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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Queso by The Homesick Texan Lisa Fain

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It’s been a while since Lisa Fain published The Homesick Texan Cookbook so I was delighted to see this new book Queso.  We are cheese loving people and this book has more than enough cheesy meal suggestions to keep us busy for a while.   There are more than 50 recipes and some appeal more than others but wow–  what a display of great photos and good advice.

For instance, I did not know Velvetta made a good Queso dip but that a block of American cheese gives a completely different texture and flavor.   The front part of this book explains about varieties of cheeses that work well and the types of chili peppers.  Very informative.  I spent more time there than I did flipping through the recipes ….at first.  The directions are so easy but I will say, she makes a prettier presentation than I did.  No matter, it was delicious.

For my representative dish we had our Queso served with white corn ships, black bean and rice, Maduras, sliced avocado, tomato and cheese quesadillas.  It was a fun meal, we dipped and picked up our quesadillas, only needing our forks for the Maduras, beans and rice.

Check out Lisa Fain’s site The Homesick Texan and definitely check out this Queso book. Fun reading, fun cooking and good food!  Check out the bookHERE at penguin Random House or at your favorite book store.

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.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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This book has more than one story line, there are multiple narratives and I hung on to each and every one. Of the Kate Morton books I have read so far, this is by far the very best one. It’s not predictable and the armchair traveling in this took me to Cornwall and London England, Sydney Australia and New York City. Traveling and mystery – what more could I ask for?!

The story lines all come together in spite of many characters living and dying in different time periods. There is a mystery about one of our main characters named Nell. The book starts in 1913 with Nell as a 4 year old, hiding out aboard ship destined for Australia. A lady she refers to as The Authoress tells her to hide and wait for her. But the lady never returns and young Nell is left alone with her suitcase at a port in Australia.
A port master can’t leave a small child alone so he takes her home for the evening. No one reports her missing, no one comes to claim Nell so eventually the port master and his wife keep her. No formal adoption, they just move away and start fresh.  Years later the Port Master and wife have four daughters and Nell thinks they are all her natural family.

On Nell’s 21st birthday her father (the port master) tells her about how they found her. It’s devastating to lose one’s identity just like that. In a snap Nell feels she doesn’t belong and tries to find out where she does belong.  The story skips back and forth in time so you know what happens with Nell until her death late in life. This introduces us to another major character – her granddaughter Cassandra.

Cassandra is close to her grandmother Nell and after her death she inherits everything. But there is one property she is surprised to find out about. The deed to a house called Cliff Cottage in Cornwall England.

Cassandra’s story starts in 1975 but we jump to 2005 and things get mysterious. She is the one who will search the clues left about Nell’s true identity. I like her character very much and enjoyed her chapters.

The Authoress is revealed as Eliza Makepeace (what a cool name!) and she is an adventurous character. She is also the writer of fairy tales. Her back story is fascinating and weaves into Nell’s story eventually. There are quite a few other characters that play crucial parts but rather than get into it all – please read this one if you are a Kate Morton fan. Twists I didn’t see coming and a good conclusion with mysteries solved.

Some food mentions here but it’s not a foodie book.
Bowls of beef and rosemary stew
Pasta with pine nuts and Gorgonzola cheese
Morgy Broth
Sandwiches (and tea of course)

Roasted chicken and smoked Gouda pressed sandwich.  There’s a bit of leftover spinach in there too.  A simple side salad with grape tomatoes, feta and balsamic vinegar dressing. Oh. Yeah.  This was a treat Cassandra may enjoy at the hotel in Cornwall.

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Are you fans of Kate Morton’s novels?  If so, which are your favorites?  I have read this one as well as The House at Riverton and The Lake House.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday  and with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week’s Souper Sunday may be found HERE. Also linking with Heather’s July linkup for Foodie Reads. Check out Foodie Reads at Based on a True Story. You’ll always find good reviews there 😊

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Readers’ Workout

So far April has been great.  We are still walking in the morning after a warm up with the dog.  Still getting up and stretching at 10 till each hour while at work and walking several laps after lunch.  Fortunately there is a covered parking garage at work so even if it rains, we can walk.  My stats have been over 10,000 for each day and my weight is remaining the same despite some naughty indulgences like Mexican food, chips and salsa and a cheeseburger.

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Monday I was getting my bearings again as I was recovering from a colonoscopy.  Not much walking there and I was in a daze.  Those drugs knock you for a loop!

Plans for the rest of the week are to tackle some neglected chores around the house.  The driveway is recycled asphalt and when we get torrential rains (as we did last week) then the gravel starts collecting near the gate.  This means the labor of shoveling it away from the gate and redistributing along the driveway.  The gate is sticking open too much and I am afraid the UPS guy won’t be able to get in if it gets too much worse.

Plus there are branches to pick up around the house and field.

On the menu:

Cheesy Skillet Polenta and Eggplant Bake
Eggplant Parmesan with Carbonara Angel Hair pasta
Leftovers
Broccoli and Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, hardboiled eggs
Grilled Grouper with leftover Broccoli and Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

How is your exercise going this week?

Check out Readers’ Workout at Joy’s Book Blog!

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A Year Between Friends: Crafts, recipes and best of all….friendship.

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A Year Between Friends: 3191 Miles Apart is a lovely book filled with craft ideas, recipes, letters and best of all – friendship.

Molly Wizenberg wrote the forward and it’s a great beginning.  She explained how she discovered a blog called  Port2Port where Maria (MAV) was an author.  This was over 10 years ago.  Molly and Maria were fans of Stephanie Congdon (SCB) on Flickr.

The ladies began collaborating with photo projects and craft ideas. They have been corresponding for quite some time and the result was deep friendship between Maria and Stephanie.

This book is divided by the months of the year. They each take photos of their respective locales – Maria who goes by MAV is in Portland Maine and Stephanie (SCB) lives in Portland Oregon.  In addition to photos there are recipes and letters.

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My dear friend Mary Margaret lives in Alaska and I live in Florida.  About as far away as friends can be and still be in the USA. This book reminded me of our deep friendship and how the miles didn’t matter a lick.  I can still call her and talk to her as if I’d seen her a day ago.  This has been going on since the late 1970’s. (Yes, I am a senior citizen 🙂

What a lovely display of friendship this book is.

From Amazon:  Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes share a love of art and design, handmade pleasures, and a well-lived domestic life. Almost a decade ago, they began their first year-long project together, posting a photo from each of their mornings on their blog, 3191 Miles Apart, named for the distance between their homes in Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon.

The inspired recipe from this book is soup. But we haven’t been eating much meat lately and so, while I planned on chicken soup….I diverted to a veggie chili.  Very different but one of the biggest components in this book features healthy eating.

I made a black bean chili with finely chopped zucchini, green onions,tomatoes, mushrooms and a little bit of water. Once everything started thickening up I added about 3/4 cup of brown rice.

The plus of our healthier eating (and additional walking) is the weight loss.  My husband has lost 22 pounds while I have lost 12 pounds. Yes, I keep up with him eating and drinking yet my weight loss has been considerably slower.  🙂  Oh well!

Good book with great recipes and craft ideas.  You will love flipping through it.

Linking up with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week may be found HERE.

Also linking with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

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The Olive Farm. {An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France. Very International.}

Expatriates-in-paradise genre – One of my favorites!

I have long been a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, a series I very much enjoyed.  That’s where we got our son’s name, from the character Tristan Farnon.  She left that series in 1985.

When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking.

When Carol wrote The Olive Farm  I was delighted to learn it would be a trilogy. Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo. This is the first book in her bestselling trilogy, all of it set on her Provencal olive farm.

Carol met her husband Michel while they were involved in making a movie in Australia . He proposed to her on the first date and they married four years later.  Eventually they bought this gorgeous ruin of a villa built in 1904, located in Provence . The villa is named Appassionata – meaning passion – and very appropriate for Carol and Michel as they fall heels over ears in love with the place.

“I am in the south of France , gazing at the not-so-distant Mediterranean , falling in love with an abandoned olive farm,” Carol Drinkwater writes. “The property, once stylish and now little better than a ruin, is for sale with ten acres of land.”

After investing all the money she has they are able to move into their new home, devoid of electricity and water. French law is a different animal altogether from British and American laws as Carol learns while sifting through the endless paperwork and awaiting the many appointments to sign one or two papers. Finally, Appassionata is theirs!

Carol, Michel and his teen aged daughters Clarice and Vanessa arrive one extremely hot afternoon, with the promise of a swim in the pool. Alas….no water and the pool is a pit of sticks and branches. Carol struggles to make it a positive experience and tries to speak her limited French to the girls. The stepdaughters can speak English but make Carol work at communicating. Eventually they become a close knit family….. along with a number of stray dogs and good friends among the local citizenry.

The experiences she writes about were fascinating to me and she clearly has a better work ethic than I do. Restoring an old villa like that is hard work. HARD work! They uncovered ancient Roman looking steps and tiles. They found some of their olive trees were over 500 years old…..it’s an expat’s dream IF you don’t mind hard work – both physically and culturally.

Carol took language classes to improve her French, quickly becoming fluent. An engaging book about France , olive harvesting, conquering cultural barriers and love. Above alllove.

If you like the works of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes I feel certain you would enjoy Carol’s musings about Appasionata and her love of southern France .

To learn more, check out the links below:

Carol Drinkwater
Home Hunts
It Shouldn’t Happen to an Olive Farmer!

Food: Caponata and Tahini Hummus on toasted baguette

The inspired dishes from this book include eggplants, caponata and tapenade. The little bites of appetizers you might enjoy sitting in the shade of Carol Drinkwater’s patio, the hot breeze licking your cheek as you sip an ice cold glass of white wine and nibble bruschetta.

Eggplants from the southern Mediterranean area would have a different taste from what I can lay hands on in Northern Florida but….still a wonderful treat.

An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France.  Very International.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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