Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vacation Time!

Oh I wish it was that kind of vacation! Due to the illness of everyone in my family except me, my reading has been pretty much non-existent. And it will probably stay that way with March Break coming up next week. So I will be back in about a week and half with more reviews, hopefully until then I can find some bookish things to post about.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Brooklyn Bites: Vol 1" by Scott Stabile

Brooklyn Bites by Scott Stabile is a collection of short stories that centre around relationships and incredible, delightful food in Brooklyn, New York. Heart-warming, rich and well-written, these stories will have you smiling at their familiarity and your mouth watering. While they capture the spirit of Brooklyn, New York you don't need to be from the city to make a connection.

In Truffle Fries, a woman and her boyfriend share a steaming plate of truffle fries between them. As the women looks across the table, she sees the man she has loved for the last two years but lately has wanted to push off a cliff. As she lets the truffle fries whisk her away to far and romantic places, minus her boyfriend, she considers what it is she really wants from life.

In A Little Taste of Chocolate, Rick and Shelly wake up hungover to the sounds of the irritating bulldog across the street. As they dread the day ahead in the tough economy that has hit everyone, they share their love along with a little piece of chocolate, a ritual they do every day to make life just a little bit sweeter.

This is a wonderful offering of stories and food, wonderfully combined and brought to life. The voices of the characters are real, their problems relatable and understandable, and the description of the food will have you tasting it in your mouth as you read. This is the first set in the Brooklyn Bites collection and I look forward to reading the next instalment and future ones. The quality and writing of the stories is better than you may expect for self-published work. Short story fans should definitely check these out.

About the Author

Scott Stabile lives and writes in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He's published a handful of early reader books through Harper Collins (the L'il Pet Hospital series), created a hit true-crime series for the Discovery Network (I Almost Got Away With It), and wrote a feature length children's script that actually turned into a film (The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure), which will hopefully brighten the darkness of movie theatres everywhere. He's currently eating his way through New York City and the rest of the world.

His tumblr blog provides a snapshot of Brooklyn's tastiest dishes along with dramatic mini-stories for each.

His Facebook fan page keeps his readers up to date on his works in progress and current favourite restaurants.

Friday, March 2, 2012

"The Beggar's Opera" by Peggy Blair

Canadian detective Mike Ellis had hoped that the sun and sand of Old Havana, Cuba would help save his troubled marriage. The scars that adorn his face show that Ellis is carrying a lot of baggage and his wife has had enough of it.

Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, is a respected, intelligent, hardworking man with a beautiful young family. But he is dying from the same form of dementia that killed his grandmother, one that makes him see the ghosts of victims of unsolved murders.

Ellis and Ramirez's paths cross when a young Cuban boy turns up dead. Inspector Ramirez is investigating the crime when he discovers Ellis' wallet on the young boy. Ramirez has only a few days to build the case against Ellis and as he races against the clock, the case takes twists and turns, taking readers on an incredible journey.

The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair is a fantastic, fast-paced mystery set in the beautiful landscape of Castro's Cuba. It is engaging, educational and well-researched, full of danger, intrigue, and surprise. This is a novel that will have you immediately wrapped up, wanting to rush to turn the page to find out what happens next yet wanting to slow down to savour every drop of its beauty and richness.

Cuba comes to life in this book. My husband and I were married in Cuba and it holds a special place in my heart. While we didn't stay in Havana and did more of the "tourist resort thing", there were small glimpses of what life is really like for Cubans that were unsettling and difficult to reconcile with Cuba the holiday destination. Blair's book blows these glimpses wide opens and shows exactly what life is like - the embargo's, the law system, the free education that trains you for a job that isn't available, the police corruption, counting soap and pencils as prized possessions - ways that are totally foreign and incomprehensible to Canadians and North Americans. But for all the problems, this book equally shows the beauty of Cuba, its history and most importantly, the Cuban people and their strength and determination.

And through it all, Blair weaves an incredible mystery, one that paints a shocking picture, a mystery that will have you guessing all the way until the end. In terms of style, I greatly appreciated the short chapters of the book, each one with something dangling at the end, you just want to keep turning the page to find out what happens next. I love a book where there isn't a good spot to put it down! Blair uses a few main characters in the book to give the story different dimensions, showing the case from different viewpoints and this richly adds to the layers of the book.

I personally cannot find fault with this book, it is everything I want my mysteries to be. The only thing more thrilling than this book is the fact that there will be more to come! Not only is this a great mystery read, but it will introduce you to a Cuba you have never known before, the Cuba that very few foreign eyes get to see.

Peggy Blair has been a lawyer for more than thirty years. A recognized expert in Aboriginal law, she also worked as both a criminal defence lawyer and Crown prosecutor. She spent a Christmas in Old Havana, where she watched the bored young policemen along the Malecón, visited Hemingway's favourite bars, and learned to make a perfect mojito. A former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Blair is named in the Canadian Who's Who. She lives in Ottawa.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Canada as part of a blog tour. Check out the other stops on the tour: