Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Calypso

If I write a book with a big section about diarrhea do you think that would work?  I think it should be called Coming out of the Water Closet: My Adventures With the Whispering Scatters. Yes, there is a whole section in Calypso about David getting diarrhea on his book tour. (sigh) Granted diarrhea is an objectively funny word, but I mean....c'mon. You might have read some of these essays before and most critics love it but it's not exactly inspirational. One younger guy wrote an essay that pointed out that David's long term relationship with Hugh seems kind of messed up. Of course, David takes liberty with the truth but the reality is that his life may be too boring and he needs to create an fictional conflict. I'm pretty sure that's sit-com writing 101. He's doing the best he can. He doesn't have any wacky co-workers like the typical sit-com. I've noticed in British comedies someone falls down a flight of stairs for some reason. He did fall out of the attic and hurt himself because he lives in the UK. It's a part of their tax code I think.

Don't get me wrong, Calypso is perfectly fine, but in my opinion, it's not his best work. You would be better off reading Theft by Finding. He publishes like he's got boat payments to make. A huge section of the book is about the beach house he owns and that's close enough. There are certainly some funny bits in here but I think it has a bit of a melancholy aspect. Even the book cover is gloomy. Of course he finally talks about his Mom's alcoholism and his sister's suicide so that's kind of difficult to make comedy bits from that material. Ricky Gervais would attempt some jokes but fail miserably and then double down about "being offensive." Seriously dude, what happened to you? When people are comparing you to Piers Morgan you need to reevaluate your career.

Hey if we are hanging out at the beach house watching sunsets and such, why not drink this very light cocktail: Rum Sunset: 6 ounces of orange juice, 2 ounces of light rum, one tablespoon of grenadine. Combine the orange juice and the rum but set aside a third of the mixture. Pour the rest of the mixture in a glass with ice.  Mix the grenadine with the remaining mix, slowly pour in in the glass to create an ombre effect. Garnish with lime slices.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Dark Forest

SPACE FORCE! We do indeed have a space force in The Dark Forest but in this sequel to Three Body Problem, some jokers from a another planet are coming to earth to annihilate us as we have nice beaches or something. An important plot point is that they are coming from really far away and it will take them over 300 years to get here. Jokes on them it will be one big hot landfill by then. Sure, come and enjoy your garbage beach. We treat this planet like a high school senior that went to Daytona. Trashed and everyone gets the Herps.

There is a female character in here that is I mean...just worse than a Mary Sue. Now, a Mary Sue is a character so perfect that she upstages the protagonist. This one doesn't even do that. This is literally a dream woman/girl and serves no additional function than the comfort you could get from a nice memory foam mattress.  I've read more nuanced sex robot characters. Now, I can't tell if its bad writing, a bad translation or the author is just a real weirdo. According to wikipedia the author's wife and daughter almost never read his books. (It shows, dude, it shows).

I read this book because a very nice person recommended it. Yes, I read the first book and was like ok, cool, but it was kind of challenging and I'm good, but no, he's insisted and like someone buying you a beer it's hard to say no. I can't tell you how many times I've made the delicious free beer mistake. Both literally and metaphorically.  At least we had an interesting discussion. (A part of me was like....um, the ladies in the book though...I mean c'mon man). The nice person was a man as you might have guessed. Any woman that read this would be like, I'm not normally pro burning books but....I could make an exception.

Dark Forest is long and complicated.  But this sequel to Three Body Problem has less theoretical physics, more game strategy and some philosophy. His references to God were really weird, like he'd heard of the concept of God but didn't really understand it. Women and God. I don't understand them...but I'll put them in the book anyway!  It would be like writing a whole section on deep sea diving and never seeing the ocean.  What do you mean a human can't normally breathe underwater? Poppycock. Anyway, you can skip this one unless you looooved Three Body Problem. Yeah, I thought so.

Since we have a while before the space aliens get here, why not drink this earthly (and summer-garden) cocktail?  Basil Gimlet:  2 ounces dry gin, 3/4 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 3-5 basil leaves.  Put all in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a basil leaf.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Flat Broke and With two Goats


Warning: this book may make you angry and/or frustrated.  It's like the reverse The Glass Castle. Someone who lived the upper middle class lifestyle but really screwed up. Royally.

This book was a "Big Library Read" so tons of people all over the country read this at the same time. The range of reviews was all over the place--most people were like you are an idiot and whiny and overall lame. People got out the angry eyebrows.

You see, Jennifer's husband was an accountant and during the great recession of 2008 it was revealed that they were in a boatload of debt. Not just credit card debt, but a foreclosed house and six figures to the IRS.  If there is anything I've learned is that the Feds always get paid. She has this weird mix of blame for him but acknowledgement that she was willfully blind. It seems like she lacks any agency over her own life.  She's like a piece of Styrofoam floating in a creek. It would remind you of like someone from the olden times that let "the man" provide for you.  She's not that much older than me and it's like talking to some hippy grandma.  Get your stuff together! Just when you think she is properly contrite you learn that she is now raising goats, she took out a student loan to get her MFA and...has not learned her lesson. There are some interstitial stories in this book about her dead grandparents and her love of Appalachia but honestly, I could have done without that.  She even admits that she might be romanticizing the past and they would think she is an idiot (she's right).

Now, in case you think you are going to milk your money troubles away, the goats are probably not worth it when you do a basic accounting.  Of course, I'm not an accountant--but I'm also not in debt to the IRS so....  Still, goats are still terribly cute. This is a baby goat. Not that I've never looked up the price of the breeding pair of Alpacas....(cough) but it's a whole lot of money.  Plus apparently they can get llama rot or something like that.

Jennifer drinks a lot of craft beer and people online have given her a really hard time. A part of me is like, you know, if that's your only indulgence then go for it.  Asheville has tons of fantastic beer.  One of my favorites is Asheville Brewing Company's Shiva. (It's a light IPA)  It's really hard to get here. While a different flavor and equally yummy Seattle's Elysian Dayglow IPA is super delicious. Plus it has such a cool design on the package.  Now I need a T-shirt. Shoot I'm going to go broke myself.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Circe

Circe is not just the evil queen from Game of Thrones. I chase Dave around the house sometimes saying Shame! (rings bell) Shame! No, this is the Greek goddess who was a witch! Yeees, queen.

First, this book rocks. I was genuinely worried that I was like, why do all these books stink? I was worried it was me. But I just read a few meh books in a row. Second, you don't need to know Greek mythology to read this book as I'm not exactly a fountain of knowledge on it myself.  Everything I know is from Ray Harryhausen's stop-action animation movies like Clash of the Titans. I also gathered some tips from a MST3K Hercules episode. You could do worse.

Madeline Miller really knows her Greek mythology but she really makes it....well, more like a Game of Thrones episode. She fills in a lot of blanks, embellishes the story and makes her very human which seems weird to say. I read this in like 4 days.

While gods are supposed to be immortal I think they just live a really long time on that Mediterranean Diet. Circe turns some men into pigs which totally makes sense in context, does some one arm push-ups, tricks some monsters, tames lions, eats cheese, dances with spiders and performs some C-sections. Ok, I made some of these up but you can't tell the difference--so it's pretty wild. Also, it turns out that Hermes is like Social Media 1.0 but also might be fake news. Not much has changed really. I wonder if he can hook me up with one of those Birkin bags.  Man, that'd be sweet.  Knowing him, it would be some cheap knockoff. Hermes, go back to posing for statues in weird hats with no pants.

I'm not going to suggest an Ouzo cocktail because well, ugh.  Let's be inspired by the witchy-herbs of Circe's spells and potions instead: Pineapple Basil Cocktail: Make a chiffonade of three basil leaves and muddle with a quarter of a lime at the bottom of a tumbler.  Add a 1/4 cup pineapple juice, 1 and 1/2 ounces of gin, some ice cubes and top with club soda. You can say with words of power if you choose.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Changeling

Victor Lavalle assumes you have a decent working knowledge of New York City. Well, I've got news for you buddy, I do not. I've only been there once and it's been a while. I remember thinking that it was too expensive to go to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. I know you are thinking, wow I'll bet you regret that, but no, it was like over $22 per person and that was in 2001. Pfft! For some, NYC is their favorite city in the world. I'm like, have you been to San Diego? Sun, beer, succulents and well adjusted corgis running around. No, some prefer a grey, dirty day with a slimy subway pole to grab.

The Changeling is a modern fantasy novel, set in NYC which is like--we get it! It's a retelling of old fairy tales that is going to appear dated in about three years. There is a cautionary tale about new parents that post too many baby pictures on Facebook. Y'all, monsters are coming for you. No, it's not just passive aggressive comments because you'll get those too. "Your baby is so cute it looks just like that prize wining potato I saw on the Food Network." No, real monsters both human and otherworldly. I image they all look like Tony Robbins for some reason.

This book reads more like a thriller than fantasy. It's not a "fun" book. For as exciting as it seems I kept putting it down. Some like it, others meh. This book goes with that trend of newer novels that are "screenplay like" but to me that's what a screenplay is for. It's like giving me a pie and telling me it's a tart. That's not a great analogy as I would not turn down pie. I would judge them for not knowing the difference but I would definitely eat it. There are not a whole lot of desserts I turn down. Ok, flan. Not a flan fan. 

This book covers a lot of NYC including Queens so why not drink a Queens cocktail (yes named after the borough and not QEII): 1 and 1/2 ounces gin, 1/2 ounce dry vermouth, 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 ounce pineapple juice. Add ingredients to a shaker, strain and add to a coupe glass or other appropriate glassware. Enjoy on a fire escape.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Ah, this book is set at a fancy bookstore in the late 90's, maybe early naughts. Remember bookstores? There are still a few around so hug one today. The author really did work at the Tattered Cover in Denver so naturally this a mystery set well...at a bookstore just like that.  I wonder if he actually started this book in the late 90's and that's why its set then, because I feel like he really could have upped the nostalgia by adding more details. What details you ask?  Well, flip-phones, the Rachel haircut, hip-hugger corduroys (swish-swish), Snapple and a casual Radiohead reference. I mean lets just embrace it. One of my favorite things about Better Call Saul is the small details of 2002. Sounds like it was just yesterday but sadly it was not. Blast.   

I thought this book was ok but I will confess that I'm not a huge mystery person, I'll make an exception for an ultra British mystery. I was more interested in the bookstore patrons and employees of the bookstore which are not the main focus. I know when I worked at my three bookstores it was a revolving cast of characters. I had a former trumpet player manager that wouldn't stop talking (oral fixation apparently), a woman that when to a religious boarding school in Italy AND lived on a houseboat in Bermuda THEN she in her partner had desert tortoises in AZ. I had one owner that was into astrology and so he read my "chart" before he hired me--he said it was ok for me to come on board. He has since gone out of business.

I wasn't crazy about our protagonist and that's always going to be an issue so if you are a bibliophile and a mystery person then maybe you would like it. I do wish Michael Sullivan the best.  He's a former bookseller turned successful author. That, my friends, is like hope in a jar. Also, I love his author photo he looks soooo happy. The photographer must have shown him photos of cats in cute sweaters or something.

Lets drink a cocktail from the late 90's for nostalgia's sake: Cable Car: 2 ounces spiced rum, 1 ounce triple sec, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/4 ounce simple syrup and one egg white (optional but will make it make it frothy). Shake it all up in the shaker and strain into a chilled glass. This sounds sweet and decadent. I don't remember the late 90's being that way but I was kind of broke back then--probably from my low pay working at the bookstores. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯




Monday, April 16, 2018

The Stranger in the Woods

I think we've all had moments when we wanted to get away from people. I mean you got the weirdos, sickos, pigs, creepers, harassers, pervs, bros, jerks, pedants and tyrants. Oh, and the sports freaks. That's just the men. Then you've got the haters, bitches, fake ding-dongs, bossy, passive-aggressive, busy-bodies, manipulators and gossipers. Whew, I mean there are moments when you just want to live in the woods and not speak a word to anyone for 25 years.  Right? Well, it would be hard to keep all the jokes to yourself though. I feel like laughing at yourself in the woods might be abhorrent behavior.   

This is a biography of Christopher Knight, you might remember him as the dude that lived like a hermit in a tent for 25 years in Maine....including all of those winters. Yikes. He made most of his supplies but stole most of his stuff and all of his food from the neighbors. He was like a ninja thief. They finally caught him with Homeland Security technology. He's a little odd. At first I kind of was like ok, ok, I get it but I looked up photos of him.  And in his photos he looks like a younger Larry David but with Stephen Miller's shark eyes. Ever meet someone and you're like, who are you fooling?  I'm pretty sure you are a sociopath. Christopher did have a sweet tooth but I never trust someone who doesn't like desserts. Although sometimes those people are simply alcoholics.

Stranger in the Woods is a weird biography because Christopher had mixed feelings about discussing his life so Michael Finkel had to stretch out some of the material. It would have been a better magazine article rather than a short book but overall I enjoyed it.  I'm fascinated by survival stories and preppers and things.  I think if we couldn't leave the house how long could we live on the food we have. I figure the liquor cabinet could be like the "bank" and if I had clean water and electricity I could live pretty long on all of my damn quinoa and two dozen artisan grains. But....the cats would get "hangry" and try to eat my face and then my mental musings start to fall apart. 

Apparently, Christopher did occasionally steal liquor but had to take what he could get including strawberry schappes and margarita mix.  We can do better than that.  I'm thinking something woodsy and botanical but a bit more sophisticated.  How about a Lavender Bourbon Cocktail: First make a simple syrup but with a mix of sugar and honey. Then add a vanilla bean (or 1 tsp extract) and 3 tablespoons culinary grade lavender and cook a little further about 10 minutes. Cool and strain. In a highball glass with ice, use one ounce of this syrup, 2 to 3 ounces of decent bourbon, juice of 1/2 lime, and 4 ounces of ginger ale. Stir and serve with a lime slice. Enjoy the simple fact you can have ice in the summer.