Monday, November 5, 2018

Review: Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Unwanted Wife

Anne of Cleves
Sarah-Beth Watkins

Anne of Cleves or Anna von Julich-Kleve-Berg was born in Düsseldorf, in what is today the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, the second daughter of the German Duke of Cleves. She became the fourth wife of Henry VIII when changing political alliances between England, France and the Holy Roman Empire necessitated the need for England to align closer with German allies. The marriage between Anne and Henry was arranged by Chief Minister Cromwell, but almost immediately after the wedding, Henry was searching for a way to end it. He was ready to marry Katherine Howard, a cousin of Anne Boleyn.

Once Anne was no longer Queen of England, she was given the title of Sister to the King. Perhaps not the role she had expected or wanted, it was one that allowed her to navigate her way through the chaotic and often treacherous court intrigue of Henry's reign. She not only managed to remain unharmed but amassed great wealth. Sadly, on the death of the King, her fortunes seemed to decline. While reading this account of her life, I couldn't help but think of a game of musical chairs. Everything that was given by one king could be disposed of by another which must have made life precarious, to say the least.

It's hard to fully imagine what life in those times must have been like. I love the fact that this book gave me a sense of the uncertainty and extraordinary circumstances Anne of Cleves and those around her encountered. So, if like me you are fascinated by Henry VIII and his court you will want to read this book to get a better picture of the life of this interesting woman.

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

Friday, November 2, 2018

Review: Cross Her Heart

Cross Her Heart

Cross Her Heart
Sarah Pinborough

Lisa seems like an ordinary woman with a teenager daughter and a stable job. But, she has a secret. One that she's kept from everyone around her including her daughter and her best friend, Marilyn. Marilyn has her own secret, an abusive husband. She'd like to tell Lisa about it but, overcoming the shame she feels is making it difficult for her to open up. Before she manages to do so, Lisa's darker secret is revealed, shocking everyone, who thought they knew her, even Marilyn. Then Lisa disappears, and not long after her daughter Ava disappears. It falls to Marilyn to find a way to help the woman she once thought of as a friend, even if the police insist on preventing it.

I'm in two minds about this story. On some levels, I think it works well, with a structure that held my attention by flipping back and forth between different characters and between the past and present. This allowed me to get details of all the main characters and understand the secrets they carried from the past. But it seemed to make the story feel like it went on and on and on. By the time Lisa's nemesis is revealed I really couldn't remember much about her. There was a lot going on in this complex tale, and although it was suspenseful, I couldn't help but feel that I got bogged down in too many stories. All of this is a pity because the author had a very nice writing style.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: Family Trust

Family Trust

Family Trust
Kathy Wang

When Stanley Huang learns he has cancer he is determined to have his family near until the end. That's not a problem with his second wife, Mary. She seems content to serve Stanley's every need, especially since he has promised to look after her even when he's gone. Ex-wife Linda is another problem altogether. Linda divorced Stanley years ago, even though it wasn't the ideal solution to her marriage in the eyes of her Taiwanese-American circle. And while Linda wants to make sure Stanley has made his will in favor of his children, she has no interest in spending any more time with him than she has to. And why would she when she'd just discovered the joys of internet dating at 70.

Stanley's two grown children, Kate and Fred are busy with their careers. Kate has her own family, which includes two young children and a wayward husband, to deal with. All of which makes it difficult for them to look after Stanley the way he would like. But as Stanley's illness deteriorates they will have to find the time to sort out his affairs if they want to have an inheritance. The Huang family dynamics will be challenged and changed by the death of Stanley but not necessarily in the way they had imagined.

Family Trust is the intricate portrait of an Asian-American family, trying to create a life that reflects the American dream. But like in most families there will be love, joy, disappointment, and sorrow. And in the case of the Huang family, maybe there will be some money as well. A well-observed tale. I almost hated for it to end.

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

Friday, September 28, 2018

Review: Death of a Prankster

Death of a Prankster (Hamish Macbeth, #7)

Death of a Prankster
MC Beaton

Andrew Trent has invited his family to his Scottish Estate for an important announcement. Most if not all the members of the family can't stand Andrew Trent. Mr. Trent is the type of joker who most people would detest, with petty tricks designed to make the victim feel foolish or annoyed. Nevertheless, the family turns up because he's told them he's at death's door. Of course, they all want to know if they will inherit some or all of his vast fortune. If not for the hint of money there would be no reason for any of them to attend this dreaded gathering.

Upon arrival it becomes clear the Trent may not be on death's door, after all, it was just one of his pranks, used to entice them to Arrat House. But, the joke may be on Trent this time, when his body is discovered in a wardrobe in a guest bedroom. The twisted turn of events means Hamish Macbeth will have to search high and low to find out who wanted Mr. Trent dead.

As usual, M.C. Beaton has created a fun and entertaining drama. Hamish Macbeth, the officer responsible for the village of Lochdubh, with the help of his friend Priscilla will do all he can to find the answer to this puzzle before the police from Strathbane can take all the credit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Review: Key Lime Pie Murder

Key Lime Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #9)
Key Lime Pie Murder
Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swensen owner of The Cookie Jar in Lake Eden Minnesota has been asked to stand in as a judge at a baked goods competition at the county fair. She is enjoying her task sampling and judging cakes and pies until she finds a body at the fairgrounds late one night. Unfortunately, that body belongs to another judge in the baking competition. Willa Sunquist, a teacher's assistant hasn't been back in town long, but Hannah has a feeling that Willa was spooked by something or someone she noticed at the fairgrounds while they were sampling baked goods. Hannah is determined to find out who at the fairgrounds is responsible for Willa's death. She will have the help of her family and friends and also from her two male suitors, Mike and Norman.

Key Lime Pie Murder is another installment in the Hannah Swensen series, where Hannah is not only determined to catch a killer but also determined to find the winner of Lake Edens best-baked goodies. And just so the reader doesn't leave this book feeling hungry, the author has included many of the recipes of the winning entries. For those who enjoy a lighthearted cozy mystery, this is one for you.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Review: The Other Woman

The Other Woman
The Other Woman
Sandie Jones

Emily thinks she found her Mr. Right. Adam is the man she never expected to meet much less fall in love with. Frankly, she couldn't be happier, until she meets his mother, Pammie. Emily can do nothing right in Pammie's eyes. Emily can't stand the way Pammie is kind to her in front of others but cruel and manipulative when alone. Eventually, the toxic relationship between the two starts to take a toll on Emily. Nevertheless, she decides to soldier on as she plans for her perfect wedding. Of course, if Pammie has anything to do with it, the marriage isn't going to happen.

When Emily thinks she's had enough of the insufferable family dynamics, she finds she hasn't begun to understand what lies behind the complex relations of her fiance's family. She may have misjudged things right from the start.

This fascinating story about tangled relations was one I couldn't put down. Every page made me wonder about Emily. What did she want, how she was going to get it and, was worth it? As the cover of this book promised, the ending was one I hadn't seen coming. Jones has managed to craft an intricate story that is not only well written and suspenseful but full of ups and downs. Which makes The Other Woman a book I would highly recommend if you like an unexpected end.

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: Adventure at Simba Hill

The Adventure at Simba Hill (Kari + Lucas Mysteries, #3)
Adventure at Simba Hill
Susan Runholt

Lucas and Kari are two 14-year-old friends and amateur sleuths from Minnesota, who get the chance to travel to Kenya with Kari's uncle. Uncle Geoff is an archaeologist studying ancient artifacts at a place known as Simba Hill. While he is working the girls will have the opportunity to go on safari and at some point visit the archaeological site and see more of Uncle Geoff's work.

Once they arrive, they learn from a colleague of Uncle Geoff that there has been trouble at the excavation site. When the driver at the game park and lodge where Lucas and Kari are staying is accused of the crime, the girls decide to investigate further, hoping to uncover the real culprit.

Adventure at Simba Hill is an excellent book for the young reader. It's full of fun and adventure, with good descriptions of Kenya, its people, culture, and environment. Kari and Lucas make this a memorable tale and one that young readers with interest in travel and adventure are sure to enjoy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review: Bring Me Back

Bring Me Back

Bring Me Back
B.A. Paris

Finn's girlfriend Layla disappeared a decade ago in France at a roadside rest area. At the time he told the police he was in the restroom and when he returned to his car she had vanished. But, this wasn't exactly the truth. Nevertheless, Layla was never found. Now Finn has a new life but when he decides to get married the past starts to catch up with him with signs and clues that Layla may still be alive.

Bring Me Back is a riveting story from start to finish. I couldn't imagine how it would turn out until I got to the end. Alternating between the past and the present and between Finn's story and Layla's this book is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This author knows how to tell a story, and I can't wait to find time for her other two books, Behind Closed Doors and The Break Down.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: A Sorrowful Sanctuary

A Sorrowful Sanctuary (Lane Winslow #5)

A Sorrowful Sanctuary
Iona Whishaw

It's 1947, and Lane Winslow is enjoying her summer in the small town of Nelson in British Columbia. She spends her days visiting neighbors and joining them at the beach. The relaxed atmosphere changes when a young man is found severely injured in a rowboat at the shore. No one knows who he is or where he came from and when he later dies, Lane and her friend Inspector Darling still have no clue about his murder. When another young man, Carl, who lives just outside the town is reported missing by his mother both Lane and the police wonder if there is a connection between the two men. As if this weren't enough to unsettle a small town, several robberies have been reported in the area, and residents are starting to feel a little unnerved.

Instead of relaxing at the beach, Lane decides to spend her time trying to help Inspector Darling and his team to find out who the mystery man is and why he was murdered. Hopefully, they will be able to find the other missing man before it's too late. Whishaw has provided readers with another satisfying mystery with A Sorrowful Sanctuary her fifth in the Lane Winslow series. I became a fan after reading the fourth book It Begins with Betrayal. I enjoy the fact that Lane is a character who knows her mind and likes to take action when she can. Although occasionally and especially in this latest story she and Inspector Darling seem to be at a turning point in their relationship which has her a little out of her comfort zone. I can't wait to read another installment.

Thanks to Touchstone Editions for allowing me to read and review this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review: Campaign Widows

Campaign Widows
Campaign Widows
Aimee Agresti

This fun story follows a group of characters who work in Washington D.C. as journalists, campaigners, and socialites. The main character Cady has recently relocated to D.C. to be with her boyfriend, Jackson. The only problem, he's hardly ever around. Instead, he's with his boss out on the presidential campaign trail which leaves Cady mostly alone. Luckily, it doesn't take her long to meet new friends, not least of which is Birdie a local socialite, known for her great parties. She will be a useful ally for Cady to have as she tries to navigate her way through the cities array of prominent residents while she works for one of the cities morning television programs. When Cady finds that she has access to a potential first lady who isn't too keen to have the job her career takes off. And as she tries to work out her relationship with Jackson she relies on friends to keep her going when he isn't around.

Campaign Widows was a delight to read. It was fun, lighthearted and full of lively characters. So, if your tired of the current political scene let Agresti whisk you away to a more entertaining one.

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Review: Social Creature

Social Creature
Social Creature
Tara Isabella Burton

As soon as Lavinia meets Louise, it's like a train wreck waiting to happen. Lavinia leads a charmed New York life full of friends, parties and all the excitement one expects from a socialite. In fact, it seems like she has it all. The only thing missing is a best friend, which Lavinia finds when she encounters Louise, who has come to tutor Cordelia, Lavinia's little sister. Louise couldn't be more different, whereas she works two or three jobs to pay the rent on her subsidized rental unit and struggles to make ends meet, Lavinia doesn't work at all, nor does she study at the moment, plus she lives in her parents' fabulous apartment.

It isn't long before Lavinia convinces Louise to move in, but it's a move that leaves Louise more and more dependent on Lavinia and her goodwill, which ultimately depends on her moods. As soon as we think we have Lavinia pegged for the toxic, ego-fueled needy friend in the relationship, something happens and we realize that Louise isn't the long-suffering friend we thought she was. In fact, with the use of social media, she deceives all her friends,which were Lavinia's friends, to begin with, until one day it all falls apart.

Burton has created a page-turner of a book that has received a lot of attention recently. This one is dark but addictive, the kind of story that pulls you along at break neck speed, to the very last page. I can't wait to see what comes next from this author.

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

Review: Still Lives

Still Lives

Still Lives
Maria Hummel

Maggie Richter is a copy-editor at the Rocque Museum in Los Angeles. Reluctantly, she attends an opening of a new exhibition entitled Still Lives, in which the controversial artist Kim Lord appears painted as various famous female murder victims. Maggie didn't intend to make an appearance at the opening since Kim Lord is the reason for her breakup with boyfriend Greg Shaw Ferguson, but work comes first. The only problem with the exhibition is the missing artist. Kim Lord is nowhere to be found, and it isn't clear if it is a publicity stunt or if she has disappeared. When she fails to contact anyone for days, it becomes clear that something has happened to the artist.

Not long after, Greg becomes a suspect in her disappearance and Maggie is trying hard not to get swept up into events, but she finds it hard to believe that Greg could hurt anyone. It makes her think long and hard about who from the museum could be involved with Kim Lord. Of course the more involved she becomes, the more likely she is to become a target as well.

This smart, fast-paced mystery is filled with glimpses into the L.A. Art scene and the lives of those who make a living out of the creative process.

Thanks to Counterpoint Press for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Review: Milk

Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas

Mark Kurlansky

If there is anything, you want to know about milk the answer is most likely in this book. If like me you haven't given much thought to milk other than pouring it in your coffee or over you breakfast cereal you might be surprised to find that Kurlansky has looked into the history of milk from antiquity until today and the role it plays in our modern lives. Whether he is examining old recipes in which milk was first used, exploring accounts of making milk safe for the masses, discussing the process of pasteurization and the spread of milk or just thinking about the welfare of milk herds in the industrialized world there is a wealth of information contained within this book. Not surprisingly, I learned a lot from Kurlansky's thoughtful approach, and I can honestly say that this cultural history of milk is unlike anything else I've read lately.

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

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: Lands of Lost Borders

Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road
Lands of Lost Borders
Kate Harris

Kate and friend Mel set out on an epic journey which takes them across the famous silk road. Traveling from Turkey to Tibet with on a bicycle with a tent for shelter and a lot of courage and determination, Kate guides the reader along the journey with tales of previous explorers and interesting facts about some of the places along the trip.

The opening of Lands of Lost Borders focuses on the author and her journey through life up to the point where she drops out of MIT and decides to hit the open road in search of adventure. It was interesting getting to know the author and finding out more about what compelled her to embark on an exploration of her own. While I liked the book, I did feel that it dealt a lot with the past and perhaps the author's need to convey what she learned in her Master's degree of the History of Science, instead of focusing more on her current travels through some fascinating countries. I would have liked to know more about the local people and their cultures. Sometimes while reading this book, I had the feeling that I, along with the author was a million miles away from the silk road. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I think I was waiting for more of a connection to the present. The book is, however, well written and it is clear the author put a lot of time and effort into this work.

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Review: Out of Season

Out of Season

Out of Season
Antonio Manzini

After reading Adam's Rib by Antonio Manzini last year, I was thrilled to get an ARC of Out of Season. Deputy Chief of Police Rocco Schiavone is still working in the small town of Aosta in northern Italy after being sent there as punishment by higher-ups in the police administration. Schiavone doesn't like the city any more than the last time we saw him. He still misses his friends in Rome, and he still hates the wet and often snowy weather in Aosta. When it starts to become too much, he has to dip into the desk drawer in his office for a secret puff or two of marijuana.

Out of Season, he and his colleagues have been called in to investigate a crash involving a cargo van with stolen number plates. While trying to find out more about the two victims of the accident he learns that a local teenage girl, Chiara Berguet has gone missing. Chiara is the daughter of a local construction company owner, and while her parents try to keep the police out of the loop, Schiavone has every intention of investigating her disappearance. Hopefully, he will be able to find her alive.

Rocco Schiavone has is own definition of justice, which doesn't always win him friends in high places but, he tries to do what he thinks is right. And when he isn't out fighting crime, he has a mess of a personal life to contend with. Manzini has created a character who is sometimes bad-tempered, dealing with ghosts of the past and complicated relationships, but likable all the same.

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

Review: Skin

Skin: Delicious Recipes & the Ultimate Wellbeing Plan for Radiant Skin in 6 Weeks

Liz Earle

Skin is part skin care guide and part cookbook. It aims to help you get glowing, radiant skin in six weeks. The best thing about this book, expect the fact that it is written by one of Britain's best-known skin care specialists, is that you don't need to invest in a lot of expensive skin care products. Nor is Liz Earle promoting her brand or others in this book, instead she focuses on things you can do at home with more natural products. Except for some aromatherapy oils, you may find that you already have a lot of the items used in this book in your pantry, for example, oatmeal, honey, and salt, used for creating face masks or a relaxing bath.

The book is full of tips for pampering and caring for skin. My favorite has been the encouragement of dry brushing everyday before showering, which helps counteract cellulite and improving the smoothness of your skin. This is a tip I wish I'd had years ago. The recipes in the book focus on providing the body and skin with nutrients it needs to glow from the inside out. It recommends eating lots of healthy vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The recipes are beautifully photographed and easy to follow. So if you want to improve the condition of your skin, this is an excellent place to start.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Review: Love & Luck

Love & Luck

Love & Luck
Jenna Evans Welch

The cover on this book was so cute and, although I don't often read teen fiction I couldn't resist this one. In the story, seventeen-year-old Addie and her family have traveled to Ireland for the wedding of her aunt, Mel. Instead of enjoying the occasion, Addie is dealing with the fallout from the break up with her boyfriend Cubby. Her brother Ian insists that she tell her mom all about the breakup but Addie is resisting, and as a result, brother and sister have been involved in a fist-fight at the wedding venue.

She and Ian have plans to travel on to Italy after the wedding to visit Addie's friend Lina but, when Ian decides to change plans and meet up with his internet friend Rowan to attend a summer music festival showcasing his favorite band, Addie misses her flight. She tags along on the road trip through Ireland with the two, accompanied by her trusted guidebook for the heartbroken in Ireland, which comes complete with tips for getting over a broken heart. By the end of her journey, she might have the courage she needs to face the trip home.

Fun and full of action this is a great summer read for the teenage reader, or according to back cover anyone over twelve. I wish Jenna Evans Welch had been writing when I was a teenager because I would have loved this one.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review: The Lion's Binding Oath

The Lion's Binding Oath

The Lion's Binding Oath
Ahmed Ismail Yusuf

As soon as I started the first story in this book I was hooked. I couldn't help but feel for the young nomad who gets caught outside at night away from his flock and family. The same was true for The Mayxaano Chronicles. I enjoyed getting to the know the characters, and I loved the fact that the stories moved through the significant events in their lives showing the changes that were occurring in Somali culture, society, and politics. While war and conflict loom in some of these stories I like the fact that war and strife did not dominate the book. The fact that it focused instead on individuals and how they coped with everyday occurrences made it hard for me to put the book down.

To anyone who has read or intends to read this book, it will come as no surprise that my favorite story was The Lion's Binding Oath. In this tale, Hassan gets separated from his family on a trek to find a refugee camp, and he is forced to rely on an oath with a lion he names Kamal, to find a path to his future. It was touching and moving, and I found the author had a way of making me feel included in his enchanting stories. I hope Mr. Yusuf is hard at work on more tales from Somali because I know I want to read more.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: The Summer List

The Summer List

The Summer List
Amy Mason Doan

Laura hasn't been back to her lakeside hometown of Coeur-de-Lune, California in years. Many years later as an adult, she receives an invitation to return for a reunion with her once best friend, Casey. When she arrives, both she and Casey reluctantly take on a scavenger hunt designed by Casey's mother, Alexandra. These hunts were famous during the summers they spent on the lake as teenagers. But this treasure hunt, which requires them to find ten things that relate to their past will lead to long-held secrets that may change their relationship. The past may not have been the way they had assumed.

The Summer List is an enjoyable and entertaining novel. I think what makes it so is the structure that alternates between past and present. This submerges the reader into Laura and Casey's childhood friendship and gives glimpses into Alexandra's years as a child. This provides the story with an element of suspense as the details of the circumstances of their lives slowly emerge. The tension that exists upon Laura's return is keenly felt. The prize at the end of the hunt may not be what they had imagined, but it just might bring Laura back to Coeur-de-Lune.

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

Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: Lagos Noir

Lagos Noir

Lagos Noir
Edited by Chris Abani

I've been a fan of the Noir Series by Akashic Books for a while, so I was thrilled to see an new set of stories focusing on one of Africa's largest cities. Frankly, when I think of Lagos, Nigeria I think of teeming chaos, a city full of life, bustling commerce and more recently email scams. This book incorporates all that and so much more. The stories in this volume were so enjoyable it made me wish there had been more.

I particularly liked Showlogo, which had a terrific ending which just lingered in my mind for days. The Swimming Pool was also a story that somehow stuck with me, likely because it had such a visual feel about it. While all of these stories made one realize that Lagos is full of life and constant movement, they were all able to zero in on individual experiences. Making each character and his or her actions memorable. I hope we will be fortunate enough to read some more interesting stories by all of these talented writers in the not too distant future. I for one would love to read a volume two of Lagos Noir!

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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Review: South Toward Home

South Toward Home: Adventures and Misadventures in my Native Land

South Toward Home
Julia Reed

The funny and amusing essays in South Toward Home are all about life in the American South. Frankly, they were just what I needed for a good laugh. In the book, Ms. Reed alludes to the fact that Southerners are often called upon to make their own fun, and from many of the episodes and adventures in this book it is clear that Ms. Reed is quite adept in doing just that. Whether she was attending a food festival in Greenville Mississippi, her hometown or pointing out the tourists in a New Orleans bar and wondering about their behavior, there was always something to like about her observations.

I particularly enjoyed Hell on Wheels where the author explains the love of her first car a 1978 Toyota Celica and all the joy and adventure she had in it. I also enjoyed Going Deep in Dixie and her defense of the Florida panhandle as a summer destination. Most, if not all of these short essays were amusing or told me something I didn't know about the South and as I'm a resident of the region, I'm almost a bit ashamed to admit that I hadn't heard of the author before this book. Of course, I now count myself as a fan of Ms. Reed's style and humor.

So for anyone who isn't familiar with the American South, South Toward Home is an excellent place to dip your toe. I think you will find the quirkiness and charm of southern culture and people spread throughout the pages of this book. And if you like what you read and want to try it out in person, remember (and this is my own observation) it's hot as hell, the mosquitoes are as big as elephants and the poison oak packs a mean punch but otherwise, as this book shows it's all good fun.

Thanks to Goodreads and St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: Women in Sunlight

Women in Sunlight

Women in Sunlight
Frances Mayes

Frances Mayes does it again in this exquisitely written book about a group of women who become fast friends, encouraging and supporting one another in new situations. Kit Raines is already living in Tuscany, Italy when three women rent the villa next to hers; she is unaware that they will come to play a significant role in her life.

The three women in the villa, Susan, Camille and Julia get to know each other when they all turn up at a retirement village in North Carolina known as Country Meadows. Each woman has different reasons for feeling the need to downsize, slowdown and possibly move to an age defined community. But none of the women are sure that is what they want. As they get to know each other, they decide they are not willing to throw in the towel and move to a retirement home. They haven't seen the world yet. As a result of their newfound friendship, they rent a villa in Tuscany where life begins to blossom for all three and where they meet Kit whose life will also change in ways she had not expected.

Mayes takes us on a journey of discovery of friendship, food, culture and travel, along the way I felt like I gained a few new friends. If this book doesn't make you want to pick up sticks and move to Tuscany, I don't know what would. Hopefully, if you do, you will find new friends and adventure just like the Women in Sunlight.

Thanks to Goodreads and Crown Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: The Road to Little Dribbling

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

The Road to Little Dribbling
Bill Bryson

While I have read several of Mr. Bryson's books: A Walk in the Woods, The Lost Continent and In a Sunburned Country, I have to admit I haven't read Notes from a Small Island. I am happy to say that fact did not stop me from enjoying The Road to Little Dribbling. Going back to were it all started in 1995, he takes another look at a place he has come to know and love. With a new journey in mind he sets out to discover how the small Island has moved on since his last journey. The result is classic Bryson where he points out the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly aspects of the United Kingdom, always in an engaging and entertaining manner that only he seems to be able to convey.

Of course, just when you think Bryson has lost faith in his adopted Island, he turns a corner and rediscovers the beauty of the countryside and the joy of rambling. It is then that you get the feeling there's no other place in the world he would rather be. I for one am happy he decided to take me along on the trip. I only wish he would discover the art of photography because a few visuals would make this already interesting book even more enjoyable.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Review: The Last Equation of Isaac Severy

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy
Nova Jacobs

Hazel Severy's grandfather Isaac Severy has just died, the cause is an apparent suicide, but Hazel isn't so sure, mainly because Isaac has left her with a mysterious letter. He has asked that she find his last mathematical equation and hand it over to a trusted friend before it falls into the wrong hands.

Hazel isn't particularly mathematically inclined, so she isn't sure why her grandfather hasn't left the equation her his son Philip a professor of theoretical physics or her brother Gregory, a police officer, or the long lost grandson, who shows up out of the blue at the funeral. Nevertheless, Hazel decides to proceed with her grandfather's wish, particularly as he has suggested in his letter that his death will not be the only one. But it isn't going to be easy for Hazel to find her way through the maze of obstacles or the other people who want to find the last great work of Isaac Severy. Nor is she particularly sure what all the fuss is about. Nevertheless, she feels she owes it to her grandfather to grant his last wish.

This book has everything going for it, a little mystery, a smidgen of romance, a dysfunctional family full of drama and layers of intrigue. It was a little unlike anything I've read lately. I loved it so much I couldn't put it down. Frankly, this surprised me as mathematics isn't a topic I assumed would be so thrilling, and yet this one was. The story was very well developed and a lot of fun to read. I can't wait to see what the author will come up with next.

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: It Begins In Betrayal

It Begins In Betrayal (Lane Winslow #4)

It Begins In Betrayal
A Lane Winslow Mystery
Iona Whishaw

The story begins in wartime Europe when a British plane goes down in France. Two crew members are lost, but the other crew members manage to return home. Four years later Flight Lieutenant Darling, who is now, Inspector Darling in British Columbia, Canada, is called to investigate the possible murder of a British woman just outside the small town of King's Cove. Before the investigation can get underway, Inspector Darling is called back to England where he is charged with the murder of one of his airmen in the 1943 crash.

Inspector Darling's good friend Lane Winslow decides to follow him to London to find out why Darling has been charged with murder. She suspects that there is more to the story and witnesses are lying or covering for someone else. She is determined to help clear Darling's name. While they are away in London, Darling's subordinate, Constable Ames must take over the case of the murdered British woman, but it isn't long before Ames has to look towards England as well for answers to his case.

It Begins in Betrayal is a complex, multilayered and rather addictive wartime story. I'm so glad I had a chance to read this one. I can't wait to discover more in the Lane Winslow Mystery series.

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Color Me Floral

Color Me Floral
Kiana Underwood

Color Me Floral is a beautiful book where one floral design is more impressive than the next. If you are interested in creating unique and stunning floral arrangements, this is definitely a book you will want to own. Arranged by seasons, the author presents an array of interesting combinations using common flowers and some more uncommon elements. I love that she provides a step by step guide that allows readers to recreate all the arrangements she presents in the book.

The book focuses on monochromatic designs but, none of the arrangements were boring or dull. The variety of flowers and plants used by the author made the designs unique and beautiful. The amazing photography is another reason this book will dazzle readers. It is both gorgeous and practical at the same time.

After examining the techniques and suggestions of the author, I felt inspired to create my own floral bouquet. I let myself be inspired by what I found in my garden. Combining flowers such as roses with shrubs such as azaleas and colorful foliage and blooming trees I was able to create an interesting arrangement, unlike anything I had ever put together before. In fact, I think the most important thing I will take away from this book is the idea of putting together different types of plants to create something beautiful, whimsical and a little unexpected. So, if you are looking for inspiration, this is an excellent place to start.

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Ordeal by Innocence

Ordeal by Innocence

Ordeal By Innocence
Agatha Christie

Arthur Calgary has been away on an expedition outside of the country and as a result, missed the murder trial of Mrs. Argyle, a middle age woman at her home known as Sunny Point. Her adopted son, Jack was accused of the murder and sentenced to prison, where he died from pneumonia. Jack always claimed he had an alibi for the time of death, but he couldn't prove it.

Arthur Calgary realizes upon his return that he was the alibi and now he feels duty bound to clear Jack's name. Although he expects the family to feel joy and relief on his news, he is instead met with annoyance and fear. If Jack wasn't the murderer, then someone else in the family likely is. Not only does Calgary open a can of worms with his revelation but the killer may strike again.

What's not to like about Agatha Christie, right? Her books always manage to provide a satisfying mystery no matter what the setting or crime. Ordeal By Innocence doesn't disappoint.

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Review: My Dear Hamilton

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton

My Dear Hamilton
Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie

This work of historical fiction follows the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton from her childhood years on her families frontier farm in New York through her marriage to Alexander Hamilton and during her years as a widow. This fascinating book relies on thousands of documents left behind by Mr. Hamilton giving readers a glimpse into numerous aspects of their lives and the difficulties of building a new nation.

The first thing that struck me about this work is the pace. It seems to convey such urgency and movement that made it hard to put down. The early life on the frontier during the revolutionary war is portrayed as a time of great upheaval and sacrifice, but Eliza comes across as a woman ready to play a role supporting the revolutionary cause anyway she can. And one is struck by the warm, caring atmosphere of her family compared to unfortunate circumstances of Alexander Hamilton's. No doubt this shaped her ability to cope with the difficulties she faced in life. I particularly liked that the authors tried to imagine how she felt about and dealt with the betrayal by her husband, death of her children and political developments that didn't always benefit her family or their views.

This book reminded me that I should be reading more historical fiction. Hopefully, I will find time to read the other bestseller by these authors, America's First Daughter.

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review: The Italian Party

The Italian Party

The Italian Party
Christina Lynch

This sparkling jewel, set in the 1950's follows Scottie and Michael, two naive Americans who move to Italy. Michael has a job to sell tractors in Siena, although in reality he is secretly working for the CIA. Scottie his new wife is unaware of his real job, and like Michael she too has something to hide. Mainly the fact that she isn't, as Michael thinks, an heiress with a large trust fund waiting for her. Not only do this couple not know each other particularly well when they arrive in Italy, they also do not know much about Italians. This could be a problem for Michael since his task is to prevent the communist mayor from being re-elected. He will also need to find some informants as soon as possible. All seems to be going well until the one informant he manages to engage goes missing. It may take all the social skills of Scottie to find out what happened to him.

This clever, fun novel is timely and poignant reminding the reader that trying to sway elections is nothing new. For Michael and Scottie, politics in 1950's Italy might be a lot more subtle and complex than either bargained for but it doesn't stop them from enjoying all that Bella Italia has to offer. I loved this one so much I hated for it to end.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review: The House of Rougeaux

House of Rougeaux

The House of Rougeaux
Jenny Jaeckel

The House of Rougeaux follows the descendants of two children who are left motherless on a sugar plantation on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1785 up until the mid-1960's. I loved the first section of this book which follows Abeje, who eventually becomes a healer and her brother Adunbi.

I immediately felt something for these two characters. The hardships and unfortunate circumstances of there lives pulled at my heart. The author had a wonderful ability to transport me to the Caribbean and the reality of their everyday lives. But, I didn't understand why the story jumped from the 1800's to descendants living in the 1950's in the United States and Canada. I think I would have enjoyed this book much more if it had been chronological in order or even if it had omitted the second and third chapter. I was also not a big fan of extremely long chapters often followed by a very short one. It made the story seem unbalanced to me. I liked the ending of the book which followed one descendant Eleanor, who returned to Martinique to find out more about her ancestors, Abeje and Adunbi. I think the author has a gift and talent for creating beautiful prose and being able to draw a reader into the characters. But, I was disappointed with the structure chosen for the work.

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: The Broken Girls

The Broken Girls

The Broken Girls
Simone St. James

In 1950, Idlewild Hall in Vermont was a school for wayward girls, complete with its own ghost and sinister atmosphere when one of the girls went missing. In 2014 Fiona Sheridan a freelance journalist is preoccupied with the restoration of Idlewild Hall mainly because her sister's body was discovered murdered on the grounds in the 1990's. Alternating between the past and present the reader is presented with background stories of the former students and with Fiona's attempts to find out what really happened to her sister, the other girls of Idlewild and the resident ghost. She would also like to know why the new owners would want to reopen a place so tainted with history and ghosts of the past.

I found this fast pace, cleverly written tale fascinating. I can't remember the last time I stayed up half the night to finish something so good. If you're looking for a ghostly mystery with a few twists, this is the one to read.

Thanks to Berkley Publishing for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Review: The Little French Bistro

The Little French Bistro

The Little French Bistro
Nina George

Marianne is in her sixties, and she's been married to Lothar as long as she can remember. But it hasn't been a happy marriage, and while the couple is in Paris on holiday, Marianne decides to end her life by jumping into the Seine. Things don't go as planned, however, and a stranger pulls her to safety, and she is transported to hospital. Instead of recovering there and returning home to Germany with Lothar she makes a fateful decision to walk out and find her way to the sea. She has always wanted to see the ocean, and she's decided it will be a good place to end her journey in this world.

Striking out towards the coast and ending up in Brittany she is taken in by the scenery and the people. Finding temporary employment in cafe, it becomes more and more difficult for Marianne to end her life. In fact, the end has become her beginning as she finds friendship, love, happiness and belonging in the small harbor town of Kerdruc. Something she has never known before but, will she ever escape the past or will it creep up on her when she least expects it?

This warmhearted, charming story was a pleasure to read. Filled with the sites and sounds of an ancient land, known to locals as the end of the world. Marianne is a captivating character who has the will to follow her dreams even when life seems at the lowest point; reminding readers that it's never too late to dream.

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

Friday, February 23, 2018

Review: The French Girl

The French Girl

The French Girl
Lexie Elliott

 A decade ago, when six college friends were having a break at a French farmhouse a local girl, Severine disappeared. When her body is found in a well, the French police arrive in London to question, once again the group of friends. So many years have passed, and most haven't given Severine a second thought, except Kate Channing, mainly because Severine haunts her daily. When the police seem to suspect that Kate may have something to do with the murder, she realizes that her career as a fledgling headhunter in London could be damaged if the rumors spread. But, if she didn't do it who did? What about the others? Did they have motive and opportunity for murder? It's hard to believe that the dark heart of a murderer could exist within this group, and yet it must.

The French Girl was a terrific read. I felt like I knew the characters by the end of the story. This one was superbly written with a great atmosphere and an ending that was not quite what I had expected. I also loved that the author followed the characters after the murderer had been uncovered. I didn't feel that I was left hanging in the end and it provided a satisfying sense of closure to the story. Hopefully, this debut novel will lead to more exciting stories from a talented writer.

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: How Hard Can It Be

How Hard Can It Be?

How Hard Can It Be
Allison Pearson

Kate Redding is almost 50 and she hasn't quite come to terms with it yet. Instead she is struggling with family, career and just about everything life throws at her in the witty and laugh out loud story. Her teenage daughter Emily is distraught over a social media faux pas when this story opens. Kate isn't quite sure how to handle the problem since her own social media experience is limited. Compounding problems at home her husband has decided to retrain as a counselor, meaning he will be without an income for the next two years. Having purchased a fixer-upper which is turning into a money pit, Kate decides its time to get back into the job market. After a seven-year absence from the world of finance, this may not be as easy as it seems. Kate will just have to do what it takes to find a job in the city of London, even if that means lying about her age.

As if that is not enough there is the onset of menopause to worry about, aging parents that need to be looked after, by Kate of course and a marital relationship that has seen better days. All of which will be tested with the appearance of an old boyfriend and Kate's determination to face life head-on. It was not hard to laugh out loud and marvel at the observations made in this book.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: Zen Camera

Zen Camera: Creative Awakening with a Daily Practice in Photography

Zen Camera
David Ulrich

Zen Camera aims to help you gain a new perspective on what you see and hopefully translate that into more interesting and unique photographs. The book is divided into six lessons and designed so that it can be followed like a course. Each chapter contains an overview of the topic being covered and is followed by exercises and tips. You don't need any prior knowledge of photography, or zen for that matter but, you will need to invest a little time, patience and daily practice to see with your minds' eye.

I like the unique concept and the fact that it aims to raise awareness and creativity by finding and seeing something within, with or without a camera in hand. This is an interesting book for anyone who wants to try and create photos with more personal meaning. It doesn't require any special equipment, any camera or cell phone camera will work. This one is all about getting to know yourself and how to let the knowledge you gain shine through in your work. Hopefully, it will inspire you to see something from a totally new angle.

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: Sunday Silence

Sunday Silence (Frieda Klein, #7)

Sunday Silence
Nicci French

Freida Klein, prominent London psychologist is sure that the serial killer Dan Reeves is not dead. Despite the fact that no one believes her, especially the police, she knows for sure that he is alive and sending her messages. When a dead body is found in her home, the police finally start to believe her. But as soon as Freida's friends and family are targeted she is no longer sure it's the work of Dan Reeves. Could there be another killer on the loose? If there is he or she must be close at hand in order to know so much about Freida's life and work.

This gripping, fast moving tale is one that I really enjoyed. If your looking for mystery and suspense this is one not to be missed.

Thanks to William Morrow for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Review: Follow the Money

Follow the Money: A Month in the Life of a Ten-Dollar Bill

Follow the Money
Steve Boggan

One day freelance journalist Steve Boggan had the idea of following a 10 dollar bill across America as it changed hands, in order to get a glimpse of the country and it's people. Clearly not a journey most of us would think of undertaking. But starting in Lebanon Kansas (for reasons the author will explain) he travels across numerous states, along the way meeting a host of interesting characters. Whether he found himself at a truck stop, a bar, deer hunting or chatting with Amish farmers, he was always ready to drop everything and follow the money, wherever it led.

This memorable road trip across the United States was both endearing and entertaining and maybe just a little crazy.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Review: L'appart

L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home
David Lebovitz

l'appart is a charming and witty account of a Paris renovation by a chef, blogger, and lover of most things French, with the possible exceptions of real estate agents and contractors. Loving most things French, as he did, he decided to pull up stakes in the U.S. And move to the city of lights. After renting an apartment for years, he finally decided it was time to strike out on his own. Of course, this was all easier said than done. After spending nearly a year in the search for the right abode, he finally found a place he wanted to call home. But then came the challenge of renovation. What he had expected to take two months or so, turned into a marathon ordeal. And, “ordeal” is the key word here. Personally, I cannot imagine how anyone could cope with such a cauchemar but, Mr. Lebovitz managed to come out the other end in one piece.

Just in case perils of renovation get you down while reading this account, don't fret because the author has provided numerous tasty recipes that will cheer you up no end. My personal favorite was the Lemon Yogurt Cake. And if after reading this book you still feel inclined to dive into your own French renovation, I'd like to wish you Bon Courage; you will most likely need it.

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