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I haven’t blogged in a while because of how hard I’ve been working on other projects.  I have an art show opening in a couple days, I went to two comic conventions, I’ve finally got a draft of my novel that I kinda like, and I’ve been working odd hours due to short staffing and summer reading program.  Usually I post about books or food, but I haven’t had a lot of time to cook or write book reviews lately.  I have nearly completed my favorite book list of 2015, but it’s a long list, so it’s taking a while.  I thought I’d step outside my regular pattern to tell a personal story.  If you don’t like cats, feel free to stop reading now and come back for the favorites of 2015 post.

Three years ago in July I came home and nearly ran over a tiny kitten.  It was about 11pm, and there was a group of feral cats hanging out in my apartment parking lot.  When my headlights hit them, they scattered.  All but one kitten.  It sat there staring at my headlights until the last possible second before it bolted.  After I parked, I went looking for the kitten and found it hiding under another car.  I coaxed it forward just a little, but then it sniffed the air and ran off.  The kitten and I did this for about a week.  I would come home, nearly run it over, then try to catch it.  I didn’t really have a plan, I just didn’t want to run over a tiny kitten.

After that week, I started to worry that someone else might run it over.  After all, lots of people speed through the parking lot, and this kitten clearly had a poor grasp of self preservation.  So I asked to borrow a humane trap from a neighbor.  She brought it over while I was having a girls night party, and I recruited the girls to come with me while I set the trap.  We only had to wait about 15 minutes.

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The kitten sprung the trap and began fighting like a Tazmanian devil to get out.  It was hard to carry the trap it was fighting so hard.  Eventually the kitten calmed down or wore itself out and curled up in the back of the trap.  I slid a tiny litter box into the trap, took some pictures of the kitten, and posted it on Facebook to see if anyone would like an emaciated tabby kitten.  I’m allergic to cats and had no intention of keeping this feral kitten.  The next day, I had no takers, but the kitten seemed calmer, so I tried to pet it through the trap.  It let me.  So I opened the trap and tried reaching inside to pet it.  It let me.  It was so thin I could grab it with one hand and pull it out of the trap into my lap.  It snuggled and purred, which stunned me.  It wasn’t so feral after all, but it was too thin to belong to anyone.kitten2

I kept posting pictures to Facebook, showing videos of the kitten to co-workers, and even asked my apartment manager if anyone was missing a kitten.  During this time, I was keeping the kitten in the bathroom, but one day it got out and hid under the couch before I had to go to work.  When I came home, the kitten had used the litterbox, made no messes, and destroyed nothing.  This was encouraging.  So I sat down on the couch with the kitten to watch Youtube videos of well behaved cats getting baths and explained that this was necessary because of my allergy.  Then I gave it a bath.  It wasn’t as well behaved as the cats in the video, but it didn’t try to bite or claw.  I thought, if I kittencan bathe this cat, I might be able to live with it.  Famous last words.

After a month, the kitten was crying at the door for me every time I came home. It watched TV with me and sat in my lap purring.  I gave up trying to give it away and made a vet appointment.  Then a friend called and asked if I was still giving away a kitten.  I realized that no, I wasn’t.  This was my cat.  At the vet appointment, I learned that my kitten was about three months old, and a she.  A she who had nearly been run over multiple times, and so either had no understanding of the danger, or was flirting with suicide.  So at the suggestion of a friend, I named her Opheliartkittena.

I never meant to get a cat.  I’ve never had one before, and I’m allergic.  But here we are three years later, and Ophelia has been the happiest of accidents.  20150712_230611CAM01043

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Working in a library is not the boring experience that the media makes you think it is.  I only hush people when they’re being really obnoxious, like talking loud enough on their phone that I know all about their colon problems.  I do just as much computer help as I do book help; I get to have conversations with hilarious 4-year-olds; I’ve had to explain that stringing a tight-rope between library building supports is not allowed; I’ve had to say the words “so, I understand you were watching videos of the female genitalia in the presence of minors;” and I’ve been threatened with bodily harm by large, angry motorcyclists.  My stories aren’t even the crazy ones.  A lot of my librarian friends have crazier ones.  Not that every single day is exciting, but it’s way more interesting than most people realize, which is one of the reasons I enjoy my job.  I hate being bored.

However, when something crazy is going down, I don’t usually get pictures.  I DO take pictures when books are returned with unusual bookmarks.  Plane tickets, receipts, toilet paper, birthday cards, and personal p20151204_125527hotographs are not that uncommon.  I’ve seen actual food more than once(which seriously damages the book, btw, don’t do it).  I found 10 Euros once, and another time had to call someone because their child support check was left in a book.  But again, I don’t have pictures of those.  Here are the pictures I do have:  A rubber witch finger in a children’s non-fiction book about zombies, and a hair pick, for some reason.

 

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This one here is the absolute winner though.  It’s a huge coffee table book about World War 2.  The bookmark is an expired lunch coupon for a local strip club with a sticky note that has a20150806_120509 girl’s name, phone number, and “home goodz” scrawled on it.  You’re welcome?

 

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Between being sick, dealing with family issues, and trying to keep up with all the projects I’m working on, a lot of things have sort of fallen to the wayside.  My apartment  needs spring cleaning, I’ve been too tired to exercise, I have’t been editing my novel or blogging, and I haven’t been cooking as much as usual.  I actually went out to a fast food place and ate a burrito alone in my car like some sort of overworked business person, or possibly a lonely barbarian.

Things I HAVE managed to accomplish: 3 pieces of art on display in shows, 1 piece sold, 2 commissioned art pieces completed, 2 more commissions in the works, and I wrote a picture book(which I still need to illustrate).  Why do I do this to myself?  Oh yeah, not creating art makes Homer something something.  Go crazy?  DON’T MIND IF I DO!

Anyway, the moral of this story is I’m busy, so here’s a recipe for busy people who also like to be vegetarian and fancy: a sandwich.

FANCY PEAR SANDWICH

1 pear(I used D’angou, but it would probably work with any kind)

2 slices of bread(whoa, getting crazy here TWO slices of bread?!)

1 small handful of arugula

1/2 Roma tomato, sliced(Where’s the rest of it?! What did you do you animal?!)

Spreadable herb cheese like Laughing Cow or herb rolled goat chevre(so fancy!)

Directions: Spread cheese on one side of each slice of bread.  Slice pear once on each side of the stem so you have two hemisphere shaped slices and one weird center slice with the core.  You can either leave the hemisphere slices as they are, or slice the very top of the dome off to make the sandwich lie flatter.  Place the two side slices of pear on one piece of the cheese bread side by side.  Put tomato slices on top of of the pear.  Rinse and dry the arugula thoroughly, then arrange on top of the tomato.  I like salt, so I put a generous shake of salt on top of the arugula before putting the top slice of bread on, cheese side down.  If you are near a stove or a toaster oven(remember you’re a busy person, too busy for cooking!) you can pop the sandwich in for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees or so to toast it.  Now you have a really fancy sandwich and one weird core slice of pear.  You can cut the core from that last slice and use the good bits to garnish the plate, or just eat them.  It’s a lot like a pear salad, but more filling and you can eat it on the go.  Nom nom, type type, checking the email.

December has been a rough month.  I don’t feel the need to go into details here, but suffice to say there was a death in my family and there were concerns that there would be more than one death.  I’m glad it turned out to be only the one, and I’m glad I got to see her a few days before she left us.

My original plan for this month’s post was my favorite books of 2015, but I’m a little sick right now and I don’t have the stamina to work on that.  So, here’s a few links to recipes I’m planning to make this week:

Glazed maple mustard tempeh with collards.  It sounds weird, but it’s totally tasty.  I’m using kale instead of collard greens though, and twice the garlic 🙂

Also, because I’m sick, here’s a recipe for traditional hot toddies, and rum toddies.

That’s all for now.  I’m gonna take a nap.

It’s gone down to freezing a few nights, the heater is on, and I’m baking cookies to make it even warmer.  It must finally be winter in Arizona.  I’m not a big fan of breakfast or mornings, but I have a job and a stomach, so… Usually I make a smoothie in the morning; it’s light, it’s hydrating, no chewing required, and you can put a lot of healthy things in it.  But now it’s cold and I can’t produce my own body heat, so I want something warm.  Here’s what I’ve been making for breakfast:

Ingredients:

Chia seeds, agave, sliced almonds, cinnamon, frozen blueberries, and almond milk.

1 Cup milk or almond milk

1/2 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh(antioxidants! So healthy!)

1-5 spoonfuls of oatmeal(Fiber! Complex carbohydrates!  But I don’t like chewing in the morning, so I only use like 2 spoonfuls)

1 spoonful of chia seeds(MOAR Fiber + Omega 3s. Feel virtuous)

1 spoonful of agave nectar(or maple syrup, or honey)

2 or 3 spoonfuls of chopped nuts(I like sliced almonds with agave, or pecans with maple syrup)

1/4 tsp of cinnamon(The taste and smell of cinnamon always reminds me of winter and the holidays)

dash of salt

Pour the milk and oatmeal in a microwave safe bowl.   If the blueberries are frozen, add them as well.  Microwave for about 2 minutes, or until steaming.  If using fresh blueberries, add them now.  Add chia seeds, agave, nuts, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir.  Eat.  Scowl with squinty eyes at the rising sun.  Accept that morning is upon you.

And apropo of nothing, Deadpool Vs. Hawkeye is more fun than a barrel full of drunk monkeys.  It delivers sarcasm, action, mayhem, and a whole lotta Deadpool antics and injuries.  Basically, all the things I read Deadpool for.

Haven’t blogged in a while because life has been happening. But it’s Thanksgiving and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to put life in perspective. I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is this recipe for yams that I made today 🙂  I love this recipe, both for its simplicity, and for the fact that it’s delicious.

Things to be thankful for: I have a job I believe in, health insurance, my own affordable car and apartment, and two pets who make me smile.  For a while, both of my grandmothers were very sick, and my mom has been having some health issues too, but they all seem to be recovering now.  And hey, I still have a mom and two grandmothers.  Also, my family is cool, and I’m kinda proud to introduce my friends to them.  Life is far from perfect, but I am lucky.  I hope, if you are reading this, you are at least as lucky as me.  And if not, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  One of the things I’ve learned in the last few years is that help is out there if you are willing to ask for it.  Sometimes it’s hard to ask, and sometimes people will let you down, but there are people out there who will help.  I am immensely grateful to the people who have helped me, and I try to repay them, or pay it forward when I can.  Good luck out there.

 

Many of my friends know that I do the Clarion West Write-a-Thon each year. I always figured it was as close as I’d ever get to taking the six week long writing bootcamp. This fall, they started offering one day workshops. All I had to do was get a weekend off work, and the money to spend a weekend in Seattle. Thanks to my tax returns, I’m going. I’m finally going.

To cut to the chase, cheap flights are long flights with layovers, so I needed to select which books I would haul on the plane with me. I like to have choices, but it’s only one weekend, and I don’t want to weigh myself down too much.  I picked books based partly on weight, partly on subject.  I have a childrens book, a graphic novel, a science fiction novel, and a non-fiction book.  Most of these are slender volumes, and even the novel is shorter than the average science-fiction novel.

Redshirts, Rachel Rising, Fortunately the Milk, and Writing the Other
Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman
A wild goose chase of a story about a father who goes out for milk and gets an adventure.

Rachel Rising: Winter Graves by Terry Moore
The continuation of the Rachel Rising comics series, with demons, witches, and Rachel, who cannot die.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi
Exactly what it sounds like: the story of everyday people in a starship fleet, and the constant danger they face.  Also, it won the Hugo.

Writing the Other: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward
How to write people of who are different from yourself with believability and respect.

I might add one more novel, but I think this list is diverse enough to keep me entertained.

We all knew it was coming. We’ve known for years.  I didn’t even know him.  But I had the good fortune to meet him once, and he was delightful.  He was funny, cheerful, and kind to a doe-eyed fangirl.  I love his books, and respect and admire him as a writer.  So when my friend texted me this morning to tell me that Terry Pratchett had died, I saw the world get a little darker.  His books were my friend Marion’s comfort when she was dying of cancer.  His books were always the ones I turned to for comfort after reading a tragedy, or when I was going through a rough time in my own life.  Whenever my friend Nick’s birthday was coming up, the first thing I did was look to see if Terry Pratchett had a new book coming out.  And now, there will only ever be one more book by Terry Pratchett.  I mourn more than I thought I could for a stranger.  I can’t imagine how hard it is for those who actually knew him.  Good luck and safe travels on your last adventure, Terry.

I am not a book critic.  I am a young adult librarian, a geek, and a writer of speculative fiction.  This  results in a favorite book list that is mostly speculative fiction and young adult.  Don’t like those things?  Then maybe you should find a more boring book list.  This book list is full of horror and comedy, and love and murder, and magic and space ships and teenagers.  With that in mind, here are my favorite reads of 2014:

Adult Fiction

16148398 Saga by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples(graphic novel)  This one really puts the graphic in graphic novel. It’s full of weirdness and sex and violence and everything else you can think of.  But like the rest of Vaughan’s work, it’s mesmerizing and compelling, with low key commentary on what war and prejudice can do to people, as well as love.

Imagine Romeo and Juliet hadn’t killed themselves. Imagine instead that they ran off and had a baby. Okay, now imagine that they’re both alien species whose respective planets have been at war for generations. Still with me? Marko is a soldier from the moon Wreath, and Alana is a soldier from Wreath’s planet, Landfall. They’ve been at war for so long that war now stretches across the galaxy, making many other planets its battleground. But this doesn’t keep Alana and Marko from getting married and going into hiding to have their baby. Now, both of their respective planets want them dead, and maybe the half breed baby too while they’re at it.

18214414The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Book 2 of the Cormoran Strike murder mysteries.  Strike and Robin take on the case of the missing writer, who everyone seems to hate. The real question seems to be who didn’t want Owen Quine dead?  And on top of trying to solve the crime, drama bubbles with Robin and Matthew setting a wedding date, and Strike’s ex-fiance too.

So far, I love this series.  Strike is an interesting character, and Robin is adorable.  also I keep looking for hints of the real author, J.K. Rowling, and wondering.  How interesting that this murder takes place in the writing world, something Rowling is intimately familiar with.  How much is made up, and how much is based on Rowling’s own personal experience?  The detective in me wants to know it all!

Injustice: Gods Among Us by Tom Taylor(graphic novel)17671993

What if Superman lost his infallible moral compass, and began doing evil things in the name of good.  Is he still a hero?  A tragedy causes Superman to change the rules of the superhero game, and the Justice League is along for the ride. Based on the back story of a video game, this stuff is dark and twisted.  It really stretches your moral muscles as a reader, as you try to decide who is right and who is wrong, and where exactly does the line between good and evil lie?

18005582Rachel Rising by Terry Moore(graphic novel)

I think this was on my list last year, but it remains a good series.  The story begins to take shape even as events spin out of control. Rachel and Jet start to uncover some of Zoey’s past, and the witches move forward with their plan. The last page. . . gah!  I can’t say, but prepare yourself!  As dark and twisted as Injustice: Gods Among Us is, it doesn’t stab you in the back and leave you crawling a bloody trail across the floor so you can read the next issue like Rachel Rising does. 

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Timeless by Gail Carriger

A satisfying ending to one of my favorite series 🙂 Lord and Lady Maccon travel to Egypt with their young daughter, the skin-changer Prudence. Prudence causes all kinds of trouble, Alexia is particular about tea, Ivy wears more terrible hats, Tunstall writes a weird play, vampires cause trouble, and most importantly, we learn more about the past of Alessandro Tarabotti and his faithful servant, Floote.  More and more of all the things I love!  This series maintained it’s fantastically ridiculous, rollicking adventure feel from start to finish!

Non-fiction

8452971The History of Science Fiction by Ron Miller

I read this in preparation for a talk I was giving on the history of the science fiction short story.  This was a really excellent history of science fiction up until the year it was published, and gave me gobs of information for my presentation. My only complaint is the author’s lack of extra information about female authors like Mary Shelley. He talks about them, but neglects to give dates and additional information. Otherwise, it’s pretty comprehensive, even talking about conventions and fandom!

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach32145

All you ever wanted to know, and probably a bunch of stuff you didn’t(unless you’re like me and want to know all of the things), about what happens to dead human bodies. What happens if you donate your body to science? What is the history of human dissection? How are funeral traditions and human body disposal changing? Also, some sordid tales of weird cadaver research and unusual uses for dead bodies. If you’re twisted and/or fascinated with death, this is a fun read! But if you’re squeamish at all. . . don’t do it!

Children’s non-fiction:

1090379The Christmas Menorahs by Janice Cohn, Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

Based on the true story of a small town in Montana that banded together to show love and support in the face of hate in 1993. All the more touching because it is based on truth, and surprising to hear that such senseless bigotry occurred in my lifetime. This is a good holiday story for older children of Jewish and Christian faiths since it features both, and promotes the real spirit of the season: hope and love.

 

Teen Fiction

13206760Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles carries on with the fairy tale theme: Little Red Riding Hood is Scarlet. Scarlet’s grandmother has been kidnapped, and if you were paying attention in Cinder, you might recognize her name. And just as in the fairy tale, Scarlet finds herself trusting a wolf. But don’t worry, Cinder isn’t forgotten, and we follow her escape from the New Beijing prison with a new friend of dubious integrity.  Keep looking for the fairy tale references, because they’re positively rampant!

13206828Cress by Marissa Meyer

Am I obsessed with the Lunar Chronicles?  Maybe.  Remember Cress from the Lunar communication chip in the first book?  Well, she has been trapped in a satellite orbiting Earth for years, isolated from both Earth, and her home planet of Luna. So when Cinder and Carswell Thorne contact her, she’s overjoyed. She’s especially excited to meet the charming and daring Captain Thorne. But as it will, things ago awry and there are attacks and escapes, shoot outs and mind battles, and unwise romance. I wasn’t a huge fan of Cress herself, but Thorne is fun, and there are some great fan service moments for Cinder and Iko 🙂 So I’m happy.

17675462The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue comes from a family of psychics, and it’s an accepted fact that if Blue ever kisses her true love, he will die. But Blue herself is not psychic. She only helps focus psychic energy. So when she sees the ghost of a boy who will soon die on St. Mark’s day, she is surprised. The ghost belongs to a raven boy, one of the students at the exclusive all boys school in her small Virginia town. Blue hates raven boys, but feels compelled to try to fight fate and save this one. Could he be the true love she’s destined to kill?

This story has so many layers, and each character is real and complex. Plus, it has ghosts, psychics, and other paranormal stuff that was so creepy it gave me goosebumps.

8884616Black Heart by Holly Black(Curse Workers #3)

I will admit, I put off reading this book because I was afraid to find out how it ended.  Things never looked bleaker for Cassel and Lila than they did at the end of Red Glove, but they got worse in this book.  Cassel sold his soul to the Feds, and now there’s hell to pay, with his addiction to conning and lying, and being in love with a mobster’s heir apparent.  So many times I was afraid, certain that Cassel couldn’t survive this one, and then he’d find a way out so he could get into even more trouble.  Cassel and Lila have such a weird, unhealthy relationship, but knowing that they are both doing the best that they know how to makes me want to root for them.  Want MOAR!

15790833Game by Barry Lyga(I Hunt Killers #2)

Book 2 in a graphic horror series. Jasper Dent is the son of a notorious serial killer who has escaped prison. The police want his help in a serial killer case in New York, and then things get really interesting. As in horrifying. Especially the end. Totally hooked. Need book 3!

6567017Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Two high school boys named Will Grayson, one straight, one gay. Gay Will is in the closet, with a secret online boyfriend, while straight Will does his best to avoid relationships. Straight Will’s best friend, Tiny Cooper, has enough relationships for the both of them, and then some! And when both Will Graysons meet in Chicago, worlds collide.

A hilarious, touching story about love in all it’s many beautiful forms. With singing.  Highly recommend the audio book.

Children’s Fiction

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires(graphic novel)

A graphic novel about Binky and his quest to be a real space cat.  Above all costs, he must protect his humans from alien attack.  Very6348133 cute.

 
19565411Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson

The story of a French bulldog in a family of French poodles, and a French poodle in a family of French bulldogs. While this story sort of reinforces stereotypes about bulldogs and poodles, it’s only sort of, and it’s really fun to read out loud and perfect for story time. I mean, the poodle family is Fifi, Foofoo, Oh-La-La and Gaston.  Tell me you aren’t dying to read that sentence aloud.

 

If you want a list of books that’s probably more educated than mine, I recommend this one from io9.com.  Happy reading!

Why fancy?  Cuz I’m fancy sometimes, that’s why.

Pear and Goat Cheese Quesadillas 1420685078419

1 Pear( Bosc is best)

2 tortillas(I used the whole wheat kind so I could justify eating the cheese)

Handful of dried cranberries

Handful of walnuts

Goat cheese (or brie, brie is fancy too, it just has to be soft)

Handful of washed spinach or arugula

Skillet with a lid

Put the skillet on the stove on a low heat and spread some of the cheese on a tortilla.  Cheese should be spread generously enough to cover the tortilla until about half an inch from the edge.  How much cheese you need will depend on the size of the tortilla.  Put the tortilla in the pan, cheese side up, and put the lid over it.  Then slice the pear in to thin slices, like the thickness of corrugated cardboard.  This is easier with a firmer pear like a Bosc.  Let the tortilla warm up in the pan for a minute or two, then sprinkle half of the cranberries and half of the walnuts onto the cheese.  Then sprinkle on the spinach.  Put the lid back on and let the spinach just begin to wilt(like it hasn’t given up yet, but is slightly discouraged).  Remove the tortilla from the pan to a plate and spread thin slices of pear on half of the tortilla, then fold it over and press gently.  Slice your semi-circle of deliciousness into two triangles.  Repeat the the process with the other tortilla.  Then nom.  Fancy nom.