Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lizard Music Review

Lizard Music by D. Manus Pinkwater

(from the book jacket)
When Victor’s parents go away for two weeks, leaving his older sister in charge, he is glad when she takes off on a vacation of her own.  Home alone, Victor can do anything he wants.  He stays up late, eats his pizza with anchovies, visits the zoo, and enjoys his favorite TV news program without interruption.

It is while staying up late watching television that he discovers evidence of a secret community of intelligent lizards, and that there seems to have been an invasion from outer space that went almost unnoticed.  In the course of some detective work, he meets Chicken Man, an eccentric with a hen in his hat who knows about these things.  Together, they visit the lizards in Thunderbolt City.




Victor is left all alone at home.  And what he does with his freedom is watch Walter Cronkite.  There is something endearing about this boy who is a little different from the other children he knows.  And as things that he cannot understand start to happen around him and he is all alone to figure it out he learns about what he is capable of.  Chicken Man, who helps him with his quest, is a quirky fun character.  (As is his chicken.)  Actually the whole story is quirky and fun.  It has a surreal feel to it because Victor and Chicken Man seem to see and know things the rest of the world doesn’t.  The world goes on around them as truly spectacular things happen and they are the only ones who notice.  I found it a fun read but it is dated and I think some things children today might not get.  But it is a light read, which I found nice.  It’s not that there is no thinking involved but there is no fighting for your life, or war or other horrible stuff going on.  It is a fun fantasy story.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Guidebook to Learning Review

A Guidebook to Learning by Mortimer J. Adler

A map of sorts for people who want to plan out a lifetime of learning to help them to navigate the plethora of information.



I do not know what I thought this book would be, but it wasn’t what I got.  Even the author admits that if you get through most of the book and make it to the final chapters you might wonder what everything you have read so far has to do with the proposed goal of the book.  I was in that position myself.  Which is not to say that there was nothing I found interesting there.  Adler goes through a historical survey of how information has been organized and collected.  He also outlines the reasons why alphabetical order is not the best way to organize information and the reasons it is so hard to organize it any other way.  Some of which was interesting for its own sake.  But it isn’t for everyone.  I can see how some people would be bored to tears.  I have never read anything else by Adler but he talked about his other work a lot.  So much that it started to feel self-promoting at times.  He explains that he thinks everyone should have a general education and gives you some tips on how to go about giving yourself one along with an outline of information to give you some place to start and something to aim for.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Man Plus Review


(from the book jacket)
Roger Torraway watched in horror as the monster lurched, toppled over and died.  Project Man Plus had gone suddenly and drastically wrong.

The race to colonize Mars was too important, too costly, and America was already too committed, for plans to be scrapped.  They would have to make a new Martian.  And Roger Torraway was it, candidate for the endless surgery, operation after painful operation, that would enable him to survive on that faraway planet.

Man Plus is a thrilling race against time – to land on Mars on schedule, to insure that Roger’s system will withstand the stress that killed the previous candidate.  And, meanwhile, somewhere, somehow, there has been a breakdown in the computer network…




Man Plus is about Roger who, after the previous candidate dies, is entered into a program to change his biology enough that he can survive on Mars.  It is more about the way Roger reacts to the things that are happening to him and the way people react to him than it is about the trip to Mars.  Roger knows that it is an honor to be chosen for the mission but he is going in knowing the process killed the man before him and had made him into something other than human.  And as his appearance changes the people around him start to treat him less and less like a person.  And the loss of his humanity piece by piece puts mental and emotional stress on him on top of the physical stresses of the process.  It was interesting to see how he had to learn to use all of his senses again and to understand the new way his brain processes the new information coming in.  His frustration and anger starts to show when he can’t even do something simple, like close his eyes.  I liked the internal struggle Roger was faced with, and I liked watching the change in him as the process moved along, but there were other parts that were not so interesting.  I wish some of the other characters were developed more or left out completely because they sometimes seemed to be in the way of the story and were more distracting than anything else.  Especially his love interests.  The whole book is told by a narrator who is not identified until the very end.  But it felt less like a twist and more like the start of an unrelated storyline.  I liked the main plot and storyline and it kept me reading to see where it was going.  But I’m not in any hurry to track down the sequel.  In the end I am not sorry I read it, it was enjoyable, and if you come across it I would say you should give it a try but I wouldn’t say it was worth making a big effort to look for it.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Joining the Herd... Of Unicorn

 So.  This happened.  Yes I got a Unicorn Frappuccino.  I would not have spent money on it.  I don't think I would even have used my star rewards that I earned for spending money on one.  But when I got the email that Starbucks had added a free item to my card for my birthday on the day that the Unicorn Frappaccino came out,it seemed like a sign.  And since they were going to give me one for free just for being born I decided to give it a try.  I went to a Starbucks that I don't usually go to where the baristas wouldn't know me and I would never have to see them again.  And I still felt silly asking for it.  And then I felt silly carrying it down the street.  And then I took a sip and didn't really know what to think.  It tasted like... bubblegum?  Maybe?  Did it change color?  Sort of.  If you swirled it around hard enough you could get the blue, whatever it is, to mix with the pink frappuccino to get a purplish color.  But I had to work at it.  And since the blue stuff is sour it did change the flavor as well.  A little.  Sometimes.  Mostly it was just all the same sweet indistinct flavor.  It wasn't bad.  But I'm not sure I liked it either.  After drinking one I have to say I don't get it.  I'm not sure what they were going for.  Obviously, the point was sales.  You create a buzz.  Everyone runs to buy it.  You have it just long enough for everyone to get one and then you get rid of it.  Because, let's face it, after you've had one you aren't going back for another.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My First Taste of Ethiopia

honey wine
kiwi juice
 I tried Ethiopian food for the first time last night.  I didn't really know anything about Ethiopian food except that utensils were not often used and you picked up your food with the injera bread.  I figured that would be the biggest surprise and I really didn't need to know anything else.  I went to Asmara.  I must admit that I picked Asmara because Yelp said if I went there and used the credit card I had linked to my Yelp account I would get 7% of my money back.


mints and wet naps with the check
They let you pick between a traditional table and a standard table.  I would have chosen the traditional basket type table but I had drug my friend along and had not told him about the no utensils thing so I figured I should let him decide where we sat.  And being comfortable is important because you are going to be sitting for a while.  We were seated quickly but then everything was a long wait after that.  Even just for my glass of honey wine.  I only ever saw two people working there so it doesn't look like they have a large staff so that might be the issue.  We got there around 5:30 and it was pretty empty but about a half hour later there was a line of people waiting for a seat.

I wish I hadn't looked under the injera
best air hand dryer I have ever used
We got the spicy chicken wing appetizer.  The sauce on them was very good but I would have liked them cooked a little more because the skin was still really flabby and it was not a good texture.  They gave us a knife and fork to eat the chicken wings, but took them away before the entree. For the entree I ordered the Ahimilti Bebaynetu, which is the vegetable combo.  I didn't even try to pronounce anything so I just said vegetable combo.  And my friend got the spicy salmon fillet.  It comes out on this big plate dished out on top of big pieces of injera with more injera on the side to eat it with.  I wasn't even sure what one of the things I was eating was but it was all delicious.  My friend let me try his salmon too.  I am not a huge fan of salmon but the sauce on it was awesome. Everything came in a very flavorful sauce.  The injera under the food and the injera served to eat with were different colors but they tasted the same to me.  It is a pancake or crepe like bread and has a slightly sour taste.  And I am not sure you are meant to eat the injera under the food, but I did.  Because all the yummy sauces had soaked into it.  But I almost wish I hadn't because when you lifted it up you could see pools of grease underneath.  The food didn't taste unpleasantly greasy but my heart did not like to see how much grease I had just eaten.

mixed berry cake
We had to get more injera to finish everything.  But getting to order anything after the initial order isn't easy.  Our server was polite and friendly but always in a hurry since she was the only server I ever saw.  She did come to check on us on occasion but as soon as one of us said something she was off like a shot.  So I intended to get another glass of wine but I was not quick enough after my friend asked for a ginger ale and she was gone.  I didn't really need the wine so it wasn't that big an issue but it was a little annoying that you could only ask for one thing at a time.

vegetable combo and spicy salmon
The dessert menu is mostly sorbetta and gelato.  But I wanted the mixed berry cake.  Mostly because it had Chantilly cream in it.  My friend wanted the pear tart but he was told when he tried to order it that they didn't have it.  Which would have been nice to know before we had made our choices. But he adjusted and we both got the mixed berry cake.  I am almost certain it had been heated in the microwave.  The cream was warm and leaking out of the sides and the berries on top were still frozen in the middle.  It was okay but not as awesome as I had hoped.

spicy chicken wings
The bathrooms are clean and smelled nice and they have the best air hand dryer I have ever seen.  The air comes out of there at hurricane force and your hands are dry in like two seconds.

I liked the food and would like to try it again but I might choose another restaurant.  If you go to Asmara get ready for a long leisurely dinner because you will be there a while.








Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads. See the other posts here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.




Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.





My book this week is Raise the Titanic! by Clive Cussler.  I have read this before but it was a long time ago so it feels like I'm reading it for the first time.  Dirk Pitt is trying to raise the Titanic because there is something in the vault the government needs.  But of course the Russians want it too.

Book Beginnings:

The man on Deck A, Stateroom 33, tossed and turned in his narrow berth, the mind behind his sweating face lost in the depths of a nightmare.  

The Friday 56:

"Seagram," Sandecker grunted irritably, "you're a monumental pain in the ass.  Did it ever occur to you to call my personnel director during normal working hours?"

I remember liking this book more the first time I read it.  I used to read all of Clive Cussler's books.  It has been a while though.  Now I'm thinking Dirk Pitt is a bit of a jerk and the banter between him and his best friend sounds like one of those conversations where everyone is trying to pretend everything is okay when it isn't.  Just kind of forced and unnatural.  Oh, well, I guess some books are best left in the past.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ex-Heroes Review

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

(from the back of the book)
Stealth.  Gorgon.  Regenerator.  Cerberus.  Zzzap.  The Mighty Dragon.  They were heroes.  Vigilantes.  Crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.

Then the plague of living death spread around the globe.  Despite the best efforts of the superheroes, the police, and the military, the hungry corpses rose up and overwhelmed the country.  The population was decimated, heroes fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland like so many others.

Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions must overcome their differences and recover from their own scars to protect the thousands of survivors sheltered in their film studio-turned-fortress, the Mount.  The heroes lead teams out to scavenge supplies, keep the peace within the walls of their home, and try to be the symbols the survivors so desperately need.
For while the ex-humans walk the streets night and day, they are not the only threat left in the world, and the people of the Mount are not the only survivors left in Los Angeles.  Across the city, another group has grown and gained power.

And they are not heroes.




I like superheroes and I like zombies and there are plenty of both in this story.  There is a lot of rather gory action where people and zombies alike get torn apart.  But there is a lot more going on than the fight against the zombies.  There is the conflict with another group of humans and the characters have lots of personal issues.  There is the struggle for survival when food and supplies run short.  The need for heroes and symbols of hope in a time of despair is addressed along with the resentment of the people without super powers for those with them.  So although most of the plot is nothing new to people familiar with the genre there is enough here to make it worth a look even after all the other zombie books.  The heroes are flawed and not idealized which makes them more real.  And the story is told in alternating chapters of ‘then’ and ‘now’ which gives the characters a past that I hoped would help develop the characters.  Unfortunately all the flaws, issues, and background failed to make any of the characters truly interesting.  So though there are good points here, with so much of it being about characters I couldn’t care about it was hard to pay attention some times. It is an interesting twist on both the zombie and the superhero genre but the concept is better than the story.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Doughboys by the Sea


So my family went on a road trip to Rhode Island to go to the zoo.  And the zoo was a lot of fun.  Although it was muddy and wet it was a very nice day.  And while we were in the area we stopped by Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House

When we got there, there was a line down the street.  But it was moving
pretty quickly.  It is right on the beach and another time we might have eaten outside but, although it was a nice day, it was February and there was snow on the ground so we wanted to eat inside.  With nine people plus a baby we could not all sit together but we managed to all find seats.

I could not decide if I wanted fish and chips or clam strips so one of my sisters agreed to split with me so I could have some of both.  And my mother got onion rings and the dinners came with chowder and of course we had to get doughboys.  Because, I mean, how could we not.  So I got to try a bunch of stuff.

When you order a dinner you get a choice of white, red or clear chowder.  I got white and it was thick and creamy and full of potatoes and clams.  And even though it was far too much food I was glad that it came with the meal.

The fries and onion rings were good and fried up nice and crisp.  The batter on the fish was a little thicker than I usually like but it tasted good and mine was fried up crispy as well.  But my sister said she had a piece where the batter was raw in the middle.  Don’t tell my sister, but I’m just glad it was her and not me because I really enjoyed mine.  The clam strips were good too and not super chewy like they can sometimes get.  My brother-in-law got scallops and he said they were sweet and he seemed to like them.  The only bad thing I have to say about the meal (except for the batter being slightly thicker than I like) was that you get a small little container of tartar sauce.  I would have liked more.  Because you have plenty of food to put it on.  But since I was way over my calorie budget already it was probably better that way.





And then there were the doughboys.  Beautiful little pieces of fried dough with powdered sugar (or cinnamon and granulated sugar if you would rather) sold by the half or whole dozen.  Although what you are going to do with twelve of them I have no idea.  After I had eaten my dinner I had trouble making room to eat just one.  It was delicious and completely covered in sugar.  Which did nothing good for my calorie budget but by then it was ridiculous to keep counting.  And when I finished the first one I was stuffed and had no room to fit anything else but they were so good I wanted to eat another one.  (I didn’t because it would not have ended well if I had tried.)  So unless you don't plan to eat any seafood first, or unless there are twelve of you, I wouldn't get more than six.



Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads. See the other posts here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

What is that? I need to buy it!


I have been spending a lot of time in the produce section of the grocery store since I have started counting calories.  I'm always looking for things to fill my belly that have a low calorie cost.  And that I don't mind eating.  Which isn't always easy.  All this time looking at fruit has made me aware of a strange impulse I have to buy things when I don't know what they are.  If there is a fruit that I have never seen before I tend to buy it.  You would have thought I would have learned not to do this since the first time I did I ended up with a Buddha's Hand.  I had no idea what it was or how to eat it but it was new and looked cool.  Turns out, you don't really eat a Buddha's Hand because there is nothing there but skin and pith.  All you can do with it is use it for decoration or zest it.  So it sat around until it started to rot and ended up in the compost.  But I keep going.  Recently I was picking up some mangoes and saw something new.  "Oh, what's that?  I need to buy it."  So in the cart it went.  This time it was kiwi berries.  Which turned out to taste like a mix between a kiwi and a grape.  This compulsion came as a surprise to me since it is the only place in my life that I am adventurous.  I usually don't like new and am not impulsive.  Unfortunately, this is a lose-lose type of thing.  On the one hand it could turn out to be something I don't like.  On the other hand I could like it but since I have never seen any of these odd fruits twice I can never get them again.  But at least I'm expanding my horizons so I can recognize more things when I'm watching Chopped.

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.
Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.







My book this week is The Spy in the Ointment by Donald E. Westlake. My brother introduced me to Donald E. Westlake, well, I won't say how many years ago. And I have loved his comic crime novels ever since. This one is about a pacifist who gets mixed up with terrorists the FBI. It's a little dated now but the sarcastic hero and bumbling terrorists still make a funny story.

Book Beginnings:

I was trying to fix the damn mimeograph machine when the doorbell rang.

Friday 56:

I was slumming in a boobery, nothing more. This bag of mixed nuts was unlikely to stick together long enough to finish introducing themselves, much less go out in unison to kill innocent bystanders like me.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Roots Review

Roots by Alex Haley

Roots follows a family through several generations from Kunta Kinte, who was taken from his home in Gambia and sold into slavery, to his descendants who lived to see a time when they were no longer slaves.




This is a very powerful story.  No matter how much is true.  The controversy did take away from the book somewhat for me, especially at the end when the author is speaking to me as the reader and talking about his personal journey to write this book.  Which is unfortunate.  Because this is a good story and the feelings and sentiments here are true.  And I kind of got mad at Haley for putting the unfavorable impression into my head that I couldn’t quite get rid of as I read.  But I was easily able to become very involved with the characters.  I got a feeling for how life was for Kunta in his village.  I felt I knew him and his family.  I cared about them.  Which made the story of what happened to him a very emotional one for me.  It was interesting to see how Kunta was so different from the slaves who had been born slaves, how attitudes toward how the system worked could be so different among people who were all in the same position.  And I liked that it crossed several generations so you could see how time changed those attitudes in Kunta and the generations to come.  I do think Kunta Kinte was the best part and the book lost a little something when he left the story.  I understood why the story moved on but I wished we could go back and see what had happen to him.  The dialogue is written in dialect and that took me a while to get used to and there were some parts that I had to go back and read again out loud to figure out what was being said but I don’t think there was any other way this story could be told.  Despite the controversy surrounding Alex Haley and the writing of this book it is still very much a story worth telling and reading.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Crochet a Bat

I found this pattern browsing around on Ravelry but you can go straight to the pattern on Just Add Awesome here.

This little guy is pretty easy to make.  He is mostly just single crochet stitched in rounds.  Some increasing and decreasing are needed too.  To start the rounds it says to put six single crochet in the second chain from your hook but since I learned how to do a magic ring I like those better so I used those instead.

The wings are not stitched in rounds like the rest of him, but they are mostly single crochet as well.  The only difference being that some of them are foundation single crochet.  I didn’t know how to do those but it was easy enough to Google that and I was able to figure it out.  When you are stitching him together it says to attach the end of the wing you fastened off and it should be like a little nub.  But when I made the wings I ended on the other side so my trailing yarn I had left to sew them on was not on the nub side of the wing.  It was easy enough to sew them on anyway and you can tell which end is supposed to be sewed to his back but I don’t know if I did something wrong or what.  But I checked the instructions and don’t know how I would have been able to do it any differently.

To make him you need the yarn to make him, plus a little bit of a different color to stitch his nose, safety eyes (you could stitch eyes on if you want to but I can never get them to come out right), something to stuff him with, a darning needle and of course the crochet hook.

I used Sugar’n Cream warm brown yarn (worsted, 4-ply) and a number 4 hook and he came out to be about 3 ½ inches to the top of his head (not including the ears, the ears add about an inch) and 6 ½ inches from wing tip to wing tip.


He is super cute and comes together quickly.  I might make mine some friends.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Nostalgia Baked Up in a Coffee Can

So the other day I was at work and somehow the subject of brown bread came up.  I can not for the life of me remember how we got there but there we were.  The coworker I was talking to was unfamiliar with it and had to Google it to see what I was talking about.  But I grew up eating brown bread.  I remember always having a can or two around.  Usually we would have two, one with raisins and one without.  I always went for the one without raisins.

I hadn't thought about brown bread in years.  But once it was mentioned and I started to think about it again I needed to have some.  So I went to the store and there it was, right next to the baked beans.  I bought a can without raisins and went home to see if it was anything like I remembered.  I turned it out of the can and it came out in the shape of the can just like cranberry sauce.  And it was molasses-y and dense just liked I remembered.


But now I was an adult, who baked.  So I thought I would try my hand at making my own.  So I searched for a recipe and found one at Bon Appetit. And I even had most of the ingredients in the house to make it.  Even though you need three different flours and corn meal.  My brother helped me out there.  He bakes a lot of bread and so he has all sorts of flour on hand all the time and he let me use some of his rye flour so I wouldn't have to go buy a bag of flour I was probably only going to use once.

The next issue was that it is supposed to be baked in a coffee can.  If you want traditional.  But I don't
get coffee in a can.  And even if I went out and bought some in a can just for this they all have those little ridges around the edges now for the freshness seal to stick to instead of opening with a can opener.  So I thought I was going to be making brown bread muffins.  But again my brother came to my rescue.  He had apparently thought of making some himself at one time and saved coffee cans for that purpose but he had never used them so he gave them to me.

So I was all set.  I pulled out all the ingredients and buttered my coffee cans and was ready to go.  And I hit a small snag.  The instructions said to stir the milk with the next three ingredients.  Only there was no milk on the ingredients list.  Now I know I should read the instructions thoroughly before starting but I usually don't.  I just glance through it to see if I need any special equipment or to see if there is something out of the ordinary in there.  So I knew I was going to need twine to tie tin foil to the cans and a pan deep enough to bake them in a water bath and all of that.  But I had missed the milk issue.  (Should I have realized that something was missing?  Probably, since there were really no wet ingredients mentioned.  But it didn't occur to me at the time.)  So I went to Google to see if I could find out how much milk I needed.  And I found the same exact recipe at Epicurious, only this one had milk on the ingredients list.  Two cups of it.  Which was more milk than I had on hand.  So after a quick trip to the store I was ready to start.

batter is really thick
After that it was smooth sailing.  After heating the milk and next three ingredients in a sauce pan it was mostly just mixing.  The hardest parts were tying the tin foil over the tops of the cans and getting enough 'very hot' water in the pan to come three inches up the side of the coffee cans.

And then it was just a matter of waiting an hour and a half.  Although, after the fact, I was thinking that might have been a bit too long.  The bread wasn't burnt but everything above the water line was slightly dry.  So I would check it earlier next time.
tied up so it won't get away

But it was a little taste from my childhood when it was done.  Not quite the same as the store bought stuff of course but definitely brown bread.  With the molasses flavor, nice and dense, and the grainy texture you get from cornmeal.  The only difference was now I liked the one with the raisins in it better than the one without.  And I also tried it with cream cheese instead of butter and that was really good too.

The recipe makes two loaves and the bread doesn't last long so I will have to find someone to give a loaf to next time because it is a shame to let it go to waste.



Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads. See the other posts here.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.
Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.





Okay.  So it's a little late but it is still Friday so I'm going to post anyway.  Time has been getting away from me lately.  Suddenly a week has gone by and I don't know where it has gone.  So anyway...
This week my book is Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny.  A man wakes up in a hospital with no memory of who he is but he slowly realizes he is a prince of Amber and he needs to fight his brothers for the throne.

Book Beginnings:

It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me.

Friday 56: 

"Those damn hounds of his will tear this car to pieces, and his birds will feed on our eyes!" he said

Well, that's cheery.  So Corwin, as he finds out his name is, can not remember anything and he finds himself having to bluff his way along in what turns out to be a life and death situation.  It is a good way to get the reader up to speed because Corwin has to get up to speed himself.  It's an interesting fantasy novel with a good villain and some interesting characters that I hope you get to know better in the next books.  It gives you enough of a story so you don't feel gypped at the end but you want to read the next one to find out what happens.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Zombie Survival Guide Review


(from the back of the book)
Don’t be carefree and foolish with your most precious asset – life.  This book is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now without you even knowing it.  The Zombie Survival Guide offers complete protection through trusted, proven tips for safeguarding yourself and your loved ones against the living dead.  It is a book that can save your life.



This is for any zombie book lover.  I love the pseudo-serious tone of the book.  It is told with humor but the threat of a zombie attack is presented as a very real problem, something everyone should be prepared for.  There is a lot of information here and you can tell that a lot of thought and possibly even research went into this.  A lot of different weapons and vehicles are described and their strengths and weaknesses explored.  You find out why guns are not always the best defense and what the good and bad points of holding up in a swamp are. It is humor and it makes you laugh.  But part of what makes it funny is that it does not read as a joke.  It is told with sincerity.  You get the impression that if there really was a zombie attack this book would help you survive.  The recorded attacks section in the back makes the point that you are not preparing for some possible issue in the future but that zombies are a present problem and have been a problem for a long time, maybe as far back as 60,000 B.C.  I like the way the evidence for ancient zombies is presented in a way that you can believe that it was happened upon in an archeological dig or something.  It’s just sketchy enough to sound real.  The accounts do get a little monotonous toward the end and some of the information feels like it is told over again as, for example, you get terrain types for ‘On the Run’, ‘On the Attack’ and ‘Living in an Undead World’ and some of the points are the same in each.  But for the most part the book is an interesting, amusing, informative, and entertaining read that keeps you reading.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang Review


The human race is dying out and a small group tries to save it by experiments in cloning.


The story starts when it is already too late to save the world as we know it.  A small group who realized the danger before the rest of the world was willing to accept the truth had started to prepare and plan for the future.  They decide the only way to save the human race is to create clones.  As the clones start to take over from the originals the story starts to explore the importance of individuality, imagination, original thought, and having differences.  It was a quick start and you were soon in the middle of the main issues as the original humans were starting to find themselves obsolete.  And it makes you think about what humanity is as the clones take over and it becomes apparent that they think differently, and do things differently.  The question comes up of whether they have saved the human race or created something completely new.  But even though I found the concept interesting it took me a while to get into this story.  Due to the very nature of the characters there is a lack of emotion at times that I found hard to connect to.  It took longer to get to know these characters and care for them.  In time I did, but it took a while.  I would say that if you are at all interested in post-apocalyptic stories (or clones) you should definitely give this one a try.



(As a side note, in the copy I borrowed from my library some of the pages were in the wrong order.  So if you are reading and the next page doesn’t seem to make sense look at the page numbers.  All the pages were there and never further than one page away from where it should have been so you can read everything in the right order if you realize what in going on at the time.)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday 56 (Feb. 10)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.


My book this week is The Zork Chronicles by George Alec Effinger.  Based on the games (which I never played), it is about a hero on the quest to kill an evil wizard.  

Friday 56:

I'm getting no nearer the completion of my great task, I haven't moved the first step in the direction of the lost scroll of my stepfather, and my poor, trusting mother is still unprotected on her rock in the middle of the Sunless Grotto, unaware of the demonic intrigue that Morgrom has set in motion to violate her virtue!

I haven't started this one yet.  It's going to be my next book.  But I needed a book since I'm still readinf Roots and I used that last week.  From this sentence it sounds like it's going to be completely stupid in a good way.  We shall see.  If I ever finish Roots.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Marshall and the Madwoman Review


(from the back of the book)
Why would anyone want to murder Clementina, the crazed, destitute old woman who swore a lot and tidies by night the narrow streets of Florence’s San Frediano district?
Starting with no clues, for nothing is known about Clementina, the Marshal sets out in the city’s wilting August heat to reconstruct her past.  His quest takes him into the homes and lives of the people of San Frediano, to a run-down State mental hospital, a fashion export agency, and back twenty-five years to the cataclysmic events that wrecked the old woman’s life.




This is the first book in this series that I have read and I felt I was starting a little behind.  It seemed it was assumed the reader would already know who the Marshal was and what his position was.  Only I didn’t and I had a little trouble figuring out how he fit into the Florence law enforcement structure.  The beginning felt a little slow but that helped set the stage for the slow pace of all of Florence in August.  There are a lot of interesting characters here and they are all written so they feel real and believable.  And the Marshall becomes involved with all of them, as every witness and suspect seems to have a problem that the Marshall tries to fix even though he has a murder to solve.  And as he tries to figure out who this old madwoman was he learns about the floods that devastated lives in years past, delves into the plight of the mentally ill and tries to work within the tight knit community that has its own rules.  So the book has a lot of parts.  But they are all woven in seamlessly so nothing feel extraneous or out of place and the book is about the community and the people and not just this one case.  I liked the writing and the story but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the others in the series so I would know the history of the characters that I feel like I was missing.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Feb. 3)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.
Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.





My book this week is Roots by Alex Haley.  I think everyone probably knows what it's about.

Book Beginnings:

Early in the spring of 1750, in the village of Juffure, four days upriver from the coast of The Gambia, West Africa, a manchild was born to Omoro and Binta Kinte.

Friday 56

"Where are you going?" they chattered, scampering on either side of Kunta.  "Is he your fa?"  "Are you Mandinka?"  "What's your village?"  Weary as he was, Kunta felt very mature and important, ignoring them just as his father was doing.

I have not gotten very far yet.  In fact, I'm only on page 18.  So it is kind of hard to judge yet.  I have a long way to go.  And of course my impressions are influenced by the fact that I know where things are headed.  So I think my feelings for the characters might be different than if I didn't know the trouble that was coming.  But at only 18 pages I already feel like I know Kunta's family and community.  I'm already emotionally involved.  So I'm sure the rest of the 500 odd pages will have the same impact.




Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Omen Review

The Omen by David Seltzer

(from the back of the book)
A young nursemaid dies for the sake of little Damien…

A priest is speared to death for revealing the horrifying truth about the birth of Damien…

In a peaceful zoo, animals rend themselves to bits in a death frenzy caused by the sight of Damien…

For a world-renowned diplomat and his wife, “accident” follows “accident,” from Rome to London to Jerusalem, as they stalked by a terror they cannot understand, a terror that centers on their son Damien… and his ominous hidden birthmark.

Is ultimate evil to be released upon an unsuspecting and unprepared world because of Damien?




Right from the beginning the book has an ominous feel.  Seltzer manages to make characters creepy even before they do anything creepy.  So the whole book has a horrible dark feeling even between the big, blatantly scary events.  It was interesting watching Damien’s parents try to come to grips with things that are happening but cannot possibly be real.  The tension builds as things start to go wildly out of control and comes to a head in an exciting climax where you don’t know what will happen until the very end.  It is a fast moving, fast paced story that pulls you along.  And I think it has the right balance of big shocking moments and the dark brooding menace that gives you a good story and doesn’t rely all on shock value.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday 56 & Book Beginnings (1/27)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.
Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.





My book this week is Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm.  When everything in the world goes bad one small group tries to save humanity with clones.

Book Beginnings:

What David always hated most about the Sumner family dinners was the way everyone talked about him as if he were not there.

Friday 56:

They accepted being mated as casually as the cattle did.

This is another book that I'm reading for a challenge.  This one is right up my alley but I don't know that I would have come across it if not for the challenge.  I am only about a quarter of the way through this one.  It is not about how the world came to be in the mess that it is in.  That has already happened before the book starts.  This is all about what the world will look like if it is populated by clones, how will they be different from the people who came before.  It's interesting and I want to keep reading to find out what happens but I'm having trouble feeling anything for any of these characters and that makes it harder to become immersed in that world and therefore less fun to read. For me anyway.  I can see someone saying that the lack of emotion is the point and what makes the book interesting.  To each their own.  The book has endured for forty years so it must be doing something right.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Slapstick Review

Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut

(from the back of the book)
Slapstick presents an apocalyptic vision as seen through the eyes of the current King of Manhattan (and last President of the United States), a wickedly irreverent look at the all-too-possible results of today’s follies.  But even the end of life-as-we-know-it is transformed by Kurt Vonnegut’s pen into hilarious farce – a final slapstick that may be the Almighty’s joke on us all.



Right from the start you are introduced to a world that does not make any sense.  But as the narrator tells his story you start to pick up pieces and it’s fun to try and put them all together.  It is an odd story, told by a man that tends to ramble on a bit so things sometimes seem random.  And it goes back and forth between the present and the past.  So the whole thing ended up having a loosely plotted feel to it.  Like an old man telling a story just as it comes to him.  Which is what the story is supposed to be.  But I wish things hung together a little tighter.  I enjoyed reading it.  It was interesting and a quick read.  But then it was over right when I thought it was actually heading somewhere in particular.  It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours but I’m glad this wasn’t the first Vonnegut book that I read or I probably wouldn’t have read any others.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Birthday Swiss Roll

It was one of my co-worker's birthday and for some reason when I was trying to decide what to make to bring him I decided on a Swiss Roll.  Usually I wouldn't bring something to share with people that I haven't tested before hand but I took the risk this time.  Even though the only other time I tried to make a roll it did not go well.  Spoiler Alert! This time I had much better luck.

I found the recipe on The Kitchenthusiast.  You can find it here.  It is a KitchenAid blog so there is some product placement in the recipe but I'm sure you don't actually have to use a KitchenAid mixer to make this.

You need a jelly roll pan, some parchment paper and a cooling rack.

None of the various pieces are hard to make. It did not seem like I had enough cake batter to spread over the entire pan but I spread it thin and managed it.  The edges were not as thick as the middle and I had to cook it longer than the recipe said so the edges got a little crunchy but I was still able to roll it up without much problem.  But then you have to wait.





You can make the filling while it cools but I was done with the filling before the cake was cool enough to frost.  You add some heavy cream right at the end and beat it a lot.  I did have to add a little extra powered sugar because it was too soupy.  But once I did it turned into a light and fluffy delicious filling.  I wanted to eat it by the spoonful. When I rolled it back up after putting in the filling the edges were not exactly lined up and since the edges were thinner it didn't look that neat on the ends.  Next time I think I will trim the edges just to make it look a little nicer.  But I was just happy that I got it rolled up without it cracking up on me.



When I made the chocolate glaze it seemed way to runny so I put it in the fridge for a while before I tried to put it on the cake.  It was a messy process.  There was chocolate dripping everywhere.  I only ended up putting about half of the glaze on the cake because by that point it was all dripping off and it seemed to have a nice coating anyway.  Then back in the fridge to set everything up.

The finished product was seriously good.  The recipe says to use dark chocolate for the glaze, so I did, even though I'm not really a fan of dark chocolate.  And I'm glad I did.  The filling is really sweet and if I had used a sweeter chocolate I think it would have been too much.


I was a little disappointed because it did not come out round.  As you can see it was oval.  The cake could not support its own weight and ended up slouching.  I don't know why.  I wonder if I did something wrong.  But I didn't worry about it for long.  Because it didn't affect the taste.  Which was awesome.  Just the right balance of everything.  Nice moist fluffy cake and creamy filling.  All the guys at worked loved it.  And I already have a request to make this for another birthday.  This one is a keeper.  It is a little time consuming but it is worth it.

Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads.  See the other posts here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Jan. 20)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.
Book Beginning is hosted by Rose City Reader. All you have to do is share the opening line of the book you're reading and what you think about it. Check out the other posts here.





My book this week is The Omen by David Seltzer.  When a man is told that his child has died moments after his birth he agrees to take a motherless infant in his place.  Unfortunately this foundling child turns out to be the Antichrist.  

Book Beginnings:

It happened in a millisecond.  A movement in the galaxies that should have taken eons occurred in the blinking of an eye.

Friday 56:

He was afraid.  For Katherine, for Damien, and for himself; yet he didn't know why.  There was uncertainty in the air, a feeling that life was suddenly fragile.

This is an unusual pick for me.  I don't think I would have ever picked it up if I hadn't joined a reading challenge to read books published the year I was born.  But I like it more than I thought I would.  Seltzer does a good job of keeping the tension high.  It reads quickly and it is easy to get caught up in the turmoil of the characters.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grillfish Review


When I told my friends I was going to Washington D.C. one of them suggested GrillFish.  And it turned out not to be far from my hotel so it worked out really well.  It was a cute place but I don’t know that I would have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking for it.  Inside is open and bright.  I was glad to see it was well lit after all the dim and dark restaurants I’ve been in.  It was warm and inviting.
 





With the complimentary bread you get a thyme, rosemary and sage butter.  I usually want my butter to be just butter but I found I liked the fresh herb flavor here.  And there wasn’t so much rosemary that it overcame everything else.  I got a nice cocktail that was just sweet enough.  I can’t remember the name but I liked it enough to get another one later.  And it came with an ice cube with a cherry frozen inside.  







 Bubba, my waiter, suggested I get the fish chowder to start.  So I gave it a shot and I’m glad I did.  It was nice and creamy and had large chunks of fish and lots of them.  It was delicious and not too heavy so it was just enough to start off the meal and still have room to finish it.  For my entrée I got the arctic char which came with rice and I chose the coconut red curry sauce (which was another Bubba suggestion that I’m glad I took because that sauce was great.)  The fish was moist and flaky and the delicious curry sauce was a wonderful compliment to it.



For dessert I got the mango key lime pie.  I like both of those flavors but had never had them together before but would love to try them again.  It was tart and creamy and I just wanted to keep eating it even though I was full.

The service was good as well.  Bubba was friendly and gave me some very good suggestions without being pushy about anything.  He was there when I needed him but he did not hang around when I didn’t.  So my water glass was always full and I was never sitting too long with an empty plate but I didn’t feel like he was hovering.  Which I hate.

I was pleased with the whole experience.  I would go back if I am ever in D.C. again and suggest you go if you are in the area and in the mood for fish.