The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

forbiddengarden  What I liked about this book:

  1.   It’s set in England.  The descriptions of the country estate and the London museums were interesting to me.
  2.   There is a mystery about the failing garden, something about a Kirkwood family curse. The idea if a mystery intrigued me.
  3.   The descriptions of gardening and the ability to grow so many herbs, flowers and vegetables – how I wish I had that talent.
  4.   The cover is colorful and invites you pick the book up for a quick look, especially if you are a sucker for a pretty book cover.
  5. There are passages about food throughout the book. Eggs with chives, Shepherd’s Pie, Roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies….. I prepared a Shepherd’s Pie as my representative dish.  It’s the first meal Andrew prepared for Sorrel Sparrow.

What I didn’t care for:

Unbeknownst to me there was a previous book called The Sparrow Sisters.  When I started reading The Forbidden Garden I felt like I was missing something, a backstory that wasn’t explained by the author.  After looking online I saw there was a previous book.  That would have fleshed out the characters more for me if I’d known and read it first.  Mystery solved.

This book was advertised as “Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Jio, comes a lush imaginative novel that takes readers into the heart of a mysterious English country garden.Well……..there is a garden in England and there is a bit of mystery but, not at all like Kate Morton in my opinion.  That may come as a disappointment to some readers if they absolutely love Kate Morton, so I wanted to mention that. The mystery has more to do with enchantment….think about Alice Hoffman books instead.

The allusion to magic had me shrug my shoulders – Meh. Witchcraft wasn’t mentioned but it’s hinted at as an innate magical and mystical ability within each of the Sparrow sisters as they handle the soil in the gardens and make potions.

Predictable ending but that doesn’t always put me off a book.  Sometimes you can figure it out and sometimes it’s obvious who the love interests and culprits will be.

Overall a solid B rating for the writing and descriptive passages.

Here is the vegetarian version of Shepherd’s Pie. Lots of beans and freshly cut vegetables. Now Andrew prepared a version using ground lamb.  We have also done that and it’s quite good.  That recipe may be found HERE.


About the author

Ellen Herrick lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a small seaside town very much like Granite Point. She spent nearly ten years in the book publishing business as a publicist before moving to to England where she raised three children and traveled like crazy. After sixteen years in London, it was the ocean that called her home.

  • I won an advanced reader’s copy of this book from LibraryThing.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

lightThis book is filled with sadness and loss. There are happy moments but even those are shadowed by secrets and wrong doing.

Tom Sherbourne is haunted by the war and the things he had to do as a soldier. He also has some survivors guilt. Long time ago the lighthouse keepers were needed to set the light, take care of the structure and of course serve as warning to those sailing ships who may otherwise be unaware of the rocks and shore. Janus is a perfect island sanctuary for someone as haunted as Tom.

From Chapter 1:
He’s in a place where there’s just wind and waves and light, and the intricate machinery that keeps the flame burning and the lantern turning. Always turning, always looking over its shoulder. If he can only get far enough away – from people, from memory – time will do its job.

The writing is lyrical and you can certainly picture the scenes, see Tom’s frown, hear Isabel’s peals of laughter. Before heading out to his post it’s customary to join the Harbormaster and family for a dinner. This is where he meets Isabel, actually for the second time. She was feeding birds when he first spoke to her and he is enchanted with her vibrant outlook on life.

Fast forward and they are writing to one another and eventually marry. The happiness is short lived when Izzy has several failed pregnancies. As she is tending one of the graves of her stillborn children she hears a baby cry. It must be her imagination, or madness. Then Tom yells there is a boat adrift in the cove and they run to it. Inside is a dead man and a live baby girl.

Tom, as keeper of the books on the lighthouse, needs to record this event and signal for a ship to come and pick up the baby and the body of the man. This is where things go south. Isabel wants that baby with all her heart.

Tom: “But that’s just it. We don’t need to do anything wrong. We could report her now and apply to adopt her. It’s not too late, Izz. We can still make it right.”

“Adopt her?” Isabel stiffened. “They’d never send a baby to a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere: no doctor, no school. No church probably worries them the most. And even if they did put her up for adoption , they’d want to give her to some couple in a town somewhere.”

Isabel names the baby Lucy and becomes the perfect most patient young mother. Lucy thrives on the island. Isabel is content to let people know she gave birth and pass Lucy off as her own. After all, people knew she was pregnant and being so isolated no one knew of the miscarriages. Tom begins to love the child but he is troubled by the perjury of records, he is worried about whose baby this is and the grief the mother must be experiencing. As he continually mentions they need to tell someone about Lucy, Isabel is always ready with an argument why they shouldn’t.

They start to fall apart. Isabel questions Tom as to why he’s put so much spit and polish in for the next inspection.

“I want it shipshape, that’s all. I’ve told you, we’re in with a chance for the Point Moore posting. We’d be on land, close to Gerladton. Near people. And we’d be hundreds of miles from Partageuse.”

“Time was you couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Janus.”

“Yeah, well, times change.”

“It’s not time that’s changed, Tom,” she said. “You’re the one who always says that if a lighthouse looks like it’s in a different place, it’s not the lighthouse that’s moved.”

“Well you work out what has,” he said as he picked up his spanner and headed off……..

Meanwhile, you read about Lucy’s mother who is alive and grieving all these years for her husband and her baby named Grace. There are plot twists you won’t see coming. This is not a predictable outcome and you feel empathy for both Isabel and Lucy/Grace’s mother just about equally. This isn’t a happily ever after book but it is a well written novel, the imagery and emotions are first class.

I would like to read more by this author. Not sure if I’d watch the movie though.

Here is a still shot from the movie – Tom and Isabel when they were happy. Perfect.


The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

chilburyLet me start by saying I loved this book. Couldn’t put it down and now I am aching for more from this author.

We start with a notice pinned to Village Hall noticeboard:

As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close following Cmdr. Edmund Winthrop’s funeral next Tuesday.

The Vicar

This is an era where women didn’t usually speak up for themselves but there were a few strong female voices in this village. Why not continue and have a ladies choir? It would be a morale booster in such dismal times. Scandalous!   These  stories focus on the resourcefulness of women during very difficult times. It’s not solely about the choir so if that sounds like a snooze – think again.

There is quite a cast of characters in this book. The stories are told through diary entries from several points of view as well as letters penned to friends and loved ones.  As you read bits and pieces the story lines dovetail into a fairly satisfying conclusion – tales of affairs, deception, blackmail, love, bravery and great sadness. If your reading tastes include stories set in the WW II era in England and you like a journal and letter writing format – you will LOVE this book.

You’ll get to know so many personalities from the village in the early days of WW II.

There are the Winthrops, a high society family with an overbearing father called the Brigadier. He bullies everyone and has secrets which could land him in jail. His daughters, Kitty and Venetia, tell the stories of the village, the war effort, and the forming of the Ladies Choir.

From Kitty Winthrop’s Diary
“ They announced on the wireless that keeping a diary in these difficult times is excellent for stamina, so I’ve decided to write down all my thoughts and dreams in my old school notebook…..”

Besides Kitty’s diary entries you have the point of view of Mrs. Tilling, a nurse, and 10 year old Czech evacutee Silvie. Between the diary entries and the interspersed letters from Venetia Winthrop to her friend Angela Quail living in London and letters from Miss Paltry to her sister, you will enjoy several interwoven stories and slowly piece it all together.

I became a fan of Mrs. Tilling and loathed Miss Paltry.  Now I am wondering when the author will produce another novel because I am anxious to read more.

As I like maps, a bonus was the legend and map in the beginning so you can follow the characters around.


More about the author:   Jennifer Ryan was born in Kent, England and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and children.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Tales of Yesterday for the British Book Challenge

BriFri-logoBBC pointed shaded

Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson


Watching the Dark is the twentieth book in the DCI Banks series.  I only have three books left and I will be bereft, waiting for the latest publication.  Guess I will need a new series to tuck into as I am also awaiting the next Tana French novel with her Dublin Murder Squad series.   {insert pouty face)

This book starts out with a former Detective Inspector Bill Quinn found dead at a convalescence facility.  He was there recuperating from an injury when someone lured him to the lakeside and shot him with a cross bow.  What an unusual murder weapon. DI Quinn had a case involving a missing young woman he obsessed over.  She was a young English girl who went to a “hen party” with friends in Estonia.  Now my thought there was – why go to Estonia?  Evidently it was inexpensive and quite a popular thing to do.  That was 6 years ago but Bill Quinn was obsessed with her disappearance.  Did that have something to do with his murder?

This book introduced a policewoman from  Professional Standards. Joanna Passero is assigned to assist with Banks’ investigation but it’s not a smooth partnership.  Joanna is correctly viewed with suspicion as she is a member of the “Rat Squad”,  a section operating on investigating their own for misconduct. The dialogue is good and I enjoyed this book.  Not as much as other DCI Banks’ books but this kept me turning the pages.

One of my favorite detectives, DI Annie Cabbot is back after her extended stay at the same facility.  In the last book she was shot and I am mighty pleased to see her return.

So, my advice is to not skip around too much on these books as you may miss something regarding professional and personal developments.  Backstory.

Food – there is always food just as there is always a mention of music.

When the landlord came around to take their orders, Merike said she wasn’t hungry. The other three ordered. Banks went for his favorite, smoked haddock with a poached egg, leeks mushrooms and Gruyere cheese.

Well I couldn’t get haddock but I usually improvise with recipes or menus.  It was grilled Grouper (one of my favorites) with potatoes and a vegetable mix of leeks, garlic, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

2017 Monthly Motif Challenge

Tales of Yesterday for the British Book Challenge

Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Be prepared to shed a tear….

oveOve.  People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” A curmudgeon.  Easy to dismiss such a person unless you give a thought that every unpleasant person has a story, one that probably shaped their personality.

I have to admit the beginning of this book had me on the fence as to whether I would finish it.  A DNF in my list of books.  I don’t like to read about such a negative person but then more was revealed about Ove.  By the time I finished I had tears in my eyes.  Yes, this book made me cry.

Ove loved his wife very much.  They were certainly very different people, he being the more reserved and (I hate to use the word ) negative. Sonja was light hearted, more compassionate.  They were a perfect match.

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white.  But she was color. All the color he had.”

What would happen to you if the “color of your world” was gone?  It’s not a spoiler, you find out in a few paragraphs or very short chapters, such as they are.  More is revealed about Ove’s life, his early years with his parents and after he met his wife.  You learn about his moral character, his honesty and how his father shaped the man Ove would become.

The people in his neighborhood play significant parts and I enjoyed reading about each interaction.    If you think about abandoning this book (for the same reasons I almost did) – don’t.  I will wager you will shed a tear by the end.  Wonderful story.

It’s recently caught my attention that a movie is being made from this book.  I don’t know if the movie can capture this story properly but I will certainly check it out once it’s in theaters.

A man called Ove / En man som heter Ove – Trailer from Orange Valley Production on Vimeo.

Readers Workout

I missed joining in last week.  It started gangbusters and then my old yoga injury flared up,  locking my leg into a straight position so…..hardly any walking.  I also had to get a temporary crown on a broken tooth.  Once the numbness wore off the injection sites were a dull pain in my mouth. Wah-wah…….this is me indulging in a little pity party.


The good news is I manged to have a great week of walking prior to the revisitation of the leg injury.  I am doing the stretching exercises and slowly I will be back to my old self, walking fast and long distances.

According to my FitBit stats I walked 45 miles and 111,621 steps between January 30 – February 5. My steps are greatly diminished after that.

The menu:

Baked Cod with avocado, cherry tomato salsa

Chinese Takeaway

Shakshuka  (with fresh eggs from a local farm!)

Tortellini with Spinach (Click on link for recipe)



How was your week?

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


BBC Radio 3 – Peter Robinson Interview

For anyone who is a regular reader of this blog it’s no secret I am a huge fan of author Peter Robinson.  To my delight I recently read about a radio program where Peter will talk about his love of music, how he is inspired to write the DCI Banks’ novels and much more.


I have taken the liberty of quoting from this advertisement on BBC Radio:

“There’s a memorable line where Robinson says of his detective – “He did his best thinking when he was listening to music and drinking wine.” This, Robinson reveals, is autobiographical.

In Private Passions, Peter Robinson talks to Michael Berkeley about how music inspires his best thinking and writing, and why he’s on a mission to get all his readers listening to the music he loves. He even creates online playlists of the music his detective listens to – including some of the music he chooses in Private Passions. Choices include Poulenc’s Sextet for Piano and Wind, Beethoven’s String Quartet in C sharp minor, Takemitsu, Miles Davis, and one of Schubert’s last piano sonatas. Perhaps it’s no surprise that he’s drawn to last works – as a crime writer, his books begin with murder. Robinson confesses though that he regrets the increasing violence of the genre, and thinks the TV adaptations of his work go too far. And he reveals why Yorkshire is always the best place to hide a body.”

If you want to tune into this program or just check out other BBC programs click HERE

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday