Sunday, February 23, 2014

[Book Review] Maker Dad

Maker Dad : Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects / Mark Frauenfelder
As the editor in chief of MAKE magazine, Mark Frauenfelder has spent years combing through DIY books, but he’s never been able to find one with geeky projects he can share with his two daughters. Maker Dad is the first DIY book to use cutting-edge (and affordable) technology in appealing projects for fathers and daughters to do together. These crafts and gadgets are both rewarding to make and delightful to play with. What’s more, Maker Dad teaches girls lifelong skills—like computer programming, musicality, and how to use basic hand tools—as well as how to be creative problem solvers. The book’s twenty-four unique projects include:
• Drawbot, a lively contraption that draws abstract patterns all by itself
• Ice Cream Sandwich Necklace
• Friendstrument, an electronic musical instrument girls can play with friends
• Longboard
• Antigravity Jar
• Silkscreened T-Shirt
• Retro Arcade Video Game
• Host a Podcast
• Lunchbox Guitar
• Kite Video Camera
Innovative and groundbreaking, Maker Dad will inspire fathers to geek out with their daughters and help girls cultivate an early affinity for math, science, and technology.

When picking up any sort of book with a title like Maker Dad I always have a little twinge of "why do any of the genders of the participants involved matter?"  That being said, Mark Frauenfelder certainly has every right to call his book Maker Dad as it is all about maker projects he did with his daughters, in addition to being a delightful book.

Maker Dad is filled with a fantastic collection of well explained projects that would appeal to a wide range of interests.  I can't wait to try out some of these project ideas on my own, and see how they can be adapted to the library setting (particularly helping kids learn to create games using Scratch, I've been wanting to do some programming activities for ages).  Great book for anyone looking for fun projects to do with their children.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[Book Review] Sustainable Homebrewing

Sustainable Homebrewing : An All-Organic Approach to Crafting Great Beer / Amelia Slayton Loftus (Powell's Books)

Sustainable Homebrewing is perhaps one of the most well-rounded brewing books I've read.  It clearly communicates concepts, is well written and is approachable.  Ostentatiously about sustainable homebrewing (as implied by the title), Loftus has written a comprehsive book suitable for any new brewer interested in getting started be it with a standard extract kit or going whole grain.  After reading this I realized that I had misidentified some of my own brewing gear due to unclear instructions as I have stumbled into the world of brewing.  Additionally the book contains recipes that have me eagerly looking forwards to my next brew session for trying new things with the spent grains.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

[Book Review] Sapphire Blue

Sapphire Blue / G. Doucette
Mara Cantor’s life is boring and uncomplicated, and she likes it that way. She has her internship at the museum—a job she shares with her roommate, Davis—and while it is low-paying and occasionally mind-numbing, it gives her all the free time she needs to finish her thesis. And that is just fine.

But when Argent Leeds, the internationally famous playboy and raconteur, visits Mara’s museum, he brings with him the most exciting archeological discovery in decades: the Pazuzu gemstones. Long assumed to be nothing more than a myth by most scholars, the gemstones are rumored to possess mystical powers.

Between Argent, his gemstones, and Davis, Mara’s boring life has suddenly gotten very complicated. Now she is caught up in a sexual adventure that is either the most exciting time of her life . . . or the most terrifying. 
As of late I have been striving to maintain a somewhat professional tone for at least the main body of my reviews, and keep the more personal and snarky bits as an addendum.  I do not think I can do so for this book if I wanted to.

The publisher summary gives this almost sexy Indiana Jones adventure feel (referring to the story line, not to any attraction to younger Harrison Ford).  Sounded like fun, some adventure, danger, a little barely believable mojo, and hopefully hot and dirty sex (after all, it is published as an Erotica/Literature title, so one hopes the sex is good).

I began to question the writing very early on.  In the first 10 pages I was already going "really, are you kidding me?"  Our protagonist, Mara, is supposed to be a beautiful (of course), independent, and highly intelligent woman who happens to not only be fortunate to have a paid internship at a museum but is working on her Doctoral thesis.  You go girl.  But first glance at these ancient gems and she's thinking about maybe it'd be worth it to forget professional aspirations and dive into full femininity if someone would consider gifting her with such gems.

From there she has intuition that these gems that she has never seen before and that have been examined by experts world wide just "don't feel right" and are fakes.  Turns out they are fakes (if these have been examined as much as he claims, how have they passed), that the real ones are safe at his home, and that she does have a special resonance with them once she sees them.  But there is no reason or her to feel anything missing from a set of gemstones.  The she goes and has surprisingly out of character sex with Argent Leeds (yes, his name is Argent), and like Cinderella dashes away home in confusion where she encounters her best friend/housemate who has the audacity to slut shame her for having a one-night stand.

Now things start to get absurd, though maybe I'm the only one who finds a millionaire wearing a corduroy shirt a little odd.  Things like them dining on "farm raised" lion steak.  I do want to acknowledge the fact that the author didn't shy away from using real body part names, because seeing the actual word "vagina" in erotica and romance novels is a bit of a rarity.  But perhaps most notably the sex starts getting weird, and not in a kinky exploratory way, but in a "has she been striped of personal agency" sort of way.

Mara has some sort of connection with the sapphire and Argent, something that makes her wetter than a bottle full of lube and as uncaring about the consequences as a kid on a snow day.  When under its influence she acts in ways she wouldn't do on her own, and takes the slightest suggestion from Argent regardless of how outlandish it might be.  This starts out with surprisingly public sex that could be just heat of the moment/high passion encounters, and grows into subverting a party on a private island into a mindless kinky orgasm.

And then we find out that every part of this is completely deliberate on the part of Argent.  He is in full knowledge that she is under an ancient magical influence that he holds in his power, deliberately puts her under it, and uses it for his own desires.  He knew that what he was doing was going to turn on the magical mojo and make her into essentially the avatar of a sex goddess in his control and never gave warning or asked for permission.  When she wakes up afterwards she is not ok with what happened and has no clue how she even went along with it in the first place.

Mara starts learning more, and has some time to think, and realizes that she needs to end the relationship, or whatever she has, with Argent.  At which point things go pear shaped and I almost walked away from the book.  His response to "I'm not comfortable with this relationship, I want to walk away," is to literally claim her as his property and to turn her into an enthralled sex slave/sex goddess avatar, and uses that power to enthrall and control her and others as he wishes with no intent to release her.  She has no memory of her life before meeting Argent, has really no memory of anything besides being with him and the sex they orchestrate.

She eventually breaks free, nearly kills him, and finds true love with her best friend.  This is after being a living sex toy with no agency or consent for eleven weeks 

All of the sex involving Mara in this book was rape, none of it was something she was capable or consenting to at any time and he never tried for her consent.  His first attempt at seduction is to link her to the stone making her his sexual slave.  This is a novel about someone under the effects of magical roofies being sold as erotica.  And according to the publisher's submission guidelines they don't accept submissions with "graphic or eroticized rape".
TWCS Publishing House will not accept or review submissions with any of the following topics or elements:
  • Bestiality
  • Graphic or eroticized incest
  • Necrophilia
  • Pedophilia (no sex involving underage characters)
  • Graphic or eroticized rape
  • Extreme fetishes
A happy ending does not change the fact that 90% of this novel involves eroticized rape.  Perhaps the best part of the book is one of the fellow victims telling Mara that Argent deserved to be killed for what he did, and that it's a shame that she only nearly killed him.

Even without the issue of rape Sapphire Blue is no more than middling quality prose.  The characterization is stilted, the setting is filled with poorly thought out details (though maybe you need to be into cars to laugh at the idea of a Honda Civic being close to death at only 100,000 miles), and just filled with moments that made me wince.  The book was nothing like I was led to expect from the description, nor like anything I should expect based on the publisher's guidelines.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

[Book Review] Crown of Renewal

Crown of Renewal / Elizabeth Moon

Crown of Renewal is the capstone to the Legend of Paksenarrion.  I first discovered Elizabeth Bear through The Deed of Paksenarrion (an omnibus collecting Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold) and fell in love with both the world and Bear's writing.  I was incredibly excited when several years ago I saw a new book in the setting, Oath of Fealty, continuing the story started in The Deed of Paksenarrion with a new series.

If you are to read Crown of Renewal, I strongly recommend at least reading the preceding Oath of Fealty, Kings of the North, Echoes of Betrayal, and Limits of Power, if not The Deed of Paksenarrion for familiarity with the setting and characters.  Paks is in these books, but these are not her story, these are the story of people's lives after Paks was an agent of change.  The wide collection of interesting people we follow creates a splintering effect in these new books, as much as I like them.  However, in Crown of Renewal everything is woven back together.  Strong storytelling about characters I've grown to love, providing a good ending to the story.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

[Book Review] Honor Among Thieves

Honor Among Thieves / James S. A. Corey

I first discovered the vast world of Star Wars novels as a kid and immediately started reading as many as I could get my hands on.  They were books I could read without worrying that they would contain adult content that would make my father freak out and they filled the need for books of a higher reading level.  However, after awhile I drifted away from them.  Not because of a loss of love for Star Wars or because they were science fiction, but because they started to leave me dissatisfied with the storytelling.

I was excited about this novel having read Leviathanne Wakes by James S. A. Corey, and wanted to see what the would create when writing for Star Wars.  I was not let down.  Honor Among Thieves is everything I love about Star Wars.  James S. A. Corey did a fantastic job capturing both the setting and characterization of the universe we know and love.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves Star WarsHonor Among Thieves is fun and enjoyable to read.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Link Smorgasbord, January 2014

It's a new year, and for the past few weeks I haven't been finding as many links, so instead I'm doing the month of January.  It looks like this may be too infrequent, but I'll figure it out as I go forward.

David Cameron's internet porn filter is the start of censorship creep
'The worst thing about the porn filter is not that it accidentally blocks useful information but that it blocks information at all."

28 Beautiful Quotes About Libraries
I may have posted this one before.

Why Women Aren't Welcome on the Internet
"But making quick and sick threats has become so easy that many say the abuse has proliferated to the point of meaninglessness, and that expressing alarm is foolish."

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 12!
I've been pretty open about not being a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey.  One of the harder things for me when covering the circulation desk is not showing my loathing for these books as patrons gush about them.  A friend of mine shared this link, I'm planning on going back and reading the the earlier recaps this blog has posted, but I feel that there is a lot in this that summarizes what is wrong with Fifty Shades, and there are further things wrong that this recap doesn't even touch on.

A Major Publisher Jumps the Shark
On ebooks, publisher profits, and author revenue.

I have a confession to make.  At this point every time someone shares a link about the damn "bookless library in Texas" I roll my eyes.  Usually because the articles are all about how this revolutionary library is paving the way by having no books.  They generally miss that the library is 1.) a branch, 2.) it has books, just not paper ones, and 3.) this library project has been in the news for at least a year if not longer even if you don't read library/book industry news.

Canadian libricide: Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplaceable environmental archives

What It's Like When The FBI Asks You To Backdoor Your Software

Read 700 Free eBooks Made Available by the University of California Press
There are some fantastic titles available through here that are still under copyright.

S&S Launching Simon451 Imprint
The new Simon451 imprint will be dedicated to speculative fiction, including science fiction, fantasy, dystopian, apocalyptic, and supernatural.  As a big fan of speculative fiction I'm excited to see what comes out of this.

Valve plays the long game again
About Valve, SteamOS, Steam Machines, and planning for long term PC gaming.

Dell's CES 2014 Head-Turners: Stand-Out Steam Machine and UltraSharp 4K Panels Are Drool-Worthy
Some pretty hardware set ups.

Federal Court Strikes Down Net Neutrality Rules, Sides with Big Telecom
Well, this is a bit of a mess.  One of those odd times where I was in favor of the FCC, but if you go with technicalities and word choices there's a reason.

HP Brings Back Windows 7 'By Popular Demand' As Buyers Shun Windows 8
Sort of self-explanatory

Cards Against Librarianship

Are Ebook Subscription Services Worth It
Some information on options if you're interested.