The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

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Kate Morton is one of my favorites. She writes big fat books with well developed characters.  The setting is usually in Australia, England or both.  She deftly weaves a story leaving you satisfied with ending.  Well….most of the time.  She wraps up the mysteries so you have definite conclusions.  Perhaps you don’t like how some characters end up but nothing is ever left hanging.

In 1992, letters written in 1941 were found stowed away in an attic.  The post man placed the bag of letters and bills in his home and they weren’t discovered until his death in 1992.   Imagine a letter delivered 50 years later, the recipient having no ability to respond, lives possibly changed because those communications were adrift.  Meredith Burchill is one of the recipients of a letter written 50 years prior by glamorous Juniper Blythe.  Merdith’s daughter Edie watches her mother open the letter then break into tears, obviously distraught.

Edie Burchill, a character whom I  instantly liked.  This is yet another book where one of our characters is a book editor ( an aspiration I had when I was in my teens). Edie ends up moving back home when her lease is up in her Notting Hill flat.

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Edie’s mother Meredith is a fussy old thing but she has a very interesting back story. She was an evacuee from London during the war, living in Mildhurst Castle far in the north of England, with the Blythe sisters, three elegant and classy ladies.   The three sisters were very different from another. Persephone and Seraphina are twins but they didn’t have the same passions or goals.  The head of the household is Raymond Blythe.  He is a famous author of The Secrets of the Mudman.  When you find the evil inspiration for his story….well, I found it disturbing. Juniper Blythe is the golden haired youngest who picks Meredith as “her evacuee” during the war.  They become friends during the billeting, this changing the lives of both.

I made this sound boring but it’s hard to include all the relationship quirks and why they are important.  The seduction of this novel, for me, is the old castle and mystery of the origins of the Mudman story. The setting in northern England in WW II, the food mentions are scant but there is of course tea, rock cakes and roasted meat dinners. This was the only one of Morton’s books I hadn’t read so now…..waiting for a few years for her next tome.  This wasn’t my favorite, I loved The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper the most of the six books published. Overall a good story with a few surprises at the end.

Linking with Joy for British Isles Friday and to Booklover Reviews for the Aussie Author Challenge.

 

 

 

The Crown Companion Book, Volume 1

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If you are a fan of the British monarchy and are watching the Netflix series The Crown, you will love this book.  I have not seen the series but have heard people at work talking about it with positive reviews.

The book details the history of Windsor family as well as the presentation in the television series.  I don’t think they took too many liberties and it gives insight into the royal families actual lives.  Seeing them as almost ordinary people, the relationships, scandal, obligations, dealings with the press and acceptance of a duty bound life.  Except Edward of course, he said the hell with the obligation and married the woman he loved.

The book contains both color as well as black and white photos of the family and the actors who portray them in the series.  What a lovely job casting did with matching the physical attributes.

As this is volume one and the series is continuing I imagine there will be future volumes available.  This one concentrates more on Elizabeth, Philip, Margaret and the abdication of Edward VIII.  Lots of full page biographies and character companions, loads of photos.  If you know someone who loves the TV show this would make a great Christmas present.

When I think back to a vacation in England I remember quite a bit of lamb on menus. Grilled with a nice Shiraz would be the ticket for a cold damp night in London.

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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 🙂

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Gone For Lunch: 52 Things to do in your lunch break

GoneForLunchMost of us get a lunch break, am I right?  Some don’t take advantage of it, choosing to plow ahead with a deadline driven work schedule, munching on vending machine or brown bag offerings.

Not me.  I try and bring leftovers, get away from my desk and then walk a bit afterwards.   What if I wanted to accomplish something more than this….maybe write a letter or crochet during my lunch time?

Gone for Lunch is perfect for getting ideas to perk up your lunch hour.  The author works at the Museum of London so I know she has many more options available to her. (I didn’t even mention that I am jealous!)

One thing I am struggling with is learning crochet patterns so, why not devote some of my lunch time to reviewing the crochet symbols or watching a YouTube video on it.  I like to hand write letters too so that is another goal.  As you can see by this photo below, the author gives us many good ideas.

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Obviously weather conditions and whether you are in a rural or city setting makes a difference too. This book is small enough to toss in your purse (5 x 6.5 inches) and I intend to do that through the month of December.

Gone For Lunch is a hardcover book put out by Quadrille Publishing also comes with a cool little silken bookmark neatly attached in the spine of the book.  Looks like a great Christmas gift.

More about the author Laura Archer:

“A born and bred Londoner with a phobia of being idle, Laura Archer works full time at the Museum of London running events, and regularly visits patrons around town. The job allows her to combine her love of London with her belief in the benefits of getting out and about and doing things.”{from Amazon}
Follow her on Instagram @gone.for.lunch

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday
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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

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This is my first acquaintance with author Anthony Horowitz.  I can say that I will be seeking out more of his work and hope it’s as engaging as this book. How did I miss this guy when he has written so many successful English series such as Foyle’s War?

This murder mystery featuring fictional detective Atticus Pund was appealing on it’s own but wait……there is another story line and mystery about the publishing company for Alan Conway, author of the Atticus Pund books.

The book opens in present time with Susan Ryeland, editor for Conway’s books, telling the story.  She is given the last manuscript from Conway but the last few chapters are missing.  This will change Susan’s life and not for the better I can tell you.

You are immediately immersed into the ninth Atticus Pund book which is set in rural England, the time period is the 1950’s.  It’s such noir writing, reminds you of Agatha Christie with the sleuthing.

After a tragedy (spoiler so I can’t say here) we are back to Susan’s world in modern times visiting London and the rural English countryside.  The characters and motives from both stories are intertwined.  It’s a classic whodunit with some great twists.

I liked the mention of other books and movies throughout this story, some of which I book marked to request form the library.

A few food and drink references:
Champagne, fish and chips, sandwiches, Victoria Sponge cake, grilled sardines, salad and wine. Eggs and toast fingers. English breakfast with two eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato and a fried slice. Homemade quiche and bean salad. Smoked salmon with salad and artisan bread. A bottle of wine, Nacho Cheese flavored tortilla chips and a jar of hot salsa dip. Pub food and ales.

I wanted to make the Victoria Sponge cake but after our vacation, I think I better cut back on high caloric treats.  It’s for the best, really (I’m telling myself this).  So I went for a favorite, this passes for pub grub in my neck of the woods.

A grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich with all the trimmings. Lettuce, tomato, onions, lime on toasted Cuban bread. Served with black beans and rice and ale. Oh. Yeah.

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Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday, Heather for the November Foodies Read, Girlxoxo for the Monthly Motif Challenge and Deb’s Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen.

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The Cottage Kitchen: Cozy Cooking in the English Countryside

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This is a lovely book, filled with homemade recipes and arranged by season. The introduction reads as a letter, very personal and warm. Each section, separated by the four seasons, has a forward where the author explains her feelings, her homesickness and insecurities about starting a life in England and the comfort foods she prepares. She’s Swedish and while she’s traveled the world for business, settling down where she’s without family or friends left her feeling adrift.

You will find good recipes in this book, many of those from her mother, and advice from her mother as well. The photography is outstanding. I absolutely love her dog and all the photos he appears in. Mr. Whiskey is rescue dog and he certainly brings personality to Marte’s life as well as the photos.

I took a few liberties with the potato soup recipe and can highly recommend making it. I even made homemade croutons! This is a hearty, rich and filling soup. Perfect for a cold day.  Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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

Adding my review to Goodreads and linking with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series and Joy’s British Isles Friday.
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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.

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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.

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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This book has more than one story line, there are multiple narratives and I hung on to each and every one. Of the Kate Morton books I have read so far, this is by far the very best one. It’s not predictable and the armchair traveling in this took me to Cornwall and London England, Sydney Australia and New York City. Traveling and mystery – what more could I ask for?!

The story lines all come together in spite of many characters living and dying in different time periods. There is a mystery about one of our main characters named Nell. The book starts in 1913 with Nell as a 4 year old, hiding out aboard ship destined for Australia. A lady she refers to as The Authoress tells her to hide and wait for her. But the lady never returns and young Nell is left alone with her suitcase at a port in Australia.
A port master can’t leave a small child alone so he takes her home for the evening. No one reports her missing, no one comes to claim Nell so eventually the port master and his wife keep her. No formal adoption, they just move away and start fresh.  Years later the Port Master and wife have four daughters and Nell thinks they are all her natural family.

On Nell’s 21st birthday her father (the port master) tells her about how they found her. It’s devastating to lose one’s identity just like that. In a snap Nell feels she doesn’t belong and tries to find out where she does belong.  The story skips back and forth in time so you know what happens with Nell until her death late in life. This introduces us to another major character – her granddaughter Cassandra.

Cassandra is close to her grandmother Nell and after her death she inherits everything. But there is one property she is surprised to find out about. The deed to a house called Cliff Cottage in Cornwall England.

Cassandra’s story starts in 1975 but we jump to 2005 and things get mysterious. She is the one who will search the clues left about Nell’s true identity. I like her character very much and enjoyed her chapters.

The Authoress is revealed as Eliza Makepeace (what a cool name!) and she is an adventurous character. She is also the writer of fairy tales. Her back story is fascinating and weaves into Nell’s story eventually. There are quite a few other characters that play crucial parts but rather than get into it all – please read this one if you are a Kate Morton fan. Twists I didn’t see coming and a good conclusion with mysteries solved.

Some food mentions here but it’s not a foodie book.
Bowls of beef and rosemary stew
Pasta with pine nuts and Gorgonzola cheese
Morgy Broth
Sandwiches (and tea of course)

Roasted chicken and smoked Gouda pressed sandwich.  There’s a bit of leftover spinach in there too.  A simple side salad with grape tomatoes, feta and balsamic vinegar dressing. Oh. Yeah.  This was a treat Cassandra may enjoy at the hotel in Cornwall.

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Are you fans of Kate Morton’s novels?  If so, which are your favorites?  I have read this one as well as The House at Riverton and The Lake House.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday  and with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week’s Souper Sunday may be found HERE. Also linking with Heather’s July linkup for Foodie Reads. Check out Foodie Reads at Based on a True Story. You’ll always find good reviews there 😊

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Grounded Hearts by Jeanne Dickson: Irish setting, predictable story and conclusion

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In a nutshell – the setting is World War II, County Clare Ireland. As Ireland has declared their country neutral, any troops captured must be reported and interned. The story opens with a Canadian RAF bomber crashing, introducing us to a wounded flyer named Dutch Whitney. He doesn’t know where is but he needs to find his crew and make it to Northern Ireland so he can get back into the war.

He sees a light at a cottage and starts practicing his Irish accent so he won’t be mistaken for Canadian. (Ha!) Wounded, he makes his way toward the cottage. Twenty-eight year old midwife Nan O’Neil (a widow) answers the door and takes him in. She busts him right away on the fake brogue as it is soooo over the top. But so is her dialogue once you get into the book.

“Top of the morn….evening to ya. ‘Tis meself, “tis,” a muffled voice answered.
“Sit here, so”……she brought him water and surveyed his face. Ah, but he had altogether gorgeous blue eyes. His hand touched hers, sending a rush of heat over her skin. No, don’t be drawn to this fella. No good would come of it.

Nan will be sent to prison if she’s caught harboring a soldier but you can see that’s the way the story is going. It’s very predicable with her inward swooning over his eyes and muscular body.

C’mon, it’s so obvious she likes his looks and is attracted to him all the while telling herself to step back. It’s the template of other books where girl meets boy, girl tells herself she must not get involved, repeat this a few times and finally they get together. I thought it might be more Ireland-centic but that wasn’t the case.

I won this book from Goodreads in a Kindle format. Thank you Goodreads!

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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The Syndicate for #BriFri

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I have long been a fan of Anthony Andrews so when I saw he was in this mini series called The Syndicate, I had to get it from my library.  It’s 6 episodes total, 1 hour for each episode.

There were evidently two seasons prior to this one but you don’t need to see each season in order to follow along.  For a full summery of this show click HERE.

Basically, each season focuses on lottery winners, how their lives change and a bit of drama and mystery thrown in..  It’s a drama and we very much enjoyed it.  In All or Nothing we meet Lord Hazelwood (Anthony Andrews) and the small staff of Hazelwood Estate.  There was a large staff on this gorgeous estate but due to deepening debt, the staff is down to six people.

These six are loyal to Lord Hazelwood, a very down to earth fellow but Hazelwood’s wife and step-son seem to plot against him to sell the estate.  This changes quickly when the 6 staff members win the lottery.

The estate is stunning as are the landscaped grounds.  It’s filmed in the coastal town of Scarborough.  In real life Hazlewood Manor  is actually Bramham Park country house, located near Wetherby and Leeds in West Yorkshire.

It’s a good drama and I will certainly try and find the first two seasons.  Mark Addy stars in one of those seasons.  I liked him in The Full Monty as well as Game of Thrones.  This is another excellent show from Acorn TV.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday.  

Join in!  You don’t need to post on Fridays, just link up at her site on Fridays.

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

secretThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is about a lonely and spoiled little girl book whose life changes when she is sent to England to live with her uncle.

Mary Lennox is spoiled and contrary 10 year old living a life no child should have to endure. She lives in India but has no involvement or love from her parents. They have left her care to servants and she never knew discipline or love or friendship. Thus, she was a horrible and ill-tempered tyrant of a child. When her parents die from cholera she is sent to live in her uncle’s manor in Yorkshire.

Her uncle has issues of his own, always staying by himself as he is in permanent mourning for his beautiful deceased wife. He is also a hunchback and feared that his only child, a son named Colin, would develop a hunchback as well. He never interacts with Colin and the child is kept pretty much locked away. Since Colin is never out of doors or running about as young boys should, he is weak and sickly.

Mary discovers him one day – each child was completely unaware of the other in this large lonely mansion. This is the beginning of a friendship for them although they do have their rocky moments and shouting matches. Their developing friendship is beneficial to them both as Colin eventually goes outside and starts to live as a young boy should. Mary in turn softens her demeanor and learns about giving and friendship and love.

What I liked about this old classic was reading about the Yorkshire moors. I also liked how Mary would refer to herself as getting fatter as her appetite improved and she put some flesh on her bones. In India it was so hot that she languished, never played and ate little. The heat was so great she didn’t have an appetite. But the descriptor as “getting fatter” was a positive in language and literature in the era this book was published. Today being called fat is a shaming mechanism.  That’s a shame right there.

When Mary first arrived at her uncle’s manor she met a servant named Martha. Martha plays a good role in this story and is helpful in getting Mary to examine her life. Martha asks Mary is she likes the moor and Mary replies that she hates it. “That’s because tha’rt not used to it,” Martha said in her Yorkshire accent, “Tha’ thinks it’s too big an’ bare now. It’s fair and lovely in Spring and Summer when gorse and broom an’ heather’s in flower. It smells of honey and there’s lots of fresh air,….”
Mary comes to love the moors.

Food mentions are brief. Colin comments “I do wish the slices of ham were thicker, and one muffin each is not enough for any one.”
Colin and Mary have breakfasts of homemade bread and fresh butter, snow white eggs, raspberry jam and clotted cream.

That makes me want to make bread.  I had not made a Sage and Onion bread in a long time  – this one seemed right for this book.  Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

Based on a True Story (May’s Foodie Reads)

British Book Challenge at Tales of Yesterday

2017 Monthly Motif Challenge

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