Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman


If you enjoy books which feature gardens and flowers, you will enjoy this book.  This is a nerdy thing I like, flowers and  gardens and people who have a career taking care of great inspiring gardens. I do not possess the green thumb to succeed in a career at a botanical garden or a National Trust English garden, yet I admire the beauty of these creations.

Our main characters in this story are Iris Maynard and her tenent Abby.  Both women had husbands in the military and while Iris lost hers in WW II, Abby has her husband home but scarred by PTSD. 

Iris has a garden of flowers she has developed by cross breeding.  Most of her flowers came from the clippings her grandmother had growing in her garden next door.  Hence the title Heirloom Garden. There are some chapters dedicated to Iris in the 1940's when she was a young mother working at a Victory garden.  Hers is a sad story of loss - not only her husband but her young daughter Mary.

In present day Iris has rented her grandmother's home (next door to her) to a military family.  Abby is the bread winner working as a chemical engineer.  Her husband Cory is hanging on by a thread after being injured in Iraq and losing friends during a bombing. They have a young daughter named Lily.

Iris choses to remain hidden behind her tall fences and live with her flowers.  She doesn't want interaction but as the story unfolds, she is gradually drawn to this struggling family next door. They help heal each other.  This is a such a nice story and the background of the setting on the Michigan shore is well detailed.  You get wonderful mental images of the neighborhood, the sand dunes and water.

A surprise to me is the author is a male. The name Viola Shipman brings me images of a older woman and this is womens' fiction.  The emotional interchanges are very well captured.  I would definitely read more by this author.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson

 I am a huge fan of Nigella Lawson and love her cookbooks.  Some more than others and I was anxious to get a copy of her latest cookbook.  Thanks to an advanced readers copy I was able to peruse her recipes and memoir style writing in Cook, Eat, Repeat.

This is a photo from the book, not my creation.  Sadly I never get the photogenic shots to do it justice.

Nigella writes about starting this book in one world and finishing in another. We all remember what it was like pre-pandemic and how things were different.  This book was produced with a foot in both worlds.

She speaks aboout self-isolation and wonders when we may dine with friends again, learning from the lockdown and daily ways to find pleasure.  She speaks about lasagna and says don't limit it to "occasions' and we ceratinly do not do that in our home.  Doug and I have it whenever we want, but mostly when the weather deems we need a hearty rib sticking meal.

There are many good recipes in this book and I of course gravitated to the chicken with orzo and lemon. My favorite flavors and ingredients...

For vegetarinan fare there are loads of recipes such as spiced bulger wheat with roasted veggies, Vegan polenta cake, Tuscan bean soup and more.

Publication date is 15 June 2021. 

Genre: Biographies and Memoirs; Cooking, Food and Wine; nonfiction

Much thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  I was not compensated for my review and opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy's Book blog for British Isles Friday 

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Letter by Ruth Saberton


This book has been on my Kindle for some time and I finally decided to give it a chance.  The setting is Cornwall and that was probably the biggest selling point for me when I purchased it.  There are two story lines here, one set in current  times and the other a romantic mystery set in 1914.

First we meet Chloe Pencarrow, a widow of two years who has moved from London to Cornwall, hoping to get away from the constant memories of her deceased husband Neil.  It's well established that Chloe is still deeply grieving for her husband who died from cancer at age 32.  

Chloe is an artist and teacher but she has put her love to paint on hold these past two years.  When she moves to Cornwall and away from looks of pity and unsolicited advice from her mother she finally has a chance to breathe.

Matthew  Enys is a historian and huge fan of the Cornwall poet Christopher "Kit" Rivers. Matt is doing restoration work at Rosecraddick manor, trying to salvage a part of Kit's life and perhaps bring his poetry to the attention and distinction of other famous war poets.  Kit's image is imortalized in a stain glassed window in the church.  Little is known about his life other than he was heir to a Rosecraddick manor and surrounding lands, a very upper class family yet a very down to earth young man. 

Chloe, with her eye for artistic detail, notices a daisy in the stained glass, something so glaringly out of place that it has to represent something very important about Kit. As she helps Matthew go through old documments and treasures she accidently stumbles upon a great clue.  In her rental there is an old floorboard which was a hiding place.  Chloe pries it up and finds a diary and letters in an old biscuit tin.  At this point in the novel we land in 1914 before the first world war.

The story of Daisy and Kit 

It's 1914. A young woman named Daisy was sent to Cornwall for health reasons.  She was visiting her godfather in Cornwall when she and Kit meet unexpectantly at the beach. They end up getting better acquainted, have a whirlwind romance and their dedication to one another was almost too much.

They keep their relationship secret, planning on spending their lives together once Kit can speak to his class conscious parents. When the war begins Kit does what every young man did then, he enlists. It was necessary to overdo the romantic dedication here, in my opinion, so you can keenly feel the loss of young women who lose their fiances and husbands. The novel then leaps back to the present day and you can see the mystery of Kit and Daisy from an entirely new perspective.

This book addresses PTSD and the consequences for those who are battle scarred physically and mentally. It addresses grieving from the families in the 1914 era and also Chloe's grief over losing her husband to cancer at a young age.

I would certainly read more by this author and I found the book very engaging.

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater

I am revisiting a great book by Carol Drinkwater as I've started one of her other books in this series.  Expatriates-in-paradise genre – One of my favorites!

I have long been a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, a series I very much enjoyed.  That’s where we got our son’s name, from the character Tristan Farnon.  She left that series in 1985.

When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking.

When Carol wrote The Olive Farm  I was delighted to learn it would be a trilogy. Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo. This is the first book in her bestselling trilogy, all of it set on her Provencal olive farm.

Carol met her husband Michel while they were involved in making a movie in Australia . He proposed to her on the first date and they married four years later.  Eventually they bought this gorgeous ruin of a villa built in 1904, located in Provence . The villa is named Appassionata – meaning passion – and very appropriate for Carol and Michel as they fall heels over ears in love with the place.

“I am in the south of France , gazing at the not-so-distant Mediterranean , falling in love with an abandoned olive farm,” Carol Drinkwater writes. “The property, once stylish and now little better than a ruin, is for sale with ten acres of land.”

After investing all the money she has they are able to move into their new home, devoid of electricity and water. French law is a different animal altogether from British and American laws as Carol learns while sifting through the endless paperwork and awaiting the many appointments to sign one or two papers. Finally, Appassionata is theirs!

Carol, Michel and his teen daughters Clarice and Vanessa arrive one extremely hot afternoon, with the promise of a swim in the pool. Alas….no water and the pool is a pit of sticks and branches. Carol struggles to make it a positive experience and tries to speak her limited French to the girls. The stepdaughters can speak English but make Carol work at communicating. Eventually they become a close knit family….. along with a number of stray dogs and good friends among the local citizenry.

The experiences she writes about were fascinating to me and she clearly has a better work ethic than I do. Restoring an old villa like that is hard work. HARD work! They uncovered ancient Roman looking steps and tiles. They found some of their olive trees were over 500 years old…’s an expat’s dream IF you don’t mind hard work – both physically and culturally.

Carol took language classes to improve her French, quickly becoming fluent. An engaging book about France , olive harvesting, conquering cultural barriers and love. Above alllove.

If you like the works of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes I feel certain you would enjoy Carol’s musings about Appasionata and her love of southern France .

To learn more, check out the links below:

Carol Drinkwater
Home Hunts
It Shouldn’t Happen to an Olive Farmer!

FoodCaponata and Tahini Hummus on toasted baguette

The inspired dishes from this book include eggplants, caponata and tapenade. The little bites of appetizers you might enjoy sitting in the shade of Carol Drinkwater’s patio, the hot breeze licking your cheek as you sip an ice cold glass of white wine and nibble bruschetta.

Eggplants from the southern Mediterranean area would have a different taste from what I can lay hands on in Northern Florida but….still a wonderful treat.

An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France.  Very International.

Linking up with Shelleyrae at Book'd Out for the Nonfiction challenge. Genre: Travel

I will be posting about Carol's other books verry soon.

Nonfiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.  Check out the sign up post and info HERE.


Sunday, February 7, 2021

In Times of Rain and War by Camron Wright


This is a historical fiction set in London during WW II. Our main characters are Wesley Bowers and  Audrey Stocking.  Wesley is an American Marine who is assigned to the British military learning about unexploded bomb disposal. 

Audrey has her secrets; she is a German Jew who is living in London using a false identification. She meets Wesley when he's sent to defuse a bomb.  Audrey is trying to blend in and survive all the while missing her family in Germany. She and Wesley form a friendship and develop an attraction to one another but their relationship may never have chance to develop. Wesley's chance of surviving his bomb disposal detail  is an average of 10 weeks. Audrey is hiding her identity but military intelligence officers may discover her.

It's harrowing to think of the life expectancy of the soldiers who performed these duties. Such self sacrifice and bravery, much to be admired. This novel addresses PTSD and what war can do you  emotionally as well as physically. 

As a side note, if you ever get an opportunity to watch a Masterpiece Theater program called Danger: UXB starring Anthony Andrews, it's very good. There is a more up to date movie about bomb disposal called The Hurt Locker and both can have you on edge during the crucial bomb defusing scenes.

Publication date is 6 April 2021 by Shadow Mountain Publishing.  Genre: Historical Fiction.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  I was not compensated for my review and opinions are mine.

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

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'...