The Crown Companion Book, Volume 1

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If you are a fan of the British monarchy and are watching the Netflix series The Crown, you will love this book.  I have not seen the series but have heard people at work talking about it with positive reviews.

The book details the history of Windsor family as well as the presentation in the television series.  I don’t think they took too many liberties and it gives insight into the royal families actual lives.  Seeing them as almost ordinary people, the relationships, scandal, obligations, dealings with the press and acceptance of a duty bound life.  Except Edward of course, he said the hell with the obligation and married the woman he loved.

The book contains both color as well as black and white photos of the family and the actors who portray them in the series.  What a lovely job casting did with matching the physical attributes.

As this is volume one and the series is continuing I imagine there will be future volumes available.  This one concentrates more on Elizabeth, Philip, Margaret and the abdication of Edward VIII.  Lots of full page biographies and character companions, loads of photos.  If you know someone who loves the TV show this would make a great Christmas present.

When I think back to a vacation in England I remember quite a bit of lamb on menus. Grilled with a nice Shiraz would be the ticket for a cold damp night in London.

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*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King {The featured selection of Cook the Books}

feastofSorrowThis book is the featured selection at Cook the Books for December/January. Thank you Debra for choosing this one….I was completely engaged with this story. Food, drink, historical content, political maneuvering, joy and yes….sorrow.

Be prepared to be intoxicated with vivid descriptions of lavish meals and the preparation for wickedly decadent parties.  I enjoy historical fiction as it gives me appetite (pun intended) to learn more about the real characters.

Your heart will go out to Thrasius, the slave purchased  for an astronomical sum to become head chef for Marcus Apicus.  The story is told from his point of view and I found it very interesting, especially the depictions of real life characters such as Apicus, Apicata, Pliny, Sejanus and Drusus.

Apicus was maniacal in his quest to become Caesar’s culinary adviser and the journey to secure his dream was amazing.  I will try and find more books about him.  He didn’t realize wealth alone wouldn’t pave the way.

The actual rendering of Marcus Apicus surprised me a bit as I envisioned Gerard Butler while reading the book.  What visual came to mind as Apicus was losing his temper or sweet talking the guests?  It was Butler for me. Totally.

The treason and infidelities committed in this book makes for a good plot.  I was simultaneously fascinated and saddened to see innocents drawn in, suffering undeserved consequences. The ending chapters were indeed horrifying but I can’t give away the plot.  It all comes together and I could have read more.

With so many meals to choose from you can’t go wrong, although I was never tempted to have fried flamingo tongues or hyacinth bulbs. Spinach Pie did sound like a winner. So that was made in addition to a shrimp paella served with liberal amounts of white wine and homemade bread. (photos above)

The treat, the decadent addition to the table for us, is a cheese we’ve never had called Jasper Hill Harbison.  It’s a soft ripened cheese wrapped in strips of spruce cambium.  See it below?  It’s actual spruce wrapping.  The most unique cheese we have ever had and whoa….so delicious.   Instead of using a knife I used a mini spatula to dip into the cheese for spreading.  Maybe they made something like this in ancient Roman times, using tree bark. It’s wonderful.

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You have until January 31, 2018 to read and review if you’d care to hook up. I recommend this historical accounting of Apicus and ancient Rome.  Click HERE for the link to Cook the Books.

Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

The 2018 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge @ Girlxoxo

It’s that time of year when book challenges are starting to post for 2018.  Sign me up!

Are you joining in this year?  Any particular challenges or themes that appeal to you?  Last year was my first time signing up with lovely Kim and Tanya at Girlxoxo and I’m pleased to be joining them again.   The 2018 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge linkup may be found HERE so hop over and sign up.

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 Here are the categories for next year

JANUARY – Diversify Your Reading
Kick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.

FEBRUARY – One Word
Read a book with a one word title.

MARCH – Travel the World
Read a book set in a different country than your own, written by an author from another country than your own, or a book in which the characters travel.

APRIL – Read Locally
Read a book set in your country, state, town, village (or has a main character from your home town, country, etc)

MAY- Book to Screen
Read a book that’s been made into a movie or a TV show.

JUNE- Crack the Case
Mysteries, True Crime, Who Dunnit’s.

JULY – Vacation Reads
Read a book you think is a perfect vacation read and tell us why.

AUGUST- Award Winners
Read a book that has won a literary award or a book written by an author who has been recognized in the bookish community.

SEPTEMBER- Don’t Turn Out The Light
Cozy mystery ghost stories, paranormal creeptastic, horror novels.

OCTOBER- New or Old
Choose a new release from 2018 or a book known as a classic.

NOVEMBER- Family
Books where family dynamics play a big role in the story

DECEMBER- Wrapping It Up
Winter or holiday themed books or books with snow, ice, etc in the title or books set in winter OR read a book with a theme from any of the months in this challenge (could be a theme you didn’t do, or one you want to do again).

Sign up HERE !


#monthlymotifgxo.

London and the South-East by David Szalay. The sad life of an advertising salesman.

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I was not familiar with author David Szalay before and discovered him via Instagram.  There was a giveaway from the Book Club Cookbook and Grey Wolf Press.  Lucky me, I won!

While the writing is sharp this is definitely a downbeat plot.  You find yourself feeling very sorry for our main character, Paul Rainey.  Can you imagine a career in telemarketing sales for a magazine which, sadly, is only subscribed to by the advertisers.  Paul is depressed, drinks and smokes too much and finds little solace at home. He is on a treadmill that never gets him anywhere even though he would love a change in his life.

I thought it may be like The Office, but it wasn’t quite. Real life glimpse of an ordinary middle-aged man drifting along in his unsatisfactory life. The cover grabbed me straight away and so I entered for a chance to win the book.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Gone For Lunch: 52 Things to do in your lunch break

GoneForLunchMost of us get a lunch break, am I right?  Some don’t take advantage of it, choosing to plow ahead with a deadline driven work schedule, munching on vending machine or brown bag offerings.

Not me.  I try and bring leftovers, get away from my desk and then walk a bit afterwards.   What if I wanted to accomplish something more than this….maybe write a letter or crochet during my lunch time?

Gone for Lunch is perfect for getting ideas to perk up your lunch hour.  The author works at the Museum of London so I know she has many more options available to her. (I didn’t even mention that I am jealous!)

One thing I am struggling with is learning crochet patterns so, why not devote some of my lunch time to reviewing the crochet symbols or watching a YouTube video on it.  I like to hand write letters too so that is another goal.  As you can see by this photo below, the author gives us many good ideas.

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Obviously weather conditions and whether you are in a rural or city setting makes a difference too. This book is small enough to toss in your purse (5 x 6.5 inches) and I intend to do that through the month of December.

Gone For Lunch is a hardcover book put out by Quadrille Publishing also comes with a cool little silken bookmark neatly attached in the spine of the book.  Looks like a great Christmas gift.

More about the author Laura Archer:

“A born and bred Londoner with a phobia of being idle, Laura Archer works full time at the Museum of London running events, and regularly visits patrons around town. The job allows her to combine her love of London with her belief in the benefits of getting out and about and doing things.”{from Amazon}
Follow her on Instagram @gone.for.lunch

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday
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The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

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Certain memoirs grab me but if you add a foodie element to the mix, count me in.  This was a well written accounting of Emily Nunn’s journey and healing process after her brother’s suicide, the lack of emotional support from her significant other and facing alcoholism.

Some of my random thoughts after reading this book: 

    • Every one us deals with loss and death differently.  Some are stoic, some fall apart at every little thing and others keep it together only to collapse emotionally later.
    • She deleted Oliver’s messages without listening to them! Both of my siblings are now deceased but neither took their  lives.  Not that it would have played a factor as far as unheard/unread messages from them. When I read that part I actually exclaimed aloud, “She deleted the messages!  Why would she do that?” Because I placed myself in that situation, and I would have reacted differently.  No right or wrong about it, everyone deals differently.
      • The breakup was so cold and one sided with emotion.  I tried to consider the very small amount of empathy with a side of  annoyance The Engineer displayed when he was confronted with Emily’s grief?  It was so black and white and zero gray areas for him.

     

     

    • Checking into the hospital – that scene where Emily needed to go and had the strength to know it, to act on it, was pure raw emotion.
    • The scenes where she and her sister Elaine visit their father was good yet sad.  I miss my father, he’s been gone over 10 years now but the proverbial heartstrings are pulled now and then, especially when I read those chapters. I had quite a bit of empathy for the father and how they left off with his portion of the story.
  • Maggie, the rescue poodle, actually belonged to Emily’s sister Elaine. This wasn’t clear to me in the beginning of the book and I fretted about Maggie for a bit, worried she was abandoned again.  But she wasn’t, she is Elaine’s dog and was cared for.

I swear, characters can die in books but nothing tears me up like an animal who gets abused, abandoned or killed.  That makes me cry.  Yeah, I’m like that.

All the talk about food had me inspired to cook and bake.  I made French bread, always a favorite here, and slow roasted tomatoes.  There were soooo many recipes in this book.   That’s all I have.  Thoughts from anyone who read this one?  Did you like it?

Week 3 of Nonfiction November! Let’s talk Ex-Pat literature.

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Nonfiction November moves into to Week 3 with Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert and our host is Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Let’s talk Ex-Pat literature.  Real life stories about settling in a foreign country, the hope of fitting in, learning about a new culture and most likely, learning a new language.

I want to state I am not, by any means, an expert on this!  I did travel around Europe for over a year and half (until the money ran out!) and experienced culture shock with languages, currency and culture.  But the idea of leaving my country to settle elsewhere permanently has always been a bit of a fantasy.  Doug and I had an opportunity (see HERE) but didn’t act on it. Alas……

On to the books………

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Carol Drinkwater is an actress and writer.  One of her most remembered roles is Helen of All Creatures Great and Small.  I loved that series and the lovely scenery of Yorkshire but what I also love are her books about settling in France and her work with the olive trees on her property.  Olive groves near the Mediterranean have trees hundreds of years old.  When Carol first started exploring her property she found a gnarled tree and the mostly buried remains of a roman ceramic tiles.  This tree is most likely a thousand years old.  I loved reading about her experiences with learning to harvest olives, brushing up on the language so she was fluent, dealing with French laws and a property purchase and the culture.  If you like olives and old property, restoration and such, you may enjoy these books.

Tuscan

Frances Mayes’ book Under the Tuscan Sun was published 20 years ago – wow!  This book tells us how the American educator fell in love with Italy and her experiences with Italian law, property purchases, language challenges and more.  She bought an abandoned villa and with hard work (like Carol Drinkwater) she discovered faded frescos beneath the whitewash and an overgrown vineyard.  What a treasure.

The challenge of renovating a crumbling building would be a nightmare to someone like me but I’d sure love to face some of the other challenges.

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Sarah Turnbull is another writer, an Australian journalist who met a Frenchman while working in  Bucharest.   She uprooted herself from Australia and moved to France.  Her book Almost French describes her love/ hate relationship with Paris and
her real life experience with culture shock, learning the language and the day-to-day life style of living in a large cosmopolitan city.

If you dream of moving to another country and want to read about the problematic side as well as the rewards, these books may be right up your alley.   There are excellent chapters about the local food and cooking that were especially appealing to me.

Check out the host for week three,  Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness. and join in if you’d like.