Archive for February, 2010

I’ll be Back

Briefly, I’m taking a two-week-long hiatus from the blog because I just picked up a bunch of freelance writing gigs and am transitioning from my day job back to freelance, which means every minute of spare time I have is spent trying to keep up with my current assignments.

Week One of my two-week hiatus is just about done. Will blog again once my day job is done and I’m freely lancing again (i.e. March 1st).

Thanks again to my regular readers (all five of you) for hanging in there! 🙂

Frazzled, But Happy,

I’m Just Here for the Food: Taco Sinaloa

NOTE: I wrote this review back in August, before Book Bloggy Blogg was born. But it’s the Review of the Day on Yelp today, so I thought I’d post it to the blog to celebrate. 🙂

A picture is worth a thousand words. This one is telling you that I'm drooling right now.

True fans of great hole-in-the-wall Mexican food know that the cheesiness of the décor and the cleanliness of the interior are usually inversely related to the quality of the food.

Heck, sometimes, even the quality of the food is inversely related to the flavor of the food.

I love that Taco Sinaloa is unapologetically small and dingy. They know that the true connoisseurs will be back for the unapologetically rockin’ tacos.

I had the ceviche tostada the first time I visited this restaurant. It was decent. But then I returned a second time for the real draw — the tacos.

I had the carnitas, al pastor, and carne asada tacos. This is the taco trio I get at every taco place to gauge the quality of the restaurant. Trust me, if they mess up any of these three, they’re not worthy of your business.

Their tacos are flavorful and the meat is actually tender — when it comes to carne asada, that can be hard to do.

I wouldn’t quite put it up there with El Taurino or King Taco, but it’s certainly a worthy alternative when you don’t want to drive all the way to LA.

Taco Sinaloa
1647 W Carson St
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 328-4208

I’m Just Here for the Food: HolĂ© MolĂ©

Is it fried? Then, yes, please.

HolĂ© MolĂ©, that’s a good fish taco!!

Came here with some girlfriends for a cheap birthday dinner. Of course, I’d heard people raving about the fish tacos, so I had to give them a try.

They’re the Americanized version of fish tacos, I grant you, which means that the fish is gloriously fried and the whole thing is topped with tartar sauce, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t absolutely freakin’ delicious.

The fish was fried to perfection — golden brown and crispy on the outside, hot and moist on the inside. The portions were generous, which is always a plus.

Plus, it was Tuesday, so it was only a dollar per taco!!

My friend get carne asada taco, too, and those were decent, although nothing can live up to El Taurino‘s carne asada.

All in all, HolĂ© MolĂ© is a great option for a good, cheap meal, and I’ll definitely go back to get my fish fry on.

Holé Molé
5209 E. Pacific Coast Highway
Long Beach, CA 90804
(562) 985-1005

Cannonball 20: The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

The Moving Toyshop (Classic Crime) The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Confession: I love watching crime procedurals.

There’s something so fascinating to me about the mystery behind a crime: Whodunnit? Howdeydunnit? Whydeydunnit? Whodatdere?

Most of all, I like that they require little to no commitment to the show to watch — you don’t really need to know much about the detectives to understand the gathering of clues and the eventually nabbing of the perpetrator.

But, as a result, crime procedurals usually feel pretty one-dimensional — bad guy commits crime, good guys pick up clues along the way, sometimes in really geniusy ways, good guys figure out what happened, find bad guy, bad guy goes to jail or is punished in some other way.

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin reminded me a lot of a run-of-the-mill crime procedural in book form.

The mystery begins when a young poet, Richard Cadogan, decides to take a trip to Oxford to visit his friend, Professor of English Gervase Fen. Cadogan somehow finds himself in a toyshop, where he stumbles upon the body of an old woman. He’s then knocked out by an unseen assailant and, when he tries to lead the police back to the scene of the crime, he finds that the toyshop is nowhere to be found.

Fen is actually the protagonist of the book, but it took me a while to come to this conclusion because so much of the beginning of the book focused on Cadogan. It really wasn’t until I was a good third of the way through the book that I figured out that Fen was the sleuth, here. Those with snarky predilections might point out that I might not be enough of a sleuth myself to truly enjoy the book, to which I will retort that if I seem unenthusiastic about the book, it’s because I’m too much of an English major.

He can solve my mystery any day.

The sleuthing was decent; Crispin did a fair job of setting up the investigatory part of the book. And I did rather enjoy Fen’s witty banter with Cadogan — in my mind, the part of Fen is being played by a re-Englished Hugh Laurie. There were some entertaining chase scenes and a colorful cast of characters.

Maybe it’s because I’m the jaded product of an over-entertained generation, but the action was pretty flat to me. The big reveal was a huge letdown. When an author promises a mind-blowing mystery, then the reveal had better live up to the build-up. Unfortunately, Crispin’s big reveal left much to be desired.

That was my biggest problem with the book. It just didn’t deliver what it promised. It was an entertaining, mercifully quick read, but I doubt I’ll be picking up another Gervase Fen mystery anytime soon.

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Cannonball 19: The Black Circle (The 39 Clues, Book #5) by Patrick Carman

I don't know what's cookin', but it doesn't smell too bad...

The Black Circle (The 39 Clues, #5) The Black Circle by Patrick Carman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
There’s an old story about how you can’t cook a frog in a kettle of boiling water — he’ll jump right out to escape the heat. But if you put him in a kettle of nice, cool water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog won’t notice the change in temperature until his po’ legs is jes’ fried and it’s too late for him to get out of his predicament.

That helps to describe how I’m starting feel about this series. When I first started reading The 39 Clues, I jumped out of the boiling water, shouting protestations and vociferously decrying the decline in the quality of children’s lit. But the series tempted me back with an installment by an author whose works I enjoy reading. I denounced the series again — but not as forcefully.

By the time I floated my way through Book #4, I could hardly muster the energy to protest at all.

Book #5 in the series begins with a mysterious telegram that sends protagonists Amy and Dan Cahill to Russia. The book is the usual slurry of travel + mild intrigue + not knowing who to trust + historical trivia + bickering. Meh. And MEH.

And, since it’s set in Russia, of course one of the bigger plot points is related to the story of Anastasia. For those unfamiliar with the story, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last tsar of Imperial Russia. She was seventeen years old when her father was deposed in the Bolshevik Revolution, and she and her family were all executed.

Speculations that she had somehow survived floated around for decades until her remains were finally positively identified in March of 2009.
Author Patrick Carman builds most of this book around that legend. I suppose it’s not his fault that the legend was debunked when the book was probably already well underway, but I can’t help feeling a little dissatisfied. Really, I think he should have built it around something else that was, I don’t know, proven to be true.
But, overall, the action was average, the mystery was average, the reveal was average – no screaming protests here, which is unusual for me.

I think that I’ve been sitting in this pot of hot water for too long. I wanna jump out, but the N kids keep supplying me with books. It’s like the water is nice and warm – and laced with roofies. I’m not going to start gushing over the books anytime soon, but I might stop whining about them. In the meantime, I’m going to just sit in this nice, warm water and relax my brain.

I guess that’s what I dislike so much about books like these. They’re not terrible, but you could easily get used to reading them. They get cranked out at breakneck speed, so there’s always a new one to read. Before you know it, you forget that just because they’re not terrible doesn’t mean they’re good, and your standard for literature could be irreparably damaged.

Hey, what smells so good? Smells like chicken…

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Cannonball 18: Beyond the Grave (The 39 Clues, Book #4) by Jude Watson

Beyond the Grave (The 39 Clues, #4) Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Beyond the Grave takes the Cahill kids from Japan to Egypt. They’re searching for Clue #4 of 39 (and I can only feel a faint throbbing in protest when I think of the 35 books left to go in the series) with the aid of handsome grad student Theo Cotter and his grandmother, Hilary, who was a good friend of Grace Cahill (or was she??? POSSIBLY OBVIOUS SPOILER!!! I KNOW I SAW IT COMING!! Never trust hot guys or their grandmothers!! Let this be a lesson to us all! Thanks for the tip, Jude Watson!).

Now, whenever I think of Egypt, I automatically think of my sister.

My sister is a huge archaeology geek. People always go up to her to gush about how much they, too, love the pyramids and she freezes them with an icy glare until their either stammer apologies and back away slowly or simply fall silent and wither under her gaze.

Why, you ask? Because assuming that archaeology buffs love Egypt is like assuming that all bibliophiles love Twilight — sure, everybody knows about it, and maybe it’s even a good place to start in growing a love for reading, but the truth is that it’s beginner stuff and once you’ve had a taste of something a little more sophisticated, you kinda snicker into your hand when you hear someone say that they’re a fan of books because they love sparkly emo vampires.

And I can understand a little better why my sister kind of hates Egypt after reading this book. It not only is super-basic, but it also gets so much attention that far more interesting material is eclipsed (book title pun not intended) by it.

I will say that the book does teach you some interesting facts about Egypt, if you’re into that sort of thing (Philistines!). The one thing that the series does well and does so consistently is to use the adventure as a vehicle to teach kids a little history. It’s a very little bit of history, but it’s history nonetheless.

But, in the end, are those morsels of historical trivia worth wading through 192 pages of stilted dialog, saw-it-coming-a-mile-away “twists” and mind-numbingly dull plot contrivances?

I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to freeze you with an icy glare until you see what I’m getting at. And then I’m going to recommend that you head to your local library and check out some books about the history of Persia.

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