Thursday, September 27, 2018

Once again, I got sucked in by a glowing review.  I can't remember where I read it, but I had the impression that Everything I Know About Love was "the new Bridget Jones" and hilarious to boot.  Well, as they say, live and learn . . .

Since I was connecting this book with Bridget Jones, I was expecting a fictional account of a young woman's life in London.  However, I soon got the impression that this really is a young woman's diary with some other lists and short chapters intermingled with the rest (apparently other material had to be added to fill out the book).  I had to scratch my head about how this book got published.  It's as if any generic twenty-something's diary was suddenly available at your favorite reading retailer.  As I read on, I was puzzled as to how anyone could think the general public would be interested in this girl's life (centering around her circle of friends).  She goes to parties, drinks, does drugs casually, has one-night stands and occasionally longer relationships, struggles briefly with an eating disorder (after a break-up; as soon as she finds a new boyfriend, she overcomes it with seemingly little fuss), comments on her friends' relationships, etc.  It's all very vapid and goes into way too much detail about people you don't know.  I can imagine that her friends are thrilled to see their names in print . . . the rest of us, not so much.

Final Verdict for Everything I Know About Love One Gherkin, for being too narrow in scope to appeal to many readers

Monday, May 28, 2018

If only they could concentrate on "detecting" (looking for lost treasures with metal detectors) and not have to deal with real-world problems, life would be wonderful for Lance and Andy.  Unfortunately, in series 3 of Detectorists, available starting May 29 from Acorn, personal and job issues keep intruding on what should be prime detecting time.  Even more bad news reaches the Danebury Metal Detecting Club (DMDC) in the form of a notification that Lance and Andy's field, where they have secured exclusive permission to detect, is soon to be covered over with solar panels and therefore off limits.

The six-episode series begins with Andy and Becky living with Becky's mom along with their young son Stan.  Andy has finally gotten a job in his chosen field of archeology, looking for potentially historically important artifacts during the building of a new office block.  Bachelor Lance also suddenly has company, as his long-lost daughter Kate has moved in.  While Lance is thrilled to have finally re-established contact with Kate, her slovenly habits and noisy friends have caused problems in Lance's previously well-ordered world.  Not to mention that it's become nearly impossible for Lance to spend time with his girlfriend Toni.  He obviously can't have her staying over at his place, and Toni lives on a houseboat, which, while charming, is a no-go zone for seasick-prone Lance.

Episode two sees Andy find something of historic value at his job, although his boss doesn't seem to share his enthusiasm.  Lance tries hypnotherapy at Toni's urging to try to get over his fear of water.  "Simon and Garfunkle," two rival detectors from the newly named Terra Firma club (for some reason they discarded their previous moniker of the Land Sharks), hear about the solar panel plans for the previously off-limits field and decide to see if they can't get access to it before it becomes an energy farm. In Episode Three, Andy re-thinks his career options and Lance's former wife Maggie shows up and asks to move in temporarily.  They also discover it's not just rival detectorists like Simon and Garfunkle they have to worry about in terms of stealing their finds.

Lance decides to camp out in the field in order to avoid meeting Maggie at his flat, and Andy takes up a new career in Episode Four.  When both Lance and Kate are out of the flat, Maggie has a good old nose around through papers and drawers, but what exactly is she hoping to find?  In Episode Five, it has not gone unnoticed by Simon and Garfunkle that Lance and Andy seem to be going over and over one section of the field.  Suspicious, they resort to some high-tech spying methods to try to discover what's going on.  In the meantime, more bad news arrives when Lance and Andy are told that their favorite tree is going to have to be cut down because it obstructs the sun.

In the final episode, there is finally a bit of good news.  The rival detectorists decide to open up the field on the last day before construction begins on the solar panel farm and work together to see if they can find a suspected Roman burial site.  Thank goodness even Shelia pitches in with some of her world-famous lemonade . . .

There are some interesting extras after the final episode on the DVD including interviews with Mackenzie Crook and Sophie Thompson.  One bonus feature also deals with real-life mother and daughter Diana Rigg and Rachel Stirling who also play mother and daughter in the series.  The final bonus highlights the village of Framlingham, where most of the series is filmed, as well as allowing many of the actors to discuss their experiences in filming the series.

Although this is rumored to be the "final season" of this delightful series, in the bonus feature creator Mackenzie Crook didn't rule out the possibility of another season if everything lines up in the future.  I really hope there will be more episodes because there are certainly many questions that could remain to be answered:  Will Lance ever make it onto Toni's boat?  Will Shelia's lemonade ever be drinkable?  Will the Finds Table ever have any exciting finds?  I'll be anxiously awaiting the answers to these and more questions and crossing my fingers for another series!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Detectorists, Season 3 from Acorn in exchange for this review

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Detective Aiden Waits has seen better days.  When Sirens opens, he's been placed on suspension by the police force for trying to switch out drugs in the police evidence room.  As a disgraced cop, his superiors figure he would be the ideal person to go undercover in an attempt to find the missing daughter of an MP. 

Waits is fairly quickly able to trace the girl, Isabelle Rossiter, to the thriving drug den of kingpin Zain Carver.  It turns out that Zain employs attractive young women to pick up drug money for him.  Isabelle seems to be the latest addition to this group.  Poor Isabelle doesn't look like she's enjoying herself, though.  Why would she leave a seemingly comfortable upper-class home for the rough world of the drug trade?

While mingling in this dangerous world, Waits meets another female drug courier, Catherine.  He begins a relationship with her, but when a rival drug gang wants to take over Zain Carter's territory, Catherine becomes a pawn in their game.  As Aiden moves around in this shadowy underworld, he begins to suspect that some of the drug dealers he's interacting with might have something to do with the disappearance of a woman 10 years previously.  Aiden has to try to keep the two sides of his life separate while ensuring that neither he nor the people he's grown to care for wind up injured or dead. 

I found the story a little difficult to follow at times.  Aiden would be "called on the carpet" by either his police superior or a drug lord, and while speaking to them, he'd think, "I nearly told him everything," and I'd wonder, "About what???" The motives of everyone keep you guessing and you can never really trust what anyone says or does.  There is a second book out featuring Aiden Waits, so it will be interesting to follow up and see if he's been able to get his life back on the straight and narrow (although somehow I doubt it).

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Sirens from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dr. Kellyann Petrucci is a well-known weight-loss specialist who has helped many people (especially celebrities) lose weight quickly.  Her secrets are explained in The 10-Day Belly Slimdown.  The diet consists of four phases throughout the day.  The main factor in the diet is bone broth.  There are instructions for making your own bone broth (which can take up to 8 hours) or, helpfully, Dr. Kellyann sells broth on-the-go packets on her website.  As well as a structured daily plan, the book includes a section on approved foods that you can have during the 10 days.

Many recipes are included in the book.  Each recipe includes detailed preparation instructions and notes about how the various ingredients are helpful in the diet.  Unfortunately, as with most recipe books, it's unlikely that many of the ingredients will be found in your kitchen already.  In three recipes I found by opening the book at random, each one asked for at least one ingredient I found a little strange, including monk fruit sweetener, Celtic salt, fish sauce, Korean red pepper flakes and daikon (? I have no idea and I'd be willing to bet my local grocery store doesn't carry it).  For inspiration, the book also has many Success Stories showing before and after photos of people who were able to lose weight and inches in 10 days.

In short, someone who is willing to commit to the plan and buy all the ingredients will likely be successful.  I just wish the ingredients in the recipes were a bit more pantry-friendly.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of The 10-Day Belly Slimdown from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Pack your career suitcase
Selecting a career path is one of the most important decisions that someone can make.  After all, you will be spending most of your day, over many years, doing the job that you choose.  Unfortunately, many people do not take the time to assess their own values, interests and personalities before embarking on a path which may not bring them fulfillment.  Young people, especially, who are nearing the end of their school years sometimes jump into a certain vocation simply because they like a subject at school, or because a family member or teacher steers them toward a career.  By stepping back and answering some questions, people will be able to identify jobs that will bring them happiness and success on their own terms.

The book, “The Shortcut to Purpose: A No-Fluff Guide to Choosing the Right Career” guides the reader through several aspects of career guidance that might not otherwise be addressed.  While some chapters are aimed at students who are still in school and trying to decide what they want to study, many of the suggestions and questions can be used by anyone who is looking to find out what they were meant to do with their lives – even if they’ve been on the wrong path for a while!

The overriding message of the book is that everyone must choose a profession based on his or her own interests and values.  Just because your parents or teachers might have an idea of what you would excel at, that doesn’t mean that you would find that job fulfilling.  Spending your days in a job that doesn’t challenge or excite you is a sure way to make you feel depressed or anxious, even if it appears to everyone else that you are “successful.”  One of the early suggestions in the book is to sit down and define what success means to you, personally, at this moment.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a financial success, but just success on your own terms based on what you are striving for at this moment.

Additionally, chapters in the book offer questions that you can answer to get a better idea of the type of career you that might best suit you.  For instance, there is a chapter with questions to lead your thoughts in terms of work environment – not just the physical environment (indoors vs. outdoors, stable workplace vs. frequent travel) but also the level of responsibility you are comfortable with.  There are also chapters with questions to help you identify and define your core values.  Since you might have difficulty putting your core values into words, there is an exercise where a list of values is given, and you can pick the ones that most resonate with you.  After grouping and ranking the values, the reader will be better able to see what values guide his or her life.  Once you know what you value, you will be able to make guided decisions and plans.

Just because you’ve identified your values and career path, you can still be your own worst enemy if you allow fear and/or failure to dominate your life.  Self-doubt, procrastination and fear of failure are all reasons that we sometimes fail to take advantage of opportunities that come our way.  By identifying our negative beliefs that might be holding us back (whether from negative messages we received as a child or from previous failures), we can recognize temporary setbacks as just that – temporary and not a reflection on who we are as people or our abilities.

Finally, it’s important to recognize your purpose and live your life so that you leave a legacy.  Your legacy doesn’t have to be worldwide, but making a positive difference in the lives of people you encounter.  If you live your life guided by your values, you will be passionate about your work and impact on others.  This will lead to fulfilling, energizing work that will empower you to have a positive impact on those around you.  While it’s important to identify what you want to do, it’s just as important to single out the work, places, and people you don’t want in your life.

The book ends with a recommendation to try the publisher’s free career matching service.  This might be a starting step for someone who is attempting to find the career to match their passion!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It sounds like a dream:  moving to Paris and living in your very own apartment in a trendy neighborhood.  Unfortunately, for David Lebovitz, this dream quickly turned into a nightmare in the book l'appart.  The book chronicles the ups and downs of his purchase and renovation of an apartment in Paris.

David Lebovitz is a cookbook author, so nearly every chapter ends with a delicious-sounding recipe.  Because of his work, his requirements for his new home mainly involved the kitchen, where he needed space and equipment to try out recipes.  He had been living in a cramped Paris apartment for several years when he decided to take the plunge and purchase his own flat.  Once he decided to buy a place, however, he encountered his first problem.  Each real estate agent has his or her own listings, and they don't share this information with each other.  So he had to try and figure out exactly which apartments were for sale and how to contact the sellers.  Once he had found an appealing prospect, even though it was on the market, the seller apparently was in no hurry to finalize the sale.  This, of course, created problems when he attempted to give notice on his current apartment.

All of this paled in comparison to when he began renovations on the space.  The wiring, plumbing, drywall and nearly everything else in the apartment needed to be replaced.  A friend recommended a contractor who was reassuringly calm and didn't seem fazed at all by the amount of work that would be required.  David's French partner, Romain, tried to counsel him on how to deal with French tradesmen, but David, as an American used to dealing with things that run more or less smoothly, thought he was overreacting.  He therefore paid a lot of money for the work upfront, only to be dismayed when no workers showed up for days or weeks at a time. 

Not only was the repair work difficult to get done, but things which should have been simple, such as ordering appliances or parts also turned out to be mammoth tasks.  No matter how many mistakes the electrician and contractor made, everything was blamed on David.  Because he paid so much up front, he was not anxious to start over with a new contractor.  Luckily, after the work was completed (not to his satisfaction, but to a finally-move-in-ready-standard), he had some architect friends look over the work, and they discovered not only shoddy, but also potentially hazardous situations. 

The book is quite interesting to read and discover the cultural differences in our French cousins.  It is amusing to read about the many strange and unfathomable things that just accepted by the French with a shrug.  Since the author is a food writer, he brings in a lot of discussion about different types of foods that he has discovered since moving to France.  The book has plenty of humorous situations that anyone doing a home renovation project can probably sympathize with.  I hope to try out some of the recipes in the future -- especially the Frangipane Plum-Raspberry Gratins!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of l'appart from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Even though he started out with good intentions, Benton Harbor, MI police officer Andrew Collins soon learned that it was easier to make arrests of people he "knew" were drug dealers if he didn't exactly follow protocol.  Young Jameel McGee, anxious to be a good father to his son and start a new business, trusted the wrong people.  When the lives of these two men collided, it set both of them onto a long path of trouble, anger and eventual forgiveness and healing.  They alternate chapters in telling their respective stories in the book Convicted.

Andrew Collins liked the fact that he was able to secure more arrests and convictions of drug dealers than any other cop on the force.  At the same time, he grew frustrated when he saw people released on technicalities.  Prosecutors asked him questions about the circumstances of arrests he made in such a way that he knew the answers they wanted to hear (even if the answers weren't truthful).  He soon began to bend the rules in all sorts of ways in order to secure convictions or pad his meager (as he saw it) salary: keeping a stash of drugs to plant on suspects, pocketing money that was earmarked to pay informants, lying under oath during trials, etc.  He justified his actions by saying he was keeping drugs and bad people off the streets.

Jameel McGee was a man who'd already had several run-ins with the law before he encountered Officer Collins.  He accepted a ride from some school friends when he was 15, only to be arrested with them soon afterwards when the police stopped the car.  The friends had carjacked someone at knifepoint before picking Jameel up, but he went to prison anyway.  Once out of jail, he was determined to straighten his life out and start his own business.  Due to unpaid parking tickets, he was unable to drive, so he asked a friend of a relative if he could get a ride to the store to pick up some groceries before his infant son visited him for the first time.  Before he went into the store, the driver asked to use Jameel's cell phone.  When Jameel came out of the store, the was immediately arrested and taken to jail.  The police believed he was a drug dealer named Ox and used the fact that drugs were found in the car as well as information on the cell phone to make their case.

Of course Officer Collins was the main arresting officer, and when problems arose with his testimony (Ox was Jameel's cousin), he just changed his story to make it fit the facts.  Jameel was once again convicted and sent to prison for a crime he had no knowledge of.  Eventually, Officer Collins's misdeeds were found out and he was fired and also sent to prison.  This caused many of the convictions he had secured to be overturned, including that of Jameel McGee.

After both men were released from prison, they both ended up back in Benton Harbor, where their paths were bound to cross.  The book outlines how they came to work together to help the less fortunate, and how they were both able to overcome their past problems and even become friends.  It is an encouraging and uplifting story of how healing can take place even in the darkest of circumstances.

There were some things that made me shake my head, though.  For instance, poor Jameel just KEEPS getting sent to prison when he hasn't done anything.  There are little asides throughout his story about further legal troubles that he doesn't really go into.  Also? His trip to the store to get food for his infant son?  He details his shopping list:  milk, chips, pop and gummy worms.  Um . . . that was the list of things he was presumably going to use to show his estranged girlfriend that he had food in the house for his baby.  Andrew Collins also made the startling statement that if you're arrested on suspicion of having drugs in your car, any money you have on you and your vehicle can be seized and "even if the charges are dropped or you're found not guilty, you don't get your property back."  How can that be legal?  You can have things taken by the police for no reason?  That didn't seem to make sense to me, either.

I enjoyed reading how the two men were able to overcome their pasts and eventually become productive, helpful members of their communities (even if I remain skeptical as to all the details!).

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Convicted from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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