REVIEWS: Wrapping up 2012

These are it! The last reviews for books read in 2012. I’ve only got a few so I’m just sticking them all in one post. Then it’s on to new things. Huzzah!

REVIEWS: Wrapping up 2012The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #3) by Arthur Conan Doyle
(narrated by Ralph Cosham)
Published: Blackstone Audiobooks (1892), Audiobook, 09:10
Source: Freebie
Genres: Fiction, Mystery

Since Doyle created the immortal Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson, no other mystery writer has come close to eclipsing him as the standard bearer in crime fiction. A brilliant London-based "consulting detective," Holmes is famous for his intellectual prowess and renowned for his skillful use of astute observation, deductive reasoning, and inference to solve difficult cases. This collection includes twelve of Holmes’s most famous cases: "A Scandal in Bohemia""The Red-Headed League""A Case of Identity""The Boscombe Valley Mystery""The Five Orange Pips""The Man with the Twisted Lip""The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle""The Adventure of the Speckled Band""The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb""The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor""The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet""The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"

I’ve watched various Sherlock Holmes TV shows so many times I can’t remember whether or not I’ve actually read the stories, so I think I’ll review the audiobook production instead. I got this version free for Amazon’s Whispersync promo thing; it’s produced by Blackstone Audio, who tend to do very good audibooks. On the whole I have no complaints except that Watson and Holmes’ voices tended to blend together during long dialogues. And the women, of course, all sounded the same. However! The actual reading was terrific. Sometimes readers put emphasis in weird places, or they tone down exciting bits for whatever reason (Three Musketeers! Augh.) and that ruins the experience of the book. Ralph Cosham, however, did it perfectly: the exciting bits were actually exciting, the scary bits were scary, etc.

Read: December 3-11, 2012

REVIEWS: Wrapping up 2012Olof the Eskimo Lady: A Biography of an Icelandic Dwarf in America by Inga Dora Bjornsdottir, Maria Helga Gudmundsdottir
Published: University of Michigan Press (April 23rd 2010), Hardcover, 248pg
Source: Contest Win
Genres: Non-Fiction, Biography

Ólöf Krarer may be one of America's most effective impostors of the twentieth century. Born in Iceland in 1858, she moved to the United States at age nineteen. Because she was a dwarf, the only job she could get was as the "wife" in a dwarf couple at a circus. It wasn't long before she fabricated a new life for herself, as an Inuit Eskimo from Greenland.

It's estimated that Krarer gave more than 2,500 lectures around the country, including talks at universities, on life in Greenland as an Eskimo. Nearly all the information she gave was made up, uninformed, and just plain wrong, but no one, from William Jennings Bryan to Robert Peary, ever disputed her facts.

Americans at the time were intensely interested in life in the far North, thanks in part to the first attempts to reach the North Pole. Björnsdóttir puts Krarer in that context and explains how dramatic improvements in railroad transportation and an extreme shortage of entertainment helped drive her popularity. She also describes the role of the circus at the time, attitudes toward dwarfs and other "deviants," and the possible psychological reasons for Krarer's deceptions.

I won this book in a contest a few years ago, so VERY long ago that I can’t remember who I actually won it from. (Sorry! But thank you, whoever you are.) I like biographies of unusual people, and a biography of an Icelandic little person who gained fame and fortune (for a while, anyway) through pretending to be an Eskimo and giving talks on her totally fake Eskimo life is gonna be a good read no matter what. It’s not a perfect biography: the author does a lot of that “this is what she may have been thinking/feeling” thing that happens when you only have secondhand info about your subject, and then she kept re-summarizing what she JUST wrote as if it were a term paper and she needed to boost her wordcount or something. Annoying! Other than that, though, it was an entertaining read.

Read: December 9-16, 2012

REVIEWS: Wrapping up 2012Mister Monday (The Keys to the Kingdom #1) by Garth Nix
Published: Scholastic (2003), eBook, 361pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy

On the first day , there was mystery. Arthur Penhaligon is not supposed to be a hero. He is, in fact, supposed to die an early death. But then his life is saved by a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock. Arthur is safe - but his world is not. Along with the key comes a plague brought by bizarre creatures from another realm. A stranger named Mister Monday, his avenging messengers with bloodstained wings, and an army of dog-faced Fetchers will stop at nothing to get the key back - even if it means destroying Arthur and everything around him.Desperate, Arthur ventures into a mysterious house - a house that only he can see. It is in this house that Arthur must unravel the secrets of the key - and discover his true fate.

I was previously disappointed with A Confusion of Princes for (basically) not being Sabriel (my favorite Garth Nix book to date); Mister Monday is like it enough to be exactly what I wanted, while DIFFERENT enough to not be repetitive or boring. (Make sense?) It’s aimed at a slightly younger readership than Sabriel, and there’s less flowery language. Good for those who didn’t like Sabriel, bad for those who REALLY LOVED Sabriel, I guess? Myself, I liked the balance between non-flowery and flowery, and the action/mystery/exciting bits kept the pace up nicely. Can’t wait to read the next book!

Read: December 22-23, 2012

REVIEWS: Wrapping up 2012Ask Jackie: Food storage by Jackie Clay-Atkinson
Published: Backwoods Home Magazine (2012), eBook, 61pg
Source: Freebie
Genres: Non-Fiction

In this volume:
1. Food storage
2. Preserving
3. Dehydrating
4. Freezing

Food Storage is the ultimate guide to storing food. A small sampling of the book includes Jackie's insights on building a root cellar, mastering the art of dehydration, keeping meat from going rancid, and preserving potatoes. This guide to food preservation addresses a variety of homesteaders, and is equally relevant to those who live at high elevation, in wet climates, or even in sub-zero temperatures.

Jackie Clay-Atkinson writes a column for Backwoods Home Magazine1 and this book is a compendium of relevant “Ask Jackie” answers re:food storage. Well, duh. Anyway, if you ever wanted to know how to keep your potatoes, apples, and flour safe from bugs and decay, this book might be useful to read. It’s completely in ask-answer format, though, which is a tiny bit boring to read. Luckily(?) it’s short.

Read: December 25, 2012

REVIEWS: Wrapping up 2012The Prince Commands by Andre Norton
Published: Open Road Media (1934), eBook, 255pg
Source: Freebie
Genres: Fiction, Adventure

Michael Karl’s dreams for the future do not include becoming the monarch of an obscure Ruritanian kingdom, but he soon discovers he has no say in the matter. He, the result of a misalliance between a Morvanian Prince and an American girl, is now the sole heir to the throne; however, not all of his future subjects are welcoming. On his way to his capital, Michael Karl is captured and threatened by a rebel leader known as the Werewolf, apparently because he is one! Escaping Michael lands on the doorstep of an American journalist in the guise of a distressed fellow citizen resolutely concealing his royal identity. All Michael wants is to go home to America, but even incognito he can’t help but get caught up in the political turmoil of his ancestral land and begins to wonder if maybe the Werewolf doesn’t have a point after all.

Apparently this is the first book Andre Norton ever published, and it’s NOT a sci-fi one! There’s no sci-fi at all; instead it’s a YA adventure novel with princes and conspiracies and some really over-the-top HoYay, like a 1930’s version of The Prisoner of Zenda or something. Kinda simple plot, and there’s barely any female characters, but I had fun reading it anyway. Princes + conspiracies = YAY!

Read: December 30, 2012

  1. which is way too gun-friendly but otherwise nice to read if you like fantasizing about living in THE COUNTRY and having a few goats and a garden and satellite internet like I do. What?

2 thoughts on “REVIEWS: Wrapping up 2012”

  1. I have about 4 of these cleaning up posts coming – and still a handful of books to write about. I *will* start 2013 with a clean slate, I WILL. Or, at least February.

    I still haven’t read any Sherlock Holmes books, either, even though I’ve definitely seen my share of adaptations. Glad to hear you enjoyed the audio – I really need to get around to them soon!

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