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.