Hidden Depths and Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves {#3 and #4 in the Vera series}

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I have been hooked on this series since the start.  I did manage to start with the first book in the series this time.  Seems my nontraditional way of moving through a series is starting with book three or so.

What I like about this series is the main character isn’t a polished, slender buxom know-it-all. You know the type, the super hero femme fatale detectives.   No, Vera Stanhope is very bright but also damaged.  Once you get into the books you’ll know her father Hector did a number on her.  Her mother died when Vera was a child and Hector was an awful father figure.  Dragging her off to the wilds for illegal harvesting of rare bird eggs, drinking to excess and leaving her to fend for herself,  putting her down in regard to her looks and clumsiness.  It’s a wonder she shaped up to be a such an outwardly strong character.

Beneath that hard shell she has her unguarded vulnerable emotions. They rarely make an appearance but you’ll glimpse that repressed soft side.  She looks wistfully at families, at a mother pulling her daughter tightly to her in a loving embrace.  And then she shakes it off and has a drink, doesn’t allow herself to wallow in what may have been.  But I didn’t mean to start with a  disection of Vera’s psychological baggage.

Book 3 – Hidden Depths.  Julie Armstrong comes home from a well deserved night out with friends and finds her teen son Luke dead in the bathtub.  He’s been murdered,  placed him in the bath with floral bath oils and delicate flowers. Obviously Vera and her team arrive to investigate.  Then another body is found in the same stylized manner.  A beautiful young teacher is discovered in a rock pool, floating in the water with flowers surrounding her body.  Serial killer or a copy cat killer? Enough twists in this one that I would have bet money on one particlar person as the killer but – I was completely off mark.  That’s fun for me as a reader.

Book 4 – Silent Voices. If you didn’t love Vera’s right hand man Sgt. Joe Ashworth before,  this story will cinch it.   I hope Joe remains in all the upcoming books.  Vera keeps it a secret that she has joined a health club as she doesn’t want to be ribbed at work.  She is a large clumsy woman and after a warning from her doctor about her weight, she takes to swimming.

As she enters the sauna room one morning she sees a woman slumped over.  Jenny Lister, social worker and model citizen, was strangled.  Of course we get another murder case in this book and Vera’s team works feverishly to find the links in the two cases.  We meet some interesting characters in this book and I couldn’t put it down.

Taking a Vera Stanhope break just now as book #5 (The Glass Room) has a wait list at the library.  I won’t be able to finish it before the due date so I will give other patrons their chance.  That will teach me to check out too many at once. Maybe.

I still have a few good books given to me via NetGalley so while I won’t be in lovely Northumbria England, I will be visiting Cornwall and Wales next.  Via books of course 🙂

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Top Ten Tuesday – Authors I’d like to read

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This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday is a Freebie.  I can chat about anything as there isn’t an assigned topic.  So much to think about on that one.  This is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Join in for some fun bookish posts.

I may not have ten offhand but I do have a few authors unfamiliar to me who have gone on my -to-read list. There is always a notebook near my tablet and I jot down books I want or recipes I’d like to try in The Notebook.  Keeps me somewhat organized.

Louise Candlish is an author mentioned on my friends’ book sites but I have not picked one up – yet. Mystery and thrillers are a favorite genre of mine so I need to add her name to my long list of authors/books I want to try.

Louise Penny – Anyone who knows I like the DCI Banks series suggests I read Louise Penny. This is a series (I love a series) about French Canadian Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Looks like there is a plethora of books for me read when I finally commit to that series.

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Patricia Cornwall – She is another author I have meant to get to over the years.
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Susan Allott – I saw a blurb about her first book titled The Silence and it sounds like a story I’d enjoy. Here is a synopsis from Amazon:

It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, Joe, phoning from Sydney.  

30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. Joe claims he thought she had gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and he’s under suspicion of murder. 

Back home in Sydney, Isla’s search for the truth takes her back to 1967, when two couples lived side by side on a quiet street by the sea. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

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Peter O’Brien – Bush School.  I can’t remember where i saw this book highlighted but it’s a non-fiction I would like to get.

In 1960, newly minted teacher Peter O’Brien started work as the only teacher at a bush school in Weabonga, two days’ travel by train and mail car from Armidale.

Peter was only 20 years old and had never before lived away from his home in Sydney. He’d had some teaching experience, but nothing to prepare him for the monumental challenge of being solely responsible for the education of 18 students, ranging in age from 5 to 15 years old. With few lesson plans, scant teaching materials, a wide range of curious minds and ages to prepare for, Peter was daunted by the enormity of the task ahead.

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If I had done this post and topic in January of this year I would be adding more authors.  It’s only been this year I have discovered Ann Patchett, Ann Cleeves’ Vera series , Joanna Trollope and Graham Swift. Lots of books to catch up on this year.

Join in if you can.  It’s a fun thing to link up with during the lockdown.  See what bookish ideas other folks can recommend.

The Last Piece by Imogen Clark

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This book pulled me in immediately with the realistic dialogue between the three sisters in the beginning. Felicity,  Julia and Lily are texting back and forth about an unexpected and uncharacteristic event.  Their mother, Cecily Nightingale, has up and flown off to Greece on some mysterious trip.  The Nighingales rarely take any holiday away from their Yorkshire home.

Lily and Julia, who are twins, found it amazing Cecily would up and just go anywhere without their father Norman.  They are old homebodies who never do anything out of the ordinary.  When the sisters converge on Norman to ask about their mother he is rather deceptive, other than telling them Cecily is not ill so they needn’t worry.  The women have to wait it out to see what happens when their mother comes home the following week.

Supporting chararacters:

Felicity, the oldest, is married to a scoundrel and has a 4 year old son.  She has a high powered business career and has a very rigid view of life.  I guess if I were married to Richard I’d have an edgy personality as well.

Julia and Lily are twins with an unusual birth story.  Lily arrived weeks months early and had a rough start to life while Julia stayed put until her proper birth time.  Therefore, although they are twins and share that special mental connection and personality, they have different birthdates. Julia is a medical doctor and single. Lily is married to Marco and five sons.  She makes everything seem easy and has a lovely personality, quite the contrast to snappy and judgemental Felicity.

We find out why Cecily Nightingale took her mysterious trip about a quarter of the way into the book.  You can figure it out by then and you will see how it impacts all of the family once she returns.  I can’t say without giving spoilers so I’ll save that for Goodreads.

When I got to the end I felt a little let down until I thought about it for a bit.  It seemed abrupt, then I thought of the title.  The Last Piece.  Everything came together, even Norman’s jigsaw puzzle and a family issue.

There was a bit of foodie stuff mentioned such as fish and chips, Jamie Oliver meals, curry, roasted beef dineer and such sweets as black forest gateau and Fat Rascals.  I didn’t know what that was so I looked it up. A fat rascal is a type of cake, similar to a scone or rock cake in both taste and ingredients. It originated in Yorkshire at least as early as the 19th century.

Imogen Clark lives in Yorkshire and has three other novels published

Much thanks to Netgalley for the advanced complimentary copy. I was not compensated for this review and throughly enjoyed this book. Publication date is July 28, 2020. Genre is women’s fictions.

Imogen Clark lives in Yorkshire and has three other novels published.

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The Day Henry Died by Lynda Renham

CB092EEF-5B1C-49CF-9714-4E9AB4E4CB82 This is a quirky little book with an odd plot, a bit of the supernatural theme going on here.  Henry wakes up and sees his wife isn’t in bed, gets up to have his coffee and read the paper.  Then he sees the newspaper date is weeks in advance – how can that be?  Right when he is wondering if he slept for almost two weeks he spies his obituary.

Is Henry dead?  He doesn’t think so.  He gets on the bus and speaks to people, salutations to the driver and passengers but doesn’t get a reply.  He arrives at his office and his desk is bare of his personal items.  No one speaks to him.  They don’t see him so….I’m guessing as the reader that he is indeed, dead.

Then a curious thing happens; Rita the sample person at the grocery mart speaks to him.  Says she hasn’t seen him for a few days.  That part kinda reminded me of the scene in movie Passengers when Chris Pratt sees the bartender polishing glasses.  He skids to a stop and rushes over to speak.  Ok, it’s not an identical scenario but you can imagine Henry’s surprise when someone finally sees him and speaks.

The reason Rita can see him is revealed near the end.  It’s a cool book and perfect for a light read during this seemingly unending lockdown.  Bring me more books, please.

Much thanks to Sandy at Sandy’s Book a Day for reviewing this book and calling it to my attention.

Lynda Renham is a British author living in Oxford. I liked her blog about everyday life and read how she’s coping with the pandemic like the rest of us. Read about her HERE.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Book events and festivals

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The theme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl is about book events and festivals you’d like to attend someday.  It can be real or fictional.

The book festival in Edinburgh.  Last year I read about it and thought it sounded like a great event; check it out HERE. They set up a specialty created tent village filled with books.  Last year there were over 900 authors present. This August 15-31 the festival will be online. I would love to attend this in person and enjoy the sights, food and weather. This is a real event but a fantasy trip as we can’t travel overseas right now.  For us it’s the virus precautions as well as having an elderly dog.  If Aja can’t go, we don’t go.

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The Sydney Writers Festival which was in June featured Chris Hammer, an author I like who wrote Scrublands. The locale and authors would interest me very much.

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A fantasy book event I would enjoy would feature authors I love, their latest books available for purchase, a question answer event and lots of local food.  We have to see and hear from Jane Harper, Kate Morton, Chris Hammer, Tana French, J.K. Rowling, Ann Cleeves and I’m sure my fried brain can think of more but not this second!

Since this event doesn’t exist and I can’t travel it would be hosted in a place I would love to visit one day.  Wales, Brisbane, Melbourne or Newcastle (so I could visit Ft MacQuarie) Australia, anyplace in New Zealand, Cumbria county England …..

Fantasy: Another bookish event would be on where my favorite chefs feature, giving talks about their cooking and maybe food preps and demonstrations.  Obviously  their cookbooks would be on sale. I’d love to see Nigel Slater, Curtis Stone, Nigella Lawson,  Mary Berry, Jamie Oliver, Jacques Pépin and Julia Child. Just to name a few.

I don’t have ten this week but these are a few I like.  Where would you like to visit and which authors or books are in your lineup?

Missing in Wales by Jenny O’Brien

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DC Gariella Darin is a new officer in the police department having recently transfered from Swansea.

She is assigned to work with DI Rhys Walker who was the lead in the case for a missing man and baby five years prior. Izzy Grant could never let go or move on after her boyfriend Charlie and their 1 month old daughter Alys disappeared.  Charlie was taking Alys out to give Izzy a rest.

Izzy wakes from her nap and realizes they hadn’t returned.  The opening chapter drops you into Izzy’s mind as she experiences the terror of looking through the empty house, calling Charlie’s cell and getting no answer.  No sign of them or the car was ever found – this is in the begining. Then the cold case gets reopened.

There are some books where you peg who’s the killers or there are multiple suspects you can narrow down.  Nope, not this one.  There were a few times when it was slow moving but that doesn’t last long,  I never saw it coming, the villian was a surprise to me.

I liked DC Gaby Darin as soon as she was introduced and was delighted there is a second book upcoming and hopefully it’s a series. Oh, it should be mentioned this book is titled Silent Cry in the UK editions.  I say that so you don’t buy the same book twice.

I love the cover and this is how I armchair traveled to Wales.  Would that I could take Harry Potter’s Floo Powder and pop in near Swansea or Cardiff.  Alas……..

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A Letter from America by Geraldine O’Neill

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This book was a Kindle deal so I went ahead and bought it.  I had not heard of this author before but the premise of the story interested me.  I do like armchair traveling to Ireland.

The setting is 1968 in Tullamore Ireland with occasional chapters taking us to Dublin.  We meet the Tracey family who own a pub and grocery store.  The daughters have different goals in life and we get to meet each one.  The youngest girl, Bridget, is training to be a nun and lives at a Catholic school for women who want the same vocation.

Angela Tracey is the middle daughter and lives in Dublin.  She is very independent and loves her life in the city.  Angela doesn’t feel close to her family as she was striken with polio as a young girl and pretty much grew up in a hospital in Dublin. She had visitors from family with the exception of her mother.  Whaaat?  All is revealed later about that situation.  I very much liked Angela’s character.

Fiona Tracey is the oldest and much of the story focuses on her life and interactions with family.  The title Letter from America refers to her weekly correspondence with her good friend Elizabeth.  Her friend now lives in New York City and has managed to hook Fiona up with a job.  The plans are set, Fiona is excited but a family tragedy changes her plans and she has to postpone the trip.  (This is in the book jacket so no spoilers)

There is a secret and animosity between Fiona’s mother and her Aunt Catherine which is brought up fairly frequently as they argue or give the cold shoulder. The daughters don’t know what it’s about but it is finally revealed close to the end. This book is classifed as historial Irish fiction but there a bit more romance than I expected, though not enough to classify it in that genre.

For a light read I would look for more by this author. There was quite a bit of food and drink mentioned in the story.

Homemade Shepherds pie, chicken salad, cooked ham and fried potatoes, cold ham and brown bread, lamb chops, boiled potatoes and peas.

Cod with parsley sauce, floury potatoes and vegetables, Chicken with Dauphinois potatoes and broccoli, hot Apple tart with custard, trifle , lemon meringue pie.

Banycham, Tullamore Dew, pints of lager , Sherry and white wine.

The mention of fried potatoes had me craving them so, I saved some of the roasted potatoes from a previous chicken dinner, sliced them and fried them up.  They made an excellent accompaniment to last evenings dinner.

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For more about Geraldine O’Neill check out her webpage HERE.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve read the most

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This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday is a list of authors we have devoured, lots and lots of books.  This is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

No doubt there are authors I can’t get enough of and try and get every single book they’ve had published. If there is a series I’m overjoyed – love me a series.

Peter Robinson‘s DCI Banks series is one I’ve read in order.  All 26 books in the series. This British author keeps the setting of his novels in northern England, Yorkshire area. He’s still writing them but I expect it will wrap up before too long.

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J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith I will lump together because…well, it’s the same person.  I have read all the Harry Potter books as well as the Cormoran Strike books.  Bring ’em on!  I love the Strike series and am looking forward to the next installment.

William Stuart Long.  This author is a woman writing under a pen name.  Her series called The Australian Saga has 12 books and follows the generations of people (convicts, soldiers and settlers) through Australia’s development.  Some of the books were hard to find and when my husband would travel on business, he had a list of the books I was missing and kindly went to used book stores. I have them all!  This is historical fiction and you will read about real people such as Captain Bligh and Lachlan McQuarie, the Rum troops and more.

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Edward Rutherfurd – This British author is the modern day James Michener. Big fat books with loads of history. The Forest and all in his Ireland trilogy are very good.

Robert Ludlum – My introduction to Ludlum was in Spain, 1976 at a used book store. I was aching to read and, lo and behold, here was a book printed in English.  It was The Osterman Weekend. These are espionage and thrillers – think Jason Bourne.

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Maeve Binchy – I have read all 17 of her novels and several short stories.  Two of my favorites are Light a Penny Candle and Firefly Summer. If you want to armchair travel to Ireland, pick up one of her books.  I’d classify her books as women’s fiction.

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Kate Morton – I’ve read all six of her books and will always look forward to her latest. If you like a mystery (not a police procedural), big estates with a historical background and a setting primarily in England you may like her work.

Tana French – The Dublin Murder Squad series is excellent. She has 7 books so far and I am looking forward to her next book, The Searcher.

Rosamunde Pilcher – One of my all time favorite books is The Shell Seekers and I have read over 18 of her books. She will immerse you in Cornwall and Scotland. Another favorite is Coming Home. 

Ann Cleeves is going on my list because now that I have discovered the Vera series, I can’t get enough. So far I have read half of her Shetland series and am about to knock off the 4th book in the Vera series.

What are your favorites?  I’d love to discover new authors, especially those who write a series.

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Top Ten Tuesday: The most anticipated books in 2020

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Welcome to this week’s edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is the most anticipated books still to be released in the second half of 2020. I admit I will cheat a little as one book won’t make it to publication until January but…it’s a favorite author and soooo close to the theme.

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Jane Harper, one of my favorites, has a new book on the horizon titled The Survivors.  I have enjoyed her previous three books very much so I am eager to get my hands on this book.  So eager in fact that I preordered the book from Waterstones in London.  How sweet to get the English printed version in January 2021. (yeah, not this year)

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Tana French.  Just her name makes me stop and pay attention.  Is she writing a new book, I wonder?  The answer is YES!  It’s called The Searcher and in spite of my lukewarm review of her last book, The Witch Elm, I will buy anything she writes as she is such an excellent author.

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Santa Montefiore has a new book coming out titled Here and Now. Check it out on her website HERE.  This is scheduled for release in the UK July 9, 2020.  I’ve enjoyed all three books in The Devrill Chronicles as well as the Beekeeper’s Daughter and Secrets of the Lighthouse. Who knows when I’ll have chance to purchase it here. Of course I could order it through Waterstones as I did Jane Harper’s new book. Just a thought.

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Robert Galbraith’s next book Troubled Blood takes us back to the Cormoran Strike series.  I love a series and this one was great.  I’m looking forward to more mystery, detective work and I hope if she (J.K. Rowling) plans to ever get Strike and Robin together she’ll wait until the last book.  I’m loving the detective work and chemistry here.

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SkinnyTaste: Meal Prep by Gina Hololka.  I love her other cookbooks and this one will certainly give me loads of new ideas. Nigella Lawson’s upcoming book, Cook, Eat, Repeat is scheduled out in October.  From the TV show, Friends: an official cookbook  with Chandler’s “Milk you can Chew”, Phoebe’s grandmother’s cookies and more character inspired recipes.  Looks like it will be fun to read as well as cook from.

Is This Anything by Jerry Seinfeld looks like a fun read.  I always liked the show Seinfeld and right now, we could all use a few laughs.

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The House of Correction by Nicci French.  I liked the Frieda Klein series by this husband/wife author team. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult.

Those are my top 10 books I am hoping to get and read these upcoming months. Looking forward to linking up with the Top Ten this week (my first time).

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday for the five British author releases.

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Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse

1DB503D8-4470-4313-AFB9-1FF5B277D8C6 Eileen and Marty are Americans who dreamed of living in France.  They bought a 400 year old farmhouse with a charming layout; they purchased it online.  I am personally not that brave.

There is much style in their new home and as they begin renovating to their taste it becomes the home they always wished for.  Oh, it’s full of issues here and there such as a bursting water heater that destroys all their furniture  and carpets, electricty issues where it just goes out completely if more than two applicances are plugged in, and of course a small language problem.

I’ll hand it to them, they did learn enough French to get by in restaurants and shoppping, talking to neighbors and such.  I always felt if we became ex-pats we would absolutely need to learn the language of the county.

There is French conversation sprinkled throughout the book and an interactive glossary embedded  in the book.  If your Kindle isn’t on airplane mode you can click on the French word and see the translations.

The book has many recipes, courtesy of Sara their chef daughter.

Goat Cheese souffle
Mussels with Almonds
Roasted Figs with Goat Cheese, wrapped in Pancetta
Tomato Peach Salad
Duck Burgers and Onion Jam

At the end of the recipe page it states you may go to BeginningFrench.com for more recipes and photos.  When I tried that you will find that website doesn’t exist and the URL is for sale.  I guess they abandoned it.

Also, it seemed enough time was spent explaining  how Marty “unwittingly” flirted with the carpet installer, Jaqueline, and how Eileen actually left him for weeks for me think, this was a major event in their lives there.  By the way, Jaqueline is described as looking like Marion Cotillard’s younger sexier sister.  I had wondered if Marty and Eileen still lived between Califormia and France and had to look online.  I guess they do.

Food inspiration for me wasn’t anything mentioned in the book, although I was tempted by the roasted figs.  Instead I went with a French chef and recipe from Jacques Pépin.  Here is Fettuccine with Summer Vegetables.   I’ll be posting the recipe at Squirrel Head Manor tomorrow or Wednesday.

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Much thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this complimentary copy of Beginning French, a travel memoir . This was originally published in 2016.