Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves


We start this Vera Stanhope mystery in Northumbria in a small community called Valley Farm. Ann Cleeves is such an excellent author, bringing you directly into the scene and allowing you to be the proverbial fly on the wall.  This wasn't as engaging as her other Vera novels but I did enjoy following along with the investigation.  

This time we have two murders straight away, both men killed different ways and with a curious connection.  An older man found stabbed and his identity, at first, was a complete mystery. The younger man called Patrick Randle was found face up in a ditch. Patrick  was a house sitter at a large country house - the same place mystery man was found stabbed. The only connection the two men had was an interest in moths yet they did not seem to know one another. 

When Vera starts the investgation she and her team, DC Holly Clarke and DS Joe Ashworth, start interviews with the residents of Valley Farm. Nigel and Lorraine, Sam and Annie and Jan and her professor husband. All of these couples have secrets, some relative to the investigation.

There were enough clues to set me thinking I absolutely knew what the motive would be and how it would end. Nope!  I was completely surprised.

What I loved was the quick mind and investigative thought process Vera displays in all the books. What I didn't care for was the constant reminders of Vera's weight and her health issues.  If you have read this series in order you will be well acquainted with how fat Vera Stanhope is and her occassional inner thoughts about being alone.  It seemed to be hammered in with this novel.  Lighten up there, please.

I would like to see more development with Holly Clarke's character.  She was quite introspective in this book and I wondered if she would soon be written out. She sounds like she has plenty of personal secrets and it would be interesting to know more about her.

Linking up Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

We begin this story in 1870, Wichita Falls, Texas, with Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd looking over the newspaper stories he will share at his reading in town.  As the DVD is out, and no I have not seen it yet, I do know the main character is played by Tom Hanks.  His is the voice I hear when I read this narrative.

He is approached by Britt Johnson, a freed black man, to deliver a a ten year old white girl to her surviving family.  The U.S. Army recently rescued the girl but they no longer retain responsibility to return those captured to their families. She was taken captive by Kiowa Indians, her parents and siblings slaughtered, and she had lived with them these past six years.  She loved her Indian mother and her life with the Kiowa and has forgotten about her past.  Forgotten her native German language, does not know English and is as feral and fierce as her adoptive indigenous family.

Cicada, birth name Johanna has escaped twice and is hellbent to return to the Kiowa. While Captain Kidd does not know about Indians, he does know about girls as he raised two daughters.  He accepts the undertaking and it's quite a journey between these two. An old Confederate war veteran aged 72 and a 10 year old girl full of mistrust. 

It's quite a journey through northern Texas and Indian country and I hung on to every word.  As a matter of fact, the ending of this book brought tears to my eyes and it's been a long time since a book elicted such emotion at the conclusion. 

I am very much looking forward to the movie now.  It will be interesting to compare the book to the movie. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

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.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Outlander revisited

 Anyone who has been a fan of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon knows her next book is about to be published!  Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone is book nine in the series.  I am not certain if that is the last book to wrap up this saga but I am anxious to read it and continue the journey.

That made me want to revisit the first book - Outlander - which started it all. 

Outlander has many of the features I love to read about – time travel, a bit of romance, it’s a historical fiction, genealogy, Scotland and lots of dialogue! I read this the first time after picking up a copy from the used book section at my local library. I was hooked! In the beginning you are getting to know Claire and Frank Randall. Frank is obsessive about his genealogy and they are in Scotland checking out the area where his ancestor, Black Jack Randall, went to battle in 1745 at Culloden.

Claire was a combat nurse, separated from Frank by war and her duties. She is reunited with her husband and they went on a second honeymoon in Scotland, getting reacquainted with each other again after a long separation. During one of their outings they visit a dolman. Something special in one of the rocks at a dolman they visited attracts Claire and, upon touching the stone, she is transported back in time – same place, but 200 years earlier. Naturally she thinks she’s landed herself in a BBC production of some costume drama when she sees the Red-coated British uniforms and Scots in full kilt and sporran get up running from them.

Meeting Frank’s ancestor, Jonathan Wolverton Randall, is shocking (for obvious reasons) but to see him as the spitting image of her husband (Frank) is quite unnerving – especially since he isn’t kind and compassionate like Frank. She is saved from certain rape and interrogation by Capt. Randall by a Scot named Murtagh. He takes Claire to a cottage where she meets Jamie Fraser for the first time. The seven or so Scottish rebels are as puzzled by Claire as she is by them. They think she’s a spy for the English. Randall thinks she’s a spy for the Scots or France. Viewed by all with suspicion makes it difficult for her to escape. Claire ends up marrying Jamie so she may become a Scottish citizen and thus, untouchable by the English and protected. Still – even with her attraction to Jamie, she plans to try and get back to her own time.

There are so many interwoven story lines within this book with all the characters; I hung on to each chapter and was left hooked on these Outlander books. Happily for me, there were 4 more in print when I first started reading it so I quickly moved on to the other stories. I am awaiting the last book of this series to come out for what is promised to be a tear jerker finale.

I've only seen a few episodes of the television series and it didn't rock my world so I can only speak about the books.

Happy Reading!

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Jack Smith wakes up on a beach with a horrendous head injury,  not recollecting anything about his past or who he is.  Amnesia is the theme in the beginning of this book but the suspense that develops about "Jack" and his past makes this a page turner.  

The writing is excellent, so descriptive you can clearly visualize the beach and waves, you feel the bitter cold seeping into his bones. What a beginning to pull you in. I resented having to put the book down to make dinner.

Jack's girlfriend Lily Reid doesn't accept that her British boyfriend has drowned as he was an excellent swimmer.  The police shatter some of her ideas about Jack when they tell her he was living under a false identity, his driver's license was fake as was all other forms of identification.  Did he disappear on purpose and what was he running from?

This sounds like a template of girl finds boy, he suddenly remembers and they live happily ever after.  Do not assume that is how things will go! The ending was absolutely not what I expected and this psychological mind bender is not predictable.

Hannah Mary McKinnon is British author born in Manchester.  After reading this book (my first by McKinnon) I will seek out more of her work. 

Publication date is May 25, 2021 by  Harlequin.  Genre: General Fiction, Mystery and Thrillers.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

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

Thursday, May 27, 2021

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O'Neal



When I read this description on the jacket of the book  I was instantly hooked before I started it:

“Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…
Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It’s what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always believed. Yet all it takes is a few heart-wrenching seconds to upend Kit’s world. Live coverage of a club fire in Auckland has captured the image of a woman stumbling through the smoke and debris. ”

Our main characters are Kit and Josie Bianci.  Josie supposedly died in a terrorist attack on a train in Europe.  Her younger sister Kit accepted that after much searching. Fifteen  years later Josie’s face is clearly captured by a news crew while covering a club fire in Auckland. She had a distinguishing scar across her forehead from an injury during an  earthquake in San Francisco when she was 15 years old so, it’s definitely her.

Kit’s mother asks her to go to New Zealand and search for Josie. The story goes back and forth between Kit and Josie’s memories of each other, growing up and how awfully negligent their parents were when they were young. Through the back and forth, memories from 1967 and present day 1997, you get an idea of how they were shaped and their devotion to one another. It’s a very detailed book with wonderfully descriptive writing.

As you can guess, without this being a true spoiler, Josie has another life now. You start up with her story in New Zealand and learn about this amazing place called Sapphire House.

The Sapphire House is described in vivid detail. The former home of  movie star Veronica Parker, tragically murdered in her twenties. Veronica’s sister Helen lived in the house after the murder, keeping much of it as if it were a museum with the original furnishings, paintings and books. It wasn’t a dusty old place though, it had been kept immaculately clean.

Journey to the southern hemisphere and immerse yourself in the food, climate and unfolding story of the Bianci siblings. I found myself reading this any chance I had to pick it up.   Laced with betrayal and secrets, I was hooked and would like to find more by this author.

Note:  There were a few things I did not care for and think it could have been just as good a story with the absence of such.  On Goodreads I can employ the Spoiler mode but I haven’t figured out how to do that here so…those observations will be on Goodreads.

If you like seeing food pop into a story this one may be for you. The Bianca parents owned a restaurant so this book is filled with delectable dishes, inspiring me to head to the kitchen and get busy.

Green pepper and onion omelette
Blueberry muffins
Swordfish rolls, stuffed artichokes, arancini
Wine, antipasti of mozzarella, curls of salami, a tumble of olives and fresh tomatoes with flatbread. Gnocchi With peas and mushrooms.

Stuffed squid, pasta with bread and herby olive oil.
Roasted PadrĂ³n pepper and stuffed olives with bread
Vermicelli alla Siracusana ( eggplant, red peppers, olives, Parmesan with preserved lemon
Cauliflower salad and chocolate cake
Roast chicken with vegetables, carrots studded with feta, tomato salad, rice with lentils

Brik– egg, tuna and preserved lemon with harissa in pastry

I intended to start with the eggplant dish but I didn’t get an eggplant in time.  The gnocchi was defininitly gettibg made as it would be an easy one to take camping in the future, so I gave that a dry run. Oh my.  If you like gnocchi you might want this one. Recipe may be viewed at Babaganosh. Next time I make this I want to add loads more mushrooms and peas.

Much thanks to my friend Stacy who kindly sent me this book. 

Monday, May 24, 2021


 Quite a while back Wordpress switched to a new editing format.  I know many of my fellow WP bloggers were unhappy about that change just as I was. Some preservered and figured it all out. Kudos to you there :-)

I lost patience and started anew with Blogger, moving some of my favorite posts/authors over to this site.  I posted about that on my page HERE

Well.... I'd planned to only post new reviews but I just received an email from Wordpress stating my old site and posts will be no longer....unless I'd like to pay for it. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting this but I have decided to harvest more old posts and place in this blog.

Hence the post title- repetition.  I don't know if email subscriptions even work. I am not computer savvy. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Lost Souls by Jenny O'Brien

I will start by saying I absolutely love this series. Jenny O'Brien does it again by pulling me into the hectic lives of Gabriella "Gaby" Darin, Rusty Mullholland and the team of likeable detectives in Northern Wales.  The Welsh setting is beautiful and I sent my Welsh friend Jo a list of the unpronounceable names (for me) so she could translate. 

Some place names are Rhos-on-Sea, Llandudno, Ystad golygfa'r mor and Aberystwyth.

We begin with Gaby Darin is the position of acting Detective Inspector, her leading the team of detectives in the search for a missing ten year old girl, Elodie "Ellie" Fry. The little girl has a happy home life with her single mother but something she discovers terrifies her and she runs away.  You will discover later on in the book what the horrific finding was and why she ran.

To complicate matters there is a case about a missing elderly woman who failed to show up at her bridge club meeting. Her fridge is stocked with food, a tea cup is left on the counter and it appears she simply vanished into thin air.  After the crime scene folks arrived to investigate they find traces of blood which were hastily cleaned up.  This opens up much older cases of missing elderly residents in the area.  

But wait - there's more! A man who cleans the crematorium arrives at the police station to report three hip replacement prothesthics were found after the last cremation.  Apparently  someone is disposing of "body parts" in a way no one would ever discover, until an employee is spot on about his job and reports this discovery. 

The hunt for the missing girl takes priority yet Gaby's team of detectives, torn in three diferent directions, work tirelessly to solve all three cases.   I will say I was surprised by the way everything came together. Another excellent mystery tying up all the loose ends.  I can't wait for the next book to see where Gaby's career is headed. Her temporary appointment to D.I. could become a permanent position but we won't know until the next book. There is some drama about that appointment and the competition.

 Publication date May 21, 2021 by  HQ Digital.  Genre: General Fiction, Mystery and Thrillers.

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

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

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones


The Guilt Trip is a slow to start novel with all the pieces coming together in the last few chapters.  There is  a destination wedding where friends and family fly to Portugal.  Rachel and Mark are a married couple as are Paige and Noah. They are flying to Portugal with Ali, Mark's future sister-in-law. Ali seems like a gorgeous ditz and Mark has concerns about her marrying his brother. 

The secrets between friends are refered to and there is much back and forth over what they want to share with one another.  Lots of miscommunication and it reminded me of a television show where everyone misunderstood one another.  Jealousy, betrayal and murder are the themes.

While I didn't love ths book it wouldn't stop me from trying another by this author.  I just felt it could have been shorter and some "issues" were rehashed more than they ought to have been. In my opinion.

Publication date August 3, 2021 by  St Martin's Press.  Genre: Women's Fiction, Mystery and Thrillers.

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Normal People by Sally Rooney


The beginning of the story unfolds in Carricklea, Sligo in western Ireland. Our main characters are Connell and Marianne and they are young adults, attending the same school and about to decide on university options. Connell is very popular and from a middle class background.  Marianne is from a well to do family, living in a mansion.  She is considered strange and avoided at school.  Connell's mother Lorraine is employed as a cleaner at Marianne's home and it's there Connell and Marianne first start talking and becoming friends.

Whatever went on in Marianne's early life shaped her to feel as if she could never be loved.  She does not have friends and when things start up with Connell she is pleasantly surprised.  They decide to keep their relationship a secret and this I found troubling.
When Marianne is physically abused Connell comes to her aid and she feels loved. He tells her she makes him happy.

  "Even in memory she will find this moment unbearably intense.....She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person.  But now she has a new life...the beginning of my life."

They have a weird friendship and sexual relationship which eventually, as you can imagine, takes a huge turn.  The setting then moves to Trinity in Dublin for university.  Now the social situation is reversed and Marianne is the one with friends while Connell is at times merely tolerated.

Their lives and loves intertwine constantly over the years. They change each other, they support one another, they love and leave one another and always come back.

"All these years they've been like two little plants sharing the same plot of soil. growing around one another, contorting to make room, taking certain unlikely positions."

I enjoyed this author's writing style and will look for more.  Sally Rooney was born in western Ireland in 1991 and I feel her firsthand knowledge of the area is accurately portrayed in this novel.

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

Before She Was Helen by Caroline Cooney

The story unfolds at a retirement commmunity in North Carolina and Helen is our main character.  Helen is not her real name so you will read about "Clemmie" and realize Helen is an assumed identity, one she has had for decades. Hence the title Before She Was Helen.

Something traumatic happened to Clemmie years ago and she went into hiding, hoping her past would remain hidden. There are some sad stories in this narrative and while I love a mystery, this one was a bit too much on the cozy mystery genre for me.  It's a good storyline and if you have patience with the over 55 community and the geriatric issues of physical health and conversations, you may like this mystery.

 Publication date was May 4, 2021 by Random House - Ballentine.  Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Thrillers.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

  We start this Vera Stanhope mystery in Northumbria in a small community called Valley Farm. Ann Cleeves is such an excellent author, bring...