Ty Johnston: life on the written page

Home to fantasy, horror and literary fiction author Ty Johnston

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 28 -- Pawn of Prophecy: Book One of The Belgariad

by David Eddings

Started: April 10
Finished: April 18

Notes: I've strayed from fiction for the last couple of months and I've been feeling the need for it, so I turn to this fantasy series. By all rights I should have read at least some of Eddings' fantasy works when they first came out in the 1980s because I was reading lots of fantasy back then, but for some reason I never got around to it. Now I will.

Mini review: Not bad. Not great and not overly complex while sticking to more than a number of basic fantasy tropes, but still a fairly pleasant read. Obviously I'm not in love with this book, but it was interesting enough to want to keep me reading more since I've got the second and third books waiting in the wings. For a somewhat light fantasy read but one that's not so simplistic as to be insulting, I can suggest this novel.

Beer of the Week: RJ Rockers Patriot Pale

Beer score: 6.7

Company: RJ Rockers

ABV: 5.2
IBU: 35

RJ Rockers has been bringing quality brews to the Spartanburg, South Carolina, region since 1997, and this was one of their flagship beers. This American pale ale has a nice gold, cloudy look to it in a glass, and a slightly malty and citrus scent. Very wet, with a frothy head and a strong hoppy bitter flavor that goes down smooth. There's also a touch of caramel flavoring with hints of citrus. The taste is stronger than the scent, so don't be fooled and don't say I didn't warn you. This is not an overly complex beer, but it is quite a good one. This would make an excellent staple beer for any connoisseur's fridge. And in case you wanted to know, RJ Rockers is a microbrewery, and their brews are handcrafted.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 27 -- Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

by Brett Morgen with Richard Bienstock

Started: April 9
Finished: April 9

Notes: Having just finished reading a book about one tragic musician who died too young, Hank Williams, I turn to this book about the famed Nirvana frontman from my own generation. This book was an accompaniment to an HBO documentary that came out a few years ago.

Mini review: Nearly all this book is a collection of interviews with some of Kurt Cobain's friends and family. Much of it was nothing new to me, but it did point out how complex and tortured an individual Cobain was. The last few pages were the saddest with people recalling Cobain's suicide and the aftermath. There's not a lot of breadth here, so it will definitely help to know more than just the basics of Cobain's life, but there are some depths plumbed. Fans of Cobain will want to check this one out.

Beer of the Week: Abbott Ale

Beer score: 4.4

Company: Greene King

ABV: 5.0
IBU: Not reported

I first tried Abbott Ale a couple of decades ago and found it only slightly above mediocre, so recently I had the opportunity and tried it again. Unfortunately, I can't say it's much better this time around.

Oh, it's not an awful beer, not even a truly bad beer, but it didn't taste anything overly special or unique to me. It's a tad stronger in flavor and scent than your typical draught ale from Britain, and it has a nice head to it, so that much isn't bad. The coloring is a weaker-though-not-quite-light caramel and there's a touch of sweetness in the smell and the taste.

For better or worse, this beer seemed kind of watery to me, sort of thin. This could make it a fine beer for guzzling at the pub, but there's not enough here to make me want break it out at a beer tasting, nor would I really want to sit around and sip this at home on those nights when I'm in the mood for only a drink or two but a drink or two of something special.

Can you drink this? Sure. To repeat, it's not a bad beer. But any beer snob friends you might have will probably turn their noses up at this. But maybe not, especially if they're Americans who like to try something new.

Books read in 2019: No. 26 -- Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams

by Paul Hemphill

Started: April 6
Finished: April 9

Notes: Last summer I was going through Alabama while on a cross-country trip when my traveling companion pointed to the side of the highway where a sign proclaimed the Hank Williams Boyhood Home & Museum at the next exit. I've always been something of a minor fan of Hank's music, so we decided to stop for a few hours. We discovered the museum and the small town of Georgiana, Alabama, and were charmed by all we found there. Unfortunately we had missed a major annual music event in the town by just a couple of days. While touring the museum and seeing all it had to offer, I found the place offered no small number of books about the life of Hank Williams, so I decided upon this one in order to learn more about this legend of Country music though I'm fairly familiar with the basics of the man's life.

Mini review: A life that burned brightly and burnt out far too soon. Hank brought upon him most of his troubles, but during his time (and for his time) he was something of a musical genius, reaching the hearts of his fans even if he wasn't considered all that sophisticated in some circles. I'll add, too, that the author's writing here is quite solid, some of the best I've read from a biography, though I did wish he had expounded upon a few incidents and side characters in Hank's life.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 25 -- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

Started: March 29
Finished: April 6

Notes: I've read some of Angelou's poetry over the years, but I've never read any of her prose, which is one reason I turned to this semi-autobiographical book of hers. Plus my late life was a big fan of Maya Angelou.

Mini review: This is a collection of events of Angelou's life from her earliest days in a small town in Arkansas until about the age of sixteen when she lived in San Francisco. Many of the events are of the every-day, but a few are more than that, including Angelou's rape at a young age and years later the birth of her son while she was a teenager. This is an eye-opening book about black life in America in the 1930s and 1940s, especially in the rural South. That being said, while the writing here is good, Angelou is naturally a poet and I felt this actually hurt her prose to a certain extent. It's difficult to describe what I mean, but I felt in many places she spent more time focusing upon the beauty of her words than in getting the experiences and the emotions across. Obviously this is my own bias, and I repeat that the writing is good, but I often felt the emotional impact would have been stronger with more straight-forward writing in some instances. At the same time, I admit Angelou might not have wanted to be so forthright in words with all the events of her life, both the tragic and the joyous, or that she preferred to write of such events from something of an emotional distance with a focus upon the beauty of her words. Or perhaps I've got it all wrong.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Beer of the Week: Red Dog

Beer score: 3.1

Company: MillerCoors

ABV: 4.8
IBU: Not reported

A beer typical of the American style prior to a few decades ago. It would possibly be popular at bowling alleys, dart tournaments, backyard barbecues, etc.

Has a slight corn scent and taste with the pale yellow color common to such beers. Has a nice foamy head but a bit too much carbonation for my liking.

There's nothing really special here, Red Dog tasting pretty much like a dozen other beers on the market, but it's been around a while so it must serve its place in the market. If you're something of a beer snob, you'll turn your nose up at this, but if you just want a cold one after mowing the yard or while watching the game, this beer could do the trick for you.