Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop
Nina George

Jean Perdu is a bookseller but, not an ordinary one. His book shop is on his barge moored in the heart of Paris, called the Literary Apothecary. He likes to prescribe books the way a pharmacist would prescribe medication to a patient. But this eccentric bookseller is struggling in his own personal life. He has closed himself off from most personal relationships for the past twenty-one years because he never got over the love of his life leaving him. He goes through the motions of everyday life but he isn't really living it.

When he finally opens a letter his former lover Manon left behind twenty years ago, he decides to pick up anchor and sail south in order to seek answers to his questions. He needs to come to terms with what his life once was and what it could be if he is open to change. He is accompanied on his journey by Max, a young writer looking for inspiration for his second novel, and others who cross his path along the journey. All are searching for something to make them feel more alive. And only by stepping out of their comfort zones are they likely to find it.

This mesmerizing, elegantly written story brings alive both the sorrow and joy that fill the lives of the main characters, especially Jean. It takes the reader on a journey, not only through France but through the meaning of life and love itself. Its filled with the foods and scenery of France and will likely linger like a good wine well after reading.

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review: The Children

The Children

The Children
Ann Leary

Whit Whitman, the Patriarch of the family and previous owner of lakeside cottage has already passed away when this story begins but, his spirit looms large throughout the tale. The delicate balance that existed before his death is slowly unraveling throughout the story. Narrated by Charlotte, his stepdaughter we learn that her mother Joan, Whit's second wife is to be granted access to the house as long as she wants to live in it but, technically it is left to his two sons by a previous marriage.

Trouble begins when one son wants to marry and possibly live in the house with his new wife. Is the new wife the friend to Charlotte she claims to be or is there something more sinister going on? Change is definitely coming to lakeside cottage, the feeling is in the air but no one is sure what the changes will mean to their lives.

The story peels back layer upon layer of emotions and unspoken frustrations within the family and between the siblings. The undercurrents are bubbling up to the surface and once they reach the top it's hard to see how things will ever be the same again. The pace of the story is somehow what makes it so hard to put down. Little by little, things are revealed until everything is simply not as it was before.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: Louisa The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams
Louisa Thomas

This is a fascinating biography of Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of President John Quincy Adams. It follows her life from her earliest years in London, where she was born to an American father and British mother to her marriage to John Quincy Adams and their travels and adventures together across Europe and back to the U.S. where John Q. Adams would become President. From London, in 1797 they headed to Prussia where John Quincy was to represent the new nation at the court in Berlin. In 1801 Louisa made her first visit to the United States but, by 1809 they were on their way to Russia where John Quincy was to be the new minister plenipotentiary for the next several years. They eventually returned to the United States in 1817 where they continued their life in the forefront of political events, during John Quincy's term as Secretary of State and as President of the nation.

This book, which makes use of her diaries and writing throughout the years, gives an intimate glance into the life of a unique women, her family, and the interesting times in which she lived. Extensive and well written, it's a must for anyone interested in both the history of the United States and the often forgotten role of women within it.

Thanks to Penguin Press for allowing me to read an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: Even in Paradise

Even in Paradise

Even in Paradise
Elizabeth Nunez

This was an engrossing tale that I found hard to put down. Peter Ducksworth, a Trinidadian of English descent, has three daughters Glynis the eldest, Rebecca the middle daughter and Corinne, the youngest and Mr. Ducksworth's favorite.

After moving to Barbados, from Trinidad in order to live his life in paradise along the white sandy beaches, Peter Ducksworth decides to hand over two pieces of his land to the older daughters. Rebecca has just eloped with a new husband of English ancestry and Glynis is about to marry Albert, a Trinidadian of Lebanese descent. Corinne will have to wait for her inheritance, which is to be the biggest plot of land where her father has his house, in which he intends to spend the rest of his days. But, resentful of the fact that Corinne is the favored daughter, the others may have designs on her future inheritance and Mr. Ducksworth himself doesn't make things easy for his daughters with his constant need for attention and affection.

The story is narrated by Emile, a Trinidadian of African descent, who has know the family since he was a child. He is in fact the son of Mr. Ducksworth's personal physician, and Albert, Glynis' finance is Emile best friend. He is therefore privy to all the family dynamics and is able to tell the story of greed, sibling rivalry and manipulation like an insider. As he gets closer to Corinne, he becomes more than an outsider and is able to make the reader feel as if he is having an intimate chat with a close friend.

I loved the way this book covered so many themes, from colonialism, racism, current politics, greed, rivalry and jealousy and was still able to convey the characters in a way that the reader feels an intimate connection with them. The multiple stories within the book were fascinating and well told.

Thanks to the Library Thing giveaway and Akashic Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review: Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls
Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls is essentially the story about a group of women brought together by the tragedy of war. Set just before and during World War II, it follows the story of Caroline Ferriday, a New York socialite, who worked with the French consulate in New York, helping victims during the war. It also follows several women from Poland, who end up in Ravensbrück, Germany's female only concentration camp. There was also a German female doctor there who worked at the camp and participating in medical experiments performed on the women.

While the book follows the women both before, during and after the war, I felt like I was reading what could have been two different books. The story of Caroline Ferriday of New York takes up a considerable portion of the book and while it is supposed to tell the story of how she helped the Ravensbrück victims, it takes an enormously long time before these characters meet up in the book. As the book is based on true events and since Caroline Ferriday was an actual figure, I somehow can't help thinking that she alone could have been the subject of a book. As it stands, the chapters weave back and forth between Caroline's life in New York, and later in France, the lives of the women in concentration camp and the female doctor, but the reader is left wondering how this fits together, if they only have any connection with one another at the end of the book.

I also felt the ending was very abrupt and shallow. After having read so much about these characters I would have been interested to know how the rest of their lives turned out. While, I don't think this was a bad book, it did seem uneven and perhaps there was too much time spent on trivial details such as New York parties attended by Caroline Ferriday. I can't help but wonder, if Caroline should have had a smaller role in the story, or if a slightly different structure would have made this book more compelling.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness and Random House for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Review: Tasting Rome

Tasting Rome
Katie Parla and Kristina Gill

This cookbook is a true delight. First off, it was beautiful, like a nice coffee table book. Plus it was filled with interesting recipes as well as lots of information about Roman cooking, and other cultural traditions. Some sections were more interesting than others. For instance, I don't think I will be attempting to make any of the recipes in the section entitled Fringe Foods, but they were nevertheless informative and interesting. I especially enjoyed the section devoted to Bread and the one entitled Sweets.

Besides providing recipes which in the most part seemed fairly easy to prepare, I liked that the authors gave historical information about how the dish was invented or created as well as tips for preparation. One tip in particular that seems useful, is how to make gelato and sobetto without having an ice cream maker. Although, I actually have an ice cream maker, having read their suggestion I don't think I'm going to use it the next time I make gelato.

To me this seemed more than your average cookbook. I felt like I had been on a guided tour through Rome, discovering its culinary traditions and the changes that have been occurring recently. I loved the photos of both the dishes created and those that depicted Roman life. I think anyone who reads this will want to head straight to Rome to experience the cuisine and the lifestyle first hand.

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

DVD: Hamish Macbeth

  • Hamish MacBeth: Series 1-3 Collection

If you found my recent review of Death of a Nurse by M.C. Beaton interesting, you might like to know that the BBC produced a series around the character of Hamish Macbeth. It's a delightful adaptation, based somewhat loosely on the books but still full of colorful characters, and set in the Scottish Highlands.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Review: Death of a Nurse

Death of a Nurse (Hamish Macbeth, #31)
Death of a Nurse
M. C. Beaton

Hamish Macbeth is all ready to have dinner with Gloria Dainty, a private nurse caring for Mr. Harrison from the local hunting lodge. When Gloria doesn't turn up at the restaurant as agreed, Hamish thinks he's been stood up. That is until her body is discovered washed up on a local beach. Now Hamish and his new partner Charlie Carter have to help investigate her death.

This is an entertaining mystery full of colorful characters and local life in the Scottish Highland village of Lochdubh. Hamish has his own way of dealing with the locals when it comes to investigating crime. This is probably what makes him so successful when trying to find answers to all the questions that crop up in the investigation. There will be plenty of time for a wee dram of whiskey in this investigation, since the police force is just as cunning as the locals when it comes to finding out what happens in a small town.

Thanks to Goodreads giveaway and Hachette Book Group for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Review: Dark Homecoming

Dark Homecoming

Dark Homecoming
William Patterson

Liz, has just married David Huntington, a Palm Beach businessman, after knowing him only briefly. David's first wife Dominique was killed in a yachting accident, but her body was never found. Liz moves into the Palm Beach estate that David calls home but, she is warned by servants that there is evil in the house. Many tell her that Dominique still haunts the house. What will happen to Liz? Is Dominique's ghost still around? Read along and find out what happens as Liz tries to make a new home in a sinister place with an dark atmosphere.

Although I don't usually read “horror” books or things about ghosts and voodoo, I found this book interesting and entertaining. The author did a good job keeping my full attention until the end. The story was full of suspense that kept building with each new chapter. Surprisingly, I found that I really wanted to know how it would all turn out for Liz and David.

Thanks to Goodreads giveaway and Kensington Books for allowing me to read this advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: Forty Rooms

Forty Rooms
Forty Rooms
Olga Grushin

This story follows the life of a woman through the forty rooms that she will inhabit during her lifetime. It moves from her idyllic childhood in Russia, which is full of nostalgia and the presence of her mother and father, to college in the United States, which is full of adventures and new experiences and expectations of what life will bring, or what she thinks she wants out of life. It moves on to married life and children, which take up a growing part of her time and pull her away from some of the things she expected to do with her life. The author shows Mrs. Caldwell, the only name she is known by throughout the book, as someone who is full of regret, but at the same time she acknowledges a certain sense fulfillment as well. Nevertheless, nearing the end it is hard to tell which one she feels more fully, fulfillment or regret.

This was an interesting read, the structure of the book was unique, it had a dreamlike and haunting quality to it, which made it hard to put down. Overall this was a well observed work that covered so many of the issues that face women today. I can't wait to see what Ms. Grushin writes next.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness and Putnam Books for allowing me the read an advanced reader's copy in exchange for a review.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Review: The Water-Saving Garden

The Water-Saving Garden
Pam Penick

This book is a clever and resourceful tool for finding ways to save water in the garden. Although I don't live in a dry environment, my area does at times experience dry periods and drought. Therefore, finding ways to save water and plants that can grow with less is something I can appreciate. This work provided me with new ways of thinking about how to create a garden without wasting a precious resource.

I liked that it covered areas such as the foundation of the garden, information regarding the soil qualities and ways to improve it and how things like mulch can help retain moisture. It also encouraged me to think of creative ways to use products like stone, gravel, and pavers to create spaces in place of water thirsty grasses.

I particularly liked the idea of creating the mood, or idea, of water with plants that flow through a space. The author includes photos that show examples of these ideas which will help readers create their own spaces at home. Hopefully the book will help inspire readers to come up with more useful ideas on their own.

The book doesn't just focus on large gardens, it also gives owners of patios or small spaces ideas for saving water as well. Plus, it offers a list of trees, shrubs and plants that garden lovers can grow using a lot less water. So whether you are in a desert or just want to save on you water bill this book is a good place to start.

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review: The Blue Bath

The Blue Bath

The Blue Bath
Mary Waters-Sayer

American Kat Lind, has just returned to London following the death or her mother. At a gallery opening with her friend Jorie she is surprised to find not only paintings of herself on display but the artist Daniel Blake who painted them. Kat and Daniel had a past when she was a student in Paris. Although, she has not seen Daniel for twenty years his appearance may change her life and that of her husband and son if she allows it.

Throughout the story Kat has to struggle with the notion that she might want to regain something she lost in the past but on the other hand she might need to stay put with a future she is comfortable with, not only for herself but for her son as well. But as in life, nothing is certain and in the end she may not have the luxury of choice.

This is a beautifully written book and I just loved the story. It's full of great locations, wonderful descriptive detail and I love the way the author captures the characters. I felt like I had meet all of these people somewhere before. The story was presented in such a lush and vivid manner that it would no doubt translate well into a film. I can't wait to read more by this author.

Thanks to Goodreads giveaway and St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read the advanced reader's copy.