White Teeth by Zadie Smith


Description:   White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie, the other by Archie’s best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful, toothless Jamaican woman half his age, and the couple have a daughter named Irie (the Jamaican word for “no problem”). Samad —devoutly Muslim, hopelessly “foreign”— weds the feisty and always suspicious Alsana in a prearranged union. They have twin sons named Millat and Magid, one a pot-smoking punk-cum-militant Muslim and the other an insufferable science nerd. The riotous and tortured histories of the Joneses and the Iqbals are fundamentally intertwined, capturing an empire’s worth of cultural identity, history, and hope.

Why I selected this book: Last week I found a list of the Best BBC books from a poll outside the U.K. and decided to make it my challenge for the next few years. Additionally,  Girlxoxo’s Monthly Motif theme this month is diversity.  So I decided to read a selection from my BBC List that would fit the theme as I wanted to participate with Tanya and Kim.   I was torn between this one and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.

The book addresses racial issues that seem to create a divide between the English-born residents and immigrants from the Caribbean and India.

These days, it feels to me like you make a devil’s pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started… but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers – who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like you are an animal finally house-trained.

The narratives between characters tends to ramble here and there and with that, I would start drifting.  Lots of good passages and quotes from this book though:

You are never stronger…than when you land on the other side of despair.”

It’s a multicultural community examining who is a true English person, how the immigrants fit in, the many different holidays and religious celebrations which do not overlap cultures and how the children of the immigrants identify with their lives.  Kids usually adapt.

Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”

This is #25 on the list HERE.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday
Tanyaxoxo 2018 Monthly Motif



Finding Claire Fletcher by Lisa Regan


Finding Claire Fletcher by Lisa Regan is a   creepy abduction story told from Claire’s point of view.  This story begins in present time with many flashbacks to Claire’s kidnapping and the physical and psychological torment she experiences.

Detective Connor Parks is sitting in a bar after a very bad day.  Claire approaches him, tries to pick him up and eventually goes to his home.   He awakens the next morning to find her gone, leaving behind a paper with her name and home address.  No phone number.  Connor goes to the address asking for her and discovers this woman has been missing for 10 years.

Now why would Claire be able to leave her abductor and not return home?  Because she was told he would kill her family if she ever spoke to the police.  Over the years she was captive she was “rewarded” with privileges such as clothing, food and clean water if she cooperated.

She was kidnapped at the age of 15, chained to a bed, beaten, raped, starved and forced to watch him kill someone.  A passage from the beginning:

When he came home, he talked to me in that effeminate singsong voice. The thread of his one-sided conversation never deviated….in his mind I was “Lynn” and I was his. This was our home and we would be together forever.
When he looked at me he didn’t see a shrunken, dangerously thin girl with hatred in her eyes, literally chained in place.

Claire would eventually be allowed out but the fear for her family, and the shame she undeservedly felt, kept her from returning to them.  You also read about the aftermath of her kidnapping and what it did to her parents and siblings.

Here is a passage where her sister Brianna vents to Connor:

That bastard took my sister and it ruined my life. It ruined everything, my whole family may well have been abducted because they were gone. Mom forgot about my senior prom because there was some lead on Claire’s case. During my high school graduation my parents spent more time looking at their watches than the ceremony because they couldn’t wait to get home in case the detective called with news about her.”

Does that sound selfish?  No, I don’t think so.  Real life side story here – My son’s friend  was on his way home from work one evening and failed to negotiate a curve while riding his motorcycle. He crashed and died at the age of 18 years and one month.  He didn’t have a chance to graduate or celebrate so many things life may have offered.  His parents were obviously devastated.  They ran his obituary and paid to keep it running for 2 years, allowing people to still comment.  His little sister was left in the shadows.  Their grief actually short changed the little girl as her celebrations weren’t met with the enthusiasm they may have had.  I felt sorry for her.  So Brianna’s venting had some merit.

A note I’d like to make is the use of character names from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  Perhaps it’s a coincidence, or a tribute to a favored author but did anyone notice Claire, Brianna and Jenny as character names?

There is evidently a second book with Detective Connor Parks and Claire features in this one as well.  While this was a page turner I think I will skip the next books.

100 Books #BriFri

Cleaning out an old desk can be tiresome but every so often you are rewarded with an unexpected treasure.  An old letter you may have saved for sentimental value or knick-knack your child gave you one mother’s day long ago. One thing I found (which I had completely forgotten about) was this list of books I had printed from an old BBC article.


Evidently in my passion to read as many of these British authored books for a challenge, I printed the article and somehow filed it away in a notebook.  BBC Culture polled book critics outside the UK, asking for “an outsider’s perspective on the best in British literature.”  To quote:

In search of a collective critical assessment, BBC Culture contributor Jane Ciabattari polled 82 book critics, from Australia to Zimbabwe – but none from the UK. This list includes no nonfiction, no plays, no narrative or epic poems (no Paradise Lost or Beowulf), no short story collections (no Morte D’Arthur) – novels only, by British authors (which means no James Joyce).”

Looking over the list I realize I have only read 10 and probably only reviewed The Sense of an Ending, at least on this blog.  The Lord of the Rings (#26) is actually 3 books so I can count that off as I have read those as well as The Hobbit.

Since I found the list, I wanted to share and see how many I can read over the next several years.  There are more books I want to devour but I am willing to revive this challenge and see where my interest lies.  If I don’t finish one then I will note that too.  Should be interesting.

Have you read any of the following and/or reviewed the books? I will be linking my reviews/thoughts as I tackle the list.  The ones I have read previously and not reviewed are marked in Orange. 

 Here is the list!

100. The Code of the Woosters (PG Wodehouse, 1938)
99. There but for the (Ali Smith, 2011)
98. Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry,1947)
97. The Chronicles of Narnia (CS Lewis, 1949-1954)
96. Memoirs of a Survivor (Doris Lessing, 1974)
95. The Buddha of Suburbia (Hanif Kureishi, 1990)
94. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (James Hogg, 1824)
93. Lord of the Flies (William Golding, 1954)
92. Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons, 1932)
91. The Forsyte Saga (John Galsworthy, 1922)
90. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins, 1859)
89. The Horse’s Mouth (Joyce Cary, 1944)
88. The Death of the Heart (Elizabeth Bowen, 1938)
87. The Old Wives’ Tale (Arnold Bennett,1908)
86. A Legacy (Sybille Bedford, 1956)
85. Regeneration Trilogy (Pat Barker, 1991-1995)
84. Scoop (Evelyn Waugh, 1938)
83. Barchester Towers (Anthony Trollope, 1857)
82. The Patrick Melrose Novels (Edward St Aubyn, 1992-2012)
81. The Jewel in the Crown (Paul Scott, 1966)
80. Excellent Women (Barbara Pym, 1952)
79. His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman, 1995-2000)
78. A House for Mr Biswas (VS Naipaul, 1961)
77. Of Human Bondage (W Somerset Maugham, 1915)
76. Small Island (Andrea Levy, 2004)
75. Women in Love (DH Lawrence, 1920)
74. The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy, 1886)
73. The Blue Flower (Penelope Fitzgerald, 1995)
72. The Heart of the Matter (Graham Greene, 1948)
71. Old Filth (Jane Gardam, 2004)
70. Daniel Deronda (George Eliot, 1876)
69. Nostromo (Joseph Conrad, 1904)
68. A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess, 1962)
67. Crash (JG  Ballard 1973)
66. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)
65. Orlando (Virginia Woolf, 1928)
64. The Way We Live Now (Anthony Trollope, 1875)
63. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark, 1961)
62. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)
61. The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch, 1978)
60. Sons and Lovers (DH Lawrence, 1913)
59. The Line of Beauty (Alan Hollinghurst, 2004)
58. Loving (Henry Green, 1945)
57. Parade’s End (Ford Madox Ford, 1924-1928)
56. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Jeanette Winterson, 1985)
55. Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift, 1726)
54. NW (Zadie Smith, 2012)
53. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys, 1966)
52. New Grub Street (George Gissing, 1891)
51. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy, 1891)
50. A Passage to India (EM Forster, 1924)
49. Possession (AS Byatt, 1990)
48. Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis, 1954)
47. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Laurence Sterne, 1759)
46. Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie, 1981)
45. The Little Stranger  (Sarah Waters, 2009)
44. Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel, 2009)
43. The Swimming Pool Library (Alan Hollinghurst, 1988)
42. Brighton Rock (Graham Greene, 1938)
41. Dombey and Son (Charles Dickens, 1848)
40. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)
39.  The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes, 2011)
38. The Passion (Jeanette Winterson, 1987)
37. Decline and Fall (Evelyn Waugh, 1928)
36. A Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell, 1951-1975)
35. Remainder (Tom McCarthy, 2005)
34. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005)
33. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame, 1908)
32. A Room with a View (EM Forster, 1908)
31. The End of the Affair (Graham Greene, 1951)
30. Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe, 1722)
29. Brick Lane (Monica Ali, 2003)
28. Villette (Charlotte Brontë, 1853)
27. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719)
26. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien, 1954)
25. White Teeth (Zadie Smith, 2000)
24. The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing, 1962)
23. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy, 1895)
22. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (Henry Fielding, 1749)
21. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899)
20. Persuasion (Jane Austen, 1817)
19. Emma (Jane Austen, 1815)
18. Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989)
17. Howards End (EM Forster, 1910)
16. The Waves (Virginia Woolf, 1931)
15. Atonement (Ian McEwan, 2001)
14. Clarissa (Samuel Richardson,1748)
13. The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford, 1915)
12. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
11. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)
10. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848)
9. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
8. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1850)
7. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë, 1847)
6. Bleak House (Charles Dickens, 1853)
5. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)
4. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1861)
3. Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925)
2. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf, 1927)
1. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1874)

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday . As I slowly make my way through the list I will update.


The American Table Cookbook

Last week I arrived home from work and awaiting me book mail! How great is that to come home to a new cookbook. This is courtesy of the Book Club Cookbook and Skyhorse Publishing.  Thank you much!


As you can see from the table of contents there is much to choose from.  I wanted to start with the bread section but the simple roasted potatoes won out.   Comfort foods rule when the temperatures dip into the 20’s so chowder was another welcome addition to the lunch menu.

I’m sure there will be many more recipes I can share from this book in the future.  It’s not ideal for vegetarians (and certainly not vegan diets)  but adaptions may be made to suit your taste.

Oven Roasted Garlic Potatoes

1 pound red potatoes, sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBs olive oil
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme

Preheat oven to 450 F. In large dish, combine all ingredients. Place in oven and roast 45 minutes or until crisp. Before serving toss the ingredients to combine the oils and herbs.

How simple is that? The chowder is a variation of ones I have made before so I won’t repeat that recipe here.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series.

Blue Monday by Nicci French

Blue Monday by Nicci French
Publisher: Penguin Group

As I mentioned before, I started with book 7 – yeah, brilliant. But I was so taken with the story and characters that I decided I would grab book 1 and read the beginning, even if I do have a few spoilers along the way.

This book is the start of the Frieda Klein series and it begins in 1987.

It takes a while to get started, it moves rather slowly at first while you get to know the characters but, in my opinion, the character development is worth it. Frieda is a psychotherapist. She isn’t a warm character but I like her. She’s complex, cool and competent. Intelligent and a problem solver. Her mind never seems to shut down and so she walks the streets of London at night until she is weary. I like her rituals such as laying the fire in the morning so she can start a fire each evening when she returns home. I like her organizational method to approaching….anything.

This book introduces us to Frieda’s latest client, a troubled man named Alan Dekker. The short gist of it is he is an emotional mess. He is on the verge of a breakdown and anxious all the time about so many things in his life. To add to it, he and his wife Carrie are having trouble conceiving a child. He wants a child of his own rather than adopting and gives Frieda great detailed descriptions of his fantasy child, down to the hair color and build. He explains all this during his therapy sessions, a place where he should be safe and know his feelings won’t be shared. Unfortunately a little red-haired boy named Matthew Faraday has been abducted and he fits the description of the fantasy child to the letter. Big red flag here! Did Dekker abduct Matthew?

Now comes the ethical dilemma for Frieda about whether she needs to go to the police. Detective Chief Inspector Karlsson is assigned the missing child case and this is where he crosses paths with Frieda Klein. It’s explosive in so many ways. This sets up the premise that Frieda may be working, albeit hesitantly, with the police now and again.
The end wraps up fairly nicely yet leaves you curious about a few possible loose ends.

So. Now that I have read both the last book and then this book  I can say that I will read the series  – but I liked the characters in Sunday Silence better than this one. Clear as mud right? Knowing how some of these folks turn out and clearly the writing was crisper in book 7, that’s what interests me. Blue Monday needed to have the character development and the explanations about their lives but it wasn’t a I’m-in-love-with-this-series instantly had I started with this book.
Please don’t let me turn you off to the Frieda Klein series, I honestly do think it’s good.

Food mentioned here and there……
Curried cauliflower and chick pea salad
Marmalade Bakewell tart
Holubsti (pickled fish)
Kutya (wheat, honey, poppyseed and nuts)

Recipe for chickpea salad may be found HERE.


Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday , Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series and January Foodies Read at Spirit Blog.


Food Processor Perfection – Vegetable Gratin

gratin5 You just can’t go wrong with America’s Test Kitchen. Any recipe I’ve tried from ATK has come out perfectly. When I saw this cookbook focusing on using the food processor I had to try it.

Actually, I had this book checked out of the library a while back and waited to post this.  I don’t know why.  Then I thought about not posting it as some folks are in the middle of extreme winter weather where you can’t get a decent tomato or zucchini.   But it is summer in the southern hemisphere so I thought, why not.  (That’s a shout out Carole’s Chatter 🙂 And I would still make this in winter with hothouse tomatoes because its a comfort food (for me).

Anyway…….first recipe I tried was a Summer Vegetable Gratin with lots of juicy tomatoes, crisp zucchini, sliced onions and garlic.  Obviously there is cheese and the merging of these ingredients makes for a fabulous side dish or vegetarian main dish.  It also makes for a messy kitchen but I assure you it’s worth it.

This was meant to last as two side dishes but we almost devoured the entire thing in one sitting.  We served this with grilled fish.


Recipe follows and I will warn you, it’s a bit time consuming but you can cut back on the time with some of the prep.  I gave the recipe as printed in the book but obviously you can make your own adjustments. Enjoy!

Vegetable Gratin

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound yellow squash, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 to 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thin pole to pole (about 3 cups)
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 large slice white sandwich bread, torn into quarters ( I used 1 cup of Panko one time and a slice of my French bread another time)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup) (I used onions once and shallots the next time.  made no difference)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Brush 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside. Midway through prep start heating your oven to 400 F.

Toss zucchini and squash slices with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl; transfer to colander set over bowl. Let stand until zucchini and squash release at least 3 tablespoons of liquid, about 45 minutes. Arrange slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.

Place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, remaining salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened  (15 minutes). Set onions aside.

Combine garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in small bowl. In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture, then arrange in greased baking dish. Arrange caramelized onions in even layer over squash. Slightly overlap tomato slices in single layer on top of onions. Spoon remaining garlic-oil mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake in a 400 degree oven until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are starting to brown on edges, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. (You should have about 1 cup crumbs). Combine bread crumbs, remaining tablespoon oil, Parmesan, and shallots in medium bowl. Remove baking dish from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture evenly on top of tomatoes. Bake gratin until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and let sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

It’s a bit time consuming but it’s delicious. Totally worth it.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series and January Foodies Read at Spirit Blog.



The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor


This book has gotten mixed reviews but I am a fan, I liked it. If Tudor comes out with another novel I will certainly read it. There were places where the author would leave you with a cliffhanger but didn’t make you wait 50 pages to get back to it. Set in England and reminiscent of Stand by Me, five friends experience childhood pleasures of riding their bikes, exploring the woods, getting into scrapes, playing games and the usual.

This was before the cruel introduction of the internet and cell phones so kids actually played. And talked. Amazing, huh?

The mystery starts with chalk figures drawn around the village. Colored chalk was gifted to Fat Gav at his birthday party and this starts the appearance of chalk figures and coded messages. If one of the friends exited their house and the sidewalk was adorned by a blue chalk man with a circle, it meant to meet your friend in the playground. That sort of thing.

One day a chalk figure directed the five friends to the woods, leading them to a grisly discovery. A young woman was dismembered, the head missing, her body parts strewn and half hidden by the leaves. The kids flip out, understandably, go for the police and were never quite the same afterwards. There are many other supporting characters in this story such as our narrator David (one of the friends), the Reverend Martin, David’s mother who is a doctor and the subject of controversy for her clinic, David’s father who decks the preacher at Fat Gav’s party and bloodies his face over “inappropriate conversation” and Chloe (a character from 2016) who plays a part in the mystery.

There is actually more than one mystery and the people and actions all seem to tie together eventually. I had a few surprises in there and that’s always pleasant. No one wants to figure out the whodunit within the first quarter of a book.

The time period shifts between 1986 and 2016. It’s a creepy book yet a page turner.

More Info
Author Bio

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday