Mum and Dad by Joanna Trollope

F51984E3-2FF8-4C04-BC56-9A4E8C8227B1I decided to take a break from my usual mysteries and read a few books about family drama and dynamics.  This author seemed to have garnered quite a following and after reading Mum and Dad I see why.

Joanna Trollope can certainly write a good detailed narrative without going overboard and boring you with too much detail.  Just enough that you get a flavor of the characters and are immersed in the scene.

The main location in this book is a sunny hilltop off a small town in Spain, home to British couple Monica and Gus Beachum. Gus always wanted to live in Spain and took his reluctant wife Monica to live there 25 years ago. Both are English and had been living in London prior to the move. Gus bought a vineyard and was quite successful growing grapes and making delicious wine. He won awards for the wine. His entire life was wrapped up in vines, spreadsheets and his business with barely time for his wife. Then he had a stroke.

Now we meet their three children, Sebastian, Katie and Jake, all of whom live in London. They are very different from one another and frankly not all that likeable in different parts of the novel.  But wait…..get to know what makes them tick and share in their own adult frustrations and lives, you gain some empathy.

You like Jake instantly with his positive attitude and willingness to drop everything and help his parents. Sebastian comes off as a cold fish and doesn’t seem to care about his parents situation. It was they who decided to become ex-pats and live far away from their homeland and children. But then you see another side of Seb as you read about his marriage to Anna (what a shrew)and what his life is like. Katie is a solicitor and partner in a law firm in London, living with her longtime partner Nic and their three daughters. She is usually stressed and after delving into her life and the shenanigans of her daughters, you have sympathy.

What do three adult children of ex-pats do when they live in London and a critical situation arises in Spain? Gus is a stubborn old man and Monica just went along with everything he wanted, all their married life. Sometimes, as the cover of this book states, Mum and Dad don’t always know best.

Every family has grievances of some sort with one another, siblings and parents both. This is an in depth family portrait of how everyone handles this situation.

Side note here – in 1999 Doug and I were traveling in England with our then 10 year old son. In Dunster we came across a business for sale and spoke to the owner. It was a gift shop selling postcards, snacks, souvenir items, etc. The living quarters were above the shop and spacious enough to accommodate our family. We were sorely tempted to take the jump and move and it makes you wonder, what situation would we have now? Could have been perfect or could have been financial ruin. Who knows! I posted detail about that HERE in my wool gathering post.

A bit of food mentioned in this novel – Dry muscatel, grilled red mullet with a salt crust.
Stuffed red peppers, aubergines fried with honey, spinach croquettes.
Grilled lamb, paella, chicken and rice and much wine is presented as the foodie items in this book,

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I Know You Know By Gilly MacMillan

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The setting is Bristol England. We start off with detectives arriving on a crime scene, the rain is coming down heavy and the crime scene needs to be secured. The detectives find the bodies of Scott Ashby and Charlie Paige,  two eleven year old boys, half buried in a construction site. The prime suspect is a local man, 24 year old Sidney Noyce.  Sidney is a large man and mentally deficienct, but does that make him the murderer?  He proclaims his innocence.

Twenty years later that same detective, John Fletcher, now a seasoned officer is called to the exact crime scene to find another body buried in the same spot.  Fletcher will open the old files as it seems too big a coincidence.

Now we are introduced to Cody Swift, a film maker and good friend of Scott and Charlie’s when they were children.  He is seemingly tramatized by the events 20 years prior and with the discovery of another body/murder in the same place, he decides to start an investigative podcast about the murders.  The story is told from all sorts of perspectives – those of the podcasts, the detectives and family members. The podcasts are a medium to stir up feelings and behaviors from the past focusing on Charlie’s mother, a pimp and a twist on how the detectives handled the earlier murder.

The podcasts were integral to the plot but it’s like reading a radio talk show. That part was a little weird for me.  Otherwise, Gilly MacMillan weaves a twisty mystery in her usual style.

Much thanks to Goodreads for the complimentary copy of this book. I was not compensated for my review.

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Black Rabbit Hall & The Irish Cottage {meh….}

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I am not ashamed to say the title of the book and the photo on the cover is what attracted me. It is pretty cover and the name Black Rabbit Hall is just great. Alas, it was a rather slow moving and mopey bit of Chick Lit, pardon me for describing it that way. There is a difference between women’s fiction and chick lit in my opinion. ( That being said I enjoy a light read now and then but when you are pumped for a good mystery, it’s disappointing.)

The book was compared to that of Kate Morton or Daphne du Maurier. Probably because there is a mystery of sorts as well as an old neglected house. The setting is Cornwall and that greatly appealed to me.

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Next up is The Irish Cottage, book one in a series by Juliet Gauvin.   It was a free book on Amazon  so I grabbed it as I love reading stories set in the British Isles. Not nearly enough Ireland and (for me) too much graphic sex. Romantic interludes are fine but the… uh… descriptive encounters were certainly well documented.

I was expecting the Irish setting and characters to be a major part but there isn’t much of that other than a pub dinner and talk of Guinness.

I gave it a gallant effort but ultimately it goes in a DNF pile. There are were just too many books I want to read and I’m not getting any younger so I’m not wasting my time

I just received notice an Ann Patchett novel arrived in my library holds so I will either start that next or turn to an old favorite, The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. Recently I felt ill and ended up having an emergency room visit so my concentration wasn’t keen for awhile.  Depends if I want to drive into Tallahassee for a library run.  We’ll see. Good news is I am feeling better now and want to read.

Hope all is well in your household and you are reading and cooking and enjoying life!

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Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar

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Grace is Gone is a nice twisty mystery about Meg and Grace Nichols. The setting is Cornwall in a peaceful small town. Cara Dorman is the neighbor of these two, Meg is the mother and Grace is the very ill 17 year old daughter. Cara is banging away at the door to drop off a bag of clothes for Grace when she makes a shocking discovery.
As she makes her way into the house calling out for Meg, she finds Grace’s wheelchair overturned, Grace is nowhere in sight and Meg is dead in her bed. Her head is bashed in so obviously it’s murder. Where is Grace? Did Meg’s violent ex-husband kidnap her?

The story is told from two points of view, Cara the neighbor and Jon, an investigative reporter. There is also Grace’s diary where Jon gets a glimpse of her life through these diary entries.

There are many correlations with a real life case about Gyspy Blanchard. If you read about that HERE you may have some spoilers as far as this book.

I enjoyed Emily Elgar’s first book If You Knew Her much more than this one. Would I read another novel by this author? Absolutely.

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: British Isles Friday at Joy’s Book Blog

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Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

5456994F-34B9-4AC3-AA0E-73C66C5DE6A4This book is labled as a psychyological/thriller drama involving a host of characters to which I only slighted warmed. Is it wrong to let a character name put you off? Let me just start with that – one of the main characters, or I should say a supporting character – named Roan Fours.  Maybe it’s just me but Roan Fours sounds like a game or an intersection.  He was not a likeable or sympathic character.

The main character is a 17 year old girl named Saffyre Maddox who went through some heavy trama early in her life. Roan Fours was the young woman’s child psychologist when she was 10 years old, helping her get over self harming herself.  Three years of sessions and he stopped therapy. We follow 17 year old Saffyre along as she sits outside the Fours household, watching the comings and goings of Roan, his needy haunted and suspicious wife Cate and their two children Georgia and Josh.

The abandoned lot Saffyre sets up camp is next to an apartment building where 34 year old virgin Owen Pick (yes, he is described this way in the book) lives with his aunt. He and Saffyre exchange greeeings some days but otherwise they do not intersect in each other’s worlds.  Owen is looked upon as the “creepy guy” at work and by the neighbors on the street.

There are random attacks on women in the area, grabbed from behind and groped, some raped.  Thankfully there isn’t vivid detail of the attacks, just suspicion thrown around.  During all this Saffyre suddenly disappears.  I she hiding or dead? You will wonder if it’s creepy Owen or the son Josh or the misogynistic Harrison John who makes his appearance near the end of the book.

This was my least favorite of any book authored by Lisa Jewell and I had difficulty connecting to anyone.  No empathy from me on any of them…ok, maybe Saffyre’s uncle Aaron but he does not get a big part in the book.

Some food mentioned throughout and of course the curry grabbed my attention.

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Much thanks to NetGalley for the complimentary ARC copy of this book. I was not compensated for the review.  Just because I wasn’t thrilled with this book does not mean I wouldn’t read more by Lisa Jewell. The Family Upstairs was good and I enjoyed The House We Grew Up In as well as I Found You but…this one wasn’t for me.

This book is scheduled for publication October 2020.

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The Witch Elm by Tana French

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This is the second time I picked up Witcn Elm as I didn’t get very far into the story the first go round. Admittedly it was my frame of mind as I had been hoping Tana would continue with the Dublin Murder Squad. With my husband and I staying in so much these days we decided to have our own book club.  We ordered a few books from Thift Books and set to reading The Witch Elm together.  It was enjoyable keeping the same pace and discussing the plot.

As with any Tana French mystery the writing was excellent. I do wish the book description hadn’t given away so much of the story ahead of time.
It was already established one of our main characters, Toby Hennessey, was a successful handsome man who came from a good family and always seemed to be….lucky.  That is how he is described.

One evening he is awakened during a home invasion and is viciously assaulted, leaving him with devasting injuries.  He decides to spend time at Ivy House with his uncle Hugo as he recovers and also to help his uncle.  Hugo has his own medical issues so its an ideal situation for both parties. At some point during  a family visit a human skull is discovered in the 200 year old Witch elm in the garden.

All of the above is known from the book jacket.

Incidentally, Ivy House is the ancesteral home of Toby’s grandparents and now Hugo, a gathering place for all family members to visit and have Sunday lunch. A place Toby and his cousins Leon and Susanna spent summers growing up and having parties.
As always Tana French’s writing style has you fully involved.  I felt like I was in the shadows witnessing these conversations between the cousins Toby, Susanna and Leon and those with Hugo.

The small trivial parts of a conversation such as Susanna ragging on Leon for picking through a bowl of nuts. “Stop picking  through, other people like cashews too, and besides it’s disgusting. ” That sort of natural banter that makes the scene so real.

Was I surprised by the ending? Yes.  There was an incident with a detective and Toby near the end that didn’t ring true with me.

Tana French is an excellent author and I will preorder any book she’s about to have published.  I can’t say that about any other writers with the exception of Jane Harper and Robert Galbraith.

Now for a bit of fun!  The character desciptions were detailed enough that we had our own mental images and tried to imagine a cast to play them if this were a movie.  Below see the decsription of Toby – thick straight blonde hair, very blue eyes and an open boyish face.

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I’m picturing Emily Blunt as Susanna, Charlie Hunnam as Toby and Tom Hiddleston as Leon.

Anthony Hopkins as Hugo Hennessey, Saoirse Ronan as Melissa and David Tennant as Detective Rafferty.

Did you read the book? If so did you like it or wish Tana would go back to writing Dublin Murder Squad?

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The Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart

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I saw this book on sale at Amazon and the description appealed to me.  There is an old house, a cozy cottage and its on an isolated island off the Scottish coast.  There is also a mystery and lots bird watching activity so this all appealed to me.  Yeah, I am a nerd about stories featuring old houses or mentions of birds/wildlife.

Our main character is Rose Fenemore, a college professor of English and also a poet. She finds an advertisement for a rental on an isolated island off Scotland.  It’s a perfect retreat for her to relax and work on her poetry without interruptions by students or campus life.  Rose invites her brother, an avid bird watcher, to come along for the vacation. Sounds like a relaxing place with peace and quiet.

One evening after Rose is in bed she hears a door open downstairs and goes to investigate, thinking her brother finally arrived.  There is a stranger in her kitchen who proceeds to tell her this used to be his childhood home.  Right there I had to suspend disbelief as Rose’s reaction was more of annoyance rather than fear.  Rose is 27 years old, not a big woman and she is suddenly alone in complete isolation with a stranger.  She makes him a cup of coffee and they chat a bit. But then, even odder, another man turns up on this stormy night. He also coms in. Hmmmm…

What I liked about the book was the setting and descriptions of the island.  The quieter and slow pace of life appeals to me very much.  The birds, seals, old house on the hill and residents of the island were described well. The mystery regarding the two men is solved and there is a hint of romance on the horizon here.

Seems I read a book by Mary Stewart a long time ago but I can’t remember which one, just remembered I liked the style so this sounded like a good plot.  Apparently from other reviews I am seeing this wasn’t her finest book.  I would certainly try more by this author and start with recommendations from her avid fans.

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