The Egg: Life’s Perfect Invention. A Nature program with David Attenborough

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The Egg: Life’s Perfect Invention is about nature’s perfect life support system.  The narrator is David Attenborough and I will say he did a marvelous job presenting the research. If you like birds or are mildly curious about how the egg is an amazing natural creation, you will like this show from Nature.

I’ve never seen such a variety of birds but this one hour episode has me curious to learn more.  Attenborough explains how the eggs protect chicks from the outside world yet is fragile enough to allow it to breathe.  It’s explained how it can be strong enough for a parents’ weight yet soft enough to break through.

Also of interest was certain birds ability to time the hatching of their eggs with weather.  As an example, some hatchlings need to eat enormous quantities of caterpillars but the caterpillars only emerge during a short two week period and this is dictated by the weather conditions, not time.

You’ll travel across England, Wales and far as Antarctica seeing featured birds as the domestic chicken, Emperor Penguin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Ostrich, Mute Swan, Kiwi, Goldcrest Cuckoo and Common Guillemot.

Sharing with any bird lover and Joy for British Isles Friday

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The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

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Kate Morton is one of my favorites. She writes big fat books with well developed characters.  The setting is usually in Australia, England or both.  She deftly weaves a story leaving you satisfied with ending.  Well….most of the time.  She wraps up the mysteries so you have definite conclusions.  Perhaps you don’t like how some characters end up but nothing is ever left hanging.

In 1992, letters written in 1941 were found stowed away in an attic.  The post man placed the bag of letters and bills in his home and they weren’t discovered until his death in 1992.   Imagine a letter delivered 50 years later, the recipient having no ability to respond, lives possibly changed because those communications were adrift.  Meredith Burchill is one of the recipients of a letter written 50 years prior by glamorous Juniper Blythe.  Merdith’s daughter Edie watches her mother open the letter then break into tears, obviously distraught.

Edie Burchill, a character whom I  instantly liked.  This is yet another book where one of our characters is a book editor ( an aspiration I had when I was in my teens). Edie ends up moving back home when her lease is up in her Notting Hill flat.

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Edie’s mother Meredith is a fussy old thing but she has a very interesting back story. She was an evacuee from London during the war, living in Mildhurst Castle far in the north of England, with the Blythe sisters, three elegant and classy ladies.   The three sisters were very different from another. Persephone and Seraphina are twins but they didn’t have the same passions or goals.  The head of the household is Raymond Blythe.  He is a famous author of The Secrets of the Mudman.  When you find the evil inspiration for his story….well, I found it disturbing. Juniper Blythe is the golden haired youngest who picks Meredith as “her evacuee” during the war.  They become friends during the billeting, this changing the lives of both.

I made this sound boring but it’s hard to include all the relationship quirks and why they are important.  The seduction of this novel, for me, is the old castle and mystery of the origins of the Mudman story. The setting in northern England in WW II, the food mentions are scant but there is of course tea, rock cakes and roasted meat dinners. This was the only one of Morton’s books I hadn’t read so now…..waiting for a few years for her next tome.  This wasn’t my favorite, I loved The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper the most of the six books published. Overall a good story with a few surprises at the end.

Linking with Joy for British Isles Friday and to Booklover Reviews for the Aussie Author Challenge.

 

 

 

The Tuscan Secret by Angela Petch

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Anna is a young English woman who takes a trip to Italy to research her mother’s past.  Ines Santini, Anna’s Italian mother, didn’t talk about her time during the war.  Ines married a British soldier when the war ended and they moved to England.

When Ines died she left her diaries to her daughter Anna.  There was a large family estate left to the older brother Harry and jewelry left to her sister Jane.  Mom knew Anna would appreciate the diaries.  When you get midway through you’ll understand the importance of the diaries and secrets they hold.

The old diary entries and time in present day Italy was interesting. The parts about Ines after she moved to England was sad but set the plot for important revelations.

Once Anna arrives  in Italy you can see what is going happen by chapter four when Anna is annoyed by the good looking Francesco who becomes a guide.  Anyone?  Hands raised that we go from annoyance to an attraction she wants to deny to full blown love.

I love the cover, such a beautiful setting.  Also the Italian dialogue throughout was a great authentic touch.

This book seemed familiar yet I know I couldn’t have read it. It won’t be published until June 26, 2019. As I read more and enjoyed the descriptive passages about the food and setting in Perugia Italy,  it clicked why this was so familiar.  The premise is so very similar to The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen which I read in February of 2018.

In fairness The Tuscan Child plot involved only one adult daughter and it was the deceased father who left an inheritance of old love letters from Italy.  Also during WW II and also involving an old house.  This is indeed a different story just very similar.  If you are a fan of books set in Italy and the split time line spilling the secrets of the past, you will enjoy this book.

Foodie items include fresh chicken and polenta, Cibatta, black olives, pecorino cheese, ravili with chicken beast, leon zest and nutmeg, aubergines, wine – lots of wine.  The English foods include Toad in the hole, battered sausages, Yorkshire pudding, Victoria sponge cake, apple pie, fruitcake.

Sharing with Heather for her June Foodie Reads and Joy for British Isles Friday as the author is British and part of the setting is in England.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  Publication date is June 26, 2019.  I will look for more by this author.  All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

NetGalley  2019 Foodies Read   BriFri

A Keeper by Graham Norton

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The big draw for me was the Irish setting, an old house and a mystery about a past life.  The book is divided by chapters titled Now and Then.  We start off in present with Elizabeth Keane returning to her childhood home in Ireland.  Her mother has died and Elizabeth must clear out the house and make a decision regarding selling.

Elizabeth was never extremely close to her mother Patricia, often wishing she had a father figure in her life.  Whenever she asked questions about her father Patricia would always say he was a kind man and he died shortly after they were married.  After college she moved to New York and started her own life, marrying, divorcing and ending up with a son named Zach.

Now she is back in Ireland to see the home she inherited, trying to avoid her nosy cousins, anxious to return home.  Now that wouldn’t be me!  I would love to have a home in Ireland and spend half the year there. Anyway, as she’s cleaning out a wardrobe she comes across a package of handwritten letters, love letters from her father Edward Foley.

We drift into the Then chapters and see what Patricia was like fifty years ago. As you read the backstory about Edward and Patricia, get to know the horror of Edward’s mother (I mean truly) the story that unfolds takes such a neck braking twist that I couldn’t out it down.  Trust me, you’ll be surprised.

Elizabeth’s son Zach and ex-husband have minor roles; mostly they could have been left out in my opinion but it adds slightly to the story.  If you’d like to armchair travel to West Cork Ireland (past and present) and enjoy a mystery you will enjoy this book.

When I requested this book I didn’t know the author was the Graham Norton, the Irish television host.  Impressive – I will certainly look for more by Mr. Norton.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  Publication date is August 13, 2019.   All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

Sharing with Joy for the British Isles Friday series.

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The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan

spiesI did not like the overbearing Mrs. Braithwaite so it was difficult for me to get immersed in the story line. A woman who puts status, accomplishments and one’s station-in-life above all else, she’s hard to warm up to. She eventually examines what makes a successful life and considers status verses a loving family and well….just being a good and kind person. I plowed ahead hoping it would interest me more.

She left her village to search for her daughter Betty in London.  The setting is London during WW II.  The descriptive writing placed me in London and I could imagine the scenes.

Unfortunately our main character put me off so much that I had to make myself read more. Eventually I skimmed as I no longer cared what happened to Mrs. Braithwaite or the meek landlord Mr. Norris.

I very much enjoyed The Chilbury ladies Choir but this one didn’t grab me. If you check my link you’ll see I couldn’t put Ryan’s first book down.  This had the opposite effect on me.  Obviously from the reviews I am in the minority.

Much thanks to NetGalley for allowing me read this advanced copy.  This will be published June 4, 2019. I was not compensated for my review and opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday.

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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.

Sharing with

Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday

Heather for the May Foodie’s Read

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!

Sharing with:

Heather’s May Foodie Reads
Joy’s British Isles Friday