Monday, November 18, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Geeks love Neil Gaiman.  I mean love him, they want to have his babies.  Even his male fans.  They want to go full-on seahorse.  I do not want to have his babies and even though I am a geek, I have mixed feelings about his work.  I've read some of his books and enjoyed them and I listened to one of his books on audio and I  It was so very very awful.  He was trying to be funny but it was like this broad stupid humor.  Like Two and Half Men funny.  Unacceptable.  Thank the American Gods, this is not one of his "funny" books but his subtle fantasy books. Yes.  Stick with what you're good at. Comedy writing is specialized. A comedy writer was sad that Al Franken became a Senator. He said, "I'm sure he's a fine Senator, but he can write comedy.  Its like if Mark Twain became a florist."  

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a novella, which is book-code for longer than a short story and smaller than a novel.  I'm sure his publisher was like, yes!! People love you so much we can sell it for $25.99.  That's the real price and not a joke. 

This book is a darkly whimsical look at a childhood memory, its a memory the supernatural forces at play keep repressing.  Our protagonist has some freaky neighbors, nice but like Elementals.  Beyond witches, elementals.  They look like ordinary English country folk. His slutty babysitter looks like an ordinary slutty English babysitter, but she is so much more.  Oh, and there are magical kitty-cats!  Yes.  They don't talk but they are magic for just being awesome.  Hey, if I can get mine to not steal my food and refrain from puking on the rug I would consider that magical too.   Anyway, this is a good book, read it. 

This book is anything if not very British.  Any book where the protagonist reminisces about eating a meal with Spotted Dick...well...c'mon.  So drink with an Earl Grey Martini.  I've had a variation on this drink at a restaurant and it was amazing.  Take one teaspoon Earl Grey Tea leaves and let them steep in 1.5 ounces of gin for two hours (yes, you will have to plan ahead), strain and add one ounce of lemon juice and two ounces of simple syrup, add these to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake shake shake.  Pour into a sugar rimmed martini glass.  (lemon wedge, dip rim in sugar). A cold dismal drizzle British-y day..bring it on. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Golden Compass

I gave kale a second chance.  Hey, its a superfood. SUPERFOOD.  It turns out, it was improperly prepared...twice (trust me, it can be nasty).  The Golden Compass is my literary kale.  I first read this book about ten years ago and just was not into it at the time.  I was talking to a fellow reader who asked me about it and I said, "meh"...and he said, "Please, give it a second chance!"  His enthusiasm was so sincere, how could I resist?  Here is the spooky part.  I have almost no recollection of this book.  I'm reading it and the familiarity is so subtle.  I pride myself on my memory.  Apparently, I should not.  Damn, my self-construction has an improperly poured foundation. 

I think you can purchase a Golden Compass at the Bass Pro Shops.  They should expand their hunting and sportsman line to include magical adventures.  If they carried camouflaged capes, hand-whittled hardwood wands and warewolf-based pheromones they would really double their customer base.  No one ever consults me. 

I firmly believe that after reading Perdido Street Station I can handle any fantasy plot line, alternative worlds and made up technology.  Perdido Street Station is like the handstand push up of fantasy books. Everything else is a piece of cake.  Maybe back in the day, I couldn't handle all the weirdness without much exposition.  I am stronger now.  I need one of those rubber bracelets that say "READSTRONG." Anyway, The Golden Compass is a magical adventure involving a young girl, an armored dear, interpersonal demon companions, alternative universes and the Aurora Borealis.  Its as good as Kale stir-fry with tamari sauce.  See, I can change my mind right?

Drinks:  This was marketed for smart children but I think you should drink with adult beverage.  It was set in the great north, like north of Lapland, so drink with a Hot Toddy (also, one of the few alcoholic drinks they give children--hurrah!!).  Now there are about 200 different Hot Toddy recipes out there, so I asked my resident expert which is his favorite.  He responded back in record time:  2-3 barspoons of sugar (smaller than a teaspoon), 2 oz of cask strength Scotch whiskey (I love Glenlivet's Nadurra), 3 oz of boiling water and grate some nutmeg on top.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Discovery of Witches

Maybe someday Breaking Bad will be in syndication and Jesse Pinkman will say stuff like "What are you looking at, Witch!" And the world will not be a better place for it, not at all.   A Discovery of Witches is not about going to the food co-op or the local drum circle.  I am not going to put any spoilers in here but its about a history scholar on a fellowship to Oxford and finds a fancy magical book.  First, its obvious that this is fiction because she has tenure.  Second, it does have some supernatural characters.  Not just witches but other-types like .... maybe a Yeti?  Alas, no Yeti, but a girl can dream can't she?  I think a Yeti could make any story better and save some bad ones.  The Yetis of Madison CountyEat, Pray, Yeti or even 50 Shades of White

If you don't like thinking too much you will like this book.  I don't think there is any chance you are one of those people though.  The plot in this book is kind of interesting because it involves allegory in alchemy, supernatural international conspiracies, wine and hot men.  Good start....good start....oh wait, the protagonist makes Phyllis Schlafly look like a raging feminist.  I'll wait.  Here is a young tenured brilliant Yale professor who suddenly falls in love with a control-freak who is a manipulator, a liar and dangerous but he loves her and would kill for her.  WTH.  Gross.  Even her parents speak from the grave and tell her that she needs this man and he was destined for her.  Dammit!

This story had potential.  I just can't get over the main character.  I mean she gets a ultra rare alchemy book (her life's work) and gets distracted by another book, which she's read before, because her man put handwritten notes in it and she will "understand" him better.  By the way, he is sitting right there, I mean just ask him, these people have some serious communication issues.  The author, Deborah Harkness is a PhD, scholar and academic, she should know better.  I think this is the classic case of "if only a man would make all my decisions for me then I wouldn't have to write that abstract due on Friday." Granted the details on the history of science and alchemy are first-rate but damn it, this book puts the feminist movement back 50 years.  I am not the only person that had issues with the romance aspect of the book, sadly, the romance is central.

You should drink this book with wine, lots and lots of red wine.  There are detailed descriptions of wine, but I don't think some of these wines exist.  Drink with a beautiful Bordeaux and drink so much that you wish some man would save you, well at least hold your hair over the toilet.