Monday, December 17, 2018


I don't want to say this book is a slog but the working draft was Middleblast. *Ba-dum-tis* Actually the middle is exactly where it really starts to pick up but with such a mega book it's hard to get there. The debate about which chaplain to get for the new hospital about killed me. Admittedly, it was a realistic depiction of the boring + passive-aggressive comments of being on a non-profit board.

Even though I enjoy classics I cannot recommend this for a casual reader. I mean, it's no Moonstone. While the second half gets a little crazy, George Elliot's life was way weirder. She was like an original bohemian, an atheist, and lived with a man for years without getting married.  After her first "husband" died, she got married to a younger man, who was likely gay, and he jumped out of his window on his wedding night.  I like to think he did a Wilhelm scream. The husband lived, but that breakfast must have been awkward. 

Looks, education and class are an important part of this book as they would be for women in provincial England. George Eliot and her "husband" George Lewes were notoriously unattractive. Photographs exist and...well... they weren't wrong.  She still became rich and famous. Hey, Elon Musk's face is bizarre and he's doing fine. In fact, if you're not rich and famous it could be because you are just too good-looking. Yeah.

This book as British as it gets and Christmas is coming. Wassail Recipe: This makes enough for a crowd: 6 apples, cored, 2&1/2 tbsp. light brown sugar, 15 allspice berries, 15 cloves, 6 sticks cinnamon, 1 cup Madeira, 1 cup unsweetened cider, 2 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tbsp. ground ginger, 1 cans of ale, 1 750ml bottle dry hard cider, and the peel of two oranges.  Bake the apples with brown sugar in a water bath in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  I the meantime, toast the spices in a large saucepan for a minute or two, add the rest of the ingredients, boil and let simmer for one hour.  Add the apples and cook for ten more minutes. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Almost Missed You

What's the worst reason you've ever read a book? What you found in a bathroom? Stuck in an airport? I picked this up because it was set in Cincinnati. Well, that's not a good enough reason. I regret everything. By the way, I've found some interesting things in people's bathrooms. Very interesting. *wags eyebrows*

Have you ever heard of Chick Lit? I hate that term as well as the genre. Someone I know at work who reads even more than I do was giving me book recommendations. She said: "Do you like romance?" My coworker who doesn't even know what I read almost interjected. "No!" So this isn't really Chick Lit but more like Mom Lit? Which is really not my thing. So not my thing. Almost Missed You is about a kidnapping by a parent and it's about motherhood and all the children and romances and weird husbands doing irrational things. Pregnancy, childbirth, and profoundly stupid names. Yes, it's as dumb as it sounds. But they mentioned Fountain Square! Yea!....(whimpers softly).

I've read worst books, believe me, and I finished it so that's something. It's just that this was written by a normal person. Like, pathologically normal. You know, someone who thinks Death Cab for Cutie is "edgy." Despite having 'Nati references you should probably skip this one.

Technically there is a cocktail called a Cincinnati but it's a joke cocktail. Boo!  Booooo!  We can do better. This is really tame--just like the book...: Apple Cider Mule:  2 ounces of vodka, 3 ounces of sparkling apple cider, 2 ounces of ginger beer.  Pour into a glass or mug with ice and garnish with an apple slice and cinnamon stick.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow

Punch the ceiling dance! Our gentleman is one of the most likable characters written in the last 50 years. I'll admit that Samwise Gamgee was pretty darn likable. A BFF who can cook potatoes all those different ways and be willing to put themselves in harm's way?  I can barely get a friend to text me back about going to happy hour. You'd think I just proposed a drink at Mt. Doom. Actually Mt. Doom sounds like a cool bar.

A Gentleman in Moscow has a historical context, set in Stalinist Russia, but wait, its not as depressing as it sounds. I assuming some Broadway guys have some sort of Stalin! The Musical doing pre-production workshops in La Jolla. They did a successful Jimmy Buffet musical so torture is not taboo anymore. The actual propaganda slogans already sound like Broadway songs: "Friendship of the Peoples" and Motherland is Calling" sung by Kristin Chenoweth and Patti Lupone. Hey, this thing writes itself.  Anyway, think the opposite of this cheesy scenario and read this book, it is fantastic. It would make a great book club book for those of you well adjusted enough to be in a book club.  Even on your own it could be a nice balm for the winter blues.

This is the perfect cocktail for this book in more ways that one: Very Merry Bourbon Alexander: 1 ounce bourbon, 1 ounce creme de cacao, 1 ounce half and half, one egg white, dash of simple syrup and dash of salt.  Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake hard (I'm a maniac anyway but you'll want to with that egg white) garnish with a little nutmeg, a cranberry or two and spring of rosemary.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Summer that Melted Everything

Have you ever seen a movie and you can see the strings, the green screen is super lame or, my favorite, the sea rescue scene where the actors look like they are fighting a bathtub? It kind of takes you out of the movie. This book is like that and I'm not having it.

If you like a book with overblown, overwrought analogies and children making more profound statements than the Dalai Lama, you might enjoy this. It felt like if The Onion wanted to make fun of a book it would look like this. These are not direct quotes but they could be: "His eyebrows were like rows of freshly turned earth in a fallow field." "Her hair was like a corn field in windstorm."

The Summer That Melted Everything is about a man who invites the Devil to come to town. I refer to the Devil as the Debil. Someone started this on a podcast and I'm just keeping it going. Well, the Debil shows up and it turns out he is a 10 year old African American kid (or is he a runaway?) Yikes. Well, there is a whole big theme about racism but because that wasn't enough it also covers: homophobia, AIDS, dwarfism, agoraphobia, xenophobia, spousal beaters, child abusers, suicide, birth defects and the list goes on and on. Set it rural Ohio in the early 80's, everyone except a few enlightened individuals, are hillbilly racist crazies. If that isn't bad enough there is a DeLorean in the book. Considering only 9,000 DeLoreans were ever made...NO DELOREANS WERE IN RURAL OHIO IN THE 80'S. I know it's fiction, but now it's getting ridiculous.

I think if you were maybe 19 years old and hadn't read many books maybe it would seem poetic. It's also super-duper sad so....even if you like this kind of thing read at your own risk.  Don't say the Debil didn't warn you. 

Even if I don't like a book, I'm not going to recommend a crappy cocktail. I have my standards. The Sidecar is one of my favorites and this variation sounds interesting.  Rum Sidecar:  Go ahead and sugar the rims of your glasses with lemon juice and sugar, add another 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to a cocktail shaker with 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, add ice and 1 &1/2 ounces of dark or aged rum and 3/4 ounce of triple sec. Shake, strain and garnish with a lemon twist.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Lovecraft Country

"In a place where tentacles run free...and an unspeakable monster that lurks in that a place called...Lovecraft Country." (*smokes a paperback*) You don't have to be a Lovecraft fan to enjoy this book. You should know that H.P. Lovecraft was racist. Like worse than "back in the day" racist. I know, it's not cool but he's dead so that helps. And it's not just a "not-so-fun" fact but a plot point in the book. Thanks for subscribing to Sad Facts!

While yes, this is a fantasy book, it is so much more. There is action, horror, a history lesson and even a tiny bit of sci-fi? If you liked that movie Get Out then this book is right up your alley. I actually thought Get Out should have won the Academy Award for best picture last year. I mean, the fish sex movie was ok...but it's more for a Troy McClure kind of person than me.

Set in the 50's this book feels super relevant. They are making an HBO series airing next year.  Both Jordan Peele and Courtney Vance are involved. Fingers crossed. I think you should both read the book and watch the series though. It's one of the standouts I've read this year.

I feel very shortchanged about this fall. It went from hot to cold so fast by blood cracked like a dish that went from the oven straight to the freezer.  Who knows what next week will bring so this Stone Wall cocktail sounds like a crisp fall drink that will work for hot or chilly: 1 ounce slice of peeled fresh ginger, 1 &1/2 tsp simple syrup, 1&1/2 ounces of aged rum, 1&1/2 ounces of apple cider.  Muddle the ginger and the simple syrup.  Add the rum and cider with ice and shake and strain.  Pour into a glass and top with a small amount of ginger beer, like 1-3 ounces, and garnish with a lime and apple wedge.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson is known for her psychological tension. While not your typical devil possessed haunting, Hill House kind of well....gaslights the guests. Poor Eleanor.

Eleanor: Does anyone smell that?

HH: you farted and are a stinky ugly witch...

Eleanor: What? Is that the house? Have you been writing in blood on the walls?, you did that... everyone thinks you are on your period.....

Eleanor: It says "I Like Beer."

HH:....who doesn't?...woooo-wooooo.

Eleanor: Well then, how do you explain the dick pics?

HH: (spooky chuckle)...woooooo--whoooo did you like what you saw? wooo

Eleanor: No, I did not. In fact I'm going to give you a terrible review on Air B&B.

HH: Booo!!Booo!! No one will believe you...

Eleanor: Well. You have a reputation as being haunted.

HH: Faaake Neeeews.

Maybe we'll not drink beer with this one. Let's make punch for a crowd that is called, and I kid you not: A Touch of Evil Punch: 4 lemons, 3/4 sugar, 1/2 cup raspberries, 3/4 lemon juice, 2 1/2 cups gin, 1/2 cup mezcal.  Make an ice block the day before and while you are at it, infuse that sugar with lemon peel oil in a jar.  Muddle the raspberries and peel-sugar and add the lemon juice.  Strain and add the alcohol and put in the fridge.  Put this mix, a liter of sparkling water and the ice block. If the house starts talking to you then stop. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rules of Civility

There is something lovely about a historically set novel that gets a lot of hype. It kind of gives me hope that not everyone is into drinking raw water. If you eat a Tide Pod with a raw water chaser do they cancel each other out?  They are creating a mini-series based on Rules of Civility which would be a costumers and art directors dream project as it is set in in 1930's NYC.

Admittedly, some of the prose in this book is a bit overdone. There is one line that makes everyone cringe. I would bet he wishes he could take corrective tape and hit all of the books. Despite that sentence I enjoyed this book with a strong protagonist and somewhat modern woman. Not all people like to read about lonely middle aged women thinking about having affairs while silently weeping on a windswept beach.

While it's not perfect this would make an excellent book club pick as it's got a classy but almost gossipy thing, with lots of drinks, some sex but not too much, horses, art, dinners, fancy parties, boats and typing skills...a little of everything.

There are so many martinis in this book. So very many. In fact there is a great part with a martini and way too many olives. While you certainly could drink a martini with too many olives--I would approve--why not try this fun (and olden times) variation? Turf Club: 1& 1/2 ounces gin (juniper heavy if you have it), 1& 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth, 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Put all of the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Classy.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Exit West

The other night I had a dream that I found an Exit West activity book at an amusement park gift shop. That would be a ridiculous book tie-in (or theme ride) but I take Valerian root to sleep and my dreams are bananas. My dreams are like starring in a David Lynch movie every night.

I guess you could make it a maze book as Exit West is about a couple of refugees that go through a "magic door" to a less war-torn country (it feels like early days of Syria--but it could be anywhere in the middle east).  The book does not focus on the magic door at all but on the couple's struggles. I'm kind of curious about these doors though. I would love to go all over the world without flying. Sign me up. I'm not scared to fly but I don't like that parched creepy airplane feeling.  My body is like: We are not normally up at this hour. Why is this stranger so close to us?  We're thirsty but we don't want to pee in that closet. What is that kid doing? We don't normally have heartburn but on vacation all bets are off. We want beer when we land. When do we land?

Exit West really focuses on our couple and their relationship. But that's a little boring. Living as a refugee after going through a magic door is interesting. I'm not interested in your intimacy problems. In fact, I'm very rarely interested in characters intimacy problems. I think I watched too much Donahue with my Mom when I was a kid.  I remember it's about communication people...and hitting yourself in the head with a microphone in frustration.       

The part about being a refugee is intriguing as it is certainly not a typical novel topic, at least the long awful transition. Most books have a big sea voyage and it stunk and it was hard for a bit but then the kid won a contest and then the plot moves forward. Exit West is a good book but certainly not a fun book so consider yourself warned.

The drinks are sporadic in this book but this is a good late summer-early fall transition drink:  Hard Cider Sangria: (Makes 4) 1 cup of apples thinly sliced with peel on, one orange sliced, 1 cup apple juice, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple brandy and one 22 ounce bottle of hard cider. Combine everything but the cider in large pitcher. Just before serving add the cider and serve over ice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Two Girls Down

It's odd that I associate beach reads with thriller and murder mysteries. Nothing says a relaxing day at the beach like kidnapping or maybe a nice murder. Maybe because the sand absorbs the blood so easily or evidence gets washed out to sea? I think it's more likely we need something distracting while the weirdos at the airport lose their freaking minds. Everyone turns into a solipsistic maniac at the airport. Me me me me me....(why is water like $9?) me me me me me. 

This title is a little on the nose as it is about well...two missing sisters. This is fairly standard thriller with two hard boiled detectives. One is a lady detective. She reminds me of Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I love Rosa. Apparently that actress has a small scar on her eyebrow from tripping on a Lego as a child.  I suspect there are tons of Lego related scars out there. They should make a Lego Facial Reconstruction kit....Star Wars edition. They could do a whole Bobo Fett thing and make millions.

Most thrillers need more red herrings like olden times classic novels. The classics don't mean to have red herrings but you wonder why is this brother in this book and he falls in love and maybe this new lady is important? No, they are just in there and moonwalk right out of the book not furthering the plot. Modern novels don't do that because no one wants to read an 800 page novel anymore. Two Girls Down doesn't do that. While the plot is kind of far-fetched I'm confident you will put some of the pieces together. I'm not a thriller expert but it kept my interest even if it was ultimately kind of ...yeah,we know.   

Summer vacation means summer drinks. Tabernacle Crush: In a tall glass muddle half a peach with six basil leaves and a half an ounce lemon juice. Add one and half ounces gin, one ounce Lillet, and half ounce simple syrup. Add ice and top with club soda.

Friday, August 3, 2018


While it's not a pachinko machine there is plinko board at my local brew pub. On Wednesday nights they put a little puck and the number it hits on is your beer price. Sometimes it's a dollar. I stopped going as it became a baby bar. I'm not kidding. When you drive by you can see the high chairs stacked up and it gets really loud when the babies complain about simcoe hops. Just order a porter then ya babies. 

There are a few babies in Pachinko, as it a multi-generational tale of a Korean family in Japan. If you didn't know this, Japan is super duper weird about Koreans. Even if you are born there and your kids are born in Japan neither you nor your kid is considered a Japanese citizen. No anchor babies. My babies at the brew pub are beyond anchor babies but have become fixtures (banging tippy cups on the bar--they call all the bartenders Mom for some reason). Anyway, Pachinko's racism is harsh and this family feels like the Starks without the beheading.  It's full of Thanksgiving third rail topics like racism, religion, sex and money. One safe topic is all of the delicious Korean food descriptions in this book. BANCHAN FOR LIFE!

This book won a big award and was heavily researched. If you like multi generational dramas then this is good one. It's a little like Cutting for Stone but with no detailed descriptions of gynecological anomalies. I know you are disappointed. Pachinko parlors come up in the novel and some people think it might be a metaphor for life. Maybe life has elements of luck but also a little rigged? Of course people sometimes find a metaphor when there is none. The bird in the film represents the protagonist's quest for ultimate freedom. The truth is probably that the director can't control the bird population so that little dude made into the final cut.

As most of this novel is set in Japan and it is still summer why not try this crazy zucchini cocktail. Zucchini Sake: Shred 2 zucchinis and use cheesecloth or a fine strainer and squeeze out the juice (about 1/4 cup), add 2 tablespoons of lemon simple syrup and 1/4 cup sake to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain and garish with a zucchini ribbon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Verse Trilogy)

Shadow and Bone sounds like a goth biker bar. Hey, it could work. The jukebox has Motorhead, Judas Priest, maybe a little Bauhaus.  Lots of tattoos. Shoot, this thing sells itself. If you have an angel investor for a biker bar would that be a devil investor? That kind of Dad joke would not be tolerated at my Shadow and Bone bar.

I can't make enough jokes for all three books so this is a review of the trilogy. More magic than the Six of Crows, its a more traditional fantasy series but again with the dysfunctional romance. I guess a mature relationship is kind of boring.

Woman: "I'm off to the rock climbing gym."

Man: "Ok honey, I'm glad you are taking time for yourself while feeling empowered and strong!"

It's a decent fantasy series but I kind of started to run out of caring. I was trying finish this on the treadmill at the gym but the girl behind me was loudly complaining about her old roommate. It's not the like the gym should be silent but I would go to a bookworm gym with less bros and a lot less Fox News(as in none). In my gym there should be at least one Alan Rickman movie going on at all times. My friend says they play Kardashians and such so you can step on and off at any time. But at my nerd gym...we know the Rickman oeuvre.  I could step on in the middle of Die Hard and not miss a beat.

Ok if you read the series then you'd know that this is the perfect drink: Night and Day Cocktail: Partially fill a sour glass, large champagne flute or wine glass with crushed ice. Add 1/2 ounce of Cointreau, 3/4 ounce of brandy and one dash of bitters. Top the glass with champagne or other sparkling wine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


If I write a book with a big section about diarrhea do you think that would work?  I think it should be called Coming out of the Water Closet: My Adventures With the Whispering Scatters. Yes, there is a whole section in Calypso about David getting diarrhea on his book tour. (sigh) Granted diarrhea is an objectively funny word, but I mean....c'mon. You might have read some of these essays before and most critics love it but it's not exactly inspirational. One younger guy wrote an essay that pointed out that David's long term relationship with Hugh seems kind of messed up. Of course, David takes liberty with the truth but the reality is that his life may be too boring and he needs to create an fictional conflict. I'm pretty sure that's sit-com writing 101. He's doing the best he can. He doesn't have any wacky co-workers like the typical sit-com. I've noticed in British comedies someone falls down a flight of stairs for some reason. He did fall out of the attic and hurt himself because he lives in the UK. It's a part of their tax code I think.

Don't get me wrong, Calypso is perfectly fine, but in my opinion, it's not his best work. You would be better off reading Theft by Finding. He publishes like he's got boat payments to make. A huge section of the book is about the beach house he owns and that's close enough. There are certainly some funny bits in here but I think it has a bit of a melancholy aspect. Even the book cover is gloomy. Of course he finally talks about his Mom's alcoholism and his sister's suicide so that's kind of difficult to make comedy bits from that material. Ricky Gervais would attempt some jokes but fail miserably and then double down about "being offensive." Seriously dude, what happened to you? When people are comparing you to Piers Morgan you need to reevaluate your career.

Hey if we are hanging out at the beach house watching sunsets and such, why not drink this very light cocktail: Rum Sunset: 6 ounces of orange juice, 2 ounces of light rum, one tablespoon of grenadine. Combine the orange juice and the rum but set aside a third of the mixture. Pour the rest of the mixture in a glass with ice.  Mix the grenadine with the remaining mix, slowly pour in in the glass to create an ombre effect. Garnish with lime slices.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Dark Forest

SPACE FORCE! We do indeed have a space force in The Dark Forest but in this sequel to Three Body Problem, some jokers from a another planet are coming to earth to annihilate us as we have nice beaches or something. An important plot point is that they are coming from really far away and it will take them over 300 years to get here. Jokes on them it will be one big hot landfill by then. Sure, come and enjoy your garbage beach. We treat this planet like a high school senior that went to Daytona. Trashed and everyone gets the Herps.

There is a female character in here that is I mean...just worse than a Mary Sue. Now, a Mary Sue is a character so perfect that she upstages the protagonist. This one doesn't even do that. This is literally a dream woman/girl and serves no additional function than the comfort you could get from a nice memory foam mattress.  I've read more nuanced sex robot characters. Now, I can't tell if its bad writing, a bad translation or the author is just a real weirdo. According to wikipedia the author's wife and daughter almost never read his books. (It shows, dude, it shows).

I read this book because a very nice person recommended it. Yes, I read the first book and was like ok, cool, but it was kind of challenging and I'm good, but no, he's insisted and like someone buying you a beer it's hard to say no. I can't tell you how many times I've made the delicious free beer mistake. Both literally and metaphorically.  At least we had an interesting discussion. (A part of me was, the ladies in the book though...I mean c'mon man). The nice person was a man as you might have guessed. Any woman that read this would be like, I'm not normally pro burning books but....I could make an exception.

Dark Forest is long and complicated.  But this sequel to Three Body Problem has less theoretical physics, more game strategy and some philosophy. His references to God were really weird, like he'd heard of the concept of God but didn't really understand it. Women and God. I don't understand them...but I'll put them in the book anyway!  It would be like writing a whole section on deep sea diving and never seeing the ocean.  What do you mean a human can't normally breathe underwater? Poppycock. Anyway, you can skip this one unless you looooved Three Body Problem. Yeah, I thought so.

Since we have a while before the space aliens get here, why not drink this earthly (and summer-garden) cocktail?  Basil Gimlet:  2 ounces dry gin, 3/4 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 3-5 basil leaves.  Put all in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a basil leaf.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Flat Broke and With two Goats

Warning: this book may make you angry and/or frustrated.  It's like the reverse The Glass Castle. Someone who lived the upper middle class lifestyle but really screwed up. Royally.

This book was a "Big Library Read" so tons of people all over the country read this at the same time. The range of reviews was all over the place--most people were like you are an idiot and whiny and overall lame. People got out the angry eyebrows.

You see, Jennifer's husband was an accountant and during the great recession of 2008 it was revealed that they were in a boatload of debt. Not just credit card debt, but a foreclosed house and six figures to the IRS.  If there is anything I've learned is that the Feds always get paid. She has this weird mix of blame for him but acknowledgement that she was willfully blind. It seems like she lacks any agency over her own life.  She's like a piece of Styrofoam floating in a creek. It would remind you of like someone from the olden times that let "the man" provide for you.  She's not that much older than me and it's like talking to some hippy grandma.  Get your stuff together! Just when you think she is properly contrite you learn that she is now raising goats, she took out a student loan to get her MFA and...has not learned her lesson. There are some interstitial stories in this book about her dead grandparents and her love of Appalachia but honestly, I could have done without that.  She even admits that she might be romanticizing the past and they would think she is an idiot (she's right).

Now, in case you think you are going to milk your money troubles away, the goats are probably not worth it when you do a basic accounting.  Of course, I'm not an accountant--but I'm also not in debt to the IRS so....  Still, goats are still terribly cute. This is a baby goat. Not that I've never looked up the price of the breeding pair of Alpacas....(cough) but it's a whole lot of money.  Plus apparently they can get llama rot or something like that.

Jennifer drinks a lot of craft beer and people online have given her a really hard time. A part of me is like, you know, if that's your only indulgence then go for it.  Asheville has tons of fantastic beer.  One of my favorites is Asheville Brewing Company's Shiva. (It's a light IPA)  It's really hard to get here. While a different flavor and equally yummy Seattle's Elysian Dayglow IPA is super delicious. Plus it has such a cool design on the package.  Now I need a T-shirt. Shoot I'm going to go broke myself.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Circe is not just the evil queen from Game of Thrones. I chase Dave around the house sometimes saying Shame! (rings bell) Shame! No, this is the Greek goddess who was a witch! Yeees, queen.

First, this book rocks. I was genuinely worried that I was like, why do all these books stink? I was worried it was me. But I just read a few meh books in a row. Second, you don't need to know Greek mythology to read this book as I'm not exactly a fountain of knowledge on it myself.  Everything I know is from Ray Harryhausen's stop-action animation movies like Clash of the Titans. I also gathered some tips from a MST3K Hercules episode. You could do worse.

Madeline Miller really knows her Greek mythology but she really makes it....well, more like a Game of Thrones episode. She fills in a lot of blanks, embellishes the story and makes her very human which seems weird to say. I read this in like 4 days.

While gods are supposed to be immortal I think they just live a really long time on that Mediterranean Diet. Circe turns some men into pigs which totally makes sense in context, does some one arm push-ups, tricks some monsters, tames lions, eats cheese, dances with spiders and performs some C-sections. Ok, I made some of these up but you can't tell the difference--so it's pretty wild. Also, it turns out that Hermes is like Social Media 1.0 but also might be fake news. Not much has changed really. I wonder if he can hook me up with one of those Birkin bags.  Man, that'd be sweet.  Knowing him, it would be some cheap knockoff. Hermes, go back to posing for statues in weird hats with no pants.

I'm not going to suggest an Ouzo cocktail because well, ugh.  Let's be inspired by the witchy-herbs of Circe's spells and potions instead: Pineapple Basil Cocktail: Make a chiffonade of three basil leaves and muddle with a quarter of a lime at the bottom of a tumbler.  Add a 1/4 cup pineapple juice, 1 and 1/2 ounces of gin, some ice cubes and top with club soda. You can say with words of power if you choose.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Changeling

Victor Lavalle assumes you have a decent working knowledge of New York City. Well, I've got news for you buddy, I do not. I've only been there once and it's been a while. I remember thinking that it was too expensive to go to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. I know you are thinking, wow I'll bet you regret that, but no, it was like over $22 per person and that was in 2001. Pfft! For some, NYC is their favorite city in the world. I'm like, have you been to San Diego? Sun, beer, succulents and well adjusted corgis running around. No, some prefer a grey, dirty day with a slimy subway pole to grab.

The Changeling is a modern fantasy novel, set in NYC which is like--we get it! It's a retelling of old fairy tales that is going to appear dated in about three years. There is a cautionary tale about new parents that post too many baby pictures on Facebook. Y'all, monsters are coming for you. No, it's not just passive aggressive comments because you'll get those too. "Your baby is so cute it looks just like that prize wining potato I saw on the Food Network." No, real monsters both human and otherworldly. I image they all look like Tony Robbins for some reason.

This book reads more like a thriller than fantasy. It's not a "fun" book. For as exciting as it seems I kept putting it down. Some like it, others meh. This book goes with that trend of newer novels that are "screenplay like" but to me that's what a screenplay is for. It's like giving me a pie and telling me it's a tart. That's not a great analogy as I would not turn down pie. I would judge them for not knowing the difference but I would definitely eat it. There are not a whole lot of desserts I turn down. Ok, flan. Not a flan fan. 

This book covers a lot of NYC including Queens so why not drink a Queens cocktail (yes named after the borough and not QEII): 1 and 1/2 ounces gin, 1/2 ounce dry vermouth, 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 ounce pineapple juice. Add ingredients to a shaker, strain and add to a coupe glass or other appropriate glassware. Enjoy on a fire escape.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Ah, this book is set at a fancy bookstore in the late 90's, maybe early naughts. Remember bookstores? There are still a few around so hug one today. The author really did work at the Tattered Cover in Denver so naturally this a mystery set a bookstore just like that.  I wonder if he actually started this book in the late 90's and that's why its set then, because I feel like he really could have upped the nostalgia by adding more details. What details you ask?  Well, flip-phones, the Rachel haircut, hip-hugger corduroys (swish-swish), Snapple and a casual Radiohead reference. I mean lets just embrace it. One of my favorite things about Better Call Saul is the small details of 2002. Sounds like it was just yesterday but sadly it was not. Blast.   

I thought this book was ok but I will confess that I'm not a huge mystery person, I'll make an exception for an ultra British mystery. I was more interested in the bookstore patrons and employees of the bookstore which are not the main focus. I know when I worked at my three bookstores it was a revolving cast of characters. I had a former trumpet player manager that wouldn't stop talking (oral fixation apparently), a woman that when to a religious boarding school in Italy AND lived on a houseboat in Bermuda THEN she in her partner had desert tortoises in AZ. I had one owner that was into astrology and so he read my "chart" before he hired me--he said it was ok for me to come on board. He has since gone out of business.

I wasn't crazy about our protagonist and that's always going to be an issue so if you are a bibliophile and a mystery person then maybe you would like it. I do wish Michael Sullivan the best.  He's a former bookseller turned successful author. That, my friends, is like hope in a jar. Also, I love his author photo he looks soooo happy. The photographer must have shown him photos of cats in cute sweaters or something.

Lets drink a cocktail from the late 90's for nostalgia's sake: Cable Car: 2 ounces spiced rum, 1 ounce triple sec, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/4 ounce simple syrup and one egg white (optional but will make it make it frothy). Shake it all up in the shaker and strain into a chilled glass. This sounds sweet and decadent. I don't remember the late 90's being that way but I was kind of broke back then--probably from my low pay working at the bookstores. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Stranger in the Woods

I think we've all had moments when we wanted to get away from people. I mean you got the weirdos, sickos, pigs, creepers, harassers, pervs, bros, jerks, pedants and tyrants. Oh, and the sports freaks. That's just the men. Then you've got the haters, bitches, fake ding-dongs, bossy, passive-aggressive, busy-bodies, manipulators and gossipers. Whew, I mean there are moments when you just want to live in the woods and not speak a word to anyone for 25 years.  Right? Well, it would be hard to keep all the jokes to yourself though. I feel like laughing at yourself in the woods might be abhorrent behavior.   

This is a biography of Christopher Knight, you might remember him as the dude that lived like a hermit in a tent for 25 years in Maine....including all of those winters. Yikes. He made most of his supplies but stole most of his stuff and all of his food from the neighbors. He was like a ninja thief. They finally caught him with Homeland Security technology. He's a little odd. At first I kind of was like ok, ok, I get it but I looked up photos of him.  And in his photos he looks like a younger Larry David but with Stephen Miller's shark eyes. Ever meet someone and you're like, who are you fooling?  I'm pretty sure you are a sociopath. Christopher did have a sweet tooth but I never trust someone who doesn't like desserts. Although sometimes those people are simply alcoholics.

Stranger in the Woods is a weird biography because Christopher had mixed feelings about discussing his life so Michael Finkel had to stretch out some of the material. It would have been a better magazine article rather than a short book but overall I enjoyed it.  I'm fascinated by survival stories and preppers and things.  I think if we couldn't leave the house how long could we live on the food we have. I figure the liquor cabinet could be like the "bank" and if I had clean water and electricity I could live pretty long on all of my damn quinoa and two dozen artisan grains. But....the cats would get "hangry" and try to eat my face and then my mental musings start to fall apart. 

Apparently, Christopher did occasionally steal liquor but had to take what he could get including strawberry schappes and margarita mix.  We can do better than that.  I'm thinking something woodsy and botanical but a bit more sophisticated.  How about a Lavender Bourbon Cocktail: First make a simple syrup but with a mix of sugar and honey. Then add a vanilla bean (or 1 tsp extract) and 3 tablespoons culinary grade lavender and cook a little further about 10 minutes. Cool and strain. In a highball glass with ice, use one ounce of this syrup, 2 to 3 ounces of decent bourbon, juice of 1/2 lime, and 4 ounces of ginger ale. Stir and serve with a lime slice. Enjoy the simple fact you can have ice in the summer.   

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Library at Mount Char

Talking animals will get many cool points in my estimation. But bad jokes will not. People love this book and I get some of the appeal, it has an interesting "world." And there is a wizard's school (more or less) and a library. Oh, a few talking animals. Or the ability to talk to animals. Cool, cool...all good things...but it also has do I put this delicately....butt-stuff. A great deal of butt-stuff actually. While mostly a fantasy, horror/dystopian book it attempts humor at times. But the humor is not really my style. Imagine Howard Stern but he grew up the South.  Barbecues, chewing tobacco, copious amounts of cursing and a lot things stuffed up butts. Oh, well, one guy pooped his pants, technically that is stuff coming out, but you get the picture.

Most people think it's a weird wild romp. A few people think the mythology is a mess and doesn't follow enough rules. I did know in advance that it was violent, which is certainly true. Maybe I'm dead inside but that doesn't bother me as much as the lame jokes. This book reminds me of Good Omens but instead of the British Dad jokes (eye roll) it's more lets shove an AR-15 up a guy's butt. (squints). There is a little homophobic thing going on here and a lot of rape references (most of those aren't jokes). This was published in 2015 and already comes off kind of tone deaf. Still, it got good reviews. To me, it's very 13 year old bro fantasy. Brantasy? One bad guy is so tough but doesn't understand clothes so he wears a flak jacket and a tutu. "He was wearing what? A tutu?" "Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's a tutu." That dialog is reiterated at least a dozen times. Can you do an eye roll and squint at the same time? I'd better not.

Scott Hawkins, like Andy Weir, was a computer programmer and I seem to remember a lot of lame jokes in The Martian too. Was it boob jokes? Apparently computer programmer + body part jokes = bestseller.  'Merica! I'm not including Murkami in here because he's his own brand of weird and also uniquely Japanese. Plus his ear fetish and boob comparison charts are not jokes to, those are serious matters.

I think there is a joke about a monster named Barry O'Shea. I can't remember if he was a Lovecraftian monster or a iceberg with feet. I'm cool with either. Pardon the pun but why not drink a spring berry cocktail? Berry Breeze: 2 ounces of vodka, 4-5 blackberries, 1/4 ounce lime juice--muddle the berries with the vodka in a shaker with ice and shake with the lime juice.  Pour into a rocks glass with ice and top with ginger beer.  Stir gently and garnish with a lime wheel and blackberry. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


This is my spring classic. Spring Classic sounds like a golf tournament. Maybe a yachting race?  Something fancy. I read two or three classics a year and The Moonstone, written in 1868 is the first detective novel ever written.  Dickens gave Wilkie Collins a high five over it. Well, an olden times version of a high five, which was a letter. It said something like: You rock bro. (With fancy script that just said 100% ).

The Moonstone has that nice slow pacing that you expect from a Victorian novel. The modern novel is a clustercuss of action and weirdness. Newer books have timelines that are all crazy. This is relax a bit, get a "biscuit" aka a cookie, a coffee, some tea, whatever you need.  You kind of figure a few things out in advance, I mean, we a inundated with detective stories so we can see things coming nowadays. There are a few plot twists in here I did NOT see coming.

Well, done Wilkie. High five, dude.  If you read a little about his life there are some things in this novel that make more sense. He was not particularly religious and there is one character who is a Christian zealot who is mostly in here for comic relief.  Honestly, it's still funny.  She had a religious tract on the evils of bonnet ribbons. Comedy gold.   

One thing that is not supposed to be funny but to me, is crazy, but apparently champagne was used as medicine. That and brandy. Well, aspirin was not used for thirty more years which is weird to think about. High fever? Well, you get lemonade or champagne. What? That or opium. Lemonade and opium....if it wasn't illegal someone would market that as Sunshine Juice. 

It's not a spoiler to let you know that it turns out that the medical opinion of champagne was the correct prescription. This cocktail is made with both cognac and champagne so it should cure all ills. I did not make up the name of this cocktail but it pertains to a medical procedure Barbotage: 1/2 ounce cognac, 1 tsp. Grand Marnier, 4 ounces of chilled brut champagne. Pour the cognac and Grand Marnier in a champagne flute and top with the champagne. Enjoy your prescription.  Refills as needed. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Glass Castle

There is a good chance you've read The Glass Castle as it's been a best seller for many years. I've heard some parents make their kids read this to appreciate what they have. It's a pretty passive aggressive move as the bar on their own parenting is set pretty low. Unless you have a pet tiger you let loose in the house or are purposely setting one the children's beds on fire then you are are parenting better than Rex and Rose Mary Walls.

Some people hate this book as it gives them the creeps. I get it. While there is no tiger in the house, it's honestly pretty close. I actually liked it though. These two are possibly the most neglectful parents you have ever read about.  And such narcissists, I mean, imagine if BOTH of your parents were famous YouTube stars. But Jeannette has this punchy writing style that takes you into her past and you even have a few laughs. One line I like is that the author gets beat up in the first grade and when asked about it she says: "Oh, it was just a little dust up."

We already know, at least for the author, she survives her childhood and becomes a success. She manages to humanize her parents and love them but without giving them a pass entirely.  It's pretty cleverly done, probably because she was a gossip columnist for years. Essentially she's just dishing the dirt. Sometimes it's literal dirt.

A movie version came out last year but I don't see the appeal really.  I like movies with sentient androids. Actually these kids would have been better off with sentient android parents.  Now that I think about it, Rex is lot like Bender from Futurama.

Rex is a raging alcoholic so it feels a little funny recommending a cocktail. So why not drink with a super on-trend session cocktail. Based on the beer name is not a mocktail but it is low in alcohol. This makes a pitcher (serves 6) and would be perfect for a warm spring party. Sparkling Tarragon Gin Lemonade: 10 tarragon sprigs (you could use basil), 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons sugar, 3/4 cup gin, 3/4 cup elderflower liquor, (St. Germain) 1/3 cup lemon juice, one 12 ounce can club soda. Muddle the leaves, sugar, lemon slices in a large pitcher. Then add the gin, St. Germain, add the soda. Stir to combine and serve over ice. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom

So many FEELINGS! That is what always stands out when I read YA. I'm always worried they will break out in interpretive dance. Let's talk about our feelings in the middle of a fight!

"But, I'm worried you don't like me!"

"Um, we're under fire here...I'd like you better if you had some ninja throwing you in fact have some spare throwing stars?"

"You are just using me for back up!"

"Listen, I only trust YOU for back up....because you're the only one I, I still could use those ninja stars though." 

Ok, ok, Six of Crows is not that bad. In fact, it's kind of fun. This is a that type of urban fantasy that involves pickpockets, thieves, sneaky magicians and a corrupt plutocracy. You know the type. This is not an elves and snacks book. Six of Crows involves a rag-tag team of teenage gang members and misunderstood ex-soldiers involved in a caper-like adventure. Kind of gritty-kitty. In this case, gritty kittens.

Sure this book hits some YA bingo squares, the "bad boy leader," orphans, cliffhanger, star-crossed lovers and oh so many feelings. I'm including both books because the first one ends on a cliffhanger and you'll need to read Crooked Kingdom, the sequel, for at least some closure. Both books have plots like action adventure movies that you've seen but I don't like spoilers. Well they star Mark Whalberg and Matt Damon. That should narrow it down for you. If you like YA fantasy and need a break in your life then it's worth a read.

This drink is appropriate for a band of thieves. This is a variation on one of my favorite cocktails which has the same name: Gold Rush-- 2 ounces bourbon, 1 ounce honey simple syrup, 3/4 ounce lemon juice. Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a small glass.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Honored Guest

People are weird. If you into dark comedy like a good Coen Brothers movie you might like Joy Williams. When David Sedaris mentioned how much he loved her in his diaries she was moved up in my reading queue. Honored Guest is a collection of short stories where at least one character is strange. How can in a person in polite society deal with this behavior?  Well, I hate to tell you this but we can't.  Ok, the people I know from Boston or Jersey can, but not in the Midwest.  If you know what to do, please let me know because I have my fair share of nutcases in my life. me (drowning sounds...glug, glug, glug).

One of my favorite stories involves a small cocktail party in which one guest describes all ten of her daughters. One of the other guests, just says something like: This is not how you speak at a sociable evening! She then just storms off. Preach! I can really see why David Sedaris loves her stuff.  I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but I like dark humor so it was fine, not amazing but wryly amusing. I'm going to give one of her novels a chance.

Joy's name is ironic as she has a touch of misanthrope, but she likes irony so maybe it's all for the best. I was worried I was a misanthrope myself but it turns out I just have a few loud duds in my life.  You know the type, the conversational LeBron James where they just dominate you. Hey, I'd like to talk now--No, in your face! Don't you dare drive the lane! Fine, I'll just sit on the bench....(they don't even notice--continue to talk about Trevor's SAT prep class).  Anyway, this isn't for everyone.  If you are expecting David Sedaris, please don't, it's more literary, subtle and kind of melancholy. 

We need to counter this dark humor with a little Sunshine (that's the drink): 2 ounce of white rum, 1/2 ounce vermouth, 1 ounce pineapple juice and dash of grenadine. Mix all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. I think you could add the grenadine later as a visual element but well, I'm weird too.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The World of Lore

A non-fiction book about monsters? Another book based on a famous podcast (just called Lore), The World of Lore is about vampires, werewolves, creatures and some strange true life stories. The book is illustrated, but a word of warning, if you listen to the audio book or podcast....Aaron's narration is well, unusual. He has excellent diction. He just has an usual cadence. Imagine Captain Kirk during a deposition. Or how about a nerd trying to make a pedantic speech after climbing the stairs. Words. Come. Out. Oddly. 

This book doesn't go into great depth about any one topic, and some monsters are more explainable than others. Mothman, Robert the Doll, the book covers a lot of ground. It reminds me of an art history survey class where you just touch on a little bit of everything.  Just replace Donatello with the Jersey Devil.

While the illustrations are fine I think they really missed an opportunity to make this with old-school paper dolls.  Hey werewolves can have casual Fridays (puts tiny paper Dockers on werewolf). And sure, while a ghostly billowing shirt is in style, it would be nice to pair it with some fashion leggings and cute boots.  Maybe you would get out of the house more ghost lady--maybe haunt the tasting room of the local craft brewery for a bit.

C'mon we have to read this with a Zombie: (I always think it has enough alcohol to turn you into a zombie--which makes me worried about what people think of Long Islanders if that is their iced tea). Add these ingredients to a large glass with cracked ice: 1/2 ounce white rum, 1&1/2 ounces golden rum, 1 ounce dark rum, (you own a rum factory apparently), 1 ounce lime juice, 1 teaspoon papaya juice, 1 teaspoon pineapple juice and 1 teaspoon superfine sugar. Stir. "Float" 1/2 ounce of 151 rum on top! Just hope they don't bury you alive after you pass out. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Welcome to Night Vale

What if every X-Files conspiracy theory, the crazier the better, was real? How do you feel about jokes? Do you like combining the two? Well, then Welcome to Night Vale is the book for you. Imaging the joke-y X-Files episodes, you know the ones I mean, where there is a lot of playful clarinet passages like a musical wink? Based on a podcast, Welcome to the Night Vale has a cast of characters that live in this crazy town. For example, if they need the police they just whisper "secret police" near their refrigerators and sure enough someone is there to help. Where everyone listens to public radio but City Council is full of supernatural creatures. You know, a cool town.

The reviews said I wouldn't like it if I didn't follow the podcast but that's not true. I love surreal jokes. In fact, I get sad playing Cards Against Humanity for that reason.  Everyone always plays the obvious "naughty card" not the weird card. I wish there were more cards like Self Immolating Flamingo (this card does not exist as far as I know). I always lose. I don't care about losing but I'm like, c'mon people--think outside the box. By the way, I made this joke to a friend before I finished this book and flamingos become a plot point.  Granted they are the plastic lawn variety but nevertheless they are magical objects that bend space and time. As they should be.

If you like audio books this is better on audio (I did a mix of the two). I would give this book full marks but it meanders a bit. Probably a result of the authors writing for the podcast rather than a organized plot novel kind of thing. I didn't want it to bother me, but it did just a little. I like the jokes though, and they aren't Dad jokes nor or they offensive. I guess if you were a monster they might be offensive. Maybe on Monster Twitter the authors might get blasted. I feel like monsters wouldn't waste time on Twitter though.  More like wreck someone's crops of haunt someone IRL. Monsters are very IRL. 

Why not read (or listen to this) with a Fox Mulder Cocktail (it's a whiskey sour with a bizarre look--but sounds delicious): Add to a shaker with ice, 1 &1/2 ounce rye whiskey, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, 1/4 ounce pineapple juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup. Shake and strain and fill in rocks glass with ice. "Float" (or top) with a 1/2 ounce of Green Chartreuse.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Shriek and Finch

Shriek and Finch are not an obscure comedy troupe from the 40's.That's good because they sound like they would be awful. No, Shriek is book two and Finch is book three in the City of Saints and Madmen trilogy. There are plenty of creatures and monsters in these books but the scariest of all might be the monster of exposition in Shriek. He will bore you to death!

Shriek is written memoir style with the narrator and her brother who makes post script annotations. But if I wanted to deal with two snarky siblings making passive aggressive comments to each other I could just go to Thanksgiving. Granted they went through a lot of more drama than my family. I did have a brother that went though a eat your own spit phase. You know where you lay on the edge of a table and spit, it makes a long string then you suck it back up? Yeah, but we are all in agreement that he is weird as hell.

Finch is written in the style of detective novel. Very noir style. There are some exciting fun fantasy scenes in both books but the first book, City of Saints and Madmen is far superior. You'd be fine with just reading that book. I just struggled a little with these two.

In this series there is city built on the ruins of a civilization of well, I'll just say it...mushroom people. There is some debate on whether they still live underground....(they do, that's not a spoiler). I think I have some in my basement. What I think is weird is while mushroom people sound funky and maybe a little scary but to me, defeating them could be a squirt-gun full of bleach. Barring that, I would just kick 'em. Hey scary dude, what to you think if I just drop kick your head? Ba-dang. Sounds like a comedy from the 40's. They could be little Nazi mushroom people. I'm picturing little tiny jackets.

These speculative fiction fantasy novels just scream absinthe to me. Also, this one has a spooky name which is also appropriate. Death in the Afternoon: Pour 1 & 1/2 ounces absinthe into a champagne flute. Top with 4-6 ounces of champagne.  It should form this milky cloud which sounds freaky!  (I've seen variations of this cocktail with Pernod and also an addition of a sugar cube).