Reviews: Muffins & Biscuits: 50 Recipes to Start Your Day with a Smile; Storm Front; Skin Deep; The Vital Abyss; The Marshal’s Lover; Dinner Illustrated: 175 Meals Ready in 1 Hour or Less; The World’s Most Dangerous Geek: And More True Hacking Stories

Muffins & Biscuits: 50 Recipes to Start Your Day with a SmileMuffins & Biscuits: 50 Recipes to Start Your Day with a Smile by Heidi Gibson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Written by the owner of a bakery, this book has relatively easy-to-follow recipes and beautiful photos of the muffins and biscuits. I’ve made one biscuit recipe in here and it’s already a staple of our weekend big breakfasts. Many recipes end with instructions for variants you could make from the base recipe. If you’re looking to expand your muffin and biscuit repertoire, this book is worth having.

View all my reviews Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book serves as a great introduction to Harry Dresden and the world he occupies. The prose follows the usual tropes of the pulp fiction hard-boiled detective noir updated with 2000s sensibilities and magic. As I mentioned in a status update and a topic on the Sword and Laser community here on Goodreads, Harry shares a trope with the protagonist of Angel’s Ink in that he’s a Wizard who’s been thrown out of the Wizarding community and has a magic probation officer waiting for him to step out of line. Unlike the main character of that other book, Harry is out of the closet (so to speak) about being a Wizard and is actually on retainer to the Chicago Police Department to work on mysterious cases.

Like any good noir detective novel, how good you are at predicting the twists depends on how familiar you are with the tropes. I’d say I figured out about half the twists and clues and was fairly surprised on the others. Somewhere (maybe a blurb when I was buying the book) compared the writing to Buffy and I’d say that is a fairly good assessment; although, it’s Buffy without a censor. There’s profanity (not too ridiculous to me and I think the people who are most against it probably wouldn’t like a book with occult things going on) and some sexual content although it’s all walked around – if you know what they’re talking about you’re old enough/mature enough to be reading that.

View all my reviews Skin Deep (Legion, #2)Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I mentioned in a status update, Sanderson gives the story twice as much room to breathe compared to the first story and it works a lot better. The mystery doesn’t seem as abrupt and things work out a lot better. The twist that gets him out of a pickle late in the story also caused me to literally laugh out loud. Luckily, no one was around to stare at me.

This time Sanderson moves from a more paranormal type of plot to more of a science fiction premise. It works a little better for me that it’s a bit more in the realm of possibility. Sanderson also plays with Leeds’ fame (or infamy) more in this story and leads to some fun results. The book is also filled with some more interesting characters.

There isn’t too much more to say when a story is only 129 pages unless one wants to spoil. While I prefer Sanderson’s Cosmere, I think these work well to showcase Sanderson’s storytelling in the “real world”.

View all my reviews The Vital Abyss (The Expanse, #5.5)The Vital Abyss by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

James SA Corey use this novella to explore both the present circumstances and the history of the scientists who worked on the protomolecule for Protogen. The narrative is very compelling – alternating between a desperate prison narrative and a biography of one of the scientists – Dr. Cortazar.

The story was very good at alternating between the present and past at just the right moment to create a tension to want to continue the story from page to page.

From the first novel we already knew that the scientist who set up the experiment on Eros had to be acting without empathy in order to be SO dedicated to science that they would experiment on humans. There were clearly meant to be parallels to Nazi scientists and other times throughout history that scientists have ignored human suffering. (view spoiler)

View all my reviews The Marshal's Lover (Numinous World, #6)The Marshal’s Lover by Jo Graham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I guess I’d forgotten reading at the end of the other book that this was more than historical fiction – it’s based on the memoirs of the real Madame St. Elme. That makes the story yet another example of how real life is full of exceptions to the rules we know that govern gender relations in the past.

This book was, once again, full of war, espionage, and sexy times. This is definitely not a book for your younger, less mature readers. I found it to have very uneven pacing. I enjoyed most chapters on their own, but sometimes they had lots of great action and sometimes they were simply contemplative. I guess because this is a long saga and because it’s based on historical events, there wasn’t any real resolution and I think that contributed to the uneven nature of the narrative. It is because I enjoyed the individual chapters that I didn’t give this book a lower rating.

But what about you, reader who has come to this review on Goodreads or my blog, is this a good book for you to read? I’d say that depends. If you like historical fiction, 1800s France, well-written sex scenes, spiritual magic, and spy thrillers – you will probably like it. Also, you’ll probably like it a lot more if you intend to read the entire series.

View all my reviews Dinner Illustrated: 175 Meals Ready in 1 Hour or LessDinner Illustrated: 175 Meals Ready in 1 Hour or Less by America’s Test Kitchen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again America’s Test Kitchen knocks it out of the park. I’ve already made a few recipes from this book and they’ve been hits with the wife and kids. I bought the book because most nights can’t take the 2+ hours that, say, America’s Test Kitchen Beef Enchiladas takes. This book claims that they tested with home cooks to make sure their times for the recipes were accurate. So far, they’ve been pretty darned accurate for me. Almost taking exactly 45 minutes or 1 hour. The photos and the way they’ve structured the book really helps. They tell you when to prep ingredients while others cook. That saves me 5-10 minutes of trying to figure that out on my own as well as the mental energy that sometimes isn’t there and that I think prevents a lot of people from cooking on a regular basis. The book claims to be “A meal kit in book form” and I think it meets that goal very well. I also bought Milk Street Tuesday night for the same purpose with a slightly different goal. While this book is pretty international in its recipes, it’s definitely more all-American. MS Tuesday Night is, on the other hand, very focused on international recipes and flavors. Depending on your kids and their open-ness to strongly spiced meals, I’d say Dinner Illustrated is probably the more family-friendly of the two. (But I’ve only begun to read through MS TN)

View all my reviews The World's Most Dangerous Geek: And More True Hacking StoriesThe World’s Most Dangerous Geek: And More True Hacking Stories by David Kushner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book in the form of an audiobook from Humble Bundle a while ago. It’s a collection of essays by David Kushner about tech issues. A lot of it revolves around people who have some sort of connection to Anonymous. Some of these articles – like the one about Anonymous and Steubenbille and the wheelchair riding guy who was turning on webcams – I read back when they were first published. The essays are roughly in chronological order and I thought it was interesting to see how the intersection of technology, crime, and life changed throughout the years. There were also a few stories that had overlap with each other and that was also interesting to see. There was one essay – the one about the Caucasian guy who ended up in the Triads – that I’d love to see made into a a “based on a true story” movie.

Overall, it was an enjoyable collection of essays and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in “hacking” in the more colloquial sense of breaking into computing devices.

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