ROUNDUP of the 2018 Monthly Motif reading challenge

This year went by fast, don’t you think? It was fun participating in the motif challenge, I met new book bloggers and learned about new authors. Always a pleasure. Here is the roundup of the books I read. Please note that I forgot to actually linkup at Girlxoxo for all the months I participated! Duh!  I’ll do better next year.

2018-Monthly-Motif

Here are the links to books I read for the 2018 Monthly Motif.

JANUARY – Diversify Your Reading – White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Kick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.

FEBRUARY – One Word – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Read a book with a one word title.

MARCH – Travel the World – The Dry by Jane Harper
Read a book set in a different country than your own, written by an author from another country than your own, or a book in which the characters travel.

APRIL – Read Locally
Read a book set in your country, state, town, village (or has a main character from your home town, country, etc)  I planned to read House on the Forgotten Coast by Ruth Coe Chambers.  Didn’t happen.

MAY- Book to Screen
Read a book that’s been made into a movie or a TV show.

JUNE- Crack the Case – The French Girl by Lexie Elliott
Mysteries, True Crime, Who Dunnit’s.

JULY – Vacation Reads – Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
Read a book you think is a perfect vacation read and tell us why.

AUGUST- Award Winners – Wine Reads by Jay McInerney
Read a book that has won a literary award or a book written by an author who has been recognized in the bookish community.

SEPTEMBER- Don’t Turn Out The Light 
Cozy mystery ghost stories, paranormal creeptastic, horror novels.

OCTOBER- New or Old – Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
Choose a new release from 2018 or a book known as a classic.

NOVEMBER- Family – The Au Pair by Emma Rous
Books where family dynamics play a big role in the story

DECEMBER- Wrapping It Up – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Winter or holiday themed books or books with snow, ice, etc in the title or books set in winter OR read a book with a theme from any of the months in this challenge (could be a theme you didn’t do, or one you want to do again).

I managed nine books/months out of the twelve so, not too shabby 🙂

This upcoming year I plan to participate but I will be sure to link up in the proper time frame. 🙂

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

eleanorI had been meaning to get to this book for months after a recommendation by JoAnne of Lakeside Musing. It was a page turner for me, not a thriller or mystery as I usually read, it’s a portrait of a young woman who had evidently been through something horrific in her past.

She has no social skills or experience with everyday situations such as ordering a pizza or going to a concert.  Little clues about her looks and an unconventional and possibly violent past are hinted at early on. Her facial scars, mentions of looking at magazines in hospital waiting rooms and institutions….what happened to this woman?!

Well, it’s all revealed through bits in pieces and final crashing amount of information that makes you want to grab Eleanor and hug her.  Make her life whole, let her see there is good in the world.

Eleanor goes to work 5 days a week and the routine seems to be enough, until the weekend where she eats frozen pizza and drinks copious amounts of vodka. One day after work she is annoyed that a coworker named Raymond is walking with her.  She doesn’t socialize, she is uncomfortable. They see an older man collapsed in the street and go to assist. Very slowly her life changes from that point onward. This is a lady who never socializes, who lives from office to home to her corner market in London.  Now she is visiting someone, she even goes with Raymond to see his mother.

Everything felt safe, everything felt normal, How different Raymond’s life had been from mine – a proper family, a mother and a father and a sister, nestled among other proper families.”

There was a bit of food mentioned in this one as well as the British soap opera The Archers.

Eating her meal deal while listening to The Archers. (I tried listening to that before and for some reason stopped. I think I needed more background.)

Pesto with pasta, scallops, cod, poached duck egg and hazelnut oil. Bouillabaisse with homemade rouille. Honey glazed poussin with celeriac fondants. Fresh truffles in season, shaved over crepes and buttered linguine. Sourdough toast with Manchego cheese and quince paste.

Mummy old me the way to a man’s heart is a homemade sausage roll.”

Pizza and wine. A woman after my own heart. We love a bottle of Beaujolais and pizza for movie night, In this instance Eleanor wasn’t able to procure her frozen pizza and had one delivered. Something she had never done before.
Cheese and pickle sandwiches, tomato soup in a mug

Raymond pushed open the back door without knocking, shouting hello as he walked into the little kitchen. It smelled deliciously of soup, salty and warm, probably emanating from the large pot on the hob.” The soup was made with pork knuckle and full of fresh vegetables from the garden. There was bread and butter and cheese.

I like this quote:  This is what I felt: the warm weight of his hands on me; the gentleness in his smile; the gentle heat of something opening, the way some flowers spread out in the morning at the sight of the sun. I knew what was happening. It was the unscarred piece of my heart. It was just big enough to let in a bit of affection. 

I’m glad I made time this year for Eleanor Oliphant.  It was a good story.

Linking up with:

Girlxoxo for the December Monthly Motif
Joy for British Isles Friday.
Heather for the December Foodies Read

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2019 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge hosted at Girlxoxo

It’s that time of year when I am tempted to join in on reading challenges for the new year.  Sometimes I get too enthusiastic and can’t keep up.  This year I did something boneheaded – I signed up for the 2018 Monthly Motif at Girlxoxo and only linked up in the beginning.  😦  Brilliant.  Next year I will do better.  It’s in my new calendar so that should remind me.

The 2019 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge  hosted at Girlxoxo is HERE.

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Here are the themes below.  I already have some books in mind for these monthly motifs and definitely plan to link up in the proper time frame.

JANUARY – New to You Author
Read a book by an author whose writing you’ve never read before.

FEBRUARY – Cover Love
Yes. We’re giving you permission to judge a book by its cover and read a book with a cover that really caught your eye.

MARCH – Royalty, Kingdoms, Empires, Governments
Read a book in which the character is involved in a ruling or governing body in some way.

APRIL – Crack the Case
Read a mystery, detective story, true crime, cozy mystery, or book involving a puzzle to solve.

MAY – One Sitting Reads
Read something that is short enough you could get through it in one sitting- try a graphic novel, comic book, short story, essay, or short collection of poetry.

JUNE – Diversify Your Reading
Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own or read about a culture you want to learn more about.

JULY – Through The Years
Read a book involving time travel, a book with a ‘time’ setting such as The Great Gatsby (20s), read a historical fiction/nonfiction, or choose a book published in your birth year.

AUGUST – Mode of Transportation
Read a book where the mode of transportation plays a role in the story (ex. Murder on the Orient Express or The Boys in the Boat)

SEPTEMBER – Animal, Number, Color, Name
One of those things needs to be in the title of the book you choose (ex. Water for Elephants, Red Queen, Fahrenheit 451, Rebecca, Harry Potter)

OCTOBER – Tricks and Trades
Read a book set in a theater, an amusement park, a circus, or a book involving magic, illusions, or characters with special powers.

NOVEMBER – Seasons, Elements, and Weather
Embrace a winter wonderland setting, pick a beach read, or read about a natural disaster. As long as a season, element, or the weather plays a key role in the story or is part of the title, it counts. (ex. Little Fires Everywhere, The Snow Child, On The Island)

DECEMBER – Last Chance
Finally read that one book that you’ve been meaning to get to all year long.

Please let me know in comments if you are joining in on any challenges for 2019.  I’d love to know and may join in. Okay, let’s get reading! 

#monthlymotifgxo

Once Upon a River just didn’t float my boat

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It’s magical, it’s folklore, it’s skilled storytelling.  But it couldn’t keep my interest.  I am most certainly in the minority here as reviews and blogs are raving about this book. So…yeah.  I abandoned it.

We start off in a tavern called The Swan.  A large man stumbles in, apparently bloodied and beaten, and in his arms is a little girl. The local nurse comes to check on her and making the pronouncement that she’s dead, the girl is placed in a room for the night. The next day she is alive and not a mark on her. That’s some of the magical element in the book.

I only read a bit more after 50 or so pages.   What grabbed me about this book was the description and the gorgeous cover art, that’s why I asked for an advanced copy. As I said, people seem to love this lyrical tale but I just found myself putting it down and it flat out didn’t keep my interest. There are too many books on my to-read list so I cut my losses if a book doesn’t engage fairly quickly.

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review. Publication date is December 4, 2018.

 

Au Pair by Emma Rous

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There were so many things I liked about this book.  We have an old English country estate called Summerbourne, a seemingly neurotic young woman named Seraphine Mayes who is obsessed with finding out about her early life, a mystery about Ruth (Seraphine and her twin brother Danny’s mother), Ruth’s suicide and an ending that will blow you away.

The Au Pair is Laura Silverira, hired to take care of young Edwin Mayes. The other players are Edwin’s parents, Ruth and Dominic Mayes, their friend Alex and Ruth’s mother Vera. In Laura’s chapters we see the interactions between these people. Ruth appears to vacillate between depression and paranoia 80% of the time. Her mother Vera is domineering and controlling, but perhaps she is trying to take care of Ruth. The time period is 1992, the year Seraphine and Danny were born.

Seraphine’s chapters are in present day. Her father Dominic recently died in an accident. As Seraphine goes through her father’s belongings she finds a photo of her parents and Edwin, her mother holding a newborn. Her mother is smiling yet hours later she throws herself off a cliff. Why is there only one baby in the photo when Ruth had twins and – which baby is it? Is it Seraphine or Danny? This is the catalyst setting Seraphine off in search of the au pair Laura, hoping to find out what happened all those years ago.

Her brothers urge her to leave it alone and of course she doesn’t. The consequences of her secret investigation into their past will have devastating consequences. As you get to know the characters you’ll wonder if Seraphine isn’t a fragile sort of person, perhaps suffering from mild depression or anxiety. Are some of her assumptions and theories valid or is she over the edge? This is all revealed as you read on and to mention some outcomes would certainly spoil your reading experience.

This story is like a fireworks display. It starts as a slow simmer, builds up steam and then blows up around the 85% mark with dynamic revelations. I am awaiting this author’s next book and hope it’s as engaging and mysterious as this book.

Food makes an appearance here and there:

Edwin and I unpack the grocery bags together on Saturday morning. As ever, the effect the fresh ingredients have on him is powerful: he smiles as he rubs his thumbs over the onions, flexes the celery, sniffs at the Parmesan and inspects the prawns. He’s in his element, relaxed and happy.

Chocolate tiffin, cinnamon pastries, slices of carrot cake with thick lemon frosting, an apple plum crumble, pots of homemade applesauce, flapjacks, chocolate sponge cake, speared pineapple and chunks of cheese.

Dominic was pressing sprigs of rosemary into a joint of lamb, a mound of unwashed potatoes sat by the sink.

Roasted turkey and potatoes and chipolatas.

I didn’t have the chipolatas but I do have turkey and roasted potatoes 🙂

turkey

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review. Publication date is January 8, 2019.

Linking up with:
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather for the November Foodie’s Read
Girlxoxo for the Monthly Motif (the theme is family)
Beth Fish Reads for the Weekend Cooking Series

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

 

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My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows.” –  from our narrator.

This book spans over 150 years, each time period, as it switches back and forth, are pieces of  a puzzle.

Present day: We start with Elodie Winslow, a young woman with an old soul.  She’s a London archivist, engaged to be married to someone who doesn’t truly suit her.

Looking through an old satchel she discovers a sketchbook which belonged to artist Edward Radcliffe as well as a framed photograph of a striking young woman.  Edward’s story is on the book jacket.  He buys the impressive Birchwood Manor and invites a group of friends, fellow artists and their models, to spend a month of creativity and enjoyment.

But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

That was 150 years ago.  We switch to Edward’s time period and learn some of what went on, fractured relationships, love and mystery.  Now and then the narrator has her chapters, explaining what she thinks, what she observes.  She is the clockmaker’s daughter.

A quote I liked:

Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favored memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and polished for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.” 

Besides present day and Edward’s time period, we have characters from the 1940’s right after the war.  They all play an intricate part in the story and how it all weaves together in the end.  One character is in this time frame is a little boy named Tip.  His part here and in the present day are linked as he is Elodie’s great uncle. He has a small part but it’s important.

It’s eluded that the narrator isn’t named, that we never know her name as early on her father refers to her as Birdie. He says she was named for her grandfather. Well, I won’t tell you here even though it doesn’t raise a spoiler, but it’s something revealed on pages 460 – 462 so you won’t want to miss it.  By then you are almost finished and I will say, what a story – historically rich with the lines of all eras woven together in a satisfying ending.

Kate Morton never disappoints me.  Great story as always.

Linking up with Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday as the setting is London and near rural Lechlade. Birchwood Manor is fictional but befitting many old manor houses in England.

BriFri

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

lethalLethal White is book four in the Cormoran Strike series and what a fat, engaging mystery it is. (I finished this a few weeks ago but it’s been insane here, I did not jot down notes, and so it isn’t fresh in my mind.) What I do remember is loving the dialogue between Comoran and Robin, the multiple investigations going on, the glimpse into upper class politicians’ lives and how it all dovetails in the end.

Barclay is a new addition to the team and I very much like the Scottish accents, his personality and the way he works with Strike and Robin. The author is expert at writing the speech inflections so when I read it I “heard” Jimmy speak in his working classing class London accent. Same with Jasper Chiswell and his family with their very upper crust diction.

This was a long book and doubtless it could have had some scenarios shortened. There was a bit too much of Robin’s internal dialogue about whether she had romantic feelings for Strike. In my opinion that could have been pared down. Do I think they will eventually get together? Yes, I do, but I hope it’s not until the end of the series. I like how they work together now.

The multiple cases and how they were juggled kept my interest, I don’t know how Galbraith/Rowling keeps all that straight and weaves it all together. Loved the exchanges between Lorelei and Cormoran, also the Matthew-Robin-Sarah story line. Quite pleased about some of that but I can’t hash it out because of big spoilers.

I think it’s good J.K. Rowling went with a pseudonym for this series as it makes a distinction between the Harry Potter series, which was more appropriate for a younger audience, and this adult themed series.

Aja, a sweet old Shiba Inu and prolific reader.

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Food and drink:
Rib-eye steak and chips, quinoa salads and soup. Burgers with blue cheese, chili, Singapore noodles, sweet and sour pork, Pad Thai, takeaway curry, treacle tart, “thick slices of cold roast beef and boiled potatoes. It was English nursery food, plain and unfussy, and none the worse for it.” A cornetto.

Let’s have some Pad Thai.

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Lovely carby rice noodles and shrimp. Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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Sharing with:

Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking Series 
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather’s October Foodie Reads
Girlxoxo Monthly Motif

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