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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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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Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

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This is a psychological thriller which I couldn’t put down.  It was disturbing, chilling, even paced and I read it in one day.  The main character is Annie, later renamed Milly, as she is placed in a protective environment after turning her mother over to the police.  Milly’s mother is a serial killer, her victims all young children.  I am thankful it wasn’t overly graphic when they described the murder of the children.

Milly is fifteen years old and is placed in the home of Mike, a therapist who is writing a book about Milly and her mother.  Milly was not told he would be documenting their therapy sessions for publication, accidentally discovering his notes one afternoon. It’s hard to share too much without giving spoilers.

One thing I wish the author had resolved was the fate of Milly’s brother.  He was  fleetingly mentioned as part of reason Milly’s mother started killing children.  The brother was charged with arson and I suppose incarcerated, but his story isn’t delved into near enough, nor what happened to him. The end was, by the time I was over three-quarters into the book, predictable.  Still chilling though.

I read this book with the Kindle British Mystery Book Club  as the November main group feature.  This is also another one ticked off for my New Author challenge.

Linking up with  Joy for British Isles Friday.
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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

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This is my first acquaintance with author Anthony Horowitz.  I can say that I will be seeking out more of his work and hope it’s as engaging as this book. How did I miss this guy when he has written so many successful English series such as Foyle’s War?

This murder mystery featuring fictional detective Atticus Pund was appealing on it’s own but wait……there is another story line and mystery about the publishing company for Alan Conway, author of the Atticus Pund books.

The book opens in present time with Susan Ryeland, editor for Conway’s books, telling the story.  She is given the last manuscript from Conway but the last few chapters are missing.  This will change Susan’s life and not for the better I can tell you.

You are immediately immersed into the ninth Atticus Pund book which is set in rural England, the time period is the 1950’s.  It’s such noir writing, reminds you of Agatha Christie with the sleuthing.

After a tragedy (spoiler so I can’t say here) we are back to Susan’s world in modern times visiting London and the rural English countryside.  The characters and motives from both stories are intertwined.  It’s a classic whodunit with some great twists.

I liked the mention of other books and movies throughout this story, some of which I book marked to request form the library.

A few food and drink references:
Champagne, fish and chips, sandwiches, Victoria Sponge cake, grilled sardines, salad and wine. Eggs and toast fingers. English breakfast with two eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato and a fried slice. Homemade quiche and bean salad. Smoked salmon with salad and artisan bread. A bottle of wine, Nacho Cheese flavored tortilla chips and a jar of hot salsa dip. Pub food and ales.

I wanted to make the Victoria Sponge cake but after our vacation, I think I better cut back on high caloric treats.  It’s for the best, really (I’m telling myself this).  So I went for a favorite, this passes for pub grub in my neck of the woods.

A grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich with all the trimmings. Lettuce, tomato, onions, lime on toasted Cuban bread. Served with black beans and rice and ale. Oh. Yeah.

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Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday, Heather for the November Foodies Read, Girlxoxo for the Monthly Motif Challenge and Deb’s Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen.

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The Cottage Kitchen: Cozy Cooking in the English Countryside

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This is a lovely book, filled with homemade recipes and arranged by season. The introduction reads as a letter, very personal and warm. Each section, separated by the four seasons, has a forward where the author explains her feelings, her homesickness and insecurities about starting a life in England and the comfort foods she prepares. She’s Swedish and while she’s traveled the world for business, settling down where she’s without family or friends left her feeling adrift.

You will find good recipes in this book, many of those from her mother, and advice from her mother as well. The photography is outstanding. I absolutely love her dog and all the photos he appears in. Mr. Whiskey is rescue dog and he certainly brings personality to Marte’s life as well as the photos.

I took a few liberties with the potato soup recipe and can highly recommend making it. I even made homemade croutons! This is a hearty, rich and filling soup. Perfect for a cold day.  Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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*I received a copy of this cookbook from the Blogging for Books program. All opinions and comments are my own and I was not compensated.

Adding my review to Goodreads and linking with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series and Joy’s British Isles Friday.
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The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

devilsWorkThe Devil’s Work was described as a psychological thriller so I was on board.  At first I wondered about the description as the characters seemed fairly normal (with the exception of Simon).   Our main character, Sophie Greenwood,  was recruited to work at Jackdaw Publishing, her dream job.

Initially I felt Sophie bordered on boring with her constant checking up on her daughter and husband.   She was a stay-at-home mum for 4 years so perhaps that worry and concern is meant to be conveyed.  Edwards nailed that perfectly.

Once I got into the novel it was clear there were a few mind games going on.  There was a split time frame shifting to Sophie’s college life, explaining her obsession to work for Jackdaw Publishing.

In the college time frame you see how Sophie met Jasmine and how they became very close.  It was later discovered Jasmine was the granddaughter of Franklin Bird, head and founder of Jackdaw Books.  (He’s a bit creepy there in the beginning and didn’t get much better as I progressed through the novel. ) Sophie never traded on her friendship with Jasmine to get introduced for employment opportunities with Jackdaw, instead steering clear of the subject since Jasmine was clearly troubled by her family connection and her grandfather in particular. Stay tuned for that once you read this book.

So, first day of work for Sophie and the mind games slowly begin. She is immediately introduced to Franklin Bird and he’s just weird.  I share his enthusiasm for a gin and tonic but otherwise, let me steer clear of this guy.  Sophie asks one of her team members about access to the basement library and hears a story about a suicide and haunting.  More creepiness.

Her predecessor, Miranda, left with no notice and there is a mystery about that straight away.  If you read mysteries or thrillers you’ll think something is fishy about a person who flat out disappears.  Sophie is assigned to Miranda’s desk and a locked drawer reveals very old food and loads of cockroaches. Cassie, one of the people Sophie supervises, appears to be sabotaging her with her ambitious and aggressive manner, leaving Sophie out of the loop on important issues.  The list goes on.

The story ramps up more with accusations of sexual harassment, a hacked Twitter account and offensive post portraying Sophie’s husband in a very bad light, a stalker, arson and more.  This book has it all including a chilling wrap up.

I read this book with the Kindle British Mystery Book Club, also as for my New Author challenge.

Linking up with Girlxoxo for the October theme of psychological mess-with-your-mind games and Joy for British Isles Friday.
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