The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

chilburyLet me start by saying I loved this book. Couldn’t put it down and now I am aching for more from this author.

We start with a notice pinned to Village Hall noticeboard:

As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close following Cmdr. Edmund Winthrop’s funeral next Tuesday.

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This is an era where women didn’t usually speak up for themselves but there were a few strong female voices in this village. Why not continue and have a ladies choir? It would be a morale booster in such dismal times. Scandalous!   These  stories focus on the resourcefulness of women during very difficult times. It’s not solely about the choir so if that sounds like a snooze – think again.

There is quite a cast of characters in this book. The stories are told through diary entries from several points of view as well as letters penned to friends and loved ones.  As you read bits and pieces the story lines dovetail into a fairly satisfying conclusion – tales of affairs, deception, blackmail, love, bravery and great sadness. If your reading tastes include stories set in the WW II era in England and you like a journal and letter writing format – you will LOVE this book.

You’ll get to know so many personalities from the village in the early days of WW II.

There are the Winthrops, a high society family with an overbearing father called the Brigadier. He bullies everyone and has secrets which could land him in jail. His daughters, Kitty and Venetia, tell the stories of the village, the war effort, and the forming of the Ladies Choir.

From Kitty Winthrop’s Diary
“ They announced on the wireless that keeping a diary in these difficult times is excellent for stamina, so I’ve decided to write down all my thoughts and dreams in my old school notebook…..”

Besides Kitty’s diary entries you have the point of view of Mrs. Tilling, a nurse, and 10 year old Czech evacutee Silvie. Between the diary entries and the interspersed letters from Venetia Winthrop to her friend Angela Quail living in London and letters from Miss Paltry to her sister, you will enjoy several interwoven stories and slowly piece it all together.

I became a fan of Mrs. Tilling and loathed Miss Paltry.  Now I am wondering when the author will produce another novel because I am anxious to read more.

As I like maps, a bonus was the legend and map in the beginning so you can follow the characters around.

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More about the author:   Jennifer Ryan was born in Kent, England and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and children.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Tales of Yesterday for the British Book Challenge

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Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson

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Watching the Dark is the twentieth book in the DCI Banks series.  I only have three books left and I will be bereft, waiting for the latest publication.  Guess I will need a new series to tuck into as I am also awaiting the next Tana French novel with her Dublin Murder Squad series.   {insert pouty face)

This book starts out with a former Detective Inspector Bill Quinn found dead at a convalescence facility.  He was there recuperating from an injury when someone lured him to the lakeside and shot him with a cross bow.  What an unusual murder weapon. DI Quinn had a case involving a missing young woman he obsessed over.  She was a young English girl who went to a “hen party” with friends in Estonia.  Now my thought there was – why go to Estonia?  Evidently it was inexpensive and quite a popular thing to do.  That was 6 years ago but Bill Quinn was obsessed with her disappearance.  Did that have something to do with his murder?

This book introduced a policewoman from  Professional Standards. Joanna Passero is assigned to assist with Banks’ investigation but it’s not a smooth partnership.  Joanna is correctly viewed with suspicion as she is a member of the “Rat Squad”,  a section operating on investigating their own for misconduct. The dialogue is good and I enjoyed this book.  Not as much as other DCI Banks’ books but this kept me turning the pages.

One of my favorite detectives, DI Annie Cabbot is back after her extended stay at the same facility.  In the last book she was shot and I am mighty pleased to see her return.

So, my advice is to not skip around too much on these books as you may miss something regarding professional and personal developments.  Backstory.

Food – there is always food just as there is always a mention of music.

When the landlord came around to take their orders, Merike said she wasn’t hungry. The other three ordered. Banks went for his favorite, smoked haddock with a poached egg, leeks mushrooms and Gruyere cheese.

Well I couldn’t get haddock but I usually improvise with recipes or menus.  It was grilled Grouper (one of my favorites) with potatoes and a vegetable mix of leeks, garlic, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

2017 Monthly Motif Challenge

Tales of Yesterday for the British Book Challenge

Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.


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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Be prepared to shed a tear….

oveOve.  People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” A curmudgeon.  Easy to dismiss such a person unless you give a thought that every unpleasant person has a story, one that probably shaped their personality.

I have to admit the beginning of this book had me on the fence as to whether I would finish it.  A DNF in my list of books.  I don’t like to read about such a negative person but then more was revealed about Ove.  By the time I finished I had tears in my eyes.  Yes, this book made me cry.

Ove loved his wife very much.  They were certainly very different people, he being the more reserved and (I hate to use the word ) negative. Sonja was light hearted, more compassionate.  They were a perfect match.

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white.  But she was color. All the color he had.”

What would happen to you if the “color of your world” was gone?  It’s not a spoiler, you find out in a few paragraphs or very short chapters, such as they are.  More is revealed about Ove’s life, his early years with his parents and after he met his wife.  You learn about his moral character, his honesty and how his father shaped the man Ove would become.

The people in his neighborhood play significant parts and I enjoyed reading about each interaction.    If you think about abandoning this book (for the same reasons I almost did) – don’t.  I will wager you will shed a tear by the end.  Wonderful story.

It’s recently caught my attention that a movie is being made from this book.  I don’t know if the movie can capture this story properly but I will certainly check it out once it’s in theaters.

A man called Ove / En man som heter Ove – Trailer from Orange Valley Production on Vimeo.

Readers Workout

I missed joining in last week.  It started gangbusters and then my old yoga injury flared up,  locking my leg into a straight position so…..hardly any walking.  I also had to get a temporary crown on a broken tooth.  Once the numbness wore off the injection sites were a dull pain in my mouth. Wah-wah…….this is me indulging in a little pity party.

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The good news is I manged to have a great week of walking prior to the revisitation of the leg injury.  I am doing the stretching exercises and slowly I will be back to my old self, walking fast and long distances.

According to my FitBit stats I walked 45 miles and 111,621 steps between January 30 – February 5. My steps are greatly diminished after that.

The menu:

Baked Cod with avocado, cherry tomato salsa

Chinese Takeaway

Shakshuka  (with fresh eggs from a local farm!)

Tortellini with Spinach (Click on link for recipe)

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Leftovers

How was your week?

Check out Readers’ Workout at Joy’s Book Blog!

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BBC Radio 3 – Peter Robinson Interview

For anyone who is a regular reader of this blog it’s no secret I am a huge fan of author Peter Robinson.  To my delight I recently read about a radio program where Peter will talk about his love of music, how he is inspired to write the DCI Banks’ novels and much more.

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I have taken the liberty of quoting from this advertisement on BBC Radio:

“There’s a memorable line where Robinson says of his detective – “He did his best thinking when he was listening to music and drinking wine.” This, Robinson reveals, is autobiographical.

In Private Passions, Peter Robinson talks to Michael Berkeley about how music inspires his best thinking and writing, and why he’s on a mission to get all his readers listening to the music he loves. He even creates online playlists of the music his detective listens to – including some of the music he chooses in Private Passions. Choices include Poulenc’s Sextet for Piano and Wind, Beethoven’s String Quartet in C sharp minor, Takemitsu, Miles Davis, and one of Schubert’s last piano sonatas. Perhaps it’s no surprise that he’s drawn to last works – as a crime writer, his books begin with murder. Robinson confesses though that he regrets the increasing violence of the genre, and thinks the TV adaptations of his work go too far. And he reveals why Yorkshire is always the best place to hide a body.”

If you want to tune into this program or just check out other BBC programs click HERE

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Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Mexico by Josh Barkan

mexicoThis book featured a cast of characters from all walks of life.  Short stories starring a nurse, a surgeon, a chef, a musician and many more.  The criminal culture associated with Mexico is a character all it’s own in these stories.

While the professions are different the underlying theme is regular people dealing with a scary criminal society.  After a while the stories were similar enough that I didn’t finish all of them.  Skipped around and read different chapters.

The Kidnapping story was the most disturbing to me.  It’s dark but it’s good writing.

*I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books Program, all opinions are mine.

 

More info

Author Bio

Readers Workout

This week of walking has been much better than last week. Of course, you can’t help the rain and that kept us in a bit last week. Plus traveling….no walking when you are cooped up in a car.

I walked an average of 12,000 steps a day. The meals have been better, healthier I should say, with the exception of Mexican restaurant food and a few beers to wash it down.

The weather is still up and down – so very cold some days (we had frost this morning) and then it will get warm. Maddening. But with the warmer weather comes yard work and let me tell you, we have quite a bit to pick up. A tree was down from the last big storm and the branches littering the field need to be hauled into a pile. I expect i will get lots of activity and calories burnt there.

So, here is the Meal Plan

Garlic Scallops

Pasta Bolognese, garlic rolls and salad

Mexican at El Jalisco restaurant (dinner with the kids)

Spinach Ricotta Pie

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How was your week?

Check out Readers’ Workout at Joy’s Book Blog!

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Readers Workout

Good morning to my fellow bookworms and workout partners! It’s a lovely 47 F here in North Florida and the walking has been good….but not great. We had very bad storms run through here over the past several days which meant walking outside was straight out.

This weekend was a bust for outside activities and we even had a very scary moment on I-10 headed home from Crestview. The rain was coming down so fast and hard that we hydroplaned over several lanes and slid sideways into the median. It was very muddy and once the vehicle started sliding, the mud built up a wall on the driver’s side tires, thus keeping us from rolling. Very scary!

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I’m pleased our Subaru has all wheel drive (they all do). We were fortunate and able to get out of the median but that mud washing over the Forester once it came to a stop was like something out of a movie.

So………..the storms….that’s why we didn’t walk on the weekend.  But the rest of the week wasn’t too bad.  I had an average of 12,000 steps a day overall.  My weight went up a bit due to indulgences like apple pie, Mexican restaurant food and some pizza.

Yeah, I know better and it wasn’t a stellar week for eating but I am back on track now.

This past week’s menu:

Swiss Linguine Tart

Pizza from Oscar’s Restaurant in Havana (Roma tomatoes, mushroom and spinach)

Vegetarian platter at La Rumba restaurant in Crestview (very good!)

Grilled grouper, baby red potatoes and sauteed veggies (zucchini, garlic, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes)

Fall River Vegetable Soup

How was your week?

Check out Readers’ Workout at Joy’s Book Blog!

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Human Acts – A Haunting Narrative about the Gwangju Massacre

manactsHan Kang’s Human Acts’ is a complex tragedy. Set in the 1980s in South Korea you will read about life under a dictatorial rule. There are many voices in this story, multiple narratives. I think it’s interesting to get someone else’s perspective on the same event or occurrence.

Dong-ho is only 15 years old. He is one of many massacred, brutally killed by their own country’s army. You will read about Dong-ho’s friend, his grieving mother, a worker, a female editor and prisoner. This is a dark toned book with much hopelessness. I’m really making you want to read this, huh?

The everyday freedoms I may enjoy in my country would be a veritable luxury to these people in S. Korea. Yes, it’s fictionalized but it’s a good snapshot of life in the 80s in Korea. Freedom of speech – forget it? Hopelessness, fear and suppression – absolutely.

Well written dialogue and descriptions. I knew nothing about the Gwangju massacre but now I know more than I want to. It’s hard to shake some mental images.

The author explains how she came to be interested in this part of history. Again, excellent writing but I think I will read a happier toned book next.

 

  • I received this book from the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are my own, I was not compensated for this review.

Bad Boy by Peter Robinson

bad-boyThis is book number 19 in the DCI Banks series.  Only 4 more novels to go and I will be drumming my fingers awaiting the newest book.  In spite of Peter Robinson being one of my favorite writers, I haven’t breezed through his books, one after another.

DCI Banks is to be savored, in my opinion, as the character ages and grows in his life and career. When I started this series his children were young and attending school.  Now they are adults and their story lines intersect on occasion. While the majority of the story is focused on police investigation and mystery, a slice of his personal life is interjected here and there.  Obviously I am a fan.

This story opens up with an old friend and neighbor of Banks arriving at Eastvale Police Station to report the discovery of a firearm in her daughter Erin’s bedroom.  Alan Banks is on extended leave, vacationing in the American southwest so DI Annie Cabbot handles the situation.  The woman isn’t thrilled with Banks’ absence but reluctantly gives the details to DI Cabbot.

Owning or possessing a firearm in the UK isn’t a common or simple affair as it is here in the US. It’s illegal to have an unregistered firearm so the consequences are quite strict.   First off I thought, does this woman know she is turning in her daughter and that she will most likely be sent to prison?!  I can’t conceive of doing that to my child.  It’s mentioned that the lady most likely didn’t know the consequences and just wanted the gun out of her home.

Turns out DCI Banks’ daughter Tracy is a friend and roommate of Erin.  They had a bit of a falling out over Erin’s boyfriend and that is why Erin was home with her parents.  Fast forward and Tracy is with the boyfriend, letting him know Erin may be arrested.  This basically sets in motion  a dumpster fire of a situation as the boyfriend is indeed, a bad boy.  A very bad man in fact and Tracy realizes too late she is serious danger.

There is murder, police investigations, a man hunt for a psychopath and danger for my favored vegetarian DI Annie Cabbot. What a story – I couldn’t put this one down.

To reveal more would be adding spoilers so I will stop here.  Looking forward to more…only 4 books left {sob} and then I will be like an addict awaiting Mr. Robinson’s latest!

Adding my review to Goodreads, The British Book Challenge and Joy’s British Isles Friday

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