Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: And After Many Days

And After Many Days

And After Many Days
Jowhor Ile

Paul, a seventeen year old Nigerian boy disappears one evening in 1995 and this story follows the family during the days after his disappearance. The tale weaves back and forth into the past, to the childhood of Paul, his brother Ajie and sister Bibi, and the time spent with their parents in both Port Harcourt and the family's ancestral village.

The author covers family relations, political developments and community action all in one spellbinding story, never losing the thread of Paul's disappearance and it's effect on his family and their constant search for answers. There were wonderful descriptions of sibling rivalry and the changing nature of things in both rural and urban environments. The themes of love, loss, tragedy made the book hard to put down. Overall, it was an incredibly well written, moving story that made me laugh and cry. It told me so much more than simply how a family deals with loss and change. It told me about constant change in a community and a nation as a whole.

Thanks to LibraryThing and Crown Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: The Arrangement

The Arrangement

The Arrangement
Ashley Warlick

The Arrangement is the fictional tale of the life of famous food writer Mary Francis Kennedy (MFK) Fisher and her entanglement with the love of her life, Tim, a good friend of her husband Al. The settings range from Los Angeles, to Paris and Vevey, Switzerland in the mid 1930's.

I didn't really love or hate this book but for some reason I just couldn't get excited about it. I think that MFK Fisher was definitely ahead of her time and I am sure that this could be a good story. But, I felt the story moved very slowly at times and it seemed flat. It wasn't poorly written but, I might have enjoyed it more if it had been divided into chapters that moved back and forth in time rather than having large sections that rambled on and on. This is of course just a personal preference but, I think a different structure might have allowed for more tension in the story, making it more engaging, exciting and moving.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness and Viking Books for allowing me to read this advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review: The Bee-Friendly Garden

The Bee-Friendly Garden
Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn

This lovely book is loaded with interesting information about how anyone can create a bee-friendly garden. The cover alone made me want to dive right in. The chapters are informative and well organized. They begin with the importance of bees and moves on to what type of plants one can use to attract bees in a typical garden as well as in an edible garden.

The authors also give great tips for designing a garden to attract different types of bees. I particularly liked the Chapter entitled Bee garden basics which gave instructions on how to create nesting sites for bees. One of the things that make this such a great book is the inclusion of lots of photos that allow the reader to visualize what the authors are describing. I came away with a lot of ideas about what plants I could incorporate into my garden in order to encourage more bees.

I also came away knowing so much more about how many different types of bees there are and other interesting information. For example, I was unaware that bees are able to see blues, yellow and whites more so than pinks or reds. This book made me realize that I need to pay more attention to what is attracted to my garden and why.

The fact that spring is just around the corner makes this book a must have for any gardener or anyone who is interested in helping bees flourish. The list of bee friendly plants included makes it easy for anyone to head out to a local nursery and get started creating a fun, useful and nurturing garden.

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

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: The Detective & The Chinese High-Fin

The Detective & the Chinese High-Fin: A John Darvelle Mystery

The Detective & The Chinese High-Fin
A John Darvelle Mystery
Michael Craven

While Private Detective Darvelle is on a mundane case involving a stolen ring from an elderly lady, he gets a call from L.A. Homicide detective Mike Ott, regarding a cold case. Keaton Fuller was shot dead in front of his home and the police couldn't find the killer but the family, especially Keaton's parents, want to continue the search. John Darvelle decides to take on the case by going through the old case files and re-interviewing everyone involved. He is hoping something new will turn up so that he will be able to find the killer. It may not be easy, since Keaton Fuller was not a likeable guy and so far everyone identified in the case has an airtight alibi. Darvelle will have to spend his time looking for something the police missed.

I wasn't sure I was going to like the style of this novel at first but to be honest the characters grew on me, especially John Darvelle. After a few pages I appreciated his chatty narration and all the commentary he added about the city, the characters and the events in the story. The story had some twists at the end, which I wasn't expecting and Darvelle finds he has some tough decisions to make once he uncovers the killer. Overall, I felt the whole thing was well observed, sometimes funny, witty and entertaining. In the end I found it hard to put down.

Thanks to the Goodreads giveaway for allowing me to read an advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Review: Stockholm Noir

Stockholm Noir

Stockholm Noir
Edited by Nathan Larson & Carl-Michael Edenborg

In this clever and thought provoking selection of short stories one is sure to find the dark side of Stockholm. Normally, when I think of Sweden I think of something modern, light, airy and beautiful but, this collection shows that there is another side altogether. It's dark, shadowy, gritty and full of disillusionment.

Some of my favorite stories included The Splendors and Miseries of a Swedish Crime Writer, in which the main character gets more than he bargained for with his writing career. Still in Kallhรคll, shows that no matter how hard Klas tried, he couldn't find a way to his dream location. In Black Ice, the children who want a parent to move to a retirement home for selfish reasons, have no idea of the harm they will cause in the end. There are many more stories included that will show the reader a darker, edgier side of life to Stockholm than they have probably seen before. Overall, its an engaging look at what lurks under the surface when the veil is pulled back from the beautiful facade.

Thanks to Akashic Books for allowing me to read an advance reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl: A Novel
Vinegar Girl
Anne Tyler

Vinegar Girl is a retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew”. In Anne Tyler's fun and enjoyable version Kate Battista is a single 29 year old living at home looking after her scientist father and much younger sister Bunny. Kate has a job as an assistant at a preschool but, like her life, the job isn't really going anywhere. Her father on the other hand, finds himself faced with a dilemma. His foreign research assistant needs to find a way to remain in the country. Will Kate provide the solution her father desires by marrying this man? Will all turn out as expected if she does? It's worth reading along to find out.

Tyler presents a modern world where everyone is interested in themselves but, at the same time they may not all be exactly as they appear on the surface. The work if full of fun and engaging characters. It's witty as well as engaging. Tyler uses the right amount of description and detail, as well as character interaction to keep the reader wanting more. I particularly liked the subtle transformation in Kate from the teacher's assistant, who didn't have time to sugar coat things for the children to the later version who made plenty of excuses for things she couldn't quite control.

It did however, seem to end a bit abruptly. There was an epilogue that brings a nice ending to the story. Overall, I found it an entertaining and worthwhile read.

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: The Railwayman's Wife

The Railwayman's Wife

The Railwayman's Wife
Ashley Hay

Ani and Mac Lachlan are a young married couple with a ten year old daughter living in Thirroul Australia in the mid 1940's. Their life is a happy one until Mac is killed in a work accident. After Mac's death, Ani is giving a job at the local library by the railway company. The story moves back and forth between Ani's new life and her old life. There are her encounters with Roy, the local poet, who has recently returned to the village after serving in the war, and the local doctor, who has also been away during the war. The story also drifts back to her past, like a dream detailing how she and Mac meet and came to be in the coastal village of Thirroul.

Unfortunately, I found the story a bit too slow moving and as a result, boring. It seemed to lack tension and maybe conflict that might have kept me wanting to know more about the characters and what happened to them. Ashley Hay has a nice writing style, dream-like and poetic, which fits the story. Sadly, it just wasn't enough to keep me interested in the story as a whole.

Thanks to  Shelf Awareness giveaway and Atria Books for allowing me to read the advanced reader's copy.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review:The Excellent Lombards

The Excellent Lombards

The Excellent Lombards
Jane Hamilton

This is a heartwarming tale about Mary Francis “Frankie” Lombard, her brother William and the rest of the Lombard clan. The story is set on the apple orchard in Wisconsin, owned by the family. In it, Frankie recounts the young lives and adventures she and her brother have had on the farm. It's full of fun and well observed characters and gives a wonderful view of the changes that have taken place on the farm and within the family structure as times change and people grow older. While everyone loves the farm, for Frankie its so much more. It's a home she can't ever imagine leaving even as things beyond her control change the course of life, both on and off the farm. This is a well told tale that made me feel like I was growing up next to Frankie on the farm. It had the right amount of humor, charm and feeling and tenderness that makes a reader really feel connected to the characters.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for allowing me to read an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: The Path

The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life

The Path
Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh

The aim of this book is to show the reader how Chinese philosophy can make a difference in our lives. It developed out of a popular course the author teaches at Harvard University. It attempts to show that there are other ways of finding balance, fulfillment and meaning in life than only with the Western ideas with which we are accustomed to.

It introduces the reader to various Chinese philosophers and their thinking as well as showing the reader how these ideas can be applied to everyday life. Much of it seems to be focused on the idea that if you transform yourself and your way of thinking and the way you engage with your friends, family colleagues etc., you can change how others relate to you, thereby creating a different environment, ideally one in which you will find more meaning and fulfillment.

While the book had some interesting ideas and while it is intriguing to see that ideas from thousands of years ago may still have relevance for us today, I couldn't help but feel that the philosophers were chosen at random, without a lot of explanation as to why only these thinkers are included but not others. Also, the last chapter seemed to me as if it would have been better as an introduction and overview rather than a summary.

This is probably a good book for those who want to explore what other cultures have to offer and how it might be incorporated into one's own life.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing the advance reader's copy