Friday, January 4, 2013

CBR IV Book 54: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly - Anthony Bourdain

*Audiobook Review*

Last book of the year.  I never thought I would make it to 52, let alone 54!

This book should only be available in audio format.  It is read by the author, and nobody gets the sarcastic asshole inflections of Anthony Bourdain better than himself.  Kitchen Confidential is the story of how Anthony Bourdain first fell in love with food.  When he was young, his parents took he and his brother on a trip around France, and he discovered he enjoyed food while on the Queen Mary.  Kitchen Confidential takes you through his start working in dive restaurants, going through culinary school, and the string of restaurants he has worked at since.

This was a fairly entertaining book.  I never worked in a restaurant, but this book does take me back to my time working at the concession stand at the movie theatre.  The frantic pace, the never-ending line of orders, the swearing and dirty jokes.  I loved every second of it.  If you have ever worked in a restaurant, or heaven forbid, have the crazy dream to own a restaurant, you should read this book.  Anthony Bourdain will tell you why you should NEVER buy a restaurant.

4/5 Stars

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

CBR IV: Book 53: Soulless: The Parasol Protectorate, Book 1 - Gail Carriger

It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did, I couldn't put it down.  This has been reviewed many times this year, and the premise sounded right up my alley.  Paranormal? Check.  Strong female heroine? Check.  Witty dialogue and snappy repartee? Check and check.  I described this book to a friend as "Pride and Prejudice" if Mr. Darcy was a sexy werewolf and Elizabeth Bennett could neutralize the supernatural.

Alexia Tarabotti is a 26-year-old spinster in Victorian London.  She is also opinionated, bossy, and *gasp* Italian.  She is also soulless.  Literally.  She has no soul.  This gives her the ability to neutralize vampires and werewolves with her touch.  This is a handy ability because London is simply crawling with unaffiliated vampires who seem to not care who they bite!  And in polite society!

This may not be an enduring classic, but I enjoyed the Hell out of it.  I am frantically reading through the series, and I recommend it to anyone who loves supernatural stories, strong-willed women, and Victorian Manners.

4/5 Stars

Saturday, December 29, 2012

CBR IV: Book 50: The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

*Audiobook Review*

My dad used to read the Hobbit to me as a kid.  I grew up on Tolkien.  I hadn't read the book in about 20 years, so when they added the unabridged audiobook to Audible, I thought it was about time to catch back up with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves.

Bilbo Baggins is a typical, unassuming Hobbit, just chilling out in the Shire.  One day he gets an unexpected visit from the wizard, Gandalf.  Then a bunch of dwarves show up and off Bilbo is coerced into going on a quest to rescue the dwarven gold from the evil dragon Smaug.  It's a cute story, with some interesting characters.  Obviously there is Gollum, the creature who sits in the dark and obsesses over his "precious".  The riddle scene between him and Bilbo was always one of my favorites.  There is also Beorn, a kind of were-bear who aids Bilbo and his companions.

I really enjoy this story.  After all, this is the granddaddy of epic fantasy.  Without The Hobbit, there would be no Lord of the Rings, and without that, there would be no Dresden Files, no Game of Thrones, no Harry Potter.  However, I am just not a fan of Tolkien's writing.  I can never make it through all of the Lord of the Rings, no matter how hard I try. There are too many damn songs.  I hate reading poetry, and reading songs is just torture for me.  The dwarves sing about their treasure, the elves sing to Bilbo's party, Bilbo sings to the spiders, and on, and on, and on.  Just get on with it!

This is not nearly as epic as The  Lord of the Rings.  I believe this was originally written as a children's book.   I haven't seen the new Hobbit movie - I'm planning on going next week.  I just don't see why they made this into 3 movies (other than an obvious cash grab).  I'm just glad I get to watch some more Ian McKellan as Gandalf.

4/5 Stars

Friday, December 28, 2012


*Audiobook Review*

It's interesting that the quote on the front of the book mentions Lost, because I felt that this book suffered from the same problems:  it started out great, then couldn't figure out what to do with the premise.  The less you know about this book going in, the better. 

Nate has a low-paying data entry job and moves into a new apartment.  It seems too good to be true.  The rent is super cheap, and it even includes utilities.  There are just a lot of...oddities.  Like bright-green cockroaches.  With extra legs.  Locked doors that seem to lead to nowhere.  General weirdness.  

Overall, I liked this book, but I felt that the ending was kind of....nutso.  Also, even though the characters all were very vivid and had a lot of backstory, there were too damn many of them.  I couldn't care less about Nate's crappy temp job, and it did virtually nothing to contribute to the story.  However, the mystery of the building was intriguing and I found myself searching for opportunities to listen to this book.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes their sci-fi with a dash of horror.

4/5 Stars

Oh, by the way...

Third time was a charm.

CBR IV: Book 51: How to Run a Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is - Veronica Boutelle

This is a book that is really only for professional dog trainers, but I need every credit I can get for my 52 books, dammit!

I've been a dog trainer for 4 1/2 years now, and I am constantly trying to better myself.  Instead of reading yet another book about clicker training, or behavior modification, I decided to read one about the business aspects of  I hate selling myself.  I guess my self-esteem is too low, which is weird because I'm also a bit of an egomaniac. "Your dog will obey me because I have awesome psychic connections with animals!!!! Mwa ha ha ha!!!!!"  Not really.  OK, maybe.

Veronica Boutelle has some great advice on setting limits so your personal life doesn't get swallowed up.  She also recommends that you spend at least 30% of your time on marketing.  She has advice on all of the legalities involved in starting your own businesses such as which licences you may need and how to get liability insurance.  This was a very useful book, and I got a lot of great ideas.

4/5 Stars

Thursday, December 27, 2012

CBR IV: Book 49: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan

*Audiobook Review*

Clay is a web-designer who has lost his job in San Francisco.  Since the recession, he has had a hard time finding a job in his chosen field.  Then he stumbles on the night clerk position at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  His new job seems rather pointless.  There are few late night customers, except the eccentric regulars who madly rush in, demand a particular book, then dash out.  Those customers don't even buy books, they loan them.  Then there is Mr. Penumbra.  He's like a slightly daffier Professor Dumbledore.  Mystery starts, zany, mad-cap adventures ensue.

This is one of those books that I really enjoyed while reading it, but afterwards, the more I thought about it, the more unsatisfying I found the ending to be.  This book has been getting rave reviews, but I really felt like it was The DaVinci Code by way of Google.  Seriously, did Google pay to be mentioned in this book?  I have a drinking game for you. Step One: Drink every time somebody says the word Google.  Step Two: Die.

All in all, this was a pleasantly diverting read, but pretty forgettable.  It is not something that I am going to insist that people read,  unlike Gone Girl.  Have you read Gone Girl yet?  WHY NOT?!?!? Do you hate things that are good?

3/5 Stars

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CBR IV: Book 48: The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Somehow, I had never even heard of this book until last year's Cannonball Read.  The premise is intriguing.  In the not-too-distant future, a Puritanical religious group has overthrown the United States and formed the Republic of Gilead.  Women are no longer allowed to read, and are divided into classes based on their ability to breed.  The main character, Offred, is a Handmaid.  Basically she is the mistress of a powerful Commander and once a month she has to have sex with him while laying in the arms of his wife.  If a child is born, the Commander and his wife will keep it, and she will be sent to a new household and attempt to do it again. Sex is strictly for procreation.  There is no romance, and certainly no illicit love affairs.  There are public executions, and the bodies of priests, nuns, and doctors are left to rot along the town walls.

Offred finds a carving inside her closet that was left by the previous Handmaid.  It says, "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum" which means "Don't let the bastards get you down".  The previous Handmaid must not have heeded her own advice, because she hung herself.  This story is bleak, but it is engrossing.  I couldn't put this one down.  This one is a classic for a reason.

I read a lot of post-apocalyptic or dystopian books this year: Mockingjay, World War Z and Robopocalypse.  However, this was by far the most terrifying.  In a society where women who have been raped are forced to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds to get an abortion, or doctors have the right to not tell the mother if her pregnancy may kill her, this story doesn't seem too farfetched.

5/5 Stars