Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Paris Nights

Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge

Paris Nights
My Year at the Moulin Rouge
Cliff Simon

Cliff Simon, a South African native, got the chance of a lifetime when his friend Gavin informed him that there was a position as a dancer available at the famed Moulin Rouge in Paris. He didn't hesitate to get the next plane to Paris where he would spend the next year in the cabaret troupe: first as a swing dancer, then as chorus boy, and ultimately as a principle performer. This book explores his year in Paris, which was full of fun, friends, adventure, and the hard work of regularly performing two shows a night.

If the aim of a good memoir is to let the reader into someone's life and give them a taste of some interesting and unique experiences, then this book definitely measures up. It gives the reader information about the author's early life and what he did before he moved to Paris. That in itself was interesting and set the stage for his year in France. The book was entertaining as well. I got a real sense of the author's character and personality. Some of the adventures mentioned, especially the one involving the shady Jean Paul, were fascinating. I had the feeling that "Cleef," as his French friends referred to him, never experienced a dull moment in the City of Lights.

I particularly liked the fact that none of the anecdotes were left unfinished. The reader found out exactly what happened to all the characters mentioned in the book. The inclusion of numerous photos was a great idea. It made me feel like I had a better connection to the author, his friends, and family. And while this book was meant to cover his year in Paris, I appreciated the fact that the ending told me how the author's life progressed after he left Paris. It's clear that he enjoyed a good challenge and was not afraid to take risks, which no doubt led to his ability to create a life he enjoyed and memories he could share with others.

Originally written for and published by San Francisco Book Review.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: The Glorious Heresies

The Glorious Heresies

The Glorious Heresies
Lisa McInerney

Maureen has just killed a man. It was an accident of course but, now her son Jimmy has to call in a local guy, Tony to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, for Tony, he recognizes the dead man but he neglects to tell Jimmy. From this point on events take on a life of their own and we meet other characters, like Tony's son Ryan, who is about to slide down the slippery slope into the world of drug dealing and all that comes with it. Ryan's girlfriend Karine, is trying to stay with him through thick and thin but it gets harder every day.

Maureen is haunted by the ghost of the dead man and a lot of other things in her past. She hasn't yet found a way of dealing with it, but she keeps looking. Then she meets Georgie the former girlfriend of the dead man. Once a prostitute, Georgie has been taken in by a cult. She means to find Robbie, the deceased. Of course that isn't in the interest of anyone, least of all Georgie. As their lives intersect they are all caught up in something that can't be undone. Nevertheless, they are all looking for something, love, meaning, redemption but will they find it on the dark, seething streets of Ireland?

This book is bold, brash, sad, funny and oh so good. It's hard not to get wrapped up in the destructive lives of these memorable characters. McInerney has a unique style and the ability to weave a fabulous tale that's hard to put down. This is clearly Irish storytelling at its best.

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Nice Work (If You Can Get It)

Nice Work (If You Can Get It)

Nice Work (If You Can Get It)
Celia Imrie

Several expats living in the south of France, Bellevue-Sur-Mer to be exact, want to start a restaurant. Things get off to a rocky start when they need to come up with money they don't have for all sorts of renovations. More importantly, the building they have leased seems to hold some family valuables that the late owners' extended family will stop at nothing to get back.

Not all of the local expats want to go into the restaurant business, Sally for instance has to disappoint her friends when she decides she just isn't up for the challenge. But it isn't long before she is caught up in a whirlwind romance with a handsome, mysterious Russian millionaire. Although, he may turn out to be more of a nightmare than the man of her dreams.

While this book started a bit slow, the pace picked up as I went along. There was enough action and development in the story to keep me interested in how things would turn out. I did feel that the characters could have been more developed because often they seemed to blend in to each other and I had to remind myself, which character I was following. This was especially true with the numerous female characters. I just didn't get a real visual image of each character, which would have made for a more engaging story.

Overall, I found it fun, entertaining and light reading. A good book to take to the beach or just to relax with if you can't get to the beach.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review: All Around the Town

All Around the Town

All Around the Town
Mary Higgins Clark

This is my first time reading a Mary Higgins Clark novel. Although I see her books all the time in the bookstore, I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to actually read one. In this particular story, Laurie a twenty year old college student is accused of killing one of her professors, Allan Grant. But Laurie is suffering from a multiple personality disorder, largely caused by the fact that she was abducted when she was four years old. Now its up to her older sister Sarah to prove that Laurie didn't kill Professor Grant. Not only does Laurie's extra personalities make this difficult, it is also hard to see who else could have had a motive for the killing.

This is a fascinating story full of tension and suspense. There are many interesting characters involved as well as a multi-layered plot and enough twists to keep readers turning the pages. I personally found it hard to put down.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: Dishing the Dirt

Dishing the Dirt (Agatha Raisin, #26)

Dishing the Dirt: An Agatha Raisin Mystery
M.C. Beaton

When a new therapist Jill Davent comes to Carsely, a village in the Cotswold, she stirs up no end of trouble. For one thing, she is spreading rumors about Agatha Raisin, the village's local private investigator. After Agatha confronts Ms. Davent, she ends up dead. Of course Agatha feels compelled to find a motive and a murderer. Not easy, when the police consider her the number one suspect.

What follows is a fun lighthearted mystery in which Agatha's colleagues, friends and an ex-husband lend their help in trying to catch the killer before he or she strikes again. The story is full of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. Agatha Raisin is a loveable character full of contradictions and with a knack for attracting the wrong men. The other characters are well depicted and occasionally eccentric.

Overall, the story is an entertaining one. I can't think of a better way of spending a lazy afternoon, curled up on the sofa, following Agatha Raisin on the hunt for a killer. This is definitely a book that will appeal to those who enjoy the typical English village murder story.

Review Originally written for and published by Manhattan Book Review

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Review: Modern Potluck

Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share

Modern Potluck
Kristin Donnelly

Modern Potluck is full of fun and interesting recipes that could definitely improve most “potluck meals”. I also think these recipes could be used for any type of large or small gathering. One good thing about the recipes is that they are already designed to feed larger numbers. So you don't have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make enough for a crowd. I particularly like that many of the recipes cater to vegetarians and are often gluten free, which means if you want to make something that all your guests will love you will not have to look far in this book for something interesting.

I especially appreciate the notes at the beginning regarding salting and seasoning and how to find the best balance by seasoning a dish as it is being prepared. The useful rules about a potluck dinner also are full of common sense advice that one might tend to forget. For example, if you are making a dish for a potluck meal held outside your own home, you will need to think about how well the dish will travel, or what additional supplies you might need to have on hand at the time of serving the dish. Overall, I think this is a useful cookbook for those who want to make something modern but not overly complicated. The photos are appealing and the recipes are clear and easy to follow. Some of my favorites dishes include, Indian-spiced spinach yogurt dip, many bean salad, spiced carrot and goat cheese strudel and the lemon-berry bundt cake. I could go on and on there are so many good things in the book. Just keep in mind, the next time you need to cook for a large group this is a book worth consulting.

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review: The Witch's List

The Witch's List

The Witch's List
Andrew Cairns

Sandy Beech is a good Scottish, catholic boy who doesn't believe in black magic, witches or anything involving the supernatural. He is quite sure there is a logical explanation for everything but, is he right? Sandy is drawn to dark skinned women, especially those from Africa. His first girlfriend Gabriella is from Kenya but their relationship doesn't last, due to family pressure, on Gabriella's side and what they see as cultural differences. Although he is warned by a mysterious dying nun to stay away from African women, Sandy isn't able to get over Gabriella for a long time. Eventually he finds her replacement in France where he is an Erasmus exchange student. Roquelle or “Rocky” for short is from the Ivory Coast and she has all the exotic characteristics Sandy is looking for. After an initially peaceful marriage things take a turn for the worse when the pair aren't able to conceive a child. Sandy hopes a visit to the Ivory Coast and Rocky's ancestral village will get their relationship back on track but what he finds might surprise everyone. The Witch's list may draw him into a world he is not sure really exists.

Initially, I was drawn to this book by the terrific cover and I'm happy to say that the book as a whole did not let me down. It was engaging and well written. Having studied in a Scottish University and having done some research in West Africa both parts of this story appealed to me. The descriptions were captivating and the characters were well portrayed. Throughout the story I felt like I was right there with Sandy in the middle of the action, peering over his shoulder. I'm happy to see from the back cover of the book that this is the first of a trilogy. I can't wait to read more.

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