Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: Rio Noir

Rio Noir

Rio Noir
Edited by Tony Bellotto

This book is made up of 14 short stories that are full of intrigue, mystery and the shadows that lurk behind the Rio de Janeiro we know from tourist brochures or television. The stories showcase a number of interesting writers, who are all new to me. I think my favorite story has to be, The Story of Georges Fuller by Raphael Montes, followed by The Hanged Man by Adriana Lisboa.

These clever, well written stories are for anyone who wants to get a “behind the scenes” look at Rio, where drugs, violence, sex and murder are major themes. All of these stories show Rio as a city that is teeming with life, even if some of it is dark and shadowy. Without a doubt this is another good addition to the Akashic Noir Series.

Thanks to Askashic Books for allowing me to read this book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Rain A Natural and Cultural History

A Natural and Cultural History
Cynthia Barnett

This fascinating book is full of wonderful details, such as how the first rain coat came to be know as the Mackintosh. It covers tales of how ancient civilizations dealt with rain. And it covers interesting accounts of weird and wacky rains, like frog rain and dirt rain. Some facts may even surprise, for instance, many think of Seattle Washington as a very rainy city but according to Barnett it only gets about seven thunderstorms a year. But the clouds that descend upon the city, blanket it about 230 days a year giving one the impression that it is a wet city. On the flip side, Mobile Alabama, which I personally associate with warm and very sunny weather, is the wettest city in the United States, receiving around 65 inches of rain per year.

The book is about more than weather statistics. It looks at the role rain has played throughout civilization and how different societies have dealt with it. And there are some interesting facts about our modern day society as well. Facts about the first weather forecaster and how we came to have a television channel devoted entirely to weather. Personally, I found that this book made me think a lot about an element that many of us take for granted. Especially since we have easy access to data which tells us what to expect on a daily basis. And like me, it will probably make you want to run out and buy a rain gauge for the backyard so you can find out exactly what is going on with the rain in your area.

In short this is a well written book, with witty chapter titles and interesting and informative content on a topic that many of us take for granted. I will definitely stop to appreciate the next rain storm that passes my way.

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review: Barkskins

Annie Proulx

Barkskins, which refers to wood or timber cutters, is a story which follows two poor, young men from France in 1693 as they travel to New France to start an arduous life working as barkskins. It also follows the ups and downs of their descendants right up to 1960.

While this is a well written book, it is long. I think the short chapters work well since it seems to make the reading move along at a steady pace and it keeps the reader interested in the story. The book is loaded with interesting descriptions and details and it shows how the world was rapidly changing around the characters, but, I personally felt that there wasn't a lot of deep character development. It seemed as if every time I got interested in a character and their particular story they either died or disappeared. Perhaps for that reason I just couldn't really enjoy this book as much as I should have. On some levels it seems it just might have been a bit over ambitious and maybe it just tried to pack in too much in one book.

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Review: Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge

Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge (Singaporean Mystery, #3)

Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge
Ovidia Yu

Aunty Lee is a widow and amateur detective who runs a home style cooking restaurant in Singapore. In this book she is on the hunt for Allison Love's killer. Allison recently returned to Singapore in order to take legal action against some of Aunty Lee's friends and customers who used to work as an animal rescue group. After Allison adopted a pet from their shelter, she had the animal put down. Following a huge outcry over the animal's death she was forced to leave Singapore in disgrace. Now she is back claiming that earlier events led to the break down of her marriage and therefore she is planing legal action against the group's members.

After Allison is discovered dead, Aunty Lee is not only involved in the running of her restaurant but she is also looking after Allison's sister Vallerie. Vallerie is alone in Singapore, and while she and Allison were not always close she his having a hard time dealing with her death. She is also proving to be more than a handful for Aunty Lee. And with the further death of a veterinarian, who was involved in the previous scandal with Allison Love, Aunty Lee is determined to find out who is behind the killings.

This was a fun and interesting read. I particularly liked Aunty Lee, she was wise and feisty as well as observant. The description of the exotic cuisine and characters makes this quite an enticing story. I will be looking for more Aunty Lee episodes in the future. I also think this series would make a great film or television movie due to the exotic dishes mentioned and the interesting location.

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: The Invoice

The Invoice

The Invoice
Jonas Karlsson

The narrator of this story is an ordinary guy with a part time job in a video rental store. One day he gets an extremely large invoice that he isn't expecting, so it must be a mistake of some kind. After all how could he owe some bureaucratic office he had never heard of. After ignoring the first invoice he receives a second, including a late fee penalty which increases the invoice by an astronomical amount.

It turns out that it isn't a mistake. In fact, it turns out that nothing in life is free, not the air he breaths nor any of the physical or emotional experiences he's had. The more he gets drawn into a bureaucratic maze the more he is unable to escape his past. But what is the price of happiness and how will he pay? What happens if he can't pay? Read along and find out as the author of this book provides a hilarious well written tale that is entertaining as well as thought provoking.

Thanks to Library Thing and Hogarth Books for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Review: the Basque Book

The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of Txikito
The Basque Book
Alexandra Raij with Eder Montero
and Rebecca Flint Marx

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. Firstly, I was surprised by the size, it was much bigger than I had anticipated. Based on recipes from the authors' New York restaurant Txikito, it's beautifully done both inside and out. With lovely photos which showcase most of the dishes mentioned.

I especially appreciated the introduction which explained to me the nature of Basque cooking and how the authors have been inspired by this cuisine. One of the best things mentioned is that Basque cooking is about simple ingredients and taking the care to bring out the best from whatever ingredient or product one is using. I found it interesting that Basque cooking doesn't necessarily have a “star” ingredient of a meal, like say a piece of meat. Instead every dish is treated with respect and reverence often focusing on products in season.

Following this idea the book is arranged in a way that lays out the fundamentals of Basque cooking, starting with sauces and how to build a meal. The author notes that mastering the sauces will make preparing other dishes that follow in the book, much easier. This is followed by a focus on Pintxos or Tapas, vegetables, eggs, cod, soups and stews and grilled meats, desserts and beverages.

There is so much information and explanation in this book that I think most readers will come away with a good understanding and real appreciation for the art of Basque cooking. From simple and seductive recipes such as Eder's Avocado Salad, and “Messy Egg” with rough cut potatoes to hearty meals like Basque red beans with braised meats there is something for everyone in this book. And frankly, the heart and soul that the authors put into the book shows on every page.

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House (Agatha Raisin, #14)

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House
MC Beaton

Agatha has a new neighbor, Paul Chatterton. He's moved in next door and although he is handsome, Agatha has had enough of men and therefore decides to avoid him. That is, until Paul wants to investigate a haunted house and invites Agatha along. Of course she can't resist, after all she does fancy herself as an amateur detective.

Ivy Cottage is supposedly haunted. Owned by old Mrs Witherspoon, who claims she hears noises, many villagers think she's just trying to get attention. It all seems harmless until Mrs Witherspoon is discovered dead, and now Agatha and Paul are determined to find out what's been going on at Ivy Cottage.

This is an enjoyable cozy mystery set in the English countryside. It's hard not to love middle age Agatha, who struggles with her need to attract men and her attempts to present herself as strong and independent, hiding her vulnerabilities as best she can. All the while, stirring up a host of gossip in the small village of Carsely. There is something about Agatha that always keeps readers coming back for more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: James Fenimore Cooper: A Life

James Fenimore Cooper: A Life
James Fenimore Cooper
A Life
Nick Louras

This is a fascinating look at America's first novelist. A man who brought us the western genre as well as the genre of sea sagas. He is probably best known for his series The Leatherstocking Tales which included some of his most famous works that have become enduring classics, The Pioneers, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prairie, The Pathfinders and The Deerslayer. Cooper was a prolific writer often drawing on the early years he spent in the vast frontier of what would become upstate New York during his childhood. His sea tales seem to draw on his times as a merchant sailor and during a stint in the U.S. Navy.

While he had success with some of his works he was not always appreciated. He often courted controversy both at home and abroad, where his family spent seven years during the mid 1800's. Cooper appears to have been an extremely prickly man, if not with his family then certainly with his critics. In some ways he appears to have been his own worst enemy as he found it extremely hard to let bygones be bygones. He was nevertheless, an important American figure and this work is a thorough examination not only of his life but the history of the time and the role he played in it. The book is good at capturing the vast changes that occurred during his lifetime. Despite the changes around him he seemed continually drawn to an early America landscape, one where the frontier hadn't quite given way to civilization.

The author does a good job portraying Cooper as a complex man of his time. It's well written, thoroughly covering Cooper's fictional works, political writings and views in a lively way that will be appreciated by both scholars and layman alike. And while it doesn't necessarily distract from the work itself, it would have been nice to have an author profile at either the beginning or end of the book.

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

Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: The Girls

The Girls

The Girls
Emma Cline

Evie Boyd is a 14 year old who is bored and disillusioned with her life in 1969 in northern California. Her parents are wrapped up in their own lives and her friends aren't really that friendly. After seeing some older girls at a local park, Evie becomes obsessed with one, 19 year old Suzanne. The girls are part of a cult living at a run down ranch on the outskirts of town. After meeting Suzanne, Evie makes her way to the “ranch” where she meets the other girls and the cults leader the charismatic Russell. Wanting to be liked and accepted by the group she begins stealing money from her mother's purse and taking it to the group. While Evie is drawn to the group she is not always able to remain at the ranch. After an absence at one point, she returns to find a darker atmosphere. The dynamics had changed within the group and Evie isn't included in the group as she had been previously.

As Evie narrates the story she looks back on the events that happened while she was with the group and after they had excluded her. She thinks about how she felt at the time, what she noticed and didn't notice about the group. As an adult she is still grappling with the past as much as she is with the present.

While I wasn't really taken in with this book immediately it did eventually become more dramatic, addictive and mesmerizing. Most of the characters were not particularly likeable but there was still something that kept me wanting to delve deeper into the story the further I went. Overall, it was well written with good observations as well as being well plotted.

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