Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: Footsteps

The New York Times: Footsteps: From Ferrante's Naples to Hammett's San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World

The New York Times

Footsteps provides a fascinating look at the lives of a number of celebrated authors. I can't think of better way to a “behind the scenes” look at what made so many literary figures tick. Whether it was a place or an experience these essays will provide book lovers with hours of entertainment. In fact, I think this would make a great gift idea for the book lovers in your life.

And while we may not be able to travel the path of our favorite authors in a literal sense we definitely get a feel of their surrounding and inspirations in this unique book. My personal favorite was the piece “In search of Flannery O'Connor” by Lawrence Downes in which I was a little sad to learn of the shabby condition of her childhood home. I felt Downes captured the essence of her life and gave me a new perspective with which to view her work. There were many other interesting pieces as well and I thoroughly enjoyed those on Hemingway and Fitzgerald to name a few. The best part about this book though, is the fact that you can pick it up anytime and find some interesting snippet about a variety of authors. This was an enchanting read.

 Thanks to Blogging for Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: The Tea Planter's Wife

The Tea Planter's Wife

The Tea Planter's Wife
Dinah Jefferies

After marrying Laurence a widower and tea planter, Gwen moves with him to Ceylon to start their new life together. But, things aren't going as smoothly as she had hoped. Verity, Gwen's sister-in-law, is constantly trying to undermine her position and role in the household. Christina, a wealthy American woman, has designs on Laurence, making Gwen jealous and uncomfortable. Tensions increase when Gwen befriends a local Sinhalese painter Savi Ravasinghe and with political tensions in the country on tender hooks and laborers ready to instigate trouble, running a tea plantation may not be as easy as she imagines.

Gwen is hoping the birth of a child will bring both peace and tranquility to the household but the birth causes more pain and suffering and Gwen's life becomes beset with secrecy and fear. On top of her own, secrets Laurence's' first marriage which ended in the death of his wife Caroline is still shrouded in mystery. One that Gwen hasn't been able to untangle. But when she does many things will fall into place and she might find that she is really at home in exotic Ceylon.

This is a beautifully written novel, full of lush and vivid details of 1920's Ceylon. Not only is the story captivating but, the hints of mystery and secrets kept me turning page after page. This book was not only full of memorable characters and loads of details; it was an emotional and spellbinding read that simply swept me off to another place and time. One that I'm not likely to forget anytime soon.

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: 800 Words

800 Words: Season 1

800 Words

George Turner's world is turned upside down when his wife suddenly dies. He can no longer cope with life in Sydney Australia, where he is a well known newspaper columnist. He decides to move with his two teenage children to Weld, New Zealand. Weld has always held a special place in his heart, growing up he spent many summer holidays in the town and he thinks the beauty of the area and the tranquility of the isolation may be just what he and his children need. But his children are not thrilled with the prospect of leaving everything behind to move to the back of beyond.

How will it all turn out in Weld? If you're looking for an interesting drama about how life doesn't always go as planned, then 800 Words is definitely one you will want to watch. Each episode is full of drama, conflict, interesting characters and beautiful scenery. Both season one and season two have turned into my favorite choices for summer television. I so hope they are working on a season three.  

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: The Little Old Lady Who Struck Lucky Again!

The Little Old Lady Strikes Again

The Little Old Lady Who Struck Lucky Again!
Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

Martha Andersson and her geriatric pals have taken it upon themselves to help the less fortunate. To do this, they rob and steal from the rich and give to the poor or those in need. When the story opens they group of just robbed a Las Vegas casino and to escape the long arm of the law, they decide to return to their native Sweden.

Unfortunately, on their way back, their ill-gotten gains disappear. To make matters worse, previous loot in Sweden has also disappeared, and they have to figure out how to get it back or come up with a plan to make more money. Further trouble comes when they decide to settle down in a new house. Their new neighbors turn out to be one of Sweden's most dangerous biker gang, with their own plans for taking advantage of the elderly members of the group. But Martha and her pensioners are always up for what life throws their way.

This was a delightful story, both funny and warmhearted, with characters I came to love. And while it wasn't quite as comical as I had anticipated, I thought the author had a real eye for detail, which made this all the more enjoyable.

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: The End of Men

The End of Men

The End of Men
Karen Rinaldi

The End of Men, follows four women, Anna, Isabel, Beth and Maggie as they try to make sense of their lives. But being wives, mothers and career minded women sometimes takes it toll and they are faced with questions large and small as they try to find and understand what it is they want out of life.

Unfortunately, this book didn't do anything for me. From the description, I was expecting a funny book but I found it to be, if I'm honest a bit boring. I never felt drawn into the story and for some reason, which I can't quite put my finger on, I just didn't feel for the characters, which meant the book didn't really hold my attention. At times the writing was interesting but at others the story seemed forced and perhaps a little corny. To me it all seemed to mundane and I didn't find the tension or electricity to pull me through this one.

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Leading Lady

Leading Lady; Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker

Leading Lady
Stephen Galloway

This biography charts the life of Sherry Lansing, the first female to head a Hollywood film studio. Mrs Lansing first tried her hand at acting but, soon found it wasn't what she wanted to do. She then turned her attention to reading scripts and eventually became a producer before rising in the ranks to head a major studio and finally becoming the chairman of Paramount Pictures. She was behind some of the best known films of her time including Indecent Proposal, Fatal Attraction, Braveheart and many others. But after a long career in Hollywood and the film business in particular she decided to reinvent herself in the world of philanthropy, where she was successful raising money and awareness for numerous causes.

This was an interesting book, which told me not only about Mrs Lansing's life and work but also quite a lot about how Hollywood works behind the scenes. It isn't often that I read about the role of a female producer and film executive. I felt this book provided me with another view of the film business, particularly regarding the extensive work and financing that goes on to produce a film. It was interesting to see what goes into the making of a film and the changes that have taken place in the industry over time.

I think film buffs and anyone interested in a “behind-the-scenes” look at a dynamic and often hard charging industry will appreciate this book.

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: The Child

The Child
The Child
Fiona Barton

When the body of a baby is discovered in an area of London slated for redevelopment, three women become linked in a psychological drama to determine the identity and the mystery behind the body. Kate is a reporter trying to get a good story for her newspaper and she's got a hunch that the body could be linked to an old case concerning Angela, whose baby was stolen from the hospital at birth. In order to find out how the body came to lie in an area of town, unfamiliar to Angela, Kate will have to find former residents of the area. This leads her to Emma who grew up in the neighborhood. But Kate will have to unravel a lot of old secrets before the truth about the baby is revealed. The truth may be more than anyone could have imagined.

When I first sat down to read this story I was intrigued. But, a few chapters in I thought it was going to be a rather sad tale and I almost put the book down. Luckily, I didn't, because it was at that point that the story took a turn, which ramped up the tension and I found that I could hardly put it down. I really wanted to know how things would turn out for all of the women. Clearly, the author knew just when to draw me in, and like a moth to a flame I was hooked. This suspenseful tale was one which got right into the heart of the characters and under my skin. It was skillfully written and thoroughly entertaining.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and Berkley Publishing for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review: Driving Miss Norma

Driving Miss Norma: One Family's Journey Saying "Yes" to Living
Driving Miss Norma
Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle

What do you do if you're 90 years old and your doctor tells you that you have cancer and will therefore need an unpleasant round of radiation and chemotherapy? Well, if you are Norma Bauerschmidt, you tell the doctor, no thanks I'm hitting the road with my son and his partner. Then you move into an RV and take off across the country on an adventure.

Driving Miss Norma, told by son Tim and partner Ramie is a look at Norma's quest and determination to live the remainder of her life the way she wanted, with dignity and in the company of her family and in a place she could call home, instead of an impersonal and unfamiliar hospital. From the tales and accounts in this memoir it seems they all had a whale of a time. Norma was always up for an adventure and as a result gained a legion of fans on the families Facebook page.

Tim and Ramie presented an open and honest account of life on the road, and the challenges of being a caregiver. But most of all, I think this story shows that it's never to late to enjoy the life you have, while it is still yours to enjoy.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and the Harper One Team for allowing me to read this book in exchange 
for an honest review.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: The Story Cure

The Story Cure: A Book Doctor's Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir

The Story Cure
Dinty W. Moore

I've read a lot of books about writing books recently and, I can definitely say that The Story Cure is one of the more useful ones. It's written with wit and humor which makes it fun to read, rather than a chore. The chapters, which range from focusing on issues such as character and dialogue to plot and structure, each contain useful exercises. I especially like the focus on trying to keep a magnetic river running throughout a story to keep the reader involved. I think the author has a knack of providing examples and suggestions which really opened my eyes about how to create a more engaging piece of work.

What I particularly appreciated, is that this book is short, sweet and to the point. It doesn't take a lifetime to read it and work through the exercises. In the end, its very helpful and it lets the aspiring writer get back to his or her own story, which will hopefully be much improved.

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review: Cruel Winter: A County Cork Mystery

Cruel Winter (County Cork #5)

Cruel Winter: A County Cork Mystery
Sheila Connolly

Maura Donovan arrived in the village of Leap in County Cork, Ireland less than a year ago. She hadn't intended to stay but, with the help of her recently deceased Gran, she inherited a cottage and the village pub. While winters in County Cork are not as harsh as those in Maura's hometown of Boston, an unusual snow storm is about to shut down the transportation in and around Leap.

Maura and her staff decide to keep the pub open during the storm. They are joined by friends, neighbors, and a few strangers who get trapped in the village. One stranger, Diane, was once a suspect in an unsolved murder that happened in Leap twenty years ago. Maura decides to rehash the unsolved case with her guests, partly to provide some entertainment for her stranded guests and also because, if Diane didn't do it, as she insists, then there is a murderer still on the loose. But will Maura and her guests be able to solve a cold case the police haven't been able to work out in twenty years, all in one night?

This story had everything that makes for a good read: a great plot, interesting characters, an atmospheric setting, and a sense of intimacy that made me feel like I was there in the middle of the action. I can't think of a better cozy mystery to curl up with on a rainy day.

This review was written by me and originally published by City Book Review.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: Death at the Yoga Cafe: A Mystery

A Death at the Yoga Café (Keeley Carpenter #2)

Death at the Yoga Café: A Mystery
Michelle Kelly

Keeley Carpenter has a lot on her plate at the Yoga Café in Belfrey, England. The mayor of the village has been murdered, her difficult mother has just arrived in the village, and her boyfriend, local detective Ben Taylor, suspects the mayor's girlfriend and Keeley's nemesis, Raquel, of the murder. Keeley isn't so sure about that. While she doesn't care for Raquel, she can't actually see her as the murderer. Meanwhile, Ben is determined to stop Keeley from investigation on her own, but Keeley just can't stop what comes naturally - - until there's another death. Balance at the Yoga Café is soon shattered, and it might take more than a few yoga poses to help Keeley find the murderer.

This charming, cozy mystery has it all: eccentric characters, a likable heroine, and enough twists and turns to keep mystery readers turning page after page. The inclusion of the cafe's recipes and a few yoga poses just adds to the fun.

This review was written by me and originally published by City Book Review

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Jefferson's America

Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation
Jefferson's America
Julie M. Fenster

Jefferson's America, follows the path of expansion into the American west. Its full of tales and adventures undertaken by well know explorers, such as Lewis and Clark as well as others that were unfamiliar to me. It also covers Jefferson's desire to stake a claim to territory west of the Mississippi river and his need to gain control over New Orleans, as a gateway to trade. While this is a well written book, that goes into a lot of detail, it did at times seem a bit dry. I would have appreciated more maps and charts in order to follow along the routes more closely. I also think this book would have been strengthened with more coverage and details about the Spanish and French officials, who were a large part of this story.

Overall, I think history buffs and anyone interested in the exploration and expansion into the Western territories and the prominent role played by Thomas Jefferson and his band of explorers will find this work of interest.

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: Death Need Not Be Fatal

Death Need Not Be Fatal

Death Need Not Be Fatal
Malachy McCourt

To say that Mr. McCourt has seen a few things in his eighty plus years is an understatement. Growing up in poverty in Limerick, Ireland he escaped back to New York, where he had been born, to find work as a young man as well as create a new life for himself. Over the course of his long life, he has managed some things that many only dream of doing, such as owning a popular bar, appearing on television in a soap opera for many years as well as writing a best seller or two. In this latest book he recounts events of his life, giving the reader a glimpse into a world full of family, friends and a passion for living. His story is told with great wit and humor, with numerous tragedies that befell his family conveyed with grace and deep emotion that show a great strength of character. Once I got started in his story I couldn't put it down.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness Giveaway for allowing me to read this book.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Shadow Man

Shadow Man

Shadow Man
Alan Drew

A serial killer is on the loose in Southern California and he or she has everyone in on edge. Ben Wade is the policeman responsible for finding and stopping this killer. Before he can get a handle on the case the body of a young boy is found in a strawberry field. The young Mexican immigrant doesn't fit the killers normal pattern and Wade begins to wonder if the boy hasn't committed suicide. If not, a second murderer may be lurking close to home.

In this novel, which is tense and chilling, Alan Drew combines the murder mystery and hunt for a serial killer with a family drama that contains a painful past that Ben Wade will have difficulty sharing. It all makes for a complex but thrilling tale. Frankly, I didn't expect to like as much as I did but by the end I could hardly put it down. Not only was this a well written piece of fiction, it had an electrical current pulsing though it which really got under my skin.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and Random House for providing the giveaway that allowed me to read and review this book.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: Rain Shadow DVD

Rain Shadow: Series One

Rain Shadow

Rain Shadow is an engaging story of two veterinarians determined to help the community of Paringa near Adelaide in South Australia. Rachel Ward and Victoria Thaine play the two leading roles. Kate, played by Ward is a tough, introverted women who has been in Paringa for years. She has coped with numerous young assistants, and she expects the new one, played by Thaine to be the same as the others. But she may be in for a surprise. It takes some time before they can work together, but there comes the point where it becomes necessary to overcome some of their personal difficulties and pull together for the sake of the community. And the community of Paringa couldn't need their help more. The area has been suffering from a long drought, that shows no sign of ending.

Superb characters, good acting, a story of struggle and hardship as well as a stark but beautiful landscape make this a film worth watching.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders
Anthony Horowitz

Clever and unique is how I would describe this new book by Anthony Horowitz. It is a book within a book and a mystery within a mystery. If you are a fan of the Agatha Christie style whodunit, then you will no doubt find this an enthralling read.

Without giving too much away, the story starts with a London editor, Susan Ryeland, who gets a manuscript from the well-known author Alan Conway. When she gets to the end of the mystery, to her disappointment, the final chapter is missing. She sets out to find it. Getting a lot more than she bargained for, Susan is determined to get to the bottom of the puzzle. To do that, she will have to become a detective herself.

This book contains the best of both worlds, vintage, atmospheric Christie style prose and settings as well as modern, fun, smart, engaging characters. I can't image anyone being disappointed with this one.

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: The Acid Watcher Diet

The Acid Watcher Diet: A 28-Day Reflux Prevention and Healing Program
The Acid Watcher Diet
Jonathan Aviv, MD, FACS

This is the perfect book for those who suffer from acid reflux. It is also great for those who have silent symptoms of acid reflux, such as coughing, post nasal drip, sore throat, hoarseness or the feeling of a lump in the throat. This book will give you the knowledge to recognized the problem and the tools to start a 28 day diet plan that gets you on the right path to healing body and getting rid of acid reflux.

It is not only well written but, easy to follow. The diet is aimed to reduce your intake of caffeine found in coffee, tea and chocolate, alcohol, tobacco, citrus fruits and carbonated sodas. It also encourages the reduction of processed foods in the diet. I personally found it more helpful to look at what I could eat, rather than what I should avoid. I also found it more difficult to give up coffee, tomatoes and citrus fruits than I had anticipated. If, like me, you find that you just can't dispense with all your favorite foods at once, you can try, as I have, to lessen you intake of these and anything that might be your “trigger foods”.

The book also contains other useful tips like not eating three hours before going to bed and getting a good nights sleep as well as what types of exercise are good for eliminating acid reflux. All in all this book provides a good plan that isn't too difficult to follow and there are lots of recipes included which aim to make it easier to prepare the right food for healing.

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: DVD Agatha Raisin

Agatha Raisin, Series 1

Agatha Raisin
This DVD is based on the books of M.C. Beaton and her beloved character Agatha Raisin. Agatha has always dreamed of living in the English countryside and as a result she's left her successful PR Firm in London to make a go of country life, in the small and picturesque village of Carsley in the Cotswolds.

It doesn't take long for her to get involved in the community, and at the opening of this series, it's the local pie contest she's joined. But when a murder occurs she feels compelled to try and solve it, albeit with the help of a few new friends, giving her the much deserved reputation of an amateur sleuth. The series contains nine episodes that will keep you coming back for more. It's become one of my favorites, and how could it not be with the wonderful, fun, endearing characters and a slice of mystery on the side. I'm so hoping there will be a season two.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: The Heirs

The Heirs

The Heirs
Susan Rieger

The Heirs follows the story of Rupert Falkes and his wife Eleanor Phipps Falkes and that of their five sons. When Rupert dies, secrets emerge that the remaining members of the family must come to terms with, all while making sense of their own lives.

I wanted to like this book but, it's one that left me with mixed feelings. While it isn't a long book, it felt long. It often went on and on with perhaps too much detail. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I didn't feel a great connection to the main characters, Rupert and Eleanor, which made the first half of the book seem somewhat dull to me. Some bits of the first section were well observed, but I couldn't help feeling that it sometimes seemed pretentious, like the author is trying too hard to sound intellectual, which was slightly off-putting.

I only felt drawn into the book about mid-way through, when I reached the character of Jim, who, oddly enough, wasn't even part of the Falkes family. I'm not sure why this section seemed more appealing than the first section, maybe I was able to feel or empathize more with this character. He felt more genuine to me and more interesting than some of the others in the story. Overall, I felt the second half of the book was more engaging than the first half; it had more of a story to tell that connected some of the characters, without just describing characters to me. It was less boring, and it seemed to have a better, faster pace. In general, this book didn't have that spark of electricity I was hoping it would have.

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: Catherine of Braganza

Catherine of Braganza: Charles II's Restoration Queen

Catherine of Braganza
Charles II's Restoration Queen
Sarah-Beth Watkins

This book provides a fascinating look at the life of Catherine of Braganza. She was born in 1638 in Portugal, and married Charles the II of England in 1662. She must have been an amazing women since she had to come to terms with the numerous mistresses of the king and the fact that, as hard as she tried she was never able to give the king an heir.

When she wasn't dealing with domestic hardships she had her detractors to contend with, particularly those who wanted to rid themselves of a Catholic queen. Even though the king stood by her during her most difficult times it seems true happiness may have come at long last when she was able to return to Portugal, where she was to rule as regent for João V.

I recommend this well written book for anyone who wants to know more about Catherine's role as queen and her life at the English court.

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: Vibrant India

Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn

Vibrant India
Chitra Agrawal

I love the cover of this cookbook, like the name suggests it's vibrant and enticing. It was this cover that first drew me in. Inside, the author focuses on the food of Southern India, which is distinct from that of the North, which many readers are probably more familiar with in the form of creamy curries and meat dishes. The author goes into more detail explaining the differences and the importance of the history and culture in the development of southern cuisine, and how it focuses more on vegetarian dishes.

While I must admit, some of the recipes in the book seem a bit daunting to me, and if I'm honest, there are quite a few things I would prefer to eat in a restaurant, rather than try and attempt myself, I did find some recipes that were easier to prepare. I loved the idea of peaches in summer yogurt, for example, and the variations on yogurt raita as well as some new ways to make lentils.

I like that this book has some interesting recipes with unexpected ingredients. For instance, Lemon Peanut Rice, is something I wouldn't have expected, or Apple, Ginger Coconut Hand Pies. I think that is what makes this book and Southern India food unique and worth a look, especially for adventurous cooks who want to try something fresh and healthy.

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: My Life to Live

My Life to Live: How I Became the Queen of Soaps When Men Ruled the Airwaves

My Life to Live
Agnes Nixon

I grew up watching One Life to Live and All My Children, but I didn't know anything about the creator of these two long-running soap operas. Therefore, this was quite an interesting book for me to read. I loved hearing about Mrs. Nixon's childhood and how she came to be interested in writing and creating characters.

It was also nice to read about a woman who was able to make both her family and her career a priority. It obviously helped that she had a loving and supporting husband. And while it did seem that her younger life with a father who appeared bent on controlling her and her future was tough, it no doubt led to her determination to chart her own path.

Although it was mentioned that she found writing a book more challenging than writing for television, I don't think many readers would ever guess this was the case. In fact, I thought more than once as I read this book; if Mrs. Nixon hadn't been writing soap operas she no doubt would have been writing best-selling novels. She clearly had a talent for keeping the reader hooked, not only on television but also in her autobiography.

I was saddened when I got to the end of the book and found out that before finishing it she suffered a debilitating stroke. But I was not surprised that she had the help of her family that allowed her to complete the work. I enjoyed getting the chance to read such an interesting book about an amazingly talented woman.

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: The Postman's Fiancée

The Postman's Fiancée

The Postman's Fiancée
Denis Thériault

Tania has moved to Montreal from Germany, where she works as a waitress in one of the city's numerous restaurants. She has fallen in love with one of her regular customers, Bilodo, a local postman. Unfortunately for Tania, Bilodo has fallen for his Haiku writing pen-pal from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. But, when he has an accident that leaves him with amnesia, Tania sees her chance to claim Bilodo as her own betrothed. If only things would work out the way, she planned. But alas, fate and destiny might stand in the way.

This is a fabulous and original story which I couldn't put down. I don't remember reading anything quite like this one before. I loved the characters and the events which take place throughout the story. In fact, I think this is my favorite book so far this year. It is one I would definitely recommend.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: The Inkblots

The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and The Power of Seeing

The Inkblots
Damion Searls

This book takes a look at the interesting life of Herman Rorschach and his iconic inkblot tests. The first half of the book analyzes in depth the scientist's short but extremely productive life. The second half is basically devoted to spread of the inkblots and how they were subsequently used.

Before reading this book I was unaware of the profound impact that Rorschach had on the field of psychology. I was fascinated to learn about his work in both Switzerland and Russia in the early 1900's. And while he died at the early age of 37 one has to wonder what he would have achieved had he lived even longer. It also made me wonder how or if he would have gone on to make further developments to his ground breaking tests. Nevertheless, the author provides a sympathetic and humane view of Rorschach and his work making this a must read for anyone interested in psychology or those who want to know more about the development of his infamous inkblot tests.

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review: Country Affairs

Country Affairs (The Tippermere Series) by [Stoneley, Zara]

Country Affairs
Zara Stoneley

If you are looking for a fun romp in the English countryside, this book is for you. It's number two in the Tippermere Series and it follows all the characters from the first book. In this installment, Charlotte “Lottie” Brinkely is set to take over her inheritance, the country house being left to her by her grandmother Elizabeth. But will the lovable boyfriend Rory be able to cope with all the responsibility, especially when Lottie has to come up with ideas to raise money to cover the estates enormous debts.

I found Country Affairs was a lot more fun than the first book in the series, although book one is good at laying the groundwork for all the characters involved. I felt book two was better developed and a lot more interesting. By the end of book two I was certainly ready for the next in the series entitled, Country Rivals.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle
Jessica Shattuck

This historical novel follows the lives of three women who have to come to grips with the paths their lives have taken both during, before and after WWII. Marianne von Lingenfels has promised her husband and other male members of his resistance group that she will look after their wives and children if there plans to eliminate Hitler fail. When she is forced to do so, she must first locate the women and children who have been imprisoned or in the case of the children, moved to foster homes.

Marianne is able to reunite with two of the women Benita and Ania and bring them along with their children back to Castle Lingenfels. They must fend for themselves during a time of uncertainty and hardship. And as the story progresses secrets of the past are revealed that will test the friendship that has been built up between the women, around the memory of their lost husbands and the lives they once knew.

This richly detailed and atmospheric novel is at once sad and poignant and perhaps comes at the just right time. In it, we can see how political and cultural divisions can lead to disasters. It is both heart wrenching and unsettling but told with  warmth and understanding that made it hard to put down. Those who enjoy historical fiction will not be disappointed.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and William Morrow for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Harvest

Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants

Stefani Bittner & Alethea Harampolis

This lovely book consists of 47 projects using a variety of plants and flowers for creating among other things, herbal teas, infused oils, and striking arrangements using unexpected plants. The projects come with clear and easy to follow instructions with further tips at the end of the book. Each project focuses on a specific plant with information about the plant and how to grow the particular variety in question, as well as the project itself. The book is arranged by seasons, inspiring readers to make the most of nature throughout the year.

The authors included high-quality photos which I found inspiring. In fact, just reading this book made me want to run out to the garden shop and buy some herbs and other plants. It also made me appreciate the fact that some plants could be put to more uses than I had assumed.

This book would no doubt be the perfect gift for a gardener or a creative person who wants to make the most of some common plants found in gardens and backyards and with plants that can be easily found at a local shop.

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: The Threat Level Remains Severe

The Threat Level Remains Severe

The Threat Level Remains Severe
Rowena MacDonald

Grace works for the Economic Scrutiny Committee in the UK House of Commons. Originally a temporary job, it has turned into a permanent position. Things take a interesting turn when the committee gets a new recruit, Brett from Australia. He is everything Grace detests in the newcomers, set on making a name and career for themselves. Grace isn't exactly Brett's dream girl either but at some point they fall into a relationship, albeit a slightly complex one. When things don't work out for them, Grace turns to a secret email admirer. Unfortunately he isn't the antidote to Brett. In fact, the man who passes himself of as Reuben Swift, a struggling poet and musician is a lot more troubled then he lets on. By the time Grace meets him she has to ask Brett for help. All three end up in a downward spiraling trajectory after their encounter. The results of which will challenge them all.

The beginning of this book is very funny. I just loved the descriptions of Grace and Brett, especially
Brett as the overly-pleased-with-himself Australian. In the second part, it takes a turn into a darker area with the introduction of Reuben, and becomes a bit more serious, although certainly not less interesting.

What I really enjoyed about this story is the authors ability to capture the atmosphere around each character. I really felt like I knew these characters by the end of the story. Overall, it was skillfully written and I enjoyed being able to see the story from each characters perspective. This was such an entertaining read, I found it hard to put down. This is my first book by Ms. MacDonald but I hope there will be more to come.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: Speaking from Among the Bones

Speaking from Among the Bones (Flavia de Luce, #5)

Speaking From Among the Bones
Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce, the eleven year old amateur detective, is irresistible. Once again she is right in the thick of things in the English village of Bishop's Lacey. The village is preparing to celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the death of Saint Tancred. In order to do this the village plans to open the grave of the Saint but, before that happens a body is discovered, that of Mr. Collicut, the church organist. Even though the local police think they can handle the investigation, Flavia is intent of conducting one of her own. This is despite the drama that continues at her family's estate of Buckshaw. Flavia's father is under pressure to settle his debts or sell the estate creating a somber atmosphere at home. Although Flavia takes note she is more preoccupied with her latest murder investigation.

I can't get enough of Flavia, she is entertaining and as sharp as a whip. I can't imagine a reader who isn't going to fall for this endearing character, hook, line and sinker. Fans of British cozy mysteries will not want to miss this one.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Review: The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love

The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love

The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love
Per J. Andersson

This book follows the story of Jagat Ananda Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia, or PK for short. PK was born in the Indian and grew up during the 1970's in a family of “untouchables”. His place in the caste system determined most things in his young life, how he was treated at school, where he could work and even regulated how he could worship. His treatment at the hands of teachers and other students had a lasting effect on PK and as a result he left his home village and set out for New Delhi to become an artist. Despite setbacks and hardships PK managed to make a name for himself drawing portraits.

During his early childhood a prophecy predicted that PK would marry a woman from far away, perhaps from another country. While in the capital PK meet Lotta, a Swedish girl traveling around India. And although they fell in love she decided to return to Sweden. In order for PK to find her there a year later he resorted to a bicycle, traveling across continents to eventually reach his destiny.

This book is filled with details of life in India during the 1970's, which I found very interesting. I did, however, feel a little disappointed that Lotta, seemed at times a ghost. The reader doesn't get to know her more than superficially. Since we get to know PK inside and out, it would have been nice if Lotta could have been more prominent in the story, especially in the second half of the book. I also expected a little more in depth coverage of PK's life in Sweden over the years. Despite these weaknesses it was an interesting tale of the determination and struggle of one man tying to find his place in society and the love of his life.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: Human Acts

Human Acts

Human Acts
Han Kang

This heartbreaking, emotional tale follows fifteen year old Dong-ho and others involved in the 1980's uprising in the Southern Korean town of Gwangju. As Dong-ho sets out with his friend to the demonstrations in the town, he watches as this same friend is shot and dies in the street. Dong-ho is unable to help him. He is also unable to tell his family and others what happened to his friend. Instead he joins them on their search to find him, knowing all along that they never will. This leads to his caring for bodies of other dead protesters, even as soldiers are reported to be on their way to squash the rebellion in the city. The fact that he stays behind has consequences not just for Dong-ho, who looses his own life but for his family and others who knew him.

The story is told from several perspectives and each narrator has been either a witness or a participant in the uprising. All of them have a story to tell and wounds that have not healed. Due to the trauma experienced they may never heal. The reader can't help but be moved by the experiences of each and the author's exquisite prose makes this book hard to put down. It's both moving and powerful at the same time. And for those unfamiliar with South Korean politics in the 1980's, the translator has done an excellent job of setting the stage for events in the story and the importance of Gwangju during this period.

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: A Great Reckoning

A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #12)

A Great Reckoning
Louise Penny

Former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté of Quebec, Armand Gamache has decided to take on the role of heading up the Sûreté Academy in order to root out corruption. In doing so, he admits candidates previously excluded. One is Amelia Choquet, who Gamache is particularly drawn to, even though she isn't the usual candidate, considering her numerous body piercings and tattoos. Before the courses begin, Gamache is given a mysterious map by a friend back in his village of Three Pines. While several cadets are investigating the mystery of the map, Professor Serge Leduc is found dead at the academy. Gamache must figure out whether the murderer was a cadet or another member of staff. He must also find out why the murdered man had a copy of the mysterious map. Is it possible that all roads lead back to Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines?

Louise Penny writes in an intelligent manner, exploring the lives of her characters with a sensitive and caring hand. The intricately plotted story reveals layers of secrets and intrigue that kept me guessing until the end. The moody atmosphere and the gripping dialogue made this a stunning novel and one that was hard to put down.

This review was originally written for and published by Manhattan Book Review.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: The Confessions of Young Nero

The Confessions of Young Nero (Nero #1)

The Confessions of Young Nero
Margaret George

Not since Robert Graves' I Claudius, have I read such an interesting book about ancient Rome. In The Confessions of Young Nero, we encounter a young boy who is almost murdered at the hands of the mad emperor Caligula. We follow him on his rise (with his mother's help, of course) to the exalted state of Emperor. The author presents a fascinating look into the world of Rome with her lush descriptions of culture, scenery, and food. It was so well written that I almost felt like I was there, walking around in the intricately decorated rooms. The fact that the characters speak directly to the reader is perhaps what makes this book so superb, giving it a feeling of intimacy. At times I felt like I was reading about long lost relatives, as so many of the events and people in the book are not only well known to us but they have captivated the attention of so many throughout the course of history.

I especially liked the fact that the author presented Nero not, as Hollywood has portrayed him as an over the top ruler, but as a character that one can understand and at times sympathize with, knowing that he often had the weight of the world on his shoulders. I am also happy to know that the story of Nero will be continued in a second volume, as this one ends with the burning of Rome. I for one, can't wait to read the next installment.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and Berkley Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Dance of the Jakaranda

Dance of the Jakaranda

Dance of the Jakaranda
Peter Kimani

In this highly entertaining tale of the quest to build a railroad from Mombasa to Nairobi, in what at the time was the British East Africa Protectorate, we follow several characters whose lives are separated by race but intertwined by circumstances. Babu Salim has come from the Punjab as a technician to work on the railroad and his boss an Englishman, Ian McDonald takes an instant dislike to him, which has consequences that will follow him throughout the rest of the story. As the story progresses, we get to know Rajan, Babu's grandson, who is a performer at the Jakaranda Club a mainstay in the local community. But unbeknownst to Rajan, his attempt to find the woman of his dreams, will open up a world of secrets that will affect the whole cast of characters. And while Babu and the older characters were players in the struggle to build a railroad, Rajan's era will be defined by the struggle for Kenyan independence, creating another layer of drama to the story.

In this clever and mesmerizing story, the author takes the reader on a journey to another time and place, where twists and turns provide a truly entertaining ride.

Thanks to Akashic Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a review.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Review: The Clancys of Queens

The Clancys of Queens: A Memoir

The Clancys of Queens
Tara Clancy

I wasn't sure what to expect from a memoir of an Irish/Italian American girl who grew up in Queens, New York. I was not only pleasantly surprised, I was thoroughly entertained as well. Tara Clancy, or scooter as her dad called her, and chickenella as her mother referred to her, tells a tale of growing up between two worlds, one in working class Queens and one in the more refined Hamptons. I loved the humor in this book and the fact that it was filled with fun and silly memories of friends and family. It was warm, thoughtful but also spunky, which made it a memorable and entertaining read. Tara Clancy has a style all her own and hopefully there will be more tales to come.

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

Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: The 17 Day Diet

The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor's Plan Designed for Rapid Results

The 17 Day Diet
Dr. Mike Moreno

Now that 2017 is underway, many of you may be thinking its a good time to turn over a new leaf and lose a few of those pounds that came with all the holiday desserts. If so, you might want to check out The 17 Day Diet. I've had this book for a while, and I've had some success with it, especially when I'm disciplined (and this was not the case of the holidays). The plan is made up of several levels that can be followed depending on the amount of weight one wants to lose.

In the initial level, the program encourages you to clean out your system by eating low-fat protein, such as chicken and fish with lots of “cleansing vegetables” such as green beans, broccoli, carrots, kale and low sugar fruits. It aims to cut out carbohydrates and sugar allowing you to burn fat. The plan lets you slowly incorporate more items into your diet once you reach your desired weight and it provides tips for helping you maintain your weight goals. It also has some useful menu plans so that the food doesn't become too boring and monotonous.

If you decide to follow this plan, I would love to know how you get on.