Wine Reads by Jay McInerney

winereads

A collection of short stories and essays where wine has THE starring role.  We have a combo of fiction, non-fiction and lots of wine and food references throughout.  One of the names/stories that attracted me was Kermit Lynch.  I don’t think we have ever had a wine with Kermit Lynch’s name attached that we didn’t like.  The book  Adventures on the Wine Route was fairly recently acquired so seeing it in this compendium was a bonus.

Remember the movie Sideways?  It’s not an academy award winner but if you’d like to see a movie which revolves around wine, this is one, but I have not read the book.   that book is referenced here as well.  Books like this let me live vicariously with the details about good food and wine.  Fun read.

This author has written other books about wine, one I liked was Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar.

More about Jay McInerney

Much Thanks to Netgalley for this book. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for the review.
Linking with Girlxoxo for the August Monthly Motif

NetGalley1  2018-Monthly-Motif

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

 

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.

 

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

The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter: Four Generations of Mafia Women

sicilianThis book didn’t grab me completely and I put it down a few times.  I like the cover and sometimes that’s the eye candy that draws you to a book.

This is one of those multi-generational stories and you learn about the women’s role in the Mafia families.  One of the main characters is Mary and honestly, I didn’t care for her much.  Therefore, it was hard to read about her vengeful side and her actions. There were so many characters listed at the beginning of the book that I thought I may have trouble keeping them straight but that wasn’t ever a problem.

One the plus side there is much food mentioned, the kind I like too – rich pasta dishes and bread.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through NetGalley and was not compensated for my review.  I’m sorry I didn’t like it more and that’s probably why it took me so long to get through it and write a short review.

Friday on my Mind & Dark Saturday by Nicci French

FridayFrieda

Friday on my Mind: This is the fifth book in the Frieda Klein series. It starts with a bloated corpse floating down the Thames River. Once the police have pulled the body out of the water they check for identification but discover there is no wallet or cell phone. The fully clothed body of the man has a hospital band which reads Dr. F. Klein.

Frieda is now a suspect in a murder.

It’s complicated being Frieda’s friend.” Reuben made that statement as a group of her friends and supporters were gathering, trying to figure out where she was. Frieda is accused of murder in this book and we are introduced to a new cast of detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department. My favorite detective, Malcolm Karlsson, is still making appearances in this series. Also a shadowy sort of character named Levin sits in and observes on an investigation. Not sure where he will fit in, reminds you of a CIA characters i movies.

Frieda puts me in mind of a more polished, cooler version of Jessica Fletcher of the Murder She Wrote stories. There is always a murder connecting and threading itself into her life. It’s not a cozy mystery for sure. I was sad to read this one as I liked the character who departed.

Foodie stuff….

“She went to the shops and bought herself enough for the next few days; milk, bread and butter, some bags of salad and Sicilian tomatoes, salty blue cheese, smoked salmon, raspberries and a little carton of cream.

Once home, she had a long bath, then roamed through each room, making doubly sure everything was in its proper place. She ate smoked salmon on rye bread and drank a single glass of white wine.”

Dark Sat Dark Saturday: This one started off so slow I almost didn’t get going. But then…..glad I finished it. Perfect ending to bring you into the Sunday book (which I read first ).

Freida Klein owes someone a favor and it’s time to collect. This rather shadowy character named Levin (who may or may not be involved with the Metropolitan Police) helped her out once. He’s very mysterious. Anyway, in return he wants her to evaluate a mental patient. This patient, Hannah Docherty, was accused of murdering her family 10 years prior. She is now in an institution, old before her time and clearly is being abused.

When Frieda is called upon to give an assessment she comes to the conclusion that Hannah may well have been innocent. Naturally this stirs up a hornets nest with the Commissioner of the Met Police, a man who seems to have a serious and unreasonable dislike of Frieda. Now add some eerie events which may or may not involve Dean Reeve, a stalker the police believe is dead. It gets real in this book!

Food and drink

Josef was cooking some rich, meaty casserole and Reuben was smoking a cigarette and drinking red wine out of a vast goblet.

A conversation between Reuben and Frieda after he has been diagnosed with cancer:

You’d be irritatingly stoical, not me. No one is going to say he lost his brave fight against cancer, “said Reuben.
“You haven’t lost it yet, anyway.” is Frieda’s reply….
“They’re not going to say that because I’m not in a fucking battle. I’m the battleground. That’s what. You remember that. Dying isn’t a moral failure, it’s not a sign of weakness.”

“I agree.”

“Good. Wine?”

“Please.

I totally get Reuben here. Been there.

Another quote – this (to me) is a great description when the murderer’s identity is revealed and how the person reacts after some bluffing and bravado:

Frieda had seen dynamite demolish buildings from her consulting room window. After the explosion they would stand for a few moments, holding their shape, then their edges would lose solidity and all of a sudden the edifices would waver, then dissolve into a shower of bricks and mortar. Now XXX’s face lost it’s fixed expression of outrage; the body seemed to fold in on itself. XX was diminished.

I could just see that scene play out, it was tense.

So, food notes – not too many but I thought of an older recipe I haven’t made in years once I read about Josef’s meaty casserole. It’s called Julie’s Noodle Casserole. Check it out HERE.

Thank you to Goodreads for Dark Saturday.  I was a Goodreads winner!

Linking up with:

Heather at Spirit Blog for July Foodies Read

Joy for the British Isles Friday event

Beth Fish reads for the Weekend Cooking Series