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 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'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.  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.