The Tea Planter’s Wife – such a sad book

teaPlanterThe description from Amazon states: “#1 International bestselling novel set in 1920s Ceylon, about a young Englishwoman who marries a charming tea plantation owner and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences

With that little synopsis I was intrigued. I’m imaging something like Du Maurier’s Rebecca. As I plodded on through this book the descriptions of the landscape, the heat and culture were well defined. There was a point when I considered abandoning the book but I wanted to know what happened, discover the mystery and secrets.

Our main character is Gwen. She meets Laurence at a party in London and falls in love. Rather impetuous, don’t you think? But these are different times and who knows how I would behave in the 1920’s as a young innocent.

They marry and Gwen sets sail for Ceylon (Sri-Lanka) to take her place as wife of tea planter. Laurence is a different man when they hook up again – he’s distant and brooding. I can’t imagine her disappointment, not just with her husband but the change in climate. Anyone who knows me will predict I will start complaining about Florida summers beginning in May. To move from lovely cool England to Ceylon would be a deal breaker for me.

But this isn’t about me. (I would have stayed in England, believe me)

Gwen arrives to a beautiful plantation and instantly feels tension from just about everyone. Laurence’s sister, the manager of the estate and even Laurence himself. She is very much encouraged to stay away from the workers on the plantation, they are viewed as lesser individuals. Gwen is trying to immerse herself in the culture but learning that she is from a privileged culture and hierarchy, an ex-pat who will never be accepted no matter how much she wants to engage with the working tea pickers or their families.

Overall, I found the book a little too long-winded and probably won’t pick up another by this author. She’s a good writer, it just didn’t float my boat. I have spoilers to reveal about the book but won’t do that here, I will post those on Goodreads as there is a “spoiler alert feature I can click” – not sure how to handle that in this blog format.

Overall a very sad book.

I received a copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated.

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The English Rose Cafe in Havana Florida

It’s been a while since I could post and hook up with British Isles Friday.  I missed it.  Actually I have read a few books since the last time I posted but life takes a turn with family death and a hurricane so……I have neglected the book blog.

Today I want to join in and share a new place we discovered in Havana Florida. It’s a cute English tea room and decorated to resemble a cross between a pub and a tea room.

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We haven’t tried it yet but have looked through the windows.  One day before the storm we walked by with Aja, getting her last walk in before the rains started.  A couple was sitting outside enjoying a bottle of wine and sandwiches.  Since we had Aja we couldn’t stop…..but we plan to in the future.

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I love all the decorations, new and old, and I may just need to get the waving Queen gadget for my car.  Hope all is well in your world!

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday.

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The Mountain Between Us. A tale of survival, love and regret….

mountainI have been absent on my reviews and participation due to a death in our family.  Everything stops and momentum is changed when someone leaves us.  This book I am sharing now came at a good time. I think so anyway.

So, to the book.  Earlier this month I saw a movie trailer for The Mountain Between Us and thought I’d like to see it….but I wanted to read the book first.  I always want to read the book first.  This is a tale of survival, love, regret and chances missed.

This story was engaging and I had a hard time putting it down. People are stranded at an airport and obviously frustrated.  It starts with Dr. Ben Payne recording notes into a small recorder about cases he’s working on.  Ashley Knox sits beside him on the floor so she can share the outlet to charge her computer.  They chat and then they part ways for the night since flights are cancelled during a snowstorm.  Soon they arrange to share a private flight in a two-seater plane.  The plane crashes it the Utah mountains and here is where the story really develops.

It seems they are lost, no way to tell which way to hike toward civilization yet they can’t sit and await rescue.  The pilot hadn’t filed a flight plan so no one knows where they are.  Both Ben and Ashley are injured and honestly, you’ll think things can’t get much worse.  Fabulous story with a twist at the end.

Without giving spoilers I will say a food item mentioned is soup.  It’s vegetable soup in the book but I present you with a Tomato Basil soup.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  What more could you ask for, great pairing.

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped (or use a large can of Tuttorosso tomatoes).
Chop 6 fresh basil leaves.  1 cup vegetable broth or tomato juice
1 cup half-n-half or milk (Almond milk works!)
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine tomatoes and juice in a saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes.  Now puree mix in food processor or use immersion blender.  Add basil leaves.  Return to saucepan and add milk and butter.  Serve with grilled cheese!

Linking up with:

Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.
Girlxoxo for the 2017 Monthly Motif Challenge.  For August the theme is seasons, elements and weather.
Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week may be found HERE.
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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 and Heather’s Foodie Reads for August.

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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.