Friday, 22 June 2012

Updated Reading List

I've been away from my book blog for some time now, other things keep getting in the way, namely my reawakened love of scrapbooking and the vegetable garden.
I have been reading as well of course, any free time usually finds me with my nose in a book and really you can't scrapbook in bed, can you?
I'm fairly sure that the Senior Partner would object to paper & glue in the bedroom!
So, here's a quick rundown of some of the books that have been on the bedside table during the last few weeks.
A couple I enjoyed, in an easy read kinda way, two of them I didn't even finish reading.
I enjoyed "Hot to Trot" by Lou Wakefield, a sweet little read to pass a sunny afternoon at the beach or in the garden.
It's basically a girl meets boy romcom but there are a couple of interesting characters apart from the star crossed lovers that will keep you reading to the end.

I don't know what you think about Jodi Picoult? Some people love her and enjoy all her books. I've enjoyed some but not all, however "Picture Perfect" was a very good read, and I would recommend that you give it a try.

Now for the two I couldn't finish, although in the case of "off season" by Anne Rivers Siddons it wasn't through lack of trying!
Pat Conroy an author that I do enjoy is quoted on the cover as saying " beautifully crafted and dazzling...All her books are terrific. but this the best one yet"
ARS is well known as a Southern writer and I've always enjoyed the books set in the Carolina Low country as that is an area of the South that I love and with Conroy's endorsement (another Southern writer) I felt sure I would enjoy this book too. I won't spoil for you by saying anything more than this book is not set in the South.

I bought "The Ice Princess" by Camilla Lackberg (winner of Best International Crime Novel of the Year) at a vide grenier in Le Molay Littry about a month ago.

Finding paperback books in English at a vide grenier is as rare as hen's teeth!I found the language of the book to be stilted and awkward., possibly because it had been translated from Swedish. All I know is that I didn't care enough to find out how or why the victim Alex ended her life with slashed wrists, frozen in an ice-cold bath!

I have just listed all four books onto my inventory page at bookmooch.
Click on the sidebar link to discover bookmooch for yourself and mooch any of my books for free.
Of course you'll find millions of free books from all around the world to mooch there too.
All images in the post from

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart. food for thought.

"Amour-sur-Belle, a village situated in South-West France, so ugly that even the English refuse to live there."

When Guillaume Ladoucette, the only barber in Amour-sur-Belle, realises that his business is not doing as well as it used to, he puts it down to the march of time.
His clients are all either going bald or have, to quote Shakespeare's Hamlet, "shuffled off this mortal coil".
What he doesn't know is that quite a few of the men from the village have defected to a barber in a nearby town who knows all the latest styles, including one rather strange one “that looks suspiciously like a pine cone”.
When the matchmaker is left in charge of the village patisserie havoc ensues when he gives all the little cakes away
Although he himself has never married, his first and only love Emilie Fraisse was lost to him many years before, Guillaume Ladoucette decides to give up his barbering business and set himself up as Amour-sur-Belle’s first matchmaker.
The exploits of Guillaume and the men and women that he “matches” had me laughing out loud at times, I really enjoyed this book.
That may be because I'm an English woman, living in a not very pretty village, in rural France.
When "the man from the council" arrives to tell the villagers about the water restrictions that are about to come into force, I could picture the scene, and populate it with characters I have known!
Like many of us living in rural France Guillame Ladoucette grows vegetables in a potager.

"A high priest of the cult of lunar gardening, he undertook no task in the potager, no matter how small, unless the moon was passing in front of the correct zodiacal constellation"

"the optimal time to concern oneself with leaf crops such as lettuce and spinach was when it was passing in front of Cancer, Pisces or Scorpio".

"He naturally endorsed the teaching that there were four days a month when only a fool would work in his potager"

The Matchmaker of Perigord is something of a gourmand, despite having a cassoulet simmering on top of his stove which his mother began over thirty-one years before.
“Love is like a good cassoulet, it needs time, and determination. Some bits are delicious, while others might be a bit rancid and make you wince”.

The Senior Partner and I are not lovers of cassoulet but I thought I’d prepare one for this review.
I consulted several recipes, all of which included tomatoes in the list of ingredients.
Whether or not to add this particular ingredient is the cause of much hilarity in the book, I was perplexed.
What should I do?
In the end I cheated.

I bought a large can of the famous "Cassoulet de Castelnaudary au canard" and added a small can of Italian (!) plum tomatoes.
The result was much better than either of us anticipated, in fact SP cleared his plate, quelle surprise!

"He rinsed the salad and tomatoes thoroughly. Arranging them in  a bowl, he placed it on a tray along with a fork, a small blue jug of dressing and a white napkin with his initials.
He then added a glass of disappointing Bergerac, which he had vowed never to buy again, but which he might as well finish. Next to it he placed a packet of his favourite Cabecou goat's cheese."
One foodie treat that we do enjoy, and have in common with the Matchmaker, is goat’s cheese.
Slices of warm goat’s cheese on a bed of mixed salad leaves, with a few toasted walnuts sprinkled over and a light mustardy viniagrette, is something we often have for supper.

Add a glass or two of red wine, a thinly sliced baguette and we are content.
Click on the links below to see what
thought of The Matchmaker of Perigord.
bon appétit.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee. Food For Thought.

I want to start this review by saying I really enjoyed this book, even though it led to the biggest baking disaster that I have ever experienced. More about that later.

The story begins on a snowy night in New York City. Alexander “Sandy” Vandermeer Regal Portman is on his way to pick up his wife Emily, from the Upper West Side Animal Clinic where she works as a volunteer. When a yellow taxi cab swerves to avoid a little white dog running loose in the street Sandy dies in the ensuing collision.
For reasons that gradually become clear, as the story unfolds, Sandy is given a second chance at life, a chance to make amends to his wife. When he awakens to find himself inside the battered and broken body of the ugly little dog that caused the accident he has no clue just what this second chance will cost him.

 “I don’t know how long I lay there, moaning in the semidarkness and barn stench, without dying before I heard a door open. “Einstein?” It was a woman’s voice, one that I recognised. I was stunned and overjoyed when Emily appeared before the cage, her blue eyes filled with concern”
 “I named him without thinking, gently running my palm over the tufts of white wiry fur that stood up on his head and I knew that I had to save the animal, as if I could do so I could save my husband” 

Emily’s distant and cold hearted mother in law, Althea Portman, arranges Sandy’s funeral without consulting her. After the funeral she delivers another stunning blow when she tells Emily that her beloved home, an apartment in the Dakota building on the Upper West Side, belongs to the Portman Family Trust. It isn’t long before the eviction notice is served.
Emily adopts Einstein and brings him home.

 “We took a cab to the Dakota, my new dog stood on the seat next to me, his paws on the armrest so he could look out the window. He panted excitedly at the sight of the light brown sandstone and brick building with its high gables and deeply pitched roofs, balustrades and spandrels, the porte cochere archway leading in to the inner courtyard entrance.”

Emily is desperate to find proof that she owns the apartment, each evening after work she spends hours searching. When not searching, she bakes….. endless cupcakes, croissants and cookies.

cupcakes, croissants & cookies.
iternet images

Finally she resorts to ransacking Sandy’s private suite of rooms where she discovers his handwritten journals. As she reads her husband’s innermost thoughts Einstein tries to knock the last journal out of her hands.
Too late she discovers that for the last two years of their marriage Sandy had been unfaithful to her, many, many times.

“The pages forced me to admit what deep down I had already known but refused to see”

This isn't just a book about a marriage that went wrong, it's also about redemption as Sandy/Einstein tries to help Emily move on with her life and perhaps achieve as a dog, the greatness he always aspired to as a man, in the process. Sandy always dreamed of taking part in the New York marathon, when Emily can hardly drag herself out of bed to go to work in the morning Einstein forces her over the road and into Central Park.

I particularly enjoyed the relationship that develops between Emily and Einstein. As a dog owner of over 30 years I could relate to the “conversations” that the two of them have.

There is also a long list of other well drawn characters in this book, Emily’s rebellious younger sister Jordan; their deceased mother Lillian Barlow, a renowned leader of the feminist movement who influenced both of their lives greatly but in different ways; Emily’s work colleagues and neighbour Max.

I would give this book 4****.
Now to get back to that baking disaster.
Like Emily I love to bake and for this food for thought review decided that a New York cheesecake would be perfect.

internet image

Unfortunately ten minutes after the cheesecake was in the oven the spring form pan that it was baking in sprang open!
Oh! Yes, molten cheesecake, running out of the oven over the countertops. As I struggled to remove the baking rack the contents spilled all over the kitchen floor, disaster, ruined!
It’s a universal excuse but in this case it’s true the dog (Mr Ben) really did eat my homework, my floor has never been so clean!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The World of Downton Abbey.

“Welcome to the world of Downton Abbey a place that has captivated an audience of millions, all following the lives of one family and their servants against a backdrop of a fading Edwardian society. All of us can recognize a familiar character amongst them; Violet the Dowager Countess, the old fashioned grandmother; Mary Edith and Sybil, the squabbling sisters; Robert and Cora, the loving parents; or Rosamund, the interfering sister-in-law.”

Jessica Fellowes the author of The World of Downton Abbey is an established writer and editor. She has worked for the Mail on Sunday and for four years was Deputy Editor of Country Life magazine.
"Downton Abbey portrays a world of elegance and decadence, a world of duty and obedience and a world of romance and rivalry: this companion book, full of rich historical detail, takes fans deeper into that period than ever before.
Step inside one of the most beautiful houses in Britain, past Carson the butler at the front door and into the grand hallway. Catch a glimpse of the family having drinks in the drawing room before dinner, dressed in their evening finery, whilst Lord Grantham finishes writing a letter in his study. Then climb the grand sweeping staircase to the maze of rooms upstairs and peak through Lady Mary’s open door to see Anna, her maid, tidying scent bottles and jewellery on the ornate dressing table. Follow Anna down the servants’ stairs and into the kitchens to watch Mrs Patmore frantically preparing dinner. Mrs Hughes keeps a watchful eye from her study and the world of Downton comes alive before you.
Experience the inner workings of the downstairs life and be dazzled by the glamour of upstairs life with profiles of all the major characters, interviews with the actors, behind the scenes insights and in-depth information on costumes and props."
Amazon review.

When Downton Abbey first appeared on British TV screens on Sunday evenings during the autumn of 2010 it was a huge success and received many awards and nominations and I was hooked!
The second series which aired last autumn and the Christmas special that followed were even better (no spoilers but who doesn't love a happy ending?) and I’m very happy that a third series has been commissioned and will be shown later this year.
To receive this beautiful book on Christmas morning was the icing on the cake.
The photographs throughout are wonderful and it is packed with historical facts and information about life in England before, during and after the First World War, and the changes wrought as a result of it.

“Before the First World War, 1.4 million people were employed as domestic servants. It was one of the largest single employment groups – just outnumbering agricultural workers and coal miners – and was largely made up of women. Around 15 – 20 per cent of this number would have been working in the houses of the nobility and the landed gentry”.

To win a brand new copy of The World of Downton Abbey (I’m keeping mine!) all you have to do is go to my other blog Normandy Life and answer the giveaway question at the bottom of the post.
Click here to go to Normandy Life.

To receive 1 chance to win just leave a comment, answer the question correctly and your name will be entered into the draw twice.
The winners name will be picked at random and announced in my post when Normandy Life will be joining Laurie's Valentine's par-tay on Friday, February 10th.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Lady's Maid My Life in Service - Rosina Harrison.

“The Lady’s Maid” is the autobiography of Rosina Harrison, it was first published in 1975 with the title “My Life In Service”.
It tells the story of a working class, Yorkshire lass born in 1899.
Rosina’s parents were both in service when they met, her mother was working as a laundry maid at Tranby Croft, a large country house, and her father was employed as a stonemason by the Marquess of Ripon.
As a child Rose (Rosina) was a tomboy and liked nothing better than being the goalkeeper in a rough game of football with the lads.
Her mother did not approve of this unladylike behaviour and in order to give Rose the best possible start in life she was encouraged to stay on at school, two years past the usual leaving age of fourteen, to receive extra tutoring from the Headmaster and his wife.
Another rare advantage which the family had was a piano and Rose and her siblings had weekly piano lessons at a cost of four pence each.
When she left school at sixteen Rose received a five year apprenticeship to Hetherington’s, a large clothing establishment in Ripon, Yorks. although she only stayed for two.
Whilst in Ripon she also had weekly French lessons, at sixpence each.
As Rose’s one wish in life was to travel her mother offered this advice
 “In service there are two servants who usually go everywhere with their masters or mistresses, valets and ladies maids”
from then on it was only a matter of time before Rosina’s became a lady’s maid.
Her first position in 1918 was as a “young ladies maid" to Lady Tufton’s daughters, Patricia and Ann. Four years later, after the death of her father, Rose became lady’s maid to Lady Cranborne of Mayfair, London with whom she stayed for five years.
“she (Lady Tufton) was a pleasure to serve, my life was interesting, I was fulfilling my ambition to travel, unfortunately there was only one stumbling block, money”
Rosina’s annual salary was £24.00.
In August 1928 Rosina moved to Cliveden, home of Lord Astor and his American heiress wife, Nancy, (daughter of Charles Dabney Langhorne of Richmond, Virginia) to take up the position of lady’s maid to their daughter Wissy (Miss Phyllis Astor).
‘I was able to get on well with everyone below stairs and above, or so I thought until I began working for Lady Astor…’
Lady Astor was the first female Member of Parliament to take her seat, a Christian Scientist, a social butterfly and a difficult employer who tested her servants to the limit.
Rose’s true Yorkshire grit, however, made her a worthy opponent and over the 35 years that Rose served Lady Astor their relationship strengthened into a deep friendship.
Although much has been written about the Astors, their lifestyle, politics and, later on, the scandal which centred on Cliveden, "The Lady’s Maid" is Rose’s personal account of how life was lived upstairs and downstairs and includes many anecdotes from other servants who were in service with her.
A must read for "Downton" fans.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Food For Thought.

Jain @ once in a blue moon and Mary @ home is where the boat is are once again hosting food for thought  and have selected 22 books to share during 2012.
Jain outlined the idea like this…..
will visually share our reviews this year, be it a special scene that caught our eye, an action, place or food, the choice is ours. the true idea behind food for thought is to get extra hands on time with our reading. I can tell you it’s fun – if you would like to join in, please email us and we will be happy to share the books and dates to come. I wish you happy reading and come play between the lines. 
Having enjoyed many of their fft posts in the past I decided it would be fun to join in this time and so emailed jain who kindly sent me the list of books and dates.
When I saw that the first fft post was due on the 20th January I rushed to amazon, placed an order for “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern and crossed my fingers that it would arrive in time for me to participate.

The book arrived earlier this week and I am thoroughly enjoying it but haven’t finished it yet.
The book jacket is, itself, a work of art, the black edged pages and pattern end papers draw you immediately into a magical black and white world, where nothing is what it appears to be and illusion is all.
“The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it…
 it is simply there, when yesterday it was not”.

 “ Le Cirque des Rêves”.
Opens at nightfall, closes at dawn. 

The Night Circus is the setting for a duel  between two young illusionists.
Celia, daughter of Prospero the Enchanter and Marco, orphaned protégé of the mysterious Alexander H. Within the black and white tents of the Circus of Dreams they compete to create enchanted worlds such as the Cloud Maze, the Stargazer ride, the Carousel, and the Wishing Tree.
As you roam from tent to tent you might encounter Tsukiko the tattooed contortionist, as she folds her body into the smallest of glass cases before disappearing completely from view.
Or stand bemused by the Snow Queen, the Empress of The Night or the Black Pirate, just three of the living statues which never move.

Perhaps a visit to Isobel, the fortune teller with her Tarot cards is more to your liking?
Take another path to discover the red haired twins, Widget and Poppet, they will amaze you with their somersaulting, black and white kitten circus act.
Wherever you turn there is always something to delight.

I have quite a few chapters to read before I reach "The End" and plan on settling down later, with a cup of tea and some orange, chocolate & chocolate chip, cup cakes, to join like minded rêveurs for another night time visit to “ Le Cirque des Rêves”.

Linking this post also to Weekend Cooking @ Beth Fish Reads

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Books I read in 2011

A Gathering Light - Jennifer Donnelly
A Place of Secrets - Rachel Hore
Back When We Were Grownups - Anne Tyler.
Blessed Are The Cheesemakers - Sarah-Kate Lynch.
Crazy Ladies - Michael Lee West.
Fall On Your Knees - Ann-Marie MacDonald.
Future Homemakers Of America - Laurie Graham.
Grave Secrets - Kathy Reichs.
Holy Fools - Joanne Harris.
I Still Dream About You - Fannie Flagg.
Jump - Jilly Cooper.
Just One Look - Harlan Coben
Little Bitty Lies - Mary Kay Andrews
Mad Girls In Love - Michael Lee West
Made in The USA - Billie Letts
Mermaids In The Basement - Michael Lee West
Mrs Charles Darwins recipe Book - Bateson & Janeway.
One Day - David Nicholls.
Pomegranate Soup - Marsha Mehran.
Recipe For Life - Nicky Pellegrino.
ROOM - Emma Donoghue
Run - Ann Patchett.
Salting Roses - Lorelle Marinello
Savannah Blues - Mary Kay Andrews
She Flew The Coop - Michael Lee West
Songs Of The Humpback Whale - Jodi Picoult.
Summer School - Domenica de Rosa.
The Abduction - Mark Giminez.
The Best Of Times - Penny Vincenzi
The Big Picture - Douglas Kennedy
The Black Echo - Michael Connolly.
The Glassblower of Murano - Marina Fiorato
The Honk & Holler Opening Soon - Billie Letts
The Lady And The Unicorn - Tracy Chevalier.
The Last Apache Girl - Jim Fergus
The Loop - Nicholas Evans
The Memory Keepers Daughter - Kim Edwards
The Red Queen - Philippa Gregory
The Road Home - Rose Tremain.
The Various Flavours of Coffee - Anthony Capella.
The Villa In Italy - Elizabeth Edmondson
The Wind In The Willows - Kenneth Grahame.
Trunk Music - Michael Connolly
Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen
Worth Dying For - Lee Child.