Saturday, May 31, 2014

Exodus 2022

Exodus 2022
I received this book in a free giveaway with the understanding that a review would be appreciated.  
Exodus is a new novel by Kenneth G. Bennett (Kenny G. hehe.) It is a fictional, sci-fi, eco-thriller type of novel that is fast paced and easy to read.  I found it quite funny that it featured some whales since my last book, Big Miracle, also featured whales.  I don't think I could have found books so far apart on the spectrum if I had tried!  
While I enjoyed the book I found the characters to lack depth.  The good guys were very good, and the bad guys were very bad.  Every time there was a glimpse of a bit of depth to a character the plot would swerve away which I found disappointing.  The author also lacked variety in his descriptions of the characters.  The term twentysomething was horribly abused. One paragraph on pg 12 started "Joe Stanton was a tall, athletic, twenty-eight-year-old."  and the same paragraph ended with "More like a patient emerging from anesthesia than a vital twentysomething."   
Now my husband would probably say that I am over reacting to this next point, but he's not the one writing this review so I am adding this in.  Ella, the main female character, was repeatedly reduced to being a pretty face.  Characters constantly thought of her as beautiful and nothing else, or beautiful first followed by other desciptions.  Most insultingly, in one of her most dramatic scenes she thinks to herself that a gunman might think to himself while pointing a gun at her, "Oh you're beautiful, so you don't have to die."  Women are more than pretty faces!  I know that it can be difficult for a male author to write female characters, and vice versa, but in this case a little bit more effort needed to be made.
As far as quality is concerned in general the proofreaders did well.  There are two sentences that break into new paragraphs, one on pg. 289 and another on pg. 314.  There is also a " at the end of a random sentence on pg. 188.
In the end I would probably not read this book again, although I would read a sequel.  I would also recommend this book to most of my friends for a fun read.  I am sure that this author will continue to have interesting selections in the future as well.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Big Miracle

Big Miracle
Today I  finished reading Big Miracle by Tom Rose.  This book is the non-fiction story about three whales that were found trapped in the ice off of Alaska, and the public interest with media storm that led to a rescue attempt.  The author is one of the journalists who was in Alaska during a portion of the rescue.
The story itself is fascinating as far as how multifaceted this rescue became.  It went from a single Inuit finding the whales limited to a single open breathing hole to direct involvement from two governments and media coverage from several others.  I have vague memories of the event, but this is the first time that I can really say that I got the full story.  Thinking about life there at the top of the world was the other worthwhile part of the book.  It is so cold there that it is beyond imagination, and hearing about how unprepared the press was added some humor.
 Unfortunately it is obvious early on that the author mostly wanted to use the book as a platform for his snarky attitude, and political opinions.  The book had such a negative tone that 20 pages in I contemplated quitting.  
I also have to wonder if anyone proofread the book at all.  The redundancy and grammatical errors occurring throughout the book border on the ridiculous.  
He mentions on page 64 "To allow for late-arriving competitors and the rising value of a warm bed, the hotel started renting beds, as opposed to rooms."  Then on page 73 "The Top of the World Hotel started auctioning off beds, as opposed to rooms."
On page 98 "It was the wife of an oil executive who made Cindy promise never to identify her.  Cindy jokingly called her "Jane Whale."  then on page 99 ". . . Jane promised, who asked Cindy not to reveal her name."
He even introduced the names given to the whales on more than one occasion.  I mean, you could say the whales are the main characters of the story - wouldn't you just need to introduce them once?  
As for errors they are so numerous and glaring I wonder if he couldn't stand to read his own work.
Page 105 "He told her that Bill Allen not only authorized use of the barge and himself was on his way back to Anchorage."
 Page 147 ". . . while no one reported on his drinking, because he did not visibly drink anymore more than anyone else."
Page 233 "SAR went from flying three missions on Sunday, October 16, the rescue's second day, to more than just four days later."
There were also many instances where the author jumped from past tense to present tense and back again.  I would just expect better from someone who makes a living at communication.  Honestly I feel like a book written from the perspective of the Inuits would have been more enjoyable.
As for his snide tone and limited ability to mask his obvious disdain for left wing environmentalists you need only to open the book to a random page and read.  It bleeds through every page.  He repeatedly states that increased whale population should be directly accredited to the oil companies.  He states that polar bear populations are increasing.  He defends Reagan's environmental standings based on the idea that by improving the economy there is increased spending on unnecessary things  such as the environment.  Let's just say that if I were ever given the opportunity to sit down and have coffee with Mr. Rose I would decline.

All in all, I will never read this book again and I will never recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

12 Years a Slave - the real review.

 12 Years a Slave 
I just finished reading 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.  Wow.  Considering that in 10 of the 12 years of public education there is class work for American History, it strikes me as remarkable that this book was not required reading.  

 One thought that stood out in the reading was that as a slave you were not permitted even the small comfort of a family.  Every day spent with a husband or child could literally be the last.  The master could choose to sell them or you without any regard for the concept of family.  Taking into account the widespread Christianity of the owners you would think a small part of them would balk at such a glaring breach.  It's amazing that they pretended that slaves married at all, and didn't just order relations between the strongest of the male slaves with all the available women.  Let's not even delve into the relations between owners and slaves.  All mixed children being slaves means only that men were willing to sell their children.  Gross.  
Let's pretend that it is possible to wave a magic wand and take the situation as described and just change the law.  Monday slavery to Tuesday outlawed.  Can you imagine being one of the slaves - Patsey for instance, what do you do?  Clearly staying on the Epps farm is unimaginable.  But where do you go?  You lack the education necessary to start a business.  You are mentally and emotionally scarred from your experiences and probably not eager to walk into a store and ask a white man for a job.  By leaving the farm you leave your home, belongings, co-workers, etc.  Despite working your whole life you have nothing to show for it, no savings account, no network, no support  system.  It's just a mess.
Could you imagine living every day for 12 years with the knowledge of your rightful freedom, while suffering the degradation of slavery?  I don't think I could have kept the secret as well as Solomon did.  Do you think that Ford would have helped him? Then again looking at it from Fords perspective, here he is just bought a new slave for a rather handsome amount of money, and this slave says joke's on you - you're out the money because really I'm a free man.  That would be a tough thing to be reasonable about.  
In the end this book gave me a lot of things to think about - and I can't wait to discuss it again with my book club next month.  I would definitely recommend reading this book - and if you home school your kids you should add it to the required reading list!  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tomato and Asparagus "Carbonara"

Another Cooking Light Recipe - and this one is now a favorite that I will put into regular rotation.

Tomato and Asparagus "Carbonara" from September 2012 (yup still catching up on some of the old magazines on my shelf.)  Below you can see my picture vs. their picture.

Tomato and Asparagus "Carbonara" Recipe  

This recipe was super easy to follow- and I would say takes even less time then the time that they allow, especially if you take the time to prechop your veggies.  (Prechopping veggies is a great thing to do while a baby naps.  Makes life much easier.)  I have made this recipe twice now, the first time I was right at the 25 minute time limit.  The second time it only took as long as it was needed to cook the pasta.

There are no unusual ingredients.  The only concern is catching the asparagus when it is in season, and of course I am sure you could substitute frozen.  There are also any number of ways to substitute to  make it work for your pantry.  I have done 2 different pastas, 2 different cheeses,and even switched around spices a bit.

With only a couple veggies - and those being veggies that can be rough chopped - the prep work only takes a moment.  The veggies are cooked in one pan, and the pasta is cooked in its own pot.  So there are 2 pots used.  Other than that the serving bowl is the only other item that will need to be washed. 

Now for the only part of the recipe that initially worried me.  Your sauce is a raw egg in a bowl that cooks when you add in the hot pasta.  Scary.  But since I will drink raw eggs drowned in sugar in egg nog I decided it would be silly to skip this recipe just because of a little fear of illness.  Can I say it totally paid off?  So easy, and quick and yummy.

This is a recipe that is worth making every week as the pasta item.  It's inexpensive since it doesn't have meat - and it's quick to cook, and easy to clean up.  I would definitely recommend trying it out and making adjustments for your own family!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave and Other ...
Yesterday Corridor Book Club met to discuss the book 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.   This will not be a review of the book because I haven't read it yet.  That's right, I went to book club to discuss a book I didn't read, but that's ok because very little of a great discourse on literature is actually dependent upon the details of a single novel.  It left me thinking and I wanted to share.  (As always I have changed names since I value my privacy, golden rule, etc.)

At any rate, in our discussion Abby posed a questions to the group asking if anyone would have helped the slave escape the south.  Bonnie immediately stated yes.  No one else at the table gave such a direct answer.  Inside, my immediate answer was yes, which was immediately followed by rationalizations.  I think 2 years ago I definitely would have said yes and just left it at that, but as I was driving home I couldn't help but think the final answer would actually be no.  Gasp, I'm a horrible person - but hear me out.  Helping in the situation is a huge risk.  Being caught helping the slave would result in death, not only death but probably accompanied by slander etc. to protect the murderers.  All for what?  To help 1 person get freedom.  Now as I said, in the past I would have been on board in an instant.  I would gamble my life to help 1 other person, no hesitation.  But now my stakes are higher.  I would not only be gambling my life, but the future happiness of my daughter.  What I do every day ensures her future happiness, security, confidence, etc. to the point that if I were to suddenly disappear from her life it would not ever quite be the same. 

Now I'm not saying that my life is suddenly more valuable because I am a parent, but I am saying that the impact would be greater.  It could be quantified by time, previously my parents/husband would feel a loss, but that would only last about 50 years before we would be reunited.  With a child the loss  would be felt for closer to 80 years.  It could be measured by the feeling of loss which would also be greater, a child without a parent has an undeniable loss of stability that can manifest itself in so many different ways.  Could she ever forgive me for making a choice to leave her?

Historically, so many people have participated in underground activities to aid the unfortunate, and many of these people had families to consider.  Finding women in history - let alone women with families is next to impossible.  Harriett Tubman, while married in slavery left her husband when she decided to go North.  She did not remarry until after the Civil War. Do women with children make these choices?  Or do they settle into the mom role, and let others make the deciding moves?  Does this example of complacency then influence their children?  and would the hardship of losing a mother to a just and noble cause offset the emptiness just a bit?

Instead of looking at what a child loses in this situation perhaps I need to consider the "character building" qualities.  Setting an example is a huge influence on children psyches and seeing mom walk past a person needing help is surely going to qualify as setting a bad example.  Showing a child that self-preservation is more important that community outreach is also starting down a bad path.  

Is this complacency - and rationalization - actually the evil that needs to be overcome?  With the world becoming smaller and smaller, couldn't one argue that I am already choosing to do nothing?  I haven't gone to Nigeria to rescue the 300 kidnapped girls.  I haven't done anything about the huge divide here in America between the rich and the poor, or the level of educations given to wealthy children vs. poor children.  I haven't done anything about violence against women.  I haven't given up fossil fuels, or convinced anyone else to.  I have beliefs, but I don't have actions.  And this has nothing to do with parenthood - I didn't have actions previously.  But where does one begin - with all the bad - where does one begin to stand up for the good?

As  you can see this thought process has come a long way from a simple question.  I don't have answers - only more questions - but igniting this thought process is why I love book club!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Fettuccini

I have been cooking from Cooking Light magazine recipes lately, and for the most part really enjoying it.  Last night we had the Roasted Cauliflower Fettuccine featured in the September 2012 issue.  Yes, I have a bit of a backlog, I just can't throw them out without trying the recipes, you never know where you will find a gem! 

Their picture -
Roasted Cauliflower Fettuccine Recipe

My picture -

Just a bit of difference - LOL.  Overall though it was really tasty.  The predicted time factor was about right at 15 minutes of hands on time, which is important to me since I have a baby to cajole while cooking.  Being able to work separate parts without a huge time factor was a big plus.  I was able to roast the cauliflower and then leave the kitchen.  When it was done wouldn't impact the next step.  I had the sauce ready to go for whenever the pasta was done so the pasta wouldn't have to wait and dry out.  Having the individual components really helps me keep the baby happy, and not ruin supper.  It wasn't super heavy, and the bacon flavor really came through on the sauce.  Portion size (as with most light recipes) can be a bit skimpy.  If you truly do plan to feed 4 I recommend having a green salad for starters, and either bread with it - or a dessert planned.  On to clean-up!  For pans used this was a bit on the high side.  There was the pasta pot, the baking sheet for the cauliflower, and the pan for the sauce.  Three baking pots is a lot to clean up at the end of the day - especially when you don't have an automated dish washer.  Luckily, I was able to leave S to do the clean-up, so I really can't complain.

I enjoyed this dish, but I probably would not put it into weekly rotation due to clean-up.