Friday, December 23, 2016

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

In case you are wondering, Harrison Ford is in Blade Runner 2049. Maybe he will be mostly made of android parts. In 2049 I'll be made of android parts too. Don't let them sell you on a bionic appendix. That's a waste of money. I will take that undercarriage clear coating, because, I mean, it's the oxidation that will get ya.

Yes, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the book behind Blade Runner.....and it is awesome. It's definitely different than the movie, it's funnier and the plot moves really fast. In 2021 apparently phone-booths will make a comeback and we'll have laser-guns! Post-nuclear times make animal life precious and so it's a big deal (and a status symbol) to have an animal and take good care of it. As I LOVE animals, I'm like yes, finally! I have two animals so suck on that neighbors! I'm not so crazy about that radioactive fallout though. BUT I STILL WANT THAT DAMN HOVERCAR.

I don't know what the big deal is about killing androids, I mean, can't you just get them wet? Maybe they have a giant rice filled swimming pool they get into and plot their revenge in the two days it takes to dry them out. I'll bet the new movie doesn't have jokes. Would it be so hard to call a nightclub the Control-Alt-Delete? A tiny antique looking portrait of Bender? Man, that'd be sweet. No, it's probably be all slick with gravitas out the ying-yang.

There is an important scene in here with bourbon which is very rare in the future....note to self...stockpile more. Read this with a Bourbon Hovercar...ok, it's called a Bourbon Lift, which seems perfect for the holidays: 1 and 1/2 ounces decent bourbon, 1/2 ounce coffee liquor, 1/2 ounce half and half, 1/2 ounce orgeat (you can buy or make). Put these ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Collins glass fill the glass slowly with club soda. It should have a an egg cream or root beer float style foam head.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Lathe of Heaven

What if your dreams became reality?  I don't mean one of those stupid inspirational posters you see. Or those messages you get from your distant relatives that are in one of those multi level marketing schemes...(shakes fist).  No, I mean what you actually dream when you are sleeping becomes the new reality. Freaky.

Written in 1971, Lathe of Heaven is a dystopian novel set in the future...and that future is 2002. What? Our protagonist George Orr (I'm sure that name is not a coincidence) has the ability to change reality with "active dreaming." If my dreams became a reality there would be a lot of college students showing up for an exam without going to class....actually I do think that is happening. I'm freaking myself out.

I kid you not I actually dreamed this last week: A group of unruly high school students came to tour my work (we do get groups of 4 or 5 in real life) but this was more like 25 students. I could not get them to be quiet and settle down in one spot. To make things worst there was one boy who just kept saying "Balls, Balls,Balls, Balls, Balls." My dreams are very realistic.

While this is a very good book, I'm not sure if I can recommend a dystopian book right about now.  I guess I can take heart in that global warming is not quite as bad as in this book and there haven't been any nuclear bombs go off and devastating population dropping pandemics. Not that we don't have these problems but not to this extent.  Even so, you might need a palate cleansing book after this.  Or my homemade Prozac.

Why not drink this with something from the past? This one was hot in the 70's: Harvey Wallbanger: 1 and 1/2 ounces vodka, 4 ounces orange juice, 1/2 ounce Galliano.  Pour the orange juice and vodka in a large glass with ice, gently top the drink with the Galliano. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry for garnish.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Norwegian Wood

"This book knocked my socks off!"-- Bill Cosby

"This book is right up my alley. What a realistic portrayal of college life." -- Roman Polanski

"I've heard worse." -- Billy Bush

This book should be subtitled: Holden Caulfield goes to College in Japan and the Adventures With His Wiener! Ah, remember the good old days the days when women were nymphomaniacs but ultimately submissive and also amazing cooks? Neither do I.

Actually, I like Holden Caulfield more than Toru Watanabe. Holden is a tortured disaffected youth that can't deal with tragedy without a psychotic break. I get that. Toru is a music loving "nice guy" that has women all over him for no discernible reason. Oh, you're so good with words Toru...oh, how about we do it Toru....oh BARF. Compliments, free snacks and various forms of wiener release from nearly every woman in the book I might add. (plus jazz music, coffee and The Great Gatsby for some reason). I mean really Toru are you an NBA player? Oh, baby your use of irregular verbs makes me want to look at your dangling participle. Why this book isn't labelled Fantasy is beyond me.

There is a brief mention of a well at the beginning of this novel which got me overly excited. Man, some supernatural powers in this book would have been sweet.  No, narcissism is not a supernatural power. Sadly, it's all too natural these days.

Like all Murakami novels there is a little whiskey drinking. Try this variation on an Old Fashioned-- Heck's Old Fashioned: Drop 2 sugar cubes in a rocks glass, add 4 dashes of Angostura bitters, a lemon wheel, and orange wheel, a lime wheel, a maraschino cherry and 1/2 teaspoon of grenadine. Muddle these enough to release the juices.  Add 1/4 cup bourbon or rye whiskey, add ice and stir to combine top with equal parts and club soda.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Les Miserables

Merde this is a big book!  I think it may be the longest novel I've ever read. I'm not entirely sure I understood some of this book. There was some serious history name-dropping. I didn't even know Chateaubriand was a dude and not steak with fancy sauce (actually it's both!) Next I'll find out there was a Giovanni Lasagna that was an Italian artist and intellectual in the 1600's. A contemporary of Caravaggio, the lesser known Lasagna developed the Alfredo technique. Luckily the legacy of the Australian Prime Minister Jacko Bloominonion is intact. There are huge sections of this book that talk about things of which I am clueless. And these sections go on and on and on. Whew, other than that this book is excellent.

I never saw the musical or the movie. Yes, I am well aware that the movie has Hugh Jackman in it. You know I'm not fond of musicals. We all know that the story tells of the ex-convict of Jean Valjean and the various adventures of those people surrounding him.  And boy do they surround him. I mean are there like 500 people in France in the olden times?  Everyone knows everyone and they all keep bumping into one another. Especially the enemies. Just delete your Facebook account already. Jean just checked in at the did they find me here!  Pings and GPS Jean, just leave your phone at home next time.

Anyway this is cool book if you have an extra 4 months to spare and also want to know about The Battle of Waterloo, all the different machinations of French politics from the late 1700's to the mid 1800's, weird convents and last but not least the Paris sewers.  Probably the most exciting moment of the book and Hugo goes off for about 50 pages on the history of the Paris sewers. You're killing me, dude! Oh wait, you're dead.  Never mind.  It's cool. So, if you can get past all of that some say it's the greatest novel ever written.  Could be. Yes, people die in it.  Life was hard in the olden times.

Brandy has a little cameo in this book and I'm feeling like it deserves a comeback anyway. While this cocktail was developed in 1876 a  a tiny bit later than when Les Miserables is's still a very olden times recipe. Brandy Daisy: 3/4 ounce yellow chartreuse, 1 and 1/2 ounces brandy or cognac, 3/4 ounce lemon juice.  Pour ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice and stir well. Strain into a Collins glass with ice and top with a little seltzer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Sense of an Ending

These mid-life or later life existentialist crisis books tend to win awards but I don't think Gen-Xer's vote on these things. For a Gen-Xer, examining the meaning of your life and finding it wanting is what we call Tuesday. The Sense of an Ending is by the super-British author Julian Barnes. (His name is Julian for Pete's sake) This won the Man Booker Prize in 2011. Sure it's well written but this genre doesn't do much for me, by that I mean, the examined boring life. People's lives are boring enough. Kids and work and kids and work and sports and sports and sports and work. (Read that last sentence to a dance beat and it gets more exciting).

In this book, our narrator Anthony lived a fairly ordinary life except for a few weird blips when she was a young adult.  Those "blips" come back, in one form or another after his retirement...and...we have a plot. The "twists" are not all that twisty.  And they happen to other people.  If you like a beautifully written very Britishy character study you might like it.  There is a mention of tyres. I almost wished someone got stabbed. (No one got stabbed). The most amazing part of this book is that our narrator gets to retire before he turns eighty, unlike most Americans I know. You can retire AND eat at a Pub? La-di-da, look at you fancy man.

They mostly drink beer in this book. I've been known to have an occasional beer myself.  I found a nice citrus-y crisp IPA that is my new favorite.  Green Flash Brewing Company makes it: Soul Style. They do sell around town and Green Flash has a map of exactly where they sell it in your city on their website. Pretty cool, huh. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

I have a confession to make. I don't really like Halloween as much as everyone else. I know, I know, its the "hot" holiday these days but I've never loved it. Even as a kid. I'm going out in the cold with an old pillowcase going up to strangers asking for candy? And wait a minute...we have candy here at home. Then as an adult I have to spend $70 on a sexy Postmaster General outfit and go out in the cold and wait a minute...we have alcohol here at home? I guess I have to be "social." But I can do that without an outfit.  I always want to be some obscure real life person from the 70's.  One year I was Phyllis Diller and people thought I was Cruella de Vil...which I get but I'm like, "Do you even know me?"  It turns out they didn't know me at all because we were in costume. (That year I also considered Gene Shalit and Charles Nelson Reilly). Anyway, I actually do like fall things, the cats get super snugly, hot drinks and I like to read one scary story near Halloween.

They are making a movie of this book which is coming out next year.  I don't want to put any spoilers in this but there are two young women that live with their disabled uncle in a big rambling mansion.  They don't get many visitors.  One reason is that you might be taking your life in your hands even in the simple act of eating a snack. You know, I'd take that risk.  How do you know those rum cakes aren't poisoned?  Me with mouth full: Mgoota die smoometimme!  This is a fun/scary small Gothic novel with subtle social commentary subtexts--read it.  I might actually go to the movie as it has Crispin Glover in it. What a weirdo! Love it.

It's not really cold this Halloween so this is fall-like drink sounds refreshing: Hard Cider Sangria: combine in pitcher one cup thinly sliced apples, one navel orange, quartered and thinly sliced, one cup chilled apple juice, two tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and 1/4 cup apple brandy. Just before serving add a 22 ounce bottle of hard apple cider. Serve in tall glasses over ice.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Riftwar Saga: Siverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon

Dungeons and Dragons is making a comeback or so I've been told. I was never into D&D and while I kind of approve of the massive snacking involved I think a game that lasts like, years, would not appeal to me. I also feel like it would really bring out the pedants. Call the exterminator!  The pedants...they're everywhere! I don't think diatomaceous earth would work either, because instead of puncturing their thoraxes they would just explain that the diatoms were fossilized hard shelled protozoa. Sigh. Anyway, Siverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon are books three and four in this D&D based fantasy series and written well before it was cool. Well before.

First, you should not read these without reading books one and two because you will be horribly lost. Second, you could stop with these four books as it comes to a kind of resolution at the end.  Good enough resolution. I had a slight preference for Silverthorn over Darkness because I'm more interested in a small band of weirdos on a secret mission than multiple castle battle scenes. Now I do know the difference between crenelations and a murder hole, but when I see the word barbican I think about shaving cream and modelling schools for some reason.  So, you'll need to know your castle defenses anatomy to follow Darkness for sure. C'mon, it's good for you. Plus you can casually slip donjon in a conversation. Don't be a jerk about it though...otherwise it will be the diatomaceous earth for you.

It's getting brisk out so it's fall cocktail time: Jack Rose: 1 oz lemon juice, 1/2 ounce of grenadine, 2 ounces applejack.  Shake all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.  Yes, this will be rosy--grenadine will do that.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Year of Magical Thinking

Everyone Poops...and dies.  Everyone Poops was a great name for a kid's book. Everyone Dies is a good name for a punk band's album. Nevertheless, Joan Didion, who is not dead, although she is old and looks more fragile than a sugar-spun cake topper wrote this book about dealing with her husband's sudden death (while her daughter was in the hospital). Joan is richer, fancier more famous than you and she really is the antithesis of punk rock. Yet, she too will die and someone will write about it. Circle of life, Joan, circle of life.....oh Mufasa. Damn you...who is cutting onions?

I thought this book was really interesting.  How would an intellectual deal with death...well, by doing more research on death, of course! That is what you are getting.  She doesn't dumb it down for you. It also treads this weird line between narcissistic, cathartic and voyeuristic. I suspect this is indicative of her work and why people really like her.  It's compelling. You would not think some old lady talking about death would be compelling but it is.  Well, it's not just me because it did win the National Book Award.

I listened to this book on audio and the narrator is originally from Great Britain but she has a mostly American accent.  That mix between the two is what some people call the "continental" accent. You'll hear blue-bloods from old movies like Grace Kelly and Katherine Hepburn talk like this and it seemed to fit Joan's "voice" perfectly. For whatever reason, at the end of every third chapter they put in some weird piano music to transition for the next chapter...with no warning...the first time this happened it scared me horribly.  I was in the car and it sounded like there was an erudite ambulance siren behind me.

Joan and her late husband were drinkers, in fact, the last thing John drank right before he died was Scotch.  I'd bet it was decent stuff too. I actually love Scotch but I like it neat. I'm warming up to brandy these days and in this cocktail you can use brandy, bourbon or rye. Horse's neck: put 2 ounces of liquor in a tall Collins type glass, put a few cubes and fill the rest with ginger ale. Garnish with a long lemon peel that you artfully drape in the length of the glass. Enjoy your life.    

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In the Heart of the Sea

I'm really sad that Burger King no longer calls their fish sandwich The Whaler.  I think it was meant to be the co-conspirator of the Whopper.  I'm sure BK liked the symmetry in naming their giant greasy sandwiches.  What name can we give it that makes it sounds like you are getting something large but might make you sick?  Hey, not only do I have one name.....I've got two!  Anyway, In the Heart of the Sea is about whalers who suffer more problems than a lonely teenager that tries to eat a Whopper and Whaler in the same sitting.  We call that the ol' plebeian surf and turf.

Do you think I'm not going to read a non-fiction book about a shipwrecked whaling ship, because that sounds boring. Well, you're boring, and also dead wrong.  This book is awesome.  It's very exciting and well written. I listened to the audio book and the narration was excellent too.  It gets all the stars.  (Yeah, it won a National Book Award too, pfft...whatever).

The story about the Essex is the the inspiration for Moby Dick. The author tells you right away some of the worst parts but then explains how it all went down. People were so weird in the olden times. At one point I was rooting for the whale because these peoples' relationship to nature was so bizarre.  What if you came across your buddy and you see he sits down to eat a baby panda.  You would say--C'mon! He's like, what? (baby panda leg hanging out of his mouth). [That did not happen in the book  although they would have totally done that if there were pandas around]. Maybe in the future people will think this about us. I can't believe they used to eat pork back in the day....those are the Emperor's ancestors for Pete's sake.

Drinks: The main thing you will want to drink with this book is water...lots and lots of water. Once you've had your fill how about a super refreshing "last of summer" celebration cocktail: Sgroppino (It's a Venetian drink): 1 oz vodka, one small scoop lemon sorbet, 3 oz Prosecco. In a small bowl, whisk the vodka, sorbet and some of the Prosecco until it reaches a slushy consistency. Slowly add the rest of the Prosecco and incorporate with a whisk.  Transfer this to a champagne flute.  (It's like an adult slushy).

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Under Heaven

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? Remember that from Gladiator? What if you had a person, off camera say...."Meh"? or "Uninspired!" (Gladiator instantly turns into a Mel Brooks movie).  Anyway, Under Heaven, while well written, was just not my thing.  In fact, it supposedly gets "exciting" at the end but by then I was kind of in slog-mode. It is about 85% historical fiction with a "hint" of supernatural.  They say it's fantasy but it's not really fantasy. Set in 8th century China its about some dude, horses, concubines, ghosts, a wolf-man (not the fun kind, who makes a wolf-man boring!), ninjas...even "lady ninjas" and lots and lots of court intrigue.

I'm not sure women were this empowered in the olden times.  I guess theoretically there would be a lady ninja or a petite, super-cute lady warrior but I doubt it. You know there would be some 8th century idiot that made a proclamation that lady-ninjas weren't smart, strong or "too emotional" to be hired.  It turns out the idiot is just some bro who lives in his parent's basement playing mah-jong all day and never held a sword in his life (he had a collection of swords but had no idea how to actually use them).

There are plenty of people that liked this book, but sadly, I thought it meh.  I listened to some on audio and the narrator is excellent (one reason I picked this up) but still.....I've heard this is not Kay's best work so I'll probably give him another chance.

Drinks: The characters in this book drink warm spiced rice wine.  Mulled wine will sound amazing in about three months but it's a still a little too hot right now. How about a Ginger Ale and Sake drink?: Mix roughly equal parts sake and ginger ale in a glass with ice and serve with a lemon twist.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

Three Parts Dead

Max Gladstone, the author of the Craft Sequence series, (Three Parts Dead is the first in the series), is a young very intelligent author.  It would easy to be a hater, but this book is good so there's no hate. It's creative, smart and action-y.

Gladstone is a Yale graduate. This makes him a Yale-y. To say this properly you need to stick your lower jaw out as far as it can go then say Yale-y all up in your sinuses and in two syllables. He majored in Mandarin.  Now, who spends over $250,000 to major in Chinese except rich people?  People from money. I recently had a conversation with someone from money and these are the tell-tale signs: 1) the shoes are not flashy but seem spectacular nonetheless, 2) the high school they went to has "County Day" as in the name somewhere, as in "The Country Day school of the Village of Country Day," 3) they do not laugh with a great big guffaw where you can see their molars, and 4) they do not interrupt you mid-sentence point to the ceiling and loudly proclaim Awww, wait....this here's my JAM! and then do a kind of shrug the shoulders dance to said music.  If all of the above signs are apparent then you are among the landed gentry.

The first part of a fantasy series, there are already 5 books and I think I'm going to keep going, apparently he's going to write a dozen, but I mean, let's not go too crazy. He's got a couple of interesting characters already set up, a witch-lawyer, a chain-smoking monk that is an expert in HVAC (that's cool...I guess) and a "flawed cop." Ok, two of the three are unique.  Now, I like this series, it's fairly smart and it has a lot of plot.  The only flaw I saw was the "mystery" of the plot ends up in a Matlock-like courtroom scene but I don't remember quite so much fire in Matlock's courtroom.  I'm no expert in Matlock though and admittedly missed some (all) episodes.  

One of the witch lawyers loves vodka tonics.  This is a G&T but I mean--I've got use this recipe called a Witch Cocktail from Nigella Lawson.  Make your gin and tonic the ordinary way using dry gin.  Instead of a splash of lime juice use a (small) splash of creme de cassis.  If you want to get really fancy you can top it with a candied violet.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Punch the ceiling dance!  Punch the floor dance! YES! The long awaited sequel to The Rook is here. The British agents have long been enemies with the dreaded Dutch, now are they allies, but maybe now it's more like frenimies?  I suspect I'm missing some Dutch jokes as a non-European.  According to the Internet, the Dutch have a reputation as a bunch of know-it-all smart-asses. Wow, the Internet must be one big giant instrument for the propagation of the Dutch culture then. I'm pretty sure I have some "friends" that are of Dutch ancestry too.  This happened: "I believe the word you are looking for is unicorn." No, the word I was looking for is the one I used, because chupacabra is much funnier than unicorn. You, on the other hand, are a chupabroma. That's right, a Joke Sucker.

This is not a stand alone novel.  You must read The Rook first and preferably recently. Stiletto, like The Rook, is James Bond meets the X-Men.  All the camp and then some of Bond. Stiletto has a lot of little snarky jokes, most of them work, not all of them, but they are not all Dad jokes, whew. This book is a lot like the first. Fun, not serious and some action scenes.  This was written before the Brexit so even if two supernatural agencies of two European countries could work together that dream is gone.  Sure, I can believe in someone who see through walls but I mean the logistics of a post Brexit union--c'mon now we are talking fantasy there.

There is a character in this book called The Lady. The supernatural agency has it's members named after chess pieces, however in England there is only one Queen.  Why not read this book with a drink called the White Lady. 2 ounces of Plymouth gin, 1/2 ounce Cointreau, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice and one egg white.  Shake all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Left Hand of Darkness

This is not The Martian.  Not that I hated The Martian it just wasn't my thing. This is sophisticated, timeless, philosophical and there are absolutely no boob jokes. Not one. If fact, if you're looking for boobs this is not the book for you. (Try Murakami with a boob description in every book). The residents of this planet (nicknamed "Winter" by earthlings) are sexless except for two days out of the month when they go into an estrus type state. They could turn into a man or a woman depending on who is around I think.  I would imagine that would be challenging it's like, oh's you carry a bra in your briefcase just in case? These important questions were never answered.

Ursula LeGuin's parents were famous anthropologists and intellectuals. I don't think most people get her fancy childhood where your parents host the Illuminati at your house. I know I didn't.  I remember my Dad just yelled at me because I was in his eye-line for the Reds game. We won't even talk about my many many. My house was no Algonquin Round Table. It felt more like living in a zoo among the higher apes.

It's set on a super cold planet so you should read this in the summer. And you should drink this with something cold. [They drink hot beer in this book--no thanks] It's still hot here so try with this very adult lemonade made for a crowd--Limoncello Collins:  16 oz. Limoncello, 12 ounces of gin,  and 8 oz. lemon juice.  Combine these and chill for at least 2 hours. Press three thinly sliced lemon slices in each of your 8 glasses and add ice.  Stir your liquor mix and add to the glass.  Top that with about 2 ounces of club soda.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

City of Saints and Madmen

With giant sentient squid, "mushroom dwellers," (whatever those are) and general weirdos this is a nutty book. I'm not not at all.  Like Perdido Street Station, City of Saints and Madmen is set in a crazy world where anything is possible and possibly dangerous...very dangerous. In fact, if Ambergris was a real City-State the State Department would put it on the list of places with a travel warning like this: The State Department warns travelers that violent crime is pervasive during the Festival of the Freshwater Squid.  Also, you should be aware if you see red we literally mean red flags....these are signs that the elusive but possibly violent mushroom dwellers are sleeping nearby. Travelers should be wary of spontaneous mushroom growth, because the State Department believes that just can't be good.  

This book is a collection of interconnected (kind of connected) short stories about the city of Ambergris, the city is actually a squid port unlike what my husband calls the waterfront in Toledo. It's very well written and contains a super cool world Jeff Vandermeer creates but dang it.... short stories... just when I'm trying to get into a plot and it either gets resolved real fast, story's over, or it's like, what's happening (squints eyes)? That's the only negative to this book. It has humor, weird stuff, a little gore and violence. Good stuff.

OMG is is super hot right now.  I've been drinking my weight in Dark and Stormys (Stormy in not normally plural--except it in this case-- it totally is).   Anyway, read this with...a Frozen Dark and Stormy: Blend 2 cups ice in a blender with a juice of one lime, a tablespoon of fresh ginger, and one can or bottle of ginger beer. Blend until smooth and pour into two glasses.  Top with two ounces of rum (the darkish kind) it will make this pretty ombre effect. Enjoy the goodness.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Memory Wall

This is not the book version of a summer blockbuster action romp. Still with me?  Yeah, I get sick of those too sometimes (well, quite a bit). I know someone who is a Marvel "enthusiast." He probably feels that the box office numbers affirm his worldview. He lives in a Marvel bubble.

Memory Wall has six short stories, well more like four short stories book-ended by two novellas. The two novellas are excellent. The first story has just a tiny touch of sci-fi/dystopia and the last story just a hint of the paranormal. The short stories in the middle ranged from meh to ugh.

Now, these stories are a little sad so if you are sensitive, just lost someone, or someone close to you is super sick then maybe you should skip this. Hey, this is a poignant look at the fragile human condition dammit.

Anthony Doerr is the same author of All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoy his writing. I just gave up on another book that had this really unusual writing which some people really like but as soon as I realized that it sounded exactly like Bigfoot writing the copy for a Coors Light commercial....well, you just can't get past that. I won't tell you which book that is as it will completely ruin it for you.

It's pretty hot out so read this with a Porch Swing (which is a lot like a Pimm's Cup):  1&1/2 ounces of gin, 1&1/2 ounces of Pimm's 1, 1/2 cup lemonade (preferably homemade as you can adjust the sweetness), some lemon-lime soda, and thinly slice cucumber.  Pour the gin, Pimm's and lemonade into a tall glass with ice and then add a splash of the lemon-lime soda. Add the cucumber slices.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Magician: Riftwar Saga Books 1 and 2.

I was tricked.  Not with this book. No, this book is exactly what you think it is....wizards, elves, court intrigue, this is classic high fantasy.  No, I was reading a brand new book labeled fantasy but I should have investigated further.  It had no magic.  The "hero" was an accountant. It was like a young hot Janet Yellen undermining a country's economy...I'll show you...I'll print more money causing inflation. C'mon--no magic but your power is usury? Some people are into freaky stuff like that.

The Riftwar Saga is a tetralogy, a.k.a a four part series. It's a Dungeons and Dragons world but with a twist. There is a cosmic rift in the universe where aliens are invading through the portal and they have wizards too. Yes! You can read books one and two if you don't want a four book commitment as there is a natural resolution to the plot.  Book three has the same characters but with a new story-line.  So far I really like this series.

Raymond Feist made an entire career writing this series.  He published the first book shortly after undergrad the early 80's (it was based on his college D&D games) and finished the last of this series about two years ago.  Yeah, 30 books in this series.  Apparently he's never sold the rights for a movie or series but if they ever do this it will need a little makeover as the female characters are not strong enough.  I guess there is one princess that is pretty tough, I guess, but the women are kind of lame.  There is an Elven queen that ends up with an emotionally abusive husband. I'm thinking: YOU ARE AN ELVEN QUEEN--KICK THAT LOSER TO THE STUMP! (Elves don't really have "curbs" so I had to improvise). It turns out that the husband is actually a nice guy he just had some magical clothing that was turning him into a world-class a-hole.  In his defense, I've had some ill fitting shoes that could have taken me down that path.

Hey it's summer and my basil is up. Why not read this with a Strawberry Basil Bourbon Lemonade? This is enough for a crowd (8 drinks). It's a little work but here it is: 1 lb. strawberries, 1 and 1/2 cup sugar (more or less to taste--the original recipe says 2 cups but I don't like drinks too sweet) 1 cup bourbon, 1 cup ice cold water, 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 ounce bitters, 12 basil leaves and 8 basil springs. Pulse the strawberries and 1/4 cup of water in a food processor and add this puree to the medium saucepan over medium heat and heat until the mixture just begins to boil.  Take off the heat and let cool completely.  Strain and chill in fridge for about a hour. In a large pitcher combine the syrup, water, bourbon, lemon juice, and bitters.  Stir for one minute and add the basil leaves and stir to combine. Strain into 8 tall glasses with ice and garnish with a basil sprig.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Secret Garden

I know, I know I'm one of those people. I'd might as well admit I'm a crazy cat lady too. It's not exactly cool but, well, I enjoy the grown up coloring books.  Ah, you noticed that I did not say "adult." Well, that conjures up a different type of coloring book of which I would need more peach colored pencils.

This is the original one that went bananas.  I mean New York Times best-seller bananas. Some of it is because the quality of the paper is a little higher which takes pigment that feels very satisfying.

Well, if you know me, you know I have a perfectionist tendencies. (Yes, I know these photos could be better). So I color these as if they are going to be hung in the Vatican's collection. Why I do this...well I'm not sure. I also add things to the drawings if I find the composition wanting. That's pretty ballsy of me but I you gotta do what you gotta do.

I takes me about 4 to 6 months to finish a page so based on the fact that I have three books at at least 35 images each I'd say it will take me about 35 years to complete all three books.  I received another coloring book for my birthday this year and I was flattered my sister would think I would live that long.  

It's the start of summer so let's drink something light and fun--this one is from Martha Stewart.  Lillet-Basil Cocktail:  Put 1/2 cup Lillet Blanc, 1 ounce gin and one ounce freshly squeezed orange juice and 1/4 cup loosely packed basil in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and add a splash of tonic water.  Garnish with a basil sprig and slice of cucumber.   

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Shining Girls

Do you remember when Garth Brooks wanted to be a rock star and released an album under the name Chris Gaines? Apparently the album wasn't all that bad but everyone thought that Garth had lost his mind. This book is a little like that. It wants to be a thriller but with a twist! The killer is a time traveller. Good idea--but it turned out lame.

I think a killer from 1930 would stand out more. I mean women wearing slacks....short slacks? Why is everyone hatless? How some everyone looks like they are prepared to go to the gymnasium? You'd have so many questions it would distract you from your kill quest. Although a man from the turn of the century might fit in with some gentrified hipster neighborhood. "Excuse me ma'am, can you tell me where I can find new spats? Hipster Lady: "Well, around the corner is a mustache wax and artisan hay store, I would try there." 

I think I'm done with thrillers for a while.  The Shining Girls had gore but no suspense and time-travel but no surprises. Film noir type dialog that just sounded contrived. SWING AND A MISS! And there is a baseball bit in here for absolutely no reason...because of course there is...(heavy sigh).

This is the Chris Gaines album cover. Learn from this.

How about a prohibition era cocktail? I'm not a mint person but I think I would make an exception for this one which seems subtle. The Southside: 2 oz gin such as Plymouth, 1 oz lime juice, 3/4 oz simple syrup and one mint sprig. Combine these in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with another mint sprig. Apparently you are supposed to smash it a little bit to release the oil. So violent.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Good Omens

This book could also be called the Great British Book of Dad Jokes. But GBBDJ doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. For example, the demon named Mr. Crawley, is the same snake from the Garden in Eden--get it? The whole book is like that. Either you really like this sort of thing or you don' might think I would but it's not really my thing.

Good Omens is about the end times but set in 1990. It's a little dated. Computers are still kind of exotic in 1990 which blows my mind. I guess when they were new they were really frustrating and seemed to be evil spawned. Now it's like we worship the WiFi god. Reboot and you will be Saved! Save and you will be Saved! (That's directly from the good PDF of our Lord iGod). There was a false Microsoft god for a while but I might as well worship Ba'al.

If you like this humor and have been to London, remember the 90's, have seen The Omen, and know the very basic 4 horsemen thing but don't care that they incorrectly refer to the Book of Revelation as Revelations sometimes (I kind of care-- I KNOW I'M A NERD). Then read this. Sure. It's a classic in a way. If you do like this humor (and are an Anglophile) but want less jokes and more plot read Ben Aaronotvitch's Peter Grant series.

Ok--I found the perfect drink for both Cinco de Mayo and a British connection.  Pepino's Revenge is served at Wolfgang Puck's London restaurant and it sounds delicious: 4 thin slices of cucumber, 2 large basil leaves, 1&1/2 ounces of silver tequila, 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup. Muddle the cucumber and basil, add the tequila, simple syrup and lime juice to a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a glass with ice, garnish with more cucumber.  

Friday, April 15, 2016

Martin Chuzzlewit

Ecod! One character in Martin Chuzzlewit starts nearly every sentence this way.  I think he is scared of cods. My, Cod!  I'm not sure why he keeps coming across so many cods in London, or maybe he keeps dropping a cod he keeps in his pocket. No wonder no one liked this guy.

Ok, do not read this book if this is your first Dickens novel.  This book is sometimes known as the American one, because two characters go to America for a bit.  The Americans in this book are portrayed as rude, gun-toting, money obsessed, uncultured, swindling, patriotic folks who hate foreigners. I mean, really.....*cough.* Luckily, Martin Chuzzlewit is not set entirely in America.  The book is over 800 pages but there are sections that are hard to read especially the lady with the cockney accent who rambled -- I hated her more than the two villains in this book. Also, the Internet has ruined my attention span. I must admit that cracking nuts and drinking wine by the fire, which three characters do in this book, sounded really nice. Now we just show each other our phones with some YouTube clip. I want to crack some nuts...wait, that sounds nasty.

I would not consider this a comedy but there are some funny bits like when the guy was trying to take off his boots and promptly fell into the fireplace.  Also, there are a number of lines that probably not meant to be funny but definitely are, as in: "touching the organ for my own amusement" (he was playing a church organ). Everything sounds nasty!    

There is a drink featured in this book that according to Dickens is the only good thing about America. Sherry Cobbler: 1 orange slice, 1 lemon slice, 3/4 simple syrup, 3 ounces dry sherry. Muddle the orange and lemon in a pint glass and add the simple syrup and sherry.  Pour those into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain and pour into your pint glass with some crushed ice.  Garnish with another orange wheel.  This will be pretty sweet and cold so wait until you are on a steamboat during the height of summer.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Kind Worth Killing

I noticed that the sociopaths in thrillers are usually beautiful women. Apparently boobs can make men do things even at their own peril.  Like a boob Svengali. Listen, the only boob that can control you is yourself.

I think it would be fun to have an old lady serial killer.  Who is going to suspect Alice, the little piano teacher?  Well, it's true that she uses piano wire as a garrote but who would have thought she had the strength?  Little did they know she's been totally blasting her lats at the senior center's weight room. No one knew that Alice was totally jacked.

This book does not have an Alice, but The Kind Worth Killing has all kinds of weirdos. Sociopaths, narcopaths and general idiots.  In this book we get the "voice" of multiple characters, including their sociopathic thoughts.  It's interesting when you feel sympathy for a character because they kill for a fairly good reason, maybe self-defense, but then that sympathy degrades because then they kill because someone stole all the ketchup packets.

This book is a retelling of a classic thriller, Strangers on a Train. I'm not crazy about the writing but, meh, it's a thriller. There are the requisite twists and some suspense. It is not long, nor is it hard to read. It's like a literary Snickers. Creme Brûlée it is not.

Let's drink this with something fancy.  This is from Nancy Mitchell the Backyard Bartender: Lady Sibyl: (I think she was going through a Downton Abbey phase) 1 oz. gin, 3/4 oz. St. Germain, champagne or Prosecco.  Combine the gin and St. Germain over ice, shake and strain into a flute.  Top with the champagne or Prosecco.  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Oh She Glows Cookbook

I think we can all agree this is one of the dumbest names for a cookbook.  I almost feel like she lost a bet.  Maybe The Turd-town U.S.A Guide to Cooking would be worse. Despite the awful name, this cookbook is fantastic.  I mean 95% of the recipes I’ve tried, and it is close to half, are gold.  Gold! I tell you.  Here’s the thing, I’ve been a vegetarian for many years and let me just say the vegans have really stepped it up.  This one is not preachy it’s just easy and the recipes make really good food.  

I’ve made these recipes for my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, and even my family (who are notoriously hyper critical of my cooking) and everyone is like, this tastes….awesome.  And when I tell them --ha-ha that's vegan!  They say “Whaaaaat?” “You crazy.” I don’t think my mother-in-law said, “You crazy,” verbatim but you get the picture. 

If you have a decent natural foods pantry and even basic cooking skills you are good to go.  This book is written for the home cook and you can tell.  Like a lot of bloggers, these recipes have been tested.  When you get those fancy restaurant/café cookbooks, you need watch out.  Those editors are converting chef’s guesses and restaurant measurements and the editors occasionally (and inevitably) fall asleep at the wheel. 

The copy is fine, she seems like a perfectly nice Canadian girl, super cheery and someone I probably wouldn’t be friends with in real life.  Hey, maybe she has this super dark humor and she hides it really well.  If that’s true, Bravo, Angela, Bravo.  It doesn’t really matter as the food is great and her photos are as good as any professional food stylist. No, you do not have to be a vegan to enjoy this cookbook, so don't be all weird about using this cookbook.   

This is a part of the hungry narrator series so instead of a drink why not try the tomato soup recipe? It's stupidly easy (shhh...I won't tell). 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Girl with Ghost Eyes

How would you get glasses if you had ghost eyes? I mean do you tell the doctor, "Hey, everything seems otherworldly and dead?" Do you get holy water drops? Ah, the burning!...Well, now quit squirming that's the exorcism working....

Anyway, this fantasy novel is set in olden times Chinatown.  Our lady, Li-Lin, is a Daoist priestess and just so happens to be a kung fu expert. Cool, cool.  Her "yin eyes" are her ability to see otherworldly spirits which comes in handy as she is an exorcist. There are some fun otherworldly creatures in this...I like a lovable creature that may be a monster. I am also a sucker for any Golem like creature. I like them whether they be the idiot robot type, the misunderstood Pinocchio type, or the Crap! it's Godzilla! destructo type.

M.H. Boroson has a Religion degree and a background in Mandarin (the martial arts descriptions he picked up from the movies).  This book is researched and it shows. I must admit that if you put a ghost cat in anything I'll like it. More ghost cat in the sequel please!, DID IT. Hey this is a good little fantasy novel and lets give those Religious Studies people some love (and work).

This sounds appropriate: Red Lotus Cocktail: Fill a Tom Collins glass with ice.  Mix 1.5 ounces of lychee liquor, 1.5 ounces of vodka and 1.5 ounces of cranberry juice.  Stir. I would garnish with a lychee fruit if you can find one.  C'mon Spring!  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Slade House

First, let us take a moment to acknowledge that this cover is hideous. It looks some kid designed it on his own Commodore 64 back in 1987. And not "cute" 1987 like jewel tone line intervals, flying toasters, or even a fake sexy Nagel. David Mitchell is a fancy author. He should have said to his publisher "I deserve something better." Frankly, we all do.

Slade House is a companion novella to The Bone Clocks. Do you have to read The Bone Clocks to get this book? Maybe not, but reading Slade House alone will be pretty confusing. The Bone Clocks is pretty confusing as well, but that is a lovely fully formed novel. This is a little side work. Essentially if you need to get your Mitchell on before he publishes his next book, well then, go for it, but if not, you're not missing much either. Pubs, missing persons, Moroccan mystics, general weirdos, murderers and soul sucking vampires, so it is better than that cover predicts. That cover predicts some stupid high school sophomore's ramblings with "I love Cutting Crew" scrawled in the margins.

I don't listen to groundhogs, because, while cute, they are large rodents and not certified meteorologists. It's still cold and winter. Drink with a variation on a hot toddy called Toby's Toddy: 1 ounce cognac, 1 ounce aged rum, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 ounce simple syrup, 5 dashes bitters.  Add ingredients to three ounces of hot water.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a lemon wheel studded with cloves.  


Monday, February 1, 2016

Crimson Petal and the White

Dirty dirty Dickens. All the stuff Dickens wanted to write about but couldn't. I can just see Dickens looking at French pornographic postcards.  So much leg.... Hey, the man had ten children and a mistress. But Michael Faber is a modern author writing about Victorian London's "society" and all of its prostitutes. Keep in mind the sex scenes are narrated by the sex worker so they are not exactly "erotic." Think an accountant's balance sheet. Let's see here...after some accrual based accounting I find your assets wanting. Oooh burn.

Yes, this is the same author as our Christian aliens book. He has a good writing style but he does some weird stuff.  He occasionally writes in the second person (that's fine) and the ending is quite abrupt (*grumbles*).  Make your own ending? No, we already have to do this when some weird series we got hooked on gets cancelled. YOU HAD ONE JOB!  But overall, it's a fine book.  

This book is large. Over 800 pages.  It took me three weeks to read it and that was plugging away at it every day.  Not that I'm complaining, but if you are a busy professional, have toddlers, own a needy dog or writing a one-woman play...then well then this might not be the right book for you. I'm not a fan of plays but whatever floats your boat.  I think a musical about Alexander Hamilton is a terrible idea.  What do I know about these things.  (Rap battle? Argh.).

It's pretty cold and dreary these days so you should read this with a Kahlua Hot Chocolate.  You can buy the "nice" hot chocolate mixes on sale this time of year or make your own (I like a blend of cocoa powder and real chocolate.)  I put the mix--use more than you think--in a cup and add a little milk and put it in the microwave and make a concentrated slurry.  Then I heat up my milk and get it really hot and add it to the slurry. Add an ounce of Kahlua after everything is mixed.  Sure add marshmallows if you want. Go nuts.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Book of Strange New Things

Sometimes you just need a 2000 year old ultra religious Jewish dude, political insurgent, conceived by an other-worldly creature, that was part God and part human but also wholly human and wholly God and died and came back to life to somehow help you out 2000 years later when you are waiting for the results of that dubious mole. Thank you, Jesus... it was just a hairy nevus.

So, the premise of The Book of Strange New Things is that "aliens" need Jesus too. Technically, in this book, humans are the aliens but the "natives" were exposed to a Christian missionary preacher and just are craving more and more Jesus.  Like Jesus is chocolate.

This is a dystopian sci-fi novel with a lot of Christianity in it.  Now, I have two religion degrees and it was a lot for me. It has more Bible verses than a drunk Mel Gibson.

I will say, this book is for grown-ups, which is refreshing compared to a few books I've read lately. I don't think dystopian sci-fi novels should be for children anyway. Sure it starts out innocent enough with Goodnight Two Moons, but then it devolves into Pat the Mutant Radioactive Bunny, and then The Very Hungry Flesh-Eating Bacteria.  Inappropriate.

Our narrator in this book doesn't drink.  Former alcoholic preacher. Boo. Here is a fun winter cocktail to make this season more bearable.  Applejack Sazerac: 2 oz. apple brandy, 1/4 ounce maple syrup, 3 dashes Peychaud's bitters. Stir with ice then strain into an old fashioned glass. Serve up and garnish with a lemon twist.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Darker Shade of Magic

London Multiverse! Where people drive on the right and biscuits are called "cookies"...wait... Well, in this book there are four Londons. Of course, ours (called Grey London) has the least magic (sad horns).

A Darker Shade of Magic is set about 200 years ago during mad King George's reign. How dare he think there was another London! So, while this is technically an urban fantasy it feels more like an epic fantasy. Magicians, kings, despots, pickpockets, princes, and lots of taverns. Our hero has a magic coat but does not have a magic codpiece. Well, this is the first book of the series.  I know they didn't wear codpieces in our London in 1813, but multiverses.  Maybe there is a codpiece universe, you don't know.

V.E. Schwab is the same Victoria Schwab who writes YA. V.E. is supposed to be her "adult" novelist name. The problem is...this still feels like a YA book with more violence. One does not have a wizard, who is only briefly in the book, make a seemingly offhand comment with an obvious plot point that will later be a "surprise." Readers pay attention to wizards. An adult fantasy book has wizards that secretly meet with giant eagles and tells no one.  It's hard to give me a sense of wonderment when you dumb it down. I DEMAND WONDERMENT. Anyway, it's a decent book and I actually enjoyed the worlds, but it's not very sophisticated. Perhaps we need more top hats.

Why not drink with a multiverse Old Fashioned? Winter Spiced Old Fashioned: First make a simple syrup with cardamon pods, cinnamon stick and an aniseed pod (strain the spices and cool completely). Muddle an orange slice and two maraschino cherries in the bottom of your glass. Add three ounces of bourbon or rye (per drink), the simple syrup to taste probably 1/2 ounce and ice to a shaker. Shake or stir according to your preference. Pour in your prepared glasses and garnish with an orange wedge and cinnamon stick.