Thursday, July 28, 2011

Guest Post - Tween Book Review

Like last Wednesday, I'm giving the blog over to one of the boys. This time it's Zach, my eleven year old. He says this is his favorite book this summer.
DEPARTMENT 19 by Will Hill

DEPARTMENT 6 is the Army.
DEPARTMENT 13 is the MI5.
DEPARTMENT 19 is the reason you're alive.

When Jamie Carpenter's mother is kidnapped by strange creatures, he finds himself dragged into Department 19, the government's most secret agency.

Fortunately for Jamie, Department 19 can provide the tools he needs to find his mother, and to kill the vampires who want him dead. But unfortunately for everyone, something is stirring, something even Department 19 can't stand up against...

Review by Zach Abiad

Department 19 got straight to the point of why everything happened in the first chapter.  It has lots of action with weapons like the MP5 submachine gun that immobilises vampires, the Glock18 pistol  that distracts the vampires with a UV light attachment and the T-bone. The T-bone is a compressed air-powered wooden stake launcher that is used to kill vampires.

This book has mystery too because you wonder where Jamie’s mother is. I dislike some parts of this book because there are some boring parts with lots of talking. The most exciting part was when the giant were-wolf comes out of the forest and attacks Jamie and his squad. I also dislike the part when Larissa gets turned into a vampire by an old guy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Büyükada, Istanbul Clip

I've got house guests this week, so here's a clip of Istanbul while I'm entertaining.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Post - Teen Book Review

Special treat: I get the day off because my son is here with a book review of Warlock by Michael Scott (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series). Enjoy!

Although their ally Dr. John Dee has been declared utlaga, Machiavelli and Billy the Kid will follow the plans the Elders have laid before them: they will loose the monsters of Alcatraz on the city of San Francisco, thereby triggering the end of the humani race.

Danu Talis:
The Shadowrealm that Scatty and Joan of Arc have entered is far more dangerous than they could ever have imagined. And they haven’t landed here by chance-the warriors were called for a reason. So were Saint-Germain, Palamededs, and Shakespeare. The group was summoned because they must travel back in time to Danu Talis and destroy it. For the island of Danu Talis, known in humani myth as the lost city of Atlantis, must fall if the modern world is to exist.

San Francisco:
The end is finally near.
Josh Newman has chosen a side, and he will not stand with his sister, Sophie, or with the Alchemyst, Nicholas Flamel. He will fight alongside Dee and the mysterious Virginia Dare. Unless Sophie can find her twin before the battle begins, all is lost – forever.

In the fifth installment of this bestselling series, the twins of prophesy have been divided, and the end is finally beginning.

With Scatty, Joan of Arc, Saint Germain, Palamedes, and Shakespeare all in Danu Talis, Sophie is on her own with the ever-weakening Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel. She must depend on Niten to help her find an immortal to teach her Earth Magic. The surprise is that she will find her teacher in the most ordinary of places. (

Review by Adam Abiad

Warlock  was very similar to the fourth book, Necromancer, but not anything like the first three in the series. Scott has to summarize for too many characters and it's several chapters before any interesting new action takes place. This also meant too many switches in perspective. You're reading about the Flamels and Sophie, and the next chapter is Dee, Dare, and Josh. Then some characters switch sides, and even worlds. There are also flashbacks to Danu Talis, just to add another switch. The switches make you lose interest. It gets intense at the end of each chapter and you want more, but you don't get it, and you have to remember the last time you read about the next character.

Scott crammed the action, added more cool new monsters, and increased the pace. Sophie's chapters are typically more talking than action. Josh's chapters are where all the excitment is. Supporting characters are just filling in blanks. There's no other way though. The other books kept adding characters and they all need to reach the goal. All that and there's still one more book. I hope Warlock took care of most of the loose ends.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Narlıkuyu Cove

There's no r in July, but that's when I want to sit out by the water and eat seafood, ocean breeze in my hair, drink in hand... Back in CT, Lenny's in Branford's Indian Head was my go-to place. Lobster and steamers: mmm. In Istanbul, Büyükada was probably my first choice, aside from the stuffed mussels from the vendors near Eminonu. In Mersin, my favorite place was Narlıkuyu.

Way back when the area was still very backwater, I headed that way all the time. It's right near my two favorite places in the world, KızKalesi beach and the cliff of Akyar.

The restaurants at the end of Narlıkuyu cove are built right at the edge of the water on a low sea wall made of weathered limestone. Spring water bubbles out between the stones and swirls into the crystal clear sea at your feet. Most establishments have an arbor of some sort, covered in purple bougainvillea, grapes, or just woven reeds. Don't expect high end, white table cloths. The chairs are plastic, but I guarantee you won't care.

In place of a menu,  the waiter brings over a selection of the day's fresh-caught fish, whole, on a huge platter. (I hope they still do.) Lagos, aka white grouper, is the best catch and they usually serve it up fried, but you can get it grilled, etc. It's getting a bit scarce and divers go spearfishing for it, so it's priced higher. There's always sea bass, red snapper, and other tasty fish if you'd rather have that. Some places serve octopus, which is really good. (I'd never try to cook it myself.) Try it with a tall glass of Rakı

Don't forget to visit Turkey's smallest museum in the village center while you're there. It's a one-room roman bath with a mosaic representation of the Three Graces.
Sigh. No ocean in Charlotte. Maybe I should head to Charleston for a few days, otherwise I'll have to wait until September for an oyster roast.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Guess it's a good time to look back at what I've achieved. As of yesterday, these are the stats:

224 posts with
31,119 page views and
1,585 comments from
111 countries

Is this good? Heck if I know. What I do know is that a surprising number of Romanians hit my site, which I never expected.
Anyhoo, my new laptop is supposed to arrive today (YAY!), Harry Potter comes out tomorrow night (DOUBLE YAY!), and Japan has computer generated popstars (?). What? It's summer and I'm trying to catch up on my George RR Martin. Ran out of bloggy thoughts, etc. See what happens when I go unplugged for any length of time? I can't stay focused. Or it could be that my struggle with painfully slow internet connections has fried my brain. Hope I can be more enlightening next week.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Don't Give a Fig!

via Wikipedia

Well, actually I do. This morning I was out in the yard, checking on my figs. They're not quite ready yet, but I expect a bumper crop this year. Can't wait! There's nothing quite like a fresh fig. (Wait - didn't I just say that about an apricot?)

In CT, I could never have a fig unless it was in a pot, brought in for the winter, etc. Here in NC, I have Peter's Honey (prolific, Sicilian-type) growing near my herb garden. In Turkey, fig trees are everywhere. In fact, my Eniste has a huge wild fig growing right outside his orchard.

I remember when Eniste first bought the land. It was a barren plot up on a hillside overlooking Mersin. The only thing of interest was the fig, covered in ripe, russet colored fruit. DH climbed up to pick some and we had a feast. Eniste says the tree is still there, but now it's surrounded by his orange grove.

The fig tree itself is full of meaning. It's the Tree of Life for some cultures. I could go on and on and on about it, but due to my currently limited browsing capabilities, I'm directing you to an interesting blog called Gypsy Magic. Lots of great, detailed information about symbolism and such on that site. The post on Fig Trees - Legend and Lore is amazing. There's info about medieval fig cures, divination with fig leaves, ancient roman fig festivals, etc. It's really worth the click!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

RIP, My (Un) Faithful Friend

RIP. Rest. In. Pieces.

I remember the day you arrived in your pretty cardboard box.
I surfed the net with abandon.
I started a new WIP.
I thought you were a soulmate.

But that feeling...


because of some


Like your motherboard crashing (3 mos),
Your random qwertys popping off (9 mos),
Your latest Technicolor screen pixel tricks (36 mos).
A 1970 RCA would be proud to try.

I'll miss your shiny silver keys,
Your cherry red cover,
Your (can't think of anything else).
Yet, I feel a sense of loss.

Waiting in a new laptop, I'll be working on an eight (yes, 8) year-old Sony VAIO with limited internet access. Therefore, content here will be less interactive than usual. I apologize for the interruption in quality service. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kendin Pişir, Kendin Ye & Alfresco Alla Turca

Cin Bal in Kayakoy
 Happy 4th of July! Since picnics and family barbeques are in order today, here's a Turkish take on the matter.

Me: Pack up a bunch of food. Trek to a scenic place. Unpack the food. Remember that I forgot to pack such and such. Usually, it's an essential item - like napkins, forks, the bottle opener... and if I wanted to grill something on a real charcoal fire...well then, I guess I forgot the matches or the starter sticks, or something like that.

Kendin Pişir, Kendin Ye (literally: You cook it, You eat it) is the Turkish solution to my headache.

At first I thought it was odd to have a restaurant where you cook your own food, but basically the idea is this: someone else gets everything ready and I just show up. So instead of the above routine, imagine this:

Get group of friends and family together in the car. (Half the battle - maybe meet everyone there?) Drive to scenic place. Order meat from the butcher on site. Choose side items freshly made by village woman who cooks better than grandma. Start a tab for drinks. Have already perfect hot coals brought to the grill at your table. Grill like a pro. The best part? The staff cleans up after you! :)

Eating & Drinking - Kendin Pişir Kendin Ye - Cin Bal Lonely Planet


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