Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Runaway Vampire by Lynsay Sands

Yay!  She's back on track.  The last Argeneau book was a disappointment, but this one, Runaway Vampire, I liked.  She really focused on the heroine in this story.  Dante didn't get as much to work with, but at least the fmc, Mary, felt real.  She's a 62 year old widow faced with a hunk who she runs over with her RV.  Said hunk is being chased by kidnappers and needs her help getting away.

As I said, Dante doesn't really get fleshed out, but Mary does and I like the fact that she has a history and has a healthy attitude toward relationships and that they aren't all hearts and flowers.  The exposition to explain the Immortals to the newbie doesn't feel forced.  The ending leads into what should be Tomasso's book but it wraps up Mary and Dante's story nicely.  The book is also filled with Sands' trademark humor.  Just wait until you get to the condom scene.

I was quite disappointed in what happens to Mary between pages 338 and 341, but I guess it was necessary.  Not telling what it is.  All in all, a very good outing in the series.

Traces of History by Patrick Wolfe

Traces of History by Patrick Wolfe tackles racism and colonialism by comparing Jews, Native Americans, Indigenous Australians, and the descendants of African slaves.  This book is pretty darned amazing and engaging.  Wolfe posits that the experiences of the two indigenous groups were quite a bit different from the experiences of the Jews and Blacks, even if they all experienced discrimination and racism.  He makes his case well.  He even brings up the differing experiences of the two major areas in the Americas that Blacks have faced incredible discrimination: the United States, and Brazil.  Again, my highest praise for a history book, I'll be looking further into this.

I had read of some of the history he went into about the Australian Aboriginal struggles, and knew a lot of them mirrored things the Native Americans experienced, such as the kids being taken from their families so they could have the Native taught out of them.  It boggles the mind that this was still happening up until the 1960s, though. 

One thing he mentions in a footnote has my inner genealogist going "Hmm".  On page 115 he states that there were only 400,000 Africans brought to the United States, but by 1860 there were over 4,000,000 slaves.  Even with enforced breeding by slave owners, not every one could have given birth or sired children, so I have to wonder how closely related the Black population is to each other.  How many distant cousins are out there that don't even know it?  Obviously, that wasn't the point of the book.

Just Another Southern Town by Joan Quigley

I've read about the sit-ins and boycotts of the civil rights movement, but never heard about the case or the person at the heart of this book, Just Another Southern Town.  Mary Church Terrell was a woman born the same year of the Emancipation Proclamation and lived long enough to help make civil rights history when she was 90 years old. 

The book talks about her and the others, including the Supreme Court justices who made that history in a way that brings them to life in the story leading up to the Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co. Inc.  None of them are perfect and Ms. Quigley doesn't present them as saints or sinners.  The book tells the history of the Thompson case in an engaging manner that throws a lot of facts at you, but in such a way that it doesn't overwhelm or bore.  

As I said, I had never heard of the case before and had assumed that desegregation of lunch counters was pretty much an all or nothing thing that had begun with Greensboro in 1960.  I love finding out that I was wrong.  My highest recommendation for any history book if that it has me more interested in a topic I didn't realize I need to know more about and want to investigate more.  This book certainly has done that.

Stars In Your Eyes by Lynn Kurland

Stars In Your Eyes is the newest Lynn Kurland time-travel romance.  These are an automatic buy for me.  This one didn't change my mind but, for some reason, it wasn't quite as satisfying as some of the others.  Not sure why.  Actually, I think I do know why.  Even with all of the odd goings-on around Artane that Phillip as been studiously ignoring, he adjusted too quickly to his very brief period in modern times.  I like when the hero does things like pull his sword on the microwave and such.  Phillip just adjusted without any real culture shock.

Basically, it was good until they came back to the modern times.  Phillip adjusting quickly and one other thing kind of threw it off the rails.  Don't get me wrong, I liked the book, but it just didn't please me as much as some of the others.

Lydia's Enchanted Toffee by Neale Osborne

Lydia's Enchanted Toffee by Neale Osborne is an interesting book.  The writing style took a bit to get used to.  It is definitely written with kids in mind.  The author uses a lot of onomatopoeia to help flesh out the world.  It's written from the perspective of a nine year old girl, after all.  The world itself is appropriately named Candi-land.  As I read the book I kept imagining the whole thing as a game of Candyland gone amuck.

The book is an adventure set upon by a group of nine year old girls through multiple countries to retrieve special ingredients for a magic potion to overthrow a despotic ruler poised to take over all of their lands.  Each girl has a special ability they can access through eating a special candy.  Lydia is the one we enter the book through so she is the best fleshed out of the girls.  Each of the others does get fleshed out more as the story progresses, though.

The action is just scary enough and life-threatening enough that it will thrill younger readers.  I got worried a few times myself.  All in all, it was a pretty good book that left me with a definite hankering for sweets after I finished it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Crochet Stories: Grimms' Fairy Tales and The Nutcracker

Dover is putting out a series of amigurumi pattern books that are absolutely adorable.  I've been able to review Grimms' Fairy Tales and The Nutcracker thanks to NetGalley.  I honestly can't decide which is my favorite of the two.  I'll be quite happy to make dolls from both.

The Grimm book by Vanessa Putt includes presents each story before giving a couple of patterns for your amusement.  The designer of the Grimm book favors a chain method of starting amis and describes how to do it, but if you're like me, you can just omit the chain and start with a magic ring on the first round.  I really need to make the hedgehogs, and the witch from Hansel and Gretel.  She also gives designs for Jack's beanstalk, and Rapuzel's tower.  I thought those were pretty cool.  They can be used for an infinite number of stories by kids (and adult kids), especially since she gives a basic doll pattern that you can modify as you need.

The Nutcracker book by Lindsay Smith also presents the story as it goes and then gives you the characters.  This designer starts with a magic ring, but if you're a fan of the chain start, you can always replace it with that.  This book has a couple of pages at the end that discuss special techniques and she uses more elaborate hairstyles than the Grimm book.  She walks you through each of them.  If I had to pick a favorite ami it would be between Godpapa Drosselmeier and the Mouse King.  There are also a couple of smaller patterns that can be used as tree ornaments if you so desire.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Boston Tea Party Debate

Oh, my history geek flag is definitely flying today.  I'm watching a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party debate that was taped by CSPAN3 on the anniversary of the Tea Party.  This is just friggin' awesome.  They wrote down bits for the audience to recite in the debate.  Listening to the kids speaking the parts of adult weavers and such is just great.  This is just the kind of thing to get people interested in history.  I really wish interactive history would be the norm rather than the exception.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb

Okay, so the In Death books are instant buys for me, and in hardback no less.  This one, Brotherhood in Death, by JD Robb (a pseudonym for Nora Roberts) didn't disappoint.  It was another where you kind of figured out the whodunit part early on and the trick was finding the proof.  I don't mind those.  I know some people do.  

The basic set-up is that Dennis Mira, the husband of the profiler Eve works with, is attacked while trying to meet up with his cousin about selling a house left to them by their grandfather.  The cousin disappears and, since Eve is a homicide cop, is later found dead.  Eve has to figure out who killed him and why.  Simple enough set-up.  The whole thing ends up not so simple or black and white in the end.

There is family drama and growth between Eve and Roarke, which did feel a teeny bit shoehorned, but it did work out in the end.  We got to see more of Dennis Mira, whom most of us fans are just a little bit in love with.  Seriously, forget Roarke, I'd take Dennis any day.  Oh, and Trueheart gets a nice scene between him and Eve.

Overall, this book was pretty good.  My only quibble was with the drama between Eve and Roarke feeling a tad unnecessary.