Friday, February 27, 2015

Near Enemy by Adam Sternberg (a Spademan novel)

When I read a debut novel and really like it, I'm both eager and hesitant for the next. Will the elements I liked in the initial book carry through? With Near Enemy, I owe Adam Sternberg a huge thank you (and maybe a drink if he ever comes to town.) Spademan is back, and the novel is good. Again there's crisp, fragments of dialog (which I understand drove some readers nuts, but I enjoyed), characters who have depth, darkness, and light. The New York City and surrounds of a post-dirty-bomb-in-Times-Square world is fascinating, horrifying. The plot-line has satisfying twists and layers. In a world that no longer has many of my favorite mystery/suspense writers, and where, as a science-fiction fan who is tired of aliens and off-world stories, Spademan has slid right into the opening on my bookshelf. I look forward to more in the series.  Thank you to Blogging for Books and the publisher for sending me this copy.

PS Shovel Ready was the first novel.

Tags: alternate-history, an-author-i-read, blogging-for-books, i-liked-it, read, suspense-thriller

Thursday, February 26, 2015

How do you DO that? A Pysanky pictorial

Explaining the whole "wax and dye resistance" process regarding pysanky can be a tricky thing. "It's like batik on an egg" can only go so far.

For years now, I've brought a set of eggs to shows and sales to help depict the process -- the blank, white egg, with a few simple lines on it, and even pencil markings to show guidelines (though most of my work is done freehand, except for occasional guidelines to divide the egg into sections). The next eggs are the same pattern, after repeated dye emersion and wax application, until there's an egg that looks all black-- that's the last stage, where the final dye is in place, and the darkened beeswax is still on the egg. The next egg is with the same design, but with the wax removed.  (That process of melting off the wax is what many of us who write pysanky refer to as the magic of the egg, the big reveal to see how it all turns out.)

The thingies in the center of the tray are a couple of the kistky I use. Some folks use electric ones, but I've stuck with a more traditional type of kistka. I use beeswax candles to heat them, and then dip my kistka into a small cake of beeswax. The air is redolent with that wonderful smell. There's something about that, and the gliding of the kistka across an egg shell, that is truly meditative for me.

And that's how I spend many of my days, breathing in the perfume of honey and beeswax, waiting for the eggs to reveal their magic: the art of pysanky.

Throne of the Crescent Moon (The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, #1) by Saladin Ahmed

After reading this book, I know I can honestly look Saladin Ahmed in the eye at this year's JordanCon and say, "Your book was fantastic. And it made me crave cardamon tea." (I actually drink my own blend of cardamon heavy chai, so it's not a far stretch. But I did spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what the blend at the tea-shop had as ingredients.)

It was very refreshing to read a book set in a world with the middle eastern flavors of ours. It felt at once familiar, and also exotic, and delightfully not medieval. I'm hoping to see Adoulla and rest of the characters fleshed out a bit more in future books, and pacing steadied, but my minor quibbles will not stop me from giving 4 out of 5 stars, or from reading book two when it comes out. The descriptions of foods and life were very evocative. But, (And take my word for this, please) if you tend to sit down with a tea and a nibble, be sure not to think you'll partake if reading the prologue (I) or the lettered interludes. Ahmed does gory well.

(For those unused to my reviewing style, I usually don't include plot summaries. Those are online elsewhere and easily found. I'm more apt to record my response to a book.)

Tags: e-book, fantasy, first-novel-or-book, made-me-look-something-up, part-start-of-a-series, read

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How BookCrossing made my day twice

One of my drawings somehow seems to have won a contest to be this year's International BookCrossing Day label design. Whoa! I'm stunned and surprised, and very honored. (And the girl in the picture is supposed to be my eldest granddaughter.) I did this more on a whim, not expecting to win, especially after I saw all the other great entries. Wow. Thank you to all who voted for my design.

Also today, I received a box of books today from a BookCrossing friend, who didn't know my friend Mike who died far too young and far too recently. But she used the remembrance label created by two Amys (Spedbug and bookczuk), and wrote this absolutely lovely journal entry in the book:
I've passed it on to Mike's family and shared with some friends as well.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

What happens if, in the last days of your life, the man you loved completely, and fear you betrayed horribly, says he's coming to see you? But he's not hopping in a car, or taking the train, he's walking the full length of England, from his home to the town where you are in hospice. The Love Song of Miss Queen Hennessy tells the story of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry from her perspective, not his. And like the original, I found it a beautifully written, compelling tale, full of heart -- a good window into the world of those whose days on earth are drawing to a close. Like other stories told from different perspectives (the movie Rashomon comes to mind, but there are so many books that interweave points of view) it is fascinating to see where the two books overlap, run parallel, or diverge completely. I never really got a good handle on Queenie's character in the first book, but this one drew me to her solitary life, and made me mourn in advance, because I knew no matter how slowly I read, I'd still lose this complex and caring woman at the end. While The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry came wrapped in hope and strength, this came bundled up in love, understanding and acceptance. The author had some nice touches in the characters who inhabit Queenie's world: other patients, hospice workers, nuns, and also a few well placed surprises.

Plus, I wish I could see Queenie's Garden by the sea.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program and the publisher for sending a copy go the book my well.

Tags read-in-2015an-author-i-readmade-me-look-something-upmade-me-thinkearly-review-librarythingadvanced-reader-copy 

Monday, February 9, 2015

What are Pysanky?

Ukrainian Egg Decorating has been handed down through generations since before the time of Christ. The symbols and colors all contain meaning, representing life: wishes of hope, health, prosperity, safety, and blessings. With the advent of Christianity, the symbols have taken on additional meanings reflecting the prayers and hopes that the coming of Christ has brought to Christians. Pysanky means “to write” as egg shells are not painted, but are decorated in a process using wax resistance and dyes. Each pysanka carries a one of a kind message of hope and good wishes. Legend has it that as long as pysanky are written, goodness will prevail over evil throughout the world.

Amy Romanczuk is a book enthusiast, a pysanky artist, and retired pediatric nurse in Charleston, SC. She is self-taught pysanky writer of Ukrainian heritage. Several of her original design pysanky were accepted into the collection of Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Arts in Kyiv, as representational from artists outside Ukraine. #czukart
Please message me for purchase details. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Accident by Chris Pavone

If you were a literary agent, and an anonymous manuscript, which has the potential to reveal secrets about a powerful media mogul appeared on your desk one day, would you risk your life to get it published? Apparently the answer is yes. And, apparently, the answer is yes for others who get their hands on the manuscript legitimately or by subterfuge, creating targets to acquire and a huge body count racked up for those who wish to block the release.

All of this should make good reading, especially for someone who likes thrillers with an international flair, but it didn't find the sweet spot in my personal reading tastes. Though I usually like alternating story lines, I found myself getting the characters confused and was annoyed by the shifting perspectives and the third person present tense narrative. It would have been easier had I actually liked any of the characters, but none ever reached the cockles of my heart to warm. I kept reading, though, because I'd liked more than disliked Pavone's first novel, was interested in the tidbits about publishing, and because I'd been sent this book via LibraryThing's early reviewer program, and feel a commitment to finish a book, when it's been sent to me.

I finished the book, though, relatively unsurprised by any of the revelations that come out as the book progressed. Will I read another Pavone book? Probably. There have been elements I liked in each, and things I've learned from each. Did I like this enough to give it three stars out of 5? Not really. But 2.5 works for me.

Thank you to LibraryThing and the publisher for sending a copy of the book my way.

Tags: early-review-librarythingreadtaught-me-somethingthought-i-was-gonna-like

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2015 crop of Pysanky

Someone asked me if I have my pisnackie (aka pysanky) available for Valentines and Easter this year. Why yes, I do. Message me for pictures of what's available or for commissions. smile emoticon Thanks!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Paleo Chef: Quick, Flavorful Paleo Meals for Eating Well, by Pete Evans

Way back before "gluten free" or "paleo diet" were phrases heard in everyday conversation, or mocked in Superbowl commercials, results from allergy testing to find out what was making me stop breathing revealed I was allergic to latex, wheat, cockroach poop, and a medication. Latex was the culprit for the anaphylaxis, and in the course of that life-changing, career-halting discovery, my wheat allergy got pushed to the background. But eventually, it got the recognition it deserved, and has essentially been eliminated from my diet. Now, family members, in an effort to regain health, have gone wheat and grain free, and done a 180 degree turn in their diet, placing them firmly back in the carnivore camp. As I relearn a repertoire of recipes to suit new palates, this book was an enormous help. The flavors practically fall off the page, presenting a mouthwatering array of ways to cook paleo. Though we are not actually following a paleo diet, the recipes fit right in with the cuisine in chez czuk, or provide a good launching point for experimentation. While some may find some tips, such "activating" nuts by soaking them, a pain, this is something we do already, so not a big routine change. There are some exotic ingredients, but it's possible to work around them if not obtainable. I anticipate a lot of fun doing just that.

And the best part? The little gluten-free bakery that was up the street, where we got totally yummy dense bread that reminded us of the breads we loved so much in Germany, without the wheat, closed, leaving us bereft and in search of decent GF bread. This book has a recipe that sounds pretty similar to what we love. I'm trying it today.

Thank you to blogging for books, and the publisher for sending me this book. For the bread recipe alone, you have my gratitude.

Tags: blogging-for-bookscookbook-collectionfoodiereadtaught-me-something