Dear Mr M just lost momentum, for me.

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dear-mr-m-2895459This is a physiological thriller and very detailed depiction of human nature. The start of this book appears to be letter to an author, hence the title, Dear Mr M. It becomes all too apparent after reading a chapter or two that this letter writer is a stalker. He’s watching and reporting his observations via his letter or manifesto. I was hooked after 2 chapters.

The stalker/letter writer addresses a book Mr. M wrote years ago. Mr. M took the real life disappearance of a high school teacher, a teacher who had a fling with Laura (one of his female students), and turned it into a fictional account. This was a very popular novel filled with conjecture about the disappearance and the possible guilt of two of his former students.
The stalker then turns to the real story about the teacher and young girl, leaving you with cliff hangers at the end of several chapters.

Very abruptly the novel switches narrators. Mr. M, the aging bored writer, is the narrator and this part just doesn’t have the attraction of the previous 50 or so pages. Still, interesting enough and I read on. The narrator and time frame again change abruptly to 20 something years ago and we get a glimpse of the female student Laura and her new boyfriend Herman.

The part on Dutch politics didn’t thrill me nor did the middle part of the book when we had to hear, ad nauseum, about the teenagers and their thoughts.

Sounds confusing but I was still on board with all the story lines until it just lost steam. For me. I see there are some 5 star reviews but this ultimately wasn’t my cuppa tea. I did like the writing in Herman Koch’s book The Dinner.

I received this book free of charge from the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are mine.

 

Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson

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devil Once again we have two separate murder investigations going on here. In my opinion, his writing gets better with each book. So far there are currently 23 DCI Banks books out and I’m on a mission to catch up with the series. Then I can eagerly await publication of the newest book in the future.

This book, Friend of the Devil, is number 17 in the series.

DI Annie Cabbot has been loaned out to neighboring police force but she is in touch with Eastvale Police as the two investigations appear to relate to one another.

Alan Banks is paired with obnoxious DS Kevin Templeton and one of my new favorite characters, Winsome Jackman. Winsome is a 6 foot black female detective hailing from Jamaica. You can imagine the stir she causes in the quiet Yorkshire dales since they’ve never had any ethnicity in the police force before.

In Banks’ investigation we have a collage-aged drunken female who was found raped and murdered in The Maze. There are many suspects but the murderer wasn’t who I thought it would be. Great job of keeping that a mystery up until the end. I wish he had written about the murdered girl’s family again though, see them have closure.

Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot’s investigation involves a wheel-chair bound woman who had her throat slit. Why would anyone want to harm a paraplegic? That is revealed, as well as a blast-from-the-past from a previous book, when they discover the murderer  in this case.

At the 60% mark there was a huge twist and surprise!  As always what I love about Alan Banks is the dedication to the job as well as his personal life interests of literature, music and food. Reading some reviews there are folks who only want the murder investigation and have zero interest in the personal life and loves of our detectives. I like the balance of knowing who these people are when they aren’t working. It makes them more rounded characters for me.

There was quite a bit of food mentioned in this book as many discussions take place in a pub. At one point Banks meet someone in a wine bar and enjoyed a good wine and baked brie with toasted baguette. Yorkshire puddings, sausages, vegetarian meals, Black Sheep ales and more.

Again I honor Annie by preparing a Hearty Rice Vegetable skillet. The recipe didn’t call for adding avocado but since I had some sliced on the table, I thought, why not. It was wonderful! Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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

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Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt

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Based on a review by my bookish friend at Angry Grey Cat Reads I picked up this novel by Kate Hewitt. Her review may be found HERE.

Since I seemed to be on a police procedural kick lately I wanted to read a completely different genre. This book would be classified as women’s fiction and the setting was absolutely perfect. My great grandparents and his line hailed from Cumbria, living in Burnrigg and Wetheral before coming to the United States to start a new life. Reading about the Cumbria setting took me away as an armchair traveler.

The Rainy Day Sisters are Lucy and Juliet. They are actually half-siblings who haven’t grown up together or had much contact with one another over the years. Their mother, Fiona, clearly favors the younger child Lucy and has shunned Juliet all her life. We find out why near the end of the book but I can say, I was not at all sympathetic with Fiona.

After Fiona managed to derail Lucy’s career in Boston, Juliet offers Lucy sanctuary in her small village, telling her to come live at her B&B and take a temporary job at the local school. It doesn’t take long for Lucy to love the village and the people, especially her dishy boss Alex Kincaid. Where Lucy is fun loving and quick to smile, Juliet is standoffish and keeps her feelings to herself. Clearly they want to become closer and have a sisterly relationship. It’s a family drama with a bit of romance thrown in. Not the sort of book I usually gravitate toward but I know I would read more by Kate Hewitt.

As a matter of fact, when I opened this book I saw it’s a series called Hartley-by-the-Sea so I will add these to my stacks for future reading.

Check out this little box of Yorkshire tea I found at World Market.  I had not seen such a small box before and had to grab it.  Perfect to go with a story set in northern England.

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My Cumbrian history may be found at the Delaware County Historical Society HERE.

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Piece of My Heart – Two Investigations in two time lines

pieceThis is book #16 in Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks series.  It starts in 1969 with Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick investigating the murder of a young woman. She was found on a deserted field after the conclusion of a rock festival, stabbed so viciously a piece of her heart was sliced off.

I read several pages before thinking I may have picked up one of Robinson’s books that wasn’t in the DCI Banks series.  But knowing the series is written in real time and Banks’ gets older, to set one in 1969 would be unusual.

After several pages in the first chapter I noted a different date and year (2005) at the top of a chapter.  Finally Alan Banks’ story begins.  He is investigating the murder of a music journalist Nick Barber in the Yorkshire dales.

If you note the date at the top of the chapters you won’t be confused.  The book has this format to the end, switching between the two different time periods, but Robinson deftly  threads both story lines of these two cases.  It was interesting to read about the bands from 1969 and I certainly recognized my favorite – Pink Floyd.  Imagine being able to see them with multiple events in their early years.  (I was able to see a concert of theirs in Miami in the 1970s)

In the 1969 story, DI Chadwick has to eliminate thousands of people at a concert to discover the killer.  Further complications come with his conflict of interest between his 16 year old daughter who is involved with hippies and drugs that overlap into his investigation. The descriptions of people, music, the “free love era” and attitudes are aptly described.

In 2005 DCI Banks and Annie Cabbot have their own full scaled investigation of Nick Barber (the music journalist).  It appears there is a link between the band Mad Hatters from 1969 festival and the recent murder.  Leaving no stone unturned Banks doggedly pursues clues from present day to the current events and Barber’s murder.

I was pleased to see DC Winsome Jackman get more page time in this book and hope to see more of her in the future.  I still have 7 books to catch up to Robinson’s most current book, When The Music’s Over.

In a past review I made Pasta with Eggplant and Tomatoes in honor of vegetarian Annie Cabbot.  Today I bring you Vegetarian Moussaka.  It was very good.

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Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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

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The City of Mirrors – a Kick-Ass end to the Trilogy

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Mirrors Ok, The Passage remains my favorite of the books but City of Mirrors came through like gang busters. If it’s been a while since you read the first two book in this trilogy you may want to reacquaint yourself again.

Many of our favorite characters from the previous books turn up here. When we met Peter in The Passage he was a young man but he’s a white haired 50 something fellow midway through this book.

Remember the monster like creature Zero? The father of The Twelve? You get his backstory when he was a man living an ordinary life. He was Timothy Fanning back hundreds of years ago; a man who lived in a neighborhood, who went to Harvard, an intelligent man who fell in love with Liz, a woman who was involved with his roommate. He was smart – as in wicked smart in the sciences, the sort of guy who could change the world with medical discoveries and be the Time man of the year.

Spoilers Below!!

Some people didn’t like Zero/Fanning’s back story as his role in the two previous books is that of villain, the father of the virals. In my opinion Fanning’s back story is one of hope and love. Now his roommate Jonas Lear turned the tables on him as he was completely obsessed with Liz and her illness. It becomes a driving force for Lear and it seems Liz isn’t his focus anymore, it’s the cure of what’s wrong with her. I honestly loved the monologue by Zero and enjoyed reading about the stages of his life, finding out how he became the monster instead of a man.

Amy is old as dirt even though she occupies the body of a 12 year old. An old, old woman who has the jedi power to make people sleep when she needs them to. I asked my husband if she ever became a woman, in a woman’s body, and he did ask if I wanted that spoiler. (Obviously he read it first) Her role to save the world was an interesting one, a hard path to take and while the ending wasn’t what I wanted, I don’t know how I thought it should end. But it did end about the only way it could.

Remember I said spoilers above? If you’ve continued to read……here comes another one and it’s big. Be warned.

My biggest complaint is what happened when Amy and Peter were captured in NYC. Zero ends up slitting Peter’s throat right I front of Amy. Why? Because that is the one thing that can hurt Amy. When you love someone, you get hurt. The person you love is what can hurt you the most in life, it guts you.

After a great fight between Amy and Zero, Amy finds Peter alive and does the unthinkable. She gives him some of her blood because she can’t bear to live without him. She loves him and that selfish choice to keep him alive, as a viral, is a terrible thing. It’s a mockery of the life he lived. He fought every day against the virals, from youth into old age, trying to eradicate them and make the world a safer place. What a horrific thing to turn him into the monster he abhorred.

I did like the stories about the survivors getting on Michael’s ship and how they formed a new society. Wish I could have known more about how the society evolved. There is so much to cover about the book so I’ll just say overall I liked it a A-

The writing is skilled and the story is very engaging.  I hope Justin Cronin sets out to tell another epic tale such as this one.  I would most certainly buy it.

I read this book and liked it, or did I?

dark-matter-blake-crouchThis book grabbed me from the beginning.  It’s a mystery, it’s also Sci Fi, and it’s about choices we’d make if we could go back in time to change our life circumstances.  That being said, midway through the book I was losing momentum and thought about skimming it to see the outcome.

Why didn’t I stop reading, you may ask.  Well, there was another hook that grabbed my attention just about the time I thought this was going to get boring.  Plus, the explanations of the scientific processes and theories cannot be skipped.  You’ll come away scratching your head, how is that possible?  You probably will anyway even after you read it.

Jason Dessen is the main character(s) – he is a physics teacher, happily married to Daniela with a 15 year old son Charlie.  When he met Daniela he was the up and coming scientist who was on the breakthrough of the theory of alternate realities.  Multiverses.  Daniela was a talented artist about to embark on her art career. The book starts with the happily married couple making preparation for their Friday Family Night.  Obviously they stayed together and built a happy life and family.

But what if they didn’t.  What if Daniela had not gotten pregnant and they went their separate ways.  Imagine each path they may have taken.  In one Jason is the star scientist.  In another he moves away and takes a teaching job.  Daniela is the star artist with her own exhibition and a brilliant career. Daniela has her baby and makes her living as a graphic artist without Jason. So many different life lines.

The ending wasn’t great in my opinion but, as anyone who has read this novel would probably agree, how else could it end?  It seemed like a rush job by the end and didn’t have the care of the first ¾ of the book.  Yet, it kept me going to the end.  It’s hard to recommend this one because I did like it but it wasn’t over-the-moon fantastic.  It put me in mind of the writer Peter Clines if you are familiar with his books.

Overall I will give this a C+ or a low B-

  • I received this book from the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions, nice and otherwise, are mine.

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.

Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor…. HERE.

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Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday
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Escape London: Days out within easy reach of London

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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.

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The Twelve by Justin Cronin

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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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.

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