Friday, May 23, 2014

Bookreview: The Book of Chameleons

Author: Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Genre: literature, magical realism
Published: 2006
Personal rating: 4.5/5
Yearly count: 8

The Book of Chameleons is a difficult book to describe, as it touches on many different elements. On the one hand, it’s a book set in present-day Angola – or present-day when the book was published, which is now almost a decade ago. So it gives a very good, realistic image of what the country is like. On the other hand, it’s a satire that enlarges the issues Angola struggles with to bring attention to it. Add in the fact that the book tells the story in a magical realism way and you’ve got a very unique piece of literature.
I do not want to spoil the story of this book by saying too much about it. It’s not a very long book, but it has quite an impact. The story flows very well and despite the sometimes abrupt shifts from chapter to chapter in events there was never a moment I felt lost as to what was happening. But what I love most of all is the main storyteller in this book. Absolutely brilliant choice. The only reason I did not give this book five stars is because of the ending. I was left with a few questions and I personally don’t like that. I understand this is how the author meant to end it, but I’m not convinced it was the best place to stop. If he’d stopped just one chapter before it would have been a better ending for me. But that’s a personal opinion and others may disagree. Either way, I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bookreview: The Lions of Lucerne

Author: Brad Thor
Genre: thriller
Published: 2002
Personal rating: 5/5
Yearly count: 7

The Lions of Lucerne is a typical thriller – Scot Harvath, an ex-SEAL, now Secret Service agent, must go at it alone in order to rescue the president of the United States. Framed for murder and with two different parties trying to kill him, it’s a constant struggle to stay alive and free so he can clear his name and get the president back. This is not the only book that uses this kind of plot, but when reading this that doesn’t matter. The plot is well executed, with enough tension in it to keep you reading as well as likable characters to play the main parts. I really liked Scot Harvath as a character – he’s competent, sympathetic and interesting. The only little quibble I had was that sometimes Scot is called by his first name in the narrative, while only a paragraph below he’s called by his last name again. It was like the author couldn’t chose whether to have Scot go by his last or first name in the narrative. But that small issue didn’t detract much from the book and I wholeheartedly give it five stars. I’m very much looking forward to reading more in this series.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bookreview: Moon Dance

Author: J.R. Rain
Genre: mystery, detective, fantasy
Published: 2009
Personal rating: 3.5/5
Yearly count: 6

Moon Dance is a detective story with a vampire as a PI. What makes it different is that this vampire had a normal life until six years ago and now Samantha’s life has been turned upside down. There are no sparkling vampire here, nor is the idea of being a vampire treated as something romantic and easy. It’s a great ‘real life’ look into how turning into a vampire would really be. However, during the entire book I felt that the mystery was secondary to Samantha’s life issues and the ending felt rushed. It’s an intriguing book that’s different than most in its genre and I enjoyed it, but not enough to pursue other books in this series.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bookreview: An Undeniable Rogue

Author: Annette Blair
Genre: romance, historical
Published: 2002
Personal rating: 5/5
Yearly count: 5

An Undeniable Rogue is a very nice romance novel. More serious than some of Annette Blair’s other books, but still with plenty of humor in it. What I loved most about this book was its realism. There’s no magical healing of a traumatic past for Sabrina, the female heroine of this tale. The love of a good man does not erase the past, but it does give the strength to move past it and maybe trust again. That is where the strength of this book lies – the realistic evolvement of the relationship. Never mind the subplot, the mystery that wasn’t always as mysterious as the author maybe intended. I loved the characters in this book and I loved the relationship between Sabrina and Gideon. A full five stars for this historical romance.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bookreview: Save with Jamie

Author: Jamie Oliver
Genre: non-fiction, cookbook
Published: 2013
Personal rating: 4/5
Yearly count: 4

This latest book from Jamie Oliver is all about making great tasting meals that don’t cost a lot. It’s also about not wasting food – good for the environment and your wallet. There’s several buying and storing tips throughout the book, as well as ways to deal with ingredients to make them last longer and get the most out of them. He also points out cheaper alternatives to more expensive ingredients, like steaks. In many of his recipes he indicates what else you can use in them, so you can make optimal use of in season vegetables and sales.

There are six main chapters of recipes: vegetables, chicken, beef, pork, lamb and fish. These chapters (except the vegetable chapter) all have the same general lay-out: a main recipe that’s enough to feed 6-8 people and still have leftovers of the meat or fish. Then there are several recipes that use these leftovers. The chapter is topped off with several general recipes. The recipes in the book are for 4, 6, or 8 people generally, but can easily be adapted to other amounts. There’s also a few pages with bonus recipes, for 1 or 2 people. All the way in the back is one page dealing with fruit, which is also the only page that mentions dessert. The final pages in the book give nutritional information about all of the recipes in the book.

I like this book a lot. Unlike several of his other books that contained involved recipes and sometimes harder to get ingredients, I think this one holds a lot of recipes that can be cooked during the week. I made two recipes already, a vegetable one and a chicken recipe, that tasted amazing and weren’t hard to make. The only thing that I missed, especially since this is a book about saving money and wasting less food, is information about freezing the leftovers of whatever recipe you’re making. For instance, I made the recipe sticky chicken and noodles. Could I have frozen my leftovers or would it have become inedible once thawed? How long would it have lasted in the freezer? That’s information I missed, especially since he did include that information for the main recipe where you’re supposed to have leftovers from. But all in all, this is a cookbook I’m definitely going to be cooking from a lot.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Bookreview: In Pursuit of Reason

Author: Noble E. Cunningham, Jr.
Genre: non-fiction, biography
Published: 1988
Personal rating: 4/5
Yearly count: 3

This biography of Thomas Jefferson is very readable and enjoyable. The author is very fair in his assessment of Jefferson and often shows both sides of the argument. He’s very objective about Jefferson’s actions, also placing them in their proper context of time period and culture. This allows the modern day reader to see how revolutionary some of Jefferson’s ideas were, despite some of them still seeming very backwards to our modern sensibilities.

There were a few minor points that were less well done. Sometimes Cunningham presumes a familiarity with concepts, treaties, laws or events that, at least here in Europe, are not generally known. Examples are the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, or who Frances Wright was and what her project Nashoba was. This makes some passages harder to follow than they should be.

Another thing was the fact that the affair with Sally Hemings was not really mentioned at all. There is one mention of her in the entire book, in the chapter where Jefferson is in Paris, and that mention is disputing that their affair started in France. I know final confirmation that the affair had happened didn’t occur until ten years after this book was published, but there were still things that could’ve been mentioned. It was quite a controversy in his own time too and even used to attack him by political adversaries, so why no mention at all?

Other than that, I liked this book. It’s a good, solid biography of a great man. Jefferson had a lot of very revolutionary ideas for his time, but in the end remained practical enough to protect his reputation so he could try to implement at least some of them. Nothing about this man is purely black-and-white, but what did become clear to me was that he did a lot of great things during his lifetime.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bookreview: Home of the Braised

Author: Julie Hyzy
Genre: Mystery, Detective
Published: 2014
Personal rating: 5/5
Yearly count: 2

This seventh book in the White House Chef Mysteries series was amazing. Set almost immediately after the previous book, there’s again a lot going on for Ollie. Both in her personal life as in her professional life there are some bumps in the road, not to mention the mystery that she gets dragged into. Although to be fair, it’s not due to her nosiness this time, but Gav’s fault. Where the previous book was set mainly outside of the White House, this book once again mainly takes place inside the White House. It kind of felt a little like coming home.

The mystery is once again well constructed. The book feels balanced between Ollie’s private problems, her job and the mystery. What I really like about this series and which was very apparent in this book, is the fact that there’s an evolution to the characters and the world they live in. Characters change due to what happened in the books. Ollie’s getting a reputation for finding trouble. The happenings earlier in the series change and shape how people react in this book. I love that about this series and this book. All in all, this book was once again extremely good and a pleasure to read. Highly recommended! But do please read previous books first, as that will undoubtedly heighten your enjoyment of this book immensely.