I apologize for the two-plus weeks I’ve been not-posting

I’m dealing with things like Brain MRIs. And divorces. I’m not even going to try to predict when reviews will be regular things again. Thank you for understanding!

Posted in News & Musings, Reviews

Review: “Certain Dark Things,” Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Pros: Fascinating worldbuilding
Rating: 4 out of 5

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things is a slightly different vampire novel. People have known of vampires for decades, and know that there’s a variety of them usually dependent on country/area of origin. Mexico City has been declared “vampire-free” and has dedicated officers constantly checking IDs and a variety of other things. All or nearly all of the vampire types have representatives in Mexico, and there are a few hiding out in Mexico City itself. Atl, a (Aztec) vampire, is on the run. Her family was killed, and she ends up hooking up with a naive young man named Domingo, homeless, who will soon find himself willing to do anything to help her. Getting back out of the city, however, is not nearly as easy as entering it, requiring Atl to go to another type of vampire for help. In this case that’s Bernardino, a Revenant, feared and loathed by all other vampires as he can draw the life from your body–human or vampire–with a touch. Of course there’s also a Necro, Nick, following her and trying to capture and/or kill her.


Domingo is a wonderful point of view character. He isn’t stupid; he’s just very… plain. He’s plain-spoken, he sees things in simple terms, and he semi-understands when he starts to love Atl that she can’t ever really return it. He’s also resourceful in unusual ways–he knows paths and people that anyone who isn’t homeless would be unlikely to find. He has a wonderful personality, fascinating despite (or perhaps because of) his genuineness. Ana Aguirre is a very determined police detective who’s trying to figure out what the hell is going on, but unfortunately for her she attracts unwanted attention from the Necro chasing Atl. And Necros are capable of turning people into short-term puppets.

I would have liked to know more about Atl’s unusual dog who protected her. We briefly heard that it was genetically modified and had bioluminescent tattoos. I like the idea of a vampire who can sprout black wings (although they’re mostly useful for gliding) and has talons. She also has a comparatively mild reaction to sunlight. There’s a great glossary in the back about the various types of vampire, by the way.

The entire plot is Atl trying to get out of Mexico City, but it’s much better than that makes it sound. She’s pursued relentlessly, and she has friends (or at least people who owe her clan) in fascinating places.

I really enjoyed Certain Dark Things. The worldbuilding in particular fascinated me.


NOTE: Free book provided by publisher in return for honest review
Expected publication date: October 25, 2016

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So… yeah

Apparently I had a dissociative event and lost two days. Thus, I am NOT ending my reviews. Yay! It’ll probably take me a couple weeks to really get up to speed again, though! And I don’t expect I’ll keep up the speed I’ve gone recently.

Posted in News & Musings, Reviews

Review: “The Naked Cookbook,” Tess Ward

Pros: Good food
Cons: The attitude and confusion
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Fantastic stuffed avocado!

Fantastic stuffed avocado!

(Spinning one last review into the void.)

There are some wonderful recipes (stuffed avocadoes and avocado soup in particular), but also some problems. The table of contents uses utterly useless labels: pure, raw, stripped, bare, nude, clean, and detox. There’s a set of dressings that did not come out right or tasty, and certainly came out looking nothing like the photograph on the opposite page.

I’d go halfway on this book. There are some yummy things in it, but it needs experienced help to get any further. Oh! Also, as part of the whole theme, the cover is hard, thick cardboard. Which means… yep, no cleaning those little bits of oil or whatever that are easy to swipe off of a plasticized cover or sleeve. So parts of this cookbook are tasty, but I wouldn’t bother buying it.

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Turning off the lights

I never expected to be saying these words, but after 15 years of marriage (plus five for dating), I’m getting a divorce. I don’t expect to come back here, but I’ll leave it up for now in case it’s useful to anyone, or in the unlikely event that I come back. Thank you.

Posted in Cats, Cooking, Gaming, News & Musings, Reviews, Uncategorized, Writing

Review: “IQ,” Joe Ide

Pros: Fascinatingly bizarre characters
Cons: Messy time jumps
Rating: 4 out of 5

As we join the characters of Joe Ide’s IQ, an obviously eeeeevil man tries to kidnap a little girl. IQ (Isaiah Quintabe), using his quick thinking and clever mind, goes after the man and the girl. It’s a great ‘resume’ entry–like the chase scene at the beginning of a Bond movie, it shows exactly who and what IQ is. He obsesses over things that are ‘not quite right’, out of place, etc., so he notices things others don’t. His not-quite-sidekick, Dodson, is annoying but occasionally people-clever, and between the two of them, they almost have a winning PI team. Ever since IQ’s brother Marcus died, IQ can’t stop trying to make things better, in one way or another.

Now, rapper ‘Black the Knife’ (Cal) needs IQ’s help. Someone’s trying to kill him, and sent a lunatic assassin after him. When one attack doesn’t work, he tries another: like sending a huge, extremely aggressive pit bull that’s been trained to kill. While Cal has a nervous breakdown, IQ and Dodson take on the case. IQ prefers to help people who typically can’t afford his services, but he has to pay his rent, and this is a high-paying gig.


There’s a fascinating side-bar on large dogs and on the ways in which some people turn them into attack dogs. (It isn’t in any way anti-pit bull; it makes the case that the people who train and breed them this way are to blame.) Despite the fact that it could have been labeled as a brief infodump, I thought it was fascinating.

Pretty much the only thing I really wasn’t fond of was the time jumps. It got messy as to what happened when. I really wish authors would show restraint on flashbacks and other time-bending effects. Most of the time they just muddy the waters and confuse readers. (There’s only one version of this that I completely tolerate: Peter Clines’s use of simply “Then” and “Now” as chapter headings.)

The characters are fantastic. Even Dodson, who seems like a total buffoon at the start, has his tricks, his hidden depths, and some truly fantastic ambition (enough for him and IQ both). While IQ spends so much time in his own head that he practically needs a keeper. Watching the characters try to handle gang wars and empty wallets gets to be rather entertaining.

I wish the book hadn’t jumped around in time so much, for so little good reason. It seems to be catching on lately as a style; I hope it’s a short-lived one. Other than that, I really enjoyed IQ!


Free book received from publisher for this review
Estimated book publication date: October 18, 2016

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Review: “Blonde Ice,” R.G. Belsky

Pros: Great characterizations
Cons: One spot that confused me
Rating: 4 out of 5

R.G. Belsky’s Blonde Ice: A Gil Malloy Novel follows (obviously) Gil Malloy, a hot-shot journalist who likes jumping into the middle of trouble. A woman named Victoria Isaacs (formerly a high-priced escort named Houston) believes her husband is cheating on her and hired a private investigator, Melissa Ross, to find out. Now her husband has been missing for two days.

Here I must pause briefly to discuss characterization. Gil is the main character, and he definitely has… issues. What impressed me though is one particular sentence. While Victoria is upset (obviously) over what might have happened to her husband, Gil is already wondering if he should ask her out on a date:

“I decided it would be extremely tacky for me to ask her out on a date while she waited to find out” (whether her husband is alive and okay).

Now that is a brilliant piece of characterization condensed into a single sentence. We immediately know he has some understanding of social norms (since he realized it might be ‘tacky’). He probably sees those norms in transactional terms rather than as actual rules. It also sounds like he’s pretty non-empathetic since he’d even thought about the possibility seriously. One sentence. So much personality. Brilliant characterization. (And in fact, his personality and actions and words through the story were entirely in keeping with that one sentence.)

There’s a side storyline in which Gil’s ex-wife Susan comes back into his life. She’s probably the only person I can imagine keeping up with and understanding Gil in the long run. He’s already decided he wants to marry her again and also keeps trying to convince her to come to bed. To him it’s just obvious this needs to happen. (Did I mention that lack of empathy?)

Where everything fell down for me is when we got into a roulette wheel of drop-dead-gorgeous blond women, some of whom are the same woman, and some of whom are not. I totally lost track of the hot blonde women. Which is pretty funny, actually. As an aside, I have no idea why there’s a scene in here that turns into a lesson on making beef stroganoff casserole.

Gil’s rather unique personality made this book a lot of fun. The characterization of him stayed with him beautifully.

NOTE: Free book provided by publisher in return for honest review
Expected publication date: October 18, 2016

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Review: “Monsterland,” Michael Phillip Cash

Pros: Fascinating concept
Cons: Some definite plot holes
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

In Michael Phillip Cash’s Monsterland the tone of the tale starts out… overwrought. Purple. Melodramatic. Thankfully this improved over the course of the story. The melodrama is appropriate in some places, given that this is a somewhat campy tale, but it went overboard early on.

In this world a pandemic created zombie-like people. Folks subsequently discovered that werewolves and vampires already existed, but in small numbers (in particular the vamps seem headed for extinction). Dr. Vincent Conrad discovered a great way to take advantage: he has created seven “Monsterland” theme parks on six different continents. He’s made the opening night such a big deal that he has high-profile political figures present, such as the U.S. president. He’s also promised the vampires that he’ll help them overcome their downward spiral and try to find a cure for them, but they’re starting to have their doubts regarding his promises.

The theme parks offer many jobs during a severe economic downturn–another reason Dr. Conrad can get pretty much anything he wants right now.


The characters in this book were okay, but not great. The first time we see Dr. Conrad it’s on a television program, and he came across as creepy. When he’s at the theme park, he suddenly becomes this incredibly charismatic guy who can woo even the US president to come see his park on opening night. I can’t make the two images work together. There’s also the cliche of the bullying jock dating the stunning girl with a heart of gold who would rather be with the main character (she comes across as a bit of a rag doll with little agency of her own; she seems to be defined solely by her romantic relationships). I wish the author hadn’t fallen down on the job here.

There are some obvious similarities between Monsterland and Jurassic Park, so you can imagine the sorts of things that might happen. Toward the end of the tale things go crazy; the pace and danger pick up beautifully. On the whole the book is campy.

I had trouble understanding why the vampires were in such dire straights risking extinction. Given that they can turn people around them into ‘drones’ who’ll pretty much do whatever the vamps want them to do, there’s just no reason for vamps to be on the bottom of the heap.


Book provided free by publisher for review
Expected publication date: October 3, 2016

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Review: “Marshmallows”, Eileen Talanian

Pros: In love with this book
Cons: Had mild issues
Rating: 5 out of 5

I could wax poetic about marshmallows all day long. Even longer if we’re talking a semi-toasted marshmallow that’s got a little black crunch to it but mostly consists of warm brown melting-inside toastiness. Unless you have a gas stove (mournful eyes) we have no good marshmallow toasting apparatux. Yes, we could use the broiler, but that’s another tale involving fireballs and burn hair. We shall never speak of it again. (Well, maybe later) Besides, you have to get just that right combination of flavors, and that’s hard to do without the command of a stick over the blazing battlefield.

Eileen Talanian’s Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats is a great way to play around with making your own favorite marshmallow treat. Personally I like the limoncello best so far (some, but only a few, recipes use actual booze them them).

I’ve used this book already and so have had many events for which to make them. They always seem to be favored by everyone. We have had trouble getting the marshmallow fluff recipe to come out right, but every single regular marshmallow recipe comes out fine. Basically you make a ‘marshmallow syrup”, do a whole lot of fluffing up in a Kitchen Aid fitted with a whisk attachment (and you add a few more ingredients), and let it go. Individual recipes will tell you when to add what. When it’s done you pour it into a pan, smooth out, and let it sit for four hours. Then you flip it onto a dusted-with-coating cutting board, and start cutting and coating.

Marshmallow 'batter' (Limoncello) pre-curing

Marshmallow ‘batter’ (Limoncello) pre-curing

This is an example of the batter you whip up that has to ‘cure’ for four hours. After that time you can cut the whole thing up and dredge the marshmallows in a coating of your choice. I really like the vanilla marshmallows with cinnamon in the coating mix. I also gave one a shot with a hard cider and it worked pretty well. While I really enjoy the recipes as they’re presented I also recommend having a place or time when you can hand a bunch off, because holy cow these are sweet. My husband takes them to his office. Same with another friend. Because you really don’t need so much sugar!!

There are so many variations to try. We could keep a marshmallow marathon going for weeks!

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Review: “Deadline,” Mira Grant

Pros: In love with this series
Rating: 5 out of 5

In Mira Grant’s (Seanan McGuire’s) Newsflesh series, Deadline (Book two of Newsflesh) the Zombie apocalypse has changed the world–although not entirely in ways you might assume. What’s more interesting is the news structures that came together as the traditional news channels hemmed and hawed. Now it’s bloggers who rule the stream. Some are “Newsies,” the ones who report on facts. “Irwins” like to get themselves into dardevil dangerous situations. Fictionals write the poetry and fiction that give people a bit of escapism. They’ve found that this combination works best. and draws some of the best ratings. One particularly good group consists of George (Georgia-newsie), Buffy (Georgette–fictional), and Shaun (the Irwin) This particular group is good at what they do and their ratings just keep going up–except that George and Buffy are both now dead. Shaun has to step up to the plate to assign new faces to jobs, but he’s also been hearing George in his head wherever he goes. Soon he’ll have to pull together his news team to uncover another terrible plot that threatens the world.


Shaun’s weird (crazy?) connection to George isn’t really escaping anyone’s notice, and Shaun’s just fine with having her there. Hell, sometimes he even drinks Coke–which he hates–to appease her. It doesn’t matter what they’re relationship was (adopted siblings), it matters that her voice sometimes saves him from doing some very stupid things.

There’s research being done in the area in which George had problems: she had a ‘reservoir’ of infection in her eyes, and she’s not the only one to find such reservoirs in their bodies. So far the scientists think it’s some sort of defense of the disease, but they can’t figure it out. Especially since people keep killing their test subjects as an unusually high rate.

Why are you asking me questions you know the answers to already? Nobody here needs the exposition.

Hallelujah or whatever. I love the meta-joke and the fact that she acknowledges the possibility. I think the eco-system of the various bloggers, their types, the permits they need, the materials they’re required to take in order to defend and so on is fascinating. Shaun’s grief is woven beautifully into his stories.

This is where I’d love to tell you one or two things, but they’d be spoilers. You’ll have to trust me that things get wild.

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