Random Tag Tuesday: The Playlist Book Tag (Part 2)


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Random Tag Tuesday is a feature I came up with in order to mix things up a bit.  The name is a throwback to my college days when Tuesdays were the day for, well, random adventures.  For my blog, it will mean that on any given Tuesday I’ll tackle one of the many tags I always wanted to write about but never got around to.  Please note that most of these will come from my backlog notes and that I am terrible about keeping track of where I find these. As such, I probably will rarely, if ever, tag anyone.  It is not personal.

If you happen to look back to my Part 1 of my Playlist Tag, you’ll see that this was one I really wanted to explore further.  Now that I’ve better organized my music I am ready to do another installment.  As a quick refresher, my goal here is to listen to five songs at random and then associate them with a book or character I’ve read.  As always, a big thank you to the video posters!

Lithium Flower, Scott Matthew/Yoko Kanno: Breq (Imperial Radch Series, by Ann Leckie)

And is she really human?

She’s just so something new

A waking lithium flower

Just about to bloom

I smell lithium now

Smelling lithium now

This song immediately made me think of Brew given “her” rather unique existence as a former Justice of Toren auxiliary.  She also has some common ground with Major Motoko Kusanagi, for whom the song was originally written.  Apparently the full version isn’t available on YouTube, but can be found here.

Been Caught Stealing, Jane’s Addiction: Wayne (Mistborn, Era 2, by Bradon Sanderson)

I’ve been caught stealing

Once when I was 5

I enjoy stealing

It’s just as simple as that

Well, it’s just a simple fact

When I want something,

I don’t want to pay for it

I walk right through the door

Walk right through the door

So technically Wayne doesn’t steal things necessarily, but most people he comes across don’t appreciate his enthusiasm for making unannounced trades of whatever he may have on him for things he likes more.

Secret Wars, Part One, Last Emperor – Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

What if I had the/power to gather/all of my favorite emcees

With the illest comic book characters/and they became arch enemies?

Inconceivable? Unbelievable? Yet as wild as it seems

The Emperor and Stan Lee would coach the two opposing teams

The off the wall fun provided by this track’s constant name dropping of comic book characters and hip hop artists makes me thing of the pop culture mashup that was Ready Player One.  This track is serious fun thanks to both the lyrical content and Last Emperor’s superb voice acting.  Notable battles include Professor X vs. KRS-One, Dr. Octopus vs. Busta Rhymes, Lauren Hill vs. Storm, and Das Fx vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Zero Signal, Fear Factory: Shallan Davar (The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson)

So withdrawn and feeling numb

Watching life come all undone

Growing fear, a human grace

A drowning mind in a dark embrace

While Shallan is one of my favorite characters from this world, she certainly hits some very dark places for a variety of reasons.  As for the song, I just love its energy despite some rather bleak lyrics.  It makes want to get up and move.

Hand on tha Pump, Cypress Hill: Amos Burton (The Expanse)

Thinkin’ like a peace smoke, comin’ on a homicide

You talkin’ shit, tryna take me for a ride

I’m not a bad guy, but I’m the funky feel

Finger on the trigger with my hands upon the steel

To find a character from my recent reads that best embodies a casual, almost gleeful embrace of street violence it’s Amos Burton.  Sure he has some redeeming qualities and is absolutely a guy you want on your side, he is also a highly efficient killer shaped by a very rough upbringing.

Book Review: Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S.A. Corey (Book Eight in The Expanse Series)


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If you’ve been following my reviews for the past couple of years, you may have noticed that I have had some rather mixed feelings about The Expanse series.  I’m in way too deep to turn back now though, so here we go with book eight, published in March 2019.

The story picks up several years after the end of the previous novel and deals with the aftermath of its events.  The action focuses specifically upon the fledgling resistance to Laconian conquest, James Holden’s imprisonment, and High Consul Duarte’s continued experiments with protomolecule technology despite increasingly severe push back from some unknown force.  These stories unfold from the perspective of old friends Elvi Okoye, Naomi, Alex, Bobbi, and Holden along with newcomer Teresa Duarte, daughter of the Laconia colony’s ruthless ruler.   

Wow, now this was the book I’ve been waiting for!  Here is where the series finally steps up to its potential and delivers a huge payoff for the reader following all the starts and stops I’ve written about in the past.  No longer held captive by the often frustrating whims of James Holden, this intriguing universe has now fully opened up to stories on many fronts, each headed by a character we’ve come to know and care about.

It was for precisely these reasons that this installment hit all the right notes for me and avoided many of my previous criticisms.  The story was excellent and advanced both the galactic politics and protomolecule arcs to some really interesting place while simultaneously providing plenty of action, intrigue, and philosophical quandaries.  That it also at long last starred a full cast of characters you could actually care about (Holden included), made this read even sweeter. The former Roci crew really do feel like old friends at this point, Elvi remained fantastic, and the addition of Teresa offered a very interesting perspective on the enemy camp.  Not to give away too much, but when certain prominent characters die each hurt in a way I don’t think would have been possible in the previous books. My only complaint here is that I wish the authors more slowly revealed a certain character’s true identity.  I knew immediately who it was and I think the impact of their death would have been even greater if they kept us guessing until closer to the end.

At this point I am now pretty excited about the upcoming finale, even though I am a bit worried that it will have a lot to wrap up in a relatively short amount of space.  Shortly after finishing the book I came across another post in which the reviewer mentioned that reading the novellas associated with this series made the read even better and for the first time in eight books I am tempted to do so.  If you were like me and on the fence about whether or not to continue this series, my answer to you now is to do so. This story was totally worth getting through the occasional disappointing read for.

Halloween Double Feature: Evil Genius Beer Company – Trick or Treat


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Welcome to the evening edition of my annual Halloween Double Feature!  I know I went through some dark and scary brews leading up to this moment, but when examining my beer haul for the month, how could I not pick this as my main event Halloween brew?

Beer Name: Trick or Treat

Brewery: Evil Genius Beer Company (Philadelphia, PA)

Style: Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

ABV: 7.8%

Description: The Brewers started out with a “rich, robust porter” and then spiced it up with seasonal go-tos cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.  For good measure they added in a bunch of chocolate post fermentation. Read all about it here.

Appearance: It poured a thick, dark brown body with absolutely no head to speak of.

Smell: Rather sweet, with spices notes lingering in the background.

Taste: Spice, mainly nutmeg, upfront followed by a brief period of sweetness.  From there comes a bitter chocolate and moderate roast finish starts building, with hints of cinnamon popping up along the way.  The tastes were a little disjointed when first poured, but came together a bit more as the beer was allowed to sit for a few minutes.

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus with low carbonation.

Hype: This brewery has come through for me before in backing up their gimmicky names, so I was somewhat hopeful going into this.  This is the main event review after all!

Overall: On the whole this wasn’t really my ideal flavor profile, but I suppose I should have known what I was getting into.  I will say, however, that when paired with chocolate candy this beer took on an entirely new life. It felt smoother, with a more cohesive and muted spice blend.  And for that it gets bonus points in my book!

Have a happy, fun, and safe Halloween night everyone!!!

Halloween Double Feature: The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djeli Clark


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Good morning and Happy Halloween!  Welcome to part one of my annual Halloween Double Feature.  My first post of the day is a review of a spooky sounding novella I’ve been saving for this occasion.  Published in February 2019, it was also yet another read that I’d really been looking forward throughout the year.

The story is set in an alternate version of Cairo, Egypt in the year 1912.  In this world, Djinn and other supernatural natural entities have come to live openly alongside humans, transforming the city into a modern, prosperous metropolis.  Among their most prominent achievements is a system of magically endowed tram cars that offer a means of clean, efficient travel high above the busy streets. When one of these cars becomes the scene of some unusual happenings, however, it is up to Agent Hamed Nasr and his rookie partner Onsi Youssef of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities to investigate and restore order.

I had a lot of fun reading this as pretty much everything about the novella hit the right notes for me.  There was just a certain energy to the world that I found captivating, and I enjoyed the ways in which steampunk elements existed side by side with the magical to create something truly interesting.  It also helps that I tend to like a good detective story and watching this one play out in this setting was simply amazing to behold. That the action also occurred against the backdrop of preparations for  a massive Women’s Suffrage demonstration brought the story up to yet another level while at the same time making it feel more grounded and real. What brought it all home for me though was the rapport between the more cynical Hamed and the overly enthusiastic Onsi.  Their relationship managed to feel fresh and authentic despite being sounding like a pretty common pairing and gave the reader excellent eyes through which to encounter these events. Add in the other characters, particularly Superintendent Bashir, an uninspiring Tram official with a sweet tooth, and Abla, a shockingly well-connected waitress, and you have all the makings of an impressive novel packed into 100 or so pages.

I really don’t want to give away any bit of this story, so I’ll close by saying again what a pleasure this was to read.  This was easily one of my favorites of the year and I give it my highest recommendations. Being a novella, however, it went by entirely too fast so make sure you have more from the author in queue for when you finish!

13 Days of Halloween – Day Twelve: Sam & Max Freelance Police in Beast From the Cereal Aisle, by Steve Purcell


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Since I pulled out this old comic collection for last month’s Geek Out Challenge, I figured I might as well revisit some of my old favorites. This particular adventure sees our furry anti-heros hired to investigate an outbreak of paranormal activity at the local supermarket.  Equipped with little more than a Ouija board and a lasso, it’s up to them to stop the terror and refocus the malevolent energy into something a bit more positive. But is it a demon? A monster? A spiritual representation of the “collected sorrow and frustration of all those whose apple cart and roadside beef stand businesses were steamrolled into the ground by cold, sterile Megamarts?”  Does it really even matter so long as there’s free food an opportunity for the duo’s particular brand of comedic violence?

This was a fun trip down memory lane, but man are these comics weird.  The tale is admittedly a bit juvenile, but I still liked it for the nonsensical fun that it was.  I’d recommend this to anyone familiar with the characters from their games, but otherwise this one may be limited in its appeal.  As a more or less lifelong Massachusetts resident, though, I must say that the “Lobsta Fahts” cereal box that appears in the background makes me chuckle every time I see it.  Is it immature? Yes. Does it entertain me? Also yes. Moving on.

Now that I’ve sufficiently indulged my not so inner child, make sure you all tune in tomorrow for my annual Halloween Double Feature!  I’ve got some more serious material lined up and a beverage to share!

13 Days of Halloween – Day Eleven: Jackie O’s Brewery – Dark Apparition


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I apparently managed to round up a rather spooky collection of brews this month!  This next one comes at you with additional props as well.

Beer Name: Dark Apparition

Brewery: Jackie O’s Brewery (Athens, OH)

Style: Russia Imperial Stout

ABV: 10.5%

Description: Dark malts and bold flavors abound in this brewer’s favorite.  Check out the official description here for more information.

Appearance: Dark brown/black body with a short-lived beige lacing from the pour.

Smell: Rich dark malts mingled with molasses and bourbon.

Taste: A strong dark malt backbone topped by a sweet bourbon hear upfront followed by notes of dark chocolate and molasses about halfway into the sip.  The finish was warm, with a layer of dark roast covering an excellent barrel presence.

Mouthfeel: On the thinner side of medium and rather slick.  Very low level carbonation.

Hype: Elevated due to the brewery’s reputation and cost if the bottle.  At $16 my wife informs me that this accounted for almost half of our beer expenditures for my Halloween theme this year.

Overall: It was a good beer, but could have potentially been much more than that with a thicker mouthfeel.  The slickness and relatively thin body did make the beer dangerously easy to drink, but that’s not really what I want in a brew like this.  I also think that a heartier body would have carried the big tastes a bit better. Considering the price I would probably not repeat this one in the future.

13 Days of Halloween – Day Ten (Music Monday): Halloween Playlist (Part 3)


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One more playlist coming at you on the final Music Monday before Halloween!  Here are five more of my favorites presented once again in no particular order.  As always, thank you to the original posters.

Somebody’s Watching Me, by Rockwell (1983)

I’ve been hearing this song everywhere this year!  Although I was momentarily tempted to go with the Beatfreakz cover as the more Halloween-y version, I quickly decided that I needed to stick with the original after re-watching the video.

Oogie Boogie’s Song, by Ken Page (1993)

My son has been super into The Nightmare Before Christmas this year so I had to include at least one song from the movie.  This one is probably his second favorite, right after This is Halloween (featured last year).

Dead Man’s Party, by Oingo Boingo (1985)

I’m including this one at the risk of leaning a little too heavy on the Danny Elfman stuff this year.  The song, however, is such a Halloween party staple that I couldn’t leave it off.

I Put a Spell on You, by Various Artists

Pick your version, Nina Simone, Marilyn Manson, Anne Lenox, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc.  The list goes on and on. This song is awesome and it’s been covered so many times you’re sure to find a version to suit your mood.  For this post I’m going with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.  It think it was the laughing and screams that did it for me.

Cannibal Buffet, by Voltaire (2007)

Ahh…Voltaire.  It seems only appropriate that I end this list with some silly dark humor.  Happy Halloween, folks!

13 Days of Halloween – Day Nine: Avery Brewing Company – Samael’s (2015)


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As we start wrapping up pre-Halloween weekend,  I’m checking in today with another demonic brew I had lurking in my closet for a few years.

Beer Name: Samael’s

Brewery: Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO)

Style: Oak Aged Ale

ABV: 14.6%

Description: Another entry in the brewery’s Demons of Ale series, this one was named for the noted Angel of Death.  My bottle for this review was dated May 2015 and part of Batch 11 and you can read more about the specs here.

Appearance: Reddish light-brown body with a topping of off-white foam.

Smell: Sweet caramel and sugar sweetness

Taste: It started out on the sweet side with an inviting blend of caramel/toffee malt sweetness that gradually took on some honey notes as well.  A light oak influence came through on the end combined, combined with a soft candy-like sweetness and a bit of heat.

Mouthfeel: Full, smooth body with minimal carbonation.

Hype: I was excited by this one considering how much I enjoyed the other beer I had from this series.

Overall: Fantastic!  Another beer that my wife and I both loved, I also nominate it as one of my favorite brews from the past year.  Great blend of sweetness, malt, heat, and barrel influence, pretty much everything about this turned out top notch.

13 Days of Halloween – Day Eight:  B. Nektar, Zombie Killer Hard Cider


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I’ll admit that I’ve long been intrigued by the artwork on this, but I never picked this up on account of not really being all that into hard cider.  My wife, however, thought this was way too good an option to pass up for my Halloween series.

CiderCider Name: Zombie Killer

Brewery: B. Nektar (Ferndale, MI)

Style: Hard Cider

ABV: 5.5%

Description: A hard apple cider brewed with honey and cherries.  Read all about the brew and its ingredients here.

Appearance: Poured to an easy to see through pinkish/red body.

Smell: Sweet cider notes with a hint of tart cherry.

Taste: It started with a fresh and delicious apple cider base before rich honey notes settled in on top.  This sweetness was then followed by a layering of tart cherry that peaked around the end of the sip.  Crisp, clean finish.

Mouthfeel: Rich, medium-plus body with low level carbonation.

Hype: Slightly elevated, but for personal reasons.  The brewery has an excellent reputation and this is a beverage I’d had eye on for awhile now.

Overall: This was amazing!  An excellent blending of sweet honey and tart cherry made this an appealing sensory experience across the board (for the sake of argument let’s just say it sounded great too).  My wife and I both loved this and will definitely be picking up more.

13 Days of Halloween – Day Seven: Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne


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Stepping away from the brews for a bit, the next item on my Halloween countdown is a short story from the famed American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne published in 1835.  I want to send a major thank you out to my wife on this for not only helping me through a writer’s block, but for also remembering that she had this story in an anthology she saved from our college days.

Set in the Puritan town of Salem, MA this is the story of a young man named Goodman Brown and his wife Faith.  One evening, Goodman Brown meets with a mysterious traveler with a serpentine walking stick. They then proceed to walk through a dark, foreboding forest on an errand our protagonist fearfully describes as evil.  He eventually arrives at the scene of a dark ritual in which many of his fellow townsfolk, known sinners and esteemed church officials alike, are participating. Shaken by what he sees, Goodman returns a changed and bitter man.

This was solid recommendation from my wife and a very interesting read.  Despite being only 10 pages long, there was a lot packed into this tale. The dark imagery is established early and often to cast a particularly eerie and ominous feeling over the story.  Also, as with any tale of Puritanism, confrontation with sin runs explicitly rampant throughout and is the motivating force and concern of all involved and makes the experiences of Goodman seem very internalized and personal despite the seemingly external nature of the threat.  I imagine much has been much discussion and analysis of this work over the years so I’ll skip all that and just close my two big questions:

  • Where did Goodman meet the Traveler and what was he expecting to happen when they met in the woods?  It seemed early on that it was to be some sort of scandalous rendezvous than admission to a dark communion.
  • How much of this “really” happened and how much was just a dream/hallucination fueled by hyper religious society?

If you’ve read this, please feel free to comment on these below!

(Image Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/ZQoxShyE3RHiDRct6)