Monday, June 27, 2016

Recipe: Five Spice Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Square photo of a lettuce wrap filled with rice, tofu, mushrooms, grated carrot, and brown sauce.

Presenting yesterday's lunch.

Also today's lunch.

Probably tomorrow's lunch, too, because it's really frickin' tasty.

My recent quest to eat lots of plants and be healthy and shit has led to me playing around with a variety of tofu recipes. I've done cutlets (with General Tao sauce wilted spinach--yum!) and stir fries (with vindaloo and pees--yum the second!), but my favourite so far is these lettuce wraps.

I love them so much that I want to share them with you. They're plant-filled, gluten-free, and vegan (as long as you buy or make a sauce without any gluten or animal products in it). Yay!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: June 19th to 25th

The premise: I love my dog very much. I love books very much. I bring the two together by taking wee Murchie's photo with every book I read.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: I finished BOOKBURNERS S1! Whee!

I also wallowed in YOTSUBA&!, which continues to be the best in general and my prime pick for these troubled times. It's hard to write the world off when Yotsuba's rushing around meeting cows and riding in hot air balloons.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, crouches on a bronze comforter. Both his ears are flipped back against his skull so they're invisible, lending him a grouchy hair. In front of him is a white Kobo with Clean Sweep's cover on its screen. It features a blonde white woman wearing a hooded blue cloak and carrying a glowing blue staff.

On especially rare occasions, both Murchie's ears flip back at once. I commemorated the latest incidence by making him pose with CLEAN SWEEP by Ilona Andrews before he shook his head and returned his ears to normal. I promise he wasn't actually furious with me; his pseudo-earless state combined with his morning stretch just made it look like he was.

I plucked CLEAN SWEEP out of Scribd's June Selects pool because I found myself in a sudden and unexpected urban fantasy mood, likely spurred on by BOOKBURNERS. Turns out, CLEAN SWEEP is actually SF dressed up like UF; a perfect fit for me. I had an awesome time with the premise--in essence, paranormal creatures are aliens who use Earth as a transit hub and magic users are humans who can instinctively manipulate advanced technology--and am looking forward to the sequel even though I hated the love interest.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review: Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

Cover of Children of Earth and Sky. A wrought iron sun with a stern, mustached face hovers above the title. The cover has an uneven, diagonal colour gradient, transitioning from bright yellow in the upper right hand corner to deep blue along the bottom edge.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Let's begin with a brief primer for those of you new to Guy Gavriel Kay's work.

Many of Kay’s books, including CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY [Amazon | Kobo | The Book Depository], take place in a secondary world that’s followed a similar historical progression to ours. Similar is the key word there; while certain events and characters have their roots in historical fact, all the place names are different, the key players aren’t necessarily the same people as their real-world counterparts, and the geography doesn’t quite match up with ours.

I often recommend Kay to litfic readers who’d like to try fantasy but are leery of the genre. He adopts a traditionally literary approach to plot and character, while the fantastical elements tend to emerge organically once the reader's accustomed herself to the rest of the setup. One might find a ghost lurking between the pages, or an old god the contemporary religions can’t quite seem to oust. Occasionally, a character does outright magic, but such scenes have become increasingly less common in the sorta-alternate-history section of Kay’s bibliography. He’s interested in the circumstances that might cause magic to fade from the world, and in the ways magic finds to cling on even as its influence becomes less than it once was.

He’s also a prime pick for fantasy-shy readers because he doesn’t really write series. You should read the three-volume Fionavar Tapestry and the two-volume Sarantine Mosaic in publication order, but everything else works perfectly well as a standalone--with the caveat that those of his books that take place in the same world are richer if you know something about that world’s history.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: June 12th to 18th

The premise: I make my tiny and beloved dog pose with every book I read. Sometimes this is an easy task. Sometimes he wanders off mid-session in search of food and/or someone who won't shove a camera in his face.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: I read a bunch more UNCANNY X-MEN, of course! I'm past #200 now, and I've blogged about the series up to #150

I went back and finished Guy Gavriel Kay's CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY, too, and it was magnificent. I hope I'll have a review for you this week.

A disheveled grey poodle, Murchie, sprawls on his side in a fuzzy dog bed. His front legs splay out before him. Beside him, tucked into the upper right hand corner of the photo, is a hardcover copy of Wandering Son Volume Five. The visible portion of the cover features a young Japanese person with short brown hair raising their hands to their cheeks as someone hands them a bouquet of pink flowers.

I missed a picture from last week. Oops. I thought my last post felt a little scant...

Anyways, I read volume five of Shimura Takako's WANDERING SON the week before last, and I'm afraid the series isn't holding my interest. It's far quieter than the comics I typically latch on to; not necessarily a bad thing, but not really my thing, either (especially given the concerns I mentioned a couple weeks back). I finished this one and returned Volume Six unread.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Uncanny Readthrough: #126-150

Three panels, one arranged diagonally atop the other two. The top panel depicts a redhaired white woman flying through space. She wears a skintight red costume and has a wide eyes and a broad grin on her face. The captions read, 'Months ago--a lifetime ago--when her power saved the universe, Jean Grey had a vision of herself as Tiphereth, heart and soul of the mystic tree of life. She was a dream representing the order and harmony of things. She was all that is great in us.' The second panel features Jean swooping towards a sun. The captions read, 'But now, the dream is twisted. She knows this--knows what she was, what she has become--and she does not care. What matters is that Dark Phoenix lives! And all creation is her domain--to do with as she pleases.' The last, smallest, panel features a space station hovering near the sun. The captions read, 'Meanwhile, aboard Starcore One--a United Nations sun-watch station--Phoenix's arrival in the vicinity has not gone unnoticed.' A dialogue caption reads, 'Dr. Corbeau to the command deck--on the double!'
Sometimes good people become dark gods. From UNCANNY X-MEN #135

As always, this post contains spoilers that shouldn’t matter to anyone who’s read at least a little contemporary X-Men

Part V of my epic UNCANNY X-MEN read-through takes us into the early 80s with #s 126-150. This chunk is written by Chris Claremont with pencils and co-plotting by John Byrne through to #143. Brent Anderson provides guest pencils for #144, while Dave Cockrum & Joe Rubenstein are the regular artists from #145 on.

Things heat the hell up with these issues, which usher in a slew of characters and storylines set to become a core part of the X-Men canon. And in a surprising shift from the norm, many of them focus on the women.

Don’t get me wrong; UNCANNY X-MEN is still a male-dominated book. There are far more men than women on the page, and the womens’ storylines aren’t always handled well. At the same time, though, it’s clear Claremont and Byrne recognized the uneven male:female ratio of their cast and tried to do something about it, however awkward the results.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: June 5th to 11th

The premise: I love my dog and I love books, so I cajole my dog into posing beside every book I read. This has become a dicier proposition of late because his groomer's on maternity leave and his messy, messy beard looks dodgy from every single angle.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: I read a bunch more issues of UNCANNY X-MEN and a few more episodes of BOOKBURNERS S1. I'm enjoying them both so much that I'm thinking of making them my primary reads next week. We'll see how I feel about the literary landscape.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lies behind a hardcover copy of A Tangle of Gold, his head twisted so it's parallel to the book. The book's cover features swirls of gold, blue, and purple in the sky above a red barn. The entire photo is gold-tinged.

I think A TANGLE OF GOLD by Jaclyn Moriarty is Series Ender #7 for 2016, and it was a good 'un. I'm so, so glad I discovered the Colours of Madeline trilogy through last year's Sync program. It's gloriously weird and heartfelt, with great characters and heaps of creative worldbuilding. It was utterly absorbing, too; exactly what I needed last week.

I'm also pleased to note I was right about approximately one million things. I'm awesome at guessing. Awesome.

(And I'm super modest about it.)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Cover of Echo. The silhouettes of three children sit between four symmetrically arranged trees against a deep blue background. The title appears in white between the branches of the two outermost trees.
I was unfamiliar with Pam Muñoz Ryan until I saw her most recent release, ECHO, mentioned as one of the few diverse-authored books honoured at this year’s Audie Awards. I immediately investigated it, borrowed it from Hoopla, and started listening.

That was one of my better choices. ECHO is my sixth five-star book of 2016 and the best children’s novel I’ve read (or listened to) in years.

The book explores four slightly interrelated storylines, each separated by years and miles. We begin long ago in the Black Forest with Otto, a young boy who meets three women who bear an eerie resemblance to the characters in the book he’s reading. Prompted by his story’s plot, he invites them to each play a tune on his harmonica, setting in motion a spell that could change their fate even as it links several children who're yet to be born.

Germany, 1932. Friedrich desperately wants to become a conductor, but he’s got a facial birthmark, a history of epilepsy, and a father and uncle who vocally disagree with the Nazis. He’s got one shot to prove his worth: ace his Conservatory audition on his extremely non-German harmonica.

Pennsylvania, 1935. Mike promised his grandmother he and his younger brother would always stay together; a prospect that’s all but impossible given the adoption climate at their orphanage. Mike dreams instead of joining a traveling harmonica orchestra so his brother can find a new home without worrying about Mike, but his plans change when a wealthy yet standoffish woman enters their lives.

California, 1942. Ivy’s family relocates in the hopes of finally earning their own home. Ivy makes the best of the sudden move by caring for an abandoned house and teaching her neighbor to play the harmonica, but her new town's racism threatens to derail her optimism.

Ryan introduces us to each of the main characters in fraught circumstances that push them in highly personal ways: a solo walk across a potentially hostile town; a new opportunity for adoption; a dream quashed, yet quickly replaced by a bright chance. These are all highly empathic struggles that tie into fears many children--many people--experience every day. Will I be too different? Will anyone ever love me? Will I have to abandon my aspirations so someone else can achieve theirs?