Monday, November 30, 2020

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Good Sister is a twisty story about twins who have an unconventional upbringing. They are devoted to one another and you'll learn more about their relationship through journals as written by Rose. Fern is the sister who is completely dependent on Rose yet is quite a capable young woman, one who doesn't realize her potential and abilities.  

Fern is so likeable but there is something a bit off about her.  She has a keen mind for detail and a practical way of examining a situation.  Black and white with no gray area, as an engineer, socially awkward yet confident.

Rose appears to have her life together, has a lovely home and clearly takes care of Fern. Still, Rose's husband has left her and she wants to have a baby.  Right from the beginning you will see how Rose manipulates Fern, steers her a particular direction  so it seems it's Fern's idea. 

We read about the childhood experiences she and Fern endure through her journals and their mother is not kind.  It's a dysfunctional family drama with hints of the ending  surfacing early on in the book.  Still, it's well written and I wasn't tempted to put it aside. The sister with the dark side is gradually developed in this story.

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced readers copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review and opinions are all mine.  This book will  be published 13 April 2021.

Genre is mystery and thriller/women's fiction.

 Sally Hepworth is an Australian author who lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

This is a book about three different generations of women in England all set in the same place.  We read about their lives in Warwickshire at Highbury House.

Venetia Smith's chapter begins talking about how a garden project inspres her. "Each new garden is like an unread book, it's pages brimming with possibilty."

Beth's story is set in 1944.  She is a land girl and moves from Dorking to Warwickshire, settling in on a farm and loving it. Beth's back story told how she was orphaned as a young girl, taken in my her aunt but never shown love or support.  Her aunt had a duty to her and while she was fed and clothed, it was clear she had no emotional attachment to niece.  

Getting assigned as a land girl to a country couple who showed approval and kindness changed her life.  Her chapters at Highbury House during the war were interesting.

In present day, 2021 actually, Emma Lovell has a business called Turning Back Thyme where she designs gardens and also does her favorite thing, restorations.  Her inspiration is Venetia who originally designed the lush and complex gardens at Highbury House back in 1906.  I enjoyed getting to know Emma as she started to join in with village events such as the weekly pub quiz.  The team she ended up on was called Menace to Sobriety, I thought that was very funny.

The gardens are an entity in it's own as much of the story focuses on the designs and restoration of the terraced "rooms". A tea garden where polite company meet leads to the lover's garden brimming with flowers and plants in hues of passionate reds and pinks, then the bridal garden, the children's garden and the winter garden.  In Venetia's time is was being designed, Beth came along while the house was requisitioned as a hosital and the gardens were in a state of wildness.  Emma had the restoration job of trying to find out what it orginally looked like.  As the stories interwined I was unable to put this book down.  Dinner was late last night because I was near the end and had to finish!

This is my first experience with this author and I plan to seek out more of her work.  Julia Kelly did her research about requistioned houses during WW II and provided us with titles ot read more on that subject at the end of her book.

While I am not a fan of straight out romance novels, this book had just enough of the romantic element to work well within the storyline. I loved the ending and all mysteries about the people and the Winter Garden were solved.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader copy.  This is scheduled for publication 12 January 2021.  The genre is historical ficion and women's fiction.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware


This is a difficult book to review.  There are so many twists  in the plot in spite of it being a slow burn of a read.  It does start off slowly, in my opinion, but you will be rewarded with the surprise ending.  

The story unfolds in the form of Rowan Caine's letters to an attorney.  She is basically begging him to help her as she is in prison for the murder of a child and she says she is innocent.  In order for her story to make sense to the attorney she must set the scene and describe how she got the job and what went on the isolated Scottish home.  It's Rowan's point of view throughout until the end.

Rowan answers an advertisement for a full time nanny.  The position comes with an amazingly generous salary and all sorts of perks.  As the home is located in an isolated part of Scotland and four previous nannys have resigned after a short period, the employer wants to be assured of a commitment for at least one year.  The rumors of the "smart house" being haunted is addressed and as Rowan doesn't believe in ghosts she accepts the position. However, there is another reason why Rowan wants this position, which will be revealed later, which changes how you view things. (Cryptic, I know, but I can't give a spoiler)

The smart house was a character of it's own with it's extensively built-in technology. The shower was programmed for former nannys in regard to spray and temperature.  The program called Happy could respond to voice commands such as stating close the curtains or turn off a light.  There were cameras everywhere and that alone was creepy.

The employers are a husband and wife team who are out of town frequently, demonstrating and designing the high tech build-ins for homes.  This means the nanny will be left for some length of time with the couple's four children.  This happens almost immeditatly and we see Rowan isn't the perfect nanny she presented herself as durng the interview. There are many secrets about Rowan;  near the 80% part of the book just about all is revealed.  

Revelations about Rowan, the children, the hired man Jack and Mr. Elincot.  Oh, the secrets explode and make so much will think back to why such and such happened.  The Ah moments.

The ending was a surprise and I have gone back and reread the last 3 chapters.  Lots of questions about what I think may have happened.  It would be a spoiler to discuss here so you would just have to judge for yourself.

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Nonfiction Reading Challenge Roundup for 2020

This year I participated with Shelley at Book'd Out for her 2020 Nonfiction challenge.  Check it out HERE

I started the challenge when I was still writing at Novel Meals but as I have abandoned that site, I will just post my roundup here. 

. NonFiction 

I had signed up for the NonFiction Nibbler category.  Six books was manageable for me this year.

Categories completed are as follows


John Glenn: A Memoir

Disaster Event

Left for Dead by Beck Weathers 

Social Science

Educated by Tara Westover

 Related to an Occupation

Sea Fare by Victoria Allman


Woodstock: 50 Years of Peace and Music


Birding without Borders by Noah Stryker and Wesley the Owl

There is still time to join in if you'd like! 

 2020 was one helluva year with personal challenges and events, some very sad for me.  On top of that, the political climate in my country changed so much.  It was a depressing time for many of us.  Reading helped, in my case anyway, and I will always be a reader.  I stepped away from blogging for several months, both my food and book blogs, and I think it would be good to return for a while.

Presently I am evaluating the direction I'd like to take my blogs, assuming I revive both.  My original  writing style was journaling.  I guess I am dipping a toe in the waters again.

Wherever you are in the world I hope you are happy, healthy and safe.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson

The main characters are Kate and Orla, friends who head out for a girl's weekend to Lisbon Portugal.  They are both in their late thirties and these two women couldn't be more different.  Although they have been friends for years their current lives now have distinct contrasts. 

Kate is wealthy, single, in great physical shape and quite sexy.  A party girl who is about to be divorced.

Orla is married to Rob and has a nine month old baby girl.  She is flabby, out of shape and leads a sedate lifestyle.  

These two friends have had many past weekend get-aways away from their London lives.  Paris, Istanbul, Spain....this was before Orla became a mother.  Now Kate wants to get her friend out and party as they once did.  Well, anyone who has experienced recent motherhood knows you are tired earlier, you go to bed earlier and the party lifestyle has left the building!

A fun fancy dinner was in the plans but Kate then wants to go to clubs and bars.  Orla reluctantly goes along and then things get weird. After meeting two handsome men at a club (Kate's preplanned idea) the evening takes a bad turn.  Orla awakens to an empty apartment and Kate is gone.  Orla has no idea what happened as she was passed out.  She then starts looking for her friend with the assistance of Konstandin, the cab driver who ferried them to the club earlier.

Konstandin's character was well developed and you will love his part in this mystery.  He is from Kosovo and has a good backstory.  

Orla was fairly naive and it's hard to believe someone could be as dense as her character is portrayed.  Still, she kept me invested as the narrator of this story, as did the unraveling of Kate's life.  The ending was a bit abrupt and I wish that had been fleshed out more.  Maybe it's a plan for a second book. 

This is the first novel I have read by Sarah Alderson and I enjoyed it.  Definitely will search out more by this author.

 Author's website

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The very beginning of this book was slow going for me. After reading and enjoying Morton’s first book, The House at Riverton, I was expecting to be caught up immediately. After all, the setting is Cornwall, it’s a multi-generational story line and it’s a mystery. I love all of those things.

I persevered through the first chapter set in 1933 and learned about the estate Loennaeth, the Edevane family and the Midsummer party. After your introduction to the main characters we jump to 2003 and meet Detective Constable Sadie Sparrow in London.

The Edevane family and London detective link up to tell a story through two different timelines. It’s a tapestry, the story threading through and told in varying perspectives as you hear 16 year old Alice Edevane’s story, then Alice looking back over 70 years where she is an established mystery writer living in London. You hear the mother, Eleanor’s back story and learn about her youthful days and then the sadness of her life after the war.

The main focus is the young son of the Edevane family, 11 month old Theo Edevane. Sometime during the Midsummer party young Theo disappears. As I read along it wasn’t clear if Theo was murdered, killed accidentally, kidnapped or perhaps just wandered away to be lost in the surrounding woods or the lake, his body never found. Obviously the family is shattered and overcome with grief. After a police investigation they move back to London and never return to the Lake House again.

Now in 2003, DC Sadie Sparrow has a backstory of her own but suffice it to say she ends up at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. She is on enforced leave from the Metropolitan Police Department and must while away her time in the country until she is allowed to return. So she runs….she runs as much as she can, one day running into the brambles and trees that surround Loennaeth. The house was abandoned in 1933, furniture still in the original placement, a cup and saucer sitting on a table where it was left 70 years ago, dust covering a life that was simply abandoned. Being a copper Sadie wants to investigate this cold case and she starts a personal inquiry.

From there on out you read about the family secrets each sibling and parent has. There are many twists in the story and I can say I never saw the ending as a possibility. In some ways the ending was very cool but in others, it’s too neatly wrapped up for all of the characters. I’m on the fence about what I would have liked to see as an ending. Nonetheless I enjoyed the book and will be reading more of Kate Morton’s work.

I was going to make a pear cake as that treat was mentioned a few times. But soup and stew was also mentioned and for this time of year, I am going with a hearty lamb stew. Perfect for these rainy evenings we have been slammed with lately.

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 you...