Friday, 31 January 2014

Review: 'Clockwork Heart' by Dru Pagliassotti

Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti, 2013, Edge, $15.95, softbound, 306 pages. Category/Genre: steampunk. Cover: good but inaccurate; Taya is supposed to have short auburn hair and a leather flight suit. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

Taya is an icarus, someone who flies amongst the sectors of Ondinium, carrying messages back and forth. No-one but icarii and lictors (the law in Ondinium) are allowed to cross the sectors, and different castes (exalteds, cardinals, and plebians) live in different sectors. 

One day, Taya saves the life of Viera, an exalted, and her son from a wireferry accident. Then she's attacked herself, and saved by an outcaste clockwright named Cristof, who's related to the woman Taya saved. 

Things begin to get complicated as Taya develops feelings for Cristof's brother, Alister, and it's suspected that the wireferry accident was engineered. 

Then tragedy ensues, and Taya and Cristof are thrown together to solve a mystery that could get them both killed. 

This is a different kind of steampunk tale, set in the fictitious Ondinium rather than in Victorian London, but there are analytical engines, clockwork devices, and greatcoats. 

If you like this one, try: Clockwork Lies, by Dru Pagliassotti. 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Review: 'The Doomsday Vault' by Steven Harper

The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper, 2011, Roc, $7.99, softbound, 391 pages. Category/Genre: steampunk. Cover: cool; we particularly like the clockwork cat and steampunk gun. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

This book is about a girl who likes fixing automatons (which is an improper thing for ladies to like doing), and a boy who loves flying. Their worlds collide one day, and difficult choices must be made. 

The world is filled clockworkers, mad geniuses who unleash their schemes on the unsuspecting populace. The Third Ward is Britain's answer to those madmen; and the Third Ward wants Gavin and Alice to join them. 

Accompanied by the automatons her insane aunt gave her (including a clockwork cat named Click), Alice fights clockworkers by Gavin's side while at the same time trying to keep with propriety and marry a boring gentleman who has promised to pay all of Alice's family debts. Eventually, she must make a choice: join the Third Ward and continue helping people, or marry Norbert and live a quiet, subdued life of privilege. 

There are zombies in this book as well as amazing gadgetry and clockwork creatures. There's also plenty of action, interesting characters, and a good plot. 

Note: strong language.

If you like this one, try: The Impossible Cube, by Steven Harper.  

Monday, 27 January 2014

Review: 'Perfect Pasta' by Julia della Croce

Perfect Pasta: Quick, Easy, and Delicious by Julia della Croce, 2006, Weldon Owen, $9.99, softbound, 111 pages. Category/Genre: cooking. Cover: good. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

This book is divided into three sections: recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less, recipes that take 15 minutes or less of hands-on preparation (giving you free time while the dish cooks), and recipes made in big batches to be divided up and used for meals throughout the week. 

Della Croce also provides tips on planning, shopping for, and cooking quick and easy pasta dishes. 

Recipes include spaghetti alla carbonara, pasta with beans and escarole, farfalle with roasted garlic and eggplant, penne with spring vegetables, bucatini with pesto, sausage lasagna, and spaghetti with meatballs. 

If you like this one, try: Quick-Fix Vegetarian, by Robin Robertson. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Review: 'Quick-Fix Vegetarian' by Robin Robertson

Quick-Fix Vegetarian: Healthy Home-Cooked Meals in 30 Minutes or Less by Robin Robertson, 2007, Andrews McMeel, $16.99, softbound, 210 pages. Category/Genre: cooking. Cover: not bad. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

As vegetarians who don't like to cook, this title greatly appealed to us. We weren't disappointed.

Along with providing recipes that are both quick to make and good for you, this book shares time-crunch strategies such as keeping a well-stocked pantry and planning menus ahead of time. Robertson provides a list of essential items for said pantry, and the recipes call for fresh ingredients and healthy convenience foods.

Recipes include appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps, pastas, sauces, desserts, and more.

If you like this one, try: Perfect Pasta, by Julia della Croce. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Review: 'Character Naming Sourcebook' by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon, 2005, Writer's Digest, $24.99, hardbound, 486 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: good. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

One of the niftiest things about this book is that it offers a number of websites for you to find even more names than the book itself gives you. 

Besides that, there are scores of nationalities represented, from African to Slavic to Native American, Welsh, and Maori. There's even a section on Arthurian legend names, and all of the names have their meaning beside them.  

To spice things up a bit, several authors give brief sidebars on the trials and tribulations they've experienced in naming their own characters. 

To round things out, there is a reverse lookup index: here you can look up the meaning for a name and find all the listings of the names that mean what you want. 

If you like this one, try: Names through the Ages, by Teresa Norman. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Review: 'Japan Style' Edited by Angelika Taschen

Japan Style Edited by Angelika Taschen, Photos by Reto Guntli, 2008, Taschen GmbH, $9.99, softbound, 191 pages. Category/Genre: photography. Cover: evocative. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Broken up into three parts -- exteriors, interiors, and details -- this book is made up of lush, colour photos that offer a glimpse into the exotic and streamlined style of Japan. 

Japanese style has harmonised with nature for hundreds of years, and Japanese houses have a tradition of being built to conserve energy and resources. Their simplicity, functionality, and minimalism inspired such architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Japanese have long utilised and recycled natural materials.

The photographs in this book are intended to inspire the reader to consider new ways of living. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?

Friday, 17 January 2014

Review: 'Beijing Smart Guide' by Dinah Gardner

Beijing Smart Guide by Dinah Gardner, 2008, Apa Publications GmbH and Company, $11.95, softbound, 144 pages. Category/Genre: travel. Cover: interesting. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

The book starts with an overview of various areas one might be inclined to visit, including Beijing itself, Western Beijing, the Great Wall, the Lake District, and Gulou. 

Next comes an a to zed overview of a number of important items to consider for your itinerary. These include Beijing opera, gay and lesbian hotspots, restaurants, palaces and homes, museums and galleries, teahouses, temples, churches, and mosques, and more. 

The book also comes with a streetplan of Beijing and a selective index to streets and sights. 

If you like this one, try: Family Guide Washington DC, by DK; Family Guide London, by DK; and Eyewitness Travel Guide, by DK. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Review: 'File M for Murder' by Miranda James

File M for Murder by Miranda James, 2012, Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99, softbound, 294 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: great. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

Part of the 'Cat in the Stacks' mysteries, this installment has librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine coon rescue cat, Diesel, solving another murder mystery.

This time Charlie's daughter, Laura, comes for a surprise visit; she's going to be teaching acting at the local college and helping with autumn productions of the theatre department there. When her ex, abrasive playwright Connor Lawton, is murdered, Charlie knows Laura is keeping secrets from the police. 

Laura is also getting harassing mail, she thinks from Connor's ex, Damitra Vane, a terrible actress who's jealous of Connor's relationship with Laura.

Helping Charlie and Diesel sort things out is Charlie's live-in son, Sean, who's studying for the bar and doing investigative work for the town's best-known lawyer. 

Filled with engaging characters and a solid plot, this book is a must-have for both mystery lovers and cat lovers.

Note: mild language.

If you like this one, try: Murder Past Due, by Miranda James; Classified as Murder, by Miranda James; and Out of Circulation, by Miranda James. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Review: 'Allergic to Death' by Peg Cochran

Allergic to Death by Peg Cochran, 2012, Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99, softbound, 264 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: good. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

Gigi Fitzgerald owns Gourmet De-Lite, a one-person company that caters tasty meals to diet-conscious customers. Business may be about to boom: Branston Foods wants her to produce a line of diet foods, and Martha Bernhardt, restaurant reviewer for the local paper, is Gigi's newest client. 

Then things go horribly, horribly wrong. Martha dies in a car wreck, and it's discovered that she wrecked because she was suffering from anaphylactic shock due to eating peanut oil -- and one of Gigi's meals was the last thing she ate. 

Desperate to clear her name, Gigi begins investigating. Along the way, she gets Reg, a West Highland terrier, and tries to ignore the growing feelings she has for Carlo Franchi, who works at Al Forno restaurant. 

This is a good mystery, with a dash of humour and some diet tips and low-fat recipes included. 

Note: mild language. 

If you like this one, try: Sour Apples, by Sheila Connolly. 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Review: 'When the Cookie Crumbles' by Virginia Lowell

When the Cookie Crumbles by Virginia Lowell, 2012, Berkley, $7.99, softbound, 294 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: a bit busy, but not bad. Like the dog. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Olivia Greyson owns The Gingerbread House cookie shop and runs it with her business partner and best friend Maddie Briggs. Olivia is obsessed with cookies and cookie cutters . . . but she seems to have a flair for solving mysteries, as well.

The 250th birthday of Chatterley Heights is approaching, and Maddie is working hard to finish a special gingerbread house of the famous Chatterley Mansion. Meanwhile, Olivia is on the committee to help plan the birthday bash. 

When the owner of Chatterley Mansion is killed, Olivia takes it upon herself to help solve the murder. There's also the mystery of the fabled antique cookie cutters rumoured to be in existence -- but Olivia isn't sure she even believes the tale. 

Filled with interesting characters (not the least of whom is Olivia's rescue Yorkie, Spunky) and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, this is a great read for any mystery lover. 

If you like this one, try: Cookie Dough or Die, by Virginia Lowell; A Cookie before Dying, by Virginia Lowell; Death by the Dozen, by Jenn McKinlay; and Buttercream Bump Off, by Jenn McKinlay.   

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Review: 'The Girl in the Steel Corset' by Kady Cross

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, 2011, Harlequin Teen, $17.99, hardbound, 473 pages. Category/Genre: steampunk. Cover: Nice. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne is two people: a normal girl and a darker, deadlier person, capable of all kinds of mayhem. No wonder -- her father, who was doing experiments on himself before Finley was born, was the inspiration for Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde, and he passed certain traits on to Finley. 

Then Finley meets a group of people who are just as unusual as she is: Griffin, who can access the Aether (the land of the dead) and alter people's emotions; Sam, who is part machine; and Emily, who can 'talk' to machines. 

But living with the group doesn't make Finley's life much easier. For one thing, Sam would rather see her gone. For another, Finley's darker side still takes control. And as if that weren't enough, there's a mad genius called The Machinist on the loose. 

Described by the author as 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets teen X-Men,' the book is filled with adventure, romance, and lots of cool steampunk gadgetry and automatons. It's supposed to be for young adults, but older readers will get just as much of a kick out of it.  

Note: mild language. 

If you like this one, try: The Girl with the Iron Touch, by Kady Cross.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Review: 'Reckless' by Cornelia Funke

Reckless by Cornelia Funke, 2010, Little, Brown, and Company, $19.99, hardbound, 394 pages. Category/Genre: fantasy. Cover: okay. We like the mirror. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Since he was 12 years old, Jacob Reckless has been travelling to the Mirrorworld. Now his brother, Will, has come with him -- and a curse has befallen him. Soon Will is going to become a goyl -- a creature made of living stone -- and he will no longer know Jacob or the girl who loves him. 

Jacob's shape-shifting friend, Fox, and Will's girlfriend, Clara, are going to help Jacob find a way to break the curse and get him back to his homeland. 

But things aren't so easy. Time and again, Jacob's efforts fail, until at last he learns that to break the curse he must destroy the Dark Fairy -- the one who put the curse on Will. 

Filled with action, adventure, magic, and romance, this is the first in what promises to be a successful series. 

If you like this one, try: Fearless, by Cornelia Funke.  

Friday, 3 January 2014

Review: 'Victorian Domestic Architectural Plans and Details' by William T Comstock

Victorian Domestic Architectural Plans and Details by William T Comstock, 1987, Dover Publications, $8.95, softbound, 80 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: quite nice. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

Covering the mid- to late Victorian era, this book provides beautiful and detailed engravings drawn to scale. There are country houses and cottages in a number of styles: Eastlake, Colonial, Jacobean, Queen Anne, Californian, Southern, Elizabethan, and more. There are also designs for store and office fronts, which include counters, shelving, and more. 

Here we will find drawings of brackets, fireplaces, finials, mantels, balusters, gables, and so forth. 

Intended for architectural students, restorers of old houses, preservationists, and admirers of Victoriana. 

If you like this one, try: Late Victorian Architectural Plans and Details, by William T Comstock and Daniel D Reiff.    

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Review: 'Victorian Gardens' by Caroline Holmes

Victorian Gardens by Caroline Holmes, 2005, Schiffer, $29.95, hardbound, 159 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: good. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Starting off with an overview of various gardening styles the Victorians employed, this book also covers the restoration of The Plantation Garden in Norwich, the recreation of various gardens, and much more. 

Topics include vegetables and fruits, parterres ('by the ground'; these are low patterned box edged gardens), pools, paths and paving, topiary, fernery, and a walk in a Victorian rose garden.

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?