Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bookreview: From Mother to Daughter

Author: Oksana Vitruk
Genre: cookbook, non-fiction
Published: 2013
Personal rating: 2.5/5
Yearly count: 1

This cookbook started as a way for Oksana Vitruk to pass on her family recipes to her daughters, but she decided to make it available for everyone. Some of the recipes are familiar ones, others are unfamiliar – mainly those that are more traditional Eastern-European ones. I always like discovering new recipes and this book delivers on that. The pictures that accompany each recipe give you a nice look at what a dish is supposed to look like, even if you’ve never heard of it before. It’s clear the photography isn’t professional, although it’s nicely done, but that makes it more accessible I think.

The chapters are Soups, Main Dishes, Meat Dishes, Seafood Dishes, Breakfast Ideas, Pancakes, Appetizers, Dumplings, Salads and Preserving, Drinks, and Desserts. It’s a good distribution of types of dishes. I also liked the comments on other options for the recipes (like which other ingredients you could use, or what to serve it with) but not all the recipes had those comments.

There were some, rather big, downsides to this book, though. Some of the recipes felt like they were missing some essential information about, for instance, cooking time. Or in the case of the breakfast dish, soaking time for the bread in the egg and milk mixture. Some recipes just say ‘use any desired amount’ which personally I find very irritating. Give me an amount and then say I can play around with that amount, but at least I’ll have a starting point then. Also, there’s no directions for how many people you can feed with the recipes. Having to guess how many people I can feed based on the amount of ingredients is not a good way to get me to try out a recipe.

All in all, I’d give this 2.5 stars. It has potential, but especially not knowing how many people I can feed will prevent me from cooking much with this book.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bookreview: Rachel's Secret

Author: Shelly Sanders
Genre: historical
Published: 2012
Personal rating: 4/5
Yearly count: 15

Rachel’s Secret is a historical novel set in Kishinev in 1903. Back then, Kishinev was still Russian, though now it’s the capital of Moldova. Early in the year, the Jewish Rachel witnesses the murder of a Christian boy. Forced to keep silent, suspicion falls to the Jewish community. Tensions rise as prejudice and rumors abound and eventually it all comes to a head.

I really enjoyed this story. Rachel’s Secret is a well written book, with writing that flows and makes reading this books fast and easy, despite the topic. It’s well researched and that shows, without letting the details overwhelm the story. I don’t know if this book is marketed as young adult, but I think it would be a good book for young adults. At its core, the story is a coming of age tale. It’s also the first in a trilogy, and I do think I’d be interested in reading the other two. But, the story stands very well on its own. Recommended for those who like historical fiction and coming of age stories.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bookreview: Seawitch

Author: Alistair MacLean
Genre: thriller, action/adventure
Published: 2014
Personal rating: 2.5/5
Yearly count: 14

Seawitch is the story and name of a new type of oil drilling platforms, large, sophisticated and mobile. It’s set in the latter half of the 1970s, after the 1973 oil crisis. The Seawitch is owned by billionaire Lord Worth, who plans to greatly undercut the established oil companies. This, not surprisingly, makes him a lot of powerful enemies who will do anything to stop him. Thrown in some Cold War and anti-US countries looking to make trouble as well, and you have a right mess. But when the two daughters of Lord Worth are kidnapped, the two private detectives who are in friends with them get involved.

Now, that sounds like a thrilling story, full of action. And in a way it is. There’s action and explosions and tension…well, maybe not that last one. The story is told in a third person omniscient voice and that narrative voice sounds, quite frankly, bored. The story style is more summarizing, hand waving, ‘oh, this happened’ than anything else. Not even the most tense moments managed to actually come across as exciting. It all fell very flat. This was not helped by the fact that the characters seemed very much like caricatures. There was no depth to any of them.

The story had a lot of promise, the premise was great, the events in the book would make a good story, but the way it was told makes it rather boring. All in all, this book disappointed me. It was a fairly fast read, but hardly the thrilling thriller I expected.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Short Story Review: Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo

Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: humor, action/adventure
Published: 2013
Personal rating: 4/5
Short story count: 1

A short Percy Jackson story that can be read entirely independent from the Percy Jackson series, although it’s canonically set after book 5 if I got it right. It’s a part of the Other Worlds anthology. It’s funny and has a good dose of action. I liked it a lot.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bookreview: Badge of Honor

Author: Robert J. Thomas
Genre: western
Published: 2013
Personal rating: 3/5
Yearly count: 13

Badge of Honor is the tenth book in the Jess Williams series. Although it stands mostly alone, you do miss some things as events and relationships are referenced without background. Other than that, it’s a typical western – lots of threats and shooting, not much substance to the plot. The characters are all overdrawn, becoming caricatures. The writing is okay, but not very inspiring. But despite all this it’s a very entertaining read.

The plot gets a tiny bit better when Clay Finch is introduced about half-way through, but it never does rise above the obvious. Almost every Western cliché is in this book and that’s what makes it so entertaining. And yes, the clichés include a gunfight at high noon! But the book doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is – a cliché Western written to entertain lovers of Westerns.

I would like to offer a word of warning. The bodies drop pretty rapidly and there’s a lot of violence in this book. There are no real graphic descriptions that linger on the violence, but the descriptions are very matter-of-fact. Sexual violence isn’t shown, but it is mentioned several times.

All in all, this was a nice, quick and easy read. It was nothing special, but very entertaining and the type of thing you think about when someone says Western.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bookreview: Booked To Die

Author: John Dunning
Genre: mystery, detective
Published: 1992
Personal rating: 5/5
Yearly count: 12

I loved, loved, loved Booked to Die. It’s grittier than I normally read, but there was enough lighter moments (most of them centering around books) that I didn’t have a problem with this book at all. Cliff Janeway is a character that gained my sympathies pretty fast, despite maybe not always been the quintessential good guy in his behavior. I loved the minor plot woven through the book and thought it was masterfully done how it eventually connected to the main plot. The mystery itself was intriguing and well done. Nothing I can say against the book.

Now, against the blurb on the back of the book – that’s another ballgame. It contains a major spoiler for an event that doesn’t happen until page 162. I kept waiting for it to happen and I do think it would’ve been better not to know it was coming. My advice: don’t read the blurb of this book! But if you do (or already did), don’t worry too much. The book is still excellent. Highly recommended. I definitely have a new series on my list of books to read.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

DNF: No Place for a Lady

Author: Maggie Brendan
Genre: historical, romance
Published: 2009
Personal rating: 2,5/5
DNF count: 3

No Place for a Lady is set in 1892. Crystal Clark moves from the South to Colorado, where her aunt owns a cattle ranch. It’s supposed to be just a visit, but when tragedy strikes she must try to save the ranch. All the while, she battles against the very different environment and the opinions of some those around her that a cattle ranch is no place for a lady.

It sounds like a good book, an interesting historical romance with an interesting setting. However, 87 pages in everything is still so very bland. There’s no real spark between the two main characters and I feel no real connection to the book. It’s not a bad book by any definition of the word, but there’s nothing there holding my attention either. In the end, I can only conclude this is not a book for me. Maybe someone else will enjoy it more than I did.