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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sharper than a Serpents Tooth by Simon R. Green (Nightside #6)

Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth (Nightside, #6)Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth by Simon R. Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  My name is John Taylor. I’m a PI for hire in the Nightside, the dark and corrupt city within the city of London. Where the sun never shines and where pleasure and horror are always on sale—for the right price. Not a nice place to visit or a nice place to live. So you wouldn’t think I would care that it was about to be destroyed, by none other than my very own long-missing, not-quite-human mom.

But I do. I was born here, I live here, and I got friends here. They might not all be acceptable in polite company, but they’re my friends, nonetheless.

I know that I’m the only one who can stop her. The trick is, how to do it without fulfilling this prophecy that says whatever action I take, not only is the Nightside doomed, but the rest of the world will soon follow…

This was not my favorite Nightside book to date. 

I think I was unsettled because a wonderful and interesting world had been created, and now, due to one character (Lilith) all the unique charms of the city and many of its denizens were in essence, destroyed.  Upon reflection, for those readers who remember the Thieves World series, it was reminiscent of that.  (For those who don't remember or never read, Thieves World was a multi-authored series in one setting where things got a bit out of hand and by the end, it was one big chaotic mass of destruction.)

I also became impatient with some of the description of said war and destruction.  What comes to mind foremost was our protagonist John Taylor goes back in time to learn what he needs to do to avoid a War with Lilith, and he doesn't come back to the same point in time whence he left.  He's about a week off.  He goes to a magic shop and proceeds to scry the past through mirrors and bowls on just about six characters.  I thought it didn't lend anything to moving the story forward but rather just bogged the plots progress down; the reader knows Bad Things Have Happened, let's get to a resolution. 

Perhaps I will feel differently about Sharper than a Serpents Tooth once I read the next in the series.  I liked the book, but with reservations.  

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Recipe Review from 5/19/14

Happy Memorial Day! 

Ben (left) and Andy (right)
It's been a busy weekend here - we actually stayed in town this year and were rewarded with absolutely beautiful weather!  The rain predicted for last night missed us, so I guess I'll be watering those flower seeds after all.  The Husband has been tearing the garden fence apart to re-dig the posts.  I've been busy tilling the garden beds - I've got five done with three to go.  And I was able to rip out one severely weed and iris overgrown flower bed and weed another. 

The new kennel is up and has been fully tested now.  I am very happy to report the Andy- pup stayed in and there was no sign of attempted escape.  Granted, it probably helped that he's been well exercised and thus on the tired side. 

Last week was a bit busy with after work activities, so meals were super simple.  Like, brats on the grill and grilled cheese sandwich simple.  Only one recipe to review from the end of the week. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun - Brats
Mon (yoga, bookgroup, and Legion)   out
Tues (yoga) leftover brats
Wed (Amsoil's President's Dinner)
Thurs (yoga) grilled cheese
Fri - Chicken and Dirty Rice
Sat - Low Country Boil for Family gathering
Sun - leftovers

Southern Style Chicken and Dirty Rice (modified, Slowcooker Revolution) **gluten free option
This could quickly become a favorite of mine.  There is something about rice dishes that I just love and this pushed all my OMG! buttons.  And talk about easy!  This is one where you do have to saute the veggies on the stove to make the roux - no 'cream of' soups here.   The other step involved is you don't add the rice until 30 minutes before you want to serve the dish - America's Test Kitchen recommends the use of Instant Rice for speedier and more even cooking.  After a few past failed slow cooker dishes with regular rice, I have to concur with their results!  This made four meals for two of us.

1 tbsp oil
8 oz kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2" pieces (I used andoullie)
1 onion, minced
2 celery ribs, minced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2" pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp 1 tsp chili powder (I use Penzeys - it's got kick)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp AP flour **or your gluten-free alternative thickener
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
2 cups instant rice

1) Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Brown sausage, about three minutes. Saute onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, chili powder, and cayenne and cook until vegetables are soft and slightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth, scraping any browned bits and smoothing out lumps.  Transfer to slow cooker.

2) Season chicken with salt and pepper, add to slow cooker, and coat evenly with sauce.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender, abut 4-6 hours on low.

3) Break up chicken with a wooden spoon.  Add rice and stir.  Cover and cook on high until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.  Serve. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

River of Gods by Ian McDonald

River of Gods (India 2047, #1)River of Gods by Ian McDonald

Jacket Blurb: As Mother India approaches her centenary, nine people are going about their business-a gangster, a cop, his wife, a politician, a stand-up comic, a set designer, a journalist, a scientist, and a dropout. And so is Aj-the waif, the mind reader, the prophet-when she one day finds a man who wants to stay hidden.

In the next few weeks, they will all be swept together to decide the fate of the nation.

River of Gods teems with the life of a country choked with peoples and cultures-one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, nine million gods. Ian McDonald has written the great Indian novel of the new millennium, in which a war is fought, a love betrayed, a message from a different world decoded, as the great river Ganges flows on

I loved this book.  It had me hooked from the first chapters and reading any opportunity I could get.  Like India, the plot is big, the characters numerous.  The author did a good job of alternating between points of view and notifying the reader of the new viewpoint with the chapter titles.  I will admit, not infrequently I needed something more than a name to remind me which character was up next, as it might have been 50 pages or so since I last 'visited' them.

I thought the Indian setting was fantastic - a non-WASP country, not the US, not England, Europe, not Russia.  Someplace exotic and complex, with hierarchy's of Gods and steeped in thousands of years of traditions that most Westerners can't even begin to fathom or comprehend.  The Ghats of Varanasi was a good example, especially well done as seen through the eyes of Vishram.  Vishram attended a funeral in Scotland and was appalled at the cremation being hidden from all eyes, because in India, the funeral pyres are on the Gandi Devi, open so the ashes can blow away for rebirth and renewal and the families and friends are witness to that cycle.  Or Thomas Lull, noting that Westerners are afraid of trains, because they can't see where the engine is going, and trains symbolize and ending, or death and are thus little used in Western worlds.  Where in India, the train is the journey, not the destination, to be able to sit and watch the world go by, knowing the destination is not the goal.

I also thought tying in the pending monsoon with the civil unrest and each person's personal unrest was well executed and nicely conveyed the growing tension an unease.  The unrest, the discord, the discontent was well paced and added to the allure of the book.

Add to all of this, a strange and fascinating background of an Indian "soapi" called Town and Country, where the actors are aeai's and nothing is really real but it seems as it is and everyone in India follows this soapi like a second religion.  It's so subtly woven into everything.

I also think, as everything came to the conclusion, there was a bit of karma happening, that what comes around, goes around.  It's one more undercurrent to everything else happening, and I might be reading more into this than there really is.  A karma aspect would be another tie-in with the Indian setting.

My main complaint with the book was the sex.  I don't like sex in my scifi.  It seemed like the sexuality in the book was more gratuitous and 'shocking' and really didn't add much to the over all story.  It didn't seem to fit.

Overall, an absolutely brilliant read.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Recipe Review from 5/12/14

I think the kennel is basically ready to go!  I found some horse mats and bought two - damn! those things are pricy!  With much shoving and pushing, we put one in front and one in back.  Not sure if we'll need one in the middle - we'll see.  I will need to get some small bungies or zip ties for the kennel cover this next week before temperatures start to rise, and maybe a kennel shade for one side.  We did some trimming on the lilac bush next to the kennel and that will impact what afternoon shade they get. 

As you can see from the plan below, meals were prepped on Sunday and then it was a week of leftovers.  I can't say how nice it is to get home from work, know that dinners ready to go, and I've got the time to work in the yard or go for a walk. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun - slow cooked Tamale Pie, Stovetop Macaroni, (make Lentil Stew)
Mon (yoga)  leftovers
Tues (yoga) leftovers
Wed (meet with friend!) leftovers
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri - leftovers
Sat - (yoga AM)  leftovers

Lunches - Lentil stew, fruit, luna bars, nut cups

Stovetop Italian Macaroni  (Taste of Home)  gluten free option
This was nice for it's simplicity.  You can tweet the seasonings to suit your taste (I actually followed as written - for once!), and use what ever cheese you have handy.  I did make my own 'onion soup mix' following a recipe I found on-line; lots to choose from and all are pretty similar.  Nice to cut out some of those chemicals.   If you are fond of macaroni and tomatoes, you'll definitely like this dish.

photo from Taste of Home
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni  (I used rotini and just cooked a bit longer)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  1. In a Dutch oven, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Add the tomatoes, water, soup mix, Italian seasoning and, if desired, pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Stir in macaroni. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8-9 minutes or until macaroni is tender.
  2. Remove from the heat; stir in Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover and let stand for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Yield: 5 servings.

Old Fashioned Tamale Pie (modified, Slow Cooker Revolution Vol 1; America's Test Kitchen)  gluten free
Outstanding!   This dish did require a bit of pre-planning and was a bit more involved in the prep.  However, well worth it!

First - either a rotisserie chicken or prepare your own chicken ahead of time.  I slow cooked a chicken in the morning, shredded it, and put it in the dish after lunch.   Turkey leftovers would also work great.

Second - The recipe calls for instant polenta, microwaved. Again, I don't have a microwave, so I did use regular polenta made on the stove.  I followed the package directions, then added the cheese as directed as if microwaving.  I set aside, covered, until needed.

Did I mention this was really good?  Loved the polenta topping against the creamy chicken filling.  Not to spicy, not to bland, and great leftovers!   This made enough leftovers for 4.5 days for two people.  I think this would freeze well if you are disinclined to four days worth.

2 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup polenta (note, I followed package directions)
1 cup (4oz) shredded cheese
1 tbsp unsalted butter
photo from Scifi with Paprika blog

1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp chili poweder
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15oz can creamed corn
1 10oz can enchilada sauce
2 tbsp Minute tapioca  (NOT regular)
fresh cilantro - optional

1) My modifications - cook polenta according to directions on pkg. Stir in cheddar and butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside and cover to keep warm.

2) Saute onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin until onions are soft and spices fragrant.  Transfer to slow cooker.

3) Stir in chicken, beans, corn, enchilada sauce and tapioca.  Spoon cooked polenta over chicken filling and smooth into even layer.  Cover and cook until casserole is heated through, about four hours on low.  Let casserole cool for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with cilantro if desired and serve. 

Lentil Stew (modified; Slow Cooker Revolution Vol 1; America's Test Kitchen)  gluten free, vegetarian
This wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked, but by no means am I saying this was like bland-bland.  The nutty lentils were complimented by the sweet carrots and a more subtle background of onion and spices.  What surprised me about this dish, was that it actually thickened over the week, as in it didn't remain in a liquid stew-like state.  Once again, I followed the directions with the exception of microwaving - I stove-top sauted my veggies and spices.  I contemplated making some rice to serve this with, but held off.  As it was, this feed two of us for 4.5 lunches.  If feeding a larger group, I would serve with basmati rice. 

Though I realize as I type this, I forgot the peas!  

1 onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp ginger, grated or minced
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups water
1 14oz can coconut milk
1 lb red lentils (2 1/4 cups)
1 lb carrots
1 lb plum tomatoes (4-6) cored and chopped
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper

1) Heat a lightly oiled medium pan over medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin,cinnamon, tumeric, cardamom, and red pepper flakes until onions are softened and spices fragrant.  Transfer to slow cooker. 

2) Stir water, coconut milk, lentil, and carrots in slow cooker.  Cover and cook until lentils are tneder, 6-8 hours on low or 3-5 hours on high. 

3) Stir in tomatoes and peas, cover and cook on high until heated through, about 10 minutes.  Adjust stew consistency with additional hot water as necessary.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One False Move by Harlan Coben

One False Move (Myron Bolitar, #5)One False Move by Harlan Coben

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jacket blurb:  She's smart, beautiful, and she doesn't need a man to look after her. But sports agent Myron Bolitar has come into her life -- big time. Now Myron's next move may be his last.

Brenda Slaughter is no damsel in distress. Myron Bolitar is no bodyguard. But Myron has agreed to protect the bright, strong, beautiful basketball star. And he's about to find out if he's man enough to unravel the tragic riddle of her life.

Twenty years before, Brenda's mother deserted her. And just as Brenda is making it to the top of the women's pro basketball world, her father disappears too. A big-time New York sports agent with a foundering love life, Myron has a professional interest in Brenda. Then a personal one. But between them isn't just the difference in their backgrounds or the color of their skin. Between them is a chasm of corruption and lies, a vicious young mafioso on the make, and one secret that some people are dying to keep -- and others are killing to protect....

To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement.  I was left slightly stunned and in awe at the end from the emotional punch Coben incorporated into a simple yet gripping mystery.

My brief overview - Myron is persuaded into helping up and coming women's basketball star Brenda Slaughter, daughter of his former mentor - whom he hasn't talked to in 10 years.   What Myron doesn't expect is to be drawn into family intrigue and secrets that will change everything where he learns the best intentions can have the worst results.

This was just so well written I'm disinclined to say to much about the plot directly.  You can find spoilers elsewhere on the web.   A lot of the mystery is character development, which was nicely integrated into the story, and almost seamless blending of plot and character development.  I did read this as and audiobook and I think the narrator has the voices pegged.  He has great intonation and can convey the mood wonderfully.

My one complaint with the series to date is Myron's doesn't seem to fare well with his future prospects for MB Sportsreps. Puzzling, that.

Highly recommend this series. I don't give five stars lightly but this book earned it.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Recipe Reveiw from 5/5/14

Another week of overcast skies that ended in fog and rain.  It's like living in Seattle, but without all the super tall pines.  And the mountains.  First ocean going "Saltie" arrived in the Twin Ports and immediately got stuck in the ice, where it sat, blocking ship traffic (yes, tis true! A vertiable "ship-jam!") until the icebreaker could set it free.

We ordered a new custom made kennel for my Houdini-dog Andy and it arrived on Tuesday.  I wasn't done with the pad though - when we removed the old kennel, I had pulled out the pavers, pulled out the old landscape fabric, hacked out all the grass that crept in over the last 11-12 years, attempted to level the bumps (ha!), put down new landscape fabric and put the pavers back in.

New and improved kennel!  Still under construction which is why you don't see any dog boxes.

Only to find the way I/we put the pavers back in left me 7 short.

Only to find, after 11-12 years, they don't make the same boring pavers I have.

New pavers were 1/4" bigger.  Argh!  Managed to wedge them in anyway.
Very light gray pavers in the corners are the new ones.  Which don't really fit.

One more step - I need to find some horse stall/horse trailer mats to throw down.  Friend of mine has them in her kennel and Hammie (a goldendoodle) hasn't been able to dig his way out of those. 

In the meantime,  meals continue to be warm and hearty until we can get some sun and warmer temps to work in the yard.  

The Meal Plan:
Sun - Slow cooked Smokey Sausage Chili  (make Quinoa dish)
Mon (yoga)  leftovers
Tues (yoga) leftovers
Wed - Chicken and Broccoli Mac n Cheese
Thurs - leftovers
Fri - ??  oops!  probably out.
Sat - Stovetop Italian

Lunches - One Pot Mexican Quinoa (M-W) Leftover Chili (Th-F), fruit, luna bars, nuts

Mexican Quinoa Salad (Damn Delicious Blog)  gluten free, vegetarian
Quick? Yes!  Easy?  Yes!  Tasty? YES!   This was a fabulous little recipe that can be pretty versatile - the author serves it warm, but I made it ahead of time for lunches for the week.  I did reheat mine, I have no idea if the Husband did so.  This would be a great picnic lunch, with some corn chips and fruit alongside. 

I did find two garlic cloves a bit much, and found myself making faces later in the afternoon.  Don't be afraid of that one jalepeno - it adds a nice background zing, but it was by no means "hot" or "spicy" (understanding that jalepeno's can vary a lot).   I skipped the cilantro because I didn't feel like buying it.  I skipped the avocado because I didn't have a way to serve it fresh with lunches.

This made enough for three lunches for two of us.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapenos, minced
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and jalapeno, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in quinoa, vegetable broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder and cumin; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in avocado, lime juice and cilantro.
  • Serve immediately.

Smokey Sausage Chili (modified; Slow Cooker Revolution, America's Test Kitchen)  gluten free
Several adjustments to this recipe:  I decreased the chili powder by half - Penzey's spices tend to a bit more potent than store bought and this was no exception.  I skipped the liquid smoke flavoring because I'm really not that wild about smoke flavor.

America's Test Kitchen tends to rely on the microwave. However, I don't own a microwave, so I have been just sauteing.  I'm still in favor of less prep when it comes to using the slow-cooker, but so far, with the ATK recipes, the bit of extra prep hasn't been overly inconvenient.  Whether there is an actual improvement in taste, is still up for debate. 

2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
photo by scifiwithpaprika@blogspot
1/4 1/8 cup chili powder 
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
 12 oz dried navy beans, rinsed and sorted
 2 1/2 cups water
3 cups chicken broth
12 oz kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2" slices
8 oz andouille sausage, cut into 1/2" slices
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp mined canned chipolte chili in adobo sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp liquid smoke
salt pepper to taste

1) Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saute pan.  Saute red pepper, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin and oregano until lightly softened and fragrant.
2) Combine everything into the slow cooker.  Cook on low, 9-11 hours, or on high 5-7 hours, or until beans have softened.
3)  modification/my notes.  Original recipe calls for removing 1 cup of bean and liquid mixture, pureeing and returning to cooker.  Seems messy, so I decided to just add 2 tbsp of tomato paste during last hour of cooking.  This sat overnight in the fridge, then I served.  Chili always tastes better the next day. 

Chicken Broccoli Mac n Cheese (Ckng Lght, May 2014)  gluten free options
This came from Ckng Lght's Fast and Easy issue, touting all recipes can be made in 25 minutes or less (give or take depending on what ingredients you buy).   This was closer to 30 minutes for me, but that's because I chopped my own broccoli (fresher) and grated my own cheese (no anti-caking agents and fresher).

Husband and I both thought this turned out quite satisfying.  Lightly cheesy, creamy (a bit runny - not sure what I did wrong), and perfectly seasoned.  Don't skip the tumeric, it's more for color than as a spice.   I did skip the bacon as I detest frying bacon, but I used some rendered bacon fat to saute the chicken in for the added flavor.  I would make this again. 
  • 6 ounces uncooked large or regular elbow macaroni (I used rigatoni
  • 3 cups pre-chopped broccoli florets
    photo from
  • 3 bacon slices, coarsely chopped 
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/4 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson) 
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/4 cups)
  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add broccoli to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.
  3. While pasta cooks, place bacon in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add chicken to drippings in pan; cook 4 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with turmeric; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently.
  4. Combine remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, milk, stock, and flour, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Add pasta mixture and 2 ounces cheese; toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 3 ounces cheese and bacon. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and just begins to brown.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Changes by Jim Butcher (Dresden #12)

Changes (The Dresden Files, #12)Changes by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover—until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it—against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...

He's fighting to save his child.

This book started out fast paced and never slowed down.  Butcher really pulled out all the stops and probably should have left a couple in.  What could have been nicely intense book became a roller coaster in over-the-top Marvel comic style action: one thing blowing up after another, lots of running, huge improbable situations to get out of.  It's one thing to suspend my disbelief, it's completely another to try and convince me the rickety rope bridge is made of high tensile steel.

If you're reading the series, this may contain spoilers.  Stop reading now.

Okay, fairly warned.

Half-vampire, ex-lover Susan comes knocking on Harry's door and inform's him their 8 year old daughter has been kidnapped by the Red Court for Nefarious Deeds.  Harry sets off balls to the wall to rescue her.  The Red Court takes exception to this and tries to kill Harry.  Again.  Dresden enlists the aid of the usual suspects:  Karin, Thomas, Sonya, Molly, His Fairy Godmother, and as a desperate last resort, Harry makes a deal with Queen Mab.

Harry is harassed and harried from page one to the cliffhanger ending.  I felt harried and harassed for having put up with this.

My other complaint with this book was the rather male fantasy scenes.  Harry is what?  38ish?  Molly is about 19?  So the reader gets to watch Harry watch Thomas and Molly get their rocks off after Thomas's vampire is drained and Molly is vulnerable.  Mouse saves the day - but I'm really wondering why Mouse took so long.  Ah, it was so we could see Harry being angry with Thomas for succumbing to his vampiric, it was so we could watch Molly's tits pop through her thin t-shirt!  Then we have Susan throwing herself at Harry, but no, Harry doesn't become angry with Susan for letting her vampire up to breathe like Thomas did, he fantasizes about screwing her right then and there on the rug, never mind the extra company.   Oh, and lets not forget all of Fey witnessing as Queen Mab and Harry get it on on The Stone Slab.   Mostly I was icked out and wanted to give my brain a good scrubbing from this overly dramatic male wet dream.

Characters continue to be interesting.  Plot was over the top.  Yet, I'm curious (not fanatical, mind) how Butcher is going to pull everything back together again. This is what intrigues me most.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Recipe Review from 4/28/14

A week of 30* (0*C) temps and a mixture of wet and frozen precipitation had us hunkering down inside.  I think the only things that are enjoying this so-called spring rain are the ducks and my dogs.  It was a week for warm and hearty stew.  

The weekend however was fantastic!  No rain, the sun actually came out, and the Husband made the comment that Sunday was probably the nicest day we've had in a year.  We got the dog's kennel torn apart and the pavers redone (we're replacing the kennel), some ancient garbage cleaned up from a ravine behind the house (two loads of glass to the recycling place), a bit of chain sawing happened, and I fit in my first bike ride of the year!  A very good weekend indeed - which was nice because the forecast is for rain the rest of the week. 

We had some leftovers from the previous week that slid over into this meal plan, which is okay - means we're not wasting anything. Yay!

Sat - leftover turkey tacos
Sun - leftover brats
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/Legion mtg)
Tues - Homey Chicken Stew
Wed - leftovers
Thurs - leftovers
Fri - leftovers
Sat - yes, more leftovers

Homey Chicken Stew (modified; Slow Cooker Revolution, America's Test Kitchen)
This made a bit more than expected because I was rushing and didn't pay attention to my chicken quantities.  I should have set aside about 1lb of chicken thighs from the packages and I didn't.  Excess chicken aside, this dish was outstanding.   The chicken was fall apart tender, the flavors were perfect, and I loved the consistency - not quite soup, not quite stew.  This was not a chop and plot recipe, and I actually did follow the directions.  Mostly; my modifications are below. 

3 lb chicken (really, use just 3 lbs)
2 onions (I used 1)
6 cloves garlic, minced (I used 5)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup AP flour
1/4 cup white wine (I used water)
4 cups chicken broth, divided
12 oz potatoes, washed cut into 1/2" cubes
4 carrots, diced (I used chopped baby carrots)
1 bay leaf
1 cup peas (I used mixed veggies)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1) Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan.  Lightly brown chicken on both sides.  Set in slow cooker.
2) In chicken pan, saute onion, garlic and thyme until just softened.  Add flour, stirring continuously for about 1 minute.  Add 1/4 cup wine, stirring.  Add 1 cup broth, stirring until mixture is thickened and bubbly.  Add tomato paste, stirring.  Add to chicken in slow cooker. 
3) Add potatoes, carrots and bay leaves. 
4) Add rest of broth.  Cover and cook 4 hours on high, 6-9 hours on low.
5)  Remove chicken and lightly shred, return to cooker and add peas.  Cook another 30 minutes.  Serve.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ancillary Justice by Anne Lecke

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket blurb:  On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

From debut author Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice is a stunning space opera that asks what it means to be human in a universe guided by artificial intelligence.

This is a 2014 Hugo Nominee.  April's book group selection.

This is a book that has been getting a lot of publicity in the scifi community and was being touted as a strong Hugo contender.  It did in fact make the Hugo nominee short list.  Ultimately, I enjoyed this book because it was different.

I'm going to start with the item that has the internet world abuzz: Leckie's use of gender or non-gender.  The society the characters are moving around in is portrayed as non-gendered through the use of "she".   And here's were my issue with the book comes in - in a genderless society,  everyone is now "feminine".  So, how can this be a genderless society?   I think I would have been more comfortable with some alternate or created term to denote who was being ta.lked to, rather than the vague unsettled feeling that everyone was female.

On, there is a great post regarding gender here.

Setting the use of gender aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of a ship persona in multiple bodies - avatars - or in Leckie's case, ancillaries.  I thought she did a great job of portraying these massive ships through the eyes of One Esk Seventeen.  How One Esk Twenty was over by the water fountain, how One Esk Eleven was walking down a street, how the bodies within sight line could see each other.

I enjoyed how One Esk Seventeen could convey emotion at being cut off from her greater whole.  How she/the ship had developed a greater personality through the ancillaries.  How her uniqueness, ultimately, led to a betrayal of sorts.

While the reader got an idea of the greater society, there are glimpses of a smaller planetary society being absorbed into the greater, and how a clash of cultures even in this advanced society can cause discomfort, unease, and disdain.  

For a first book (I think this is a first book?) it was interesting, engaging, had a few flaws, and engendered discussion.  Recommended.

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