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

 

The French Girl by Lexie Elliott

FrenchGirl

“We all have our secrets…

They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway…until they met Severine, the girl next door. “

I thought this was a good mystery – lots of people to suspect of killing 19 year old Severine. From the blurb above you’d think the story line was in present day France. Not so.

Ten years after the college get-together Severine’s body has been found in the bottom of a well. The last people to see the young woman alive are the six vacationing friends so they are once again drawn into the investigation. Everyone’s lives have changed so much in 10 years. Some relationships have fractured while others have deepened into a loyal friendship. There are some flashbacks but it’s basically lots of talking, remembering and suspicion about which one of the six killed Severine.

Tom, Seb, and Theo are good friends. It’s Theo’s father’s French country home where they gather and meet the mademoiselle next door. Kate was in a relationship with Seb, Lara is Kate’s best friend and Caro (Caroline) is friends with Theo, Tom and Seb. So, which of the six killed the French girl? Much is revealed about the characters and their relationships, fights, and basically lots of motive to go around.

I stare at Tom as Lara reseats herself and chatters on. He glances at me, but there’s nothing to read in his face. It was so smoothly done; I would never have guessed he was capable of such casual duplicity – once again he is the other Tom, but not Tom. I wonder, is anyone not who I thought? Maybe nobody ever really knows anyone.

Not too much food mentioned in this book:

Tom cooks “the world’s largest Spanish omelet”.

The conversation warms and expands again, slowly regaining volume after a moment of solemnity. More wine is called for and I eat chocolate profiteroles that I don’t really like because by now I’m drunk and will eat practically anything.

Girl’s night of ordering curry, drinking wine and watching a romcom.
Tom orders Kate vodka tonics on several occasions.

I’m all in for the vodka tonic and could do with a curry meal too but I plan to make that later this weekend.

tomic

I’m sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday as this is is a Scottish author and the setting is London. Also with Heather at Spirit Blog for the June Foodies Read and
Girlxoxo June’s Monthly Motif

More about the author: Lexie Elliott

The Secret of the Irish Castle {book 3} by Santa Montefiore

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Novels with an Irish setting?  Bring it on!

This is the last book in the trilogy and I can say I enjoyed all the books immensely.  Book 1 is The Girl in the Castle, Book 2 is The Daughters of Ireland and The Secret of the Irish Castle wraps it all up neatly.  Perfect ending if you ask me.

The author does a good job of recapping things from previous books so you’re not lost if you haven’t read the other two books in quite a while.  That being said, you need to read these in order for the character development to make sense.

We continue with the story of Kitty Deverill , Bridie Doyle and Jack O’Leary.  Lots of scenes with the fun characters Harry Deverill, Boysie and Celia. There are ulterior motives for assisting one another with exposing Bride’s husband the faux Count – Rosetta wants to help her friend while Grace is helping so she can get back in Michael’s good graces and his bed.

There are times it’s a soap opera or Facebook drama but if you are a fan of the series, what a page turner.  It’s always nice to be an armchair traveler and visit Ireland.

There were a few food items mentioned but it’s the usual tea, scones, biscuits, cake and fish.  For a fancy dinner salmon mousse, roasted duck and pheasant were served.

I received a copy of this lovely book from LibraryThing. All opinions are my own. A+

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

tuscan

This past February my book buddy Katherine (who writes at I’d Rather Live in a Library) read and reviewed The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.  Her review is HERE and, if I may say, I ought to just point you in her direction as she mirrored my thoughts with this book.

The story is told in two timelines.  We go back and forth between present day England and Italy with the bulk of the narrative in 1944 Italy.

in 1973 Joanna Langley returns to her childhood home after her father Hugo dies.  While cleaning out his home she finds letters addressed to a woman named Sofia who lives in Italy.  It’s clear her father was deeply in love with Sofia yet he never spoke about her or his war service.

Joanna plans a trip to Italy to see if she can locate Sofia and learn more about her father.  During her stay she meets a wonderful woman who mothers her and tries to teach her to cook.  She also has run-ins with Sofia’s son, now a handsome  businessman and heir to an estate by the man who adopted him after Sofia abandoned him.

Or did Sofia abandon her young son? The plot thickens!  While it turns into a predictable story line it kept me interested.  The end was wrapped up too neatly and wasn’t believable but that doesn’t take away from the overall story.  I particularly loved the scenes in Tuscany and all the food and drink.  Reading this made me hungry!

There is quite a bit of food mentioned in this book and I think it would make a fine candidate for Cook the Books!

  • Roasted lamb
  • A soup of beans, macaroni and vegetables
  • Bruschetta with chicken liver mixed with anchovy, tapenade and thin slices of fennel with goat cheese.
  • Fagioli al fiasco sotto la cenere – white beans cooking with rosemary, sage and garlic.  It’s put in a Chianti bottle and cooked slowly overnight in the embers of the dying fire. Spinach, mushrooms and garlic slowly simmering.
  • Rabbit ragu started with pancetta, onions, sage, garlic and tomatoes.
  • A platter of fresh tomatoes, a slab of white cheese, a few sticks of salami, a bowl of olives and a big crusty loaf of bread.
  • Fried zucchini blossoms and artichokes
  • Mushroom risotto, aubergine Parmesan and panna cotta
  • Limoncello, mussels and clams in cream sauce, Florentine beef steak and a rich almond cake with gelato for dessert.

“Joanna had grown up with simple English cooking – steak and kidney pie, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, lamb chops and takeaway Indian and Chinese.”

Tuscan

I was planning on the soup and life got in the way so I made the side dish of spinach and mushrooms to go with one of our dinners.

Rhys Bowen in a New York Times best selling author.  She was born in Bath England, studied at London University and now lives in the United  States. This is my first book authored by Bowen but I would now like to read more.  In particular I’d like to acquire In Farleigh Field as the setting is World War II, an era I like to read about.

Linking up with:

Heather for the June 2018 Foodies Read

Joy’s British Isles Friday

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series

Ireland the Best by John McKenna and Sally McKenna

ireland

Ireland the Best by John McKenna and Sally McKenna

What a wonderfully comprehensive guide for touring Ireland! Having traveled there for two vacations I can say that this is THE guide to take along if you are planning a trip.  I’ve used other guides in the past but this one will have a place on my travels next time.

If it’s a particular county you are looking for you can easily click on to that section of the book. This will be fabulous for planning a trip in the future as well as a handy reference guide while traveling.  Plus it’s on my Kindle so that makes it super easy to tuck into a purse.

One of the sections I am interested in is the prehistoric sites such as Newgrange and the many dolmens. I have been to Newgrange once and it was magnificent. Also the Hill of Tara, but how can you go wrong if you are interested in passage tombs?
There are sections devoted to gardens, literary places, graveyards, castles, abbey and cathedrals and much more. The Strolls, Walks and Hikes section is a must-read if you are heading to Ireland as there are so many beautiful places to hike.

It’s mentioned how the food has improved over the years and I can say that the tired old stereotype about food in Ireland and England is incorrect. We have had some wonderful meals with fresh produce, seafood and fruit that was a real treat.

The index is very detailed and well laid out so you can search out a particular subject easily. Here is a photo of one of the pages, may be hard to read but it’s a good example.

ire1

This book was published in March 2018. Check it out at Netgalley and kindly request a copy for your Kindle or other reading device. I can say, this will remain on my Kindle for future travels.

Much thanks to Netgalley giving me access to this to this advanced reader’s copy.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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The Lost Family by Jenna Blum #TheLostFamilySupperClub

bookLostFam

I am honored to have been invited to the Lost Family Virtual Supper Club hosted at the Book Club Cookbook site.

This is the first time I have participated with a virtual supper party and I’m thrilled to see some other food bloggers I know on the guest list.   Jenna Blum is a new author for me and I can say, after diving into this page-turner, I am now hungry for the menus included as well as Blum’s other publications.

Jenna describes her book this way: “The Lost Family is a novel about a German-Jewish Auschwitz survivor named Peter Rashkin, who emigrates to New York, starts a restaurant, and falls in love—only to find his new American family haunted by the wife and daughters he lost during the war.

The story starts in the 1960’s and spans roughly 30 years. It’s about love, loss, understanding and forgiveness.  Peter Rashkin, the handsome owner and chef at Masha’s restaurant is the star of the story.  He is a man haunted by his past, torn between the ghosts of his old family and his new family.  While the other story lines focus more on June and Elspeth’s point of view Peter is indeed the main character. There is wonderful imagery in this novel, you feel like you are sitting in on the conversations.

There are so many passages that feature food, drink and menus that I can’t list them all. Well, I could but then I may not post prior to this fabulous book being released on June 5, 2018 – so let me just say there is plenty of culinary inspiration.

A cold gin martini with a few Queen olives will start me off here.  No recipe needed.

martini

I loved this particular passage:

In every time of trouble in his life, large or small, Peter had gravitated to the kitchen. During his childhood, in flight from his father’s bullying or his mother’s disdain, Peter had sought the large square room in the back of the house where Hilde let him stir soup, roll dough and – most excitingly, and provided he held the knife just as she showed him – chop vegetables. During his teens Peter’s sole act of rebellion had been to apply for a job as Adlon commis instead of clerking in the family law firm.”

“Food is essentially the same. Julienning carrots or chiffonading basil was the same in Skokie or Berlin. A rutabaga was a rutabaga. Vegetables, meat and technique had no language. The kitchen, any kitchen, was Peter’s home.” (pp. 134-135)

I thought about Peter as he chopped vegetables and herbs, as rolled dough to make bread, losing himself in the kitchen environment.  Relaxing and creating.  Personally I find making bread therapeutic.  I love the process of making bread, the slow kneading of the dough and creation of something  everyone loves to see gracing the table. Hot, fresh bread. Yes.

bubble bread 011

Herbed Bubble Bread

3 – 3 ½ c flour
2 T sugar
1.5 t salt
1.25 oz yeast (1 pkg)
1 ¼ c milk
2 T vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 c melted butter or margarine
2 T Parmesan
1 T sesame seeds
1 teaspoon each of garlic salt, paprika, parsley, rosemary &  thyme

Lightly grease a 2 quart deep round casserole. In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

In small saucepan heat milk and vegetable oil until very warm (120 -130 F).  Add egg and warm liquid to flour mixture. With electric mixer beat 3 minutes at medium speed.

With wooden spoon, stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 1-2 minutes.

Place dough in warm greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes.

Punch down dough. Pinch off walnut-size balls of dough and dip in melted butter. Place in prepared casserole forming one layer.  Combine cheese, seeds, garlic salt, paprika, and herbs. Sprinkle half over layer of bubbles.

bubbread1

Make a second layer of buttered bubbles; pour remaining butter over bubbles, sprinkle with remaining seasoning mixture.  Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, until the “bubbles” almost reach top of casserole, 30 – 45 minutes.

Just before rising time is up, preheat oven to 400 F. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; loosen from pan with spatula and remove. Serve warm.

A labor of love

This book will be released on June 5, 2018. Many thanks for this advanced reader’s copy!  Please check out what others have brought to the party.

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More Info Here!
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The Book Club Cookbook site
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I am sharing this with Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series and Heather for the June Foodies Read.

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*Disclosure: I  received an advance reading copy of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum, the Book Club Cookbook and Harper Collins so I was able to participate with the  #TheLostFamilySupperClub party.

Thursday’s Children by Nicci French {Book 4 in the Frieda Klein series}

thursdayThursday’s Children is book #4 in the Frieda Klein series. This one moved slowly.  I’m glad it wasn’t my first acquaintance with Frieda Klein as I may have put the series on the back burner.  So, having read five books in this eight book series, I will still say the Sunday book is still by far the best.

Looking at the positives first, I will say I learned more about our elusive main character in this book than any of the others. It dragged a bit when she went back to her childhood home of Braxton and I think the story line could have been abbreviated.

I like how her friends gather to bring her nice meals, the support they show her, the wine, the mystery aspects of the story and the English setting.  Both London and the little rural town of Braxton.

My favorite supporting character is still Josef.  Hoping to see more of him in the next few books.  I felt very sorry for Frieda’s boyfriend and thought she was too cold with him.  Don’t want to reveal spoilers but I will be adding my thoughts on Goodreads where I can hide the spoilers.  I had it narrowed down to two characters as the main perpetrator but have to say I was actually surprised who the baddie turned out to be.

Side note on an unrelated documentary:   The musical group Thursday’s Children was focused on in the book, however, Thursday’s Children was also a documentary  about the Royal School for the Deaf in Margate, Kent.  It won an  Academy Award for the Best Documentary Short of 1954. The subject deals with hearing-handicapped children.  They learn what words are through exercises and games, practicing lip-reading and finally speech. Richard Burton was the narrator.

It doesn’t appear the name of the fictional band has any relation to the documentary.  There isn’t a mention or connection in the novel.

Food mentioned

Hot buttered tea cakes
Avocado, arugula, sun –dried tomatoes and hummus on focaccia bread.
A sandwich of goat cheese, tomato and salad leaves.
Butternut squash soup with rolls
Garlic- mushroom soup and eggplant and red pepper flan.
Oysters, scallops with bacon and risotto.

“Reuben cooked only four or five dishes and he served them in rotation.  Frieda had eaten them all, over and over again.  There was chili con carne, lasagna, baked potatoes with sour cream and grated cheese.  Tonight it was pasta with the pesto he bought from the local deli.”

“There was a bowl of thick red soup with dumplings, there was something wrapped in cabbage, large sausages, pickled fish, beetroot salad, chopped potatoes and unfamiliar kind of little mushroom, a huge wheel of bread, small pastries, a whole duck, pancakes………..”

Representative meal is a risotto with wild rice, herbs and bay scallops.  A glass of Chardonnay is a great pairing here.

risotto

Linking up with:

Heather for the May 2018 Foodies Read

Joy’s British Isles Friday

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series

A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen

shepherd

I have had a fondness for stories set in Yorkshire and have read all the James Herriot books.  We are such big fans that we named our son Tristan after one of the characters.  When I discovered another Yorkshire author named Amanda Owen I knew I was in for a treat.

First I followed Amanda, aka The Yorkshire Shepherdess, on Twitter.   The photos of the Yorkshire countryside, the sheep, cows, horses, chickens and of course Amanda, her husband Clive and their 9 children are beautiful. Her handle is @Amandaowen8 if you want to take a look.

All children are up at 6:00 a.m. and eat on the go, all have chores they do, automatically working as a team.  Even the 7 year old goes out to gather wood and brings it to start a fire in the black range.  No fire means cold baths. Yikes!

york

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these 12 chapters broken down by each month’s events.  Here is a great article from The Guardian and one from Country and Townhouse if you want to read more.  If you enjoyed James Herriot then this will be your cuppa of tea.  Fresh bread, cakes and stews are always on the menu so I thought I would share two freshly baked loaves I made this week.

Bread

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Waiting on Wednesday by Nicci French

waiting Waiting on Wednesday is book 3 in the Frieda Klein series. There were quite a few things that weren’t believable and yes, you do need to suspend disbelief when you are reading a novel but….Frieda is coming off as unbalanced in this book. She did suffer horrific attack and injuries in the previous book so I can somewhat sympathize with some of the actions she takes.
The story starts off with the murder of Ruth Lennox. Ruth is a wife and mother of three and by all outward appearances, she’s perfect. I’m not talking about the physical attributes, rather her very organized life, devoted to her family and no little secrets.

Except yes! She has a big fat secret and once revealed, the plot takes off in multiple directions. Two of her children will figure prominently, opening up to other subplots.

One of the things that bothered me was the side story about a missing girl. It had zero to do with the Lennox murder or investigation. An offhand story relayed to Frieda had her tracking the girl named Lila, all on her own. Now introduce a newspaper reporter who had been trying to find a link between several missing young women and he and Frieda combine forces, sharing information. So, no link to the Lennox murder but a huge story on its own.

It weaves together at the end. I want to discuss some things that weren’t resolved but it will spoil the book for any who plan to read it. Goodreads has a feature to hide spoilers so I will discuss there when I post my review. I’m hoping the DCI Malcolm Kaarlson’s story will develop more as well as his detective Yvette Long. Would love to know their backstory and where they are heading.

For the record, Hal Bradshaw, the psychologist working with the police, is unbearably smug and it wouldn’t hurt me to see him written out. Hopefully with shame and discredit somehow. Frieda’s nice Chloe can be a distraction but I see we need that sometimes, so you can see Frieda’s caring side. Notice I didn’t say warm side. Ha!
I like Josef very much and also the gruff DCI Kaarlson.

Hoping this is a miniseries one day.  Who would you want as Frieda Klein, for anyone who has read this series?  Maybe Anne Hathaway for her dark features or Nazanin Boniadi, a Persian-British actress.

frieda
Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Atonement by Ian McEwan

atonementThis book gets many 5 star  ratings and I certainly see why with the complexity and detail of the writing.  There is so much internal dialogue, some a stream of consciousness as we see the perspective from different points of view. It took concentration to read this novel and after a while, it wasn’t pleasure reading.  Yet, that being said, I was never tempted to bail on this book as the writing is lyrical and the perspectives interesting.

The descriptions were great enough that it could be 5 large wordy paragraphs to capture a few moments, this paired with what the character was thinking.

An example – Thirteen year old Briony Tallis considers herself a playwright and penned The Trials of Arabella with her playing the lead character.  As her cousins will be visiting for an extended stay (due to unfortunate family circumstances) Briony intends to cast her cousins in supporting roles.  Lola, the older cousin, asks to play the plum role of Arabella.  Briony graciously acquiesces as she feels sorry for Lola, but it doesn’t make her happy.  Additionally, the younger boy cousins state that playwriting is just showing off and they didn’t want to participate but, as visitors they will.  Arrogant Briony is upset by these turn of events as it ruined her play and plans.

She goes to a meadow and viciously hacks down the nettles, pretending they are people she is upset with, starting with Lola.  She then “kills” the male cousins and others she’s unhappy with, the moments captured in 4 very long paragraphs as her thought process, documented while she beheads nettles. The massacre allows her rage to dissipate as she considers a change of career from playwright to newspaper reporter.  She has a high opinion of herself, by the way.

One of the hinges of the plot is Briony observing her sister Cecilia and the lower class friend Robbie Turner. There is a scene at the fountain where a vase is broken.  I read the scene and the verbal exchange between Cecelia and Robbie.  Cecelia strips to her underwear and wades into the fountain to get the broken vase pieces.  It’s a scene full of both anger and sexual tension.  Now, Briony obviously sees things with the only reference and experience a 13-year old mind can articulate.  Her confusion with flirtation and sexual encounters, real or imagined, were complex.  She observes silently from a window inside the house.  She can’t hear what was said, nor can she understand the attraction between the two adults.

When a rape occurs later in the first part of the book, unjust accusations lead to devastating consequences.  If you’ve read this you know what happens and if you haven’t, I’ll not add spoilers if you are taking this journey.

The end surprised me. If this were a true story I would feel very sad for so many lives shattered.

So, that’s number #15 on the BBC Culture Books Project.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday
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