The Alice Network – Historical fiction laden with female spies

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I couldn’t put this down.  If I wasn’t making time to read it at home, the book made it’s way into my purse in case I could read at work during breaks and lunch.

The story goes back and forth between 1947 and 1915 with Evelyn Gardiner heavily featured in both time lines. Eve  Gardiner, Charlotte “Charlie” St. Clair and Finn Kilgore are well written, complex characters.

The Alice Network was real.  This story incorporates the heroic character of Louise de Bettignies aka “Alice BuBois” and Lili,  into a fascinating character – a spy for the English military.  She was dubbed Queen of Spies and in real life, saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives, passing on pertinent intel.

She had a network of females working with her, all joined in resisting the Germans and spying for the Allies.  There were parts of this story dealing with espionage and trauma that were such page turners.  I sat up late a few times to read and it blows me away that these women endured so much.

Early in the story, as you are getting to know Eve (a drunken bitter woman…..at first) you also meet Finn Kilgore.  This quiet Scotsman is Eve’s driver and master of what he calls the one-pan breakfast.  There wasn’t a lot of food mentioned but this breakfast comes up a few times.

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The main characters change, they have transformations as they start working together and it’s wonderful to be along for the ride.

I have to say, this goes on list as one of the best books I have read this year.  There are scenes in London but most are in France.  Eve’s London home figures prominently in the beginning and later in the book too – that’s why I am linking up with British Isles Friday.

Kate Quinn has found a new fan and I plan to look for her other publications.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes…and other bookish thoughts

barnesjulian_senseofanendingI recently finished A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.  When I realized a movie was in the works for this book I decided to stop procrastinating and get started.  Every once in awhile I like to do a comparison of the book vs film.

Have you read this one?  If so you’ll know the ending and that would just about ruin the movie for me, knowing what was coming.  It’s not a dynamic book in regard to action or mystery but it’s a well written study of an ordinary man’s life and memories.   More importantly, how our memories change with age.

Tony remembered a letter he had written to a friend, it’s tone and language benign and casual. When that original letter is given to him some 40 years later he’s shocked by the vitriolic tome and his thoughts.  That letter changed many things along the way but it’s only revealed how all that worked out near the end.

This mess on the table here is my latest haul from the library. I just started The Alice Network.  It’s a page turner so far.  Himself by Jess Kidd is next, unless my Peter Robinson book is released then I’m jumping on it.

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The weather has been poor with rain every single day.  To get one of our walks in we went to a local mall and roamed it at a pretty good pace.  This particular mall is dying and almost 90% of the stores are closed.  That makes for good walking inside with nearly zero traffic.  Even teens don’t hang out there.

The only bookstore there is a Barnes and Noble so we walked around in there checking out some new titles.  Doug would like the new Neil DeGrasse Tyson book and I would like the latest Susie Steiner mystery.  The Pumpkin Cookbook was also available but as chance has it, I just grabbed it from the library.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday  for the Sense of an Ending book.  The author, Julian Patrick Barnes, is an English writer.  He won the Man Booker Prize for this book.

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When The English Fall by David Williams

englishfall I was looking forward to this book with it’s apocalyptic theme.  A solar storm / EMP causes a collapse of society as we know it.  Survivalists would be able to hunker down and survive a good long time but face it, most of us would starve or die from lack of necessary medication and sanitation issues if something like this happened.

This book tells a story of how the English (non-Amish folk) reacted and how they eventually prey on the Amish community.  Amish know how to grow food, store food and rely on the natural elements.  When things get desperate people from cities invade the nearby farms.

The story is laid out in diary fashion.  Jacob writes in his diary everyday and though his writings you get to know his family and way of life.  As society disintegrates, at what point do you ditch your values and take up arms to defend your family against looters?  In this slow plodding story of only 242 pages I was glad to be done with it.  Truth be told, I started skimming through the last few entries I was so bored.  The end was a disappointment.

Reviews are mostly 5 star and I am in the minority here so…..take that for what it’s worth.

 

 

 

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

hereandgoneHere and Gone had it’s slow moments with character development but once you got into the book, it was a page turner.    Audra Kinney is on her way to California with her two small children, 10-year old Sean and 6-year old Louise.  She gets pulled over for a routine traffic stop in a small Arizona locale where crazy stuff happens – she gets charged with marijuana possession with intent to distribute.     Now her kids have disappeared and the Sheriff tells her there weren’t any kids in the car when she was pulled over.

Quite a mystery but I have to say, Audra wasn’t an especially likable character and her problems just got….old.  With the exception of the novel Broken Harbor by Tana French (which was well written), I avoid books where kids are kidnapped, missing or worse.  I won’t be getting more books with that thematic element.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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This book has more than one story line, there are multiple narratives and I hung on to each and every one. Of the Kate Morton books I have read so far, this is by far the very best one. It’s not predictable and the armchair traveling in this took me to Cornwall and London England, Sydney Australia and New York City. Traveling and mystery – what more could I ask for?!

The story lines all come together in spite of many characters living and dying in different time periods. There is a mystery about one of our main characters named Nell. The book starts in 1913 with Nell as a 4 year old, hiding out aboard ship destined for Australia. A lady she refers to as The Authoress tells her to hide and wait for her. But the lady never returns and young Nell is left alone with her suitcase at a port in Australia.
A port master can’t leave a small child alone so he takes her home for the evening. No one reports her missing, no one comes to claim Nell so eventually the port master and his wife keep her. No formal adoption, they just move away and start fresh.  Years later the Port Master and wife have four daughters and Nell thinks they are all her natural family.

On Nell’s 21st birthday her father (the port master) tells her about how they found her. It’s devastating to lose one’s identity just like that. In a snap Nell feels she doesn’t belong and tries to find out where she does belong.  The story skips back and forth in time so you know what happens with Nell until her death late in life. This introduces us to another major character – her granddaughter Cassandra.

Cassandra is close to her grandmother Nell and after her death she inherits everything. But there is one property she is surprised to find out about. The deed to a house called Cliff Cottage in Cornwall England.

Cassandra’s story starts in 1975 but we jump to 2005 and things get mysterious. She is the one who will search the clues left about Nell’s true identity. I like her character very much and enjoyed her chapters.

The Authoress is revealed as Eliza Makepeace (what a cool name!) and she is an adventurous character. She is also the writer of fairy tales. Her back story is fascinating and weaves into Nell’s story eventually. There are quite a few other characters that play crucial parts but rather than get into it all – please read this one if you are a Kate Morton fan. Twists I didn’t see coming and a good conclusion with mysteries solved.

Some food mentions here but it’s not a foodie book.
Bowls of beef and rosemary stew
Pasta with pine nuts and Gorgonzola cheese
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Sandwiches (and tea of course)

Roasted chicken and smoked Gouda pressed sandwich.  There’s a bit of leftover spinach in there too.  A simple side salad with grape tomatoes, feta and balsamic vinegar dressing. Oh. Yeah.  This was a treat Cassandra may enjoy at the hotel in Cornwall.

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Are you fans of Kate Morton’s novels?  If so, which are your favorites?  I have read this one as well as The House at Riverton and The Lake House.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday  and with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week’s Souper Sunday may be found HERE. Also linking with Heather’s July linkup for Foodie Reads. Check out Foodie Reads at Based on a True Story. You’ll always find good reviews there 😊

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Mid-year book freakout from Girlxoxo

I saw this at Girlxoxo and wanted to share.  Tanya and Kim shared their thoughts and ratings for books out in 2017.  Check out their findings HERE – my thoughts on the categories are as follows:

1. Best Book You’ve Read So Far

Stir: My Broken Brain and The Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor.
The constant love and support from her family will blow you away.  Her husband, her parents and friends – complete and total support.  I loved the stories about them as well as reading Jess’ thoughts.  It’s an inspirational book, it’s a love story, it’s a foodie book with a slice of life.
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2. Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far

The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore  picks up where The Girl in the Castle left off.  The setting is Ireland, it’s a family saga and I was hooked.  Can’t wait for the last installment.

3. New Release You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To

When The English Fall by David Williams appeals for the apocalyptic theme as well as the setting.  I am a Pennsylvanian, exiled in Florida, but I still enjoy a setting in Pennsylvania.  Fiction or not.  I hope this is good as I have been anticipating it for a while.

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4. Most Anticipated Release For Second Half of 2017

Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson.    This is #24 in the DCI Banks series.  Robinson is one of my favorite authors along with Tana French.  I will drop whatever book I am reading if either author publishes a new book.

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5. Biggest Disappointment

The Whole Thing Together by Anne Brashares
There were far too many characters. The family tree involves multiple marriages and children and step parents and step siblings….see, that’s confusing.  I like family sagas but this was not engaging at all.

6. Biggest Surprise

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker.  As you move through the book you are taking this journey with Bianca Bosker.  Please remain seated……….The details and dedication of becoming a sommelier is daunting.  You learn so much about wines, terrior and it’s written in such an entertaining memoir type style, I was totally engaged. This type non-fiction can be very dry reading but it was wonderful.

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7. Most Beautiful Book Cover So Far This Year

I was torn on a few so I will vote for The Moth and Forbidden Garden.

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8. Best Audiobook Narration

I have not listened to any audio books this year 😦

9. Shortest Book

Film and TV Locations by Lonely Planet was a small book but packed with cool information. It gave me ideas for movies I want to check out as well as locales for some of my favorite movies.  Very informative and fun book overall.
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10. Biggest Book

11/22/63 by Stephen King was a big fat 849 pages!  That was a hardcover version and I was a little sorry I had not bought it through Kindle.

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Have you read any of the books I highlighted?  Check out Tanya and Kim at Girlxoxo and see about their picks.

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Hidden Figures – Book vs. Movie

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What an amazing story.  The book was very detailed and while it didn’t exactly drag at places, it was slow sometimes.   The movie was excellent and did a good job of combining facts and took few liberties with actual scenarios.  (In my opinion)

An accuracy portrayed in the movie, from the book, was Katherine Johnson’s great ability and intellect with mathematics. Since blacks did not attend school after 8th grade unless their parents could afford to send them, Katherine’s father made sure she could continue her education. He went to great lengths and expense to be sure all his children could attend school.

If you’ve seen the movie you may remember that scene where Katherine is called to the blackboard to explain a problem. Doug and I just watched as she solved this crazy equation and then said, “It’s all pretty straight forward from here.” We just looked at each other, as the older students in the classroom did after she said this. Impressive intellect. Katherine graduated high school at the age of 14. Just wow.

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In the movie it appeared there were a handful of people doing the work, the actual computations, and it was cliquish. The reality was there were hundreds of people working together and mostly in harmony. It wouldn’t be realistic to include so many in the movie version.

The segregation issue at NASA wasn’t as intense as the movie depicted, at least according to Katherine Johnson. She stated, “Everybody there was doing research, you had a mission and you worked on it, and it was important to you to do your job…and play bridge at lunch. I didn’t feel any segregation. I knew it was there, but I didn’t feel it.”

In real life she was treated as peer even though state laws regarding the use of separate bathrooms and buses was real.

The women of all races were called Computers. Black “computers” were put in the segregated west section of the Langley campus. These women calculated trajectories and results of wind tunnel tests. This was before electronic computers but even after their arrival, Johnson calculated by hand and verified the results of their electronic counterparts.

Overall the movie was very interesting and it will make you mad sometimes, the way the black computers were treated. I would recommend this movie and book.