Book Update: Farewell Hobbis, Hello Creepy Kid stories

Well, as I said in the previous post I was having trouble really getting into the Lord of the Rings trilogy so, being that it was a library book, I gave up on it for a while and started a new quest.  For some reason, John Saul books have always been a quick easy read for me, and I get the feeling they probably are for a lot of other people, too.  This is not to say that they aren't good, but they seem to go by so much faster than Stephen King books.  They're not really formulaic in the way they're put together with the exception of the fact that the protagonists in most of his books are between age 14-21 or so.  At least that's true of those that I've read so far which include:

Black Creek Crossing
In the Dark of the Night
Faces of Fear
Perfect Nightmare
The Devil's Labyrinth

And at the moment I'm working simultaneously on House of Reckoning and The Manhattan Hunt Club.  I can't decide which I want to read first.  House of Reckoning is moving along at the pace I'm used to with Saul's books, but The Manhattan Hunt Club seems to be a bit slower going.  Does it use bigger words that I can't understand?  I don't think it does, but according to reviews it seems like more people like The Manhattan Hunt Club than House of Reckoning.  Hopefully within the next week or so I'll be able to decide for myself which I like better.  Of all the Saul books I've read so far, I think In the Dark of the Night and The Devil's Labyrinth are tied for my favorite.  I do have some of his older books like Creature and Comes the Blind Fury in battered paperback sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to read them.  Maybe I'll like old-school Saul a lot better than the new ez-read stuff.  Who knows?  For now I'm going to keep working on Manhattan and then reward myself with easy-breezy-Reckoning.  And THEN maybe I can finally finish King's IT.


Reading Update: Brain Tumors, Meth Cooks and Hobbits

The last time I posted regarding my reading schedule I was trying to plow through The Dark Half.  Since then I've finished it along with Needful Things and Under the Dome.  First off I'll say I was very underwhelmed with the ending of The Dark Half, and the book as a whole, even.  I guess that's probably why most people don't rank it very high on their lists of King favorites. I eventually had time to watch the film adaptation and it's right on par with the book: underwhelming.  Though I did admire how true to the written work the screen adaptation was.  I only wish they'd used the same Sheriff Pangborn in both Dark Half and Needful Things film adaptations.  Ah well.  I'll make separate posts for both Needful Things and Under the Dome as they were both quite excellent reading and deserve more than just a snippet.  

Once I'd finished the magnum opus Under the Dome I blasted quickly through Cell and it too, was sort of disappointing.  The story is nice but the ending has an unsatisfying Bachman-esque quality.  If you've read any of the Bachman books you'll know what I'm talking about.  Anyway, I decided to bear down and attack It after I'd finished Cell and so far, I'm loving It.  (McDonalds pun so not intended.)

I'm about 600 pages in and I'm taking a break.  Not at any fault of the book, though.  Honestly the way the two time frames in the book are woven together is amazing.  I can't imagine anyone, even SK having written the book the way it is.  It almost would've have to have been written as a 'then' story and a 'now' story and then split up and woven together.  Then again I'm not the best selling fiction author of all time, so maybe the ability to write in such a manner is beyond the scope of my understanding.  Anyway, I've unfortunately already seen the movie so it sort of dulled my expectations for the book, but I'm being pleasantly surprised by the depth of the characters and all the 'flashback' moments there've been so far.

The reason for taking a break in the late middle of It?  I blame the hobbits.  My wife and I went to the library and I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring only to get home and realize that I have a cheap copy of The Hobbit that I've never read. (For shame, I know)  So last week I read quickly through The Hobbit to sort of get a small dose of back story on Bagginses and Middle-Earth, hobbits, dwarves, elves, trolls, goblins and all that.  And now I'm maybe... 50 pages into the first Lord of the Rings book.

From all this it might seem like I read a lot but if you'll notice the last post regarding books was made oh.. a long time ago.  I really need to pick up the pace.  Especially because the LotR book is a library book.  Once I finish it I'll have a more detailed writeup on it.


Nissin Bowl Noodles: Hot & Spicy Beef

I'll star this post off with a quiz sort of question.  Does anyone know what this is?

Me neither, at least I'm not sure enough to say one way or another.  It's a piece of freeze-dried/dehydrated something from the vegetable packet from today's soup review.  I'm not often big on these mega-giant soup bowl ramen creations but seeing as how there are far too many steps usually between me and noodle-brick bliss, but I felt adventurous today, so I picked this up:

The packaging is bright and exciting.  Far too exciting for pre-fried noodles in a cardboard bowl with some packets of MSG and a few nuggets of freeze-dried vegetables.  Or is it?  My favorite aspect of said packaging is the portrait of the happy cow:

'Please enjoy the enclosed packet of me-flavored MSG'

Anyway, beyond the festive packaging there's a rather bleak layout of ingredients.  Bowl with dry noodles, MSG 'flavor' pack, veggie pack and what's this?  The SOUP BOOSTER?!??  Oh noes!?!111 Hot and spicy was one thing but now you're going to boost my soup with a mysterious black paste? I'm relieved to find that the soup should only be boosted once the other three ingredients, plus water, are brought boiling hot by a 3-minute stint in the microwave.  

After the merry-go-microwave ride is over for these noodles, I prepare to boost the soup.  I was careful not to actually touch the soup booster in it's base form right out of its ez-tear pouch.  Here's how it looks plopped on top of the finished soup:

Sort of looks like a black-goo scorpion drowning in soup?

And now we stir....

Ahh, much better.  Though I do think one of the rehydrated veggies is trying to escape.  Anyway, it turns out that this soup is actually quite delicious, considering it's 80 cent price tag.  The heat is subtle at first, even seems nonexistant, however it's a slow creeping heat that will leave one's mouth burning pleasantly for a few minutes afterward.  I had no trouble finishing BOTH servings in this bowl.  That's right there's two servings, but oh well, I'm a guy who usually, again, eats both servings in a standard ramen brick. One this surprisingly absent from the soup is any real beef flavor.  But it does, in ramen's defense have the same bullion-ish taste that an average pack of beef flavored ramen noodles would have.  And finally, remember the mystery vegetable up top?  It may have been clearer to you than it was to me, but once it was watered, nuked and boosted, it turns out that's actually a little bit of green bean.  Wierd eh?  


DiRusso's Italian Sausage

DiRusso's is a local maker of some of the best Italian sausages I've ever had.  That's not to say that I've had a lot of different Italian sausages, but these ones are far and above my favorite.

For tonight's dinner I chopped up 1/2 a yellow onion and 1 whole green bell pepper,  threw them on a sheet of aluminum foil and gave them a quick splash with olive oil.  Once the grill was heated up, they were joined by four of the still-frozen 'medium' sausages.  After about 22 minutes on the grill everything was ready.  The result:

Yes, the result is a greasy, charry, tin-foily mess, but it's OM NOM delicious.  Add a few buns, some shredded mozzarella and marinara sauce and:

The sausages, if I'd left them on a bit longer, would've probably had the nice 'snap' when bitten into and also have a bit more crunch on the casing, but all-in-all it was a pretty successful dinner.  If you look at DiRusso's website you'll see that they offer a decent variety of sausage flavors.  I don't think I've ever tried the Sweet variety and, to my dismay, haven't yet committed to a whole box of the Hot flavor.  It's not that I don't like hot stuff.... hell, if I got the hot ones I'd probably add hot sauce to them.  It just seems that the local grocers don't seem to stock a large variety of DiRusso products.... strange as how they're a local company and all.  If worse comes to worse I'll make the trip to the factory... they do have a Drive-Thru.  That's right the sausage factory has a drive-thru.  Anyway, the Medium flavor, which is what we had tonight, had just a small amount of heat.  If it were up to me, these would be Regular.  Followed in scoville units by Hot and then finally OMG IT BURNS flavors.  If you feel so compelled you can actually order DiRusso's products anywhere.  There's a sort of 'catalog' section on thier website, but it looks like you still have to actually call them to place an order.  On the whole, though, these sausages are the best Italian sausages I've chowed down on... ever.  Now, the real test will be later this week when we go to the local street fair.  I'm hoping there'll be different vendors there with Italian sausage... maybe even a DiRusso's trailer.  I'll update with my street fair food finds!


Tuna Snacks!

While grocery shopping today I came across a room-temperature meat-food-product that was too weird to pass up.  The name itself 'tuna snacks' doesn't sound right to begin with.  However, it got really scary when I picked up the package to find that it was a folded metal-paper-foil thing reminiscent of a grade school milk carton.  It was scarier still when I shook the container... liquid.

Now... if I'm seeing the serving suggestion correctly, those pinkish cubes are the meat, correct?  I see that they're packed in water, but shaking the carton they sound like they're absorbed with water.  Again to my surprise, though upon opening the innovative packaging I found that there were a couple dozen neatly stacked cubes of 'tuna snacks' floating around in the oil/water mixture.

In the above picture you can barely make out the shape of the fish-meat building blocks, but they're in there.   At the advice of the container, and my own common sense (and fear for my well-being), I drained these cubic delights in a colander and then put a few on a plate for culinary enjoyment.

With them uncovered from their broth substance I began to think I was looking at the fish equivalent of Spam, but it turns out again I was wrong.  The texture is still quite what you would expect from any common variety of canned tuna.  This surprised me as the number one ingredient on the list is 'TUNA PASTE'  OMG! NOT FISH PASTE!!!1111 Despite the waterlogged mouth feel, they still had a bit of a normal canned tuna texture and were actually quite tasty, as far as seventy-five cent cartons of tuna snacks go.  



With the holidays approaching I thought there was no better way to spread some holday cheer than to do a short review of Cheerwine!  No, actually my mother-in-law was coming up for the week and asked before she left if we needed anything and I made sure to mention a time or two that I MUST have some Cheerwine.  I got lucky and she came through with TWO cases of Cheerwine!  If you're familiar with it, it's only available in a few states and it tastes like nothing else on this earth.  I've included the crappy picture below to give an example of the can and the color of the beverage itself.

Yeah, I know... shitty background, but the color is damn near burgundy.  Honest to God it is.  This is something I only noticed this week when I decided to pour this delicious beverage out into a clear glass.   The last time I had it I was somewhere in the middle of North Carolina and I decided.... 'when in Rome...' and I bought a 20 oz, Cheerwine and a bag of spicy pork rinds.  Anyway.... the way I first discovered this marvellous drink was by simple curiosity.  I noticed it in  South Carolina convenience store on my first-ever trip to Myrtle Beach and I've had a soft spot for it ever since.

This drink is not your average 'Red pop' or Cherry or Black Cherry Soda, even.  And it's most definitely not a Cherry Cola/Cherry Coke drink.  It's has a flavor all it's own.  The best way to describe it is... maybe... the Champagne of Cherry Drinks.  I dunno.... maybe not 'Champagne'.  But it's damn bubbly!  As the can says... 'Unique Sparkling Soft Drink'.  The sparkle means it's got a few extra bubbles.  The aroma of the beverage might betray you to think that you're about to drink a Cherry Coke ripoff but it's not at all true.  The taste, as I've tried to mention, is totally unique.  It doesn't have the ridiculous medicine-y flavor that many 'red sodas' do and it's not overly offensive as I find most 'cherry sodas' to be.  It's just Cheerwine.  To the small group of people who know this beverage and how special it is, the name Cheerwine says it all.

As for myself, I'l be keeping most of all the 24 cans to myself.  See if I can make a recipe or two provided by Cheerwine's website... and maybe share a can or two with a close friend. 


My Stephen King Collection

I figured I'd make a post to list and inventory my collection of Stephen King Hardcovers. Not an elite collection by anyone's standards, but I like the way they look overcrowding my humble bookshelf. I'll update this post as I acquire new (and old) works.

Barnaby's Official Stephen King Hardcover List

  • Bag of Bones
  • Black House
  • Blaze (RB)
  • Cell
  • The Dark Half
  • Desperation
  • Different Seasons
  • Dolores Claiborne
  • Dreamcatcher
  • Duma Key
  • Everything's Eventual
  • The Eyes of the Dragon
  • Firestarter
  • Four Past Midnight
  • From a Buick Eight
  • Gerald's Game
  • Hearts in Atlantis
  • It
  • Just After Sunset
  • Lisey's Story
  • Misery
  • Needful Things
  • Nightmares & Dreamscapes
  • Rose Madder
  • The Regulators (RB)
  • 'Salem's Lot
  • Skeleton Crew
  • The Stand (Uncut)
  • The Talisman
  • The Tommyknockers
  • Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla
  • Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
  • Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower
So... that's it. I did have a pretty nice copy of Insomnia somewhere but I haven't seen it since I moved. Also had a copy of Cujo, but it might've been in such bad shape that I donated it away... not sure. I used to have the first four Dark Tower books in pretty good shape... you know, the large softcover format? Something possessed me to sell the fuckers and now I can't find a good set for the life of me. Anyway, I've got a couple others in softcover but those just don't have the 'shelf presence' that the HC's do with a nice shiny DJ on 'em.

Oh... it should also be noted that I haven't even read half of these yet. I had a lot of ambition when it came to buying them at Half Price Books (that's where most of 'em came from) but not a lot of ambition to make myself commit to reading them. I know all about that old phrase "catch up on my reading".