Friday, September 4, 2009

I require FUN books.

I'm finding in my old age, that fun is a requirement while reading for pleasure. Call me unliterary, call me immature, call me uneducated, just so long as you call me.

Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson – informative, humorous, beautifully detailed, a palatable history lesson, but fun? Not so much. I'm about a third (400 pages + )of the way through, and I just don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. Like this is going to be 900 pages of set up, for something that's going to take another 2500 pages to come to fruition. Have I ever mentioned I hated reading Robert Jordan? The one thing this book really has going for it is it's damn educational. I feel like I'm taking a political / financial history class, and for once, this is a good thing. Stephenson's got so much going for him, would it kill him to get a damn editor? If/When I write a review for this book, it's going to read like a dissertation, because it will take me 10 pages just to set the scene. Even worse, the stupid book is addicting. I can't put it down because the characterization is great, and I'm getting a great history lesson, but other books sitting around the apartment are just so much more fun and entertaining. Sigh.
And will someone please tell me what the hell Enoch Root is doing in Massechussetts in 1713? Shall I just assume he's immortal?

Hood, by Stephen Lawhead – again informative, somewhat humorous, detailed, somewhat of a history lesson, a little slow. Many of the same things I complained about regarding Stephenson's Quicksilver, but with Lawhead, it's not such a big deal. Then again, in my book, Stephen Lawhead can do no wrong. He may write some cheap endings (Endless Knot!), but I still adore him. Hood is his take on the Robin Hood legends, except in Wales, during the Norman conquest of England. Bran ap Brynchan may be the heir of Elfael, but he wants to live his life as differently as his warlord father as possible. When his father is killed by invaders, Bran can run away from the burning villages of his people, or he can stay and fight. More apathetic than afraid, Bran simply does not want the life of a leader. He saw what that life did to his parents, and he wants anything but for himself. Finding safety in the forest, and help from a forest “witch”, it takes time for Bran to decide to do the right thing. The middle of the book is fairly slow, but it needs to be, as Bran is fighting his transformation into the leader he didn't know was inside him. Lawhead makes this into a perfectly acceptable Robin Hood myth. Where's friar Tuck? Where's king Richard? Don't worry, they are in there, just in slightly different incarnations. I am looking forward to the rest of the books in the trilogy – Scarlet and Tuck. Another thing I respect about Lawhead – he doesn't string me along. A trilogy is a trilogy, a stand alone book is a stand alone book. Lawhead tells me ahead of time how much of my attention he wants, and I like that.

Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch – This is the second or third time I've read this book, which is the 2nd book in Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards series. Sure, It's not as good as the first book, but damn, it is just so funny, and I can't help but giggle at all the swear words. Like the first one, Red Seas is pure, unadulterated FUN. It's taken me a long time at admin to my friends that I am a Scott Lynch fan girl, as his stuff just strikes me as so immature. But when I want something fun, he is my go to author. Don't be surprised in a group of rabid fangirls descends on Lynch's home in Wisconsin, demanding the next book in the series.

Adventures in cooking, take three. Been looking for a tasty jerk chicken recipe, and finally found the secret is to just cheat, and buy some citrusy kicky jerk sauce, then doctor it up at home. This recipe looks complicated, but like everything else I make, it's really pretty easy.

Jerk Chicken with rice & beans
1 cup uncooked rice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small can diced pineapple (don't drain it!)
2 green onions, sliced thin
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ cup orange juice
2 tbsp jerk sauce (we used Lawry's, and it was really good)
1 tbsp ground ginger
3 or 4 skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin and seasoned with salt & pepper
olive oil

Cook the rice on the stove like you normally would. While it's cooking, we'll prepare the sauce, the garnish (oooh, fancy, it's got a garnish!) and saute the chicken.

Make the garnish – pour pineapple and all juices in the can in a bowl over the green onions. The pineapple juice will mellow the onions.

Make the sauce – combine the vinegar, orange juice, and jerk sauce. That was easy.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides, in two batches if you have to. When chicken is mostly cooked, make sure it is all in the pan, and pour the vinegar sauce over. Simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through, and sauce has thickened a little.

The rice should be done by now, mix the black beans into the rice.

To serve: put down some rice and beans on your plate, put a piece of chicken on top, put some pineappley green onions on top of that. Looks lovely, has a nice kick, and might even be good for you!

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