Review of The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier, Svein Clouston (Translator)


About The Panda Theory

Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he’s here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals.

His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair.

But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past . . .

My Review

A huge Garnier fan I found this book satisfying but the ending left me ambivalent.

Gabriel isn’t as he seems as the story unfolds. His flashbacks are startling. Each revisit of his past is darker and darker. The story is somewhat predictable but the peppering of dark humor and its noir feel compensate for the obvious. I enjoyed the character development of Gabriel, his layers carefully unfold. The secondary characters were entertaining both in personality and issues.

What was leading to the end I somewhat expected but the actual ending caught me off guard – not unsatisfied or satisfied more indifferent.

Another enjoyable piece of literary noir from the talented Pascal Garnier.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Published March 26th 2012 by Gallic Books (first published February 4th 2008)


Review of Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency (The Killing of Historical Figures) by Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard


About Killing Reagan

Just two months into his presidency, Ronald Reagan lay near death after a gunman’s bullet came within inches of his heart. His recovery was nothing short of remarkable — or so it seemed. But Reagan was grievously injured, forcing him to encounter a challenge that few men ever face. Could he silently overcome his traumatic experience while at the same time carrying out the duties of the most powerful man in the world?

Killing Reagan reaches back to the golden days of Hollywood, where Reagan found both fame and heartbreak, up through the years in the California governor’s mansion, and finally to the White House, where he presided over boom years and the fall of the Iron Curtain. But it was John Hinckley Jr.’s attack on him that precipitated President Reagan’s most heroic actions. In Killing Reagan, O’Reilly and Dugard take readers behind the scenes, creating an unforgettable portrait of a great man operating in violent times.

My Review

Another fascinating historical read filled with kernels of otherwise unknown information. Reagan fan or not, this intimate glimpse into one of the most revered presidents is an eye opener. Well researched, candid, you will discover more than you knew possible. O’Reilly brings history for all to enjoy in a fast paced, easy to read, well researched format. From newbie to veteran history buff his books are more than satisfying, perhaps engaging enough for the reader to explore more of notable people, moments and events from the past.

Interesting details of Ronald and Nancy, appreciated yet a smidgen disillusioned. Always a shocker when your perception is somewhat rocked, this was a bit of a reality check – all that glitters is not gold. O’Reilly provides plenty for readers to digest.

About Bill O’Reilly27281

Bill O’Reilly is an American television/radio host, author, syndicated columnist, and political commentator. He is the host of the cable news program The O’Reilly Factor. Prior to hosting The O’Reilly Factor, he served as anchor of the entertainment program, Inside Edition.

O’Reilly also hosts The Radio Factor, a radio program syndicated by Westwood One, and he has written seven books.

1549About Martin Dugard

New York Times bestselling author Martin Dugard is the co-author of Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, Killing Patton, and Killing Reagan, written with noted television personality Bill O’Reilly. To date, there are more than ten million copies of these books in print.

Mr. Dugard is also the author of the critically lauded memoir To Be A Runner, a series of essays which takes the reader around the world as he recounts his personal journey through the world of distance running. It is a book about life itself, and how the simple act of stepping outside for a run is a metaphor for our daily desire to be the best possible version of ourselves, step by step.

This attribute can be seen in the diversity and depth of Mr. Dugard’s body of work. His ten years covering the Tour de France resulted in Chasing Lance (Little, Brown, 2005) a travelogue combining history, sports and gastronomy. Other works include the New York Times bestseller The Murder of King Tut (with James Patterson; Little, Brown, 2009); The Last Voyage of Columbus (Little, Brown, 2005), which tells the riveting tale of the legendary Admiral’s final, ill-fated journey in crisp, swashbuckling fashion; Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone (Doubleday, 2003), Farther Than Any Man: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook (Pocket Books, 2001), Knockdown (Pocket Books, 1999), and Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth (McGraw-Hill, 1998). In addition, Dugard lived on the island of Pulau Tiga during the filming of Survivor’s inaugural season to write the bestselling Survivor with mega-producer Mark Burnett.

Mr. Dugard is the writer and producer of A WARRIOR’S HEART, starring Ashley Greene and Kellan Lutz, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011.

An adventurer himself, Dugard regularly immerses himself in his research to understand characters and their motivations better. To better understand Columbus he traveled through Spain, the Caribbean and Central America. For Tut he explored pharaohs’ tombs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. He followed Henry Morton Stanley’s path across Tanzania while researching Into Africa (managing to get thrown into an African prison in the process), and swam in the tiger shark-infested waters of Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay to recreate Captain James Cook’s death for Farther Than Any Man. And for To Be A Runner he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, suffered electric shock and hypothermia as part of Britain’s Tough Guy competition, and explored Japanese WWII bunkers on the island of Saipan.

On the more personal side of adventure, Dugard competed in the Raid Gauloises endurance race three times, and flew around the world at twice the speed of sound aboard an Air France Concorde. The time of 31 hours and 28 minutes set a world record for global circumnavigation. Dugard’s magazine writing has appeared in Esquire, Outside, Sports Illustrated, and GQ, among others. In 1997, Dugard was awarded the Dallas Area Press Club’s Katie Award for Best Magazine Sports Story.

Mr. Dugard spends his afternoons as the Head Cross Country and Track &Field coach at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano, California, a position he has held since 2005. His boys and girls squads regularly qualify for the California State Championships, and his girls team won the state title in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors of the USA Track & Field Foundation, charged with growing youth distance running in America.

Martin Dugard and his wife live in Orange County, California. They have three sons.

Published September 22nd 2015 by Henry Holt and Co.

Review of The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon


About The Phantom of Fifth Avenue

Born in 1906, Huguette Clark grew up in her family’s 121-room Beaux Arts mansion in New York and was one of the leading celebrities of her day. Her father, William Andrews Clark, was a copper magnate, the second richest man in America, and not above bribing his way into the Senate.

Huguette attended the coronation of King George V. And at twenty-two, with a personal fortune of $50 million to her name, she married a Princeton man and childhood friend, William MacDonald Gower. Two years later the couple divorced. After a series of failed romances, Huguette began to withdraw from society–first living with her mother in a kind of Grey Gardens isolation then as a modern-day Miss Havisham, spending her days in a vast apartment overlooking Central Park, eating crackers and watching The Flintstones with only servants for company.

All her money and all her real estate could not protect her in her later life from being manipulated by shady hangers-on and hospitals that were only too happy to admit (and bill) a healthy woman. But what happened to Huguette that turned a vivacious young socialite into a recluse? And what was her life like inside that gilded, copper cage?

My Review

Fabulously fascinating. Comprehensive overview of the obscenely wealthy Clark family as well as focusing on Huguette Clark. Outstandingly written and researched. Those intrigued with the Clark family and of Huguette will enjoy Meryl Gordon’s effort.

Sad story despite claims Huguette was happy, still her actions reveal otherwise. I was appalled but not surprised people exploited Huguette’s generosity and blatantly took advantage of her kindness. This über wealthy woman was by no means greedy rather quite the opposite. An emotionally scared woman preferring to withdrawal from the rugged world. Highly skeptical she would approve of the upcoming film of her life.

About Meryl Gordonmeryl-gordon-1

MMeryl Gordon is the author of The Phantom of Fifth Avenue, as well as the author of Mrs Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of A Family Beyond Reproach. She is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Vanity Fair. She is on the graduate journalism faculty at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is considered an expert on “elder abuse” and has appeared on NPR, CNN and other outlets whenever there is a high-profile case.

Published May 27th 2014 by Grand Central Publishing

Review of There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me by Brooke Shields


About The Real Story of My Mother and Me

Brooke Shields never had what anyone would consider an ordinary life. She was raised by her Newark-tough single mom, Teri, a woman who loved the world of show business and was often a media sensation all by herself. Brooke’s iconic modeling career began by chance when she was only eleven months old, and Teri’s skills as both Brooke’s mother and manager were formidable. But in private she was troubled and drinking heavily.

As Brooke became an adult the pair made choices and sacrifices that would affect their relationship forever. And when Brooke’s own daughters were born she found that her experience as a mother was shaped in every way by the woman who raised her. But despite the many ups and downs, Brooke was by Teri’s side when she died in 2012, a loving daughter until the end.

Only Brooke knows the truth of the remarkable, difficult, complicated woman who was her mother. And now, in an honest, open memoir about her life growing up, Brooke will reveal stories and feelings that are relatable to anyone who has been a mother or daughter.

My Review

“Neither writing the book nor this letter felt at all cathartic. People speculated it would, but in actuality it all just gave me a heavy heart.”

Brooke wrote this book to reveal more of her mother as opposed to the overbearing stage mother reputation most were familiar with, mission failed. Brooke describes Teri as an abusive alcoholic mother using her daughter as her means of financial support.

Brooke continuously defends her mother, fails to really acknowledge the abuse head on, basically glosses over all affronts like its no big deal which makes this even more painful of a read. The part I found shocking – Brooke admits she would never permit her daughters to participate in a film such as Pretty Baby or questionable ad campaigns but yet sees nothing wrong with Teri allowing her involvement.

Her continuous excuses for her mother made for a challenging read. What was the point in writing this, it certainly didn’t endear Teri to an already skeptical audience. Brooke really should have written this for herself sans sharing with the public.

This reads more of ramblings from an abused daughter of an alcoholic wrestling with the loss of her mother, grief serving as her ghostwriter, clearly clouding her vision of the depths of events.

The lack of proper editing added to the strain of an already frustrating tell all.

About Brooke Shields62393

Brooke Christa Camille Shields is an American actress, supermodel and author.

Published November 18th 2014 by Dutton

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (The Wolf Of Wall Street #1) by Jordan Belfort


About The Wolf of Wall Street

By day he made thousands of dollars a minute. By night he spent it as fast as he could. From the binge that sank a 170-foot motor yacht and ran up a $700,000 hotel tab, to the wife and kids waiting at home and the fast-talking, hard-partying young stockbrokers who called him king, here, in Jordan Belfort’s own words, is the story of the ill-fated genius they called the Wolf of Wall Street. In the 1990s, Belfort became one of the most infamous kingpins in American finance: a brilliant, conniving stock-chopper who led his merry mob on a wild ride out of Wall Street and into a massive office on Long Island. It’s an extraordinary story of greed, power, and excess that no one could invent: the tale of an ordinary guy who went from hustling Italian ices to making hundreds of millions—until it all came crashing down.

My Review

NOT at all what I was expecting.  I was hoping to read of the rise and of course fall of Belfort. I wanted to know why he chose a crooked road, instead I was submerged into his hedonistic lifestyle with absolutely no remorse or apology.  I barely made it through all the F-bomb’s (and boy are there plenty, atomic explosion), all the sex, drugs and general bad behavior. Greed is ugly as Belfort demonstrates.  Such a shame an intelligent man chose to use his intellect nefariously, blatently deceiving people as he played a part in our economic downfall. I have no idea how a film was made based on the trash I read.  If I wasn’t a principled reader I would NEVER have finished the book. Thank goodness I didn’t spend hard earned money on this so called book, it was a gift, clearly the giver should demand a refund. All the people who rode the wave with Belfort….you are equally guilty and disgusting, good luck looking at yourself in the mirror daily. A book depicting, for some, money is the root of evil.

About Jordan Belfort289953

After graduating from American University, Jordan Belfort worked on Wall Street for ten years. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his two children.

Published September 25th 2007 by Bantam (first published September 2007)

Review: The Abrupt Physics of Dying by Paul E. Hardisty

About The Abrupt Physics of Dying

Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s oil-processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die. As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is as it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA’s most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead. A stunning debut eco-thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying is largely based on true events. Gritty, gripping and shocking, this book will not only open your eyes but keep them glued to the page until the final, stunning denouement is reached.

My Review

Incredibly enthralling read. It’s been a long time since an action packed narrative has commanded my full intention, talk about a white knuckle, nail biter ride. Action, adventure, greed, politics, even a subtle romance forms a rip-roaring plot. The narrative was so well crafted it felt more fiction than nonfiction. Hardisty paints such a plausible and vivid picture of avarice, murderous oil company Petro-Tex. The environmental damage caused by the greedy oil company is evoking, their disregard of human life is halting.

Stellar writing, the exotic and enigmatic setting of Yemen with full-blown description of environment, people and culture is absorbing. The exploration of the damage being done via scientific explanation proves Hardisty’s due diligence.

Clay Straker is fearless and determined. A hero beyond measure. A character in the thick of things and hardly breaks a sweat and remains cool, calm and collected. A man’s man with a dose of strength, sensitivity and sex appeal.

The ending was what I expected but a bit too abrupt leaving me gnawing at the bit until the next installment. A smoother ending would have been much more appreciated while complimenting the narrative fully.

Paul E. Hardisty dazzles, his strong writing and talent of a sharp narrative configuration impresses. A rising author worthy of notice, his future promising. I’m impatient for more from Hardisty and Straker.

About Paul E. HardistyPaul_Hardisty2-200x300

Canadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

Published March 8th 2015 by Orenda Books (first published December 15th 2014)

Review: The Removers by Andrew Meredith


About The Removers

A dark, poignant, and emotionally brave coming-of-age memoir: the story of a young man who, by handling the dead, makes peace with the living.

My Review

Interesting read, taking me by surprise, certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. This was a coming of age story, exploring the bruises left behind of a dysfunctional family. The funeral industry was part of the narrative but not a large portion, enough to provide a glimpse into body removal, cremation.

Meredith has a way with words, his writing is poetically mesmerizing. He’s very open and candid into the turmoil existing within his family as well as bearing his own emotions and stumbles as a result of his family mess during his formative years to adulthood.

As much as I enjoy Meredith’s writing, his veering from one topic to the next jamming the mismatched topics together randomly was frustrating. One moment you would be reading of the cremation oven and immediately read of his father’s indiscretion, this zig zag pattern continuing throughout the narrative. Distracting and disruptive.

Candid memoir from a very gifted writer. I look forward to reading more from this talented writer. His lyrical writing alone makes this worth perusing.

About Andrew Meredithandrew-meredith-431977058

Andrew Meredith has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo and from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He received an MFA in Fiction from UNC-Greensboro. The Removers is his first book.

Published July 15th 2014 by Scribner