The Tea Planter’s Wife – such a sad book

teaPlanterThe description from Amazon states: “#1 International bestselling novel set in 1920s Ceylon, about a young Englishwoman who marries a charming tea plantation owner and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences

With that little synopsis I was intrigued. I’m imaging something like Du Maurier’s Rebecca. As I plodded on through this book the descriptions of the landscape, the heat and culture were well defined. There was a point when I considered abandoning the book but I wanted to know what happened, discover the mystery and secrets.

Our main character is Gwen. She meets Laurence at a party in London and falls in love. Rather impetuous, don’t you think? But these are different times and who knows how I would behave in the 1920’s as a young innocent.

They marry and Gwen sets sail for Ceylon (Sri-Lanka) to take her place as wife of tea planter. Laurence is a different man when they hook up again – he’s distant and brooding. I can’t imagine her disappointment, not just with her husband but the change in climate. Anyone who knows me will predict I will start complaining about Florida summers beginning in May. To move from lovely cool England to Ceylon would be a deal breaker for me.

But this isn’t about me. (I would have stayed in England, believe me)

Gwen arrives to a beautiful plantation and instantly feels tension from just about everyone. Laurence’s sister, the manager of the estate and even Laurence himself. She is very much encouraged to stay away from the workers on the plantation, they are viewed as lesser individuals. Gwen is trying to immerse herself in the culture but learning that she is from a privileged culture and hierarchy, an ex-pat who will never be accepted no matter how much she wants to engage with the working tea pickers or their families.

Overall, I found the book a little too long-winded and probably won’t pick up another by this author. She’s a good writer, it just didn’t float my boat. I have spoilers to reveal about the book but won’t do that here, I will post those on Goodreads as there is a “spoiler alert feature I can click” – not sure how to handle that in this blog format.

Overall a very sad book.

I received a copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated.

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Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

hereandgoneHere and Gone had it’s slow moments with character development but once you got into the book, it was a page turner.    Audra Kinney is on her way to California with her two small children, 10-year old Sean and 6-year old Louise.  She gets pulled over for a routine traffic stop in a small Arizona locale where crazy stuff happens – she gets charged with marijuana possession with intent to distribute.     Now her kids have disappeared and the Sheriff tells her there weren’t any kids in the car when she was pulled over.

Quite a mystery but I have to say, Audra wasn’t an especially likable character and her problems just got….old.  With the exception of the novel Broken Harbor by Tana French (which was well written), I avoid books where kids are kidnapped, missing or worse.  I won’t be getting more books with that thematic element.

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

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Evidently Ann Brashares is a very popular author. This is my first book and sorry to say I couldn’t get invested with the characters or their internal struggles. Since she receives such high marks perhaps I will try another of her books unless she only writes young adult fiction. Maybe that was my problem with this book, I didn’t know it was young adult fiction or I wouldn’t have requested it.

There were far too many characters to keep up. I should have had a clue about that when a family tree was highlighted in the front of the book. By the way, the family tree involves multiple marriages and children and step parents and step siblings….see, that’s confusing.

The seventeen-year old characters, Ray and Sasha, have one parent in common and while they have shared closet space at the beach house, they never meet early in life. They are never at the beach house at the same time because their parents hate each other. The mother is definitely not a sympathetic character.

Anyway, Ray and Sasha aren’t related, except as step siblings…I think….but the implied romance between them seems wrong. Maybe I am the only reader who felt uncomfortable with that romantic relationship that develops – it’s not incest but it feels like it when reading.

I did like this quote:

“Why did parents ever make their kids watch them get re-married? Ray imagined a coffee table book suited to a photographer like maybe Diane Arbus for publication around Halloween: Children Watching Their Parents Marry People Who Aren’t Their Parents.”

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal

indiaVibrant India is clearly a labor of love. What I liked were family photos and the writing giving the background for the author’s passion for cooking. The old photos of her grandparents and parents were great.

The recipes are clearly written with uncomplicated cooking instructions and ingredients which aren’t hard to find. Don’t you hate it when recipes require specialty items that are either very expensive or extremely hard to locate?

Lentils – I love them!  They are a staple in our pantry so I was happy to see many recipes which feature lentils.  I have also enjoyed learning about the difference in Southern Indian cuisine and the Northern style.

Recently, well… within the last several years…. I have renewed my love of Indian food. We have been to several local restaurants and while I have enjoyed the meals immensely, this book will allow me to learn to cook this cuisine at home.

A beauty of a cookbook if you enjoy Indian food. The title is so appropriate as the word vibrant bursts out in photos and passion.

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*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner is a quick read with twists and turns you don’t see coming.

Mostly set in an expensive restaurant in Holland, sections of the book and storytelling are broken up by courses of a meal; starting with appetizer and moving along with dinner, dessert and digestive for the ending. Four people meet for a dinner in an upscale, hard-to-get-a-reservation kinda place. In the beginning I found Paul and Claire Lohman likeable and was quite amused by Paul’s observations regarding his brother and sister-in-law. The brother is Serge Lohman; a political figure running to be the next Prime Minister of Holland. Serge’s wife, Babette, is a compliant and shallow wife and dinner partner.

Paul Lohman is the narrator and early on you understand how irritated he is by his brother. What Paul remembers is the brother he grew up with who wolfed his food, was dismissed from the dinner table for farting and belching – not the adult public image people see now. To the public, to those who didn’t grow up with Serge, he is a the charismatic polished candidate for prime minister. He’s the guy who poses for family photos with his two children and is adopted African son; the guy who gets right in at a restaurant with a 3 month reservation wait time and the man who wants to champion the rights of the working people of Holland.

Midway through the book as you glean a sharper picture of the personalities as told through flashbacks. At the center of the developing drama are three male teenaged children of both couples. Something criminal, a horribly despicable episode is captured on video on one son’s cell phone. The facts aren’t revealed at first and you dance between the dinner conversation and the flashbacks.

It’s unsettling. I found this book to be disturbing with an unresolved ending. There were some events that needed further explanation. That’s just my opinion.
Personally there was only one character I liked by the end. Don’t want to give spoilers so I won’t go into my thoughts on some of the events and lack of explanation or resolution.

Food was mentioned quite a bit. Here are some passages:

Clearly in the beginning Paul and Claire didn’t want to go to the restaurant and meet Serge:
“The alternative would be to head straight for home, with at the very most a little detour past the video shop for a DVD, which we could then watch on the TV in the bedroom, lying on our roomy double bed: a glass of wine, some crackers, a few types of cheese to go with and a perfect evening would be complete.
I would let Claire choose the film, even though it meant it was bound to be some costume drama. Pride and Prejudice, A Room with a View or Murder on the Orient Express.”

(This was the early part of the book where I still liked the characters.)

“These are Greek olives from Peloponnese, lightly doused in first-pressing, extra virgin olive oil from Sardinia, and polished off with rosemary from…….”

“The crayfish are dressed in a vinaigrette of tarragon and baby green onions and these chantrelles are from Vosges”

“The lamb’s-neck sweetbread has been marinated in Sardinian olive oil and is served with arugula,’ said the manager, who had by now arrived at Claire’s plate and was pointing with his pinky at two minuscule pieces of meat. “The sun-dried tomatoes come from Bulgaria” Warm goat’s cheese with pine nuts and walnut shavings.

My inclination is to prepare a wine and cheese tray for this book. The reasoning is, I still liked the people at the beginning of the book when this was mentioned…but I think for today, I will just post the review.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

More on the author

A Good Food Day by Marco Canora

goodfood The beginning of a new year always brings on promises and goals to eat better and get more exercise.

Let’s face it, many of my fellow Americans are not in the best shape. Yes, there are many who care about their weight, health and appearance but a stroll around your local shopping center reveals many obese and well…unflattering figures.

In a society where you can grab a full “meal” at McDonalds (insert the name of any fast food joint) for only $5 an argument has been made that “we can eat cheaper this way instead of spending lots of money on fresh foods and healthier fare.” This statement has been has been repeated to me a few times and usually from individuals who are flat broke. It’s true, fresh fruit and vegetables are more expensive than these “meal deals” or prepackaged convenience foods. In the long run your health (and waistline) suffers with too much processed foods.

Stepping off my soap box now to talk to you about a new cookbook: A Good Food Day: Reboot Your Health with Food That Tastes Great by Marco Canora

As I mentioned earlier, many of us plan to eat better, start educating ourselves and persevere with quality meal plans. This is a book where Canora relays his story and how he transformed his meal plans and habits to lead a heathier life. He eats waaaay better than we do, what I mean is he is more dedicated to a completely natural regime of meal plans and foods and sticks with it. I admire that and will be incorporating many of his recipes into our meal rotations.

Most of the ingredients are easy to find, lots that are already in my pantry already, but there are some which you’ll need to go to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Earthfare. The section for snack foods is very useful to me as I get hungry during my day at work. It’s so easy to get the munchies so having a heathy alternative saves me from the usual array of sweets people tend to bring in. My will power can only hold out so long!

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Not everyone is a fan of popcorn but if you are, the Cacio E Pepe Popcorn is excellent. A bit of oil, pecorino cheese (I used Parmesan) and fresh black pepper.

The braised chicken thighs with garlic, lemon and olives is a winner with me. I added cherry tomatoes for color.

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More info on this book below:

Author’s website
Random House Publishing
Hardcover: 272 pages with great quality and nice photos.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Trendy Tyler Florence with a Retro Looking Cookbook

Tyler This newest cookbook by Tyler Florence has a cool retro look. It’s basically a notebook style with a great elastic strap to hold the book closed or to mark a page.

Remember getting those type notebooks for school? Composition books, that’s what they were called. I love the style of this book. There are notes written on the sides of the recipes so it reminds me a working kitchen diary. There isn’t too much bling going on so you aren’t distracted from the main focal point – the photos and recipes.

Great photography and layout. The front cover features a photo of Tyler sporting some facial hair and glasses. While it’s a cookbook and one would not normally comment on the physical appearance of the chef I have to say it’s an eye catching photo. Not the usual clean cut image as if he’s a catalogue model. Like I said, nothing to do with his cooking or recipes.

120 recipes packed into this book features some old classics vamped up as well as new dishes. I am looking forward to trying his version of Shrimp and Grits Risotto, Pork Carnitas Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa Verde, and California Avocado Eggs Benedict.

Overall this is a trendy cookbook that makes a good collection piece for fans of Tyler Florence. I wouldn’t recommend it to the beginner in the kitchen. Lots of good recipes but some are a wee more complicated than your basic recipes.

Salad Nicoise Carpaccio (adapted to cook eggs in ramekins) saves time and dishes by combining on one baking sheet.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series. Also hooking up with Trish at Love, Laughter & Insanity for her cookbook challenge.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.