Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: So, Anyway...

So, Anyway...
John Cleese

This is definitely a book for John Cleese Fans. It's insightful, funny in parts and expansive. It focuses mainly on his early years, his time at St. Peter's Prep School in Weston-super-Mare, Clifton College and Cambridge University. The second half of the book follows what he did after University and how he turned his University hobby of comedy writing and performances into a profession.

Cleese explains throughout how he and others came up with comic sketches, scenes and programs as well as providing insight into what makes certain types of jokes and scenes work. An aspiring comedian and/or, comic writer will no doubt find this useful and thought provoking.

There were some funny bits to this book and one of my favorites came early on when Cleese mentioned that he was offered a job at his former school St. Peter's before going of to Cambridge. When asked to teach the subjects of History, Geography and English he reminded the Headmaster that he had been a student of Science and didn't know anything about these other subjects. The headmaster told him not to worry, the boys were only ten years old so as long as he stayed a page ahead of them everything would be fine.

While this book was long on his professional career it was short on his personal life. Although he focuses quite a bit on his parents in the early part and he mentions his first marriage. The further one reads the less he reveals about personal relations other than with those connected to his professional work. Having said that, anyone who is a fan of John Cleese, Monty Python or British Comedy programs will find something to like in this book.

Thanks to blogging for books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: Murder on the Eiffel Tower

Murder on the Eiffel Tower

Murder on the Eiffel Tower
Claude Izner

The story is set in 1889 during the Paris Expo. Several people have died mysterious deaths, all of which have been attributed to bee stings. Victor, a Parisian bookseller has his doubts about whether bee stings were the actual causes of death. As he investigates the circumstances surrounding the individuals who have died he begins to suspect that people around him, his friends and colleagues, are not who they seem to be. And little by little he begins to suspect those closest to him might have been the murderer.

If I'm honest, this book didn't really do anything for me. Somehow it lacked suspense and, the loads of historical details displayed throughout, came at the expense of character development. The story seemed flat and a little boring. There were lots of characters but little to make the reader feel connected to them. I was able to continue reading it as I wanted to find out who committed the murders. But even the ending didn't seem as engaging as it could have been.

I suspect a history buff interested in France in the late 19th century of in the Paris Expo specifically would appreciate this work and the research that went into it.

Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me to read this ebook in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: Bricking It

Bricking It

Bricking It
Nick Spalding

When Haley and Danny Daley inherit a derelict Victorian farmhouse from their deceased Grandmother, they decide to renovate with the intention to sell it later. Well, that's the plan anyway.

Through the renovation process they meet lots of entertaining characters and learn quite a lot about themselves. They also learn about a Grandmother they thought they knew but, who had an entirely unknown past. The story is funny, highly entertaining and full of surprises.

Anyone, who has undertaken a renovation project or just likes to watch home remodeling shows will no doubt find this a witty, lighthearted, and amusing read.

Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a review.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Review: Backstabbing in Beaujolais

Backstabbing in Beaujolais
Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen

Benjamin Cooker and his assistant Virgile are back in another installment of the Winemaker Detective series. They have been commissioned by Guillaume Périthiard to help restore a wine estate in Beaujolais. Mr. Périthiard wants to become a major force in the region where he grew up. But not everyone is happy about his plans. Things take a turn for the worse when one of his new employees dies while out hunting.

While overseeing the restoration of the vines and wine making equipment Benjamin and Virgile must find out who is behind the murderous attempts to sabotage Mr. Périthiard's business interests.

Once again the authors have written an interesting mystery full of beguiling characters, descriptions of delicious food, wine and scenery from the French countryside. I can't imagine a better way to spend a lazy afternoon, than with Benjamin and Virgile traveling around Beaujolais looking for answers to Mr. Périthiard's problems. All you need to accompany this book is a good glass of wine.

Thanks to Netgalley and Le French Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review Totenblässe

Totenblässe by Salim Güler
Salim Güler

Arndt Schumacher, Lübecker Kommissar will ermitteln, aber der Fall ist 30 Jahre alt und der Hauptzeuge ist nicht sehr glaubwuerdig. Kein Problem für Kommissar Schumacher weil er ein Gefühl im Bauch hat dem er folgen musst.

Dieser Krimi war spannend mit guten Charakteren. Mir hat die Geschichte gefallen. Freue mich schon auf den nächsten Roman von Salim Güler.

Ich danke Netgalley, die mir erlaubt haben dieses Buch zu lesen und eine Kritik zu geben.

A good book for anyone interested in a German language krimi.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: Hector and the Secrets of Love

Hector and the Secrets of Love
François Lelord

In this book Hector the main character is sent by a large Pharmaceutical company to find Professor Cormorant who has absconded with a promising love potion. While searching high and low around the world Hector contemplates the components of love and the effect these have not only on the general public but on his own relationships.

He discovers some universal truths about life and love along the way, mostly that love is complicated but essential. The simple tone of the work is refreshing and delightful. It's well observed, thoughtful and highly entertaining.

Thanks to Netgalley and Gallic Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep
Patricia Sands

Like The Promise of Provence, book one in this series, the story follows Katherine on her journey to find love and happiness in the south of France with Philippe. It isn't all smooth sailing and Philippe has some secrets in his past that threaten to put the breaks on their relationship. Once again, the author creates interesting characters full of life. The reader is swept into the story, the scenery and the sights and smells of France. That makes this book the perfect getaway.

My only disappointment was that one female character, Simone had a story with the larger tale that was left unfinished. I felt a little let down that I didn't find out what role she played in events that unfolded near her villa. I'm not sure if this was intentional because the author is planning to write another installment in this series or if it was simply overlooked.

Otherwise, I found this to be a good book with in-depth characters set in a great location.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Lake Union for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: The Tsar of Love and Techno

The Tsar of Love and Techno
Anthony Marra

I loved this book. It was powerful, moving, sad, tragic and funny, everything one could want in a good book. The story begins in 1930's Leningrad with an art censor and from this starting point extends into the lives of so many other characters tied together in a spider's web of relations. There is the brother of the censor who is already a condemned enemy of the state. There is Galina, who looms large in the story as a descendant of a prima ballerina who has beauty but little dance talent. Then there is Kolya, Galina's first boyfriend whose life is just not what it could have been. And others who have tried their best to make sense out of like and pass on something of their past for better or worse.

The stories introduce the reader to individual characters and to his or her trials and tribulations and then diverge into other characters, weaving them into the story that tracks highs and lows, pasts and presents and in some cases beyond.

I particularly like the layout that was designed to resemble a cassette tape with two sides and an intermission. It was a unique and clever idea. Maybe not surprising since Marra is a master storyteller able to mix tragedy with farce in a way few writers can. In short, I found this work mesmerizing and hard to put down.

Thanks to blogging for books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review: A Question of Inheritance

A Question of Inheritance
Elizabeth Edmondson

A new Earl has been found in America. Gus Mason was surprised to learn that his unknown father had been the 17th Earl of Selchester. He has been invited to Selchester Castle to fulfill his role as the new heir. Not everyone is happy to see him. His half sister Sonia is furious since she had assumed there was no heir and she wold get the lot. Other residents feel threatened by the new Earl's arrival. Several lodgers will have to move out of the Castle, which they find annoying. To make matters worse, the new American Earl's two daughters are not happy about having to move to England.

When a murder is committed at the Castle, no one is sure who the intended victim really was or who the murderer is. But the inhabitants of the Castle plan to figure it out even if it takes a little time and effort.

This is an engaging story that will appeal to fans of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, or anyone who likes a good murder mystery set in the English countryside. It's a classic British mystery set in the 1950's.

Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher Thomas & Mercer for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: The Promise of Provence

The Promise of Provence (Love in Provence Book 1)

The Promise of Provence
Patricia Sands

The Promise of Provence is a wonderful tale of a woman in search of herself. Katherine is a fifty-five year old woman with a nice life in Toronto. She has a good job as a researcher and a happy marriage, that is until James, her husband leaves her an anniversary bouquet with a note saying he wants a divorce. As Katherine's world falls apart she relies on friends and family to help her pick up the pieces and start again.

Her life takes on a new twist when her cousin suggests she try a house exchange holiday in France. What follows is a journey on the way to a new outlook on life, new friends and a new beginning as Katherine realizes she is not too old or too scared to take on new adventures and challenges in her life.

This story is so well told that I felt like I was with Katherine in the south of France. I could picture the sights, sounds and smells from the generous descriptions. All in all, I felt the book allowed me to join Katherine on personal journey and  an adventure where I learned about a new country and culture along the way.

I'm probably not the only reader who would love to see this book made into a film. The characters and the scenery would be great for it. Needless to say, I can't wait to read the second book in this series.

Thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

DVD: Rosemary and Thyme

Rosemary and Thyme
I loved this British mystery series that was set in beautiful gardens, starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris. I have all three seasons and I always wanted more. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find a French inspired version on youtube. It's called Crimes et Botanique. Although it was inspired by the British version it has its own stories which are set in the south of France. 

If you are a fan of Rosemary and Thyme, check out Crimes et Botanique and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: Napoleon: A Concise Biography

Napoleon: A Concise Biography
David A. Bell

This is a short biography about Napoleon that was a delight to read. What's great about this book is the fact that the reader does not get bogged down in battle after battle or some other obscure facts. It paints a broad picture of Napoleon's life, his achievements and his disasters and follies.

The author states clearly at the beginning of the book that Napoleon was a product of two great changes that came about during his time. The French Revolution which led to new power structures and authority forms. It changed the lives of those not born int aristocratic families, who could now exploit new avenues of social mobility. There were new methods of warfare and military technology that could be exploited by revolutionary armies.

This book highlights, both his major successes such as the introduction of the Napoleonic code which still exists in France, most parts of Europe and Latin America as well as his ability to successfully wage war across vast areas. It becomes clear in the book that while he was able to accomplish more than most mortals, his very success may have been part of his downfall. He wanted to be known as a son of the revolution. But he sensed that in order to create a stable situation in France, he had to extend his revolutionary zeal outwards to "keep the ball rolling" so to speak. He seemed aware that in order to be loved and respected he had to keep wining. Paradoxically, to keep winning meant severe hardship for his own men and for those who lost against him, thus provoking further conflict.

This work shows Napoleon's complex nature and the political and economic currents of the time and how and why it was that some either loved or hated him. No matter how one feels about his successes or failures it is hard to imagine a less fascinating figure in European or World history. It's also hard to imagine a man who had more impact on European and World history during and well beyond this period.

David Bell gives readers a framework with which to delve deeper into the life and history of both Napoleon and Europe during this time. In my opinion, that alone makes this book worth reading. Just to complete the package, Mr. Bell provides the reader with interesting footnotes and other bibliographic sources that makes further reading on the subject tempting.

Thanks to Netgalley and Oxford University Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: The Other Son

The Other Son
Alexander Söderberg

A thrilling, fast paced story that you won't be able to put down.

When several international criminal gangs vie for each others' territory and businesses things are bound to get messy. Innocent and not so innocent people get caught up in the action. Sophie Brinkmann is not exception. She's been the nurse of Hector Guzman and later ended up in a relationship with him, until he's almost killed. By then its too late for her to escape the organization and she's forced to take on a bigger role in the "family business". She knows to much to be allowed to walk out. With two other rival organizations out to take over the Guzman's interests, she is needed more than ever by Hector's confidants who are trying desperately to keep things together. Everyone wants something from Sophie. Is she in over her head? Only time will tell whether she will find a way out.

What unfolds in The Other Son, is a fascinating tale of intrigue,betrayal and action across numerous countries in an atmosphere of treachery that sucks in everyone, good or bad, in its path. Söderberg is clearly an author to watch. Readers of the late Henning Mankell and Stieg Larrson will not want to miss this book. It's well written, well organized into fairly short chapters that take the reader into every corner of the various criminal gangs and into the police which is supposed to contain criminal elements. Sometimes its hard to tell the two apart.

While this is part of a trilogy which began with The Andalusian Friend, it can be read as a stand alone. However, now that I've read this one I definitely want to go back to the first book, which I missed. And, of course I'll be waiting for the next installment. If this one was anything to go by, I can't wait to read it.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review: George's Grand Tour

George's Grand Tour

George's Grand Tour
Caroline Vermalle 

A joy to read! This warmhearted tale made me laugh and cry. When 83 year old George and his neighbor Charles decide to follow the 3,500 km route of the Tour de France they were looking for adventure. In fact, they thought at their age it might be the last chance they had to take such a journey. They didn't know that the journey would literally change their lives and the lives around them.

Throughout the story we see George and Charles become more than just neighbors. Through modern technology they remain not just connected to family and friends but, were able to build relationships and deep bonds where none existed before. This book is a great read for all ages and it shows that even though we age we are never to old to be young at heart.

Thanks to Netgalley and Gallic books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.