Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin EmperorThe Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend... and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

2015 Hugo Nominee.

This was a story that drew me in and suddenly I'm done with the book.  There are no epic battles, no cross country chase scenes, no mano a mano duels, no blustering rages wielding a massive sword.  It's one small half goblin-half elven boy who finds himself suddenly thrust into the seat of the Elven Empire without a clue of what he should do, surrounded by people he doesn't know, in a castle he barely remembers.

Which, really, doesn't sound all that interesting on the surface.  Just another rags to riches story.  But for some reason, this was different.  Perhaps it was a combination of the world setting (a goblin/elven world) in a steampunk setting (again, not my favorite, but it worked), written with a deftness that made the words just flow.

So, setting.  It's a "steampunk" setting but subtly so - there are airships to convey people to and fro, and this plays a part in establishing the plot, but once that's done, the steampunk-ness takes a back seat.  The reader does see a bit more when the clockwork people present their bridge idea, but that was about it. 

Plot.  As I mentioned above, this is a story about Maia. The fourth son of the elvish Emperor, banished to some remote fortress with a guardian after the death of his goblin mother when he was eight.  The Guardian has been taking his anger out on Maia the last 10 years, something which Maia cannot forgive him for.

Maia's assent ion to the throne is sudden and the first thing that happens in the book.  The rest of the story is about Maia coming to terms with the loss of a Father he didn't know, a Mother he desperately misses, betrayal on numerous sides, and the forging of friendships in a court where he feels desperately alone.  In some ways, this is a coming of age book, but sans the  epic quests we usually see in high fantasy.  Which was greatly appreciated.

My main complaint with the book was actually in the names of people and things.  I'm not a fan of long names, and tend to mentally shorten them right of the bat.  It also took me a while to figure out the honorifics being used - not realizing there was an appendix at the end of the book that explained it all.  That would have been nice at the beginning. 

Overall, a solid absorbing read with beautiful world building and solid character development.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Coop and Chickens!

Baby chicks are three weeks old today!  They are growing fast!  Tail feathers and wing feathers are starting to come in, they are fluttering about with gusto, and eating like well, chickens.  We are starting to see some early comb development, so we have some Leonard's, Sheldon's, and Howard's to go with our Penny's, Bernadette's and Amy's.  Not the best pictures, I admit, hard to capture the little buggers in low light conditions. 

Little fellow in the upper left is a Leonard.  I think.
Din! Din!

"What you lookin' at Bub?"  (I think he's a Leonard too...)

Progress on the coop continues. Two and a half walls are insulated and OSB and hardboard is up.  Left is the rest of the insulation, wiring, and the final wall (which is where The Husband is bringing through all the material).  His plan right now is to finish the coop enough to transfer chicks right from the parents garage into their new abode.

What you can't see in this top picture is the front window has been installed on the inside.  We'll finish painting when the weather turns nice again. 

Here we're looking at the front inside corner of the coop.  Screen door has been installed, so the front door can be left open for ventilation in the summer.  No worries, dear readers!  It has hardware cloth over the screen portion for extra protection.  Top left center is the installed window.  Hard board on the two center walls.  Insulation in the right side of the picture. 

There was a pause in construction activity this past Memorial Day weekend - The Husband rented a chipper and we chipped up 7 piles of brush and miscellaneous downed trees around the yard.  Those wood chips will go in the future chicken run.  As they decompose, they'll attract bugs and worms and things for the flock while protecting the ground a bit. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Remodel Update Week #8

This past week has been trim work in living room, dining room and the kitchen.  The bi-fold door of my small pantry closet gave the Contractor conniptions because it's not a standard sized door space.  As did the door to the basement.  Basement door is in, and he thinks he has a solution for the bifold door.

Imagine little 1920's farm house not having standard sized spaces!  Ah, the joys of having an older home.

If things continue smoothly, cabinets might be here end of this week.  Contractor said once cabinets are in, he can get us back into the house while we all wait for the counter tops.  That would be awesome!  

Sorry, no remodel pictures this week.   Here's a couple of some violets blooming in the garden.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Recipe Review from 5/18/15

There will be separate posts for chicken/coop update and remodel updates.  Easier that way. 

Meanwhile, life continues at our temporary living quarters.  This week I managed to make one new recipe that was very well received.

Low Country Shrimp and Grits (Ckng Lght May 2015)  gluten free
This came together in about 30 minutes - recipe said 24 so it was close enough.  I did so a couple of modifications:  I used regular polenta/grits and started them first.  I set aside and kept warm while finishing the rest.   I don't drink tomato juice, but I did have some tomato sauce in the freezer from a different dish so I substituted that.  It made for a some what thicker, tomato-y sauce, which was fine with me.  Honestly, ketchup would also work fine, but expect a sweeter taste and skip the sugar.  This made enough for four adults.   Recommended.

photo from
4 center-cut bacon slices, chopped 
1/2 cup chopped onion 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
5 garlic cloves, chopped
3 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
3/4 cup black coffee
1/2 cup lower-sodium tomato juice (I used 1/2 cup of tomato sauce)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch  
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp 
2 cups whole milk
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits (I used regular grits and started ahead of time)
1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato 
2 green onions, chopped 

1. Cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.  [Heat oil of choice over med-high heat] Add onion, thyme, mushrooms, and garlic; sauté 6 minutes or until onions and mushrooms are golden brown. Add 1 1/4 cups chicken stock, coffee, next 4 ingredients (through red pepper), and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes. Add cornstarch, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add shrimp; simmer 4 minutes or until shrimp are done.

2. Bring remaining 2 cups stock, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, and milk to a boil in a medium saucepan; add grits, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a whisk.  I cooked my grits according to directions on package, adding 1 tbsp of butter and about a 1/4 cup of grated asiago cheese. 

3. Place 1/2 cup grits in each of 4 shallow bowls; top each serving with 1 cup shrimp mixture. Sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons tomato and about 1 tablespoon green onions.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Coyote by Allen Steele

Coyote (Coyote Trilogy, #1)Coyote by Allen Steele

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Coyote is an astonishing discovery, a habitable moon in a solar system 40-odd light years from Earth. A despotic post-US government decides to colonise this precious find and constructs the starship Alabama. The ship is about to launch when it is hijacked by its own crew. Instead of the intended party loyalists, it is populated with malcontents and social dissidents who must learn to work together in the struggle to reach and then conquer their prize: Coyote. Vast in scope, passionate in its conviction, and set against a backdrop of completely plausible events, Coyote tells the story of Earth’s first extra-solar colonists, and the mysterious planet that becomes their home.

Read for May 2015 book group.  I really wanted to rate this 2.5 between "it was okay" and "I liked it". 

I read an excerpt of this in Azimov's (or was it Analog?) years and years ago, and was annoyed with the book at the time.  I kept this in mind as I was looking for ideas for book group - sometimes a questionable book becomes a very interesting discussion.

While I didn't have the same "this book pisses me off" reaction, I wasn't exactly thrilled with it either.  The book is broken up into three parts:  escape from Earth, establish colony, the "next generations" personal thoughts as they reminisce being teens on a colony.  Taken as a whole, I had more issues with the plot than not.

Part one:  Earth's democracy is gone.  It's some kind of Republic lead by predominantly southern states.  Scientists have been dubbed "dissident intellectuals" if they disagree with the new Republic and they and their families are sent to concentration camps to be reformed.  A group of these scientists and families are secretly gathered up and manage a 45 person swap on the colony ship Alabama.  While the ship is being hijacked, four armed soldiers are in essence, kidnapped.  Right.  45 people are smuggled in under intense security and media, and only four individuals are sent up to stop a ship of 100+ from being hijacked.

Part two:  Purpose was to get people down to the planet and start killing them off.  This read a bit like an episode of Star Trek, except everyone but the Captain is a Red Shirt.  Our small group of armed soldiers still have delusions of something rather than sucking it up and helping colony with survival.

Part three:  Teenage angst and romance.  Coming of age story.  I had the most problems with part three.  You bring a bunch of teenagers (and adults) to a colony planet, you put a moratorium on new births, but you don't give anyone birth control.  WTF?

And this is where I will leave off, because anything more becomes plot spoiler. 

So I found this to be a fairly quick read, it has some issues with plot and character execution, and a few points that could have been smoothed out.  If you like exploring new frontiers, man against planet, colonization, this would be the book for you.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chicks and Coop Update

Baby chicks are now a week and a half old (roughly).  We lost one chick (one of the Ameracuna's) to unknown causes, but the rest seem to be healthy and robust and are growing rapidly.  I noticed little tail feathers are starting to emerge and they are fluttering about with gusto.  Personalities continue to emerge as they establish a pecking order.

Hello!  Who are you?

I think we have who's who figured out:
- Little yellow or tan with stripe down back are Ameracauna's  (my name: Bernadette's)
- Black with white bellies are Australorps (my name: Amy Farah Fowler)
- Black with red beaks are Golden Laced Wyandottes  (my name: Penny)

Coop is coming along.  Roof is up and covered.  Flashing is up.  Now it's time to enclose the last two sides. The fence in front is our old dog kennel, which will be converted into part of the run.  We're renting a wood chipper next weekend and all the various piles of brush around the yard will get chipped for use in the chicken run.  A great way to get bugs for birds to eat!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Remodel Update Week #7

The flooring is in!

Living room looking at foyer

Living room looking into dining room
Kitchen looking at dining room

Dining room looking at kitchen

And Escher was Here! No, not really...foyer looking at living room (R) and kitchen (L)