The Silence by Susan Allott

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You will experience the severe stifling heat of Australia and a bit of damp, cloudy England in this novel.

The characters are very real, the dialogue rings true with marital problems, tensions of a horrible job, unrealistic expectations and secrets.  Sounds like a bummer but you will love and hate on the characters and want to know what happened in their lives.

The story shifts from 1967 to 1997, back and forth.  The main narrator is Isla Green.  She is 6 years old in 1967 and loves living in her Australian home.  She adores her father. She thought everyone had a house with a backyard stretching to the ocean. Her parents are Joe and Louisa Green, both English but have moved to Australia to start a new life.  Trouble is,  Louisa doesn’t love it.  She misses England and hates the heat but I suspect her biggest problem is an alcoholic husband.

Next door are Mandy and Steve Mallory.  Isla spends quite a bit of time with Mandy and loves her.  Steve wants Mandy to get pregnant but both parties have different ideas about their future together. Steve has a horrible job as a policeman who removes aboriginal children from their families, placing them at The Home where they will be fostered and eventully learn a trade.

In 1967 women didn’t have joint accounts at the bank and have access to their husband’s  earnings. It was a different world and this makes it harder for Louisa and Mandy to make life altering decisions.

Be prepared to read this one straight through. Would I buy more by this author?  Oh, absolutely.  This is Allott’s first novel and I will preorder her next publication as soon as it’s an option.

The genre is mystery, thriller, suspense and crime drama. Please read the author’s note at the end of the book. She details how the novel came about as well as her educational reading about Britain’s relationship with Australia and the colonial past.

Thinking of Steve Mallory’s police duties I would suggest watching the film Rabbit Proof Fence. It’s worthwhile.  It details a dark time when Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families to be trained and educated, placed in horific foster care and made servants.  But in Rabbit Proof Fence two sisters escape.

Food: There wasn’t too much in the way of food mentioned, and I am always mindful of foodie stuff in my reading, but there was a scene where Mandy made a stew for Steve.  She heaped a bowl with some savory stew and Steve told her it was delicious. When she went outsdie to escape for a moment she saw him getting another helping.  So, I made a batch of chicken and dumplings.  So good, hard to not get seconds.  The slow cooker recipe is on Squirrel Head Manor.

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Susan Allott is a British author who lived and worked in Sydney, Australia, in the late nineties. She now lives in London with her children and very Australian husband.

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Darkest Night by Jenny O’Brien

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Christine De Bertrand is a divorced  woman and stays in most nights.  She’s a teacher and homebody but on her birthday her friends manage to drag her out for a fun evening of celebration. She has a very uncharacteristic evening of excessive drinking, partying and brings home a stranger for the night.

This is a first for her and when she awakens to the seemingly sleeping body next to her, she flees the bed to get meds for the massive headache and makes coffee. She’s in for a surprise when she returns to the bedroom, hoping to gently roust the dark haired man from her pub night.  There will be at least one homicide in the DC Gabriella Darin series so you can probably guess Christine will be a suspect for murder. Then the other characters are introduced and the pool of suspects gets a little larger.

We are taken to Wales via Jenny O’Brien’s latest book in the Gabriella Darin series.  I am enjoying this series and happy to know there are more books planned.  This is book 2 and we are following DC Gaby Darin in her personal life and career path with a Welsh police agency.

“North Wales was stunning with its stretches of golden beaches, incomparbale lush fields abd hills coated in green.”

A character I am hoping will be developed is Medical Examiner Rusty Mullholland.  She’s gruff and yet appealing.

Foodie stuff:

A full English with toast and marmalade on the side.
Soup and bread
a dinner party with fillet of salmon and homemade Pavlova
Vegetable lasagna and wine
A big bowl of carb filled pasta
Sun dried tomato and basil drenched fettucine

All that pasta had me craving a bowl with sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese.  Pure comfort food. Get the recipe from Food Network HERE.

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Much thanks to Netgalley for the advanced complimentary copy. I was not compensated for this review and throughly enjoyed this book. Publication date was July 17, 2020. Genre is fiction, mystery and thriller.

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Wartime with the Cornish Girls By Betty Walker

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The setting is 1941 in London during the Blitz. I was anxious to get to the Cornwall setting but this takes a few chapters. We met three very brave  women who come from different backgrounds.

Violet lives in London and helps at her mother’s shop selling sandwiches and cakes. Her father is dead, her sister was recently killed in an air raid bombing and her brother-in-law is a soldier missing in action. As his mother was German there are insinuations he was a spy.  Cheery stuff here. Violet moves her nieces to Cornwall as it’s safer and goes to work at an air base.

Eva is a showgirl in London. She meets an American airman and there is some romantic interest there, then the club where she is performing is bombed during  a strike. She awakens in the hospital and after recovery she moves to Porthcurno Cornwall to work at an air base using her knowledge of Morse code to help with the war effort. ( there’s a backstory to this development )

Hazel is a local woman who already lives in Cornwall and works at the air base. She is married and her abusive husband is deployed during the war. He gets home on leave occassionally and is most assuredly not a model husband. Not a bad man, just not a good husband.

I thought it was a slow start but found it more enjoyable once the three main characters  met up at work. I liked the friendships formed and the Cornish setting. Normally I like an edgier plot and action but this is a nice “beach read” type of book. If you are looking to escape the horrors of the news right now you may enjoy this book.  Nothing objectionable here.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the advanced complimentary copy. I was not compensated for this review and throughly enjoyed this book. Publication by Avon Books UK is February 18, 2021. Genre is historical fiction/womens fiction.

Betty Walker lives in Cornwall and is a prolific writer.

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Hidden Depths and Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves {#3 and #4 in the Vera series}

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I have been hooked on this series since the start.  I did manage to start with the first book in the series this time.  Seems my nontraditional way of moving through a series is starting with book three or so.

What I like about this series is the main character isn’t a polished, slender buxom know-it-all. You know the type, the super hero femme fatale detectives.   No, Vera Stanhope is very bright but also damaged.  Once you get into the books you’ll know her father Hector did a number on her.  Her mother died when Vera was a child and Hector was an awful father figure.  Dragging her off to the wilds for illegal harvesting of rare bird eggs, drinking to excess and leaving her to fend for herself,  putting her down in regard to her looks and clumsiness.  It’s a wonder she shaped up to be a such an outwardly strong character.

Beneath that hard shell she has her unguarded vulnerable emotions. They rarely make an appearance but you’ll glimpse that repressed soft side.  She looks wistfully at families, at a mother pulling her daughter tightly to her in a loving embrace.  And then she shakes it off and has a drink, doesn’t allow herself to wallow in what may have been.  But I didn’t mean to start with a  disection of Vera’s psychological baggage.

Book 3 – Hidden Depths.  Julie Armstrong comes home from a well deserved night out with friends and finds her teen son Luke dead in the bathtub.  He’s been murdered,  placed him in the bath with floral bath oils and delicate flowers. Obviously Vera and her team arrive to investigate.  Then another body is found in the same stylized manner.  A beautiful young teacher is discovered in a rock pool, floating in the water with flowers surrounding her body.  Serial killer or a copy cat killer? Enough twists in this one that I would have bet money on one particlar person as the killer but – I was completely off mark.  That’s fun for me as a reader.

Book 4 – Silent Voices. If you didn’t love Vera’s right hand man Sgt. Joe Ashworth before,  this story will cinch it.   I hope Joe remains in all the upcoming books.  Vera keeps it a secret that she has joined a health club as she doesn’t want to be ribbed at work.  She is a large clumsy woman and after a warning from her doctor about her weight, she takes to swimming.

As she enters the sauna room one morning she sees a woman slumped over.  Jenny Lister, social worker and model citizen, was strangled.  Of course we get another murder case in this book and Vera’s team works feverishly to find the links in the two cases.  We meet some interesting characters in this book and I couldn’t put it down.

Taking a Vera Stanhope break just now as book #5 (The Glass Room) has a wait list at the library.  I won’t be able to finish it before the due date so I will give other patrons their chance.  That will teach me to check out too many at once. Maybe.

I still have a few good books given to me via NetGalley so while I won’t be in lovely Northumbria England, I will be visiting Cornwall and Wales next.  Via books of course 🙂

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The Last Piece by Imogen Clark

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This book pulled me in immediately with the realistic dialogue between the three sisters in the beginning. Felicity,  Julia and Lily are texting back and forth about an unexpected and uncharacteristic event.  Their mother, Cecily Nightingale, has up and flown off to Greece on some mysterious trip.  The Nighingales rarely take any holiday away from their Yorkshire home.

Lily and Julia, who are twins, found it amazing Cecily would up and just go anywhere without their father Norman.  They are old homebodies who never do anything out of the ordinary.  When the sisters converge on Norman to ask about their mother he is rather deceptive, other than telling them Cecily is not ill so they needn’t worry.  The women have to wait it out to see what happens when their mother comes home the following week.

Supporting chararacters:

Felicity, the oldest, is married to a scoundrel and has a 4 year old son.  She has a high powered business career and has a very rigid view of life.  I guess if I were married to Richard I’d have an edgy personality as well.

Julia and Lily are twins with an unusual birth story.  Lily arrived weeks months early and had a rough start to life while Julia stayed put until her proper birth time.  Therefore, although they are twins and share that special mental connection and personality, they have different birthdates. Julia is a medical doctor and single. Lily is married to Marco and five sons.  She makes everything seem easy and has a lovely personality, quite the contrast to snappy and judgemental Felicity.

We find out why Cecily Nightingale took her mysterious trip about a quarter of the way into the book.  You can figure it out by then and you will see how it impacts all of the family once she returns.  I can’t say without giving spoilers so I’ll save that for Goodreads.

When I got to the end I felt a little let down until I thought about it for a bit.  It seemed abrupt, then I thought of the title.  The Last Piece.  Everything came together, even Norman’s jigsaw puzzle and a family issue.

There was a bit of foodie stuff mentioned such as fish and chips, Jamie Oliver meals, curry, roasted beef dineer and such sweets as black forest gateau and Fat Rascals.  I didn’t know what that was so I looked it up. A fat rascal is a type of cake, similar to a scone or rock cake in both taste and ingredients. It originated in Yorkshire at least as early as the 19th century.

Imogen Clark lives in Yorkshire and has three other novels published

Much thanks to Netgalley for the advanced complimentary copy. I was not compensated for this review and throughly enjoyed this book. Publication date is July 28, 2020. Genre is women’s fictions.

Imogen Clark lives in Yorkshire and has three other novels published.

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The Day Henry Died by Lynda Renham

CB092EEF-5B1C-49CF-9714-4E9AB4E4CB82 This is a quirky little book with an odd plot, a bit of the supernatural theme going on here.  Henry wakes up and sees his wife isn’t in bed, gets up to have his coffee and read the paper.  Then he sees the newspaper date is weeks in advance – how can that be?  Right when he is wondering if he slept for almost two weeks he spies his obituary.

Is Henry dead?  He doesn’t think so.  He gets on the bus and speaks to people, salutations to the driver and passengers but doesn’t get a reply.  He arrives at his office and his desk is bare of his personal items.  No one speaks to him.  They don’t see him so….I’m guessing as the reader that he is indeed, dead.

Then a curious thing happens; Rita the sample person at the grocery mart speaks to him.  Says she hasn’t seen him for a few days.  That part kinda reminded me of the scene in movie Passengers when Chris Pratt sees the bartender polishing glasses.  He skids to a stop and rushes over to speak.  Ok, it’s not an identical scenario but you can imagine Henry’s surprise when someone finally sees him and speaks.

The reason Rita can see him is revealed near the end.  It’s a cool book and perfect for a light read during this seemingly unending lockdown.  Bring me more books, please.

Much thanks to Sandy at Sandy’s Book a Day for reviewing this book and calling it to my attention.

Lynda Renham is a British author living in Oxford. I liked her blog about everyday life and read how she’s coping with the pandemic like the rest of us. Read about her HERE.

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A Letter from America by Geraldine O’Neill

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This book was a Kindle deal so I went ahead and bought it.  I had not heard of this author before but the premise of the story interested me.  I do like armchair traveling to Ireland.

The setting is 1968 in Tullamore Ireland with occasional chapters taking us to Dublin.  We meet the Tracey family who own a pub and grocery store.  The daughters have different goals in life and we get to meet each one.  The youngest girl, Bridget, is training to be a nun and lives at a Catholic school for women who want the same vocation.

Angela Tracey is the middle daughter and lives in Dublin.  She is very independent and loves her life in the city.  Angela doesn’t feel close to her family as she was striken with polio as a young girl and pretty much grew up in a hospital in Dublin. She had visitors from family with the exception of her mother.  Whaaat?  All is revealed later about that situation.  I very much liked Angela’s character.

Fiona Tracey is the oldest and much of the story focuses on her life and interactions with family.  The title Letter from America refers to her weekly correspondence with her good friend Elizabeth.  Her friend now lives in New York City and has managed to hook Fiona up with a job.  The plans are set, Fiona is excited but a family tragedy changes her plans and she has to postpone the trip.  (This is in the book jacket so no spoilers)

There is a secret and animosity between Fiona’s mother and her Aunt Catherine which is brought up fairly frequently as they argue or give the cold shoulder. The daughters don’t know what it’s about but it is finally revealed close to the end. This book is classifed as historial Irish fiction but there a bit more romance than I expected, though not enough to classify it in that genre.

For a light read I would look for more by this author. There was quite a bit of food and drink mentioned in the story.

Homemade Shepherds pie, chicken salad, cooked ham and fried potatoes, cold ham and brown bread, lamb chops, boiled potatoes and peas.

Cod with parsley sauce, floury potatoes and vegetables, Chicken with Dauphinois potatoes and broccoli, hot Apple tart with custard, trifle , lemon meringue pie.

Banycham, Tullamore Dew, pints of lager , Sherry and white wine.

The mention of fried potatoes had me craving them so, I saved some of the roasted potatoes from a previous chicken dinner, sliced them and fried them up.  They made an excellent accompaniment to last evenings dinner.

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For more about Geraldine O’Neill check out her webpage HERE.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve read the most

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This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday is a list of authors we have devoured, lots and lots of books.  This is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

No doubt there are authors I can’t get enough of and try and get every single book they’ve had published. If there is a series I’m overjoyed – love me a series.

Peter Robinson‘s DCI Banks series is one I’ve read in order.  All 26 books in the series. This British author keeps the setting of his novels in northern England, Yorkshire area. He’s still writing them but I expect it will wrap up before too long.

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J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith I will lump together because…well, it’s the same person.  I have read all the Harry Potter books as well as the Cormoran Strike books.  Bring ’em on!  I love the Strike series and am looking forward to the next installment.

William Stuart Long.  This author is a woman writing under a pen name.  Her series called The Australian Saga has 12 books and follows the generations of people (convicts, soldiers and settlers) through Australia’s development.  Some of the books were hard to find and when my husband would travel on business, he had a list of the books I was missing and kindly went to used book stores. I have them all!  This is historical fiction and you will read about real people such as Captain Bligh and Lachlan McQuarie, the Rum troops and more.

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Edward Rutherfurd – This British author is the modern day James Michener. Big fat books with loads of history. The Forest and all in his Ireland trilogy are very good.

Robert Ludlum – My introduction to Ludlum was in Spain, 1976 at a used book store. I was aching to read and, lo and behold, here was a book printed in English.  It was The Osterman Weekend. These are espionage and thrillers – think Jason Bourne.

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Maeve Binchy – I have read all 17 of her novels and several short stories.  Two of my favorites are Light a Penny Candle and Firefly Summer. If you want to armchair travel to Ireland, pick up one of her books.  I’d classify her books as women’s fiction.

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Kate Morton – I’ve read all six of her books and will always look forward to her latest. If you like a mystery (not a police procedural), big estates with a historical background and a setting primarily in England you may like her work.

Tana French – The Dublin Murder Squad series is excellent. She has 7 books so far and I am looking forward to her next book, The Searcher.

Rosamunde Pilcher – One of my all time favorite books is The Shell Seekers and I have read over 18 of her books. She will immerse you in Cornwall and Scotland. Another favorite is Coming Home. 

Ann Cleeves is going on my list because now that I have discovered the Vera series, I can’t get enough. So far I have read half of her Shetland series and am about to knock off the 4th book in the Vera series.

What are your favorites?  I’d love to discover new authors, especially those who write a series.

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Top Ten Tuesday: The most anticipated books in 2020

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Welcome to this week’s edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is the most anticipated books still to be released in the second half of 2020. I admit I will cheat a little as one book won’t make it to publication until January but…it’s a favorite author and soooo close to the theme.

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Jane Harper, one of my favorites, has a new book on the horizon titled The Survivors.  I have enjoyed her previous three books very much so I am eager to get my hands on this book.  So eager in fact that I preordered the book from Waterstones in London.  How sweet to get the English printed version in January 2021. (yeah, not this year)

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Tana French.  Just her name makes me stop and pay attention.  Is she writing a new book, I wonder?  The answer is YES!  It’s called The Searcher and in spite of my lukewarm review of her last book, The Witch Elm, I will buy anything she writes as she is such an excellent author.

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Santa Montefiore has a new book coming out titled Here and Now. Check it out on her website HERE.  This is scheduled for release in the UK July 9, 2020.  I’ve enjoyed all three books in The Devrill Chronicles as well as the Beekeeper’s Daughter and Secrets of the Lighthouse. Who knows when I’ll have chance to purchase it here. Of course I could order it through Waterstones as I did Jane Harper’s new book. Just a thought.

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Robert Galbraith’s next book Troubled Blood takes us back to the Cormoran Strike series.  I love a series and this one was great.  I’m looking forward to more mystery, detective work and I hope if she (J.K. Rowling) plans to ever get Strike and Robin together she’ll wait until the last book.  I’m loving the detective work and chemistry here.

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SkinnyTaste: Meal Prep by Gina Hololka.  I love her other cookbooks and this one will certainly give me loads of new ideas. Nigella Lawson’s upcoming book, Cook, Eat, Repeat is scheduled out in October.  From the TV show, Friends: an official cookbook  with Chandler’s “Milk you can Chew”, Phoebe’s grandmother’s cookies and more character inspired recipes.  Looks like it will be fun to read as well as cook from.

Is This Anything by Jerry Seinfeld looks like a fun read.  I always liked the show Seinfeld and right now, we could all use a few laughs.

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The House of Correction by Nicci French.  I liked the Frieda Klein series by this husband/wife author team. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult.

Those are my top 10 books I am hoping to get and read these upcoming months. Looking forward to linking up with the Top Ten this week (my first time).

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Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves {#2 in the Vera Stanhope Series}

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It is a little while before Detective Vera Stanhope makes an appearance in this police procedural.  Just as the first novel in this series, our cantankerous detective arrives on scene after the basic plot is established.  The story is set in a small town near Hull, England.

It’s years since young Jeanie Long was accused and convicted of murdering fifteen year old Abigal Mantel but the case has now been reopened.  Jeanie commited suicide in prison after being denied parole again.  She had protested her innocence since the beginning and now, someone has stepped up, too late for Jeanie, to provide her with an alibi.

Witnesses from this case are questioned again, bringing hope and frustrations to the family members who lost a loved one.  Then another murder happens and it appears to tie to Abigail’s murder long ago.  There are a few misleading clues and you will be guessing on who the murderer(s) are as there is plenty of motive to go around.

Once again I liked Vera’s character as well as Detective Joe Ashworth.  Emma Bennett was a major character in this book, introduced straight away as she was Abigail’s friend.  I never could like Emma the way she was portrayed.  The other supporting characters were well developed and played their parts well!

This is the third book I have read in this series and plan to continue in order.  I had read the first book for a book club and liked it very much.  This series was on my back burner as I liked the author and I LOVE a series.  Then, much to my delight, NetGalley offered me the most recent book (#9) as an ARC so I’d not gotten a chance to get these read in order.  Steady on.

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