Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: The Marseille Caper

The Marseille Caper

The Marseille Caper
Peter Mayle

Francis Reboul, a wealthy business man, propositions Sam Levitt to take on the job of being the front man for his development project in Marseille. Francis can't do it himself, since the head of the development committee that will decide on the project winner is his sworn enemy. Sam and his partner Elena Morales are happy to make the trip to the south of France to help out. But there are other investors keen on landing the rights to develop one of the last waterside plots in Marseille, and they just might pose a problem for Sam and his friends.

Once again Peter Mayle provides a fun, lighthearted and utterly enjoyable read, with glimpses of great food, culture and a relaxed lifestyle in the south of France. Having seen the DVD: A Year in Provence, based on Mayle's first books, I wonder why no one has made any attempts to make this book and the previous book in this series The Vintage Caper, into a film. The location alone would make it worth watching. Until that happens, if you can't get away to France this summer, but wish you could, I recommend this book. It might be the next best thing to being there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review: Hello Bicycle

Hello, Bicycle: An Inspired Guide to the Two-Wheeled Life

Hello, Bicycle
Anna Brones

Lately, I've noticed more and more people out and about on their bicycles. My city has also recently introduced a bike share program and it wouldn't surprise me if dedicated bicycle lanes spring up next in the town. For this reason, I was drawn to this book, wondering if I should dare to take up bike riding myself.

It seems strange to think that as children most of us, myself included, practically lived on our bikes, riding around the neighborhood with no fear of traffic, rain or anything else for that matter. But somehow as we aged we ditched our bikes, either for more interesting entertainment forms or because we just didn't have time to ride. The longer we went without riding the less likely we were to get back on again. So, I asked myself if it might be time to join all the other riders out there, who have rediscovered the joys of riding or never lost it.

Hello Bicycle aims to make this easier by reminding the reader why riding a bike can be fun and healthy as well. The book is full of helpful hints and tips, such as how to choose a new bicycle,change a flat tire, and inventive uses for old bike tubes. It also covers safety issues and introduces one to the equipment needed for riding safely. I also appreciated the section which included some interesting recipes for boosting energy and items that are easily portable. While I didn't think there was anything that was particularly earth shattering or unique in this book it is full of common sense advice for anyone wishing to get a bike for the first time or get back on one after considerable time.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: The Panama Papers

The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money

The Panama Papers
Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier

I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, for me it simply raised many more questions than it answered. Ostensibly, the book is an attempt to let readers know how the authors, journalists at Süddeutsche Zeitung, a major newspaper based in Munich, Germany came to be in the possession of 2.6 terabytes of data from a Panamanian law firm Mossack and Fonseca. This law firm is accused of setting up shell companies for well known politicians, wealthy individuals and, in some cases, known criminals. While the author points out that it is not illegal to own a shell company, the case made in this book is that Mossack and Fonseca did not follow established practices of due diligence in order to weed out risky clients. It appears from the data presented in the book that Mossack and Fonseca cared very little about the process of due diligence and they were not concerned whether their clients were high risk individuals or what their motives were for creating shell companies.

One of the first things that disturbed me about this book is the fact that the journalists were associated with an organization entitled International Consortium for Investigative Journalists, based in Washington, D.C.. One of the main financial contributors to this organization is the billionaire George Soros, himself no stranger to controversy. But nowhere in this book are we assured that Mr. Soros is not also a beneficiary of such legal constructs. Something which I would have expected. The source of the data leak is simply referred to as John Doe. The fact that I have no idea who the source is or was, makes me very weary about receiving all this information and taking it at face value. Throughout the book, I was wondering who this person could be and what his motives were.

Finally, at the end of the book John Doe provides some answers to these questions. He tells the reader that he is not working for any government or intelligence service or as a contractor for either. Yet, I wonder throughout the book why there are so few American individuals and corporations mentioned. John Doe further informs the reader that although he feels something should be done to stop people using shell companies to evade taxes and to stop law firms like Mossack and Fonseca from providing cover for these people, he is too afraid to reveal his identity, for fear that it might ruin his life. Somehow the fact that he wanted to have his cake and eat it too, just annoyed me. It seems alright for him to pass judgment on all the people he exposes but neither they nor the reader of this book can do so regarding him and his use of, what is after all, stolen data.

Also, I have a problem with the fact that both John Doe and the authors who interpret the data condemn the actions of wealthy individuals and politicians for using the services like those provided by Mossack Fonseca but they themselves have no problem stealing the data and then using it to create a book that can be published and sold to the public, thereby generating revenue for themselves and others.

On a more mundane level, I found the book somewhat repetitious as it kept coming back to the same individuals and companies over and over. For those who follow international news regularly there seems little of note to be found in this book.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: Every Frenchman Has One

Every Frenchman Has One

Every Frenchman Has One
Olivia de Havilland

This was a delightful little book, originally published in 1961 by the Hollywood legend Olivia de Havilland. While she appeared in numerous films, I remember mostly her role as Melanie in Gone with the Wind. After a divorce in 1953, she met and married a Frenchman and moved to Paris. This book follows her attempts to come to terms with life in another country. Its humorous, well observed and rather insightful. She covers topics such as fashion, health, education, housekeeping, renovations and more.

I think my favorite chapter was “La Place de la Discorde”, the descriptions were keenly observed and seemed remarkably modern. I found myself laughing in practically every chapter. And I'm actually surprised that with her ability to write with such style and humor she didn't publish more works about her experiences. The interview at the end of the book done in May 2016 on the occasion of her 100th birthday was also a nice inclusion.

Overall, I completely enjoyed this charming book, both for its nostalgic feel and it's warm wit and humor.

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

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Review: The President's Hat

The President's Hat

The President's Hat
Antoine Laurain

The President's Hat is a captivating tale which is easy to read and hard to put down. It begins when President Mitterrand forgets his hat in a Parisian Brasserie. This sets off a chain of unforeseen reactions. Firstly, when its found by Daniel Mercier a fellow diner in the Brasserie. Realizing that the hat belonged to the President, Mercier decides to start wearing it as if it were his own. Like a magic charm, the hat brings him luck, and a large dose of self confidence thereby changing his personal circumstances for the better. Unfortunately he looses the hat. But, it is found on a train by Fanny, who likes that the hat contains her initials F.M. on the inside rim. Wearing it also gives her the courage to end a romantic relationship that has no realistic future.

The hat passes to several other interesting characters, who also experience surprising changes in their lives. There's Pierre Aslan, who is deeply depressed and hasn't be able to do his job properly for twenty years. Finding the hat changes his life. My personal favorite is Bernard Lavallière, who undergoes a personal metamorphosis after acquiring the famed hat. But Daniel Mercier is determined to reclaim the hat again. What will ultimately happen to it if he succeeds? Will President Mitterrand ever see it again? These are the intriguing questions answered in this charming story. Set in the 1980's it's full of nostalgia and contains characters and events that I hadn't thought off for some time, making it like a trip down memory lane. It's a fun and delightful book that I'm going to remember for a long time.

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Review: The Eskimo Solution

The Eskimo Solution

The Eskimo Solution
Pascal Garnier

This short novel is basically a story within a story. The main character is an author, working on a story about Louis, his main character. In the story, Louis has found a way to help many of his friends by killing off their elderly parents, so that the children or dependents can inherit property or money and live happily ever after. As the overall story develops, so do events in the authors own life. These events start to mirror his fiction and his own life seems to almost overwhelm him.

By the end of the book I got the feeling that the main character was living two different lives, a real one and a fictional, the differences between the two being not that great. It's an interesting tale, which is well observed and cleverly written. It is, however at times a bit confusing as the story switches abruptly between the author's own story and the fictional story. This “blurring” of the lines seems to reinforce the sense that reality and fiction become one and the same.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I can't wait to read more of Garnier's work. But for newcomers I would recommend starting with Moon in a Dead Eye where the structure of the story is much more straightforward.

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: As the Pig Turns

As the Pig Turns (Agatha Raisin, #22)

As the Pig Turns
MC Beaton

At the annual pig roast in the Cotswold town of Winter Parva, a body is discovered, roasting on the spit, no less. As there is no head attached, it's hard to tell who it could be. Agatha Raisin suspects it might belong to a local policeman, Gary Beech. Officer Beech is despised by the village because of his ability to find endless reasons for handing out tickets. So there is no lack of suspects. The only person interested is Gary's ex-wife and she hires Agatha and her team to investigate.

MC Beaton has once again provided the reader with an entertaining “whodunit”. Agatha is her usual “bossy” self. In fact, in this novel she's been interfering too much into the personal life of Toni, a younger female member of staff. Which leads to conflict and the possible loss of a valuable member of the team. But Agatha is strong willed. Even though this case has her more frightened than usual she is determined to see it though.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Review: A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches

A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches

A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches
Tyler Kord

I think I can honestly say this cookbook is unique and unlike any other I have ever read or owned. I laughed out loud so many times while reading it, it should have been a crime. So, I'd like to make a toast, (or rather raise my asparagus sandwich) to Tyler Kord for making it okay for me, or anyone else for that matter, to have a sandwich anyway I want. To hell with what everyone else thinks!

Of course, if I'm really really honest, I'm not sure I'm going to try a lot of the recipes in this book (especially the difficult and time consuming ones) because frankly, I'm just too lazy for that. But, I loved the book nonetheless because it made me think about all the ways I could make a sandwich with unexpected ingredients. Some of my favorite recipes in this book were the Famous Rap Battles of History, Don't Cry for me Argentina and pretty much anything that included meatloaf. I really like the fact that recipes for sauces and topping were included. I liked the recipe for Mayo and all the additions one could add to make an interesting variation. I've never made Mayo, again I'm lazy, but I like to think that one day I might give it a try, just to see if I can.

Overall, this was a fun and entertaining book. It's good for anyone who loves making sandwiches, and it's perfect for those who want to be creative with their sandwiches.

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

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Review: Dead is Dead

Dead Is Dead

Dead is Dead
John Lansing

Jack Bertolino is an ex-cop, now private detective working as a bodyguard to film star Susan Blake. She has been cast as the lead star in a film based on one of Jack's previous cases. Susan needs a bodyguard as she has a nasty stalker but, while in the process of filming a shooting a few blocks away, a gang member and a six-year-old innocent child are killed. Jack takes on this case in an attempt to find out who really killed the innocent girl and finds himself involved in a complex world of high art, drugs, money, and murder.

Right from the start, chapter one told me this was going to be a good book. It set the stage well with a gripping and suspenseful scene, letting me know that the story would be an interesting one. The book was both complex, nuanced, and layered, letting the reader into the minds of the main characters. The characters were also interesting and often had multiple layers which allowed me to understand even the darkest characteristics and motives they possessed. I also enjoyed the structure of two stories in one. On one hand there were the attempts to solve the murder of the gang member, Tomas Vegas, and the innocent child, Maria Sanchez, while also trying to protect Susan Blake from a mysterious stalker.

This was my first book in the Jack Bertolino series even though this is the third novel, I felt the author gave me enough background about Jack that this was easily read as a stand alone book. It did, however, make me want to read the other books in the series. Particularly since this one made me feel so much a part of the action. Whether a character was catching a wave off the coast or in a shoot out, I felt the descriptions were superb, giving the reader the sense of being right there with the characters in the middle of the scene.

Overall, it was a book that I couldn't put down, a real visual feast, which would make a great film. It's a book that packs a punch and I feel sure that anyone who reads this will be hooked on the Jack Bertolino series.

Review originally written for San Francisco Book Review