Friday, June 26, 2015

SCOTUS passes same-sex marriage 5-4

"The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry."

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf

Thursday, June 25, 2015

[Book Review] How to Marry a Royal Highlander

How to Marry a Royal Highlander (Renegade Royals) / Vanessa Kelly

Eden Whitney was found in an embrace with a known rake, and well, somethings just aren't done.  Had her mother and the biggest gossip in the ton hadn't come around the corner just then maybe things could have been smoothed over.  But gossip, and tempers, have a way of getting out of hand, and sometimes you just need to hide away until society latches on to another scandal.  "Rusticating" in the Scottish wilderness sounds less than thrilling, but throw in the exasperating and irrepressible Alasdair Gilbride, and Eden fears for her sanity.  They're not completely removed from scandal and society though, with Alasdair returning home to face an engagement he's avoided for over a decade, and one he still hopes to escape from.


A cute, light read with the expected ridiculousness of society and family drama of a highlands/historical romance.  The official blurb describes Eden's feelings towards Alasdair as "the man is so exasperating she'd likely kill him before they reach the border," but I can't say I ever witnessed anything even close to that level of frustration and annoyance.  I think some of their previous antagonism must be looked for in the earlier books in the series, as Eden and Alasdair definitely find each other attractive (if a bit trying).  Fun read, if some slightly crazed family, there's a good chance I will seek the earlier books in the series.

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

Saturday, June 20, 2015

[Book Review] Fool's Quest

Fool's Quest (Book II of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy) / Robin Hobb (Powell's Books)

Previously Reviewed:
Fool's Assassin (Realm of the Elderlings: Fitz and the Fool Trilogy) (Powell's Books)

At the end of Fool's Assassin, Fitz's life has been again thrown into upheaval.  The life he's pulled together in the wake of Molly's passing and raising their small, strange child.  The sudden reappearance of the Fool, near death and mistaken for a beggar, takes Fitz away from his home and his family in an effort to save his friend.  Unbeknownst to Fitz, strangers have come in his absence, raided his home and stolen away his young daughter.

Back in Buckkeep, Fitz is pulled back into his old life, of intrigue, intelligence, and Skill.  Little does he know the journey his life is about to take, of the threats to his daughter, and the ways his life will never be the same.


I don't know where to start with this review, I'm just so angry with this book.  How could she have ended it like that?  Not with just one cliffhanger, but two, and they're both huge.  I think now I understand the rage and frustration often felt by fans of the Game of Thrones TV show.  These are Carnivale season finale type cliffhangers.

Once I started reading Fool's Quest, I didn't want to put it down.  Fitz of Fool's Assassin fully embraced his role as an aging holder and father.  The Fitz of Assassin's Quest is uneasy, driven, and deadly.  In many ways this book is about Fitz rediscovering himself, and about the relationship between Fitz and Fool.  Fitz, Fool, and little Bee have been pulled into the plots of a faction trying to steer the fate of the world.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

w00tstout!

For Christmas my other half gave me the gift of beer.  More specifically, the gift of supplies to make a beer I'd been dying to try but that sold out pretty much as soon as it hit the shelf.

w00tstout

One part über boozy, three parts über geek, this one-of-a-kind imperial stout from masterminds Wil Wheaton, Greg Koch (Stone Brewing) and Drew Curtis (founder, Fark.com) has been likened to drinking the booze-soaked contents of an old-fashioned candy store. Deep and complex, w00tstout pours pitch black with a clingy cappuccino head erupting in an oaky, nutty bouquet of caramel and vanilla, roasty dark malt and a hint of bourbon.
I don't know about you, but that sounds amazing to me.

Downside to all of this is that my kitchen is an exceptional mess due to going through boxes of my mom's stuff.  Also, working four part-time/temp jobs plays havoc on my interest and ability to clean house.  January was a pretty crazy month.

But, we did happen to have one hell of a snow day on February 2nd (actually, it was the first many snowdays that month).  Not only that, but when I went out to shovel one of the other tenants said they were about to snow-blow everything!  So with minor shoveling (still had to take care of the porch and around my car) finished up, and a little more time spent containing the disaster zone of my kitchen, it was brewing time.


Brewing itself isn't horribly complicated.  At the most basic it's not much different from making tea with a few additional steps.  Boil water, add sack(s) of ingredients, let steep, cool, add yeast, ignore for a few weeks or more.  Due to time, space, and equipment I'm using extract kits, not full grain, so that simplifies things.


The massive amount of snow was also great since once the boil's finished the next step is to cool several gallons of liquid as fast as possible.  Yes, snow also has insulating properties, but it's still cold, I can keep moving snow in around the pot as it melts, and it's less wasteful than a cold water bath with constantly running water.


This wort had a lot of sugars in it, so I definitely worried about explosive fermentation.  I am happy to now report that there were no tragic brew explosions in my closet.

This is not a beer for the impatient.  One month in the primary fermenter, two months in the secondary fermenter, and then a month to condition.

We got a preview of what's to come during bottling, sampling some of the flat beer.  And man, we could taste the bad news bears in this beer.  It clocked in at around 11% ABV... and then we added more sugar for carbonation. This bad boy is dark, complex, and dangerous.


So after all that waiting I finally get to try my creation.

Holy crap.  This beer.  I'm pretty sure that it's over the target 13% ABV now, but the bad news bears have gone stealthly.  The first bottle opened had a surprising amount of sediment, but that that may be due to it being one of the last bottles filled.  The flavor, however, is out of this world.  The harshness of the bourbon smoothed out into a highlight in this dark, smooth, malty flavor.  This is a sipping beer, you want to savor it and enjoy the aroma.  Drinking faster than that will hit you like a truck.  Actually drinking a pint slowly hits me like a truck.  A fantastic sharing beer, splitting the pint with friends.  Definitely a beer worth waiting for.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

[Book Review] Stormbringer

Stormbringer : Book Two of the Wyrd / Alis Franklin

Previously Reviewed: Liesmith : Book One of the Wyrd

Ragnarok has come and gone, and both the world and the gods are still around.  After the defeat of Baldur, Lain, who is perhaps both Loki and Baldur, must return with Odin's spear to Asgard.  Odin, Thor, and many of the others are dead and gone, the god's children seek to claim the former power of Asgard's glory, Hel was slain in combat and seeks to claim her place among the honored dead, and the Wyrd twists lives, pulling gods and mortals alike.

Sigmund is both a young man, a low-level IT tech, and the avatar of a Norse goddess who was the wife of Loki.  Em and Wayne are the reincarnations of the Valkyries slain in battle.  Still coming to terms with what they are, and what that means, they all must reclaim roles to prevent a second Ragnarok.


Stormbringer is a story of relationships, between friends, lovers, family, and enemies.  A story of duty, secrets, vengeance, devotion, and fate.  It pulls widely on Norse lore and creates a post-Ragnarok future, one where old slights are remembered, and change doesn't come easily.

An engaging read, suitable for YA audiences for those that enjoy mythology and complex relationships.

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



Monday, June 15, 2015

[Book Review] Sarah's Surrender

Sarah's Surrender / Lavinia Kent

Previously reviewed in this series:

Once upon a time, Miss Sarah Swilp had her heart set on Jonathan Perry, only to be crushed when taking her to bed he declares that he will not marry her.  Hurt and angry, she ended their assignation, and has not seen him since.

Now, Miss Swilp is out of options.  Her father's debts are high, and her list of suitors short.  About to accept an engagement to one of her father's creditors, Sarah encounters Jonathan again, and brings up that night.  One night of pleasure, no strings attached, no marriage expected, no attempts at entrapment.  The attraction still exists, and Jonathan brings more to the table this time around than when they were young and in love the first time around.


Sarah's Surrender largely takes place at Madame Rogue's Gentleman Club, where Sarah and Jonathan dedicate some time and effort to exploring each other.  Jonathan enjoys giving orders, exercising control in the bedroom, something that Sarah feels she should resent but finds oddly thrilling.  Through their play they re-examine that night five years ago, re-evaluate the words once said, and coming to decisions about their lives and relationship.

Ok, so expressing a bit of my own preferences here, but the line "He nipped her hard" in reference to her clitoris, makes me extremely and unhappily uncomfortable.  OW.

That aside, Lavinia Kent consistently delivers spicy erotic historical romance.  A little less spicy than Mastering the Marquess and Bound by Bliss, but still steamy.  This story doesn't have any mustache-twirling villains, just desperation of circumstance, misunderstanding, and some flavoring of unsavory characters, something that I appreciate.  Jonathan and Sarah still hold a torch for each other, even with the anger of misunderstanding still flaring bright, and in the end bringing things to a happy ending.

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

Friday, June 12, 2015

[Book Review] The Best of Both Rogues

The Best of Both Rogues / Samantha Grace (Powell's Books)

Two years ago, Benjamin Hillary left the love of his life at the alter, running to India in a panic over the what-ifs and may-bes.  Lady Eve Thorne's heart was broken that day, but she held out hope for Benjamin's return.  Now Benjamin has returned, seeking out Eve, only to succeed at the very event where Eve's engagement to the bookish Jonathan Hackberry.  Benjamin is determined to prove himself to Eve again, but the clock is ticking and he has already caused great insult to Eve's reputation.


Now, this isn't a historical romance where the lady gets both gentlemen, which would be rather novel.  The Best of Both Rogues is a sweet and humorous historical romance, with the hijinks born of desperation, strict constraints on proper behavior, duty, and affection.

Being a fun, light read, I'll excuse the nearly magically loving away of Benjamin's PTSD, however I'm a bit disgruntled at the huge glaring plot hook introduced concerning Jonathan that's just left out there.  Obviously this will likely all be tied up in another book, but for such a integral to the plot bit of intrigue to be waved away annoys me.

Overall, a sweet and sassy read.  The Best of Both Rogues is the third in the series, but can easily be read as a stand alone.

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

[Book Review] Hunter

Hunter / Mercedes Lackey (Powell's Books)

Once they were considered creatures of fairy tale and myth, then the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were ripped open, and with that tear came magic and beasts of nightmare.  Joyeaux Charmand is a Hunter, gifted with magic and a bonding with Otherworld Hounds that allow her to fight back against the Otherworld forces threatening the remnants of human civilization.  She's called to Apex City, to join the Hunter forces protecting this center of civilization, only once there she is pulled into the game of politics, where Hunters are celebrities keeping the masses entertained, without any true understanding by the civilians of the dangers of Otherworld incursions.


I adore Mercedes Lackey, whether it be her short fiction, urban fantasy, fairy tale retellings, or her Valdemar books, but as of late the books have felt too simple and pat.  I still enjoy them, but I've felt they've lacked the richness that I came to love about Lackey's writing.  Hunter restored my eagerness to read more by Lackey.  The story has good pacing and build up.  Joyeaux is incredibly talented, but it's not a gift out of nowhere, rather something that she spent years of her life developing paired with a strong set of ethics.  An excellent start to a new series set in a magic fueled future.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

[Book Review] Liquid Fire

Liquid Fire / Anthony Francis

Dakota Frost is a force to be reckoned with.  Tall, bold, kick-ass, and fiercely protective; she's no-one's damsel.

The world of magic and the supernatural is filled with factions and secrets, and Dakota has had her fill of the complications caused by unwarranted suspicion and infighting.  Even a trip to California with her daughter is complicated by the need to assuage the vampires, mages, and fae that this is a vacation, not a power grab.

Away from home, and out of her official jurisdiction of the nascent Magical Security Council, Dakota is pulled into a magical feud that seems to be targeting her newest flirtation, a fireweaver of notable skill and power.  But what seems like a series of targeted attacks against one woman, are actually a small part of a larger conflict, one that interests mages of all types, and one that involves Dakota directly.


Overall, an enjoyable read.  Quick pacing and good handling of a diverse collection of elements.  My biggest issue may be attributable to the text being a pre-publication copy, but some of the word use is a bit odd (such as referring to "internets").  It's not often that I come across characters with Tourette's, so a main supporting character living with the condition stood out.  I like the different types of magic, with some interesting and distinct forms.  The inclusion of dragons is an added perk.

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

Friday, June 5, 2015

[Book Review] The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem / Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Powell's Books)

A secret project born during China's Cultural Revolution, and some of the brightest minds of the generation locked inside, by choice or for lack of any other option, watching the skies.  Today echos of actions taken still ring, shaking the foundations of belief for the worlds' greatest physicists as the rules of reality seem to have bent, and intellectuals are drawn into the puzzling game Three Body.  Meanwhile an alien race living on an doomed planet with three suns has launched a fleet.  Some herald them as the saviors of humanity, some as the doom.


The Three-Body Problem is a fascinating and complex book, but one that I slogged through.  The story is very heavy in detail and exposition, delivering very rich settings and environments possibly at the cost of the narrative.

The novel itself is fascinating to read, drawing on a social & political history that is in many ways alien to myself as an American.  Regardless of efforts to read works by authors from around the world, most of the Science Fiction that I read is from the United States.  Very hard science (at least on the Earth side, I'm a little less convinced of the Trisolaran science), with philosophical discussions about physics and mathematics, which makes sense considering the main characters and the nature of the three-body problem.

The story moves backwards more than forward, creeping through the 'current' timeline of the narration, and then jumping back through revelation of past action or involvement.  These revelations are where we are finally handed all the pieces to understand what is going on, why these people are connected.

I also used this for the May bookclub pick, and there's definitely a lot of interesting material in the story.

Discussion fodder:
  • Destruction of nature (deforestation during the Cultural Revolution, pesticides in Silent Spring, harvesting of the replanted forest, extinction of species) and the destructive force of nature (the three-body problem faced by the Trisolarans) comes up repeatedly, how does it influence the characters and the plot?
  • How do you think a sudden disruption of the laws of physics would affect the world the life of those who study it?
  • Shi Qiang says that the entire history of humankind has been fortunate, that from the Stone Age until now, as a race, we haven't experienced any true crises.    Do you agree?  What about his prediction that a crisis is coming?
  • What do you think of the game Three Body?  Would you have continued to play?
  • How do you think that human societies would be influenced by contact with extraterrestrial intelligence?  Would it exacerbate cultural conflicts as predicted?
  • What do you think about the social divisions between the groups heralding the arrival of the Trisolarans?  What about the reasons that they look forward to the invasion?
  • Do you think it's surprising how many people abandoned all hope in human civilization, seeking salvation from the Trisolarans?
  • What do you think of the science of The Three-Body Problem?
  • Would you have been able to resist responding, if only to verify that the communication received was actually extraterrestrial in nature?
  • Evans calls his ideology "Pan-Species Communism," that all lives are equal.  Would you say it's aptly named, or feasible?
  • What do you think about the social structure of Trisolaris?  How are the Trisolaran's similar to us?
  • Da Shi points out that regardless of all our technology, insects persevere.  Do you think that even if humanity is just "bugs" to the Trisolarans, that as a race we have a chance?
Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Link Smorgasbord, May 2015

Evaluating Transgender Picture Books; Calling for Better Ones
"After accepting a solo elementary school librarian position, I increased our collection of picture books with transgender protagonists by 400 percent. That is, I purchased four books with transgender characters, and, with approximately 7,000 titles, the library previously had zero."

6 Things Dungeons and Dragons Can Teach You About How To Work A Reference Desk
And the systems that aren't as well organized and indexed (I'm looking at you, Star Wars Saga Edition RPG) are great practice in building a reference index!

So, You Want to Be a Library Director? 
A bit on perhaps some of the more overlooked responsibilities of directorship.

Storing Information In Other People's Heads
On division of cognitive labor.

Exclusive comments, new trailer: anthology horror “VOLUMES OF BLOOD”
I've been following the progress of this film through posts made by a fellow librarian who's library it took place in (and who played of one of the victims).

Library Market Dropbox
A pretty fantastic collection of images used by libraries for social media engagement.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Selects the Eight Books Every Intelligent Person on the Planet Should Read
I have not read most of this list.

21 Literary Sexts For Book Lovers
I feel like I should go read some interesting romantic poetry now.

INFOGRAPHIC: A Map of the Literary Genres


WhichBook
What to read next?

Tanith Lee, 1947-2015
My first introduction to Tanith Lee was The Black Unicorn, which stuck in my mind in particular because of the creature called a "peeve" - intelligent and invasive creatures, one of which in the book could be considered a pet.  So of course that tickled my fancy.

I don’t want to buy books from Amazon anymore!
Introducing bookindy - a pretty cool add-on.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

[Book Review] Apex

Apex / Ramez Naam (Powell's Books)

Apex finishes the story arc started in Nexus, and continued in Crux.  Kaden Lane and his friends never intended for their work to tear the world apart.  They sought enlightenment and betterment of humankind, and instead global unrest spreads as agents manipulate governments and civilians for their own power and ends.  A final confrontation is coming to a head, the question is, can humanity and post-humans come to peaceful co-existence, and if they can't, can they survive?

This near-future, political science-fiction thriller starts with major world powers manipulated to the cusp of World War.  Revolution is happening, and with it fear of persecution, fear of the different, the unknown, and of becoming obsolete.

An excellent trans-humanist novel, raising questions of humanity and morality, and maybe the next evolution of humankind.

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

Back to the job search

So, I'm back searching for employment again.  My recent non-library job turned out to not be as long-term as I hoped.  The split wasn't acrimonious so much as the result of them really needing something other than what was presented to me as my area of responsibility (Systems & Records Management) and seemingly us never really communicating in the same language.  So I was wondering why whenever I tried to make headway on my responsibilities things got stalled out, and they were wondering why the hell I wasn't taking ownership of my job.

I'll be honest.  I'm incredibly frustrated, and a bit hurt, since I never like finding out that I'm not performing well.  I actually was in a position to have turned down several work opportunities while at this job, due not wanting to lose full time employment to part-time or temporary employment.  At the exit interview all I could think was "Wait, I was a Quality Assurance Manager?"  From what I've gathered now that it's all over, what they wanted is not a job I am qualified for.  One that had I seen on a job board I wouldn't have applied to, and one that had it been offered to me with clearly stated duties and responsibilities, I would have probably had to have said I was not the right person for the job.

Interestingly, some things that they found fault in my behavior are the exact things that in other work environments have made me highly valued.  I'm not going to lie, when within a week of my termination one of my side jobs told me that they were so "glad to have someone so capable on the team" due to the exact same thing, I was left with a feeling of "I just can't win."

But really the only thing to do in any life experience is to learn from it - and I definitely learned things from this position.

One thing that was reinforced here is when accepting a new job get things in writing.  It might be an issue with benefits, with expected schedule, or in this case, exactly what they were looking for.  If it's not in writing it's more mutable, or you're left with gleaning things and hoping you've got it right.

I've worked almost exclusively in environments of high distraction and high interaction.  Where interacting with the distraction is a key part of the job.  When I worked in environments were this wasn't the case, I've always been able to create some level of isolation, be it space or wearing headphones.  Working in a very small office shared with two other people without being able to shut out the close proximity (no headphones allowed) makes for a very distracted me.

I have to say, I like working environments with high distraction and interaction.  I like jobs with that variability and flex.  One with responsive action as demanded, and to be honest, ones where I'm not likely to be sitting down the entire day.  All of which applies to work within libraries.

Knowing that libraries are where my heart is was not something I learned, that I knew already.

Going forward, I held on to some of my side work, so I have a little bit of piece-work to help me get by and not completely rely on my savings.  A few web development assignments, my monthly work at a book store, and I was able to get in on a last month of substitute teaching.  Near the end of the summer I should be able to get about a month of work at the college book store I temp at for the start of the semester, and I've secured a 10 hour per week position at a fantastic private school library for the 2015-16 school year.  I'm still waiting to hear back from BiblioTemps, applying to the few library jobs that are showing up on the job boards, and checking the local colleges for openings.