Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Antoine Laurain's Vintage 1954 Book Reviewed

Antoine Laurain's Vintage 1954

I usually know exactly how I am going to start a book review before I even put the book down. However, that was not the case with the book Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain because I was concerned that speaking of any of the individual moments in the book would ruin the fun surprises.

Inspired by the tagline on the front of the book I decided I would simply ask, “What would you do if you could travel to the Paris of your dreams. In 1954?” That is exactly what happens in this book though it is definitely a case of time travel for entertainment purposes and not a scientific look at time travel.

Four residents of a Parisian apartment building meet and, after sharing a very special bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, they discover that it has, as the back cover of the book says, special properties. They wake up the next morning in 1954 with some of them temporarily unaware of the difference and others instantly aware that things are not as they should be.

The characters are an interesting mix that includes a man whose family originally owned almost all of the apartments in the building, an antique restorer, a mixologist and an American tourist who is renting an Airbnb. It is through each of their perspectives that we see Paris of the 1950s.

NB Magazine put it perfectly when they say that, "the comedy is gentle and slightly absurd and that there are many clever vignettes and sketches that enrich the novel." I totally agree. Vintage 1954 is a lightweight but charming, entertaining and sometimes funny book that is RECOMMENDED by me. 

The book was exactly what I and perhaps even you need right about now. It is historical fiction of a different sort. It is quirky or whimsical. It is a romantic book but one in which the romance stems from the setting and the storytelling rather than the fact that two of the characters in the book discover that they love each other. Some might call it a good summer read.

In my mind, there is nothing dark or nasty about it at all though there is a sex scene and the drinking of alcohol. The book is a chance for a trip to Paris from the comfort of your armchair and an opportunity to see and think about some of the contrasts between the Paris of 2017 and the Paris of 1954 and of course, simply the contrasts between those years wherever you may be. The world is a very different place today than it was then.

I enjoyed meeting the characters, seeing Paris through each of their individual lenses, seeing the city of lights in a different time and having the opportunity to meet some of the celebrities who frequented 1950s Paris. I am not naming the celebrities so that you can enjoy them when you meet them in the book.  I was surprised at the very end of the book when the author managed to squeeze in a little life lesson for each of them.

How about it? Would you like to travel back to 1954 or to read this book? Find your copy of or learn more about Vintage 1954 on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of Vintage 1954 on Amazon.
The Time Traveler’s Wife movie review.
An American in Paris movie review.
Discover French Kiss, the ultimate romantic movie soundtrack
Pam Jenoff's Lost Girls of Paris book review. 









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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Six Weeks To Live - Book Review

Imagine going into a routine doctor's appointment and learning you have six weeks to live.  For most of us, that would be the worst news ever.  Though it is an unexpected and terrible diagnosis for forty-eight-year-old Jennifer Barnes, the real shock is yet to come.  

To cope with an anonymous, random killer like brain cancer is hard enough.  To suspect that the real killer is someone she once loved, makes everything that much more devastating.  With the end so near, will there be time to discover the truth?  

Catherine McKenzie's upcoming release, Six Weeks To Live, is stunning suspense that explores how family secrets, deception, and revenge is a cancer far more potent than glioblastoma.

Jennifer's family members doubt her sanity.  Surely, the brain cancer is warping her mind.  One would have to be losing it to believe her husband, the father of her children, could do something as diabolical as poisoning her.  It's crazy.  Or is it?

There is plenty of motive.  Jennifer's estranged husband has been relentlessly hammering her for a divorce, which she refuses to give him.  He and his new girlfriend are harboring a secret, which is more than reason enough to want to knock off the wife standing in the way of their happily ever after.  

Dare we hope Jennifer's grown girls, a complex set of triplets, might come on board to help her track down an explanation for mysterious lab results predating her terminal diagnosis?  Isn't it the least a mother can expect when things turn dire?  If only family dynamics and relationships were that easy.  

Time is very quickly running out.  Who, or what, will win in the end?  Can there even be a win in this situation?  

Six Weeks To Live is the best novel I have read all year.  You will want to pre-order your copy now.  It releases on May 4, 2021.  I received a digital galley from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  My sincere thanks to the publisher, Atria Books, and the author, Catherine McKenzie, for this deeply satisfying reading experience.  












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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Jeffrey Siger's The Mykonos Mob (Island of Secrets) Reviewed

Jeffrey Siger’s The Mykonos Mob

My accidental introduction to Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis via Jeffrey Siger’s tenth book, The Mykonos Mob, came about because of the pandemic. Limiting trips to public places means that my husband has become the designated library picker upper. Most of our library books are requested in advance online and then picked up when they are available but on this particular day I felt like reading something different and my husband left home with instructions to find me something different to read. Maybe something that was recent. Maybe a mystery or a thriller. 

He came home with a number of options including this one, The Mykonos Mob, which follows Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis who leaves Athens for the Greek island of Mykonos. To those not very familiar with Greece, like myself, Mykonos is a Greek island with a thriving tourist industry and a reputation. That is, a reputation for a busy beach scene and lots of nightlife. It is considered an international playground and may not necessarily be the kind of vacation I would be looking for but is interesting as a destination nevertheless.

In this book, Kaldis works to solve the murder of a corrupt former police officer who now runs a protection racket on Mykonos. We meet the main players who include Kaldis, his Special Crimes unit, his wife and an interesting American woman who has transplanted herself to Mykonos and who plays piano in a bar at night and solves local crimes during the day.

As an armchair traveler, I don’t think any of my ‘trips’ have included Greece. This book offered a look at the seedy underbelly of the island but also at some Greek culture. It is not a travel guide nor a travel book per se and some parts of the life reflected in this book might have you thinking you do not want to visit Mykonos but it was interesting to learn about some of the issues of life in Greece and in particular on Mykonos. The author, Jeffrey Siger, left a career as a Wall Street lawyer in New York to live on the Aegean Greek island that is Mykonos and to write books like this one. It is intentional that they share a fast moving story and some real life Greece.

RECOMMENDED?


I enjoyed The Mykonos Mob and yes, I do recommend it. I enjoyed the look into life in Greece, a place that I would like to visit one day, and I liked the main characters. I will be reading the rest of this series. I think this book would suit any man or woman who enjoys a good murder mystery as well as someone with an interest in life in modern-day Greece.

Jeffrey Siger’s Island of Secrets

BOOK LIST


Here’s the order you should read the books. Note that this book, The Mykonos Mob, is number ten in the series. Starting with number ten is not my usual style and I doubt it is yours. Another important note is that the book name was changed to Island of Secrets when it was released in paperback.

Murder in Mykonos
Assassins of Athens
Prey on Patmos
Target
Mykonos After Midnight
Sons of Sparta
Devil of Delphi
Santorini Caesars
An Aegean April
The Mykonos Mob (Island of Secrets in paperback)
A Deadly Twist

Find your Jeffrey Siger book on Amazon in hardcover, paperback or Kindle by clicking right here.

Do you like a good murder mystery?  Have you read any good fiction books set Greece that you would recommend, mystery or otherwise?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Mykonos Mob (or any of Jeffrey Siger’s books) here on Amazon.
Jeffrey Archer’s False Impressions Reviewed.
The Coffee House Mysteries reviewed.
Death Takes A Spin: An Upcycling Mystery reviewed.










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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

James Patterson's The Christmas Mystery Book Review and Book List

James Patterson The Christmas Mystery Book Review

Christmas 2020 was not going to be the best Christmas ever and so I went looking for a Christmas-themed book that wasn't romantic in nature or particularly Hallmark in style though don't get me wrong, I enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies. A little bit of romance would have been okay but that should not be central to the story.

I wound up searching for some of my favorite writers, looking to see if they had written any Christmas stories but striving to avoid jumping into the middle of an established series. I found a few when I searched for James Patterson. Five to be exact and here is the list:

THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING


First, there was The Christmas Wedding by Patterson and Richard DiLallo. It was suitably Christmas-y but seemed at first glance to be way too romantic to meet my needs at the moment. I would, however, like to read it some day.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS


Second up was Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, which sounds good. However, it is number 19 in a series of 28 books featuring Detective Alex Cross. I have read some of that series and am reminded to go back and read more but picking up number 19 because it was Christmas in theme would have been, at least in my mind, wrong.

THE 19TH CHRISTMAS


Third was the 19th Christmas by Patterson and Maxine Paetro. It is book 19 of a 21 book series featuring the Women's Murder Club. I'd love to read the series sometime so starting with book 19, even if it is a Christmas story, would have been as I said a moment ago, wrong.

THE CANDIES SAVE CHRISTMAS


Fourth and really an outlier was The Candies Save Christmas. It was definitely not what I was looking for though the idea of the book actually made me smile. It sounds like an sweet book though one aimed at a slightly different age group than I represent. "No sugar, no fat. C’mon, take a look! The best Candies ever . . . Candies in a book!" In a children's board book that premise seems somewhat adult but in any case it was not what I was looking for.

THE CHRISTMAS MYSTERY


Finally, I stumbled on The Christmas Mystery: A Detective Luc Moncrief Mystery by Patterson and Richard DiLallo. It turned out to be a part of a series, too, but this time it is the middle of a three story series of short novels or 'bookshots' as Patterson calls them.

Since I was having a bit of a time finding a Christmas-themed book that appealed to me, I decided that a bookshot, which is intended to be devoured in a few hours and supposed to be un-put-downable, was what I was going to read. So I did.

Within the pages of The Christmas Mystery, I was introduced to Detective Luc Moncrief. Moncrief is from France but is solving crime in New York City, which is a bonus for me. I visited New York City last year and loved it. Revisiting the city through a book, a puzzle or a movie is a fun outing of sorts in this time of staying home and staying safe. 

In the first section of this book, Detective Moncrief and his partner hunt for art thieves who have stolen priceless pieces of art on Park Avenue. The second section takes them to France providing yet another chance for the reader to partake in some armchair travel. The cases in this 160-page book are simpler than you would find in a full-fledged crime novel and were solved fairly easily. 

James Patterson Christmas Mystery Book Review List

WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?


The Christmas Mystery was far, far from James Patterson's best work and the reviews on Amazon are lukewarm. It was a simple, easy read with a hint of Christmas, lots of shopping and some humor.  It was not as exciting or as well developed as a full novel but I think that should be expected of a shorter book. The book suited my needs at the moment and I would recommend it for someone looking for exactly that - a simple story that they could breeze through fairly quickly. 

Find your copy of all three of the Detective Luc Moncrief bookshots on Amazon by clicking right here. You will find all three from the series available individually or as a set and yes, they are available in your favorite format be that paperback, Kindle or audiobook.

What Christmas books are you cozying up with this year?

See you at 
the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

P.S. The next book I picked up was Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan. It was totally a love story though I did not see that coming. I was hooked by the promise of yet another book set in New York City and missed that the pages were going to be filled with romance. It was good with a lot of humor and lots of tension, including sexual suspense and eventually actual sex between the two main characters. Learn more about Miracle on 5th Avenue on Amazon by clicking here.

More James Patterson Reading:

James Patterson's The Golf Trilogy Reviewed.







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review

Knots & Crosses: Tartan Noir Crime Novel by Ian Rankin 

In 2019, I was introduced to Ian Rankin via Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program, Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today. I really enjoyed Rankin's Black and Blue, which was the book we read but only recently returned to start at the beginning of the series and read Knots and Crosses.

When Rankin wrote Knots and Crosses in 1987 he thought he had written a standalone crime detective novel and had even planned on killing Detective Rebus at the end of the book. Success for Rankin and Rebus was not fast in coming. After publishing Knots and Crosses to little fan fare, Rankin put Rebus aside and moved on to write his next book with no idea that he would eventually return to Rebus' world and that he would still be writing books for the series in 2020

Knots and Crosses Book Review
Anyway, I read Knots and Crosses. I really enjoyed it. I recommend it. Need I say more? Well, yes, I suppose I should because you may not have read anything by Ian Rankin and you may not have seen my earlier review of the eighth book in the series, Black and Blue.

I wrote about the number of covers that the eighth book has had and you won't be surprised to hear that this book also has had many covers. I had to work a bit to find a picture of the original cover, which I believe the image at the bottom of this page to be since Rankin describes the original cover as having knots and crosses on it and this is the only one that fits that description. 

Knots and Crosses is a classic detective story with a strong plotline. It was written in 1987 and based firmly in the Scotland of the time. It is considered British Realism Noir or Tartan Noir as it was written by Scottish writers and is set in Scotland. The Scottish story has style elements from other American and European crime writers of the same time period. 

Detective Rebus is a former Special Air Service (SAS) officer now doing police work and coping with a difficult past in a very destructive manner. Typical to noir, he is a working class main character who doesn't have ordinary heroic qualities like idealism, courage and morality. He's a drinker and a smoker and does not have many friends nor successful relationships. He is not above stretching the law in an effort to solve the case he is working on, which is also common in gritty, noir detective novels. 

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
Because Knots and Crosses is the first book in the series, we are given the back story of Detective Rebus while he attempts to solve the nasty case of a serial murderer who is killing young girls and advertising that fact to the police.

REVIEWS


"Most of Knots and Crosses is claustrophobically situated inside his mind – and it’s a lonely, uncomfortable place. His asperity, his broken marriage, his drinking, his cold flat, his falling asleep in chairs because he can’t quite drag his tired hide into bed … Perhaps you could argue that these too are the stuff of cop cliché. But they feel real here. He feels like a character with weight. Rankin...nails the essentials."  I agree with The Guardian, Rebus seems perfectly developed in this story.

Another review on The Guardian says, "It is not always easy to read because of the context, but it grips you so hard that it feels compulsory to read on..."  Yes, this book has some uncomfortable moments but it will have you wanting to know who did it and you will read on.

Ian Rankin's First Book, Knots & Crosses
Finally, in the year that this book was written, Kirkus said, "Solidly drawn characters, keen psychological insights and an intriguing, well-knit plot—along with a rather florid but individual writing style—make Rankin a newcomer to watch." More than twenty successful novels later, I say they were right with that prediction. 

Knots and Crosses comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.

WHO WILL LIKE KNOTS & CROSSES? 


If you enjoy a well-written detective novel, I believe that you will enjoy this one. It is a crime fiction classic now and it is immensely readable. It does have violence, sex, drugs and murder but nevertheless I enjoyed the story, getting to know Detective Rebus a bit better in the process. For armchair travelers, it is also a look at the nice and the not-so-nice underbelly of Scotland's Edinburgh.

On Amazon, you will find Knots and Crosses by clicking here and all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels by clicking right here.

See you at 
the book store! 
Brenda 
Treasures By Brenda 

Quick Links



Knots & Crosses Book Review

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Following the very successful novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes Heather Morris' 2019 book, Cilka's Journey. Yes, it is a sequel of sorts to the first book though it definitely stands alone. 

Frankly, this book is another dark look into a horrible time in man's history. That's to be expected based on the subject of the novel. Initially, I did not care for how the story flipped back and forth between the main character's time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Germany and in her time in the Vorkuta Gulag Labor Camp in Russia but I quickly managed to overcome the darkness and the style and be absorbed by the very real characters in the story.

Cilka was sent to Birkenau when she was taken from her home at the age of 16 simply because she was Jewish and young and healthy and able to work. When Birkenau was liberated, she was tried and sent to the Siberian labor camp for having slept with the enemy. For her crime, she received a sentence of 15 years of hard labor. 

Whether the beautiful 16 year old really had any choice about whether to sleep with the enemy or not is debatable but the book is about her journey through and survival of both facilities. I don't need to say how unpleasant that situation was and I will not reveal how it ended.  Here's the official book trailer:


 


This second video is from the author and discusses albeit briefly the connection between this book and her first, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. 

Warning, this next video has LOTS OF SPOILERS but it does do a good job of telling you about the story.



FICTION OR NON-FICTION?

If you watched the preceding video, you know the answer to this question. Cilka's Journey is a fictional account of the true-life story of Cecília Kováčová. 

Of course, the story is filled out with details the author cannot really know but in large part it is said that the book is based on the conditions and situations people including Cilka found themselves living in at those two facilities. 

Descendants, however, declare the story to be outrageous calling it "lurid and titillating." They say that this is not the way Cilka shared her story to them.

The author defends the book saying that it is based on first-hand testimony given by people she interviewed and the experiences of women who were subjected to the life in those camps. She says, "It is a novel and does not represent the entire facts of Cilka's life." You can read more about the controversy here on The Guardian

In another interview with ABC, the author defends the disputed fact that women were used sexually in the camps and sums up with, "If it's all the same to you I think I'll go with their testimonies because they were there."


Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey Book Review


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMEND by me. The book has an average 4.39 stars on Goodreads and 92 percent of the reviewers on Amazon gave the book a five-star rating.

WARNINGS

Well, I feel that writing a warning about the unpleasant reading that comes in a book set in Nazi Germany and a Siberian Labor Camp in the 1940s is almost unnecessary I will say that this book deals with sex, starvation, murder.  The main character's work in the Labor Camp finds the reader face to face with terrible workplace accidents. It is definitely not nice but it is present and it is an intricate part of the story.  Plus, of course, there is the controversy of just how true this story really is.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK

Anyone who has an interest in historical fiction will enjoy the book, with consideration to the warnings given above. Anyone who read The Tattooist of Auschwitz and liked it will enjoy this book. As author Heather Morris says in the second video shown above, you should enjoy this book "not for the horror and evil that is included but for the humanity and the compassion and the love and the hope." I agree.

You can find your copy of Cilka's Journey on Amazon by clicking right here. Be sure to come back and let us know what you think of the book.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Robin Sloan's Sourdough, A Book Review

Sourdough Book Review

We love Sourdough. It is nearly unanimous in our book club. Not a cookbook, it is instead a funny story that is very readable, which is what we all need this year. It is a bizarre yet magical fairy tale of sorts set in today's world. It is about finding your passion and following it and about baking bread and the science of baking bread. In particular, it is about sourdough bread and the life of one computer programmer who learns to make some very special bread. 


BOOK SUMMARY

Robin Sloan's Sourdough Book Review
Author Robin Sloan reckons that Sourdough may be the first English book to feature a sourdough starter that has feelings as as an important supporting character.  The other main character is a lonely young woman named Lois who takes a programming job in San Francisco where she passes the days and nights of her life doing work that she does not care for. 

Eventually, Lois is finds an escape after repeatedly ordering takeout from a mysterious little café. The owners of the café serve up  combination of spicy soup and sourdough bread that is very comforting to Lois and that restores both her body and her soul. She becomes their Number One Eater or at least a very loyal, regular customer. However, her relationship with the café comes to an abrupt end but not before she takes ownership of the sourdough starter. The starter is alive, which means she has to look after it or it will die. 

Anyway, it turns out that this starter is quite special and Lois makes the best sourdough bread ever with it. Indeed it is so successful that she leaps head first into baking bread and the bread literally changes her life. It helps her to climb out of the low spot that she has been barely surviving in by introducing her to new people and giving her a passion project. 

Eventually the bread leads her to a farmer's market unlike the one you thought of when I said the words farmer's market. This market is a part of the underground economy. It is radical and it is filled with experimental foodstuffs. To be invited to this market means that there is something unusual about what you do and in Lois' case it is because of her story. That is a successful software programmer turned baker. What happens next? Well, let me just say it is all very unexpected and you will have to read the book to find out.

Sourdough is about San Francisco. It is about geeks, nerds, coders, secret societies, conspiracies, books and even about robots. It is a look at two kinds of culture: the worlds of high-tech culture and bread culture, which you might not think could collide. Finally and obviously, it's about bread.


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Sourdough Bread Story by Robin Sloan
Yes! The book Sourdough  is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me though I am pretty partial to sourdough bread, too. The book may have bread as the focus but it is not boring. It is a work of fiction that is easy and light and might just make you happy. Consider what these others have had to say about the book:

The Guardian says, "Sourdough is a soup of skillfully balanced ingredients: there’s satire, a touch of fantasy, a pinch of science fiction, all bound up with a likeable narrator whose zest for life is infectious. The novel opens a door on a world that’s both comforting and thrillingly odd. Savour it."  I like this recipe and I did savour the book.

The L.A. Times says, “Sourdough displays both lightness and a yearning for escape, but only in the best sense." I agree. Lois is on an entertaining adventure that I was only too happy to go along on.

In her letter to the book blogger Nut Free Nerd (NFN) says, "You (the book) reminded me of the value of carving out time in a busy schedule to do the things you love, and that you never know where life will take you...You were so wacky and whimsical and witty and entertaining that I found myself constantly thinking about you in between reading you and I still find myself thinking about you all these weeks later." I'm with NFN. I was reminded to stop working and to make time for life and the things I love and enjoy and like NFN, I am still thinking about the book, still cultivating sourdough starter and still trying to make sourdough bread in my bread machine. 

Finally, here's a one-minute review of the book:


 

WARNINGS

Sourdough by Robin Sloan is a Good Loaf
Some prefer the first half of the book to the second as the second half takes a turn you might not see coming. I was okay with the twist, which is simply totally unexpected and not offensive in any way. There is really not a lot to be offended by in this book. There is some mild swearing and of course, this book will make you want to to eat or maybe even bake sourdough bread. There is the potential to gain weight if you find yourself needing sourdough bread. Finally, there is a lot of food wastage but at least, it's not real food that is being wasted and definitely no characters go hungry in the book. Slurry, anyone?

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK?

I think a lot of people will enjoy this book including but not limited to foodies and bread lovers, bakers and non-bakers and computer folk.  Anyone who is looking for something fun with an almost discernable scent of bread will enjoy it and as the L.A. Times says, anyone who is looking for a book that is "light but not trite" will find that this book rises to the occasion , pun intended. This book will entertain you and it might also leave you pondering which is a better of doing things - the traditional way or new and improved ways.

I recommend buying the hardcover copy of the book. It has a textured cover that glows in the dark, which is totally appropriate for the this book and the properties of the sourdough starter. Find your copy of Sourdough in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here

Finally, I want you to admit that the loaf of sourdough bread in the introductory photograph was not baked by me. It is a product of the most amazing folk at Black Walnut Bakery in Cumberland near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:



Sourdough or, Lois and her Adventures in the Underground Market by Robin Sloan


A review of the novel about Sourdough bread by Robin Sloan








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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Blind Your Ponies - Book Review

Click Here to Check for Best Book Price
93 losses.  Zero wins.  Pretty much everyone in Willow Creek, Montana has known the agony of defeat.  This is a one-horse town where few imagined ending up and even fewer meant to stay.

The thing is, magic happens—even in those outposts that have known more than their share of dashed hopes—especially in those bleak has-been places where glory is just a word in the dictionary.  Everyone in Willow Creek is there for a reason.  And it is in how those reasons come together, in one fairytale basketball season, that we come to love, and cheer on, this ragtag group of misfits.

Some books just grab you by the heart and never let go.  This is one of those books.  Blind Your Ponies is about never giving up.  It is about finding love in the midst of loss.  It is about the transformative power of grief, and healing, and believing when it seems crazy to believe.  It is ultimately a book about letting in the things that can lift you past the point of hopelessness and despair.

Who is this cast of characters that will cause us to cheer until we are hoarse?  There is Sam Pickett.  English teacher and "losingest" basketball coach ever.  This is a man who has experienced the worst that can happen to someone he loved.  He is a crushed soul who will be lifted by the young boys who would go to any length for their beloved coach.

Which brings us to the boys on the team.  Dean, Pete, Olaf, Tom, Rob, and Curtis.  These young men have known deprivation, the feeling of not being good enough, the doubt that comes from being tossed away by those who were supposed to love them most. 

There has never been a group less destined to succeed on the basketball court, unless, of course, you can see into their hearts.  They will come together, by the sheer power of heart, to achieve the unimaginable.  In that unlikely march to claiming what was theirs all along, we will come to know what it means to give everything you are to become everything you can be. 

You don't have to love basketball, coaching, teaching, or mentoring young people to get caught up in this story.  But, if you, like me, have ever had the great privilege of being involved in those high callings, it will be impossible not to embrace this book with that part of you that has known, and nurtured, a Dean, a Pete, an Olaf, Tom, Rob, or Curtis.  Once you have experienced the immense joy of helping shape a child's life, you are forever a part of the greatest enterprise on earth. 

Blind Your Ponies will move you in ways you didn't even know you needed to be moved.  If you have loved movies like Hoosiers, Rocky, or Rudy, you are sure to be lifted by the spirit of this inspirational book.  Highly recommended.  Five stars.
















Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Review of The Last of the Moon Girls

I downloaded the book The Last of the Moon Girls by Barbara  Davis when it was on the July list for Amazon Prime's First Reads.  I probably picked it because I wasn't sure what else to pick, but I was pleasantly surprise when it turned out to be one of the best books I've read in a long time.  In fact when I got to about 50% in the book, I ended up staying up half the night until I finished the book.  I found it to be a delightful read full of interesting characters, an unsolved murder, and some thoughtful messages on forgiveness and finding ones self.


Brief Synopsis of Plot

Lizzy Moon had left the family farm in New Hampshire 8 years before to follow her dream.  She now had a promising career in New York city and no intention of ever returning to the "family" business. The family farm was a "herbal farm" and generations of Moon woman had used their various skills as "healers" to run the farm. Lizzy was to be the last of the Moon girls.

All of this was before Lizzy got a call letting her know her beloved grandmother, Althea, had passed away leaving her the farm.  Still, Lizzy had every intention of returning to pack up the farm and put it for sale.

When Lizzy returns she is met with a farm that is very deteriorated and fields of lavender that are full of weeds.  She is also confronted with the unsolved murders of two girls from 8 years before and insinuations from the towns people that followed her grandmother to her grave.

The book has a wonderful series of twists and turns that causes Lizzy to take another look at her life and what she thinks she wants.

This is an excellent read and I would highly recommend it.  I also think this would be an excellent book for a book club discussion.  There are lots of interesting topics within the book that should lead to a lively discussion.

  






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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Six Historical Fiction Books Set in Canada

Historical Fiction Set in Canada

Happy Canada Day! This is the day that Canadians from coast to coast to coast don their red and white and head out to celebrate our fabulous country, which was born on this day, July 1, 1867. It is with history in mind that I thought I would share six interesting historical fiction novels that are at least partly set in Canada. If you love historic fiction, I hope you will find a new book to add to your reading list.

Despite the unprecedented virus situation in Canada Day 2020, this list is by no means an indicator that Canadians will be staying home and reading on July 1. I will be wearing red and white, cooking up something special on the grill, eating some ripe red strawberries, having a walk in our neighborhood to see from a safe distance many Canadian flags flying high and our red and white attired neighbors before coming home and toasting Canada. Here's how we're celebrating Canada Day Together, Apart in 2020 but I digress. Here's the promised list of six fabulous historical fiction books set in Canada.

UNDER THIS UNBROKEN SKY


UNDER THIS UNBROKEN SKY

Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell is a close look at the settling of Canada. Read this book and you will wonder how the prairies ever came to be settled. If it was not one thing it was another for this poor Ukrainian family when they took up a homesteading on the Canadian prairies in the 1930s. Truly a look at how tough life was for those immigrant settlers with a story line that will capture your attention. I have not written a full review of this fascinating book yet but you can read more about Under This Unbroken Sky on Amazon here.

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW BEGINNING


ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW BEGINNING

Anne of Green Gables may be thought of as a children's book but they are totally appropriate for adults, too. They are an interesting look into Lucy Maud Montgomery's Prince Edward Island in the early 1900s.

Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning was written by Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan was the creator of the original Anne of Green Gables movie series. This book is his more recent prequel to the Anne of Green Gables stories. You can read my complete review of Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning here. I have always been a fan of Anne Shirley and I enjoyed this book.

BEFORE OF GREEN GABLES


BEFORE OF GREEN GABLES

Before Green Gables was written by Nova Scotia's Budge Wilson and was my preferred version of what Anne Shirley's life might have looked like before she was sent as an orphan to live on Prince Edward Island. Interesting that two prequels with two totally different stories were published and that they were published just a year apart.  You can find my complete review of Before Green Gables here.

THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS


THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS

Joanna Goodman's The Home for Unwanted Girls is set in in French Canada in the 1950s and tells the story of a woman forced to give up her daughter and the tale of that daughter in the Canadian system. There is a lot of heartache in this book but that it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. You will find my complete review of The Home for Unwanted Girls here.

THE PIANO MAKER


THE PIANO MAKER

The Piano Maker was written by Kurt Palka and tells the tale of a woman's life taking her from France in the era of the First World War to Canada in the 1930s. I enjoyed this book because it was partially set in Canada. It is particularly interesting for anyone who is interested in the piano and who wants a look into war-time fiction set in Canada's maritime provinces. Find my complete review of The Piano Maker here.

THE QUINTLAND SISTERS


THE QUINTLAND SISTERS

I have long been interested in the lives of the Dionne Quintuplets. Pierre Berton's 1978 novel introduced me to the sisters and I have followed the true life story of these mistreated sisters ever since. They were the world's first set of quintuplets to survive infancy. This book, written by Shelley Wood, is an interesting look into their lives in the 1930s when the world was glad to embrace the sisters even if it meant that they were taken from their parents and displayed as a tourist attraction. Find my complete review of The Quintland Sisters here.

There. I hope you have found a novel with a Canadian theme to add to your list!

Happy Canada Day
and Happy Reading!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Discover how we're celebrating Canada Day, 2020.
Discover a page full of fabulous Anne of Green Gables gift ideas.


Six Historical Fiction Books Set in Canada





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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Kate Quinn's The Huntress Book Review

The Huntress Book Review
Told in three narratives, Kate Quinn's book, The Huntress, dives into Nazi-era Soviet Union and post-war Boston. It follows the post-war efforts of a small company whose purpose is hunting for and bringing to justice war criminals.

The main characters include Ian, a proper British journalist who was on the ground in Europe during the war and who turns postwar away from journalism to the task of finding war criminals. His purpose becomes a bit clouded by vengeance when he searches for the elusive target for whom this book is titled. That is, the Huntress who ruthlessly lured and killed men, women and children.

The second character is Nina, a woman who grew up dirt-poor and savage in Siberia. As an adult she becomes a pilot for the Soviet Union and a member of the all-female Night Witch bomber regiment who, during her time on the ground during the war, has an encounter with the Huntress.

Finally, we have Jordan, an ambitious teenager who lives with her father and sister in Boston. She wants to become a photographer and to break out of the societal requirement for a woman of the times that says she must get married, settle down and have children.

In the end, all are brought together by the Huntress.

THE HUNTRESS OFFICIAL BOOK TRAILER


Here’s a peek via the official book trailer from publisher Williams Morrow:




REVIEWS


Readers on Goodreads gave The Huntress a 4.27 out of 5 stars and 91 percent of Amazon readers gave it a 4- or 5-star rating. That’s pretty good.

On the back cover, Booklist says that this book is “An impressive historical novel sure to harness WWIIi-fiction fans’ attention.” I agree.

The Washington Post calls this book a “compulsively readable historical novel” and says that it is a “powerful novel about unusual women facing sometimes insurmountable odds with grace, grit, love and tenacity.” I agree.

WHO SHOULD READ THE HUNTRESS?


Fans of World War II fiction, which by the way comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me, will enjoy this book. In particular, if you would like a look into the hunt for war criminals, Russian folklore and the lesser-known world of the Night Witches, you will want to pick this book up. If you enjoyed Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network or Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz you will want to read this book. It quickly becomes a thriller and a page turner demonstrating how war changes people and the costs of seeking justice.

You should know that this book has numerous adult themes, which is what you naturally comes with a book about war crimes. Those themes include abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol use, war and sex.

Do be aware that there are numerous books called the Huntress. Don't make the mistake that a friend of mine made and read the wrong one. You can find your copy of Kate Quinn’s The Huntress on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

QUICK LINKS:

Buy your copy of The Huntress on Amazon.
The Ragged Edge of Night Book Review.
Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale Book Review.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Movie Review.









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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Where the Crawdads Sing Book Review


For those who love to travel, the current global atmosphere fraught as it is with many concerns, may be keeping you at home and make a strong case for sitting back and enjoying some armchair travel. If you are interested in a trip to North Carolina’s remote marshlands, you might want to pick up the bestselling novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Before I read this book, North Carolina was not on my list of places that I would like to see. Now it is. I thoroughly enjoyed the book though it started off a bit oddly, at least for me. I had just finished reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which was an excellent book crafted with simple, straightforward language. When I picked Where the Crawdads Sing up, the language seemed overly flowery with text like, “water flows into the sky”, “clammy forests” and “the marsh’s moist breath.” It was not long, however, before I was whisked away to fictional Barkley Cove in North Carolina and wrapped up in the lives of the main characters.

THE STORY


The story? Well, simply put it is that of a girl’s marsh life from the ages of 6 to 25 both with her family and then abandoned by her family, of how she grows up barefoot and wild and, despite sparse interactions with other people, of how she manages to educate herself in her remote environment. It is rich with details about marsh life in North Carolina. It is a coming-of-age tale and it is also one of romance and murder, alternating between the years of 1952 and 1969. The author herself says that the book is about loneliness.

IS IT A TRUE STORY?


Is Where the Crawdads Sing a true story? Not really though Elle magazine says that the story has "striking echoes" to the author’s life in Africa with conservationist former husband, Mark Owens, both of who were linked to the unsolved 1995 murder of an African poacher though the couple has denied anything to do with the murder and no charges have ever been filed.

IS IT RECOMMENDED?


Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly the book, which is Owen's first work of fiction, quickly became a hugely successful book.

The Guardian says that “Surprise bestsellers are often works that relate to the times. Though set in the 1950s and 1960s, this book is, in its treatment of racial and social division and the fragile complexities of nature, obviously relevant to contemporary politics and ecology. But these themes reach a huge audience though the writer’s old-fashioned talents for compelling character, plotting and landscape description.”

Actor Reese Witherspoon, who picked Where the Crawdads Sing  as a book for her book club, helped it build momentum and is quoted in Town and Country magazine as having said, "I can’t even express how much I love this book…There is so much to her story…and it takes place in the breathtaking backdrop of the South. I didn’t want this story to end!"

A whopping eighty-six percent of Amazon readers gave it a 5 star review. It is a New York Times number one bestseller, it has been on that best seller list for 78 weeks and it has sold over 1.5 million copies.

Those are, in my opinion, a whole lot of reasons to check out for yourself the book Where the Crawdads Sing. The majority of readers have loved this book and it comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. You can find your copy on Amazon by clicking right here and if you enjoy it, be sure to watch for Witherspoon's movie version of the story.

See you
At the bookstore!

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

QUICK LINKS:


Buy your copy of Where the Crawdads Sing here on Amazon.
Read Dawn Rae's review of Where the Crawdads Sing.









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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ian Rankin's Black and Blue Book Review

Eighth in the series, Black and Blue: is An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin. Find my review here.
Interesting the number of covers Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue has had. I am surprised though I know that different book formats come with different covers. This book, however, seems to have had a lot of different looks. I suppose that is what happens to a successful book as it gains some age.

Of course, once you have a book in your hand, it matters not a whit what the cover looks like though the cover may have helped that book find its way into your hands in the first place. In this case, what it looks like did not matter because this book is one of the books that will be discussed in the late fall class I am taking in Ottawa through Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program called Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today.

Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue is a fictional detective story, written  in 1997 and based firmly in the Scotland of the 1990s. In her class notes, our instructor Stefani Nielson calls the book “post-Christie,” “British realism noir” and she says that it features a “working class anti-hero.”

I did not know what was meant by that last term, anti-hero, so I googled it and Wikipedia shares that “An antihero is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage and morality.” Inspector Rebus is a hard-working, hardened police officer and former SAS officer now coping in self-destruct mode with what life has thrown at him. He is anti-social and struggles with relationships. He is a drinking man with sometimes questionable scruples who is determined to get the job done regardless of who is in the way.

The Story


Black and Blue finds our anti-hero unofficially working four cases at the same time. Among the four, two stand out. He is searching for a mass murderer nicknamed Bible John on a cold case from the 1960s and 1970s and he is searching for a copycat murderer who has been nicknamed Bible Johnny. Set in Scotland, the author helps us visit his Scotland from the comfort of our arm chairs. Our travels will include time in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Shetland and even the oilfields in the North Sea.

It is a long book at more than 550 pages but it is action packed so if you love to read, that should cause you no issues. If you read the book, you will become heavily invested in the main character and consumed by the desire to know who is responsible for the crimes committed and if and how they are all connected.

Is this a good time to tell you that Black and Blue is the eighth in a series of books about Inspector Rebus? It is my first Ian Rankin novel because I am reading it in preparation for my class. In normal circumstances, I would have picked book one as a starting point.

Who Will Like This Book?


Anyone who likes a well-crafted detective novel and does not mind the world that a police officer travels in. This book definitely has violence but it is far from the worst I have ever read and, of course, it has a police officer who drinks, smokes and cuts corners.

Reviews


Goodreads says, “Written with Ian Rankin's signature wit, style and intricacy, Black and Blue is a novel of uncommon and unforgettable intrigue.” The readers who write the reviews on the website rate this book 4.08 out of 5. One of those readers says, “Now this is how you write a really good crime novel!

On his blog, Simon McDonald says, “…this book is one of the author’s best… more than awhodunit, it is a searing commentary on mid-nineties Scotland, told so palatably, so relentlessly…

Personally, I have really enjoyed this novel and meeting Inspector Rebus. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me if you enjoy crime detective fiction. I will definitely have to go back to the start of the series, which is where, I imagine, you will start if you decide you would like to travel in Inspector Rebus's world. You can find all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels on Amazon quickly by clicking right here.

Ian Rankin's Rebus The Definitive DVD Collection

Interesting Facts


This book is considered an important story in Tartan Noir, which is genre in crime fiction written by Scottish writers and set in Scotland. Wikipedia says that Tartan Noir has roots in Scottish literature but adapts elements from other writers like era-specific American crime writers and European crime writers.

The title of the book, Black and Blue, relates to the Rolling Stones album of the same name, it relates to the state we often find our anti-hero in and it relates to the oil fields and the policeman of this story.

The Dancing Pigs, the successful punk music band featured in this book, were recreated from an unsuccessful band that the author played in for a year as a 19-year old. Rankin enjoyed making the band successful in his book. Who could resist? I think I would have done the same.

You may also have seen a mini-series called Ian Rankin's Rebus about the character that aired in 2000. Find it on Amazon here.

Be sure to come back and let us know how you enjoy any of Ian Rankin's books and, if you have seen the mini-series, we would love to hear that, too.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Black and Blue on Amazon.
Find Ian Rankin's Rebus The Definitive DVD Collection on Amazon.








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Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax Book Review

The Vinyl Detective Book Review

The Vinyl Detective Series: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel


Yes, vinyl is trendy. If you are not sure what I mean by vinyl you likely will recognize the old school terms for record albums and LPs. If you don't know what a record or an LP is, you likely recognized vinyl right away. I would bet that whichever term you use to refer to “a thin plastic disk that carries recorded sound in grooves” tells us a bit about your age.

Yes, the detective in this book seeks and finds records. I'm not sure if that is his official profession though he is not employed at any other task and is chronically broke but vinyl is definitely where his knowledge lies and a way for him to make a living or at least, earn some money.

Finally, yes, some vinyl is worth seeking and reselling. A lot of it has no value but a quick search of eBay sold items as seen if you click here will reveal that some are very valuable. The result I see on eBay as I write this post shows that almost 500,000 vinyl records have been sold though I am sorry I cannot tell you in what time frame that was. The results show a first impression Motley Crue Too Fast For Love album and a Japanese Pink Floyd album each selling for almost $5,000.

I am a reseller and yes, therein at least partially lies my interest in the subject matter of this book. I do look for vinyl to resell though I know little about the subject and have sold only a very few records. After receiving a turntable at Christmas in order to play our existing collection of vintage vinyl records, I now find myself looking for vinyl that I find interesting and that I would like to own and occasionally, I add something obscure to my pile with the hopes that it will be valuable. Only a couple of times have I returned home with a record that we already own (oops) and no, I have not found a record that is valuable yet.

The back of this book says that the author, Andrew Cartmel, lives in London with “too much vinyl and just enough cats” but I have no idea if the records and the extensive back story in this book are actually real, rare and valuable or if the whole thing is fictional.  There is, however, a lot to be learned about records and the related paraphernalia in this book. Do note, as the book points out, that we don't say vinyls.

What's Dead Wax?


Just in case you are wondering, Dead Wax is the area on a record that is left blank after the music or playable area and before the paper label. Apparently, the dead wax can have important information and, in the case of this book, messages. I did not know that there was a term for this space though of course it makes sense.

What's Offensive in the Book? 


There is sex, drugs and rock and roll between the covers but not in a particularly offensive manner. Oh and yes, there is murder some of which is not nice but then when is murder ever nice? Anyway, I did not find most of it particularly gruesome or gory. Moments were fleeting and skipped past quickly.  There were a few shocks when the murders happened.

Did I Like the Book? Do I Recommend it?


Yes, I liked the book though I disliked parts. I did not like the way one relationship dissolved and was immediately replaced by another and then that situation dissolved and was immediately replaced by another again though I was heartbroken at moments for the main character and wonder what heartaches await him in the next novel.

The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax was very readable and an interesting treasure hunt for a series of very rare jazz records. It was a peek into the dedication of a true vinyl enthusiast and his network and knowledge. This detective certainly knows how to search for and find vinyl records and yes, I do recommend this book.

Who Will Like This Book? 


Anyone who likes a detective novel with a set of unusual characters should like this book as well as anyone who is curious about the world of vinyl or who is interested in reselling. Bonus, if you love cats, the cute pair in this book loves to be petted under the chin. “They do. They do. Under the chin. Yes, that’s right. Under the chin.”

What Are The Names of The Other Books in the Series?


Up next? There are four more books in this series featuring The Vinyl Detective called The Run-Out Groove, Victory Disc, Flip Back and Murder Swing. Click here to find your copy of the first book, The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax on Amazon.


See you at the bookstore!
(Or maybe at the crates of records
at the next tag sale wearing your
crate-digging shoes.)
Brenda
Treasures by Brenda


Quick Links:

Buy The Vinyl Detective on Amazon.
Check out the vinyl I have in my eBay store!






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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