Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: Paris Nocturne

Paris Nocturne
Paris Nocturne
Patrick Modiano

This is a haunting story about memory, the past and the “eternal return” or the sense that you have already meet someone before in the course of your life.

The narrator of this story is a young man who, one night in Paris, has been hit by a car. The car was driven by a woman and they are both taken to the hospital. Upon his release from the hospital he spends days or weeks looking for the woman driver, who he feels he has meet somewhere before, in another accident when he was just a child. He tries to piece the fragments of his memory together while looking for answers to the accident. He seems to be looking for light at the end of his darkness as he wanders through Paris, mainly at night. Will the woman be the connection he is seeking or will she be the bridge to his past or the key to his future?

The atmosphere is heavy and dark as if one is in a haze or a dream. The reader is never quite sure if the main character is having memory difficulties because of the accident or whether he's been suffering from this for some time. I'm in two minds about this story. I can't decide if I really liked it but, it is one of those stories that linger in the mind long after you've finished it. Maybe I'm still waiting for the haze to lift so I can find the larger meaning I missed.

Thanks to Goodreads giveaway and Yale Press for allowing me to read this book.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Review:Freedom Fries and Café Crème

Freedom Fries and Cafe Creme

Freedom Fries and Café Crème
Jocelyne Rapinac

This is a fun book full of humor and interesting characters. Each chapter tells a different story about friends, food and their relationships and connections to each other. It's well written with a keen eye for sensing the current “fashion” in the world of cuisine.

At the end of each chapter the author includes recipes for all the yummy dishes she mentioned in each story. This is an added pleasure for anyone who loves good food.

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: Rain Dogs

Rain Dogs: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel
Rain Dogs
A Detective Sean Duffy Novel
Adrian McKinty

If you are a fan of police procedural mysteries, then this is one for you. Set in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1987, Detective Inspector Sean Duffy has to investigate a case involving a female journalist, Lily Bigelow who has been found dead at Carrickfergus Castle. Was it suicide or murder? That's the question Duffy has to answer. But, since the Castle is locked up every night how could a killer get in or out? If Lily Bigelow killed herself, why, and if someone else killed her, what was the motive. Either way Duffy has an interesting case on his hands.

This is a rough, tough, gritty and witty story with enough twists and turns to keep even the most discerning reader turning the pages. Mr. McKinty is a clever writer able to capture the atmosphere of Belfast and create intense believable characters, even if they are not all likeable.

Thanks to Seventh Street Books and Goodreads giveaway for allowing me to read  and review this book.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: The Dinner

The Dinner

The Dinner
Herman Koch

This is an absorbing, dark psychological story, in which two families come together for a meal in an Amsterdam restaurant in order to discuss the disturbing actions of their teenage children. It starts out as an ordinary meal in an upscale establishment but as it progresses so too does the family drama and the moral dilemmas they each face.

This work forces one to think a lot about how far one would go to protect the ones you love. It's narrated by Paul, the father of one teenage boy. He provides a very vivid picture of not only the meal itself and the recent actions of the teenagers but also the dynamics behind the family histories. Suddenly these “ordinary” people are faced with choices that may change their lives forever. Needless to say, they all have differing opinions about how to handle their dilemmas.

Throughout the dinner the sad, shocking events that reveal themselves through Paul's narration builds up to an intense, suspenseful climax. Koch has a way of writing that makes the reader feel as if he or she is right there at the table with the other guests, watching and waiting for something to happen. It's chilling and it gets right under your skin, which is probably why it's so hard to put down.

Thanks to blogging for books for providing me with the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: Marseille Noir

Marseille Noir

Marseille Noir
Edited by: Cédric Fabre

This collection of fictional stories about Marseille is diverse, dark, macabre, quirky and totally irresistible. Each story has a unique voice about crime and the dark side of the city. By far my favorite was “I'll go away with the first man who says I love you” by Marie Neuser. I also really liked “The Warehouse of People from Before” by Salim Hatubou.

In this selection of stories Marseille comes across as a hard, tough, masculine city full of crime but also full of life and interesting characters. It will make you realize that Marseille is more than just an old, picturesque city by the sea. This is my first book in the Noir series and I found it so enjoyable that I definitely want to read more.

Thanks to Library Thing and Akashic Books for providing me with a review copy of the book.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review: Escape From Smyrna

Escape from Smyrna

Escape From Smyrna
Charles Gates

In this historical novel three families are linked together in the search for an antique necklace. Oran Crossmoor is in Istanbul when he finds a locket linked to a missing necklace that once belonged to his family. Leyla Asalanoglu is also looking for the same necklace, that once belonged to her family. They join forces to try and locate other missing pieces that take them on a personal journey through the past, uncovering unknown family connections and histories.

The necklace itself has an incredible story behind it as do the numerous characters who have owned it at one time or another. They all come together in a tale that recounts some of the tumultuous history of Turkey and Greece after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It's filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of a bustling Istanbul and iconic scenes of Greece. The characters are well depicted and each one has an interesting story. The plot and structure of the story are good as many of the details about the missing necklace and the various characters emerge throughout, pulling the history of the necklace and the previous owners together. The tension and suspense builds throughout the tale. The ending was an unexpected surprise which was good. This is a great book for those who want to get caught up in another time and place. All in all, I felt like Mr. Gates had taken me on a wonderful trip to a mesmerizing part of the world.

Thanks to Sarah-Beth at John Hunt Publishing for providing me with a review copy.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: The Things We Keep

The Things We Keep

The Things We Keep
Sally Hepworth

Sally Hepworth has written a moving tale about love and caring for loved ones that was hard to put down. This is a story about adults in their mid-thirties, Anna and Luke who both develop early onset Alzheimer’s and dementia. Both are living in a residential care facility. They develop a relationship that family members have difficulty coping with due to the nature of their illnesses. While the story is both sad and thought provoking, it's filled with interesting characters. In addition to Anna and Luke there is Eve, adjusting to a new life after Richard, her husband defrauded his financial clients. And Clementine, Eve's daughter, has to cope with changes in her own way. The residential home which is the setting for much of the book has other well developed characters a well, who are grappling with their own problems.

This story forces one to think about Alzheimer’s and dementia from the patients point of view. It exposes the dilemma a family member or caregiver has when they grapple with relationship issues. How much can a patient decide for themselves if they can't remember things. It's heartbreaking to think that the patient is “trapped” inside a body that can no longer clearly relate needs, wants and desires to a caregiver. Yet the patient may still feel the effects of actions taken by the caregiver.

I liked the structure of this book because it allows the reader to find out things as the book progresses and it works well as there are really several stories woven through the text. I also like that each person is telling their side of the story, which makes the reader feel very involved. I only wish that Luke had been given more of a voice in the story, as we only hear his voice through Anna. Nevertheless, I liked the ending and although I have to admit that I cried a lot through the sad bits, it did convey what the characters and the author felt was important in life.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing the advanced reader's copy.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees
Kian Lam Kho

Anyone interested in authentic Chinese cooking will benefit from this book. It focuses on the techniques of Chinese cooking rather than just the recipes. Until I read this book I was unaware of the differences between “simple stir-fry” and “dry stir-fry”. I had also never heard of “velveting” nor did I realize the many different means of frying in oil. This book is good at explaining why certain techniques are used and what it brings to the ingredients and dishes.

There are recipes for familiar dishes such as “sweet and sour chicken”, “moo goo gai pan” and “General Tso's chicken” but there are lots of other, to me unfamiliar dishes. The author's aim is really to teach the techniques behind the cooking so that you can then make your own dishes and vary the ingredients that you want to put in them.

It's full of good photos, tips and explanations which will hopefully make it easier for Westerners to learn to cook authentic Chinese food. And if you've ever wondered how and why something tastes so good at your local Chinese restaurant, or take away, this book will give you a better understanding of what went on behind the scenes in the kitchen and how it was all prepared.

Thanks to blogging for books for allowing me the read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Review: The Dean's Diaries

The Dean's Diaries
David Purdie

In this highly entertaining book, the Dean of St. Andrew's College in Edinburgh gives a witty and funny account of his eccentric colleagues via entries into his diaries. When they aren't falling down the laundry chutes they are up to other shenanigans, which often made me laugh out loud. I particularly enjoyed the chapter entitled 'Dean on the Phone' as well as the musings on American baseball, the 'Ordynance of 1565' and the comedy of 'misprisions' (mistaking someone for another person), and so many others. The illustrations were an added bonus. I hope the Dean is hard at work on volume two because, I for one, am waiting for more.

Thanks to Netgalley and Luath Press Limited for allowing me to read the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: Confess


Colleen Hoover

Auburn, is a young women with a complex life. She has moved to Dallas, Texas in order to focus on what is important to her. She didn't expect to meet Owen at his art studio on her way home from work, nor did she expect to feel anything for him, but she does. The problem is that Owen also has a complex, complicated life and it might cause Auburn a world of trouble.

Confess, is book that draws you in with great descriptive powers. The author, has a wonderful talent for giving the reader a connection to the main characters. When they feel pain, the reader feels pain, when they feel joy so to does the reader. What I especially liked about this book was the way the tension builds throughout. Every few chapters the author seems to take the story to the next level, making it hard to put down.

This novel is apparently classified as new-adult fiction, a category that I have to admit I don't tend to read often, thinking I might be older than the intended audience. However, having read this I think it will appeal to all ages. Because frankly if the story is good it shouldn't matter what age the characters are. So, if you are looking for one of those books that carry you away into another world for a while, look no further than Confess.

This book came my way via Goodreads giveaway program, so I would like to thank Atria Books and the author for providing me with a signed copy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: Late Harvest Havoc

Late Harvest Havoc

Late Harvest Havoc
Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen

Benjamin and Virgile are back! This time they are in Alsace. Benjamin is on his way to Germany to meet with a client but he stops off in Alsace-Lorraine to sample some local wine and food. Unfortunately, someone has decided to attack vines, with what appears to be a chainsaw at local wine estates. Even if the village is plagued by suspicions of bad luck Benjamin and Virgile won't let the get in their way as they try to work out who the culprit or culprits are.

Every time I read a book in the Wine detective series I feel like I'm meeting up with two old friends, who show me around an new region while sampling the local specialties. Though there may be crime involved, it still feels like I'm taking a holiday without leaving my armchair. It's a great warm inviting look into the world of French wine. Just don't forget the glass of Gewurztraminer for this one.

Thanks to Netgalley and Le French Book for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Asian Dumplings

Asian Dumplings
Andrea Nguyen

The key to making good dumplings seems to be trial and error. My attempts to make homemade dim sum and steamed buns in the past have been both successful and unsuccessful. But, since I love dumplings, I'm always willing to try again. Asian Dumplings, has a lot of helpful tips and recipes to help cooks master the art of homemade dumplings.

One of the good things about this book is that it progresses from easy recipes to more difficult ones. The first half of this book covers the basic things we think of when we hear Asian dumplings, mainly, dim sum, wontons, springs rolls and steamed buns. The second half covers what Ms. Nguyen refers to as rich pastries, which include things like samosas and empanadas, and other dumplings made from legumes and tubers.

The instructions are easy to follow and just in case there is any confusion the author has included a website where readers will find access to videos of dumpling making techniques, which I found very useful. The website also gave me more insight into the author and her other works, which was a bonus.

A few more photos would have made the book more visually interesting but the fact that it has so many tips and explanations makes it a good book for someone who wants to either learn to make homemade dumplings or improve their dumpling making skills.

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: Ein Gerücht Kommt Selten Allein

Ein Gerücht kommt selten allein
Ein Gerücht Kommt Selten Allein
Brigitte Teufl-Heimhilcher

Guido ein Arkitekt zieht nach Bad Brunn um näher bei seiner Stieftochter und seiner Schwiegermutter zu sein. Aber das Leben in einem kleinen Dorf ist anders als ein Leben in Wien. Die Dorfbewohner sind nicht ganz so freundlich wie erwartet und die meisten sind ziemlich mistraurisch.

Der Bürgermeister ein Freund von Guido will eine alte Fabrik mit Guido's Hilfe umbauen. Die Einwohner sind teilweise nicht begeistert von der Idee. Christine, die Assistentin von Guido ist verliebt in ihm. Aber sie hat Konkurenz von Kristin, Guido's Ex-Geschäftspartnerin und ehemaligen Lebesgefährtin.

Diese Geschichte ist sehr gut geschrieben und hat mir viel Spass beim lesen gemacht. Sie ist voll von interesanten Charakteren und der Stil is frisch und modern. Es ist mehr als eine “chic lit” Geschichte. Es hat interessanten Probleme die heute alle Dörfer haben, alt Bewohner gegen neue, politische Rivalen, und andere zeitgenössische Fragen.

English Version
This is an interesting story set in a small Austrian village. When architect Guido relocates to be near his stepdaughter and mother-in-law life isn't exactly as he had imagined. The village inhabitants aren't that friendly and his assistant, Christina is finding she might be in love with Guido. But Guido's ex-business partner and one time girlfriend is also once again on the scene complicating matters for Christina.

This was an interesting story about Guido's problems and the problems of local villagers, both personal, and political. In fact, the book is full of multiple stories and subplots that allow the reader to get to know the characters and the village itself. It was well written, as well as fun and enjoyable.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: 44 Scotland Street

44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street #1)

44 Scotland Street
Alexander McCall Smith

I loved this book. It transported me right back to the middle of Edinburgh. The story follows the residents of 44 Scotland Street. There is Bruce and his new roommate Pat and then there is, Domenica their neighbor, and a host of other lively characters, who get up to all sorts of mischief. All of the characters reminded me of people I've meet at one time or another. This is just a warm, funny, charming look at life in Edinburgh, which I think a lot of readers would enjoy. I'm hoping I have some time soon to read more in this series.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

DVD: Doc Martin


DVD: Doc Martin

While I'm waiting for Season 7 of Doc Martin to be released in the US, I've gone back to watch Season one and two. Frankly, I'd forgotten how funny they were. If you haven't seen this series you might want to check it out. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: The Sun King Rises

The Sun King Rises

The Sun King Rises
Yves Jégo and Denis Lépée

As Cardinal Mazarin, the Chief Minister and Godfather to Louis XIV of France lies dying, someone sets fire to his palace and steals secrets and compromising documents. Various factions would like to find and use these documents for their personal benefit and to support their own political or religious causes. But as the King comes into his own with the death of his most trusted adviser, the Cardinal, he may decide to rule on his own, thereby thwarting the plans of his ministers.

This historical novel is full of political intrigue, action and terrific descriptions of historical figures, architecture and arts as well as royal customs. The rich details provided by the authors make the reader feel a part of the action, while the scenery and characters come to life in a way that allows one to appreciate the past. Anyone interested in French history will find this an entertaining and fulfilling read.

Thanks to NetGalley and Gallic books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: Happy Cooking

Happy Cooking
Giada De Laurentiis

What a great cookbook! It's well organized with good quality photos of all the recipes and full of wonderful tips. I found it to be both fresh and modern. It had mouth watering recipes that were new and different without being too exotic or full of difficult to acquire ingredients. The recipes are clear and easy to follow.

This book has encouraged me to think and eat healthier. For example, I have switched from sugary jams to nut butters on toast. It also gave me the great idea of shopping at restaurant supply stores. I actually have one nearby but before I read this cookbook, I hadn't thought of shopping there.

Another great thing about this cookbook is that all the recipes are labeled to show whether they are gluten free, vegetarian or vegan, which many will find useful.

Happy Cooking would make a great addition to a cook's collection or a great gift idea for anyone who likes to cook, be they a beginner or someone more proficient.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Moon in a Dead Eye

Moon in a Dead Eye
Moon in a Dead Eye
Pascal Garnier

When Martial and Odette move to a newly built retirement village in the south of France they are the first to arrive. They are eagerly awaiting their new neighbors, wondering who will move in next. Initially, all is well when Maxime and Marlène arrive. But will a retirement paradise become a retirement hell? Only Garnier will tell.

This books is short but brilliant. It manages to say so much about the human condition. The characters are pitch perfect, the atmosphere moves from light to dark and the location is telling. If this is any indication of Pascal Garnier's other work, I can't wait to read more.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect
Derek Thompson

Thomas and Karl both work for the Surveillance Support Unit in London and in this story they have been assigned to the Benefits Office to check potential fraudulent benefit claims. But at the same time they both become involved in several other investigations which keep the reader guessing about the motives and actions of numerous characters. Only at the end of the book does the reader finally figure out what has been going on in the various investigations.

I like the book and I especially like the witty style of writing. But at times it seems a bit hard to follow the story. There are so many “shadow effects” that I can't help thinking that the telling of the story might be more suited to a visual media. Nevertheless, it has some interesting characters, good dialogue and a lot of intrigue.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review: Hector Finds Time

Hector Finds Time
François Lelord

In this book Hector, the psychiatrist goes off in search of an old monk he knows in order to help him understand the meaning of time. Along the way he relates some lessons he's learned. Some, which come from his patients are so funny that I laughed out loud. Patient Hubert is especially interesting in that he measures time according to how many dog's lives he has left.

If you've ever thought about getting older or the meaning of time this little gem of a book is for you. It's amusing, entertaining and profound at the same time. Many of Hector's lessons and time exercises are thought provoking and shouldn't be missed.

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

DVD: Nicolas Le Floch

  • Nicolas Le Floch
DVD: Nicolas Le Floch

Recently I posted a review of The Châtelet Apprentice by Jean-François Parot. I just wanted to let you know if you find this book interesting you might also like the DVD series inspired by these books. Nicolas Le Floch Volume One and Two are available at amazon and at at mhznetwork.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: Public Face Private Vice

Public Face Private Vice

Public Face Private Vice
Keith Wainman

Chief Superintendent Charlie Smith and his team have a new case. A BBC presenter has turned up dead and as they search for his killer the case twists and turns into something no one expected. What at first looks like a possible case of blackmail may turn into something far more complex.

This is a well written police mystery full of interesting characters and a Police team with a knack for getting the information they need out of suspects, even those who prove to be a little difficult. It's a memorable story that has good dialogue and action as well as enough tension to keep the reader interested in how its all going to pan out.

This book would be great for a television series since the events and characters, especially the police team are so well depicted.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas

2 A.M. At The Cat's Pajamas
Marie-Helene Bertino
I loved the cover of this book. It was so cute and engaging. I expected the story to be the same. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I found it hard to get into the beginning of the book. The characters didn't seem that interesting and the story seemed a bit flat and if I'm honest, boring. Nevertheless, I plowed on and by the middle of the book I found it a bit more interesting. I did at least want to know what would happen to the characters enough to make me continue.

Overall, it seemed to suffer from too many stories within the main story which left it short on character development. To me the numerous stories took away from the main character's story. Madeleine, the nine year old who wants to be a jazz singer is at the heart of the story and the thread that pulls everyone else together but, the development of this character seemed slow and somehow I just couldn't get a feel for her.

It may be a personal preference, but I didn't like the style of writing, which seemed forced and artificial at times. Having said that there were a few interesting bits which helped me get to the end. I enjoyed the conversation Madeleine had with a roach during a dream at 10:05pm and a few scenes containing Sarina, Madeleine's school teacher and her high school friend Ben were interesting. But, by and large I found the book rambled too much and because of this it was hard to feel much for the characters or the story itself.

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

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Review:The Châtelet Apprentice

The Châtelet Apprentice
Jean-François Parot

This is a wonderful French mystery set in the 18th century. Nicholas Le Floch is appointed as an investigator to solve a mysterious death and to help Monsieur de Sartine, Lieutenant General of Police in Paris find important sensitive State documents that have gone missing.

The author creates a mesmerizing atmosphere that allows the reader to almost smell the foul air in Paris and feel the crunch of snow underfoot. The book is full of interesting scenes and well developed characters. As this is the first in a series, it gives a detailed look at Le Foch's past which allows the reader to feel not only connected to the character but gain an understanding into the workings of 18th century French society. Anyone interested in France during this period or in good historical novels will not be disappointed.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Gallic Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a honest review.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: Christmas at the Vicarage

Christmas at the Vicarage

Christmas at the Vicarage
Rebecca Boxall

Rosamunde has decided to return home to Potter's Cove in Devon after an absence of 15 years. She left following traumatic events and now she thinks she's finally able to face the past and return. She arrives in Potter's Cove at the vicarage to stay with her father. She finds both change and comfort in surroundings she knew and loved as a child. Only time will tell if she will be able to make a new life in Potter's Cove.

This is a warm and delightful read. I especially like the structure of the book that had chapters alternating between Rosamunde's present and past. It was a good way to cover all the events in her life and story. It also created enough tension and suspense to keep the reader glued to the pages until the very end.

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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: So, Anyway...

So, Anyway...
John Cleese

This is definitely a book for John Cleese Fans. It's insightful, funny in parts and expansive. It focuses mainly on his early years, his time at St. Peter's Prep School in Weston-super-Mare, Clifton College and Cambridge University. The second half of the book follows what he did after University and how he turned his University hobby of comedy writing and performances into a profession.

Cleese explains throughout how he and others came up with comic sketches, scenes and programs as well as providing insight into what makes certain types of jokes and scenes work. An aspiring comedian and/or, comic writer will no doubt find this useful and thought provoking.

There were some funny bits to this book and one of my favorites came early on when Cleese mentioned that he was offered a job at his former school St. Peter's before going of to Cambridge. When asked to teach the subjects of History, Geography and English he reminded the Headmaster that he had been a student of Science and didn't know anything about these other subjects. The headmaster told him not to worry, the boys were only ten years old so as long as he stayed a page ahead of them everything would be fine.

While this book was long on his professional career it was short on his personal life. Although he focuses quite a bit on his parents in the early part and he mentions his first marriage. The further one reads the less he reveals about personal relations other than with those connected to his professional work. Having said that, anyone who is a fan of John Cleese, Monty Python or British Comedy programs will find something to like in this book.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: Murder on the Eiffel Tower

Murder on the Eiffel Tower

Murder on the Eiffel Tower
Claude Izner

The story is set in 1889 during the Paris Expo. Several people have died mysterious deaths, all of which have been attributed to bee stings. Victor, a Parisian bookseller has his doubts about whether bee stings were the actual causes of death. As he investigates the circumstances surrounding the individuals who have died he begins to suspect that people around him, his friends and colleagues, are not who they seem to be. And little by little he begins to suspect those closest to him might have been the murderer.

If I'm honest, this book didn't really do anything for me. Somehow it lacked suspense and, the loads of historical details displayed throughout, came at the expense of character development. The story seemed flat and a little boring. There were lots of characters but little to make the reader feel connected to them. I was able to continue reading it as I wanted to find out who committed the murders. But even the ending didn't seem as engaging as it could have been.

I suspect a history buff interested in France in the late 19th century of in the Paris Expo specifically would appreciate this work and the research that went into it.

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: Bricking It

Bricking It

Bricking It
Nick Spalding

When Haley and Danny Daley inherit a derelict Victorian farmhouse from their deceased Grandmother, they decide to renovate with the intention to sell it later. Well, that's the plan anyway.

Through the renovation process they meet lots of entertaining characters and learn quite a lot about themselves. They also learn about a Grandmother they thought they knew but, who had an entirely unknown past. The story is funny, highly entertaining and full of surprises.

Anyone, who has undertaken a renovation project or just likes to watch home remodeling shows will no doubt find this a witty, lighthearted, and amusing read.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Review: Backstabbing in Beaujolais

Backstabbing in Beaujolais
Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen

Benjamin Cooker and his assistant Virgile are back in another installment of the Winemaker Detective series. They have been commissioned by Guillaume Périthiard to help restore a wine estate in Beaujolais. Mr. Périthiard wants to become a major force in the region where he grew up. But not everyone is happy about his plans. Things take a turn for the worse when one of his new employees dies while out hunting.

While overseeing the restoration of the vines and wine making equipment Benjamin and Virgile must find out who is behind the murderous attempts to sabotage Mr. Périthiard's business interests.

Once again the authors have written an interesting mystery full of beguiling characters, descriptions of delicious food, wine and scenery from the French countryside. I can't imagine a better way to spend a lazy afternoon, than with Benjamin and Virgile traveling around Beaujolais looking for answers to Mr. Périthiard's problems. All you need to accompany this book is a good glass of wine.

Thanks to Netgalley and Le French Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review Totenblässe

Totenblässe by Salim Güler
Salim Güler

Arndt Schumacher, Lübecker Kommissar will ermitteln, aber der Fall ist 30 Jahre alt und der Hauptzeuge ist nicht sehr glaubwuerdig. Kein Problem für Kommissar Schumacher weil er ein Gefühl im Bauch hat dem er folgen musst.

Dieser Krimi war spannend mit guten Charakteren. Mir hat die Geschichte gefallen. Freue mich schon auf den nächsten Roman von Salim Güler.

Ich danke Netgalley, die mir erlaubt haben dieses Buch zu lesen und eine Kritik zu geben.

A good book for anyone interested in a German language krimi.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: Hector and the Secrets of Love

Hector and the Secrets of Love
François Lelord

In this book Hector the main character is sent by a large Pharmaceutical company to find Professor Cormorant who has absconded with a promising love potion. While searching high and low around the world Hector contemplates the components of love and the effect these have not only on the general public but on his own relationships.

He discovers some universal truths about life and love along the way, mostly that love is complicated but essential. The simple tone of the work is refreshing and delightful. It's well observed, thoughtful and highly entertaining.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep
Patricia Sands

Like The Promise of Provence, book one in this series, the story follows Katherine on her journey to find love and happiness in the south of France with Philippe. It isn't all smooth sailing and Philippe has some secrets in his past that threaten to put the breaks on their relationship. Once again, the author creates interesting characters full of life. The reader is swept into the story, the scenery and the sights and smells of France. That makes this book the perfect getaway.

My only disappointment was that one female character, Simone had a story with the larger tale that was left unfinished. I felt a little let down that I didn't find out what role she played in events that unfolded near her villa. I'm not sure if this was intentional because the author is planning to write another installment in this series or if it was simply overlooked.

Otherwise, I found this to be a good book with in-depth characters set in a great location.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Lake Union for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: The Tsar of Love and Techno

The Tsar of Love and Techno
Anthony Marra

I loved this book. It was powerful, moving, sad, tragic and funny, everything one could want in a good book. The story begins in 1930's Leningrad with an art censor and from this starting point extends into the lives of so many other characters tied together in a spider's web of relations. There is the brother of the censor who is already a condemned enemy of the state. There is Galina, who looms large in the story as a descendant of a prima ballerina who has beauty but little dance talent. Then there is Kolya, Galina's first boyfriend whose life is just not what it could have been. And others who have tried their best to make sense out of like and pass on something of their past for better or worse.

The stories introduce the reader to individual characters and to his or her trials and tribulations and then diverge into other characters, weaving them into the story that tracks highs and lows, pasts and presents and in some cases beyond.

I particularly like the layout that was designed to resemble a cassette tape with two sides and an intermission. It was a unique and clever idea. Maybe not surprising since Marra is a master storyteller able to mix tragedy with farce in a way few writers can. In short, I found this work mesmerizing and hard to put down.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review: A Question of Inheritance

A Question of Inheritance
Elizabeth Edmondson

A new Earl has been found in America. Gus Mason was surprised to learn that his unknown father had been the 17th Earl of Selchester. He has been invited to Selchester Castle to fulfill his role as the new heir. Not everyone is happy to see him. His half sister Sonia is furious since she had assumed there was no heir and she wold get the lot. Other residents feel threatened by the new Earl's arrival. Several lodgers will have to move out of the Castle, which they find annoying. To make matters worse, the new American Earl's two daughters are not happy about having to move to England.

When a murder is committed at the Castle, no one is sure who the intended victim really was or who the murderer is. But the inhabitants of the Castle plan to figure it out even if it takes a little time and effort.

This is an engaging story that will appeal to fans of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, or anyone who likes a good murder mystery set in the English countryside. It's a classic British mystery set in the 1950's.

Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher Thomas & Mercer for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: The Promise of Provence

The Promise of Provence (Love in Provence Book 1)

The Promise of Provence
Patricia Sands

The Promise of Provence is a wonderful tale of a woman in search of herself. Katherine is a fifty-five year old woman with a nice life in Toronto. She has a good job as a researcher and a happy marriage, that is until James, her husband leaves her an anniversary bouquet with a note saying he wants a divorce. As Katherine's world falls apart she relies on friends and family to help her pick up the pieces and start again.

Her life takes on a new twist when her cousin suggests she try a house exchange holiday in France. What follows is a journey on the way to a new outlook on life, new friends and a new beginning as Katherine realizes she is not too old or too scared to take on new adventures and challenges in her life.

This story is so well told that I felt like I was with Katherine in the south of France. I could picture the sights, sounds and smells from the generous descriptions. All in all, I felt the book allowed me to join Katherine on personal journey and  an adventure where I learned about a new country and culture along the way.

I'm probably not the only reader who would love to see this book made into a film. The characters and the scenery would be great for it. Needless to say, I can't wait to read the second book in this series.

Thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

DVD: Rosemary and Thyme

Rosemary and Thyme
I loved this British mystery series that was set in beautiful gardens, starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris. I have all three seasons and I always wanted more. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find a French inspired version on youtube. It's called Crimes et Botanique. Although it was inspired by the British version it has its own stories which are set in the south of France. 

If you are a fan of Rosemary and Thyme, check out Crimes et Botanique and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: Napoleon: A Concise Biography

Napoleon: A Concise Biography
David A. Bell

This is a short biography about Napoleon that was a delight to read. What's great about this book is the fact that the reader does not get bogged down in battle after battle or some other obscure facts. It paints a broad picture of Napoleon's life, his achievements and his disasters and follies.

The author states clearly at the beginning of the book that Napoleon was a product of two great changes that came about during his time. The French Revolution which led to new power structures and authority forms. It changed the lives of those not born int aristocratic families, who could now exploit new avenues of social mobility. There were new methods of warfare and military technology that could be exploited by revolutionary armies.

This book highlights, both his major successes such as the introduction of the Napoleonic code which still exists in France, most parts of Europe and Latin America as well as his ability to successfully wage war across vast areas. It becomes clear in the book that while he was able to accomplish more than most mortals, his very success may have been part of his downfall. He wanted to be known as a son of the revolution. But he sensed that in order to create a stable situation in France, he had to extend his revolutionary zeal outwards to "keep the ball rolling" so to speak. He seemed aware that in order to be loved and respected he had to keep wining. Paradoxically, to keep winning meant severe hardship for his own men and for those who lost against him, thus provoking further conflict.

This work shows Napoleon's complex nature and the political and economic currents of the time and how and why it was that some either loved or hated him. No matter how one feels about his successes or failures it is hard to imagine a less fascinating figure in European or World history. It's also hard to imagine a man who had more impact on European and World history during and well beyond this period.

David Bell gives readers a framework with which to delve deeper into the life and history of both Napoleon and Europe during this time. In my opinion, that alone makes this book worth reading. Just to complete the package, Mr. Bell provides the reader with interesting footnotes and other bibliographic sources that makes further reading on the subject tempting.

Thanks to Netgalley and Oxford University Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: The Other Son

The Other Son
Alexander Söderberg

A thrilling, fast paced story that you won't be able to put down.

When several international criminal gangs vie for each others' territory and businesses things are bound to get messy. Innocent and not so innocent people get caught up in the action. Sophie Brinkmann is not exception. She's been the nurse of Hector Guzman and later ended up in a relationship with him, until he's almost killed. By then its too late for her to escape the organization and she's forced to take on a bigger role in the "family business". She knows to much to be allowed to walk out. With two other rival organizations out to take over the Guzman's interests, she is needed more than ever by Hector's confidants who are trying desperately to keep things together. Everyone wants something from Sophie. Is she in over her head? Only time will tell whether she will find a way out.

What unfolds in The Other Son, is a fascinating tale of intrigue,betrayal and action across numerous countries in an atmosphere of treachery that sucks in everyone, good or bad, in its path. Söderberg is clearly an author to watch. Readers of the late Henning Mankell and Stieg Larrson will not want to miss this book. It's well written, well organized into fairly short chapters that take the reader into every corner of the various criminal gangs and into the police which is supposed to contain criminal elements. Sometimes its hard to tell the two apart.

While this is part of a trilogy which began with The Andalusian Friend, it can be read as a stand alone. However, now that I've read this one I definitely want to go back to the first book, which I missed. And, of course I'll be waiting for the next installment. If this one was anything to go by, I can't wait to read it.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review: George's Grand Tour

George's Grand Tour

George's Grand Tour
Caroline Vermalle 

A joy to read! This warmhearted tale made me laugh and cry. When 83 year old George and his neighbor Charles decide to follow the 3,500 km route of the Tour de France they were looking for adventure. In fact, they thought at their age it might be the last chance they had to take such a journey. They didn't know that the journey would literally change their lives and the lives around them.

Throughout the story we see George and Charles become more than just neighbors. Through modern technology they remain not just connected to family and friends but, were able to build relationships and deep bonds where none existed before. This book is a great read for all ages and it shows that even though we age we are never to old to be young at heart.

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: Revenge on the River

Revenge on the River
Philippe Bouin

When Cédric Bergelet is attacked and injured and his father's large chemical company gets threatening letters it is assumed that someone from the past has his sights set on blackmail or revenge. Sister Blandine is close to the family and therefore takes on a leading role in the investigation to uncover the true identity of the culprit behind further attacks on company employees.

Mr. Bouin has written a lively mystery that is full of biting wit and told from various points of view, giving the reader a look into the minds of each character. The modern style of writing was unexpected. Although I found it jarring at first, this approach did make the characters seem more alive and realistic. The style might not be to everyone's taste but I was drawn in and wanted to know how the mystery would end.  

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

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Blood Kin

Blood Kin

Blood Kin
Ceridwen Dovey 

It's hard to imagine a book about a political coup being sensual, exotic, beautiful and terrifying at the same time, but that is just what this book is. it follows three prisoners of the coup d'etat, the former President's portraitist, his chef and his barber. Each character, both near and far to the center of power will draw the reader into his  most personal details, his hopes and dreams, his past and present to create a complex web of what seems at first a harmless existence only to reveal in the end the true nature of power.

Although, this is not a new book, as it was originally published in 2007, I came across it by accident. I can honestly say that this is one of the better books that I've read this year. If you are looking for something unique this is the one I would recommend. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: A Beautiful Blue Death

A Beautiful Blue Death
Charles Finch

Charles Lenox is an amateur detective in London with a passion for solving crimes. In his current case he has to find out why a maid has been killed. His task may not be as straight forward as he initially thought. But, he has a set of friends and associates who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

Set in the 1860's this story takes place in large mansions and gentleman's clubs. It is full of well described surroundings that give the reader a real sense of place. It incorporates loads of details and its atmosphere fully draws the reader into the story. Anyone who loves British mysteries will enjoy this novel. It will make you want to curl up next to a fire with a cup of tea and a hobnob, and help Lenox solve the case. When you finish, like me you'll be waiting for, and wanting to read more of detective Lenox.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to review this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: The Professor Is In

The Professor Is In
Karen Kelsky PhD

If you are thinking about a PhD, in the process of completing a PhD or have one and find yourself looking for the elusive tenure-track position, then this is a book you can't afford to miss. Dr. Kelsky demystifies the process of a tenure-track job by explaining how it actually works, from the onset when a department decides to create an open position to what the selection committee is looking for, right up to how a possible candidate is selected.

This book is full of good advice, from how to improve documents such as a professional CV or grant proposal, to what to wear to a job interview. This type of advice is not always readily available from advisers, mentors or academic departments and what makes it more reliable is the fact that Dr. Kelsky was a tenure-track professor. She therefore has the inside information that graduate students and post-doctorates need.

For those of you who think you have become a bit of a failure because you haven't found a permanent position or a tenure-track position think again. Dr. Kelsky gives some advice about seeking employment outside the academic world. In fact, she has a list of skills you may have acquired in your pursuit for a higher degree that may translate well in the nonacademic world.

Hopefully, future students will read the chapter entitled "Debt and Ethical Advising", which should make one think long and hard about how much debt one can reasonably expect to incur and actually pay off. While I wouldn't want to discourage someone from attempting a graduate degree, I think these days it has to be done with some realistic financial planning and a realization that the tenure-track jobs that used to be readily available, are no longer there and the positions that are may not make the financial investment worth it.

If this book taught me one thing, it is the fact that graduate students and post-doctorates must not rely on others, be they academic advisers, financial advisers or mentors, they must make sound judgments based on their own experience and research. For that reason alone this book is invaluable.

Review copy provided by in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: White Leopard

White Leopard
Laurent Guillaume

Solo Camara isn't your usual retired policeman turned  private investigator. He has a past, a dangerous one. Now that he's a wanted man in France he has settled in the West African country of Mali, his father's homeland. It's here in Bamako, the capital city that Camara takes on a case to help a woman whose sister has been arrested for drug trafficking. But, when she turns up dead all hell breaks loose. Camara must follow his instincts if he wants to find out what happened to her, even if it gets him into some tricky situations.

This is a gritty, fast paced, graphic novel full of action, unlike anything I've read recently. The setting is exotic and the characters diverse. The author created the right balance between back story and the main characters dilemma. It was also a good look into how things work, or in some cases don't work in West Africa. I hope Solo Camara will be back with more cases to solve soon.

Thanks to Netgalley and Le French Book for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: Southern Medley and a Sordid Affair

Southern Medley and a Sordid Affair
P.T. Borden

A griping, well written tale worth reading. The main character is a bit naive when she sets off on an extra marital affair with what it clearly the "wrong" sort of man, who was not at all what he appeared to be. The story follows the affair of Petra, who like many women are both bored and disillusioned with life, and the drama that ensues from it. The characters are interesting and its full of psychological ups and downs, which will keep you glued to the pages. Frankly, it would make a very interesting movie.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Review: A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson

Another great read from Bill Bryson, which will make you laugh out loud in some places and nearly cry in others. I almost wanted to grab some gear and set out on the Appalachian Trail myself, ...almost.

With a keen eye for detail, Bryson fills us in, not only on the history of the trail, but the current state of it. Even though the trail is surrounded by millions of people as it cuts its way from Northern Georgia to Maine, hardly anyone knows it as well as the few hardy souls who dare to conquer it from end to end each year. The rest of us would probably be happier to drive along Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina or visit the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and view the magnificent vistas without necessarily feeling the need to become one with the elements. But thanks to Bill Bryson and his friend, Stephen Katz, we can follow their ups and downs as they try to claim the trail as there own. With humor and a loving regard for nature, Bryson takes us through a national treasure that we should probably all appreciate and experience more than we do.

This book will make you happy that there is still someone out there up for an adventure and able to spin an engaging tale for the rest of us to enjoy from the comforts of home. This is clearly the best of travel writing.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Dew Point

Dew Point
Maria Novella Viganò

The past can be a new beginning. When Margherita's husband dumps her for his mistress she is overwhelmed and decides to seek refuge in her past by moving back to her childhood villa. Along the way secrets are revealed that will change her and those around her.

While I found the beginning of the story a bit choppy it got better as I went along. In the end, I couldn't stop reading. I really wanted to know the secrets of her family as well as how things would turn out for Margherita. Overall, the book was interesting and engaging but it was very short, almost too short. A longer version would have given more space to develop the characters and expand on all of their stories.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest reveiw.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: Smart but Dead

Smart but Dead
Nancy G. West

The description and cover of Smart but Dead by Nancy G. West suggested that this book would be a fun and humorous mystery. I didn't find that to be the case. Instead it was flat and not very engaging. Overall, I think there was too much “telling” and not enough “showing” in this story. There were things that bothered me as I read this book, for example while Aggie the main character, is supposed to be a mature student at 41, her behavior seemed more like that of a juvenile teenager. I didn't feel that there was enough character development in the first half of the story and it was a bit jarring that Aggie suddenly revealed, she had a child more than half way through the story. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more foreshadowing giving more depth to the characters at the start of the story.

It may be just a personal preference but I didn't really enjoy the style of writing in this book. To me, it seemed more corny than humorous. While the overall story about a Professor and his work on genetics is not a bad one, I think it would have benefited from a less flippant approach. The story was set in San Antonio but there seemed little in the way of description and atmosphere of that city to make it come alive in the book. Basically, the setting could have been on any campus in any city in the US since there were too few “scenes” of San Antonio.

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 28, 2015

DVD: Death in Paradise

One of my favorite TV series at the moment is Death in Paradise. I've got all three seasons available in the US and I'm just waiting for Season Four to become available.

If you haven't seen this show its about a British Police Officer sent to a small island in the Caribbean to solve a murder. The only thing is, he doesn't quite appreciate his tropical surroundings. The characters are great and so is the scenery. I've also just noticed that the creator and writer of the series Robert Thorogood has come out with a novel based on the  characters in the show called A Meditation on Murder. When I get around to reading it I'll come back and post a review.