Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Review: Fasionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes



Dana Thomas

Fashionopolis is a well-written and researched book that looks at the cost of fast fashion in terms of labor relations, environmental damage, and changing forms of production. It asks, “is the current trend of quick output and rapid turnover in shops like Zara sustainable?” Not surprisingly, the answer is no.

Many are probably well aware of new reports about labor exploitation in the garment industry, but there is also an environmental impact that has been gaining attention. For example, a large amount of water is consumed to grow cotton to produce items such as t-shirts and jeans. Not to mention the vast amounts of pesticides and chemicals needed to grow the crops and process clothing. And what happens when we are tired of wearing these items? Throwing them in a landfill is not the answer since many fabrics are not biodegradable.

The author focuses her attention not just on the history of production but also on how businesses and researchers are seeking new ways to help the industry change to a model of production and use that is better for consumers and the environment. But will customers be satisfied with the idea of buying less but paying more for quality? I'm not so sure but, after reading this, I will be thinking more about the real cost of the garments I'm wearing.

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

Friday, September 11, 2020

Review: The Quiet Side of Passion

The Quiet Side of Passion (Isabel Dalhousie #12)

The Quiet Side of Passion

Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel Dalhousie is a busy woman. As editor of The Review of Applied Ethics, wife to Jamie, and mother to Charlie and Magnus, she hardly has time for herself. In an attempt to simplify life, she decides to hire an au pair and an assistant editor for the journal. Unfortunately, this doesn't have the desired effect. Life only becomes a little more complicated with the addition of two employees to the household.

On top of that, Isabel's found a friend for her son Charlie, a little boy being raised by his single mother, Patricia. Isabel can't help but get entangled in this woman's questionable lifestyle. But it's all in the name of trying to do good, even if things don't turn out the way she expected.

I'm always drawn to McCall Smith's stories. I love the feeling that I'm having an intimate chat with his characters, and Isabel is no exception. Her philosophical musings are thoughtful and often amusing. Her privileged and charming Edinburgh life creates the perfect atmosphere and backdrop to this series. It's the common questions and dilemmas that she must come to terms with that keep this tale both subtle and all-consuming. This is my first book in this series, but it certainly not my last. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review: The Whispered Word

 The Whispered Word (Secret, Book, & Scone Society, #2)

The Whispered Word

Ellery Adams

Nora, a book store owner in Miracle Springs, North Carolina and, several other women in the town, have formed a group known as The Secret, Book, and Scone Society. They extend help where help is needed in the form of surprise gift bags to locals in need of kindness or assistance. When a strange girl named Abilene shows up in Nora's bookstore, she knows that the girl needs a friend. But when another woman in town is found dead, Nora wonders what the mysterious girl is hiding. It will take time and effort to help Abilene. And discovering a killer may not be easy, but Nora and her friends are always up for a challenge.

The Whispered Word is a terrific story about a strong group of women helping each other and the small town they love. This cozy mystery was like a warm blanket. When I started, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and read it straight through. The focus on comfort food and books was a delight. With wonderful characters, a mystery to solve, and a little romance on the side, this book was more than a good read. By the time I finished, I felt like I belonged in Miracle Springs as well. It will come as no surprise that I'm hoping to read more in this series.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Review: Fatal Roots

 Fatal Roots (County Cork #8)

Fatal Roots

Sheila Connolly

Maura Donovan is busy trying to manage her pub in the Irish village of Leap. Her estranged mother has just returned from Chicago with Maura's half-sister, Susan, in tow. It's the first time Maura and Susan have met, and Maura's hoping Susan will be able to spend some time in the pub while her mother tends to her business dealings in Cork. At the same time, three graduate students arrive at Maura's cottage, looking for fairy forts. Maura doesn't know anything about these prehistoric sites, but it appears she owns the land where at least one fort exists. When one of the students disappears without a trace, Maura and her friend Mick decide to take a look around the fort. That's when they find a decade's old body, which might hold some clues to Maura's past.

Although I felt this one started a bit slowly, it did get better the further I got into the story. The best thing about Connolly's writing is that she can make the reader feel like they are just as much a part of the community in her book as the characters she creates. This is a cozy and charming mystery. Fans of this series will feel like they've returned home to reconnect with old friends.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Review: His Only Wife

 His Only Wife

His Only Wife

Peace Adzo Medie

Afi Tekpie is a young woman living in a small village in Ghana. She works as a seamstress with dreams of a better life. When she gets a proposal from the wealthy Ganyo family to marry the youngest son Elikem, she knows this will change her life, and she's looking forward to the wedding and the chance to live in the capital city of Accra. The traditional marriage is arranged but, to her disappointment Elikem doesn't appear. His older brother Richard stands in.

Nevertheless, Afi moves to Accra to a modern luxury apartment, hoping to get to know her new husband. When he doesn't come to her immediately, she begins to wonder what's going on. Then she learns of the other woman. The Ganyo family has been hoping that the marriage of Afi to Elikem will be the end of Elikem's fascination with a Liberian woman the family can not abide. They encourage Afi to stick with her man and win him over.

If only life were so simple. In fact, for Afi, it's becoming more and more complicated. And Elikem wants to have his cake and eat it too but, where does that leave Afi? She has to learn to stand on her own and make tough decisions if she wants to have the life she's always dreamed of having.

His Only Wife is a marvelous tale of a woman striving to find her place in the modern world. She is torn between her personal desires, family connections, community obligations and expectations, all of which ultimately make her more determined to forge her own path. The author writes with humor and passion, making this a book I didn't want to end. I'm hoping this isn't the end for Afi because I would love to find out what happens next to this fascinating and endearing character.

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Review: Better Homes and Corpses

Better Homes and Corpses (Hamptons Home & Garden Mystery, #1)

Better Homes and Corpses

Kathleen Bridge

Meg Bartlett recently moved to the Hamptons to get away from fiance Micheal, who cheated on her with his ex-wife. Meg has started a new interior design company and has been asked to help a former college roommate's mother clear out an attic. And it's not just any attic. The Spenser family are well known for their antiques and wealthy lifestyle. But when Meg arrives, she finds the matriarch Catherine dead in the arms of her daughter Jillian.

Meg agrees to help her friend Elle inventory the contents of the house for an insurance company. She soon discovers family secrets and missing furniture. And to top it all, Jillian seems to be in danger from a murderer no one seems able to catch. If only Meg could find out who killed Caroline before she gets in over her head.

Better Homes and Corpses is a fun, cozy mystery, full of twists and turns. It also has a main character who has a lot of spunk and determination. This is a good mystery for a lazy afternoon.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Review: The Year 1000

 The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began

The Year 1000

Valerie Hansen

In The Year 1000, Yale University historian Valerie Hansen argues that trade increased in numerous regions throughout the world around the year 1000 due to surplus agricultural production. This increased production allowed some people to stop farming and produce goods for markets. They were then able to become merchants who traveled old and new trade routes near and far to exchange not only physical products but also information and ideas, making the world more connected at that time than we might at first assume. Each chapter in the book focuses on a different region of the world, ranging from the Viking invasion of Greenland, and their travels to North America to China, which by 1000 had flourishing trade routes and a considerable population.

This book is perfect for historians and history buffs alike. It clearly shows us that globalization is nothing new. Humans have been exchanging ideas and goods that have shaped the world in numerous exciting and interesting ways throughout the past. The information the author presents in this work might make readers look at the world in a whole new light once they see what was happening around the globe in the year 1000.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Review: The Second-Worst Restaurant in France

 The Second-Worst Restaurant in France (Paul Stuart #2)

The Second-Worst Restaurant in France

Alexander McCall Smith

Cookbook writer Paul Stuart has plans to write a book entitled The Philosophy of Food at home in Edinburgh, but after a breakup with his girlfriend and editor Gloria, he gets a chance to accompany his cousin Chloe to France. Surely the change of scenery will spur him to finish his manuscript - at least that is what he's hoping. But that's before Paul discovers the second-worst restaurant in France, right in the village where he is staying. As he and Chloe become more entangled in the lives of the villagers, Paul is encouraged to give Claude, the owner of the restaurant, some cooking advice. But will he heed the advice and improve the cuisine on offer?

Alexander McCall Smith has a brilliant knack for creating the most amazing characters who have so much to say, from the mundane to the extraordinary. Witty, wise, and perhaps a little mysterious, Paul and Chloe are fantastic characters.

There is nothing better, in my opinion, than getting lost in one of McCall Smith's fascinating stories. I think fans will be thrilled with this Paul Stuart novel, the second installment in this series.

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

Friday, July 31, 2020

Review: How's the Pain

How's the Pain? [Editions Gallic]

How's the Pain?
Pascal Garnier

Simon Marechall is a hit man preparing for his last job before retirement. The job is down south along the French coast. After meeting Bernard, a young man who has been injured at his workplace, Simon decides to take him on as a driver. Setting off down south, they spot a bit of trouble on the roadside between a feuding couple. Bernard stops to help, and soon Fiona and daughter Violette are tagging along with Simon and Bernard. Along the way, bodies pile up as Simon does what he does best, pest control. This odd little group begins to appear just like a family on a holiday as they find lodgings in a campsite at the beach and grapple with the way forward. Except for Simon, who knows this is the end of the road long before the journey began.

In this book, the pain is deep and widespread. Garnier is a master at seeing the underside of life. In typical fashion, he presents a world that is both horrific, sleazy, comic, and ordinary all at the same time. And like most of his stories, this one gets right under the skin. Before you know, you almost feel sorry for a hit man. Garnier never fails to deliver unexpected, offbeat characters, scenes, and dialogue. All of which makes him one of my favorite writers.

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Review: The Good Gut

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health

The Good Gut
Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg

If you are interested in learning more about the microbes that live in your gut and how they influence your health, then The Good Gut is a book for you. The authors argue that microbiota in our bodies affects both our health and our mood. Interestingly, our ancient ancestors had a lot more bacteria in their guts than we do today, leaving the authors to wonder if the absence of this bacteria is the cause of many modern diseases. With changing diets and the increasing overuse of antibiotics, we may be experiencing higher rates of illness than our ancestors. This book helps you get your microbiota back on track. There is even a useful menu section at the end to help you feed your gut correctly.

Having read this work, I'm now thinking about how I can nourish and care for the bacteria residing in my gut. If you are interested in taking charge of your health, this informative, easy to read book is one to consider.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Review: Naked Came the Florida Man

Naked Came the Florida Man (Serge A. Storms #23)

Naked Came the Florida Man
Tim Dorsey

Serge A. Storms and his sidekick Coleman decide to take a road trip in Serge's 1969 Plymouth Satellite. Although a hurricane is approaching, they have decided to embark on a grand tour of Florida's forgotten cemeteries hoping for the best. Along the way, Serge will examine the local history and meet residents who are trying to find hidden treasure from the great hurricane of 1928 along with a high school student working hard to make it on the local football team. And when necessary, Serge will sort out a few injustices in unique and creative ways.

While I found some of the lines in this story amusing, I could not get into the characters and their juvenile pranks. Initially, I wasn't sure where the story was going. It seemed to ramble along, shifting back and forth in time, which made it seem like it went on forever. On a positive note, it was filled with action, and the author's style is unique, but overall, this was a tossup for me. While I can see that Serge and Coleman likely have a large following of fans, I hate to say that, based on this story, I'm probably not one of them.

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

Monday, July 13, 2020

Review: The End of the Line

The Other End of the Line (Inspector Montalbano Mystery #24)

The Other End of the Line
Andrea Camilleri

In The Other End of the Line Inspector Montalbano and his team of officers in Sicily are inundated with migrants who have been rescued at sea and brought to the local port. Along with concerned locals, Montalbano and the police have been doing the best they can to cope with the crisis. But when Montalbano is pulled away to investigate a murder, he is saddened to find the body of Elena, a local seamstress who was in the process of making him a bespoke suit. His connection to the victim ensures that he will do everything he can to find the murderer.

Once again, Camilleri has written a gem of a story. Drawing on current events, he highlights the issues facing migrants and the locals who are trying to help them. The colorful cast of characters, the witty dialogue, and the intricate storyline are what make Camilleri, to my mind at least, a master storyteller. Then there is the reference to sublime food of Sicily, and life beside the sea which gives the reader a real sense of place. Fans of this series will be happy to know that Montalbano has lost none of his charm and ability to solve even the most complex of cases in Montelusa.

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

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Night Swim: Review

The Night Swim

The Night Swim
Megan Goldin

Rachel Krall hosts a successful podcast about true crime. She's just arrived in a small town on the North Carolina coast to cover a well-publicized rape trial. The small town is divided about the case, and tensions are running high because a well known local swimmer and Olympian hopeful has been accused of raping a local teenage girl. But before Rachel can settle down to report on the trial, she receives a letter from a woman named Hannah, who wants Rachel to look into her sister's death. Jenny Stills died a decade ago. Her death was listed as an accidental drowning but, Hannah knows that Jenny was murdered, and she knows locals helped cover up what happened. Of course, Rachel can't help but follow her instincts. Now she has two cases on her radar, both involving despicable and deplorable treatment of women. What will it take to bring the culprits to justice?

This captivating story had me up all night. I loved the way it moved back and forth between each woman's story. I think the tension which that created was what made this one such a fantastic read. This well-written novel will be published on the fourth of August by St. Martin's Press, and I'm sure it's one you don't want to miss.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for allowing me to read the advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Review: Autie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna

Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna

Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna
Mario Giordano

When Auntie Poldi's water is cut off, her friend's dog found poisoned, and she hears about the murder of a young district attorney; she is sure the mafia is behind it. She's in Sicily, after all. Setting out to discover the culprit behind the dog's death, Poldi ends up getting involved in the murder case of Chief Inspector Montana. As if that weren't enough excitement for one sixty-year-old woman, she discovers a body at a vineyard on the slopes of Etna. Her senses tell her the murders are connected. And when Auntie Poldi sticks her nose into something, she can't let it go, even when she knows death is looking over her shoulder.

Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna is narrated by Poldi's nephew, an aspiring writer with his share of writer's block. As he points out, his aunt navigates life between two poles: utter joy and the depths of despair. But she knows, like him, that Sicily is a special place, full of complex characters, and mysteries yet to be solved. There is nowhere else she'd rather live. Giordano has written a firecracker of a story, layered with wit, humor, and charm. It's filled with delightful and exotic characters I won't soon forget.

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

Monday, June 22, 2020

Death in Paris: A Review

Death in Paris (A Death in Paris Mystery #1)

Death in Paris
Emilia Bernhard

Rachel Levis and her friend Magda are two Americans living in Paris. When Rachel discovers that her once boyfriend Edgar Bowen, also an American expat and successful banker, has drowned in his soup, she can't believe it. The police find nothing suspicious and decide it was an accidental death. However, when Rachel learns that there was a glass of Rosé wine on the table, she knows there is something wrong; Edgar couldn't bear the stuff – he never recovers.

It doesn't take Rachel and Magda long to decide they need to investigate Edgar's death. It may be a difficult since neither of the ladies has a connection to Edgar's social circle or the police, but two headstrong women like Rachel and Magda aren't going to let that hold them back. They are determined to find a way to discover the truth.
Death in Paris is a witty, charming, and cozy mystery set in a beautiful city. When the characters aren't busy honing their detective skills they are enjoying the sites, sounds, and flavors of the best districts in Paris. This captivating mystery will leave you wanting more of Rachel, Magda and the place they call home.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

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 written by me for City Book Review.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Review: The Lion Tracker's Guide to Life

The Lion Tracker's Guide to Life

The Lion Tracker's Guide to Life
Boyd Varty

The Lion Tracker's Guide to Life is basically two books in one. On the one hand, it follows Varty and his friends and fellow trackers Alex and Renias into the South African bush as they track down a lion. It relates their journey, which is full of adventure and years of experience getting to know what the land can tell them. On another level, this is a book about helping the reader find or track their own path in life. As Varty shows throughout, life is about the call. But in order to hear that call, you must be listening. If you are looking but not seeing you may very well miss your path, and as a result, life might pass you by before you even notice.

Varty's story and thoughts really resonated with me. This is definitely a well-written, not to mention well-presented, clever little gem of a book. The profound words and advice that Varty has in this slim volume might change your life if you are open and listening. So, stay alert, don't miss what's important, be that a lion in the bush or anything else you desire to experience.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Review: Olive The Lionheart

Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman's Journey to the Heart of Africa

Olive The Lionheart
Brad Ricca

In 1910 Olive Macleod set out on a journey across Africa to find out what happened to her fiance Boyd Alexander who disappeared while on a research expedition. She was accompanied by Percy Amaury Talbot, the district commissioner of Southern Nigeria, and his wife as they searched for answers regarding what really happened to Boyd.

This fascinating story details the thoughts and feelings of a remarkable woman, determined to follow her path wherever it took her. This book could have been simply a recollection of her diaries, but, instead, Ricca has created something magical and engrossing. I felt like I had been transported back in time on a grand journey. I almost hated for the story to end. But I did feel like I got to know Olive from the many letters presented throughout the book. And I have to say I couldn't help feeling just a little annoyed with Boyd when Olive realized that she had been relegated to the back of his mind when it came to his expedition. The fact that he hardly mentions her in his journal must have been heartbreaking to her. I was glad to find out that she was able to move on and live her life in the end.

Anyone interested in an epic tale full of adventure, romance, and a look at the colonial past will not want to miss this one.

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

Monday, June 1, 2020

Review: The Body in the Castle Well

The Body in the Castle Well (Bruno, Chief of Police, #12)

The Body in the Castle Well
Martin Walker

Claudia Muller is an American art student who has come to the Pèrigord region of France to study the collection of a local notable, Monsieur de Bourdeille. She is welcomed by the collector and everyone else in the area and well-liked by all. But when her body is found at the bottom of a well at the local castle Bruno, Chief of Police is tasked with finding out what happened.
The Body in the Castle Well is a mystery rich in detail, full of historical information which provides an added layer of intrigue. The magical atmosphere full of food, friends, and the glorious French countryside will no doubt leave readers wanting more. Even when there is a murder to solve there is still time for a hearty lunch and a ride through local trails on Bruno's favorite horse Hector, with his basset hound, Balzac trotting eagerly behind.

This is a series that I have come to know and love over the last few years. It's as satisfying as a good glass of wine, and I always find myself waiting for the next installment. For those wanting a good mystery and a taste of France, this is an excellent place to start.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Review: Dinner Chez Moi

Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining

Dinner Chez Moi
Elizabeth Bard

This book was an absolute joy to read. Elizabeth Bard shows how anyone can incorporate a little bit of French flair into their eating and dining habits. I liked the fact that this wasn't just a cookbook - it was full of tips and ideas as well as recipes. I loved reading about the experiences the author had while living in France, most of which were told with humor and affection.

The recipes included in Dinner Chez Moi are straightforward and easy to follow. I personally loved the hint about cooking leeks with a little mustard and cream. This is now one of my favorite side dishes. I also loved the “After-School Madeleines”, which make a great sweet snack and cook in less than 15 minutes, perfect for morning or afternoon and not just for children. Speaking of children, parents will no doubt appreciate the section devoted to eating habits of French children. The differences in tastes and traditions make this a must for anyone interested in food. All in all, it's the perfect book for those who want to know more about the French lifestyle.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: Murder at the Mill

Murder at the Mill: A Mystery

Murder at the Mill
M.B. Shaw

When Iris Grey rents a cottage in an English village as a way of spending time away from her deteriorating marriage, she gets the opportunity to paint a portrait of Dominic Wetherby. He is not only the owner of the estate and cottage where Iris is staying, but he is also a famous writer with a popular television series to boot. Iris can't help being drawn into the Wetherby family circle which is full of interesting characters. But when Dominic's body is found floating in the water, Iris isn't convinced it was a suicide. With the help of Dominic's family and friends, she hopes to find out what happened.

As I read the first few chapters of this book, I wasn't convinced it was going to be an exciting story. It seemed too slow moving and slightly stilted, but the more I read, the more I got pulled into the complicated life of the Wetherby family. The author had a knack for creating multifaceted characters and combined with the twists and turns in the plot I felt the story take on a life of its own. By the end, I was totally smitten with Iris Grey and, happy to learn that there will be more adventures to come.

This review was originally written by me for City Book Review

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Review: New Nordic Gardens

New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design

New Nordic Gardens
Annika Zettterman

As someone fascinated by the elements of Scandinavian design, I found New Nordic Gardens, a terrific book for getting to know more about how Scandinavians view nature, the outdoors and their gardens. This work focuses on gardens in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. The author provides numerous insights on the importance of light, materials and simplicity of design. The book is well written and contains numerous garden examples illustrated with beautiful photography. It would no doubt be a great gift idea for gardening enthusiasts.

You don't need to live in a harsh northern climate to enjoy this book, either, or to adapt many of the ideas presented. The chapters, whether they cover, using color, light, materials or seasons will inspire new ideas for creating harmony within your environment, regardless of where that is. I personally loved the idea of incorporating more ornamental grasses in the garden. I will also be thinking more about how light, both during day and night as well as during different seasons, affects what and how I plant. All in all, I'm sure this is a book I will be coming back to again and again for ideas and inspiration.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Review: To the Land of Long Lost Friends

To the Land of Long Lost Friends (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #20)

To the Land of Long Lost Friends
Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe, the owner of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, has been invited to a wedding where she encounters a long-lost friend. A friend she thought was dead. She is surprised to find her alive and well. The only problem seems to be that the women's daughter has been acting suspiciously. Of course, Mma Ramotswe can't resist the urge to investigate in the hope that she can find out what has caused a rift between her long-lost friend and that friend's much-loved daughter. At the same time, the part-time assistant at the agency Charlie is having his own problems. His girlfriend, Queenie-Queenie, wants to get married, but Charlie doesn't have enough money to satisfy her parents. What will he do to keep the girl he loves happy?

To the Land of Long Lost Friends is another one of McCall Smith's charming stories that take the reader into the heart of Botswana's culture, with characters that are wonderfully observed as well as warm and funny. I love how he elevates the mundane to something special. Mma Ramostwe, Mma Makutsi, and Charlie are always focused on what is good in life and the surrounding community. I can't wait to read more.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Review: Wild Dog

Wild Dog

Wild Dog
Serge Joncour

Franck and Lise have opted to get away from Paris and enjoy the outdoors. Lise selected a cottage in the Lot region of France so that the pair could get away from the bustle of modern civilization. She thought the idea of being so remote without telephone or wifi connection sounded like a great spot to relax. Franck, on the other hand, was less than thrilled at the prospect of being deep in the backwoods. He needed and wanted to stay in touch with work since he was in the middle of negotiating a deal with his new partners. The fact that the cottage and surroundings seem to be haunted by the past is another thing against it as far as Franck can see. But when he comes into contact with a stray dog, which he names Alpha, his view of nature may change. He may be forced to confront his view of the world from the remote cottage.

Wild Dog is a beautifully told story that shifts between the present and the early 1900s when the area was confronted by the first world war. The characters are richly developed, and I enjoyed the way the author slowly builds up the tale, allowing the readers to feel like they are part of the scene. Lise and Franck are like many couples today, in search of something they can't seem to find in the mists of all the stress encompassing the modern world.

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

Monday, May 4, 2020

Review: Maybe this Time

Maybe This Time

Maybe This Time
Jill Mansell

Mimi Huish decides to leave London after finding out her boyfriend, who is also her boss, has cheated on her with her best friend and roommate. Mimi's got a feeling she may never meet the right man, but since she's going to the Cotswolds to visit her father, she has decided not to focus on that. Of course, as soon as she arrives, she comes across Cal, a friendly, warm widower who might be just what she's looking for. Then again, he might be what all the local women are looking for as well. Will Mimi be the one for Cal or will he find someone else?

Maybe This Time is a heartwarming tale of friends, love, and missed chances. It was such a delightful read I didn't want it to end. I'm sure this sweet, charming tale will also leave you wanting more of Jill Mansell's world of cozy villages and enchanting characters.

Written by me and originally published by City Book Review.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Review: City of Tears

The City of Tears

The City of Tears
Kate Mosse

This epic tale follows the Joubert family as they navigate the winds of change during the French Religious Wars of the sixteenth century. It opens with the family at their French estate in the Languedoc region, planing a trip to Paris to attend the wedding of King Henri IV to Marguerite de Valois. Once in Paris, violence breaks out between the Huguenots and the Catholic forces loyal to the Duke of Guise, which forces the family to flee. But, not before suffering an unbearable loss. Ending up in Amsterdam, Piet Joubert has been shadowed by his nemesis Cardinal Vidal who is determined to make sure Piet doesn't learn the truth about his heritage that would allow him to claim his rightful inheritance.

The City of Tears is filled with vivid characters and scenes from the past, making this a sweeping story full of drama with an underlying story of love and endurance. I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy this one. I was so enthralled; I couldn't put it down.

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

Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: A Bitter Feast

A Bitter Feast (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #18)

A Bitter Feast
Deborah Crombie

When Duncan Kincaid and wife Gemma James, both detectives at Scotland Yard, are invited to a weekend in the Cotswolds, they are expecting a relaxing break. But then Duncan is involved in a car crash that leaves a local woman and a once-famous chef dead. It seems the weekend may turn into something far less relaxing than they'd planned.

The couple and their children are staying with Melody Talbot and her parents at the beautiful country estate known as Beck House. During a local lunch put on by Melody's mother and catered by a local chef, Duncan and Gemma find themselves drawn into the investigation of the car accident. When a mysterious murder takes place in the village, more attention is focused on chef Viv Holland, who once worked for the famous chef.

A Bitter Feast is a fast-paced mystery with wonderfully developed characters and a storyline that makes it hard to put down. The author has a fantastic way of switching between characters and scenes to heighten the suspense, and I think that's what makes this such a riveting read. Having finished this one, I know I want to read another in this series. I'm wondering how it is that I hadn't heard of this author before now.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: The Queen's SIsters

The Queen's Sisters: The Lives of the Sisters of Elizabeth Woodville

The Queen's Sisters
Sarah J. Hodder

When Elizabeth Woodville married King Edward IV in secret in 1464, the fortunes of her family changed. The Queen's Sisters looks at the less documented lives of Elizabeth's sisters, with each chapter dedicated to one of her six or possibly seven sisters. The lives of these women were often exciting but also full of uncertainties and tragedies, especially when the fathers, husbands, or brothers were called to war or caught up in political intrigue and were faced with conflicting loyalties.

I found this book well written, easy to read, and full of interesting information. I liked that the author pointed out the role women were expected to play within the household and managing estates, especially when their husbands were away. It is hard to imagine how girls who married so young must have felt when they were expected to move in with in-laws and grow up away from their own families. Also, the fact that widows gained some independence after the death of a husband only to lose much of that if they remarried, almost made me wonder why they would even contemplate another marital alliance unless they were forced to do so.

It is sad to think how little was documented about the Queen's sisters. Considering their advantageous marriages and the fact that they were close to the center of power, one would think there would be more information available about them. And although the author might not have intended it, I found myself rather bothered by the fact that these women were largely ignored by history. Why should their lives and stories be so unimportant? Was it merely because of their gender? Thinking about this made me appreciate the author's interest in shedding light on this forgotten past, even if it meant having to dig through the history of men to learn about the secret lives of interesting and historically significant women.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Review: Be Mighty

Be Mighty: A Woman’s Guide to Liberation from Anxiety, Worry, and Stress Using Mindfulness and Acceptance
Be Mighty
Jill A. Stoddard, PhD

Be Mighty is a book for women who want to learn more about how anxious thoughts both help and hinder actions and how we live our daily lives. It provides useful tips and exercises to help uncover issues or circumstances that may result in avoidance of situations that cause stress and worry. Because anxiety has a role to play in our lives, serving as a warning sign or indicator of danger, this book isn't about helping you get rid of anxiety. It seeks to help you understand what might trigger stress and anxiety and how to deal with it and work through it.

Many of the tips and exercises in the book rely on ACT, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, which aims to help one become more flexible and more aware of feelings, thoughts, and emotions. You will need a journal or notebook to work through the exercises to get the most out of this book. And if you are willing to put in a little time and effort, I think you will find it an excellent source to address the things that might be holding you back, whether that's stressful social encounters or that horrid little voice in your head that often tells you you aren't good enough.

Be Mighty is designed to help you make new choices and become more flexible and hopefully become more of the You that you want to be. Overall, I think it is easy to read, the exercises are easy to follow and a good choice for someone wanting to gain more confidence, and as the author says, live mightily.

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

Monday, March 16, 2020

Review: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding (Her Royal Spyness #12)

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding
Rhys Bowen

Lady Georgiana Rannoch is looking forward to her wedding to Irishman Darcy O'Mara. She only wishes he wouldn't disappear off to work so often and that they could find an affordable place to live in London once they are married. Just in the nick of time, Georgiana's godfather offers his estate to the couple. He's often away in exotic locations, and if the couple moves in it will no longer lie empty. But the estate isn't how Georgiana remembers it from her childhood. The once tidy grounds and the well-run house are both in the hands of an incompetent group of servants, who seem more than a little fishy to Georgiana.

When her mother and grandfather finally arrive along with her maid Queenie, she will have some help trying to uncover what the servants have been up to during her godfather's absence. This is, if they don't get themselves in over their heads.

This was the first book I've read in this series by Rhys Bowen, but I know it won't be the last. It was such a fun book, filled with charming characters and a plot that made it a good whodunit. Now that I have read Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding, I can't wait to see what mysteries await Georgiana in other volumes of this series.

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

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review: Is it Alzheimer's

'Is It Alzheimer's?' cover image

Is it Alzheimer's
Peter V. Rabins, MD, MPH

Is it Alzheimer's is an easy to read book about the differences between typical memory loss and signs of dementia. There is also an overview describing how it is determined and diagnosed. The author presents questions and answers to often asked questions about this complex disease. With around 5.1 million adults suffering from some form of dementia in the United States, this book was designed with the family of patients, friends, and caregivers in mind.

As someone with a relative suffering from this disease, I found many of the explanations in this book both helpful and reassuring. It is likely to be a resource that I will consult in the future. I do wish, though, that it had addressed more thoroughly how to deal with a patient who exhibits aggressive or paranoid behavior at what the author describes as the sundown period or effect. While this book may not answer all the questions I have, it is a good start. I also learned that the author has another book entitled The 36-Hour Day, which goes into much more detail about Alzheimer's and dementia. Is it Alzheimer's is meant to be a supplement to it.

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Review: Murder in an Irish Cottage

Murder in an Irish Cottage (Irish Village Mystery #5)

Murder in an Irish Cottage
Carlene O'Connor

Siobhán and her fiance Macdara, both members of the Gardaí, the Irish police, are called to a small village by Macdara's cousin Jane, who seems to be in a panic. When they arrive at the cottage, Jane shares with her mother Ellen; they find Ellen is dead. Has she been poisoned? According to Jane, everyone in the village disliked Ellen. The cottage itself seemed to be the problem. The villagers wanted to tear it down, fearing fairies haunted it. But Ellen wasn't prepared to move. Siobhán and Macdara think there could be more to the story, and even though the case isn't in their district, that isn't going to stop them from investigating the death of a family member.

Cozy mystery fans will love this village murder mystery. Not only is it well written, but it's also full of fun characters, folklore as well as lots of twists and turns. A satisfying read indeed. So, make a cup of tea and sit back and enjoy the search for a killer. Hopefully, you will enjoy this one as much as I did. It left me waiting for another installment.

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

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Review: Mind over Weight

Mind over Weight: Curb Cravings, Find Motivation, and Hit Your Number in 7 Simple Steps

Mind Over Weight
Ian K. Smith, M.D.

This book is designed to help those who want to lose weight by finding strategies that help to get you motivated and stay on track to meet goals. The seven steps are as follows. First, you want to make sure you are in the right frame of mind to start a diet. Then you need to set goals so that you will have a course of action to follow. Then one needs to find the best diet to follow. Once you have a plan, you might need some help to deal with cravings as you try to lose weight. You may also need to seek ways to boost your confidence so that you are more likely to succeed or stick to your diet plan. Afterward, to ensure further success, you will want to create a positive environment and address your overall relationship with food in general.

The author provides some useful tips and strategies to help you plan and execute a diet. The suggestions are ones that are easy to follow. Plus, they allow the reader to approach his or her nutrition from a personal point of view. What I like about this book is the fact that the strategies provided within could be used to meet other goals as well. So, Mind Over Weight might be just the beginning. This is a book that I will revisit and consult when I need tips or advice on restarting my diet or just when I need a boost.

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

Monday, March 2, 2020

Review: The Hunting Party

The Hunting Party

The Hunting Party
Lucy Foley

Every New Year's Eve a group of former Oxford graduates and lifelong friends gather to celebrate. This year they will be ringing in the New Year on a remote Scottish estate in the highlands. When the food and wine start to flow it becomes apparent that the friends have a lot of secrets they've been hiding from one another. Things take a turn for the worse when one of them disappears. An overnight blizzard means it isn't going to be easy to find the guest or get help when it's needed. Lodge manager Heather and Gamekeeper Doug will have to do the best they can to find out what's happened to the missing guest but they also have a few demons they are battling with as well.

The Hunting Party is a wonderfully plotted mystery with a load of suspense and well-developed characters. Everyone has a motive, and any one of them could be a victim. You won't know which is which until you get to the end. So, whether it's the Scottish setting or the feisty characters, I feel sure mystery lovers are going to appreciate this one. I know I couldn't put it down.

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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Review: 142 Ostriches

142 Ostriches

142 Ostriches
April Dávila

Tallulah Jones wants nothing more than to get away from the family ranch in the Mojave desert. She's got a job lined up in Montana, and she's looking forward to striking out on her own. But, before that happens, her grandmother Helen dies, leaving the ranch and 142 ostriches to her. Tallulah is convinced the only thing she can do is sell to a despised neighbor and move on. Only, before she can do that, she needs to find out why the ostriches have stopped laying eggs. And if that weren't enough, she still has to tell the rest of the family she's planning to sell. This might not be as easy as she thought since Aunt Christine and her girls might need her help, and Uncle Steve, a recovering drug addict, isn't pleased that Tallulah has inherited the ranch in the first place. He's turned up to make a world of trouble for her. With all the chaos that ensures Tallulah has to decide what she wants out of life. Will it be the place she's called home since she was thirteen, or will she turn away from all she's known, in the search for something else?

142 Ostriches is an intriguing story full of terrific characters, a stark desert setting, and a fast pace that will keep discerning readers turning the pages to see just what Tallulah will do next. I love the way the author captures the stress and anxiety felt by her and how her past keeps her searching for something elusive. The dysfunctional family was not only well portrayed but made this book more vivid and engaging. I can't wait to see what the author writes next.

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

Monday, February 24, 2020

Review: The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour
Beatriz Williams

It's 1941, and Lulu Randolph, recently widowed, finds herself in the Bahamas looking for a story for a New York magazine. As she befriends the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, connecting with their social circle, she comes to see that not all is golden with the couple. Their political views are also less than desirable. While on the island, she meets and marries Benedict Thorpe only to find that he disappears when the island's wealthiest man is murdered.

Lulu travels to London, hoping to find him, even though the war is sure to hamper her efforts. As she meets up with Thorpe's sister, she learns the complicated story behind Thorpe and his family, particularly that of Elfriede, a German woman caught in a loveless marriage. As the tale proceeds, the stories converge, leaving Lulu to wonder whether she will ever find her husband again.

Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the author's attention to detail and her beautiful prose. The Golden Hour is a story that carries the reader away, across time and place, to uncover secrets and an ending to a family drama that contains an unforeseen twist or two.

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

Friday, February 21, 2020

Review: Bella Figura

Bella Figura: How to Live, Love, and Eat the Italian Way

Bella Figura
Kamin Mohammadi

Bella Figura, or the art of appreciation and living well, is what Kamin Mohammadi learns all about when she relocates to Italy. After leaving her job as a magazine editor in London and suffering from a breakup with her boyfriend, she decides to move to Florence to make a new start in life.

The only plan she has is to write a book and take some time off for herself. It isn't long, however, until she meets some new friends who help her discover the meaning of Bella Figura. She soon finds herself in a new relationship with Roberto, a local. Overwhelmed by the intensity of the affair, she is taken aback when things don't turn out the way she expected. It may be that she has to kiss a few toads before finding her prince charming. Despite this, she learns to appreciate her time in Florence, and when the right man comes along, she will be ready to see where love takes her.

Mohammadi's charm, honesty and the courage to reveal personal ups and downs made this book a joy to read. The inclusion of Italian recipes at the end of each chapter is also a nice touch.

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

Monday, February 17, 2020

Review: Unto Us a Son Is Given

Unto Us a Son Is Given (Commissario Brunetti, #28)

Unto Us a Son Is Given
Donna Leon

Commissario Brunetti is back! In this latest installment of Donna Leon's mesmerizing detective series, Brunetti is asked by his father-in-law, Count Falier, to look into some rumors he's heard about a long time friend. Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejada wants to adopt a young man as his son, which Italian law allows. But is this younger man only interested in the older man's money and art collection? Either way, Gonzalo has made up his mind. But when he suddenly dies and one of his close friends is found dead, Brunetti has a case to solve, one that makes him think a lot about the meaning of love, family, and friendship.

Donna Leon is a master at creating a sense of place; as a result, Venice shines through the pages of this novel. I can think of no other fictional detective with the heart and soul of Guido Brunetti, who is devoted to his family, his job and his city. With vivid and intriguing narrative, Leon brings the reader right into the minds of the characters, and each one is more interesting than the next. Coupled with unexpected twists and turns Unto Us a Son is Given doesn't disappoint.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: The Missing Years

The Missing Years

The Missing Years
Lexie Elliott

Alisa Calder has inherited a Manse in the Scottish countryside. The problem is, she only owns half of it. The other half belongs to her father, and he disappeared years ago. Frankly, she'd like to sell the Manse, she can't imagine living in it. But until her father is proclaimed dead, she can't do that. Alisa decides to leave London and stay temporarily in the house with her half-sister until she can sort out the administration around the house.

Upon her arrival, Alisa feels the house is watching her. There is something sinister about it even if she can't put her finger on it. It definitely has its secrets, and she wonders if it is haunted. To top it off the villagers aren't that happy with Alisa's return and a few of them are keen to let her know that. Nevertheless, being back in her childhood home leads her to wonder what actually happened to her father all those years ago.

This compelling mystery left me on the edge of my seat. There were so many things that seemed to go bump in the night, creating a wonderfully atmospheric tale. The characters didn't disappoint either. If you liked the author's debut work The French Girl, you will love The Missing Years.

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Review: A Long Way Off

A Long Way Off

A Long Way Off
Pascal Garnier

Marc feels like he needs to get away. He doesn't feel connected to his wife and the people around him anymore. While visiting his daughter Anne in hospital, he decides to take a trip. He convinces Anne to come along with him and his cat Boudu to the French coastal town of Le Touquet. The journey turns into a more extended road trip that finds them headed towards the town of Agen in a camper van. What transpires is a trail of disaster that leaves them so far from home, there may be no way back.

The title of this book might be A Long Way Off, but as far as I'm concerned, this one was spot on. It was just what I've come to expect from Garnier's work, a bit of darkness shot through with humor at the oddest moments. Like his other works, this one gets under the skin. I think Garnier fans and fans of the noir genre, in general, will find this short book highly entertaining.

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

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Review: Shelved Under Murder

Shelved Under Murder (Blue Ridge Library Mysteries #2)

Shelved Under Murder
Victoria Gilbert

When Librarian Amy Webber, her boyfriend Richard, and library assistant Sunny decide to head out to a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains to pick up a painting from artist Rachel LeBlanc, which has been donated for charity, the last thing they expect to find is a body. The body isn't just anyone either; it's the artist herself. Rachel's husband, Reese is missing, and the police find a cache of forged paintings in the barn where Rachel's body was found. Amy has her doubts about the young man the police are looking for in connection with the crime. And, although she is busy with the Taylorsford, Virginia, arts and crafts festival in town, she is only too happy to find time to help the police catch a killer. Of course, trying to find a killer may be more dangerous than she first suspects.

Cozy mystery lovers will appreciate Victoria Gilbert's ability to create fun, memorable characters as well as a twisting tale of art deception focusing on both the past and present. Shelved Under Murder is a delight to read, and will no doubt leave fans wanting stories from Taylorsford Virginia.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Review: Where Have all the Boys Gone

Where Have All the Boys Gone?

Where Have All The Boys Gone
Jenny Colgan

Katie Watson works in PR in London. She's single and spends her time going out with friends Louise and Olivia. The prospects of finding a decent man in London is not easy, particularly since women far outnumber men. But when she gets a new assignment in a remote Scottish village, she finds she's in a town with a lot of men and very few women. It should be a dream come true. But is it? Her job is to help save a forest from being turned into a golf course. The fresh air and her cranky boss Harry are a far cry from the chaos and excitement of London, but if she can persevere, the highlands might throw a few surprises her way.

Where Have All The Boys Gone was such a fun book to read. I felt like I had been whisked off on an adventure. The characters were memorable, and it was full of fast-paced action. I think it's fair to say that once you get started on this one, you won't be able to put it down. This was my first time reading a novel by Jenny Colgan. I can't wait to read another one now that I know she is such an entertaining author.

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