Beyond the Moon by Catherine Taylor

beyond The book description appealed me with elements of time travel, a war setting and being compared to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, lovers of Kate Morton and Ken Follett.  It’s not the blockbuster book I thought it may be in comparison with the aforementioned illustrious authors.

That being said, I didn’t put it down and I did enjoy the story line.  We have Louisa Casson in the year 2017, grieving the loss of her grandmother, basically her only family.  She falls near a cliff in South Downs and is immediately suspected of suicidal tendencies.

Louisa is “voluntarily” committed to Coldbrook Hall, a mental institution where conditions are beyond horrific.  Some of the descriptions put me in mind of the book Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly where mental health facilities are a focus.  The appalling treatment of patients who genuinely suffer from a mental health issue was sad to read.  Long story short on Louisa – she wanders about into an old section of the “hospital” that is set for demolition and meets a soldier from WW I.

Enter 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett who is recovering in the same hospital, except it’s 1916 and Coldbrook Hall is a military hospital. I suppose this is where the Outlander comparison comes from. The descriptions of battlefields and the lack of cleanliness and knowledge about germs from WW I was very well written.  No sugar coating on those chapters.  Well done there.

I’m a sucker for time travel books so if that’s not your thing, you may not like this book.  It’s an interesting mixture of historical fiction, mystery, romance.  I’m not much of romance reader but I certainly don’t mind the romantic interest to arise.  I just don’t want it to be the main focus.

Much thanks to Netgalley. This book was published June 25, 2019. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated.   More about Catherine Taylor HERE.

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday

BriFri

The Family Upstairs & To the Lions

I was a little behind in my reading last month but I am getting back on track with two selections I received from NetGalley.

the-family-upstairs-9781501190100_lgFirst off – why have I not been reading Lisa Jewell’s novels before this?!  I couldn’t put this book down.

Libby Jones knows she was adopted and also knows there was some controversy about her past and her birth parents. At the age of 25 she knows all will be revealed as she receives she long awaited letter and “inheritance.”  Here is a blurb from the book description so you have the setup:

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

What a setup.  I was intrigued from the beginning and found myself surprised by revelations in the book. The main setting is London but you have scenes in France as well. The story is told from different perspectives.  Libby’s brother Henry narrates the past story line and we get an inside view of the crazy scenarios in his childhood home.  In the Libby chapters you’ll read about her search for the older siblings, Henry and Lucy, as well as researching information on her socialite mother and well-to-do father, Martina and Henry Lamb.  At the end of each chapter I would want to continue with Libby’s search, yet when young Henry narrated I didn’t want that to end.

This book is categorized under adult fiction, mystery and thrillers. A+

Lisa Jewell is a British author of popular fiction. Her books include Ralph’s Party, Thirtynothing, After The Party, a sequel to Ralph’s Party, and most recently The House We Grew Up In, The Girls in the Garden, and Then She Was Gone

Publication date is November 5, 2019.  Much thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.  I was not compensated for a review, opinions are mine.

lions To The Lions. The premise of this story grabbed my attention but once I started reading it I found myself distracted.   Casey Benedict is a reporter.  She overhears a conversation in a London nightclub that leads her to the story of a lifetime.

In the beginning setup we meet  Casey’s boss and man oh man, he drops the F bomb more times than I could count.  A few times gives you the flavor of the man and his personality but after a while, what a turn off.

As the big story unfolds I found it very disturbing.  I don’t want to give spoilers but let me say, if you are bothered by what’s happening to immigrants in the USA, this plot won’t be appealing. At all.

This book is under the mystery and thriller category, my favorite genre however this is too disturbing for me with our current political situation.  I don’t bring politics into my blog and what happens in the book is NOT a scenario that is happening here but…..I didn’t like this at all.

Holly Watt is an author and journalist.  I will say a talented writer as she had me emotions stirred, this book just wasn’t for me.

Publication date is September 3, 2019.  Much thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.  I was not compensated for a review, opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday

BriFri

Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Hamilton, Gabrielle, Blood Bones and Butter 3

Radishes with butter and sea salt, grilled lamb sausages, smoky eggplant and flatbread. Some of those delectable images are a far cry from what my own childhood dinner table offered.

WARNING: Some Spoilers 🙂

Reading this memoir by Gabrielle Hamilton, a fellow Pennsylvanian, was a treat. The first few chapters, where she talks about crossing the state lines between Jersey and PA could have been written by one of my childhood pals. For me, growing up in the tri-state area running between Pennsylvania, Delaware and Jersey (not to mention how close Maryland was for us) this portion of the memoir spoke to me…….so much, that I Googled an image of Gabrielle to be sure I didn’t grow up with her.

There are just so many chapters in this book that I enjoyed that it’s hard to tack one down as a favorite. Her unconventional upbringing by a French ex-ballet dancer mother and good ol’ Pennsylvanian craftsman were a treat to read. I will admit to wanting to know more about her brothers whom she did not write about very much. Except Todd…and even then, she didn’t share much. Her sister played a bigger role in Gabrielle’s life and evidently still does.

When her parents started the road toward divorce and mom moved out – young teenager Gabrielle and her brother Simon were abandoned at the family home/farm. Dad disappeared, wallowing in grief over his broken marriage. Simon also disappeared and Gabrielle made do …living on the canned goods and eggs and anything she found at her home to survive. Lying about her age to get a job at a restaurant (been there, done that) she had her first taste of the food industry.

Moving way on in the book, when she was in college working on her Masters degree, she landed back into the catering business to supplement her income while finishing her coursework. That is when she met Misty and realizing way later on ….. Misty was her mentor. Unbeknownst to both of them….but nonetheless true. They worked together in the catering kitchen preparing cold smoked chicken with apricot glaze and sirloin tips in molasses black-pepper sauce ….quietly moving through the prep, cooking, set ups in comfortable silences many times. But getting to know Misty in her natural environment awakened something in Gabrielle.

“My resolve to start a new kitchen-free life was further weakening in the direct warmth of Misty’s home style of cooking, her bumpy misshapen tomatoes ripening on her back steps, her cabbages shredded and broken down with salt and vinegar, her hunks of pork swimming in smoky, deep, earthy juices. Unwittingly, she was un-tethering me from my ten-pound knife kit, propane torches and ring molds and showing me that what I had been doing these past twenty years – and what I had come to think of as cooking – was just the impressive fourteen-ring string of a twelve-year old exhaling her first lungfuls of a Marlboro.

“Nothing more than tricks of the trade. She was waking me, in her nearly monosyllabic way, out of a dark and decades-long amnesia.”

When Gabrielle walked through the wreckage of what would become her restaurant, Prune, she had images of her childhood and hoped to share some of the important ones with future patrons. “I might serve walnuts from the Perigord and a small perfect tangerine so that the restaurant patrons could also sit at their table after the meal and squeeze the citrus peel into the candle flame to make fragrant blue and yellow sparks as I had done on my mother’s lap as a child.”

So by dusk that evening, she decided to have a second look around the property.

She gets energized just thinking about cooking in her restaurant:

Every time I step in front of those burners, in that egregiously tight space, less than 12 inches between the wall I am backed up against and the burning stove top in front of me, I feel like we are two boxers—me and the heat—meeting in the center of the ring to tap gloves.”

Then there’s the story line involving her dating life with an Italian doctor, Dr. Michele Fuortes, a teacher and researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College. Fuortes was wooing the 35 year old chef-owner of Prune hoping to persuade her to marry him for US citizenship. As this courtship heats up, Gabrielle is still living with her girlfriend and still working her ass off at Prune. They had an unconventional courtship and marriage.

Some of my favorite chapters were her interactions with her mother-in-law Alda. It was clear Alda was beloved by her Italian family and Gabrielle fell in love with her too. Even without the fluency in Italian she could see, by actions, how the people coming to see Alda held her in great esteem with respect and kindness. As she studied her mother-in-law, and cooked beside her (cooking being a common language of its own) Gabrielle knew she needed to teach her young sons, Marco and Leone, about their Italian side. About kindness and respect. “Somehow, July with Alda and the Fuortes family has become the most important and anticipated month of my year.

I was between a few meals which I was inspired to prepare after reading this book. But ultimately it came down to the love and shared experiences between Gabrielle and Alda. – a rich meaty eggplant dish with the appropriate accompaniments.

If you enjoyed Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, I think you’ll devour this book. It was hard to put down.

Links for more on Gabrielle Hamilton:
Prune
Ode To Joy: A Trip to Alda’s Kitchen
Star Chef’s Article

Linking up with Cook the Books hosted by Simona Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking series and Heather for July Foodie Reads. 

cookthebooks    2019 Foodies Read

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Hours2

Kate Morton is one of my favorites. She writes big fat books with well developed characters.  The setting is usually in Australia, England or both.  She deftly weaves a story leaving you satisfied with ending.  Well….most of the time.  She wraps up the mysteries so you have definite conclusions.  Perhaps you don’t like how some characters end up but nothing is ever left hanging.

In 1992, letters written in 1941 were found stowed away in an attic.  The post man placed the bag of letters and bills in his home and they weren’t discovered until his death in 1992.   Imagine a letter delivered 50 years later, the recipient having no ability to respond, lives possibly changed because those communications were adrift.  Meredith Burchill is one of the recipients of a letter written 50 years prior by glamorous Juniper Blythe.  Merdith’s daughter Edie watches her mother open the letter then break into tears, obviously distraught.

Edie Burchill, a character whom I  instantly liked.  This is yet another book where one of our characters is a book editor ( an aspiration I had when I was in my teens). Edie ends up moving back home when her lease is up in her Notting Hill flat.

distanteditor

Edie’s mother Meredith is a fussy old thing but she has a very interesting back story. She was an evacuee from London during the war, living in Mildhurst Castle far in the north of England, with the Blythe sisters, three elegant and classy ladies.   The three sisters were very different from another. Persephone and Seraphina are twins but they didn’t have the same passions or goals.  The head of the household is Raymond Blythe.  He is a famous author of The Secrets of the Mudman.  When you find the evil inspiration for his story….well, I found it disturbing. Juniper Blythe is the golden haired youngest who picks Meredith as “her evacuee” during the war.  They become friends during the billeting, this changing the lives of both.

I made this sound boring but it’s hard to include all the relationship quirks and why they are important.  The seduction of this novel, for me, is the old castle and mystery of the origins of the Mudman story. The setting in northern England in WW II, the food mentions are scant but there is of course tea, rock cakes and roasted meat dinners. This was the only one of Morton’s books I hadn’t read so now…..waiting for a few years for her next tome.  This wasn’t my favorite, I loved The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper the most of the six books published. Overall a good story with a few surprises at the end.

Linking with Joy for British Isles Friday and to Booklover Reviews for the Aussie Author Challenge.

 

 

 

The Tuscan Secret by Angela Petch

tuscansecret

Anna is a young English woman who takes a trip to Italy to research her mother’s past.  Ines Santini, Anna’s Italian mother, didn’t talk about her time during the war.  Ines married a British soldier when the war ended and they moved to England.

When Ines died she left her diaries to her daughter Anna.  There was a large family estate left to the older brother Harry and jewelry left to her sister Jane.  Mom knew Anna would appreciate the diaries.  When you get midway through you’ll understand the importance of the diaries and secrets they hold.

The old diary entries and time in present day Italy was interesting. The parts about Ines after she moved to England was sad but set the plot for important revelations.

Once Anna arrives  in Italy you can see what is going happen by chapter four when Anna is annoyed by the good looking Francesco who becomes a guide.  Anyone?  Hands raised that we go from annoyance to an attraction she wants to deny to full blown love.

I love the cover, such a beautiful setting.  Also the Italian dialogue throughout was a great authentic touch.

This book seemed familiar yet I know I couldn’t have read it. It won’t be published until June 26, 2019. As I read more and enjoyed the descriptive passages about the food and setting in Perugia Italy,  it clicked why this was so familiar.  The premise is so very similar to The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen which I read in February of 2018.

In fairness The Tuscan Child plot involved only one adult daughter and it was the deceased father who left an inheritance of old love letters from Italy.  Also during WW II and also involving an old house.  This is indeed a different story just very similar.  If you are a fan of books set in Italy and the split time line spilling the secrets of the past, you will enjoy this book.

Foodie items include fresh chicken and polenta, Cibatta, black olives, pecorino cheese, ravili with chicken beast, leon zest and nutmeg, aubergines, wine – lots of wine.  The English foods include Toad in the hole, battered sausages, Yorkshire pudding, Victoria sponge cake, apple pie, fruitcake.

Sharing with Heather for her June Foodie Reads and Joy for British Isles Friday as the author is British and part of the setting is in England.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  Publication date is June 26, 2019.  I will look for more by this author.  All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

NetGalley  2019 Foodies Read   BriFri

A Keeper by Graham Norton

A Keeper

The big draw for me was the Irish setting, an old house and a mystery about a past life.  The book is divided by chapters titled Now and Then.  We start off in present with Elizabeth Keane returning to her childhood home in Ireland.  Her mother has died and Elizabeth must clear out the house and make a decision regarding selling.

Elizabeth was never extremely close to her mother Patricia, often wishing she had a father figure in her life.  Whenever she asked questions about her father Patricia would always say he was a kind man and he died shortly after they were married.  After college she moved to New York and started her own life, marrying, divorcing and ending up with a son named Zach.

Now she is back in Ireland to see the home she inherited, trying to avoid her nosy cousins, anxious to return home.  Now that wouldn’t be me!  I would love to have a home in Ireland and spend half the year there. Anyway, as she’s cleaning out a wardrobe she comes across a package of handwritten letters, love letters from her father Edward Foley.

We drift into the Then chapters and see what Patricia was like fifty years ago. As you read the backstory about Edward and Patricia, get to know the horror of Edward’s mother (I mean truly) the story that unfolds takes such a neck braking twist that I couldn’t out it down.  Trust me, you’ll be surprised.

Elizabeth’s son Zach and ex-husband have minor roles; mostly they could have been left out in my opinion but it adds slightly to the story.  If you’d like to armchair travel to West Cork Ireland (past and present) and enjoy a mystery you will enjoy this book.

When I requested this book I didn’t know the author was the Graham Norton, the Irish television host.  Impressive – I will certainly look for more by Mr. Norton.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  Publication date is August 13, 2019.   All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

Sharing with Joy for the British Isles Friday series.

BriFriNetGalley

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan

spiesI did not like the overbearing Mrs. Braithwaite so it was difficult for me to get immersed in the story line. A woman who puts status, accomplishments and one’s station-in-life above all else, she’s hard to warm up to. She eventually examines what makes a successful life and considers status verses a loving family and well….just being a good and kind person. I plowed ahead hoping it would interest me more.

She left her village to search for her daughter Betty in London.  The setting is London during WW II.  The descriptive writing placed me in London and I could imagine the scenes.

Unfortunately our main character put me off so much that I had to make myself read more. Eventually I skimmed as I no longer cared what happened to Mrs. Braithwaite or the meek landlord Mr. Norris.

I very much enjoyed The Chilbury ladies Choir but this one didn’t grab me. If you check my link you’ll see I couldn’t put Ryan’s first book down.  This had the opposite effect on me.  Obviously from the reviews I am in the minority.

Much thanks to NetGalley for allowing me read this advanced copy.  This will be published June 4, 2019. I was not compensated for my review and opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday.

NetGalleyBriFri