Monday, March 24, 2014

Shadow of Night

I wasn't planning on reading the sequel to A Discovery of Witches.  Even though I picked the original for my book club, I was non-plussed with the love story (non-ironically dysfunctional), but my crew picked this sequel. Well, I actually liked it better than the first book.  Mostly because the romance is established.  There are a lot more sex scenes (*sigh*-- that's a suffering sigh, not a pleasurable sigh), luckily, supernatural creatures do not believe in foreplay.  So while there are many, the sex scenes are mercifully brief.  And I do mean brief.  Hey, one guy is a vampire, who has lived about 2,000 years, I mean what's an extra ten minutes?  But I digress.  The best part of this book is that it's plot-based.  Yea!!  And this one's set in the olden times. 

Deborah Harkness is a historian and, well, it shows.  Guess what I'm not?  A historian.  Oddly, I always loved History class; in fact I would win prizes for Social Studies and History in High School. I think I got an A in Western Civ in college too. It turns out my talent was for understanding history, not in remembering  it.  I think it's because I mastered the history essay.  It always included: decreasing natural resources caused neighboring countries' conflict, and what at first appearance was a religious dispute, the war was merely a subterfuge for increasing land holdings and therefore regional power.  Right?  Put that in your essay. You are starting with a B and can only go up.  Anyway, there are lots of Elizabethan references and I have no idea what she is talking about. I think there was a reference to Giordano Bruno, but I tracked that because he was featured on Cosmos recently. I think I took classes in Ancient History, so in my mind, 400 years ago is pretty recent. Also, I just like saying Visigoths.

Like the first book, these characters drink a lot of wine.  I looked up what they drank in Elizabethan times and only rich people drank wine and that's when they could get it.  Now, these guys are rich, but a more common drink was ale.  Not "beer" but ale.  Dogfish Head Brewery has an Ancient Ale Series and one is called Midas Touch.  They describe it as somewhere between wine and mead.  They claim it is "made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas."  I don't think they mean 2,700 year old ingredients, I think they mean the same type of ingredients.  Otherwise, that's one hell of a sourdough starter.  I think it sounds kind of good, and Dogfish, they haven't let me down yet, so drink it.       

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Perks of Being a Wallflower

This isn't a self-help book.  I needed to know some of these so-called perks when I try unsuccessfully to attend professional networking events.  I think the real lesson is that there are no "perks" to being a wallflower.  This is a coming of age book that many people have read and I finally got around to reading.  It really is a love it or hate it book.  If you like a coming of age novel with a narrator that has some serious mental issues, well you are in luck!  It reminds me of Silver Linings Playbook (the book--not the movie) but with a 15 year old narrator.  People love characters that are so weird or messed up that they still see life through the eyes of a seven-year-old.  Even if they are fifteen.  Or even thirty-five. 

In a series of letters our protagonist tells the story of his freshman year in high school.  He has a lot of problems.  He is not right.  It is not realistic, not like Freaks and Geeks, or anything.  If you are not on board with our weird narrator, Charlie, a reader could see Stephen Chbosky's writing as "forced whimsy" as one reviewer called it.  You know, I can see that. I think if this came out right when I was 15 and all my classmates were quoting it, I would have probably hated it too.  Normally I am the cynical one.  Wow, this book must have caught me on a good day.  Also, I am sucker for a shout-out to The Smiths.  I loved The Smiths, my Mom...did not.  My Mom: "Oh no! Not the moaning man again!" She used to try to use reverse psychology on me too: "All black again? (pause a beat) You look cute in that!"

While Charlie and his friends drink brandy and listen to records, (that sounds fun too) the book is also set in the very early 90's so you should drink this with a popular late 80's-90's drink.  Kamikaze: 1 oz. Triple Sec or Cointreau (I think Grand Marnier would be fine too), 1 oz., vodka and 1 oz. lime juice.  I drank these and this recipe sounds better than I remember these tasting.  I suspect people were giving me drinks with inferior alcohol.  And not real lime juice. Damn 90's. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Maisie Dobbs

Can two Anglophile-Bibliophiles have differing opinions on a British book?  Sure, you bet your arse they can.  I have a number of Anglophile-Bibliophile friends.  This is actually is pretty nice until they start talking about Sherlock Holmes.  That is like fantasy football to them.  So, when I told another Anglophile-Bibliophile I was reading this book she said, "meh." That's not ultra-negative but it's not a ringing endorsement either. So if you are keeping track that's one AB+ and one AB-.

Maisie Dobbs is not a book I would normally read, but is a period mystery set just after WWI in England.  Maisie is a female private dick.  She is a jumped up country girl who spent her adolescence as a house maid in a manor but the lady of the manor discovers she is a brilliant genius.  Don't we all wish someone would discover us as geniuses!  Her life is then forever changed by the gentlewoman and her weird scholarly friend.

Maisie's manor days are just part of the book and a good portion of this book involves her days as a nurse in WWI.  Also, she solves a mystery, but that almost seems incidental.  AB+ let me borrow the sequel and I will read it.  It has short chapters which are good for reading right before bed or for reading a few chapters with a cup of tea and a homemade power bar.  I know scones are traditional but that's my new obsession.  I've been reading a lot of British themed books but I'm not really an Anglophile.  Trust me, I know so many, that I'm missing that "thing" they have, like an obsession with Dr. Who, Benedict Cumbercatch and all things Neil Gaiman.  So, I would say I'm B+ on this, its not amazing, but I wasn't expecting much. I think a certain AB- might have had her hopes up too much.  I've seen this happen to Anglophiles with a hyped British based series. It's not all Harry Potter, sadly.

At this time, gentlewomen drank claret or sherry--but that's a little boring.  Why not drink a cocktail named after the most popular actress of the time?  The cocktails of this time are very sweet because the alcohol during prohibition was a bit nasty.  The Mary Pickford: 2 ounces light rum, 2 ounces pineapple juice, 1 teaspoon grenadine, 1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice. Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, strain and pour into a cocktail glass.