by Naomi Novik
I wanted to read something by Naomi Novik, but didn't realise this collection of short stories was fan fiction related to the Temeraire series, which I haven't read. Never mind, it's a good test of a story collection like this to see if it can stand on its own.
The first story, Volley's Cow, did leave me a little bewildered. I think there was an assumption of familiarity with the characters, both human and dragon, as well as adventures they had been through in the series. The second story, Planting Season, was more self-contained and stood on its own well.
This was followed by Dawn of Battle, which I think probably reflected the sort of military battle atmosphere of the series and gave me a taste of the dragons and how they work in this world.
Then there is the title story, Golden Age. This one is longer than the others and rather good. My impression was that it was an alternative history using the characters from the first book of the series and focused very much on the nature of the dragons.
The next story, Succession, takes place in China and tells about how the French came to have a Celestial egg. This is followed by Dragons and Decorum, about a young woman being recruited into the air Corp, because female dragons will only have female handlers. Although I haven't yet read Pride and Prejudice, the use of the names Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy suggest there might be a nod to that book in this story.
The book wraps up with a section of Drabbles, 100 word stories. These were amusing and gave me some snippets of the world in which this series manifests. thought it was a nice way to finish up the collection. The artwork alone is worthwhile.
Over all an enjoyable read that I'm sure will be indispensable to readers of the Temeraire series.
by Sandra Kynes
This is a Llewellyn book, definitely targeted at Pagans and Wiccans and about using crystals in magic to enhance magical ritual with the use of crystals.
Unlike a lot of books of this kind, it has a wealth of practical information that would be of interest to anyone interested in gemstones or any mineral that might be used in jewellery. There is some history of the use of gemstones in medicine as well as cosmetics and information about their constituents, followed by a science chapter that I found very interesting indeed. This included information about how crystals help to support life and how crystals are formed and reformed in nature. Also about crystal structures and non-mineral crystals like Amber, jet and petrified wood. The information about optical properties of stones was especially fascinating.
There are many pictures in black and white, but of such good resolution that they work in a book where color might have been expected.
Chapter 3 is about Selecting and Preparing Stones. This one hit my 'new age' meter and I questioned some of the advice, particularly about putting salt water on stones. For many that will do no harm, but opals, especially Ethiopian opals, would lose their color, at least for several weeks.
Chapter 4 on using crystals in magic, however, mostly impressed me. There was some good advice for charging crystals and color correspondences given that actually matched up with older information about associations. I liked the explanation of crystal grids, though I've heard of this idea before.
There were two things I thought needed a warning. One was that you should never stare directly at a candle flame during a divination as it can harm the eyes. I can see the method of watching the flame through a clear stone working okay if the stone was big enough, but I did feel some caution should have been given about keeping the flame completely behind the stone at all times.
The other thing was about using oils. Oil an opal and it will lose its color forever. Other than that, the part about herbs and oils was very interesting as was the mention of the significance of birthstones, though it seemed to skirt around some of the disagreement about which stones belong to each month.
Much of the book is a compendium of stones, giving information about more that a hundred varieties of minerals. It was strong on history and description, but didn't give hardness index.
Appendix A deals with magical properties of stones, while Appendix B lists associated deities. I'm not knowledgeable enough to judge the accuracy of either of these, but found the information interesting and the extensive bibliography suggests that the author did a lot of research.
Over all this was a very good book on the subject with its strengths being on history, science and thoroughness. I may well get a hard copy to keep on my reference shelf.
by Patricia McKillip
Old style medieval Fantasy with wizards and dragons, magical animals and a child who must be hidden.
The narrative reeks of fairy tale, yet doesn't come over as a children's story. Although it has the usual patriarchal society, the main character is a strong female.
I can see why Patricia McKillip is so well-known and highly regarded. How I've missed reading her before is a mystery to me! She weaves magic and drama together artfully so that the impossible feels perfectly believable and I found it easy to care about the characters, especially Tam.
She addresses hard choices and issues of human nature in a way that engages the reader in the lives of the main characters rather than preaching. Though her style is definitely for my fairytale-like Fantasy moods, I will definitely be reading more of her work. This was apparently one of her early ones, now re-issued.
There were some surprises and a lot of conflict near the end that I couldn't see a way out of, so kept me interested and gave me a resolution that I didn't see coming. Highly recommended for Fantasy fans.
by Elisabet der Nederlanden
The introductory chapter tells of the author's Swedish background which bodes well for great cookie recipes. Then before we get into the cookie recipes, we get some technique pointers to make them come out well and the icing recipe that works best for decorated cookies.
The cookie recipes start with classics. Gingerbread men, decorated shortbread, swirl cookies and a few less familiar.
We then get regaled with the author's ideas for a Cookies Exchange Party, which sounds great fun and a chance to make some fancy cookies like Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies, Almond Ricciarella Cookies, Espresso Thins or especially tasty selections like Malted Milk Chocolate Cookies.
The third chapter gives us some warm holiday spice or fruit and traditional holiday cookies from several countries. Eggnog Madeleines, Cinnamon-Sugar Palmiers and Swedish Pepparkakorare are included among the International treats.
Then, speaking of treats, Holiday Confections is our next chapter and includes ideas for fancy wrapping gifts of cookies or confections along with recipes for holiday themed treats like Peppermint Bark and Apple Cider Caramels, as well as less traditional treats like Chocolate-Hazelnut Fudge and Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch Squares.
Chapter 6 is all about decorating with cookies. The classic Gingerbread house and Christmas tree shaped sugar cookies with decorative icing are featured along with cookie tree ornaments and Candy Cane Cookies. If you really want to impress, the 3-D Christmas Trees made of stacked cookies and the Stained Glass Snowflakes would add something special to any holiday decorations.
There are resources for finding speciality equipment or ingredients in the back for the Americans, thought the rest of us will have to do our own sleuthing.
The color pictures throughout the book could entice any occasional baker to make the extra effort to do some extra baking this holiday season. The attention to detail in gift wrapping makes baking a present for the relative you never know what to buy for a definite attraction, as long as they aren't diabetic! Overall this is an excellent holiday baking book and probably the only one you'll ever need for cookies.