A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes…and other bookish thoughts

barnesjulian_senseofanendingI recently finished A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.  When I realized a movie was in the works for this book I decided to stop procrastinating and get started.  Every once in awhile I like to do a comparison of the book vs film.

Have you read this one?  If so you’ll know the ending and that would just about ruin the movie for me, knowing what was coming.  It’s not a dynamic book in regard to action or mystery but it’s a well written study of an ordinary man’s life and memories.   More importantly, how our memories change with age.

Tony remembered a letter he had written to a friend, it’s tone and language benign and casual. When that original letter is given to him some 40 years later he’s shocked by the vitriolic tome and his thoughts.  That letter changed many things along the way but it’s only revealed how all that worked out near the end.

This mess on the table here is my latest haul from the library. I just started The Alice Network.  It’s a page turner so far.  Himself by Jess Kidd is next, unless my Peter Robinson book is released then I’m jumping on it.


The weather has been poor with rain every single day.  To get one of our walks in we went to a local mall and roamed it at a pretty good pace.  This particular mall is dying and almost 90% of the stores are closed.  That makes for good walking inside with nearly zero traffic.  Even teens don’t hang out there.

The only bookstore there is a Barnes and Noble so we walked around in there checking out some new titles.  Doug would like the new Neil DeGrasse Tyson book and I would like the latest Susie Steiner mystery.  The Pumpkin Cookbook was also available but as chance has it, I just grabbed it from the library.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday  for the Sense of an Ending book.  The author, Julian Patrick Barnes, is an English writer.  He won the Man Booker Prize for this book.


British Book Challenge for 2017 #BriFri

Hello fellow bookworms!  I know many of you are looking at book challenges for 2017 and starting lists for books you may want to read and acquire.

The last few years I have signed up for the British Book Challenge and have enjoyed it immensely. You can get ideas for other authors by checking out the link-ups from other Anglophile readers.

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This year the challenge is being hosted by Chelle at Tales of Yesterday and I immediately signed up.  Check it out, there are prizes and of course the obvious reward of seeing what other readers have selected to improve our libraries.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson

devil Once again we have two separate murder investigations going on here. In my opinion, his writing gets better with each book. So far there are currently 23 DCI Banks books out and I’m on a mission to catch up with the series. Then I can eagerly await publication of the newest book in the future.

This book, Friend of the Devil, is number 17 in the series.

DI Annie Cabbot has been loaned out to neighboring police force but she is in touch with Eastvale Police as the two investigations appear to relate to one another.

Alan Banks is paired with obnoxious DS Kevin Templeton and one of my new favorite characters, Winsome Jackman. Winsome is a 6 foot black female detective hailing from Jamaica. You can imagine the stir she causes in the quiet Yorkshire dales since they’ve never had any ethnicity in the police force before.

In Banks’ investigation we have a collage-aged drunken female who was found raped and murdered in The Maze. There are many suspects but the murderer wasn’t who I thought it would be. Great job of keeping that a mystery up until the end. I wish he had written about the murdered girl’s family again though, see them have closure.

Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot’s investigation involves a wheel-chair bound woman who had her throat slit. Why would anyone want to harm a paraplegic? That is revealed, as well as a blast-from-the-past from a previous book, when they discover the murderer  in this case.

At the 60% mark there was a huge twist and surprise!  As always what I love about Alan Banks is the dedication to the job as well as his personal life interests of literature, music and food. Reading some reviews there are folks who only want the murder investigation and have zero interest in the personal life and loves of our detectives. I like the balance of knowing who these people are when they aren’t working. It makes them more rounded characters for me.

There was quite a bit of food mentioned in this book as many discussions take place in a pub. At one point Banks meet someone in a wine bar and enjoyed a good wine and baked brie with toasted baguette. Yorkshire puddings, sausages, vegetarian meals, Black Sheep ales and more.

Again I honor Annie by preparing a Hearty Rice Vegetable skillet. The recipe didn’t call for adding avocado but since I had some sliced on the table, I thought, why not. It was wonderful! Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.


Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday
The British Book Challenge at The Overflowing Library.


Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt

Based on a review by my bookish friend at Angry Grey Cat Reads I picked up this novel by Kate Hewitt. Her review may be found HERE.

Since I seemed to be on a police procedural kick lately I wanted to read a completely different genre. This book would be classified as women’s fiction and the setting was absolutely perfect. My great grandparents and his line hailed from Cumbria, living in Burnrigg and Wetheral before coming to the United States to start a new life. Reading about the Cumbria setting took me away as an armchair traveler.

The Rainy Day Sisters are Lucy and Juliet. They are actually half-siblings who haven’t grown up together or had much contact with one another over the years. Their mother, Fiona, clearly favors the younger child Lucy and has shunned Juliet all her life. We find out why near the end of the book but I can say, I was not at all sympathetic with Fiona.

After Fiona managed to derail Lucy’s career in Boston, Juliet offers Lucy sanctuary in her small village, telling her to come live at her B&B and take a temporary job at the local school. It doesn’t take long for Lucy to love the village and the people, especially her dishy boss Alex Kincaid. Where Lucy is fun loving and quick to smile, Juliet is standoffish and keeps her feelings to herself. Clearly they want to become closer and have a sisterly relationship. It’s a family drama with a bit of romance thrown in. Not the sort of book I usually gravitate toward but I know I would read more by Kate Hewitt.

As a matter of fact, when I opened this book I saw it’s a series called Hartley-by-the-Sea so I will add these to my stacks for future reading.

Check out this little box of Yorkshire tea I found at World Market.  I had not seen such a small box before and had to grab it.  Perfect to go with a story set in northern England.


My Cumbrian history may be found at the Delaware County Historical Society HERE.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


Strange Affair by Peter Robinson

strangeEach time I read a DCI Banks novel I think I will jump right to the next one. I love this guy! But then I realize I will be caught up and have to wait for the next publication so I am slowly savoring each novel, reading something else in between these books. It’s great that Peter Robinson writes these novels in real time. When I started with Gallows View (Book #1) Alan Banks had just moved to Yorkshire, his children were in school, he was in a happy marriage and his career was on the right path.

I just finished Strange Affair (Book #15) and so much has changed. Banks is, naturally, older and has had some boost in rank. His kids are grown and one is in college. It’s been nice reading along watching the progressions.

Strange Affair starts off with a woman driving away from London, obviously frightened for her life as she expresses she will be safe in just a few hours. Before you get too many pages into the book she is found dead, still in her vehicle, with a single gunshot wound to her head. Her purse and cell phone are missing but in her back pocket is a hastily written note with Alan Banks’ name and address.

Banks can’t be located because he has driven off to London in search of his brother Roy. A day earlier Roy called Banks and left a voice message that he was in danger and he needed help. When big brother Alan couldn’t reach Roy he decided to drive to London. He didn’t tell anyone about Roy’s call and he didn’t call in to the police station to let them know he’d be gone. With the discovery of a dead woman who was headed toward Banks’ Yorkshire address and him now missing, the Eastvale police have him as an unofficial suspect.

Most of this story line takes place in London. We alternate between Banks looking for his brother and DI Annie Cabbot looking into the murder of the young woman. Not too far into the book you see they are connected, both the murder and Roy’s disappearance. You also see a more reflective side of Alan Banks as he’s working though his depression over a house fire (Book # 14) and him getting to know more about his brother.

There are 22 DCI Banks books currently published. I will be on to #16 soon and once I catch up, I will one of the eager fans waiting for the next publication.

For my representative meal I made a chicken, sausage, potato and tomato bake.  Wine was the choice of drink as DCI Banks is off his whiskey for a while.

Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor…. HERE.


Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday
The British Book Challenge at The Overflowing Library

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series

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James Herriot’s Yorkshire

yorkshire If you are a fan of BBC or Masterpiece Theater you may have watched a season or two of All Creatures Great and Small.

The wholesome G-rated shows were inspired by James Herriot’s books. I have read all of his books and enjoyed each and every one. He brought the story to life and I could clearly picture the scenes in Yorkshire as he dealt with his patients – cows, sheep, bulls, dogs and you name it.

We actually named our son Tristan after Tristan Farnon from the books. Yeah……we are big fans!

This book – James Herriot’s Yorkshire – is also written by James Herriot (his real name is James Alfred Wight) and it is a wonderful compilation of photos and stories about the Yorkshire dales. The town of Darrowby in his fictional works is actually Thirsk. That is where he practiced veterinary medicine along with Sigried and Tristan Farnon (Donald and Brian Sinclair). Herriot may be surprised that his books are still so popular today as well as the number of visitors he attracted to the area.


This book is copyrighted 1979 and is one of the original printings purchased in England. I treasure this book. I’ve read that people who travel to Yorkshire with the specific intent of visiting the area Herriot lived bring this book along and it’s an invaluable asset. If you like rural areas and have a plan to hike about in Yorkshire, this book is for you. Flip through and enjoy stories and photos about small villages, ruins and history.


Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Kirsty at The Overflowing Library for the British Book Challenge


Aftermath, book #12 in the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson

aftermathAftermath is the 12th book in the DCI Banks series. As a big fan of this series and of police procedurals I have to say this one was grittier than most of his previous books. Obviously there is a murder to investigate in the Yorkshire Dales setting, that’s a standard, but the crimes in this book were horrendous.

We are looking at a serial killer and the victims are young women, all in their late teens. The story is unfolded in graphic detail manner, focusing on a serial killer, a rapist all the while linking in sub stories about child abuse, sexual exploitation and domestic violence. As I said, this book was darker than any of the others but in my opinion, well written.

One of the sub plots is about Detective Sargent Janet Taylor. She and her partner Dennis respond to a domestic violence call. It is here the story begins when they enter a home, find Lucy Payne, the wife, knocked out, splayed out on the floor with blood on her head. The detectives proceed to check the house, head into the basement where they find a naked girl tied to a bed, strangled and quite dead. At that point they are attacked by the abusive husband, Terry Payne. As he wields a machete and cuts Dennis down, Janet thrashes him with her police baton, finally subduing him and handcuffing him to a handrail in the basement.

As you read on there is an excessive violence case considered on DS Taylor. She was defending her partner, defending her own life – but she must have brought that baton down on Payne one too many times. As someone who works in law enforcement I did not like the way that story line was heading but, that is my personal opinion.

Another sub plot revolves around Maggie Forest. She is the one who called the police when she heard Lucy Payne scream. She is also a victim of domestic violence, living temporarily in England while she escapes her abusive husband back in Toronto. Her point of view is to protect Lucy from the press as she sees her as a victim. But could Lucy have been living in that house and not know her husband was keeping young women captive? Is she part of the killings too?

From the start of this series I have watched Alan Banks grow in his job, watched his children grew up, his wife becoming distant and how our committed copper handled his professional and personal life. This is by far his most salacious book in the series.

Now, I have my opinions about things that I felt were not resolved but those will be spoilers if you have not read this book. If you have read it please write me so I can share a few of those unresolved story lines and get your opinion.

Will I read more? Absolutely! I love Alan Banks and enjoy all the musical references as well as food references in the books. As a matter of fact I have already downloaded book 13 to my Kindle. More later………………

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Kirsty at The Overflowing Library for the British Book Challenge


Cold is the Grave, book #11 in the DCI Banks series

coldgraverobnCold is the Grave is a good continuation of the previous DCI Banks book, In a Dry Season. By that, I don’t mean you need to read that one first, you wouldn’t be lost reading these mysteries out of order. The investigations and cases are separate stories altogether. It’s more of a development of Alan Banks’ character, seeing where his personal life is taking him as well as his place in the Eastvale Police Department. So, in that respect you would need to read them in a sequence but the investigations themselves are self-contained.

This book has Banks’ boss, Jimmy Riddle, asking him for a favor. Riddle wants Banks to locate his daughter Emily. Why would Jimmy Riddle ask Alan Banks for anything? He hates him and went out of his way to make Banks’ career a nightmare. Despite disliking Banks on a personal level Riddle quietly admires how tenacious he is as well as Banks’ track record in solving cases. Banks grudgingly agrees to help, knowing Riddle will make his life a little easier for acquiescing to this favor.

When he finds sixteen-year old Emily she is living in London, using drugs, drinking to excess and living with a man as old as her father. Getting her to return home seems hopeless but something happens that convinces Emily to return on her own. It’s after this all the different mysteries and character developments start intermingling. I’m pleased DS Cabbott is in this book and she and Banks work together.

The end was interesting – not wanting to give it away – but there was much action and so much tied up, but so much was extremely unlikely scenario-wise. Still, I am loving Alan Banks in this book as I was the last one.

Food references……….

Banks is doing an interview in a pub: “The food came – balti prawns for Craig and lamb korma for Banks, along with pullao rice, mango chutney and naans……”

“It was one of those places that Banks thought trendy in its lack of trendiness. All scratched wood tables and partitions, pork chops, steaks and mashed potatoes. But the mashed potatoes had garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in them and cost about three quid a side order. Venison sausage with braised red cabbage and garlic mashed potatoes.”

“A jumbo Yorkshire pudding filled with roast beef and gravy, washed down with a pint of Theakson’s bitter……..”

“Rosalind carried on stuffing the wild mushroom, olive oil, garlic and parsley mixture between the skin of the chicken, the way she had learned in her recent course on the art of French cuisine.”

I opted to do the roast chicken. It was fantastic.

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Served with asparagus and an ozro dish with peas and corn,


Adding my review to Goodreads, The British Book Challenge and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

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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.

The 2015 British Book Challenge

Happy New Year!

Let me start it here at Novel Meals by joining in with a book challenge.

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The 2015 British Book Challenge is being hosted by Clover at Fluttering Butterflies. I had so much fun with this challenge in 2014 that I am signing up again. If you are interested check out her site and sign up.

My book list isn’t quite formed yet but I do plan on tucking into these few to start:

Eating for England by Nigel Slater

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A few Agatha Raisin mysteries by M.C. Beaton

The next Cormoran Strike detective novel by Robert Galbraith.

So, off to sign up at Clover’s site and the gathering of books shall commence. Join us!

A Roundup of my 2014 Reading Challenges

Late in 2013 I came across several reading challenges that appealed to me. Here is my roundup for the three.

The Eclectic Reading Challenge was fun with 12 categories of books. Alas, I only completed half of it. Guess that tells me where my reading interests lie since I put off the other categories. The year is not out and I am still reading, but this challenge is done!

Here is my round up. The categories completed are bolded. Sadly I only managed half of the categories.


1. Award Winning The Cuckoo’s Calling
2. True Crime (Non Fiction)
3. Romantic Comedy
4. Alternate History Fiction (The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman)
5. Graphic Novel
6. Cosy Mystery Fiction (Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson)
7. Gothic Fiction (Jamacia Inn, Daphne du Maurier)
8. War/Military Fiction
9. Anthology
10. Medical Thriller Fiction
11. Travel (Non Fiction) (Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson)
12. Published in 2014 (Perfect by Rachel Joyce) and (The Tastemakers by David Saxon)

Next up is the British Reading Challenge hosted by Sarah at Feeling Fictional

There wasn’t a set number of books for this one, just join in each month and you may win a prize. I won in September (yea!) but haven’t received my book yet. It’s a long way across the ocean.

I read 14 books for this challenge and linked up each month.

1. Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson

2. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

3. Perfect by Rachel Joyce

4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

5. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K.Rowling)

6. Blood at the Root by Peter Robinson

7. Innocent Graves by Peter Robinson

8. The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

9. A Dog’s Life by Peter Mayle

10. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

11. Eat by Nigel Slater

12. Blood at the Root by Peter Robinson

13. Getting Even by Sarah Rayner

14. Broadchurch by Erin Kelly

Words And Peace

Last but not least is the French Reader’s Challenge hosted by Words and Peace. I only managed three books for this one.

1. The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin

2. My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

3. A Dog’s Life by Peter Mayle

Some of the books were obviously used in several challenges. I enjoyed participating!
Next year I will be signing up for the British Book Challenge and What’s in a Word.

Happy Reading!