Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Deaths of Tao | Wesley Chu


Summary:

In the second book of the Lives of Tao series, Roen has been following Tao's instructions, getting essential information on Genjix projects. Unfortunately, these missions are completely off the books and he is seen as a deserter and conspiracy nut by the Prophus. Worst of all, his constant being away has caused his wife, Jill, to kick him out of the house and he is unable to spend time with his son, Cam. Meanwhile, Jill is working in Washington DC to push the Prophus agenda despite the overwhelming Genjix influence. Naturally, where Tao is involved, things turn violent and desperate.

Review:

Because I started reading this series with Rise of Io, the 4th or 5th book, I already kinda knew who was going to live and who was going to die. That being said, HOLY WAH! I still ended up completely emotionally engaged with this book to the point where I was upset with where it ended. You can't help but get sucked into the lives of these characters. Except, maybe, the bad guys. Every time the narrative switched to Enzo's perspective it just made me dislike him even more.

Chu has a wonderful ability to blend action and suspense with humor and sweetness. From Enzo's perspective, we read about the painful deaths of Prophus agents and Quasings at his hands. Meanwhile, from Jill's perspective we read about how all of Roen's passwords and codes are based on his relationship with her. Then, from Roen's perspective, we get to hear his and Tao's witticisms. Seriously, how can you not smile at some of their dialogue?

"There has to be something else we can save on other than transportation."
"Taco Wednesdays at the office were already cut."
"I miss tacos."

I enjoyed this book so much that I've already made significant progress in the next book of the series, just a day after finishing this one. Tao's world is full of interesting characters. Even those whose perspective we don't get to hear from are interesting to see in action. Stephen and his Quasling Camr had me almost crying. Master Lin had me laughing my butt off. Jacob scared me on a few occasions. Every character contributes something. Every character is engaging. 

This is, hands down, a great book to read. I highly recommend you read the first book, The Lives of Tao, first.This whole series has proven to be highly entertaining of 5 hoots!


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#COYER Summer Reading Challenge


For the past couple of years I've complained about how many books I have on my Kindle App and on my shelves that I just never seem to get around to reading. This has been recently exacerbated by my discovery of the Story Bundle. I have so many books! I swear I had every intention of reading them when I bought them...

So, to help me out, I'm going to join the COYER Summer Reading Challenge. In another post I'll be writing up my list of 30 books (20 ebooks 10 hardcopy) that I am going to get to choose to read from for the summer. If I actually can finish all 30, I'll be pleasantly surprised. As it is, I'll be posting the occasional update here as well as a link to my book list when I get home and get it all written down.

The most challenging part about all of this is going to be avoiding NetGalley. Seriously, I did the math. About 35% of the 40+ books I've read so far this year have been NetGalley requests. I've still got 3 of them to finish before I can fully dedicate time to COYER. And if you see me on Twitter talking about getting another NetGalley book, feel free to shoot me a reminder (friendly or not is your choice).

If you're at all interested in joining, or want more information, you can check out #COYER@COYERChallenge or visit the COYER website.

*Update: I've created a page with my Challenge List.

The Little Red Fish | James Moffitt & Bizhan Khodabandeh

*Book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

This series is an allegory for the Iranian Revolution for adults and an adventure story for kids. The books tell the story of the fish who are under the harsh rule of the egrets. Their only hope is the eagle who is the only one able to take down an egret, but will he be able to do all of it himself?

Review:

Every part of this mini-series was a treasure to read. It was such an enriching experience and gave me some much needed perspective on Iran. The use of an allegory is a smart move to help those of us separated from the events learn about it. This is the kind of series that can kick off an interest into the history of Iran. It also serves as a frightening reminder of the costs and effects of power. This is not a happy story. This is not a heartwarming story. This is a warning from history. And I have cherished every section.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Sea Is Ours | Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng


Summary:

A collection of steampunk stories based in Southeast Asia written by Southeast Asian authors. To quote the editors:

"In our iteration of steampunk, neo-Victorianism and all its attendant issues are optional, even sidelined..."

Review:

This book has so many elements that I enjoy. I love anthologies. I enjoy steampunk stories. I love finding new authors to read more of. And I love learning more about other cultures. This book takes me to several worlds where my American bias has no firm footing. Things that were mentioned by some authors as matter-of-fact comments caught me completely off guard because they weren't such a strong part of my life. I also ended up highlight a bunch of words or phrases throughout the book because I just had no frame of reference for them and wanted to know. (By the way, definitely looking up a recipe for tsokolate now!)

I also really appreciated that, out of 12 stories, only one didn't work for me (there's always one, it seems). The rest of the stories, though, were so engaging and I'm so glad they were included in this anthology. I have added a few new authors to look up. The only problem I'm having with that is they're so underrepresented in the book avenues that I use. If you have any suggestions for better access to books from Southeast Asia please let me know!

I happily give this book 4 hoots and encourage you to get a copy!

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Rebellion's Last Traitor | Nik Korpon


*Book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

It's been many years since the resources wars. It's also been many years since anyone has seen the sun. The Tathadann Party runs the show with an iron fist, even adjusting it's people's memories so they forget what life was like. As a result, memories have become their own form of currency but are also more addictive and destructive than heroin. The only attempt at a rebellion failed and this book goes back and forth between the two former leaders of that rebellion, Henraek and Walleus, and their lives as workers for the Tathadann.

Review:

I'll be honest, I've got some mixed feelings about this book. It had a lot of interesting story elements and characters. The world was a little difficult to process, but that could be because I'm not used to the egregious dichotomy between the rich and the poor in post-apocalyptic worlds (you'd think I would be by now). Overall this really felt like a thriller or mystery book way more than it was a post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

I appreciate that we're given the viewpoints of Walleus, the willing traitor to the cause, and Henraek, the man who had to be broken first. From this we get the viewpoint of the backstabbing and politics going on within the Tathadann Party and the struggle to hold onto anything worthwhile in the slums. We get to see one man continue on with what family he has while the other has nothing left of his family but memories he's harvested from others who used to know him. One person only has "friends" that will take any opportunity to throw him under the bus while the other has a single friend who is trying to get him to move on. It's quite an interesting way to give the reader different clues about what happened in the rebellion and what is happening now.

The ending was what really gave me pause. In a way it really felt like the main characters got what they deserved, but it wasn't very satisfying. And maybe that's the point. The notion that revenge, social upheaval and justice have repercussions and innocent people lose out. There is, certainly, a lot of that in this book. Parents losing their children. Husbands and wives losing each other. People even losing their sense of self because they either lose their memories or get addicted to the memories of others.

I did enjoy the book. I'm not usually one for mystery/thrillers but this was, overall, a good read. If you like thirllers or dystopian settings this is a good book for you. As for me, I give it 3.5 hoots.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Waffle Sandwiches | Recipe


Ingredients (for 6 sandwiches):

12 waffle squares
6 sausage patties 
6 slices of cheese
3 hash browns, deep fried
6 eggs, scrambled

Process:

I make all of my waffle from scratch. It's actually the first page of my own, handwritten recipe book. if you would like me cover the recipe, please let me know and I will post the recipe later. For now, the important thing is getting the waffle squares we need.


I actually only started making these sandwiches after getting a square shaped waffle iron. My previous, round shaped one, would've been okay for sandwiches, but not nearly as well.


While the waffles are cooking, I start warming up the deep fryer to around 350. It takes a while to heat up, but is always quicker than I'm expecting, so I try to start it up soon after I've started making the waffles. Be sure to fill the deep fryer enough to cover the bottom half of the bowl.


Next up is the sausage. I like to cook these before I cook the eggs because it's easier to keep it warm than it is other ingredients.

When the deep fryer is ready, I prep the pan for cooking the eggs. It only takes 3 minutes to deep fry the hash browns and that's about the same as it takes to cook up the eggs. So I prep the eggs by scrambling them together with a small amount of milk. Then, I put the hash browns into the basket. 
Then I "drop" the basket into the hot oil, cover it with the lid, and set the timer for 3 minutes. Then I start up the stove and constantly stir the eggs until they're cooked. Generally the two get done around the same time.

Finally, it's time to assemble the pieces.

 Naturally, you start with a square waffle. 

On top of that you place the scrambled eggs.

Then the slice of cheese to keep the eggs in place.

After that, add the sausage patty. 

Then you add half a hash brown and top it all off with the second waffle square.


Review:

This recipe has, at Fluxxdog's request, become a weekly staple at my home, especially now that I've got the order of the layers correct. We've tried making this with turkey bacon and it just wasn't as good. Canadian bacon, however, worked really well. Additionally, you can make this without the breakfast meat if you need to.

With all of the ingredients listed above, and my waffles being homemade, the calorie count on two sandwiches is a whopping 1000 calories (give or take). I'm not sure how that would change with frozen waffles or with bacon instead of sausage. 

Overall, we really like the recipe and it's one where you can play around with some of the ingredients. One of these days I'll trade out the scrambled eggs for omelet style eggs. Or maybe just fried eggs.If you need a sauce for it, you can always add ketchup or maple syrup. It's a lot more playful of a recipe than it may seem to be at first. Definitely keeping this one.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Clockwork Dynasty | Daniel H. Wilson

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

June has been studying ancient mechanics ever since her Grandfather showed her a relic he'd picked up from an "Angel of Vengeance" who'd saved him on the Russian battlefront in the war. She's spent her entire career trying to figure out the mystery of this relic. When she finds, and "revives", an old mechanical doll given to the Pope from the Tsar of Russia, the doll writes the word avtomat and June gets thrown into the middle of a war that is ages old.

Review:

This was quite the enjoyable, engaging book. A little bit of an alternate history, but mostly a "they've been here the whole time" kind of thing. I greatly appreciated the cutting back and forth between June's present perspective and Peter's past perspective. This allowed me to build up on clues from both time periods to figure out what was going on. 

I do wish there had been a little more world building. I'm quite curious to know who The First Men are or were. Of course, given that each avtomat loses a big chunk of their memory every time their anima shifts or shuts down for a while, I can see why that information would be left to the reader's interpretation. The anima themselves have left me with several questions. If Wilson writes a sequel to this book, I will be looking for answers. 

Probably my favorite part of this book was the character development. As I read more and learned more about the characters, I grew to appreciate them. Though June is a human in an avtomat war, she is still very resourceful, clever and strong. Though Peter is torn about how to properly serve his anima of Truth and Justice, he is willing to learn from his mistakes and admit when he's wrong, especially to protect those he cares about. 

If/when Wilson writes a sequel, I will be expecting some more information about the technology used to create the avtomat and keep them held together. I appreciated what information I could get. That an avtomat can be forced to "hibernate" when they've endured too much damage and repair. That the remaining energy of one anima can be used to refuel another. It's a good start, but it's set my curiosity on edge. And that ending gave Wilson plenty of room to write a sequel. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, this was an interesting and engaging book and I need to know more about this world. 4 hoots!

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