Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday 56 & Book Beginnings (1/27)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

*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

*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 entrĂ©e 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.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Road of the Dead Review

The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks

(from the back of the book)
When Ruben’s sister Rachel is murdered, he can sense it.  Even though he’s miles away.  Even though he can’t explain it.  He feels her fear.  He feels pain.  And then – her death.

Ruben’s older brother Cole is different from him: darker, harsher, more direct.  As soon as he finds out about Rachel’s death, he has a plan.  Three days later, the two brothers set out to reclaim their sister’s body and uncover the cold truth behind her killing.  It’s a long road that requires a hard and violent journey…with a brutal mystery at its end.

Ruben and Cole go on a quest to find out what happened to their sister.  And it turns into a dark and violent journey.  The brothers set out to bring peace to the family by putting their sister to rest but the story is about much more than that.  There is an interesting relationship between the brothers that is intensified by the tension they are under and I like the way Ruben reacts to his brother, always backing him up even when he’s not sure he likes what he is doing.  There is love between them that has to remain unsaid but is evident in the way they are together.  The family’s whole past gets mixed into the events as they begin to unfold and Ruben has to face some unpleasant truths and figure out what to do about them.  There are parts of the mystery of the murder of their sister that become evident early on but the details and how everything will turn out remain unknown until the end.  There is a lot of violence that is graphic at times and is intense enough that it almost makes you uneasy reading it. Cole is written well so that you want to be on his side but at the same time you are scared of him and what he might do.   There is a tension and suspense to a lot of the story that keeps the reader engaged and eager to keep reading.  And I like that the subjects of justice, motives, revenge and closure are presented as muddled and confusing instead of black and white.  But Ruben’s ability to feel what other people are feeling, interesting at first, starts to go a little too far.  It ends up being a way that Ruben can keep the first person narrative going even when he isn’t where the action is.  And it changes the nature of the nature of his ability at random depending on what the author needs it to do at the moment.  And that makes everything harder to believe.  And maybe after everything it wraps up a little suddenly with a few little holes about what will happen next but the story is strong enough that it doesn’t really matter.  And I like the way the book handles the fields of justice, revenge, motives and closure.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings (Jan. 13)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

*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 QB VII by Leon Uris.  Abraham Cady finds himself on trial for libel when his book about the Holocaust accuses Dr. Kelno for horrible acts during the war.

Book Beginnings:

The corporal cadet stepped out of the guard hut and squinted out over the field.  A shadowy figure ran through the knee-high grass toward him.

The Friday 56:

The little olive-skinned man looked up to the doctor with begging eyes.  How to explain that the chief's son would be a hopeless idiot?

I was uncertain if a 426 page book about a trial could hold my attention.  But this one did.  It starts off giving a glimpse into the life of first the plaintiff and then the defendant.  So the whole book does not take place in the courtroom.  But even after we get there it is a tense suspenseful story.  I'm almost done with it now but I'm still not sure how everything will work out.  But I am really interested to find out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge

I'm joining the Wild Goose Chase reading challenge.  It's hosted by The Bookshelf Gargoyle.  The goal is to read one book from each of seven catagories.  To find out all the rules and to sign up yourself go to the Wild Goose Chase post.

The catagories are:

1. A book with a word of phrase relating to wildness in the title:
The Marshal and the Madwoman by Magdalen Nabb (review)

2. A book with a species of bird (or the word “bird”) in the title:
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm (review)

3. A book with an exotic or far-flung location in the title

4. A book with an object you might hunt for in the title

5. A book with a synonym for chase in the title

6. A book with a means of transport in the title

7. A book with an object you might take on a search or hunt in the title

Birth Year Reading Challenge

I'm joining the Birth Year Reading Challenge.  It is hosted by Hotchpot Cafe.  The point is to find books published in the year you were born and read them.  Well, probably not all of them.  But there are prizes.  And the one who reads the most books will win the grand prize.  So you should get reading right away.  To find out the particulars and to sign up yourself visit the Birth Year Reading Challenge.  You can change your list at any time.  Which is good.  Since I already know that I'm not going to stick to this list.  And maybe even manage to read a few more than this. 

As of right now this is my list:

Original Plan:

Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut - DONE
The Deep by Peter Benchley
Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater
Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
Promised Land by Robert Parker
Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton
They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima
The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin
The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Emma Bombeck
Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler
Roots by Alex Haley - DONE
Deus Irae by Philip Dick - DONE

What I actually read:

1. Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut (review)
2. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
3. Omen by David Seltzer (review)
4. In the Frame by Dick Francis
5. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm (review)
6. Roots by Alex Haley
7. Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick

Monday, January 9, 2017

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge

I'm joining the 2017 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge.  It is hosted by Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book.  If you would like to join too you can check out the post here.  The challenge is to read a book that has a title that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  (Excluding a, an, and the.)  No reviews needed.  No blog needed.  You can either make a list in advance or just add them as you go along.  For more info or to join up yourself check out the 2017 Alphabet Reading Challenge!  

A. The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen
D. Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick
E. Etta by Gerald Kolpan
G. The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny
I. In The Frame by Dick Francis
M. The Marshal and the Madwoman by Magdalen Nabb (review)
N. Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
O. Omen by David Seltzer (review)
Q. QB VII by Leon Uris
R. Roots by Alex Haley (review)
S. Straight Man by Richard Russo
U. The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
V. Vettius and His Friends by David Drake
W. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm (review)
X. X-Wing: Isard's Revenge by Michael A. Stackpole
Y. Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis
Z. The Zork Chronicles by George Alec Effinger

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Books Read in 2017

1. The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen - 406
2. Straight Man by Richard Russo - 391
3. QB VII by Leon Uris - 426
4. Etta by Gerald Kolpan - 316
5. Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut - 274
6. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie - 296
7. Omen by David Seltzer - 202
8. The Marshal and the Madwoman by Magdalen Nabb - 224
9. In the Frame by Dick Francis - 230
10. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm - 254
11. The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss - 179
12. The Zork Chronicles by George Alec Effinger - 290
13. Roots by Alex Haley - 587
14. Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny - 175
15. Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis - 252
16. X-Wing: Isard's Revenge bu Michael A. Stackpole - 336
17. Vettius and His Friends by David Drake - 304
18. The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny - 223
19. Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick - 182
20. The Children's Classic Poetry Collection by Nicola Baxter - 90
21. The Spy in the Ointment by Donald Westlake - 207
22. The Windfall by Diksha Basu - 292
23. The Sign of the Unicorn by Roger Zelazny -

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Island Creek Oyster Bar Review

I spend a lot of time browsing menus online.  And it is often the dessert menu that interests me the most.  As was the case when I was looking at the menu for Island Creek Oyster Bar.  An oyster bar is not something that I would normally be interested but I saw something called banoffee pie on the menu and was instantly interested.  It is a pie that is mostly dulce de leche and whipped cream with a few bananas thrown in.  I needed to try it.  And since they had a good looking selection of seafood that I was also interested in I decided to actually go this time instead of saying I was going to remember the restaurant for later and then not doing any thing of the sort.  Which is what I usually do when I browse menus.  And since I have a friend that loves seafood of all sorts I decided to invite him along.

It is an average size space but it is open and bright and that gives it a feeling of having lots of room.  We were seated in a booth right in the front window that was meant to seat three people so we had plenty of room and were very comfortable.  We decided to get a bottle of wine.  I can't really tell you if it was a good wine list but it was rather extensive and since my wine knowledge is minimal at best I let my friend and the waiter work out the selection between them.  The waiter was very patient and helpful as they found something that we would enjoy and could also afford.  We ended up with a half bottle of something, I never knew what, but it was white and I enjoyed it.  And when we had finished that our waiter brought us each a glass of another white wine on the house that I also enjoyed.  And not just because it was free.  I remembered this fondly when it came time to figure out the tip.

For appetizers we got the tuna tartare and some crispy oyster sliders.  The tuna was served with house made potato chips and the fish was fresh and tasted delightfully of sesame.  The oyster sliders were good as well.  I think this had a lot to do with the very buttery toasted bun that they came on.  We only got one each but I would have gladly eaten several more.

For our entrees he got the lobster roll which came with cole slaw and French fries (he had the choice between them and chips) and the roll was packed full.  I didn't taste anything on his plate but he seemed to enjoy it.  I got the skate wing with lentils.  I had never had skate before and really had no idea what to expect.  When the waiter told me it was really good I was glad to hear it but was only slightly relieved.  Because what else is he going to say?  But I was pleased when it arrived.  It is not flaky like a white fish but it has a similar taste.  It was moist and delicious.  And the portion was generous without being stupid big.  

And then of course it was time for dessert.  He got the chocolate tart.  Again he seemed pleased but I didn't try it.  (I should probably let you know that I have no faith in his opinion of food so I rarely ask him what he thought of anything.  I have found it to be a pointless exercise.)  And of course I got the banoffee pie.  I like whipped cream and dulce de leche so I found it delicious.  The bruled bananas on top were a nice touch too.  It was a nice big piece as well.  Probably bigger than I should have eaten since I'm trying to watch my calorie intake but I couldn't stop eating it.

It was a nice dinner all around and I would definitely suggest it to anyone who likes seafood.  After eating here I find myself in the same dilemma that I find myself in after eating in any restaurant I enjoy.  I want to go back.  But I also like to try new places.  And for budget reasons, both monetary and calorie, I can't go out to eat nearly as often as I would like.  So how do I decide?  Oddly this time I don't think my decision will have anything to do with dessert.  Because as I sit here writing this I find myself thinking about that buttery oyster slider.  And I can see myself going back to sit at the bar with a cocktail and about eight of them.  

Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads.  Be sure to check out the other posts here.