Steampunk Reviews

So I was taking one of those ubiquitous quizzes on Facebook. This one was “What kind of Science Fiction reader are you?” I thought that sounded like a pretty cool quiz. But I was quite surprised by the results. It suggested “Steampunk.” I’d never even heard of steampunk.

According to Wikipedia,

Steampunk is a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or digital mechanical computers (such as Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine); these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality.

I love alternate history/historical fantasy, so I said, “Okay. I’ll bite.” and ordered a few of the books on the list. I had already read ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,’ thought the idea was fascinating (though the book itself left much to be desired).

The first two to come in were Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (William Gibson’s The Difference Engine is awaiting me at the library).

Now I’ve run out of time to do really in-depth reviews (books are due today), but I must say I did enjoy them. Howl’s Moving Castle is more like fantasy than science fiction to my way of thinking, and the sequel House of Many Ways is the same. But they’re both delightful reads, well-written and funny, for kids and adults. I especially like Sophie 🙂

The Diamond Age (or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer) was fascinating. I’m not sure I liked the book, as in the characters (except Nell) or plot or ending, but the writing was superb and the world-building incredible. I’d recommend it for older readers, mostly because of the Drummers and their ‘Wet Net’, which are very sexual in nature.

Christians and Fantasy

While doing some searches related to an upcoming book review, I stumbled across (or was led to) The Christian Guide to Fantasy. It’s been around for ten years now, but this was the first time for me. While it is mostly inactive, the archived material is great.

I’ve struggled with these issues for a long time, trying to reconcile my desire to write fantasy with a Christian worldview (and to avoid writing the in-your-face pap that unfortunately is what most modern Christian fantasy is). Often, all I had to hold on to was ‘Tolkien and Lewis were devout Christians. If they can, why can’t I?’ This essay puts my reasoning into words. And the explanation of magic was right what I needed to hear.

The Three Wolf Moon Anthology (Now available at

It seems that everyone wants to see their stories in print. To this end, would-be writers write everywhere and anywhere, and about anything.

Just witness the phenomenon of the Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt on According to the news report I saw online, the shirt had been selling there for a few years when B.Govern decided to post a humorous review of something he didn’t even own. His “review” is still the highest ranked, with 9,126 of 9,202 people…yes, close to 10,000 people…finding it “helpful”. A college humor website pounced on his review, its readership adding their own works of fiction.

Like most stories, they range from the extremely well-written to the poorly thrown together; none of them (as near as I can tell) are in any way serious. There are now 909 such “reviews” posted–an anthology, if you will–all for this rather benign T-Shirt, making it’s number one rated article of clothing. It even has a highly-viewed YouTube video.

As if seeking more places to publish, the reviews have…um…poured over to the Tuscan Whole Milk page. This one has risen to include poetry–the parody of The Raven is particularly well done.

Zubaz Pants and the Breakthrough Wolf T-Shirt are also experiencing this review phenomena.

There are probably many other items where this impromptu storytelling occurs; these are just the few that I have found tonight and thought I would blog about.

Hey! Maybe if I bought a Three Wolf Moon T-shirt of my very own, I would finally have agents knocking down the door to get to my books! I’ll post a review on Amazon if it works.

Book Review: Never Say Diet

Never Say Diet

The Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Trainer

Chantel Hobbs

Summary: After years of failed diet attempts, Chantel Hobbs discovered the missing ingredient to permanent weight loss: to change your life, you first have to change the way you think.

She developed a balanced plan for exercise and nutrition and lost two hundred pounds. Now, through writing, speaking, and her work as a personal trainer, she inspires others to achieve far more than they thought possible.

In Never Say Diet, now available in trade paperback, Chantel provides everything readers need to lose weight for good, including:

  • Simple, step-by-step workout routines that fit into a normal weekday schedule
  • A realistic approach to nutrition that helps people break their bondage to food
  • Strategies for staying motivated when life takes unexpected turns
  • Keys to dealing with discouragement by relying on God’s strength
  • The secret to moving beyond past failures and getting over old excuses

Chantel helps readers make the five commitments that are necessary for changing their lives. Her high-energy, no-nonsense approach inspires readers to achieve results that last in body, mind, and spirit.

Personal Trainer: Her newest book, The Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Coach, now allows readers to have Chantel show up each week to inspire, encourage, and energize them on the journey to a healthy life that centers on body, mind, and spirit.

This fitness guide helps readers set new weight-loss goals and create an exercise schedule that works in the midst of life’s constant demands. Readers will be inspired with Scripture, and they will welcome Chantel’s healthy eating plan with simple, energy-and-nutrition-packed recipes. Weekly checklists and personal evaluations direct readers in reaching their goals. Plus, Chantel’s personal and entertaining stories provide the motivation needed to get through even the most frustrating days.

With Never Say Diet and The Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Coach readers will establish new fitness habits that burn off excess weight, increase strength, and establish a new, healthy way of living.

Okay, so I don’t usually read diet books. Yes, I need to lose weight–according to my BMI, I’m obese (by all of three pounds). However, I’m one of those “active but overweight” people. I do Zumba twice a week, and 40+ minutes on the treadmill at least two other days, preferably more. I can do a day-long hike without keeling over half-dead. I did Irish stepdancing up until last September (I’d still be doing it, but the class wasn’t on an available night for me). I don’t eat refined sugar or corn syrup. No matter what I eat or don’t eat, I’ve been the same weight (within 5 pounds) for well over a year now. Most people think I’m quite a bit lighter than I am. The bottom line is, I’ve never hit the rock bottom that Chantel describes, at least not as far as the way I look. But food does have a definite hold over me. I like to eat. I enjoy (far too much) the way things taste, to the point of overeating because it tastes so gooooood.

That’s why the key thing I brought away from this book is that food is fuel, not your main source of fun (or worse, comfort). At one point in the program, she has you make your meals nutritious, but boring (though not permanently), because changing the way you look at food is the only way to break its hold over you. And I can see that. In fact, that thought now goes through my head almost every time I wonder “What am I in the mood for?” That’s the wrong question, according to Chantel. The right question is “What does my body need?”

Her program seems to be a straight-forward deal, and fairly easy to remember, though it still takes plenty of willpower to follow. More willpower than most of us have. That’s why the all-important first step is surrendering our will to God’s. He wants us to be healthy, and it is only through His strength that we can turn from the idol of food (‘you cannot serve both God and chocolate’).

There were a couple of areas that I did have problems with. One is food allergies/intolerances. I’ve a lot of them. Many of her meals call for lean poultry or fish–many times trying to eat chicken/turkey and/or fish (even tuna) makes me nauseous. Same thing for eggs. Nor can I do the Kashi thing. I like Kashi. Used to eat it all the time…until I discovered that oatmeal gave me headaches. Corn’s another thing I have to avoid, including popcorn. My husband has Crohn’s, so he has issues with things like celery or lettuce. You know, those good fibery vegetables. My daughter can’t eat so many things that we don’t even usually take her into consideration when making meal plans. I make all her bread at home, which means plain white bread (though with unbleached flour), because making whole wheat bread is a royal pain in the boohickey.

Some of the exercises I have issues with too. The cardio isn’t too much of a problem–I do that already. The ones that get me are the ones with the stability ball. I’ve had a lot of back problems (and legs, and knees, and feet, and neck), and the exercises she shows tend to exacerbate my bad spots. I think she chose the stability ball because it’s easy to use and keep at home, but there are other methods of working the core muscles (which is her main goal as near as I could tell) that are a lot kinder to the body. I know this because my physical therapist made me do a whole slew of them.

Overall, Never Say Diet was a hard-hitting, workable, sensible book. I think those of us who struggle with saying no to food can get a great deal out of it.

Book Review: When the Soul Mends

When the Soul Mends

Sisters of the Quilt Book 3

Cindy Woodsmall

Publisher’s Summary: After receiving a desperate and confusing call from her sister, Hannah Lapp reluctantly returns to the Old Order Amish community of her Pennsylvania childhood.

Having left Owl’s Perch more than two years earlier, she finally has settled into a satisfying role in the Englischer world. Hannah has found love and a new family with the wealthy Martin Palmer and the children she is helping him raise; and her life-long dream of being part of the medical community is being realized. But almost immediately after her arrival, the disapproval of those who ostracized her, including her headstrong father, reopens old wounds.

As Hannah is thrown together with former fiance Paul Waddell to work for her sister Sarah’s mental health, hidden truths surface about the events during Hannah’s absence, and she faces an agonizing decision. Will she choose the Englischer world and the man who restored her hope, or will she heed the call to return to the Plain life–and perhaps to her first love?

When the Soul Mends is the final book in this series (called “Sisters of the Quilt,” which is something of a misnomer, since quilts play only a very small role in the story), and the one I liked best.
The basis of the book is that Sarah, who has only a precarious hold on sanity, gets a hold of Hannah and begs her to come home. As Hannah reconnects with those who turned their backs on her, many secrets come to the surface. SPOILER ALERT: By far the most important secret revealed is that Paul had tried to contact Hannah, as she had tried to contact him, and their attempts had been purposely sabotaged by a jealous girl. This places Hannah in the dilemma of having to chose between Martin and Paul. END SPOILER.

I was pleased by the ending. Yes, parts of it seemed to come out of nowhere (at least it did on the first reading–on the second I was looking for the clues, and they were there), but it fit the characters far better than some of the previous scenarios. And while the epilogue seems a bit “Quick! Make sure everybody ends up happy!”, so what? I like happy endings. I far prefer them over “realistic” endings. If I want realism, I’ll go read a newspaper and get myself royally depressed.

SPOILER ALERT: I was especially glad that Hannah goes back to her Plain ways. One of the big hangups of When the Morning Comes (Book 2) was how quickly Hannah seemed to throw off her Amish upbringing and embraced the Englischer world. Turns out she hadn’t really left those ways behind, that she wanted to return to a simpler life, and that the Englisher world, and more importantly, Martin’s world, made her very uncomfortable. END SPOILER.

Over all, When the Soul Mends is a pretty good read, a nice break from the madness of my quilting business and the holidays. I probably won’t keep it (my bookshelf space is so limited I have to be brutal with what I keep), but I did reread parts of it (especially the last seven or eight chapters) for enjoyment, because I’m a sucker for a good romantic ending.