Not Quite Home

Not Quite Home

Mysteries, histories, comedies, classics, children's, YA, British and Russian lit, nonfiction--I love reading, especially with a bold cup of coffee or a steaming mug of tea in my hands. Is it weird that I wish I were British? 

Review
5 Stars
Seriously funny!
My Family and Other Animals - Gerald Durrell

I read this after someone here on BL recommended it to me, and it's now one of my favorite books. What a crazy, whacky family--but I love them. Mrs. Durrell is an overwhelmed widow doing her best to raise a family of colorful characters, and she does her best to balance all their eccentricities with the harshness of reality and everything that being a widow with four children entails. PBS now has a series called The Durrells on Corfu. The series is inspired by Gerry Durrell's family's adventures recounted in this and the other two books that makes up the Corfu trilogy. The tv series is good, but yeah, the book is better. This was a great read that made me laugh out loud and has me thinking that sometimes the best way to be happy is to learn to let go and just enjoy the ride life provides. Highly recommended!

 

Review
4.5 Stars
The Secret Keepers
The Secret Keepers - Diana Sudyka, Trenton Lee Stewart

When we first meet Reuben, whose father died eleven years ago in a factory accident under a cloud of mystery, he's sneaking around and taking what appear to be crazy precautions and risks for a kid. Reuben is stealthily moving around, avoiding a group of men called The Directions, who work for The Smoke, a shadowy figure that is not to be crossed.

 

Before long, Reuben discovers a device with a truly amazing feature, and it isn't long before Reuben's on the radar of The Directions and The Smoke, which is the last place in the world he wants to be.

 

Fortunate for Reuben, he makes some friends as he tries to avoid The Smoke and his henchmen, and these friends are more than willing to share Reuben's burden and help him learn some valuable lessons about trust along the way. The question is, even with the help of his friends, will Rueben be able to take down an evil empire that even the police seem unable to destroy?

 

This is a suspenseful read with layers of mystery and bits of humor  by an established author who knows how to write to keep his audience turning the page. Great read for the young and not-so-young, alike! Books like this remind me of why I started enjoying YA in tne first place!

 

Galley copy. Opinions my own.

 

Review
3.5 Stars
Always Hungry?
Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently - David Ludwig, Author

Nothing particularly groundbreaking unless you're new to the ketogenic/low carb/slow carb world, but everything in here is straightforward and user friendly. Charts and recipes make the plan easy to understand. Basically, you'll go high-fat, low carb for phase one (with little to no starchy carbs at all); phase two includes more carbs but still gets 40% of calories from healthy fats; and phase three allows up to 40% carbs, but how many and which kinds essentially depend on individual tolerance. The book also addresses how sleep (or the lack of sleep) and stress effect us and offers insights into getting more and better sleep and bringing our stress levels down.

 

This isn't a diet so much as a lifestyle change that's designed to break the processed carb addiction that leads to weight gain because of the way our bodies produce and react to insulin. The more junky carbs we eat, the hungrier we feel, and the hungrier we feel, the more junky carbs we tend to eat.  

 

Overall, this seems doable, and I like the way it addresses the "whole person" and doesn't just focus on the foods we should or shouldn't eat. I'm happy that the author understands how most of either can't or possibly even shouldn't follow a super low-carb diet long term, especially when there's no real need to. This is a way of eating I think I can live with!

Review
4 Stars
Prince of Fire
Prince Of Fire  - Daniel Silva

I went to a conference with a coworker where, along with the number of other people, we scored over 2,700 student essays. My coworker loaned me this on day one of the conference because Silva is one of her husband's favorite authors, and we have similar taste in books. I didn't think I'd want to read anything in the evenings after spending all day reading on a computer screen and straining my eyes, but once I started this, I had a hard time putting it down so that I could let my eyes rest. Much of what I read in here seemed familiar to me, so much so that I was wondering if perhaps I'd read previous books in this series but forgotten about them. It turns out that I hadn't, but Prince of Fire is inspired by actual historical events that I was familiar with, hence my confusion regarding the feeling of familiarity. I'm now a fan of Silva's Gabriel Allon series and will be adding the rest of the titles to my ever growing to-be-read pile. This is a fast paced thriller of high intensity and suspense.

Review
4 Stars
The Great Shelby Holmes
The Great Shelby Holmes - Elizabeth Eulberg

John Watson is a military kid who's had to move around a lot. On top of that, he's now having to deal with his parents' divorce and all the changes that come long with it. This is a tough time in his life, but fortunate for him, he has the great Shelby Holmes to keep his mind off of his troubles, at least to the degree that's possible--and considering that Shelby almost blew up the apartment building she and John will be living in, I'd say she's quite a diversion.

 

Shelby's a focused, intelligent, observant, and blunt young lady with a shortage of patience, and she can be a bit much for most people to handle, but thanks to John's background and demeanor, if anybody can break through Shelby's walls and befriend her, John is the kid to do it. Their budding friendship is an adventure from the start, and though it may not be evident to the unusually brilliant Shelby right away, she needs John as much as he needs her--possibly even more so.

 

The only problem I have with this terrific little book is that it was hard to believe in Shelby as a 9-year-old genius when she comes across as a 12-year-old genius. Even as a teacher of gifted youth, I just couldn't completely buy it, though I tried. Aside from that, however, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and particularly loved the delightful allusions the author must have included just for Sherlock Holmes fanatics like me. I think young readers are going to devour this book, and I hope some of them will even become fans of Sherlock Holmes one day as a result of reading this. 

 

ARC, but views are my own

School stinks

Okay, not really cuz I love my job, but ever since school started back, I haven't had time to read or play on BL, and now I'm sad. And I'm working on weekends now, too, so I barely have time to breathe. Oh, well. One day summer break will come again. I hope everyone else is well and experiencing reading bliss!

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Have you ever?
Have you ever?
Eat hemp.
Eat hemp.

More pix from the city streets

Review
4 Stars
The Last Detective (Peter Diamond Book 1) - Peter Lovesey

I don't know how I hadn't previously come across Peter Lovesey's police procedurals featuring the irascible Det. Peter Diamond, but I'm very thankful to have been introduced to this series. Though The Last Detective didn't end exactly the way I wanted it to, what's important is that I actually cared enough about the characters to want things to end a certain way, and I even searched online to see if I could find any kind of sequel or any information about what happened after I turned the final page. I need to know where three of the characters go next! That need to know more about the characters' lives means I was invested in the book, and I love it when that happens. Peter Diamond, as cranky as he can be, has found himself a new fan in me, and I'm looking forward to working my way through the rest of series. I thoroughly enjoyed getting caught up in this, and I'm excited about digging into the series!

 

Lagniappe: Det. Diamond is apparently a fan of Fabian of the Yard, so I did an online search to see if that was an actual person, and I was tickled to find out he was. Here's a link to an old black-and-white episode that, coincidentally enough, also has to do with death by drowning. This is called The Executioner from 1955. Enjoy!
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=70sxNZdZTa4

 

Thanks to Netgalley and Soho press for the digital copy, which did not influence my review.

 

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Keep Writing
Keep Writing
Keep Swimming
Keep Swimming

Walked around a bit with my phone camera at the ready in case anything caught my eye.

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Keep going. Keep growing.
Keep going. Keep growing.

Growth

Review
5 Stars
Under the Midnight Sun
Under the Midnight Sun - Keigo Higashino

This is no ordinary novel. It is an intricate, well-written, and perfectly paced exposé of the darker side of human nature. There are those within its pages who must learn that even a midnight sun can burn its worshippers.

 

Higashino presents a multi-layered novel comprised of deeply flawed, complex human beings whose extreme natures and exceptional self-control drive them to exert dominance over people and situations. The annals of history overflow with myriad people--some famous, some infamous, some outright sociopaths--whose singular determination either compelled or allowed them to accomplish the almost impossible, good or ill. It is from them, perhaps, that Higashino drew inspiration for the main characters in Under the Midnight Sun

 

Though lengthy, there are no superfluous storylines. Each narrative is an integral thread in the web. Detective Sasagaki has his work cut out for him, but he also has enough doggedness (and packs of Hi-Lite cigarettes) to keep him digging for the truth.

 

Not since reading The Devotion of Suspect X have I enjoyed a Higashino novel this much, and I found myself staying up late into the night reading, and thinking about the book over the course of the next day. This is an excellent novel written by a true master of the craft of suspense.

 

 

(Netgalley ARC, but views my own)

Review
4.5 Stars
The Gentleman
The Gentleman: A Novel - Leo E. Forrest

I knew I would like Lionel Savage from the start. The poor poet's not impoverished for a lack of sales but from spending his income on books. To climb out of poverty's pit, he hatches a quixotic scheme that lands him in an unhappy marriage to a "vapid, timid, querulous creature," whom Savage accidentally ends up selling to the devil at yet another of the new bride's insufferable masquerades. One thing leads to another, and Savage and a motley cast of characters embark on a madcap adventure to Hades, Hell, Sheol, and/or the Underworld, in order to bring her back.

 

The Gentleman is Forrest Leo's first book, and I certainly hope it won't be his last as this zany, witty, light-hearted novel is entertaining, fast-paced, and fun. The illustrations are a nice addition to the plot, and I particularly enjoyed the repartee between Savage and his butler Simmons. (Think Jeeves and Wooster-- but with Jeeves willing to strip down to his skivvies for the sake of art!)

 

The Gentleman is just what I needed to help pull me out of the doldrums that this current election-cycle has me in. It was nice to be able to sit back for a few hours, drink a pot of tea, and enjoy a book that really needs to be made into a movie or Broadway show just as quickly as possible.

 

One thing this world needs more of is fun, and Forrest Leo delivers.

 

I recommend this to fans of P.G. Wodehouse and as a nice companion read to go along with "The Devil and Tom Walker."

 

(ARC, but views my own.)

 

Review
4 Stars
The Infernal Device
The Infernal Device (A Professor Moriarty Novel) - Michael Kurland

I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, so anything Holmes-related is going to attract my attention, and when I happened across the chance to get the entire Professor Moriarty series for a song, I grabbed them up, and this, the first in the series, didn't disappoint.

 

Of course it's odd reading a novel that makes Moriarty a hero of sorts, but for a good read, I'm willing to overlook the fact that this is the man who tried to kill Sherlock Holmes (knowing the outcome of that fateful meeting at Reichenbach Falls makes it easier for me to overcome my natural aversion to Moriarty). In The Infernal Device he comes across as intelligent and calculating, of course, but also as a gentleman with a certain kind of honor. I won't say I like him, but I find him slightly less than utterly despicable, and it's very interesting to see him and Holmes having to work together for a change.

 

The plot revolves around international intrigue, an unfortunate murder, and a dastardly plot to kill a prominent member of the British royal family. Of course there are close calls, plans gone awry, and a spectacularly suspenseful climax at the end.

 

I recommend this to Holmes fans and to readers looking for action, intrigue, and suspense. Long live Sherlock Holmes!

 

Review
3 Stars
Inspector Singh in Bali
A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul - Shamini Flint

The novel's opening text allows the reader to eavesdrop on the vacillating inner thoughts of a young jihadist as he waits for the final command to carry out a suicide bombing--not what I was expecting, but my attention has been captured.

 

It's a fairly intense read, and the author seems to possess a solid understanding of the jihadi mindset. Inspector Singh isn't a particularly likable character, but he is good at his job. There are several surprises in the plot, and a climatic ending.

 

(Illustration: Tapas Ranjan)

 

Review
3.5 Stars
Wise Blood
Wise Blood - Flannery O'Connor

The main character, Hazel, is a highly unlikeable young man who suffers from a sort of religious mania, but he doesn't want there to be a Jesus, so, working against his own conscience and destroying himself in the process, he starts a church without a church and spends his incredibly miserable life trying to convince himself and others that Jesus Christ doesn't exist. He encounters some of the saddest, most disagreeable characters along the way, including a con artist/preacher of sorts and his damaged daughter, as well as a depressive young lunatic named Enoch, whose sole purpose and highest honor in life, apparently, is to own his own gorilla suit (I think). 

 

Everybody in this novel sucks: the waitresses, the cops, the landlady, the security guard at the zoo, you name it. There's not a single redeeming character in the mix. Nevertheless, this novel is interesting--like a train wreck or a house fire or a pile up on I-10.

 

Perhaps the following quote from chapter 10 about sums things up: "Where you come from is gone, and where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it."

 

I'm sure literary critics have had a field day with this one, and rightfully so. It's an interesting novel about deeply flawed human beings, and the first thing I wanted to do when I turned the final page is take a shower. 

 

SIDEBAR: Apparently John Huston made a film version, which may well the greatest movie ever made, but not much could persuade me to watch it. 

 

Review
4 Stars
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing: From the Files of Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator - Tarquin Hall

The basic premise here is that the goddess Kali appears out of nowhere and kills a prominent scientist right out in the open in front of several eyewitnesses who even have a video to use as proof of the supernatural. It's up to Vish to determine whether this is murder or truly an act of an avenging god.

 

I like these Vish Puri cozy mysteries. They're humorous and funny, and the loveable cast of characters keeps me coming back for more, along with the mysteries, themselves. Vish always has more than one mystery to solve at a time, but fortunately for him, he has a handful of operatives (Tubelight, Flush, and Facecream) he can always count on. Now if he can just figure out a way to keep his mom, Mummy-ji, to understand, once and for all, that 
Mummies aren't detectives!" And this time, she even has Vish's wife involved!

http://www.vishpuri.com/

 

Since Vish is such a foodie, I'm including a link to a temple sweet made in India. I've never tasted this, but it looks delish! 

 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-36832237?ocid=socialflow_twitter

 

 

 

2016 NetGalley Challenge First To ReadReviews PublishedProfessional Reader