We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

Brave I kept hearing about this book on Goodreads so I put in my request at the library.  The majority of the book is set in the WW II era, one of my preferred  time periods, and it’s set in and around Upton England .

We start with a busload of people evacuating Southhampton, heading to the rural town of Upton during WW II.  Ellen Parr notices a small girl sleeping on the bus after everyone departs.  Whose child is this?  Where is her mother? Ellen gathers the little girl in her arms and makes inquiries of the women but no one claims her.  The girl, Pamela, was separated from her mother during an air raid.

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There are some scenes that are so heartbreaking that it put me in mind of The Light Between the Oceans.  I could actually quote the beginning of that book’s review for this one and it would be appropriate. ” This book is filled with sadness and loss. There are happy moments but even those are shadowed by secrets and wrong doing…”

This novel spans decades but the majority focuses on the early 1940’s time period.  Ellen and her husband Selwyn take in the evacuees, some children stay longer than the adults.  When no one claims Pamela it’s Ellen’s hope that she and Selwyn may keep her.  The circumstances are well explained in this book but I wouldn’t want to reveal spoilers.

Ellen’s back story is revealed after a hundred pages and believe me, you may want the tissues handy.  Actually, you just feel so bad for Ellen yet admire her inner strength. This is a fat book of 450 or so pages and I read it in 3 days time. The characters are well developed, you’d feel as if you known them. The deprivation is keenly described.

Three quarters into the book it slows down a bit but I was never tempted to abandon this story.  I would read more by this author.

There are references to food but not often.  Lots of tea, bread, Rock Cakes, a meat pie, baked onions, potato pie, rissoles and a treacle tart. One the dessert side of things I decided to make a peach cobbler. After so much deprivation I wanted excess.  We even had Blanton’s bourbon with it.  Now that’s decadent. 🙂

Sharing with:
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather for the March Foodie’s Read
Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking

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The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cumming

Moroccan

 The Moroccan Girl was my introduction to the work of Charles Cumming. This book is a page turner and I am delighted to have discovered this author. Definitely adding him to my favorite authors list and plan to acquire more of his work.

The main character is Christopher “Kit” Carradine. He’s a novelist writing about spies and espionage. One day he is approached on a London street by a man named Robert Mantis; he’s posing as a fan of Kit’s books. As Kit writes about the spy world in such detail, evidently convincingly, Mantis makes overtures to recruit Kit into the British Service.

It’s a thrilling prospect for Kit to get out of the day-to-day writing routine and do something exciting. He’s meant to hook up with a British Service contact when he’s in Morocco at a writers event. If he can also locate Lara Bartok and pass off a package, all the better. Lara is a young woman who may be on the run from her own government or she may be a terrorist. Lara was the girlfriend of Ivan Simokov, leader of the group Resurrection. This group seemed to start off with an ideal of exposing bad people, folks in positions of power who abused their positions at the expense of us regular citizens.  Eventfully Resurrection turned very violent.  Is Lara Bartok on the run because she was involved with Resurrection or is she fleeing Ivan and the people she once worked with? She is a very interesting character.

There are scenes in London but most of the flavors are in the Morocco. Casablanca, Tangiers and Marrakesh come to life in this book. You are immersed in the setting, the heat, sweat, suspicion, the colorful setting and the foods. As Kit makes his way through Morocco he is caught up with British, Russian and American agents but it’s hard to tell which side they are on. What’s the endgame?

Another interesting thing are the references to authors who were tapped by the British service to spy or act as a support agents. Frederick Forsyth and Somerset Maugham in particular were mentioned and now I want to know more about them so my reading list has grown thanks to this narrative. Hoping to read more about Kit Carradine in the future if he becomes a regular character in a series. In the meantime I will be tracking on Mr. Cumming’s other espionage novels.

Lots of food referenced but of course it’s not a foodie book. I always note the dishes or drinks when I read as I’m always up for recreating a dish that appeals. In this case I wanted to make Lamb Tagine but in the interest of getting my post done here, let’s have Lamb Kebabs.

Here’s a sampling of the meals and drinks I noted: Lamb Tagine, Chicken Dhansak,  Tarka Daal, Chablis and fish cakes, spaghetti Bolognese, fried fish and Merguez sandwiches, chicken couscous, cheese and pasta salad, baklava.
Black coffee, margaritas, gin and tonic, pints of ale, vodka martini, mint tea.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I was slow getting to it a “reading group” was supposed to get together for this one. Wish I had just started it earlier because I would be reading another of Cumming’s books now. If you like espionage and mystery then I highly recommend this book. Well done, Mr. Cumming.

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More about the author – Charles Cumming

 

 

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event, Beth Fish Reads and Heather for the March Foodies Read.

BriFri  2019 Foodies Read

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

huntressOnce again, Kate Quinn has written a story with compelling characters.  Quinn’s previous novel, The Alice Network, was hard to put down and she’s done it again with The Huntress.  We have several unique points of view telling their stories about WW II.

Ian Graham was a war correspondent but he’s burnt out after witnessing so much horror.  Currently Ian and his partner Tony are Nazi hunters.  The big score would be the elusive Die Jägerin – a female killer (the Huntress) who mercilessly killed anyone in her path, including women and children. Ian Graham has a personal interest in her as she is evidently responsible for his young soldier brother’s death. 

Nina is a Russian aviator with quite an interesting back story. She is a Siberian “night witch” who flies with her all female comrades in WW II.  I really felt for Nina, all she endured, yet she’s the toughest of the bunch. Dangerous, skillful, sexy and extremely driven.  Our author did her homework about the Russian female aviators.  There really was a “night witch” group who served their country.

Last and certainly not least is Jordan McBride.  She’s a young woman living with her widowed father in Boston.  She has a passion for photography, her dream job would be a photographic journalist, traveling the world.   In the 1950’s a career is not encouraged, as much as sh’d love to attend college her father doesn’t approve.  When dad meets a young German widow his life changes, as does Jordan’s life.  Her story dovetails with the other three mentioned above.

I enjoyed every story line, every perspective and can recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Alice Network.  Once again Kate Quinn hits it out of the park.

Foodie references weren’t abundant but Nina could tuck into a hamburger with such gusto that Ian enjoyed watching her enthusiasm. She had a style of putting jam in tea (I’m not trying that) and there were mentions of borscht, a Thanksgiving dinner and 1950/60’s comfort food from the McBride’s kitchen.

For Nina

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Thanks to LibraryThing for the advanced readers copy of this book.
Sharing with Heather for her March Foodie Reads event.

2019 Foodies Read

Turbulence by David Szalay

turbulanceThe description of this book captured my attention.  I quote from Netgalley on the premise of this book Turbulence.

In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.

Maybe I’m thick but I didn’t see the connection with interactions of people on each flight.  Clearly the airlines and flights are the focus and each character is supposed to be touched by a person they meet in flight, or about to take a flight. Each mini story is separated by airport codes.

The first story was fairly easy to connect, as was a pilot hooking up with a journalist.  The stories are very short, not a properly long novel at all which is what I was expecting.  You didn’t have a chance to get to know the characters very well therefore I couldn’t sympathize with them.

When I opened this book on my Kindle the time at the bottom stated one hour and thirty minutes to the end of the book.  Easy to read but I couldn’t engage with any of the characters.  Not enough development.

This is a short review for a short book. Some people found this very engaging; I did not. It was touted as “written with magic and economy” and I can say they got the economy correctly described.

Much thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.  It was worth a try! Opinions are all mine and I was clearly not compensated for the review.NetGalley

 

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

white nights

White Nights is book two in the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. I am late getting acquainted with this series; this second book was published in 2010. The good news there is I can jump into the next story without the laboriously long wait for the author to release the latest book. Sometimes it’s nice to discover a series that’s been out a while. White Nights refers to the long period of daylight in the Shetland islands.

Our main detective character Jimmy Perez has a starring role again. Book one left it in the air whether he was staying on the island or returning to his childhood home. I haven’t seen the television series but have seen the comparisons about the books vs TV. Seems, as always, they are different. There are quite a few characters to keep up with in the book but it isn’t confusing, unless you stop reading for a bit and then go try and pick it up again. Having been ill recently, that’s what I did and had to reread the previous two chapters.

The characters are likable but I’d push Perez to be more animated. He does an awful lot of ruminating over what he should have done in regard to Fran, his love interest. As for the investigative role he’s spot on.

The book starts with a person in clown mask, handing out flyers to locals and tourists from a cruise ship.  I don’t like clowns but that didn’t put me off.   then we move to an evening at artist Bella Sinclair’s manse featuring a famous musician (Bella’s nephew) and artist Fran Hunter. They are displaying their work and hoping for sales and recognition.

It’s not a great turnout, being as clown boy sabotaged the evening by handing out flyers stating the show was canceled. Mystery number one there. During the exhibition, an Englishman staring at a portrait suddenly drops to his knees and starts crying. Perez is at the exhibition with Fran, uncomfortably mingling as a guest and not there in his professional capacity as a police officer. Now he feels the need to get the crying man and see if he needs medical attention.

What a drag for Perez, he just wants to enjoy the evening. The Englishman has no identification and claims amnesia. That’s mystery number two. While Perez is checking with other guests to see who he may have arrived with or if anyone knows him, the memory- loss Englishman disappears. Flip another chapter and he’s found hanging, an apparent suicide.

Or is it?!

We have another death then some old bones discovered in a cave near the cliffs (mysteries three and four!) The bodies are certainly piling up in this small island setting. Sometimes the story moved too slowly, my opinion, yet I wasn’t tempted to toss the book aside. It’s the flavor of the setting, a slower lifestyle and thoughtful conversations. There are only seven books in the series so I aim to finish the Shetland series this year. Maybe I will then check out the DVDs.

This book is categorized as a mystery and thriller. More mystery, not so much a thriller.

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Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event

BriFri 

Careless Love by Peter Robinson (#25 in the DCI Banks series)

carelessLove Since being introduced to the DCI Banks series years ago I have made it a mission to read all of the books in order. This is #25 and Banks is slowly aging.  I had eagerly awaited my copy from the library and plan to continue to read more in the series,  but this particular book made me realize Banks needs to retire.

Premise of the book: A pretty young student is dead in an abandoned car.  The car is not hers, she is dressed in evening wear and couldn’t have walked up to this remote road. There isn’t any ID, cell phone or handbag.  Is it suicide? How did she get there? Meanwhile a man in his sixties is found dead in a gully up further up the road.  He is also wearing expensive clothing and carried no identification.  Was it an accident or was he  pushed?

Compliments and Complaints

There were a few reviews from people who were fortunate enough to get an advance copy, a mixed bag of compliments and complaints.  One particular comment complained about the amount of music interjected, as if Robinson was “forcing a musical education” on us.  As I hadn’t read the book yet I thought that was a supremely unfair comment.  If you are a fan of Alan Banks you’ll know music is an important part of his life and you will know what he’s listening to in his car and at home.

But then I started reading the book and I have to say, that comment wasn’t too far off the mark.  For such a short book of only 300 pages there were far too many paragraphs devoted to music.  Much more than in previous books so it felt like filler. So that’s actually two complaints from me – the excess music talk and the length of the book.  Maybe it felt shorter because there wasn’t enough investigative plot.

I mentioned he is growing older and I’m good with that. However, the excessive amount of reminiscing in this book was tiresome. He’s lost his edge. As he matures in his years and the career you expect someone to slow down but this performance wasn’t up to the usual standards.

Compliment: This is the first book in the series where I recall a cliffhanger at the end. The last two lines set up the premise for the next book.  Certainly that story line won’t be ignored as a previous bad guy is involved. This can’t be explained without spoilers but I look forward to that scenario being a major plot point.  Usually there are two investigations going on at once, sometimes they overlap, but it’s easy to keep the stories and investigations separated.

Personally I think it’s time for Alan Banks to retire.  Let him go out with a gangbuster ending.  Please don’t kill him, Mr. Robinson, but let’s have one of those cracking plots that I can’t put down….and then end it.  Let Banks go out on top.  I’m a big fan and I will certainly read the next book but I hope it’s better than this one.

Food is mentioned throughout and some had my mouth watering.

Spicy Vindaloo, Yorkshire puddings filled with roast beef and gravy, sandwiches of prawn, egg and chicken salad, a Spenser and Mark’s dinner of roasted chicken with vegetables and potatoes, wine, scones and tea.  The chicken dinner had my attention so here is a lovely olive oil roasted chicken dish with lots of onions, grape tomatoes and olives.

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event and
Heather for the February Foodies Read.

BriFri  2019 Foodies Read

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King

chefssecetWhen I learned Crystal King was writing another book set in Renaissance Italy I knew I wanted to get copy. Her first book, Feast of Sorrow, made me a lifelong fan. That was a great foodie book filled with intrigue and politics and plotting. Well, this new book, The Chef’s Secret, won’t disappoint in any of those areas.

The story is told by Giovanni, Bartolomeo Scappi’s nephew and protégé. Bartolommeo was a chef for several Popes and when he died, his estate went to his nephew. It was instructed that Giovanni burn Scappi’s journals without reading them but honestly, would you? There are recipes, secrets and the hint of a long lost love. You have to try and decipher that!

As in the author’s previous book, Feast of Sorrow, we are treated to menus and delicious descriptions of meals. If you like historical fiction, foodie books, the Renaissance period and political intrigue – you’ll want this book.

Unfortunately I was stricken by influenza and while slowly recovering from that mess, I am unable to conjure up a suitable culinary pairing for this book. There is much inspiration here.

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King came out February 12, 2019. Much thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy.

Linking up with Girlxoxo’s Monthly Motif challenge for the theme Cover Love.

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