The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

houseon STRANDThis is an old classic.  I was unable to obtain a copy from my local library and was unsuccessful at requesting it via Inter-Library loan as well.  So, I found a great deal on this book through Thrift Books.  What a great website and bookseller – if you are looking for used books they have them at quite reasonable prices.

The plot of this book involves a time travel theme.  The extraordinary thing about the “travel” is that Richard Johnson, our subject and traveler, doesn’t physically leave his present.  Only his mental state travels.

The travel is induced when Johnson takes a potion, a liquid elixir that appears to be LSD as described in the book.  He drinks it and suddenly he’s in a time period near the 1300’s where he observes, hears and smells all that goes on around him.  He walks in their time period but is physically in his own time, so if he connects with a solid force, such as a barn or window, he is brought back to his time.

It sounds silly but it’s well written using the language of the Middle Ages. He gets emotionally vested in what is going on with Roger and Isolda and many people, now 600 years dead in his own time. In the meantime, his wife Vita and her children arrive for a holiday where Richard Johnson is staying in Cornwall. Obviously he can’t confide to Vita about the experimental trips he is taking and has to find ways to send her off on excursions without him.

There are naturally misunderstandings between them, hurt feelings and angst which lead you to conclude they can not possibly stay together. Richard’s compatriot in these experimental trips is Magnus, an old friend from Cambridge who is also dabbling with the time travel. Can’t reveal what happens to Magnus as it’s a definite spoiler but it’s important.

Daphne du Maurier is wonderful novelist, her biggest success, in my humble opinion, being Rebecca. What a story teller. Great language, wonderful descriptors, you can immerse yourself in the scenery and story.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Kirsty at The Overflowing Library for the British Book Challenge. Also Adding my review to Goodreads.

Blood at the Root by Peter Robinson

blood In my opinion Blood at the Root isn’t one of Robinson’s best books with DCI Banks, but that certainly won’t keep me from reading more of this series. There is much going on this book besides the usual murder to solve. Relationships are shattered, there are problems between Banks and his immediate supervisor, his wife wants a separation and he suddenly realizes he is very alone.

I felt sorry for Banks in this book. He is stinging from his argument with Sandra and he drops in on his daughter who is a student at Leeds University, only to discover she is out with friends at a pub. When he arrives and sees Tracy laughing and enjoying herself with friends, he hesitates. Not wanting to join her and disrupt the fun he silently leaves without her ever knowing he was there. He is reminded of his wife as Tracy looks so much like Sandra, blonde hair and dark eyebrows.

The main storyline is about the murder of a racist, a young man who is/was a member of a neo-Nazi group. There was an argument between him and three Pakistani men so naturally, the Pakistanis fall under suspicion. There are other suspects cropping up once DCI Banks and DC Susan Gay start an investigation. Susan has a private revelation that she is attracted to Alan Banks, a situation that would cause big problems since Alan is her boss. And married. After reading eight books in this series I never tire of Eastvale and how a small town police agency operate, or Banks’ continuing musical journey with opera or jazz or rock and roll.

It’s not a foodie book but food is mentioned here and there. The unappealing omelet Banks prepared for himself on late evening, mushroom pizza and one that really grabbed me – Chicken and mushroom pie and an Old Peculiar.

Having to stay away from wheat I didn’t make a pie crust but was inspired to make a chicken dinner with brown rice and veggies. It’s not a pub meal but I guess it could be, right?

On to my stack of books and will be reviewing The Martian, Skinnytaste and Getting Even.

Happy Reading!

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.

This book was also on my list for British Books Challenge

The Weight Of Blood by Laura McHugh

weightBlod This is a gritty first novel by Laura McHugh. The setting of the story is the small town of Hensbane in the Ozark Mountains. It’s a clannish town and everybody knows everyone else’s business. It starts with sixteen year old Lucy Bane, a beautiful young woman who is the spitting image of her mother. This bothers the locals a great deal because her mother, Lila, an outsider to the close knit community, disappeared just months after Lucy’s birth.

Backwards and superstitious, they believed Lila to a witch and it was rumored she once turned a man into a snake. Don’t let this descriptor turn you off to the book because it’s a wonderful mystery and plays out well.

The chapters are titled after the characters names (same as Maeve Binchy or George Martin patterned their books). The first few chapters are titled Lucy and set the ground work for Lucy’s friendship with a girl named Cheri. Cheri was slow, perhaps not retarded but very dim-witted; it seemed her only friend was Lucy. She disappeared one day and this had Lucy thinking about the mother she never knew. Where did these women go? What became of them? Lila never turned up during those 16 years but Cheri was later found butchered, placed in a tree near Lucy’s Uncle Crete’s restaurant.

Now the chapters go back and forth between Lucy and Lila. You learn Lila Petrovich arrived in Hensbane to work at Crete Bane’s farm and restaurant. She had no family, was orphaned at a young age and nowhere to go once she turned 16. Crete offers a job with room and board and she takes this a chance to start fresh. She is a beautiful young woman with striking features. She stands out from the community in looks and poise. Women are concerned she’ll take their husbands and she finds no friendship with the exception of her waitress co-worker at the dinner. Crete Bane has sinister ulterior motives but I won’t give a spoiler.

Once Lucy starts into Cheri’s life and digging for clues about her friend’s murder, she also turns up some information about her mother. She backs herself into a dangerous situation and you will be pleased that the ending isn’t predictable. Nice first novel, good mystery and I felt that small town clannishness as I read the story.

Simple home cooked fare was offered in this book. While I won’t attempt the squirrel dumplings Lila made for her neighbor I will offer a grilled steak, field peas and sweet potato for supper.

Here I am reading with my shiba inu Kobe. He’s got his thundershirt on to calm him from the storm.

Loving mysteries I will be delving into Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books soon.
Happy reading!

The Pies and Peril Blog Tour & Giveaway! A Guest Post by Author Janel Gradowski

This is a guest post by Janel Gradowski, author of many fiction publications including her latest book – Pies and Peril. I like to read as much as time allows and am a fan of mysteries as well as foodie novels. Ms. Gradowski combines the two and I am eager to get started on her new series.

Ok, take it away, Janel!


I have been a fan of culinary mysteries for many years. In fact, I love reading about food. It’s not uncommon for me to sit down with a cookbook and read it like a novel from cover to cover. I have a huge bookcase full of foodie fiction and another devoted just to culinary mysteries. I really enjoy reading about gourmet meals and mouth-watering baked goods. It’s no wonder that my first mystery novel is filled with food and includes recipes.

Writing the book was easy. I try all kinds of food and am a bit obsessed with watching Food Network and The Cooking Channel. Integrating everything from pies to homemade chicken fingers into the manuscript was easy. Coming up with some of the actual recipes wasn’t.

First of all, I tend to look at most recipes as suggestions. I swap out ingredients to fit my taste or use what I have on hand. Unless I’m baking, I tend to leave the measuring cups and spoons in the cupboard. I definitely had more fun describing the items in the book than I did writing the recipes for them. My cooking style is rather freeform. A squirt of this, a sprinkle of that and a splash or two of something else. Developing the recipes, complete with exact measurements so others can reproduce them, was a bit of a chore for me. Which, now that I think about it is a bit odd. In my former life as a beadwork designer I very rarely designed any freeform patterns. I was all about precise symmetry. Writing beadwork patterns and writing recipes just aren’t the same!

Then, when it was time for me to test the recipes I ended up with a dental dilemma. A temporary crown broke in half the day after I got it put on. The replacement temporary crown was pretty much a big, hard lump of plastic. I couldn’t chew at all on the left side of my mouth and because the repair was uneven, I could barely chew at all. I had to deal with that nastiness for a month. The month that I had to test recipes for the book, since I had been putting off that task. I managed to get four recipes done for the book (thank goodness!) and I will put more on my website as I develop them. I’m sure coming up with those will be much easier now that I can actually eat the dishes I cook without worrying about toothaches or emergency dentist visits.

Thank you Janel for guesting here today. Looking forward to your future books. How about a GIVEAWAY now?! I am pleased to be able to offer a giveaway of an e-book version of this fun new mystery.

To enter the giveaway just leave a comment below telling me you’d like to have a copy and I’ll pick a random entry to receive this prize. Deadline for entries is Sunday, July 27, 2014. I will collect the names on Sunday evening and do a random draw.

This prize is offered up to anyone, yes, it’s international and so no matter where you live – you may enter. I will forward the contact info on to the author and you’ll get your ebook.

Here is more info on Janel Gradowkski…….

Author bio:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

Check out Janel Gradowski at these places!

Janel Gradowski’s Website
Purchase books HERE

Hooking up with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series since it’s a foodie inspired book.

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.

Wednesday’s Child by Peter Robinson

wednesay Wednesday’s Child by Peter Robinson is another good read in the Inspector Banks series. These detective procedural books always keep my interest. I have grown to like Alan Banks and am happy there are at least 10 more books in the series for me to follow.

This book focuses on two mysteries, seemingly without connection to one another. Seven-year old Gemma Scupham is abducted when a well-dressed couple pose as social workers, taking her away on the pretense of abuse. Gemma’s mother didn’t take care of her child very well, not physically harming her but neglecting her and so, she surmised this was all legitimate. She allowed the “social workers” to make off with her daughter. Now it’s considered an abduction case, the detectives fearing pornographic ring and poor Gemma.

In the meantime, the body of man is found in an abandoned mine shaft. He was gutted so it’s a murder by someone he knew or trusted to get so close to him. Are both crimes related? Could it be a connection to the child abduction or a recent warehouse heist?

For a change Superintendant Gristhorpe (Banks boss and more of a supporting “cast member” in these mysteries) has a larger role, taking over the investigation of the child abduction. It’s interesting to read some of his back story and see him in action.

Among the many wonderfully descriptive phases in this novel, this one stood out as a favorite of mine:

Sometimes, thought Banks, the creaking machinery of the law was a welcome prophylactic on his desire to reach out and throttle someone.

I totally get that. The planet would be a better place eliminating evil people causing heartache. Banks restrains himself from taking them out because he IS an officer of the law and not a vigilante. But like Walter Mitty, sometimes we find our own solutions in our imaginations, never acting on them but…. the thoughts arise all the same.

Food items are mentioned

Wensleydale cheese-and-pickle sandwich

Le Bistro’s Shrimp Provencale and a glass of wine – Le Bistro was one of Eastvale’s newest cafes. Tourism, the dale’s main industry, had increased and many Americans drawn to do the “James Herriott” tour wanted more than fish and chips and warm beer.

Gristhorpe and Banks ate roast beef sandwiches as they compared leads. Getting close to solving the mystery as they exchanged information and ate their lunch was a good place to take my inspiration. Drinks figure prominently the daily activities of our hard working detectives. But I didn’t want an ale or wine for this book. Liquor was the ticket. A drink is always offered by those who are visited by Chief Inspector Alan Banks.

Manhattan Recipe:
2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry for garnish

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.

Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson

hangingvalleyAnother murder mystery in the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson. Actually, I ought to say Chief Inspector Banks as he needs to correct people on his position so many times. This is the fourth in the series and no, you don’t need to read them in the order printed/written to enjoy the stories.

That being said, it’s not my favorite of the four I have read so far. The storyline was easy to follow and of course I enjoy a story where I can’t quite figure out who the culprit is until the end. But the ending was too abrupt. It wrapped all the loose ends up but… I wish it had not been such a sudden ending.

Don’t let my opinion put you off though – if you enjoy the Inspector Banks mysteries, and you enjoy reading about the little pub meals sprinkled here and there in the novels…you would enjoy reading this one.

The storyline: A hiker is enjoying the beauty of a Yorkshire afternoon, climbing the valley above the village of Swainshead. When he sees a thicket filled with wildflowers and goes to investigate, he discovers a maggot-ridden body rotting in the clearing. Call in the authorities and the story begins. Once the identity of the body is discovered, the police wonder if there is a connection to an unsolved murder in Swainshead five years prior.

Suspects include the Collier brothers, the wealthiest and most powerful family in Swainsdale, Sam Greenock, a complete creep and owner of a guest house in town and Sam’s wife Katie, who is damaged by a strict religious upbringing. The two Collier brothers are very different from one another but their common goal seems to be directing the investigation away from them and the village. I especially disliked Nicky Collier – what a piece of work.

There are a few chapters devoted to a trip to Toronto where Banks combines forces (unofficially, of course) with Canadian police agents. I loved the descriptions of the pubs, the food and ales Banks tried and the British perspective on his short experience in Canada.

Some food items mentioned
Chapter 1: A breakfast of sausage, bacon, black pudding, fried bread, grilled mushrooms, tomato, 2 fried eggs, tea, toast and marmalade

Chapter 3: First things first, Banks thought, and headed for the bar. He ordered Cumberland sausage, beans and chips, then paid, took his numbered receipt and waited while Freddie Metcalf poured him a pint of Pedigree

Chapter 8: ……….Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe sat hunched over a pint of Theakston’s Bitter and a veal-and-egg pie

Chapter 10: Doors to both parts of the house were open, allowing access to drinks, a huge table of cheese, pates, smoked salmon and fresh fruit

Chapter 11: (Eating in a Canadian pub) Prime-rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, Caesar salad, White Russian, red wine, a pint of Creemore, coffee and cognac

Lots of food choices and although I was mighty tempted to have a prime rib dinner…..I decided to go with a creatively healthy version of the sausage meal. Instead of the Cumberland sausage (which I would love to have but don’t think are available in my area) I made a healthy meal of turkey sausage and vegetables. I was sorry.

Details are at Squirrel Head Manor but I can tell you, I wouldn’t make it again. IMAG0171


If my count is correct Peter Robinson authored 27 books in this series. I intend to read them all. Coming up I have reviews for A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy as well as An Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish Reads for the Weekend Cooking series.

weekend cookingWeekend 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.

Happy Reading!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book deserves to remain a mystery for anyone who read the book jacket and decided it would be a good story. I studiously avoided any reviews once I was well into the book. Gillian Flynn is the ultimate wordsmith applying apt and descriptive language, paragraphs which paint a picture of the room, the people and even the emotional dialogue.

One thing I read from others who had read the book was you don’t like either of the main characters. You don’t have sympathy for them.

Well…I was only about 30 or 40 pages into the story and thought, that’s odd, and why would it be so popular if you didn’t like the characters, and I disagree as I am liking one over the other right off.

Yeeeah…wait for it. This book is divided into three sections. Part one covers the early life of Nick and Amy, their first 5 years of marriage (and the courtship) summed up. They both lost their jobs and they are living in New York when Nick gets a call from his sister in Missouri. His mother is dying and help is needed. They move there and you read about the charming and cold hearted behavior of Nick and think you’ll have it all figured out.

You feel like you know them…just a tad more than scratching the surface. Part two continues on with the story from a different perspective – I widened my eyes at the revelations exposed here. This glimpse into a world of selfish people turns into a bit of a thriller… kept me guessing at how this would all turn out. I would have preferred a different ending but I am certainly not sorry I read this book. Doesn’t that speak volumes when you read or watch something and you still discuss it long after. Lots of psychological sickness and calculation in these pages.


Some quotes I liked:

“There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold”
This is a memory Nick had of something Amy said years ago. Have you ever had a random memory of something you saw or heard when you were a kid and then as an adult, everything falls into place? Oh, that’s what that meant…because you now have a different perspective, a different and more mature (maybe) outlook.

I like this quote too:

“People say children from broken homes have it hard, but the children of charmed marriages have their own particular challenges.”

This speaks about Amy’s parents, Rand and Marybeth, who are soul mates (as they define themselves):

“My parents circulate the room, hand in hand….they call themselves soul mates, and I guess they are…I can vouch for it having studied them, little lonely only child, for many years. They have no harsh edges with each other, no spiny conflicts, they ride through life like conjoined jellyfish – expanding and contracting instinctively, filling each other’s spaces liquidly.”

“I don’t often say things when I should. I contain and compartmentalize to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you’d never guess from looking at me”

For the food aspect the live lobsters are the clear choice. This is the anniversary dinner tradition from the book. But I just can’t bring myself to lower a lobster into boiling water. Yeah yeah…..I know I eat steak, lamb and chicken………..but I would be a lousy farmer/rancher having to kill my food. So……I made Chicken Frito Pie. This dish makes an appearance in part one of the book. IMAG0286

Happy Reading! Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor I am sharing this with Beth Fish Reads for the Weekend Cooking series.

IMAG0283weekend cookingWeekend 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.

Here is more on Gillian Flynn

A Necessary End by Peter Robinson

This is my third book in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series. The locale is once again in Eastvale, North Yorkshire. This one focuses on the murder of a fellow constable during a demonstration which turned violent. The material was a bit dated but then this was written over 15 years ago. Still, it had me engrossed and I read it in record time. It starts with an anti-nuclear demonstration on the town square and gets out of hand as the police attack the demonstrators. One of the constables, PC Gill, is killed with a knife during the fracas and subsequent arrests of the demonstrators.

For political reasons, a special investigator is sent up from London, Dick Burgess also known as Dirty Dick. He is a reprehensible character and the sort of cop that gives so many a bad name. He uses illegal methods, has the morals of an alley cat and honestly doesn’t care if they have arrested the right man in connection with the killing – as long as they have an arrest to appease the public. I disliked his persona immensely as did the main characters in the book.

Most of the suspicion centers on a communal farm named Maggie’s Farm, housing artists and political activists who have no love of the police. There are several characters you feel empathetic towards and in Robinson’s usual style, you don’t know who the culprit is until the end. Lots of character development and there was a bit of food mentioned in this one too.

It was the cream tea which grabbed my attention besides being tempted by chocolate mousse, roasted lamb, Steak au Poivre and brandy.

Trying to remember back to our trip to England in 1999 where we were schooled on the proper way to layer the strawberries and cream…I failed. It was still good, mind you, but yes……the cream is spread on the scone first, followed by the strawberry jam on top. I ate two, just to be sure it was properly prepared. We had good Yorkshire tea too.

Next up will be reviews on book three of the Inspector Banks series, a Cuban Cookbook review and a Nora Ephron book.

Adding my review to Goodreads Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads.