Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Beauty" by Robin McKinley

This story has been recommended to me countless times, but I've always put off picking it up.  I stumbled across the book on instagram and finally gave it a try.

Summary:  Beauty is a retelling of the classic Beauty and The Beast fairy tale.  After losing their fortune to the winds of fate, Beauty and her family sell all they own and journey to the outskirts of civilization in order to make a new life.  When her father's error of judgement brings a curse upon his family, Beauty, the youngest of three sisters, promises to spend the rest of her life with the Beast to save her father's life.


Disney read this book and made a movie from it.

My Thoughts:  One thing I enjoy about all of McKinley's books is the vibrant and rich detail she gives her settings, characters and plots.  While the true meat of Beauty is the story of how Beauty comes into her own at the enchanted castle, eventually leading up to her love for the Beast, the back story McKinley gives her cast is what truly captured my interest.  I was captivated by Beauty and the gang's life on the edge of the enchanted forest as they learned how to survive outside of their lives as members of the privileged class.  I believed Beauty's exhaustion as she used her muscles.  I could appreciate Hope and Joy's goodness of heart as they learned to keep house and tend children.  And I absolutely sympathized with their father as he unknowingly make a judgement of error that cost him his youngest child.

I also was pleasantly surprised that Beauty had a backbone.  Beauty knew full well what she was getting into when she sacrificed her own life for her fathers.  She took a known risk, trading her life as the youngest sister with few prospects but the love of a good family for a life of unknown but potential possibilities.  Yes she makes a sacrifice for her family, but she doesn't pity herself (much) and makes her decision with self actualization and logic.  Hurrah!  A heroine I can be proud to share with the children in my family.

I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I can over look the cheesy happily-ever-after ending.  I will also admit that I'm the type to find the beast more interesting as a beast instead of as a man.  I thought McKinley did a phenomenal job on the Beast's back story as well as on his character development.  He very well may have been my favorite character.

Rating:  This is a fabulous story for readers of any age.  Pick it up if you like fairy tales, Disney or incredibly well written young adult fantasy.

Reviewed By:  Tami

Also Read By This Author:  Chalice, The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword, Sunshine, Shadows

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"The Two Towers" By JRR Tolkien

I read this book in middle school, and got half way through the Two Towers. I stopped because I found it depressing and the elven was unintelligible, but now that I am an adult nerd, I feel like I should have all four of them under my belt, and not just the movies. At the library I saw all four in audiobook format and decided I could finally finish the series. 

Summary: This story begins right where The Fellowship of the Ring leaves off. At this point in the story, the fellowship is broken. Frodo and Sam go off one way, Merry and Pippin are kidnapped by the enemy and the the rest of the party ends up plotting a rescue. Merry and Pippin get free and hide in the forest, only to discover it is the home of the Ents, treelike beings that care for the woods. The Ents are not fond of hurrying and take their time in all things, but the growning danger from Saruman is enough to mobilize them under the leadership of Treebeard. They go to Isengard assault the walls.

Aragorn and company meanwhile search for the two hobbits and eventually find Gandalf, which they had thought dead. Together they go to the king of Rohan and argue with him, trying to make him see the looming dangers.

The other two hobbits, Frodo and Sam, are now alone as they march toward Mordor. They are intensely aware that no one is going to help them through the hardest part of their journey, but they are able to manipulate Gollum into working for them at times, as Gollum respects the Ring and fears what might happen to it if he does not cooperate.

What I Liked: I like that it continues the story and gives more depth to the world of Tolkien. There is a feel of greatness in the comings and goings of Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf and the others. 

What I Didn't Like: When I was in middle school I read this book halfway. It just became too hard to get excited about it, the whole story felt bogged down. Listening to it as an audiobook is the only way I got through. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what stopped me, but there is a certain sort of depression that feels overly reaching when it is proclaimed by kings and wizards mourning the passing of an age. It feels a little forced.

Rating: Read it as part of the series.

Also Read by this Author: The Hobbit. The Fellowship of the Ring

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"Cooking as Fast as I Can" by Cat Cora

Image via GoodReads
I don't even know how I came across this one.  It magically appeared in my library queue so I read it.  (Or at least that's my story.)

Summary:  I'm a sucker for a biography for a lot of reasons; I like to learn about people's lives without actually having to interact with them.  I'm endlessly fascinated by seeing what drives the people at the top of their game to keep pushing for more.  And I love me some good old fashioned drama.  Cat Cora's first biography doesn't disappoint.

Raised in the deep South, Cat Cora had a childhood that set the framework for her meteoric rise in the world of fine dining.  Cora was adopted by parents that showed her love and support, taught her to work hard and think for herself.  Her dad taught history, her mom was a nurse, and her brothers helped her raise hell during the long hot summers.  While her childhood was mostly a good one, full of food, love and family, it was also haunted by her repeated molestation by the son of a family friend.  Cora's childhood trauma triggered a need to prove herself as worthy in all she did.

"Cooking as Fast as I Can" is a painfully honest look at Cat Cora's life, from her childhood nightmares to her single-minded drive to cook in the top kitchens in the predominantly male dominated world for haute cuisine.

My Thoughts:  I've read a few celebrity chef biographies and one thing I've noticed about the folks that have made a name for themselves in the fine dining industry is that they have a definite cocksure swagger to their personalities.  Maybe when you've hit a certain level of excellence at something you just know your shit.  Or maybe the brutal hours and constant drive to be different, new and noticed drives a person to be heard.  Whatever it is, I find the almost forceful self-assurance both compelling and exhausting.  Cat Cora definitely has this swagger, which I noticed the most when she talked about cooking and women.

I enjoyed this book.  It had a good pace, was candid in its telling and was fascinating to read.

Rating:  This is a nice book to pick up if you're a foodie, fan or iron chef, or curious about the lives of the famous.

You May Also Like:  "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain, "My Life as a Professional Eater" by Gail Simmons, "Yes Chef, A Memoir" by Marcus Samuelsson, 

Reviewed By:  Tami