Book Review: The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith

The Geek's Guide to DatingThe Geek’s Guide to Dating
Eric Smith
Quirk Books, December 2013
ISBN 978-1-59474-643-7
Hardcover

While the advice in The Geek’s Guide to Dating is undoubtedly spot-on for all single, self-professed geeks, it, in no way, should be limited to that audience. “Geek” is proudly owned by excitable, quirky, intelligent and often goofy folks; with a “proper geek” being one consumed by a particular passion. Geeks are not exclusive. This thoughtful, hilarious, kind book is applicable to all members of society. It is a superb, subtle reminder of how to treat other people.

I’m particularly smitten with the idea that Mr. Smith’s first step is introspective. Figure yourself out, determine your goals, identify opportunities for improvement….essentially: get a grip on your own life before commingling.

Helpful hints pepper the pages. Useful quotes from Led Zeppelin to Yoda are more widely applicable than I could have imagined. References from The Simpsons to Pokémon ensure that there is absolutely something for everyone.

To accurately convey the spirit of the book and entice you to try it, I would remiss if I did not share a few of my favorite tips, tid-bits and reminders.

• Narrowing horizons in any aspect—self-limiting
• “Let your geek flag fly because someone will salute it.”
• Dressing on a date is less about establishing your geek cred; all about being presentable in public
• Avoid “more Rasputin than romantic” when grooming
• Moms’ favorites that stand the test of time

o Stand up straight
o Listen
o Eye contact

• Communicate clearly: state intent and have a plan
• Equating a date to a “real life Choose Your Own Adventure book”
• “Weather chitchat is where conversation goes to die.”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this delightful tome and it has served as a spectacular gift on several occasions.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2015.

Book Review: The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

The Mystery Writers of America CookbookThe Mystery Writers of America Cookbook
Wickedly Good Recipes -From Many Favorite Writers
Edited by Kate White
Quirk Books, March 2015
ISBN 978-1-59474-757-1
Hardcover

This cookbook contains more than 100 recipes, from breakfast to cocktails, great photography and commentary from legendary authors and fun mystery facts. This book will make a wonderful gift for some lucky friend if you can bring yourself to let go. You might as well just order two because once you see this recipe book you won’t want to let go of it.

The introduction includes a reminder of the murder weapon used in Roald Dahl’s 1953 short story “Lamb to the Slaughter”.

The proceeds of the sale of this cookbook go to MWA, an organization founded in 1945 and dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre. MWA sponsors the annual Edgar Awards named for Edgar Allan Poe and considered the Academy Awards of mystery writers.

Breakfast includes recipes ranging from Ellie Hatcher’s Rum-Soaked Nutella French Toast to Max Allan Collins’ and Barbara Collins’ Holiday Eggs. Richard Castle gives us his recipe for Morning-After Hotcakes.

For the Appetizer section Nelson DeMille has contributed Male Chauvinist Pigs in the Blanket. This is followed up by Kate White’s A Very Sneaky Bean Dip. There are a number of excellent sounding appetizers to choose from.

The Soup and Salad section contains several recipes that I would like to try right now.

Kate White gives the reader a very good definition of “What Exactly Is A Red Herring?” This refers to a Red Herring in a mystery and not in a recipe.

There is a large section of entrees headed up by David Morrrell’s Thomas De Quincey’s Pasta -Less Pasta. I won’t tell you what takes the place of the pasta so you will need to get the book. I am sure everyone will want Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone’s Famous Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich.

The book contains a chapter on Side Dishes, Desserts and Cocktails. The book contains Metric Conversions which is a very helpful addition. I haven’t named many of the authors in this review but there are so many I know every reader will find at least one favorite author.

Lee Child presents very exact instructions for making Coffee, Pot of One. The recipe even includes the type of coffee and mug to use.

You can’t go wrong with this cookbook. There is a little bit of everything included and some insight into the likes of many of your favorite authors.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2015.

Book Reviews: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhorn and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

The Wife, the Maid, and the MistressThe Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
Ariel Lawhorn
Doubleday, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-385-53762-9
Hardcover

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon is one of the best novels I’ve recently read.

Lawhon brilliantly reconstructs a real-life mystery – the unsolved disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in 1930. She does this through the eyes of his wife, their maid, and his mistress.

Lawhon jumps back and forth between 1930 and 1969, when the judge’s aging wife Stella Crater meets with the detective who had then been investigating Crater’s disappearance. They meet at Club Abbey, once a famous speakeasy during the Jazz Age. Every year since his disappearance, Stella Crater salutes her husband with a glass of Whiskey: “Good luck, Joe, wherever you are.”

The main part of the novel takes place in 1930s New York City and Lawhon paints a vividly entertaining picture of the time, complete with dancing girls and mobsters – the infamous Owney Madden is just one.

The tales of Stella, the wife, Maria, the maid, and Ritzi, the mistress, are skilfully intertwined, showing their complex relationships with each other and the judge leading up to his disappearance.

As a reader, I was so drawn to each of the women, which is a testament to Lawhon’s skill, since not much is known about the actual historical figures Stella, Maria, and Ritzi. Lawhon crafted wonderful, believable characters in an enticing setting.

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a page-turner and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Anika Abbate, March 2014.

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Hollow CityHollow City
The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books, January 2014
ISBN 978-1-59474-612-3
Hardcover

Ransom Riggs‘s 2011 debut novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children , began as a multi-media exercise. A collector of vintage black and white photographs, Riggs drew inspiration from found pictures of unknown children, who became the bizarre and magical characters in his novel. From this starting point, Riggs spun the tale of Jacob Portman, a lonely, discontented American teenager who travels to Wales to investigate mysterious photographs left behind by his dying grandfather. There, he discovers the titular home and its inhabitants, along with supernatural wonders – and horrors – that he has never imagined.

Uniquely, Miss Peregrine contains reproductions of the photographs that inspired the story. In the print edition, each picture is laid out on a page after the detailed verbal description of the images it contains. Because of this presentation, Miss Peregrine‘s readers had the chance to absorb the written description, imagine it for themselves, then turn the page and see the picture that inspired the passage. The result was a uniquely inventive reading experience that left audiences clamoring for more.

In Hollow City, Riggs revisits the world of the peculiar children. The sequel picks up exactly where the first novel left off, with Jacob and his companions fleeing the monstrous wights and hollows who want to devour them. This time, they are without the guidance of their guardian Miss Peregrine, who has been transformed into a bird. The children must then go on a mission to restore her to her natural form. In the traditions of quest fantasy, the characters encounter new friends and foes, and many bizarre and terrible obstacles, along their way. Once again, these adventures are accompanied by photographs – of sad clowns, bombed-out-cathedrals, and in one memorable case, a dog wearing aviator goggles and smoking a pipe.

Hollow City is the second book of a projected trilogy, and it has some of the structural problems associated with middle chapters. The plot is essentially concerned with getting the characters from point A to point B, and it piles on new problems and complications without really resolving any. Furthermore, the central conceit of the series – the relation of the story to the found images – sometimes feels more forced and less organic to the story that it did in the first novel.

At its best moments, though, Hollow City gives readers a spellbinding good time. Riggs writes rich, stylish prose, and he has created a memorable cast of characters. Jacob is an appealing narrator, flawed but wrestling honestly with his fears and weaknesses. Emma Bloom, the hot-tempered leader of the peculiars, functions as Jacob’s “love interest,” but she’s also a forceful and competent heroine in her own right. These characters and their many companions should be relatable not only to the older children and teens who are Riggs‘s primary audience, but to the many adult readers who have learned to appreciate today’s Young Adult fiction.

Overall, Hollow City does not always feel as fresh or as thrilling as its predecessor. However, it is by any standard a worthy follow-up, and people who loved the first book will not be disappointed.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Caroline Pruett, March 2014.