Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: The Edible Flower Garden

The Edible Flower Garden: From Garden to Kitchen: Choosing, Growing and Cooking Edible Flowers

The Edible Flower Garden
Kathy Brown

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in edible flowers. It's well written and provides detailed information. For example, it includes recipes for classic ways to utilize edible flowers, such as floral oils, butter and teas. There is also a useful recipe detailing how to crystallize flowers, which can then be used for all types of decorating. For the novice gardener there are plenty of growing tips and a plant directory with complimentary pairing ideas. The wonderful photos will no doubt inspire you to create something unexpected and magical.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review: The Rare Earth Exchange

The Rare Earth Exchange

The Rare Earth Exchange
Bernard Besson

John Lariviรจre, his wife Victoire and their colleague Luc, have been asked by their former bosses at French Intelligence to look into some suspicious activities. Firstly, there has been an aircraft incident at the Paris Orly Airport and at the same time the former President of France has been found dead at his home. Was it suicide or murder? The former President was responsible for setting up the Rare Earth Exchange, a trading center for strategic and rare earth minerals based in Paris and Malaysia. There are fears that it may be somehow connected to his death. But how? In a world where no one seems to trust each other it will be up to John, Victoire and Luc to find out what really happened.

In this, an interesting and complex story, nothing is as it appears and everyone seems suspicious as well as corrupt. It takes place in both Paris and Malaysia, giving readers a glimpse into international scenes of intrigue and mistrust. The pace is fast moving and filled with incident after incident that will keep readers turning the pages. It's a well written, enjoyable espionage thriller with an ending I didn't really expected.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: The Full Catastrophe

The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins

The Full Catastrophe
Travels Among the New Greek Ruins
James Angelos

This book explains many things about modern Greece, a nation often shaped by forces outside it's control. The book comes at the right moment, with increasing concerns about the debt crisis, and how ordinary people are coping with the economic crisis and the increasing tide of migrants fleeing conflicts and poverty, and trying to use Greece as a way to the rest of Europe and hopefully a better life.

The author is an American journalist of Greek descent and he gives the reader a good look at issues facing the country such as corruption, mismanagement, and an overblown and inefficient bureaucracy. It examines some of the episodes that will help readers understand how and why Greeks react to certain current events. For example, he looks at reasons why Greeks think the Germans should pay reparations for their occupation during WWII as well as some events that happened during the war that shaped the generations to come. He also examines how and why it has become so easy to take and give bribes for even the most mundane services. Something that many of us would find unimaginable.

I learned a lot about Greece, not just about its current economic troubles but more generally about what makes this country and it citizens tick. It also brings to light facts about Greece not known to many outsiders. For instance, I was unaware that the birthplace of Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey was Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city. This city was also once home to a large, thriving Jewish community before WWII. But during the war nearly all of the 50,000 Jews in Thessaloniki were deported to Auschwitz.

This book did leave me wondering about what the future holds for Greece. It seems that more effort is spent by Greeks, blaming outsiders, corrupt politicians and history for many of the problems currently facing the country. There seems little attempt to unite and find realistic ways to institute the needed changes. It will be interesting to see what the future brings.

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: Who Will Catch Us As We Fall

Who Will Catch Us As We Fall

Who Will Catch Us As We Fall
Iman Verjee

Leena, from the East Asian community has just returned to her hometown of Nairobi after a three year absence, when this book begins. She left after an unspecified incident and in the first chapter she is trying to come to terms with her homecoming. The book then moves back into the past telling the story of Leena, her brother Jai and their African friend Michael. Other characters are slowly introduced, particularly Jeffery a disillusioned policeman, and the story moves forward pulling all the participants together, explaining what prompted Leena to leave Nairobi. The friendship between Leena and Michael is rekindled, even though this may be difficult for her community to accept.

I found this book highly enjoyable. It was full of well developed characters, within the bustling, cosmopolitan Nairobi. I particularly liked that there were numerous stories within this story and each character has something to give to the overall story. The motivations and actions of characters let the reader see just how diverse life in Nairobi is and the obstacles faced by many. Overall, it was an intense and well observed book. It also gave me a glimpse into the East Asian community in Nairobi and it's relationship with other communities in the city. I only wish the ending hadn't been as abrupt as it was. After such a long, intertwined intense story I would have enjoyed a more drawn out ending that left fewer open questions. But, having said that, this is an author I would definitely read again, without hesitation.

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: The Tudor Brandons

The Tudor Brandons: Mary and Charles - Henry VIII's Nearest & Dearest

The Tudor Brandons
Mary and Charles – Henry VIII's Nearest &Dearest
Sarah-Beth Watkins

The Tudor Brandons is a fascinating look into the life and times of Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII and Charles Brandon his life long friend and companion, who married Mary Tudor in 1515. Mary had agreed to marry Louis, King France in 1514 on the condition that her brother Henry would allow her to marry according to her own choice if the older King died. Her marriage to the king lasted 82 days. After his death, perhaps in an attempt to ensure her safety and return to England, before becoming a pawn of the new French King, Mary persuaded Charles Brandon to marry her, even though Henry had not given them consent to marry. Although, many were not pleased with this decision, the marriage doesn't seem to have damaged the couple, politically, or socially in the long term.

The book charts both the rise of Charles and the complex life of Mary as both a political pawn, and as a woman who tried to do her duty by her brother the king. She was also a woman who tried hard to have some control over her circumstances and build a life of her own choosing. I particularly like that this book paints a well balanced picture of both figures. It examines their ups and downs, financial struggles, family hardships and the role they played within Henry's court, as well as their actions and interactions with leading figures of the time. It was also interesting to read about their descendants and the roles they played after the death of Mary and Charles.

This work seems to show that Charles, while not always fair to the women in his life, was a man who managed to climb the social ladder,acquiring the title of Duke of Suffolk, along the way. Throughout his life he remained favored by the King, which surely was no small feat. It also shows just how precarious the situation of women could be. Having a fortune or a title didn't necessarily mean they would escape a bad marriage or other issues of the time such as illness, death of children or debt. Even Mary and Charles, with their elevated positions seemed to be plagued by financial troubles during their lifetimes.

Overall the book provides an intriguing glimpse into a part of history that so many find remarkable. Anyone interested in the Tudors and Henry VIII's court will no doubt find this a terrific book.

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

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: Chronicle of a Last Summer

Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt

Chronicle of a Last Summer
Yasmine El Rashidi

The female narrator tells of her family life in Egypt. The story is divided into three distinct parts. The first part starts when she is a child in the summer of 1984. Her father disappears and no one seems to explain to her why he left the family or when and if he is coming back. The narrator and her mother live in the families ancient villa, which is full of history and memories. So much so that her mother shuts herself off in her own few rooms, in order to avoid the sad parts of the villa that remind her too much of the past.

The second part of the book focuses on the summer of 1998 when the narrator is studying to be a film maker. She also looks at the relations she has with her family and explains the events happening in the city as well. We see Cairo as a large bustling metropolis that suffers from poverty, corruption, arbitrary police force and the military.

The third part focuses on the summer of 2014, where the narrator is now concentrating on writing a book. Her cousin has been sent to prison and her father has returned. Her mother, who up to now has languished in what seems like an almost catatonic state has been brought back to live by the revolution and its aftermath. But the main character still seems little involved in the momentous events of this time. Even the ousting of President Morsi doesn't seem to play a large role in her story. She doesn't even get out of bed to vote, due to late nights spent writing.

I'm in two minds about this book. On the one hand, the structure was interesting and there were some profound thoughts conveyed by many of the older characters in this book. On the other hand the story rambled in places and it was often too vague. I think a more forthright, descriptive approach might have made this a more powerful book. Also some of the characters and their stories seemed incomplete and there were too many shadows and empty spaces that needed to be filled in to make it a more complex and satisfying story.

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: Missing, Presumed

Missing, Presumed

Missing, Presumed
Susie Steiner

A gripping tale about Edith, a missing Cambridge post graduate student and the detective, Manon Bradshaw conducting the search to find her. Edith is discovered missing by her boyfriend and the police pull out all the stops to try and locate her. But there are few leads and when another body is discovered nearby, the police wonder whether it could be tied to Edith's disappearance. If not, it may just be more case work for Manon and her team.

I found this book hard to put down, it's such a page turner. All of the characters were well portrayed, giving the reader insight into their work and private lives. As a result, there was a very good connection to each person in the story. Manon the main female character, has the right amount of drive as a police officer as well as complex personal life which lets readers connect with her. I especially like the development of all the characters throughout the story. I didn't feel that they were flat or uninteresting in anyway.

The structure of the story works well as chapters alternate between characters letting the reader see all sides of the story, the police procedural on one hand and the family drama on the other. Best of all, it was full of suspense as well as being unpredictable.

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