Thursday, August 18, 2016


Punch the ceiling dance!  Punch the floor dance! YES! The long awaited sequel to The Rook is here. The British agents have long been enemies with the dreaded Dutch, now are they allies, but maybe now it's more like frenimies?  I suspect I'm missing some Dutch jokes as a non-European.  According to the Internet, the Dutch have a reputation as a bunch of know-it-all smart-asses. Wow, the Internet must be one big giant instrument for the propagation of the Dutch culture then. I'm pretty sure I have some "friends" that are of Dutch ancestry too.  This happened: "I believe the word you are looking for is unicorn." No, the word I was looking for is the one I used, because chupacabra is much funnier than unicorn. You, on the other hand, are a chupabroma. That's right, a Joke Sucker.

This is not a stand alone novel.  You must read The Rook first and preferably recently. Stiletto, like The Rook, is James Bond meets the X-Men.  All the camp and then some of Bond. Stiletto has a lot of little snarky jokes, most of them work, not all of them, but they are not all Dad jokes, whew. This book is a lot like the first. Fun, not serious and some action scenes.  This was written before the Brexit so even if two supernatural agencies of two European countries could work together that dream is gone.  Sure, I can believe in someone who see through walls but I mean the logistics of a post Brexit union--c'mon now we are talking fantasy there.

There is a character in this book called The Lady. The supernatural agency has it's members named after chess pieces, however in England there is only one Queen.  Why not read this book with a drink called the White Lady. 2 ounces of Plymouth gin, 1/2 ounce Cointreau, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice and one egg white.  Shake all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Left Hand of Darkness

This is not The Martian.  Not that I hated The Martian it just wasn't my thing. This is sophisticated, timeless, philosophical and there are absolutely no boob jokes. Not one. If fact, if you're looking for boobs this is not the book for you. (Try Murakami with a boob description in every book). The residents of this planet (nicknamed "Winter" by earthlings) are sexless except for two days out of the month when they go into an estrus type state. They could turn into a man or a woman depending on who is around I think.  I would imagine that would be challenging it's like, oh's you carry a bra in your briefcase just in case? These important questions were never answered.

Ursula LeGuin's parents were famous anthropologists and intellectuals. I don't think most people get her fancy childhood where your parents host the Illuminati at your house. I know I didn't.  I remember my Dad just yelled at me because I was in his eye-line for the Reds game. We won't even talk about my many many. My house was no Algonquin Round Table. It felt more like living in a zoo among the higher apes.

It's set on a super cold planet so you should read this in the summer. And you should drink this with something cold. [They drink hot beer in this book--no thanks] It's still hot here so try with this very adult lemonade made for a crowd--Limoncello Collins:  16 oz. Limoncello, 12 ounces of gin,  and 8 oz. lemon juice.  Combine these and chill for at least 2 hours. Press three thinly sliced lemon slices in each of your 8 glasses and add ice.  Stir your liquor mix and add to the glass.  Top that with about 2 ounces of club soda.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

City of Saints and Madmen

With giant sentient squid, "mushroom dwellers," (whatever those are) and general weirdos this is a nutty book. I'm not not at all.  Like Perdido Street Station, City of Saints and Madmen is set in a crazy world where anything is possible and possibly dangerous...very dangerous. In fact, if Ambergris was a real City-State the State Department would put it on the list of places with a travel warning like this: The State Department warns travelers that violent crime is pervasive during the Festival of the Freshwater Squid.  Also, you should be aware if you see red we literally mean red flags....these are signs that the elusive but possibly violent mushroom dwellers are sleeping nearby. Travelers should be wary of spontaneous mushroom growth, because the State Department believes that just can't be good.  

This book is a collection of interconnected (kind of connected) short stories about the city of Ambergris, the city is actually a squid port unlike what my husband calls the waterfront in Toledo. It's very well written and contains a super cool world Jeff Vandermeer creates but dang it.... short stories... just when I'm trying to get into a plot and it either gets resolved real fast, story's over, or it's like, what's happening (squints eyes)? That's the only negative to this book. It has humor, weird stuff, a little gore and violence. Good stuff.

OMG is is super hot right now.  I've been drinking my weight in Dark and Stormys (Stormy in not normally plural--except it in this case-- it totally is).   Anyway, read this with...a Frozen Dark and Stormy: Blend 2 cups ice in a blender with a juice of one lime, a tablespoon of fresh ginger, and one can or bottle of ginger beer. Blend until smooth and pour into two glasses.  Top with two ounces of rum (the darkish kind) it will make this pretty ombre effect. Enjoy the goodness.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Memory Wall

This is not the book version of a summer blockbuster action romp. Still with me?  Yeah, I get sick of those too sometimes (well, quite a bit). I know someone who is a Marvel "enthusiast." He probably feels that the box office numbers affirm his worldview. He lives in a Marvel bubble.

Memory Wall has six short stories, well more like four short stories book-ended by two novellas. The two novellas are excellent. The first story has just a tiny touch of sci-fi/dystopia and the last story just a hint of the paranormal. The short stories in the middle ranged from meh to ugh.

Now, these stories are a little sad so if you are sensitive, just lost someone, or someone close to you is super sick then maybe you should skip this. Hey, this is a poignant look at the fragile human condition dammit.

Anthony Doerr is the same author of All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoy his writing. I just gave up on another book that had this really unusual writing which some people really like but as soon as I realized that it sounded exactly like Bigfoot writing the copy for a Coors Light commercial....well, you just can't get past that. I won't tell you which book that is as it will completely ruin it for you.

It's pretty hot out so read this with a Porch Swing (which is a lot like a Pimm's Cup):  1&1/2 ounces of gin, 1&1/2 ounces of Pimm's 1, 1/2 cup lemonade (preferably homemade as you can adjust the sweetness), some lemon-lime soda, and thinly slice cucumber.  Pour the gin, Pimm's and lemonade into a tall glass with ice and then add a splash of the lemon-lime soda. Add the cucumber slices.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Magician: Riftwar Saga Books 1 and 2.

I was tricked.  Not with this book. No, this book is exactly what you think it is....wizards, elves, court intrigue, this is classic high fantasy.  No, I was reading a brand new book labeled fantasy but I should have investigated further.  It had no magic.  The "hero" was an accountant. It was like a young hot Janet Yellen undermining a country's economy...I'll show you...I'll print more money causing inflation. C'mon--no magic but your power is usury? Some people are into freaky stuff like that.

The Riftwar Saga is a tetralogy, a.k.a a four part series. It's a Dungeons and Dragons world but with a twist. There is a cosmic rift in the universe where aliens are invading through the portal and they have wizards too. Yes! You can read books one and two if you don't want a four book commitment as there is a natural resolution to the plot.  Book three has the same characters but with a new story-line.  So far I really like this series.

Raymond Feist made an entire career writing this series.  He published the first book shortly after undergrad the early 80's (it was based on his college D&D games) and finished the last of this series about two years ago.  Yeah, 30 books in this series.  Apparently he's never sold the rights for a movie or series but if they ever do this it will need a little makeover as the female characters are not strong enough.  I guess there is one princess that is pretty tough, I guess, but the women are kind of lame.  There is an Elven queen that ends up with an emotionally abusive husband. I'm thinking: YOU ARE AN ELVEN QUEEN--KICK THAT LOSER TO THE STUMP! (Elves don't really have "curbs" so I had to improvise). It turns out that the husband is actually a nice guy he just had some magical clothing that was turning him into a world-class a-hole.  In his defense, I've had some ill fitting shoes that could have taken me down that path.

Hey it's summer and my basil is up. Why not read this with a Strawberry Basil Bourbon Lemonade? This is enough for a crowd (8 drinks). It's a little work but here it is: 1 lb. strawberries, 1 and 1/2 cup sugar (more or less to taste--the original recipe says 2 cups but I don't like drinks too sweet) 1 cup bourbon, 1 cup ice cold water, 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 ounce bitters, 12 basil leaves and 8 basil springs. Pulse the strawberries and 1/4 cup of water in a food processor and add this puree to the medium saucepan over medium heat and heat until the mixture just begins to boil.  Take off the heat and let cool completely.  Strain and chill in fridge for about a hour. In a large pitcher combine the syrup, water, bourbon, lemon juice, and bitters.  Stir for one minute and add the basil leaves and stir to combine. Strain into 8 tall glasses with ice and garnish with a basil sprig.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Secret Garden

I know, I know I'm one of those people. I'd might as well admit I'm a crazy cat lady too. It's not exactly cool but, well, I enjoy the grown up coloring books.  Ah, you noticed that I did not say "adult." Well, that conjures up a different type of coloring book of which I would need more peach colored pencils.

This is the original one that went bananas.  I mean New York Times best-seller bananas. Some of it is because the quality of the paper is a little higher which takes pigment that feels very satisfying.

Well, if you know me, you know I have a perfectionist tendencies. (Yes, I know these photos could be better). So I color these as if they are going to be hung in the Vatican's collection. Why I do this...well I'm not sure. I also add things to the drawings if I find the composition wanting. That's pretty ballsy of me but I you gotta do what you gotta do.

I takes me about 4 to 6 months to finish a page so based on the fact that I have three books at at least 35 images each I'd say it will take me about 35 years to complete all three books.  I received another coloring book for my birthday this year and I was flattered my sister would think I would live that long.  

It's the start of summer so let's drink something light and fun--this one is from Martha Stewart.  Lillet-Basil Cocktail:  Put 1/2 cup Lillet Blanc, 1 ounce gin and one ounce freshly squeezed orange juice and 1/4 cup loosely packed basil in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and add a splash of tonic water.  Garnish with a basil sprig and slice of cucumber.   

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Shining Girls

Do you remember when Garth Brooks wanted to be a rock star and released an album under the name Chris Gaines? Apparently the album wasn't all that bad but everyone thought that Garth had lost his mind. This book is a little like that. It wants to be a thriller but with a twist! The killer is a time traveller. Good idea--but it turned out lame.

I think a killer from 1930 would stand out more. I mean women wearing slacks....short slacks? Why is everyone hatless? How some everyone looks like they are prepared to go to the gymnasium? You'd have so many questions it would distract you from your kill quest. Although a man from the turn of the century might fit in with some gentrified hipster neighborhood. "Excuse me ma'am, can you tell me where I can find new spats? Hipster Lady: "Well, around the corner is a mustache wax and artisan hay store, I would try there." 

I think I'm done with thrillers for a while.  The Shining Girls had gore but no suspense and time-travel but no surprises. Film noir type dialog that just sounded contrived. SWING AND A MISS! And there is a baseball bit in here for absolutely no reason...because of course there is...(heavy sigh).

This is the Chris Gaines album cover. Learn from this.

How about a prohibition era cocktail? I'm not a mint person but I think I would make an exception for this one which seems subtle. The Southside: 2 oz gin such as Plymouth, 1 oz lime juice, 3/4 oz simple syrup and one mint sprig. Combine these in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with another mint sprig. Apparently you are supposed to smash it a little bit to release the oil. So violent.