Beyond the Moon by Catherine Taylor

beyond The book description appealed me with elements of time travel, a war setting and being compared to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, lovers of Kate Morton and Ken Follett.  It’s not the blockbuster book I thought it may be in comparison with the aforementioned illustrious authors.

That being said, I didn’t put it down and I did enjoy the story line.  We have Louisa Casson in the year 2017, grieving the loss of her grandmother, basically her only family.  She falls near a cliff in South Downs and is immediately suspected of suicidal tendencies.

Louisa is “voluntarily” committed to Coldbrook Hall, a mental institution where conditions are beyond horrific.  Some of the descriptions put me in mind of the book Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly where mental health facilities are a focus.  The appalling treatment of patients who genuinely suffer from a mental health issue was sad to read.  Long story short on Louisa – she wanders about into an old section of the “hospital” that is set for demolition and meets a soldier from WW I.

Enter 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett who is recovering in the same hospital, except it’s 1916 and Coldbrook Hall is a military hospital. I suppose this is where the Outlander comparison comes from. The descriptions of battlefields and the lack of cleanliness and knowledge about germs from WW I was very well written.  No sugar coating on those chapters.  Well done there.

I’m a sucker for time travel books so if that’s not your thing, you may not like this book.  It’s an interesting mixture of historical fiction, mystery, romance.  I’m not much of romance reader but I certainly don’t mind the romantic interest to arise.  I just don’t want it to be the main focus.

Much thanks to Netgalley. This book was published June 25, 2019. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated.   More about Catherine Taylor HERE.

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The Family Upstairs & To the Lions

I was a little behind in my reading last month but I am getting back on track with two selections I received from NetGalley.

the-family-upstairs-9781501190100_lgFirst off – why have I not been reading Lisa Jewell’s novels before this?!  I couldn’t put this book down.

Libby Jones knows she was adopted and also knows there was some controversy about her past and her birth parents. At the age of 25 she knows all will be revealed as she receives she long awaited letter and “inheritance.”  Here is a blurb from the book description so you have the setup:

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

What a setup.  I was intrigued from the beginning and found myself surprised by revelations in the book. The main setting is London but you have scenes in France as well. The story is told from different perspectives.  Libby’s brother Henry narrates the past story line and we get an inside view of the crazy scenarios in his childhood home.  In the Libby chapters you’ll read about her search for the older siblings, Henry and Lucy, as well as researching information on her socialite mother and well-to-do father, Martina and Henry Lamb.  At the end of each chapter I would want to continue with Libby’s search, yet when young Henry narrated I didn’t want that to end.

This book is categorized under adult fiction, mystery and thrillers. A+

Lisa Jewell is a British author of popular fiction. Her books include Ralph’s Party, Thirtynothing, After The Party, a sequel to Ralph’s Party, and most recently The House We Grew Up In, The Girls in the Garden, and Then She Was Gone

Publication date is November 5, 2019.  Much thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.  I was not compensated for a review, opinions are mine.

lions To The Lions. The premise of this story grabbed my attention but once I started reading it I found myself distracted.   Casey Benedict is a reporter.  She overhears a conversation in a London nightclub that leads her to the story of a lifetime.

In the beginning setup we meet  Casey’s boss and man oh man, he drops the F bomb more times than I could count.  A few times gives you the flavor of the man and his personality but after a while, what a turn off.

As the big story unfolds I found it very disturbing.  I don’t want to give spoilers but let me say, if you are bothered by what’s happening to immigrants in the USA, this plot won’t be appealing. At all.

This book is under the mystery and thriller category, my favorite genre however this is too disturbing for me with our current political situation.  I don’t bring politics into my blog and what happens in the book is NOT a scenario that is happening here but…..I didn’t like this at all.

Holly Watt is an author and journalist.  I will say a talented writer as she had me emotions stirred, this book just wasn’t for me.

Publication date is September 3, 2019.  Much thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.  I was not compensated for a review, opinions are mine.

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One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

oneThis mystery is good summer beach read with enough edge to be interesting but not too graphic. Three wealthy couples and friends rent a beach house and go on vacation. All of these people have secrets – some about business, domestic abuse, infidelity and insecurities.

There are quite a few characters introduced quickly so I had a hard time keeping track of which were couples at first.  A side story is about an eighteen-year old au pair who may have been drugged at a party.  The same detective investigating this case ends up involved with the wealthy folks when one is found dead.  This turns into a murder investigation.

I see from some reviews that people who like this author thought this wasn’t her best book but this is my first experience with Cate Holahan.  I would read more books authored by Holahan based one this quick read.  She kept me guessing about the murderer and I would change my mind a few times before the end.  Nice plotting.

It’s not a foodie book but there was a nice dinner at the beach house with fruit salad, roasted halibut, baby potatoes and grilled corn. California Chardonnays and white burgundy wines.

Publication date was July 19, 2019 and I was kindly given an advanced copy by Netgalley.  Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for my review.

Sharing with Heather for her July Foodies Read event.

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A Keeper by Graham Norton

A Keeper

The big draw for me was the Irish setting, an old house and a mystery about a past life.  The book is divided by chapters titled Now and Then.  We start off in present with Elizabeth Keane returning to her childhood home in Ireland.  Her mother has died and Elizabeth must clear out the house and make a decision regarding selling.

Elizabeth was never extremely close to her mother Patricia, often wishing she had a father figure in her life.  Whenever she asked questions about her father Patricia would always say he was a kind man and he died shortly after they were married.  After college she moved to New York and started her own life, marrying, divorcing and ending up with a son named Zach.

Now she is back in Ireland to see the home she inherited, trying to avoid her nosy cousins, anxious to return home.  Now that wouldn’t be me!  I would love to have a home in Ireland and spend half the year there. Anyway, as she’s cleaning out a wardrobe she comes across a package of handwritten letters, love letters from her father Edward Foley.

We drift into the Then chapters and see what Patricia was like fifty years ago. As you read the backstory about Edward and Patricia, get to know the horror of Edward’s mother (I mean truly) the story that unfolds takes such a neck braking twist that I couldn’t out it down.  Trust me, you’ll be surprised.

Elizabeth’s son Zach and ex-husband have minor roles; mostly they could have been left out in my opinion but it adds slightly to the story.  If you’d like to armchair travel to West Cork Ireland (past and present) and enjoy a mystery you will enjoy this book.

When I requested this book I didn’t know the author was the Graham Norton, the Irish television host.  Impressive – I will certainly look for more by Mr. Norton.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  Publication date is August 13, 2019.   All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

Sharing with Joy for the British Isles Friday series.

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

flatAfter reading a few books with serious tones/subjects I wanted a lighter and brighter book. I very much enjoyed those previous books but I was ready for a chick-lit kinda thing to break it up.

The Flatshare is Beth O’Leary’s first novel. I knew the term flat share meant to have a roommate, sharing an apartment – each with their own bedroom. But in this novel they share a bed, not at the same time. One works nights and the other days.
The deal is that for a mere $350 a month she will have the flat from 6pm – 8am Monday through Friday and on weekends. The remaining times belong to Leon, who could use the extra cash that this arrangement will bring and never the two shall meet.

I’ve never heard of sleeping in the same bed as your room-mate and I can say it would never have been something I would have done.
They speak to each other via notes and letters left tacked to the fridge or on a table. When one is out at work and the other person at home, they find a note. And usually food! Sometimes they forget they haven’t had conversation in person. They are getting to know one another slowly as pen-pals who live together, but have not met. Weird and quirky.

The beginning was a bit confusing for me as Leon pondered about Kay and Ritchie, people who were not introduced to the story. Who are these people, I wondered. It all fell together shortly and I knew the character’s places.

Tiffy’s job is assistant editor at a DIY publishing house. She sums it up: “I love working here. This is the only possible explanation for the fact that I have been assistant editor for three and a half years, earning below the London living wage, and have made no attempt to rectify the situation…….”
As for the supporting characters a good deal of the book focuses on Tiffy’s favorite author, Katherin, who writes about knitting and crocheting. Also a treacherous coworker named Martin which you will just slightly loathe in the beginning and yes, this will deepen as you get to know him more.

Leon is such a good person. He’s a night nurse at a hospice, taking tender care of a little girl named Holly who has leukemia and senior patients who need constant care. Can’t be easy being a nurse. His supporting character is his brother Richie who resides in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit. All the characters’ stories merge and overlap at different parts of the book.

I was looking for something light with a bit of humor and I found it in this book. What I wasn’t expecting was subject of emotional abuse and how well this author handled it. It wasn’t a constant but when it needed to be addressed in the story it was deftly woven in. Overall a funny, romantic lighthearted book but it certainly did touch on serious subjects at times.  Happy endings for most 🙂

There was a bit of food in this novel! Tiffy is a baker and Leon likes to cook so we had a variety of tempting treats. Homemade oat bars, mushroom stroganoff, risotto, Victoria Sandwich with Homemade jam, carob date brownies, banana bread, ales and cocktails.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  Publication date is May 28, 2019.  I will look for more by this author.  All opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

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Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

stone1

What a story!  It’s mostly told from Marianne’s point of view but you have a fascinating, and horrifying, backdrop from the “evil” Helen Greenlaw.

The book starts in 2018 with our introduction to Marianne and her husband Sam.  They are in their late 40’s and have been quite successful in their careers and finances.  Marianne didn’t always have a charmed life, coming from the poor town of Nusstead, living hand to mouth. Marianne’s mother still lives in Nusstead and is declining rapidly.  She makes the trip from London to see her Mum and daughter Honor as often as she can.  Devoted husband Sam has a surprise in store for his wife, but unbeknownst to him it won’t be a welcome one.  This is where you get the backstory and the secrets.

We flash to 1988 when Marianne was young teen and meets Jesse Brame at school. Without getting into to much detail lets just say they were young, in love and poor as dirt.  The mental asylum Nazareth closed and put most of the village out of work, including Marianne’s mum, Jesse’s father and brother.  Government official Helen Greenlaw was the one responsible for the closure and the hatred of this rich unsympathetic women was legend in Nusstead.

Marianne is intelligent, Jesse is devoted (more so than Marianne), and between them they devise a plan they think is foolproof.  Unfortunately it will change and ruin the lives of four people. Then it gets worse....if you can imagine.

Before we write Helen Greenlaw off as a cold government official who never knew strife, we get a picture of her life back in 1958 when  a young lady had zero rights.  Her story and that of the East Anglia Lunatic Asylum will run your blood cold.  Toss these main characters together in an unimaginable scenario and you have a disastrous event they must keep secret forever.

It’s Marianne who worries her present and past life will intersect and cause all the carefully guarded secrets from her youth to explode, shattering her world.  Helen Greenlaw also had a lot to lose but no one ever knew her backstory. I do believe Marianne would have been sympathetic to Helen’s plight.

The ending chapters give up quite a bit of information and all the pieces fit together nicely. It’s not necessarily a happy ending for all parties but it’s conclusive. I’m going to write more on Goodreads where I can hide the spoilers.

I saw the phrase “going round the bend” referred to as going crazy, or how the drive ways/entrances curve to mental asylums.  Apparently it was to screen the potential inmates from view and keep them from seeing the hospital straight on. I didn’t know that but have certainly used the phrase over the years.

Not a foodie book but I did note the meals and drinks as I read.  Dressed crab, beetroot and feta salad, large glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon, seared salmon and zucchini, grilled streak, avocado smash on sourdough bread, fish pie, a casserole with chicken and olives, gin and tonics with Bombay Sapphire.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  I read this and immediately planned to get more work by Erin Kelly.  In my opinion this book would be great for a book club discussion.  This book was published April 23, 2019 – go get a copy!

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A Lily in the Light by Kristin Fields

lily

I was unsure about requesting this book, the plot sounded like it may be depressing or just too sad. I’m very happy I read it and will most certainly look for more by this talented author. The characters were well developed, conveying the emotional strain of dealing with one another after 4 year old Lily disappears.

The main characters are Andre and Cerise and their four children. Nick is the oldest and the only son, then Madeline, 11 year old Esme and 4 year old Lily. We start with Esme finishing her ballet class, her mother and Lily waiting to pick her up. Esme obviously has a good relationship with her little sister, playing with her and making up stories to amuse her.

Once they arrive home Esme starts studying in her bedroom shared with Madeline. Lily is begging for a story and Madeline yells at her and orders her out of the room. There is crying, there is Andre fussing about the crying and Nick yelling for quiet. As they sit down to dinner they call out for Lily to get to table. She’s gone. Just disappeared. There is more detail in book that plops you flat into the middle of a heart pounding search and the fear that grips you over possible scenarios.

The guilt each member of the family feels is evident as they ponder the before….before Lily was missing. Esme unfairly blaming herself because she didn’t take time to tell Lily that story. Madeline remembering the last words she shouted at her little sister, “it was better without you” and Cerise wishing she had been home instead of church.

The book is told through Esme’s point of view, starting when she was 11 years old and then jumps 8 years ahead with Esme living elsewhere. A scene in the present accurately describes how Lily’s disappearance damaged the entire family irrevocably.
The part about the special cake plate speaks volumes about how life changed for all of them. Esme’s mother brings out that special plate and Esme “would always wish her mother hadn’t packed it away after Lily but had kept making frosted cakes on that plate for her or Nick or Madeline, because they’d always been in reach. They’d been colored invisible instead. The left behind.

The way relationships developed, and in some cases stalled, were well written. For Esme, her ballet teacher saved her from a half-life at home by recognizing the potential in her young student.  I don’t want to reveal too much as it may ruin the way you are drawn into the story and the progression of their lives.

The food was as different as the two lifestyles. At home Esme would eat the rotating menu of spaghetti, tacos, lentil soup, minestrone, turkey meatballs and hamburgers. Living with Amelia they had salads, roasted chicken, vegetables, omelets, spicy Chai tea. There was also orange madeleines, macaronis, warm chocolate, baking bread from the Paris portion of the book.

Well written, Kristin Fields. I will certainly be looking for more of your work.

pasta

Linking up with Heather for April Foodies Read.

Thank you very much  Netgalley for this digital copy of the book. I received this complimentary copy and was not compensated for my opinion/review.
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