tweets for 2014-04-16

April 17th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Dance of the Red Death, Bethany Griffin (2013)

April 16th, 2014 2:26 pm by Kelly Garbato

In which Poe is Eclipsed by a Love Triangle

three out of five stars

Araby Worth’s world is on fire.

Set immediately after the events of Masque of the Red Death, Dance of the Red Death sees Araby and her allies – April, Elliott, Will, Henry, Elise, Kent, and Thom – fleeing from the city to regroup before trying to regain control of the city from the opposing armies of Prince Prospero and Reverend Malcontent. In a world already decimated by the Weeping Sickness, a new plague – the Red Death – threatens to wipe humanity off the map. Faced with this new danger, and fueled by Malcontent’s bombs, violence sweeps through the city – even as many citizens attempt to flee to the relative safety (emphasis on “relative”) of Prince Prospero’s castle.

Inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe short story of the same name, Masque of the Red Death imagines a society crumbling under the weight of poverty, class warfare, and disease. In the first book, we saw as protagonist Araby Worth slowly transformed from a depressed – if privileged – teenager, wracked with grief over her brother’s death, into a budding revolutionary. In Dance of the Red Death this promise is fulfilled as Araby, Elliott, and Will travel back into the city in order to save it.

The story culminates with the masked ball first given life by Poe. Temporarily separated from her friends, Araby – now considered a hero among the people in light of her rescue of dozens of young orphans slated to be sacrificed by Prospero in the name of “entertainment” – is kidnapped by the Prince and imprisoned in his castle. The night of the ball, she’s to embark on a treasure hunt through the seven interconnected chambers, where the Prince has hidden objects (and people) important to her. The Red Death makes his appearance just as Araby reaches the black room with its imposing ebony clock. I hesitate to say anything more because spoilers.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-04-15

April 16th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Mini-Review: Edgar Allan Poe’s the Masque of the Red Death, David Cutts (1982)

April 15th, 2014 3:28 pm by Kelly Garbato

Poe for kids!

three out of five stars

This version of “The Masque of the Red Death” is an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story for Troll Associates, a publisher of children’s books. I guess it’s questionable whether this tale is even suitable for kids. (As I remember it, I cherished this book as a child, as evidenced by my name stamped in the front cover and surrounded by hearts; then again, some of my earliest memories are of my dad reading me bedtime stories by Stephen King. So there’s that.) Nevertheless, Cutts successfully captures the spirit of Poe’s story, relaying it in a style easily understood by younger readers.

Though many lines are either cut or altered, the general plot and tone remain the same. As the Red Death sweeps the country, Prince Prospero barricades himself and one thousand revelers inside his castle estate. For six months, the partygoers evade the plague; that is, until the night the Price throws an especially elaborate and gruesomely themed ball. One of the guests arrives dressed as the unthinkable: the Red Death. The Prince doesn’t know it yet – but by daybreak, everyone in the castle will be dead.

The three-star rating (well, 3.5 stars, rounded down on Amazon) is due mostly to the artwork, which really isn’t to my taste.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-04-14

April 15th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Masque of the Red Death, Bethany Griffin (2012)

April 14th, 2014 12:17 pm by Kelly Garbato

“In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think.”

five out of five stars

Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s short story of the same name, Bethany Griffin imagines a world decimated by the plague in Masque of the Red Death. Seventeen-year-old Araby Worth knows too well the horrors of the Weeping Sickness; she lost her twin brother Finn to the disease several years ago, and still blames herself for his death. Their father, the scientist Dr. Worth, designed a mask that filters out the disease; but Araby accidentally claimed the prototype, which was meant for the frail Finn. The masks acclimate to their owners, so that sharing or trading is impossible. Before his father could make a second mask, Finn contracted the plague and died. Dr. Worth saved humanity, but was unable to keep his own family safe.

Araby now spends her days sleeping and her nights getting high in the Debauchery District. She considered suicide, once, but was rescued by her neighbor April. Now best friends, the two belong to the privileged class. High up in the penthouses of the Akkadian Towers, the two are sheltered from much of the poverty and violence below. And while they’re lucky enough to afford masks – a whole collection of them, actually – no one in this world remains untouched by the Weeping Sickness.

While she has resigned herself to life, Araby has taken a vow to eschew those things her brother will never experience: a first kiss. Learning to swordfight. Traveling the world. As romance and political intrigue seep through the walls she’s built around herself, Araby finds her resolve tested: first by Will, the dark and mysterious tester at the Debauchery Club, and then by April’s brother Elliott, who has rebellion on the brain.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-04-13

April 14th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Peedee is trying to kill me.

April 13th, 2014 2:51 pm by Kelly Garbato

(“It is a Toomah!”)

2014-03-31 - Peedee - 0026 [flickr]

A few weeks ago, Peedee’s annual senior wellness profile showed a slight elevation in his white blood cell count. An x-ray and a biopsy later, our regular vet confirmed that it was cancer, and not the infection we’d been hoping for. We were promptly referred to an oncologist south of the city, who ran more tests and recommended surgery to have the tumor removed.

His surgery was on Wednesday; luckily, they “only” removed the tumor and 20% of his left lung, vs. the tumor and two ribs we’d originally feared. (Our vet thought that the tumor was growing either on his rib bones – an osteosarcoma, which is very, very bad! – or on the connective tissue between the bones – an chondrosarcoma, which is slightly less bad. Really it was growing on the outside of his lung. This particular type of cancer only accounts for 1% of all lung cancers. Peedee, my special snowflake!)

(More below the fold…)

Breaking News

April 13th, 2014 2:00 pm by Kelly Garbato

2014-04-13 - Bean Ball Burritos - 0001 [flickr]

So it turns out that those bean balls from the Vegan Athlete Cookbook? Make a pretty awesome burrito after all. And I didn’t even have to rely on Shane to test out my idea.

I quartered a few of the balls and fried them up with mushrooms, zucchini, and leftover roasted potatoes, carrots, garlic, and onion. Ten minutes later and I had one rockin’ burrito. Along with the mushrooms, the bean balls give the filling a hearty, meaty feel. Almost as tasty as it is filling.

In other breaking news, I am seriously considering a burrito theme for VeganMoFo 2014. “Burrito Blowout,” whaddyathink?

tweets for 2014-04-12

April 13th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Bean Ball Spaghetti from the Vegan Athlete Cookbook

April 12th, 2014 11:54 am by Kelly Garbato

2014-04-11 - VAC Bean Ball Spaghetti - 0001 [flickr]

At this point I own more vegan cookbooks than I could ever hope to use in my life – even if I made a new recipe every day, from now until I’m a hundred, weekends included. (The same goes for book-books, so there you go. If I have one addiction, it’s paper. And pizza. And ice cream. And dogs. So four. Four addictions.)

Zoey Sampson’s Vegan Athlete Cookbook is a freebie-for-review that I scored via Library Thing’s Member Giveaway program. (Free stuffs. Make that five addictions!) As per my SOP, the very first recipe I tried was pasta-related: namely, the Bean Ball Spaghetti (really rigatoni) with homemade sauce and store-bought garlic breadsticks.

These not-meatballs are a mix of beans (the recipe calls for pinto; naturally, pinto was the one single type o’ bean that I didn’t have in my cupboards, so I used a mix of light red and great northern), carrots, parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs, and spices. Mix the batter in a food processor, shape into little balls, and bake in the oven for twenty minutes. Pretty simple. If I could suggest one modification to the recipe, though, it’d be to process the wet ingredients first, then slowly add in the dry. My middle-of-the-line food processor struggled to mix everything at once; the batter’s just too durn thick. Or even mix in the dry ingredients by hand, come to think of it.

Also. After baking, Sampson directs you to transfer the balls to the sauce and simmer for ten minutes. I could tell just from gentle handling that the balls weren’t sturdy enough to hold together in sauce. (Not to mention, there were too many balls to fit in the pan! Somewhere in the order of 32 to 36. I kept count, and then promptly forgot. Sorry!) I threw half a dozen in with the sauce just to test my theory and, sure enough, they crumbled even under gentle handling. My advice? Make double the marinara sauce and serve the balls on the side, smothered in the stuff.

2014-04-11 - VAC Bean Ball Spaghetti - 0005 [flickr]

The verdict: it’s an okay recipe – the balls are tasty enough and easy to throw together – but not my favorite vegan meatball recipe of all time. I suspect that Shane will repurpose the leftovers into a burrito of some type. Stay tuned for breaking news.

tweets for 2014-04-11

April 12th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Vol. 3, Eric Powell et al. (2008)

April 11th, 2014 3:35 pm by Kelly Garbato

“Decapitation with a smile!”

four out of five stars

The third volume of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus features an even dozen stories, all of which are concurrent with Season 3 of the television series:

Wu-Tang Fang – The Scoobies dust the “Mickey Rourke of China,” a traveling vampire named San Sui who feeds on the blood of vanquished foes.

Halloween – The night before Halloween, Willow storms out of the house after an argument with the ‘rents, and swiftly falls into the clutches of a group of vamps.

Cold Turkey – Buffy brains a vamp with her frozen turkey when he tries to make a Thanksgiving meal out of her. The night shopping? Still more harrowing.

Dance With Me – When Buffy (repeatedly) turns Gary down at the dance, he decides to become a vampire so that she’ll have no choice but to pay attention to him.

White Christmas – Buffy takes a job selling popsicles at the mall, only to discover that her boss is summoning demons in the walk-in freezer. Choice quote: “I don’t wear clothes only to impress guys.”

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-04-10

April 11th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-04-09

April 10th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Number the Stars, Lois Lowry (1989)

April 9th, 2014 1:08 pm by Kelly Garbato

“the gift of a world of human decency”

five out of five stars

It’s September 1943, three years since German forces seized control of Denmark. Nazi soldiers patrol the streets and control the government, hospitals, schools, newspapers, and rail system; possessing an illegal newspaper like The Free Danes might very well get you killed. Copenhagen is under an 8PM curfew, and supplies are strictly rationed. And now, three years later, the Nazis are just beginning to “relocate” Jewish citizens, the way they have in so many other occupied territories.

But the Danish government received warning, which it passed on to Jewish religious leaders. Thanks to one German high official – not to mention countless courageous Danes – most of Denmark’s 7,000 Jewish citizens were smuggled to safety in Sweden. In just a matter of weeks. Right under the occupiers’ noses.

Against this backdrop, Lois Lowry weaves a story of courage and compassion that’s only partially a work of fiction. When word comes that they’re in danger, the Rosen family sends their only daughter, ten-year-old Ellen, to stay with family friends the Johansens: Ellen’s best friend Annemarie, her little sister Kirsti, and their parents. When Nazi soldiers come knocking, Ellen poses as the Johansens’ dead daughter Lise. Afraid of arousing the soldiers’ suspicions, the women travel to stay with Inge’s brother, Henrik, who lives by the sea. Before the war is over, young Annemarie will find her resolve tested. Will she undertake a dangerous mission in order to save her friend Ellen – or will she succumb to her fear of the soldiers?

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-04-08

April 9th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-04-07

April 8th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Mini-Review: Robot Pony, Madeline Claire Franklin (2011)

April 7th, 2014 5:45 pm by Kelly Garbato

Robot Poooohhhhnnnnnyyyyyyy!!!!

four out of five stars

Sick of the army of dolls that have invaded her closets and toy chests, little Amanda desperately wants a pony for Christmas. A real, living, breathing pony. When dad brings home a robot pony, brand spanking new out of his tech company’s lab (“Not a doll!”), she’s inconsolable. (The horror!) Big sister Jenn, who’s more into her father’s gadgets than she, offers to assemble the pony for her…and promptly falls in love with Po, as Jenn names him/her/it. Over the course of the winter, Jenn and Po share many adventures together. She grooms the robot pony, reads to him, and snuggles up against him at night. Since robot ponies are the next big thing, Amanda sometimes “uses” Po as well, her lack of care and compassion causing this reader to breathe a sigh of relief that she didn’t receive that “real” pony she originally asked for.

But with spring’s promises of rebirth and new travels for the two friends comes news of a recall. Po is dangerous, says Jenn’s dad, and must be taken back to the lab and melted down. But not before Jenn and Po get one last day together.

Robot Pony is a bittersweet story about love and loss and what it means to be alive – and “human.” It sucked me in with the ’80s style artwork and had me hooked, start to finish.

Alas, the story only occupies the first 34% of the book; the rest is bonus features, including excerpts from Madeline Claire Franklin’s fairy tale series The Poppet and the Lune. While I expected a short story, the conclusion caught me by surprise: the story can’t be over, I still have 66% of the book to go!

Robot Pony ends abruptly and much too soon. Normally I’m down with dark, melancholic endings, but this one just bummed me out. I sort of expected the plucky heroine to save the day, but no such luck.

I was all:

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Robot Poooohhhhnnnnnyyyyyyy!!!! ((shaking my fist at the sky))

And yet, no regrets. Franklin’s writing is so evocative and masterful – and so full of heart – that I plan on checking out some of her full-length novels in the very near future.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-04-06

April 7th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato