Saturday, 19 November 2011

What I'm reading - November

The three books that I've enjoyed the most so far this month are The Loop by Nicholas Evans, A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore and Made In The U.S.A. by Billie Letts.

"The Loop" by Nicholas Evans is set in the wilds of Montana in the small town of Hope, high in the Rocky Mountains.
A lone wolf comes down from the mountains to attack live stock on rancher Buck Calder's property. The wolf kills his daugher Kathy's dog before advancing on the baby buggy where her infant son lies sleeping. Kathy manages to scare the wolf off but the incident only serves to incite the ranchers to retaliate.
Over a century before wolves had been hunted to extinction and although they are now protected by law there are many in the town that are prepared to break the law and slaughter wolves that have been re-introduced into the area.
Biologist Helen Ross is called in to diffuse the situation by Dan Prior, head of the local office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Wolf Recovery team, they've worked together before.
Together they try to save the wolves with help from an unlikely source; Luke Calder, son of their main opponent.
Nicholas Evans is also the author of "The Horse Whisperer" which I read many years ago, I enjoyed reading "The Loop", much more.

"A Place Of Secrets" by Rachel Hore is set in Norfolk, England.
Recently widowed art historian and auctioneer Jude lives and works in London.
As a child she suffered from dreadful nightmares, one night she dreams the dream again.
Soon after, she receives a request to value a collection of manuscripts, books and scientific instruments belonging to an 18th century amateur astronomer, Anthony Wickham,
The collection is housed in the beautiful library of Starbrough Hall, home to the Wickham family for several generations.
Jude's family is also from the area, her grandmother grew up in the Gamekeepers Cottage at Starbrough, and she is invited to stay at Starbrough Hall as a guest of the present owner and his family.
When not working on the collection she is able to spend time with her grandmother, sister Claire and young neice Summer, but Jude is troubled to learn that Summer is also having nightmares which sound very similar to one that she herself had as a child.
As she unravels the history behind the amazing collection, that Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther have amassed, she becomes aware of unexplained connections between her own family and the Wickhams.
The twists and turns of the storyline kept me glued to the very last page.

Finally, Made In The U.S.A. by Billie Letts, is the story of two runaway children.
Fifteen year old Lutie and her nerdy little brother Fate.
After their so called step mother, Floy, falls down dead in the check out line at WalMart, Lutie & Fate head to Las Vegas, in Floy's beat up Pontiac, to find the father who deserted them all some years before.
As you can imagine life does not treat them well, living out of the Pontiac, eating food from homeless shelters and dumpsters, being preyed upon by sadistic employers, drug dealers, pornographers and street wise bullies.
There is a happy ending, although it isn't the one that Lutie expected.
I found the book quite disturbing and a terrible indictment of how children can fall through the cracks of society and be left to fend for themselves in dire circumstances.
In an interview with Billie Letts, at the end of the book, I was shocked to learn that over 800,000 children in the US went missing in the year before the interview took place and that 1.3 million young people were living on the streets of America as a result of running away, or homelessness, in that same period.

I  listed all three books on bookmooch
 but as I write this post
both A Place of Secrets  and Made In The USA
have already been mooched.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Tell Us What You're Reading - October

There are two books I want to share with you this month for Tell Us What Your Reading with Ricki Jill @ Art@Home.
Firstly my Michael Connelly choice for October was The Scarecrow.
Not one from the Harry Bosch series but featuring a character new to me, although I believe there has been at least one other in which he appeared.
Jack McEvoy is the crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times who many years before wrote a bestselling novel after working with the FBI on a serial killer case.
The Scarecrow begins with Jack receiving his pink slip with the added insult that he has to train his pretty, young female (and much less paid) replacement before he goes.
If his journalistic career is over, Jack decides it has to end  in glory and so he follows up a lead into the wrongful arrest of a young gang member for the murder of an exotic dancer.
A story he thinks might just get him a Pulitzer Prize.
He discovers plenty of flaws in the case which lead to another, similar murder committed in Las Vegas.
Whilst investigating there he contacts Rachel Walling, the FBI officer he worked with on the previous serial killer case, she reluctantly agrees to help once again.
The further they delve into the case the more they realise they are now being hunted by the Unsub/Scarecrow and the tension in the story builds page by page until reaching it's dramatic conclusion.
When I first started reading this book I thought that it wasn't as good as those from the Harry Bosch series, however, I soon changed my mind as the links fell into place and I did enjoy The Scarecrow after all.

The second book I want to share is Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews, an Edgar Award Nominee.
(I seem to recall that I read a review of this book on a blog which sent me off to bookmooch where I was lucky enough to find a copy to mooch.)
Savannah is one of my favourite cities to visit, I co-hosted the Quimper Club's annual meeting there in 2010 and came to know it well.
Savannah Blues was a delight to read, quite light and frothy not like The Scarecrow at all.
I took it on the train with me when I went up to Paris last week and the time passed very quickly!
I finished reading the book on the way back home the next day.
"Weezie" Foley finds herself living in the carriage house of the beautifully restored Savannah townhouse she once occupied with her unfaithful husband Tamadge Evans III.
His new fiancee, Caroline, rules the roost there now and she wants Weezie out.
As an antiques picker Weezie spends her days combing Savannah's garage sales, flea markets and house clearances, one day she hopes to have enough money to open her own antiques shop.
Her life starts to unfurl at the edges when she discovers a dead body in a cupboard, during an unauthorised look around Beaulieu a run down antebellum rice plantation, in the dead of night.
The book is full of well drawn characters, BeBe Weezie's best friend; priest turned lawyer Uncle James; ex hunk of a boyfriend, Daniel; Merijoy, evangelical campaigner and leading light of the Hysterical/Historical society and many others.
Quote from the cover:
"An amazingly accomplished, genre-bending debut novel: smart, sassy, and fun to read" Booklist.

I wouldn't disagree and by the way I'll be adding both of these books to my inventory on bookmooch.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook - September

Last month I joined Peggy's meme "The Simple Woman's Daybook " for the first time.
I liked the way that answering the questions made me focus on life's little details.
Or as a friend, who lives Pondside, likes to call it "keeping it real".

FOR TODAY..........

Outside my window ....... cows (nothing new there!)
I am thinking.......  about a task I have to do for the next edition of the Quimper Club Journal.
I am thankful ....... that the swelling of my left arm, caused by a wasp sting three days ago, is reacting favourably to the antihistimine that I took.
In the kitchen ....... lunch today - french onion soup, made by the Senior Partner with pain au cereales, made by me.
I am wearing ....... jeans and a pink and white striped T shirt, lambswool slippers
I am creating ....... working with photographs for the above mentioned QCJ
I am wondering ....... if I'll meet the deadline for the QCJ!
I am reading ....... The Honk & Holler Opening Soon - Billie Letts
I am hoping ....... to make inroads into a huge pile of ironing, later today
I am looking forward to ....... a 9 day break in Devon & Cornwall UK. We leave next Friday
I am hearing ....... my cocker spaniel, Ben, snoring quietly as he sleeps by my feet under the desk
Around the house ....... gradually preparing for visitors who will arrive shortly after we return from the UK
I am pondering ....... what to cook for dinner tonight
One of my favorite things ....... walking our dogs through the French countryside
A few plans for the rest of the week ....... go shopping in either Bayeux or Carentan, go to the hairdressers for some pampering, work in the vegetable garden clearing out all the plants that are over, or have gone to seed
Here is a picture for thought that I am sharing .......

Green tomatoes from my garden

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Italy In Books Reading Challenge - August

The inside back cover of jamie's italy
Dolci di Love - "Sweets of Love" is a really sweet book, a fairy tale for the 21st century.
Corporate business is Lily Turner's whole life, her husband has been sidelined as she works hard to maintain the life she has chosen for herself.
Her PA Pearl shops for his birthday and Christmas presents and has to remind Lily not to present him "another polo shirt"!
Thus shamed Lily resolves to buy her husband a new pair of golf shoes.
Because she doesn't know her husbands shoes size she has to check inside an old golf shoe, where she discovers a photograph that will shake her entire world.
I'm not going to disclose much more of the story except to say that Lily heads to a small Italian town - Montevedova - gets entangled with a group of busybody Italian widows; the local broken hearted hearthrob and a little girl who captures her heart.
Does she find "Dolci di Love"?
Well, what do you think?
If you've read and enjoyed Sarah - Kate Lynch's "Blessed Are The Cheesemakers", you'll know what to expect.
If you haven't, you could be in for a sweet treat.
This book review for the "Italy In Books Reading Challenge" is a twofer this month as I also want to mention a great cookery book which I like to dip into especially during the summer months.
jamie's italy is a fabulous book full of wonderful recipes, stunning photography and a travelogue.
It was first published in 2005 and is still available on Amazon, at about half the price I paid!
It is a marvellous journey through the many regions of Italy.
In the foreword Jamie describes it like this:
"In writing this book, I didn't just want to give you a collection of Italian recipes. I wanted to share some great experiences with you at the same time. So I wrote it while I travelled around the country, working and eating and meeting people off the beaten track. I wanted to find the food of the "real" Italy - not the place that conjures up images of olive groves and lemons-"
Jamie Olivers website click here

Submitting this post to the Brighton Blogger @ Book After Book

Inside front cover of jamie's italy

Friday, 19 August 2011

What We're Reading - August

August has been a funny month weather wise, lots of rain, that meant less time spent gardening and more time spent reading!

If you're already a fan of Harlan Coben then I recommend that you read  Just One Look, I've read  four of his books so far (there are many more waiting on the bookshelf thanks so a special Amazon promotion recently) and I enjoyed this one the most.
When Grace Lawson stops by the Photomat one afternoon, before doing the school run, she gets more than the happy snaps of her family's trip to the cider orchard than she expected.
Inside the pack is an unexplained photograph of a group of college students, one of which could be her husband, Jack.
When confronted with the photograph her husband denies all knowledge of it, later that night he get's into his car and disappears.
A great read, the pace is fast and grips you from the start.
Grace is an unlikely heroine but she will do anything to find Jack and to save her children from the sinister hit man, Eric Wu.
Along the way she uncovers not only her husband's past but also sheds light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding her own near fatal accident at a rock concert several years previously.
Mermaids In The Basement, my third Michael Lee West book, was a light and easy read. Full of great female characters oozing Southern charm and hospitality, and with a few great recipes thrown in for good measure.
The Last Apache Girl  by Jim Fergus is set in during the Depression era and tells the story of Ned who's father committed suicide when his business failed.
After his fathers suicide Ned drops out of his undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago and  with the insurance money buys an expensive camera to indulge his love of photography.
Whilst working part time at the Chicago Raquet Club, he hears about The Great Apache Expedition which will leave Douglas, Arizona on April 1, 1932 to search for a young Mexican boy who had been stolen by Apache Indians some years before.
Knowing that he cannot expect to join the expedition as a "gentleman" he drives across country in his father's Roadster and manages to sign on as the expedition photographer.
The Last Apache Girl is based on historical fact.
The Rocky Mountain News said:
"History, romance and enough adventure to make us wish by the closing chapter that the story didn't have to end quite yet", and I'd have to agree!
The Times called Trespass by Rose Tremain " Thrilling....a terrific book, accomplished and poised" .
It is a story of sibling love and rivalry; at the Mas Lunel an isolated stone farmhouse in the Cévennes
Aramon Lunel lives in squalor, whilst his sister Audrun lives in a shoddily built bungalow close by. There is something very sinister about their relationship, at first just hinted at but which is explained further as the story unfolds.
When Aramon announces that he plans to sell the Mas Lunel, to Anthony Verey, an English antiques dealer, Audrun's grasp on reality becomes ever more tenuous.
Anthony leaves his depressing life and failing business behind in London to visit his sister V a garden designer and her lover Kitty at their home in the Gard.
His arrival and decision to buy the Mas Lunel creates conflict not only between Aramon and Audrun but also between V and Kitty and sets into motion a terrible series of events which changes all their lives for ever.
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen was by far the book I enjoyed reading the most, this month.
It had been on my TBR list for ages so I was thrilled when my sister Kathryn brought it over for me in June.
I'm sure that most everyone else in the world has read WFE by now so you probably know the storyline.
Suffice it to say it was nothing like I expected to be, it was way better than that!

Joining Ricki Jill for the What We're Reading linky party tomorrow

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Simple Womans Daybook. August 2011.

When Jan visited my Normandy Life blog and commented on my blue sky collage I went over to Oz (not literally, of course!) to visit with her and learn about her life, through her blog A Tapestry of Life, in New South Wales, Australia.
There I discovered that she participates in Peggy's The Simple Woman's Daybook meme each month.

It looked interesting and so I decided to join in this month, with the following.

FOR TODAY..........

Outside my window... Blue skies and wispy white clouds.

I am thinking... that I should be out gardening instead of blogging!

I am thankful... for the friends I've made through blogging (that's why I'm here and not in the garden)

In the kitchen... for dinner tonight I'll be preparing stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in parma ham with sauteed savoy cabbage and courgettes a la Ina Garten

I am wearing... cropped linen pants, striped cotton shirt, Shalimar, Sugar Honey lipstick and flip flops

I am creating... just thinking about doing some scrapbooking later

I am going... no plans for any trips this week

I am wondering...what postie will bring today

I am reading...The Last Apache Girl by Jim Fergus

I am hoping...that I can find a dog sitter so that we can take a short holiday in Italy this October

I am looking forward to...friends visiting us next month

I am hearing...a light aircraft flying overhead

Around the house...finally found new homes for the rugs that we bought last week

I am pondering... where to hang the Cath Kidston bunting that I bought on ebay, it's a lot longer than I thought it would be!

One of my favorite things...Radley handbags

A few plans for the rest of the week: visit the dechetterie (dump), shopping on Thursday at the market and having lunch with the Senior Partner at l'Authentique afterwards

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

Shabby chic garden furniture

Thursday, 28 July 2011


When my friend Gay called me earlier this week to tell me that the author Lee Child had been on a UK TV show that morning, I hoped that there might be a new Jack Reacher novel coming out.

You might not know this about me but I am a big fan of the Reacher novels.

Name: Jack Reacher (no middle name)
Born: October 29th
Measurements: 6'5", 220-250 lbs., 50" chest
Hair: Dirty-blond
Eyes: Ice blue
Clothing: 3XLT coat, 95 cm. pants' inseam 
Reacher left home at 18, graduated from West Point. Performed 13 years of Army service, demoted from Major to Captain in 1990, mustered out with the rank of Major in 1997.
Maybe I'm the last to know but filming of the Jack Reacher book #9 "One Shot" will begin in the fall.

So, who is to play Reacher?

I took a look at the official Lee Child website to see if this was true, and I'm afraid it is.
Click here to find out everything you always wanted to know about Reacher and read excerpts from the series.
Reading through some of the comments left on the web sites forum TC is not a popular choice it would seem and I would agree.

As I read the books I always imagined Reacher to look like this.

Daniel Craig

Some people have suggested other actors for the role most of whom I haven't heard of, but after some Googling, perhaps they have a point.

Are you a Reacher fan?

Who would you choose to bring Reacher to the big screen?
Alexander Skarsgard
Ray Stevenson

Liev Shrieber
Do you think Tom Cruise is the right choice?

Maybe you wouldn't choose any of the actors pictured and have your own idea of who should take the role.

Waiting to hear from you!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Tell Us What You're Reading - July

Due to all the rain we've been having in Normandy during the past couple of weeks I've been doing quite a bit of reading indoors, with a hot cup of tea never far away.
Here are some I've enjoyed.

She Flew The Coop by Michael Lee West.
This is the second MLW book that I've read this year and like Crazy Ladies I did enjoy it.
Subtitled "A Novel Concerning Life, Death, Sex and Recipes in Limoges, Louisiana" SFTC certainly lives up to the title.
It was a good read and thinking about the characters afterwards I realised that almost all the "she" characters did indeed fly the coop, one way or another.
Whether or not they were forced to by an unfaithful husband -Vangie; an unwanted pregnancy - Vangie's daughter Olive; widowhood -  Edith; or a need for a better life - Dee Dee and her young daughter, Billie, both born on the wrong side of the tracks.
If you haven't already read SFTC I would recommend it.

Douglas Kennedy is an author that I like.
I enjoyed reading A Special Relationship and The Pursuit of Happiness some years ago and so looked forward to reading The Big Picture.
It was a good read, possibly not as good as the previous ones but definitely worth spending a rainy, or sunny for that matter, afternoon or two on.
It's a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for.
Josh is a stressed out dissatisfied New York lawyer, husband and father, who's dream was to be a photographer, reporting wars and major world events, but who settled for a safe, predictable and comfortable life.
A random act of violence rapidly turns his world up side down and he has to leave everything behind, take on a new identity and disappear.
The ironic thing is that this new identity brings him the longed for photographic career and fame that he always craved, the question then is will he be able to keep it?
The story moves along quickly and kept me entertained until the end, would recommend this one too.

Trunk Music by Michael Connelly is a Hollywood Detective Harry Bosch novel, a bit of light reading.
If you're a fan of the genre (which I am, now and again) this continuation of the Harry Bosch story is worth a read.

Room by Emma Donoghue was passed on to me by my sister who enjoyed it very much.
I had my reservations at first but persevered.
I'm so glad that I did because Room is one of the best books I've read this year.
I'm not saying anything more, except READ it!

Currently, I'm halfway through The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory the story of Lady Margaret Beaufort.
No one writes historical novels better than PG.
I have already read The White Queen (Elizabeth Woodville) and I am enjoying reading the Lancaster version of the conflict between the Lancaster, York and Tudor families.

Click here for more good book recommendations.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato - Italy In Books Reading Challenge July 2011

When I read the back cover of The Glassblower of Murano I immediately thought that the plot sounded good, set as it is in two locations and in two very different centuries.
I knew very little about life in Venice during the 17th century and virtually nothing about the island of Murano other than that in the 1960's many British tourists brought back glass ornaments as souvenirs of their visits to Italy.
I have however visited Versailles and walked through the Hall of Mirrors or Salon des Glaces, so I expected to enjoy The Glassblower of Murano for a variety of reasons.

Image courtesy of France Monthly

Well, dear reader, I have to tell you that I didn't enjoy this book very much at all, although I did finish reading it.
After her marriage ends Nora Manin decides to leave London and go to Venice "to embrace her Italianess" by discovering more about her famous ancestor Corradino Manin the greatest glassblower ever to work in the furnaces of Murano.
I don't want to spoil the book for anyone else so all I'll say is that I felt the story of Corradino and Leonora (she uses her full name once in Italy) could have been so much more.
As with the last two "Italian" books, this one's up for grabs too.
Just be the first to email me and I'll be happy to send it to you, maybe you'll enjoy it more than I did!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Memory Keepers Daughter - Kim Edwards

I've just finished reading The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards, one of many books that I bought second hand at the Oxfam Book shop in Hereford last month.
As soon as I read the description on the back cover I knew I would enjoy this debut novel.
In1964 Dr. David Henry is driving carefully through the deserted streets of Lexington, Kentucky during a fierce winter blizzard, to take his wife, of just one year, to the hospital.
Norah is in labour and about to give birth.
Deciding that they can't get to the hospital in time he takes her to his medical practice instead, where with the help of his nurse Caroline Gill, David delivers their son, Paul.
But, there's another baby.
They were unaware that Norah is carrying twins.
Their daughter Phoebe is delivered safely, however it is immediately apparent that she has Down's Syndrome.
David is a complicated man who grew up dirt poor and had to strive hard to become the successful doctor that he is now, he has kept his past a secret from Norah.
Phoebe's birth brings painful memories crashing back and in an instant David turns to the nurse and gives her his daughter, instructing Caroline to take the baby to an institution many miles away.
Believing that he will be saving Norah from a life of heartbreak and grief he tells his wife that their baby daughter was born dead.
Caroline takes the baby to the institution but once there cannot bring herself to leave her in such a dreadful place. Reflecting on her own life, (unmarried still, at thirty one and half in love with David) she makes her own life changing decision.
Caroline gets back in her car and drives out into the blizzard, determined to raise Phoebe as her own daughter.

The Memory Keepers Daughter is an uncompromising, compelling tale of these two families, living parallel lives, shaped by the secrets and lies that began on a fateful night in 1964.
I'd definitely recommend this book, and as with "Recipe For Life" I'll make the same offer to send it on to the first commenter who would like to read it too.

Linking this review to the What We're Reading Linky Party on the 20th graciously hosted by Ricki Jill @ Art@ Home.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Recipe For Life - Italy In Books Reading Challenge 2011, June.

Recipe for Life – Nicky Pellegrino
“Your time is limited so don’t waste it leading someone else’s life”
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Inc.
The above quote leads the reader into Part 1 of “Recipe For Life” where we meet Alice, a University student from the North of England, and discover the life changing event that makes her run away from all she has ever known, determined to live life to the full from now on.
Alice moves to London to share a flat in Maida Vale with her friend Leila and takes over Leila’s job, waitressing at a local brasserie, eventually being promoted to manager. She becomes close to the brasserie chef, Guyon and when he moves to Teatro, a stunning new restaurant owned by up and coming hot Chef, Tonino Ricci, she follows him there to work in the kitchens.
Hundreds of miles away, in Southern Italy, Babetta lives in a small house overlooking the Mediterranean, with her husband Nunzio. She spends her days caring for her own garden and the gardens of the Villa Rosa next door. They live quite frugally and when a depressed Nunzio decides he’s no longer going to speak Babetta’s life is quite bleak.
When Leilas wealthy, artist mother buys the Villa Rosa Leila tells Alice to ask her boss Tonino if she can take some time off from work to go to Italy. When he discovers that the Villa Rosa is in Triento the village where he grew up and where his parents (Raffaella and Ciro) and brother (Lucio) live still, Tonino is very enthusiastic that she go for the season.
He arranges for Alice to spend time working in his parents seafood restaurant, learning to cook the same way that he did.
As close neighbours Alice and Babetta immediately strike up a friendship despite not being able to speak each other’s language. In Babetta’s tiny kitchen they prepare wonderful dishes from recipes that she has gathered over many years, thus reawakening Babetta’s love of cooking, and she begins to prepare special dishes for herself and her husband Nunzio.
Alternating chapters chronicle Alice and Babetta’s lives as they both come to terms with the choices they make. Several years later they reconnect at the Villa Rosa, both of them changed in many ways.
At first glance it would be easy to mistake this book for a frothy romance, another book to read by the pool and there is plenty of boy meets girl, unrequited love etc. going on, but I think that it is more than just that.
“Recipe For Life” is about friends, food, relationships, and also about coming to terms with the things that happen to us in life, some of which may be beyond our control, and decisions or choices which might seem right when we make them but ultimately lead us along pathways that we might never have taken.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Recipe For Life”, the first book by this author that I have read, and if you think you’d like it too I’ll happily gift it to the first person who asks.

Click here to read other reviews submitted this month.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Welcome to my new book blog.

I noticed recently that books, and my love of reading them, were starting to take over my Normandy Life blog.
The raison d'être of Normandy Life is to record "the gentle bucolic ramblings of a transplanted English rose" and I felt that I was wandering a little off the subject with my book lists, book linky parties and book reviews.
So, here is my new blog: "just books", which will do just what it says on the tin - be just about books.
On the sidebar you will find links to book reviews already posted on Normandy Life, a list of books that I've read this year and links to other blogs where books are the main event.
If you're just discovering me, welcome!
If you've followed me over from NL, hi, again!
However you arrived at "just books" I hope that you will stay a while, browse my library shelves and share your latest good reads and TBR list with me.