Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: Lust and Wonder

Lust & Wonder

Lust and Wonder
A Memoir
Augusten Burroughs

This memoir by best selling author of Sellevision, Running with Scissors and Dry is a look at his search over the years for love, although not always in the right places or with the right people. It's witty, funny and sometimes sad and tragic. I'm not sure how many people would be able to bare their soul on paper as much as this and make it entertaining, but Burroughs excels at this. In fact, I couldn't help but feel that I was sitting at a dinner table just listening to the author narrating his life story. It's honest, sometimes brutally so, and always well observed and insightful.

I can readily picture the characters from his life, especially Dennis, the long term boyfriend, who wants to catalog his dislikes in letter form as he can't bring himself to discuss them face to face, after Burroughs questions his love. The marriage therapist who declined to counsel the couple after just one visit, but who couldn't bring herself to notify the couple personally. Instead she sends word via the physician who recommended her. Burroughs has a way of making you feel for his friends and lovers even when they don't always show their best sides.

Eventually he does find what he's looking for, which makes the end of the book lighter, even if the author continues to imagine a world of worst case scenarios. Overall, this was an enjoyable book that I wasn't able to put down.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for supplying the advance readers copy.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Switcheroo


(A Gideon Oliver Mystery)
Aaron Elkins
This is a well crafted forensic mystery novel set in the Channel Islands. Gideon, a Professor of forensic anthropology is asked by Rafe Carlisle, a Jersey islander if he would look at some bones that are considered to belong to his father who died in 1964. Rafe would like Gideon to examine the bones in order to shed light on the circumstances of his father's death. The bones were found in a tar pit five years after his father disappeared and his uncle was killed. At the time of his disappearance, Roddy Carlisle was suspected of having killed his cousin George Skinner. But while examining these bones another murder occurs that may be linked to the old case Gideon is examining. Will Gideon be able to shed some light on that one as well?

This is a mystery with an historical slant, an interesting setting and a plot the has enough twists and turns to satisfy any discerning reader. It's also a very good read for anyone interested in forensic mysteries.

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Murder in an Irish Village

Murder in an Irish Village

Murder in an Irish Village
Carlene O'Connor

Siobhán O'Sullivan hasn't had an easy time of late. Her parents were killed in a car accident by a local boy accused of driving under the influence. Now she's left with the prospect of looking after the family business Naomi's Bistro as well as, keeping an eye on an older brother who has a history of drinking too much and raising her four younger siblings. As if that weren't enough to deal with, a body is found dead in the bistro and Siobhán's older brother James is accused of the murder. Now she has extra work. She is determined to find the killer, even if it is one of her nearest friends or neighbors.

This is a terrific cozy mystery set in a small Irish village. It's full of fun characters and Siobhán, despite an uphill struggle is delightful. She rushes head long into her investigations, often without even thinking things through. This is not always good in a village where it's hard to keep secrets. But Siobhán is persistent and she is determined to keep her family together through thick and thin. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries set in idyllic locations then this is one for you. Curl up with a cup of tea and see if Siobhán has any luck looking for the killer.

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

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review: Out of Sorts

Out of Sorts

Out of Sorts
Aurélie Valognes

Ferdinand is a grumpy old man, there is no doubt about it. And that's why he has no friends but, that's okay with him, he likes it that way. Unfortunately, his only daughter, who lives on the other side of the world has decided that it's time for Ferdinand to go to a retirement home. Of course this doesn't sit well with Ferdinand. His daughter makes one concession, if he submits to inspections of his apartment by the concierge Mrs Suarez on a monthly basis and tries to changes his unfriendly ways he may be allowed to stay in his apartment.

The story follows Ferdinand's attempts to change his ways with the help of some new neighbors and friends. It has just the right amount of wit, humor and tragedy to make the reader really care about the characters. It's well written and it will leave one thinking that new beginnings are possible at any age. All in all, it's a fun and enjoyable read.

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

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: The Red Notebook

The Red Notebook

The Red Notebook
Antoine Laurain

I loved this charming little book. It was modern and fun. Laurent owns a book store Le Cahier Rouge in Paris. One day he finds an abandoned handbag, which he would like to return, but there is no identification inside. He studies all the objects inside, especially a red notebook full of comments by it's owner. Afterward, he feels even more compelled to return the handbag and the story centers on his search for the owner.

The characters come alive in this book and I felt like I knew them well by the end. The author has a way of writing that is both lively and entertaining. This is the perfect book for a lazy afternoon.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass: A Novel

This Too Shall Pass
Milena Busquets

I was looking forward to reading this book. I loved the cover and somehow I had assumed it would be something a bit uplifting. Unfortunately, I found it disappointing. Blanca a forty year old woman has just lost her mother to a long illness. The story begins with her mother's burial in Barcelona and later moves to a vacation home in Cadaqués where the main character joins family and friends in an attempt to regain her life. I think the main problem with the book is the fact that it is hard to like, or feel sympathy for Blanca. She spent too much time whining about her dead mother and too much time trying to pick up men or thinking about having sex with, (it seemed liked) any man who crossed her path. Somehow she appeared more like a sex starved teenager than a mature woman. She also came across as a rather self-absorbed person and hence a difficult one to like.

The style of writing also didn't appeal to me. Paragraphs would often ramble from one scene into another without much definition. And, all to often the main character ended up having a mental conversation, or some kind of blame game, with her dead mother. For me there was simply too much “telling” in this story and not enough “showing”, which made it flat and at times rather boring.

Thanks to Library Thing and Penguin Random House for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: The Keeper of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes (Department Q, #1)

The Keeper of Lost Causes
Jussi Adler-Olsen

Carl Mørck, a Danish police detective has been through a lot lately. He and his partners were involved in a shot out that left one partner dead and the other paralyzed. When Carl gets back to work he finds there has been a reorganization at the police force that has left him the head of a new department called simply Q, located in the basement. As head of this department which has one “assistant” who also serves as a cleaner, Carl is expected to look into old unsolved cases. The first one on his list is the disappearance of a well know politician Merete Lynggaard. Five years previously she disappeared from a ferry without trace. Many had come to the conclusion that she had committed suicide but Mørck decides to have one last look into the case before closing it for good.

The story that follows the investigation is dark, gripping and unnerving. It alternates chapters between Carl's world, ie. his home life and his office life and Merete Lynggard's world. I found the chapters dealing with Merete's disappearance at times difficult to read, they were so unnerving. Luckily, the chapters dealing with Carl's attempts to come to grips with this investigation and his own personal problems give the reader a reprieve from overwhelming darkness. So the back and forth of the chapters was a good structural development.

This is an absorbing and gripping novel that will be best enjoyed by those who like dark, nordic thrillers. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: Blood Oil

Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules That Run the World

Blood Oil
Leif Wenar

Blood Oil seeks to make the reader aware of how purchasing numerous items that we consume without much thought, be they clothes, electronics or food, which were produced with petroleum and its by-products, are potentially propping up authoritarian rulers who have misappropriated revenues by selling their countries resources without any oversight.

Wenar argues that natural resources of a country rightly belong to the sovereign people and not to an individual dictator, authoritarian leader, middle eastern monarch or a militia group. As we cannot know the source of the resources (oil, gas, cobalt, diamonds etc.) which go into the products we consume, our purchases could be funding, enriching and helping these rulers who oppress their own people. We therefore, need to think more about our actions and our responsibility to see that we can be part of a solution, rather than the problem.

Wenar offers solutions in the form of Clean Trade policies, which aim to make those authoritarian leaders with resources more accountable to their own people and in the longer run create a more just society where those people are the ultimate beneficiaries of their resources.

I found this to be an engaging and interesting work. It's a long book and one that should really be studied rather than simply read, as it covers a lot of ground. I think it will be of interest to anyone interested in international affairs and global issues.

I would like to thank Oxford University Press and Goodreads Giveaway program for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a review. I should also note that as a King's College, London graduate, I was pleased to see that the author currently holds the Chair of Philosophy and Law at King's.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review: The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week

The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week
Fiona Walker

Jennifer is a divorced woman with two grown children, who has taken on a professional house sitting job. Since the end of her marriage she has had to downsize into an unloved home and for this reason she not only doesn't mind house sitting in a stranger's home, she finds it's an escape from her own unhappiness. This time it is an old Rectory with beautiful gardens and an inviting pool. The house belongs to the Lewis family, who she discovers via living in their space and meeting their neighbors. Jennifer also has an “almost” boyfriend, Roger, who she is hoping to finally sleep with after numerous dates. But, her time in the Rectory may not unfold exactly as she planned. There's Gunter, the badly behaved dog and Euan the family's sometime resident painter, who keep interrupting her attempts to create an organized life. She has to decide how much of herself she will expose to him and whether she is capable of finally moving on, after her painful divorce.

I must admit, that although I'm a fan of Fiona Walker, the beginning of this story didn't really pull me in. It seemed too melodramatic and the main character seemed a bit dull. In fact about a third of the way through, I thought maybe the story would be a dull one. But then it seemed to pick up, there was a tension developing between characters that suddenly made it hard to put down. The story gained a life of it's own and it was easy to loose track of time while reading it. It's full of punchy, witty and funny dialogue that Ms. Walker is known for as well as characters you feel connected to. It's perfect as a lighthearted read or when you need an escape.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: Hunters In the Dark

Hunters in the Dark
Lawrence Osborne

Robert is a 28 year old Englishman, a schoolteacher who is unhappy with his existence at home. He therefore finds himself in Cambodia alone during his holidays. While entertaining the idea of what it would be like to just disappear from his own life, fate helps him along the way when he meets an American man and his local girlfriend.

Eventually, he meets Sophal when he decides to teach English as a way to earn money. But, just when he thinks he could live a new life in a new country events take on a life of their own. Previous characters he has meet along the way are drawn together into a web of lies and danger. Is it fate or karma and how will it effect Robert?

Initially, I thought the first few chapters were slow going and I wasn't particularly keen on the style of writing which seemed flat and a tad boring. But, as I kept going I was rewarded with a tale that became darker and more thrilling. It flowed languorously, like the rivers in the book downwards into an unknown horizon connecting the characters and events in twisting and turning ways that I hadn't anticipated. With the rumbling of thunder and the lashing rain in the background, the weather became a character on its own, making the story humid, dark and foreboding.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and gripping story that left me thinking a lot about human nature. It's perfect for those who like suspense in an exotic location.

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