Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Glass Castle

There is a good chance you've read The Glass Castle as it's been a best seller for many years. I've heard some parents make their kids read this to appreciate what they have. It's a pretty passive aggressive move as the bar on their own parenting is set pretty low. Unless you have a pet tiger you let loose in the house or are purposely setting one the children's beds on fire then you are are parenting better than Rex and Rose Mary Walls.

Some people hate this book as it gives them the creeps. I get it. While there is no tiger in the house, it's honestly pretty close. I actually liked it though. These two are possibly the most neglectful parents you have ever read about.  And such narcissists, I mean, imagine if BOTH of your parents were famous YouTube stars. But Jeannette has this punchy writing style that takes you into her past and you even have a few laughs. One line I like is that the author gets beat up in the first grade and when asked about it she says: "Oh, it was just a little dust up."

We already know, at least for the author, she survives her childhood and becomes a success. She manages to humanize her parents and love them but without giving them a pass entirely.  It's pretty cleverly done, probably because she was a gossip columnist for years. Essentially she's just dishing the dirt. Sometimes it's literal dirt.

A movie version came out last year but I don't see the appeal really.  I like movies with sentient androids. Actually these kids would have been better off with sentient android parents.  Now that I think about it, Rex is lot like Bender from Futurama.

Rex is a raging alcoholic so it feels a little funny recommending a cocktail. So why not drink with a super on-trend session cocktail. Based on the beer name is not a mocktail but it is low in alcohol. This makes a pitcher (serves 6) and would be perfect for a warm spring party. Sparkling Tarragon Gin Lemonade: 10 tarragon sprigs (you could use basil), 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons sugar, 3/4 cup gin, 3/4 cup elderflower liquor, (St. Germain) 1/3 cup lemon juice, one 12 ounce can club soda. Muddle the leaves, sugar, lemon slices in a large pitcher. Then add the gin, St. Germain, add the soda. Stir to combine and serve over ice. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom

So many FEELINGS! That is what always stands out when I read YA. I'm always worried they will break out in interpretive dance. Let's talk about our feelings in the middle of a fight!

"But, I'm worried you don't like me!"

"Um, we're under fire here...I'd like you better if you had some ninja throwing stars...do you in fact have some spare throwing stars?"

"You are just using me for back up!"

"Listen, I only trust YOU for back up....because you're the only one I love....um, I still could use those ninja stars though." 

Ok, ok, Six of Crows is not that bad. In fact, it's kind of fun. This is a that type of urban fantasy that involves pickpockets, thieves, sneaky magicians and a corrupt plutocracy. You know the type. This is not an elves and snacks book. Six of Crows involves a rag-tag team of teenage gang members and misunderstood ex-soldiers involved in a caper-like adventure. Kind of gritty-kitty. In this case, gritty kittens.

Sure this book hits some YA bingo squares, the "bad boy leader," orphans, cliffhanger, star-crossed lovers and oh so many feelings. I'm including both books because the first one ends on a cliffhanger and you'll need to read Crooked Kingdom, the sequel, for at least some closure. Both books have plots like action adventure movies that you've seen but I don't like spoilers. Well they star Mark Whalberg and Matt Damon. That should narrow it down for you. If you like YA fantasy and need a break in your life then it's worth a read.

This drink is appropriate for a band of thieves. This is a variation on one of my favorite cocktails which has the same name: Gold Rush-- 2 ounces bourbon, 1 ounce honey simple syrup, 3/4 ounce lemon juice. Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a small glass.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Honored Guest

People are weird. If you into dark comedy like a good Coen Brothers movie you might like Joy Williams. When David Sedaris mentioned how much he loved her in his diaries she was moved up in my reading queue. Honored Guest is a collection of short stories where at least one character is strange. How can in a person in polite society deal with this behavior?  Well, I hate to tell you this but we can't.  Ok, the people I know from Boston or Jersey can, but not in the Midwest.  If you know what to do, please let me know because I have my fair share of nutcases in my life. Seriously...help me (drowning sounds...glug, glug, glug).

One of my favorite stories involves a small cocktail party in which one guest describes all ten of her daughters. One of the other guests, just says something like: This is not how you speak at a sociable evening! She then just storms off. Preach! I can really see why David Sedaris loves her stuff.  I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but I like dark humor so it was fine, not amazing but wryly amusing. I'm going to give one of her novels a chance.

Joy's name is ironic as she has a touch of misanthrope, but she likes irony so maybe it's all for the best. I was worried I was a misanthrope myself but it turns out I just have a few loud duds in my life.  You know the type, the conversational LeBron James where they just dominate you. Hey, I'd like to talk now--No, in your face! Don't you dare drive the lane! Fine, I'll just sit on the bench....(they don't even notice--continue to talk about Trevor's SAT prep class).  Anyway, this isn't for everyone.  If you are expecting David Sedaris, please don't, it's more literary, subtle and kind of melancholy. 

We need to counter this dark humor with a little Sunshine (that's the drink): 2 ounce of white rum, 1/2 ounce vermouth, 1 ounce pineapple juice and dash of grenadine. Mix all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. I think you could add the grenadine later as a visual element but well, I'm weird too.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The World of Lore

A non-fiction book about monsters? Another book based on a famous podcast (just called Lore), The World of Lore is about vampires, werewolves, creatures and some strange true life stories. The book is illustrated, but a word of warning, if you listen to the audio book or podcast....Aaron's narration is well, unusual. He has excellent diction. He just has an usual cadence. Imagine Captain Kirk during a deposition. Or how about a nerd trying to make a pedantic speech after climbing the stairs. Words. Come. Out. Oddly. 

This book doesn't go into great depth about any one topic, and some monsters are more explainable than others. Mothman, Robert the Doll, the book covers a lot of ground. It reminds me of an art history survey class where you just touch on a little bit of everything.  Just replace Donatello with the Jersey Devil.

While the illustrations are fine I think they really missed an opportunity to make this with old-school paper dolls.  Hey werewolves can have casual Fridays (puts tiny paper Dockers on werewolf). And sure, while a ghostly billowing shirt is in style, it would be nice to pair it with some fashion leggings and cute boots.  Maybe you would get out of the house more ghost lady--maybe haunt the tasting room of the local craft brewery for a bit.

C'mon we have to read this with a Zombie: (I always think it has enough alcohol to turn you into a zombie--which makes me worried about what people think of Long Islanders if that is their iced tea). Add these ingredients to a large glass with cracked ice: 1/2 ounce white rum, 1&1/2 ounces golden rum, 1 ounce dark rum, (you own a rum factory apparently), 1 ounce lime juice, 1 teaspoon papaya juice, 1 teaspoon pineapple juice and 1 teaspoon superfine sugar. Stir. "Float" 1/2 ounce of 151 rum on top! Just hope they don't bury you alive after you pass out. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Welcome to Night Vale

What if every X-Files conspiracy theory, the crazier the better, was real? How do you feel about jokes? Do you like combining the two? Well, then Welcome to Night Vale is the book for you. Imaging the joke-y X-Files episodes, you know the ones I mean, where there is a lot of playful clarinet passages like a musical wink? Based on a podcast, Welcome to the Night Vale has a cast of characters that live in this crazy town. For example, if they need the police they just whisper "secret police" near their refrigerators and sure enough someone is there to help. Where everyone listens to public radio but City Council is full of supernatural creatures. You know, a cool town.

The reviews said I wouldn't like it if I didn't follow the podcast but that's not true. I love surreal jokes. In fact, I get sad playing Cards Against Humanity for that reason.  Everyone always plays the obvious "naughty card" not the weird card. I wish there were more cards like Self Immolating Flamingo (this card does not exist as far as I know). I always lose. I don't care about losing but I'm like, c'mon people--think outside the box. By the way, I made this joke to a friend before I finished this book and flamingos become a plot point.  Granted they are the plastic lawn variety but nevertheless they are magical objects that bend space and time. As they should be.

If you like audio books this is better on audio (I did a mix of the two). I would give this book full marks but it meanders a bit. Probably a result of the authors writing for the podcast rather than a organized plot novel kind of thing. I didn't want it to bother me, but it did just a little. I like the jokes though, and they aren't Dad jokes nor or they offensive. I guess if you were a monster they might be offensive. Maybe on Monster Twitter the authors might get blasted. I feel like monsters wouldn't waste time on Twitter though.  More like wreck someone's crops of haunt someone IRL. Monsters are very IRL. 

Why not read (or listen to this) with a Fox Mulder Cocktail (it's a whiskey sour with a bizarre look--but sounds delicious): Add to a shaker with ice, 1 &1/2 ounce rye whiskey, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, 1/4 ounce pineapple juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup. Shake and strain and fill in rocks glass with ice. "Float" (or top) with a 1/2 ounce of Green Chartreuse.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Shriek and Finch

Shriek and Finch are not an obscure comedy troupe from the 40's.That's good because they sound like they would be awful. No, Shriek is book two and Finch is book three in the City of Saints and Madmen trilogy. There are plenty of creatures and monsters in these books but the scariest of all might be the monster of exposition in Shriek. He will bore you to death!

Shriek is written memoir style with the narrator and her brother who makes post script annotations. But if I wanted to deal with two snarky siblings making passive aggressive comments to each other I could just go to Thanksgiving. Granted they went through a lot of more drama than my family. I did have a brother that went though a eat your own spit phase. You know where you lay on the edge of a table and spit, it makes a long string then you suck it back up? Yeah, but we are all in agreement that he is weird as hell.

Finch is written in the style of detective novel. Very noir style. There are some exciting fun fantasy scenes in both books but the first book, City of Saints and Madmen is far superior. You'd be fine with just reading that book. I just struggled a little with these two.

In this series there is city built on the ruins of a civilization of well, I'll just say it...mushroom people. There is some debate on whether they still live underground....(they do, that's not a spoiler). I think I have some in my basement. What I think is weird is while mushroom people sound funky and maybe a little scary but to me, defeating them could be a squirt-gun full of bleach. Barring that, I would just kick 'em. Hey scary dude, what to you think if I just drop kick your head? Ba-dang. Sounds like a comedy from the 40's. They could be little Nazi mushroom people. I'm picturing little tiny jackets.

These speculative fiction fantasy novels just scream absinthe to me. Also, this one has a spooky name which is also appropriate. Death in the Afternoon: Pour 1 & 1/2 ounces absinthe into a champagne flute. Top with 4-6 ounces of champagne.  It should form this milky cloud which sounds freaky!  (I've seen variations of this cocktail with Pernod and also an addition of a sugar cube). 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

East of Eden

Set in the olden times in Salinas Valley California, I just can't feel sorry for someone that owns acreage and acreage of the some of the most gorgeous real estate in the county. "But, my cows are skinny." Boo-hoo. You have a sunshine, an ocean and wildflowers, c'mon man!  Now you could just open up a hotel with daily yoga and make-your-own grain bowls. Actually, they still grow stuff in this valley and are still obsessed with whether it will rain this year or not. Like, rain at all. That seems so weird to me but I live under a great big cloud for five months of the year. Literally and metaphorically. 

East of Eden, set in the Salinas Valley (that's where Steinbeck grew up) is about some Lannister style narcissistic sociopaths. But not everyone is evil, just a couple of them. When I was a kid there was a three episode miniseries of the book and I remember watching just enough to determine that Jane Seymour is evil and no altruistic Dr. Quinn or magic crepey neck cream is going to dissuade me from that notion. I'm sure there are kids now that will never ever trust Lena Headey ever again. I know, kids shouldn't watch Game of Thrones but I would bet some of them did like I watched things that were inappropriate for me. Honestly, the most traumatic thing I even watched on TV was Little House on the Prairie when Albert's girlfriend Sylvia got raped by a clown, gets pregnant, gets called a whore, gets attacked again and dies. Yes, that was an episode. I didn't leave the house for like two years. 

East of Eden is about a couple of families over a period of years so it has this epic family drama feel that is appealing. If you haven't read it, it's worth a read, the drama of the storytelling is not dated (it's excellent) but of course it has some racist language and of course sexist stuff.  Shoot, you watch a comedy special filmed last year and it seems weird.  I'm like, who thinks that stuff is funny anymore? Times have changed so quickly. Anyway, the book is still good and the audio version is excellent if you are into that kind of stuff.

One prominent liquor in the book is Ng Ka Py, a Chinese medicinal liquor which I assume you don't have in the house.  Also, I did some research and it sounds super gross. Lets go with something whiskey and kind of sweet instead. Brown Sugar Cinnamon Bourbon Cocktail:  Make a simple syrup with brown sugar instead of white--also infuse or add some vanilla and a cinnamon stick.  Add two tablespoons of this syrup, one and a half ounces of bourbon to glass with ice and stir vigorously, add a few dashes of orange bitters and garnish with a cinnamon stick.  You can rim the glass with brown sugar if you want but that seems excessive for our hard working frontier folks.