The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

flatAfter reading a few books with serious tones/subjects I wanted a lighter and brighter book. I very much enjoyed those previous books but I was ready for a chick-lit kinda thing to break it up.

The Flatshare is Beth O’Leary’s first novel. I knew the term flat share meant to have a roommate, sharing an apartment – each with their own bedroom. But in this novel they share a bed, not at the same time. One works nights and the other days.
The deal is that for a mere $350 a month she will have the flat from 6pm – 8am Monday through Friday and on weekends. The remaining times belong to Leon, who could use the extra cash that this arrangement will bring and never the two shall meet.

I’ve never heard of sleeping in the same bed as your room-mate and I can say it would never have been something I would have done.
They speak to each other via notes and letters left tacked to the fridge or on a table. When one is out at work and the other person at home, they find a note. And usually food! Sometimes they forget they haven’t had conversation in person. They are getting to know one another slowly as pen-pals who live together, but have not met. Weird and quirky.

The beginning was a bit confusing for me as Leon pondered about Kay and Ritchie, people who were not introduced to the story. Who are these people, I wondered. It all fell together shortly and I knew the character’s places.

Tiffy’s job is assistant editor at a DIY publishing house. She sums it up: “I love working here. This is the only possible explanation for the fact that I have been assistant editor for three and a half years, earning below the London living wage, and have made no attempt to rectify the situation…….”
As for the supporting characters a good deal of the book focuses on Tiffy’s favorite author, Katherin, who writes about knitting and crocheting. Also a treacherous coworker named Martin which you will just slightly loathe in the beginning and yes, this will deepen as you get to know him more.

Leon is such a good person. He’s a night nurse at a hospice, taking tender care of a little girl named Holly who has leukemia and senior patients who need constant care. Can’t be easy being a nurse. His supporting character is his brother Richie who resides in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit. All the characters’ stories merge and overlap at different parts of the book.

I was looking for something light with a bit of humor and I found it in this book. What I wasn’t expecting was subject of emotional abuse and how well this author handled it. It wasn’t a constant but when it needed to be addressed in the story it was deftly woven in. Overall a funny, romantic lighthearted book but it certainly did touch on serious subjects at times.  Happy endings for most 🙂

There was a bit of food in this novel! Tiffy is a baker and Leon likes to cook so we had a variety of tempting treats. Homemade oat bars, mushroom stroganoff, risotto, Victoria Sandwich with Homemade jam, carob date brownies, banana bread, ales and cocktails.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  Publication date is May 28, 2019.  I will look for more by this author.  All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

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Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

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What a story!  It’s mostly told from Marianne’s point of view but you have a fascinating, and horrifying, backdrop from the “evil” Helen Greenlaw.

The book starts in 2018 with our introduction to Marianne and her husband Sam.  They are in their late 40’s and have been quite successful in their careers and finances.  Marianne didn’t always have a charmed life, coming from the poor town of Nusstead, living hand to mouth. Marianne’s mother still lives in Nusstead and is declining rapidly.  She makes the trip from London to see her Mum and daughter Honor as often as she can.  Devoted husband Sam has a surprise in store for his wife, but unbeknownst to him it won’t be a welcome one.  This is where you get the backstory and the secrets.

We flash to 1988 when Marianne was young teen and meets Jesse Brame at school. Without getting into to much detail lets just say they were young, in love and poor as dirt.  The mental asylum Nazareth closed and put most of the village out of work, including Marianne’s mum, Jesse’s father and brother.  Government official Helen Greenlaw was the one responsible for the closure and the hatred of this rich unsympathetic women was legend in Nusstead.

Marianne is intelligent, Jesse is devoted (more so than Marianne), and between them they devise a plan they think is foolproof.  Unfortunately it will change and ruin the lives of four people. Then it gets worse....if you can imagine.

Before we write Helen Greenlaw off as a cold government official who never knew strife, we get a picture of her life back in 1958 when  a young lady had zero rights.  Her story and that of the East Anglia Lunatic Asylum will run your blood cold.  Toss these main characters together in an unimaginable scenario and you have a disastrous event they must keep secret forever.

It’s Marianne who worries her present and past life will intersect and cause all the carefully guarded secrets from her youth to explode, shattering her world.  Helen Greenlaw also had a lot to lose but no one ever knew her backstory. I do believe Marianne would have been sympathetic to Helen’s plight.

The ending chapters give up quite a bit of information and all the pieces fit together nicely. It’s not necessarily a happy ending for all parties but it’s conclusive. I’m going to write more on Goodreads where I can hide the spoilers.

I saw the phrase “going round the bend” referred to as going crazy, or how the drive ways/entrances curve to mental asylums.  Apparently it was to screen the potential inmates from view and keep them from seeing the hospital straight on. I didn’t know that but have certainly used the phrase over the years.

Not a foodie book but I did note the meals and drinks as I read.  Dressed crab, beetroot and feta salad, large glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon, seared salmon and zucchini, grilled streak, avocado smash on sourdough bread, fish pie, a casserole with chicken and olives, gin and tonics with Bombay Sapphire.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  I read this and immediately planned to get more work by Erin Kelly.  In my opinion this book would be great for a book club discussion.  This book was published April 23, 2019 – go get a copy!

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The beginning of Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

stoneI just started this book so this isn’t the review.  It has me hooked so far.

The blindfold hurts. His inexperience shows in the knot.  It’s tight but crude and has captured a hank of my hair.  Every time he takes a corner too fast I rock to the side, the seat belt slicing my shoulder and the needlepoint pain in my scalp intensifying. 

He brakes without warning: I’m thrown forward.  A loosening of the purple silk near my right temple lets in a little light but no information.”

I’m into chapter 7 now and this book has already taken an interesting turn from how I thought it was headed.  Would you keep reading?  I am! Review later on as this one is going to the beach with me this weekend.

I’m linking with the First Chapter/First Paragraph/Tuesday Intro is hosted by Vicki at I’d Rather Be At The Beach. also with Joy for her British Isle Friday series as Erin Kelly is an English novelist.

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

Brave I kept hearing about this book on Goodreads so I put in my request at the library.  The majority of the book is set in the WW II era, one of my preferred  time periods, and it’s set in and around Upton England .

We start with a busload of people evacuating Southhampton, heading to the rural town of Upton during WW II.  Ellen Parr notices a small girl sleeping on the bus after everyone departs.  Whose child is this?  Where is her mother? Ellen gathers the little girl in her arms and makes inquiries of the women but no one claims her.  The girl, Pamela, was separated from her mother during an air raid.

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There are some scenes that are so heartbreaking that it put me in mind of The Light Between the Oceans.  I could actually quote the beginning of that book’s review for this one and it would be appropriate. ” This book is filled with sadness and loss. There are happy moments but even those are shadowed by secrets and wrong doing…”

This novel spans decades but the majority focuses on the early 1940’s time period.  Ellen and her husband Selwyn take in the evacuees, some children stay longer than the adults.  When no one claims Pamela it’s Ellen’s hope that she and Selwyn may keep her.  The circumstances are well explained in this book but I wouldn’t want to reveal spoilers.

Ellen’s back story is revealed after a hundred pages and believe me, you may want the tissues handy.  Actually, you just feel so bad for Ellen yet admire her inner strength. This is a fat book of 450 or so pages and I read it in 3 days time. The characters are well developed, you’d feel as if you known them. The deprivation is keenly described.

Three quarters into the book it slows down a bit but I was never tempted to abandon this story.  I would read more by this author.

There are references to food but not often.  Lots of tea, bread, Rock Cakes, a meat pie, baked onions, potato pie, rissoles and a treacle tart. One the dessert side of things I decided to make a peach cobbler. After so much deprivation I wanted excess.  We even had Blanton’s bourbon with it.  Now that’s decadent. 🙂

Sharing with:
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The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cumming

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 The Moroccan Girl was my introduction to the work of Charles Cumming. This book is a page turner and I am delighted to have discovered this author. Definitely adding him to my favorite authors list and plan to acquire more of his work.

The main character is Christopher “Kit” Carradine. He’s a novelist writing about spies and espionage. One day he is approached on a London street by a man named Robert Mantis; he’s posing as a fan of Kit’s books. As Kit writes about the spy world in such detail, evidently convincingly, Mantis makes overtures to recruit Kit into the British Service.

It’s a thrilling prospect for Kit to get out of the day-to-day writing routine and do something exciting. He’s meant to hook up with a British Service contact when he’s in Morocco at a writers event. If he can also locate Lara Bartok and pass off a package, all the better. Lara is a young woman who may be on the run from her own government or she may be a terrorist. Lara was the girlfriend of Ivan Simokov, leader of the group Resurrection. This group seemed to start off with an ideal of exposing bad people, folks in positions of power who abused their positions at the expense of us regular citizens.  Eventfully Resurrection turned very violent.  Is Lara Bartok on the run because she was involved with Resurrection or is she fleeing Ivan and the people she once worked with? She is a very interesting character.

There are scenes in London but most of the flavors are in the Morocco. Casablanca, Tangiers and Marrakesh come to life in this book. You are immersed in the setting, the heat, sweat, suspicion, the colorful setting and the foods. As Kit makes his way through Morocco he is caught up with British, Russian and American agents but it’s hard to tell which side they are on. What’s the endgame?

Another interesting thing are the references to authors who were tapped by the British service to spy or act as a support agents. Frederick Forsyth and Somerset Maugham in particular were mentioned and now I want to know more about them so my reading list has grown thanks to this narrative. Hoping to read more about Kit Carradine in the future if he becomes a regular character in a series. In the meantime I will be tracking on Mr. Cumming’s other espionage novels.

Lots of food referenced but of course it’s not a foodie book. I always note the dishes or drinks when I read as I’m always up for recreating a dish that appeals. In this case I wanted to make Lamb Tagine but in the interest of getting my post done here, let’s have Lamb Kebabs.

Here’s a sampling of the meals and drinks I noted: Lamb Tagine, Chicken Dhansak,  Tarka Daal, Chablis and fish cakes, spaghetti Bolognese, fried fish and Merguez sandwiches, chicken couscous, cheese and pasta salad, baklava.
Black coffee, margaritas, gin and tonic, pints of ale, vodka martini, mint tea.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I was slow getting to it a “reading group” was supposed to get together for this one. Wish I had just started it earlier because I would be reading another of Cumming’s books now. If you like espionage and mystery then I highly recommend this book. Well done, Mr. Cumming.

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More about the author – Charles Cumming

 

 

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event, Beth Fish Reads and Heather for the March Foodies Read.

BriFri  2019 Foodies Read

Turbulence by David Szalay

turbulanceThe description of this book captured my attention.  I quote from Netgalley on the premise of this book Turbulence.

In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.

Maybe I’m thick but I didn’t see the connection with interactions of people on each flight.  Clearly the airlines and flights are the focus and each character is supposed to be touched by a person they meet in flight, or about to take a flight. Each mini story is separated by airport codes.

The first story was fairly easy to connect, as was a pilot hooking up with a journalist.  The stories are very short, not a properly long novel at all which is what I was expecting.  You didn’t have a chance to get to know the characters very well therefore I couldn’t sympathize with them.

When I opened this book on my Kindle the time at the bottom stated one hour and thirty minutes to the end of the book.  Easy to read but I couldn’t engage with any of the characters.  Not enough development.

This is a short review for a short book. Some people found this very engaging; I did not. It was touted as “written with magic and economy” and I can say they got the economy correctly described.

Much thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.  It was worth a try! Opinions are all mine and I was clearly not compensated for the review.NetGalley

 

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

white nights

White Nights is book two in the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. I am late getting acquainted with this series; this second book was published in 2010. The good news there is I can jump into the next story without the laboriously long wait for the author to release the latest book. Sometimes it’s nice to discover a series that’s been out a while. White Nights refers to the long period of daylight in the Shetland islands.

Our main detective character Jimmy Perez has a starring role again. Book one left it in the air whether he was staying on the island or returning to his childhood home. I haven’t seen the television series but have seen the comparisons about the books vs TV. Seems, as always, they are different. There are quite a few characters to keep up with in the book but it isn’t confusing, unless you stop reading for a bit and then go try and pick it up again. Having been ill recently, that’s what I did and had to reread the previous two chapters.

The characters are likable but I’d push Perez to be more animated. He does an awful lot of ruminating over what he should have done in regard to Fran, his love interest. As for the investigative role he’s spot on.

The book starts with a person in clown mask, handing out flyers to locals and tourists from a cruise ship.  I don’t like clowns but that didn’t put me off.   then we move to an evening at artist Bella Sinclair’s manse featuring a famous musician (Bella’s nephew) and artist Fran Hunter. They are displaying their work and hoping for sales and recognition.

It’s not a great turnout, being as clown boy sabotaged the evening by handing out flyers stating the show was canceled. Mystery number one there. During the exhibition, an Englishman staring at a portrait suddenly drops to his knees and starts crying. Perez is at the exhibition with Fran, uncomfortably mingling as a guest and not there in his professional capacity as a police officer. Now he feels the need to get the crying man and see if he needs medical attention.

What a drag for Perez, he just wants to enjoy the evening. The Englishman has no identification and claims amnesia. That’s mystery number two. While Perez is checking with other guests to see who he may have arrived with or if anyone knows him, the memory- loss Englishman disappears. Flip another chapter and he’s found hanging, an apparent suicide.

Or is it?!

We have another death then some old bones discovered in a cave near the cliffs (mysteries three and four!) The bodies are certainly piling up in this small island setting. Sometimes the story moved too slowly, my opinion, yet I wasn’t tempted to toss the book aside. It’s the flavor of the setting, a slower lifestyle and thoughtful conversations. There are only seven books in the series so I aim to finish the Shetland series this year. Maybe I will then check out the DVDs.

This book is categorized as a mystery and thriller. More mystery, not so much a thriller.

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