Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Review: Kingdom of The Blind

Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #14)

Kingdom Of The Blind
Louise Penny

Armand Gamache has received a strange letter directing him to an abandoned farmhouse just outside of the village of Three Pines, where he lives. Arriving at the house in a snowstorm, he's surprised to find one of his neighbors, Myra who owns the bookstore in Three Pines, and a young man from Montreal. Waiting in the derelict house is a notary who informs all three they've been named liquidators in the will of Bertha Baumgartner. The only thing is, they didn't know Mrs. Baumgartner. They can't imagine why they have been named in the will instead of the Baumgartner children.

When Anthony Baumgartner, the eldest son of Mrs. Baumgartner, is found dead in the farmhouse, Gamache wants to know what happened. Although he's been suspended from his job as head of Sûreté du Québec due to his handling of a drugs case months before, he is determined to find out what's behind this death.

Kingdom of The Blind is full of interesting local characters who are eager and willing to help Gamache solve his case. Whether that means providing information or a meal by the fire, they seem to know how to love and protect the intimate nature of Three Pines. 

This review was originally written for City Book Review by me.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Review: Made in Sweden

Made in Sweden: 25 ideas that created a country

Made in Sweden
Elisabeth Åsbrink

Like many people, I probably had a distorted view of Sweden. I thought of minimalist fashion trends, Ikea furniture, and beautiful music, or if I had recently watched a Swedish television Krimi, I thought of it as a place with too many sleazy motorcycle gangs or petty drug dealers. But, Made in Sweden aims to provide a more accurate look at what makes Sweden the community and nation it is today. The author seeks to explain that while we might think of the country as a tolerant, open, and friendly one, that wasn't always the case, and with the rise of the far-right may become less so in the future.

This is an intriguing and well-written book which covers 25 topics that help shed light on what it means to be Swedish and how the country developed into the nation it is today. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about Carl von Linnaeus, whose classification system of nature is still with us today. I was also a little shocked to learn that between 1928 and 1976, around 63,000 Swedish citizens were sterilized to preserve what was most desirable in the population.

As the book shows, the making of a nation is something that happens over time and a process that is continually evolving. For those who want to see another side of this interesting country, this is a good place to start.

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


Monday, November 4, 2019

Review: The Caribbean Irish

Caribbean Irish, The

The Caribbean Irish
Miki Garcia

Before I picked up this book, I had no idea the Irish were among the earliest settlers in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Irish is a fascinating look at a somewhat forgotten period of history. During the 1600s, as the British set out to colonize the West Indies, they relied heavily on the Irish as a source of indentured labor. But by the 1800s, the Irish had all but disappeared as their labor was replaced by African slaves.

It is hard to imagine life during Cromwell's reign as he developed a policy to rid Ireland of the Irish, particularly by encouraging the transplantation of those considered undesirable. He particularly singled out political prisoners, or the unfortunate like orphans and widows or anyone at the wrong place at the wrong time. And while some Irish did manage to become planters and businessmen, this account looks primarily at the role of servants, and how their experiences contrasted with that of slaves brought to the island as sugar production became more widespread. Although both lived and worked in deplorable conditions, the indentured servants had at least the hope of being free at the end of their contracts, provided they lived that long, unlike slaves who were kept in bondage without any of hope of freedom. And it seems that by the 1800s as their labor was less in demand, they managed to find other opportunities outside the islands.

I found this to be an engaging account of those who often didn't have a voice during British global expansion into the West Indies. And I liked the fact that this book made me aware of a part of history that I otherwise wouldn't have known about.

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


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Review: The Lying Room

The Lying Room

The Lying Room
Nicci French

Neve Connolly is having an affair with her boss Saul. One morning she gets a text message to meet him at his London flat. Arriving at his place, she is shocked to find him dead. What does she do? She cleans the crime scene, hoping to erase any trace that she's ever been there. After all, she has her husband and three children to think about and her job. After telling numerous lies to the police, hoping to protect herself, she realizes she has to find out who killed Saul and why, if she wants to avoid being caught in her tangled web of lies.

The Lying Room is an exciting mystery with a lot of twists and turns. That alone makes this one worth reading. But the long drawn out chapters, unfortunately, made this seem like a slow-moving story. I also felt the last chapter was a bit odd, and it felt like it dangled a bit in the end as an afterthought. I think parts of it should have been integrated into the story much earlier but, that being said, the authors provided an entertaining mystery that I enjoyed.

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Review: Very Nice

Very Nice

Very Nice
Marcy Dermansky

Rachel has a thing for her writing professor Zahid, and she thinks he might feel the same way about her. But when Zahid meets Rachel's mother, Becca, who is looking after his dog while he's been in Pakistan for a funeral, he quickly develops feelings for her. Becca's husband ( and Rachel's father) Jonathan has a thing for Mandy, a pilot. He's left his family in Connecticut and moved into Mandy's apartment in Tribeca. Back in Connecticut, things are not going the way Rachel had planned. When Zahid moves in with her and her mother to write his second novel, he has little time for Rachel but all the time in the world for Becca. How could it not be an interesting summer with all these tangled relations?

Very Nice is a fast-paced, fun tale that will remind you of nothing you've read recently. With a contemporary flair that seems spot-on for our times and characters who seemed so real, this is
one book I'm glad I got to read.


Thanks to Alfred A. Knopf for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, September 30, 2019

Review: Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #4)

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swenson is trying to focus on the 4th of July holidays when Norman phones to tell her he's bought a house. Not just any house, the old Voelker cottage near the lake which he plans to tear down and build their dream home. Hannah isn't sure she heard that right. How could he be building her a dream home when he hasn't even proposed yet? Before Norman can get started on the building work, a body is found in the basement. Rhonda from the local drugstore had been planning a vacation, but it's one she won't be taking now, and Hannah is determined to find out who killed her. It's the least she can do since it was her mother Delores who found the body.


Lemon Meringue Pie Murder is a fun cozy mystery that is sure to keep Fluke's fans entertained, and as always it comes with a few of Hannah's recipes from The Cookie Jar. It's just the thing for a lazy afternoon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Review: Stronger than Death

Stronger Than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

Stronger than Death
Rachel Pieh Jones

This book follows the extraordinary life of Annalena Tonelli, an Italian woman who spent years in the Horn of Africa, specifically, Northern Kenya and Somalia, trying to help eradicate Tuberculosis. Although she wasn't a medical doctor, she was able to find ways to improve access to treatment for some of the regions poorest inhabitants. While Tonelli was not a nun or a missionary in the traditional sense, she was a woman who followed her heart and the teachings of Jesus. She felt love was what the sick and poor needed most, and she was determined to conquer fear, disease, and terrorism to provide it and compassion to her patients.

Ms. Jones does a tremendous job describing in great detail Tonelli's life, work, and the challenges she faced in an African undergoing immense change. Although Tonelli's assassination marks a sad end to a life dedicated to helping the least fortunate, it is also an inspiration to others. I feel privileged that I was able to read such a well-written account of this extraordinary figure. Tonelli's work and sacrifices will no doubt go on to inspire many more. Her undying love and faith in humanity is a testament to her strength and character.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Review: Case Histories

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1)

Case Histories
Kate Atkinson

Olivia Land disappeared at the age of three, leaving her family with a lot of unanswered questions. When her father Victor dies, some of the questions return and two of Olivia's remaining sisters, Julia and Amelia want to find out what happened to their sister. To do this, they hire Jackson Brodie. But they aren't his only clients. Theo lost his daughter as well, and he wants Jackson to find the killer. And then there is Birdie Rain, an elderly woman who wants Jackson to find her cat. He only obliges because he fears she is a lonely old lady with no one else to turn to, except a useless nephew. As if these cases weren't enough to keep him busy, he meets Shirley, who is looking for a niece she hasn't seen since she was a baby.

It seems Brodie is incapable of saying no to someone in need. He's down to earth, and he loves his daughter Marlee. It is too bad her mother Josie is thinking of moving to New Zealand with Marlee and her new husband. It's enough to make Jackson crazy. In the meantime, he is busy trying to keep up with his list of cases as some of the stories threaten to reveal long-held secrets that may or may not bring comfort to their relatives.

Atkinson has written a brilliant, mystery with twists and turns that kept me turning pages as fast as I could. With vivid writing that delves deep into the minds of the characters,Case Histories is a thrilling and enjoyable book for those who love addictive mysteries.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Review: The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen (Tennison, #5)

The Dirty Dozen
Lynda La Plante

Jane Tennison has been assigned to the Flying Squad, a police unit that investigates robberies. She is the first woman to join this elite group that likes to call itself the Dirty Dozen. Not only is the head of the unit DCI Murphy not keen on having a woman on the team, but Jane has arrived just as a violent gang is robbing a bank.

While trying to investigate the crime, Jane has to cope with the bad humor of the men and, to top it off, there is also a jealous female secretary lurking in the office. Plus, there are a few problems on the home front as well. When her brother-in-law gets into a spot of bother, he calls Jane for help. Life is tough as a female officer, but it is clear that Tennison wouldn't want any other kind of job. And while the criminals may seem one step ahead of the police, it is clear the Flying Squad will dig deep to get results and even though Tennison is a woman she is definitely proving to be an asset to the team.

As a fan of the Prime Suspect series, I was thrilled to get a copy of The Dirty Dozen. La Plante creates a thrilling drama that will keep readers on their toes. I loved that this book examined the role of a strong female trying to overcome obstacles to do what she loves. The characters were all well developed, and the pace and tension throughout were good with a well-developed plot. This was a satisfying read and one I am sure others will enjoy.

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: Royal Holiday

Royal Holiday

Royal Holiday
Jasmine Guillory

When Vivian Forest's daughter Maddie gets a job over Christmas, to work with a member of the British royal family, she invites her mother to come along. Vivian is thrilled to be staying on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk. And when she meets Malcolm, the Queen's private secretary she is immediately attracted to him. Will her encounter with this elegant man turn into a typical holiday affair, or could it led to something more?

Jasmine Guillory has written a fun romantic comedy that captures the spirit of Christmas in the UK. Vivian is a character that I couldn't help, but love. I am sure other readers will feel the same. Right from the start, I wanted things to turn out well for her. Malcolm was also a fun character, especially when he showed his stubborn side now and again. The mix of well-developed characters and a fantastic setting is what makes this book work. And if you thought romance was dead, you will be thrilled to find that it is alive and well in Guillory's world and buzzing thorough the pages of Royal Holiday. This will be a great holiday read for those looking for a contemporary, heartwarming story.

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


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Review: You Me Everything

You Me Everything

You Me Everything
Catherine Isaac

When Jessica decides to take her son, William, on holiday to a French chateau, she does so with more on her mind than just a relaxing getaway. The chateau in question has been restored and now operates as a hotel run by her former boyfriend Adam, who happens to be William's father. Her mother, who suffers from the debilitating Huntington's disease, has convinced Jessica that William needs to get to know his father, even if Jessica isn't keen on the idea. Jessica has her reasons for not wanting to go first because she isn't convinced Adam is up to being a parent and also because she has a secret she's been keeping from both Adam and William.

Although You Me Everything is a sad story, as it deals with disease and broken relationships, it doesn't disappoint. It's full of interesting characters, scenery and complete with a satisfying end. The author does such a good job of developing the characters, by the time I finished reading, I felt as if I'd been in the French countryside with them. But, before you get to the end, you might find, like me, that you need a tissue or two.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review: Lies

Lies

Lies
T.M. Logan

Joe Lynch is on his way home when his four-year-old son, William, spots the car that belongs to his mother, Mel. Joe decides to follow Mel and surprise her. Only Joe is the one who is surprised to find her going to a hotel to meet a man they both know. Are they having an affair? When the man in question disappears, the police began to suspect that Joe might be involved. As the lie his wife told threatens to rip the family apart and destroy everything they've worked for Joe is determined to find this man, but that only pulls him deeper and deeper into a mystery that he can't solve. On top of it all, the lies keep on coming leaving Joe unsure who to trust.

I was immediately drawn into the story and the lives of the characters, which made this one wildly entertaining. Not only was the pacing and tension spot on in this book, but there were some great twists and turns as well as an ending I hadn't anticipated. If you are like me you will not be able to put this one down, it's that entertaining. This is an author I definitely want to read again.


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

Monday, July 22, 2019

Review: Too Close

Too Close

Too Close
Natalie Daniels

Emma Robinson is a forensic psychiatrist with a new case. Connie, her institutionalized patient, is suffering from amnesia. Emma must decide if Connie is fit to stand trial for a crime she committed but can't remember. And why can't she remember anything? Did her relationship with her best friend Ness leave her vulnerable and ready to snap? Were Connie and Ness too close to each other or is Emma the one getting too close to Connie as she tries to unravel the events that led to Connie's break down?
Too Close is a well written psychological drama with its share of twists and turns. And although I liked the story, I was somehow unable to develop real feelings for the characters. I'm not sure why this was the case because all the events that led to the dilemma of the main characters are laid out for the reader as the story unfolds. Nevertheless, it felt as if they were all too distant, which meant that I didn't have as much empathy for them as I would have liked. I did, however, think the second half of the story had a better pace and more tension, which made it worthwhile reading.

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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Review: Heart of Barkness

Heart of Barkness (Chet and Bernie Mystery, #9)

Heart of Barkness
Spencer Quinn

Private Investigator Bernie Little is the owner of Little Detective Agency where he investigates cases with his partner, his dog Chet. In Heart of Barkness, Bernie and Chet set out to help Lotty Pilgrim, a musician who has fallen on hard times. When her manager/boyfriend Clint is killed, Lotty is arrested for the crime. Bernie is convinced that she didn't do it, but when she decides to confess to the crime, Bernie knows that he and Chet will have to delve deep into her past to find out who killed Clint and why.

This was my first time reading a Chet and Bernie mystery. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I didn't realize at first that the story would be told from Chet's point of view. Initially, I wasn't sure this was going to be a book for me, but the more I read, the more entertaining it was. By the end, I rather enjoyed and appreciated Chet's unique point of view. Seeing things from the dog's perspective was not only entertaining it highlighted areas that would have otherwise been missed, making this a very engaging story. Frankly, it was unlike anything I've read lately. I would, therefore, be open to reading another Chet and Bernie adventure.


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

Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: American Pop

American Pop

American Pop
Snowden Wright

American Pop follows the fortunes of the Forster family. A family who built an empire on the back of Pan Cola in Panola County, Mississippi. By looking back and forth at the different generations of the family, rise and fall from power and the decline of their fortunes, the author weaves a tale of southern intrigue. I especially liked the fact that he was able to bring the story right up to the end of the dynasty where a long lost member of the clan gets the chance to look back on what the previous members did and how they suffered a decline of fortunes both in terms of business and family.

Snowden Wright has a talent for capturing the essence of the south, it positively oozes off every page, like Spanish moss blowing in the wind. He is skilled at blending fact and fiction in a way that keeps readers glued to the page and invested in the story. Plus, his descriptions of people and places leave no doubt about his skill as an accomplished writer.


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


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Review: My Pagan Ancestor Zuri

My Pagan Ancestor Zuri: A Parallel Journey: Christchurch to Stonehenge

My Pagan Ancestor Zuri
Ken West



By imagining how our ancestors lived back in the Neolithic period, the author follows the life of Zuri, a woman who leaves her hunting-gathering tribe to enter a farming community. Contrasting this ancient way of life is the author's current one in a city not so far from the famous site of Stonehenge, in Christchurch, England which makes for interesting reading. This book made me think about how our ancestors might have lived and how they adapted to the environment around them. I didn't know that much about the environment in Dorset before reading this, but it was interesting to learn that the coastal and riverine environment was likely what lead neolithic people to the site, much as it has led current residents who enjoy the climate and scenery. Of course, we can imagine that Zuri had more to do than enjoy the view. Life must have been hard for early man, who may have lived no longer than thirty years. And it is a pity that we know so little about them.

Who knows how much knowledge these people accumulated and transmitted to others in the area. By imagining how Zuri approached rituals, mythology, and everyday events, Mr. West makes the reader think more about early life in Dorset. For example, these people likely had a diet rich in marine life and later with the adaptation of farming practices, more primary forms of grains where included. This is in striking contrast to our overly processed diets of today. Plus, West suggests their diets might not have been as bland as we might imagine. It is also fascinating to think about the differences in things as simple as our eyesight. Until Mr. West pointed it out, I hadn't considered that those early humans may have been able to see more than us because they lived purely by the light of the sun and moon and spent much more time outdoors in total darkness than we ever do today.

Overall, this was a well written book, and more interesting than I had anticipated, making me think a lot about how our ancestors might have lived.

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

Friday, June 7, 2019

Review: Things You Save in a Fire

Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel

Things You Save in a Fire
Katherine Center

Cassie Hanwell is a firefighter in Austin, Texas. She is scheduled to receive an award for saving a child. She is expecting the town's mayor to hand her the award at a special ceremony. But when he is replaced by someone from her past things don't go as planned onstage. As a result, Cassie's standing within the firehouse has suddenly changed, not only will she not be promoted she might even be fired.

Before things can get worse, her estranged mother asks Cassie to move to Boston to help her during a health crisis. Now Cassie has to find a new position in a Boston Firehouse where the attitudes to women are far different than in Austin. She will have to find a way to win over her new colleagues and at the same time figure out how she will deal with a mother who wants to make amends after leaving when Cassie was sixteen years old. Opening up isn't easy for Cassie; she is far better dealing with other people's problems and emergencies than dealing with her own.

Things You Save in a Fire is full of complex characters, facing a myriad of dilemmas and issues. The story is both tender and tough and one which will make you laugh and cry. The author does a great job weaving a dazzling tale of love, family, courage, and forgiveness. This was one I enjoyed reading.

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Review: Death in the Abstract

Death in the Abstract (Katherine Sullivan Mysteries, #2)

Death in the Abstract
Emily Barnes

Katherine Sullivan, retired Chief of Police in Edina, Minnesota, is concentrating on her art in Taos, New Mexico, when she gets word that her good friend, retired police officer Nathan Walker, is missing. She heads back to Edina to help the employees of his private security firm find him. Once there, she may not get much help from her nemesis, Dean Bostwick, the new Chief of Police, because he is busy trying to find out who murdered a woman he knew.

Katherine is also hoping to find time to spend with her daughter and grandchildren, but that won't be easy until she is able to find Nathan. And before she can find him another body turns up--a suspect in his possible kidnapping no less. Now, Katherine has to focus on Nathan's last business appointment, which was held in a newly built subdivision with a paranoid homeowner. Hopefully, she will finally find some answers to his disappearance.

Fans of cozy mysteries will be delighted with this book. Katherine Sullivan returns here after her debut in The Fine Art of Murder, determined to find her friend. Death in the Abstract is filled with likable characters and a twisting plot which makes it a good read.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Review: The Editor

The Editor

The Editor
Steven Rowley

When James Smale finds out his book is going to be published, he's over the moon. But that isn't the only surprise. His editor is none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. His book, Ithaca, is about his relationship with his mother, and Mrs. Onassis pushes him to come up with a more compelling ending. She suggests James should try and find out his mother's story, insisting every mother has one. But to do that he might have to find out more about his own story as well.

I felt a little torn about this book. The author has a charming writing style, and I did like the story about a writer struggling to get published, but at times, I found this book slow going. It almost became a chore to read, which is never a good thing for me. I can't put my finger on what it was that didn't work, other than the fact that there were times it just didn't hold my attention. I might have enjoyed it more if it had focused on James' struggle as a writer and in his quest to find answers in his life rather than spending so much time on his infatuation with Mrs. Onassis.

I can't say this was a bad book, just not the one for me but, I am sure there are others who will enjoy this work.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: The Crossing Places

The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway, #1)

The Crossing Places
Elly Griffiths

Ruth Galloway is a forensic Archaeologist in Norfolk. She usually spends her time lecturing at the local university. But when Detective Chief Inspector Nelson from the local police asks for her help identifying some bones found in the local salt marsh, Ruth finds herself involved not only in his case of a missing child but in a new archaeological discovery. The bones turn out to be from the iron age and not the present. Then a second body turns up. This time it's a local girl. Is her death connected to the disappearance of another girl ten years ago? And did the first disappearance have anything to do with the archaeological dig Ruth was involved with ten years ago? It's hard to tell, but it's something Ruth can't get out of her mind.

Now that she has discovered an ancient causeway used by iron age inhabitants, her former tutor decides once again to set up a dig and see what's to be found. Ruth has more on her mind than work. As she gets to know Nelson her feelings for him deepen. At the same time, her old flame Peter is back, after leaving his wife and he wants to get back with Ruth. But Ruth knows that the past is not where she wants to be, even if that is what she knows best.

Ruth is an intelligent amateur sleuth who is also a little vulnerable. She's a professional who doesn't hide from her weaknesses, which makes her a likable character. The Crossing Places was a suspenseful, well-written book and, best of all, an absorbing tale that I couldn't put down. I can't wait to read more in this Ruth Galloway series.

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Review: A Way to Garden

A Way to Garden
Margaret Roach

The first thing I noticed about this book was the way the author divided her chapters and gardening into cycles of two months, ranging from Conception in January/February to Death and Afterlife in November/December. By looking at the gardening calendar, this way made me realize that gardening is more than those beautiful springtime blooms, we all love so much. Nature is living and often thriving during other times of the year as well.

A Way to Garden is full of tips on everything imaginable. But it is also a personal story of how the author has changed her approach to gardening over the years. The reader is encouraged to take note of their surroundings to learn more about what works and when it works in their garden.

I enjoyed all the beautiful photography in this book, and I'm grateful the author shared photos of her garden with readers. I'm sure this book is going to become my go-to reference for all things concerning the garden. Whether it be growing vegetables, attracting insects, how to cut the grass, or learning the classification of plants, this is a book that every gardener will want to have.

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review: Havana A Subtropical Delirium

Havana: A Subtropical Delirium

Havana: A Subtropical Delirium
Mark Kurlansky

I was immediately drawn to the title of this book. It seemed so sultry and exotic, which I suppose is how I think of Havana. I can't imagine a better or more appropriate title for a book that allowed me to discover so much about this intriguing island. Throughout the book, the history of Cuba and especially Havana was explored with a passion, warmth and humor that I found intoxicating and mesmerizing.

Many of us know about the revolution of Fidel Castro and his band of followers, but his book covers so much that was unknown to me both before the Castro revolution and after. I felt Mr. Kurlansky gave me a real feel for the island's people and their culture. I was quite intrigued by the numerous authors mentioned in this book, and while I haven't yet had the pleasure to discover these Cuban icons, I have every intention of doing so.

This was a highly readable and entertaining account of Cuban history and culture that I found hard to put down.


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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Review: Fatal Cajun Festival

Fatal Cajun Festival: A Cajun Country Mystery

Fatal Cajun Festival
Ellen Byron

The town of Pelican, Louisiana is putting on a music festival, and Maggie Crozat is helping out by operating the Crozat booth at the festival dedicated to selling mouth-watering pralines. Maggie is also helping out at the family's bed and breakfast located in their antebellum plantation house. Since some of the musical guests will be staying at the B&B, there is a lot to be done, mainly catering to all types of food preferences, trendy diets, and picky eaters.

Maggie's friend Gaynell is expected to perform for the hometown crowd at the festival, but another singer might upstage her. Tammy Barker a singing sensation who made it big in country music is returning to Pelican, her hometown, for the festival and she's had it out for Gaynell since high school. When Tammy's manager, Pony Picker is killed on stage, she isn't shy about pointing the finger at Gaynell. But Maggie knows her friend Gaynell too well to believe she's a murderer. Which means she will have to help police detective Bo Durand, who just happens to be her finance, find the real killer.

Fatal Cajun Festival is a fun, lighthearted read full of colorful characters and Louisiana style charm. With a picturesque setting, dialogue that made me laugh, and a fast pace that kept me turning pages, this southern delight was a pleasure to read. And if that weren't enough to inspire readers the author has included a few local recipes. I just hope no one will mind if I decline the sweet potato pralines.

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Review: The Sun is a Compass

The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds

The Sun is a Compass
Caroline Van Hemert

Caroline and husband Patrick dreamed of making a 4,000 mile journey across the Alaskan Wilderness for many years. The time finally came to set out with the plan of traveling only by boat, skis or on foot. They set off from Bellingham Washington, with the hope of reaching Kotzebue on the western side of Alaska six months later. Caroline had just finished a Ph.D. but was unsure where she wanted to go with her career as a scientist. She felt a need to reconnect with nature and appreciate why she wanted to be a biologist in the first place after spending numerous years doing lab work.

Along the way, the couple encountered caribou herds, numerous bears and migrating birds. There was also a close encounter with a black bear who seemed eager to stalk the intrepid travelers. Luckily for them he lost interest after a while and disappeared. The couple also met some fascinating and generous people along the way, living in vast but changing environments. I can't imagine having the confidence to undertake an adventure across 4,000 miles of some of the most remote territory. But Caroline and Patrick seemed to thrive in the challenging and isolated environment.

The Sun is a Compass, is not just a recap of a physical trek in the wilderness; it is also a journey of heart and mind. One which made me want to head out into nature and enjoy what's around. It will no doubt encouraged other readers to see and experience the beauty of nature that we so often take for granted.

Thanks to Little Brown Spark for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Review: Gather & Graze


Gather & Graze: 120 Favorite Recipes for Tasty Good Times
Gather and Graze
Stephanie Izard

Readers may be aware that Stephanie Izard has won several coveted awards such as Top Chef and Iron Chef. She also owns three acclaimed restaurants, and now she has written a beautifully designed cookbook, which I found both enjoyable and practical. I love the idea of casual dining, and many of the recipes in this book are great for that purpose. But what I first noticed is the exciting and inventive dishes. While I wouldn't think of having Grilled Pork Belly with Sauce Green, Peaches, and Blackberries, it does sound new and different. In fact, after going through the selection of dishes in the book, I was inspired to think of ways that I could add more fruit to savory dishes.

I think the fact that this cookbook encouraged me to think outside the box and create something tasty but not too fussy is what I liked best. One of my favorite recipes was Biscuits with Sausage and Gravy, which is the best comfort food I can think of. There's a Greek Yogurt Chicken that is easy and enjoyable and Blueberry-Strawberry Hand Pies that are the perfect treat for anyone with a sweet tooth. There are lots of interesting recipes with unexpected combinations that I haven't tried yet, for example, Marinated Sweet Cherries with Whipped Feta and Sweet Corn Frozen Nougat with Tart Plum and Basil. If you are looking for originality and unexpected flavors, this is a cookbook you don't want to miss.

This review was written by me for City Book Reviews.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Review: Hiss and Hers

Hiss and Hers (Agatha Raisin, #23)

Hiss and Hers
MC Beaton

Agatha Raisin has done it again. She's fallen for a new man. This time it's George Marston her gardener. But George is popular in Agatha's Cotswold village of Carsely, and a lot of women seem to be vying for his attention. Since Agatha isn't having any luck getting George to look her way she's decided to organize a charity ball, hoping she'll get the first dance with George. The only problem is, George can't make it. He's dead. Now Agatha must turn her attention to finding his killer. Due to his way with the ladies she isn't short on suspects.

Agatha Raisin is one of my favorite lady detectives. She's feisty, cranky, opinionated and so much fun. With her motley crew of detectives and her colorful friends she's able to mix business with pleasure. If you're a fan of this series you don't want to miss Hiss and Hers, where Agatha has to come to terms with the fact that not all men fall for her particular charms.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Review: Chronicles of a Radical Hag

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)

Chronicles of a Radical Hag
Lorna Landvik

In a small town in Minnesota Hazel Evans, better known as Haze, has worked as a journalist and columnist for the Granite Creek Gazette as long as anyone can remember. When Haze has a stroke that leaves her in a coma, the employees of the Gazette decide to rerun Haze's columns as a tribute to her many years of writing. Not only do the articles written by Haze spark interest in the community but, closer to home at the Gazette, owner and publisher Susan, who took over the paper from her grandfather, is surprised to see her youngest son Sam take an interest in the Gazette and Haze's column. He even manages to uncover a few family secrets while reading Haze's early works.

Chronicles of a Radical Hag had a way of remembering the past while examining the present that was both enjoyable and entertaining. The characters were likable and well developed allowing me to get a sense of everyone in the story and there were enough developments within the plot to keep me turning the pages. This was my first book by Lorna Landvik. The humor and wit within this story mean that I want to read more of her work.

Thanks to the University of Minnesota Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review, and for allowing me to discover a new (at least for me) author.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Review: Naturally Tan

Naturally Tan

Naturally Tan
Tan France

In Naturally Tan, Tan France, star of Netflix's Queer Eye recounts his life growing up in England and how his Pakistani culture played a significant role in his life. He is now married to a Mormon from Utah, where he resides and where he once had a business creating modest, modern fashion for Mormon women. This, of course, wasn't the only interesting and surprising job he held, as you will see if you read this book.

His memoir is at once funny, entertaining and also warmhearted. He is open about many details of his life including silly and embarrassing moments. While most of us would probably be less inclined to reveal our youthful quirks, it works for Tan. He seems more than comfortable in his skin, happy in fact to be himself, which is what makes this book so engaging. I loved his observations about Americans and how he views life in this part of the world. I'm sure his fans will enjoy getting to know more about how he found his voice and his take on style in this exciting journey.

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

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: Between the Lies

Between the Lies

Between the Lies
Michelle Adams


When Chloe wakes up in hospital after a car accident, she can't remember anything or anyone. Even though she can't remember her family, they take her home and tell her they are helping her regain her memory. But Chloe feels uncomfortable. She doesn't trust her father, and she thinks everyone is lying to her. Before she can get back her memory and retake charge of her life she will have to try to find out on her own what happened on the night of the accident.

This riveting story was full of twists and turns that keep me eagerly turning the pages. It had the right amount of tension and character development which made it a fast-paced story. And without giving anything away, it's a story that gets under the skin and keeps you guessing until the end. It was a satisfying psychological thriller, and I would definitely recommend this one.

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

Monday, April 8, 2019

Review: The Tragic Daughters of Charles I

The Tragic Daughters of Charles I: Mary, Elizabeth & Henrietta Anne

The Tragic Daughters of Charles I
Sarah-Beth Watkins

The Tragic Daughters of Charles I, traces the lives of Mary, Elizabeth and Henrietta Anne from their births to their deaths. As I read the first part of this book, the thing that struck me most was the sad circumstances the children often found themselves in after their father was executed. Even the male heirs weren't spared with the passing of their father.

The youngest children Elizabeth and Henry seemed to have been the most unfortunate, as they were handed around to benefactors of the state, often their father's enemies. It seemed clear the new regime didn't quite know what to do with the pair. Mary and her brothers James and Charles, while not immune to the change in regime, were old enough to conduct their own lives outside of England. Mary was able to create an existence for herself as the wife of William of Orange in Holland, and offer assistance to her brothers James and Charles as they attempted to claim back the throne and their place in English history.

Henrietta Anne seemed to me the most interesting of Charles' daughters. She was whisked off to France to join her mother at the start of the English civil war where she was brought up as a Catholic among her royal cousins. By all accounts, she seems to have led a charmed life, especially after Charles II reclaimed the throne. Her marriage to the Duke of Orleans, brother of King Louis XIV, was greeted as a good match, but it was a difficult one. Nevertheless, she devoted herself to promoting peace and understanding between her two countries and the King of France and her brother Charles II.

This is a fascinating account of a family's history, especially the role of women within, who are so often forgotten by history. Not only is this account, well written, but it's also engaging and enjoyable. It is definitely one to read if you are interested in English history.

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

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Review: Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning
Antonio Manzini

Spring Cleaning picks up where Manzini's previous book Out of Season ends. Rocco Schiavone, Deputy Chief of Police in Aosta, Italy is looking for the person who broke into his apartment and killed his friend Adele. Adele, the girlfriend of Rocco's best friend, had been visiting and was most likely not the target. That would have been Rocco, who is now intent on finding the killer.

Before he can devote himself to finding the hit man he is confronted with another murder. This time the male victim is a prisoner which means Rocco will have to spend some time behind bars trying to find out what happened. As he investigates, it slowly becomes clear that the prison death may lead back to a previous case Rocco worked on.

Manzini has created another mystery, where Schiavone is at once haunted by the ghost of his dead wife, struggling to come to grips with life in a city other than his beloved Rome and trying to find justice for his friend, Adele. Having read all four of Manzini's books so far, I'm hoping this will not be the last because I would love to read more.

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Review: The Old Drift

The Old Drift

The Old Drift
Namwali Serpell

The Old Drift starts along the Zambezi River during colonial times, tracing the story of early explorers as they set off to discover Victoria Falls and the descendants they left behind who will eventually carve out a nation of their own. Over time, these descendants will intersect forming a tangled web of love and loss coupled together with a sense of hope and dreams for the future. It's a sweeping tale that incorporates a little romance, fairy tale, and science fiction. Frankly, it was unlike anything else I've read lately.

On the positive side, I thought the author had an incredible gift for descriptive writing. I like the middle of this book which focused on the creation of the Zambian nation and the characters who were struggling to find their course in history. I didn't, however, care for the fairy tale aspect of some chapters or the veering off into science fiction. While both the story and writing style were unique, it wasn't somehow what I was expecting, and if I'm honest, I think it was a little on the long side. I would have preferred it if it had been a story of the struggle for Zambian independence told in a more traditional fashion following the diverse set of characters.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review: Athenian Blues


Athenian Blues (Stratos Gazis #1)
Athenian Blues
Pol Koutsakis

Sometimes the stars align and you find a real gem of a book. That's how I felt about Athenian Blues. In this tale set in Greece, we meet Stratos Gazis, who likes to refer to himself as a caretaker. He can't stand to be called a hitman. In his mind, he is providing justice for both his victims and his clients. So, when a famous actress, Aliki Stylianou tries to hire him to kill her abusive husband, he wants to know more before taking the case. After all, her husband is one of Athens' most respected lawyers.

Things take an unexpected turn when an attempt is made on Aliki's life and she goes into hiding. Her husband wants to hire Gazis to find her. Gazis isn't sure which party to believe. Is the husband abusive and does he want to kill his wife, or is she making it all up? As the story develops and Gazis, with the help of his friends, tries to piece together the complex ties between husband and wife, he finds more questions than answers. As more secrets emerge, Gazis is more determined than ever to find Aliki. If only he'd known he would be putting himself and his closest friends in danger.

Pol Koutsakis is a fascinating storyteller able to transport readers right into Stratos Gazis' world.

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Review: Octavio's Journey

Octavio's Journey

Octavio's Journey
Miguel Bonnefoy

Octavio is an illiterate man who is ashamed of the fact that he cannot read. When he meets a wealthy woman named Venezuela at a pharmacy, she agrees to teach him how to read. Octavio is overjoyed with his new skill, but unbeknownst to Venezuela, Octavio has a secret life that will affect their friendship. Once he has to leave his village, he roams the forests and jungles transforming himself and his life before deciding it is safe to return home.

This book didn't grab me in the way I had expected that it would. While it isn't very long, it felt like it went on too long. I liked the beginning and the end, but the middle of the story seemed to ramble along without adding a lot of substance. The writing was, however, at times quite magical. It was descriptive in a way that felt tropical and emotional, yet I felt it lacked something to keep me connected and hooked to the middle of the tale. The transformation of the main character that took place at the end of the story made it worth reading, but it wasn't the unforgettable, bewitching tale I was hoping it would be.

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

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Review: An Anonymous Girl

An Anonymous Girl

An Anonymous Girl
Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Jessica Farris is trying to make ends meet in New York City as a freelance makeup artist when she stumbles on a research study that could provide a little extra income. The only thing is, she needs to reveal intimate details about herself and answer questions about her own moral code of behavior. When the professor undertaking the study wants more from Jessica, she finds there may be no easy way to pull away from a questionable and dangerous situation.

Just like their previous book, The Wife Between Us, An Anonymous Girl is full of all the tension and twists and turns the reader expects. These authors delve deep into their characters revealing that what makes them tick may not always be their best attributes. This is a definite read for fans of suspense and thrillers. Once I got started, I found this book so hard to put down. I suspect you'll feel the same as well.

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

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Review: Vintage 1954

Vintage 1954

Vintage 1954
Antoine Laurain

Hubert Larnaudie lives in a beautiful Paris apartment that his family has owned for generations. One evening he invites an art restorer, Magalie, a bartender Julien and an American visitor Bob, all residing in the same building, to his apartment for a glass of wine. By morning they have all been transported back to the year 1954.

Finding themselves in vintage Paris, the four discover former inhabitants of the city, see monuments in a new light and encounter personal memories of people and places that have meaning in their lives today. They will have to use their wits and the help of another man who drank from the same 1954 vintage if they want to get back to their own time again.

Vintage 1954 is a tale that will take you on a heartwarming journey into the past with four people from different backgrounds who are all able to find meaning in their lives as a result of this journey back in time.

I always feel Laurain has the power to take everyday incidents and turn them into something extraordinary. Anyone who has read one of his books knows that he is a delightful storyteller with a gift for creating charming and captivating tales. After reading this one, I can't help but wonder what he will come up with next. Whatever it is, I can't wait to read it.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Review: Carolina of Orange-Nassau

Carolina of Orange-Nassau: Ancestress of the Royal Houses of Europe

Carolina of Orange-Nassau
Moniek Bloks

Princess Wilhelmina Carolina of Orange-Nassau was born in 1743 to William IV Prince of Orange and Anne of Hanover. When her father was made Stadtholder to the Dutch Republic, she was included in the line of succession, in the event that there were no male heirs. But as a little brother was later born, he eventually took the position of his father although Carolina did act as regent for him until he came of age.

I have to admit, probably like a lot of readers I didn't know anything about Carolina of Orange-Nassau before reading this book. And I agree with the author that she has been largely forgotten by history, which is a pity because she seemed to play such an essential role in her brother's early life and when acting as regent on his behalf. But what struck me most was the fact that by the time she was 43 years old she'd had sixteen pregnancies that resulted in fifteen births of which only seven children survived to adulthood. Of course, this wasn't unusual at the time, and the author points out the numerous pregnancies and deaths of Carolina's mother and others. However, it is so difficult to imagine the hardships these women and especially Carolina endured. Despite the numerous pregnancies and changing circumstances, Carolina was able to run a household, take an interest in her husband's affairs and find time for promoting the music she loved. At one point while organizing a concert, she took an interest in Mozart and his sister. Both were ill at the time of their visit, and due to her care and attention, they were able to recover in her home, perhaps shaping the history of music in the course.

This account of her life is fascinating on its own but also noteworthy due to the fact that her descendants are scattered across the Royal Houses of Europe. I was also happy to learn that the author runs a blog devoted to the history of royal women.


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

Monday, February 4, 2019

Review: Killer Librarian

Killer Librarian (Killer Librarian #1)

Killer Librarian
Mary Lou Kirwin

Minnesota librarian Karen Nash has always wanted to go to England, and with the success of her boyfriends plumbing invention she's finally going on the trip of a lifetime to London. The only problem is: boyfriend Dave dumps Karen hours before they are scheduled to leave. Distraught, she decides to go alone. But Dave has also decided to go, only not alone.

Once in London, Karen checks into a bed and breakfast. Its charming, handsome owner is only to pleased to show Karen the sights, especially since she told him she is a mystery writer, which she most definitely is not. But, when another guest at the bed and breakfast is found dead, Karen thinks it might be more than an accident. Complicating matters Karen might have asked a hit man to “take care” of Dave after one too many drinks at a local pub.

Killer Librarian is a lighthearted cozy mystery with a bit of drama, mystery and a pinch of romance. I would say this is a tale best spent with a nice cup of tea and a few biscuits.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Review: Rules for Visiting

Rules for Visiting

Rules for Visiting
Jessica Francis Kane

May Attaway is a forty-year-old woman with a job as a landscape gardener on a university campus. She lives at home where she looks after her aging father. When the university acknowledges her work over the years by giving her a mini-sabbatical she decides to visit several of her friends. Friends she hasn't seen in a while. And while she attempts to navigate the modern world as a guest in other people's homes May is also trying to find meaning in her own life as well as identify who she is and how she appears to those around her.

Initially, I wasn't sure about this book, which seemed more than a little melancholy to me, but as I kept going, I saw that it was filled with little pearls of wisdom and I realized that May wasn't as depressed as I had thought. She was more a sensitive soul with a love of plants, trees and animals trying to find her way in a world full of people, people she didn't quite connect with as quickly as others around her appear to do. The more I read, the more I felt a connection with May, or found that it was easier to relate to what she was feeling, a sense of being unconnected in a world of change. In the end, I was pleased to see that the visits to her friends led to a transformation in May's ability to open up a little more and find what she's been missing.

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