Monday, January 18, 2021

Dispatches by Michael Herr


This is an incredible accounting of a time period about the Vietnam War, told with such descriptive clarity by journalist Michael Herr.

The journalist conveyed the horror using such descriptive language you could smell the fear, feel empathy for these children who wore the uniform of of military. He descrobed the young men as young but their eyes were old, old before their time having witnessed horrors no one should ever see.

He rode in choppers that were under fire and those filled with bodies of dead marines. He had humorius stories about the converstions with the men and frightening moments when they were targeted by incoming missles. Drugs, drink, death and sadness.  

I went through that thing a number of times and only got a fast return on my fear once, a too classic hot landing with the heat coming from the trees about 300 yards away, sweeping machine-gun fire that sent men head down into swampy water, running on their hands and knees towards the grass where it wasn’t blown flat by the rotor blades, not much to be running for but better than nothing.

Herr didn't have to be in Vietnam and soldiers and Marines who realized this were gob smacked.  One Marine stated once he was back in the States his own mama could be sent over and he'd never come back.

It took him years to write the book Dispatches as he came home with crippling depression. Writing this was probably theraputic.

The Nonfiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out. 
 This is for the category Wartime Experiences.

 Check out the sign up post and info HERE. The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2021. You can join in anytime!

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Guest List by Lucy Foley


In a nutshell: A surplus of self entitled rich people, the setting a remote and eerie Irish island (the destination wedding for handsome Will and beautiful Julia) plus a plethora of stereotyped school bullies now in their late 30's. What's not to like? Well, there's a bit not to engage you at first grows on you. There are a few characters I liked very much and wish their stories had continued.

This book is very similar to her previous novel The Hunting Party.  There are quite a few characters in this novel and multiple points of view; I found myself intrigued by the back stories and wondered who would end up murdered.  I hoped for one of the shallow creeps but no spoilers from me here.

In addition to the remote location, one which requires a boat to access, there is an old ghostly cemetery and peat bogs which can (and do) pull a person in just as quicksand would. Lots of danger, secrets and suspects. 

The setting is very well described and you can picture the crashing waves against the shore, feel the cold winds and imagine the insidious bogs which nearly claimed one wedding guest.

I will read more by Lucy Foley but I have to say that The Hunting Party was a better book, in my opinion.  Again, it's a similar template to her previous book but by the end of The Guest List, it was hard to have empathy for many of the characters. For what it's worth, I liked Hannah and Olivia very much so if you read this one, let me know your thoughts on the major players.

Also, last but not least, I personally did not figure out the murderer's identity until it was revealed.  I saw a few reviews where the reader stated they did but I was not one of those :-)

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday.


Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

When Hannah met Owen she wouldn't have any reason to think he was hiding a secret.  They had a good marriage and while it was a challenge to get his daughter Bailey to warm up to her, life was good.  Then a young girl from Owen's school arrives at Hannah's home with a note from Owen which simply stated, Protect Her. A mysterious note and big bag of cash for Bailey sets us off on a mystery of sorts.

Hannah and Bailey find common ground while searching for Owen. They both love him but it's clear he kept a part of his life a secret from them both. 

This story has multiple timelines which adds to slowly revealing the story.  There is an FBI investigation, tensions and a slow develpment of the main characters.

This is more of domestic suspense, not an action thriller. I don't read reviews until I have finished a book but I see now most readers were very positive and seemed to love the storyline.  While it was interesting to me I did not find myself all that engaged with the characters and would lose my train of thought.  Clearly I am in the minority here.

Publication date is 4 May 2021; the genre is women's fiction.    Much thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  I was not compensated for my review and opinions are mine.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Wine Reads: a literary anthology of wine writing

 Jay McInerney compiled an anthology of wonderfully written stories with wine as the starring feature.  I am a wine enthusiast and enjoyed the collection.  Right now I can say I picked a hellava time to stop drinking my beloved vino with the insurrection that's going on aross our country. Oh well, I will continue to abstain a bit longer :-)

One of my favorite stories in this book was by Roald Dahl describing a wine tasting at a simple dinner party.  It was a challenge by the host to stump guest Richard Pratt, a famous gourmet and president of Epicurus. 

The bets were always high stakes; a case of expensive wine or use of a country estate.  This time the host, Mike Schofield, was so sure he had Mr. Pratt at a loss that he impulsively bet his 18 year olf daughter's hand in marriage. The wine tasting and discussions (and arguements from Schofield's wife and daughter) were funny and alarming all at once.

Contributions are from Kermit Lynch, Biana Bosker (from her great narative Cork Dork), Bill Buford and more.  Some stories are very funny and others are educational. 

This is the shared with ShellyRae for the Nonfiction 2021 challenge.
 Category: Essay Collection

The Nonfiction Reader Challenge is hosted by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.  Check out the sign up post and info HERE. The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2021. You can join in anytime!

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn has done it again.  If you liked her novel The Alice Network you will fall in love with this novel.  It's detailed, informative and has me yearning to know more about the men and women who worked in secrecy for their goverment to help break codes during WW II.

This historical fiction centers around Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. You will go back and forth between London and the Bletchley Park during the years 1940 and 1947.  The three main characters are Olsa Kendall, a high society debutante who is dismissed as a silly rich girl, yet is fluent in German and French and is an ace code breaker.

Mab Churt is a dynamite 5'11" woman with a mission to better herself from her poor east London childhood.  She has a few secrets which are slowly revealed. Mab is also recruited to break German codes.  The third woman is Beth Finch and I can tell you ahead of time, you are really going to hate her mother! Beth starts off as a wallflower but her skills and dedication are astounding.  

Three women from such different backgrounds who would never cross paths otherwise form an interesting friendship.  To complicate their very complex lives comes the discovery of a traitor in their agency. It's a surprise, how it all works out. 

The Enigma codebreakers worked tirelessly to serve ther country and can't talk about it to anyone.  All the workers recruited, both military and civilan, signed an oath of secrecy.  They couldn't talk to one another about what they worked on if they were assigned to different departments or Huts.  As you can imagine, this would create problems in their personal relationships outside of Bletchley Park. 

The characters were very well developed; the supporting characters included Prince Phillip (before his betrothal to Elizabeth), the mathmatical genuis Alan Turing and many historical figures woven into the storyline. 

This advanced copy of The Rose Code was provided to me from LibraryThing and I was not compensated for the review.  I loved this book.  Be sure to look for a copy when it's published  by Harper Collins on June 18, 2021.

Linking up with Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Reader Challenge and Joy for British Isles Friday.

Happy  reading!

Friday, January 1, 2021

The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O'Neal


This setting for this novel is Devon England and focuses on four generations of Fairchild women.    Lillian is a famed mystery author living in an amazing old mansion which overlooks the sea.  She is the mother of Poppy, grandmother to Poppy's daughter Zoe and great grandmother to Isabel.  The story is told from all four women's point of view.

It's interesting to read their chapters and see their perspectives, unique from one another based on different experiences. Lillian reveals she wanted to travel and have adventure in her youth but having a child (Poppy) kept her on the homefront. Their relationship is explained throughout from both women and how they view one another.  Lillian is in her 80's and starting to have a slow mental decline. Poppy is 60 something.

Poppy's story starts out from her daughter Zoe's observations. She left 7 year old Zoe with Lillian for a month long visit and didn't return.  This obviously hurt Zoe and shaped her upbringing.  Could you ever forgive your mother if she disappeared from your life, sending only letters and occassionally calling?
Zoe is now 39 and has returned to England from her home in New Mexico.  Her best friend Diana  has been missing for 2 weeks and she came back to help, also to assist her grandmother Lillian.  An added benefit is a change of scene for her 15 year old daughter Isabel as she is working through a traumatic event. 

Isabel is an amazing young woman who was subjected to serious bullying and more.  It's the "more" that she doesn't share with her mother or counselor until near the end of the book and I tell you, your heart will go out to her.  As a mother I would be out for blood if anyone damaged my child this way spoilers here.  It's lovely to see Isabel blossom as she explores Devon and lets her guard down. She loves her mother and great grandmother very much and finally meets her grandmother Poppy. Awkward situations ensue.

There is love, reflection and redemption in this book. I am looking forward to reading more by this author.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

Once more we have Cormoran Strike and his partner Robin Ellacot knocking it out of the park in this detective series.  There are so many investigations they are juggling yet you won't be confused by the storylines as they are clearly explained.

I will say up front that I have seen very mixed reviews on this novel based on everything from the length of book to how fast the plot advanced to plain hate over J.K. Rowling and her opinions.  On Goodreads I have seen a post stating if you support Rowling/Galbraith they will unfriend you.  Seriously.

I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the next in the series.  She stated in previous interviews the series would have seven books (just like the Harry Potter series). While the main characters, Cormoran and Robin, have an obvious attraction to one another, I am hoping she won't get them together until the last book.  If at all. For now let it be all investigative and mystery plotting. If you read it through you'll knpw the spark between them is genuine yet they don't want to ruin a great partnership and friendship.

The supporting characters were well fleshed out and I liked the addition of Strike's childhood friend Dave Polworth.  He cracks me up with his devotion to Cornish nationalism and his accent comes through as you are reading his parts.  He's a wonderful friend to Strike and comes through for him as Strike's Aunt Joan is dying of cancer.

A new detective at the agency named Saul Morris is one that brings drama.  My husband was ahead of me reading this book as I had another novel to finish.  He knew when Saul did something reprehensible as I suddenly said, "Oh no he didn't!" - Doug knew I'd gotten to "that part" of the book.  No spoilers from me.

Margot Bamborough is the main case focused on here, a cold case from 40 years ago. Her daughter is Anna Phipps and she hires Strike to take a last look at this cold case. There are quite a few suspects and I can say I never saw it coming when all was revealed.

Looking forward to more of this series.  Great writing.  

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Nigella Lawson's Christmas Pudding Hunt for 2020

Nigella Lawson is one of my favorite cooks and I love each and every cookbook she has written.  Did you know she does a contest during the Christmas holidays?

Nigella’s Christmas Pudding Hunt started again and I was way late to the party.  You can still sign up and play along.  Click on the link HERE and sign in to your Nigella account or start one up if you like.  There is a link for logging in via Facebook but I am not a FB member so, I can't advise you there.

Here is one of the clues.  It's fun looking for the correct recipe and if you win, yoou'll receive a dynamite gift basket!  Maybe a cookbook too.

The prize is a Christmas hamper filled with goodies.

I wish I had remembered to look for her annual prize hunt earlier in Decemeber but, as I said, it's easy to catch up and play along.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Finding Home by Kate Field

This a story about Miranda Brown and how her life changes dramatically after helping an older couple who are stranded. 

Miranda goes by the name Mim.  She has been living out of her car after losing her job but she takes all this lightly as her life had not been easy. She never knew her father and was abandoned by her mother by the time she was eight years old, grew up in foster homes and had to make her own way in life.  

Bea and Bill Howard are old enough to be her parents; they are stranded just before new years and need to get from Lancashire to their home in Devon.  Mim spontaneously offers to help and drives them home knowing they will refuel her car and she can head back north. Work is scare at this time of year so she can take the time to drive this nice couple.

When they arrive in Devon she is invited to stay at one of their holiday caravans for the night.  There will be a wedding the next day and Mim is offered work with the catering service, perfect for someone like her with former hotel experience.  The family has four adult children and they are so very nice; not at all stuck up rich despite the estate and ammenities they grew up with.  This is a bit of a Cinderella story without the royalty.

What I liked: The setting in Devon was nice. It was also nice to read about Mim's first experience viewing the sea.  With the exception of Janet the characters were all likeable as was the plot. The cover is quite pretty and that would have drawn me to pick up the book in a bookstore and see what the book was about.

What I didn't like: Mim was described as stubborn and proud but sometimes her refusal or taking exception to a free cup of tea or use of heat in the caravan went too far.  Yes, we get it that Mim was not a charity case and she was proud but that could have been toned down a bit. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book.  This will be published April 16, 2021.

Genre: General Fiction/Romance/Women's Fiction

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Searcher by Tana French

The Searcher was another of Tana French's novels which had me hooked from the start.  I loved the setting and having been fortunate enough to visit Ireland a few times, she nailed the atmosphere.  The dialogue, the way the chill and cold was described as seeping into your bones, the banter at the pubs - loved it.

These charatcers were brought to life and I felt I was in the room when they were talking in the pub or at Cal's cottage.  Cal Hooper was a likeable enough character and while he could be villager in a future novel, I don't see him as playing a major part as a detective coming up. I mention this as I saw some reviews which expressed interest in seeing him in an upcoming novel.  I just don't see how that could work.

He is after all a retired American detective trying to find peace and quiet in beautiful Ireland. A child named Trey seems to stalk him and eventually asks Cal to investigate the disappearance of Trey's older brother.  He agrees and while it seems an unlikely scenario for an American to involve himself in an investigation all on his own, it all plays out to a satisfactory ending.  You get some surprises and if you didn't like Witch Elm, her last book, you'll be glad this plot and set of characters was an improvement.

That being said, I much prefered the Dublin Murder Squad series and long for Tana French to return to those type novels.  I loved the way a minor character in an investigation was given a bigger role in the next book.  Give me Frank Mackey, Cassie Maddox, Rob Ryan and Stephen Moran again.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Fallen Angel by Jenny O'Brien


The setting is northern Wales and our recovering detective Gaby Darin is back in the third installment of this series.  Gaby is acting Detective Inspector while the the current DI is on sick leave trying to beat cancer. 

As there seems to a lull in crime in Llandudno, DI Darin and her team look into old cold cases.  Her right hand man and friend Owen Bates brings her the case about Angelica Brock.  She was found in a remote area with her white blonde hair spread around her like a halo, dressed in an old white nightdress which was not her own and curled in a fetal position.  There wasn't DNA to help then.

The case from over 20 years ago looked like a random killing but as the team goes over the old case notes connections appear with other unsolved murders, too many to be coincidence.  There are good surprises woven into the storyline and I very much enjoyed the detectives' interaction with one another. I am especially fond of the medical examiner Rusty Mulholland. 

Thank you to Netgalley for the complimentary copy of this book.  This was published 20 November 2020 and is the third book in the Detective Gaby Darin series. I was not compensated for my review.

Genre is Mystery and Thrillers/Adult Fiction

Dispatches by Michael Herr

   This is an incredible accounting of a time period about the Vietnam War, told with such descriptive clarity by journalist Michael Herr. T...