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.

Sharing with

Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday

Heather for the May Foodie’s Read

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Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

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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!

Sharing with:

Heather’s May Foodie Reads
Joy’s British Isles Friday

A Lily in the Light by Kristin Fields

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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.

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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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The Fragments by Toni Jordan

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This is a literary mystery set primarily in Brisbane Australia.  The genre and locale hooked me right away so I promptly requested a copy from NetGalley.

Imagine a famous author who publishes a ground breaking literary masterpiece, one people talk about and analyze over the years.  The author has another book about to published, people eagerly awaiting the story, when a horrific tragedy strikes. The author dies in a warehouse fire, the flames destroying all copies of the latest book.  Only fragments are recovered and her mourning fans and scholars are left with scraps of sentences, forever wondering about this lost masterpiece.   That is the story of Inga Karlson, the author who became a legend.

The fragments of her manuscript along with photos of Inga and her personal belongings are exhibited around the world for decades.  Loyal fans and scholars line up to view this exhibit, some of the devotees young enough to be Inga’s grandchildren.  She is epic.

Cadence “Caddie” Walker’s obsession with Inga Karlson’s lost manuscript has her standing in line in the blazing Brisbane heat, awaiting the opening of the exhibition so she may view this collection.  In line near Caddie is an old woman named Rachel Lehrer.  She speaks with Caddie, asking what her favorite lines were from the scraps left of the book.  In return, Rachel “quotes” this sentence fragment of the unpublished book.

And in the end, all we have are the hours and the days, the minutes and the way we bear them, the seconds spent on this earth and the number of them that truly mattered.

But that last part wasn’t written anywhere.  Is it the imaginary conjuring of an old woman?

The book is divided in three parts.  I thought the first part had a few slow spots, certainly not enough for me to abandon the book.   I was very intrigued with the perspective back in the 1930’s about Rachel Lehrer and her family.  When the story took that reminiscing turn to the past I was completely engaged.  It hops with a fluid transition from 1986 and Caddie Walker’s obsession to the 1930’s story line.  You don’t see what one has to do with another until part two of the book. Then the puzzle connects.

Nearing the end of part two I was on the fence regarding my feelings for Caddie.  She was about to take up with someone I know isn’t a good person; someone who will use her up. I’m torn with the entwining stories of Rachel and Inga in the past and the Caddie/Jamie/Philip mess in the 1980’s.  Caddie needs to be shaken by the shoulders as I, the reader, clearly knows what needs to be done here!

There is mystery, love, a snapshot of domestic violence in the 1930 era and a satisfying conclusion to the story.  Also, a surprise about several characters in part three of the book.  I would like to know what became of  a few supporting characters but there certainly was a clear resolution.  I would read more by this author.

Adventurous setting for me, Kookaburra and Queensland and Brisbane……I am armchair traveling again.

Food stuff:  Chili Lentil Soup, pizzas of Margherita and vegetarian varieties, sundaes, cakes, chicken a la King.

Linking up with the 2019 Aussie Author Challenge,   Girlxoxo for the Monthly Motif and 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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Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

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The time period for most of this book is WW II, the viewpoint and setting is Germany. Usually I gravitate toward England and occasionally France for novels set in the WW II era. This was, at times, difficult to read.

The first chapter starts in 1989, the setting New York. Ava Fischer sits on her bed crying after learning about her mother’s death and past life. Ava had banished her mother, Ilse von Fischer, from her life ten years prior. You’ll learn why as you read on.  She receives a box from Ilse’s attorney with her mother’s ashes and a cache of letters addressed to Renate Bauer.  Bauer isn’t a name Ava has ever heard and doesn’t know who the woman.  Why would her mother be writing to Bauer?

Ava discovers unsettling things about her mother’s involvement with the Ilse BDM (Bund Deutscher madel) in Nazi Germany.  The chapters go back and forth mainly between Ilse and Renate in the early 1930’s. Ava’s chapters are interspersed.

Ilse and Renate were very good friends. They shared secrets, books, loved one another without question. There was one scene where they defied the German soldiers and went into a Jewish bakery together. The boycott of Jewish businesses didn’t bother these two young ladies as they strode past the soldiers in search of sweets. Such boycotts were ridiculous for these headstrong teenagers.

But as you read on there is a sadness that such a wonderful friendship could be severely strained and eventually fractured over one being Jewish. Perhaps it’s the political climate in America today but this book had my mind drifting to the hate crimes and gang mentality I currently see in the news. While it was well written it was at times hard to read.

Reading how Ilse and Renate’s friendship was tested because Renate was Jewish was uncomfortable. Reading how relationships could change in a snap because of one’s heritage was sad.

Foodie book – no way. There were delectable bakery items and a traditional German meal mentioned.
Buttery poppyseed cakes, stolen, fruit pies, apple cakes, doughnuts, Schweinebraten in a crackling glaze of paprika, mustard and caraway seeds.

Publication date for this historical fiction novel is April 23, 2019. Check it out at your local bookstore or online book store.

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.

NetGalley

See You in the Piazza by Frances Mayes

mayes If you are an armchair traveler as I am and you love reading about Italy, get this book immediately! I certainly loved Under the Tuscan Sun as well as Mayes’ next book Bella Tuscany. This one won’t disappoint if you are fans of Frances Mayes and like a foodie/cultural narrative.

See You in the Piazza isn’t a novel. I’d describe it as a cross between a memoir and a travel guide, yet it isn’t specifically either one. It’s the sort of Ex-Pat lit that I can sink my teeth into, traveling vicariously through descriptive writing.

Our author has traveled extensively throughout Italy enjoying the foods, culture and atmosphere, eventually purchasing a second home in Tuscany.  Yet Ms. Mayes says she feels the same excitement as she did her first few years of living in Italy. “To know Italy would take ten lifetimes.”

It’s a foodie book for sure – Olive trees, Negroni, homemade pasta, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, recipes and more.  The book is set up geographically from north to south.  It doesn’t have to be read cover to cover, rather you may choose the county of interest.  This will stay on my Kindle as a reference guide in case I’m ever able to visit Italy.

Read this and you will want to pack up and move, enjoy a different culture and pace.  This book was published March 12, 2019 so hustle to your favorite bookstore or online retailer and immerse yourself with Frances Mayes’ Italian travels.

Sharing with Heather for her March Foodies Read series.

Thank you very much  Netgalley for this digital copy of the book. It’s one I will refer to often, especially if I am fortunate enough to travel to Italy. I received this complimentary copy and am not compensated for my opinion/review.

NetGalley

Agatha Raisin – The Dead Ringer (book 29)

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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.

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