Monday, December 21, 2020

Review: Murder in the Bayou Boneyard: A Cajun Country Mystery


Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

Ellen Byron

It's Halloween in Pelican, Louisiana, and that would be great if Maggie Crozat were a fan of this spooky holiday, but she isn't. Nevertheless, the Crozat family has decided to add some special events at the bed and breakfast they operate in the small town to attract more guests. The Crozat family are also expecting to meet some long lost cousins who are arriving from Canada. But when one of them turns up dead at a Halloween event hosted in a cemetery, Maggie is not only surprised; she's the main suspect. Which means she now has to find out who is behind the killing if she's going to stay out of jail. But it's Halloween, and there are far more tricks than treats in this story, and Maggie will have to dig deep to find out what's going on.

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard is a fast-paced, fun cozy mystery with a great deal of atmosphere. I enjoyed the story and the main characters. I especially like the sense of place in this one. I felt like I was in a Louisiana small town the whole way through. Plus, the author includes a few recipes in the book as well.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Review: The Vacation


The Vacation

T.M. Logan

Kate and her three friends from university are set to spend a glorious vacation in a villa located in the south of France. It's meant to be a time for their families to reconnect and relax. But Kate suspects her husband is having an affair. To make matters worse, she suspects it's with one of her friends at the villa, but which one? That's what she's going to try and find out.
What she finds is a lot of lies. Along with the complicated lives they all lead, Kate finds that some of her friends are better at keeping secrets than others. If they come out, these secrets may end up costing these friends more than they can imagine. And one will stop at nothing to make sure that doesn't happen.

The author has written a compelling story full of suspense and mystery. I couldn't put this book down. Everyone has something to hide, and it isn't always clear whether the next page will hold a clue or another mystery. I love how the author creates twists and turns in the story, much of which I didn't expect. All of it kept me guessing until the end. I can't wait to see what Logan writes next.

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

Friday, December 11, 2020

Review: Stuff Every Tea Lover Should Know


Stuff Every Tea Lover Should Know

Candace Rose Rardon

If there is anything you want to know about tea, chances are this slim book covers it. From a short history of this popular beverage to how to host a tea party, Ms. Rardon explains the many aspects of tea culture. I particularly enjoyed learning about the different tea varieties. There are six of them: white, green, yellow, oolong, black and dark. But they are all derived from the same plant species, Camellia Sinensis, first discovered in China.

One of the interesting facts about tea is that it contains less caffeine than coffee, and an amino acid known as theanine in the leaves slows down the caffeine's absorption rate. For this reason, it does not cause the same jolt of energy one often experiences with coffee. I appreciated the information provided on teabags versus loose tea. After reading this, I will likely now focus on purchasing better-quality, loose tea.

The author also gives a wonderful glimpse into tea culture around the world. And while I did wish the book had been a bit on the larger size to make it easier to read, I nonetheless enjoyed it. I felt inspired to go out and try something new. And with tips on how to make the perfect brew, I think this would make a great little gift for any tea lover.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Review: Christmas Cupcake Murder


Christmas Cupcake Murder

Joanne Fluke

It's Christmas time in Lake Eden, Minnesota and Hannah Swensen is busy trying to bake enough cupcakes and cookies to keep the town happy. But, when an injured homeless man is found in a vacant shop that Hannah's mom wants to rent, Hannah wants to help find out what happened to him. Surely he has a home somewhere. It won't be easy to discover his past since he's lost his memory and the local doctor thinks he's been hit on the head. Was he the victim of a crime? Hannah isn't sure. But, she may find some clues as he begins to help out around the bakery and in her mother's antique store.

If Christmas Cupcake Murder doesn't put you in the mood to bake and eat cupcakes all day, I don't know what will. Personally, I found this one to be more centered on Hannah's cooking than on solving a mystery. But I liked that it brought all her friends and family together in a good cause just in time for the holiday season. Fans of this series will be happy to know that recipes have been included.

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

Friday, December 4, 2020

Review: The Ice Daughters


The Ice Daughters

D E White

Detective Constable Dove Milson and her partner Steve have been called to a strange crime scene. A frozen body has been discovered near a barn fire, and a single mother who lived at the farm has been abducted. Time is of the essence if they want to find her alive, and the winter storm weather is not on their side.

It doesn't take long before they have another frozen body on their hands and another missing mother. Is there a serial killer on the loose? The police now have their hands full with a complicated case that seems to be leading back to an ex-husband and a group of tight-knit former university friends. But what links them is more than a few parties or nights at the pub and DC Milson is determined to find the connections to solve the case. At the same time, she is trying to find time to connect with her fiance and her sisters, but that isn't easy with the horrible weather and the long hours she has to devote to the case.

The Ice Daughters is a fast past mystery with a complex plot that kept me interested until the end. I loved DC Dove Milson. She was able to juggle so many aspects of her life and stay focused on the case. The characters and the scenery were well developed, and I felt like I was with the investigation the whole way through. I also liked how the author dealt with the back story in this one. Everything I needed to know about Dove was provided, making her a character I could get to know and appreciate. I also think that the fast pace made this such a page-turner and a book that I enjoyed.

The Ice Daughters will be released on 17 December 2020 by Joffe Books.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Review: Of Mutts and Men

Of Mutts and Men

Spencer Quinn

Bernie Little from the Little Detective Agency and Chet, his dog, and trusted partner have a meeting set up with a hydrologist, Wendell Nero. The only problem is, when they get to the RV in the desert where Wendell's working, he's already dead. It looks to the local Sheriff like a case of robbery gone wrong but, Bernie doesn't agree. He thinks the person arrested for the crime is a petty thief for sure but not a murderer. So, Bernie and Chet have to do some digging into Wendell's past if they want to find the real killer.

Of Mutts and Men is an entertaining story that will leave dog lovers wanting more, particularly as it's told from Chet's point of view. I can't think of a more delightful duo than Bernie and Chet. The fact that Chet is so thoughtful, lovable, and totally devoted to Bernie is the main reason I think this series works so well. Frankly, it could become something of an addiction for me because, by the time I finished this episode, all I wanted to do was jump right into another one.

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


Monday, November 30, 2020

Review: Laughter Yoga

Laughter Yoga

Madan Kataria, M.D.

In 1995 Dr. Kataria started a laughter yoga club with five people in order to bring some happiness and joy back into his life and to help him cope with the stress of everyday life. Since then, the movement has grown around the world, and now many are enjoying the health benefits of laughter.

Research shows that laughter can change the biochemistry of the brain, leading to positive changes in mood. Combining laughter and elements of yoga, Dr. Kataria's program encourages people to practice ten to fifteen minutes of laughter yoga a day. He likes to start by clapping, stretching, and using phrases like 'HoHo' and 'HaHaHa' to warm up, especially if one has difficulty laughing at the beginning. And don't worry if you don't feel like laughing, apparently forced or fake laughter is just as good. The brain can't tell the difference.

Laughter Yoga provides exercises that can be done in a group setting or alone. Anyone who can laugh can benefit from this book. Dr. Kataria also encourages smiling more to help bring about more laughter in your life. Frankly, before reading this book, I was unaware that the simple act of laughing could have such great health benefits. Whether it is improving mood, lowering blood pressure, or decreasing stress, this is a cost-effective way to do something good for the body and mind. Considering all the benefits, I don't know why everyone isn't already laughing all day long.

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


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: Love Letters from Montmartre


Love Letters from Montmartre

Nicolas Barreau

Julien Azouly, a well-known writer of romantic comedies, has lost his wife, Hélène, at the young age of thirty-three. Now he is alone with his young son. Before Hélène died, Julien promised to write her thirty-three letters describing his life without her. At first, he is too distraught to write anything, but eventually, he is able to put his feelings down on paper. Afterward, he deposits the letters in a secret compartment in her gravestone.

One day he discovers that a letter has disappeared. In its place, he finds a heart carved from stone. He doesn't know what to make of this. Is it a sign from Hélène that she is still with him? He so wants that to be the case, but it could be someone else who has discovered his secret hiding place at the cemetery. He must make a choice. Does he want to remain with the dead or rejoin the living? Only time will tell.

Love Letters from Montmartre is so well written I could not put it down. The story and its characters are sweet, charming, and utterly irresistible. This heartwarming tale is all about love and rediscovering life, however hard that might be after the death of a loved one.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: One Drum


One Drum

Richard Wagamese

In One Drum, Richard Wagamese shares stories, ceremonies, and teachings from the Ojibway people of Northwestern Ontario. All are concerned with our spiritual journey on this planet. As he explains, we are part of Creation, living on one sacred breath. This is the first ceremony he shares, allowing one to connect with one's feelings in order to recognize the sacred breath of Creation within. The second ceremony, the Tobacco Offering, focuses on being thankful. The third ceremony is a Vision Quest, which allows one to be brave and to recognize being part of everything. The fourth and final ceremony is entitled Acting Outwardly. This one is intended to make one aware of the nature of sacrifice.

In between the ceremonies, Wagamese presents tales of humility, discovery, bravery, and harmony, all of which remind us to walk gently upon the earth and do no harm to one another. He also shares his personal story about how he came to learn the importance of these teachings and what they meant to him as he became reacquainted with his traditional roots. One Drum is one of the most moving, powerful, and profoundly spiritual books that I've ever read. I feel honored to have found this beautiful gem.

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

Monday, November 9, 2020

Review: High Tech and Hot Pot

High Tech and Hot Pot

Stephan Orth

After hosting a Chinese student in his Hamburg flat, Orth decides to embark on a journey across China. Of course, he doesn't divulge to the authorities that he is a journalist. He wants to travel around and try his hand at "couch-surfing" with locals, if possible, to see how they view their own country and the wider world.

I found some of this book interesting, and I'm always amazed at how quickly the Chinese can build and develop sprawling metropolises. It often makes me feel like the West is lagging behind. But as Orth shows while he travels from one large city to another, all the development might come at a price, which made his chapter about searching for Shangri-la all the more enjoyable.

I do wish he had included a map of China for reference; it would have been a great addition. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like this book added anything new about China's development. I liked that the author showed how his hosts were feeling about their own lives and sometimes about how they view the rest of the world. He also dealt a lot with the increasing security surveillance in the country, which some readers will view as a restrictive practice. But, it would be useful to point out that in the West, especially the United States, our habits and movements are tracked by large data companies and credit companies that also, significantly, determine how we can live our lives.

I was hoping for a little more focus on the country's phenomenal economic growth and maybe a bit more about ordinary people and their expectations. To be fair, this is a travelogue, and it does what it claims, it showcases the author's journey from one area to another.

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

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Review: The Hour of Death

The Hour of Death

Jane Willan

When Sister Agatha of Gwenafwy Abbey in Wales learns that Tiffany Reese, head of the local arts committee has been found dead at the Parish Hall, she immediately thinks foul play has been involved. Sister Agatha starts her investigation with a little help from her trusted friend Father Selwyn. As they set out making a list of possible suspects, strange events begin to occur in and around the Abbey, convincing Sister Agatha that there is more to the story of Tiffany's death than first realized.

Sister Agatha is a fan of mystery novels, and when she isn't dealing with the Abbey's library or the cheese production venture the Reverend Mother has recently invested in, she spends her spare time writing mystery stories. Now that she is facing a real mystery she will have to rest her pen and think carefully if she intends to find out what happened to Tiffany and root out any killer hiding in the area.

I fell in love with Sister Agatha who loves nothing more than a good mystery and honing her skills as an amateur sleuth. Jane Willan has written a thoroughly satisfying mystery with interesting twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the end. It's full of fun and lovable characters who make it a delightful read. I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than curled up with The Hour of Death and a good cup of tea.

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

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review: The Sleeping Car Murders


The Sleeping Car Murders

Sébastien Japrisot

When a woman is found dead on a train from Marseille to Paris, it's the job of Detective Grazziano to find her killer. Once a witness to the woman's death is found dead, the case becomes much more complicated than at first glance. Will Grazziano be able to stop a killer in his tracks? Or is he on the wrong track? It looks that way when another witness is found dead.

With a unique writing style, Japrisot takes the reader on a journey through the streets of Paris to find a killer who thinks he's committed the perfect crime. A gripping noir mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. This is an author I hope to read again.

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Review: Murderous Morning

Murderous Morning

Bernadette Calonego

When Tessa Griffins finds out her foster sister, Fran, is missing, and Fran's husband and children have been found dead, she drops everything at the law firm where she works in Vancouver to get to the small town of Whatou Lake, in British Columbia where her parents live. She hasn't been back for some time, and she's not sure what she will find, except old memories she's tried to forget. But, she has to help out in the search for Fran. She will also have to dig deep to find out what happened at the remote farm where Fran's husband and children died. Could it be poachers? Or is it something more sinister that's responsible for all the carnage?

Calonego has written a riveting mystery that will keep fans glued to the page. I loved that this story had many exciting elements, such as family drama, a mystery, and enough tension between the various characters to keep me guessing until the end. Frankly, I felt like I'd been on an expedition through the Canadian wilderness by the time I finished this book. The atmosphere and descriptions were so wonderfully developed that I had a hard time putting it down. If you are craving a mystery with a depth of story, character, and plot, this is definitely one to read.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, October 9, 2020

Review: A Better Man


A Better Man

Louise Penny

After being suspended and demoted, Armand Gamache is back as Chief Inspector of Homicide. A position he is sharing with Jean-Guy Beauvoir before Beauvoir leaves the force for a job in Paris. Quebec is in the grip of a hundred-year flood but, a woman is reported missing by one of Gamache's team, Inspector Cloutier, a friend of the woman's family. They all set out to find her, even as Gamache's village of Three Pines is threatened by the raging Bella Bella river. What has happened to Vivenne Godin? Did her abusive husband kill her? It sure looks that way to Gamache but, will this case present more questions than answers?

A Better Man has to be one of Louise Penny's finest works; she is clearly a master of the mystery. It's brilliantly plotted and oh so hard to put down. Captivating and engaging throughout, it has to be one of the best mysteries I've read this year. Like a fine wine, Penny and Gamache seem to get better with time. I'm addicted to her sleight of hand and ability to whisk me off to the village of Three Pines, where I find old friends from past books. Without a doubt, this is one not to be missed.

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

Friday, October 2, 2020

Review: The Books of the Dead


The Books of the Dead

Emilia Bernhard

Rachel Levis discovers a body in a cafe restroom in the middle of Paris. The men's room, to be exact. The body in question belongs to Guy Laurent, who worked at France's Bibliothèque Nationale in the reading room. Rachel's friend in the Paris police, Capitaine Boussicault, would like her to assist him by working at the library to observe his suspects. But can Rachel simply watch and refrain from action? Of course not. And her best friend Magda is just itching to get involved in the investigation as well. After all, that's what the two do best, solve crimes. Maybe even better than the Paris police.

If the Paris setting isn't enough to make you pick up this book, then the fun, engaging and witty writing style of the author is. The Books of the Dead is a must for mystery fans who like a little international drama and an enticing amateur sleuth. This is the second in the series, and I sure hope it isn't the last, as I've enjoyed strolling around Paris with two friends seeking to find answers to life's mysteries.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

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.