Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
Mario Giordano

When Isolde Oberrieter, better known as Poldi moves from her native Bavaria to Sicily, the homeland of her former husband Peppe, her in-laws think it might be due to depression. They also think that she might intend to settle in her apartment with a view and drink herself into oblivion.

When Poldi's handyman Valentino goes missing and eventually turns up dead, she suddenly has
more on her mind than alcohol. She decides that she will find the killer before the police. Of course, that may be easier said than done. But then again larger than life, Poldi isn't one to give up once she gets her teeth into something.

I loved this book. The fact that the story was told by Poldi's nephew, a struggling writer, meant that I got a fascinating glimpse into Poldi's character and lifestyle. The descriptions were fabulous and after this adventure I'm hooked. I'm hoping that Poldi will have another case soon, so that I can get lost in Sicily once again. I certainly felt this one would make a fantastic movie.

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Review: Death of an Honest Man

Death of an Honest Man (Hamish Macbeth #33)

Death of an Honest Man
MC Beaton

There's a new man in town. Paul English has retired to the highlands after leaving his banking job in Stirling. He has a reputation for giving his honest opinion. Unfortunately, many find it his “honest opinions” simply rude and intolerable. After insulting almost everyone imaginable, it's no surprise that when his body is found on the moor, Sergeant Hamish Macbeth and his ever changing cast of police assistants have a number of suspects to consider.

Hamish has his eye on one suspect in particular but, Detective Chief Inspector Blair, who is no fan of Hamish is set on sabotaging anything and everything he does. In some ways, Hamish doesn't mind if he doesn't get all the credit for his detective work, especially if it means he can continue working in his cherished village of Lochdubh. He couldn't image living anywhere else.

Death of an Honest Man was a joy to read. The characters are fun, lovable and always entertaining. I can't seem to get enough of Hamish and his own brand of highland justice. I can't wait to read more.

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us
The Wife Between Us
Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

This story charts the rise and fall of the marriage between Nellie and Richard. While married to Richard, Nellie feels that she is being followed and that she needs the constant protection of Richard. She is grateful to have him, a powerful hedge fund manager who, for all intents and purposes is devoted to her. But as the story progresses, a magnificent slight of hand turns the story you thought you were reading into a different tale, one far more sinister and troubling. This clever psychological drama is skillfully plotted and well-written. I'm sure most readers will be unable to put it down. I know I was. Without giving too much away all I can really say is; don't miss this one. This is by far one of the most interesting books I've read this year. I can't imagine what these two authors could cook up next.

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review: Noelle

Noelle (A Dog Named Christmas #3)

Greg Kincaid

Just in time for Christmas, a warm-hearted tale about a family, a community, and a dog. Noelle, better known as Elle didn't have a good start in life, but that doesn't mean she isn't wanted. Todd, her owner, is sure he can train her to be a good service dog, even if it is proving to be a severe challenge.

The holiday season is bringing other challenges as well to the small town of Crossing Trails, Kansas. Todd's mother Anna McCray had managed to get herself into a fix by agreeing to play the role of Anna Claus this Christmas. While she wants to bring a message of giving rather than receiving this year she isn't prepared for that message to reach beyond her small town. Her success takes her further afield and her husband George is left to take up some of her chores around the house and plan for some unexpected events.

Christmas may never be the same in Crossing Trails but this year will definitely be a memorable one. This is a story that is sure to get anyone who reads it into the holiday spirit. I could just imagine this being made into a Hallmark television movie.

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Margaret Tudor

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots: The Life of King Henry VIII's Sister

Margaret Tudor
Queen of Scots
Sarah-Beth Watkins

I so enjoy reading and learning about, what is for me at least, the lesser known Tudors. While I was aware that Henry VIII had two sisters, I didn't know that much about them. At times reading about Margaret, the oldest sister, I felt almost sorry for her. So often in her life, she seemed torn between her allegiance to her two countries of England and Scotland and her husbands and her brother. The one constant for her was the interest of her son James V which she put above everything else. It seems a pity that he didn't necessarily appreciate that as he came into his own as King of Scotland. It also appears that she would have found the distance and distrust between her son and her brother painful to bare.

This book provided a fascinating look into the life of a complex and vital woman who seemed so close to power at times but so isolated and alone at others. I also enjoyed the last chapter which charts Margaret's legacy and that of her offspring. It helps put everything that followed her into context.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: Saving Tarboo Creek

Saving Tarboo Creek: One Family’s Quest to Heal the Land

Saving Tarboo Creek
Scott Freeman

This book follows the trials and tribulations of the Freeman family as they set out to restore the damaged Tarboo Creek in Washington State. It took time, patience and dedication to find the balance needed to bring the creek back to point where it could support local wildlife, especially spawning salmon. Who knew the life of the salmon was so precarious? It seems a wonder to me that any have survived at all considering the changes that have occurred to our rivers and streams over the decades.

The best thing about this book was that it encouraged me to take a closer look at the environment around me, especially the local wildlife. Having access to a green belt development in my city means that I have seen beavers, heron, rabbits, snakes and squirrels that I might otherwise have missed. I probably did not appreciate this as much as I should have. And if there was one thing that I will take away from this book it's the idea that we should treat the land as we would treat each other. A simple but profound message.

I do wish this book had contained some maps of the area and maybe some photos of restoration activities which would have given me a more intimate connection to the story and the family as well. Nevertheless I found this an interesting and informative read.

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Kristen Kish Cooking

Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques

Kristen Kish Cooking
Kristen Kish

I have to admit I did not know anything about Kristen Kish before receiving this book. But with the informative introduction I came away with an appreciation of her life and work as a chef. The book itself is beautifully presented, it's both fresh and modern with wonderful photos and interesting recipes.

If I'm honest I will say that there were some recipes that I know I will not be trying, for example the octopus the Bay Scallop Crudo or the Hamachi. But, there were others that I felt I could easily tackle, for instance the Braised Baby Potatoes, Rigatoni with Walnuts or the Spring Pea Toast. I think this book is one that would inspire me to try something new in the kitchen. I also think this would make a great gift for the aspiring chef or someone who wants to be creative in the kitchen.

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: Doorways of Paris

Doorways of Paris

Doorways of Paris
Raquel Puig

I loved Doorways of Paris. The cover was beautiful and I can't wait to display this one on my coffee table over the holidays. Speaking of holidays, I think this would be a great gift idea for travel buffs, or those interested in art and architecture. If there is a downside to the beautifully presented book, it is only the lack of more details about the photos. I would have loved a little more text and a maybe more historical tidbits. Having said that, I still enjoyed this book very much.

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review: The Immortalists

The Immortalists

The Immortalists
Chloe Benjamin

What a fantastic book this was. There was something so addictive about it, and I find it hard to put my finger on what it was that made this so riveting. This was one of the most interesting books I've read recently.

Daniel, Varya, Klara and Simon are siblings from New York, who, at a young age, encounter a medium who reveals their future as well as the day of their deaths. When their father Saul dies the children, now ranging between the early twenties and sixteen, decide to seek out their paths in life, moving away from home to fulfill their dreams and ambitions. They have all been affected differently as a result of the information given to them by the mysterious fortune teller. Throughout this book, we follow each one as they make choices and decisions that affect not just the outcome of their lives but also their relationships with each other.

The effect is a clever and thoughtful story that gives the reader an intimate glimpse into each life and, while it sounds like it might result in a story that is somewhat predictable, it does not. I think this is what makes this book such a success, and the fact that the reader comes away with the feeling that this is a family they now feel intimately connected to and know very well. It forces one to think about destiny, fate, and self-determination not just about these characters but about life in general.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and G.P. Putnam's Sons for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Review: How to Set a Table

How to Set a Table: Inspiration, Ideas, and Etiquette for Hosting Friends and Family

How to Set a Table
Clarkson Potter

This small book would make a wonderful gift for someone either just starting out or moving to a new home. The fabric cover makes it look elegant and expensive. Inside it offers some good tips about which pieces of tableware to select and why one might want one as opposed to the other.

Having purchased a new set of flatware recently from Oneida, I was quite pleased to be able to review this book. While to be honest there isn't a great deal of depth to this book; it does provide a source of inspiration for creating beautiful table settings. It doesn't just focus on formal dinner parties either; it shows examples for informal dinners or even takeout dinners. So why keep all the good pieces locked away in the China cabinet, have some fun once in a while, or every night for that matter and set a beautiful table. It just might elevate dinner to another level.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Review: Nollywood The Making of a Film Empire

Image result for nollywood the making of a film empire
The Making of a Film Empire
Emily Witt

This was an easy to read, brief history of how Nigeria developed a film industry with its own unique voice. It looks at the hardships faced by film makers, actors and distributors and how much has changed in the past twenty or so years. Thus, giving the reader an insight into what makes this industry tick.

I loved the fact that the author was able to capture the chaotic, liveliness of a country with such a diverse population. I appreciated the details of the various films which were showcased. They all sounded like films I would love to see. In the end, this book made me more interested in African story telling in general and what the film industry in Nigeria might produce in the future.

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: A Well-Crafted Home

A Well-Crafted Home: Inspiration and 60 Projects for Personalizing Your Space

A Well-Crafted Home
Janet Crowther

This book is sure to please those who love the process of creating. Not only does it contain 60 projects to choose from but, it will no doubt inspire you to come up with your own projects for the home. I liked that the book was arranged according to rooms within the house and each project contained clear and easy to follow instruction. Whether you want to create something for the bedroom or the living room, this book has it covered.

Initially, I was interested in this book because it had several projects that focused on fabric dying and creating pillows. I'm happy to say that I found many other interesting things that I felt I could also attempt. I fell in love with the idea of creating my own stencil brush artwork, which seems a great way to liven up the walls in my home. I also loved the gemstone box project (who doesn't like a sparkle in the home) and, while the author created this project with a galvanized still container I'm hoping to do the same with a wooden box. Frankly, there are so many crafty ideas in this beautiful book that I can't imagine readers not being smitten by it.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Review: Anatomy of a Scandal

Anatomy of a Scandal
Anatomy of a Scandal
Sarah Vaughan

This book opens with a legal case. A junior minister in the British Government, James Whitehouse, has been charged with rape. But the case isn't going to be easy or straightforward for Kate Woodcroft the prosecuting QC. Not only has the victim had an affair with the minister prior to her accusation of rape but Kate Woodcroft has her own secrets, regarding her past as an Oxford student. And then there is the wife of the accused, Sophie who wants to believe her husband's version of events, otherwise the life she knows will be shattered.

As the author moves between the past and present, examining each character and his or her motives and beliefs, it becomes clear that the perception of truth varies greatly between each actor. Interesting and compelling, I found that as I got further and further into the story I had a hard time putting it down.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and Atria Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: The Windfall

The Windfall

The Windfall
Diksha Basu

Thanks to his business acumen, Mr. Anil Jha is finally moving his family to a newer and perhaps more importantly, wealthier neighborhood in Delhi, India. But, moving means acquiring new friends, new experiences and coping with new expectations. And Mr. Jha is spending a lot of time anticipating these changes, just as his new neighbors are anticipating his arrival. Mrs. Jha on the other hand, is not sure the move is really right for her but, she is willing to accommodate her husbands desire to move up the social ladder.

Will the Jha family fit into their new neighborhood and will life be better in this new area than it was in the middle class neighborhood they have occupied for the last thirty years? What about their son Rupak who is, at the time of the move, in the US trying to get an MBA. Is his place in the US or India and what will really decide his future, his own desires or those of his parents? Read along and find out in this hilarious, Indian comedy of manners.

What is success and what does family really mean? Those are the big questions at the heart of this book. The author does a great job examining contemporary India. I loved the attention to detail she shows throughout the story. The characters are lovable and entertaining. In fact, I laughed most of the way through this book. I couldn't help but think what a great film could be made from this story. Diksha Basu is definitely an author I would want to read again.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: Sweet Bean Paste

Sweet Bean Paste

Sweet Bean Paste
Durian Sukegawa

Sentaro sells pancakes with sweet bean paste from a small Japanese shop. It isn't something he enjoys, but he has a debt to pay and therefore, he endures. When an elderly lady named Tokue comes to work at the shop, all is good and sales increased due to her wonderful homemade bean paste recipe. Sentaro begins to enjoy his work for the first time. But, Tokue has a dark secret which will affect not just their friendship but the business of selling pancakes as well.

This sweet addictive tale is set in contemporary Japan and it's all about second chances and learning how to listen to the world around us. Only by listening can we recognize that all humans have value and we all do our part to validate the universe around us. While this book appears deceptively simple it's actually deeply profound and a very good read. I always enjoy discovering international writers like Sukegawa that were previously unknown to me. I can't wait to read more international fiction provided by Oneworld.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review: The Dark Lake

The Dark Lake (Gemma Woodstock, #1)
The Dark Lake
Sarah Bailey

When a high school teacher, Rosalind Ryan's body is found floating in a lake near her school, it falls to Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock to find the killer. The only thing is, Woodstock has a dark secret that involved Rosalind that may get in the way of her investigation. Moreover, Gemma is carrying on an affair with her married partner Detective Felix McKinnon, which threatens to spill over into her everyday life and the investigation. It's unclear whether the duo will be able to find the killer of the enigmatic, beautiful teacher. But despite her complicated life Gemma intends to keep searching.

I found this book to be an interesting mystery but not quite as “thrilling' as I had imagined it would be. While the story is set in Australia, I didn't feel the author did much to transport me there. It seemed like a story that could have been anywhere, which was a little disappointing to me. Also, about halfway through the story, I got a little tired of detective Woodstock's love life and the affair with her colleague. It seemed to drag along, and she appeared to moan about her problems too much, which left me, if not disliking her, then certainly not feeling great affection for her.

Luckily, there was an unforeseen twist in the story a little more than mid-way through that brought me back around and changed the focus back to the investigation. I think that made this book more enjoyable. While this is not a bad book, it also isn't the most interesting or thrilling one I've read lately.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and Grand Central Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: Footsteps

The New York Times: Footsteps: From Ferrante's Naples to Hammett's San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World

The New York Times

Footsteps provides a fascinating look at the lives of a number of celebrated authors. I can't think of better way to a “behind the scenes” look at what made so many literary figures tick. Whether it was a place or an experience these essays will provide book lovers with hours of entertainment. In fact, I think this would make a great gift idea for the book lovers in your life.

And while we may not be able to travel the path of our favorite authors in a literal sense we definitely get a feel of their surrounding and inspirations in this unique book. My personal favorite was the piece “In search of Flannery O'Connor” by Lawrence Downes in which I was a little sad to learn of the shabby condition of her childhood home. I felt Downes captured the essence of her life and gave me a new perspective with which to view her work. There were many other interesting pieces as well and I thoroughly enjoyed those on Hemingway and Fitzgerald to name a few. The best part about this book though, is the fact that you can pick it up anytime and find some interesting snippet about a variety of authors. This was an enchanting read.

 Thanks to Blogging for Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: The Tea Planter's Wife

The Tea Planter's Wife

The Tea Planter's Wife
Dinah Jefferies

After marrying Laurence a widower and tea planter, Gwen moves with him to Ceylon to start their new life together. But, things aren't going as smoothly as she had hoped. Verity, Gwen's sister-in-law, is constantly trying to undermine her position and role in the household. Christina, a wealthy American woman, has designs on Laurence, making Gwen jealous and uncomfortable. Tensions increase when Gwen befriends a local Sinhalese painter Savi Ravasinghe and with political tensions in the country on tender hooks and laborers ready to instigate trouble, running a tea plantation may not be as easy as she imagines.

Gwen is hoping the birth of a child will bring both peace and tranquility to the household but the birth causes more pain and suffering and Gwen's life becomes beset with secrecy and fear. On top of her own, secrets Laurence's' first marriage which ended in the death of his wife Caroline is still shrouded in mystery. One that Gwen hasn't been able to untangle. But when she does many things will fall into place and she might find that she is really at home in exotic Ceylon.

This is a beautifully written novel, full of lush and vivid details of 1920's Ceylon. Not only is the story captivating but, the hints of mystery and secrets kept me turning page after page. This book was not only full of memorable characters and loads of details; it was an emotional and spellbinding read that simply swept me off to another place and time. One that I'm not likely to forget anytime soon.

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: 800 Words

800 Words: Season 1

800 Words

George Turner's world is turned upside down when his wife suddenly dies. He can no longer cope with life in Sydney Australia, where he is a well known newspaper columnist. He decides to move with his two teenage children to Weld, New Zealand. Weld has always held a special place in his heart, growing up he spent many summer holidays in the town and he thinks the beauty of the area and the tranquility of the isolation may be just what he and his children need. But his children are not thrilled with the prospect of leaving everything behind to move to the back of beyond.

How will it all turn out in Weld? If you're looking for an interesting drama about how life doesn't always go as planned, then 800 Words is definitely one you will want to watch. Each episode is full of drama, conflict, interesting characters and beautiful scenery. Both season one and season two have turned into my favorite choices for summer television. I so hope they are working on a season three.  

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: The Little Old Lady Who Struck Lucky Again!

The Little Old Lady Strikes Again

The Little Old Lady Who Struck Lucky Again!
Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

Martha Andersson and her geriatric pals have taken it upon themselves to help the less fortunate. To do this, they rob and steal from the rich and give to the poor or those in need. When the story opens they group of just robbed a Las Vegas casino and to escape the long arm of the law, they decide to return to their native Sweden.

Unfortunately, on their way back, their ill-gotten gains disappear. To make matters worse, previous loot in Sweden has also disappeared, and they have to figure out how to get it back or come up with a plan to make more money. Further trouble comes when they decide to settle down in a new house. Their new neighbors turn out to be one of Sweden's most dangerous biker gang, with their own plans for taking advantage of the elderly members of the group. But Martha and her pensioners are always up for what life throws their way.

This was a delightful story, both funny and warmhearted, with characters I came to love. And while it wasn't quite as comical as I had anticipated, I thought the author had a real eye for detail, which made this all the more enjoyable.

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: The End of Men

The End of Men

The End of Men
Karen Rinaldi

The End of Men, follows four women, Anna, Isabel, Beth and Maggie as they try to make sense of their lives. But being wives, mothers and career minded women sometimes takes it toll and they are faced with questions large and small as they try to find and understand what it is they want out of life.

Unfortunately, this book didn't do anything for me. From the description, I was expecting a funny book but I found it to be, if I'm honest a bit boring. I never felt drawn into the story and for some reason, which I can't quite put my finger on, I just didn't feel for the characters, which meant the book didn't really hold my attention. At times the writing was interesting but at others the story seemed forced and perhaps a little corny. To me it all seemed to mundane and I didn't find the tension or electricity to pull me through this one.

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Leading Lady

Leading Lady; Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker

Leading Lady
Stephen Galloway

This biography charts the life of Sherry Lansing, the first female to head a Hollywood film studio. Mrs Lansing first tried her hand at acting but, soon found it wasn't what she wanted to do. She then turned her attention to reading scripts and eventually became a producer before rising in the ranks to head a major studio and finally becoming the chairman of Paramount Pictures. She was behind some of the best known films of her time including Indecent Proposal, Fatal Attraction, Braveheart and many others. But after a long career in Hollywood and the film business in particular she decided to reinvent herself in the world of philanthropy, where she was successful raising money and awareness for numerous causes.

This was an interesting book, which told me not only about Mrs Lansing's life and work but also quite a lot about how Hollywood works behind the scenes. It isn't often that I read about the role of a female producer and film executive. I felt this book provided me with another view of the film business, particularly regarding the extensive work and financing that goes on to produce a film. It was interesting to see what goes into the making of a film and the changes that have taken place in the industry over time.

I think film buffs and anyone interested in a “behind-the-scenes” look at a dynamic and often hard charging industry will appreciate this book.

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: The Child

The Child
The Child
Fiona Barton

When the body of a baby is discovered in an area of London slated for redevelopment, three women become linked in a psychological drama to determine the identity and the mystery behind the body. Kate is a reporter trying to get a good story for her newspaper and she's got a hunch that the body could be linked to an old case concerning Angela, whose baby was stolen from the hospital at birth. In order to find out how the body came to lie in an area of town, unfamiliar to Angela, Kate will have to find former residents of the area. This leads her to Emma who grew up in the neighborhood. But Kate will have to unravel a lot of old secrets before the truth about the baby is revealed. The truth may be more than anyone could have imagined.

When I first sat down to read this story I was intrigued. But, a few chapters in I thought it was going to be a rather sad tale and I almost put the book down. Luckily, I didn't, because it was at that point that the story took a turn, which ramped up the tension and I found that I could hardly put it down. I really wanted to know how things would turn out for all of the women. Clearly, the author knew just when to draw me in, and like a moth to a flame I was hooked. This suspenseful tale was one which got right into the heart of the characters and under my skin. It was skillfully written and thoroughly entertaining.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and Berkley Publishing for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review: Driving Miss Norma

Driving Miss Norma: One Family's Journey Saying "Yes" to Living
Driving Miss Norma
Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle

What do you do if you're 90 years old and your doctor tells you that you have cancer and will therefore need an unpleasant round of radiation and chemotherapy? Well, if you are Norma Bauerschmidt, you tell the doctor, no thanks I'm hitting the road with my son and his partner. Then you move into an RV and take off across the country on an adventure.

Driving Miss Norma, told by son Tim and partner Ramie is a look at Norma's quest and determination to live the remainder of her life the way she wanted, with dignity and in the company of her family and in a place she could call home, instead of an impersonal and unfamiliar hospital. From the tales and accounts in this memoir it seems they all had a whale of a time. Norma was always up for an adventure and as a result gained a legion of fans on the families Facebook page.

Tim and Ramie presented an open and honest account of life on the road, and the challenges of being a caregiver. But most of all, I think this story shows that it's never to late to enjoy the life you have, while it is still yours to enjoy.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and the Harper One Team for allowing me to read this book in exchange 
for an honest review.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: The Story Cure

The Story Cure: A Book Doctor's Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir

The Story Cure
Dinty W. Moore

I've read a lot of books about writing books recently and, I can definitely say that The Story Cure is one of the more useful ones. It's written with wit and humor which makes it fun to read, rather than a chore. The chapters, which range from focusing on issues such as character and dialogue to plot and structure, each contain useful exercises. I especially like the focus on trying to keep a magnetic river running throughout a story to keep the reader involved. I think the author has a knack of providing examples and suggestions which really opened my eyes about how to create a more engaging piece of work.

What I particularly appreciated, is that this book is short, sweet and to the point. It doesn't take a lifetime to read it and work through the exercises. In the end, its very helpful and it lets the aspiring writer get back to his or her own story, which will hopefully be much improved.

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review: Cruel Winter: A County Cork Mystery

Cruel Winter (County Cork #5)

Cruel Winter: A County Cork Mystery
Sheila Connolly

Maura Donovan arrived in the village of Leap in County Cork, Ireland less than a year ago. She hadn't intended to stay but, with the help of her recently deceased Gran, she inherited a cottage and the village pub. While winters in County Cork are not as harsh as those in Maura's hometown of Boston, an unusual snow storm is about to shut down the transportation in and around Leap.

Maura and her staff decide to keep the pub open during the storm. They are joined by friends, neighbors, and a few strangers who get trapped in the village. One stranger, Diane, was once a suspect in an unsolved murder that happened in Leap twenty years ago. Maura decides to rehash the unsolved case with her guests, partly to provide some entertainment for her stranded guests and also because, if Diane didn't do it, as she insists, then there is a murderer still on the loose. But will Maura and her guests be able to solve a cold case the police haven't been able to work out in twenty years, all in one night?

This story had everything that makes for a good read: a great plot, interesting characters, an atmospheric setting, and a sense of intimacy that made me feel like I was there in the middle of the action. I can't think of a better cozy mystery to curl up with on a rainy day.

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: Death at the Yoga Cafe: A Mystery

A Death at the Yoga Café (Keeley Carpenter #2)

Death at the Yoga Café: A Mystery
Michelle Kelly

Keeley Carpenter has a lot on her plate at the Yoga Café in Belfrey, England. The mayor of the village has been murdered, her difficult mother has just arrived in the village, and her boyfriend, local detective Ben Taylor, suspects the mayor's girlfriend and Keeley's nemesis, Raquel, of the murder. Keeley isn't so sure about that. While she doesn't care for Raquel, she can't actually see her as the murderer. Meanwhile, Ben is determined to stop Keeley from investigation on her own, but Keeley just can't stop what comes naturally - - until there's another death. Balance at the Yoga Café is soon shattered, and it might take more than a few yoga poses to help Keeley find the murderer.

This charming, cozy mystery has it all: eccentric characters, a likable heroine, and enough twists and turns to keep mystery readers turning page after page. The inclusion of the cafe's recipes and a few yoga poses just adds to the fun.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Jefferson's America

Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation
Jefferson's America
Julie M. Fenster

Jefferson's America, follows the path of expansion into the American west. Its full of tales and adventures undertaken by well know explorers, such as Lewis and Clark as well as others that were unfamiliar to me. It also covers Jefferson's desire to stake a claim to territory west of the Mississippi river and his need to gain control over New Orleans, as a gateway to trade. While this is a well written book, that goes into a lot of detail, it did at times seem a bit dry. I would have appreciated more maps and charts in order to follow along the routes more closely. I also think this book would have been strengthened with more coverage and details about the Spanish and French officials, who were a large part of this story.

Overall, I think history buffs and anyone interested in the exploration and expansion into the Western territories and the prominent role played by Thomas Jefferson and his band of explorers will find this work of interest.

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: Death Need Not Be Fatal

Death Need Not Be Fatal

Death Need Not Be Fatal
Malachy McCourt

To say that Mr. McCourt has seen a few things in his eighty plus years is an understatement. Growing up in poverty in Limerick, Ireland he escaped back to New York, where he had been born, to find work as a young man as well as create a new life for himself. Over the course of his long life, he has managed some things that many only dream of doing, such as owning a popular bar, appearing on television in a soap opera for many years as well as writing a best seller or two. In this latest book he recounts events of his life, giving the reader a glimpse into a world full of family, friends and a passion for living. His story is told with great wit and humor, with numerous tragedies that befell his family conveyed with grace and deep emotion that show a great strength of character. Once I got started in his story I couldn't put it down.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness Giveaway for allowing me to read this book.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Shadow Man

Shadow Man

Shadow Man
Alan Drew

A serial killer is on the loose in Southern California and he or she has everyone in on edge. Ben Wade is the policeman responsible for finding and stopping this killer. Before he can get a handle on the case the body of a young boy is found in a strawberry field. The young Mexican immigrant doesn't fit the killers normal pattern and Wade begins to wonder if the boy hasn't committed suicide. If not, a second murderer may be lurking close to home.

In this novel, which is tense and chilling, Alan Drew combines the murder mystery and hunt for a serial killer with a family drama that contains a painful past that Ben Wade will have difficulty sharing. It all makes for a complex but thrilling tale. Frankly, I didn't expect to like as much as I did but by the end I could hardly put it down. Not only was this a well written piece of fiction, it had an electrical current pulsing though it which really got under my skin.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and Random House for providing the giveaway that allowed me to read and review this book.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: Rain Shadow DVD

Rain Shadow: Series One

Rain Shadow

Rain Shadow is an engaging story of two veterinarians determined to help the community of Paringa near Adelaide in South Australia. Rachel Ward and Victoria Thaine play the two leading roles. Kate, played by Ward is a tough, introverted women who has been in Paringa for years. She has coped with numerous young assistants, and she expects the new one, played by Thaine to be the same as the others. But she may be in for a surprise. It takes some time before they can work together, but there comes the point where it becomes necessary to overcome some of their personal difficulties and pull together for the sake of the community. And the community of Paringa couldn't need their help more. The area has been suffering from a long drought, that shows no sign of ending.

Superb characters, good acting, a story of struggle and hardship as well as a stark but beautiful landscape make this a film worth watching.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders
Anthony Horowitz

Clever and unique is how I would describe this new book by Anthony Horowitz. It is a book within a book and a mystery within a mystery. If you are a fan of the Agatha Christie style whodunit, then you will no doubt find this an enthralling read.

Without giving too much away, the story starts with a London editor, Susan Ryeland, who gets a manuscript from the well-known author Alan Conway. When she gets to the end of the mystery, to her disappointment, the final chapter is missing. She sets out to find it. Getting a lot more than she bargained for, Susan is determined to get to the bottom of the puzzle. To do that, she will have to become a detective herself.

This book contains the best of both worlds, vintage, atmospheric Christie style prose and settings as well as modern, fun, smart, engaging characters. I can't image anyone being disappointed with this one.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness and HarperCollins for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.   

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: The Acid Watcher Diet

The Acid Watcher Diet: A 28-Day Reflux Prevention and Healing Program
The Acid Watcher Diet
Jonathan Aviv, MD, FACS

This is the perfect book for those who suffer from acid reflux. It is also great for those who have silent symptoms of acid reflux, such as coughing, post nasal drip, sore throat, hoarseness or the feeling of a lump in the throat. This book will give you the knowledge to recognized the problem and the tools to start a 28 day diet plan that gets you on the right path to healing body and getting rid of acid reflux.

It is not only well written but, easy to follow. The diet is aimed to reduce your intake of caffeine found in coffee, tea and chocolate, alcohol, tobacco, citrus fruits and carbonated sodas. It also encourages the reduction of processed foods in the diet. I personally found it more helpful to look at what I could eat, rather than what I should avoid. I also found it more difficult to give up coffee, tomatoes and citrus fruits than I had anticipated. If, like me, you find that you just can't dispense with all your favorite foods at once, you can try, as I have, to lessen you intake of these and anything that might be your “trigger foods”.

The book also contains other useful tips like not eating three hours before going to bed and getting a good nights sleep as well as what types of exercise are good for eliminating acid reflux. All in all this book provides a good plan that isn't too difficult to follow and there are lots of recipes included which aim to make it easier to prepare the right food for healing.

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: DVD Agatha Raisin

Agatha Raisin, Series 1

Agatha Raisin
This DVD is based on the books of M.C. Beaton and her beloved character Agatha Raisin. Agatha has always dreamed of living in the English countryside and as a result she's left her successful PR Firm in London to make a go of country life, in the small and picturesque village of Carsley in the Cotswolds.

It doesn't take long for her to get involved in the community, and at the opening of this series, it's the local pie contest she's joined. But when a murder occurs she feels compelled to try and solve it, albeit with the help of a few new friends, giving her the much deserved reputation of an amateur sleuth. The series contains nine episodes that will keep you coming back for more. It's become one of my favorites, and how could it not be with the wonderful, fun, endearing characters and a slice of mystery on the side. I'm so hoping there will be a season two.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: The Heirs

The Heirs

The Heirs
Susan Rieger

The Heirs follows the story of Rupert Falkes and his wife Eleanor Phipps Falkes and that of their five sons. When Rupert dies, secrets emerge that the remaining members of the family must come to terms with, all while making sense of their own lives.

I wanted to like this book but, it's one that left me with mixed feelings. While it isn't a long book, it felt long. It often went on and on with perhaps too much detail. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I didn't feel a great connection to the main characters, Rupert and Eleanor, which made the first half of the book seem somewhat dull to me. Some bits of the first section were well observed, but I couldn't help feeling that it sometimes seemed pretentious, like the author is trying too hard to sound intellectual, which was slightly off-putting.

I only felt drawn into the book about mid-way through, when I reached the character of Jim, who, oddly enough, wasn't even part of the Falkes family. I'm not sure why this section seemed more appealing than the first section, maybe I was able to feel or empathize more with this character. He felt more genuine to me and more interesting than some of the others in the story. Overall, I felt the second half of the book was more engaging than the first half; it had more of a story to tell that connected some of the characters, without just describing characters to me. It was less boring, and it seemed to have a better, faster pace. In general, this book didn't have that spark of electricity I was hoping it would have.

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: Catherine of Braganza

Catherine of Braganza: Charles II's Restoration Queen

Catherine of Braganza
Charles II's Restoration Queen
Sarah-Beth Watkins

This book provides a fascinating look at the life of Catherine of Braganza. She was born in 1638 in Portugal, and married Charles the II of England in 1662. She must have been an amazing women since she had to come to terms with the numerous mistresses of the king and the fact that, as hard as she tried she was never able to give the king an heir.

When she wasn't dealing with domestic hardships she had her detractors to contend with, particularly those who wanted to rid themselves of a Catholic queen. Even though the king stood by her during her most difficult times it seems true happiness may have come at long last when she was able to return to Portugal, where she was to rule as regent for João V.

I recommend this well written book for anyone who wants to know more about Catherine's role as queen and her life at the English court.

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: Vibrant India

Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn

Vibrant India
Chitra Agrawal

I love the cover of this cookbook, like the name suggests it's vibrant and enticing. It was this cover that first drew me in. Inside, the author focuses on the food of Southern India, which is distinct from that of the North, which many readers are probably more familiar with in the form of creamy curries and meat dishes. The author goes into more detail explaining the differences and the importance of the history and culture in the development of southern cuisine, and how it focuses more on vegetarian dishes.

While I must admit, some of the recipes in the book seem a bit daunting to me, and if I'm honest, there are quite a few things I would prefer to eat in a restaurant, rather than try and attempt myself, I did find some recipes that were easier to prepare. I loved the idea of peaches in summer yogurt, for example, and the variations on yogurt raita as well as some new ways to make lentils.

I like that this book has some interesting recipes with unexpected ingredients. For instance, Lemon Peanut Rice, is something I wouldn't have expected, or Apple, Ginger Coconut Hand Pies. I think that is what makes this book and Southern India food unique and worth a look, especially for adventurous cooks who want to try something fresh and healthy.

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: My Life to Live

My Life to Live: How I Became the Queen of Soaps When Men Ruled the Airwaves

My Life to Live
Agnes Nixon

I grew up watching One Life to Live and All My Children, but I didn't know anything about the creator of these two long-running soap operas. Therefore, this was quite an interesting book for me to read. I loved hearing about Mrs. Nixon's childhood and how she came to be interested in writing and creating characters.

It was also nice to read about a woman who was able to make both her family and her career a priority. It obviously helped that she had a loving and supporting husband. And while it did seem that her younger life with a father who appeared bent on controlling her and her future was tough, it no doubt led to her determination to chart her own path.

Although it was mentioned that she found writing a book more challenging than writing for television, I don't think many readers would ever guess this was the case. In fact, I thought more than once as I read this book; if Mrs. Nixon hadn't been writing soap operas she no doubt would have been writing best-selling novels. She clearly had a talent for keeping the reader hooked, not only on television but also in her autobiography.

I was saddened when I got to the end of the book and found out that before finishing it she suffered a debilitating stroke. But I was not surprised that she had the help of her family that allowed her to complete the work. I enjoyed getting the chance to read such an interesting book about an amazingly talented woman.

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: The Postman's Fiancée

The Postman's Fiancée

The Postman's Fiancée
Denis Thériault

Tania has moved to Montreal from Germany, where she works as a waitress in one of the city's numerous restaurants. She has fallen in love with one of her regular customers, Bilodo, a local postman. Unfortunately for Tania, Bilodo has fallen for his Haiku writing pen-pal from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. But, when he has an accident that leaves him with amnesia, Tania sees her chance to claim Bilodo as her own betrothed. If only things would work out the way, she planned. But alas, fate and destiny might stand in the way.

This is a fabulous and original story which I couldn't put down. I don't remember reading anything quite like this one before. I loved the characters and the events which take place throughout the story. In fact, I think this is my favorite book so far this year. It is one I would definitely recommend.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: The Inkblots

The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and The Power of Seeing

The Inkblots
Damion Searls

This book takes a look at the interesting life of Herman Rorschach and his iconic inkblot tests. The first half of the book analyzes in depth the scientist's short but extremely productive life. The second half is basically devoted to spread of the inkblots and how they were subsequently used.

Before reading this book I was unaware of the profound impact that Rorschach had on the field of psychology. I was fascinated to learn about his work in both Switzerland and Russia in the early 1900's. And while he died at the early age of 37 one has to wonder what he would have achieved had he lived even longer. It also made me wonder how or if he would have gone on to make further developments to his ground breaking tests. Nevertheless, the author provides a sympathetic and humane view of Rorschach and his work making this a must read for anyone interested in psychology or those who want to know more about the development of his infamous inkblot tests.

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review: Country Affairs

Country Affairs (The Tippermere Series) by [Stoneley, Zara]

Country Affairs
Zara Stoneley

If you are looking for a fun romp in the English countryside, this book is for you. It's number two in the Tippermere Series and it follows all the characters from the first book. In this installment, Charlotte “Lottie” Brinkely is set to take over her inheritance, the country house being left to her by her grandmother Elizabeth. But will the lovable boyfriend Rory be able to cope with all the responsibility, especially when Lottie has to come up with ideas to raise money to cover the estates enormous debts.

I found Country Affairs was a lot more fun than the first book in the series, although book one is good at laying the groundwork for all the characters involved. I felt book two was better developed and a lot more interesting. By the end of book two I was certainly ready for the next in the series entitled, Country Rivals.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle
Jessica Shattuck

This historical novel follows the lives of three women who have to come to grips with the paths their lives have taken both during, before and after WWII. Marianne von Lingenfels has promised her husband and other male members of his resistance group that she will look after their wives and children if there plans to eliminate Hitler fail. When she is forced to do so, she must first locate the women and children who have been imprisoned or in the case of the children, moved to foster homes.

Marianne is able to reunite with two of the women Benita and Ania and bring them along with their children back to Castle Lingenfels. They must fend for themselves during a time of uncertainty and hardship. And as the story progresses secrets of the past are revealed that will test the friendship that has been built up between the women, around the memory of their lost husbands and the lives they once knew.

This richly detailed and atmospheric novel is at once sad and poignant and perhaps comes at the just right time. In it, we can see how political and cultural divisions can lead to disasters. It is both heart wrenching and unsettling but told with  warmth and understanding that made it hard to put down. Those who enjoy historical fiction will not be disappointed.

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Harvest

Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants

Stefani Bittner & Alethea Harampolis

This lovely book consists of 47 projects using a variety of plants and flowers for creating among other things, herbal teas, infused oils, and striking arrangements using unexpected plants. The projects come with clear and easy to follow instructions with further tips at the end of the book. Each project focuses on a specific plant with information about the plant and how to grow the particular variety in question, as well as the project itself. The book is arranged by seasons, inspiring readers to make the most of nature throughout the year.

The authors included high-quality photos which I found inspiring. In fact, just reading this book made me want to run out to the garden shop and buy some herbs and other plants. It also made me appreciate the fact that some plants could be put to more uses than I had assumed.

This book would no doubt be the perfect gift for a gardener or a creative person who wants to make the most of some common plants found in gardens and backyards and with plants that can be easily found at a local shop.

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: The Threat Level Remains Severe

The Threat Level Remains Severe

The Threat Level Remains Severe
Rowena MacDonald

Grace works for the Economic Scrutiny Committee in the UK House of Commons. Originally a temporary job, it has turned into a permanent position. Things take a interesting turn when the committee gets a new recruit, Brett from Australia. He is everything Grace detests in the newcomers, set on making a name and career for themselves. Grace isn't exactly Brett's dream girl either but at some point they fall into a relationship, albeit a slightly complex one. When things don't work out for them, Grace turns to a secret email admirer. Unfortunately he isn't the antidote to Brett. In fact, the man who passes himself of as Reuben Swift, a struggling poet and musician is a lot more troubled then he lets on. By the time Grace meets him she has to ask Brett for help. All three end up in a downward spiraling trajectory after their encounter. The results of which will challenge them all.

The beginning of this book is very funny. I just loved the descriptions of Grace and Brett, especially
Brett as the overly-pleased-with-himself Australian. In the second part, it takes a turn into a darker area with the introduction of Reuben, and becomes a bit more serious, although certainly not less interesting.

What I really enjoyed about this story is the authors ability to capture the atmosphere around each character. I really felt like I knew these characters by the end of the story. Overall, it was skillfully written and I enjoyed being able to see the story from each characters perspective. This was such an entertaining read, I found it hard to put down. This is my first book by Ms. MacDonald but I hope there will be more to come.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: Speaking from Among the Bones

Speaking from Among the Bones (Flavia de Luce, #5)

Speaking From Among the Bones
Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce, the eleven year old amateur detective, is irresistible. Once again she is right in the thick of things in the English village of Bishop's Lacey. The village is preparing to celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the death of Saint Tancred. In order to do this the village plans to open the grave of the Saint but, before that happens a body is discovered, that of Mr. Collicut, the church organist. Even though the local police think they can handle the investigation, Flavia is intent of conducting one of her own. This is despite the drama that continues at her family's estate of Buckshaw. Flavia's father is under pressure to settle his debts or sell the estate creating a somber atmosphere at home. Although Flavia takes note she is more preoccupied with her latest murder investigation.

I can't get enough of Flavia, she is entertaining and as sharp as a whip. I can't imagine a reader who isn't going to fall for this endearing character, hook, line and sinker. Fans of British cozy mysteries will not want to miss this one.