25 November 2009

Book review: Flower of Life

Flower of Life, Fumi Yoshinaga. DMP books, 4 vols. (Amazon)

You may remember my pair of posts from September on Yoshinaga's Oo-oku (a new volume comes out in early December, and I'm excited!)

Flower of Life is a high school story, mostly comedy but with an aspect of drama. Main character Harutaro Hanazono starts high school a month late because he had leukemia. He befriends a semi-outcast chubby kid named Shota and a manga freak named Majima. Majima is president of the manga club, and Harutaro likes drawing, so he joins. There's a couple girls in the club, and the five of them become friends. In some respects, it's like Genshiken in high school. (Side note: Genshiken is funny because it's true. I should probably write about that at some point, too.)

It seems like a typical slice of life story, but interwoven is Harutaro's family drama. Because of his leukemia, his family treats him like he's fragile, though his sunny disposition keeps him from noticing. There's a reason for that, but it's not disclosed until volume 4, so I'll not spoil that for you.

Yoshinaga is one of the few mangaka whose works I'll pick up just for existing. I love them.

23 November 2009

Book review: Bittersweet

Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate, Alice Medrich. Artisan, 2003. (Amazon)

I picked this book up several years ago, and I read it then. It's a cookbook, devoted entirely to chocolate: truffles, cakes, brownies, and some savory dishes. Yet it's also a memoir, with stories about Medrich's experiences with chocolate: eating it, learning to cook with it, and teaching others to cook with it.

There are also notes about equipment, terminology, and a convenient conversion guide - if you use 75% chocolate, you'll need to change the sugar by X and the butter by Y to get the same results as with 55% chocolate.

I had a hankering for brownies recently, and I saw this book languishing on my shelf. I thought, "I bet there's a really good brownie recipe in here." Indeed, there is. I need to make more of the recipes in here. The wild mushroom ragout with cacao nibs sounds *divine*, except Ben won't eat mushrooms, so it's a bit of a waste.

I discovered that I'd bookmarked a chestnut torte recipe, and I vaguely recall making it. I have 2 lbs of chestnuts in my fridge; perhaps I'll make it again.

21 November 2009

Book review: Palimpsest

Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente, Bantam/Spectra 2009 (Amazon)

Cat's latest book has generated a lot of praise, mostly about her lyrical prose. I read her Big Idea post, and I thought the concept was intriguing: A sexually-transmitted city, whose map appears on your skin, and people who go there keep wanting to go back.

I didn't like the book. It makes me sad, because I wanted to like it -- the characters were interesting, even the ones you wanted to kick in the teeth, and it's generally quite sex-positive, and the characters had a wide variety of sexualities (including one who gets off on trains.) Some of my friends are friends with Cat, and she seems like the kind of person I could chat with over drinks at a con.

It was the writing that spoiled it for me. The lyrical prose so widely lauded bored me. At times, it seemed like she sacrificed the story for the words themselves, and writing should never call attention to itself. The execution, the way she put four separate yet interwoven stories together, was well done, but I couldn't get over my irritation at using a word's second cousin. It felt slightly pretentious at times, too.

However, if you're a fan of prose in an eyewatering shade of purple, it might not bother you.

18 November 2009

Long time, no update.

I haven't written here since October 21, according to my blogger dashboard. Yikes! I guess I don't think the day to day tedium is all that interesting, either to write about or for you to read about ;)

I've been working hard on my WIP, tentatively titled Iron and Rust. Since I've been basically unemployed since early October (I have a job, but my agency hasn't had any placements for me since then), I've decided to stop futzing around and get serious on this. I've got a daily target of 1500 words now, and when I sit down to write, I quit Firefox. It's been working fairly well. I've written 5000 words since Monday.

I'm vaguely concerned that I'm at 22,000 words and have reached the approximate midpoint of the story, since it should really be closer to 90,000 when I finish. But scenes seem to take up more space when I write them down than I think they will, and there's still the upcoming major battle. I also have a lot of places where I should go back and fix wording, add more detail and description, than sort of thing, and plenty of places where I could easily add another scene or even another chapter. I'll get through this draft and see where I need to add things in, do that, then go back and edit the details and repetition and suchlike. After that, it'll go off to betas.

In awesome news, I sold my 840-word short "U8: Alexanderplatz" to a historical speculative fiction anthology. I'm pretty stoked about that. Publication date is not yet announced, so I'll let everyone know as soon as I do.

I'm planning to go up to Mom's for Thanksgiving, and there's an exhibit of Safavid Persian and Ottoman Turkish art at the Sackler & Freer galleries, which I definitely want to see. Then Ben's folks are taking us to Disney World the week(ish) before Christmas. I haven't been since college, and none of them have ever been. Should be fun.

Less fun will be the crown I'm getting next month, with 2 or 3 more teeth my dentist is watching. This will be my fourth crown, and my second this year. If Blue Cross didn't have such stingy payments for bite guards, I could have gotten one six years ago and saved myself (and them, don't forget) several thousand dollars. Six years ago, there wasn't overwhelming proof that I grind my teeth, so they refused to pay. Bastards.