Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Drawing of the Dark

The Drawing of the Dark sounds like an epic metal band album. Surprise!, it's not about soul sucking harbingers of death but it's about beer!  Well, there are some soul sucker types and I think the grim reaper makes a cameo, but also....beer! This, I believe, was Tim Power's first novel and it's really weird for a first novel.  And while it's subtly funny, there are no dad jokes. I think the main issue with dad jokes is that they have this lazy dumb guy element. But what if you had an erudite professor-type dad? Would his dad jokes look like this? Son: "What do you call those 'why did the chicken cross the road type jokes'? Dad: (sigh) Pedestrian. Here's another one: What do you call an expensive Irish car and drives all over the place?  A Rolls Joyce.

Speaking of obscure references, The Drawing of the Dark is a fantasy set in the medieval times during the Ottoman Empire v. Western Empire times. There are references to all kinds of references. Many of which I am only vaguely aware. I think there are serious gaps in my education. I had to look a few things up and even then I missed so many I'm sure. Dave's grandpa was a college professor. The answer to every trivia question is Bucephalus. I did not have a professor dad.  He was more the type to know all the names of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

For his earliest novel, it is ambitious, not in length but in content. It has many many fight scenes. I enjoyed it but I loved Anubis Gates. That is a tough act to follow, except this is written first, but you know what I mean. And yes, magical dark beer is a plot point. Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you that the wizard smokes a dried out snake. That sounds so cool--the smoke coming out of his mouth. Apparently it these snakes had a mild euphoric effect as if you didn't look cool enough smoking a snake.

Of course you have to drink this with a dark beer.  I was lucky enough to visit Ballast Point on my birthday and had a brunch sampler with this Coconut Victory at Sea Imperial Porter.  It has a very strong coconut and fairly strong coffee flavor so you are warned.


 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Three Body Problem

First, let me warn you that this is the first novel in a trilogy and second, this is a translation from Mandarin and they keep the names--yeah last name first too. (This makes it not impossible to read but adds a degree of difficulty like doing the pike position in Olympic diving). Third, this is a hard science book so unless you took astrophysics in college you are going to need every Nova, both versions of Cosmos and at least a cursory knowledge of Alf. I could barely keep up. It is also very possible that I am quite stupid. The other night I tried to swallow four pills and once and managed to get water up my nose via the sinuses by flicking my head back in a spastic way. Genius at work.

I was surprised about some of the themes in the book and why this book wasn't banned in China. The afterward actually says this novel is not meant to be a criticism of contemporary society....I mean please. This became a best-seller and soon to be movie, so good job dude. I guess that is all it takes--everything is cool guys, the world is a crap-fest including the past cruelty of the Chinese Government--I mean, fiction right? You shelve this in the fiction section. SCIENCE FICTION. This gets shelved next to those idiots like Ursula LeGuin and Arthur C. Clarke.

So a weird little book--creative but science-y but maybe a translation issue there are some super cool concepts but Cixin Liu kind of takes the fun out of most of them. You get dessert! Hurrah! It's Mint Flavored Frozen Yogurt. Man, ok...I mean, I guess so....hand it over.

Why not read this with an Asian inspired cocktail?  Red Lotus: 1 1/2 oz vodka, 1 1/2 ounces lychee liqueur, 1 ounce cranberry juice. Put the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice shake well, strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass with ice.



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mistborn

Pushing Iron and Pulling Steel--wait, is it Pulling Iron or Pushing Steel? The magical fight scenes in Mistborn feel like a Crossfit Workout of the Day. They are both confusing and they might cause an aneurysm. Don't sue me bro. Joke. Crossfit is notoriously litigious. (I'm gonna file this lawsuit then blast my lats). Anyway, in Mistborn, the magical folks, you guessed it the Mistborn, drink a vial of metal and burn a specific metal in their tummies for a a specific magical power like ability to hear better, strength etc. How can they tell their stomachs to "burn" just one of the metals?  I can't even tell mine to break down corn.

This is my favorite Brandon Sanderson book but likely my last. I've read one and half of his other books. Half, more like one-third, but I was still 250 pages in--his books are big, really big. This one is the most classic epic fantasy style. Many people LOVE this book. I liked it and enjoyed it but there is something about his style that I don't love. It leans a little YA, plus, there are a lot of fight scenes and it's confusing ...did he crawl up that wall like a spider monkey or did he use that guy's belt buckle like a turbo booster rocket to fly into the air.  It's hard to say. Mistborn! (shakes fist). There are no sex scenes as Sanderson is a pretty strict Mormon. I do think there was a subtle reference to the temple garments--aka Mormon underwear. Our young Mistborn teenager named Vin takes off her dress and she has something awfully close to this on underneath. I'm fascinated by the underwear. Apparently so is everyone else. Secret underwear! I guess most underwear is a secret. Unless you are Kendall Jenner.

There are thieving clubs and even a character named Clubs so why not drink a Club Cocktail: 2 ounces of brandy, 1/2 ounce of maraschino liquor, 1/2 ounce pineapple juice, 2 dashes of Peychaud's bitters. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel and strawberry.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Notes From a Small Island

I picked this book up again because I am obsessed with The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake Off). OBSESSED. I read the first part of Notes from a Small Island years ago but either lost the book, gave it away or returned it. I do remember him describing this man as having a name like Bertrand Pantyshields and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed that quite a bit. Dave insists I am an Anglophile but I'm not weird about it. (except the baking show--totally weird about it). This is Bill Bryson's book about Great Britain just before he leaves for America. He's back by the way. It's a kind of love letter but he points out some flaws too. Mostly about crappy architecture, weird landlords,train issues and the weather.  That weather would make me kind of sad. Or addicted to caffeine. Wait, that is already me.

It's a cute little book that still holds up, I think, he gets a little old-man fussy, which is odd considering he wrote this before he was an old man but he was getting a head start on his curmudgeonly ways. He said that the Brits are some of the happiest people because they do not seek pleasure constantly like Americans but take great comfort in small indulgences. They also have a motto: "Mustn't grumble." Which is adorable. Maybe Bill was just showing his American side when he was complaining. I am an American and Gen-X. Grumbling is all I've got.

I do get excited about someone randomly handing me a cup of tea and a biscuit (cookie) so there is hope for me yet. I am more than half British you know, well, it goes back a way, and there were many generations of hillbilly in between, but there is British way back there. I think the dude's name was Elias or Elijah and he was probably some religious weirdo. Why would you leave a perfectly good country to come to a freaky colony where you could easily die? Jesus. Anyway, it's a cute little book if you've never read it and are interested in small-town England. I'm interested in British small town baked goods. GBBO for life!

Summer at Wimbeldon is all about a Pimm's Cup.  Here is a variation on the classic recipe--this one is light enough for an American summer (it gets hotter here grumble grumble): 2 ounces Pimm's #1, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/4 ounce simple syrup. Add these to a Collins glass and stir. Add ice, top with soda water and two dashes of Angostura bitters, stir gently to mix.  Garnish with a cucumber slice, citrus wheel, berries or mint.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Furiously Happy

If a David Sedaris book is a burlesque show of the funny voyeuristic view of his life, then Jenny Lawson's new memoir is an all-nude pole dance. Furiously Happy contains further adventures of Jenny's life including her struggles with anxiety and depression. She also has some other issues like Trichotillomania. Dang you spell check--that is a real thing!  If you have a funny geeky friend and you don't mind her oversharing ways then you might like this. (I mind a little). This is not that thoughtful writing from Sedaris or Bill Bryson, Jenny is much more like a funny Twitter friend. In fact, she is a Twitter friend. Well, myself and about 40,000 other people. I had a joke she liked I guess. It did involve nunchucks.

I think most people know someone with anxiety or depression. Or both. Or OCD.  I am thinking Rafael Nadal has OCD, and that underwear pick is tic. (I noticed the TV directors don't show him from behind anymore which is kind a shame). She describes her struggles well, which is a good deed, but there is something a little creepy about all the oversharing. Of course, now with social media, narcissism is the new norm. This is funny narcissism with capes. She's the type of geek that refuses to answer door when someone knocks but would show up to Dragon Con wearing nothing but Wonder-Woman body paint. You know, normal....I guess.

If you liked her first book then you should give this a try.  I think the format is better for her and you've lowered your expectations on anything resembling a linear narrative. There is a part of me that feels sorry for her because when you are depressed and such it must be hard to create and edit your writing so a lot of the "so-so" stuff stays. Like a crappy Twitter joke. Then she starts talking about her new house and pool and then I felt significantly less sorry for her. She's making money on the kind of content most of my friends are giving away for free. I guess that is the difference between a professional pole dancer and a skank.  If you haven't guessed by now, I'm going to include myself as a skank. Dang you spell check -- a skank is a real thing!

Here is something you can sip by your new pool with an opossum (opossums are regularly featured in Jenny's stories): I'm trying to be more open minded about mint so here goes--Strawberry Mojito: 1 ounce fresh lime juice, one ounce simple syrup, a generous pinch of fresh mint, three to four strawberries, 2 ounces of light rum and about 3-4 ounces of soda water.  Muddle the fruit, simple syrup and mint in the bottom of a glass.  Then, stir in the rum and lime juice.  Finally put some ice cubes and top with soda water.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cutting for Stone

This is one of those big sweeping novels that covers historical events, includes a coming of age novel-within-a-novel, and everything you ever wanted to know about fistulas. DO NOT GOOGLE FISTULAS. Cutting for Stone is a narrative that has a little of everything and a lot of surgery.  If you are very squeamish about medical stuff --skip this.

Set in Ethiopia, the State Department says maybe you shouldn't go to North Africa these days, or Central Africa, or parts of West Africa. The State Department suggests...why not Canada? They seem nice. I've been to Canada many times....someone was rude to us in Montreal...oh, maybe I should have gone to the American consulate. It did involve pastries.

One of the best things about being an avid reader is I get to learn about things like Ethiopia because my knowledge of the country was...not great. The first time I'd heard of Haile Selassie was a joke during the movie Trading Places. I did know that Ethiopians think they have the Ark of the Covenant (for reals). In Raiders they were digging in Egypt. There is a rumor the Well of Souls is in Jerusalem. The State Department doesn't want you going in any of those places....wait, I'm seeing a pattern. Now I'm seeing Rex Tillerson's face melting off...be careful Dude!

This is well written and I suspect that Abraham Verghase is one of those people that can do anything he sets his mind to do. He's still a doctor and professor of medicine and yet this was a best-seller. High achiever much?  In my mind, if I've made homemade croutons I'm Elon Musk. Anyway, this is a fine "modern day classic" type novel but it's not short so keep that in mind.

I'm thinking Africa gets pretty hot.  Also, I think Ethiopian food can be really hot. This seems like it would cool you off as it gets super hot this summer!  This one is not for the dieters. Dang it! That's me! --but I think might be worth it. Coconut Margarita:  1& 1/2 ounces reposodo tequila, 1/2 ounce Cointreau, 1 ounce coconut cream, 1 ounce coconut milk, 1/2 ounce lime juice, a splash of half and half and splash of simple syrup. Shake and strain  into a glass and serve on the rocks with a lime wedge.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sins of Empire

Whenever I don't like a book that other people like I'm like....am I crazy? Maybe I'm old?  Then I think, that's silly, I'm already old and crazy.  Actually that doesn't normally bother me with books the "norms" like, but a fantasy book?  Well, there is SO MUCH fantasy out there now and it is getting very "niche" which is fine, totally fine, I kind of hope I find my perfect niche. I'm just going to call it my white whale niche.  I guess I like intelligent fantasy that gives you a sense of wonder with extra snacking. You know, Hobbit priorities.

If you like Brandon Sanderson and are a Civil War buff this book may be for you. Brian McClellan is literally a former student of Brandon Sanderson so I'm not kidding. He also went to Orson Scott Card's literary bootcamp.  I'm not sure what they teach at said bootcamp but I'd be nervous about any break-out section entitled "Never Adam and Steve" or "Women and other Mythical Creatures in Stories." Anyway, while there is magic and intrigue in this book, it has a plethora of fight and battle sequences.  At one point there is a blunderbuss appearance.  I would never trust a gun that has a synonym for mistake in it's name, but that's just me.  People on Goodreads love this book but he already has a fan base. It's a taste thing. I love coconut but not Alfredo sauce. It's just that this was my Olive Garden's Alfredo extravaganza.

Brian McClellan has an unintentionally funny bio.  He lives in Cleveland and enjoys making homemade jam and playing video games.  Dude, you are a 31 year old full time fantasy writer living in Cleveland.  We know you like video games.  Next your going to tell me you enjoy pizza and beer perhaps? You've got to come up with some cooler things on your bio.  Learn to play guitar or try martial arts.  Don't tell us the embarrassing things like Brian is currently constructing his own duct tape tuxedo and is trying to make "grey tie" a thing.  Or Brian enjoys trying to train his cat to walk on a leash.  I feel like walking a cat is some sort of metaphor for life.  I need to make Thirsty Narrator boot camp with a breakout session: "Quit Dragging your Cat" and "Waiting for Your Cat to Explore that Tree."

One of the main characters is the book is named Lady Flint. This drink is called the Lady Sybil (I think this a Downton Abbey reference) anyway, I have a fondness for champagne cocktails so here's another one.  1 ounce gin, 3/4 ounce St. Germain liquor. Put these two ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a champagne flute.  Top with champagne.