Monday, November 11, 2013

Reading Once, Reading Twice, Reading with Chicken Soup and Wild Rice!

Hello all! It's been a lazy week since my last post, without much going on at all. I finished up a few books, did a lot of chores, cooked some dinners... Just life in general, I suppose! Of the two books I finished, one was very good, and the other very bad.... 

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Star Rating: ****-
 I picked up Dragon Keeper through Amazon's monthly Kindle deals right after I got my Paperwhite. Robin Hobb wasn't an author I'd yet read, but I'd heard of her and the synopsis of the book sounded intriguing. A world of dragons, but not the sort one usually expects. It sounded like something I hadn't read before, and I eagerly snapped it up for the sale price.
While the book had me enthralled, I have to admit, not a whole lot happens. This is very clearly a 'set up' book, one that's main purpose is to introduce you to the cast of characters you'll be following, get you attached, and ready to follow their adventures. That's certainly not to say the book was boring, there's just not any epic quests or major continent-crossing traveling going on. The action picks up at the end, and leaves you excited for the next book, ready to continue on with the travels of the characters you now care about.
The characters themselves were well fleshed out to me, and the world is interesting and wonderfully described. I found that Hobb has a good balance in her descriptive writing, and I never felt the need to skim through any long winded but ultimately boring explanations of the world. A large cast will keep you occupied as the story switches between their perspectives, and the interesting relationships between the humans of the world, Elderlings, Dragons, Sea Serpents, and Liveships left me intrigued and wanting to learn more. 
Perhaps the only part of the book I did not like, or rather, did not bother to read, were the small bits between the chapters about the bird keepers and their letters sent back and forth. Hobb uses these to break up the action, and apparently give little insights into the communications between the various towns and cities. However, the information they contained was rarely, if ever important, and I found myself either skimming or outright skipping them. A neat idea, but ultimately it didn't add anything to the story and was a minor distraction.
I discovered that this Rain Wild's series takes place in the same world as several of Hobb's other series, which is something I definitely appreciate. While Dragon keeper is apparently not the book that's first up to be read if you are reading chronologically, I was never at a loss of what was going on, or felt at a disadvantage for not having read the other books. Each of the series supposedly stands alone and is readable to someone knew to the particular world within the books.
Overall, I really did enjoy Dragon Keeper despite it being more character than action driven. With the pace having picked up towards the end of the book, and adventures starting to be had, I've already purchased the second book to start very soon. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy or dragons, and look forward to sampling more of Hobb's work in the future!
I gotta say, I really enjoyed this book. The ending was SUPER ABRUPT, which would have been really annoying had I had to wait any length of time before starting the next book, but thankfully I was able to buy Dragon Haven literally right after finishing Dragon Keeper straight from my Kindle! I didn't even need to get off the bed!

Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Star Rating: *- - - -
I purchased this book on it's release day mostly out of love for the author's previous work, The Thirteenth Tale. I'd read the reviews of it before I clicked buy (I nabbed the kindle edition), and I'd seen that the reviews were wishy washy at best and all of the negative reviews had the same complaints, but I had loved the Thirteenth Tale so much and waited so long for another book from the author that I went against my better judgement and purchased it.
I only made it to page 85 before I gave up on it. Honestly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the writing. It's just as it was in Thirteenth Tale, beautifully written and a dream to read. It's just that nothing was happening. People were dying left and right, but the author hadn't made you care about any of them. I was reading it when my husband came home from work yesterday, and in the time it took him to get out of his work clothes, grab a snack, and get comfy at his computer, two characters had bit the dust. Really?
It's very weird, because the beautiful writing keeps you reading and makes it almost a pleasure to be reading... well, nothing. Besides reading about the main character, William Bellman, work in a textiles mill, and people dropping like flies left and right, the plot didn't seem to be going anywhere at all. There were hints of some mysterious character starting to emerge when I quit, but after 85 pages of hardly any plot that was meandering nowhere, I'd had enough and couldn't bring myself to keep bothering. It wasn't spooky, there was no hauntingly written mystery as in Setterfield's last book, and there were no characters I particularly liked.
I returned the Kindle book to Amazon for a refund- I could buy at least two other books for the amount I spent on the brand new release of Bellman and Black. If you're buying Bellman and Black because you loved Thirteenth Tale, you're making a mistake. The pacing is completely different, there's little plot in evidence, and it lacks all the spooky wonder of Setterfield's previous work. Do yourself a favor, and check this out at the library before you buy it, just to make sure you actually want to spend your money. Some people have loved Bellman and Black, but for me the beautiful writing simply isn't enough to redeem it.
Bellman and Black is definitely the biggest book disappointment I've had in a long while. I loved The Thirteenth Tale. It was definitely one of my all time favorite books, and I've been desperately hoping she'd write another book at some point. I was beyond excited when I heard this was coming out a few months back. It's such a shame to me that while Bellman has the same brilliantly gorgeous writing, the story itself is nonexistent. I wanted to love this book so much, but it didn't pan out. I do hope she'll write another, and maybe it'll be a book that I'll enjoy as much as Thirteenth Tale...

Now then, on to more other things!

Chicken Soup with Rice was one of my favorite books as a little girl; I have fond memories of my mom reading it to me. I dunno if it contributed to my rampant love of soup, but I'm sure it didn't help prevent it!

The weather is due to take a shocking turn for the chilly tonight, so in preparation I decided it would be best to make some soup! As if I need an excuse! I selected a lovely recipe from yesterday, and just finished whipping it up a little while ago!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup 1


1/2 cup butter
 1 finely chopped onion
 1/2 cup chopped celery
 1/2 cup sliced carrots
 1/2 pound fresh sliced mushrooms
 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
 6 cups chicken broth
 2 cups cooked wild rice
 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
 1 cup slivered almonds
 3 tablespoons dry sherry
 2 cups half-and-half

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion, celery and carrots and saute for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for 2 more minutes. Then add the flour and stir well. Gradually pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly, until all has been added. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer.
  2. Next, add the rice, chicken, salt, curry powder, mustard powder, parsley, ground black pepper, almonds and sherry. Allow to heat through, then pour in the half-and-half. Let simmer for 1 to 2 hours. (Note: Do not boil or your roux will break.)
Have I mentioned the lighting in my kitchen is horrible for taking photos?

The soup turned out quite tasty, though it's a little too rich for my tastes. I did make a few alterations to the recipe. I didn't add the almonds, as I don't like nuts. Next time I may boil them in the soup in cheesecloth to get the flavor, and discard the nuts themselves... I also added a halved and sliced leek in with the veggies, since I love leeks!

Rather then use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I boiled a one pound Cornish Game Hen in water with the veggie trimmings instead. This gave me the perfect amount of meat and a way to use the veggies trimmings I'd normally discard. I used some of the larger leek leaves, filled them with dried parsley, thyme, bay leaves and sage, and tied them up into a packet with twine. That let me season the broth from the game hen, without ending up with a bunch of unappetizing re-hydrated herb bits floating about in it. Then I used some of the broth to cook the wild rice with, and saved the rest in a bowl to freeze and use later.

And as every comment on the original recipe suggested, I doubled the curry powder. It really makes it very, very chickeny. I don't know why, but I guess it's just a curry powder kind of thing!

This recipe made an absolute ton of soup though! Thankfully our friend Lance is going to come by tomorrow and take some home with him to try!

Anyway, last but not least, this came in the mail for me over the weekend!

My super cool Charizard wallet! We saw it in a shop in the mall, but their online store had it $5 cheaper. I protested it would not be cheaper after the cost of shipping, but Matt worked his internet magic and found a coupon for the website. It was only a few dollars off when all was said and done, but a few dollars is still pretty good! Love it!


1 comment:

Daffycat said...

I'm always impressed with your book reviews. Maybe it's because I blank out plots and story lines the minute I'm finished? I was never good doing reviews.