Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sparkling Blueberry Peach Lemontini

In honor of the title story in The Vampires in the Lemon Grove, I made something with a lemon base. I wanted something that would be light and refreshing. I thought about using lemoncello, but occasionally that gets a bit syrupy for me. So I started with some lemonade, added a bit of blueberry vodka and added some peach flavored sparkling water. No real measurements needed for this one, I just did everything to taste. By the time I got my blend just right it was close to 1 part blueberry vodka, 2 parts lemonade and 1 part sparkling water.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vampires in the Lemon Grove

I usually don't go for short story collections, but this was written up in a magazine I was reading last month and the review was really good, so I thought I'd give it a try. That's probably something to keep in mind for this review. It's kind of like asking someone who doesn't like chocolate what they thought of a batch of brownies.

I wanted to like it, but I was not impressed. It was just weird and kind of unsettling. One story where girls physically transform into silk worms, an old vampire watching lemons fall, seagulls picking up debris from the future. Some interesting concepts and some interesting perspectives, but all in all not a book I'd recommend. I only gave it two stars on Goodreads, which is pretty low and rare for me.

Having said that, there are a few things that had they been longer and more in depth, I think I would have really liked them. The language was beautiful, and descriptions were wonderful. I felt like I could picture everything just as the author did. That might be enough to get me looking for something else by this author.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gone Girl: The Last Word

I came across this recipe while cleaning out my old copies of Bon Apetit magazine. This one was originally featured in their November 2011 issue. The name of the drink really sold me on using it for Gone Girl. I mean how perfect is "the last word" for a book that ends with a character taking exactly that?

1/4 cup gin
2 Tbsp Chartreuse
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp maraschino liquer
2 lime twists

Pour gin, Chartreuse, lime juice and maraschino liquer into a shaker. Add ice, cover and shake vigourously. Garnish with the lime twists.

If you're looking at the picture with the ingredients on the left, you'll notice two things I did differently. I didn't use maraschino liquer- I couldn't find it. Apparently my fancy liquor store isn't quite fancy enough. I did however find some black cherry liquer, so I substituted it. It was a bit more bitter than I expect the maraschino liquer would be so I went with sweetened lime juice instead of fresh for balance. I also added a splash of lemon juice.

It's worth noting that the Big Guy, who is in general not a gin drinker really liked this cocktail. There's a really nice blend between all of the flavors in the glass and it's pretty smooth.

If you've never had it before, Chartreuse is a French liquer with a strong herbal flavor. I like it and thought it paired really well with the gin in this case.

The original recipe calls for serving this drink in a coupe glass, which I love but don't actually have. I used our martini glasses instead.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gone Girl

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I'm a little late to the party when it comes to reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Chances are you've heard the buzz about this book already. Let me just say that all the buzz is well deserved.

I didn't want to step away from the story. The characters had so much depth and so much of that depth was various levels of crazy. I loved reading them while at the same time I didn't like them. I find that to be a very difficult balance and I'm always impressed with an author who can manage to make it happen.

I opted to listen to this book instead of reading it and I think the narrators did a fantastic job bringing Amy and Nick to life. I actually looked forward to cleaning out my closets over the weekend because I knew it would be my chance to finish the story and I couldn't wait to see how Ms. Flynn was going to end it.

It should go without saying that there are going to be spoilers in this and any review I do, but just in case...

I loved her critique on the roll the media plays in the news and defining what's true. Everything gets sensationalized so much and we look for a good story more than the truth sometimes. At first I just thought Nick was awkward and had some unfortunate moments in front of the camera. I quickly started to think that there was more to his actions than what he was letting on in his narrative since withholding information seemed to be so much of what he was doing.

My jaw hit the floor when I finally grasped the extent of Amy's plan and her repeated pattern of completely destroying those who got in the way of what she wanted and wouldn't force themselves to fit into the role she had designed for them. To take so much time to plan out all the details of the disappearance and to leave so many open options as back up is so far beyond anything that I could imagine. It's like everyone was disposable to her once they no longer fit into her vision.

Poor, Desi. I mean he wasn't exactly a night in shining armor, but I don't think he deserved what Amy did to him. Plus I loved the idea that she was going to fake her own murder and then wind up as Desi's prisoner. Payback being a bitch and all. What I liked about him was that he clearly wasn't afraid of Amy and was willing to make her pay for what she did to him unlike the others from her past. In reality their responses of just moving on and keeping their distance were the right choice, but that doesn't make for very exciting reading.

Not that Nick was perfect. I wanted to like him, and I did for a while. But then we found out about his affair and he was much less likable. I kept waiting for there to be more to it, or for him to turn the tables and actually kill Amy. I like the way it was written much better than what I had in mind, though.

I may be the only one I know who liked the ending. It left me a little disturbed and almost physically feeling cold, which is exactly what I liked about it. Neither one of them is truly happy with how things ended up, and I'm going to assume that both will continue plotting against each other for as long as they can.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads- something I haven't done in a long time.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Inferno: Chocolate-Chili and Cream

After this book, Dan Brown's Inferno, I felt like I needed a drink, and I definitely wanted to have something with a little heat for this cocktail. So I revisited the chocolate-chili liqueur we had in our bar. I've used this one before to make a really tasty martini.

It has just the right amount of lingering heat at the end. It's a great balance to the sweetness of the chocolate flavor that hits you up front. Even with that, I don't think I could drink this one straight, well maybe I could, but I probably shouldn't. So I decided to add a bit of cream to soften the whole thing up a bit.

By cream, I actually mean milk because that's what we had in the fridge at the time. I'd do cream next time, but much less than what you see in the picture. Adding the cream/milk actually gave a pretty cool look to the glass. Where it meets the liqueur and starts to mix on its own you get a smoky effect, which I thought was a happy accident for tying in with the book.

All in, yummy dessert cocktail that actually ties in nicely with the book.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Inferno Thoughts

This is the fourth, and the most recently released book in Dan Brown's Robert Langdon series. In this installment, Robert wakes up in an Italian hospital recovering from being shot, but with no memories of why he was shot and why he's in Italy in the first place. He can't work out the details of his situation on his own so must rely on his doctor, Sienna, to help him first escape the assassin who comes back for him in the hospital and then to evade more pursuers in black SUVs. No one trustworthy ever drives around in black vans or SUVs in mystery novels, have you noticed that, too?

Throughout the chase and the clues and the discovery, one thing really stood out for me. I want to go to Florence. I am more than a little interested in seeing the places and the artwork described in person. It sounds amazing.

Back to the story. Here's where I get a little upset with things. It came too easily again. There was more of a struggle, but not as much as I think there should have and could have been for the plot to be a bit more realistic. I liked the addition of the Provost and his organization aboard the ship The Mendacium. It gave a very 007 feel to what was going on. Modern-day mercenaries are always interesting to me. Their role also gave me multiple instances where I found myself questioning whether I knew who the "bad guys" really were.

As Robert and Sienna move through Florence into Istanbul, they are trying to save the world from a plague that's been developed by our mad-scientist/humanist villain- Zobrist. The driving force behind Zobrist's work is that he sees a need for a major change in humanity and how we treat the planet if we as a species are to survive. His desire is to somehow change the rate at which new people come into the world. He thinks we're breeding to quickly and at a rate that is not sustainable. His plague would put an end to that. It would actually make 1/3 of the world's population sterile. Sterile.

Here's where I got mad at the book. I actually think there is some danger of people causing irreparable damage to our world. However, I think that there are a lot of things we can do that will help mitigate this damage that fall well short of mass-sterilization. What right does someone else have to decide whether or not I should be able to have children? How can someone else dare to assume they know what decisions I would make if given all the options that I have now? At the risk of oversharing, this issue hit a little too close to home for me. The Big Guy and I are trying to expand our family and it's not going quite the way we expected. We thought it would be easier than it is, and it's been the source of a lot of frustration and a lot of tears for me. He's amazing and absolutely my rock in everything, but especially in this. So to think that some lunatic in a lab would make the choice about whether I can have a baby without my knowledge and without my consent makes my blood boil.

Langdon doesn't win this time, the plague is released and the world will forever be changed and I can't say it's for the better. I gave this book 3 stars out of 5 possible on Goodreads.

As much as I disliked what happened, there were a variety of passages that I did like. A few of those that stood out to me are below.

"The decisions of our past are the architects of our present." p20

"Nothing is more creative ... nor destructive ... than a brilliant mind with a purpose." p163

"Only one form of contagion travels faster than a virus. ... And that's fear." p428

"Remember tonight, for it's the beginning of forever." p457

"Dante's poem, Langdon was now reminded, was not so much about the misery of hell as it was about the power of the human spirit to endure any challenge, no matter how daunting." p463

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lost Symbol: Old Fashioned

For this book, The Lost Symbol, I wanted to play off the history and the traditions associated with the Masons. So I went with a traditional Old Fashioned.

1 sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 ounces bourbon
1 tablespoon club soda
1 strip of lemon peel (for garnish)

In a rocks glass, combine the sugar cube, bitters and club soda. Muddle to a paste. Stir in the bourbon. Add ice cream and garnish with a two-inch strip of lemon peel. I also added a dash of lemon juice, and upped the club soda.

Great bourbon flavor, and a very smooth drink.