Books I read in July

Have you seen the new Goodreads homepage yet? What do you think? I'm not sure I like it. It seems narrower somehow? Half of my screen shows what I'm reading and stuff about my book lists and advertising, while the newsfeed is squashed into the other half of the screen. I find it annoying. I go there to read the newsfeed, get book recommendations, see what others are reading, and this new squashed up format is irritating on the eyes. It's like the designers forgot the reason people use Goodreads in the first place. Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 8.47.25 AM

Despite the problems of the new homepage, Goodreads tells me I finished 11 books in July. Well, that's not entirely true. I didn't finish all of them. I've decided life is way too short to finish books I don't like. Here's a quick look at what I liked:

 Fans of Cassandra Clare won't be disappointed. This story takes us into newish territory, as Clare gives us more about the group of Downworlders we haven't spent much time with: the faeries. In addition to Shadowhunter lore, Clare has done her research into faerie lore. I really liked how Clare worked in Poe's "Annabel Lee." And she's worked in another "impossible" romance. I'm really looking forward to seeing how she works this one out.

 I got in line at midnight to get this book. (I've never done that before. It was fun!) I spent the next morning reading it. It's a nice, quick read about grown-up Harry and one of his sons. As a parent of teenagers, I appreciated this story. There are some unanswered questions, and not a lot of time spent on some characters, but it's also not a Rowling book. Some of the dialogue is very on the nose, and that surprised me because otherwise the emotions are very complex. I wouldn't mind seeing the play, so I hope there will be a video recording.

 I wish I'd known about this book when I was twelve. I would have loved it. A fantasy with a strong heroine? I'm all about that. This is exactly the book I was looking for at twelve. Discovering it would have changed my life. There are problems with it-- I wanted Sophie to do more than clean house, although I understood she did so to earn her place in the castle and she did end up doing more, sort of. I guess I wanted her to have a stronger role and more development. I also wonder about Howl? How old is he? Is it appropriate for him to have feelings for a girl Sophie's age? And I felt that his feelings were all over the map, with a sudden change at the end. I think that could have been developed more. The end was a bit abrupt.

 A while ago I took an online course on drawing for beginners. In this course I watched videos, then completed assignments and sent them in for evaluation. This book is that course, but in a graphic novel format. There's a wonderful story here to enjoy if you don't want to learn to draw.

Writing Books

 This writing book was pretty good. I learned a few things, but mostly it was stuff I already know. (But I have been reading writing books for twenty years.)

I do love being able to track what I've read in Goodreads. In the days before Goodreads I tried to keep a running list in small notebooks, but just as with journalling and morning pages, I wasn't very good at keeping up with it.

Since Goodreads was purchased by Amazon, changes have been happening. I'm not entirely sure where these changes are going to lead-- certainly to more advertising-- so I'm keeping my eyes open to other services, like Reco by the people at Indigo. I've tried Shelfari and didn't like it.

How do you track your reading?

My summer so far

What's new? - More revisions.

- I updated my journey with healing the psoriasis around my eyes and all over my scalp. It's almost gone. I just have to stick with it.

- I read My Grape Escape by my friend Laura Bradbury, and holy mackerel, it's good! I never liked biographies, and I especially disliked memoirs, but Laura's book doesn't read like a memoir. It reads like fiction, and it's full of wonderful details about France. I felt like I was there.

- I'm working on the August newsletter.

- I made a stop-motion animation. This was a fun project. I've always wanted to make one, so one day I just did it. Now I want to try more and see what fun I can have with it. You can see the video on YouTube:

- I'm really enjoying this cool, rainy summer. For me, this is how summer should be-- every summer. I can't stand the heat, but I especially can't take the heat with humidity. I wilt, I melt, I can't sleep, I can't think, I can't write, I'm prone to passing out. I normally spend summers hiding indoors, soaking up air conditioning.

How is your summer?

Library Haul 2014.02.22 Paleo, The Archived, the book LKH tweeted about and more

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This week's library haul includes items from last week because the Murphy's law of libraries is that all the holds come in at once.

I expected The Archive to have further holds on it, so I dug right in. Frankly, I can see why it doesn't-- the first 30 pages or so is really hard to get through. So much sadness and backstory. I think the book would see greater success if it had started with Mackenzie hunting a History. So if there is one thing I want the world to know, it's give this book a chance. Because I did and I love it. A "Food of" post about The Archived is coming soon.

Everyday Paleo is another of my favourites this week. So many great recipes, including homemade ketchup and other condiments. And many tips for helping kids go Paleo. And Everyday Paleo is on the web and Twitter!

I discovered The Piano Guys on YouTube. So fun. Watch them and see!

The Happiness Project was recently recommended by author Laurell K. Hamilton on Twitter:

  I haven't dug into it yet, but I will be getting to it this week.

This Week's Library Haul 2014.02.16: Gardening, Bees, Farming and stuff

IMG_0866 I haven't been too impressed by a Paleo cookbook yet. I can get all these recipes from the internet. And in the case of the slow cooker Paleo cookbooks, the dishes are mainly about meat and require extra steps like browning the meat before putting it in the slow cooker, while also requiring additional side dishes of vegetables. I know I'm being totally biased when I say this, but when I pick up a slow cooker cookbook, I want one-pot meals. I want to throw in the ingredients in the morning, go to work, and come home to a cooked meal with very little additional work. If I had the time and inclination to brown the meat and cook the onions and stuff separately, I would just do that and not bother with the slow cooker. These books would have me believe the only recipe like this is chili. So my quest for slow cooker recipes continues.

The film "The Fight for Farming" should be required viewing for all Canadians. This documentary made by a woman in Quebec, reveals things about farming in Quebec I had no knowledge of. Our media doesn't show us the devastating clear cutting of bush lands for fields, the pumping of raw farm sewage into lakes, the filling in of marshes to make grain fields. I had no knowledge of the quotas Quebec's farmers are held to or that if they overproduce they aren't allowed to sell it, they have to dump it-- milk is literally being dumped into the ground by the barrel. I also didn't know about the farmers being sued by Monsanto. Lots of eye-opening stuff in this documentary. Highly recommended.

I got a CD of the sound of wild wolves. It's still my goal to some day go on a wolf howl.

And I got a book for my kid, which he really enjoyed and asked me to order some more for him. So I did.

IMG_0871aWhile winter marches on outside, I've been thinking more about my gardens. I have an apple tree that desperately needs pruning, so I've been learning about how to do that properly from these books. I also want to treat it organically for white fly since that's the major pest ruining the crop every year. I haven't mapped out all the garden plans yet, but I do know more vegetables will be planted this year, along with more flowers for the honey bees.

This video contained two parts: one about the wild cockatiels of Australia that was wonderful to watch. Flocks of birds we normally see in pet stores roam the countrysides Down Under and it was really interesting to see. The other part was about the disappearance of the honey bee. At the time it was filmed, it was not known yet that the bees are dying off because of GMO crops and heavy pesticides. The forensic exploration into Colony Collapse Disorder was fascinating. I didn't know that if a bee feels sick, it doesn't just take a day off. It leaves the colony to go die alone so it doesn't spread the illness. I also didn't realize all those worker bees are female. For some reason, I'd always thought the Queen Bee was the only female in a colony. This video just confirmed my goal of someday having my own beehives.


My 13 Favourite Reads of 2013

I didn't read as many books as I'd hoped in 2013. According to Goodreads, 53 of a hoped for 92. And yet upon looking over the list, I'm sure I read more than I reviewed. In fact, I know I did. I read tons of books for research and there are more books I started but didn't like enough to finish. And in looking over the list, I see I read too many books I didn't like. I have to stop doing that. It always kills my need to read, leaving me in a reading slump for days or weeks. I will have to be ruthless about putting aside the books I don't like without guilt. It's not personal to the authors. I can't love every book I read. 1. Sunshine by Robin McKinley - I loved the relationship between Sunshine and Con. I wish I'd read it sooner.

2. The Lost by Vicki Pettersson - Vicki has this amazing ability to write about glitzy things like the old world glam and rockabilly-- and really disgusting things like krokadil addiction-- all wrapped up in a satisfying mystery. Love.

3. Rush by Eve Silver - I'm a gamer. Okay, I'm just a Lego game gamer, but still, I love the concept of kids getting pulled into a video game that allows them to save reality from aliens. That, combined with Eve's trademark heart-wrenching romance and I'm biting my nails for the next book.

4. Alchemystic by Anton Strout - Love Anton's world of gargoyles in New York with humour and a fun group of friends.

5. Stonecast by Anton Strout - See above.

6. Death's Daughter by Amber Benson - One of the better first books I've read. Looking forward to spending more time with Calliope Reaper-Jones.

7. Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr - I don't read kids' books often, but I have an avid reader just coming into the middle grade age group. He's not quite ready for chapter books, but when he gets there, I'll be recommending this one. Lots of action. Fun read.

8. Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin - Since I'm such a fan of the first couple of seasons of Angel, it makes sense how much I enjoyed Linda's world of cops and angels (no vampires).

9. Omens by Kelley Armstrong - Kelley's new series is lighter on the urban fantasy side, but still full of her wonderful action and mystery. Looking forward to more in this series now that the roots have been laid down.

10. Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan - I love Kristen's world-- a blend of fantasy and steampunk set in Victorian London and all wrapped up with a mystery. But it's romance, too! I don't know how she does it-- how she gets so much into one story and makes it so compelling and enjoyable.

11. Paper Towns by John Green - I absolutely adored Looking for Alaska, which I only read because of The Fault in Our Stars, but I loved it so much I read as many of John Green's book as I could get my hands on. This story of a boy's search for a girl was a wonderful literary/mystery, even if I didn't get the ending I wanted.

12. Looking for Alaska by John Green - I read this after The Fault in Our Stars because I wanted to more of a sense of John Green's writing style-- and I actually liked Looking for Alaska better. It felt more raw than TFIOS. I hope John Green is writing again.

13. White Cat by Holly Black - I definitely waited too long to read this, and yet, I'm glad I did because now I can get the next in the series without having to wait. Love this story of a family of criminals and con artists. Love Holly Black's voice. This is one book I will have to get and use for a textbook.

Catch all my reviews at Urban Fantasy Land. I also post to Goodreads as much as I can.