Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Melanie Benjamin, Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater, and Gail Carriger

Here is another edition of my book reviews. I have been lucky to find more adult books that are fascinating and that I have read recently. I am currently reading Rip Tide (Dark Life #2), the recently released sequel to Kat Falls excellent first book, Dark Life. I can best describe it as an underwater western dystopia. 

Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements by Deborah Hopkinson
Since I grew up with the Fannie Farmer Junior Cookbook and my mom used her regular cookbook, I thought this story about Fannie Merritt Farmer would be a fun read. The book is told from the viewpoint of Marcia, the would-be helper and daughter of Fannie's employers, the Shaws. Fannie was the first person to write down the recipes and use precise measurements, and her cookbook has been helping people learn to cook since 1897. Recommended for kids aged 5+, 4 stars. 

Young Adult
Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
A brilliant book of short stories about kissing and first loves/lust from the author of the faerie books "Blackbringer" and "Silksinger," both of which I loved. The first story, "Goblin Fruit" tells the story of a plain girl taken in by a goblin masquerading as a beautiful young man who offers her fruit that could kill her. The second story, "Spicy Little Curses Such as These" is the story of a girl cursed at birth who can kill if she talks. The third, "Hatchling" features a girl and her mother running away from a secret world where their queen keeps little girls as pets and breeds their replacements. The stories sucked you in from the beginning and the writing is gorgeous and descriptive. Also Jim Di Bartolo's (the author's husband) illustrations are fantastic and perfectly fit with the wonderful stories. 

One of my favorite lines from the first story describes how the main character, a plain-looking gypsy girl named Kizzy, dreams of becoming a more fascinating young woman. Page 41: "Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy's blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn't keep, and then shift the world to keep them." Recommended for teens aged 13+, 5 stars. 

Forever (Wolves of Mercy Falls, #3) by Maggie Stiefvater
In "Forever", Grace has been missing for several months and everyone seems to think Sam has either abducted or killed her. She has been a wolf and finally comes back to Sam, though she can't control her shifting. Sam is working through his past history with Beck, his adopted father. Cole is trying to find out how the wolf genes work and how to keep it under control. Isabel is still trying to figure out how she feels about Cole, and her father is trying to establish an aerial wolf hunt. 

I really wanted this book to be good because it was the last book in the trilogy and because "Linger" was such a disappointment to me. However, it was not, but left me with more questions as the author just left parts of the story wide open and didn't explain things. The ending was way too abrupt too, especially after building it up for the entire book. There just wasn't the passion and good writing of "Shiver". Overall, I would give it 3 1/2 stars. Recommended for teens aged 13+. 

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
I really enjoyed this historical fiction account of the life of Ms. Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump, a little person who led a really impressive life during the 19th and early 20th centuries. I had heard of her before whilst reading a book on P.T. Barnum, who I have been fascinated with since high school, as she was part of his American Museum in NYC as well as touring with him on the road. It turns out that she was also a good friend of his, along with her later husband Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb. She had the opportunity to travel the world and meet royalty, and lived for performing for others. 5 stars. 

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
I've never read any of Arthur Conan Doyle's work before, but the idea of this book was just so fascinating that I felt that I had to give it a try. The book did not disappoint. The book skips back and forth between 2010 and 1900, in alternating chapters. In the present time, we discover that a prominent Sherlockian scholar named Alex Cale (who has supposedly found the lost diary of Arthur Conan Doyle) has been mysteriously murdered. A brand new member of the Baker Street Irregulars (the premier Sherlock Holmes society), Harold White, decides to take it upon himself to solve the murder and find the now missing diary. The chapters in the past talk about Arthur Conan Doyle and a murder mystery that he is trying to solve himself with the help of his friend, fellow author Bram Stoker. 

At first I found the jumping back and forth between eras to be a bit annoying, and found the present day story took a lot of time to get interesting, while the 20th century story was fascinating from the beginning. I do think that even those folks, such as myself, who have never read any Holmes & Watson stories will be intrigued by this book, provided they can wait a bit for the 21st century story's action to catch up with the rest of the book. I would love to read more about Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Sherlock Holmes. 4 stars. 

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate, #4) by Gail Carriger
Another brilliant book by Gail Carriger! This really is one of the most hilarious series of books I've ever read. In this volume, Alexia is eight months pregnant and waddling her way through another mystery, after she gets a warning, from a ghost, that the Queen will be attacked. Alexia's sister Felicity has joined the Suffragette movement and moved in with her. We learn about the secret proclivities of Professor Lyall, who was involved with the first plot to kill Queen Victoria, and what really happened when Conall took over the Woolsey Pack. 

Alexia's insights while very pregnant cracked me up as I also recently given birth. The middle part dragged a bit, but the spectacular ending more than made up for it. I liked that Conall was much more loving and worried about Alexia in this volume. I can't wait to see how Ms. Carriger ends the series in the next book! 5 stars. 

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