The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

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Certain memoirs grab me but if you add a foodie element to the mix, count me in.  This was a well written accounting of Emily Nunn’s journey and healing process after her brother’s suicide, the lack of emotional support from her significant other and facing alcoholism.

Some of my random thoughts after reading this book: 

    • Every one us deals with loss and death differently.  Some are stoic, some fall apart at every little thing and others keep it together only to collapse emotionally later.
    • She deleted Oliver’s messages without listening to them! Both of my siblings are now deceased but neither took their  lives.  Not that it would have played a factor as far as unheard/unread messages from them. When I read that part I actually exclaimed aloud, “She deleted the messages!  Why would she do that?” Because I placed myself in that situation, and I would have reacted differently.  No right or wrong about it, everyone deals differently.
      • The breakup was so cold and one sided with emotion.  I tried to consider the very small amount of empathy with a side of  annoyance The Engineer displayed when he was confronted with Emily’s grief?  It was so black and white and zero gray areas for him.

     

     

    • Checking into the hospital – that scene where Emily needed to go and had the strength to know it, to act on it, was pure raw emotion.
    • The scenes where she and her sister Elaine visit their father was good yet sad.  I miss my father, he’s been gone over 10 years now but the proverbial heartstrings are pulled now and then, especially when I read those chapters. I had quite a bit of empathy for the father and how they left off with his portion of the story.
  • Maggie, the rescue poodle, actually belonged to Emily’s sister Elaine. This wasn’t clear to me in the beginning of the book and I fretted about Maggie for a bit, worried she was abandoned again.  But she wasn’t, she is Elaine’s dog and was cared for.

I swear, characters can die in books but nothing tears me up like an animal who gets abused, abandoned or killed.  That makes me cry.  Yeah, I’m like that.

All the talk about food had me inspired to cook and bake.  I made French bread, always a favorite here, and slow roasted tomatoes.  There were soooo many recipes in this book.   That’s all I have.  Thoughts from anyone who read this one?  Did you like it?

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Week 3 of Nonfiction November! Let’s talk Ex-Pat literature.

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Nonfiction November moves into to Week 3 with Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert and our host is Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Let’s talk Ex-Pat literature.  Real life stories about settling in a foreign country, the hope of fitting in, learning about a new culture and most likely, learning a new language.

I want to state I am not, by any means, an expert on this!  I did travel around Europe for over a year and half (until the money ran out!) and experienced culture shock with languages, currency and culture.  But the idea of leaving my country to settle elsewhere permanently has always been a bit of a fantasy.  Doug and I had an opportunity (see HERE) but didn’t act on it. Alas……

On to the books………

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Carol Drinkwater is an actress and writer.  One of her most remembered roles is Helen of All Creatures Great and Small.  I loved that series and the lovely scenery of Yorkshire but what I also love are her books about settling in France and her work with the olive trees on her property.  Olive groves near the Mediterranean have trees hundreds of years old.  When Carol first started exploring her property she found a gnarled tree and the mostly buried remains of a roman ceramic tiles.  This tree is most likely a thousand years old.  I loved reading about her experiences with learning to harvest olives, brushing up on the language so she was fluent, dealing with French laws and a property purchase and the culture.  If you like olives and old property, restoration and such, you may enjoy these books.

Tuscan

Frances Mayes’ book Under the Tuscan Sun was published 20 years ago – wow!  This book tells us how the American educator fell in love with Italy and her experiences with Italian law, property purchases, language challenges and more.  She bought an abandoned villa and with hard work (like Carol Drinkwater) she discovered faded frescos beneath the whitewash and an overgrown vineyard.  What a treasure.

The challenge of renovating a crumbling building would be a nightmare to someone like me but I’d sure love to face some of the other challenges.

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Sarah Turnbull is another writer, an Australian journalist who met a Frenchman while working in  Bucharest.   She uprooted herself from Australia and moved to France.  Her book Almost French describes her love/ hate relationship with Paris and
her real life experience with culture shock, learning the language and the day-to-day life style of living in a large cosmopolitan city.

If you dream of moving to another country and want to read about the problematic side as well as the rewards, these books may be right up your alley.   There are excellent chapters about the local food and cooking that were especially appealing to me.

Check out the host for week three,  Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness. and join in if you’d like.

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

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This is a psychological thriller which I couldn’t put down.  It was disturbing, chilling, even paced and I read it in one day.  The main character is Annie, later renamed Milly, as she is placed in a protective environment after turning her mother over to the police.  Milly’s mother is a serial killer, her victims all young children.  I am thankful it wasn’t overly graphic when they described the murder of the children.

Milly is fifteen years old and is placed in the home of Mike, a therapist who is writing a book about Milly and her mother.  Milly was not told he would be documenting their therapy sessions for publication, accidentally discovering his notes one afternoon. It’s hard to share too much without giving spoilers.

One thing I wish the author had resolved was the fate of Milly’s brother.  He was  fleetingly mentioned as part of reason Milly’s mother started killing children.  The brother was charged with arson and I suppose incarcerated, but his story isn’t delved into near enough, nor what happened to him. The end was, by the time I was over three-quarters into the book, predictable.  Still chilling though.

I read this book with the Kindle British Mystery Book Club  as the November main group feature.  This is also another one ticked off for my New Author challenge.

Linking up with  Joy for British Isles Friday.
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Nourished left me flat

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Foodie type memoirs are one of my favorites so I was very interested to read about Huber’s travels and recipes. Sadly this book left me a little flat. The recipes weren’t especially inspiring rather simple efforts that I toss together. Okay, I will say the gnocchi with mushrooms and lobster wasn’t pedestrian but overall…(shrugs shoulders) Meh.

I want to say something positive that I liked about this book and that’s the beginning when she adds squash to the soup when in Guatemala.  The old women saw her preparing it and said the “kids won’t like the vegetables.”  But they do, they whoop and fist pump the air and say squash is delicious!

Perhaps an unfair comparison but Anthony Bourdain and Bill Buford wrote very engaging foodie books and I thought this may be along the same lines, therefore I requested it from the Blogging for Books program.  I’m happy I didn’t pay for it.

The underlying hype near the end of the book was to check out her website and that was a bit of a turnoff.

I’m not certain how the author has the financial wherewithal to up and chase dreams in other countries until she gets bored but I think most of us would like to have a shot at that dream.  Thing is I would stay a while and experience the culture instead of rocketing off to another part of the globe.

Author Bio

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program and was not compensated in any form for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

Nonfiction November: Book Pairings

Today’s Nonfiction November  is hosted at Sarah’s Bookshelves.  The theme this week is fiction/nonfiction book pairings:

It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

I will heartily recommend two books where it’s all about wine.

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker was one of my favorite nonfiction books this year.  A perfect pairing to me is Peter Mayle’s A Good Year

This quote below is from the fictional book.  Yet you learn something. There is more to the story than wine but it plays a healthy role along with food, relationships and a bit of mystery.

See the diagonal cut on the stem? That’s a cut made by secateurs. And look – there are bunches all the way along this row…..They cut off two or three bunches so that the bunch left gets all the nourishment. This makes it concentrated, with a higher alcohol content. The fancy name for it is vendage verte. It’s slow and expensive because machines can’t do it.

This is a great spot. The exposure is right; facing east, the stony ground warms up slowly, which is better for the roots and there is a perfect slope for drainage. Land like this would fetch a small fortune in Napa.

Now to move on to another love of mine, food and cooking.  You see a theme here, right?

 

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister is a fictional accounting of strangers coming together to learn to cook.  Some carry emotional baggage and this learning process and creating meals together helps them heal.  As in real life, not all wounds are visible and the emotional scarring can be very well hidden.  I loved this book.

Currently I am reading The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn.  This is about heartbreak, healing, moving ahead with very liberal passages of food and recipes.  It’s good so far but I have to say, I am already concerned about the dog Maggie.  If a dog is in a story I will worry about it’s demise, guess I will find out as I read.

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Join in or check out the pairings at Sarah’s site.  Thank you for hosting, Sarah!

 

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

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This is my first acquaintance with author Anthony Horowitz.  I can say that I will be seeking out more of his work and hope it’s as engaging as this book. How did I miss this guy when he has written so many successful English series such as Foyle’s War?

This murder mystery featuring fictional detective Atticus Pund was appealing on it’s own but wait……there is another story line and mystery about the publishing company for Alan Conway, author of the Atticus Pund books.

The book opens in present time with Susan Ryeland, editor for Conway’s books, telling the story.  She is given the last manuscript from Conway but the last few chapters are missing.  This will change Susan’s life and not for the better I can tell you.

You are immediately immersed into the ninth Atticus Pund book which is set in rural England, the time period is the 1950’s.  It’s such noir writing, reminds you of Agatha Christie with the sleuthing.

After a tragedy (spoiler so I can’t say here) we are back to Susan’s world in modern times visiting London and the rural English countryside.  The characters and motives from both stories are intertwined.  It’s a classic whodunit with some great twists.

I liked the mention of other books and movies throughout this story, some of which I book marked to request form the library.

A few food and drink references:
Champagne, fish and chips, sandwiches, Victoria Sponge cake, grilled sardines, salad and wine. Eggs and toast fingers. English breakfast with two eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato and a fried slice. Homemade quiche and bean salad. Smoked salmon with salad and artisan bread. A bottle of wine, Nacho Cheese flavored tortilla chips and a jar of hot salsa dip. Pub food and ales.

I wanted to make the Victoria Sponge cake but after our vacation, I think I better cut back on high caloric treats.  It’s for the best, really (I’m telling myself this).  So I went for a favorite, this passes for pub grub in my neck of the woods.

A grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich with all the trimmings. Lettuce, tomato, onions, lime on toasted Cuban bread. Served with black beans and rice and ale. Oh. Yeah.

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Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday, Heather for the November Foodies Read and Deb’s Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen.

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