Books

#NetGalley #BookReview Matters of Vital Interest by Eric Lerner #Biography #LeonardCohen #Poet #Artist #Songwriter

 

Review

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Matters of Vital Interest

 A Forty-Year Friendship with Leonard Cohen

by Eric Lerner

Release date: October 16th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of Matters of Vital Interest: A Forty-Year Friendship with Leonard Cohen by Eric Lerner from NetGalley and De Capo Press in order to read and give an honest review.

I have been a fan of Leonard Cohen since my teens. Unlike most of the new wave, punk heroes of my youth, Cohen’s work somehow spoke to me on a very different level. He was not glammed up with spiked hair and eyeliner but had a cool elegance that made him and his music stand out for me. Although his work was, and still is, brilliant, poetic and fairly well known, the man himself, always seemed to remain a mystery…until now. Author Eric Lerner, a close personal friend of Cohen for over forty years shares with us an intimate and unique portrait of the man, his spirit and the creative and curious workings of his mind.   

As a fan I really enjoyed this, although bittersweet and intensely emotional at times, it gave us a glimpse inside Cohen’s life like nothing else I have watched or read. Lerner and Cohen endured a great deal throughout their friendship from trying to find spiritual meaning and weathering their creative storms, to divorce, parenting and ultimately illness. These two went through it all, offering support, kindness, wit and most importantly honesty.  We saw them search for spiritual meaning, exploring Zen Buddhism while still adhering to their Jewish faith. I giggled at the story of their existential conversation whilst watching a nature documentary about penguins. We learn about what made Cohen tick, how proud he was to be a father and the little idiosyncrasies that make us see him as perhaps a little less mysterious and if anything, the very human, honest and extremely self-aware artist he was. 

I love the fact Lerner gives us a glimpse into Cohen’s life in a respectful but very honest way, highlighting the good but also sharing the troublesome often overwhelming things that Cohen endured in his life. My only issue with the book, although it wouldn’t stop me reading it, was the fact it jumps around in spots. Some sections seemed like a meandering internal dialogue going back and forth, revisiting things as they came to Lerner’s mind but often seemed a bit repetitive in my opinion.

All in all, I really enjoyed this unique gift to Cohen fans everywhere, an honest, captivating glimpse at the man and his music, a must read in my opinion.

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Books

#NetGalley #BookReview The Clockmaker’s Daughter A Novel by Kate Morton #HistoricalFiction #Mystery #Paranormal

Review

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The Clockmaker’s Daughter A Novel

by Kate Morton

Release date: October 9th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of The Clockmaker’s Daughter A Novel by Kate Morton from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada in order to read and give an honest review.

… intricately woven into an absorbing, entertaining and hauntingly beautiful novel…

Kate Morton skillfully creates an epic gothic tale, intricately woven into an absorbing, entertaining and hauntingly beautiful novel that in my opinion is perhaps one of her best. The Clockmaker’s Daughter is so complex it’s difficult to summarize, there are layers upon layers of historical detail, mystery, love and loss with a touch of paranormal. 

The story follows multiple characters, shifting through different periods of time spanning from the 1860’s to the present day, all intertwined and connected to Birchwood Manor by the Thames.  One thing I love about Kate Morton’s work is she creates such fascinating and multifaceted characters with atmospheric settings that draw you into the story from the beginning. Each character is unique, the female characters strong and intelligent. In The Clockmaker’s Daughter, all of the characters are brilliant but one voice stands out for me, Birdie. We learn first-hand about her traumatic life, tragic death and her thoughts and feelings on both.

The story opens with London archivist Elodie Winslow, cataloguing the archives of James Stratton when she happens across a mysterious leather satchel containing a photograph of a stunning Victorian woman and a sketch of a mysterious house by the river. Elodie instantly feels connected to the items and is compelled to discover the origins of the house which is eerily similar to a house in a bedtime story her mother used to tell her before she died. Despite being in the middle of planning a wedding Elodie is determined to see whether it is, in fact, the house contained in the stories from her childhood. During her investigation, she discovers the satchel belongs to the artist, Edward Radcliffe and the photo is of his muse and secret love Lily and Elodie becomes obsessed with uncovering their story and is driven to visit Birchwood Manor.   The Manor’s incarnations include Edward Radcliffe’s artist’s retreat, a school for young ladies, home to a widow with three young children, the inspiration for a student’s thesis and lastly a museum dedicated to the artist Edward Radcliffe. Birchwood Manor, in some ways, seems to become a character in itself, the house seems to have a distinct personality. In each of its incarnations, the house holds a special space in each of the occupants’ hearts as well as concealing secrets in its walls about tragic events that occurred during the summer of 1862 which include murder, betrayal and loss.

I absolutely loved this book, it is not for those who are looking for a fast-paced page-turner, it definitely requires patience but it is a slow but satisfying read that is worth it and one I would highly recommend!

Books

#BookReview of The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton via #NetGalley #Mystery

 

Review

Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

by Stuart Turton

Release date: September 18th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton from NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark in order to read and give an honest review.

“Stuart Turton’s debut novel is genius, he has written a clever, unique and deeply psychological novel that will keep you guessing to the very end….”

This has got to be perhaps the most creative, clever and brilliant novels I have read this year.  Stuart Turton writes a novel that blends an Agatha Christie feel with the movie Groundhog Day or Memento, overflowing with atmosphere, complex characters, an intricate plot, psychological twists and turns all of which leading the reader to a completely unexpected ending.  Murder, mayhem and body swapping, who could ask for more?

A brilliant cast of characters is attending a memorial party for Thomas Hardcastle who was murdered as a child years ago at Blackheath. Thomas’s sister Evelyn Hardcastle who was supposed to supervise him that day was blamed by her family and fled to Paris but after a long time estranged, she is invited to the party by her Mother. Poor Evelyn doesn’t visit for long, she is murdered at 11pm the night of the party by one of the guests and guest Aiden Bishop feels driven to solve her murder. Aiden wakes up not knowing who he is, where he is from and every time he sleeps he wakes up in another person’s body, reliving the day but not just from another’s perspective but with fuzzy vague memories of what secrets he learned through his previous host.  He is also visited by a man dressed in a plague doctor outfit and learns that he is not alone there are two others just like him and whoever solves the crime first is the only one to be freed from Blackheath.  There is also a murderous footman determined to murder his hosts so he can no longer jump. With each host, he battles their personalities’, some good, some evil but all begin to bury his own personality.  During his jumps, he figures out who the other two “jumpers” are and they decide to work together, leaving clues and notebooks so they remember what they have learned the previous day, but will they betray him?

Stuart Turton’s debut novel is genius, he has written a clever, unique and deeply psychological novel that will keep you guessing to the very end. Highly recommend it!

Books

Pure Skin Care Nourishing Recipes for Vibrant Skin & Natural Beauty by Stephanie L. Tourles via #NetGalley #Review #Beauty

 

Review

Pure Skin Care  by Stephanie L. Tourles

Nourishing Recipes for Vibrant Skin & Natural Beauty

by Stephanie L. Tourles

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Release date: September 18th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of Pure Skin Care: Nourishing Recipes for Vibrant Skin & Natural Beauty by Stephanie L. Tourles from NetGalley and Storey Publishing in order to read and give an honest review.

For the past ten years due to skin sensitivities I have been using more natural based cosmetics and skin care products.  The past year I have taken it even more serious goning right back to basics using pure natural items to cleanse and moisturize and honestly, the timing of this book could not be more perfect.

In Pure Skin Care, Stephanie L. Tourles educates us on the science of our skin, how to care for it, giving us information on tips to care for it other than applying products externally.   Pure Skin Care includes 78 recipes for all types of beauty products from cleansers, toners scrubs, masks, moisturizers, steams, creams and balms, and features some easy recipes for every price range. Some ingredients are most likely in your pantry, others can be purchased at health food stores and even some local grocers.   Tourles even gives us tips and techniques even teaching us to grow and dry our own herbs.

I tried creating some of the recipes and found them easy to follow, I was able to tailor them to my specific skin type and loved the results.  I particularly liked the Balance Restorer, Light and Lively Moisturizer, Salt of the Earth Scrub, Tranquility Toner and the Lavender Protection Balm, all were fairly easy to make and have left my skin glowing!

Books

#NetGalley #Review Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley #HistoricalFiction #Mystery #Romance

Review

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Bellewether

by Susanna Kearsley

Release date: August 7th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley from NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark in order to read and give an honest review.

“…a slow unravelling, yet compelling story with unique, strong and resilient characters that truly make this a pleasure to read. “

Although not new to Susanna Kearsley’s work it has been a while since I’ve read her and I have to ask myself what was I waiting for.  Ms Kearsley is a master at weaving intricate, emotional and character-driven historical dramas that span centuries. She weaves a delicate tapestry rich with historical details that don’t feel like an info dump but is so carefully blended as to drive the story along.

In Bellewether, we meet Charley a historian from Canada who returns to her ancestral home to care for her 19-year-old niece after the sudden death of her brother. She accepts a job as a curator of the Wilde House which is currently going through the restoration process. During the story, we are also introduced to two characters from the 1750’s on opposing sides of the seven-year war.  Jean Phillipe a captured soldier being held as a prisoner of war with his colleague at the Wilde family home and the daughter of the home Lydia who tragically loses her fiancé during the war are forced to live under the same roof. Lydia is at first disgusted that she must live under the same roof but with time they become less enemies and more just human beings trying to live.   The author also gives us insight into the main issues of the time time,  such as slavery, treatment of the Acadians and the general climate of the war are all used to build and shape a vivid description of life during the war.

Charley is also facing a war during her time. An unhealthy relationship on the rocks, strained familial ties, battling bitter board members and mysterious events that make her wonder if she is losing her mind.  She also tries to get to the bottom of a tragic legend that surrounds the old Wilde House and the phantoms therein.

Ms Kearsley gives us such a strong atmosphere, a touch of romance and a mystery that keeps the reader intrigued. Although this story isn’t a fast-paced thriller it’s a slow unravelling yet compelling story with unique, strong and resilient characters that truly make this a pleasure to read.  I would definitely recommend it and will be keeping Ms Kearsley’s books on my reading list!

Books

#Review of A Little History of Archaeology (Little Histories) by Brian Fagan #NetGalley #Archaeology

 

Review

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A Little History of Archaeology

(Little Histories)

by Brian Fagan

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of A Little History of Archaeology by Brian Fagan from NetGalley and Yale University Press in order to read and give an honest review.

I have been a fan of Brian Fagan for a long time. His books are always enjoyable, packed with information and written in a way that is entertaining yet educational. In A Little History of Archaeology, Dr. Fagan does it again.

In A Little History of Archaeology, he walks us through history, showing us the humble beginnings and evolution of archaeology. His style is that of a person who loves his subject matter and he takes a subject which to some may seem complex and tedious and breaths life into it.

Dr. Fagan takes us along a journey traveling through time and visiting the far reaches of the earth. We begin with Napoleon’s scientists aka “donkeys” in Egypt before “archaeology” had really begun. The “donkeys” who were a collection of experts in agriculture, art, engineering, and botany although methods somewhat crude were one of the first to explore with curiosity.  We meet the likes of Darwin, Clark, Kenyon, and Kelso, all of whom have paved the way to the advent of archaeology.

We get introductions to carbon dating, travel far a wide and learn so much along the way. Whether you are an armchair archaeologist or in the field, there is something in A Little History of Archaeology for everyone.

Books

#NetGalley #Review of The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (@CNHolmberg )#UrbanFantasy

 

Review

The Plastic Magician

(The Paper Magician Series #4)

by Charlie N. Holmberg

Release date: May 15th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of  The Plastic Magician (The Paper Magician #4 Spin-Off) by Charlie N. Holmberg from NetGalley and 47th North

New to the world of Charlie N. Holmberg I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by The Plastic Magician. This book although a spin-off of the popular YA Paper Magician Series (which I have yet to read) this book definitely works as a stand-alone.

The Plastic Magician treats us to twenty-year-old Polymaker (Plastic Magician) Alvie Brechenmacher’s adventures apprenticing abroad.  Down to earth, intelligent and highly enthusiastic, Alvie leaves her German-American family in the states to apprentice for the world-renowned inventor and Polymaker, Magician Praff in London England.

Enroute she meets a rather rude gentleman who causes her to get off at the wrong train station and this is where her adventure begins. Along her journey, Alvie meets wonderful friends, a kind-hearted love interest and a mentor who respects and believes in her.  Magician Praff and Alvie work on a life-changing invention to not only help a friend but to present at a world-famous convention(contest) for Magicians.  Magician Praff has already won the elite contest and it helped establish him as one of the best Polymakers in the world.  When word gets out to rivals that they are presenting a groundbreaking device that will help many people,  their work and lives are put in peril.

Holmberg does a fantastic job crafting this fantastical cozy mystery. She creates a unique, fun magic system and her characters are interesting, quirky and downright loveable. Although the mystery is fairly predictable, I really didn’t mind because I liked the sweet story that unfolded along the way.  There is a bit of adventure, a bit of romance and a great story that keeps you interested in Alvie’s journey.  

All in all a fantastic, fun read that I would highly recommend for young and old alike.

Books

#BookReview of Owl and the Tiger Thieves (The Adventures of Owl #4) by Kristi Charish (@kristicharish) via #NetGalley #Urban Fantasy

 

Review

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 Owl and the Tiger Thieves

(The Adventures of Owl #4)

by Kristi Charish

Release date: May 8th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of  Owl and the Tiger Thieves (The Adventures of Owl #4) by Kristi Charish from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada in order to read and give an honest review.

4.5 Stars…multifaceted characters, fantastic worldbuilding, action-packed plot with twists and turns… 

Being a fan of Kristi Charish’s The Adventure of Owl series, I can say this fourth instalment doesn’t disappoint. The Owl series is best described as Indiana Jane but with a paranormal/urban fantasy twist.

Owl aka Alix Hiboux our illustrious anti-hero, antiquities thief, and ex-archaeologist begins a new mission, to rescue her possessed boyfriend Rynn after the events of the last book. The only way Owl can accomplish this is to collect medallions to enlist the assistance of the Tiger Thieves. She also gets the unwelcome assistance of Rynn’s cousin and antagonist through the series, Artemis. In previous books, I loathed Artemis but oddly enough found myself actually…liking him? Charish has done a fantastic job helping her characters evolve, even Artemis which I really didn’t see happening.

This book opens with Owl’s self-imposed imprisonment in St. Albinus of Angers, an ancient pirate jail, then sends her on a quest to Venice where we meet an undead DaVinci. In Venice, she not only picks up a medallion, but an ancient weapon built by DaVinci thought to steal supernatural power.  We then travel to deserts and jungles while trying to find the other medallions.  Along the journey, she is being hunted by a new enemy, one who she loves, Rynn. A possessed Rynn is out for blood, Alix’s, and will stop at nothing to get it.

This instalment is true to form and everything we expect from Kristi Charish, multifaceted characters, fantastic worldbuilding, action-packed plot with twists and turns which leaves us with an unexpected twist at the end.

Urban fantasy and archaeology, two of my favourite things in one series and Owl & the Tiger Thieves is a fantastic entry that I would definitely recommend!

Books

#BookReview of Motherland (Captain Natalya Ivanova #1) by G. D. Abson (@garry_abson) via #NetGalley #Thriller

 

Review

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Motherland

(Captain Natalya Ivanova #1)

by G. D. Abson

Release date: April 26th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of Motherland (Captain Natalya Ivanova #1) by G. D. Abson from NetGalley and Mirror Books in order to read and give an honest review.

“Incredible characters, intriguing plot and oh, so clever…”

First in a new series by author G.D. Abson, this thriller is the start of something very promising. Fast-paced and gritty, Motherland hooks the reader early on forcing them to hold on for dear life through the twists and turns of this brilliant story.  

Set in modern-day St. Petersburg, Captain Natalya Ivanova of the Criminal Investigations Directorate investigates the disappearance of Zena Dahl, the adopted daughter of Swedish billionaire Thorsen Dahl. As lead investigator Natalya faces one obstacle after another trying to find Zena before it’s too late. When a body is found the kidnapping turns into a homicide investigation and someone wielding a great deal of power will do anything to keep her from finding the truth.  Natalya has to fight it all: political intrigue, corruption, misogyny, marital issues, threats to her family, false accusations, betrayal from those she trusts, mobsters and threats from the FSB (formerly KGB) all to piece together what happened to Zena.  

Abson’s ability to create very real multifaceted characters is brilliant. Natalya, the protagonist, in my opinion, is well written, she is portrayed as down to earth, intelligent, strong, honest, yet flawed and comes across as very real. Married to her co-worker Mikhail, they live a believable family life with her step-son Anton. Through marital strife and threats to her family, she handles it with courage, conviction and a touch of humor. For me, almost every character comes to life on the page, the good, the bad and the well…disgusting.  

Incredible characters, intriguing plot, and a twist at the end that was truly unexpected. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to future books in the Captain Natalya Ivanova series.  If you are looking for a clever fast-paced thriller, I would highly recommend reading Motherland.  

Books

The Berkeley Bowl Cookbook by Laura McLively via #NetGalley #Review #Vegetarian

 

Review

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The Berkeley Bowl Cookbook

Recipes Inspired by the Extraordinary Produce of California’s Most Iconic Market

by Laura McLively

Release date: April 17th, 2018

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of The Berkeley Bowl Cookbook
Recipes Inspired by the Extraordinary Produce of California’s Most Iconic Market
by Laura McLively from NetGalley and Parallax Press in order to read and give an honest review.

Loved this cookbook! It’s nice to bring Californian cuisine to Toronto Canada.  This book was full of amazing vegetarian recipes with unique ingredients, easy to follow instructions, beautiful coloured photographs, and creative seasonal menus.

Although some of the ingredients aren’t found in your average grocery store I was able to find them at a local Asian grocery store. Even if you can’t obtain the ingredients easily, one of the things that impressed me about this book was the fact it gave you a few suitable and easily available substitutions. I was also fond of the fact it categorized the recipes by the type of vegetable you’re using I.e. Leaves; Flower, Seeds and Pods; Spores and Succulents; Stems; Roots and Tubers; and Sweet and Savory Fruit instead of the appetizers, entrees etc.

I recommend this to anyone looking for a culinary adventure! It has something to suit every vegetarians’ taste. With dishes such as Sweet & Sour Tofu with Gooseberries, Indian Stuffed Eggplant and my new favorite dessert, Lemongrass Coconut Ice Cream you can’t go wrong!