Mini Book Reviews: The Club Dumas and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Since I’m super behind on my book reviews, I’m going to try writing some “mini” book reviews. I’m hopeful that writing a mini review will take some of the pressure off of writing full-fledged reviews so that I might be inspired to write a few more. 🙂

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Mini Book Reviews:

[1]

 

Club Dumas

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Lucas Corso, middle-aged, tired, and cynical, is a book detective, a mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found hanged, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers, ” Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment.The task seems straightforward, but the unsuspecting Corso is soon drawn into a swirling plot involving devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling derring-do among a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of Dumas’s masterpiece. Aided by a mysterious beauty named for a Conan Doyle heroine, Corso travels from Madrid to Toledo to Paris in pursuit of a sinister and seemingly omniscient killer.

I was really excited to read this book based on the description alone. A rare book collector trying to authenticate a previously unknown chapter of The Three Musketeers–sign me up! Initially the novel really seemed to live up to all the hype. It was mysterious, fast-paced, and I loved learning more about Dumas and book binding. Then, the novel picked up a second plot line (i.e. the search for The Nine Doors) and things started to get sort of muddled for me. It probably didn’t help that I was listening to an audiobook instead of reading a print version, but it just seemed like these two story-lines did not mesh well together at all.  I think this book would have been so much stronger if Perez-Reverte had either stuck with one plot line or had done a better job of fleshing both out.  I definitely don’t regret reading this book, but I wouldn’t want to read it again. 2.5/5 stars (rounded up to 3 on Goodreads).

[2]

moonisaharshmistress

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

It is the year 2076, and the Moon is a penal colony for the rebellious and the unwanted of Earth. The exiles have created a libertarian society in order to survive in their harsh and unforgiving environment, their motto being TANSTAAFL: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. Looming over them is the Luna Authority, the heavy-handed Earth administration, who trades life necessities to the “Loonies” in exchange for grain shipments to the starving populations of Earth.

As the situation steadily deteriorates the inhabitants of Luna come to realize that they have little choice but to revolt against Luna Authority in order to save themselves from resource exhaustion and a subsequent environmental apocalypse.

A small band of dissidents emerges to lead the revolution. This consists of a one-armed computer jock, a radical young woman, a past-his-prime academic, and a nearly omnipotent computer named Mike. These people ignite the fires of revolution, despite the near certainty of failure.

Of the 55 books I’ve read so far this year, only 2 of them can be considered “science fiction.” Clearly sci-fi is not a genre I read very often. So last year when a labmate suggested I read this book, I filed it away in my head for a “maybe someday when I’m really bored” book. Well that day came earlier this year when I really wanted to check out an audiobook from the library and everything else I was interested in was already checked out (I hate it when that happens!). I remembered this book and saw that it was available so I checked it out, and I’m really glad I did.

The story opens with Manuel (i.e. Mannie), who is a resident of the lunar colonies (i.e. “Loonies”). He is a computer technician for the master computers of the Lunar Authority, which is the lunar government established and run by the people of the Earth. One day Mannie discovers that one of the computers has “awakened” (i.e developed a self-awareness), and he develops a sort of friendship with the computer whom he calls “Mike.” In the midst of this burgeoning friendship a revolution is brewing amongst the lunar colonists, and Mannie and Mike quickly get swept up in the fight for independence.

Initially, the story was sort of hard to get into and I didn’t feel like I really understood what was going on. I eventually realized this was because the people of the lunar colony have different vocabulary and a strange way of phrasing sentences, but once I got used it I began to really enjoy the story. The Loonies and the place they live in are very different from my own, but Heinlein does such a fantastic job of world-building that I could imagine what it was like to live there. I was also impressed that the technology described didn’t seem too dated even though this book was published almost 50 years ago!

Despite the futuristic setting, this a book about politics at its core. While I may not have agreed with all of Heinlein’s theories, I found myself really thinking about the nature of revolutions and what it takes to build a nation from scratch. Mannie and his friends enter into the revolution with high ideals, but they quickly discover these theories don’t always hold up well in the real world. Heinlein’s descriptions of the intrigues and infighting of the new lunar politicians is eerily similar to that of the present day U. S. Congress.

Overall, I thought this was a really good read. It’s chock-full of political theory, but also has enough action to keep the story moving. I also thought the reader of the audiobook, Lloyd James, did an awesome job with the various accents and dialects of the characters. 4/5 stars.

 

Bacon Chicken Breast with Sweet Potato Mash

Apparently I’m on a bacon roll right now with my recipe postings, but there are worse things I could be on a roll with! I made this on a recent weeknight for dinner and was surprised by how easy and tasty it was. I will definitely be making this again!

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Bacon Chicken Breast with Sweet Potato Mash

Adapted from: Good Housekeeping

Bacon Chicken Cutlets and Sweet Potato

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, pricked with fork

4-6 strips bacon

1 pound chicken breasts (I used four 1/4-1/2 pound chicken breasts)

1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoons pepper

1/4 cups flour

1/2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoons pressed garlic

1 cups lower-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions:

Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until crisp. Reserve drippings–don’t clean the pan!

Season chicken cutlets with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour. Cook chicken in bacon drippings on medium-high heat for 6-10 minutes or until cooked through (165 degrees F), turning once.

Meanwhile, microwave sweet potatoes (make sure they have been pricked with fork) on high 10 minutes or until tender, turning over once. Scoop potato flesh into medium bowl, and mix with milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

When chicken has finished cooking, transfer chicken to plates. Stir pressed garlic into skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and lemon juice to the skillet and cook 3 minutes.

Serve chicken with sauce, bacon, mash, and mash.

Notes:

Steamed broccoli (shown in the picture above) goes really well with this dish!

October 2014 Recap

Oh, hello December! I’ve been meaning to get around to the recap posts for awhile (since I know those are the ones you really like to read Grandma 😉 ), but I was really motivated to post some book reviews and recipes the past few weeks so I went with that instead. But never fear, the recaps are back!

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[1]

I read 5 books in October, and they were all pretty good reads. I loved The Shadow of the Wind, and I also thought In Cold Blood and The Sun Also Rises were great as well. As of October 31, I have logged 48 books for the year!

Books read:

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

2. The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

3. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

5. Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

[2]

Recipes Posted:

1. Chili’s Chicken Enchilada Soup

[3]

I did pretty good in the fitness department in October. Obviously 64 isn’t as many miles as I might have liked, but it’s the best I’d done in several months!

October

[4]

Although we didn’t win the World Series (we came SO close), I still had a really great time watching the Royals! My parents happened to be visiting in early October, so I even got to take in a few games with them. I also gave myself a baseball inspired manicure!

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This is not a great picture, but as you can see the lettering came out really nice. I also attempted to free-hand a baseball, but it didn’t turn out as well. It wasn’t my biggest nail-art fail, but it’s not really blog worthy. I’ll have to make another attempt during the next baseball season!

[5]

Fun things I did in October:

1) Attended a Northwestern Football game

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Wildcats!

Honestly, it was one of the more miserable football experiences I’ve had–it was cold, rainy, and windy. Yuck. It was all worth it in the end though because the cats pulled out a surprise win against Wisconsin!!!!

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2) Celebrated Elizabeth’s birthday

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Love this picture!

3) Attended Beth’s Wedding

K and I also traveled to Philadelphia in October to attend the wedding of our friends Beth and Andy. Neither of us had ever been to Philadelphia before (and honestly we spent almost no time in the city itself) but we thought the city was really pretty (from the train window) and that the public transportation was great.

The day of the wedding was a little chilly and rainy, but that didn’t stop these two from making the most of their big day. They had a beautiful ceremony and were greeted by a fountain of bubbles on the way out of the church.

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Of course many of the bubble-blowers were scientists, and we were all really fascinated with how the bubbles clustered and didn’t pop on this bush…

10257720_10100559352569771_3416277451945756644_oThe reception was so nice and very well planned. We really enjoyed all the delicious food! 🙂

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Thanks for inviting us to your wedding Andy and Beth. We wish you many happy years together!

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Hope you have a great weekend!