Dear Mrs. Bird and My Twenty-Five Years in Provence

Library Loot

Dear Mrs. Bird: I abandoned Mrs. Bird.  The blurb that grabbed me states it’s for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  I liked that book very much so I was happy when my copy of Dear Mrs. Bird came in at the library.  It’s set in London during  World War II, a favorite era and topic for me, and the star of the book is a young lady named Emmeline Lake who wants to be a war correspondent.

Emmy sees a job advertisement for the London Evening Chronicle and sees that as a path to her dream.  Alas, the job available is a typist position for an old bat named Henrietta Bird.   Mrs. Bird is an advice columnist and she’s a tightly wound prude who tosses out letters she deems inappropriate.

The first part sounded promising to me but I couldn’t connect.  It was slow and boring for me. That’s against the grain to what others are saying about this book so I am in the minority.

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My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Now and Then.    It’s Peter Mayle’s last book.  This was in the works for publishing before he died in January.  If you have read any of this Englishman’s Ex-Pat literature about his life in Provence and enjoyed it, you will like this book as well.

He reflects on past excursions, how they came to live in France, language lessons, French culture and culinary wonders.  I have read most of his other books, the fiction and the memoirs, and enjoyed them.

While I will say this wasn’t the best of his Provence memoirs it was still lovely to read.  Lost and good photos in this book which will take the armchair traveler to rural parts of France.

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Linking up with  Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
BriFri

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Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

ravenblackI decided to “visit” the Shetland Islands through Anne Cleeves descriptive prose for my armchair traveling.

Raven Black is the first book in the Shetland series.  This book starts with the introduction of Inspector Jimmy Perez and the murder of a beautiful teen aged girl, Catherine Ross. Seems just about everyone in the small town believes eccentric Magnus Tait is responsible for the murder of Catherine. She was strangled and left in a snowy field near Magnus’ house.
Magnus is clearly a mentally deficient person although capable enough to live on his own. But is he capable of murder?

A young girl named Catriona had disappeared some 10 years earlier and Magnus was their prime suspect. No body was found and he couldn’t be charged. But did he do it? This girl’s disappearance is introduced early in the novel to establish the mistrust of old Magnus as well as give the reader one of many suspects to consider for Catherine’s murder.

In addition to Jimmy Perez we have multiple perspectives. Each chapter gives us a different point of view. Fran Hunter and her ex-husband Duncan who have a young daughter named Cassie. Fran is the one to discover Catherine’s body.
Sally Henry is a teenager, Catherine’s friend and the daughter of a school teacher. It’s very difficult to attend school when your parent is a teacher. Hard to fit in and be trusted. There is Robert, a tall handsome student who Sally is interested in. Robert’s father is a big figure with the upcoming festival Up Helly Aa. We don’t meet Robert’s father but you can tell how important and prestigious it is that Robert is involved in his father’s business and the festival.

There are preparations for Up Helly Aa, something I had to look up because I had no idea what it is. To read about the festival, make travel arrangements to visit and get involved, click HERE.  I added an interesting video at the end of the post explaining Up Helly Aa.

When I grabbed the book at the library and read the flap I wondered how a name such as Jimmy Perez came up on a remote Scottish island. It is explained early on about his ancestor, probably from Spain, shipwrecked near Shetland. I pictured Antonio Banderas so was shocked to see a reddish-brown haired man playing this part on the TV series. I haven’t picked up the series yet, just watched a preview in IMDB.

Anyway, he settled on Fair Isle and generations of Perez families prospered. Jimmy is a good detective and an empathic man and longs for a family life. I like this guy.

The weather is almost a character in its own right. It comes up so much and it’s so very descriptive about the wind, the ice, the snowdrifts, the cold. If you like mysteries and police procedurals this may be a book for you. This one has potential for sure and I already like a few of the characters so I will continue with book 2 next.

Foodie stuff: Stopping at the coffee shop for a mug of milky coffee and a pastry with apricots and vanilla or a slice of chocolate cake. Tea and coffee, lots of it. Drams of whiskey, bottles of wine, toast and jam.

And now for a treat, click below for Learning with Rowan to see what Up Helly Aa is all about. Looks like a fun festival but oh so cold!

Learning with Rowan about Up Helly Aa

Linking up with:
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather for her August Foodie Reads

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

the-dream-daughterI’m a sucker for a time travel story and this one grabbed me straight away.  Evidently the author, Diane Chamberlain, doesn’t typically write this style book.  I give her an A+ for this delivery.

Carly Sears has had a lot of heartache in a short period of time.  Her parents were killed in an accident when she was a teenager and so her only family is her sister Patti.  That is established early on so you know what a tight relationship they have.

The book starts off in the 1970’s in North Carolina.  Carly  had recently been told her husband Joe was killed in Vietnam.  Unbeknownst to Joe and Carly, she had conceived and was pregnant when he shipped out.  Now Carly is a pregnant young widow and to top off that pain she learns her baby has a heart condition that is fatal to the newborn, at least it is in 1970.

We start out with Carly as a young physical therapist doing an internship of sorts.  She is the only therapist to connect with a depressed patient named Hunter Poole and this is where her life takes a dramatic turn.  Hunter is from the future but no one knows this yet.  He never wanted anyone to know. Hunter marries Carly’s sister Patti and establishes his life there in North Carolina.  It’s before the cell phones, computers, microwaves and all the modern conveniences we have today.  It’s also a lot less stressful for him.

Once it’s determined through the early development of ultrasound that Carly’s baby will die, he makes the decision to tell her about himself.  He knows if he can get his sister-in-law to the future an operation can be performed on the fetus, thus saving her baby.  Carly would do a time jump from 1970 into New York City in 2001, get the advanced medical help she needs for her unborn child Joanna, then slide on back to her home in 1970 North Carolina.  Easy peasy, right?

Obviously she thinks he has a screw loose as this is an unbelievable story. To convince Carly he isn’t crazy he tells her about the Kent State shooting which will happen in a few days. Everything falls into place for Carly such as the reason he knows the lyrics to Beatles’ songs on the day they are released or how he could know about events before they happened.

A quote from Hunter:  “There were days I missed the comforts of 2018.  I missed my laptop computer and cell phone and the Internet more than anything.  I missed being able to easily communicate with my friends, I missed being able to look up information in seconds.  But 1970 came with a sort of peace I’d never known before………I traded my laptop and cell phone for a hammock and a book.

Foodie references are not frequent. Fried chicken , ham hocks and butter beans and homemade biscuits. Homemade food, all the time!  But Carly in 2001 will experience Taco Bell for the first time.  Takeaway food, Google searches, iPads, cell phones and more.  Wouldn’t that just blow you away?  It would for me but I can say, there are times I would trade all this for a Norman Rockwell lifestyle that I had growing up in the 50’s and 60’s.

The characters are all likable and that’s a refreshing change from some of the books I have abandoned lately.  There is so much more to the story but I can’t give away any spoilers because this was a fun read.  I hope if you like the time travel element you will check this out.  It’s not all smooth and problem-solved, there are a couple of twists I wasn’t expecting.

My only negative comment is that I think the resolution with Hunter’s mother wasn’t necessary.  Too neatly tied up and frankly didn’t suit her personality.  Yes, you’d have to read it to get a grip on Myra Poole’s character and why I feel this way.

Thanks very much to NetGalley for providing me with this pre-lease copy of the Dream Daughter.  I very much enjoyed it.  Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

Linking up with Heather’s September Foodie Reads.

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In the Galway Silence by Ken Bruen

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Jack Taylor is a former policeman with an attitude and an alcohol problem.  That doesn’t mean he’s not a likable guy but I guess that depends on how you are dealing with him.  He was hired to investigate a very weird crime, a murder, where adult twins were tossed in the river to drown.  That sounds heinous, doesn’t it?  Frankly, I think the twins got what they deserved.   They decided to pick on a guy in a wheelchair as he was an easy target.  While they started harassing him they had their guard down because he couldn’t defend himself.  Except that he could actually defend himself and wasn’t wheelchair bound.

They man clacks their heads together and duct tapes them to the chair, pushes it into the river to meet their fate. (that was cliched but couldn’t help it!)   Their father now recruits Jack to find out who killed them.  It’s hard to care who killed them as they weren’t nice people.

There is suspense and if you are offended by bad language then avoid this one.  Lots of F bombs throughout.

This isn’t the first Jack Taylor book so I ought to have started out with Guards, I may still go back and try it as I like a series.  This didn’t grab me straight away but I wasn’t tempted to call it a DNF.

Much thanks to NetGalley for allowing me access to this book prior to publication this November.  Opinions are all mine, nice and not so nice, and I was not compensated for the review.

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The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton {Aussie Book Challenge}

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In this epic book by Australian author Kate Morton we are transported back and forth from present day (2011) to WW II London as two stories merge. Laurel Nicholson is a very successful English actress and she is our main narrator.

We open with Laurel in the year 1961. She is a teenager, daydreaming about escaping her life in the English countryside. She sits in a tree house thinking about her boyfriend while the festivities for a birthday party are starting to get underway. Laurel is the oldest with three younger sisters and one little brother, Gerry. Their mother Dorothy is a wonderful woman., a loving mother and creative storyteller. It’s Gerry’s second birthday party and the family tradition is to cut the cake with a very special knife, red ribbon attached.

From her tree house perch Laurel sees her mother walk toward the house, little Gerry balanced on her hip, as she retrieves the special birthday cake knife. She also notices a man walking up to their rural home, an unusual thing as they don’t get many visitors. As he approaches Dorothy she witnesses her mother look fearful, place the baby behind her in the gravel path, as the man greets her by name. “Hello Dorothy….” Her mother then lifts the knife and plunges it into the man’s chest without any hesitation.

Gerry remains on the ground wailing. Laurel is naturally shocked. No one else sees what happened. The police are called and it’s determined the man was a tramp who had been bothering picnickers recently, clearly a dangerous fellow. But Laurel knows there is more to it as the man addressed her mother by name.

2011: All the siblings, now grown and middle aged plus, gather at their childhood home for their mother’s 90th birthday. It will clearly be the last one as Dorothy is dying. Laurel knows this will be the only opportunity to discover what happened with her mother and the man she killed so many years ago. Dorothy had asked for an old book to be retrieved so she could look at it and within is an old photograph tucked away. The photo depicts two beautiful young women with the inscription Dorothy and Vivian, something that clearly agitates elderly Dorothy. No one has ever heard her speak of a woman named Vivian so there is another mystery. As she gets her mother talking Laurel is given bits of information to research and discover who her mother was and what her life was like before. She’s in for a surprise.

Dorothy’s story is told from multiple perspectives during the WW II era in London. We are introduced to Jimmy Metcalfe and Vivian Jenkins, key characters in this vividly painted story.

The last 20 or so pages bring all the mysteries into play and it’s a very cool ending ( In my opinion). I love Kate Morton books and have read The House at Riverton, The Lake House and The Forgotten Garden. All wonderful stories with mystery throughout and a twisty endings. I love being transported to other countries as it’s armchair traveling for me at this time.

Linking up with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday series as this book was partially set in England.  Also, this is the last book for my Aussie Reader’s Challenge and I hope to join in again next year and discover more Australian authors. I completed the Wallaby level.

For the challenge I have read:

The Dry by Jane Harper
The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

BriFri     aussieauthor

Lies by T. M. Logan

liesI received a sample of this book Lies by T. M. Logan.  The  very beginning had me hooked.  Joe Lynch is driving with his son Will and the little boy spots his mother’s car, asks if they can surprise her.  Joe follows her into a hotel parking garage, heads upstairs to the lobby, and then sees his wife Melissa talking heatedly with Ben, the husband of her best friend.

Joe doesn’t want their young son to witness any unpleasantness so he heads them back to the car.  He tries to catch Melissa as she drives off but then runs into Ben and gets into an altercation.  Ben is knocked to the parking garage floor and isn’t responsive.

To make matters worse Will has gotten out of the car and sees Ben knocked out on the ground, blood seeping from his ear.  This upset causes an asthma attack and Joe has get his son medicine.  So he leaves Ben, gets the boy help, returns to the garage and Ben is gone.  So is Ben’s car.  When his wife returns home he asks her about meeting Ben but she lies and says she’s been playing tennis.  More conversation between them makes it clear she’s hiding something.

Based on that, and it was edgier than I wrote this out, I requested the book from NetGalley.  The first part of this book was great and highlighted the dangers of social media.  Joe had lost his cell phone in the struggle in the parking garage – suddenly his Facebook page has updates that he isn’t making.  Photos posted from that hotel parking garage clearly showing blood in the background.   People “liking” and commenting on the posts.

They knew where I’d been.  It was like suddenly realizing you lived in a goldfish bowl.  Both updates had been posted this evening.  I had driven out of the Premier Inn around 5:10 p.m. and both Facebook posts had followed inside the next ninety minutes.

Can’t imagine someone hacking my social media account and posting as me.

Towards the middle I felt the plot dragged a bit and wasn’t believable.  We have to suspend disbelief with some story lines but after a while, I just couldn’t do it with this story.  Joe’s reactions to the “implied evidence” his wife was cheating was very unrealistic.  I know my husband wouldn’t be as understanding and rightfully so!

Obviously you have to have a weak character, the fall-guy so to speak, but this just didn’t fly.  Melissa Lynch is a completely unlikable person in the way she is manipulating her husband.  Why didn’t he toss her out?  Should of done so.  Is Ben a dangerous man or another victim?  You will see at the end.  Overall I felt disconnected from the characters and repelled by Joe (even though he is the victim) by his weak behavior.

The ending had a twist I certainly didn’t see coming and I will say well done there.

Would I read more by this author?  Probably so.  I’d try one more book.  It kept my interest until the end with the twists and turns and I wanted to know whodunit.

Linking up with Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday as the author is British and the setting is London and Sunderland.

Much thanks to NetGalley for the digital copy.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions nice and otherwise are my own.

 

 

Day of the Dead by Nicci French {Book 8, the end of the Frieda Klein series}

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I’m certainly a fan of a series. The more books in a series the better in my opinion. Some folks don’t like the feeling of commitment with five or more books, following the same characters on a mystery or whichever genre it may be – I figure I am going to be reading anyway and I like familiar characters, watching them grow as characters and in their personal and professional lives.

So, this is the end of the Frieda Klein series. Eight books total starting with Blue Monday and winding our way through the days of the week. As I’ve mentioned before, I read the Sunday book first so I read many spoilers. Still, I went to the beginning and read through. Sunday was the best book. Thursday was not my favorite and had a seriously slow start.

This last book, Day of the Dead, wrapped up the series and so I will no longer have Frieda, Reuben, Josef, Chloe, Jack and Karlsson in my life. Josef was my favorite of the sub-characters.

Frieda needed to disappear in the previous book and spent most of her time in this last book under the wire. A killer was on the loose and she was the target, a string of violent incidences and a conclusion that I could accept.

There was a character named Lola Hayes who is introduced early in this book. She needs a subject for her criminology classes and plans to explain how psychoanalyst Frieda Klein thinks, planning on interviewing those close to Frieda and working out a profile. By trying to discover more about Frieda she puts herself in danger and is forced, literally, to go on the run with our main character. It’s a cat and mouse game and a bloody one at that.

The beginning was slow for me and I’ll say I wanted a different ending to this eighth book saga. I wasn’t especially disappointed as all things were resolved, I would just like to have seen some characters end up differently. It’s hard to review this without giving out a very important factor that is a huge spoiler.

Lots of food mentioned throughout the book.

Butternut squash soup, burgers and beers, bowls of bean sprouts and Greek salad, a simple salad of tomato and avocado and a bread roll.

Spaghetti and red wine, a Ukrainian lamb dish and a bottle of vodka. A flat white and piece of carrot cake. Chicken sandwiches with lots of mayo and tomatoes.

“Frieda bought a cauliflower, some cheddar cheese, butter, milk and a half-baked baguette. She added a small jar of mustard to the basket, two chocolate bars, apples, a jar of marmalade and oatmeal. Later she cooked a mustardy cauliflower cheese which they ate with hunks of baguette.”

I bought a cauliflower and planned to make that cheese dish but I still haven’t gotten around to it.

 

Goodbye Frieda Klein – it was a good ride.  Lots of mystery and I would certainly watch a television series if one was developed base don her character.

Linking up with:
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather for her August Foodie Reads