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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


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, 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.