Book review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely give a book 5 stars, but the rating is well-deserved for this one. Recommended by Lin-Manuel Miranda via my daughter (who’s not much of a fantasy reader but who also loved it), this is the first volume of a trilogy describing the life of Kvothe who is part magician, part musician, and part assassin. Building a convincing and consistent fantasy world is difficult, and though it took 722 pages to do so (and that’s only volume #1), those 722 pages were well utilized. The world is gritty and realistic, the magic is complex and consistent, and the narrative is multi-layered and compelling. The book is told mostly in first person by Kvothe, with bits and pieces of a third person narrator thrown in to deepen the narrative. Despite the length, the author leaves you with questions unanswered and mysteries still to be solved. (This is the one weakness of a planned trilogy, which is that the ending leaves you incomplete.) It’s worth it.
All in all, this is the best fantasy novel I’ve read in quite some time. I look forward to reading the second in the series and wait impatiently for the final volume to be released.

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Spring Break 2018: Honolulu, where else?

If it seems like we go to Honolulu quite a bit, it may be because we have. However, this was our first trip there as a family in 2018. (Note how I carefully defined the parameters just now.) We were fortunate that the kids shared a spring break this year, and they decided to opt for Hawaii as the spring break destination.
This trip was probably the most mellow family trip to Hawaii that we’ve ever had. The kids had surfing lessons every day, and we did visit Shangri-la, the residence of Doris Duke that she decorated throughout with Islamic art. (Jim and I must keep up our reputation as killjoy parents and do something educational on every trip.). But other than that, it was a pretty zen vacation. We shopped a little, we pampered ourselves at the spa some, and we ate a lot (temporarily adopting the Samoan saying “Eat til you’re dizzy.”). And, of course, we enjoyed the warmth and the sunshine and the ocean.
The best part, of course, are the memories of yet another fun family vacation, knowing that each year brings fewer opportunities for us to all be together. To paraphrase Rick from the movie Casablanca, “We’ll always have Hawaii.” (And Disneyworld.).

returning from a visit to Leonard’s Malasadas

orchids from the farmer’s market

Shangri-la (Doris Duke’s residence)

the view from Shangri-la

at the Halekulani

Waikiki

Waikiki at sunset

A Long-Time Favorite: Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

It has been a while since I last posted photos of a dinner at Chef Mavro, one of our favorite restaurants. The restaurant has redone its menu a bit, allowing guests to choose from a selection of small plates or to embark on a 9 course Bataan death march of a tasting menu. We’ve done the tasting menu before—it’s fabulous and not to be missed!—but wanted to focus on our most recent meal, where we selected from the small plates.
We started with a foie gras parfait that included hibiscus, asian pear, yuzu, and malasadas. (Actually, we started with two of them because our party of four included a 16 year old velociraptor.) Our family loves foie gras, and this version was one of the best we’ve ever had. The inclusion of the citrus/sweet flavors set off the richness of the foie gras perfectly.

foie gras parfait

Next up was the ahi poke, served with ogo, chives, Aleppo pepper, and taro crisps. Poke has become the “in” thing these days with poke restaurants popping up everywhere from California to DC, but it is originally a Hawaiian dish (hopefully, the New York Times food writers will not “discover” it the way they discovered bubble tea, as a New York invention). The taro crisps were light and fresh, and the poke with the sauce had a lovely rich taste to it.

ahi poke

The third course was the egg “poutargue” with an egg, Yukon potato, San Danielle prosciutto, and sun-dried fish roe. The saltiness of the prosciutto gave the dish a nice flavor to go with the egg and fish roe. Yum!

egg poutargue

To our shock, our velociraptor asked for the keahole lobster (liking lobster is a recent thing for him). The lobster was served with kale, ginger, okra, and soursop. While excellent (because everything here is excellent), it was probably the weakest of the dishes.

keahole lobster

The next dish was the island free range chicken, served with a tarragon mousse, island cream corn, Swiss chard, and foie gras jus. Chef Mavro used to do a chicken multi-course dinner that Jim and I still talk about. This is a microcosm of that dinner and delectable. I am generally not a fan of white meat because it is more often than not dry and flavorless. This, however, was neither, and if more people could serve chicken like this, I would no longer be a white meat hater. Enough said.

island free range chicken

The final entree dish was a Miyazaki wagyu fricassee with chimichurri, breadfruit, warabi, and mustard seeds. You have to be a ham-handed chef to ruin wagyu, and there are no ham-handed chefs here. On the other hand, you have to be a gifted chef to make the most out of the wagyu and that certainly was the case here. The meat was perfectly cooked, tender and flavorful, and the accompanying ingredients provided additional flavor and texture.

miyazaki wagyu fricassee

Dessert was a citrus dessert—light, flavorful, and a perfect end to the dinner—and a chocolate dessert—rich, bold, and also a perfect end to the dinner.

citrus dessert

chocolate dessert

We have fond memories of Chef Mavro over the years, and each meal has been delicious and memorable. We look forward to many more years of dining there!
www.chefmavro.com

Book review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1)A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The premise for this series is very interesting: it posits that Sherlock Holmes is actually a woman, Charlotte Holmes. In this first of a series, Charlotte deliberately loses her virginity in order to carve out a life as an independent woman. She is rescued from her attempt to earn her own living by a former actress, Mrs. John Watson, who befriends her and invests the seed money for Sherlock/Charlotte Holmes to open up a consulting detective business.
The initial mystery is a murder where Charlotte’s sister is the primary suspect. Charlotte is assisted in her investigation by a police officer and a childhood friend.
The author is wide-ranging in her books, writing everything from romances to fantasy. Her research into Victorian times and the role given to women is impeccable. The premise works–Charlotte may not be a self-described high functioning sociopath in the manner of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes in the BBC television series, but she is definitely not within the mainstream of women or men in Victorian society. The mystery is solidly, if not impressively, plotted, and the characters are well drawn.
I really enjoyed this twist on the Sherlock Holmes genre, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series!

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Book review: Bonfire Night by Deanna Raybourn

Bonfire Night (Lady Julia Grey, #5.7)Bonfire Night by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the last in the Lady Julia Grey series, and I have been putting off reading it because I don’t want the series to end. I gave the novella 4 stars but would probably more honestly give it somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars if it weren’t for the fact that it’s the last story. The author wraps up most of the loose ends of the previous novella, but the story reads as if she wants the series to end as well. There isn’t much of a plot, and the characters aren’t as vibrant or witty or full of personality as they have been in previous books.
I very much wish that the series could continue in novel length (novellas being limited in their story-telling by their shorter length) as I think the main characters still have many stories to be told. That being said, if you have not read this series, I highly recommend you start at the beginning and work your way through (including all the novellas). The characters, the quality of the writing, and the mysteries are all beautifully rendered and should not be missed.

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