Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass

These are the second and third books in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series.  I reviewed the Golden Compass (the kale one) earlier this year.  Obviously, The Subtle Knife is a big FU to non- English speakers.  I mean, two silent letters?  Really?  And of course, Amber Spyglass is the name of Phillip Pullman's favorite stripper.  Real appropriate for young adult readers Pullman.

So, these are fun and even better than the first book.  For some reason I love reading an epic fantasy series at this time of year.  Is it some sort of heathen rebellion? I was reading LOTR at Christmas every year and this was pre-movies. Of course, I always love me some HP.  Of course I mean Hewlett Packard.  The best book in that series is Hewlett Packard and the Deathly Low-Ink Levels.

As this series continues it gets more complex and yet makes more sense. Think of it this way, as you add more and more pieces to the puzzle you realize...oh yeah, that's a puppy's face!  But even though this was targeted to young adults its pretty darn sophisticated.  Two people that I know love these books have some educational background in Religious Studies.  If you do, you will realize how clever some of this stuff is, but you don't need that knowledge to enjoy it.  Pullman is lifting ideas out of the Old Testament and The Book of Enoch.  (The OT is craaaazy and the Apocryphal books even crazier).  ♫ Angels we have heard on high, don't come down here im-preg-nating me...Gloria...♫.

Fear not, these books are not just about religion but also have theoretical physics, philosophy, and its just plain good epic fantasy adventure. The ending is not ideal in that it kind of hits you on the head with its message.  Its saving grace is that there are magical animals which include but are not limited to: kitties, ermines (a kind of stoat) and pine martens, yes, magical pine martens. 

Drink with a Christmasy cocktail that will make you feel warm inside.   Brandy Alexander: 1 & 1/2 oz of brandy, 1 oz dark creme de cacao (you could substitute Kahlua I suspect) 1 oz half and half  and 1/4 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg.  Put all of the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, strain and top with the nutmeg.     


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Scar

I wanted to start this review with a joke about famous people with scars.  When you look this up on Google you get some crazy results.  Did you know Halle Berry has a sixth toe?  Gross!  How she got a secession of hot men to have babies with her...I'll just never know.  Sixth toe.  C'mon!

Anyway, in this sequel to Perdido Street Station, China Mieville brings us more adventures...but this time on the sea! Well, The Scar is not really a sequel, its set in the same world but completely different plot line...on the sea!  Pirates, cactus people, vampires, swordsman, mosquito people and weird lobster people called cray.  I would say, "You are just cray cray bro!" to those people all day long....They would just dive underwater to get away from me.  Then I would dive in and scream CRAY CRAY!  But it would just come out as a big air bubble.  They would know what you meant.  I'd get saltwater up my nose, but it would be worth it. 

The plot moves a little slow, especially in the beginning, particularly compared to Perdido Street Station.  I really nursed this thing, it is not a petite novel.  I think it might have a sixth toe.  One of my favorite things about this book is there is a character that is a dolphin.  His name is Bastard John.  This makes me happy. The best part, there is no elaborate explanation for why he is called Bastard John.  I guess he works "security" and keeps the underwater workers in line with a swish of his tail.  I guess that makes him a bastard.

Drink with a proper sailor's drink, Grog:  1 shot of rum, 1 tsp of sugar, squeeze of lemon, a cinnamon stick, and boiling water.  In a mug, add a shot of rum, the sugar, lemon and cinnamon stick, add enough hot water to fill the mug or to taste.  My expert suggested the in the olden times sailors would float a hard-tack biscuit on top.  I think a little biscotti on the side sounds nicer.  Or this time of year a Christmas cookie.  I mean, we can read about strife on the sea, we don't have to live it. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

In the Garden of Beasts

Damn Nazis!  It would be so weird to live in a time right before the Nazi's really took control and you would think, hmmm, lets see where they are going with this....then, WTF!  Maybe you would have thought, I'm not crazy about the random secret police beatings but the fancy uniforms they are so snazzy!  In the Garden of Beasts is a non-fiction book about the American ambassador to Berlin in the 30's and his slutty young adult daughter.  Now listen, women's sexual liberation is awesome, but damn girl!  She slept with Nazis, French diplomats and Communists, all at the same time.  I'm sorry but that's modern you-are-not-the-father-Maury-Povich slutty. This was the 30's mind you, how she didn't get Nazi gonorrhea is beyond me. 

This history book is not boring, no, if you've ever read an Erik Larson book, you know he can make history positively salacious.  According to his afterword, his wife reads his books and puts zzzzzzz's in the margins.  She also puts sad faces with people crying, so we have her to thank for making it interesting. 

The ambassador, who was FDR's sixth choice, was an college professor that was fairly ill suited for the job.  One of the reasons Dodd took the gig is so he would have time to finish his academic book.  It gives that "publish or perish" saying new meaning.  Don't worry, things work out....wait, no they don't.

Oddly it seems that if it wasn't for the damn Nazi's, 30's Berlin would have been really lovely. Garden strolls in the summer and they went crazy with the Christmas trees during the holidays.  Lets think of the nice Germany (the EU country with all the money and supermodel news anchors) so why don't you read this with Gluhwein?  That's fancy German-talk for mulled wine.  Made with red wine, add cinnamon, anise, clove and sugar and heat (I've seen it done with a crock-pot).  You can also drink it "mit Schuss" which means you add a shot of liquor like rum.