Book Review: Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes (2014)

August 27th, 2014 12:03 pm by Kelly Garbato

The Shining Girls just got bumped to the top of my TBR pile!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program. Also, trigger warning for sexual assault.)

There’s a monster loose in Detroit. A whole lot of them, actually.

First and foremost is the so-called “Detroit Monster,” whose story forms the backbone of Broken Monsters: The sick you-know-what leaving a trail of dead bodies disguised as art installations across the city, starting with an eleven-year-old boy named Daveyton Lafonte. From the navel up, the killer fused his mutilated body onto the lower portion of a deer’s using meat glue. (Google it.)

But there’s also Philip Low, the middle-aged electrical engineer with the undeservedly kind face, who trolls the ‘net for young girls using the pseudonym “VelvetBoy”; Jonno, a “citizen journalist” from New York City, who exploits tragedy for page hits under the guise of journalistic integrity; and the adolescent boys of Hines High School, who think nothing of sharing a video of their classmate’s sexual assault – and then re-enacting the trauma for laughs.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-08-26

August 27th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

You say “tomato,” I say “Red Lentil and Tomahto Soup.”

August 26th, 2014 12:28 pm by Kelly Garbato

2014-08-24 - SRJ Red Lentil & Tomato Soup - 0001 [flickr]

So I know I said that I wouldn’t have time to cook out of Simple Recipes for Joy until after VeganMoFo. (Just six days, y’all! SIX DAYS!) But as fate would have it, I have a ton of fresh tomatoes from my garden – and Simple Recipes for Joy has a recipe that calls for a whole two pounds of fresh tomatoes. (Count ‘em, TWO.) On the weird side, it’s a hot soup recipe in a week when the temperature has been topping out in the high 90s every. single. day. But hey, air conditioning.

I was concerned that maybe Shane wouldn’t be in the mood for soup after eight hours spent mowing the lawn in what is essentially hot, humid August Missouri soup, but he was actually stoked on the idea: “I need to rehydrate!” Um, okay then.

So the soup is really tasty, though a little on the thin side. I ended up adding an extra cup of lentils and cooked the soup a little longer, just enough so that the lentils were tender, but didn’t dissolve (like the first batch did, and was supposed to). Along with the tomatoes and lentils there’s cumin and curry, which gives the soup a rich, savory taste.

Perfect for dipping bread in! We didn’t have any fresh bread (boo!), so I cooked up some frozen dinner rolls and those were almost as good.

tweets for 2014-08-25

August 26th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Fault Line, C. Desir (2013)

August 25th, 2014 12:38 pm by Kelly Garbato

Well-Intentioned, but Sometimes Problematic

three out of five stars

(Trigger warning for rape.)

Just a few days before the start of his senior year, Ben meets her: Ani Taylor, the new kid in town. A California transplant, Ani is everything Ben wants in a girl: Direct. Outspoken. Ballsy. Artistic with just a hint of hippie chick optimism. Gorgeous, with legs that just won’t quit. And the best part? She’s totally into him, too.

All this changes when four or more young men gang-rape Ani during a house party. (While the book’s synopsis implies doubt about what exactly transpired at the party, Desir establishes that Ani was either a) drugged or b) intoxicated, either of which makes what happened rape.) As if being violently assaulted isn’t bad enough, first thing Monday morning the rumors start to fly. Before long, Ani’s known as the girl who fucked a lighter for an audience of strangers. Between the rape and subsequent bullying (“Firecrotch,” “Cum Dumpster,” and “The Manhole” are just a few of the nicknames devised by her classmates), Ani spirals into depression, shuts down emotionally, and begins acting out sexually. Meanwhile, Ben tries desperately to put the pieces of Ani – “his” Ani – back together again.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-08-24

August 25th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-08-23

August 24th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: The Harlem Hellfighters, Max Brooks & Caanan White (2014)

August 23rd, 2014 12:20 pm by Kelly Garbato

“How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

In 1917 we left our home to make the world “safe for democracy.” Even though democracy wasn’t exactly “safe” back home.

We went by many names. The 15th. The 369th. And before going “over there,” we called ourselves “The Black Rattlers.” Our French allies called us “The Men of Bronze.”

And our enemies called us “The Harlem Hellfighters.”

Recruited in Harlem, trained in Camp Whitman, New York (and, disastrously, Spartanburg, South Carolina), and eventually deployed to the Western Front in France, the 369th Infantry Regiment – otherwise known as The Harlem Hellfighters – changed the course of history, even as its own government engineered its failure.

The 369th spent 191 days in combat – more than any other American unit, black or white. None of their men were captured by the enemy, nor did they lose any ground; in fact, they were the first men to reach the Rhine River. The 369th volunteered to stay behind in the front trenches for an expected German bombing the day after Bastille Day, 1918, even though it meant almost certain death. One of their soldiers single-handedly fended off German raiders with only a rifle and a bolo knife; for this, Henry Lincoln Johnson earned the nickname “Black Death” – and was the first American to receive the French Croix de Guerre (the Cross of War). In 2003, the US awarded Johnson the Distinguished Service Cross; his supporters are still lobbying for the Medal of Honor.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-08-22

August 23rd, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-08-21

August 22nd, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: The Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland, Joe Hill & Charles P. Wilson III (2014)

August 21st, 2014 12:32 pm by Kelly Garbato

Christmas in August!

five out of five stars

NOS4A2 was one of my favorite new releases last year; I devoured it in a matter of days and then promptly added all of Joe Hill’s titles to my wishlist. (Too late for Christmas, but that’s the way the gingerbread crumbles.) So you can only imagine how excited I was when I heard that Hill was resurrecting the twisted innerscape of Charles Manx III in graphic novel format. I pre-ordered The Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland as soon as it became available on Amazon, and have spent the last six months eagerly awaiting its arrival.

The Wraith is everything I wanted and more. It collects issues 1-6 of Welcome to Christmasland in a lovely (wait, did I say lovely? I meant nightmarish!) hardcover book, supplemented with oodles and oodles of extra artwork. The storyline briefly explores Charlie Manx’s childhood in the Wild West (we’re talking late 1800s here); after being violently assaulted and raped by one of his mother’s johns, Charles taps into the mysterious and unexpected power of his Fleet Fantom sled to exact his revenge.

Fast-forward to 1988, when a trio of escaped cons – including Dewey Hansom, a sleazy, child-raping music agent who also just so happens to be Manx’s current accomplice – calls on Manx for help. Manx promises to make them disappear so that the authorities will never find them; naturally, he loads them into the Wraith and takes them to Christmasland to meet his kids (and by “meet” I mean at the end of a very long sword). But Chess Llewellyn has an ace up his sleeve: balloons filled with delirium-101, sent to him by his dead son Adam, whose untimely death Chess was about to serve seven years for avenging.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-08-20

August 21st, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-08-19

August 20th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-08-18

August 19th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: The Girl in the Road: A Novel, Monica Byrne (2014)

August 18th, 2014 12:27 pm by Kelly Garbato

“Thank you for the story, little girl.”

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. Also, trigger warning for rape.)

When Meena awakes to find a snake in her bed – presumably placed there in an assassination attempt by the revolutionary political group Semena Werk – she decides that it’s time to blow town. (“Town” being Thrissur, India.) The faster, the better. Born in Ethiopia to visiting Indian medical students, Meena’s parents were murdered before her birth: “As a baby I felt my mother die around me.” (page 36) Luckily, two Indian nurses happened upon the grisly scene in time to save the premature newborn. Meena impulsively decides to travel to the town of Addis, Ethiopia, both to escape her attackers and hunt down her parents’ killer, who escaped justice so many years ago.

In order to stay under the radar, Meena chooses an unlikely route: the Trans-Arabian Linear Generator, simply known as “the Trail.” Built by HydraCorp, the Trail is the next generation of energy: Blue energy to our Green. Stretching from Mumbai to Djibouti, the TALG harnesses the power of waves to generate energy. While it’s illegal (and difficult) to walk the Trail, rumor has it that many pilgrims have made the journey; some brave/lost souls even built their homes on its surface. Traversing the Trail to the site of her parents’ death – where all of Meena’s troubles arguably began – becomes a sort of religious experience for her. As the days wear on and Meena’s sanity wanes with them, she begins to hallucinate the visages of those ghosts who haunt her – including her dead lover, Mohini.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-08-17

August 18th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2014-08-16

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

tweets for 2014-08-15

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

Cookbook Review: Vegan Ice Cream, Jeff Rogers (2014)

August 15th, 2014 1:24 pm by Kelly Garbato

Should be Called “(Mostly) Raw Vegan Ice Cream”

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through the Blogging for Books program.)

I’ve been vegetarian since 1996, and went vegan in the mid-aughts. Along with vegan pizza, vegan ice cream is my absolute favorite – and have tumblogs dedicated to each to prove it. I own one ice cream maker (a Cuisinart Ice-45) and covet a second one (the KitchenAid Stand Mixer & Ice Cream Maker Attachment). No fewer than five vegan ice cream cookbooks line the bookshelves in my pantry. I’ve been allergic to milk my entire life (technically it’s galactose – milk sugar – that’s the problem, but same diff), and have never been able to have “real” ice cream. Growing up as I did in the 1980s, I still remember the Dark Days of vegan processed food: when vegetarianism was fringe and my mom bought my dad’s meatless links in the basement of the local Unitarian Church, and I was ecstatic to have two (TWO!) vegan ice cream options in the mainstream grocer’s freezer: Rice Dream (*shudder*) and Tofutti (which will forever occupy a special place in my heart).

I’m a bit of a vegan ice cream connoisseur, is what I’m saying.

I purchased Jeff Rogers’s Vice Cream way back in 2009, but as of yet haven’t tried a single recipe. For whatever reason (the abundance of cashews? the insistence on juicing everything? the multiple steps and machines required for each recipe?), none of the recipes really appealed to me. So when I spotted a new and revised edition – now called Vegan Ice Cream – on Blogging for Books, I decided to give it a try, in the hope that Rogers had tweaked his formulas. As it turns out, the updated edition contains twenty or so new recipes – along with the seventy originals – but all use the same bases found in Vice Cream. Hopes, dashed.

Just scanning through the book, I had my doubts. From my experience using cashews to make vegan cheeses, I could tell that they alone wouldn’t thicken the batter substantially, and certainly not to the pudding-like consistency needed to make a smooth, dairy-like ice cream. Nevertheless, I did experiment with two recipes prior to writing this review: Chai and Chocolate Pecan.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-08-14

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