Sunday, September 22, 2019

Clapton: The Autobiography


This is a book I bought for my birthday and am just now getting around to reading it. I am enjoying it very much.  We like listening to music in the evenings and frequently the Clapton CDs are among our favorites.  His blues albums are among our favorites.

When I went to pick the book up from a local second hand store it wasn't the copy they had before and I was slightly disappointed.  Turned out to be a winning situation as the other book was a Clapton biography and this is an autobiography, his own thoughts on events.

The book starts with Clapton's recollection of his early childhood and discovering his position in the family.  At age seven he  discovered his mum and dad, Jack and Rose, were in fact his grandparents.  The way his birth mother treated him was appalling to me and the maternal side of me wanted to hug this confused and rejected child.

As we get into the musical introduction  of the book I found I couldn't put it down. He discusses the first guitar he owned, school and the introduction into playing for the public. Those chapters cover the Yardbirds, John Mayall, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos.  You also read first hand accounts of his friendships and musical collaborations with the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and his friendship with George Harrison, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood among others.

I knew the song Layla was written to woo George Harrison's wife Patti as he was completely besotted with her but I did not know the inspiration for the song name. Layla and Majnun is  narrative poem composed by Persian poet Niẓāmi Ganjavi.  Layla is the equivalent of Juliet, forbidden love. Huh. 
 I'm about to finish the part where he talks about the substance abuse and his son Conor.  That's a heart breaker.  The parts where Clapton talks about his love for George Harrison's wife Patti was a turn off.  He describes his behavior, and other musicians in that era, as having loose morals and that was accepted. Drug addiction, deaths, strong musical ethics, recovery and family.

As it turns out he was extremely unsure of himself and music was an outlet.  The rejection of his mother affected him forever and while it seems a rock icon such as Clapton thrived on attention, it was just the opposite.  Note the cover of the album below.  He refused to look up and read the comic Beano while the photos were being taken. (this was discussed in the book).  Also, with Derek and the Dominos no one knew that Derek was actually Clapton.  He wanted to play anonymously  and reveled in the fact that the band played for small groups of 50 or in festivals and no one knew it was Clapton guitar. Until that news leaked out so......they broke up.

My favorite parts are reading about the fabulous musical talents of that era and how they collaborated.  If you are a Clapton fan you may like this book.  He makes no apologies for his behavior, he reminisces abut the good, the bad and inspirations. Overall I like this book. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

White Nights by Ann Cleeves
{Book 2 in the Shetland series}

white nights 
White Nights is book two in the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. I am late getting acquainted with this series; this second book was published in 2010. The good news there is I can jump into the next story without the laboriously long wait for the author to release the latest book. Sometimes it’s nice to discover a series that’s been out a while. White Nights refers to the long period of daylight in the Shetland islands.

Our main detective character Jimmy Perez has a starring role again. Book one left it in the air whether he was staying on the island or returning to his childhood home. I haven’t seen the television series but have seen the comparisons about the books vs TV. Seems, as always, they are different. There are quite a few characters to keep up with in the book but it isn’t confusing, unless you stop reading for a bit and then go try and pick it up again. Having been ill recently, that’s what I did and had to reread the previous two chapters.

The characters are likable but I’d push Perez to be more animated. He does an awful lot of ruminating over what he should have done in regard to Fran, his love interest. As for the investigative role he’s spot on.

The book starts with a person in clown mask, handing out flyers to locals and tourists from a cruise ship.  I don't like clowns but that didn't put me off.  Then we move to an evening at artist Bella Sinclair’s manse featuring a famous musician (Bella’s nephew) and artist Fran Hunter. They are displaying their work and hoping for sales and recognition.

 It’s not a great turnout, being as clown boy sabotaged the evening by handing out flyers stating the show was canceled. Mystery number one there. During the exhibition, an Englishman staring at a portrait suddenly drops to his knees and starts crying. Perez is at the exhibition with Fran, uncomfortably mingling as a guest and not there in his professional capacity as a police officer. Now he feels the need to get the crying man and see if he needs medical attention.

What a drag for Perez, he just wants to enjoy the evening. The Englishman has no identification and claims amnesia. That’s mystery number two. While Perez is checking with other guests to see who he may have arrived with or if anyone knows him, the memory- loss Englishman disappears. Flip another chapter and he’s found hanging, an apparent suicide.

Or is it?!

We have another death then some old bones discovered in a cave near the cliffs (mysteries three and four!) The bodies are certainly piling up in this small island setting. Sometimes the story moved too slowly, my opinion, yet I wasn’t tempted to toss the book aside. It’s the flavor of the setting, a slower lifestyle and thoughtful conversations. There are only seven books in the series so I aim to finish the Shetland series this year. Maybe I will then check out the DVDs.

This book is categorized as a mystery and thriller.

More mystery, not so much a thriller.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
{Book 1 in the Shetland series}


I decided to “visit” the Shetland Islands through Anne Cleeves descriptive prose for my armchair traveling. 

Raven Black is the first book in the Shetland series.  This book starts with the introduction of Inspector Jimmy Perez and the murder of a beautiful teen aged girl, Catherine Ross. Seems just about everyone in the small town believes eccentric Magnus Tait is responsible for the murder of Catherine. She was strangled and left in a snowy field near Magnus’ house. Magnus is clearly a mentally deficient person although capable enough to live on his own. 

But is he capable of murder?

A young girl named Catriona had disappeared some 10 years earlier and Magnus was their prime suspect. No body was found and he couldn’t be charged. But did he do it? This girl’s disappearance is introduced early in the novel to establish the mistrust of old Magnus as well as give the reader one of many suspects to consider for Catherine’s murder. 

In addition to Jimmy Perez we have multiple perspectives. Each chapter gives us a different point of view. Fran Hunter and her ex-husband Duncan who have a young daughter named Cassie. Fran is the one to discover Catherine’s body. 

Sally Henry is a teenager, Catherine’s friend and the daughter of a school teacher. It’s very difficult to attend school when your parent is a teacher. Hard to fit in and be trusted. There is Robert, a tall handsome student who Sally is interested in. Robert’s father is a big figure with the upcoming festival Up Helly Aa.  We don’t meet Robert's father but you can tell how important and prestigious it is that Robert is involved in his father’s business and the festival. 

There are preparations for Up Helly Aa, something I had to look up because I had no idea what it is. To read about the festival, make travel arrangements to visit and get involved, click HERE.  I added an interesting video at the end of the post explaining Up Helly Aa. When I grabbed the book at the library and read the flap I wondered how a name such as Jimmy Perez came up on a remote Scottish island. It is explained early on about his ancestor, probably from Spain, shipwrecked near Shetland. I pictured Antonio Banderas so was shocked to see a reddish-brown haired man playing this part on the TV series. I haven’t picked up the series yet, just watched a preview in IMDB. 

Anyway, he settled on Fair Isle and generations of Perez families prospered. Jimmy is a good detective and an empathic man and longs for a family life. I like this guy. 

The weather is almost a character in its own right. It comes up so much and it’s so very descriptive about the wind, the ice, the snowdrifts, the cold. If you like mysteries and police procedurals this may be a book for you. This one has potential for sure and I already like a few of the characters so I will continue with book 2 next. 

Foodie stuff: Stopping at the coffee shop for a mug of milky coffee and a pastry with apricots and vanilla or a slice of chocolate cake. Tea and coffee, lots of it. Drams of whiskey, bottles of wine, toast and jam. 

And now for a treat, click below for Learning with Rowan to see what Up Helly Aa is all about. Looks like a fun festival but oh so cold! 

 Learning with Rowan about Up Helly Aa [youtube]

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Santa Montefiore

bee I was not familiar with this author prior to reading The Beekeeper’s Daughter but I will certainly try another of her publications after this story. What attracted me to this book was the description on Goodreads and the inside flap of the book:

“England, 1932: Grace Hamblin is growing up in a rural idyll. The beekeeper's daughter, she knows her place and her future - that is until her father dies and leaves her alone. ”

The setting of rural Devon had me interested and I had hoped it wouldn’t be a flat-out romance. I don’t mind some love interest woven into stories but I’m not a big fan of the romance genre. However, stories set in the British Isles and Ireland attract my interest. This is a multigenerational story which flips between 1932 England in 1932, Massachusetts in 1973 and ending with Massachusetts in 1990.

 The book starts in Massachusetts – it’s 1973 and Grace’s daughter Trixie (Beatrix) is tired of the small community life. She takes up with an aspiring English rock musician, Jasper Duncliffe, and plans to tour with his group across the USA. Straight off I have to say, I wasn't invested in Trixie's character at all. However, her mother Grace is an interesting character and I became fully absorbed with her backstory. 

That’s what kept me reading at first. Too much more about Trixie and I would have called it a loss, picked up another book. 

Anyway, a family emergency arises for Jasper and he has an obligation to return to England but promises to send for Trixie. It becomes clear to Grace and Freddie which family Jasper is from, they both know their daughter will be forgotten. How do they know this family, you ask? Well it will be explained in Grace’s backstory. When we start reading about Grace she is married to Freddie Valentine, living in Massachusetts, employed as a landscape designer and keeps bees. When her backstory starts she is only 14 years old and Freddie is her best friend. So you have certain spoilers right off such as knowing who she will marry and knowing her beloved father dies while she is still living in England. 

The scenery and dialogue are very detailed and you have a feeling of viewing the countryside rather than reading about it. Great descriptive prose. If the research about beekeeping is correct then you will learn so very much about bees and how they are handled, winterized, how to collect honey and more. I personally enjoyed reading those passages. It flowed smoothly, it wasn’t a tutorial at all. 

This book isn’t a romance but there is romance and family upheaval in the plot. There are betrayals, mysteries, sorrow and love. 

 The bees had a supporting role in this story so I choose to make a dish with honeyed chicken tenderloins.

 . IMG_2939

This is a light meal which may be prepared in under a half hour. A cold Rose went well with this meal.


Friday, September 6, 2019

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton


This was my first book by author Kate Morton and I enjoyed it very much. I’ve referred to it as a written form of Downton Abbey as a form of comparison. But I didn’t like Downton Abbey when I tried watching a few episodes from the first season. Funny how much I enjoyed this book as some of the subject matter mirrors that show. 

Grace is the narrator of this story, a proverbial fly on the wall at a great estate, watching and listening to the upper class as their lives unfold. Grace starts telling the story of her service at Riverton, starting when she was 14 years of age. In the present, Grace is 99 years old but as she describes her service and the servants she worked among you are swept into the past. Mr. Hamilton, Mrs. Townend, Nancy and Alfred all take on a life and I found myself picturing them quite vividly. The children of the estate – David, Hannah and Emmeline – are the beautiful upper class, destined for brilliant futures. 

While the plot is unfolding and giving away what will happen in the future, I still found myself wishing for different outcomes.

*SPOILER ALERT* Then scroll down for the food! 

Grace talks to Ursula, the producer of the movie about Riverton, and tells her she never married Alfred. Then later in the story as Grace recounts Alfred’s courtship I still found myself pulling for them to become a couple. But I knew that wouldn’t happen because 99 year old Grace stated it didn’t happen. She also mused about what happened to Hannah’s marriage to Teddy (this was before Hannah was engaged to Teddy). Even though old Grace as the narrator gave away some of the plot there were still some twist when you read about the courtship of her and Alfred, and the interactions of Hannah and Teddy as well as a big fat surprise (for me) at the end of the book. 

The poet who took his life by the lake at Riverton was mentioned from the very beginning but the circumstances and the truth was not revealed until the few last chapters. There is food mentioned here and there throughout the book but it isn’t a food-centric novel. A few that jumped out at me, and made me hungry, were these three passages: 

Sylvia has brought me a cup of steaming tea and slice of lemon cake. 

Watched with wonder as after course of splendid fare disappeared up the chute (dumbwaiter) – mock turtle soup, fish, sweetbreads, quail, asparagus, potatoes, apricot pies, blancmange – to be replaced with dirty plates and empty platters. 

I lingered by the window, hoping, imagining the soup - ham, leek and potato – bubbling atop our wood stove, filling our tiny kitchen with its salty film of steam. So vivid was my imagining I could smell the broth….

From Drop Box
Potato Leek Soup 2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil 3 medium potatoes, any type, peeled and cut into small cubes 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and thinly sliced Salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 


Put the butter or oil in a large, deep pot over medium heat. When the butter melts or the oil is hot, add the vegetables. 

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the stock, adjust the heat so it gently bubbles, and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Roundup

 I had signed up for the book challenge at Shelleyrae's site  Book'd Out  and went for the Nibbler category of six books.  Here'...