Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recommended Reads, August 2016 (Summer Book Bingo BLACKOUT!)

I'm proud to announce I achieved blackout in Seattle Public Library Summer Book Bingo. OK, so I went really easy in the Read Out Loud section...but the Elephant and Piggie books really were my favorite picture books when Miss Fraser was little, and I truly have wanted to catch up on the ones that have come out since then.


August reads are marked NEW.
  1. Recommended by a Librarian: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis - A delightful m/m coming-of-age love story that's also a love letter to geek culture and fandom. NEW 
  2. Cookbook or Food Memoir: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson - a worthwhile read, especially if you like Samuelsson as a Chopped judge.
  3. You've Been Meaning to Read: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson - Somewhere in the last year or two I went from being someone baffled by comics and graphic novels to someone who seeks them out, and this one is fun, hilarious, and full of girl power. NEW
  4. #We Need Diverse Books: The Lawyer's Luck by Piper Huguley - African-American historical romance novella, and a quick, sweet read currently free to download on Kindle.
  5. Collection of Short Stories: Under My Hat, edited by Jonathan Strahan - anthology of short stories about witches by noted fantasy authors, many of whom are new to me authors I mean to try again. 
  6. From Your Childhood: By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This wasn't my favorite Little House book as a child, but re-reading it now as an adult and the mother of a 12-year-old (Laura is 12-13 over the course of the book), I was struck by how Laura's adolescent restlessness and uncertainty is mirrored in the family's circumstances. 
  7. Prize-Winner: The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood - I really intended to pick a Rita, Hugo, or Nebula winner for this category, but when I saw that the nonfiction history I was reading as research for my new manuscript was a Pulitzer winner, I just counted it. I will show my respect for the fantasy and romance genres in other ways. 
  8. Set in a Place You've Always Wanted to Visit: The Graveyard of the Hesperides by Lindsey Davis - historical mystery set in Rome. (While present-day Rome is certainly on my bucket list, believe me I'd jump at the chance to visit the ancient city if the TARDIS happened by.) 
  9. Recommended by an Independent Bookstore: Born for This by Chris Guillebeau - Advice and inspiration for career changers. NEW
  10. Banned: Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin - a thoughtful and thought-provoking book profiling six transgender teens.
  11. Collection of Poetry: The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton by Lucille Clifton - I rarely seek out poetry, but as long as the library puts it on their annual summer reading bingo, I'll manage a volume a year. And, really, I'm glad I got to spend a week's worth of evenings looking through Clifton's view of the world. NEW
  12. Young Adult Book: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff - a graphic novel full of pure swashbuckling fun in the early 19th century. Gorgeously illustrated, too.
  13. FREE! Recommend a Book to a Friend: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines - I've been recommending books to my fellow former Sleepy Hollow fan friends that hit some of the same sweet spots as Season 1 of that show, but without falling apart as the story goes forward, betraying and shredding their premises, and killing their heroines in a particularly disrespectful and painful way. (Not that I'm BITTER or anything.) This series definitely qualifies (and would make awesome TV for a network that would be sufficiently faithful to the source material).
  14. Translated from Another Language: The Odyssey by Homer (Fitzgerald translation) - I do love my ancient Greeks, though I'm not sure I chose wisely in terms of translation. Fitzgerald was highly recommended in a book discussion thread I googled, but I read DH Lawrence's translation lo these many years ago (like at least 20) and seem to remember the story seeming far more vivid and lively. NEW
  15. Non-Fiction: The Other Slavery by Andrés Reséndez - about the enslavement of Native Americans, especially in Spanish-colonized areas before and after independence.
  16. Novel: Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain - character-driven historical romance, at once tender and hot.
  17. Local Author: The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson - I found this book on a list of recommended reads at Powell's and therefore meant it for the independent bookstore category, but when I saw that the author lives on one of our Puget Sound islands and used his experiences gardening there intensively in this history and biology of seed plants, I decided it belonged here instead. 
  18. Written by a Seattle Arts and Lectures Speaker: Falcon by Helen Macdonald - because I find raptors endlessly fascinating. NEW
  19. Reread: The World of Jennie G. by Elisabeth Ogilvie - A favorite from my teens that still holds up well to rereading, and I've just discovered it's back in print! But it's the middle book of a trilogy, so you'll want to get Jennie About to Be first.
  20. You Finish Reading in a Day: League of Dragons by Naomi Novik - a satisfying end to a wonderful series, though I thought the denouement was too short and didn't spend enough time on the characters I liked best. 
  21. Read Out Loud: A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems - Seriously, if you have a little kid or are buying a present for one, this series is the best. NEW
  22. Out of Your Comfort Zone: Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein - I decided this qualified for the category insofar as reading it as the mother of a 12-year-old daughter filled me with horror to think of the gauntlet of sexism, misogyny, and even rape adolescents and young women all too often endure.
  23. Memoir: Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi - The most harrowing thing I've read this year, because it's so painful to acknowledge brutality committed by my own government, paid for by my own taxpayer dollars, and therefore in some sense in my name. But I feel like it was important that I read it for the same reason. Slahi has FINALLY been approved for release, but is still awaiting transfer. NEW
  24. Written More than 100 Years Ago: Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery - published in 1915, so it just qualifies. This was one of my favorites of the series when a college friend introduced me to Anne, possibly because I was the same age as the characters. Now...it's fun, but I'd put it behind Anne of Green Gables, Anne's House of Dreams, and Rilla of Ingleside.
  25. Recommended by a Friend: Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher - Another male/male romance, this one a Christian romance about a deeply closeted man from a family that runs a Westboro Baptist Church-style ministry and his journey to a more welcoming faith. NEW

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Recommended Reads, July 2016 (Summer Book Bingo Edition)

Two months of Seattle Public Library Summer Book Bingo down and one to go! Despite my good intentions it's going to take a push to fill in the remaining nine squares by Labor Day. I've got a couple of poetry collections out from the library, but I'm eying them askance, since I rarely read poetry, and I'm far from enthusiastic about "Read Out Loud," not least because we haven't read aloud as a family since Miss Fraser started reading chapter books on her own in second grade, and she starts seventh grade this fall. It's so much slower than just reading, you know? But I'm more than halfway to a blackout, so I'll make a push.


July reads are marked NEW.
  1. Recommended by a Librarian 
  2. Cookbook or Food Memoir: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson - a worthwhile read, especially if you like Samuelsson as a Chopped judge.
  3. You've Been Meaning to Read
  4. #We Need Diverse Books: The Lawyer's Luck by Piper Huguley - African-American historical romance novella, and a quick, sweet read currently free to download on Kindle.
  5. Collection of Short Stories: Under My Hat, edited by Jonathan Strahan - anthology of short stories about witches by noted fantasy authors, many of whom are new to me authors I mean to try again. NEW
  6. From Your Childhood: By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This wasn't my favorite Little House book as a child, but re-reading it now as an adult and the mother of a 12-year-old (Laura is 12-13 over the course of the book), I was struck by how Laura's adolescent restlessness and uncertainty is mirrored in the family's circumstances. NEW
  7. Prize-Winner: The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood - I really intended to pick a Rita, Hugo, or Nebula winner for this category, but when I saw that the nonfiction history I was reading as research for my new manuscript was a Pulitzer winner, I just counted it. I will show my respect for the fantasy and romance genres in other ways. NEW
  8. Set in a Place You've Always Wanted to Visit: The Graveyard of the Hesperides by Lindsey Davis - historical mystery set in Rome. (While present-day Rome is certainly on my bucket list, believe me I'd jump at the chance to visit the ancient city if the TARDIS happened by.) NEW
  9. Recommended by an Independent Bookstore
  10. Banned: Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin - a thoughtful and thought-provoking book profiling six transgender teens.
  11. Collection of Poetry
  12. Young Adult Book: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff - a graphic novel full of pure swashbuckling fun in the early 19th century. Gorgeously illustrated, too.
  13. FREE! Recommend a Book to a Friend: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines - I've been recommending books to my fellow former Sleepy Hollow fan friends that hit some of the same sweet spots as Season 1 of that show, but without falling apart as the story goes forward, betraying and shredding their premises, and killing their heroines in a particularly disrespectful and painful way. (Not that I'm BITTER or anything.) This series definitely qualifies (and would make awesome TV for a network that would be sufficiently faithful to the source material).
  14. Translated from Another Language
  15. Non-Fiction: The Other Slavery by Andrés Reséndez - about the enslavement of Native Americans, especially in Spanish-colonized areas before and after independence.
  16. Novel: Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain - character-driven historical romance, at once tender and hot.
  17. Local Author: The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson - I found this book on a list of recommended reads at Powell's and therefore meant it for the independent bookstore category, but when I saw that the author lives on one of our Puget Sound islands and used his experiences gardening there intensively in this history and biology of seed plants, I decided it belonged here instead. NEW
  18. Written by a Seattle Arts and Lectures Speaker
  19. Reread: The World of Jennie G. by Elisabeth Ogilvie - A favorite from my teens that still holds up well to rereading, and I've just discovered it's back in print! But it's the middle book of a trilogy, so you'll want to get Jennie About to Be first.
  20. You Finish Reading in a Day: League of Dragons by Naomi Novik - a satisfying end to a wonderful series, though I thought the denouement was too short and didn't spend enough time on the characters I liked best. 
  21. Read Out Loud
  22. Out of Your Comfort Zone: Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein - I decided this qualified for the category insofar as reading it as the mother of a 12-year-old daughter filled me with horror to think of the gauntlet of sexism, misogyny, and even rape adolescents and young women all too often endure.
  23. Memoir
  24. Written More than 100 Years Ago: Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery - published in 1915, so it just qualifes. This was one of my favorites of the series when a college friend introduced me to Anne, possibly because I was the same age as the characters. Now...it's fun, but I'd put it behind Anne of Green Gables, Anne's House of Dreams, and Rilla of Ingleside.
  25. Recommended by a Friend

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recommended Reads, June 2016 (Summer Book Bingo Edition)

I'm going to do something a little different with this month's book recommendations post and talk about how I've filled out my Seattle Public Library Summer Book Bingo card so far.



  1. Recommended by a Librarian 
  2. Cookbook or Food Memoir: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson - a worthwhile read, especially if you like Samuelsson as a Chopped judge.
  3. You've Been Meaning to Read
  4. #We Need Diverse Books: The Lawyer's Luck by Piper Huguley - African-American historical romance novella, and a quick, sweet read currently free to download on Kindle.
  5. Collection of Short Stories
  6. From Your Childhood
  7. Prize-Winner
  8. Set in a Place You've Always Wanted to Visit
  9. Recommended by an Independent Bookstore
  10. Banned: Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin - a thoughtful and thought-provoking book profiling six transgender teens.
  11. Collection of Poetry
  12. Young Adult Book: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff - a graphic novel full of pure swashbuckling fun in the early 19th century. Gorgeously illustrated, too.
  13. FREE! Recommend a Book to a Friend: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines - I've been recommending books to my fellow former Sleepy Hollow fan friends that hit some of the same sweet spots as Season 1 of that show, but without falling apart as the story goes forward, betraying and shredding their premises, and killing their heroines in a particularly disrespectful and painful way. (Not that I'm BITTER or anything.) This series definitely qualifies (and would make awesome TV for a network that would be sufficiently faithful to the source material).
  14. Translated from Another Language
  15. Non-Fiction: The Other Slavery by Andrés Reséndez - about the enslavement of Native Americans, especially in Spanish-colonized areas before and after independence.
  16. Novel: Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain - character-driven historical romance, at once tender and hot.
  17. Local Author
  18. Written by a Seattle Arts and Lectures Speaker
  19. Reread: The World of Jennie G. by Elisabeth Ogilvie - A favorite from my teens that still holds up well to rereading, and I've just discovered it's back in print! But it's the middle book of a trilogy, so you'll want to get Jennie About to Be first.
  20. You Finish Reading in a Day: League of Dragons by Naomi Novik - a satisfying end to a wonderful series, though I thought the denouement was too short and didn't spend enough time on the characters I liked best. 
  21. Read Out Loud
  22. Out of Your Comfort Zone: Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein - I decided this qualified for the category insofar as reading it as the mother of a 12-year-old daughter filled me with horror to think of the gauntlet of sexism, misogyny, and even rape adolescents and young women all too often endure.
  23. Memoir
  24. Written More than 100 Years Ago
  25. Recommended by a Friend
I will update this post over the next two months - by which point I hope to have achieved a full blackout!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Recommended Reads, May 2016

This month felt like a bit of a reading drought for me, largely because too much of it got eaten up the audiobook version of Ron Chernow's Washington. Which is an interesting biography, don't get me wrong--it's just that it takes me at least four times as long to LISTEN to a book as to READ one, so what was meant to be a commute diversion to keep me from being annoyed by traffic took over my life for 10 days or so just so I could finish it before it was due back at the library. Suffice it to say I'm going back to baseball and podcasts to get me through my commutes.

That said, I did finish 10 books this month (including that interminable audiobook), and I have a few recommendations. All nonfiction this time:

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon


Glen Weldon is one of my favorite panelists on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, so I grabbed this book despite my not being that big of a fan of Batman per se. And it's an interesting look at geek pop culture over the past 80 years or so, and how the same basic story can be extremely mutable based on how the surrounding culture changes and what fans bring to it, both as individuals and as part of generations and/or subcultures within fandom. It happened to be a particularly timely read for me, as for the past two months I've been going through what amounts to a protracted breakup with my former favorite TV show and current fandom home, Sleepy Hollow. (The short version: They killed the female lead in the finale because the actress apparently wanted to leave the show, though it's at least arguable she wanted out because of frustration with her character's role being diminished from the original concept. Her death wouldn't have been so infuriating, except that how it was framed and her last words transformed her from an equal partner to the male protagonist into one of a series of helpers whose job had been to carry him forward. And just when I'd pretty much come to terms with the situation, they renewed the show, despite the storm of fan and critical outrage over the finale.) Basically, Weldon's approach to Batman feels like a validation of what I'm trying to do with Sleepy Hollow--take the version of the story that speaks to me and keep that while throwing out what it turned into.

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber


A sort of faith memoir by the author of Accidental Saints, and an encouraging read for someone like me who shares the author's background of having been raised evangelical, with all the political and theological conservatism that usually entails, who worked their way over to liturgical mainline Protestantism (although her story is considerably more dramatic than mine). A definite recommendation for people who have something of a troubled relationship with their Christianity but don't want to walk away from it. (And I should go back to church soon, since I haven't been since Easter--I mean to every weekend, but I keep having severe introvert fatigue lately and wanting to stay home as much as possible Saturdays and Sundays.)

Eruption by Steve Olson


From the other side of the country, as a child of 9 I was fascinated by the eruption of Mount St Helens. As an adult, I see it every time we drive down to Portland unless it happens to be cloudy (which, this being the Pacific Northwest, it admittedly often is), and we spent an afternoon there on vacation a few years ago. This book helped me picture what it would've been like to live in the region then as it gave a history of land use around the mountain (lots of Weyerhauser logging) and events in the two months or so between the first rumblings and the big Plinian eruption on 5-18-80. Excellent read (though the bits about the history of Weyerhauser dragged a bit), highly recommended for readers who enjoy the intersection of science and history.

As a side note, one thing I've noted since moving to Washington is our governors tend to be a boring lot, at least compared to the ones we had in my time in Alabama and Pennsylvania. They're boring in a good way--competent technocrats with no major scandals--just not very colorful or with the kind of charisma and ambition that would land them on a presidential ticket. About halfway through my reading, I commented to my husband that I think I knew WHY we pick such boring leaders now. He said, "Ah, I see you've met Dixy Lee Ray." She was...colorful, to say the least.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Recommended Reads, April 2016

(Insert standard cliche here about the year flying by, can't believe it's May tomorrow, etc.)

I finished 11 books in April, three of which I'm recommending today. And unlike last month, none of these are deep into a series where you'd need to read at least three other books just to know what's going on!

Let it Shine by Alyssa Cole


This is one of the finalists for this year's Rita Awards in the novella category, and IMHO it's extremely worthy of the honor. It's an interracial romance set in the 1960's South with a black heroine and a Jewish hero, both of them active in the Civil Rights Movement, and it's so romantic and moving, and feels so complete despite its short length. And, in a way, it made the history from ~10 years before my own birth feel more real to me than all the serious nonfiction I've read, or that college class on 1960's protest movements, just by reminding me that most of the men and women involved were very young, with all the personal dreams and passions that entails, none of which stop just because you're fighting for justice and earning a place in history.


The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey

I wasn't expecting much when I picked up this book--I was mainly looking at it to see if it was accurate and interesting enough to be worth giving to my 12-year-old daughter as part of my ongoing plan to trick her into becoming a history geek like Mama and generally get a little more American history into her than the Seattle Public Schools seem to be bothering with. (I have a whole rant on that. Seattle schools are actually quite good as big city public schools go, but thus far my 6th grader has learned almost no history in school. And how do you expect kids who don't have history geek parents to even learn the basics, much less develop the nuanced understanding of how our past informs our present they need to be wise citizens and voters?)

Anyway, I ended up enjoying this book a whole lot myself for being the kind of nuanced lens on history I think we need more of--it uses Lincoln's address to look at slavery and racism, states' rights, and the ongoing tension between those rights and the need for a strong federal government, both before and after 1863.


Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz


Half 21st-century travelogue, half 18th century history, and a wholly compelling read.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Recommended Reads, March 2016

I know I've been neglecting my planned weekly recipe and making-me-happy posts--currently the issue is I've caught yet another Doom Cold, one that's had me laid up since last Saturday night.

I am, however, starting to improve, at least enough to sit up at the computer for a few minutes to pass along my recommended reads from March, in the order I read them:

Revisionary by Jim C. Hines

The final entry in Hines's Magic Ex Libris series. If you haven't read any of it yet, you'll want to go back to the beginning and start with Libriomancer. And if you're a fan of the series but hadn't realized this book was out, now you know.

It's hard to say much about a book deep in a series without giving too much away, but the general concept is our contemporary world, but with magic fueled by the shared belief of readers in fictional worlds--i.e. a magic wielder could pull Lucy's healing cordial from the Chronicles of Narnia, the invisibility cloak from the Harry Potter series, and so on. If that sounds intriguing to you, you'll most likely love these books.


The Horse by Wendy Williams

If, like me, you were the kind of kid who read all the Black Stallion books and all your hometown library's Marguerite Henry (my favorites were King of the Wind and Black Gold because RACEHORSES), you'll love this book. Especially if, also like me, you have a lifelong interest in evolutionary biology and like to keep up with its latest developments. Maybe a narrow target market after all? But if you're in it, read this book.






Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire


Like Revisionary, I only recommend this book if you've read what's gone before--it's Book 5 in a series about a family from a society of monster hunters gone rogue after they realized that not all, nor even most, of said "monsters" were actually deserving of slaughter. Instead, they're cryptozoologists, who study and protect the cryptids of the world, but with plenty of action fighting their old monster-hunting colleagues and such cryptids as really do pose a threat. The books are funny, playful, fast-paced and exuberantly inventive. If you're a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Sleepy Hollow (especially in its crazy-good Season 1 incarnation), you need to read these books. Start with Discount Armageddon.

This latest entry returns to Verity, protagonist of the first two books, after spending Books 3 & 4 with her brother Alex, and IMHO it's the strongest story yet. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday Recipe - Chili-Cheese Mac

I've missed a couple weeks of poking recipes, mostly because I've been feeling a bit guilty about the fact I ended up bailing on my Lenten vegetarianism back in the second half of February when I got sick and never summoning the willpower and the momentum to get back to it. Maybe next Lent? Maybe later this spring or in the summer when there's a greater variety of fresh fruit and vegetables to make meatless eating more fun?

So this week I'm linking to one of my go-to recipes from Cooking Light, Chili-Cheese Mac. It's quick, easy, soothing comfort food with just enough extra spice to keep it from being too bland.

My modifications:

  1. I rarely use 3/4 lbs. of ground beef. It's just an awkward amount for an ingredient that usually comes in 1-pound packages. I either use the whole pound or just half, if I happen to be making something else that week that calls for a half pound of it.
  2. I don't use reduced-fat cheddar cheese because IMHO it's disgusting. So my version is a bit higher-calorie. (I do, however, use the reduced fat cream cheese.)
Don't get me wrong, this isn't anything fancy. Unlike the last 2 or 3 recipes I've posted, I wouldn't serve this one for company. But if you're looking for something simple and reasonably nutritious for a weeknight dinner, I recommend it.