Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Round-up for early 2013

I made several resolutions regarding books this year. First, there's the usual "read a lot of books" resolution, which I then modified to include "read 26 new authors this year" to force myself to branch out a little more.

As of today, the end of February, I've read 14 new novels (5 by authors new to me), and reread 2 novels.

The rereads: March Upcountry by David Weber and John Ringo: a lot of fun if you just want action and aliens with a hint of romance.
One Shot by Lee Childs, which is the basis for the movie Jack Reacher: one of the best in the series, less action than the movie, and more plot lines.

The new authors:
Kylie Chan, author of Blue Dragon, Red Phoenix, and White Tiger. A fun fantasy/horror romance set in Hong Kong and Australia. Recommended if you're into that kind of book.

Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity. A wonderfully written first-person account of two teenaged girls, spying in France during WWII. Very moving and clever. Highly recommended.

James Smythe, author of The Explorer. A really strange SF novel that, IMHO, went too far to the literary and ended up disappointing me.

Maggie Stiefvater, author of Raven Boys. An excellent YA fantasy with sequels coming soon. I did NOT spot either of the major plot twists, which (I think) speaks highly of the author's story-telling skills. Recommended.

Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe. A YA generation-ship, dystopian SF novel that did a nice job of telling its story without overloading on either the science or the pathos. I'm looking forward to the sequels. (Note: my husband thought it was only so-so.) Recommended.

The rest of the new books:
RM Meluch: Wolf Star, The Ninth Circle, Sagittarius Command, and Strength and Honor. A fun SF series about a future where the Roman Empire has risen again to command the stars and challenge the USA for control of the galaxy. Recommended only if you like this kind of novel.

Joe Haldeman: Marsbound. YA SF novel about a teenaged girl and her family who move to Mars. The first 3/4 were ho-hum and then the last 1/4 was amazing. Not sure if I will seek out the sequels.

Charles Stross and Joe Haldeman: The Rapture of the Nerds. SF novel about the recent future, when half of humanity has uploaded, and a neo-Luddite seeks to avoid all things technological before he's called upon to save the world. I'll be honest... I nearly quit four or five times, and eventually skipped the middle 1/3 to see if the book got any better. It did - a lot better - so I went back and forced myself through the slow parts. It really is worth reading, but you'll have to be patient with it. Recommended for lovers of hard-extrapolation SF, or anyone who likes the authors' previous works.

Karen Lord: The Best of All Possible Worlds. A quietly SF, discretely romantic, totally wonderful utopian novel. The story is so gentle that you have to search behind the words to really piece out what's happening. After all the dystopian SF I've been reading, this just felt like a breath of fresh air. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A dinner party of new recipes

It had been far too long since I had my advisees over for dinner (as they frequently reminded me) so I finally pulled myself together, cleaned up the house, and planned a menu.

Things I had cooked before:
brown rice
white rice
shrimp-fried rice from William Sonoma
stir-fried Chinese broccoli
cumin seed roasted cauliflower (without the dip)
longanisa (made with turkey, because one of my students doesn't eat pork)

Things I had not cooked before:
scallion pancakes from David Lebovitz: this is the Korean version, with which I'm not familiar, so while it didn't taste anything like the stuff we get from our local Chinese take-out, that was both expected and a good thing. They were easy and yummy... definitely a keeper!

Prawn-stuffed mushrooms from Blue Apocalypse: easy but not quite as stunning as I'd hoped. I wonder if adding cilantro to the shrimp mix would jack it up a level...?

Edited to add: when I was cleaning up, I realized that the only dish to be completely devoured was the prawn-stuffed mushrooms. I guess everyone else liked them even more than I did!

New recipe count: 11

Friday, February 8, 2013

Wild Mushroom Lasagna

We're all snowed in up here in New England, and probably about to lose power tonight, so we did our usual ritual of eating up and cooking up all the good stuff in the fridge. I'd been planning to make this wild mushroom lasagna all week. Since we weren't able to go shopping I had to do without ricotta, fresh thyme, or a third type of mushroom, but it was still fantastically good. I will definitely try it again with the full list of ingredients.

New recipe count: 9

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pie Crust with Vodka

I kept hearing about it during the Holiday season... make your pie crust with vodka! More tender! Easier to roll out! More flaking! Less chance of tough, overdeveloped crust!

I owed my kids an apple pie, so I went ahead and followed the recipe EXACTLY as written. Wow... it was like pancake batter! I chilled it for over an hour and it was still too tacky to roll out. I used a lot of flour to make the bottom crust release from the wax paper I was using to roll it out, and the top crust stuck to the paper so badly that I just pulled it off in strips and made an improved lattice crust.

So after all this cursing at the crust, I went back and read the comments about it - oh, I am an idiot. Should have read the comments first. Most people omitted 1 to 2 tablespoons of water in order to get a workable crust.

The verdict? Delicious! I will definitely try it again, omitting some of the water.

New recipe count: 8

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I love the 21st century!

I love this new century we're living in:

Watched CSI: NY on the TiVo. (that's Thing I Like #1)

Heard a song I really liked during the opening montage. Looked up its lyrics via the Internet (this is Thing #2)

In this case, it didn't work. Found a couple songs that come close, including an awesome cover by Adele of a Bonnie Raitt song, but not this one.

So I went to one of the CSI: NY fan websites and found not only this song, but EVERY song from this season listed there. (Fan websites that contain actual content = Thing #3)

For the record: the song is "Love is a Madness" by No Sinners and the lyrics I searched were

Well if I can't make you love me
And I can't make you pretend
And I can't make you want me, baby
Then there's nothing else to recommend
I guess it's gotta end

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chinese Steamed Eggplant

No pictures, because it's a pale puree with leaves of cilantro tucked into it, but this Chinese Steamed Eggplant turned out to be easy and surprisingly yummy. I think it's meant to be a summer dish, but eggplants were on sale this week and I had some old cilantro in the fridge...

New recipe count: 7