Star Wars: Chewbacca

Star Wars Chewbacca
Star Wars Chewbacca by Gerry Duggan

Star Wars: Chewbacca is one of the most recent comic book complications in the new Star Wars Cannon.  I had to wait a long time for this one to come in from our library.

The story starts with Chewbacca stranded on a strange planet after crash landing.  Soon trouble finds him in the form of a tween girl.  She needs his help and lovable caring Chewbacca is there for her after his usual complaints that no one can understand.

The story follows the battle against the bad local bad guys and eventually Chewbacca and his new little pal have to part ways.  Chewbacca proceeds to his original destination Kashyyyk, his home planet, where he is able to finally deliver a box.  We are never told what is the box, but I got the feeling it was the remains of a fallen comrade.

Star Wars: Chewbacca Book Cover Star Wars: Chewbacca
Star Wars
Gerry Duggan
Science Fiction

Review: Kindle Oasis

Kindle Oasis
Kindle Oasis

Yes, I got one.  I pre-ordered Kindle Oasis with a brown cover on the first day possible and just received mine, two days after the official launch.  Since there was a delay you could infer that the demand was pretty high for this gadget.  As of now, they are out of stock on most configurations.  Most reviews I read said wait this time and don’t get it, since it wasn’t a substantial upgrade from the Voyage.

I have to disagree.  The fact that the Kindle Oasis finally has a bezel big enough to hold the kindle single-handed without accidentally turning the pages, is a huge benefit.  Also, increasing the number of internal lights is very nice.  The additional battery life is nice, but the Voyage lasted long enough for me already.

Kindle Comparision Chart
Kindle Comparison Chart

A lot of reviewers were also comparing the Oasis to the Paperwhite model.  This is a mistake.  You should compare it to the Voyage.  I did and it is dramatically lighter and thinner, at least on the non-battery sides of the Oasis.  Oasis, as you can see in the above chart is 4.6 ounces.  The Voyage is 6.3 ounces.  A difference of 37%!

I quickly figured out how to change the name of the kindle and discovered that it was not trying to automatically download books, it was just populating what books I had bought, but not downloading them.

I ended up pushing most of the books that I had bought to the Kindle Oasis.  It now has around 150 books on it and I can’t wait to start reading them.  I’ll do another update when I have had some time to read with it and see if I really do like it better than the Voyage.  I already like how the cover comes off easier and the look of the cover.  Although, it seems to scratch easily.

I read with it for a bit tonight and I did switch from hand to hand often.  It is a nice feature that you can switch from hand to hand and the screen automatically rotates.  The page turns are fast.  It is very light in your hands and easily held with one hand, unlike the Voyage.

I think this is a good upgrade from the Voyage.  Maybe those reviewers that thought it wasn’t didn’t read on their Kindle every day.  Maybe only real serious readers can see the advantages that this new Kindle Oasis can offer.

Review: Star Wars: The Weapon of a Jedi

Star Wars- The Weapon of a Jedi
Star Wars: The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry

Star Wars: The Weapon of a Jedi is placed between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.  Jason Fry is a new author to me at least with this new Journey to the Force Awakens series.  He is actually best known for the The Jupiter Pirates series.

When comparing this to the other books in the series like Greg Rucka’s Before the Awakening.  It doesn’t do to well.  The story was extremely slow to start.  Don’t get me wrong the book reads very fast.  It took me two days and I had a ton of interruptions in reading.  I’m glad I read this only because I know its not integral to the story of the Force Awakens.

The story follows Luke on a mission he is doing for the Rebel Alliance.  Although, he never gets to the mission in the book (too bad, might have been a better story).  He feels himself attracted (via the Force) to a planet he has never been to before.  He visits the planet and figures out why the Force was calling him, unfortunately his presence has not gone unnoticed.  A new bad guy finds him.  The story is little ruined by the fact that we all know Luke makes it.

No surprises and a slow story earns this book 3 stars.  One star for being about Star Wars included.  If you are following along in the series you can skip this one, but its under 200 pages and written for a much younger audience so the book goes very fast.  Just don’t expect it to be your favorite Star Wars novel.

Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure Book Cover Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens series
Jason Fry
Young Adult, Science Fiction
Disney Lucasfilm Press
September, 4, 2015

Luke Skywalker returns for an all-new adventure in this thrilling upper middle grade novel. Set betweenStar Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the story finds Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, and R2-D2 stranded on a mysterious planet, and explores a dangerous duel between Luke and a strange new villain.

Review: Alive

Alive by Scott Sigler

In the interest in full disclosure I received Alive by Scott Sigler book and a copy of Alight, the second book in the series, as part of a giveaway.  My opinions are my own.  Now that that is out of the way.  Go read this book!  NOW!  You don’t need to read the rest of this review.

Still here?  What! Why?  Go read the damn book!  Ok fine, so you don’t believe me huh?  I read quiet a bit and there are very, very few books that I think everyone should be screaming READ THIS NOW!  This is one of those books.  It makes me angry that no one told me to read this.  What is wrong with you people?  This book is that good!

This book losses a lot of what it is if I or anyone else tells you pretty much anything.  I loved the constant surprises in this book.  Everyone throws around the page-turner word a lot, I probably use it too much as well.  This book really is a page turner.  It usually takes me much longer to read a 345 page book.  This week I also went back to work, so I’ve hard hardly any time to read.  Every single free moment I was reading this book.  I HAD to find out what happened next.

I totally bought into the very likable characters right away.  The environment the story takes place is unique.  I can’t say much more but you feel yourself paying very close attention to the descriptions of things as you try to figure out what is going on.

Very basic introduction to the book.  Female young lady wakes up in total darkness trapped in some kind of box.  That is in the description of on goodreads and amazon, so I don’t feel I’ve given away anything.  Just go read this.  It is amazing.  Scott Sigler hit a home run!  I can’t wait to read Alight!  But I’m going to take a break from this story line, so that I don’t have to wait so long for the third book Alone coming out on October 25, 2016.

Alive Book Cover Alive
The Generations Trilogy
Scott Sigler
Del Rey Books
July 14, 2015

For fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Rising comes a gripping sci-fi adventure in which a group of teenagers wake up in a mysterious corridor with no knowledge of who they are or how they got trapped. Their only hope lies with an indomitable young woman who must lead them not only to answers but to survival. "I open my eyes to darkness. Total darkness. I hear my own breathing, but nothing else. I lift my head . . . it thumps against something solid and unmoving. There is a board right in front of my face. No, not a board . . . a lid." A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief--she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people . . . and no answers. She knows only one thing about herself--her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin--yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they're to have any chance, she must get them to trust each other. Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it.

Advance praise for Alive

"A ripping, claustrophobic thunderbolt of a novel, Scott Sigler's Alive gives us an unforgettable young hero who must find the inner strength to lead without knowing where she is, who she is, and how bitterly the odds are stacked against her."--Pierce Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Red Rising

"Sigler has created a wonderful and engrossing character in M. Savage. Strong and smart, but with the naïveté and misgivings of any teenage girl, she's someone you'll definitely want on your side when s*** hits the fan, which it most certainly does."--Veronica Belmont, host of Sword & Laser

"A tense, unsettling page-turner of a story--both deeply strange and wildly compelling."--Cherie Priest, author of Boneshaker and Maplecroft "From the first page I was hooked. The puzzle unfolds masterfully, right down to the last page."--Dr. Phil Plait, author of Bad Astronomy

Review: Squeezed

Squeezed by Alissa Hamilton

Squeezed by Alissa Hamilton is a great kind of non-fiction, but you have to be ready for it.  Coming off some very thrilling YA novels, I found it difficult to slow down and really process Hamilton’s points.  I did find myself getting lost in all the information, but I enjoyed that feeling and I like researching again as well. I enjoy learning things like 96% of all oranges grown in Florida are processed into juice.  There was a lot to take in from this book.  I’m going to lay out the essentials here so you can skip the rest of the review if you want.  But before I do, did I like this book?  Yes, it gets 4 our of 5 stars.  Having said that this book is not for the faint of heart.  It can be dry for those not interested in the particular topic.  I’ve always been fine with dry books as I’m interested in everything.  Consider yourself fairly warned.

  • If you buy orange juice at the store and it has a best buy date of more than a few days, it is heavily processed.
  • By heavily processed I mean, pasteurized.
  • By pasteurized, I mean boiled and they suck all the air out.
  • When they boil it it loses its nutrients, when they suck the air out the flavor goes to.
  • What is left (orange colored sugar water) is stored in tanks for around a year before it is processed some more.
  • When they take it out of the tanks the add fresh orange juice (just a little) to try to add back that orange flavor and smell that they removed.  Most processors also add flavor pack, which are mostly water that has been perfumed with synthetic human engineered smell to add back the orange smell that was removed.

Most know that Tropicana Pure Premium is not from concentrate.  Few know what it is. p.147

I knew going into this book about the pasteurization, and I remember hearing about flavor packs, but I didn’t really know what that was.  Hamilton made that clear in her book.  But mostly, her book was about policy.  Policy and politics from 1961 forward.  This policy and politics dictated why we have the orange juice that we have today.  The FDA decided that since flavor packs are made from oranges (not the case anymore) that it didn’t need to be put on the label.  So, if you see anything at all about flavor packs, it might say natural flavors on the label, but this is not always the case.  A lot of processors wiggle their way out of putting anything like that on the label or in the nutrition facts section.

Many consumers would be shocked and disappointed to learn that most processed orange juice, a product still widely perceived to be the definition of purity, would be undrinkable without an ingredient referred to within the industry as “the flavor pack”. p. 159

…you taste the bulk concentrate that hasn’t has the essence added back it just tastes like sugar. p.161

Here is another quote from the book that goes over the lifecycle of making pasteurized orange juice:

…pasteurized, deoiled, put into an aseptic tank farm, and the brought out, blended, add-back [added] and put into the package. p.156

Another disturbing thought is that some of the oranges could have been bacd, but how is the consumer to realize this when it is boiled (for added shelf life, not consumer safety) and removed of all taste and smell.  The flavor pack that is added could very well cover any lingering bad smell caused bad oranges that made it through any quality assurance testing.  It can have “a protective or masking role.”

Watch the advertisement below carefully, Anita Bryant never says directly that the oranges are from Florida in this add but that the orange juice is.  The orange juice from Brazil is processed in Florida, but it is not Florida oranges.

Another eye opener is that fact that most of our orange juice is coming from Brazil now, which doesn’t have the same FDA or governing bodies that we do have here.  Why Brazil?  Does it taste better?  Nope, it is only because it is cheaper, most agree that it is inferior do the oranges grown in Florida.

Below is a short interview that the author, Alissa Hamilton gave to a local news outlet.

The book was very enlightening, I discussed that fact that back in the 60’s the average homemaker was believed to be incapable of processing too much information, like what pasteurization meant.

And I love this quote:

Brennan had evidence that processed orange juice has so dulled consumers’ senses that they were becoming attuned to the taste of less-flavorful juice.  He questioned whether North Americans desired, or would even find palatable, fresh squeezed. p.99

Great tidbits that I learned from reading this:

  • Orange derives from the French or which means gold
  • Florida’s prolific Sunshine Tree was not planted until 1560
  • Southern China was the first to grow the sweet orange commercially
  • By the 1960’s 75% of purchased food had undergone some form of processing
  • The FDA estimates that over 3,000 food additives are in use

Just two more things I want to share about this book.  Did you know Bing Crosby made millions selling the stuff in these commercials?  And before that on radio?

And lastly I leave you with this quote:

It is difficult to find an orange juice consumer who is not bothered by the fact that a product that is made out to be fresh sits in storage, sometimes for upward of a year, and is made palatable only by the addition of a flavor pack.

Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice Book Cover Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice
Alissa Hamilton
Yale University Press

Close to three quarters of U.S. households buy orange juice. Its popularity crosses class, cultural, racial, and regional divides. Why do so many of us drink orange juice? How did it turn from a luxury into a staple in just a few years? More important, how is it that we don’t know the real reasons behind OJ’s popularity or understand the processes by which the juice is produced?

In this enlightening book, Alissa Hamilton explores the hidden history of orange juice. She looks at the early forces that propelled orange juice to prominence, including a surplus of oranges that plagued Florida during most of the twentieth century and the army’s need to provide vitamin C to troops overseas during World War II. She tells the stories of the FDA’s decision in the early 1960s to standardize orange juice, and the juice equivalent of the cola wars that followed between Coca-Cola (which owns Minute Maid) and Pepsi (which owns Tropicana). Of particular interest to OJ drinkers will be the revelation that most orange juice comes from Brazil, not Florida, and that even “not from concentrate” orange juice is heated, stripped of flavor, stored for up to a year, and then reflavored before it is packaged and sold. The book concludes with a thought-provoking discussion of why consumers have the right to know how their food is produced.

Review: Notes from a Small Island

Notes From a Small Island
Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I’m a fan of Bill Bryson.  It all started with A Walk in the Woods.  Yes, the book that was recently made into the 2015 movie A Walk in the Woods.  I really loved A Walk in the Woods when I listened to it on a long road trip.  Since, then I have read several of Bryson’s Books. I tried A Short History of Nearly Everything, but I was unable to finish it.  I found it very long winded and not very funny at all, but that was a long time-ago and I want to go back and try that one again.  Most recently, I read Shakespeare: The World as Stage.  I liked it.  I was not a stuffy history on all the Bards work.  It was very readable.

I’ve read a lot more of his works but let’s get back to Notes from a Small Island.  I checked this book out because I read the New York Times book review Bill Bryson’s ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ and I was very excited to read Bryson’s newest work.  But there was a problem.  This book is actually the second in a series.  I had not read the first.  You guessed it, Notes from a Small Island was the first in the series.  Written in 1995, the book follows Bryson around the UK as he tries to see some of his favorite places again and some places he has never seen.  The New York Times review of Notes from a Small Island was not as glowing as his newer work. Michiko Kakutani, gives his review that is not as I said glowing, but okay.  I wasn’t extremely excited to read an okay, book, but I thought well Mr. Kakutani doesn’t know Bryson, like I do.  I’ve read a lot of his work and I find him funny.

As he travels through the country largely using public transportation and walking he regales the reader with his dry pithy humor.  His particular humor does make me laugh, but it was often employed by making fun of famous (or at least known) personalities from the UK.  Example, “the landlord was as fat as…..  or the dense twit was worse than …..”  I just didn’t get these references.  This book seemed to be targeted at Brits.  At least to really understand these references.  That being said there is a lot of humor that you can understand, even if you don’t know anyone from the UK.

This YouTube video review of the book gives you a good idea of what I mean of the UK humor.  This obviously is done by a UKer:

Long blog post short, I gave this book 3 stars.  Just average.  However, if I had understood more of the jokes, this would have been an easy 4 star book.

Notes from a Small Island Book Cover Notes from a Small Island
Notes from a Small Island
Bill Bryson
Harper Collins
May 1, 1997

"Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it." After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson-bestsellingauthor of The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to returnto the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another,so it was clear that my people needed me.") But before departing, he set out ona grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile. "Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it." After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson-bestselling author of ,i>The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to return to the United States. ("I had recently read," Bryson writes, "that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.") But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile.