Thursday, October 18, 2018

Lovecraft Country

"In a place where tentacles run free...and an unspeakable monster that lurks in that a place called...Lovecraft Country." (*smokes a paperback*) You don't have to be a Lovecraft fan to enjoy this book. You should know that H.P. Lovecraft was racist. Like worse than "back in the day" racist. I know, it's not cool but he's dead so that helps. And it's not just a "not-so-fun" fact but a plot point in the book. Thanks for subscribing to Sad Facts!

While yes, this is a fantasy book, it is so much more. There is action, horror, a history lesson and even a tiny bit of sci-fi? If you liked that movie Get Out then this book is right up your alley. I actually thought Get Out should have won the Academy Award for best picture last year. I mean, the fish sex movie was ok...but it's more for a Troy McClure kind of person than me.

Set in the 50's this book feels super relevant. They are making an HBO series airing next year.  Both Jordan Peele and Courtney Vance are involved. Fingers crossed. I think you should both read the book and watch the series though. It's one of the standouts I've read this year.

I feel very shortchanged about this fall. It went from hot to cold so fast by blood cracked like a dish that went from the oven straight to the freezer.  Who knows what next week will bring so this Stone Wall cocktail sounds like a crisp fall drink that will work for hot or chilly: 1 ounce slice of peeled fresh ginger, 1 &1/2 tsp simple syrup, 1&1/2 ounces of aged rum, 1&1/2 ounces of apple cider.  Muddle the ginger and the simple syrup.  Add the rum and cider with ice and shake and strain.  Pour into a glass and top with a small amount of ginger beer, like 1-3 ounces, and garnish with a lime and apple wedge.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson is known for her psychological tension. While not your typical devil possessed haunting, Hill House kind of well....gaslights the guests. Poor Eleanor.

Eleanor: Does anyone smell that?

HH: you farted and are a stinky ugly witch...

Eleanor: What? Is that the house? Have you been writing in blood on the walls?, you did that... everyone thinks you are on your period.....

Eleanor: It says "I Like Beer."

HH:....who doesn't?...woooo-wooooo.

Eleanor: Well then, how do you explain the dick pics?

HH: (spooky chuckle)...woooooo--whoooo did you like what you saw? wooo

Eleanor: No, I did not. In fact I'm going to give you a terrible review on Air B&B.

HH: Booo!!Booo!! No one will believe you...

Eleanor: Well. You have a reputation as being haunted.

HH: Faaake Neeeews.

Maybe we'll not drink beer with this one. Let's make punch for a crowd that is called, and I kid you not: A Touch of Evil Punch: 4 lemons, 3/4 sugar, 1/2 cup raspberries, 3/4 lemon juice, 2 1/2 cups gin, 1/2 cup mezcal.  Make an ice block the day before and while you are at it, infuse that sugar with lemon peel oil in a jar.  Muddle the raspberries and peel-sugar and add the lemon juice.  Strain and add the alcohol and put in the fridge.  Put this mix, a liter of sparkling water and the ice block. If the house starts talking to you then stop. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rules of Civility

There is something lovely about a historically set novel that gets a lot of hype. It kind of gives me hope that not everyone is into drinking raw water. If you eat a Tide Pod with a raw water chaser do they cancel each other out?  They are creating a mini-series based on Rules of Civility which would be a costumers and art directors dream project as it is set in in 1930's NYC.

Admittedly, some of the prose in this book is a bit overdone. There is one line that makes everyone cringe. I would bet he wishes he could take corrective tape and hit all of the books. Despite that sentence I enjoyed this book with a strong protagonist and somewhat modern woman. Not all people like to read about lonely middle aged women thinking about having affairs while silently weeping on a windswept beach.

While it's not perfect this would make an excellent book club pick as it's got a classy but almost gossipy thing, with lots of drinks, some sex but not too much, horses, art, dinners, fancy parties, boats and typing skills...a little of everything.

There are so many martinis in this book. So very many. In fact there is a great part with a martini and way too many olives. While you certainly could drink a martini with too many olives--I would approve--why not try this fun (and olden times) variation? Turf Club: 1& 1/2 ounces gin (juniper heavy if you have it), 1& 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth, 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Put all of the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Classy.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Exit West

The other night I had a dream that I found an Exit West activity book at an amusement park gift shop. That would be a ridiculous book tie-in (or theme ride) but I take Valerian root to sleep and my dreams are bananas. My dreams are like starring in a David Lynch movie every night.

I guess you could make it a maze book as Exit West is about a couple of refugees that go through a "magic door" to a less war-torn country (it feels like early days of Syria--but it could be anywhere in the middle east).  The book does not focus on the magic door at all but on the couple's struggles. I'm kind of curious about these doors though. I would love to go all over the world without flying. Sign me up. I'm not scared to fly but I don't like that parched creepy airplane feeling.  My body is like: We are not normally up at this hour. Why is this stranger so close to us?  We're thirsty but we don't want to pee in that closet. What is that kid doing? We don't normally have heartburn but on vacation all bets are off. We want beer when we land. When do we land?

Exit West really focuses on our couple and their relationship. But that's a little boring. Living as a refugee after going through a magic door is interesting. I'm not interested in your intimacy problems. In fact, I'm very rarely interested in characters intimacy problems. I think I watched too much Donahue with my Mom when I was a kid.  I remember it's about communication people...and hitting yourself in the head with a microphone in frustration.       

The part about being a refugee is intriguing as it is certainly not a typical novel topic, at least the long awful transition. Most books have a big sea voyage and it stunk and it was hard for a bit but then the kid won a contest and then the plot moves forward. Exit West is a good book but certainly not a fun book so consider yourself warned.

The drinks are sporadic in this book but this is a good late summer-early fall transition drink:  Hard Cider Sangria: (Makes 4) 1 cup of apples thinly sliced with peel on, one orange sliced, 1 cup apple juice, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple brandy and one 22 ounce bottle of hard cider. Combine everything but the cider in large pitcher. Just before serving add the cider and serve over ice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Two Girls Down

It's odd that I associate beach reads with thriller and murder mysteries. Nothing says a relaxing day at the beach like kidnapping or maybe a nice murder. Maybe because the sand absorbs the blood so easily or evidence gets washed out to sea? I think it's more likely we need something distracting while the weirdos at the airport lose their freaking minds. Everyone turns into a solipsistic maniac at the airport. Me me me me me....(why is water like $9?) me me me me me. 

This title is a little on the nose as it is about well...two missing sisters. This is fairly standard thriller with two hard boiled detectives. One is a lady detective. She reminds me of Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I love Rosa. Apparently that actress has a small scar on her eyebrow from tripping on a Lego as a child.  I suspect there are tons of Lego related scars out there. They should make a Lego Facial Reconstruction kit....Star Wars edition. They could do a whole Bobo Fett thing and make millions.

Most thrillers need more red herrings like olden times classic novels. The classics don't mean to have red herrings but you wonder why is this brother in this book and he falls in love and maybe this new lady is important? No, they are just in there and moonwalk right out of the book not furthering the plot. Modern novels don't do that because no one wants to read an 800 page novel anymore. Two Girls Down doesn't do that. While the plot is kind of far-fetched I'm confident you will put some of the pieces together. I'm not a thriller expert but it kept my interest even if it was ultimately kind of ...yeah,we know.   

Summer vacation means summer drinks. Tabernacle Crush: In a tall glass muddle half a peach with six basil leaves and a half an ounce lemon juice. Add one and half ounces gin, one ounce Lillet, and half ounce simple syrup. Add ice and top with club soda.

Friday, August 3, 2018


While it's not a pachinko machine there is plinko board at my local brew pub. On Wednesday nights they put a little puck and the number it hits on is your beer price. Sometimes it's a dollar. I stopped going as it became a baby bar. I'm not kidding. When you drive by you can see the high chairs stacked up and it gets really loud when the babies complain about simcoe hops. Just order a porter then ya babies. 

There are a few babies in Pachinko, as it a multi-generational tale of a Korean family in Japan. If you didn't know this, Japan is super duper weird about Koreans. Even if you are born there and your kids are born in Japan neither you nor your kid is considered a Japanese citizen. No anchor babies. My babies at the brew pub are beyond anchor babies but have become fixtures (banging tippy cups on the bar--they call all the bartenders Mom for some reason). Anyway, Pachinko's racism is harsh and this family feels like the Starks without the beheading.  It's full of Thanksgiving third rail topics like racism, religion, sex and money. One safe topic is all of the delicious Korean food descriptions in this book. BANCHAN FOR LIFE!

This book won a big award and was heavily researched. If you like multi generational dramas then this is good one. It's a little like Cutting for Stone but with no detailed descriptions of gynecological anomalies. I know you are disappointed. Pachinko parlors come up in the novel and some people think it might be a metaphor for life. Maybe life has elements of luck but also a little rigged? Of course people sometimes find a metaphor when there is none. The bird in the film represents the protagonist's quest for ultimate freedom. The truth is probably that the director can't control the bird population so that little dude made into the final cut.

As most of this novel is set in Japan and it is still summer why not try this crazy zucchini cocktail. Zucchini Sake: Shred 2 zucchinis and use cheesecloth or a fine strainer and squeeze out the juice (about 1/4 cup), add 2 tablespoons of lemon simple syrup and 1/4 cup sake to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain and garish with a zucchini ribbon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Verse Trilogy)

Shadow and Bone sounds like a goth biker bar. Hey, it could work. The jukebox has Motorhead, Judas Priest, maybe a little Bauhaus.  Lots of tattoos. Shoot, this thing sells itself. If you have an angel investor for a biker bar would that be a devil investor? That kind of Dad joke would not be tolerated at my Shadow and Bone bar.

I can't make enough jokes for all three books so this is a review of the trilogy. More magic than the Six of Crows, its a more traditional fantasy series but again with the dysfunctional romance. I guess a mature relationship is kind of boring.

Woman: "I'm off to the rock climbing gym."

Man: "Ok honey, I'm glad you are taking time for yourself while feeling empowered and strong!"

It's a decent fantasy series but I kind of started to run out of caring. I was trying finish this on the treadmill at the gym but the girl behind me was loudly complaining about her old roommate. It's not the like the gym should be silent but I would go to a bookworm gym with less bros and a lot less Fox News(as in none). In my gym there should be at least one Alan Rickman movie going on at all times. My friend says they play Kardashians and such so you can step on and off at any time. But at my nerd gym...we know the Rickman oeuvre.  I could step on in the middle of Die Hard and not miss a beat.

Ok if you read the series then you'd know that this is the perfect drink: Night and Day Cocktail: Partially fill a sour glass, large champagne flute or wine glass with crushed ice. Add 1/2 ounce of Cointreau, 3/4 ounce of brandy and one dash of bitters. Top the glass with champagne or other sparkling wine.