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Lora's Rants and Reviews

My own unapologetic opinions on books and writing. I DO NOT accept review requests but only review books I choose to read and I don't post reviews on Amazon. I'm also persnickity about genre and plot.

Currently reading

Going Postal (05) by Pratchett, Terry - Briggs, Stephen [Paperback (2005)]
Terry Pratchet
Progress: 80%
The Illumination of Ursula Flight
Anna-Marie Crowhurst
Progress: 6%
Paris: The Novel
Edward Rutherfurd
Progress: 54%
Unnatural Creatures
Maria Dahvana Headley, Neil Gaiman
Progress: 40%
Don Quixote
Roberto González Echevarría, John Rutherford, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Progress: 63%

Amazing Origami Boxes

Amazing Origami Boxes - Tomoko Fuse

by Tomoko Fuse


Origami has interested me since childhood but these 20 original designs take it to a new level. Tomoko Fuse has achieved recognition for her modular designs and these intricate boxes and dishes show why.


This is not a beginners book. However, the instructions are clear and although I think practicing on cheap paper is a good idea before using the beautiful, decorative origami papers shown in the colorful illustrations, at least most of them should be possible for anyone with patience and prepared to practice.


If you have no experience with origami, I suggest an easier beginner's book would be better to start, but some of the square boxes are reasonably easy and once those are mastered, the harder ones should be doable. As I said, practice with cheap paper first. Common printer paper can be squared by folding it over and removing the excess. When you've got the hang of a design, then the origami papers will make it beautiful.

February wrap-up

First Epiphany Of The Time Vandal - Harry Bowling
So, this month I finished a whole one book. Is that pathetic or what?
I've struggled for reading time between family, work and a cat who is off his food.
I have been reading, but one of the books I'm reading is over 800 pages, plus I'm devoting some time to getting through Don Quixote which is another horrendously long one and I've got two Netgalley books started.
I've read quite a few samples as well but they've actually increased!
Hopefully I'll have more to show for March!

Got my free book!

— feeling happy

I had read a sample and put it on my ereaderiq list, then a giveaway came up. I won! So now I have an autographed hard copy of a book I expect to really like. Yay!


DNF at 37%

Heart of Darkness - Robert Hampson, Joseph Conrad

Its not what I expected and I'm just not getting into it. I'm not going to judge the book by my expectation. It might be something I would have liked if I wasn't expecting the plot of Apocalypse Now.

First Epiphany of the Time Vandal

First Epiphany Of The Time Vandal - Harry Bowling

by M.E. Bowling


I wasn't too sure of this one at first as it started out feeling more technical and uber spy than I usually like, but it drew me in enough to want to see what was going to happen.


My interest grew as it went along, drawing me into an intrigue where someone has stolen a time machine and curiosity of what he would do with it and why he took it. Interest waned again when he stayed in one place for a long time, interacting with local people. The intended point of his involvement with the time and place was revealed about halfway through, but that in itself disappointed me. It was an interesting idea, but not as well delivered as I could wish.


The real disappointment for me was that there wasn't a lot of time travel involved in the rest of the story. It became something else and wasn't what I had looked for in choosing this book to read. There were a couple of later jumps, but by then I was bored out of my mind and had started skimming.


The writing itself is fine and I didn't notice and mistakes, but the plot just didn't engage me. Perhaps someone else would love it.

January wrap-up

Alice Starmore's Glamourie (Calla Editions) - Jade Starmore, Alice Starmore The Goblin King (A Tale of the Seven Kingdoms) (Volume 1) - Michael Card Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward - Carl Abrahamsson, Gary Valentine Lachman Real Quanta: Simplifying Quantum Physics for Einstein and Bohr - Martijn van Calmthout The Victorian Christmas - Anna Selby Uprooted - Naomi Novik

I don't see myself finishing any more books before tomorrow so 6 books finished for the month. Half of them were Netgalley, which is now clear, Yay!


All were interesting in their own ways but I think the stand-out for the month for me was Occulture, a non-fiction read.


My sample supply has stayed fairly stable as I've read as many as I've added. Hopefully I'll reduce the pile again as there are currently 87!


Meanwhile I'm having some problems with a slow computer so if I'm a little scarce for a few days, that's why. Must get my local tech expert to work out what's causing it.


At least if I spend less time on the Internet, I'll get more reading done!



Alice Starmore's Glamourie

Alice Starmore's Glamourie (Calla Editions) - Jade Starmore, Alice Starmore

by Alice Starmore


This is a knitting book with a difference. It focuses on costuming and has pictures of some incredible creations the author has designed. The big difference, however, is that the costumes also have stories attached, so it's more than a craft book.


The author also explains much about how she made each of the costumes and the inspiration behind them.


There is one disappointment though. The patterns in the back are not for the elaborate costumes pictured with the stories. We don't get those. They are for items more for everyday wear, with some elements of the costumes. For example, the Raven costume that drew my attention to the book is truly magnificent, but the related pattern given is for a basic poncho with some of the feather design that was incorporated into the more intricate costume.


Looking at the sale price of the book, I do feel let down that the actual costuming patterns were not included. While someone walking around in something like the Raven costume would be immediately perceived as a nutter in ordinary circumstances, there are events where costuming is appropriate and I would love to make this one for such events.


Having said that, the everyday wear patterns are unusual in their own right and the book is certainly attractive for someone who wants to add some unique items to their wardrobe. Details about stitches are given and I think any fairly experienced knitter could easily follow the patterns.

The Goblin King

The Goblin King (A Tale of the Seven Kingdoms) (Volume 1) - Michael Card

by R. Michael Card


This is a good, traditional Fantasy reminiscent of the sort of thing Lord of the Rings fans were seeking out in the 1970s. There are some parallels like different peoples and a quest against goblins, but I would not call it a clone. It is well written and the ideas have a lot of originality.


It does suffer a little from the typical male Fantasy writer focus on what the characters are wearing and their fighting techniques and weapons, but it's not so overdone as to make it off-putting. The characters begin showing individual personalities from early in the story and the goal of the quest is clearly explained.


The plotting isn't terribly deep, but the story moves along well and although it's a long way from the quality of Tolkien, I enjoyed the read. As with many stories these days it moves towards a series and doesn't resolve all the issues. I don't think I'm sufficiently enamoured to continue the series but the sample of the second book looked pretty good.

I won a book!

The Du Lac Chronicles - Mary Anne Yarde

I don't often sign up for giveaways, but this one had passed my samples test and was on my tbr.


I think I'm getting a hard copy!


Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward - Carl Abrahamsson, Gary Valentine Lachman

by Carl Abrahamsson




One of the first things I noticed with this book is that the chapter headings have notes below the titles that say each of them was first given at a lecture or printed as an article someplace, so it soon became clear that this is a collection of several years' writings collected by the author into book form for presentation to a new audience. The subject matter is sufficiently different in each to create a nicely balanced volume on occult influence in society and particularly in art.


This is not a book for learning to do magic(k), but is more about modern cultural influences and symbols that enter mainstream consciousness through various mediums of artistic expression. In the Forword written by Gary Lachman, he explains the term 'occulture', occult + culture, coined by Genesis-P-Orridge, a cult figure in certain circles of modern day magicians, then goes on to point out connections between art and the occult and the significance of interpreting one through the other.


The lectures and articles cover a fascinating variety of loosely related topics. They include commentaries on alternative lifestyles and the rise of occult culture through significant periods like the 1960s and 1980s and the British and German groups and personalities who shaped much of modern occult culture.


The reader gets the benefit of a perspective by someone who 'was there' and understands the significance of a variety of cultural influences that still affect the culture today. He speaks of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth as well as about Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey and what he feels were the relevant contributions by controversial groups and personalities.


The perspective is very much about the intellectual side of the occult. No new age or airy-fairy crystal hugging comes into it. As occult history goes, this is an excellent reflection of the later twentieth century developments that built on the legacy of earlier magical Orders and traditions and the effects of an expanding cultural awareness that would shake the foundations of pre-twentieth century European occult study.


The significance of art and creativity is emphasised as is the freedom of social mores from the staid, limiting celibacy of groups like the early Golden Dawn and the cautions required by Medieval magicians to avoid any sniff of scandal that might lead to charges of heresy.


The history of Nazi involvement in the occult is detailed in one of the lectures and makes for interesting reading from a historical perspective as well. That lecture somehow moves from this to beatniks in California, which gives the reader an idea of the broad scope of some of the topics discussed.


This book would be of interest to anyone interested in occult history or in cultural development and the influence of art. It fills in the recent gaps in documented history for those of us who are too young to have been there for the changes in the 1980s and before as these periods are often not addressed in earlier books on the subject.


It also goes into everything from philosophy to conspiracy theories in recent decades and even Pokemon Go! I found all of the articles interesting for different reasons. A real treasure for anyone with interest in magick or the occult.

Reading progress update: I've read 6%.

The Goblin King (A Tale of the Seven Kingdoms) (Volume 1) - Michael Card

Out of the slush.


Looks like one of those hidden gems. I wonder how many others have been lurking around my kindle for years.

Real Quanta: Simplifying Quantum Physics for Einstein and Bohr

— feeling nerd
Real Quanta: Simplifying Quantum Physics for Einstein and Bohr - Martijn van Calmthout

by Martijn van Calmthout




This is a book about Einstein and how his theories have extrapolated into Quantum Physics. It's written in an accessible way, much like a novel, though it does read a little dry at times.


The author places himself in a scene where he is interviewing the famous scientists Einstein and Bohr and explains within that context some of the prevailing theories of Physics that came from their studies and ideas. This is definitely a book for people who are very interested in these theories, but for those of us in that category it is amazingly easy to follow and the fictional aspect of the 'interview' seems like a little fun.


This would also be a good book for a student about to study Physics who might find it intimidating. There are no equations to decipher, just theory on a philosophical level that any reasonably intelligent person could follow.

DNF at 33%.

Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 - 6) (Shadow Stalker Bundles) - Renee Scattergood

This is actually a well written book. People who like to read YA will probably love it, but it's driving me up a wall. Why?


Teenage protagonist, special ability, has to submit to authority of guardian or everybody dies. That's putting it overly simplistically but basically it's the sort of thing that stresses me out.


The plot is interesting, the characters are well defined and the metaphysical aspects are very well done.


It's just not for me. Unrated. 

The Victorian Christmas

The Victorian Christmas - Anna Selby

by Anna Selby




This is a nice collection of information about British Victorian Christmas traditions and where they actually originated. It includes the Pagan origins of the date for Christmas and the Germanic background to Christmas trees and to putting charms into the Christmas pudding, as well as a comprehensive recipe for making a traditional Christmas pudding from a Victorian hand-written recipe book. It also details what contributions the Victorians added to our modern view of Christmas, including the pudding and the slow adaptation in modern times to Christmas Cake. I had to smile at the suggestion that the transition was due to making the cake without alcohol, as my family recipe for Christmas Cake uses nothing but brandy for the liquid in the recipe.


It's a well-researched book that goes into every possible Christmas tradition, including the origins of Christmas cards and singing carols. There is a wealth of old recipes, many from the Mrs Beaton Cookbook for things like traditional Wassail, gingerbread in various forms and mincemeat, as well as a vast array of recipes for cooking a spectrum of meats that Victorians from different stratas of society might include in their Christmas feast.


Christmas decorations and the origins of many of the traditions for those are explained followed by the background to Panto and Boxes, two things still common in England though not well known in the U.S.


While I'm not likely to use the wealth of recipes provided, their historical significance makes them of interest. Also included are the lyrics for many old Christmas carols, script samples from mummer's plays and an excerpt from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Whether these are historically significant or filler could be a matter of opinion.


The book finishes off with related New Year traditions and some information that the date for Christmas has actually moved from the new year dates over time and changing calendars, which I didn't know before.


As a reference book this is very thorough and professionally presented. It's not always riviting reading, but most reference books aren't.

I've redecorated

For dark, winter nights




— feeling what?!?
Uprooted - Naomi Novik

by Naomi Novik


After enjoying one of the author's other books and hearing this one was good from many sources, I had to try it despite having little idea what it was about. As it turns out, I really enjoyed most of it!


Every ten years a girl is chosen by the local wizard to come live in his tower and rumors about what happens there are rife, though the girls always come back and insist the magician didn't lay a hand on them. They always end up leaving the village and finding a life for themselves elsewhere afterwards.


Meanwhile, the villagers live in the shadow of a forest that contains some sort of evil, with creatures who capture those who come too close and take them into the forest never to return.


This is one of the most original Fantasy stories I've read for a while. The magic is very well done and the characters are also done well, each of them distinctive in their own way. The challenges that face the main character, Agnieszka, range from trying to keep safe from the hazards of the forest to trying to help her best friend who is up against dangers from all sides, to dealing with the royal family and the pitfalls of murderous politics and the court wizards who see village girls as expendable at best.


It was a fascinating story and one that I kept going back to ahead of my other reads up until about the last third. Then it seemed to lose its way and become a little too surreal to hold attention. Many of the plot points were left unexplained, including why the magician specifically took a girl every ten years, although there was a reference to it with inadequate explanation.


It also hit one of my pet peeves with a single graphic sex scene. Why this has become a thing with recent books that wouldn't even be described as Romance much less Erotica I can't imagine. Yes the nature of the relationship was relevant but a move by move about who did what to which body part is completely unnecessary and ruins an otherwise good story! It also makes it unsuitable for young readers, who might have been a primary target audience for this story.


There was an end, but with too much left unexplained.