Heather!
>58 lynnoconnacht: I guess I learned my lesson to check out what I'm getting before I buy. Spelling errors are unforgivable - spell check is ubiquitous so there's no excuse. Grammatical errors are increasingly common though, and both make me itch to get out the red pens and go all schoolmarm on it and send it back.
wrapping up the rest of February:
The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. Thanks to Clamairy, I finally found that this one wasn't part of a series so it didn't need to continue waiting. So far my favorite GGK is A Song for Arbonne but this one was engrossing and very enjoyable.
The Quest by Nelson Demille
not my favorite of his; the action was sporadic, with big sections of boring in between. The plot was interesting - British journalists are stationed in Ethiopia to cover civil war action, and they stumble across an elderly monk who convinces them that there is a hidden monastery in the jungle, where the Holy Grail is kept. They decide, after 100 pages of dialogue while sitting in cafes in Rome, to seek it out.
Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
I've heard that the tv show made from this book is good. I haven't seen the show, but the book was entertaining. The author tells stories of working as a midwife in the poor sections of London in the 1950s. The stories are populated with memorable characters and anecdotes of pregnancies and births, society in those times, and the nuns and doctors she worked with.
>59 Darth-Heather: In two different companies that I worked for my teams gave me the nickname, "The Red Pen". I could never work out why.
>59 Darth-Heather: For me with spelling errors it depends entirely on how many issues there are and how long what I'm reading is. Ideally there would be none, but neither spell check nor human readers are infallible. :( Plus, when we're talking about smaller kinds of typo (like, say, a missing or an additional space), sometimes a company will decide that it's not cost-effective to address and so they don't. I expect a book to have at least a couple of typos because ime they always do (and always have). So if it's a book I'm reading for leisure, I'm liable to forgive a handful of spelling errors just because I know how incredibly hard it is to catch everything in something lengthy. The shorter the work, the less forgiving I get. I'm a lot less forgiving of grammatical errors too. Typos happen to everyone, but I expect a writer to understand the tool they're using and know how to use it well.
>60 Darth-Heather: Oh, I'm so glad to hear A Song for Arbonne is your favourite GGKay so far! It's one of my favourites, though it seems to be one of the most disliked overall.
(ETA: lol. Speaking of typos. XD *fixes it*)
>64 lynnoconnacht: I've also discovered that the two Sarantine Mosaic books that I have are the whole thing, so I can move them into the TBR stack now. I don't know why I thought I needed a third book...
I am working on rounding up the Fionavar Tapestry ones too.
Wool by Hugh Howey
This was really cool, and immediately immersive. I felt actual shock at the reveal
I really enjoyed Wool when I read it a few years ago. I started it without knowing anything about it, not even the synopsis, so the whole thing was a guessing game for me as I tried to figure out what was going on. I had a lot of fun with it.
I liked Shift pretty well also, but not quite as well as Wool. There are a lot of interesting reveals in it, but I wasn’t as crazy for the characters. I’ll be interested to read what you think of it.
At the time I read it, I thought Dust was closer to being on the same level as Wool, entertainment-wise. In retrospect, though, I barely remember it. I remember the first two better.
Mary's Land by Lucia St. Clair Robson
3 1/2 *
There are two main characters in this story of emigrants who come to Maryland before the American Revolution. They are opposites - one is a gentrified woman from a good family who is emigrating with her sister to escape persecution of Catholics in England. The other is a young street thief who gets transported as punishment for her crimes. They arrive on the same ship but have very different lives in the new colony, at least at first. Their town endures many hardships from native attacks to crop-destroying weather, and they learn in time that they share a strength of character that is necessary to survive the situation.
I have only read one other by this author -Ride the Wind is based on a true story of a young girl whose family is attacked by natives during frontier expansion into what will eventually become Texas. That story tells of her life being raised by the natives who captured her, and is very vivid with details of native life and society. This book shares the vivid writing style and well-described surroundings and is easy to visualize, but I didn't like the characters as much.
I have a few other books from this author on my wishlist and will look forward to them.
The Widow's War by Sally Gunning
3 1/2 stars
This turned out to be much better than I expected at the start. Lyddie lives in a small Puritan town on Cape Cod. When her husband is killed on a whaling expedition - which is a fear all whaling wives live with daily - she learns a great deal about society's expectations of how a widow provides for herself. At that point in history, women are not permitted to own property, so her husband's will leaves their home to her odious son-in-law. Lyddie is a strong-willed person who refuses to succumb to the injustice, and manages to find loopholes in the system.
The Mote In God's Eye by Larry Niven
An interesting take on the First Contact concept. Human civilization has expanded and colonized planets and solar systems thanks to a faster-than-lightspeed technology. They had not encountered alien life until suddenly a ship is found, containing a dead alien. It is determined which star system the ship had to have come from, and a military research contingent is sent to meet and evaluate the alien society.
This book was written in 1974, and reading it now it seems a little dated in some of the character's philosophies, especially
My dad loved that book! He was always trying to get me to read it and I never did. Hmm, maybe I should put it on my list in honor of him.
>72 catzteach: I'm glad I took the time with it, since it is classic SF and I've heard it mentioned for so long. The characters are interesting, but it does drag a little in the middle.
>71 Darth-Heather: While the sequel is also interesting, the rest of the prequel-universe co-written by Jerry Pournelle rapidly goes downhill.... I think the Moties are one of the more interesting aliens I've ever read, with the specialist morphologies being particularly clever. The societal changes were all on the alien side, contrasting to the 'ordinary' humans. A lot of early SF is equally bad at predicting how society has changed, with the Red Peril still a key driver.
Riddled With Life by Marlene Zuk
This author is an expert on parasites and pathogens and the ways they have evolved with their hosts. She is also pretty funny, and approaches these topics with a wry wit that makes the material really engaging, including chapters called "Why is testosterone like doughnuts" and "Darwin Made Me Eat That".
The reality of it is that diseases are terrifying, but are becoming predictable. However, changes are becoming more rapid in this age of unprecedented hygiene habits, which are now being linked to the drastic rise in autoimmune diseases and allergies. Resistant strains of bacteria are evolving faster than science can discover treatments. As well, the anti-vaxxer movement is doing everyone a disservice, including themselves. Diseases not only spread, but EVOLVE, which is the opportunity granted by having more unvaccinated members in the population. This can expose the rest of us (and them) to more virulent strains and make us all susceptible to things that were formerly eradicated like polio and measles.
I learned about things like the program to treat rabbits (aka Chainsaws of the Outback) with myxomatosis, which worked well at first, but the rabbits are now developing resistance.
I also learned an abhorrence of the word 'cloaca'. Eeeew.
I would recommend this book to people who have an interest in natural science and evolution, even if you don't have a scientific background. The author does a fine job of keeping the topics interesting without getting bogged down in research details.
Nice review. I'd heard of the book a while back but didn't get it and now I just might.
>78 Darth-Heather:. Hmmz. I read it at the beginning of the year, and was somewhat less taken with it than you (Vive la difference!). Maybe I'd seen quite a lot of it before, and I found her writing style irritating, as in this quote from my thoughts at the time: "She seems to have about half-a-dozen stock phrases with which she tries to make us believe she has a sense of humour. It doesn't work, at least not for me."
>80 hfglen: It probably has a lot to do with our reading experiences leading up to it. I hadn't read anything of hers before, and have read some really boring and dry attempts at this topic; by comparison this one seemed entertaining and fun :)
The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye
I am so glad I finally found time for this one. At 956 pages it is a hefty thing to lug around, esp in hardcover, but I finished it off in 5 days because it really is engrossing. Ash is raised in a small village in India, and dreams of a quiet life raising horses. His mother confesses on her deathbed that he is actually the son of British peers and he sets out to explore this other side of his cultural heritage. He joins the British army and must learn to balance this dual nature while facing many political upheavals and adventures.
This story is so rich with details of Muslim and Hindu culture, and the lifestyles of villagers and royalty. The characters travel across varied landscapes and villages and military outposts, and the author does an impressive job of showing the scale of these settings.
I think I read somewhere that there is a movie version; I would like to see it.
>83 clamairy: I'd be interested in reading another of hers, but if it's as big as this one it will probably be awhile before I get there.
>84 Darth-Heather: Kaye wrote some other doorstoppers - Trade wind springs to mind - but I really liked her light mysteries that reminded me of Mary Stewart. There are six, including Death in the Andamans and Death in Cyprus. They all feature a young heroine in an exotic location who gets caught up in a murder, with some gentle romance on the side. And of course, then there is The ordinary princess, which everyone should read!
Other recent reads:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (3 1/2 stars)
I'm glad I finally read it, just to have the reference. It is well written but sad fare.
The Practice House by Laura McNeal (3 stars)
Not bad, but never really fulfilled it's promise. Also, very little of the story involves the "Practice House".
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich (3 stars)
A bit bland.
The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (3 stars)
Starting to get tired of 3-star reads.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (3 1/2 stars)
Entertaining, although the ending is not very believable.
At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon. (2 1/2 stars)
Filled a challenge category.
The Changeover by Margaret Mahy.
The main character, 14 year old Laura, is psychically sensitive, and gets premonitions when something bad will happen. She also has a feeling that a boy in her school is a witch, and must seek his help when something bad of an occult nature happens to her brother.
It was published in 1984, and I got it from the library right around that time so I was probably about 13 or so. I have been looking for this book for years; I remembered two scenes from it but not enough details to track it down. Serendipity recently brought it back into my world, and I am delighted to have located this book after years of searching, and also delighted with how good it is. It has found a place in my permanent library so I can't lose it again :)
It was really surprisingly wonderful. It is YA but geared more for high school aged kids, so I probably didn't appreciate at the time just how well written it is.
>91 SylviaC: it is great to hear from someone else who appreciates this book! I had tried to remember the title for the past couple decades, but didn't remember enough details to post it in the Name That Book group. I was pleased to tie up the loose end, and even more pleased that it is so worthwhile. Have you read any of her other YA fiction?
>92 Darth-Heather: I've read several of her YA books, a few of her children's books, and one picture book. She was a remarkably prolific writer! The Catalogue of the Universe, The Other Side of Silence, and The Haunting are all very good. The children's books are funny and cute. Sakerfalcon is also a fan.
More May reads:
The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain
3 stars - the story of a young silversmith in first century Jerusalem; he is commissioned by Joseph of Arimethea to create a decorative silver sheath for the Holy Grail. I would have liked a bit more adventure and a bit less proselytizing, and the plot moves a bit slow, but there are a lot of interesting characters and a fascinating setting.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Like Neil, I discovered mythology as a child and enjoyed Norse myths as some of my most favorite stories. His retelling is well done but doesn't really add any new flavor to these stories; I guess I was expecting him to add his own color to these stories but he seems to have chosen just a straight-retelling approach.
There were Costain books kicking around my house when I was growing up, but I've never read any of them. I'm not surprised at your assessment* of his writing, but I'm a little sad. I think I have The Tontine here somewhere and now I doubt I'll be digging it out any time soon.
*It seems as if quite a few of the more popular books from this era didn't age well.
This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? by Patrick Di Justo
Written by the same guy who writes the consumer product column for Wired Magazine, which is one of my favorite parts. He researches the ingredients to various everyday food and household products and explains what each ingredient does and what it's effects are on us and our environment. His wry humour and snarky comments made this a very entertaining read.
I did not previously know that much of the cinnamon we buy in the US isn't actually cinnamon, but a lesser-quality plant material. Or that Spam is canned raw and cooked right in the can. Refrigerators in the 1920s used ammonia as coolant, which could and often did leak, poisoning and killing families. (maybe we DO need to keep the EPA!)
The take-away - do not eat Slim Jims or chicken nuggets. Do buy Vita Coco. We already know that we should eat more natural food and less processed ones, but this book explains in chemical detail exactly WHY.
>100 Darth-Heather: I'm still trying to recover from the fact that most of the heavy whipping cream available in stores has additives like carrageenan and other stuff I can't pronounce. While the jury is still out on whether those additives are actually detrimental to health, my question is, WHY? Whipping cream is one of nature's gifts as is. Why do we think we know better? The company would say, "to ease the whipping process." Bah!
note to self - check whipping cream label for ingredients... I guess I assumed it was just cream, in a carton. It never occurred to me to check for other things in there :/
I never thought of looking at the ingredients for whipping cream either. I will now, though. It's scary the crap that gets put into our food.
>101 catzteach: That was exactly my reaction. I'll have to pass the title on to friends, though. They'd definitely be interested in it too. ^_^
Looking at labels becomes habit after a while. When I stopped eating processed food years ago I looked at what I was throwing away and couldn't believe what was in stuff. Sugar in everything. Ugh. Now when I do have to get something like whipping cream or spaghetti sauce, I look carefully and make the best choice possible. I use commercial heavy cream in my coffee because the pasture raised stuff, whether raw or pasteurized, tastes like grass.
>106 Bookmarque: I was trying to buy a wholesome bread today, because I'm not diligent enough to make my own consistently. Looking at Dave's and Eureka, the second ingredient is sugar. I bought some local French breads instead. Guess if I want whole wheat I will have to bite the bullet and make it myself. :(
I realize that after flour, there isn't a whole lot in bread, and so even a very small amount would still be the second ingredient, but there were lots of ingredients after the sugar in these. Also, even organic sugar is still sugar.
Sorry >103 Darth-Heather: to take over your thread like this, but you started it! ;)
>107 MrsLee: Inneresting ... I was under the impression that bread dough needed some sugar to feed the yeast.
>107 MrsLee: I did start it indeed! I'm still giving suspicious glares to the dairy department; not sure I am ready to look at the bread labels yet. :peeks: oh yeah, there it is. Sugar is in everything.
>108 hfglen: I used to buy amazing if somewhat dense loaves of rustic style Italian bread called Pane Romano whose only ingredients were flour, salt & yeast. I have never been able to find a recipe for it online that didn't contain honey and olive oil, but most of those do look awesome. Just found one with onion and rosemary in it, too. *drool*
I use this recipe for "somewhat dense" loaves of focaccia that are made in the crockpot.
Line bottom and about an inch up the side of crockpot with baking parchment.
In a medium bowl, blend 2 c. all purpose or bread flour with 1 1/2tsp instant yeast and 1 tsp salt.
In a small bowl, blend 1c warm milk and 2 tb olive oil. (I add in spices at this point - rosemary, thyme, dill, garlic etc - but you don't have to)
Add liquid mix to flour mix. Blend well until sticky blob of dough.
Drop blob into crockpot. Smooth out a bit to make more uniform thickness, leaving about 1/2 inch space around the sides.
Cover with lid and let rise 40 minutes.
Brush top lightly with olive oil.
Turn crock on high heat for 1 1/2 -2 hours. Serve hot.
There is no sugar added, so I am guessing that the yeast feed on the milk sugar? It doesn't rise very much, but is tasty. If my crockpot is cold, I turn it on low while I"m prepping the dough, then turn it off before I put the blob in to rise. You can also use whole wheat flour.
>111 Darth-Heather: That recipe sounds awesome! I am so trying it! If I had a spice, how much would I add? I think I'd like some garlic in it.
>113 catzteach: I love any recipe that uses the crockpot. I don't really measure with spices, I just sprinkle until it looks good. A guess would be that when I make it with dill and garlic I'm putting in somewhere around a tsp of each.
I love my crock pot! I'm always looking for good recipes to use with it. I think I'll try this one on a weekend.
>113 catzteach: & >114 Darth-Heather: I have a bread a machine, so I'm not sure how eager I would be to try using my slow cooker for bread. I did make a half white/half whole wheat dough in my machine on Sunday. I added fresh Rosemary and Chives to it. We topped it with goat cheese, fresh arugula, artichoke hearts, uncured ham and olive tapenade before we baked it. I'm still noshing on the left-overs.
>117 clamairy: whoa, that sounds amazing! I make tapanade so I can tweak it to my personal preferences, and am always looking for more ways to use it.
>117 clamairy: I thought about getting a bread machine, but I wasn't sure we would use it a whole lot. We don't eat much bread anymore. That bread you made sounds yummy!
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
The story of Jean-Baptiste, a curious character who has an eidetic memory for every kind of odor. He can separate individual scents to their most specific components, and detect odor from things most people can't. Born in a slum of 19th century Paris, he develops a very strange and isolated personality where his world is only populated with his beloved scents.
I really enjoy good sensory descriptive writing, and this is brilliantly written. I've read other works where authors include scent description along with other sensory impressions to evoke a setting, but it is rare and interesting to explore this setting that is completely involved with the sense of smell.
Shift by Hugh Howey
This is the second installment of the Silo series. I often enjoy the middle of a trilogy to be the meatiest part of the plot and this is no exception. It follows multiple characters and timelines, and blends them skillfully as the secrets are revealed.
I am going right into Dust, the final installment.
>122 YouKneeK: I guess I liked them both equally. Sometimes a follow-up can be a let-down, so I was pleased to find this one is as good as the first. I like the way each small reveal adds a piece to a puzzle that is bigger than it seemed.
I agree that the characters in Shift aren't easy to root for, but they do suit their part in the plot so it still works for me.
Dust is a bit of a tricky start, as it picks right up where Wool left off, and it's been awhile since I read that one so I'm trying to catch back up. At this point I can't wait to see how it ends...
At The Edge of The Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.
1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.
I am a fan of this author and have read quite a few of hers; this one is in the "good but not great" category. Her writing style is so comfortable and easy to slip into the story, and the characters are interesting, but some of the plot twists seem irrelevant, as in they don't really serve a purpose. I usually expect plot devices to do something to the plot, such as provide impetus for a character's behavior or change the course of the action, but this ended up seeming like a jumble of odd occurrences without resolution.
Overall I enjoyed it enough to recommend to other fans of hers.
>123 Darth-Heather: sadly I found Dust a letdown after the first two....
I'm also a frequent bread-machiner. Certainly there's no need for sugar in a plain loaf, using strong bread flour. About 1/2tsp salt seems to be the minimum to retard the yeast enough for reasonable rise. I don't tend to get too adventurous because going wild with the herbs and spices leads a one lovely slice, and then not being sure what to do with the rest of the loaf except haev the same again and again.
>125 reading_fox: I thought Dust dragged in places, then all of a sudden it seemed like the author was in a rush to finish because it got hectic near the end and left some loose bits that didn't tie up very well. I would have liked a bit more closure, but overall I liked the idea of the ending even if I thought it needed a bit more fulfillment.
I had a bread machine years ago, but I didn't like how much noise it made during the knead cycle, and the loafs always came out overdone. I hope that newer ones are better?
>111 Darth-Heather: I know I'm weeks late in seeing your process for making this kind of bread in the crockpot, but that looks interesting as an experiment. Thanks for posting it.
Sharing some photos of my "exotic" part of the world:
this is where we swim when up in the Great North Woods. We go every summer for a little family reunion/camping fun.
same camping trip - Milan Hill State Park
(momma moose is trying to hide her baby from us)
Looks exotic and lovely to me! So green. That snow picture would be nice to look at in our soon-to-be-here 100+ temperatures.
>136 SylviaC: I don't think the people running the pheasant farm there were happy to see him either :) I've heard that their population is growing in NH, mostly because we have a growing population of wild turkeys (they are EVERYWHERE), but this is the only one I've seen.
>131 Darth-Heather: Love the idea of "exotic snow"! Here in Durban it is -- the white stuff only happens in the mountains, and rarely for more than a few hours.
The other pictures tell me you live in a very beautiful part of the world.
So pretty! Love that you were able to get a pic of the bobcat! I've only seen one, and he was crossing the highway.
Those are great photos! I love the bobcat - how lucky you were to get such a good shot! - and the wildflowers and the sunset. I've always wanted to visit Acadia National Park ... one day I will get there.
I was very lucky to get that shot of the bobcat - I took a few others before he was out of sight. With his long legs he sure moves fast. The University of NH is doing a volunteer reporting program to track the populations so I submitted this photo to their archives; they said it is a young male, probably about 1 1/2 to 2 years old.
You live in such a pretty area of the country. Thanks for sharing the photos.
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