Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lockstep by Karl Schroder

LockstepLockstep by Karl Schroeder

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: When seventeen-year-old Toby McGonigal finds himself lost in space, separated from his family, he expects his next drift into cold sleep to be his last. After all, the planet he’s orbiting is frozen and sunless, and the cities are dead. But when Toby wakes again, he’s surprised to discover a thriving planet, a strange and prosperous galaxy, and something stranger still—that he’s been asleep for 14,000 years.

Welcome to the Lockstep Empire, where civilization is kept alive by careful hibernation. Here cold sleeps can last decades and waking moments mere weeks. Its citizens survive for millennia, traveling asleep on long voyages between worlds. Not only is Lockstep the new center of the galaxy, but Toby is shocked to learn that the Empire is still ruled by its founding family: his own.

Toby’s brother Peter has become a terrible tyrant. Suspicious of the return of his long-lost brother, whose rightful inheritance also controls the lockstep hibernation cycles, Peter sees Toby as a threat to his regime. Now, with the help of a lockstep girl named Corva, Toby must survive the forces of this new Empire, outwit his siblings, and save human civilization.

Read for June book group.

I'm a bit conflicted about this book.  On one hand, it was an interesting premise - a culture of "stepping" through time with the use of sleep beds or cryonics.  The McGonigal family has a monopoly on the beds, and all beds are synced.  There are those planets and Cities who have removed themselves from the "lockstep" and live on basically a different time line.

Our young protagonist, Toby McGonigal, wakes to find that 14,000 years have passed overnight for him after space debris puts a hole in his solo ship during a routine mission.  He finds his younger sister and brother control now the solar system through the cult of Toby as Emperor of Time and the lockstep beds.  As he quickly finds out, they would just assume he stayed missing and or dead.

On the other hand, this book was slightly annoying. Toby is the Golden Boy.  A very dense Golden Boy who does really stupid things.  He was told to his face that after 14000 years, everything has changed and he knows nothing of how the societies work.  So what does he do? Run away because he's feeling petulant, repeatedly.  I really detest characters who behave stupidly, which he excelled at right up to the ending.

However, if I step back and remind myself that this is a YA book, that it is meant for adventure, excitement, getting to kiss a girl, love and loss, standing up to authority, and redemption, then it's more palatable.  A bit reminiscent of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, the book has it's flaws, but it still provided an entertaining read.

Recommended with reservations.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Closers by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #11)

The Closers (Harry Bosch, #11)The Closers by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  He walked away from the job three years ago. But Harry Bosch cannot resist the call to join the elite Open/Unsolved Unit. His mission: solve murders whose investigations were flawed, stalled, or abandoned to L.A.'s tides of crime. With some people openly rooting for his failure, Harry catches the case of a teenager dragged off to her death on Oat Mountain, and traces the DNA on the murder weapon to a small-time criminal. But something bigger and darker beckons, and Harry must battle to fit all the pieces together. Shaking cages and rattling ghosts, he will push the rules to the limit--and expose the kind of truth that shatters lives, ends careers, and keeps the dead whispering in the night...

Read as an audio book.

This has been one of the more engaging and interesting Harry Bosch books in my opinion.

Bosch is back on the police force after an almost three year "retirement".  First day on the job he's already being threatened by Irving, has alienated his former partner J. Edgar, and is given an open-unsolved case that becomes anything but straight forward.  Working with Kiz Rider - his other former partner - they begin to backtrack into a 20 year old case that has a missing evidence box, signs of police management interference, a mother that hasn't been able to let go and a father fallen to the streets, and has hate crime written all over it.

I like cold cases because we get to see the detectives doing detective work; I don't have these interludes where I have to "listen" to the antagonists next move, where I know what the bad guy is doing but the detective is off chasing a red herring.  Not saying that red herrings don't happen in cold case mysteries, they just tend to be less obvious.  Mostly.

I also liked that Bosch - again - wasn't a complete ass.  He is working with his partner, not in a vacuum of ego.  Both contribute to the work and thus, the story.  There was a tendency for the character of Kiz to defer to Bosch, where I think by this time she should be a dominate personality on her own.  Bosch is still struggling with his issues, but they didn't detract from the plot as they did in past books. 

My one main complaint with this book is I pegged the killer right off the bat - as in the first several chapters.  I don't know if the clues were that obvious, or I picked up something in the narration, but from there it was a matter of waiting to see if I was correct.  And I was.

Recommended if you've read the first ten in the series.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Recipe Review from 6/15/2015

We continue to slowly put our house back together after moving back in a couple weekends ago.  The treasure hunt continues for packed away kitchen items and I seem to have misplaced a set of bathroom towels.  How in the world I did that I can't fathom, but they remain resolutely missing.

This weekend we finished painting the living room, a dreaded task that once tackled only took a couple of hours.  Living room drapes are washed and with a quick iron or steaming can be put back up.  Washed the living room floor to get the last of the construction dust and our couch came back in!  YAY! 

It's been a while since I've had a recipe review, but after several weeks, we have a couple!  Nothing even remotely fancy, but it's a start. 

The Meal Plan
Sun - (L) leftover brats and potato salad  (S) out for supper
Mon (Yoga) grilled cheese with pesto
Tues (out for breakfast) slow cooked Indian butter chicken (previously reviewed here.
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) - leftovers
Fri (out for lunch)  grilled cheese

Lunches  Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Veggie wraps with pita chips, fruit, yogurt and luna bars.

Fancy Grilled Cheese
This was inspired from the Kraft Family Reunion we attended exactly a year ago in Stockton Illinois.  I would not have thought to pair grilled cheese with pesto until someone put one in my hand.  If I recall, they did a seven cheese blend - I did two-three.  This is very versatile - pick cheeses you like.  Add a slice of pepper jack for more zing, or roasted red pepper for more of an Italian flair.  I served these along side salads. 

sandwich slices of Gouda, Havarti, and American cheese
whole grain bread of choice

Assemble 2-3 slices of cheese on bread, grill on the stove, eat!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Veggie wraps (Cooking Light, July 2015)  vegetarian
A bit of a "why didn't I think of this" and "I've done something similar before..." recipe.   Usually I would make my own hummus, but because I'm still searching for kitchen stuff, I opted for store bought.  Light, tasty, refreshing break from sandwiches.   Lunches really don't get much simpler than this.

1 1/2 cups roasted red pepper hummus
4 (8") flour tortilla's of choice
2 cups spinach and baby kale blend
1 large red, orange or yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
fresh ground black pepper.

Assemble on tortilla, roll-up, eat. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shadows Falls by Simon R. Green

Shadows FallShadows Fall by Simon R. Green

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  A town of amazing magicks, where the real and the imagined live side by side, where the Faerie of legend know the automatons of the future. Time sees all here - but even he cannot escape the prophecy of James Hart's return. Casting his own ominous veil, the man without a past can only mean the death of Shadows Fall...

If you've read the Nightside novels, then you will have a passing familiarity with Shadows Falls from the same world.  But that familiarity will end about there - you know about Shadows Falls, but not really.  Not until you've read this book.

Where Nightside is everything dark, Shadows Falls is everything else.  Shadows Falls is its own place and time.  It has its own rules. Shadows Falls is a conglomeration of times and places held together by Old Father Time's say-so, rules are enforced by a creepy scarecrow named Jack Fetch, Eric the sheriff, and the Mayor Rhea.   The problem is, Old Father Time is afraid, and so is Shadows Falls.

I enjoyed the world building, the cast of characters was different and delightful, the quirks that make everything tick and tock are quirky and different.  Where I struggled with the book was in the author's repetition.  I often felt like I was reading the same paragraphs over and over and over, the sentences  phrased a tiny bit differently (or the same), and after a while that becomes really annoying.  Not only am I being told how things are different, then I'm shown, and then I'm told again.  I consider myself a fairly astute reader, I can figure things out without being bashed over the head.

Plot wise, moderately predictable.  No huge Ah HA's leaping off the page.  Without giving any spoilers, the ending dragged on, reading more like a bad action film with bombs, flames, guns and explosions then took an exit ramp right into Disneyland.  Not my favorite.

While the book has it's issues, overall Shadows Falls is a story that gently pulls the reader along for a lovely little boat ride as long as you don't expect a lot. Perfect for mindless vacation reading.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chickens and Coop Update

Chicks are now are 6 weeks old and they are starting to look like adult birds.  Still a ways to go yet, but colors are there.

Another mile stone reached this weekend - the run is officially fenced in and the birds did a bit of exploring outside.  The Husband needs to beef up a couple of spots with some hardware cloth, which he was doing on Monday.   This double fencing will serve multiple purposes: to protected against predators, to keep birds from going under the fence, and to keep the dogs out.   Ben in particular is quite transfixed by this peeping cheeping activity. 

"Hey! Lookit this!"

"You go first."  "No, I go first!" "Hmm...what's this?"   (The Bernadette's are the curious chicks)

Group decision, just shove someone out the door.  Just happened to be one of the Burnadette's.

The Bernadette's have flown the coop!  It took about 15 minutes for the rest to follow suit.

A Sheldon (Australorp breed)

Bernadette front left, Penny center, Bernadette right

Penny's (Golden Laced Wyandottes)

Coop run on the side (painting still in progress)

Inside the run (again, painting still a work in progress)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Remodel Update Week #11

We moved back into the house a week ago - the chickens were getting too big for the brooder in my folks garage and my folks were expecting non-family over night company, so it was time.  Our house wasn't quite ready for us - cabinets were just going in, we had no sink nor kitchen plumbing.  The bathroom plumbing (as recently revealed through updates) can't handle washing dirty dishes so we've been "camping". 

I unearthed my electric kettle (I gotta have my breakfast tea) so breakfast has been instant oatmeal and fruit.  Suppers have been grab 'n go from the co-op or pre-made kebabs from the meat market.

By the end of the week we were back in business with a temporary sink and plywood counter tops. I even got my house water filter installed.  Yay! 

So progress is slowing a bit as we move toward completion - counter top people are coming on Thursday to measure (they are driving up from the Twin Cities!), once counters are installed then the Contractor can finish the back splash and trim work. We are also waiting on the glass for the one cabinet we left "open". 

All of this adds up to spending the weekend unpacking kitchen stuff.  It's been like one great big treasure hunt with the grand question of "where in the world did I put....?"   Everything needs to be washed as it's put away.  There is so much construction dust in the basement that eventually I'll need to clean down there as well.  But for now, it can hold.

Recipe reviews should resume shortly.

Sorry for "messiness" - like I said, still unpacking!  
Blue line above sink is how high back splash is going to go.

Messy messy...but gives you an idea of what we're doing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem (Three-Body, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:
Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

Hugo Nominee 2015. 

I'm not sure what I think of this book.  There were parts that I found interesting, and there were parts that had me wanting to put the book down and go read something else.  Plot and premise are heavy on the science, and I will fully admit I glossed over those parts.  I like some science in my science fiction, but when it starts reading like a college physic's book, I'm done. 

In a nutshell, the book follows the life of Ye Wenjie, an engineer, from the time of the Cultural Revolution through modern day and into her revelation at the end.   Her story alternates with Wang Miao, a nanotechologist  who's being driven mad by a countdown only he can see.  He's brought into an elite group, with a terrible secret, and a questionable outcome.   Wang is introduced to a Virtual Reality game called the Three Body Problem, where Wang realizes that there is more going on than being 'just a game'.   

The overall premise of the book was interesting, the concepts were well thought out and deftly woven, reading about a society that is not mine was fascinating, and I really appreciated the ending.  If you watch Chinese movies, you'll know what I mean. 

But I thought the plot became bogged down in the science which, again, huge detraction, despite that the book is about science.  I shouldn't want to put down a book, the book should keep me coming back for more.  This one had me struggling. 

Recommended with reservations.

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