Thursday, October 20, 2016

An Insecure Artist Finds Love and Family in Italy

Emily Price works as a restorer. She loves to fix things, but in her heart, she wants to be an artist. Her paintings are technically well done, but she seems unable to capture the essence of the subject.

She is working on a restoration assignment when Chef Benito Vassallo comes into her life. The attraction is immediate. He’s in the US for a short time and is trying to revitalize his aunt and uncle’s restaurant. Wanting to spend more time with him, Emily volunteers to be part of the project.

The remodeled restaurant is a success, but now Ben must leave. When instead he proposes marriage, she says “Yes,” and begins a new and frustrating life in Italy.

Emily’s character is sensitively drawn. She’s very talented, but she can’t quite accept her gifts. When Ben comes into her life she has trouble accepting that he loves her and wants to be with her. Ben is almost too good to be true in the first half of the book. He’s charming and considerate, the kind of lover any woman would be glad to have. When he returns to his native environment and work in Italy, he becomes more human.

The plot is a subtle character study. Although you know what must happen, you keep reading to find out whether Emily will be able to grow into her new family, or the dream will disappear.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a gentle love story with characters you won’t forget.

I received this book from Net Galley and Thomas Nelson for this review.

Life in the Country is Not as Quiet as Promised

When Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Flo Armstrong, take a house in the country, Lady Hardcastle tells Flo that the country is quiet. They will get a good rest after their adventures in the Orient. Flo is skeptical. When on their first morning, they take a walk and find a body hanging from a tree in the woods, Flo appears to be proved right.

The police believe the death is a suicide, but when Lady Hardcastle, shows them that the log from which the suicide supposedly jumped is several inches below his feet, they are forced to revise their opinion. That doesn’t mean they’re on the right track to find the killer, so Lady Hardcastle and Flo feel it’s their duty to help them out.

If you enjoy historical mysteries in an English country village, this is a good one. Fannie and Flo are eccentric characters and their dialog is amusing. I thought their exchanges were the best part of the book. In fact, all the characters are somewhat eccentric. Flo, as the narrator, gives us her view of them, and it is not always complementary.

The plot was a bit of a disappointment. The solution to the first murder is fairly obvious. However, the police do little to solve it, and Flo and Lady Hardcastle seem to happen on clues without doing a great deal of detecting. However, the setting was well done and the characters interesting, so I recommend it if you enjoy British mystery novels.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Easy to Make Delicious Southwestern Recipes

If you enjoy Southwestern food, this is a cookbook you need to add to your collection. The recipes include appetizers, breads, soups, salads and main dishes. There are also desserts and rice and pasta dishes. Before each section, the author discusses some history of the recipes. Knowing where the recipes originated was very informative.

The book opens with a short discussion of ingredients and preparations. The section on chilies is excellent. I’m not a particular fan of really hot chilies, so it was helpful to know how to choose the more mild ones. There is also an extensive discussion of how to parch fresh chilies. It seems quite easy when described by Jane, but I suspect it takes some practice.

My favorite Southwestern food is guacamole. I checked out the recipes, of which there are several. My favorite is Perfect Guacamole. It’s delicious and Jane has a good tip at the end. Sprinkle some ascorbic acid mixture on the guacamole to keep it from turning brown.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy Southwestern food.

I received this book from Turner Publishing for this review.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

An Informative Guide To A Little Known Region Producing French Wines

The Faugeres appellation refers to the wines produced by a collection of seven villages. I’m familiar with several of the wine growing regions in France, but I had not come across Faugeres. Apparently, many people in the United States are also unfamiliar with these wines. I selected this book because I wanted to learn more about this region.

I wasn’t disappointed. The book is beautifully written and very informative. Starting with a description of the region, it makes you feel that you are taking a trip through a beautiful and interesting area. In addition, the author describes the history of the region.

Each village is discussed not only from the scenery, but from the the wines that grow there and how they differ. It’s a very comprehensive treatment telling not only what wines are produced by each chateau, but also how the winemakers approached the task of making fine wines.

If you’re interested in wine, I highly recommend this book. It made me want to visit the region, walk the hills,
and sample the wines.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

The Importance of Mind in Shaping our World

The author’s thesis is that beliefs are the key to understanding how we view the world and how they shape the way we act. Mind is amazing and complex. Beliefs are formed by the mind, and they in turn shape our actions, and the way we view the world. Understanding how we form beliefs, is the primary investigation in this book.

Galloway, tackles the problem of mind vs. brain. This is a long standing philosophical debate, but drawing on modern science and current developments in psychology, he gives a new focus to the old problem.

Philosophy is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re interested in the mind and human civilization, it’s well worth reading. I found the book fascinating. The author weaves together scientific and religious ideas using examples from the sciences and the humanities. It’s an elegant exposition of the origin
of who we are and how we create the world we live in.

I recommend this book if you are interested in the mind. You may not agree with all Galloway’s ideas, but they are articulate and well presented. I particularly liked the illustrations, and quotations supplementing the text. After reading a number of intense pages, the pictures illuminated the text and were a welcome break. This is Book One. I’m looking forward to Book Two.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.   

Monday, October 17, 2016

An Enigmatic Man with a Mission

The alcoholic piano player living in the basement hears Knottspeed move in. He goes upstairs and is shocked by the Knottspeed’s condition. He’s badly smashed up, lying on a ratty couch under a single blanket.

Knottspeed may be down, but he wants to do things. He co-opts the piano player into becoming his companion and off they go to find food, entertainment and clothes. The whole trip, particularly the scene in the clothing store is reminiscent of the Keystone Kops.

This is the pattern for the novel. Knottspeed co-opts people into helping him achieve his objectives, but he helps them also. He’s a very unique character.

This is definitely a character driven novel. It’s filled with unusual people who interact in unusual ways. The characters are interesting, but I found the plot difficult to follow. Knottspeed has a mission, but it’s not easy to figure it out until the very end. He changes situations and people. His plans may be hard to follow, but people become involved with him, and it changes their lives for the better.

If you enjoy character driven novels, this is an interesting one. It’s not the type of book I usually enjoy so I can’t recommend it. However, it has a particular charm because the story is off-beat.

I received this book from Turner Publishing for this review.  

A Brilliant Physicist Ignored by the World

In the late 1800s well brought up young women were expected to be wives and mothers, not scientists or mathematicians. Mileva (Mitza) Mari was a brilliant child. Teased by her classmates she gained strength from her father, who encouraged her desire to be a physicist. She gained a place at the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich where she studied physics and m
athematics, the only woman in her classes.

In Zurich, she boarded in a house with several other young women, who aspired to be scientists or teachers. For the first time, she had friends and enjoyed life. An impulsive, young man, Albert Einstein, barged into this existence. At first Mitza avoided him, but he drew her into a circle of scientists that she enjoyed, wooed her, and eventually, over her parents objections, they wed. But that’s not the end of the story. Married life was not kind to Mitza.

This fictionalized account of Einstein’s first wife is based on letters between the two and a letter between Mitza and her friend, Helene. Although there is no evidence to support the idea that they collaborated on scientific projects after they were married, the author takes the view that they did and that Mitza was partially responsible for Einstein’s ideas that led to his winning the Nobel Prize.

I enjoyed the book, but found it difficult to accept that Mitza was treated so badly by Einstein, more like a handmaiden than a collaborator. However, the author does an excellent job of bringing the scenes in Serbia and Zurich to life.

I recommend this book if you are interested in the woman behind the man. I reserve judgment on the accuracy of the portrayal, but it’s a well written book that presents a unique hypothesis.

I received this book from Sourcebooks for this review.