Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Spinning Silver

This is the Tom Hanks of books. Everybody loves it and you know, it deserves the love. Set in olden times Russia before it was really Russia, not only do villagers have to deal with crushing poverty but and Elfin King lives in the forest and he's a creeper. Our lady Miryem is from a moneylender family and is really good with money. Of course, Black Friday back then meant that half the village died of the plague. We've really lost the true spirit of the holiday. I celebrate Black Friday the traditional way by staying in my house and drinking healthful elixirs. 

Besides being a world class creep, that Elfin King is greedy for gold and has poor social skills. He would be the star of The Real Housewives of the Elfin Dreamscape. Once he realizes Miryem can make him money he turns into a something like a cross between a crappy Hollywood Agent and the master of a multi-level marketing scheme. Also, there is a Russian noble born lady that uses the elfin gold snags herself a hot Czar. Shoot, this does sound like a new show on Bravo. Anyway the ladies are feistier than they look and it's exciting and you should read it if you haven't already. There is a similar book called Uprooted, set in the same world but this is not a series. It's a very good book except for the romance felt icky and so it lost some cool points but it's still worth reading. 

Let's drink a healthful elixir. Somewhere years ago I suggested a White Russian and a traditional one would not be out of place. This is a variation called The Dude, from the Big Lebowski: 1&1/2 ounce cognac, 3/4 ounce chilled coffee, 1/2 ounce fine sugar, 1/2 ounce heavy cream, 1/2 ounce ruby port and 4 dashes of Angostura bitters. The original recipe calls for an egg...but you can leave it out or use just the white as it will make it frothy. Shake all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a glass. You should probably admire the rug while drinking this as it really brings the room together.  

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Woman in the Window

I've read a few thrillers this year while walking and The Woman in the Window is well, pretty much just what you want in a thriller I suppose.  It certainly has the sales history to prove it. It pays homage to all the old movies it riffs/steals from. It is a good book for what it is. A few twists, sure, but I've decided that I actually like suspenseful  mysteries more than pure thrillers. That's a fine line I know...but well, I'm weird. I'm learning that if everyone is reading it its probably a regular old thriller.

Our unreliable narrator is an agoraphobic who drinks too much and is on psych meds and has PTSD. No one believes her when she says that she witnessed a murder. We are constantly guessing what is reality. She is guessing what is reality. Hopped up on goofballs and wine. Actually, now that I think about it being stuck in a mansion, on drugs, with merlot watching old movies in a bath-robe....I think we are supposed to think she is pathetic but I'm like, where is your TED Talk?  We can't even be bothered to go and get McDonald's anymore. No, you bring to me, sure some fries are missing but that's the price you pay. It's never been a better time to be agoraphobic. Who would even notice?

Apparently the movie coming out is going to be terrible. So you can be one of those people that says the book is better. It usually is--although there are a few notable exception--Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell was better. I didn't bother watching the last season of Game of Thrones so I'm still living in a denial state where I think they did a great job.

So much very much. Lets try a fall sangria with a whole bottle of red. Cranberry Apple Sangria: 1 bottle of white wine, 1 bottle of red wine, 3 cups of apple cider, 3 cups cranberry juice, 1 cup brandy, 4 cinnamon sticks and 1/2 cup mulling spices.  In a medium pan combine the cider and mulling spices, and steep on medium, add the cinnamon sticks and simmer to a boil.  Remove from heat and cool.  In a large pitcher add the rest of the ingredients with ice.  You can top each glass with champagne if you want. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

My Best Friend's Exorcism

Like, totally grody--to the max!  If you remember people saying this or are really into the 80's yet are young (this is a thing I am assured) then you might like this very retro horror book.  He nails the 80's don't get me wrong--also super cool--you can follow a companion "mix-tape" on Spotify.  Each chapter is a song title.  It's pretty clever but this is from the author that made a horror book out of an IKEA catalog. I did forget that Phil Collins was huge.  It's not wrong to put it on there as he was popular and he came up--oh crap--I couldn't hit the advance button fast enough.

So the plot is two best friends in the 80's and one gets possessed by the devil. I did approve of the Iron Maiden track which is completely appropriate. Sounds awesome right? Well, something is missing from the plot.  Warning--it does have a bit of body horror but I would not consider this a "scary book." What is missing from this story is above my pay grade--it's something though.  To use another 80's reference, its like one of those Magic Eye things and you can't see the horse.  (I could never do those things).  Anyway, the 80's details are on point.  I loved Stranger Things but it got both the 80's details and had a great story-line. This is like someone took a Keebler Magic Middle and sucked all the chocolate out. (We didn't get those as those were expensive). That's a rich kid cookie.

Even though this is not a great book, and it is a horror book, it's still a bit of fun.  I was having a really bad weekend when I read it and it brought me out of a funk.

We have to do an authentic 80's drink (checks, so many nasty drinks) let's do a drink that's less nasty and also a dessert: Mudslide: 1 ounce each of Kahlua, vodka, and Irish cream and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream (you read that right) to a blender--with a little ice, blend and add to a hurricane glass and drizzle chocolate syrup on top.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Girl in the Tower & The Winter of the Witch

Have you ever read a book so good you get angry? Why can't all books (and series) be this good? Also, when is her new book coming out? Crap she's writing a children's series. Why do the children get all the good things? Luckily she is super young so she can keep writing. Writing books for me. ALL FOR ME. I've read plenty of fantasy books this year and these were the best I've read in years. It's like when you watch TV and none of the shows are funny and you wonder if you are depressed and then HBO's Barry comes along and so you quit therapy.
Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Winter Witch are books two and three in this fantastic Winternight Trilogy.  Katherine Arden manages to incorporate real historical events, old school Russian folklore and some modern sensibilities without it being crazy anachronistic. Rebelling against a crushing patriarchal system?  Answer, witches. It's always witches. 

One thing you should note is that I am kind of a sucker for talking animals. Behemoth from Master and Margarita and, well any talking animal.  It's a serious
book but then it has *shakes fists excitedly* talking horses. Horses don't talk they use mental telepathy, duh, they can't speak Russian because they have those giant Tony Robbins teeth. You can only hear them if you are a witch.

Horses and witches are sassy. I cannot recommend this series enough if you remotely like historical fantasy. 

Let's do this fall variation on a Moscow Mule, which seems appropriate: 2 oz of each: cranberry juice, vodka and lime juice and add to 3 ounces of ginger beer.  Add some fresh or frozen cranberries as a garnish if desired.

Monday, September 30, 2019

My Family and Other Animals

Just when you've found paradise there is always a catch.  You have to put your number two toilet paper in a bucket because the pipes are too small in Greece. It makes you really appreciate the blessing of the American sewer system. I'm pretty sure it answers to prayer.....please God go down and other such pleas.

The toilet bucket was a deal breaker for the Durrell family in Gerald Durrell's "memoir" of his spending a good part of his childhood in Greece. They immediately had to find a house that did not require the poop bucket. It sets a tone. We are in Greece but we are still British and will not conform to your poop-bucket arrangement. 

Written as a trilogy to fund his own zoo, (he was a lifelong animal enthusiast and possibly unemployable) you actually only need to read the first book. That book is called My Family and Other Animals and the whole trilogy is called The Corfu Trilogy. I think my father-in-law went to Corfu for one of his honeymoons. Yeah, I used the plural. Don't read the last book (or stop before the last two chapters) as it starts to get a little racist at the end. It's always a risk reading a book that is older. I'm pretty sure the BBC special doesn't include that part.

Setting that aside, it's full of humor, fantastic descriptions of Greece, especially the natural surroundings, in an era just before WWII. It is wonderfully idyllic and even though he spent some formative years in Greece, it is also quintessentially British. The mom makes scones in Greece. There are a lot of animals, including a pet owl. Who has a pet owl? Anyway, he takes some artistic licence of his memories and includes only the good things and possibly embarrassing but funny stuff. His oldest brother, who became a professional writer, is a good comedic foil but in real life he was a jerk of the highest order. I will say the taxi driver who becomes the family friend has the best lines. I did some laughing out loud, which is pretty unusual for me. So this book is good for if every day feels like Monday. (Um, again don't read that last chapter of the last book).

I'm going to spare you an ouzo based cocktail and give you a sangria recipe. The family drinks copious amounts of wine anyway. Add 1/2 apple and 1/2 orange chopped with 3 tablespoons brown sugar to 3/4 cups orange juice to 1/3 cup brandy to a large pitcher and muddle. Add one bottle of dry red wine (maybe it's Greek?) and stir.  Add a little ice to chill. Taste and adjust if needed and chill. This makes 4 cups. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Darker Shade of Magic trilogy

Like a craft project I wasn't sure I wanted to finish, I reviewed the first book a couple of years ago. This series set the tone for the latest batch of fantasy novels (series) in the last few years. Not all of them are this good but they feature ladies that kick butt (and kill), at least one gay character, tons of action and minimal snacking. I heartily disapprove of the minimal snacking. They are frankly too busy killing and scheming to snack. I mean, is this world full of magic power bars? I don't think it is. What a cruel world that is full of magic but yet, no snacks.

The premise of the books is that there are four Londons one superimposed on each other kind of magical string theory of multiple dimensions. Only the "special magicians" can travel to other worlds. Grey London, which is our Regency London, has almost no magic. Even if it's dangerous to go back and forth to the various worlds I think they do go for the snacks. Grey London has the good scones and White London has the good pasta, I think. Black London is the most dangerous of all but has all the chocolate and coffee so....I mean, you're going to go. Ok, I'm making this part up.  It's a very fast paced pirates and magicians crazy adventure.  I will warn you that book two has a stupid magical Olympics. I wish I was making that part up. 

If you can find the right version of the audio books those are excellent. Book one has this British actor that made the whole thing awesome...and then they decided to get different narrators for books two and three for an American audience and I want to kick someone.

This cocktail seems right for no matter which London you happen to reside: Bourbon Harvest Sour: 5 dark cherries (I would think frozen would work fine), 1.5 good bourbon, 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth, 3/4 cinnamon infused simple syrup and 2 dashes of Aromatic bitters. Muddle the cherries and add the rest of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker  Shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass.     

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

From Here to Eternity

Cool, casual book about death rituals around the world. No biggie. Your funeral doesn't have to be normal. Maybe you want a hipster funeral and artisan made casket from Etsy and a wake with craft cocktails? Maybe you want to be shot into space hugging Elon Musk? Maybe he's not even dead yet. I don't know what your funeral fantasies are. Maybe you want your body to be stuffed with bamboo and then dropped into a panda preserve? They might eat it. I don't know.  The lady at the zoo said they sometimes eat meat and an overly confident duck met her early demise at the enclosure at The San Diego zoo. I say it was duck bet gone bad. One of those "Hold my snail." kind of things.

The author is a funeral director talks about funerals around the world and frankly, we are kind of lame.  She slipped in a casual breezy quote from my former thesis adviser and that was surprising but cool. I get made fun of at work if I mention anything resembling the words "thesis adviser" because I work with a bunch of cretins. They would never want a bamboo/panda funeral.  No creativity and no "vision" really.

This is worth reading if you are curious about death rituals around the world or would like kind of an in-depth Atlas Obscura kind of thing. This is not heavy-duty and not an in-depth study into the various belief systems around the world. Breezy. A very breezy death book. 

Celebrate life and the end of summer with this intriguing cocktail--I mean, you only live once. Giro d' Italia:  2 ounces of good bourbon, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, 3/4 agave nectar and 2 cherry tomatoes and a few basil leaves. Muddle the cherry tomatoes and 4 basil leaves in glass and then pour into a cocktail shaker.  Add the other ingredients and shake over ice.  Strain into an old fashioned glass with a little ice. Garnish with a sprig of basil. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Heart's Invisible Furies

Do you remember those old Gold Bond Powder commercials? They claimed to heal everything from: jock itch, psoriasis, athlete's foot, tax issues...wait. The Heart's Invisible Furies is a tale for every ailment, struggle or historical event, good or bad, that could impact a gay man's life in the 20th century. It all happened for our protagonist. Think a very Irish Forrest Gump.

A big sweeping epic tale of one man's life, which is either a very interesting life or maybe a fable that is sad with elements of humor. I seem to recall Angela's Ashes was like this? Look at this tragic tale but also maybe here are some jokes?  Well, without the humor it would be extra sad. Crazy sad. Still, seems odd. I think it's an Irish thing.  A lot of people love this book. I think it was worth the time to read especially for book club for humans that lived at least some time in the 20th century. I don't know, you could be young. If so, you did not get that Forrest Gump joke...or that Gold Bond Powder joke. (Edits out A-Team joke).

I just looked up the active ingredient in Gold Bond powder and it's menthol. Menthol seems like such an anticlimactic active ingredient. Oh you'll still have fungus and be seething but pain but it will be minty fresh.

Why not cheer yourself up while doing some day drinking with Mimosa Margaritas: this makes a bunch... 2 cups orange juice, 1/2 cup tequila, 1/4 cup lime juice and stir (chill if needed).  Rim your glasses with orange juice and salt (or sugar if you like it sweet) and add you mix. Top with chilled champagne or prosecco. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Fifth Season (Broken Earth Trilogy)

Do you know your Mohs' scale? How's your plate tectonic knowledge? Well, you didn't know you'd need that geology class while trying to relax reading a fantasy book. You thought your Bachelors in Elf Sciences would be enough.  Don't worry, it's not like the math problems of The Martian. And a lot less boob jokes. Actually, no boob jokes. A boob or two will come up in this trilogy but that's a serious matter.

The series does have cool world-building based on earthquake magic. Keep in mind this is set in a post-apocalyptic world so the snacking breaks are both few and lame.  Apparently if they run out of meat they will die. Wait a minute, I haven't eaten meat in over 20 years and I'm not dead yet, so that part was irksome. You will not die. You will be regular and have energy to run from monsters. C'mon.

I liked this series much more than her other book but I have a hard time relating to her characters. They feature strong women leaders that put themselves in harm's way. Not me. I'm more like Tyrion Lannister. First, why is this now my problem to solve? Second, if it needs to be solved can my book learning and sneaky understanding of basic psychology solve the problem?  Most importantly, can I convince someone else to put themselves in harm's way?  Also, we can plan and solve problems over wine and add a little joke too. I GET YOU TYRION. 

You'll need to read these all back to back as she does not recap. The good news is that the second book is probably the best one in the series which is unusual. It is a big commitment though.

Hey, if you have a volcanic winter you're going to be missing some sunshine. So drink a Sunshine: 2 ounces of white rum, 1/2 ounce french vermouth, one ounce pineapple juice and one dash grenadine.  Combine all in shaker with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

I Might Regret This

Abbi's book about heartbreak. I don't think I've ever gone through heartbreak like the kind she describes in this book.  I had guys break up with me and it felt like getting fired from a  really crappy job... you...are firing me? How dare you? I'm sad! Oh wait, this is awesome. The longest I've been sad is three days. I've been sadder longer about being out of maraschino cherries. Hey, when you are out of the actual cherries you can put the syrup over ice's the gift that keeps on giving.

Abbi is very much a Millennial which is fine, fine, Millennials have passed baby boomers recently as the biggest generation. I welcome our new overloads. I love all the headlines that say "Millennials are killing Hooters by never going to the completely outdated concept for overpriced crappy food and misogyny." I might be paraphrasing.

I Might Regret This will make a lot more sense if you've seen Broad City. Some say you don't need to but I really think you should. Otherwise this book makes almost no sense. It's decent but at the same time don't feel bad if you skip it. She has some of her drawings in here which are quaint but also kind of crappy? I don't mean to be a hater but it kind of inspires to draw again as I would never publish those. She definitely puts herself out there in Broad City and this book. Not me. Nothing is ever good enough. A Gen X book is more title is more like: This Book Probably Sucks.

Abbi gets an over-hyped and overpriced cactus pear margarita. I think I once had a cactus pear candy. It was underwhelming. They just don't have a ton of flavor. Cute as all get-out though. Lets try a better margarita and: Raspberry Margarita mix 1 &1/2 ounces tequila, 1 ounce triple sec or Cointreau, 1 ounce lime juice, and 1/2 fresh raspberries and one cup of ice in a blender. Blend until smooth and pour into a chilled margarita glass.  Garish with a fresh raspberry. Normally I'm against frozen blended drinks but with summers like this I'm willing to forgo my prejudice.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

So Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? No. There I saved you some effort. Apparently scientists in animal behavior are kind of like PG rap-battlers...."You didn't get peer reviewed research, Fool!"  I bet you didn't even do a fellowship in that field...sucker." "Don't come all up in here with without empirical evidence to support that hypothesis....dummy."

Honestly, when I pick up a non-fiction book on animals I just want to know what dolphins are thinking. I just want some wonderment in my life is that too much to ask? The thesis is solid in this book but it takes all the wind out my sails. I just want to know about whales' what are they saying? I like to think they cover all kinds of news like: Mabel is mating with Chester this year, be careful around Japan these days, there is an underwater volcano near the Azores right now and my barnacles are really bothering me.  I'm going to try to scrape them off on Newfoundland. Hey, if you see Ethel tell her I haven't forgotten....she'll know what that means.

If you want a book more like that then you should read Alex and Me. That book made me laugh and cry. This book casually mentions her research in a polite but patronizing way.  Fine, the lady's life work is wasted. You win. But do you? She gets to spend her time with talking parrots who are ornery and adorable and you have chimps give you the side eye. Who really wins? Who am I kidding he has a fulfilling life dealing with banana hiding chimps. Most people I know spend all day trying to save an insurance company extra money or trying to sell cigarettes to babies. Even worse, they want to talk to me about their job...ewww...why can't people make up fake whale conversations like normal people?

Animals love fruit. But I suspect they don't like lemons. Too bad for them and more for me. It's hot and this sounds delicious: Limoncello Collins (This makes a pitcher--serves 8): 16 ounces of Limoncello, 12 ounces of gin, 8 ounces of fresh lemon juice, and cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Make 24 paper-thin lemon slices and press 3 lemon slices inside of a Collins glass (it's just a tallish glass), stir the mixture and add to glass and stir in 2 ounces of club soda. Garnish with a mint sprig if you will. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Romanvos

Remember the club descriptions from "Stefon" from SNL?  This book is uncannily similar.  Go to Club Romanov...there are giantesses, dwarfs, magic drinking cups...a fat lady marrying a pig, sex has everything.  Add pretty much the whole plot to Game of Thrones minus the dragons and you have a clue as to the Romanovs. (Yes, it's big and occasionally boring with everyone fighting over Poland for some reason). 

Now, anyone who writes a biography or anything really can pick and choose and this author really picked some extra juicy bits I suspect. Lots of sex and war.  A lot...of sex. Yes, venereal diseases because well, penicillin was discovered  in 1928. People got sick a lot. Syphilis, typhus, poisoning and the occasional gunshot wound. It was rough back then. Well, I think Russia might be rough right now too.

If you don't mind some military strategy it's a big book but actually more compelling than Fire and Blood. I was reading that at the same time which was really kind of freaky. The ending is certainly something GRRM would write. The whole book you'll be shaking your head like....what? What a weirdo!  No! That's dumb! You are lucky that worked!  Also, be wary of anyone called "The Great" because those folks are like frat house President and every night is pledge night.

A good classic Black Russian seems right: 1 and 1/2 ounces vodka and add 3/4 ounce coffee liquor and an optional maraschino cherry.  I have some Polish vodka and someone could fight over it if they want.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Murder of Roger Ackroyd

If you already know about the Dunning-Kruger effect than you don't probably don't suffer that illusion. I think of it as a existential experiment, am I so dumb that I think I'm smart? Well, after reading two Agatha Christie books and not figuring either out either one of them--the verdict. A little dumb. That's fine. Jokes on you, I knew that already. Hey, that's what mystery books are supposed to do, especially by a grand dame like Ms. Christie. Like when Homer conned a carny..."We were beaten by the best, boy. We were beaten by the best."

This is a Hercule Poirot book and he purposely acts like a dingbat which reminds me of another underestimated dingbat/genius who is better known as Columbo. I also feel like I'm missing a Great Britain-Belgium joke in this book. Are we supposed to think Belgians are likable but naive? Like Canadians? Even if I'm not in on the joke I think I get it. Americans must seem like Australopithecus. Hey, if Americans are the vestiges of this primitive species then why are they named after Australia? *Taps head*

Anyway, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd took an unexpected turn which surprised me. Hurrah! I definitely recommend this if you need an escape. Take this into your tree, bring some foraged nuts, your hoard of lizard heads and enjoy.

Despite my primitive nature this book deserves something sophisticated. Try this Blush Sake cocktail: 1&1/2 ounces sake (Gekkikan preferred), 1/2 ounce Cointreau, 1/2 ounce cranberry juice, splash of lime juice, 2 dashes orange bitters.  Put all this in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.  This is light enough for what Americans call sun-in-sky-before-mammoth-roam-time, aka brunch.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Rising Man (Sam Wyndham series)

A punkah wallah is not the latest burger from Carl's Jr.. It translates to "guy with the fan" who hits a pedal that operates a ceiling fan via pulleys and ropes. He lives in your house and that's all he does! My siblings had me doing some odd tasks when I was a child.  I was not unlike a weird servant you didn't notice until you felt sweaty or inconvenienced.  *startled* "Crap, you're still here? Go run upstairs and clear the blockage in the laundry chute " Me: "OK!" *runs at top speed* Gets a series of increasingly heavy books to throw down the they are stuck..gets broom--angle is all wrong..Me: "It's broken!" 

Set when Kolkata was Calcutta and the Brits were holding by a thread to their colonial empire in India. A British detective from Scotland Yard with a wealthy, smart Indian cop make an unlikely crime solving duo. Can their bosses set aside the politics and conspiracies constantly making their job harder? Can't they break the rules....just to do their job? Coming to a bookstore near you. I've been watching a lot of 80's action movies lately.

Like a lot of detectives in modern mysteries, Sam, our Scotland Yard detective is hot mess. Literally and figuratively. (It's very hot there--the heat is a like a character.)  Post-war PTSD, a widower...and a crippling opium addiction. He's been in India for a whole year and has never been to the bathroom. Well technically that's not in the book....but it's also not not in the book. Admittedly. most authors don't have characters taking a poop. Except in that book Everybody Poops.

More than a mystery series it has Ghandi-stirrings, uprisings, military issues and race issues. It's a finely researched series and I've read the first three in this series and none are lame.

I'm positive I've included a Pimm's Cup on this blog somewhere but a variation is perfect for these books: Sparkling Pimm's Cup: add 2 ounces of Pimm's No.1, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/4 ounce simple syrup to Collin's glass and stir. Add ice and club soda or ginger ale and two dashes of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a cucumber peel.   

Monday, May 6, 2019

Hippie Food

I live in a town that thinks putting beans on spaghetti chili sweetened with chocolate topped by a pound of cheese is the "healthy"option. I'm not the only one who thinks well made "healthy" food is comfort food. I really like tacos and queso but also then hate myself and then then my body is like...why you do this?

Hippie Food is a non-fiction book about the history of the health food "movement." It was really interesting in parts but also could be drier that alfalfa sprout sandwich on Melba toast. There was some real characters. Did you know Jack LaLanne exercised every day? Well, he didn't the day before he died at 96. That's probably what killed him. While the author did cover The Source Family but he barely scratched the surface of the depravity of that group. (There is a documentary that is pretty good) The food at their restaurant still sounded good though. Do I support a sex-crazed megalomaniac? What about if they had a homemade avocado and roasted vegetable sandwich with homemade dressing? I think you know what my answer is. I don't even have that option in chili-town. Is it to much to ask for a debauched tax-evading cult to set up a restaurant with grain bowls?

There is a whole history of food co-ops and how Whole Foods started I mean...I guess I care. Some people almost fell into success and other people had a combination of bad luck and anti-commercialism based rebelliousness.  I guess an anarchy based business plan is not going to get you far with the bank's loan officer. Unless there is a punk-rock bank I don't know about. I don't know about you but Bad Brains Bank sounds awesome.

You have to read this with some healthy based cocktail.  It counts as health food right? Komucha Moscow Mule: combine 2 ounces of vodka, 3-4 ounces of ginger or gingerberry kombucha and the juice of a half a lime in a highball glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

And Then There Were None

 And Then There Where None is LIT.  I don't mean literature, well, it could be construed that way too, sure, but "lit" as in the half-time show at an NBA final. You know, like gorillas dunking on trampolines. Perhaps that's hyperbole but this book is surprisingly intriguing. I did not "solve" the mystery because it was weird. Think if at the end of halftime you realize that's not a guy in the gorilla outfit...that is a gorilla trained to dunk.

This is a stand alone novel so you don't have to make any commitments and you don't need much context. It's not even long. It might be helpful to know that spending the weekend on an island in England might involve a lot of rain. I think you already know it's not the foam parties of Ibiza on the islands off the coast of Great Britain anyway.

I managed to not be spoiled even though this was written 80 years ago--so I'm not going to say much but it's short read and totally worth the time.

This cocktail is a freaky twist on a classic which fits well with this book. Gin Old Fashioned: 2 ounces Aviation gin, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, 2 dashes orange bitters, 1 dash Peychaud's bitters.  Add to a old fashioned glass and fill with ice and stir. Garnish with an orange wheel and a lemon wheel.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Fire and Blood

I'm glad I still had Adhipa the sherpa in my contact list because I needed him. Oh, did I need him. I stole him from my friend Terry who needs him for Dance with Dragons. Dance with Dragons is a Dan Brown page turner compared with Fire and Blood. Told as a retroactive history this is for the GOT completeness aficionados only. It's GRRM's Simarillion. Let that sink in.

This book is a partial history of the Targaryen reign so there are a lot of names, and places, and battles and skirmishes in those places of which I am clueless as to their location. Lord Rampart Dunkendell fought valiantly against Sir Pippette Ivybanks at the battle for Bog's Head for Aegon Targaryen--not that Aegon, the other Aegon Targaryen, also known as King Whitehead. Yeah, a lot of 900 pages of that.

You would think with the consanguinity of the Targaryen family you'd end up with a derpy prince like Charles II of Spain. "Herlo! I'm your Prince! Dameon Tamgaryen!" All of the dragons have beautiful names like Dreamfyre and Balerion and Dameon gets the derpy dragon named Jarrod. Jarrod's no good in battles and ends up landing on hills and gets mad when because every animal he tries to converse with ends up burnt to a crisp. "Why they all die Dameon?" "I don't know Jarrod, maybe try harder?" They fly around having mixed-up adventures involving getting honey out a bee-hive or making a lean-to big enough for a dragon.  Meanwhile men all over Westeros are dying over succession rights.

In honor of my derpy bee-hunting Targaryen you can celebrating reading this tome with a honey based cocktail called Wax Poetic: 2 and 1/4 ounce bison grass vodka, 1 ounce honey simple syrup. 3/4 ounce lemon juice. Add ingredients to a shaker and shake, strain into a glass.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

I'm afraid to watch Black Mirror anymore. I'm not crazy about the story-line this world is currently working. I mean, that Nosedive episode is based on the Chinese social rating system. In China, you can lose points for and I'm not making this up: jaywalking, eating junk food, playing video games and get this---insincere apologies. I welcome our new robot overlords. *closes blinds and reads analog books*

Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle seems like an Agatha Christie novel but is really a more like a Black Mirror episode. Also, it is really confusing. Some readers are so confused they are just plain angry. Keep in mind, it's pedal to the metal the whole time. It's not a relaxing cozy mystery. Maybe if you think cocaine laced meth is relaxing. By the way, I just looked up what the name of this concoction might be and there was surprisingly detailed information about combining these drugs on Quora. Over five thousand people had looked at the answer. I'm like what are you guys up to on these internets?  I'm looking up narwhals over here and you all are...I mean. I really don't think they were all doing joke research.

This is different. I'll give you that. The ending is wholly unsatisfying but if you want Downton Abbey set in a dystopian mystery nightmare than this book fits the bill.

This cocktail won a cocktail contest in 1934 but is named after the bartender's wife an not the monarch--c'mon man, that's lame. Queen Elizabeth: 1&1/2 ounces dry vermouth, 3/4 ounce benedictine, 3/4 ounce lime juice. Shake in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ancillary Justice

What was the name of that book? Appurtenance Recompense? No, Concomitant Reparation?  No. These sound like erudite working titles for Die Hard. Well, Ancillary Justice is a weird book title. It's the name of a spaceship and that makes sense because this book is a space opera. (I always say "SPACE OPERA" in a dramatic Sideshow Mel-type voice). This spaceship is more just a ship. You find out right away that the AI is quasi-sentient so that's not a spoiler. I mean at what point does independent decision making make something sentient? When it makes moral decision? Could you program morality into an AI? Maybe someone could put a morality code into some natural born humans I know, because that would be great.

There are some very modern sci-fi concepts to this book. It blurs the lines between our perception between humans and robots, male and female, good and evil. You know, just easy stuff. Also there is an abundance of tea. It's like a British person in Japan tea drinking adventure. Got a problem--drink some tea, feeling homesick--tea, feeling upper middle class today--more tea, feeling superior to others--tea time, stressed--more tea. Beyond tea, there is ninja level fighting, political strategies and well, more much tea. She should have called this Ancillary Bladder. I liked it but didn't love it, there are some slow parts and I confess I'm not a huge SPACE OPERA fan. I know some respectable humans that really liked this. Your programming may vary.

I think you are required to drink a tea based cocktail--Royal Tea: 1&1/2 ounces gin, 2 ounces chilled brewed Earl Grey tea, splash of lemon juice and some sugar to taste. Put all of the ingredients in a chilled glass with ice and stir.  Garnish with a lime wheel.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


Putting the twee in tweed this quasi-British fantasy novel features a chase scene with proper "Gentlemen" in suits with handlebar mustaches on bikes. I was surprised they didn't throw miniature poodles at each other. Take that, rapscallion! Get 'em Ruffles! Bite his leg...ok, ok, at least pull a single thread out of his bespoke suit! That'll show 'em. No play for Mr. Fray. 

This is a mystery urban fantasy novel set in an alternative Britain after a WWI- type thingy. Only the aristocrats are allowed to do magic and something awfully fishy is going on with these returning soldiers. Maybe our magical doctor can save the day...or can he? There are all kinds of things going in this book, a
LGBT love story, a magical system to set up, an oligarchy, family disputes, workplace issues, ghosts, dead guys and a world class typist. All in 318 pages. Whew. 
Witchmark made some people's best fantasy lists of 2018 but lets not go crazy. It's a perfectly fine fantasy and as a first novel it's good. Best....well...maybe if they put more references to men's capes, boater hats, various puddings, canaries, teas, antique snuff boxes and yes, even more bikes. I think this is just the first one in a series so there is hope yet. 

While it's freezing today I have hope that spring is around the corner. Read this with a bespoke Cucumber Basil Gimlet: Muddle a few basil leaves and two slices of cucumber in a shaker, add ice and 1&1/2 ounces of vodka (I think a nice neutral gin would work just fine too), add one ounce of lemonade and 1/4 ounce of lime juice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Drink while picking invisible lint off your lapels.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Death of Mrs. Westaway

In the first scene of this book the main character is walking home with fish and it's British. There is some tea drinking, whiskey drinking, someone wears a Macintosh so it checks some British mystery bingo squares for sure. It does not include a reference to Monty Don, the famous British gardener.  He is huge in England and says things like Crikey!

While not as cheery as Monty, Ruth Ware tries to break the fourth wall in a little bit in this book. Our protagonist thinks her situation is like something out of an Agatha Christie novel. I'm not that big of fan of that technique. First, you are comparing yourself to a Dame of the British Empire. Next, you're going to try to compare your boobs to Dame Helen Mirren. Just don't go there because you will lose that game. Even though it is a stand alone book it leaves a some loose ends which is mildly infuriating. Those criticisms aside I did like this book. It has a nice vibe and if you like mysteries then you'll like it. I really like the beginning scenes which are set on a windswept English coastal boardwalk where our pixie protagonist reads tarot cards. But the vast majority is set in a country manor house with at least one gnarled and creepy servant. BINGO both diagonally and up the center.

Most of the whiskey drinking in this book is imbibed in neat form. Totally acceptable. In case you want a cocktail, this one sounds just crazy enough to be work: Sage Brown Derby: 2 ounces of rye, one ounce red or regular grapefruit juice, 1/2 ounce lime juice, 1/4 ounce agave nectar and few dashes of bitters. Put in a cocktail shaker with ice and really give it a good shake, strain into glasses.  Take a sage leaf and rub it between your hands and float it on the top of the drink. 


Friday, January 18, 2019


If my hoarding ever paid off and in a dytopian future you needed me to leave my compound David Koresh style, it turns out my weakness is blasting Billy Joel. I will run away faster than if you had thrown a Maltov cocktail.  I was in a craft store the other day and I thought it would be a good place to plan a revolution, like ya do, and then they blasted We Didn't Start The Fire and I high-tailed it out of there so fast. I thought NO DEAL, no deal!
Set in a dytopian future, Borne is set in very bleak scenario involving corporate biotech and monsters. Think "CRISPR" meets Dr. Moreau. Our lady, Rachel, finds a creature she named Borne but no one knows who the heck it, or what it is. Here's the deal, I love the creature Borne, he is a delight. But I'm not crazy about scavenger runs across the dystopian landscape. I said I was going to take a break from dystopia in 2018 and even though this is decent I should have kept that promise.

At least our protagonist has a normal name. I'm sick of reading the author's rejected baby names. "Finnegan" was worried that the shadow was following him.  Or "Blakely" wasn't sure she could trust the handsome stranger named "Sage." Ugh. So our girl, Rachel (whew), lives in this place has that has a stash of supplies and a maze like entrance which is an important plot point. My old house is apparently a food utopia with multiple security breaches. We've had some mice over the years. The cats do nothing. I'm convinced that there is a little hobo-mouse symbol at my house that says "Food + 2 dumb cats."

In this book you can get drunk by sucking on a biotech minnow full of alcohol. Sounds delicious. I think we can do better than that: Kentucky Mulled Cider--put 1&1/4 ounces of bourbon in a mug and add warm apple cider, put a dash of allspice and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Summer Wives

Was the past sexier than we think? Well, there are 7.2 billion people right now so maybe so, maybe so. Goodreads considers Summer Wives historical fiction. Well, I guess technically if you think a Jackie Collins novel with hats is historical fiction then fine. The author feels that she should write novels about "what women were really feeling" back in the olden times. My take away was sex, sex, drinks and more sex. While I loved history as a student this was not what we covered. Ok, those Spartan soldiers were a little freaky. That was covered in college. I went to a Catholic high school so they conveniently skipped some details.

They say teenagers are having less sex because they are on their phones all the damn time. Summer Wives was set in the 50's and at one point the young people signal each other with flashlights so I mean, that's kind like texting. I wonder if you could make filthy messages with Morse Code. Baby, I didn't think you were going to send that last dot but wow, you did.

Summer Wives was not really my thing. I liked the setting (a small island --a rich summer place, like the Hamptons off the coast of Rhode Island) but that's not good enough. But hey, if you like your historical fiction with less guns and more buns then this might be up your alley. 

They drink a lot in this book. While mostly gin and tonics, someone busts out some whiskey.  This seems classy enough for the "tony" set: Port Old Fashioned: 2 ounces of whisky, 1/2 ounce tawny port, a drizzle of maple syrup, 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and orange peel.  Take the orange peel and muddle it with the syrup and bitters to release the oils. Add the whiskey and port and one of those large ice cubes. Stir to dilute.