Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Dreamsnake written in 1978, in which our hero, named Snake (confusingly) who is a traveling healer that heals with snakes she keeps in one of those giant purses. You know, the kind Kim Kardashian carries around. That would make Kim much more interesting if her Hermes bag was full of snakes. (I'll bet its not full of snakes....Boo!)

I don't know if Vonda McIntyre was on the cutting edge or just got lucky about the use of snake venom in making modern medicine. Now the fact that Ms. Snake acquired immunity by getting lot of bites is nothing new. Apparently the practice is called Mithridatism. That is an awesome name for a really weird hobby. Ms. Snake does not carry a black mamba but I once saw this documentary about a black mamba getting scared of a moving Jeep that went right past her so she tried to bite it. A moving Jeep going about 30 mph.  It was adorable. It was the only way she could cope with stress. Strike and Chomp. Oh..that's a good name for a bowling alley that sells food.

This is a pretty weird book but overall it's interesting. Apparently birth control in the future is done by Bio-control.  It seems that young men and women are taught techniques and the guys have to learn how to get their scrotum really hot? Too hot to produce sperm? At least that was my take-away. How this is accomplished is beyond me.  Yogic practices? Futuristic Tighty Whities? Hot Wings? That was left for the reader to figure out. Dreamsnake really raises more questions than it answers.

Need to milk some snakes this holiday? Who doesn't.  Why not read this with a nice Milk Punch which is really an alcoholic milk shake....not that I'm complaining!: 1/2 cup half and half, 1/4 cup whole or 2% milk, 1/4 cup bourbon, 1-2 tsp (or more) of sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract.  Blend into a frothy goodness. Stir a couple of ice cubes and strain.  Pour into cups or mugs and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Serves two.    

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Among Others

 Among Others is about a girl who loves sci-fi and fantasy.  Nerd Alert! More books get referenced than a dissertation.

This has the "I've been sent to a British boarding school and it sucks" thing, the "coming of age as a massive geek thing," and the "my mother is a psychopath that is mentally-ill" and/or a "my mother is a psychopath that has magical powers" thing. Granted, that last one is a little strange but it reminds me of Grimm's fairy tales. Mmmmmm, house made out of candy...now that I think about it, why did the witch want to eat the children when her whole house is made out of gingerbread and candy?  Then I figured it out: Paleo Diet.

This whole story is told from our narrator's diary. The fact that she can talk to fairies and do magic is very matter of fact but I suppose a cavalier attitude is a 15 year old's forte. This book is really a love letter to SF geeks, librarians and disaffected youths.  Didn't The Smiths do a song "Stop me if you've think that you've read this Le Guin before."  This book is geek level 11 so that joke was necessary.

Comic Book guy would love this: "Um, excuse me, but um, you could read this but you cannot enjoy it on as many levels as I do...(*sigh*)"  I didn't get half the references myself. I guess on the geek continuum I'm just not there.  We all know those people that are uber-geeks, such that they become "difficult" sometimes and not in a funny way, but in a pedantic and creepy way. If you are an uber-geek, keep it light even if Han shot first. It's cool, Jeez.  Anyway, this is a fantasy coming of age story (which I like) with, frankly, a few too many Sci-Fi book references, but overall, enjoyable.

Our narrator hates all drinks but water....really? Ok, fair enough, why not something light and low-alcohol so you don't make a fool of yourself with your boss at the office Christmas party...White Noise Spritz: 1&1/2 ounces Cocchi Americano Bianco (I think Lillet would work too), 1 ounce St-Germain, 2 ounces club soda. Fill a tom collins glass with ice and add the Cocchi and St. Germain. Top with the club soda and serve with a grapefruit twist.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Invisible Bridge

Invisible Bridge is a historical novel based on the author's relatives who were Hungarian Jews living in Europe during WWII.  I don't think it's a spoiler alert to tell you...some bad stuff is going to happen. Hey there smarty, you just figured out that someone must live long enough to become the author's progenitor. There were no sperm banks in 1938.  Wow, I'm really glad there wasn't because: Baby Hitlers.

Julie Orringer admits the romance part of this book is totally made up, and frankly, it shows. Unfortunately this section is huge...like two to three hundred pages of overly sentimental romance. Yuck. She got a National Endowment of the Arts grant to write Invisible Bridge....shhh...don't tell the politicians. This book is ok, but the history part, while a bit grim, was a much better section. I'm thinking: Do I hate historical fiction and just like history?  But then I remembered All the Light We Cannot See.  Which was amazing. Maybe that book was the LeBron James of historical fiction; you only get one of those in a generation.

This very first part of this book is fantastic...our narrator gets a scholarship to study architecture in Paris in 1938.  Fish out of water going to school in Paris, cool, cool, needs more wizards, but ok. Then he meets a lady (250 pages of a romance novel), then the war breaks out and we get a history lesson. While I think every educated person should know the events leading to and after the war, you really don't need to do that with a less than sexy bathtub scene in the mix. Holocaust history made sexy! Pass.

Before the grim part, our narrator's life was pretty sweet. How about a champagne cocktail? Southside Royale: 2 ounces gin, 3/4 ounce lime juice, 3/4 ounces simple syrup. Put these ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake and strain into a champagne flute and top with champagne.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Want some companion stories to Game of Thrones? Of course you do, you addict. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a compilation of the three "prequel" short stories set about 100 years before the Fire and Ice books. You may have heard of these as the Tales of Dunk and Egg.  That sounds like the adventures of randy British schoolboys. Like a medieval Porky's.  It isn't. Sorry.

Dave says George must have made up those names while eating breakfast, and I didn't even tell him of the adventures of Quisp and Special K. Quisp really does sound like a Game of Thrones character, I wonder if he gets confused with the notorious sea pirate Cap'n Crunch.

If you've read the Fire and Ice books and think you'll just breeze through knowing who all these characters are....you'll get a whole lot of nope. You think you'll be able to sort these names, nope, nope and nope. You'll need the internet or be comfortable with the confusion.

This book is illustrated by Gary Gianni which may trick you to think it is more children-friendly. Is it not. It is a little violent and it doesn't have explicit sex but two of illustrations have naked ladies.  My friend Richard does illustration work for a D&D derivative game called Harn. One time he used me as a model for a peasant. If you are ever having a good day but want to turn it into a bad day...just look at yourself in a rendered drawing as a peasant. Yes, I had clothes on, the type of clothes that come straight from the streets of Bucharest during the war. The Russo-Turkish War of 1887.  

Anyway, the book is ok, but not amazing.  It could get you through an uncertain but distant future before the next book if you need a Game of Thrones fix. If you are interested in Richard's work he has a separate blog just for his illustration work. luschekillustrationblog.blogspot.com  For the right price he could draw you as a peasant and ruin your day too.

Drinks: In honor of our beloved Egg character why not drink a famous cocktail that uses an egg white? Egg whites make cocktails all frothy, but use safety precautions because raw eggs put you at risk of Salmonella, which feels like something you would pick up quite easily in Westeros. Ramos Fizz: 1&1/2 oz. gin, 1/2 oz. lime juice, 1/2 lemon juice, 1&1/4 oz. simple syrup, 2 oz. milk or half-and-half, 1 small egg white, 2 dashes orange flower water, club soda. Combine everything but the club soda in a shaker with ice.  Shake, strain and put in a highball glass with ice and top with the club soda.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fevre Dream

Before George R.R. Martin spent his time rolling around on a pile of coins he wrote a vampire book set on a steamboat. While this was written over 30 years ago, it's not dated because, hey, it's vampires!  Also, it is set in the olden times so these vampires aren't going to Blondie concerts and hanging out with Andy Warhol.  Actually, I think that is a good idea.

I read this right before Halloween, and nothing is spookier than a steamboat...wait, what? I have it on good authority that George is quite intrigued with steamboats.  Trust me, after reading this, I didn't need the inside information, it's readily apparent. I did learn the difference between a texas deck and a hurricane deck (I had to google the anatomy of a steamboat), so that knowledge is going on my 2016 resume. I once saw an actor's resume that said: "excellent headstands and push-ups," and I thought that was one the funniest things I've ever seen.  She did get a Pepperidge Farm commercial. They must have cut out the scene with her eating Milanos between push ups.

Fevre Dream is a perfectly fine vampire novel.  Warning: there is copious use of the N-word. Granted, it is set during slavery time but I wonder if an author could get by with doing that today. Well, George probably could because he's rich and famous now and gives zero cares. I've read my fair share of  decent vampire books and Fevre Dream is like those books but with steamboats! Yeah, it's still not an easy sell.

Drinks: It is officially fall cocktail season and this one sounds perfect: Stone Wall: Take a one inch piece of ginger and muddle in a shaker with 1 & 1/2 tsp of simple syrup, then add 1 & 1/2 ounces of aged rum and an equal amount of apple cider.  Fill the shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a ice filled rocks glass and top with 1-2 ounces of ginger beer, garnish with a lime wedge and apple slice. As this has less alcohol than a typical cocktail you can keep your wits about for those pesky vampires, or pilot a steamboat..whatever.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair is not as funny as the Dickens' novels I have read, which is sad, although to be fair I may not be getting all the jokes. I think some of the names are a play on words or referencing famous people we don't remember anymore.  Perhaps it's like hearing a 200 year old Honey Boo-Boo joke.

One of the strangest aspects of this book is the narration. Throughout the novel the narrator keeps mentioning himself almost randomly.  It felt just like the old "Clippy" when Microsoft Word was new and Clippy would pop up asking if you were writing a letter. If you don't remember Clippy, well congratulations!  Either you are too young to remember him or suppressed this memory. In this book Thackeray is popping up telling you:  It looks like you are reading my novel.  Did you know you are reading my novel?

Yeah, we know, Clippy, calm down, that's what being an author is all about. I'm just going to put you in in the corner there, now feel free to fall asleep because I've got this.

Don't be tempted to read anything on the internet about this book (you'll be tempted to sort out the characters) but they put in spoilers. That happened to me.  I had about 30 pages left and spoiled the ending for myself. I had 200 years..... Anyway, this is not bad at all if you are interested in reading the classics, again this was originally published as a serial (that means it is very big--900 pages--so consider yourself warned).

Vanity Fair is a darker, more satirical and more critical of the society than most olden times books. I'm pretty sure Thackeray was a Gen-Xer. I think Social Security ran out right before he was ready to collect too.

Drinks: In this book, what you drank was a complete class "thing." In some ways that's still true but now it is more about quality than whole categories of drinks.  Gentlemen drank Claret or Madeira. Drinking gin was like one step above a homeless dude. Our villain (brilliant but evil) drinks a Rum Shrub which I think was not all that classy.  However, a Rum Shrub sounds kind of awesome.....Blackberry Rum Shrub:  2 ounces dark rum, 1/2 ounce shrub syrup, club soda.  The Shrub Syrup is 2 cups blackberries, 1 cup sugar and let that sit in a bowl for 1 and half hours. strain and add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (refrigerate--this keeps for 2 months in the fridge). Combine the rum and syrup in a Collins glass with ice and top with the club soda. It's getting a little cold for this but I'm hoping for an Indian Summer.  

Friday, October 9, 2015


Why do authors think time travelling would be all sunshine and rainbows? What kind of narcissist thinks they would get to meet Shakespeare and the Queen in the same afternoon? No, in the past you pooped in a hole. Finally a book that addresses pooping in a hole. I think that is why Octavia Butler got a MacArthur Genius grant. Well, it may be because this is a brilliant spin on sci-fi dystopian historical fiction written in 1979 and still holds up.

The plot is interesting. Our protagonist, Dana, a modern African-American woman, is involuntarily time travelling to an ante bellum slave plantation and that is not good. Yeah, time travelling is not always fun. I also feel this way when people talk about reincarnation, which I don't really believe in anyway, but if I did, why in the world would I think I was a French princess? If I was reincarnated my lives would look like this: peasant, farmer, serf, serf, thief, died in childhood from a pox, serf, serf, indentured servant, slave, pox, pox, pox (rough time), prostitute, merchant, farmer, serf, priest, tenant farmer. I was never fancy or rich except one time I did alright as a merchant and had a caravan that was as nice as a used Lexus. Also, I would take gifts (mostly snacks and beer) when I was a priest for forgiving your sins. If you gave me a nice cake I would even forgive a mortal sin. Mortal Sin Cake. So good.

Kindred is very short novel and I love that it has an actual plot.  I've been trying to slog through several books that were too postmodern stream of consciousness for me.  I don't care about people's dreams and I do like to know what the heck is happening. Also, it might be good if something is happening. So, this is was a good break. I've seen this book on a curriculum for a college course and it does include some historical tidbits that the educated reader might find tedious (if you are reading this--that's you). However, this book's concept is brilliantly subversive but it's a good read too. Genius.

Drinks: for some reason, I'm craving Mortal Sin Cake and beer.  I had a fun beer recently from 3 Floyds called Yum Yum. I take umbrage when people say that Indiana sucks. Not with that brewery. I do think, though, someone named Randy works there.  Brew serf Randy.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Power Hungry

I’m kind of obsessed with this book.  I can just look through this thing when I’m stressed or bored and think of all the power bars I could make, humming, rocking back and forth. I love to bake but I often break out in fat, it's quite alarming I assure you.  I wasn’t a huge power bar eater before this, but I am now. 

Discovering hemp hearts has turned me into a Woody Harleson-esque hemp advocate.  Hemp was recently illegal to grow in the U.S.  I suspect it’s because the plants look exactly like marijuana.  It’s like banning sugar cubes because they look like crack rocks. It would be interesting to see a Manhattan made with a crack rock.  I would call that a late 80’s Manhattan. But I digress.  Hemp hearts have no THC (well a tiniest fraction of a percent).  But I’m pretty sure buying a pound of weed is cheaper than a pound of hemp hearts. My favorite recipe in this book uses a cup on hemp hearts. I'm really glad a certain place called Jader Toes started carrying them, I ripped up my application for a second mortgage just in time.  

Camilla Saulsberry has a lot of cookbooks.  I’m like what’s going on over there?  She’s also a Mom and teaches Pilates or something of that ilk.  Yet there are about two hundred different power bars in this book when you count all the variations.  And then she’ll crank out a totally different cookbook, the next year.  One has 500 quinoa recipes. What kind of system is she working?  Does she have a secret team of people working on these things like Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time series?  I wonder if they will they continue to produce recipes after she dies.  Maybe she can contact George R.R. Martin on how to produce a new book every 18 months.  I think they should team up, Danerys and the Dragon Power Bars.  They could have a little cinnamon for the fire.  I could have a whole nerd joke based cookbook. Well, Tolkien started this idea with the Hobbits and their damn second breakfasts. 

Drinks: I drink my power bars with green tea but that's not very exciting.  I'm going to post a cookbooks review once in a while so this we can call the Hungry Narrator series. I'm not going to post a recipe like a food blog because that's tedious (and easy to screw up)--just get this book and make some.  Not all of them have hemp but you should try it--the first taste is free.      

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers

Are you up to date on your Prozac, therapy and/or brownies? Because if you're not, don't even think about reading this book. Beyond the Beautiful Forevers is a non-fiction book about living in a Mumbai slum. More heroes die in this book than in a season of Game of Thrones.

Even before I read this book I sometimes wondered if a little Bangladeshi kid could survive on all the stuff I throw away. The water when I wash my garden stuff and all the food when I clean out the fridge.  I am trying to be more mindful of the food I waste but I still think a kid could live on what I toss.  He may not enjoy eating less than active yeast with a Worcestershire sauce chaser.

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers is written in a compelling narrative style.  It's less about explaining how and why these people are so poor but more about their own personal stories.  It's like a depressing Housewives of Beverly Hills.  Well, that's depressing too, actually. This is depressing in a different way. It's not a bad book but I think this would work better as a documentary. Even better would be a Werner Herzog documentary. We'd be sad, thrilled and scared in one weird emotion. Let us call that Herzoged.

If you interested in this kind of thing, I would recommend Peter Menzel's book Material World (you've probably seen it) where the families put out all of their possessions in front of their house.  It turns out people in poorer countries have a lot of bowls. I feel like Apple is developing an iBowl.  It holds, scoops, measures, stores and is both wireless and portable. (It's just a bowl with an Apple logo that costs $60).

Drinks: I picked this recipe up from a English language based Indian website which had metric measurements. I did the conversions for you... Green Leather: Muddle a slice of ginger and three sprigs of cilantro to release the juices. Then add 1.5 oz gin, 1/4 ounce of lime juice and 1/4 oz of simple syrup and fill the glass with crushed ice.  Add a dash of orange juice and Sprite (I say that is optional--I would use club soda).  Or read this with whiskey and brownies in hand...and keep 'em coming.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

State of Wonder

Cactus People Book Club. I would love a book club where people like weird and crazy books. I'm quite sure they have such groups but I'm afraid they might attract a strange element.  You know the type, they argue about everything while simultaneously biting their toenails.  Anyway, this book would be fine for your boring normal book club. The one where they talk about reality TV shows and how they haven't been to Vegas in a while (man, that last time was awesome! oh, you've never been...but you'd love it!)

State of Wonder is a Heart of Darkness shout out, as our protagonist must go into the Amazon rain forest to find out what is up with the brilliant but insane and narcissistic Dr. Swenson. Our jerk doctor is trying to develop a new fertility drug from Amazon tree bark but it's taking a really long time. The fictional drug allows women to be fertile their whole lives. No thanks. Can they develop a drug that lets me eat brownies and not get fat? I'm on board. Don't say they did with Olestra, because oily anal discharge is an unacceptable side effect.  Please be advised that you can only eat these brownies on the toilet. I want more than Toilet Brownies.

I'm not a fan of normal or boring so while this isn't a bad book, it's nothing special.  I was surprised as people really like this author.  Sometimes I feel like grumpy cat when I review books....so I made this for you.

The most famous Brazilian drink is the Caipirina, which is delicious, but I don't know about you but I don't have any Cachaca around and apparently there is no appropriate substitute. Why not drink with this fun El Diablo cocktail: Combine 2 ounces of reposado tequila in a highball glass with ice. Top with 3 ounces of ginger beer and slowly pour a teaspoon of creme de cassis which will sink to the bottom. Garnish with a lime wedge.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

The City & the City

Ah, China Mieville (if that's is your real name...I feel like it is probably Neil Shufflebottom) I get it, you like a challenge. You want to write a book in each genre, which probably helps you with writer's block. I get it...must write detective novel...do not know how to write detective novel.... Well, buddy, like I would tell a 3rd grade soccer kid, good effort, good effort.  I like your hustle.

The City & the City is, yes, a detective novel, but it's not a particularly good detective novel.  It is a kind of interesting political novel with sci-fi type elements. I've seen this put in the category of fantasy. That's not right though. It's much more like 1984 than 1Q84. There are zero wizards. Zero. Giant Spiders? Zero. That's kind of shame as Mieville is really good at writing fantasy.  This is the literary equivalent of Usain Bolt deciding to start a singing career. 

The best part of this book is the setting. Twin cities, which consider themselves separate countries, live without a physical border but all of the citizens are forced (by training as children) to "unsee" everything in the foreign country. Getting a falafel on the other side? That's a paddlin'. Actually it's worse than a paddlin', the secret police come for you and you disappear. Luckily this city weirdness is the focus of the book--the murder mystery seems more like an afterthought. Sometimes I wonder if rich people "unsee" my 16 year old car. That would explain a lot. It's either that or I got the last of the Nissan Romulan models. 

Whenever I see a mojito or mint julep cocktail, I choose to unsee it.  I'm just not a huge fan of mint. I'll admit it limits my drinks. So, I found this Orange Mojito recipe and I'm like Hey! Muddle a half of orange, half of lime (cut into large chunks), with 2 teaspoons sugar and a few sprigs of mint (I say this is optional) in a large rocks glass. Add two and half ounces of light rum and ice.  Cover this with a cocktail shaker and shake or stir until cold.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Blue Sword

♫ Do you ever feel...like a plastic bag...drifting through the wind...hoping to get a sword and an awesome horse? ♫

If I had magic I would use grow potion to get some of Katy Perry's assets.  Of course I mean her net worth. The Blue Sword is a classic epic fantasy. Orphan girl living in a boring muggle world feels like she could be so much more. Don't we all? I've read a bunch of Robin McKinley books and I like them, but for some reason she won't finish her Pegasus series she started five years ago. She probably just got stuck doing Pinterest for the last three years. It happens.

I've had this on my shelf for years.  I just noticed it said for ages 10 and up.  Way to make me feel like a loser. But this is one of those my-life-is-stressful-can't-even-deal kind of books.  It's called fantasy.  It's like a prescription book. You're not flexing a whole lot of brain muscles.  That's what NOVA is for. Or maybe FRONTLINE. I never realized that PBS' titles are shouting at us. PBS, we are totally in your face. Deal with it.

If you haven't read this and you like epic fantasy, this is a good one. One thing I thought was weird is that there is a character named Dickie Crewe.  That sounds like a LARP team name.  And our female heroine is named Harry Crewe.  How is that even possible? I think her given name is Ermahgerd. With a name like that you are destined for something great.

It's still summer so drink this kid's book with a sophisticated adult drink. Peach Bellini: Make a peach puree with 2 peaches, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Process these in your food processor and strain the pulp.  Put 2 tablespoons of peach puree in a champagne flute and top with cold prosecco. (makes about 6 drinks...I guess you could share).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sharp Objects

Brain too hot, must read thingy...easy words.  Drink drink. Hey, it's summer reading time. Time for a thriller. Sharp Objects, authored by Gillian Flynn, is the same author as Gone Girl. This is not a prequel or sequel, it's a stand alone freaky book.  Keep in mind this is more of a thriller, with some horror aspects rather than a mystery. Think more Silence of the Lambs than Twin Peaks. Whoa, I went totally 90's there....buuddy.

Ok, this is not quite as good as Silence of the Lambs, but it's fine. It is what it is.  Some people hate this book because it is disturbing. THIS IS WHAT YOU'RE SIGNING UP FOR, FOOL. Don't give something a bad review because you can't handle the genre. Amateurs.

If you regularly read this blog (thank you by the way) then you know that I try not to put any spoilers. So the plot is simply a reporter who goes back to her hometown to investigate some murders. She takes some time out to reallocate her investment portfolio, do some yoga, and go on a cleanse.  Actually she does none of those things--because this is a thriller.  Although talking about how great you feel on your cleanse might put someone into a killing rampage. It might put me in a killing rampage.

Some of the people in this book have a drinking problem, but we don't, so we can have something fun and summery. Tabernacle Crush: 1/2 large peach sliced, 6 basil leaves, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1&1/2 ounces of gin, 1 ounce Lillet, 1/2 ounce simple syrup. In a tall glass, muddle the peach, basil and lemon juice, then add the gin, Lillet, and simple syrup. Next add some ice, top with club soda and then garnish with a little basil sprig.    

Monday, July 13, 2015

Anubis Gates

Want a time-travelling urban fantasy set in the olden times, kind of like Dickens meets Indiana Jones?  Be warned, this book has more twists than your DNA. There are a few jokes peppered throughout but they aren't lame (by that I mean they aren't dad jokes and no puns). Use a lot of puns around me = Berserker.

Granted, this book is confusing.  Time-travelling books often are. This one uses a mix of real historic figures, real events, crazy magic, fictional poets and....it's just cuckoo bananas.  Anubis Gate's only flaw (besides that weird title) is that it's very confusing. Like how on earth was Two and Half Men on the air for twelve seasons confusing.

Anubis Gates was republished in 1997 and won some fantasy awards back in the 80's. Even though I was working at a bookstore when it was republished, I had never heard of it.  Granted it was a feminist bookstore (think the feminist bookstore in Portlandia meets a gay pride parade) so maybe that's why I don't remember it.  I think instead of carrying this title we might have been carrying: Hiking Antarctica Alone with Your Dog or How to Knit a Working Bicycle.

Drinks: There are plenty of drinks in this book like scotch, beer, port and lots of brandy. Brandy in coffee, brandy straight and brandy in punch.  Most of this book is set pre-cocktail era but there are a lot of fun cocktails with brandy.  The Embassy: 3/4 oz brandy, 3/4 good rum, 3/4 oz. Cointreau, 1/2 oz. lime juice and a dash of Angostura bitters. Put those ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish this with a lime wedge.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

Want a twist on the my-crazy-parent-alcoholic memoir? What about having some colonialists for parents? No, not African missionaries. Colonialists. Rhodesian colonialists that would cheer when a land mine went off because it was either an African rebel or a baboon. What?

I had been meaning to read Alexandra Fuller's memoir for years, and yes, the writing is excellent. 2003 was the tail end of the weird memoir era. You didn't know there was a weird memoir era? Running with Scissors, Liars Club and then A Million Little Pieces kind of ruined things as people were just making stuff up. Hey, every family is crazy enough that you don't need to make stuff up. You just need a good memory and the wherewithal to realize that not all families, say... go through a period where when any member of the family farts, you all have to knock on wood for some reason. The last person to knock was the so-called "loser." (Who started this, I'm not sure.) This game was so popular in my family that for an nine month period all of the artwork on the walls was crooked. (We discovered that the picture frames were often the closest source of wood within reach). I still have no idea why we did this as we all suffered the consequences. 

Fuller does mention farts in this memoir, albeit briefly.  This book wasn't as good as I had hoped, it's a little sad and it covers death, disease and war-like unrest.  Vastly different than my family.  The most traumatic thing that happened in my family is when our beloved parakeet drowned in the upstairs toilet. I'm sure he wanted to take a bath, poor guy.

Even though the title of this book is from a quote...there are a ton of dogs in this book, When the dogs got worms and scraped their butts across the floor they called it "sailing." Drink with a variation of the "dog drinks": Greyhound: 1&1/2 oz. vodka, 3 ounces grapefruit juice, serve over ice, garnish with lime. Salty Dog: Same as above but replace the vodka with gin and put a salt rim on your glass.  Salty Chihuahua: same as the Salty Dog but replace the gin and use tequila. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thirsty Narrator Recommends

I think three years plus is enough time to make a list of books I recommend from this blog. This is not a list of the best blog posts because that is a completely different list.

"Normal" Fiction: All The Light We Cannot See. Also good: Luminaries and Middlesex.

Classics: Watership Down (such an awesome book). Also good: Count of Monte Cristo, David Copperfield.

Non-Fiction:  Power of Habit (I broke my video game habit because of this book).  Also good: Devil and the White City, Alex and Me, In a Sunburned Country.

Mysterious Fiction (Books that bridge the gap between literature and fantasy): The Bone Clocks, Golem & The Jinni.  Also good: 1Q84 and A Tale for a Time Being. Note 3 or the 4 authors have lived in Japan--mysterious indeed.

Sci-Fi & Dystopian: Oryx and Crake (the whole Madd Addam Trilogy is good), Also good: Ready Player One (soon to be a movie --YES),Wool, Station Eleven, Kindred.

Fantasy: High: Name of the Wind.  This book has a bit of a cult following.

Fantasy Urban: The Rook.  Also good: Ocean at the End of the Lane, Anubis Gates,

Fantasy Weird: Perdido Street Station (and I mean weird). Acceptable: Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach Trilogy.  

Cocktails!  I must admit, unlike the books, I have not tried every single cocktail on the blog but here are few of my (many) favorites:

Gold Rush which a bourbon based cocktail with ginger liqueur and fresh lemon juice.

Pegu Club which is a gin based cocktail made with orange liqueur and fresh lime juice.

Manhattan which is a classic drink.  I make mine with Rye and a high quality sweet vermouth.  

Way of Kings

Dear Way of Kings, it's not you, it's me. After reading about cactus people it's hard to go back to plain epic fantasy.  I'm just too weird now. Unless your character goes to Wizard School.  Because I love me some Wizard School.

This is one of those stories that starts with a confusing action scene. Then it starts again...with another confusing action scene. Now, for anyone that reads fantasy this will scare the bejeebers out of you because you think you've just picked up the middle of a trilogy. No, its just one of those literary devices, action action action, then we'll slowly talk about the story and plot.  Some people like this style.  I like things simple.  I can't even read a written workout plan.  They look like this to me: Gorilla Walk (A)--12 reps (3)+(30) X (AMRAP) & 45 + 6(30).  I thought good quads meant quadriceps not quadratic equations.

This book is over one thousand pages.  And it does not end with any closure.  It's obvious that this is part of a gigantic series with many thousands of pages. I wonder if Brandon Sanderson is on the Balzac model of writing.  That is the one where you work 18 hours straight with an IV drip of coffee.  It did not end well for Balzac (also he looked like a wreck).  I'm not crazy about the Dickens' diet regime of chops and punch either. Although, Dickens did think that champagne and sherry had medicinal purposes which does seem entirely reasonable.

In this book's world the only kind of wine that is intoxicating is a deep purple. How about a purple colored cocktail?  Ballet Olifant: 1 oz vodka, 1/2 oz creme de cassis, 1/2 oz lime juice, 1/2 oz lemon juice.  Pour all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, strain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

In a Suburned Country

Learn from my mistake: Do not read a book about Australia while you are on a beach vacation.  What was I thinking? Especially after that stingray swam right next to me.  He didn't touch me but it was both awesome and a little scary. I think they are unlikely to kill you unless you are Steve Irwin, and if I recall, he was trying to french kiss that ray.  No means no with a stingray.

This is a Bill Bryson book so it is full of funny stories (mostly self-deprecating) and lots of nerdy facts.  You may not be entirely enthralled with all of the topics, but he never dwells on any of them long enough for it to make the book boring. He is doing research so it makes you feel like a slacker when you are travelling and the idea of going to all of the little museums has no appeal for you at all. Putting more food in my mouth hole is apparently the number one priority when I'm on vacation.  At least Bryson drinks more than I do when he travels with is quite the accomplishment.

This book is a little dated already, but Australia is still full of venomous creatures. In South Carolina I did see a stingray and three and half small alligators. Oh, and a dead jellyfish (probably not a "box" jellyfish--which is the most innocuous name for the nastiest thing ever--they should be named tormentors). I did see lots of bros and whoo-hoo girls. Those are mildly irritating but rarely deadly.

Apparently one classic Australian summer cocktail is the Dry and Dry: One and half ounces dry vermouth, add to a highball glass with high quality ginger ale, ice and garnish with a lime wedge. Drink in January--what? Everything is backwards!

Monday, June 8, 2015


What happens when you put a human frontal cortex in a pig's brain? A lot of self conscious pigs, it what you get. "Does my rump look fat?"  Maybe they just feel self conscious about eating slop and rolling around in filth.  "I know I shouldn't but, wow, I mean, this just feels so right. I'm naughty right? I don't even care. Who's up for a trotter pedicure?"

MaddAddam is the last of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy. While the second book is the superior of the three; this is still a fine series. Depressing and weird, but that's dystopian for you. This one follows Zeb and at one point he fights a bear, becomes a bouncer at a strip club, as well as a janitor, landscaper and programmer.  His resume looks crazier than mine. Apparently you are not supposed to use Times New Roman on your resumes anymore because that's boring. I say deemphasizing that I went to art school in the 90's is a perfectly fine strategy.

In MaddAddam, there really are pigs with partial human brains but they seem less superficial then I just implied.  They are organized and are certified Six Sigma black belts. The humanoids, in contrast, seem like sex-starved animals who think wearing bed sheets for clothes is superior than, say, clothes. What? No!

There is not a whole lot of drinking in this book but I think you should drink this variation of a cocktail from the Four Seasons in DC called the Adam and Eve--it actually makes 2 drinks: 2 ounces bourbon or other whiskey, 1&1/2 ounces Cointreau, seven dashes of fancy bitters (they use two kinds--regular and "pimento" What?), lemon peel and 4-5 ounces of champagne.  Stir all of the ingredients in a glass.  Strain 1&1/2 ounces of the mix into a chilled champagne flute and top with the champagne (that the Eve part) then strain the rest into a highball over rocks (that's the Adam part). For some reason this seems subtly sexist, like I can't handle a whiskey cocktail? Granted, I'll drink either of these drinks while I get my trotter pedicure.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bleak House

Two Dickens in one year!  Wow, that sounds waaay dirtier than it is.  It is something to put on your resume because those are lot of pages my friend. But it was cool, it was cool.  This was a special project with my friend Amy P. You see, Amy P. is much much smarter than me.  I'd like to think that I amuse her.  She keeps me around for joke purposes.  It's like having a talking monkey.  I throw my food at her in frustration occasionally but only when I'm having trouble finding the right word.

Bleak House is about some people involved in a lawsuit that is taking forever.  There are a bunch of characters.  Not all of them are involved in the lawsuit but a fair number of them do die. It's like a erudite Game of Thrones.  I must say, one dude spontaneously combusted...which is pretty awesome.  Most just get sick but never get better.  There are a couple of doctors in this book and I don't see these doctors doing anything.  They just seem to be like a nice roommate.  The doctors will sit and talk to you and get you a glass of wine while you suffer from pneumonia, oh and by the way good luck with that!  You're dead? That's sad!  

I suppose its not really fair to look at modern medicine and judge the olden times doctors. Two hundred years from now, people will think, why did they die of cancer?  Just put the nanobots in the body and it will all get eaten away! Duh. (In the future you can only die by getting beheaded). Apparently I envision the future as being some Terminator/Highlander mash-up.

Punch time!  This one is called Felicitation Punch which sounds very fancy and happy: 3 ounces rich simple syrup (think 1 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water ratio), 12 ounces fresh lemon juice, 4 ounces maraschino liqueur, 1 and 1/2 liters chilled club soda.ice (preferably in a large block), 6 ounces of Irish whiskey (David Wondrich uses this to mimic the taste of the olden times gin--a friend gave me some Navy strength gin which likely strong enough), zest strips of 4 lemons, 1 liter bottle of gin. In a punch bowl muddle the lemon zest with the whiskey, add the gin and let that stand for two hours. Add the maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and rich simple syrup until chilled, about two hours.  Just before serving add the club soda and the ice.  It should serve 18.  I would limit guests to one, otherwise your house will turn into Barf House.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Station Eleven

First, kill all the actors!  Didn't Shakespeare write that?  Maybe I'm getting that confused with lawyers.  Too bad there is no such thing as the Internet where a simple search can render your results in less than half a second.  In Station Eleven there is no Internet.  Argghh!  I cannot imagine.  We all know a couple of old people that don't use it much and it's soooo weird.  When you talk to them you feel like saying, What's wrong with you?  You talk weird. The Internet is like my bonus brain. BRAIN!

Station Eleven sounds like it would be outer-space Sci-Fi but its more dystopian Sci-Fi and it's very good.  Shakespeare comes up in this novel quite a bit. And actors, and killing too. No lawyers, but some musicians.  Kill all the flutists! That doesn't seem right. Although I could use a flute as a weapon, but I am much more comfortable with an oboe.

Wait, I remember time without the Internet where unanswered trivia debates were settled by feats of strength and my spelling mistakes exposed me as the idiot that I am.  I suppose I could survive without it but I'm really hoping I never have to find out.  Also, I like electricity and clean water and not getting ambushed and killed.

Drinks: God, without the Internet--what else is there? A future dystopian hot summer deserves a super refreshing drink. Paloma: 1/4 cup grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 cup tequila 1/4 cup club soda.  First, rim your glass with some grapefruit juice and salt. Combine the grapefruit juice, lime juice and sugar in a glass and stir until dissolved. Stir in tequila and add ice top with the club soda. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Year of the Flood

You can tap into your inner hippy (mine smells a little like sage, feet and patchouli) while reading The Year of the Flood. This is book two of the MaddAddam trilogy. I loved book one, Oryx and Crake, and I think this book is even better. The Year of the Flood follows some eco-hippy-religious group that spend their time keeping bees, eating homemade vegetarian food, and gardening.  It sounds kind of nice to me, personally, but I have a secret hippy side. That's the side that doesn't get shaved.

This book follows a group called God's Gardeners, who warn of an apocalyptic future where there will be a "waterless flood" and a major portion of the population will be wiped out. Think of them as hippy-preppers.  Well, it turns out they were right, as we found out in book one.  And as a consequence, they fared quite well, albeit a bit stinky. Don't worry, it syncs up with the first book perfectly.  (Yes, you should read the first book first).  

This book will make you want to make your own vinegar, go off the grid and start hoarding things. In real life, everyone is freaked out about the future of avocados with the California drought.  I call it the avapocalypse. We are not there yet--but you should not be taking your guacamole for granted. I wasn't before, because, hey, guacamole.

It would seem appropriate to drink kombucha with this book, but I'm too afraid after this guy I know from the Ukraine told me what he saw at the bottom of a barrel (a mouse). Anyway, I think we can do better than that.  Dirty Martini: 2 & 1/2 ounces gin or vodka (use the good stuff here), 1/2 ounce dry vermouth, splash or up to 1/2 ounce of the olive brine.  Add all to a mixing glass with ice.  Stir and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with two olives.  Hey, this isn't God's Gardeners approved....but I say, enjoy this with your guacamole while you can.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hyperbole and a Half

Let me clear something up right away, Hyperbole and a Half is a comic book.  It is also a memoir of sorts.  It is not a graphic novel, because it is not fiction. Also, I don't like graphic novels for some irrational reason I cannot explain and I liked this collection of comics therefore it cannot be a graphic novel. My logic is impeccable.

Hyperbole and a Half is based on Allie's blog of the same name, which you've probably seen at least a sample. Allie is upfront about some of her inner demons but this book is done in such an adorable and relatable way...you'll smile even if you are secretly worried for Allie a little.  While I've never suffered from the kind of depression of which she describes I think everyone can relate to not wanting grown-up responsibilities.  I learned to like to cook (most days) but it took a long time.  I STILL hate to do ironing. Why?  Let's compare: cooking for 45 minutes = delicious brownies (with downtime to read) and you can eat and share (theoretically) said brownies. What does 45 minutes of ironing get you?  A couple of non-wrinkled shirts? Who cares? Also, no downtime and more importantly: NO BROWNIES.

So, Allie talks about how weird she was as a child, her weird dogs, her bout with depression and some of her issues with her self identity. Sounds sad but it is actually funny and cute.  Even though she draws her avatar like a slug-like thing, she is funny, young and cute herself.  I suspect as she gets older she'll be totally fine with wanting to throw sand on children. It's one of the few good things about becoming an old lady.

Drink with what Dave and I call homemade Prozac. What is homemade Prozac, you ask? The richest most decadent brownies you can make warmed with a little ice cream on top. Pair that with a little aperitif glass filled with single batch bourbon.  You can feel the healing powers.      

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Martian

Not since My Penis, Myself, has there been a more guy oriented book. Boob jokes, poop jokes, tricked out vehicles, sex jokes and long complicated math-heavy real science word problems.  Not that women can't do math, because they totally can.  (It just so happens I'm not one of those lovely and capable women).

This is one of the books that seems like it's meant to be a movie. Hey, it is!  Well, it's not quite done yet. It stars Matt Damon (who is that guy's agent?) and has a bunch of other famous people with great agents.  Directed by Ridley Scott, I am thinking this will be awesome even if it is not.  I even liked Prometheus which is a ridiculous movie.  This is my favorite thing that happened in Prometheus: Hey super creepy looking thing...let me put my face near you because I think you are like a little bunny....Argggh!!

The Martian is about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Our main guy, Mark, is a very smart but writes in his journal like a dorky 13 year old kid, with lots of lame jokes.  For example, It wouldn't have surprised me to read a scene where there was a complicated math problem which was based on how many tampons needed to fix the water reclaimer. It was likely in an early draft. Think Nicolas Tesla's  journals written by Tim Allen.  Anyway, you might like this if you are a dude or a lovely math oriented woman who doesn't mind a poop joke or two or three.  Most people can wait for the movie. Would it have killed them to cast Hugh Jackman?  Can't this book give me something?

Drinks:  A martian martini seems appropriate:  2 oz. gin and 1 oz. Midori (or other melon flavor liqueur), combine with ice and shake and strain.  Serve in a martini glass. The pretty color makes this drink reminiscent of a little-green martian, not a dusty, frozen rusty and oxidized planet drink, which frankly doesn't really sound all that appealing.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Leaving Time

WHERE'S THE BEEF?  If you know that catchphrase you are likely over 35.  Which is fine, fine, no problem (how are your knees feeling by the way? Fair to middling? ok).  Anyway, no one under 25 would ever get this phrase unless they are a hipster and found a Where's the Beef? T-shirt in a vintage shop, which was so 2009. It's all about 90's references like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now.

At the risk of turning into Comic Book Guy officially, Leaving Time really dropped the ball on the cultural references.  One narrator is 13 years old and she would never know of a movie called A Few Good Men.  I asked a friend who is 25, and she looked at me like I'd lost my mind.  Come to think of it, that's pretty normal for us, but she also said she'd never heard of it.  A Few Good Men, Some Like it Hot and a reference to Fred Flintstone seem suspiciously relevant for a 48 year old popular writer. That's more careless than The Fonz riding that bull in the rodeo to save Uncle Ben's dude ranch. Two can play at this game. (*squints eyes*)  

Leaving Time is a mystery involving elephants, psychics, the mentally ill and more elephants. You will learn more than you ever wanted to know about elephants.  There are some passages in here that involve declarations of love that are genuinely vomit inducing. The story is saved from complete crap by having a twist ending. The twist still does not reconcile how the 13 year old would be busting out Boba Fett references.

Leaving time is close enough to Last Call: 2 oz. vodka, 1 ounce concentrated and chilled jasmine green tea, 1/2 oz Domaine De Canton liquor. Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker and garnish with a lime twist.    

Sunday, March 22, 2015


What if every fantasy novel is just a drug-filled delusion?  Frodo's quest for the ring is just a Tolkien version of getting another opium hit. (Frodo never really gets to Mt. Doom, but in a stupor, he wanders too close to the fireplace). Or GRRM's story of Jaime Lannister is just a meth-head who accidentally sat on his hand for 6 hours. I think you could do that with any fantasy novel. Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is an idiot tripping on LSD who thinks the sewers and the Tube are a magical world where time and space are "not what they seem." Well, duh...it's called trippin'. Also while you are tripping, you will think your jokes are much funnier than they really are.  Actually, that explains a lot.

Set in the sewers and catacombs of London, there is a whole other world where time and personal hygiene are not bound by logic. Neverwhere is where an idiot protagonist can explore, he can experience life afresh, and where he can make some really corny jokes.

This is a fine example of urban fantasy (I'm going to gloss over the joke problem) and if you like this genre why haven't you read The Rook already? C'mon! I'm sure I would get more out of this book if I had lived in London at some point. Alas, I may never get there so I just have to guess.  I imagine people walk around with pez nez peeking from their waistcoats.  If you been there and say that's not true, I still think you are a big fat liar.

Drinks:  It's getting warmer and this is set in England so that, to me, that means one thing--Gin.  How about a Ruben's Cooler 2? Note this makes 8 servings and you need to make it ahead for your party. Cut 2 cups of thinly sliced cucumber and freeze them.  Put 2&1/2 cups of Hendrick's Gin, 1&1/4 cups St.-Germain, 1 cup of fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp of kosher salt in a pitcher.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.  Add the cucumber slices and 1 1/2 cups of club soda.  Pour into 12 ounce highball glasses with ice.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

David Copperfield

Well met, Sir! It sure is fun to speak in the olden-times talk. But you should use it very judiciously because I assume it would get tiresome after a while. Not unlike that Scottish accent you like to whip out...or God forbid, you have a Sean Connery impression. Anyway, it can be used if you wait for just the right moment.  One summer we were outside, having a drink of course, and a neighbor cat came sauntering up to us.  My friend, out of the blue, said: "Give that cat no quarter!"  That happened about 3 years ago and it's still funny.

I had never read any Dickens, and this is pretty funny (it's not a comedy, it just has funny moments) and you wouldn't think 170 year old jokes hold up but they do, they do. It is long, this book is not for amateurs, meaning if you read 3 or 4 books a year, please for your sake, skip it.  

If a certain Mister Copperfield was transported to today's time and I think it would freak him out. He would make so many mistakes. Quit pooping in the mixing bowls! Seriously, Dude, you do not need someone to help you dress.  I guess you can get a new cravat but it makes you look like an aging theater director.  Hey, just because you can see her ankles does NOT make her a prostitute.

If one thing Dickens was good for it was including TONS of snacks and drinks.  And punch is totally back, just like old lady names like Stella.  This one is apparently a fairly accurate Gin Punch: Take 3 lemons, and peel strips without the pith, and put in a bowl with 3/4 cup sugar. Muddle and let steep for 2-3 hours.  Juice the lemons (about 3/4 cup) and pour over your sugar peel stuff.  Transfer to a 3 quart pitcher with ice and add a 750 ml bottle of gin. Then add 1/2 cup orange liqueur and 1 liter of seltzer.  Stir and our into punch glasses or small cups.  Makes 20 servings.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


I have the hardest time remembering the titles in this series.  To me, Acceptance is just a concept.  It doesn't have a nice little phrase like The Wind in the Willows or To Kill a Mockingbird. It's like naming your book Constancy or Fudgel.  Fudgel, is a real word.  It's quite relevant today and deserves a comeback. Although naming a book Fudgel would get Judy Blume fans overly excited and very confused.

The third in the Southern Reach series, Acceptance wraps up our mystery surrounding Area X (well, sort of). While certainly better than the unpalatable narrative in the second book, it's not as good as the first.  I liked it but didn't love it. First, it's told from many characters' viewpoints and set in both the past and the present. Second, I found the writing a bit "fancy."  Don't get me wrong, I really do like nice writing but it gets distracting using evocative language to describe phenomena over and over again.  I thought, JUST TELL ME IF THERE IS A MONSTER!  Is this monster going to eat someone? These are the questions I want answered. Not the luminosity of the numinous night with cranes fleeting against the sky. No, get those stupid cranes out of here.  Where is the monster? There is a threshold where I get distracted by the writing.  I'm one of those people that never saw those Magic Eye things either. Pony? Not for me. Dots. All I ever got was dots.

I want to give JVDM another shot.  I don't think he goes by JVDM, but I'm starting something here, like JCVD.  I would like to know if Mr. Vandermeer can do the splits between two chairs like JCVD because, if so, he should really make that a more prominent part of his bio. If you no idea what I'm talking about--shame on you! Here you go.  

A creepy secret government agency type drink seems just right (and an awesome 80's band of course): Joy Division: 2 ounces dry gin, 1 ounce dry vermouth, 1/2 ounce Cointreau and 3 dashes Absinthe. Stir in a shaker with ice, strain and garnish with a lemon twist. (I've learned my lesson with the Absinthe) so dashes--yes, dashes seem just so.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin

What if you could read an animal's mind?  So many fantasy books have this as a theme, because let's face it, we are total suckers. Crispin, the fictional author in The Bone Clocks, even regretted his choice of genre, lamenting that he should have written books about lonely children that can talk to animals. (Ah, Crispin, your snarky observations were astute, indeed). It's true, I have read many sub-par fantasy novels with this common trope.  It would be too harsh of me to say these books (the first two in the Farseer Trilogy) are sub-par, but the second book was frustrating.  Indeed.  

I've thought about this, and honestly, I don't think I want to read my pet's mind.  I kind of already know what they are thinking anyway.  My girl cat:  Hey, I'm hungry, seriously, I'm hungry....for reals, getting hungry.  HUNGRY!  I would be like, I've GOT it. You want to be so fat you can't reach the window? I don't care...hungry. 

From my boy cat: Dude, (he talks like a surfer) I'm bored, where's that Bird thing?  You never play with it!  I do too, I'm going to watch you swing it around and just get super flat on this floor and watch you make it fly. How is that playing?  I'll go for it once. Maybe after about ten minutes, I gotta figure out his patterns, Dude.

Anyway, our boy hero in Assassin's Apprentice can speak to animals, and they are loyal, very intelligent and not nearly as manipulative as my animals.  I wish that this was the main theme of the book, but truly this is a "court intrigue" high fantasy.  Heavy on the intrigue.  Not as sophisticated, action-packed or byzantine as Game of Thrones, so it starts to kind of drag in the second book.  (Not that GOT always moves the plot forward with the speed of light either).  So, if you like characters that talk to animals, read the first book and consider yourself warned about the second. 

There is a lot of dog-talk in this book, so I think you should drink a Bloodhound: 2 parts gin, 1 part sweet vermouth, 1 part dry vermouth, and 2 or 3 crushed strawberries.  Shake with ice, strain and serve with a fresh strawberry.  I know strawberries aren't in season yet, but they will be. HUNGRY!  



Monday, February 9, 2015

Alex & Me

What is this water coming out of my eyes?  I did rub my eyes the other night just after eating salt and pepper pistachios, which I regret.  I do not regret those pistachios, no way, it was the eye rubbing, yeah, that was an error. Alex & Me is a non-fiction book about a scientist and her work on the cognitive abilities of her African Grey parrot, Alex.  Alex was very famous and the whole book starts with memorials as to his untimely passing.  Do not read this book if you've just lost a pet or other loved one, you will...be...a...mess.

The sad part is only the first part, once that's over, Pepperberg explains her thirty year study to understand this super cute bird's brain.  That sounds kind of boring, but I didn't think it was.  You should keep in mind that Pepperberg is not a typical non-fiction author, she is the scientist behind the whole project so she doesn't mess around. It's a small book.  I liked it, but I really love animals, and she writes this for us "norms." If you consider me normal, which is debatable.  By the way, we had a parakeet when I was a kid, as awesome as he was...um, I'm good on bird ownership--they will chew on anything, including your lampshades and poop indiscriminately.  

If you read this, (and even if you don't) you should definitely check out Alex's news clips on YouTube.  He was on several news segments and he was also on Nova.  He speaks quite clearly for a bird and I'm driving poor Dave crazy with my impressions.  I can't help myself.  When Alex is bored or frustrated, he wants to back to his cage saying, Wanna go back. Who hasn't been at a crappy party and thought that?  Truth, Alex, truth.

Alex often says: Wanna drink of water.  He says that when he genuinely thirsty or when he just wants to interrupt his chores.  If you "wanna" drink with something stronger, I think a bird themed drink is appropriate.  Love Birds: 1&1/2 oz. vodka, 2 oz. sweet and sour mix (preferably homemade--easy to do and worth it), 1 dash dark rum and 1/2 oz grenadine. This should be a pink drink.  Apparently when you scratch Alex's head the whites around his eye turns pink, which is the parrot equivalent of blushing, how adorable is that?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wolf in White Van

Hulk write book titles now.  Wolf on white van sound cool too.  Maybe wolf have rising moon in background?  Sound awesome.  Wolf in White Van was not on my radar but recommended by a friend and is, well, a weird book.  Our narrator is the designer of a role playing game in which your moves are done through old-school snail mail and the designer tells you what happens next.  That sounds oddly appealing to me.  You get fun mail and play a game that takes a month to do two moves. My mail consists of Reach magazines and those moves are no fun, no fun at all.  

Not to get all "Comic Book Guy" on you, but part of this book talks about an area I know all too well and frankly, John Darnielle really blows it.  Dude, just get someone to read your draft if you don't know something.  QUIT GUESSING, FOOL. It's probably a good thing I'm not an equine expert because I read so many books with horses.   I'm sure I would be like, "Ah, that breed did not exist in that time period, and if I'm not mistaken, which I'm not, that character did not transport himself via a time machine. Thank you."

I have two friends that liked this book, but for some reason it was so not my thing. It's a pretty depressing character study with no wizards (despite the nerdy references), no snacking and the plot is told "backwards." Its one of those books, either you get it or don't. I also don't like the author's music (he's a fairly famous indie musician), especially his voice, because it is what I can only describe as "punchable."

Drinks: This book reminded me of a recipe in Jane and Michael Stern's book called Square Meals, which is as much a history of war-time food and eating than say a typical cookbook, but it is pretty funny and fascinating (especially if you are food nerd like me). I remember they wrote something like: "Are you ever having a bad day, and just want to make it worse? Well, drink Crust Coffee."  So this is the the basic recipe:  Take toast crusts or ends, not burnt (heaven forbid) and put those in a pitcher with enough hot water to cover them and let steep until cool. Strain and sweeten to taste. Enjoy?

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Bone Clocks

This novel has more texture than a 90's art installation piece.  The Bone Clocks is part fantasy, satire, dsytopian tale, modern fiction and some new genres I'm not even sure what they are. It's told from multiple points of view, it has an insane amount of names, it takes place on multiple continents and is set in the past and the future.  It has inside jokes that I knew were inside jokes but didn't quite get. In that respect…well, its quite British.  Quite.

One character is a British author named Crispin Hershey.  Crispin is a weird name for Americans.  For me, it does not exactly conjure up super sexy images but, you know, maybe it could work.  Steven Soderbergh could make a sequel to Magic Mike called Magic Crispin.  Announcer: "Ladies, put down your tea cozies and give it up for CRISPIN!!"  (Crispin, fat, middle-aged, pale author comes out in a smoking jacket and pipe) Crispin: "Well, isn't this droll."

I liked The Bone Clocks but be prepared for a challenge.  Instead of one long ride, prepare yourself to go the carnival instead.  Oh, we are going to go on the Scrambler for a while, and now the Ferris Wheel, oh, and a little detour on some Aaron Sorkin section also known as The Teacups.  Eventually you get back on the big coaster but you feel a little dizzy.  It's like that.

I actually had the flu for a bit when I was reading this, so my drink of choice was an irresponsible amount of Nyquil. I think it would make sense to drink with a classy, masculine winter drink.  The Chancellor:  2 oz. blended Scotch, 1 oz. ruby port, 1/2 oz. french vermouth,  2 dashes of orange bitters.  Stir well with cracked ice, strain and serve in a cocktail glass.