Quiche of Death – Mary Lee Ashford

Third NetGalley in a row? Third NetGalley in a row. I couldn’t resist the pun of the title, and I did like the cover, so I applied for it… and got it a few days ago.

I had missed that it was the third book of a series, but it wasn’t that problematic: even if events of previous books were referred to, the book itself is fairly self-contained.

Sugar and Dixie have a business of publishing “community” or “vanity” cookbooks; for this one, they are talking to the Arbor Family, who made their fortune with quiche and eventually frozen dishes.

Sugar and Dixie are invited to a family gathering – a good occasion to try and talk to everybody and get content for the cookbook. But before anything starts, really, the girlfriend of one of the family’s sons dies with an arrow stuck in her chest…

I was expecting a cozy mystery type of book – with FOOD – and in that sense, the Quiche of Death delivered. We get to know the Arbor family and the B&B that a part of the family is running, and it definitely hits the boxes of a whodunnit in a small-town setting, and there’s also a number of places where I went “well, I could do with the recipe of THAT”, and the recipe was indeed at the end of the book.

I was, however, a bit more skeptical about the rhythm of the book. The first half just felt… off in a way that I can’t really describe, but I had a hard time getting into the first 40-50% of the book. It went better afterwards, but the ending almost felt rushed. I’m not saying it was bad, but it was not really compatible with me, probably. I also hard a hard time making sense of who was who in the secondary characters (the Arbor family and associates). The characters from the established universe felt more substantial, even though I felt that I missed the previous book (but I can’t blame this one for that, can I).

All in all, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy Quiche of Death – it was a competent, if not great, mystery. It had some endearing points that actually make me consider reading the first two books. In particular, I do find the idea using the associates of a cookbook publishing company as main protagonists of a series interesting and my own kind of quirk 🙂 If you’re looking for a light and cozy mystery, Quiche of Death may just hit the right spot for you.

Could Be Something Good – Fiona West

Look at that, another Netgalley. The cover of Could be Something Good grabbed my attention, and the blurb made me go “why not”, even though I had never heard of the book or of its author 🙂

Protagonist A, Winifred “Winnie” Baker, nurse and midwife freshly arrived in the small town of Timber Falls, Oregon, and daughter of a very intimidating doctor at the local hospital.

Protagonist B, Daniel Durand, resident of said hospital under the direction of Doctor Baker, dealing with a very nice but somewhat intrusive family, and with dyslexia.

Boy meets girl, cute shenanigans ensue. I very much enjoyed my reading of this book: it was fairly low-key conflict-wise, very cute, funny, and the characters were very endearing. I particularly liked Winnie’s relationship with her chosen career path and with her mother. In some ways, the mood of this book made me think of Bluebell, the town from the Hart of Dixie TV series – and kind of made me want to re-watch that 😉

I was a tiny bit disappointed by the ending, which I found somewhat rushed, but this was still very nice, and very much spot on for what I was in the mood to read right now.

Cool stuff

Let’s have a new round of #coolstuff because it’s been a while. I’m trying to keep it free of the Current Events, but I’ll still allow myself a couple of links that happens indirectly because of them, because some things are just too cool 😛

Some cool photo lense content: C-4 Precision Optics releases $39,000 4.9mm F3.5 Hyper Fisheye lens for Sony E mount – already pretty cool by itself; but even more is Assembling the C-4 Optics 4.9mm f3.5 Hyperfisheye Prototype, with a lot of pictures of the assembly of that thing. It’s lovely.

Fangs – Sarah Andersen (known for Sarah’s Scribbles, which were collected in Big Mushy Happy Lump and following volumes) has a new comics series – a romance between a vampire and a werewolf. Über-cute.

Cosmic Background – Andrew McCarthy is a super impressive and super prolific astrophotographer. His instagram is way worth a look.

Teatoucan – and while we’re on Instagram, how about some INSANELY COOL DICE? I mean, have you seen this one?

Classic Programmer Paintings – a classic, by now, but I don’t think I ever gave a link here. Take classic paintings, give them a new title that has something to do with software engineering, hilarity ensues. For instance, “Theoretical computer scientists arguing about random number generators.”, “Senior developer gets interrupted”, or “Business Analyst explains user story with persona”.

I got to bring a robot arm home from work due to the shelter-in-place order – /r/robotics delivers with a robot arm in the kitchen.

Penguins Visiting Other Animals in Aquarium is Amazing – the Shedd aquarium in Chicago is bringing a couple of penguins on field trips in the rest of the aquarium, and it brings me a smile.

Anyone here into Bionicle? – I never really understood the appeal of Bionicle LEGO, but now that I’ve seen that Space Marine, I’m kind of convinced.

Siril, a free astronomical image processing software – I just learnt about this thing, and it looks pretty neat. One day I’ll actually stop dreaming of astrophotography and DO IT. 😀

The LEGO Storage Guide – because nicely ordered collections of LEGO are very satisfying. Also, the rest of that website is cool (it’s by the author of The LEGO Architect, which is a neat book 🙂 )

F is for Food Waste – Akkana is trying to track down where assumptions such as “40% of consumer food in the US is thrown away uneaten” and “20 pounds of wasted food per person per month” come from, and I found it interesting 🙂

Otaku – Chris Kluwe

A few weeks ago, I opened a NetGalley account just to have an idea and a look and maybe possibly get a few books – you never know. I looked for books that I had heard about and was interested in reading, with a “soon-ish” publication date, and I found out that Otaku, by Chris Kluwe, was available, so I signed up for it. I had initially heard about that book via The Big Idea: Chris Kluwe on John Scalzi’s blog; I wouldn’t necessarily have seen or heard of that one otherwise, because the title wouldn’t have necessarily attracted my attention in the first place.

Anyway, I eventually got an e-mail telling me that I could indeed get the book – and it was good timing too, since I had just finished another book the night before. And since it’s feels fair to do a “proper” review in that case, this is what you get (yay, a full blog post!).

In Otaku, we get to meet Ash and her friends and family in a post-climate-change world where everything kind of broke down to several levels. Ash is one of the world’s best player of the Game – think all-you-can-think-of MMORPG with haptic suits as a controller. She deals with more than her share of abuse for it, and essentially tries to scrape by – until she accidentally stumbles on something much larger than her.

I thoroughly enjoyed Otaku. The world-building is great, the action scenes are spectacularly written, and special kudos to the Game action scenes in particular – those felt real, as in “yes, this is something I could definitely imagine gaming going to”. The pacing also really worked for me – rapid, but not hectic, with some breathing time allowed between tougher scenes. It also needs to be said that there’s a fair amount of graphical violence depicted in this book – weirdly enough, it didn’t bother me, but I could see it being a problem for other readers.

As for the things I wasn’t so enthusiastic about… The characters, especially the secondary ones, could have done with a bit more fleshing out – I don’t think it lacked MUCH, but a tiny bit more would have been a good thing. What bothered me most was that the stakes of the late plot felt way too high for the context – I think a smaller scale could have been used for the same dramatic effect while feeling less exaggerated.

Still – this was a very enjoyable read, I had a very hard time putting it down when it was time to sleep. And, as mentioned, I don’t think I would have picked it up if not for the Big Idea post – but I’m very happy I did 🙂

52Frames – 2020-14 – Curves

This week the theme for 52Frames was Curves. While thinking about what curvy thing I could possibly photograph, I thought of my nibs – I have a fairly large collection of dip pen nibs, used mostly for tinkering with calligraphy. (Also, nibs are pretty, they are small, and they might become somewhat of a collectible item for me 😉 )

This one belonged to my grandfather – it’s a Conté Tréraid 1.5mm – and I thought the reservoil on top would make a pretty curve for this week’s challenge.

Photography wise, that was “lazy macro”: set the nib on a reasonable surface (technically, a cover of a Rhodia paper block), get a Lume cube in one hand, a camera in another, and hope for the best when it comes to get a picture that has both decent light and decent focus. I think I did pretty well 🙂

52Frames – 2020-13 – A Line from a Song

The theme for 52Frames this week was A Line from a Song. They put together a generator to provide some ideas – and there was an additional constraint for the extra credit of “using the very first quote the generator provides you”.

Aaaaand the very first quote that the generator provided me was “All in all it’s just another brick in the wall” – Pink Floyd, obviously. I’ll take that as a sign of destiny – I instantly knew what I wanted to do with that one, and I looked into more quotes from that generator, and they seemed far more difficult to me 😉

So today I gathered my LEGO bricks, my lights and my camera, and I made an image to submit for the challenge 🙂 My first idea was to have a colored brick in the middle of a white wall – turns out, I… don’t think I have any colored 2×1 brick in the house. (Maybe in the TARDIS?). So I looked into what I had, and I had transparent bricks. Except that I remembered transparent bricks having the same structure as the non-transparent ones, with a tube for the stud assembly (like that), and mine… did not (like that). That made me think that it wouldn’t be necessarily visible that there WAS a brick there – which kind of defeated the purpose.

But I also had in my collection a pile of three transparent plates – which would actually give me both the transparency and the texture I was looking for. I assembled a wall with a few brick, put my transparent plates in lieu of a regular brick, and tadaa! The shot was surprisingly hard to get right – for my first attempts, I was only lighting the wall from behind, without supporting the light on the wall itself, which made exposure a profound pain to handle correctly. Plus, my LEGO bricks were all dusty, and it REALLY SHOWED on macro shots.

I finally got a shot I could work with – took a fair amount of editing still before I got the shot I had in mind. For the record, that’s the initial shot I was working with:

I’m quite happy with how this turned out. It initially felt like a low-effort kind of project, and I was half-expecting to send this with a “eeeh, not the most creative thing ever but I submitted”, but it took more time than I thought, it felt good building the image, and that’s actually the most fun I’ve had in photography for a few weeks 🙂

52Frames – 2020-12 – Books

The 52Frames theme this week was Books. I got rid of most of my book collection a few years ago – but I still have a few bookshelves here and there. A large part of what I have left are cookbooks (the whole left bookshelf, andspilling a bit on the second one); and then there’s a number of things that I prefer reading on paper (comics… and yeah, cookbooks), a few “hard-to-find”, and some that I kept for sentimental value. There’s still a few bookshelves around the apartment – tech and math books are not here, RPG books are next to the board games shelf 🙂

The picture itself is quite unremarkable. I wanted to get a reasonably clean, geometric shot – which I tried to get as much as I could in camera, but which got mostly achieved by postprocessing to fix lense deformation and perspective issues. I kept the framing a bit larger than I initially thought I would – the framing felt better with the line of the couch and the line of the ceiling.

Plus, the couch and the shelf of chocolate give a bit of story-telling, which I like 🙂