Friday, November 27, 2015

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

It's always with mixed feelings that I read the first book in a new series by a beloved author. I've been following Harry Dresden's adventures for so long. Butcher's Furies series was pretty decent, too. Now, according to the reviewers, he's ventured into steampunk, but I really don't quite categorize it that way. It's simply a fantasy novel, set in a new world, with elements of technology mixed in liberally.

Humans live on a number of Spires, far above the surface of the world, where ferocious creatures kill and consume any who end up there. They sail between the spires in airships given lift by crystals which absorb or emit ethereal energies. Similar crystals can be used as weapons. The crystals are grown in vats, and best crystals around are produced by House Lancaster, a noble family of Spire Albion.

A scion of that House, Gwendolyn Lancaster, has determined that she should defy her mother and family, who expect her to attend school, and enter the Spirearch's Guard instead. She and her cousin Benedict are assigned to the same unit, though he is a bit more advanced in his training. They are joined there by Bridget, a daughter of House Tagwynn, which has fallen on hard times, though they are still Spire Albion's prime supplier of vat-grown meat.

The story begins as a war is flaring up between Spire Aurora and Albion. One of the early casualties of that war is Captain Grimm's airship Predator, which is rendered unable to fly after an early skirmish. While his ship is in the repair docks, a sneak attack by Auroran commandos takes place, drawing Grimm and his crew into the conflict, and throwing him into close contact with our young heroes, Gwen, Benedict and Bridget, not to mention Bridget's feline companion, Rowl.

Rowl is actually a more important part of this story than one would expect. Cats in Butcher's new world of spires and airships are a far more dangerous group of predators than our domesticated version - one might think of them more in the light of lynxes and bobcats and such. The thing that has not changed between the worlds is their inflated sense of dignity and worth, and their amazing ability to do exactly what they please, without ever worrying about pleasing their humans. It is, after all, our great privilege to serve their each and every whim, you know.

Butcher liberally seasons the story with Rowl's thoughts and opinions, such as:

"A moment later, an acutely unpleasant sound of metal striking metal sliced across the deck. It was one of those human noises that had been, he felt sure, created for no purpose whatsoever but to annoy cats."


"Though, now that he thought about it, he (Rowl) was the most important member of the party. Any glory gained was rightfully his in any case."

The Auroran attack turns out to have not been simply driven by a motive to destruction, but by a quest to obtain something from a library in Albion which contains important information, key to winning the war, perhaps. The Spirearch decides that he must send some of his trusted Guard to discover the Aurorans' goal, so he recruits the captain and our young heros and heroines for an undercover mission to find the truth, adding a pair of etherealists, Master Ferus and his apprentice, Folly, to the team. Etherealists have the ability to use the energies that power the crystals with their minds, instead of using devices to do so.

Lots of action, and a pretty good start to a new series, but I still miss Harry Dresden.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Diamond Caper by Peter Mayle

I've really enjoyed Mayle's tales of Sam and Elena as they solve little mysteries in France. In this one, a jewel thief has been pulling off a series of perfect crimes, making off with millions of dollars worth of diamonds from wealthy homes, without leaving a trace of any damage or evidence for the police to follow. Elena's employer insures the latest victims, and he asks Sam to poke around and see what he can find out.

Sam and Elena are in the happy position of finally signing the paperwork to take possession of their own vacation home in Marseille. It does need a bit of renovation to make it their true dream home, so they hire the services of a local expert, Coco Dumas. one of Reboulle's former lovers. She rapidly demonstrates that her projects do not proceed at the usual leisurely pace of many construction projects in the south of France (as Mayle has related in his Provence books previously), and they are quite pleased with the rapid progress.

The most enjoyable thing about this series has always been, for me, the descriptive information about the countryside, customs and cuisine. But this particular installment is missing some of that local flavor, without the usual mouth-watering accounts of repasts enjoyed. The mystery of the diamond heists is actually quite easily solved as some small clues come to light. I had guessed the identity of the thief very early in the story, but it was still entertaining to watch it play out.

I hope Mayle shares more delicious details with us in the next book.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wicked Lewiston by Stephen D. Branting

This book was printed for a very narrow audience, I'm afraid, but there's probably some overlap between my readers and that audience, which would consist of anyone who ever grew up or lived in Lewiston, Idaho, and is interested in the history of the place. Mr. Branting was one of my advisors in high school, and he's published several works on Lewiston history, very thoroughly researched.

Branting covers the spectrum from shady ladies of the evening, to grifters and con artists, kidnappers and killers. I always thought the Lewis-Clark valley was a quiet and peaceful sort of place, but he manages to give it a flavor of infamy in this book, without pandering to the salacious.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nocturnal Origins by Amanda Green

I've been wanting to try Amanda Green's Nocturnal Lives series for quite a while. She's a contributor to the Mad Genius Club blog, and I have enjoyed many of her posts there. When she finally put up the opening "trilogy" of the series for a very nice price on Amazon, I bit. Am I hooked?

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie "Mac" Santos of Dallas was recently attacked and left for dead, but who made a miraculous recovery from her injuries. I thought at first this was going to be some sort of Graywalker clone story, but it went a little different direction when it becomes apparent (to the reader, anyway, if not the heroine) that she's actually a shapeshifter, complete with supernatural healing powers - a were-jaguar, if you will.

The local shifter community is  a bit more extensive than I feel is reasonable, but maybe it's one of those disease-clustering things. A rogue werewolf, Wilson, is murdering humans in the city, and is the same person who nearly ended Mac's career. He is violating pack law by doing so, skirting a thin line between challenging the pack leader and pretending to be submissive. The local "Pride" of feline shapeshifters has a treaty with the pack, and Wilson's actions are jeopardizing a fragile peace in Dallas.

As might be expected in the opening book of a shifter series, Mac is having some emotional issues while coming to terms with her new status, but it helps that her chief and her new partner also turn out to be members of the Pride, and that jaguars occupy a place at the top of the shifter social pyramid.

Green introduces a bit of the political into the tale with the existence of a Council which used to rule all of the shifters and weres, but which has been disbanded and has little power to enforce its dictates, though certain members are hoping and perhaps pushing for a return of the organization.

The emotional, the supernatural, and the political. Could be a winning combo. The first novel has promise, at least.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Make Me by Lee Child

While I was at the library, picking up a novel I'd reserved, I fortuitously saw the latest Reacher novel by Lee Child on the New Books shelf, and immediately snapped it up. I started reading it an hour or so before bedtime, and kept on an hour past, hoping to find out what happened to Reacher, or mor accurately...what Reacher happened to.

In his perpetual wanderings, Reach steps off a train in the middle of flyover country, in a little town called Mother's Rest, mostly because he's curious about the backstory behind the name of the town. He figures he'll stay overnight, check out the local historic museum, and be on his way. Coincidentally (that madness or method upon which dozens of Jack Reacher's adventures hinge), a private investigator named Keever who has a close physical resemblance to Reacher has just been murdered nearby, and his partner, Michelle Chang, a former FBI agent, interests our hero enough to get him to stay a bit longer to look into the disappearance.

Things proceed according to the usual sequence. Local thugs try to intimidate Reacher and end up in the hospital for their troubles. Professional help is brought in to make it clear to him that he's not welcome poking his nose into other people's business, and things escalate in intensity and level of violence necessary from that point forward until the final battle, when all the mysteries become clear.

Reacher and Chang's investigation take them to Chicago in search of a possible crank-case conspiracy theorist who contacted Keever, all the way to L.A. to consult a journalist who may have written an article which sheds light on the nature of the conspiracy, and to Phoenix for a violent confrontation with the Ukrainian mafia. Good ole Jack Reacher times!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The End of All Things by John Scalzi

Either Scalzi has some major new novel in the works, and had to deliver something to satisfy his contract, or he's gotten to the point where he has nothing novel-length left to say in his Old Man's War universe. This book is another stitched-together set of related stories about, for the most part, Ambassador Abumwe and her friends trying to hold the center for the Colonial Union.

I seriously thought, given the title, that he might even be wrapping things up in some destructive fashion.

There's a secretive cabal busily working to set the Conclave, the Colonial Union and Earth at each other's throats, so as to reduce the powers of all three after an all-out war, so that they can take power for themselves when all is said and done. Our old friends and an unlikely group of allies must get very lucky in order to thwart their evil plans.

This one is mildly entertaining, but I'm glad I borrowed it from the library and didn't pay hardback prices for it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cast in Sorrow by Michelle Sagara

I've really enjoyed most of this series over the years, but this one (#9) was very very slow to get into, not one of those books I've picked up and stayed way up past bedtime to get through. There's a parody of Lord of the Rings out there somewhere that has the phrase "walking, walking walking..." and this is how this book feels for the first several chapters, as we approach the West March with Kaylin yet approach no closer to understanding what the heck she's doing here in the first place, as Sagara dribbles in meager facts about the Barrani and their history.

Kaylin does some more inexplicable magic with her runes, using some up and acquiring new ones, without ever coming any closer to knowing how her magic works, and threats to the Consort begin to take on a surreal quality of French farce, as she comes out one door of being saved by Kaylin and by the time Kaylin gets back to her lodgings, disappears behind another door of trouble.

I finally gave up, on the book, and on this series, I'm afraid.

There are far too many books on my TBR pile in which things actually happen and plots resolve.

Friday, November 6, 2015

American Sniper by Chris Kyle

I picked up the audiobook recording of Kyle's story to keep me entertained and awake on the long drive to the coast, and it certainly was good for that. The only downside to this book, in my opinion, was that it was pretty heavily laced with profanity, which is appropriate in a book written by a combat veteran, to some extent, but which may turn off some more conservative folks who might otherwise enjoy it.

Lots of good stories in here about BUDS and Seal training, learning to be a sniper, the different weapons that our troops use, and other bangity goodness. Kyle saw a lot of fighting in Ramadi and Fallujah during his overseas deployments, and for the most part managed to get through it all unscathed. It was only upon his return home that his invincibility faded.

I think the book contains a good dose of reality about the situation in Iraq and our military's handling of the war. He conveys a very strong sense that we could have been victorious much more quickly and gotten out of there again if our politicians had left things alone and allowed the fighting men and women to just do their jobs.

Just the thing for a long drive.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Patriot Dawn by Max Velocity

This one has got a little bit of everything for the tin-foil hat crowd. A major terrorist attack on Washington, DC, determined to have been sponsored by Iran, sparks reprisals by the U.S., causing the total meltdown of the Middle East, and a domestic economic collapse prompts a totalitarian-leaning administration to suspend posse committatus laws and take control.

Of course, resistance arises in scattered pockets around the country, and this novel details the beginning of one such campaign, in the Shenandoah River valley, mostly consisting of retired military men and their families, supported by preppers and farmers in the area.

What follows is probably a pretty good descriptive guerrilla warfare story, but unfortunately even after reading about half of the book one evening, I didn't give a hoot about any of the characters, including the main protagonist - it's telling I can't even recall his name a few days later. Nothing wrong, technically, with the writing, but I couldn't bring myself to care how it turned out.

Happily, it was a free download.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Good Hunting by Jack Devine

I began downloading podcasts a few months ago, so as to be able to listen to something different while driving across vast swathes of the Snake River basin. One of the podcast sources was the America Spy Museum in Washington DC, who put out regular author debriefs with former spies and spymasters who have written of their experiences. It was one such that led me to Devine's book.

If you want the highlights, get the podcast. I think Devine did a great job of making his material sound very interesting on the air, but there wasn't a heck of a lot in the book that was revelatory or titiallating or groundbreaking. For me, it provided a little bit of perspective on some of the headlines of my lifetime, such as the Iran Contra scandal (which I finally understand despite all those hearings on C-Span), Charlie Wilson's War, and the discovery of moles like Aldridge Ames. Devine gives an inside perspective on some of these things without revealing methods or sources.

No real dirt is dished, and Devine was obviously a loyal Company fellow throughout his career. The latter half of the book deals with his retirement from the CIA and his new career in corporate intelligence.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chronicles of Aria Prime, Episode One by AJ Reissig

This free download seemed to me like it might be a good start to a novel or serialized set of stories, but Reissig hasn't yet published a sequel.

It begins when Colonel Christopher Nash, commander of the cruiser Trident, answers a distress call in space, and is ambushed by raiders of some sort. His ship heavily damaged, he flees into hyperspace and crash lands on a primitive planet with a shipload of colonists who were destined for a more developed world.

The planet turns out to have been "seeded" with plants and animals from Earth, including a pigmy-like tribe of humans, who are being terrorized by a hostile tribe of cat-like aliens. The refugees from Earth intervene on the side of the humans, and drive off the cat-men.

Not sure exactly where the series might be headed, there are plenty of tried and true plots that will work from here, including fighting off the raiders who have pursued them all the way to the planet surface, fighting a war with an alien race, doing the old Connecticut Yankee thing with the indigenes.

The tale is told mostly from Nash's point of view, but switches to one of his female officers', then to a tree hugger colonist who may betray the humans to their enemies.

We'll see if Reissig ever releases Episode Two.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dead Ice by Laurell K. Hamilton

As long as I was catching up on Anita Blake, and the library had this book, I figured "what the heck?"

This is a 556 page novel that really could have been about 200 pages shorter, if one removed all the agonizing that Anita does over her relationships with the men and women in her life.

When it boils down to the action plots of the novel, Anita is contacted by the FBI to help them track down someone who is abusing zombies and selling zombie porn. Back in an earlier book, Anita encountered a voodoo priestess who was able to return the souls of the dead to their bodies after raising them as zombies, torturing them with awareness of their true state, and it appears someone has either discovered or re-invented the technique.

Anita also finds herself in a tough situation when a zombie she raises for a historical society to quiz turns out to be far too lifelike, and developing flesh-eating cravings. The first is a symptom of her growing powers, possibly, and the second is due to an unknown fact about the person whose body she raises.

Speaking of her growing powers, Anita's possession of pan-were capabilities begins to bleed over into the men in her life who are weres, and they discover that they are able to assume more animal forms than their "native" ones.

Anita and Jean Claude's wedding plans continue to move forward, but there's a wrinkle concerning the were tigers, who have a prophecy that the Mother of All Darkness will return if one of them is not wed to Anita, as well. So, Anita has to audition some tigers to join her menagerie.

Asher is also causing problems again, after they have allowed him to return from exile. They really ought to just send him off to Tasmania or someplace really remote.

A fairly good story, but way too much emotional angst.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hotter than Helltown by S M Reine

The action moves back to Los Angeles in the third Preternatural Affairs story. Cesar has been selected to become the bound apsis (witch guardian) to his boss, Fritz's kopis (super-powered demon hunter), and his success in performing the complex binding ritual will determine whether he keeps both his life and his job...and he's put off studying for the big "test" far too long. He worries about this, distracting him from his main task of figuring out who is killing and mutilating seemingly random men in the area.

One of the inherent problems of urban fantasy seems to me to be how to keep the plots and conflicts new and exciting, gradually increasing both the supernatural powers of the protagonist and of his/her opponents. Laurell K. Hamilton did this quite well in her early Anita Blake novels, until they finally jumped the shark (or perhaps jumped the shark's bones?) and fell into hardcore porn-itude.

So when it turns out that Cesar and his partner are up against a fallen angel "the most powerful of all supernatural beings" how does Reine top this in books four and onward? Two fallen angels? Or does she simply cross the line into PNR, then porn?

I think she's jumped the angel too soon.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Last Praetorian by Mike Smith

The down low on a free book not worth the download. A dozen pages in - two dozen grammatical errors. Bag it and tag it.

Gunship by John Davis

Two pages of forced manly dialogue into this one made it easy to put it down. Sometimes, free is worth what you pay for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Odysseus in America by Jonathan Shay

Haven't read Dr. Shay's first book, Achilles in Vietnam, which may be written in the same manner, but I really enjoyed the way he weaves the tale of Homer's Odysseus with the experiences of returning combat veterans in modern day America. It's been a long time since high school literature class, and my reading in the classics and mythology, but the details slowly drifted back into my consciousness as the chapters proceeded.

He had to stretch things a bit to make the story fit all of his ideas and experiences dealing with veterans, but it was still a good read, which left me with a better understanding of the long term effects of combat.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton

I know, I vowed not to read any more of this series, after it turned into a massive porn saga, but things were a little slow on the new books at the library front, and...

Hamilton actually managed to go on for about four hundred pages of action, before Anita got any "action", if you know what I mean.

Micah's father, who is a sheriff in a small town near Denver, gets bitten by a flesh-eating zombie and contracts a disease (hence the book title). It behaves in a manner similar to flesh-eating bacteria, and all previous cases of the disease reported have been fatal, so Anita and Micah and Nathaniel fly off to Colorado so Micah can see his father and try to reconcile with his estranged family, whom he has not seen since he was part of Chimera's menagerie.

There's a lot of family drama at first, but that is soon shoved to the background as Anita is called in to consult on the outbreak of killer zombies that turns out to have taken far more victims than anyone realizes. Flesh-eating, violent zombies are really quite rare, so she knows that some supernatural agency has to be creating them and sending them out to kill.

There's some fantastic action sequences, and some great dialogue between Anita and Marshall Ted aka Edward, the sociopath monster hunter. Anita really makes Ted's day when she asks him to bring along his flamethrower and they get to play with thermite grenades, as well.

It turns out that when (without too many spoilers) Anita killed the Mother of All Darkness and she and Jean Claude gained a whole bunch of her power, they weren't the only ones. We find out here that another of the master vampires whom Marmee Noir had attempted to possess also got a big power boost when she was killed. This, of course, gives us some food for future plots, as we see what supercharging some of the old vamps' power does to create supervillains.

This novel pushes things in a direction far closer to the things that many of us loved about the early series, and perhaps away from its focus on nothing but sex and relationships. There's still some of that around, but the violence and mystery are back a bit stronger. I'm going to brave the next book in the series.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Drafter by Kim Harrison

I thoroughly enjoyed Kim Harrison's The Hollows series over its run, and I was hoping that her next endeavor would provide as much entertainment. The Drafter is the story of Peri, a young woman with the ability to rewrite the immediate past and create a new timeline more to her liking or advantage. She was recruited by a shadowy government agency called Opti, ostensibly to stop terrorists and other criminals, and to rewrite massacres and disease outbreaks...that sort of thing. She's always happily done her masters' bidding, but after a job goes wrong one night, she finds out that the agency is corrupt, and may be simply the tool of the "billionaires club" to maintain their power and the status quo. Opti is opposed by the alliance (yes, all lower case), which turns out to be a group of disillusioned former Opti employees, at its core.

All of this is a really great setup for a well-told tale, but Harrison doesn't really give us one. Instead, it's a murky, confused ramble from one muddled mess to another as Peri tries to find out the truth, and decide whether she really belongs with Opti, or the alliance.

Hoping this was a stand-alone tale, and Harrison has a decent new series on the way, sometime.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Light Blogging

I haven't had a chance to read much of anything lately - too much traveling.
After our return from New Orleans, we had two days at home, then on Wednesday evening I flew from Boise to Baltimore, where my son picked me up and we went back to Quantico Marine Base to finish packing up his worldly goods and drive with him back to Boise. A late night cleaning, and a too short sleep in the Ramada nearby, as the movers had already taken away the bedrooms.

The next day was spent going from one office to another around the base, collecting checkmarks on his outprocessing documents, requesting records, and all that fun paperwork. Really. All stinkin' day.

Around 5 PM (and we started at 7 AM) we headed away from Fort Belvoir's hospital basement, and had a nice dinner in Old Occaquon at a place whose name I can't recall right now, but it's right down on the bay there. A couple of good microbrews and some decent seafood.

We had planned on going to the Virginia vs Boise State football game on Friday, so we drove down part of the way and got a room near Spottsylvania. A more satisfactory sleep this time, and a great breakfast at the Waffle House across the street. We discussed it a bit, and came to the conclusion that, though we had seats right on the 50 yard line, and it was going to be a great game, the wiser course was to begin heading west right away, since we needed to be back in Boise by Sunday night.

An uneventful drive through VA, PA and Ohio, and we stayed in Waseon on Friday night, had a nice meal at a Mexican joint, got a reasonable night's sleep, then pressed on Saturday morning for parts further west. Found ourselves in the middle of Nebraska by evening, and had some good ribs and steak at Uncle Dick's Steak House in Grand Island. Stayed in a threadbare motel run by some very nice Indian or Pakistani folks, and were thoroughly unimpressed by the continental breakfast the next morning.

The last day was a long haul, from the middle of Nebraska all the way to Wyoming, Utah and eventually arriving in Boise around 11 PM. A grueling marathon ride.

Back to work, trying to recover.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

It's rather stunning what happens when you pick up a book written by true craftspersons. I usually end up staying awake past my bedtime, devouring it eagerly, until reason or sheer inability to keep my eyes open forces me to close. This was my experience with Magic Shifts, which I managed to pick up the same week it hit Amazon.

Kate and Curran have left the pack, in order to save Atlanta from death and destruction wielded by her father, Roland. She has acquired a magic bond to the land and its inhabitants that she hasn't even begun to figure out yet, which may make ongoing episodes interesting as she comes into her powers. They have formed their own security and investigation business, Cutting Edge, and moved into what passes for suburbia in post-Shift Georgia.

When an old friend from the pack, Eduardo (a were-buffalo) disappears during what should have been a routine job for the Mercenary Guild, Kate and Curran hunt for him, and stumble into a really nasty mess.  A powerful, vindictive magical being has come to town, and is taking control of humans and turning them into monsters.

The plot thickens when Kate's father, Roland, plays the devoted paternal type, rather than the psychopathic megalomaniac, and invites her and Curran to dinner to quiz them about their wedding plans.

Kate and Company seem to flail their way from one situation to another, dealing with the new and unexpected adversary, spending time with "Dad", navigating politics with the Pack they have left behind, and taking on a new challenge, reforming the Guild. But at the tail end of the book, Curran actually puts together  plan to confront the monsters which works, in far less pages than it should have. Did we run up against a word count limit?

Good story, lots of fun, and a few "in" references for old geeks.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Not with a Bang, but with a Whisper

Our final day in the Big Easy, the Crescent City, was pretty low key. We got up and went down to Daisy Duke's again for breakfast, and I had bowl of the fluffiest biscuits, smothered in country gravy, that I have ever encountered. Stuck to fruit juices instead of the temptation of their Bloody Marys. Went for a streetcar ride out to the Cemetaries - thousands upon thousands of above-ground graves, and reflected upon mortality.

Back downtown, wandered around on Royal Street and picked up some Mardi Gras beads to bring home for friends, had a smoothie at Smoothie King, and eventually got picked up at our hotel by the airport shuttle. Had an amazingly good muffuletta at the Cheesecake Scoop Cafe out at the airport - seriously - better than the Central Grocery original in my opinion.

The less said about the frustrations of air travel the better, at this point, but we did get home in the wee hours of the morning safely.

Perhaps a wrap-up on what it all means one of these days. Still digesting.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Jazzin' it Up

Decided on a whim to have breakfast at Daisy Duke's just around the corner from the hotel, and was extremely pleasantly surprised by the food and service. Had an alligator omelette with a bowl of grits and a lite fluffy buttermilk biscuit that was absolutely wonderful. They had an early bird special 2-for-1 Bloody Marys, and though we missed the deadline by about ten minutes, they still delivered on it with a couple of reallly really tasty drinks. 

The forecast called for 93 degrees, so I stopped at a Levis store and picked up a pair of shorts to wear, nipped back to the hotel to change, and we were on our way. Made a stop at the Jaxson brewery mall, but didn't find the brewery, then wandered on over to the Jazz National Park office and signed up for a walking tour. Had a good time on the tour, and then watched a trio play in a small ampitheater for a while. 

Checked out the jazz bars on Frenchmen St, but none of them were open yet, so we went back to the market area and had a decent lunch, though not a great one, of po'boys, but our seats were in the front row to listen to the Jazz Cats trio. Wandered over to the US Mint and heard a great jazz duo play and sing, then back across town to Lafitte's Blacksmith Shoppe for a quick Abita and then headed back to the hotel for a cool down before heading out for the evening.

Walked down to the Mississippi to go on a dinner and jazz cruise, but discovered that they were all sold out. A bit disappointed, we wandered back to the French Quarter and had a nice little meal in the courtyard of The Creole Kitchen - the oysters rockefeller, bienville and toulouse were marvelous! Wandered around on Royal Street looking at some of the art galleries for a while, but called it another early evening and left the crush of partiers before things got any crazier.

New Orleans Second Glance

We got up fairly early and walked down to Bourbon Street, where we had beignets and an Andouille sausage omelette while listening to a banjo player at Cafe Beignet. The beignets were hot and fresh, better than a Krispy Kreme, and the sparrow pirates made off with any unattended food, but the omelette was a bit uninspired. Took a self-directed walking tour of the quarter after that, until I lost track of where we were, and decided to simply head for Jackson Square.

Early in the day, the buskers and street vendors were barely setting up, so we wandered on past, only taking time to visit the Presbytere and look at the artwork and stained glass. 

Took  stroll on the Moon Walk, until the rising sun and heat grew unbearable. Bought a hat from a street vendor to shield my tender, bald scalp, then bought a day pass on the streetcar line and cruised on out to the Garden District, to marvel at the mansions, take a stroll in Audubon Park (which oddly enough had a very clean public restroom near the golf course; I wasn't expecting much), and see Loyola University. 

Headed down to Decatur Street across from the French Market to have a muffaletta sandwich at the Central Grocery. The sandwich was massive (we split a half) and very tasty, and we ate it at the crowded counter, washed down with a Dixie beer - a bit like Heineken, but with a sweet aftertaste. Wandered across the street to sample pralines and buy an ice cream cone, then wandered through the French Market, which contained an odd mix of touristy crap and occasional locally produced crafts. A lot of the stuff there we've seen in outdoor markets from one end of the globe to another. Bought a very very tasty organic pina colada from one of the booths, and sipped on that as we walked around.

Back to Jackson Square where things were in full swing. Lots of amazing artists to explore, and we bought a small drawing that we liked. Wandered onwards, occasionally poking our heads into interesting shops, and pausing to listen to busking bands along the way. In mid-afternoon the heat got the best of us and we had to retreat to the hotel for a quick shower and restful hour or two by the pool. 

Refreshed again, we jumped on the streetcar again for a tour of the CBD, which turned out to be a waste of time. Got off down by Harrah's casino and walked over to the area where the steamboats depart, then hit the outlet mall (bigger on the inside than outside, it seemed) and bought M some tennis shoes at the New Balance store, as the ones she had walked around in all day were hurting her toes. 

Back to the docs for a very nice meal of gumbo and crawfish etouffe at Poppy's Crazy Lobster, accompanied by a flask of Voodoo Juice and a very bayou trio playing nearby. Walked back to the hotel and called it an early night, though the good times were just starting to roll on Bourbon Street.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Easin' in to the Big Easy

Walking out the door of the airport in New Orleans, the heat and humidity hits like a brick wall. Took the shuttle to the Central Business District, and met my wife at the Renaissance Pere Marquette. Dropped off the luggage and went for a walk. Found the French Quarter and went for a stroll down the length of Bourbon Street to the land of the rainbow flags, at which point we turned around and walked the other side of the street - not in a figurative sense.

It was just past five o'clock, but the party was already getting started. It's like the line in Alice's Restaurant "you can get anything you want" on Bourbon Street. A friend had recommended Acme Oyster House for dinner, but the line was already down the block nearly to the corner by 7, so we popped across the street to Felix's and the food was fantastic.
One of their signature Bloody Marys, a Hurricane and a plate of Oysters Rockefeller to start - delishus! Had a great plate of fried seafood with just the right amount of spice, and called it good. 

Watched some street musicians for a bit, then wandered  back to the hotel, had a glass of wine and relaxed. Tomorrow we hit the pavement hard