Agatha Raisin – The Dead Ringer (book 29)

bellRinger

The Agatha Raisin series has been around for some time. The Dead Ringer is about the death/murder of a bell ringer and a few other characters (I don’t want to give a spoiler) in the quiet little town of Thirk Magnay England. This is book #29 in the series.

It’s been a while since I read an Agatha Raisin mystery and by getting this publication, I realized I missed a few things going on in her life. The first book in the series depicts her as a cranky, middle-aged publicist, supposedly 53 years of age. I’m guessing she doesn’t age in real time as years later, she’s still a middle-aged lady and described as attractive if not abrasive. My bookish friend Angry Grey Cat renewed my interest in the series.

Agatha has her own detective agency set up now, a change from books in the past where she was more like a Jessica Fletcher character in Murder, She Wrote. What I liked about this book was the familiarity of the little town in the Cotswolds. The picturesque setting and scenery are inviting. Thirk Magna has an ancient church called St. Ethelred and it’s the pride and joy of the community.

There are adult twin sisters who are part of the bell ringers group and very involved in the church. Apparently bell ringing is like no other type of music and isn’t written on a standard score. The six bell ringers change their order and each time they strike it’s done from memory. Quite an art of memory and dedication. It most certainly wouldn’t be for me.

The twins are swooning on about the visit of a bishop who is reputed to be very handsome and they are determined to take charge of the visit, arranging which “song” they will play on bells and generally being pains in the butt. This bishop has some scandal following him as his rich ex-fiancé has disappeared. That’s what interests Agatha very much. Now the bodies start piling up, as you would expect from one of her novels.

The mention of Detective Sargent Bill Wong was a familiar character as I remember him from all the previous books. I wondered why he hasn’t been promoted to a higher rank than D.S. in all the years (29 years!) of being on the police force. But I have to remind myself that this isn’t written in real time as DCI Alan Banks novels. Also, it has been well established that Bill is half Chinese and half British so when I read that again I thought – yeah, yeah…we all know Bill if half Chinese and Brit. That could have been left out.

Food:  There are mentions of Greek food, pub meals, gin and tonics, tea and cakes. I am on board with any of those things!

Overall, this isn’t the edgy sort of mystery I love but a milder mystery, not quite a cozy. Clear as mud? It’s fun to follow a character through a long series so if you are looking for a light mystery series, you may want to give Agatha Raisin a chance.

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review.    Linking up with  Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Heather for the October Foodies Read.

BriFri  NetGalley12018FoodieRead

Advertisements

The Family Tree Factbook

The Family Tree FactbookGenealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the U.S. Personally I have been looking into various branches of my family history for decades. This has caused me to amass a great deal of paperwork, charts and genealogy related source books. It’s always nice to look over a genealogy reference book and find new tips and resources.

The Family Tree Factbook is great resource book for the beginner with a wealth of information, web links, physical addresses, suggestions and keys to acronyms. This isn’t only a good reference for beginners as I saw some great links I will be checking out, not that I’m a professional by any means but I have been researching and collecting for over 30 years. This book it points you in the right direction. This is more for the United States researcher and not as much for those researching other countries.

What I would change about the publication: I would like to see a few photos or charts but that’s my personal preference. Also, in the Kindle version I received you can’t search the table of contents. The subjects are listed in the beginning of the book but there isn’t a corresponding page to search. As you go through the book I know you can bookmark specific pages of interest but a searchable table of contents would be helpful.

Overall I would recommend this book for someone deeply involved in family research. Publication date is set for October 18, 2018.

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review.

NetGalley1

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

the-dream-daughterI’m a sucker for a time travel story and this one grabbed me straight away.  Evidently the author, Diane Chamberlain, doesn’t typically write this style book.  I give her an A+ for this delivery.

Carly Sears has had a lot of heartache in a short period of time.  Her parents were killed in an accident when she was a teenager and so her only family is her sister Patti.  That is established early on so you know what a tight relationship they have.

The book starts off in the 1970’s in North Carolina.  Carly  had recently been told her husband Joe was killed in Vietnam.  Unbeknownst to Joe and Carly, she had conceived and was pregnant when he shipped out.  Now Carly is a pregnant young widow and to top off that pain she learns her baby has a heart condition that is fatal to the newborn, at least it is in 1970.

We start out with Carly as a young physical therapist doing an internship of sorts.  She is the only therapist to connect with a depressed patient named Hunter Poole and this is where her life takes a dramatic turn.  Hunter is from the future but no one knows this yet.  He never wanted anyone to know. Hunter marries Carly’s sister Patti and establishes his life there in North Carolina.  It’s before the cell phones, computers, microwaves and all the modern conveniences we have today.  It’s also a lot less stressful for him.

Once it’s determined through the early development of ultrasound that Carly’s baby will die, he makes the decision to tell her about himself.  He knows if he can get his sister-in-law to the future an operation can be performed on the fetus, thus saving her baby.  Carly would do a time jump from 1970 into New York City in 2001, get the advanced medical help she needs for her unborn child Joanna, then slide on back to her home in 1970 North Carolina.  Easy peasy, right?

Obviously she thinks he has a screw loose as this is an unbelievable story. To convince Carly he isn’t crazy he tells her about the Kent State shooting which will happen in a few days. Everything falls into place for Carly such as the reason he knows the lyrics to Beatles’ songs on the day they are released or how he could know about events before they happened.

A quote from Hunter:  “There were days I missed the comforts of 2018.  I missed my laptop computer and cell phone and the Internet more than anything.  I missed being able to easily communicate with my friends, I missed being able to look up information in seconds.  But 1970 came with a sort of peace I’d never known before………I traded my laptop and cell phone for a hammock and a book.

Foodie references are not frequent. Fried chicken , ham hocks and butter beans and homemade biscuits. Homemade food, all the time!  But Carly in 2001 will experience Taco Bell for the first time.  Takeaway food, Google searches, iPads, cell phones and more.  Wouldn’t that just blow you away?  It would for me but I can say, there are times I would trade all this for a Norman Rockwell lifestyle that I had growing up in the 50’s and 60’s.

The characters are all likable and that’s a refreshing change from some of the books I have abandoned lately.  There is so much more to the story but I can’t give away any spoilers because this was a fun read.  I hope if you like the time travel element you will check this out.  It’s not all smooth and problem-solved, there are a couple of twists I wasn’t expecting.

My only negative comment is that I think the resolution with Hunter’s mother wasn’t necessary.  Too neatly tied up and frankly didn’t suit her personality.  Yes, you’d have to read it to get a grip on Myra Poole’s character and why I feel this way.

Thanks very much to NetGalley for providing me with this pre-lease copy of the Dream Daughter.  I very much enjoyed it.  Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for this review.

Linking up with Heather’s September Foodie Reads.

NetGalley1  2018FoodieRead

Lies by T. M. Logan

liesI received a sample of this book Lies by T. M. Logan.  The  very beginning had me hooked.  Joe Lynch is driving with his son Will and the little boy spots his mother’s car, asks if they can surprise her.  Joe follows her into a hotel parking garage, heads upstairs to the lobby, and then sees his wife Melissa talking heatedly with Ben, the husband of her best friend.

Joe doesn’t want their young son to witness any unpleasantness so he heads them back to the car.  He tries to catch Melissa as she drives off but then runs into Ben and gets into an altercation.  Ben is knocked to the parking garage floor and isn’t responsive.

To make matters worse Will has gotten out of the car and sees Ben knocked out on the ground, blood seeping from his ear.  This upset causes an asthma attack and Joe has get his son medicine.  So he leaves Ben, gets the boy help, returns to the garage and Ben is gone.  So is Ben’s car.  When his wife returns home he asks her about meeting Ben but she lies and says she’s been playing tennis.  More conversation between them makes it clear she’s hiding something.

Based on that, and it was edgier than I wrote this out, I requested the book from NetGalley.  The first part of this book was great and highlighted the dangers of social media.  Joe had lost his cell phone in the struggle in the parking garage – suddenly his Facebook page has updates that he isn’t making.  Photos posted from that hotel parking garage clearly showing blood in the background.   People “liking” and commenting on the posts.

They knew where I’d been.  It was like suddenly realizing you lived in a goldfish bowl.  Both updates had been posted this evening.  I had driven out of the Premier Inn around 5:10 p.m. and both Facebook posts had followed inside the next ninety minutes.

Can’t imagine someone hacking my social media account and posting as me.

Towards the middle I felt the plot dragged a bit and wasn’t believable.  We have to suspend disbelief with some story lines but after a while, I just couldn’t do it with this story.  Joe’s reactions to the “implied evidence” his wife was cheating was very unrealistic.  I know my husband wouldn’t be as understanding and rightfully so!

Obviously you have to have a weak character, the fall-guy so to speak, but this just didn’t fly.  Melissa Lynch is a completely unlikable person in the way she is manipulating her husband.  Why didn’t he toss her out?  Should of done so.  Is Ben a dangerous man or another victim?  You will see at the end.  Overall I felt disconnected from the characters and repelled by Joe (even though he is the victim) by his weak behavior.

The ending had a twist I certainly didn’t see coming and I will say well done there.

Would I read more by this author?  Probably so.  I’d try one more book.  It kept my interest until the end with the twists and turns and I wanted to know whodunit.

Linking up with Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday as the author is British and the setting is London and Sunderland.

Much thanks to NetGalley for the digital copy.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions nice and otherwise are my own.

 

 

Wine Reads by Jay McInerney

winereads

A collection of short stories and essays where wine has THE starring role.  We have a combo of fiction, non-fiction and lots of wine and food references throughout.  One of the names/stories that attracted me was Kermit Lynch.  I don’t think we have ever had a wine with Kermit Lynch’s name attached that we didn’t like.  The book  Adventures on the Wine Route was fairly recently acquired so seeing it in this compendium was a bonus.

Remember the movie Sideways?  It’s not an academy award winner but if you’d like to see a movie which revolves around wine, this is one, but I have not read the book.   that book is referenced here as well.  Books like this let me live vicariously with the details about good food and wine.  Fun read.

This author has written other books about wine, one I liked was Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar.

More about Jay McInerney

Much Thanks to Netgalley for this book. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for the review.

NetGalley1

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

keyhole

This is a physiological drama told from the point of view of a nine-year old boy. It’s a unique perspective to see young Samuel Clay’s view of his world, one where his mother Margot has been away for more than 100 days.

He receives no phone calls, no telegrams or packages. The only thing he waits for are the few postcards his mother sends from her travels across the United States and of course, his hope of her return. Samuel lives alone in a large estate in Surrey England with only the housekeeper, Ruth, to attend to his needs.

Samuel tracks his mother’s travels using an atlas and pins when he receives a postcard. Being a person who loves maps, it’s particularly enjoyable to read about the atlas and Samuel putting colored pins in Boston, San Francisco, London, Bath and Penzance.

Samuel’s father died a few years ago and the dire financial state of affairs prompted Margot Clay to go “fund raising” across the country and the USA to raise money. She left in the middle of the night without saying goodbye to her son. Ruth takes care of Samuel by cooking and cleaning. You suspect Ruth in the beginning of withholding information from the boy.

As you read the story from a nine-year old’s point of view, the adult reader can see and understand some of the reality of the situation. An example of that is when Samuel sneaks into his mother’s room and steals letters his mother had written to her husband.

You get the idea that Margo Clay had been in an institution or some home. Samuel remembered that from a remark by his father about Margot being away in bath where there would be peace and quiet. She evidently wasn’t suited to domestic life. In a letter from Margot to Samuel’s father she implores him not to bring he boy next time he visits as his arms around her make her feel as if she is sinking in the water. Not everyone is suited to be parent. When Ruth catches the boy in his mother’s room she berates him and tells him he should be ashamed snooping around.

Ruth didn’t understand that he was only trying to be near his mother, she was a creature in orbit and the one way he could feel close to her was to linger in the traces she left behind.

Ruth is really a piece of work – alternately making his favorite meals, asking about homework then berating him and being mentally abusive. The ending wasn’t what I thought might happen, quite a surprise actually. Can’t say I didn’t have questions about that and since they will be spoilers, I won’t talk about it here.  Goodreads has a spoiler feature so I will add my thoughts about that there.

I always notice the foodie parts in a book. Here are the offerings:

Shortbread, cake, freshly baked bread, roast beef and potatoes with peas, mince pie, eggs and sausages, roasted chicken and potatoes, roasted lamb, roast rabbit and chestnut stuffing, tea cakes and lemon tarts.

As I love making bread, the baguettes seemed a good option.

bread

Baguettes

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Directions

brush over tops of loaves.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheaPlace 1 cup water, bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast into bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select Dough cycle, and press Start.

When the cycle has completed, place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16×12 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, creating two 8×12 inch rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, beginning at 12 inch side, pounding out any air bubbles as you go. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; Brush the dough, bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Much Thanks to Netgalley for this book.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for the review.

Sharing with:

Joy for British Isles Friday as the setting is England.
Heather at Based on a True Story for August Foodies Read
Booklover’s Aussie Author Challenge

 

Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine

womenDunes

Libby Snow is a archaeologist’s assistant and lands the dig of her dreams. She’s always had a pull and desire to see the area in Scotland where her ancestor Ellen McDonald lived, a place called Ullaness near the Scottish seaside. There is myth, legend, murder, and secrecy about the area. Now Libby has a chance to search through the old ruins where her ancestor lived and the ancient monk’s cell where Ulla lived as well.

Ulla was an 8th century Norsewoman who arrived on Scottish shore with her wounded lover Harald. A monk tended to Harald, all the while disapproving of Ulla’s views on spirituality. Quite lively discussions there.  Her grandmother shared stories with Libby about Ellen and her obsession with Ulla & the myth surrounding her life and death.

The bones uncovered at first aren’t as ancient as expected.  They belong to a man from the 1900’s era.  So now we have a possible murder victim which complicates matters.  The police are brought in and the archaeological dig may be in jeopardy.

The main focus of the book is present time with Libby Snow and the Sturrock family, but we do drift into Ellen’s time and see her side of things back in the 1890’s. That’s quite an eye opener and solves a few mysteries for the reader, but alas, not for Libby Snow or the Sturrock family who own the land.  There are sporadic chapters for Ulla’s story and thus, the characters of Ellen, Libby and Ulla intertwine.

Told in dual time lines I found the book to be very engaging. The scenery descriptions are wonderful and make me want to visit Scotland. It’s been on the bucket list for many a year but to bring this beautiful scenery alive with such vivid description – perfect. There is a rustic house, an inheritance, a mystery and a sprinkle of romantic attraction here – what’s not to love.

This put me in mind of Mary Stewart novels and I very much enjoyed the book. I’d like to read more by Sarah Maines.

This was a foodie book for sure. An eclectic team of folks make up a catering business that doesn’t have a main part or focus in the book but the food is mentioned quite a bit.

To name a few: Fish and chips, lots of tea, scones
Quiche, smoked cheeses, smoked fish, jams and fancies, bread, pickles
Brown bread and smoked salmon and Sancerre
Casserole and apple pie, fishcakes & fresh peas

I wanted fish and chips so badly when I read this so, we improvised and used Panko with our fish strips. So. Good. I did have oven roasted potatoes one night but went with my favorite roasted sweet potato another evening.

Many thanks to NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book.  Opinions expressed here are mine, nice and not so nice, and I was not compensated for my review.

Linking up with
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather for her August Foodie Reads
Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series
NetGalley