Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Archivist Wasp

Sullen, defiant warriors that are ruggedly independent yet secretly compassionate, compelled to aid the helpless, and topple the totalitarian system.....sound familiar? Well, that's because that's the plot of every single young adult dystopian novel. Step one, make their names a little weird, step two have them be reluctant but devastating warriors, step three have at least one character who is a loner and finds a kindred soul.  And...you are done! Congrats you have written your novel!  If you like this take, you should follow Dana Schwartz's Dystopian YA Novel Twitter feed. It is so dead-on it will kind of ruin you.  Honestly, it is truly a bright spot on the grim landscape that is social media these days.

So, I really wanted to like this book by Nicole Kornher-Stace. I promised myself after reading All Our Wrong Todays that I must read more women authors. Then I tried reading Margret Atwood's newish book and I hated it and stopped. Then I read this book and was underwhelmed. Dang it!  I need some prescription Ursula Le Guin STAT. She's still alive I just checked. She is very old but they are making a TV series about The Left Hand of Darkness. Winter is coming....and it's not leaving...ever.  

Wasp, our main character--ah ha! Is a fierce but reluctant gladiator-type warrior ah-ha! that fights humans once a year and ghosts all of the other days of the year. She meets a very special ghost and they go off to have an adventure. There are a several cool ideas in here but it was just so all over the place. While I love a good plot this is mostly plot. For as exciting as it is, I kept putting it down, and for a book like this, that's not good. Some people like it though.

Ok, I know that wasps don't make honey--apparently they will steal it and eat the larva too--but why don't you read this with a honey based cocktail--mostly because it sounds delicious.
Bricks and Ivy: 3 slices of cucumber, muddled, 1 and 1/2 ounces of lime vodka (I would bet you could use regular vodka), 1/2 ounce St. Germain, 1/2 ounce honey simple syrup (one to one ratio) and 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice. Shake the ingredients and strain into a rocks glass topped with ice and garnish with a cucumber.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Anna Karenina

The themes of Anna Karenina are addressed in most of Beyonce's songs. The women aren't quite as empowered, true, but its all about "relationship drama" including but not limited too: baby daddies, someone not putting a ring on it, affairs, people talking crap behind your back and money problems (both too much and not enough). Admittedly, Beyonce doesn't go into a discussion of peasant farming, duck hunting, the Serbian conflict or complicated provincial elections. That's the bonus part for you. The rest is like an classy Jerry Springer episode.

I don't think Tolstoy was known for his feminist views because the poor women in this book...I mean, sad horns. Apparently it was very easy to "lose" your looks. How, you ask? Oh, like getting pregnant, turning thirty or having a cold.  If they only had plastic surgeons they would have started The Real Housewives of Moscow. This is fascinating to read, as these people who are as rich and educated as they are still act like idiots. For example: He's going to leave me I just know it. Why is he acting like that? He must have another woman.  He is repulsed by me. This kind of stuff...no good can come of it.  As Beyonce says "What's worse, lookin' jealous or crazy? In this book, why not both?

I was intimidated about reading Tolstoy but it really reads like a typical Victorian novel except for the fact that its Russian. I didn't hate it, but instead of the good guys and bad guys of Dickens everyone is just kind of a turd in their own way. I think we are supposed to like one of the main characters as he is our proxy for the author, but I wasn't so crazy about him either. I probably would have thought Tolstoy was a turd in real life too.    

Drink this with a summer Russian Beyonce drink: Rooftop Lemonade: 2 ounces of vodka, 3 ounces of fresh squeezed lemonade, shake in a shaker, strain and add into a Collins glass with cucumber slices and ice.      

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.