Strange Affair by Peter Robinson


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strangeEach time I read a DCI Banks novel I think I will jump right to the next one. I love this guy! But then I realize I will be caught up and have to wait for the next publication so I am slowly savoring each novel, reading something else in between these books. It’s great that Peter Robinson writes these novels in real time. When I started with Gallows View (Book #1) Alan Banks had just moved to Yorkshire, his children were in school, he was in a happy marriage and his career was on the right path.

I just finished Strange Affair (Book #15) and so much has changed. Banks is, naturally, older and has had some boost in rank. His kids are grown and one is in college. It’s been nice reading along watching the progressions.

Strange Affair starts off with a woman driving away from London, obviously frightened for her life as she expresses she will be safe in just a few hours. Before you get too many pages into the book she is found dead, still in her vehicle, with a single gunshot wound to her head. Her purse and cell phone are missing but in her back pocket is a hastily written note with Alan Banks’ name and address.

Banks can’t be located because he has driven off to London in search of his brother Roy. A day earlier Roy called Banks and left a voice message that he was in danger and he needed help. When big brother Alan couldn’t reach Roy he decided to drive to London. He didn’t tell anyone about Roy’s call and he didn’t call in to the police station to let them know he’d be gone. With the discovery of a dead woman who was headed toward Banks’ Yorkshire address and him now missing, the Eastvale police have him as an unofficial suspect.

Most of this story line takes place in London. We alternate between Banks looking for his brother and DI Annie Cabbot looking into the murder of the young woman. Not too far into the book you see they are connected, both the murder and Roy’s disappearance. You also see a more reflective side of Alan Banks as he’s working though his depression over a house fire (Book # 14) and him getting to know more about his brother.

There are 22 DCI Banks books currently published. I will be on to #16 soon and once I catch up, I will one of the eager fans waiting for the next publication.

For my representative meal I made a chicken, sausage, potato and tomato bake.  Wine was the choice of drink as DCI Banks is off his whiskey for a while.


Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday
The British Book Challenge at The Overflowing Library

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series

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Escape London: Days out within easy reach of London


Pour yourself another cuppa tea and enjoy looking at the many amazing side trips you can make outside of London.

Escape London is a guide for both locals as well as vacationers detailing little trips within an easy drive from the bustling city of London.  While I would love to spend weeks on end getting to know London, these side trips and rural excursions are right up my alley. So much to see, so little time!

The books is separated into five categories:

  • Culture and Heritage
  • Gardens and Greenery
  • Gastronomy and Luxury
  • Family Friendly
  • Cool and Quirky

There are  also detailed maps and the book is loaded with great photos.

I like the photos of the gardens very much and the little tidbits on local cuisine most certainly has my attention.

London1 I’m not religious at all but each trip we have made to Ireland and England has us in awe of the architecture. Churches in particular are absolute works of art, so much history to behold.

This is my way of armchair traveling at a time when we can’t take overseas trips. It’s a cheap way to travel and gives me ideas to note for a future trip.

About the author: Yolanda Zappaterra is a London-based author, editor and researcher who has credits on more than 30 design and travel titles. She has been writing and editing articles about architecture, design and travel for 20 years, and contributes regularly to leisure and lifestyle magazines and specialist art and design magazines, including Time Out, and Design Week.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


The Twelve by Justin Cronin



This is the middle book in the trilogy and while it wasn’t my favorite, it sure was good. The Passage remains my favorite of the three. This story needed to be told so it all could come together at the end. What a writer. Cronin is so descriptive.

First off, for anyone who isn’t familiar with Justin Cronin’s trilogy, this apocalyptic literature is not told in a linear fashion. Saying that, you have to read The Passage first and this one will make sense.

In the previous book you read about life before the virus. It’s life as we know it with stores, shopping, farms, social life, going to school and….everyday life. A virus which is mishandled by the government (what do you know, the government and military had a hand in this apocalyptic catastrophe) leading to a virtual wipe-out of our civilization.

Some survive – fast forward 100 years and you have read about the First Colony in California where people are secured in a compound. It’s a back-to-basics way of life, the sort we read about for our ancestors with them making tools by hand, growing their own food – a life devoid of television, or phones, cars and office life. People have jobs such as teachers, soldiers and farmers. It begins with the year 97 A.V. (after virus).

New characters are introduced but you’ll revisit some favorites such as Peter, Amy, Michael, Alicia and many others. If you read The Passage do you remember the cliff hangers at the end? The Twelve picks 5 years after The Passage and we are introduced to communities in Iowa, Kerrville Texas and one called “The Homeland” which is pure evil.

As with the first book and the last (I have already finished City of Mirrors) this story is about survivors and the lengths they will go to protecting their loved ones and keep the human race from being eliminated.

Not too much food mentioned in The Twelve.  As you can see from my Paperwhite a bowl of soup was mentioned and it was a comfort food.  Soup is certainly a comfort food, anytime.

Soup The 12


So a black bean and vegetable soup is going to be the representative meal for this book.  Lots of tomatoes, corn, onions, black beans, green bell peppers and broth.  We had a fresh loaf of bread too.

soup black beans

For what it’s worth the recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor. This is a toss-what-you-want-in sort of soup. Those are the best.

Happy Reading!

Eye in the Sky


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eye in skyWe watched Eye in the Sky recently and found it to be a timely subject with the terrors raging around our world today.

The review and synopsis on The Guardian will do this plot more justice than I could.  Here is a snippet from that article:

“We open in Nairobi, where Aisha Takow’s young Alia twirls a hula hoop in her backyard. Throughout the drama, which plays out on closely observed monitor screens, we shall return to such aerial views of Alia, caught on airborne surveillance cameras, the words “not for targeting” significantly nestled in the bottom left of the frame.

From Nairobi we flit in quick succession to London, Nevada, Pearl Harbor and beyond, as the key players in a joint anti-terror operation assemble. Foremost among them is Helen Mirren’s Katherine Powell, the no-nonsense British colonel on the trail of al-Shabaab terrorists, most notably a radicalised UK citizen. Her mission is to “capture, not kill” the high-priority targets gathering near the yard where Alia plays. But when the spectre of an imminent suicide attack rears its head, her priorities become more lethal, as does the prospect of civilian casualties.”

eye in

This was Alan Rickman’s last on screen role and he played it well. You could feel and hear his barely controlled frustration as politicians “passed the buck” on making a decision. There was no time to spare in deciding if a Hellfire missile should be deployed to eliminate 4 well known terrorists.

Between the referring back and forth to higher ranks and the calls between the UK, US and Nairobi it was nail biting at times. Other times this movie seemed to move at a very slow pace. A conundrum as you know a real and imminent threat was about to be unleashed and there was the ability to stop it immediately.

How do you choose between the certain sacrifice of an innocent girl who is in the line of fire and that of eliminating suicide bombers. You watched as the suicide vests were loaded up and fitted to the volunteers. You watched as they made their video before planning to go out to a crowded shopping center or public place to detonate and kill many innocent people. One girl’s life or a hundred lives?


At times it was a tense movie yet slow moving and, as I said, very timely in regard to the horrific news we see and read these days.  Great acting by Helen Mirren, Iain Glen and Alan Rickman just to single out two of my favorites.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


The Sunlight Pilgrims

There are novels under the apocalyptic genre that I have enjoyed before so when I read a description of The Sunlight Pilgrims I was on it in a flash. The world is getting colder and civilization is about to freeze and die. These aren’t happy topics, apocalyptic literature never is, but I enjoy them nonetheless.

This book dragged a bit and the start was not a jump-out- of-the-gate start by any means. There are three main characters – Dylan, sad 38 year old from London who is experiencing grief over his mother’s death. She left him a note saying there was a caravan in Scotland she paid cash for and signed it Mum. That was her last missive to him. He heads north to Scotland toward the caravan.

Stella and Constance are the other major figures in this book. Constance is Stella’s mother and she has romantic relationships with two different men. She also worries about her daughter but those of us with kids can relate to that. Who doesn’t worry about their kids. Her daughter Stella is a trans-gender girl who has issues with her body. There are many internal struggles and this is laid out well.  Dylan becomes a part of their lives and so this nontraditional threesome form a family of sorts.

Are you with me so far? I was fast losing interest in this slow moving story but I persevered for a while longer. Where was the science stuff, the great descriptions about the plummeting temperatures and how anyone would survive? There were some mentions of news they received about the freezing of the world but that wasn’t very often nor very detailed. While the prose could be lyrical at times I wasn’t a fan of the stream of consciousness ramblings. If I wanted that I would read Virginia Wolf.

The writing is poetic in places:

When grown-ups hear a little dark door creaking in their hearts they turn the telly up. They slug a glass of wine. They tell the cat it was just a door creaking. The cat knows. It jumps down from the sofa and walks out of the room. When that little dark door in a heart starts to go click-clack click-clack click-clack click-clack so loudly and violently their chest shows and actual beat-well, then they say they’ve got bad cholesterol and they try to quit using butter, they begin to go for walks.

When the tiny dark door in her heart creaks open, she will walk right through it.

Overall, this book couldn’t hold my interest. If the environmental catastrophe was addressed more and the dialogue was more intriguing, if it wasn’t a makeshift tragedy with characters you just couldn’t care about….maybe then I could have finished the book.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from LibraryThing as well as a copy from Blogging for Books.  All opinions are mine, nice and otherwise.


Jenni Fagan  was born in Scotland and lives in London. She graduated from Greenwich University with the highest possible mark for a student of Creative Writing and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts, and Scottish Screen among others. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice and shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize. Jenni works as a writer in residence in hospitals and prisons.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Kirsty at The Overflowing Library for the British Book Challenge. Also Adding my review to Goodreads.

Wool Gathering – Why didn’t we move to Dunster?

We’re sitting at work today sipping coffee when a coworker comes by to tell us she’s going to a birthday party in England.  She’s gone before for less reasons than a party,  Lucky girl.

I asked if she planned to return to Devon England (near Barnstaple) as she’d been several times. Doug and I got to reminiscing about our vacation there and what fun we had.

This in turn got me thinking about a little shop in Dunster we contemplated purchasing. Sometimes, many times, I wish we had made the scary leap and bought that place. We were having a great time and stopped into this souvenir shop to buy balsa wood airplanes and post cards. The shop owner said it was for sale and the entire upstairs, same size as the large shop, was the living quarters. We looked at each other, you know the look – it says Could We?????

(The little shop is on the left side down the street)

Tristan was only 10 years old and I remember him saying “I don’t want to go to school on Saturdays!” The thought of leaving our home forever and starting over was very unappealing for him. But it wasn’t unappealing for me and Doug. We didn’t have established jobs/ careers at that time. We had good jobs but were still young enough that retirement investments or the benefits of staying with one employer forever hadn’t really cross our minds.

We could LIVE here! You could see Wales from the shoreline. It wasn’t horrifically hot there as it is in this swamp we live in now. While the appeal factor was very high, we wondered how difficult it would be for Americans to move and purchase a business in England. It would be a major upheaval to move across an ocean. We had dogs back home awaiting us to retrieve them from the kennel. How would that work to bring our pups? Not to mention, there is obviously a slow season with a souvenir shop so…would we have the financial savvy to make it through a slow season?

There are times we bring this up and wish we’d just made the leap and bought the place. Think how different things would have been for all three of us. Tristan’s entire life would have changed, as would ours, and I would like to think it would all be good changes for us.

As we move closer to retiring there are scores of places we want to visit here in the US as well as England (and maybe even Ireland one more time). We’ll just have to see what direction the wind blows us when that time comes.

End of wool gathering………

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


Modern Potluck just wasn’t my cuppa tea


modern potluck

I saw the word Potluck and thought this would have an excellent selection of recipes. It does in fact have many recipes as well as wonderful glossy photos. The statement to give people “foolproof, crowd-pleasing” recipes fell short for me and my household in regard to taste preferences. I see many 4 and 5 star reviews and honestly, I am happy for those folks that this book was a success for them.

For me, the word Potluck inspires casseroles and easy to prepare foods that you know almost everyone wants to sample. You arrive with “the dish” and people say, yesssssssss….I love that or can’t wait to try it!

This wasn’t the mental image that came to mind as I turned page after page trying to find something I would cook. Something we would make over and over. In my opinion, this book is for people who are extremely passionate and adventurous regarding some out of the ordinary ingredients and combinations. An asparagus quiche sounds good but I’m not sure about the rye crust.

Tuna, capers and slow roasted tomatoes would work for me as would the deviled eggs. But I don’t need a cookbook to assist with deviled eggs or to come up with creative combinations to give them some zing. Same goes for the potato salad.

This book is well organized into sections for snacks, dips, drinks, main dishes, etc. Also it caters to a wide variety of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan. There are many recipes for meat eaters too.

It’s a pretty book, it’s just not for me so I will donate this book to the library.

More info

Author Bio

I received a copy of this cookbook through the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are my own.

Scarlet Feather is the featured book at Cook the Books


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scarletFeatherMaeve Binchy was a wonderful storyteller.  She could weave a plot with so many characters, all their lives intersecting with one another and yet, you wouldn’t be confused about what was going on in their lives. It was a sad day when she died.  Ireland lost a treasure.

I have read every single book Binchy has published. Scarlet Feather wasn’t my favorite of her books but I  did like the story line and the characters.  Well, most of the characters.

Cathy’s husband was certainly not a likable guy. You wondered how that marriage could work out as Neil never put Cathy first.

Now, Cathy and Tom have a natural friendship and great chemistry. From the beginning I was wondering why they weren’t a couple instead of Cathy being married to Neil and Tom living with Marcella. They support each other, work hard to make their business a success and share love and friendship with many friends. If you read Tara Road (another fat book I loved by Binchy) you’ll remember some of those characters – they have parts in this book as well.

I think one thing I love about this book (and most of her other books) is the portrayal of the average person. Who hasn’t had frustrations with their parents or disagreements with a mother-in-law (don’t get me started). It’s not a detective story or a thriller where sensational things happen. It’s a tale you can immerse yourself in as you can see some of those things happening to you. It’s everyday life.

The book is summarized on the Cook the Books site so I won’t go into details about that. Plus I won’t give spoilers.

So much food is mentioned in this book but that’s to be expected since our main characters own a catering company. We have vegetables and lamb bone for soup, Wicklow Lamb, Irish Salmon, loads of lobster and mussels, rich Chocolate Cake, fruit pavlova, vegetarian goulash and I could go on and on.

My representative dish is going to be a Landlocked Paella. Not your traditional seafood Paella because we have overloaded on salmon lately. Needed a break from the sea.


For the recipe and my I Heart Cooking linkup please visit my food blog, Squirrel Head Manor.


It’s been fun revisiting this book. This novel is the selection at Cook the Books, hosted this by Claudia this time. Thanks to Claudia who writes at Honey from the Rock for choosing a Binchy novel.

There is still time to hook up if you want to participate. The info may be found HERE.


Also linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series.


Magic Words in Book Blurbs

Instead of a book review I wanted to share a post I read at Katherine’s site – I Wish I Lived in a Library.  She was talking about Magic Words which draw us to a book.  Her article is titled Ramblings from the Stacks: Magic Words in Book Blurbs.  Click on the link to read her post.  I’m hoping she makes Ramblings from the Stacks a regular feature.

Certain key words in titles grab our attention, makes us pick up a book while roaming about the bookstore looking for new materials.

Quite a number of years ago I was perusing the tables at Borders Bookstore. (I miss that bookstore, it was great).  I saw the title A Good Year by Peter Mayle.  At the time, I had not read anything by Mayle but I was attracted to the book cover – A  man standing in a vineyard hoisting a wine glass.

Since I was a world class Francophile at the time, the setting being in France and featuring wine had me hooked.  I have now read many novels by Peter Mayle.

This is how I discovered another of my favorite authors – Edward Rutherfurd.  If it’s set in Ireland, I’m on it.  When I gazed upon one of the Dublin saga books I knew I wanted to give this author a try.  Magic words – Ireland, France and Wine.

Katherine listed 10 of her magic words that attract her to books.  If asked to quickly name what attracts me to books, I think this list is fairly accurate.

  1. A setting in Ireland.  Just about any time frame will do, as long as I am reading about Ireland.
  2. England or Scotland – same thing.  If the setting is there I  usually enjoy it.
  3. Books such as the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  or The Land Girl as they are set in the WW II era.  I like the focus on regular, everyday common people and reading about how they adapted, challenges they took on.
  4.  Police Procedurals, especially those set in the British Isles.



5. Ex Pat literature – a title or blurb about Americans settling in a foreign country and starting a new life. It’s a common dream for us, to pack up and move to another culture.

6. Books set in Australia or New Zealand. I have read all 12 books in The Australian series by William Stuart Long and many more Aussie themed books.

7. Food and Wine.  So you’d think some cozy mysteries would fit in for me but they are too…..tame.  Books where there are meals shared, food described in pubs or dinner parties.  If there is a glass of wine on the cover I usually pick it up to read the book jacket and see if the story interest me.

8. Apocalyptic literature. Anything from Justin Cronin’s The Passage to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to Nevil Shute’s On the Beach.  Books like that.

Thanks to Katherine for that thought provoking post today.   I hope there will be more topics in her Ramblings from the Stacks theme.

Please share what attracts you to a book, especially if the author is unknown to you.

Happy reading!



I don’t want to eat rose petals

foodWithFriensThe title had me thinking about food you would share at a party or get together. This wasn’t quite the case, not that you couldn’t share these recipes/ dishes with friends.  It just wasn’t what I thought.

For my taste there are way too many recipes with rose petals as an ingredient.  Lavender is another ingredient that’s not exactly easy to get in my neck of the woods.

As for Kale Slaw, my husband saw that page opened and immediately said, “Nope.”  What is it with kale these days.  It’s the latest in food popularity, I suppose, but my word, I sure hate kale.

The positives of this book is obviously the photography.  All the photos are lovely, well done.  There is a section on how to achieve the perfect photo, how to set it up.  Nice advice there.

Overall, I will pass this book on to the library as there isn’t much I would actually cook from these recipes.  If I were into desserts I may love the book but yeah….not a winner for me.

I received a copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are my own.  Nice and otherwise.


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