The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

keyhole

This is a physiological drama told from the point of view of a nine-year old boy. It’s a unique perspective to see young Samuel Clay’s view of his world, one where his mother Margot has been away for more than 100 days.

He receives no phone calls, no telegrams or packages. The only thing he waits for are the few postcards his mother sends from her travels across the United States and of course, his hope of her return. Samuel lives alone in a large estate in Surrey England with only the housekeeper, Ruth, to attend to his needs.

Samuel tracks his mother’s travels using an atlas and pins when he receives a postcard. Being a person who loves maps, it’s particularly enjoyable to read about the atlas and Samuel putting colored pins in Boston, San Francisco, London, Bath and Penzance.

Samuel’s father died a few years ago and the dire financial state of affairs prompted Margot Clay to go “fund raising” across the country and the USA to raise money. She left in the middle of the night without saying goodbye to her son. Ruth takes care of Samuel by cooking and cleaning. You suspect Ruth in the beginning of withholding information from the boy.

As you read the story from a nine-year old’s point of view, the adult reader can see and understand some of the reality of the situation. An example of that is when Samuel sneaks into his mother’s room and steals letters his mother had written to her husband.

You get the idea that Margo Clay had been in an institution or some home. Samuel remembered that from a remark by his father about Margot being away in bath where there would be peace and quiet. She evidently wasn’t suited to domestic life. In a letter from Margot to Samuel’s father she implores him not to bring he boy next time he visits as his arms around her make her feel as if she is sinking in the water. Not everyone is suited to be parent. When Ruth catches the boy in his mother’s room she berates him and tells him he should be ashamed snooping around.

Ruth didn’t understand that he was only trying to be near his mother, she was a creature in orbit and the one way he could feel close to her was to linger in the traces she left behind.

Ruth is really a piece of work – alternately making his favorite meals, asking about homework then berating him and being mentally abusive. The ending wasn’t what I thought might happen, quite a surprise actually. Can’t say I didn’t have questions about that and since they will be spoilers, I won’t talk about it here.  Goodreads has a spoiler feature so I will add my thoughts about that there.

I always notice the foodie parts in a book. Here are the offerings:

Shortbread, cake, freshly baked bread, roast beef and potatoes with peas, mince pie, eggs and sausages, roasted chicken and potatoes, roasted lamb, roast rabbit and chestnut stuffing, tea cakes and lemon tarts.

As I love making bread, the baguettes seemed a good option.

bread

Baguettes

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Directions

brush over tops of loaves.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheaPlace 1 cup water, bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast into bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select Dough cycle, and press Start.

When the cycle has completed, place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16×12 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, creating two 8×12 inch rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, beginning at 12 inch side, pounding out any air bubbles as you go. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; Brush the dough, bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Much Thanks to Netgalley for this book.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for the review.

Sharing with:

Joy for British Isles Friday as the setting is England.
Heather at Based on a True Story for August Foodies Read
Booklover’s Aussie Author Challenge

 

Advertisements

Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine

womenDunes

Libby Snow is a archaeologist’s assistant and lands the dig of her dreams. She’s always had a pull and desire to see the area in Scotland where her ancestor Ellen McDonald lived, a place called Ullaness near the Scottish seaside. There is myth, legend, murder, and secrecy about the area. Now Libby has a chance to search through the old ruins where her ancestor lived and the ancient monk’s cell where Ulla lived as well.

Ulla was an 8th century Norsewoman who arrived on Scottish shore with her wounded lover Harald. A monk tended to Harald, all the while disapproving of Ulla’s views on spirituality. Quite lively discussions there.  Her grandmother shared stories with Libby about Ellen and her obsession with Ulla & the myth surrounding her life and death.

The bones uncovered at first aren’t as ancient as expected.  They belong to a man from the 1900’s era.  So now we have a possible murder victim which complicates matters.  The police are brought in and the archaeological dig may be in jeopardy.

The main focus of the book is present time with Libby Snow and the Sturrock family, but we do drift into Ellen’s time and see her side of things back in the 1890’s. That’s quite an eye opener and solves a few mysteries for the reader, but alas, not for Libby Snow or the Sturrock family who own the land.  There are sporadic chapters for Ulla’s story and thus, the characters of Ellen, Libby and Ulla intertwine.

Told in dual time lines I found the book to be very engaging. The scenery descriptions are wonderful and make me want to visit Scotland. It’s been on the bucket list for many a year but to bring this beautiful scenery alive with such vivid description – perfect. There is a rustic house, an inheritance, a mystery and a sprinkle of romantic attraction here – what’s not to love.

This put me in mind of Mary Stewart novels and I very much enjoyed the book. I’d like to read more by Sarah Maines.

This was a foodie book for sure. An eclectic team of folks make up a catering business that doesn’t have a main part or focus in the book but the food is mentioned quite a bit.

To name a few: Fish and chips, lots of tea, scones
Quiche, smoked cheeses, smoked fish, jams and fancies, bread, pickles
Brown bread and smoked salmon and Sancerre
Casserole and apple pie, fishcakes & fresh peas

I wanted fish and chips so badly when I read this so, we improvised and used Panko with our fish strips. So. Good. I did have oven roasted potatoes one night but went with my favorite roasted sweet potato another evening.

Many thanks to NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book.  Opinions expressed here are mine, nice and not so nice, and I was not compensated for my review.

Linking up with
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather for her August Foodie Reads
Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series
NetGalley

Past Tense by Lee Child

PastTenseI haven’t read all the Jack Reacher books yet but I can say I really enjoyed this one, despite not having read all of them in order. Big developments about Reacher’s past in this one.

It’s a slow simmer throughout the book with Reacher’s visit to Laconia New Hampshire, trying to find his father’s childhood home.  Naturally there are problems.  It’s as if Stan Reacher didn’t exist….at first.  There is a bit of genealogy involved when Reacher checks government offices for census info.  He’s trying to find his deceased  father’s home and I can say, if you are interested in a trail of family history, the census is the place to start.

Life is going along smoothly until he’s awakened at 3:01 a.m. and gets into an altercation.  Hey, it’s to save a lady from a thug so of course someone gets beat up.  He has to get into a few fights.  The first one starts up another spoke of the story about retaliation.  We revisit this a few times.

The other story line is about a young Canadian couple stranded near Laconia after their beat up Honda gave out. Patty Sundstrom and Shorty Fleck are broke.  They have a heavy fat suitcase with some treasure inside which they intend to sell when they reach NYC.  Then the plan is to head to Florida and open a windsurfing combo t-shirt business and live near the beach.

When they see a Motel sign they know they can coast the car in and spend the night, hoping to get a mechanic to look at their car then be on their way. Then the creepiness starts and this nice Canadian couple are in bad situation.  You like this couple so you do care what happens to them.  I really wanted to know what was in that heavy suitcase and it was revealed at the end.  Made me smile.

The separate stories eventually converge and then the fireworks begin. So much action all at once for the last quarter of the book.  I couldn’t put it down by this point.

There were a few loose ends, in my opinion, that I wish had been addressed.  If you haven’t read it then this may not make sense but it’s not a spoiler either. Why did the ornithologist want to speak to Reacher so badly?  What happened to the rough and tumble fruit pickers who wanted to continue a vendetta? The minor character Burke – he clearly had a mysterious past and I think it may have had some bearing on the story.

Much thanks to NetGalley for allowing me access to this book prior to publication.  I really enjoyed it and gobbled it down over a weekend.  I was not compensated for my review and all opinions, positive and negative, are my own.

Sharing with Joy for British isles Friday.

 

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl {Cook the Books}

garlicSapThis is a second time around with this book but it was my first Ruth Reichl book several years back.  I liked it quite a bit; it’s always good to revisit an excellent foodie book. I’m usually attracted to books about food and restaurants, behind the scenes stuff and recipes included are a bonus. Ruth is the known for being an editor at Gourmet magazine and a food critic. If you are in the restaurant business then you know what the critics look like. You have their photo posted in the kitchen most likely so they will get the star treatment.

In Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth disguises her appearance so she will get a true impression of the food and service quality. There are many hilarious scenes where she can view what’s going on in the restaurant and the wait staff pay her no mind, as she is just another diner. The Windows of the World restaurant experience was well written – very funny.

It’s clear Ruth has a passion for food and shares this in her reviews of the food and service. Good memoir, I would certainly read another of Ruth’s books. After finishing this book I immediately copied half the recipes.

An excerpt: “Everyone makes a big to-do about roasting a chicken, and as a food professional I know I ought to believe that one way to tell a great cook is by his or her roasted chicken. But you know what? I think that’s all a lot of nonsense. Nothing is easier than roasting a chicken. ………It’s hard to ruin this.”

The roasted potatoes had my attention.  I sure do love potatoes. Tough choice on my carb favorites as the Carbonara was my next choice.

Ruth Reichl’s Roast chicken with potatoes, onions and garlic from the chapter A Frugal Repast For Betty.

potato

This is the June/July selection at Cook The Books hosted by Claudia at Honey from The Rock.
Check out the lineup and see more recipes inspired from this book.

More info!

Ruth Reichl
Ruth on Twitter
Gourmet

Happy Reading!

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

force“When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.
But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.”(From the book jacket)
The men and women are separated and they are meant to come of the wilderness at the same meet up point. This is supposed to be a team-building event with the Bailey’s company and I can say for sure, I’m certainly glad I have never been forced to participate in such an exercise. The women are so very different from one another, some with secrets and some vying for the alpha role once they are lost.

Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.”

Alice was a real can of worms. I did not have this figured out early at all so this was quite a good read for me.  On their own in the bushland it’s easy to panic. “It’s the panic that gets you. Makes it hard to trust what you’re seeing.

The weather plays a big part in this story. It’s freezing cold, it rains, it makes it miserable for search parties looking for Alice. The isolation the women feel is clearly conveyed as you read about their part of the story.

Jill sometimes thought that in another time and place, she and Alice might have been friends. At other times, she thought not. Being around Alice was like owning an aggressive breed of dog. Loyal when it suited, but you had to stay on your toes.”

Food and wine weren’t mentioned much but there was this:
Beef stew made by the campfire. “A kookaburra perched nearby, watching Beth with her black eyes. Beth picked up a strip of beef from one of the abandoned packets and tossed it toward the bird, who scooped it up with the tip of her beak.”
I didn’t know they ate meat!

Aaron made dinner for Carmen. Spaghetti Bolognese and red wine. Sauce was from scratch too. So I had thought of making the spaghetti dish but we had Linguine Pompeii so, that’s the representative dish.

pom3

This is the second book in the series starring Federal Agent Aaron Falk and I sincerely hope there will be many more stories to follow. He’s a law enforcement with the specialty in financial crimes.

He used to be SWAT, a bad ass cop who busted in and arrested the bad guys. One time his team went in and a malnourished old man was sitting in a tattered chair. There was graffiti on his walls, there was a drug kitchen set up and thugs living in his home. The man thought one of the criminals was his grandson. Dementia was setting in and these guys took full advantage of it.  Aaron realized later all this could have been caught with a look at his financial records, bank statements and charges.

It goes way beyond that too – follow the money trail and you find more than small drug operations. Prostitution, pornography, large scale drug operations. Follow the money. Falk was following up on contracts Alice was meant to get from the company.

I liked The Dry better than this one but I will happily read another starring Federal Agent Falk.

Linking with Heather at Spirit Blog for the July Foodie Reads

Buzz Books 2018 Fall/Winter

buzz3What a fabulous book! It not only gives the authors’ names and titles, it states date of publication so you can plan on grabbing your favorites when they are published. Even better are the excerpts from books included in this preview type book.

I have read most of the excerpts thus introducing me to new authors. There is fiction, non-fiction, debut authors and I have already noted several books I plan to get. Why didn’t I know about Buzz Books before?!

Invaluable for the avid reader and will serve as a good reference for upcoming publications with my favorite authors.

Some of the books I have already noted for the to-read list are:

Lies by T.M. Logan. It sounds intriguing. “What if your whole life was based on lies…..” Perfect life, perfect wife then in one shattering moment you discover nothing is as it seems. The excerpt had me reeled in immediately.

Freefall by Jessica Barry is another one that had me completely absorbed. I wish the excerpt was longer, I may have to buy it immediately. This one involves a plane crash and how our main character will try and survive. It starts off fast paced and I can’t wait to get it.

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg will be a sad tale. An old women of 96 years will recount her life using her treasured red address book. It was a gift from her father and holds her contacts and stories from her life. Now she will document her life for her great niece Jenny. I think this one will be very good. Since I was a surprise baby for my parents I grew up around much older people. I’ve always loved listening to ancient relatives tell about their lives. That’s how I ended up researching family history because they had such interesting stories to tell; they lived in times I only read about. Elderly people are too often dismissed in my opinion but they have wonderful stories and memories.

Well, I went on a tangent on that one, didn’t I? 

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles sounds like a Rebecca type novel. Nine-year old Samuel lives alone at a once great estate in Surrey with his family’s housekeeper, Ruth. His father is dead and his mother has been abroad for five months, purportedly tending to her late husband’s faltering business. Samuel only receives postcards from her and maps put her travels in an atlas, but he clearly wants her to come home. From the excerpt I can’t decide if Ruth is good or not. Looks like a good mystery.

There are many more books that piqued my interest but that was a quick highlight. In the future I will most certainly look for a copy of Buzz Books so I can plan my reading.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary copy. My enthusiastic opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

NetGalley

In the Vines by Shannon Kirk

InVinesThe beginning chapters were a bit confusing to me but after you read on, so many secrets are revealed. Horrible secrets.

The story hops between time periods and our main character, Mary Olivia Pentecost aka MOP, is in for a world of hurt and disappointment. She is from a very wealthy family, wealthy as in filthy rich and knowing people with connections. Mop’s mother supposedly died in a horrific accident 2 years previous. In that time Mop is trying to reconcile her feelings, get over her grief and decides to visit her Aunt Liv at the big estate house. She finds her more than odd.

I am OK with a family story that’s a bit creepy but it was more of a horror story to me.  Described as a psychological thriller reeled me in but instead of a Gone Girl psycho-thriller (Yes, that has been a comparison made ad nauseum) it was  mentally gruesome.

The writing style was good but I honestly didn’t research this book enough before requesting to realize it was a horror story.  Way beyond the family drama meets Stephen King.  I’m not squeamish and very much enjoy a good murder mystery but this was a bit out of my comfort zone. Bloody hatchets, a nail gun and all out craziness …… Perhaps I should stick to the Peter Robinson, Tana French and Lee Child sort of themes.

Thanks very much to NetGalley for sending me this book. It’s always an adventure reading new material and authors. My review is based on my opinions and personal taste and I was not compensated for receiving this book.

NetGalley