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

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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
Tanyaxoxo 2018 Monthly Motif

 

 

Seven Days of Us: a true family drama

sevenDays

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak has been on my list for a quite a while.  I am all over the chart with a review for this one so I guess I’ll activate stream-of-consciousness and type away.

The Birch family will spend Christmas holidays and new year together as they are under a quarantine.  It will be the first time in years all four will be together for an extended period of time and they don’t always get along well. The eldest daughter, Olivia,  is a doctor and she has been treating the Haag Virus in Liberia.  She is the reason for the quarantine as she and other aide workers have been voluntarily treating an epidemic.  Now she has returned to England and promised to spend the holidays at home during her quarantine.  Initially Olivia is the only likable character (for me).

Our starring characters are Emma and Andrew Birch (the parents) and the two daughters Phoebe and Olivia.  The supporting cast members are Phoebe’s fiancee George, Jesse Robinson who is Andrew’s son from a relationship he had in Lebanon when he was a war reporter (and also a complete Surprise! as Andrew didn’t know he fathered a child) and Sean Coughlin, an Irish doctor who hooked up with Olivia in Liberia.

Emma: Early on, so no spoiler here, Emma is diagnosed with cancer. Does she confide this to her husband or daughters?  Nope, only her best friend knows.  This is because Emma doesn’t want to ruin Christmas.  She is fussy to the extreme over everything being perfect.  While I understand the maternal overdrive when it comes to your kids, she’s way over the top. (I ended up liking her quite a bit and had empathy)

Andrew is….forgive my truthful language….a complete prick and a toff. He’s disconnected with his eldest daughter Olivia and clearly favors Phoebe.  I think he’s jealous that he gave up his war correspondent life, an exciting career and meaningful reporting to be at home.  Olivia meanwhile spends her time in third world countries administering to those less fortunate in the way of healthcare….and I think Andrew wishes he had his bohemian lifestyle back watching Olivia from the sidelines.  His current job penning restaurant reviews is clearly unfulfilling.  He always has to make the column tongue-in-cheek at the expense of the chef. He is also hiding a secret, just as his wife is doing.  But it’s not cancer.

Phoebe: Shallow and self centered.  She pouts because her fiancée got her the wrong earrings for Christmas. She wanted hoops and received pearls. She snaps at Olivia for looking at her iPad (as Olivia needs to know about Sean) “You never get it, do you?” Phoebe snaps.

I don’t?  I’m not the one crying because I got some ridiculously expensive earrings, when millions of children are malnourished,” said Olivia.

“Oh my god, do you always have to bring it back to Africa?”

Olivia: She is committed to helping those less fortunate, putting her life at risk to give medical aid.  She avoids being home during holidays and this time, I am sure she regrets giving in to spend time with them.  Even though I think she’d like to connect with her father she doesn’t respect him.

From her point of view:

Andrew repeatedly told, or started to tell, a story about lighting a fire in the desert with a magnifying glass during the Soviet Afghan war.  “You know, this reminds me….” He never talked about the Afghan people, or the politics at the time – just his own Boy Scouts memories. But it was that way at home, everyone sticking to a script, wheeling out the same exhausted anecdotes.

Olivia and Sean started a relationship while they were in Liberia even though it was expressly against rules due to the possible spread of a dangerous epidemic.  She wants to be with him after the quarantine is over and a tragedy strikes.

In the beginning I was thinking these were the biggest lot of self-indulgent people I’d read about and wouldn’t care to be friends or acquaintances with Andrew or Phoebe, probably not the rest of them either now that I think of it.  Three quarters through the book I changed my mind about some of the characters.  Secrets were revealed and the characters let their guard down, shared genuine feelings and emotions and thus, connected with one another in an honest way. Andrew was, in fact, not the prick I thought he was….not deep down.  His moments with Olivia in his den were honest and I wish he had opened up much earlier.

A fun dysfunctional family drama for the holidays!

Whenever books or music are mentioned I check into the titles. One book called Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe was referred to a favorite of Emma and Phoebe’s, I think because it was set in 1980’s Camden where they lived.  As Olivia says, “They kept pointing out it was 1980’s Camden as if this were a mark in its favor.  Why would she want to revisit her own blinkered childhood?  Olivia liked books she could escape into, fantasies and thrillers.”  Also mentioned was the series the Archers.  Emma was listening to the broadcast over the radio.

Photo Credit

There was quite a bit of food mentioned in the book, as you may imagine with Andrew being a food critic, but most were in reference to the family meals rather than his weekly column.  Here are a few below:

  • Turkey curry, richly peaty smoked salmon, mincemeat creme brulee, lemon sole.
  • Olivia’s homecoming was planned and prepared by Emma – a top roast, garlicky green beans, Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes (Delia Smith’s recipe). Champagne and Bordeaux.
  • Fuchsia borscht marbled with sour cream and studded with porcini.
  • Vol-au-vents : Buttery, garlicky mushrooms in puff pastry 🙂
  • A pan of eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and bacon.
  • Vegan aubergine curry.
  • Claudia Roden is mentioned for her Chicken and Saffron Rice with Raisins and Almonds.

Mushroom Vol-au-Vents

MushroomVol

Here’s the low down on this elegant sounding creation. Surprisingly easy, very tasty.

Ingredients

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed but very cold (or use shells)

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces wild mixed mushrooms, chopped to a rubble
1 whole, smashed garlic clove
2 stems fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dry white wine
2 tablespoons crème fraîche

Procedures

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Lightly flour a cutting board, and place the pastry on it. Cut out 9 circles from the pastry using a 2.5-inch biscuit cutter. Use a 1.5-inch biscuit cutter to make an indent (not all the way through) in the center of each pastry circle. (OR use the pastry shell version)

Bake the puff pastry for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the mushroom filling mixture. Melt the butter in a wide sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. Sauté the mixture over medium heat for about 4 minutes, until the mushrooms have greatly shrunk in size and the pan has dried out. Season with salt and pepper, and add the wine. Allow to reduce. Remove the garlic and thyme stems from the pan, and take the pan off the heat. Stir in the crème fraîche.

Use a paring knife to gently remove the center disc from each puff pastry shell. Reserve. Fill the cavity with the mushroom mixture, and replace the pastry disc.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

Heather’s March edition of Foodie Reads

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The Dry by Jane Harper

harper

The Dry.  It starts with a funeral and a mystery of how Aaron Falk is connected to the deceased.  Three coffins are displayed in the front of the church.  Lying dead is Aaron’s friend Luke along with Luke’s wife and young son, Karen and Billy.   Luke and his family were murdered and it looks like it was murder-suicide.  Luke was found with half his head blown off, his shotgun next to him in his truck.  His wife and son were also shot but the baby, Charlotte, was left untouched. Is this situation what it appears or is there another explanation and motive?

As Aaron Falk stands against the wall in the church, some of the close knit community give him hard looks and I’m immediately hooked to know the backstory. Aaron is now a federal police officer, one who investigates financial crimes.  Aaron and his father were basically run out of the community almost 20 years ago as it was suspected one (or both) had something to do with a young woman’s death.

Aaron didn’t come back just to pay respects to his friend but because Luke’s father summoned him with a message. “Luke lied. You lied.” This is in reference to their alibi the day Ellie Deacon was found dead.

So you see, there are two stories intertwined in this mystery.  Luke and his family and young Ellie Deacon.  Aaron Falk was meant to stay only 24 hours, enough time to see his friend buried and head back to Melbourne but Luke’s father implores him to look into his son’s suicide and murder. Even though 20 years have passed since Ellie was found dead it seems as if it happened only a week ago, as far as some townspeople are concerned.  These mysteries dovetail into a satisfying end, in my opinion.  I’m a big fan of series so I will add this to the series I plan to immerse myself into this coming year.

The writing was very detailed, I could immerse myself into the story and see what was being described.  The author painted a picture of the harsh environment and climate, the relationships both warm and those tense.  So many passages I liked in this book.

“City people wanted to move to the country but weren’t prepared to look out and not see another soul between them and the horizon.”

“He could understand them seeking out the idyllic country life style; a lot of people did.  The idea had an enticing wholesome glow when it was considered from the back of a traffic jam or while crowed into a gardenless apartment.  They all had the same visions of breathing fresh., clean air and knowing their neighbors. The kids would eat homegrown veggies and learn the value of an honest day’s work.

But on arrival, as the empty moving truck disappears, they gazed around and were always taken aback by the crushing vastness of the open land.  The space was the thing that hit them first, there was so much of it.”

Very little food offerings but it wasn’t that sort of book.  I did note sparkling wine and a lamb casserole.  Rita, the policeman’s wife, prepared a feast for Aaron Falk and her husband.  “A rich concoction of tomatoes and eggplant and spicy sausage washed down with a decent Shiraz.”
PastaEggplant1

Eggplant and Penne

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups cubed peeled eggplant
1/2 pound bulk pork breakfast sausage OR TVP ( Textured Vegetable Protein, like mince)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
6 cups hot cooked penne (about 10 ounces uncooked tube-shaped pasta)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Cook eggplant, sausage, and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and eggplant is tender. Add tomato paste and the next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place pasta in a large bowl.   Add tomato mixture, cheese, and parsley; toss well.

This is my first book completed for the Aussie Author Challenge. It satisfies the category of both female author and new author, but I have plans for another new author very soon.

Also linking up with Girlxoxo for the Monthly Motif Travel the World and Heather for the March Foodies Read 2018.

If You Knew Her by Emily Elgar

IfYou KnewI have to start with saying, the ending of this book gutted me. It was emotional, I wanted a different ending for the characters I grew to like yet somehow it was the perfect ending.

Alice is a nurse at a hospital, one that works with comatose patients, and she is a lovely, caring woman.  You can really get behind this character,  have empathy for her in both her professional and personal life.

The story is told from several points of view bringing us different perspectives and information about what’s going on.  We have the nursing staff with Alice, Mary and Lizzie. Later in the book you want to throttle Lizzie (you’ll see).  They interact with these comatose patients, nursing them, comforting them and hoping for improvement.  We read about several of the patients, some in a passing reference because they are moved to another facility or they die.  The two main comatose patients are Cassie, a woman brought into the ward after a hit and run, and Frank,  a stroke victim.

There are also supporting “cast members” – Cassie’s husband Jack and her mother-in-law Charlotte, Cassie’s best friend Nicky, her step-father Marcus and her neighbor Jonny.

Frank is an alcoholic and one of the long term patients on the ward.  While the doctors think he is in a PVS (permanent vegetative state) he is actually aware of what’s going on around him.  He can’t speak, blink, move a finger to let people know he’s locked in.  What a nightmare.  From his point of view we learn about his previous life, the love for his daughter Lucy and what it’s like being an alcoholic.   He describes addition:  The addiction “pounced on me when I lost my job, it pounced on me when Ange (his wife) finally chucked him out.  After that it seemed to take up residence within me, switching places with the man I tried to be, consigning Frank to the shadows, meek and withered as the beats gnawed my bones, sucking out the marrow of my  life every bottle of whisky…..”   Great descriptions.

Cassie’s story has it’s twists and turns.  She clearly misses her deceased mother April, she loves Jack but is sometimes distant from him and her best friend Nicky is like a sister.  One day she witnesses something that changes her life (don’t want to give spoilers).  Shortly afterwards she is stuck by a car, obviously on purpose (that’s in the beginning) and left for dead. You come to wonder if she was targeted by her husband, best friend or step-father.  The story builds up as we learn more about our supporting cast.  I had my assumptions about what happened with Cassie but the end still surprised me.  I liked reading about Cassie and her life before she went into a coma.

While food was mentioned here and there, and I will note it because…I do write about books and food….it’s not a celebratory book to enjoy a meal.  It starts out interesting but near the end this plot grabs you by the collar and demands your attention.  Emotional ride here at the very end.  Ok so, there was:

Salmon fillets, salad and new potatoes and wine.
Homemade jam, lasagna
Croissants, prosciutto, melon and freshly squeezed orange juice
salmon

I would recommend this author and I will most certainly look for her future publications.  Well done, Emily Elgar, as you had me shed a tear at the end.
Great wrap-up.

For more info on the author check out her website HERE. Emily grew up in West country and currently lives in East Sussex England.  Much thanks to LibraryThing for my copy of this book.

Linking up with:

Foodie Reads at Based on a True Story
British Isles Friday at Joy’s Book Blog

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