Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Genre: Travel Guide

Publisher: Dorling Kindersley

Pages: 192 (Paperback)

My Rating: 9/10


I recently stayed in Berlin for 4 days and took this useful little book with me, popped it in my pocket and found it indispensible while travelling round. It contains the following:-

  • Pull-out map and guide
  • Guide to the Top 10 best of everything in Berlin
The first section of the book deals with the Top 10 locations in Berlin which were:-
  1. Brandenburger Tor and Pariser Platz
  2. Reichstag
  3. Unter den Linden
  4. Potsdamer Platz
  5. Pergamon Museum
  6. Kurfurstendamm
  7. Kaiser-Wilhelm Church
  8. Schloss Charlottenburg
  9. Kulturforum
  10. Zoologischer Garten
A small map of Berlin shows the locations of all the above places which is handy for planning your travels.

Each of the above places has several pages devoted to it, and also detailing another 10 sights nearby, which was extremely informative.

The next sections give the traveller lots of useful information about Berlin, some of which include:-
  • Lakes, Rivers & Canals
  • Best Places to Eat
  • Famous Berliners
  • Historic Buildings and Modern Buildings
  • Children's Attractions
  • Festivals & Fairs
and lots more.

There is also a section entitled 'Around Town' which gives detailed information about 10 attractions area by area, including shops, Pubs and Bars, Restaurants and Cafes, together with suggestions of what to do for the whole day.

The last part of the book has more practical information about Berlin such as the transport, security and health tips, places to stay, helpful advice for disabled visitors plus lots more. There's also a few phrases that you may need!

This little guide is packed with lots of tips, full of colourful illustrations, a detailed underground map, all of which I found incredibly helpful.

Dorling Kindersley publish more than 60 of these Top 10 Eyewitness Travel Guides from London to Sydney, New York to Marrakech, all in the same easy to read, easy to carry format.

If you're travelling anywhere in the world make sure you take one of these handy little guides with you!

Friday, 26 March 2010


Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Gallic Books (Apr 2010)

Pages: 165 (Paperback)

My Rating: 8.5/10


About the Book:

Can we learn how to be happy?

Hector is a successful young psychiatrist. He's very good at treating patients in real need of his help. But many people he sees have no health problems: they're just deeply dissatisfied with their lives. Hector can't do much for them, and it's beginning to depress him.

So when a patient tells him he looks in need of a holiday, Hector decides to set off round the world to find out what makes people everywhere happy (and sad), and whether there is such a thing as the secret of true happiness...

My Thoughts:

This took me quite a while to get used to the child-like style of writing, and at first I wasn't sure if it was meant for adults or children, but once I'd got further into Hector's story I really, really enjoyed it.

As he travelled round the world from China to the country of MORE (we never actually know the name but would presume it's the USA!) he met many people and as he got to know them and talked to them, he compiled a list of the things that he thought made people happy. I won't list them all here as there's over 20 but I will mention a few :-

Lesson No. 2: Happiness often comes when least expected.

Lesson No. 6: Happiness is a long walk in beautiful, unfamiliar mountains.

Lesson No. 8: Happiness is being with the people you love.

Lesson No. 13: Happiness is feeling useful to others.

This is a lovely simple story told in a way that makes you think about what makes YOU happy. Also, Hector came to realise what really made HIM happy as well, though he didn't know it when he first started his journey.

I thought Hector was a wonderful friendly character who brought out the best in people (probably due to being a psychiatrist), he made me smile more than once, as well as feel sad when we both realised that the beautiful young Chinese woman wasn't just being 'friendly' to him but was just doing her 'job'..... aaahhhh. It was then I also realised that it wasn't a children's book! Not that it was overly graphic or descriptive, some things were left to the imagination.

If you're looking for a light-hearted and easy read then why not give this a try?

Read my interview with author Francois Lelord here

For a different viewpoint on this book see Kay's review over at writingneuroses

This is one of many Gallic Books that have been translated from French and I must thank Lucy at all-leo.com for sending me an uncorrected bound proof copy.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Book Review: The Cost of Dreams by Gary Stelzer

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Decent Hearts Press (2009)

Pages: 287 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5/10


About the Book:

Flora, a Mayan teenager, has escaped Talapa, her civil war-torn Central American village where her parents have been slain - and where even being seen in native wear could result in summary execution. Following her dream with nearly superhuman determination, she makes her way to San Diego, and against all odds, becomes a wife, mother and teacher. By hard work and shrewdness, she even obtains legal U.S. status.

But her life takes a horrific turn when she's shot by her drug-dealing brother in-law. As she lays unconscious and bleeding in front of her house, Mexican immigrants traveling on a freight train kidnap and claim her as their daughter, caring for her on a long, grueling cross-country flight.

Nearly a year later, still gravely wounded and disfigured, a freed Flora arrives at the Lake Michigan home of Kate Bowman, an American aide worker who had previously befriended Flora in Talapa. Kate's nephew had vanished on that mission, leaving Kate devastated and overwhelmed with guilt for permitting him to remain in a civil war ravaged Central America while she returned home.

My Thoughts:

Flora, the main character in the story, showed incredible courage in not only escaping from the troubles in her country to the USA but she then got married, had a family and trained to be a teacher. But I didn't really feel as if I got to know Flora as a person, I didn't know what she was thinking or the kind of person she was most of the time and so I didn't care too much about her terrible ordeals ......... and she did have a tough time throughout the book....... which was a shame, as I do love to sympathise with my characters and I usually want them to come through and live happily ever after. But I'm afraid I wasn't that bothered about what happened to any of them.

The storyline was interesting and it never got boring, there was always plenty of action, but not a lot of narrative. It was mainly plot-driven and descriptive, some of the terrain scenes I found quite difficult to visualize. Also, particularly at the beginning of the book, some of the sentences were long-winded and it didn't make for quick and easy reading, but I felt that this improved as the story went on.

Overall, even though this wasn't a book that I particularly enjoyed, I do feel that Gary Stelzer has some good creative ideas, and it was interesting to learn about a different culture.

This is Gary Stelzer's debut novel and his website can be found here

Special Thanks to Robyn Schecter at Carol Fass Publicity for sending me this book.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Published by: Canongate Books (2006)

Pages: 363 (Hardback)

My Rating: 9/10


About the Book:

When down-at-heel Glasgow conjurer, William Wilson gets booked for a string of cabaret gigs in Berlin, he's hoping his luck's on the turn. There were certain spectators from his last show who he'd rather forget. Like the one who's now a corpse. Amongst the showgirls and tricksters of Berlin's scandalous underground Wilson can abandon his heart, his head and, more importantly, his past. But secrets have a habit of catching up with him and, as he gets sucked into certain lucrative after-hours work, the line between what's an act and what's real starts to blur.

My Thoughts:

I picked up this book from my library, the picture first caught my eye and then the title, and when I read the blurb and noticed that some of it was set in Berlin ...... I was travelling to Berlin soon ....... I just had to borrow it. And I'm really pleased that I did as I absolutely loved it.

The story starts in present day Glasgow and travels back and forth in time to Berlin and London narrated by William Wilson, Mentalist and Illusionist, who was

the warm-up act for a whole trough of comedians and stand ups. The guy nobody came to see.

When his agent sends him to a London club for a gig he somehow gets mixed up in a missing persons mystery, involving the police and blackmail, and where, shortly after, two men are found shot to death, he decides it would be a good idea to disappear and take another job in a cabaret club in Berlin....... but, unfortunately, his troubles have only just begun. As the chapters alternate between the different cities and the different times, I loved the way Louise Welsh built up the suspense, we knew something terrible had happened to William earlier but the clues are slowly dragged out and the story never slows or gets boring.

Even though William is not the most endearing of characters, he drinks too much, smokes too much, and at the beginning of the book he gambles too much, but his witty and dry humour had me laughing out loud a couple of times and I found myself liking him more and more as his life starts to unravel in the darkly gothic world of glamour and magic.

The descriptions of his illusionist acts were fascinating, all the various larger than life characters were well-defined and I was totally engrossed from start to finish.

For more about Louise Welsh see her website

Similar Book


Friday, 12 March 2010

BOOK NEWS: Headline gets sexy with SEX AND THE CITY!

Headline has acquired the new tie-in book for the forthcoming film “Sex and the City 2”.

Emma Tait, publisher at Headline Book Publishing, struck the deal for British Commonwealth rights, for a “high five-figure sum”, with Lia Ronnen at New York packager Melcher Media. Headline said Melcher’s close relationships with HBO and Warner had guaranteed a “stunning” book with full co-operation from the film’s creators and stars.

The “lavish”, fully illustrated title is scheduled for publication on 27th May to coincide with the film’s release date. It is produced with a silver and gold-padded hardback cover and features photographs of all the outfits in the film. The book is being produced with involvement from Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays the lead character Carrie Bradshaw, as well as being co-producer of the films and series.

Tait said: “This new book promises to have everything the ‘Sex and the City’ fans want—glamour, fashion, style and, of course, lots of shoes. We are thrilled that yet again Melcher has chosen Headline as its UK partner.”

She added: “At a time when illustrated film companions rarely work, Sex and the City was an exception, and we’d expect this to be just as successful because ‘Sex and the City 2’ is the most anticipated film of the summer.”

Headline published the bestselling tie-in to the first “Sex and the City” film in 2008.

Taken from thebookseller.com

Friday, 5 March 2010


Genre: Memoirs

Published by: Fizzypop Prod (Feb 2010)

Pages: 197 (Hardback)

My Rating: 9/10


When Emmett James was growing up in the 70's and 80's the weekly family outing to the local cinema was his escape from the grimy streets of Croydon, South London into another world.

At the beginning of each nice and short chapter a different film is mentioned and he describes how the flickering images on the big screen affected his growing up.

Career plans and life-altering directions throughout my childhood years were consistently dictated by the cinema and my favourite film at the time. I went from praying that I grew up to be a mouse after the highly emotional and utterly disturbing animated Disney film The Rescuers, to being sure my destiny was now in the field of archaeology after seeing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

He also dreamed of one day starring in one of the films; for most of us, these are just daydreams and real life takes over but for Emmett James he really does go to Hollywood and he really does fulfil his lifelong dream, eventually having a role in the biggest grossing film of all time (at least it was when he wrote this book!).

I thought that Emmet James dry and wry humour made for entertaining reading and I read this book quite quickly. My favourite story describes how he gatecrashes an Oscars party by pretending to be Richard Curtis (the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral), who at that time was relatively unknown and no-one knew what he looked like!

From The Jungle Book to Titanic and all manner of genres in between, if you love films you'll love this!

Special Thanks to Emmett James for sending me the book and Lisa Roe at Online Publicist

Monday, 1 March 2010


Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Canongate Books

Pages: 334 (Paperback, Large Print)

My Rating: 8/10


About the Book:

By 1910, Leo Tolstoy, the world's most famous author, had become an almost religious figure, surrounded on his lavish estate by family and followers alike. Set in the tumultuous last year of the count's life, "The Last Station" centres on the battle for his soul waged by his wife and his leading disciple. Torn between his professed doctrine of poverty and chastity on the one hand and the reality of his enormous wealth, his thirteen children, and a life of hedonism on the other, Tolstoy makes a dramatic flight from his home. Too ill to continue beyond the tiny station of Astapovo, he believes he is dying alone, while outside over one hundred newspapermen are awaiting hourly reports on his condition. Narrated in six different voices, including Tolstoy's own from his diaries and literary works, "The Last Station" is a richly inventive novel that dances bewitchingly between fact and fiction.

My Thoughts:

I was first attracted to this book by the snowy cover scene (it is very similar to the one above but I couldn't find the actual cover picture on the internet!) in my local library. not realising that a film was about to be released based on this book, and also not knowing anything about Leo Tolstoy.

The book is narrated by each of the people closest to Tolstoy in his final year, by alternating chapters.

Sofya Andreyevna - his wife for nearly 50 years - to me had the loudest voice. She was an extremely complex character and not someone that I liked at all. She was paranoid, neurotic and extremely jealous of all the people surrounding Tolstoy. She was constantly trying to find out what he'd written about her; she wanted to read his diaries and letters. They even sent letters to each other, even while living in the same house!

I learnt so much about Tolstoy while reading this novel, he was such a revered man in Russia, very much like a celebrity of today, people hung on his every word. Indeed, his own physician, Dr Makovitsky, used to write down nearly everything Tolstoy said, even in front of him, which he didn't seem to mind, he was a very patient man.

Jay Parini's writing was never boring, and due to the many varied voices including his wife, daughter, physician and secretary all seeing him in a different way, I felt, by the end of the book, as if I got to know the many sides of Leo Tolstoy's character which made the story all the more fascinating, and sad. Tolstoy comes across as a humble man, tormented by his wealth and feeling guilty by living in a big house and wanting to be free; to live like a peasant; and to be free of his jealous wife; but never doing anything about it until his last days.

The book is based on the many diaries written by him and the people who surrounded him, and is definitely one that I will remember.


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