Posts

Showing posts from September, 2014

Romance Novels & Tall Tales

So, there are many troupes that pop up in romance novels that I'm not a big fan of (though sometimes I find them amusing), but one that is standing out to me more of late is in an aspect of the physical descriptions of the male lead.

Often (but admittedly not always) we have a female lead who is of average height who doesn't see herself as a great beauty who finds some manly stud who finds her irresistibly sexy and after lots of lusting they eventually end up together.  Mr. McStudly, more often than not, is tall.  And not just tall as in "taller than the average woman," but tall enough that they tower over normal men.  I recently read a historical fantasy romance where the male lead was "six and a half feet tall, maybe more."

Now, all things being proportional, how tall you are doesn't make a face more beautiful or what not, but height often is equated with manliness.  I've been a bit of a tomboy most of my life, and as I have always been on the sho…

Boldly exploring...

Image
Today's awesome find:


We have the earlier edition as well, but I figured I might as well go with the 2007 updated version.

[Book Review] Scandalous Summer Nights

Image
Scandalous Summer Nights / Anne Barton (Powell's Books)

Lady Olivia Sherbourne knows her mind, and is known for it, on top of being stubborn, direct, and the sister of the protective and sometimes intimidating Lord Sherbourne.  James Averill works as a solicitor and is childhood friend of Lord Sherbourne, putting Olivia out of bounds.  Oliva doesn't much care for James' concept of "out of bounds," and when she learns that he is bound for a two-year expedition in Egypt, she decides to throw away lady-like convention and not only make her intentions known but follows him to the countryside.


Scandalous Summer Nights is an apt description, in the setting Olivia and James do behave in a shamelessly scandalous manner.  I have to hand it to Olivia, for a relatively innocent maid, she's got chutzpah.  James may try to stand on propriety, but she identified his returned interest and played dirty.  Too bad for overprotective brothers barging in, assuming the worst, and t…

[Book Review] Hotter than Helltown

Hotter than Helltown / S. M. Reine

A killer is mutilating bodies in Los Angeles. Agent Cèsar Hawke is on the case, but the murderer is ahead of him – way ahead of him.

Wiping the memories of the dead so that the team’s resident necrocognitive can’t talk to them? Done. Preventing magical reconstruction of crime scenes? Oh yeah. And the murders keep getting worse while Cèsar struggles to catch up.

The best way to heat up a cold case is to go to Helltown, where LA’s most powerful evil hides out, but even those demons are afraid of the murderer. Their fear adds one more question to the growing pile of unknowns:

What kind of bad guy is too hot for Helltown?Hotter than Helltown is the 3rd book in the Preternatural Affairs series by S. M. Reine.  I read the first book, Witch Hunt, back in January, and apparently need to dig up the middle book.
Cèsar seems like a nice guy, dedicated and stubborn to be sure, but definitely seems like he'd be happier with a laid back life with a family of his …

Will the singularity happen?

In the Programming for Everyone (Python) class I took over the summer we had a few short written assignments.  I posted my first response during the summer, and then forgot that this post was wallowing as a draft.  Whoops.  I had fun with these open ended questions, and in both cases received good feedback from my classmates who peer-reviewed my submission.

Assignment:
You are now nearly through a first programming class (congratulations). There are many people that feel that at some point in the future, computer intelligence will surpass human intelligence. The word for this moment is called the "singularity". There are endless movies and books about the time where technology will become the master of the human race. What do you think about the singularity? Is it coming soon? What will life be like after the singularity? Will the singularity never happen? Is there a point in time where the impact of technology on our lives will be reduced as shown in alternate fut…

[Book Review] Circus of the Damned

Image
Circus of the Damned / Cornelia Grey (Powell's Books)

Magician Gilbert Blake has spent his entire life conning drunkards in the seediest pubs in the darkest towns, careful to hide the true depths of his power. But when he spends a little too much time in Shadowsea and the infamous slumlord Count Reuben gets wind of his abilities, hiding within the Circus of the Damned may be Gilbert’s only chance at survival.

But there’s more to the Circus than meets the eye. Every time a performer dies, a new one must take his place, or the entire circus suffers the consequences. And while the handsome ringmaster Jesse isn’t one to coerce unwilling performers into giving up their souls to the devil, a recent death in their ranks makes Gilbert exactly what they need.

Yet the longer Gilbert stays with the Circus, the more danger he seems to bring them. Being with Jesse is more than Gilbert could have hoped for, but as Count Reuben’s men continue to search for Gilbert and the Circus loses another pe…

[Book Review] The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni / Helene Wecker

In overstated simplification, The Golem and the Jinni is a story about two improbable beings discovering themselves, and each other, in a time and a place where neither belong.  The setting is the New York of 1899, with flashes of the past lives that set the stage on which our actors perform, yet the novel has a feel of happening once upon a time.  As the golem named Chava and the jinni named Ahmed learn what it means to live as a human in a city they explore existential questions of human behavior and belief that are so alien to these creatures of myth.

The Golem and the Jinni was the August pick for Virtual Speculation.  I had previously read this book and failed to review it simply because it was one of those books that I loved yet had difficult describing or quantifying.  The story has a dreamlike quality that I feared ruining through poor description.

Discussion Fodder:
What do you think of Rottfield's requests for his golem's persona…

[Book Review] The Witch

The witch : and other tales re-told / Jean Thompson

We all know at least one of the classic fairy tales.  Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, and others, both just as well known and less well known, such as the tale of Bluebeard.  Stories that all take place once upon a time, in a faraway land.  "In a time when wishes came true" as I believe the stories were originally published as starting.

What if these stories took place today, in a time considered without magic, and when wishes do little to impact our lives.  That is what we find within The witch : and other tales retold.  Thompson has masterfully recreated familiar fables into dark tales of the modern world.  I highly recommend her re-imaginings.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy through Penguin First to Read; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

[Book Review] First Annual BDSM Writers Con Anthology

First Annual BDSM Writers Con Anthology / Lori Perkins (ed)

This was an interesting book to read. The stories explore a variety of flavors of sexual encounters and life styles, varying in style from realistic, paranormal, to fantasy. Additionally, there is a non-fiction essay exploring and defining areas of BDSM sexuality. Some of the stories seem designed to showcase aspects of differing sexuality as realized by eager, consenting adults. Other stories are clearly erotic fantasy. One of the stories I could barely read and I still feel unsettled by, I can't see how the scene within involved any sort of consent but instead seemed overwhelmingly the story of a woman fighting (and failing) to get away from a man beating her in anger.

If your interests to not run towards BDSM, I would tread carefully with the book. I can see some of the stories acting as triggers for some. The non-fiction essay will likely read as familiar subject matter to people in the scene, but would …

[Book Review] Stone Mattress

Image
Stone Mattress / Margaret Atwood (Powell's Books)

Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, Moral Disorder, with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships bringing to mind her award-winning 1996 novel, Alias Grace. A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in "Alphinland," the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In "The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom," a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In "Lusus Naturae," a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In "Torching the Dusties," an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. And in "Stone Mattress,"…

Link Smorgasbord, August 2014

Science Fiction and Fantasy 101: Thinking Academically About Genre
A great discussion on thinking about Science Fiction & Fantasy seriously, and on the outstanding texts that have been published since the days of Asimov and Heinlein.  I'm very passionate about Speculative Fiction as a genre and depth at which issues and topics are explored.  That's part of the reason I started the Virtual Speculation book club, as an effort to share and hash over some incredible books.  I actually would love to pull things together enough to teach a Speculative Fiction MOOC, but there's a lot of prep work I'd have to do for something like that first.

LOC recommends formats for preservation of software, data sets
Preservation of software and data has a lot of challenges, so always interesting to see what's being discussed and recommended.

Why the Public Library Beats Amazon—for Now
TL;DR - libraries are far more than buildings full of books.

About that simian selfie
An interesting…

iTunes on Public Computers

So, thinking about putting iTunes on public computers?

Please, don't do it.

Now, this is completely my personal opinion, but it's really not a good idea.  Even the Apple help forums agree.

You can of course do it if you really want to, and likely if you're in a public library, you've had patrons request iTunes on the public computers.

Here's the problem - iTunes is designed to work with personal collections and personal devices, and does this whole authorization thing that verifies that the iPod is authorized to the iTunes library account (and not to a different account), as well as potentially limiting the number of machines that items in your library can be saved to.  If you have an iTunes account you can authorize up to 5 computers, and 5 devices to that one account.

If you hook up your device to a computer with a different authorization, the authorization on your device will be reset in order for it to work with iTunes on that computer.  When your authorization…

[Book Review] Sheet Pan Suppers

Sheet Pan Suppers: 120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-Off Meals Straight from the Oven
/ Molly Gilbert

Sheet Pan Suppers promises to reinvent the "one pot meal" with a sheet pan instead of a pot.  I was expecting reinventions of classic recipes, and keeping within the idea of a one "pot" cooking.  The book sort of delivers, but I was left wanting more from it.  Don't get me wrong, there are a handful of recipes that sound delicious and I will be trying them shortly.  However, overall I found the book lacking in invention.  Many of the recipes are basic, the book relies heavily on pre-made, store-bought components (though I do allow that pre-made components makes for shorter prep time), a number of recipes are multi-pan, and one or two involve cooking outside of the oven.

If you do a lot of cooking, many of the recipes you can look at just the title and the ingredients and know how to cook it.  Sheet Pan Suppers is largely accessible to those with introdu…