Sunday, July 15, 2012

2011, Part 3

Making Mead, Metheglin, Hippocras, Melomel, Pyment, Cyser by Bryan Acton and Peter Duncan- Mead is an alcoholic drink made primarily from fermenting honey. This book discusses the history and making of Mead in both history and today, with recipes and hints on bottling and drinking it, as well as changes to the recipe that can drastically alter the taste, Melomel adds fruit juice to the mead and Hippocras, Metheglin, Pyment and Cyser are other honey-based drinks, not distilled or fermented. The book is old, published originally in the late 50's or early 60's, but has plenty of tips and recipes to try, so if you are interested in making these sorts of drinks, this book is an invaluable companion. Highly recommended.

Vodou by Manuela Dunn Mascetti traces the origins of Vodou as a belief system, from African slaves who combined their pagan beliefs with Catholic beliefs in saints and the various great spirits, such as Ghede, Ezili, Damballa and Baron Samdi. It's a very short and tiny book but packed with information and excellently researched. Recommended.

The Book of Hard Words by David Bramwell- There's often a word for that, but it's usually little known and less used. David Bramwell digs out these words for us to see and learn, everything from Callipygean (possessing a firm pair of buttocks), Mellifluous (flowing like honey, used to describe tones of speech most usually), Coprolalia (excessive cursing) and so on. The book is divided into three sections: hard words, harder words and hardest words, with the words getting successively more obscure and less used. With pictures illustrating the original greek and latin roots of many of the words and clear, concise definitions, this is a book for Logophiles (people who love words). I loved the book, but I already knew and used most of the hard and harder words, and people who are familiar with Greek and Latin roots will be able to suss out what the words mean even if they have never heard a word in context. So if you feel like abusing pusillanimous pissants on the sly, or just want to quiet the coprolalia that is chat in most modern first person shooters, this book can help, Or, as the saying goes in the South, tell them to go to hell in such a way as to make them look forward to the trip! Highly recommended.

Word Histories and Mysteries from the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries- Probes the histories of words, everything from "Abracadabra" (an ancient Persian incantation meant to make things disappear, like disease or trouble) to zither, which comes from the Latin Cithara and the Greek Kithara, and has connections to the modern word guitar. Not only are unusual words profiled, but so are ones like "Meat", which has its roots in mete, or "what was considered good" and forms words like Sweetmeat (candy) and Nutmeat (the edible portion of a nut). The book is not exceptionally large, but packs a lot of information into its pages, enlivened with the occasional picture. Finding out the history and meaning of such words is wonderful, and those who love language and words (like me) will find this book endlessly fascinating. Recommended.

In Too Deep: Book One of the Glasslight Trilogy by Jayne Ann Krentz- Fallon Jones is a member of the famous Jones family which is the preeminent family in the Arcane Society. Once a researcher in his family's business, Fallon took over Jones and Jones, the family detective agency, and moved its headquarters to Scargill Cove, California. There, he lives a lonely existence that suits him just fine... until Isabella Valdez shows up in town and gets a job at the agency. Isabella is used to living a nomadic existence, but recently, she stumbled on a conspiracy that left her in deep, deep trouble, with men willing to kill her. Jones and Jones is her last resort for sanctuary, and she only knows about it because of her missing grandmother, who may have been "disappeared" by the men after her. But can Fallon help her with her problems? And when she and Fallon stumble on a clock with preternormal powers hidden inside its glass, can the two of them find out who or what is behind the dangerous curiosity and keep each other safe? Or will either Isabella's pursuers or the glass artifacts bring them down? Fallon Jones was a bit of a non-starter for me. He's more antisocial and standoffish than other heroes I have liked in the past, but I loved how Isabella quickly got inside his prickly skin and made him want to be a better man, and change, for her. As for Isabella, she was pretty awesome in her own way, and I liked the reveal of who she and her family were, and the ending with her grandmother. In the end, I loved the story and by the end, I wished I could be reading more. I like the Jones and Jones stories, but I am sad that this seems to be the last one for a while. Highly recommended.

The Othello Response: Conquering Jealousy, Betrayal and Rage in Your Relationship by Doctor Kenneth C. Ruge and Barry Lenson-A normal reaction to betrayal of a relationship is anger,even rage, and, of course, sadness. But some people, either because of growing up under a parenting relationship that was betrayed, or from being betrayed themselves, have an over the top, extreme reaction. They may believe betrayal is inevitable in all relationships, that one sex is completely unable to be faithful, or so on. Some may even go on to kill a spouse they believe is being unfaithful, just like Othello did to Desdemona. And it doesn't even matter if the other is being unfaithful or not- in the perceptions of the one with the Othello response, they are, no matter what the truth is. And there is no hope of getting them to accept otherwise. But if you are tired of being locked into the same sort of relationships, you can work on your trust issues and overcome them, and this book can help you see where you need to change. I found this book both disturbing and helpful, because many of the behaviors described are almost textbook abusive behaviors right down to abusing your partner, but seeing the abuse as wholly their fault in the "Look what you made me do/look how you made me act" kind of way, which I find downright scary. Recommended.

A Hard Day's Knight: A Novel of the Nightside by Simon R, Green- John Taylor, new voice of the Authorities in Nightside, has inherited that singular sword, Excalibur, and something needs to be done with it. But when he goes to see the Knights Templar at their home in London Proper, he finds himself in the midst of a war to reclaim Excalibur and also by the elves of Queen Mab against the humans. But even with his avility to find literally anything, can John Taylor find a way to end the war and bring peace between the humans and elves, and deal with the truth of King Arthur being reborn? And can he help Arthur save the dying race of the elves before they end up killing the humans and their own brethren over a war of misplaced priorities? Is there a better way, or will this be the end of Nightside on John Taylor's watch? I liked this novel. I love the Nightside series- the novels are not too long but are packed with story and characters that are both strikingly alien and strikingly human at the same time. I liked Simon Green's playing with the whole Arthur returned and Knights of the Round Table myths, and the elves at the same time. If you have liked any of the Nightside novels, this is just another excellent one in a string of them, and if you haven't, this isn't the best place to start the series, but get reading... Highly recommended.

A Prince Among Frogs by E.D. Baker- Princess Millie, the Princess who can turn into a Dragon, and her dragon Fiance Audun, who can turn into a man, are finally engaged and looking forward to becoming married, when her younger brother is stolen from the Castle, sending the entire family searching for him, far and wide. It turns out that Prince Felix was captured by a sorceror named Olebald, and Millie and Audun and the ones they love will have to call on all their cunning and magic after they find out that Olebald turned Felix into a frog and threw him into the swamp. But even if they can recover him, Olebald has taken over the castle while they were gone and is using his magic to hold it hostage. Can Millie, Audun and the others recover Prince Felix, restore the castle, and make peace among their squabbling relatives before the big day? And can Millie's more close-minded relatives accept a Dragon into the family as a son-in-law? I really enjoyed this book, it was the final frisson of frosting on the cake in Millie and Audun's romance, and while E.D. Baker seems to not have written a sequel so far, I hope we read more about Millie and her family in years to come. Highly recommended, both as a book and a series.

World of Warcraft: The Shattering- Prelude to Cataclysm by Christie Golden- The world of Warcraft is split into many major races, but only two major factions, the Alliance, composed of the "Good" races, and the Horde, made up of what is perceived to be the "Evil" races, like Orcs, Trolls, Kobolds and so on. These two main factions have been at each others throats for years. But now something is coming that threatens them both, but can they put aside their entrenched hatred to work with each other to prevent it? As each ruler for each faction is pulled in separate paths- Thrall of the Horde is called away to Outland to discover how to heal the land and what is calling the elemental spirits away from the Shamans, leaving the younger, more impetuous Orc known as Garrosh in charge of the Horde. And Varian Wrynn's son Anduin, who is very unlike his warlike father, is sent to the Dwarves to learn from them. But as the time passes for each of them, Garrosh's missteps lead the horde closer to fracturing as a group, and Anduin is caught up in a political war among two factions of the Dwarves. And as the world comes closer to Cataclysm, can Aduin survive the Dwarven Mines as Thrall finds competition and love in Outland. Will the Horde be able to survive as a group until he returns? And can Anduin survive under the depths when even the Dwarves around him are dying? Lots of people love Warcraft, from the original strategy games to the MMORPG behemoth it has become. I have to confess, I have never actually played any of it, but read the comics and some of the manga that has been released for it, and to be honest, there is a LOT of lore associated with the game. This book was released shortly before the world was forever changed from how it had been at the start of the MMORPG, and it tells the story from multiple perspectives. A lot of it seems a little strange, like how Varian Wrynn is supposed to be the titular leader of the Alliance, the good guys, and yet, he's a jerk. Thrall, on the other hand, the leader of the "Bad" guys, comes of as a much better leader, stronger and wiser than Varian, but his idea of giving Garrosh an idea of what it's like to lead the Horde by actually letting him do so comes off as terminally misguided, even if he is a wiser and more honorable leader than the Human Varian. That being said, the book is enjoyable look at the story events behind and leading up to the cataclysm, and made me root for both sides (not Varian, though.) Recommended.

Primal by Lora Leigh, Michelle Rowen, Jory Strong, and Ava Gray explore Primal needs and characters who have a touch of animal or vampire inside them. Bleeding Heart by Michelle Rowen follows Jill, a girl whose blood can now kill vampires because of a failed experiment, and pairs her with Declan Reyes, a half-vampire Dhampir who has become her protector. Because the problem with her blood is also killing her, Jill seeks help from a scientist who says he can help her. But when the man turns up dead, can Jill and Declan escape the ensuing chaos without giving into their feelings for each other, which could kill them both? Skin and Bone by Ava Gray follows SIlas, a normal human with some very abnormal powers that set him apart from other people. But when he meets fellow agent Juneau in Ecuador, can he find love with a woman who won't judge him for what he is? Angel Claimed by Jory Strong follows Sajia, a human servant to a vampire family who is looking for Corinne, a young woman of the family who has disappeared, But when she encounters Addai, an angel, who commits the ultimate sin as they work together- falling in love with her. But can they find a way to let their love, and their lives, survive? Primal Kiss by Lora Leigh is a tale of the breeds, bred in a lab to be part human, part animal. Phillip Brandenmore, one of the architects of the Breed has done something to the adopted daughter of Breed Leader Callan Lyons. He sends Creed Raines, a wolf breed who is bodyguard to Kita Claire Engalls, to see if they can discover what Brandenmore did, both to himself, and to the child. But Breed, who wants to bring down the human monster as much as anyone, is beginning to suspect that Kita may be his mate, even if she only sees him as a thorn in her side and a chain around her ankle. But can they discover what Brandenmore did before it kills either Brandenmore or the child they all love? I only really knew the Breeds before I picked up this novel, and while I found the other stories interesting, I didn't really get sucked into their worlds as much as I did the Lora Leigh story. For some of the stories, like Angel-Claimed, did make me want to read more in that universe, but the best story in this novel was Primal Kiss, and the others I found rather more forgettable. Recommended, but not highly.

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandreth- Everyone who is anyone is invited to the party given by the Duke and Duchess of Abermarle, including Oscar Wilde and his friend Arthur Conan Doyle. There is even a young actor who either believes, or is just saying, that he is a vampire. Even the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward Victor. But when the Duchess is found dead in the telephone room, two pinprick wounds in her throat with evidence of blood dripping from them, suspicion falls on the vampire actor. But with Prinny involved, the Prince asks Oscar Wilde to investigate the crime and discover the true culprit, no matter who they may be. Unfortunately for Oscar, rumors about vampires and the true murderer swirl through society, impelled by the guests at the party. But is the murderer really a vampire, or is a more human, less prosaic murderer to blame for the death of the Duchess? I really like this series. Oscar Wilde was a real person, but he was quite merry and fun to be with, and reading these books is like being introduced to him all over again every time. He's fun, he's witty, and devastatingly intelligent. Plus, he's able to see past the surface of things to the truth beneath-something that stood him in good stead as an artist and writer, and something that, in these stories, makes him an excellent sleuth. Far from being deadly serious as most sleuths are, Oscar knows how to have fun, and that makes these stories incredible to read. Highly recommended.

The Roman Mysteries: The Prophet of Ephesus by Caroline Lawrence- Flavia Gemina and her friends are in trouble. Sent to find a gemstone by the Emperor Titus, they found the stone and sent it back to him with one of his agents. But they didn't count on the agent stealing it for himself and blaming the four of them for its loss. Now wanted throughout the Roman Empire, they are stuck in Ostia, kicking their heels and waiting to be spirited out of the city. Until word comes that Flavia's nephew Popo has been kidnapped by pirates. Though she and her friends cut their teeth taking on a gang of pirates, they have resurged and made off with many young Romans. Though Flavia is becoming less and less sanguine about being a detective, she knows that she must help recover her nephew. Making their way from Ostia to Helicarnassus, they are caught up in a popular movement around a number of prophets, one of whom is from Ephesus, But when Nubia, Jonathan and Lupus find themselves becoming part of a new religion, will Flavia join them, or will she find that everything that led them to Asia Minor is a lie? I have loved this series for a long time, but this book shows it is drawing near to the end. Flavia no longer wishes to be a detective, and is getting tired of traveling around the world solving mysteries. But will she get her wish? The book ends on a cliffhanger as the detectives go after one of their own, who has been having visions that will take him back to Rome- where they are all wanted for theft...

The Roman Mysteries: The Man from Pomegranate Street by Caroline Lawrence- Jonathan has gone back to Rome to try and prevent Domitian from killing Emperor Titus. Flavia, Nubia and Lupus must sneak into the city, disguised, because there is an order of Death out on them. But it turns out that they are too late, and Titus is already dead. But did Domitian kill Titus, and how? And if he did, can Flavia and her friends uncover the truth and expose the conspiracy? More, can they finally clear their names, and what will happen to the four friends? This was a rather sad ending to the series, but the books have always been enjoyable, and I did like the actual ending- Flavia Gemina may have renounced solving mysteries, but can she really live up to that vow? And will she ever find happiness with her beloved "Floppy"? Recommended.

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