More August reads

The Women in Black by Madeleine St John

What a delightful story set in the 1950s in Australia.

“Sydney in the late 1950s. On the second floor of the famous F.G. Goode department store, in Ladies’ Cocktail Frocks, the women in black are girding themselves for the Christmas rush. Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns.

With the lightest touch and the most tender of comic instincts, Madeleine St John conjures a vanished summer of innocence.”

The Women in Black is a classic.  A happy read.

There is a movie and stage show “Ladies in Black” based on the novel.

 

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

This book is about the mysterious 1986 fire that gutted Los Angeles’ landmark Central Library. “The Library Book” re investigates the fire and recounts the rescue efforts by hundreds of Los Angeles residents who raced to the stacks to save books from smoke and water damage.

The author brings to life legendary characters from the library’s past and present, and reveals L.A.’s passions and obsessions.

“The people in shipping know all the trends, they can tell when a book was recommended by Oprah, because they will pack dozens of copies that have been requested all over the city.”

“They know that the day after any holiday, the load will be heavy: Apparently everyone in Los Angeles gets on the computer right after Thanksgiving dinner and makes requests for diet books.”

That is just a couple of examples of the anecdotes included in the book.  This is an informative book and as a retired librarian I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The aspect that sticks with me most is the fact that the library is used as a safe haven by those who are perhaps homeless or have nowhere to base themselves during the day.  Also the role of the library is constantly changing and it continues to be extremely relevant in today’s world.  The sad part is that governments in some countries continue to cut funding to libraries and also close down libraries.  So sad.

A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill

I last read a Sulari Gentill book in 2014, Gentlemen Formerly Dresed.

I found two of her books, which I haven’t read,  in our library when I was browsing the shelves.  I have read them in quick succession.  I will leave the second one until my next book posting.

A Murder Unmentioned

“The black sheep of a wealthy grazier dynasty, gentleman artist Rowland Sinclair often takes matters into his own hands. When the matter is murder, there are consequences.

For nearly fourteen years, Rowland has tried to forget, but now the past has returned.

A newly-discovered gun casts light on a family secret long kept… a murder the Sinclairs would prefer stayed unsolved.

As old wounds tear open, the dogged loyalty of Rowland’s inappropriate companions is all that stands between him and the consequences of a brutal murder… one he simply failed to mention.”

This is the sixth book in this series and I am still thoroughly enjoying the characters and the plots. Gentill has the historical facts, the atmosphere of the time, the mix of fictional and real characters all written beautifully. She obviously spends a great deal of time on research. Her husband is a history and English teacher and he helps edit and research her work.

If you haven’t read any of her books I suggest you start with number one in the series. A Few Right Thinking Men

Some of my reads for August

I managed to read a few this month, seven to be exact.  Two books by Mick Herron,  Down Cemetery Road and London Rules.

London Rules

“London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one.

Cover your arse.”

The book is full of witty dialogue and black humour.  I found myself laughing out loud in places.

“Eight months of anger f**king management sessions, and this evening she’d officially be declared anger free. It had been hinted she might even get a badge. That could be a problem – if anyone stuck a badge on her, they’d be carrying their teeth home in a hankie. . .”

Parts are reminiscent of Yes Minister.  A thoroughly enjoyable spy thriller/ espionage one of the Slough House series set in London.

Down Cemetery Road was the debut novel of Mark Herron and is the first in a series called Oxford Investigations.

“When a house explodes in a quiet Oxford suburb and a young girl disappears in the aftermath, Sarah Tucker—a young married woman, bored and unhappy with domestic life—becomes obsessed with finding her. Accustomed to dull chores in a childless household and hosting her husband’s wearisome business clients for dinner, Sarah suddenly finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew, as her investigation reveals that people long believed dead are still among the living, while the living are fast joining the dead. What begins in a peaceful neighborhood reaches its climax on a remote, unwelcoming Scottish island as the search puts Sarah in league with a man who finds himself being hunted down by murderous official forces.”
This was another, “child missing” book, of which I have read a few.  The main character, a bored housewife certainly transformed into someone else during the novel.
Another good crime fiction novel.
The Tea Gardens and Nightingale, both by Fiona McIntosh were escapist adventure/romance novels for me and very easy reading.
The Tea Gardens

“Dr Isla Fenwick has a life that most modern women of 1933 might envy – her career gives her status, her pedigree adds freedom, and her oldest crush, Jovian Mandeville, has reappeared in her life with a marriage proposal.

Her life is beginning to feel complete. However, she insists on keeping a private promise she made to her late mother to work at the coalface of medicine in India before committing to life as a dutiful wife. With Jove’s blessing, Isla sails to Calcutta to set up a new midwifery clinic. What she can’t anticipate is how India will test everything she relies upon within, challenging her professionalism and her loyalties”

A good romance story set in Brighton and India.
Nightingale
A heart-soaring novel of heartbreak and heroism, love and longing.
This was romance and historical fiction in one.  Set During the First World War and involving the ANZAC troops. A heart-breaking tale but well worth the read.

“Amidst the carnage of Gallipoli, British nurse Claire Nightingale meets Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren. Despite all odds, they fall deeply in love. Their flame burns bright and carries them through their darkest hours, even when war tears them apart.

Jamie’s chance meeting with Turkish soldier Açar Shahin on the blood-stained battlefield forges an unforgettable bond between the men. It also leaves a precious clue to Jamie’s whereabouts for Claire to follow.

Come peacetime, Claire’s desperate search to find Jamie takes her all the way to Istanbul, and deep into the heart of Açar’s family, where she attracts the unexpected attention of a charismatic and brooding scholar.

In the name of forgiveness, cultures come together, enemies embrace and forbidden passions ignite – but by the breathtaking conclusion, who will be left standing to capture Nurse Nightingale’s heart?”

A must read, particularly if interested in Gallipoli.
I will record the remaining three novels in another post.

More reads from July

I managed to fit in a few more books in July.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

I became hooked on Lisa Jewell when I read Watching You and was happy to find a copy of Then She Was Gone at our library.

From Goodreads:

“THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.

And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.

Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.

Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?

Who still has secrets to hide?”

An exciting thriller with an ending that you wont see coming.  Loved it.

Here the author reads an extract form her book.

I will now be on the lookout for more books by Lisa Jewell.

Best Before: the evolution and future of processed food by Nicola Temple

A bit of non-fiction for a change. This caught my eye when I was browsing the shelf of new acquisitions at our library. The book was an extremely interesting read and made me think a bit more about what goes into our processed food.  I also learnt quite a bit about the history of some of our foods.

“Long before there was the ready meal, humans processed food to preserve it and make it safe. From fire to fermentation, our ancestors survived periods of famine by changing the very nature of their food. This ability to process food has undoubtedly made us one of the most successful species on the planet, but have we gone too far?

Through manipulating chemical reactions and organisms, scientists have unlocked all kinds of methods of to improve food longevity and increase supply, from apples that stay fresh for weeks to cheese that is matured over days rather than months. And more obscure types of food processing, such as growing steaks in a test-tube and 3D-printed pizzas, seem to have come straight from the pages of a science-fiction novel. These developments are keeping up with the changing needs of the demanding consumer, but we only tend notice them when the latest scaremongering headline hits the news.

Best Before puts processed food into perspective. It explores how processing methods have evolved in many of the foods that we love in response to big business, consumer demand, health concerns, innovation, political will, waste and even war. Best Before arms readers with the information they need to be rational consumers, capable of making informed decisions about their food.”

This was certainly a worthwhile read.  I kept reading out aloud snippets of the book to my husband.

The Art Of D’scard’ng :How to get rid of clutter and find joy  by Nagisa Tatsumi

From Goodreads

“The book that inspired Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Nagisa Tatsumi’s international bestseller offers a practical plan to figure out what to keep and what to discard so you can get–and stay–tidy, once and for all.

Practical and inspiring, The Art of Discarding (the book that originally inspired a young Marie Kondo to start cleaning up her closets) offers hands-on advice and easy-to-follow guidelines to help readers learn how to finally let go of stuff that is holding them back–as well as sage advice on acquiring less in the first place. Author Nagisa Tatsumi urges us to reflect on our attitude to possessing things and to have the courage and conviction to get rid of all the stuff we really don’t need, offering advice on how to tackle the things that pile up at home and take back control. By learning the art of discarding you will gain space, free yourself from “accumulation syndrome,” and find new joy and purpose in your clutter-free life.”

 Long story short, this is a quick read full of advice such as acknowledging that you’re never going to use those things that “might be useful someday.” She lost me when she said to get rid of books.  I have tried that over the years and regretted it when I couldn’t find a book that I thought I had kept.  I guess I am just someone who hangs onto too many things.

It has been a while.

There has been too much sport on television recently and it has played havoc with my normal routine.  The Tour de France meant I was getting to bed at unseemly hours and that was then followed by the Cricket World Cup, followed by The Ashes so the usual day activities have come to a shuddering halt.

The Ashes are still happening as only two tests have been played and there are three still to play but I am trying to get some semblance of order into my day.  It hasn’t helped that the weather has been miserable here and tempts one to stay in bed rather than get up in the morning.

Back to posting what I have been doing recently, other than spending far too much time watching television.

I will start with some of my reading during July. I did manage to get quite a few books read as the weather was not suitable for gardening.

Career of Evil by Robert GalbraithThis was the third novel in the Strike series and it was just as exciting as the other books in the series.  It didn’t really matter that this one was read out of order as they read well as stand-alone novels. I have mentioned the other novels in a previous post.

Watching You by Lisa JewellThis was a psychological thriller and I have found a new author that I thoroughly enjoy.  You will see that I have read a second book of hers this month and will be on the lookout for more.

“. . . .a suspenseful page-turner about a shocking murder in a picturesque and well-to-do English town, perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train

You’re back home after four years working abroad, new husband in tow. You’re keen to find a place of your own. But for now, you’re crashing in your big brother’s spare room.

That’s when you meet the man next door. He’s the head teacher at the local school. Twice your age. Extraordinarily attractive.  You find yourself watching him. All the time. But you never dreamed that your innocent crush might become a deadly obsession.  Or that someone is watching you.

In Lisa Jewell’s latest bone-chilling suspense, no one is who they seem—and everyone has something to hide.”

Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKintyI came across the author as recommended by Ian Rankin, I think, but I am glad I took note as I enjoyed this book even though it is not one I would normally take from the shelf as it sounded as though it was about gang warfare in America.

This is a brutal story of gangland warfare, lust, betrayal and bloody retribution.   The engaging anti-hero has few redeeming qualities other than his native Irish wit and the will to survive.
This is “Gangs of New York” for the nineties.

“This Irish bad-boy thriller — set in the hardest streets of New York City — brims with violence, greed, and sexual betrayal.”I didn’t want to go to America, I didn’t want to work for Darkey White. I had my reasons. But I went.”

“So admits Michael Forsythe, an illegal immigrant escaping the Troubles in Belfast. But young Michael is strong and fearless and clever — just the fellow to be tapped by Darkey, a crime boss, to join a gang of Irish thugs struggling against the rising Dominican powers in Harlem and the Bronx. The time is pre-Giuliani New York, when crack rules the city, squatters live furtively in ruined buildings, and hundreds are murdered each month. Michael and his lads tumble through the streets, shaking down victims, drinking hard, and fighting for turf, block by bloody block.”

A gritty read.

 

Reposting of “Tomato relish instead of sauce” in light of the death of Margaret Fulton.

Originally posted in 2017.  Thank you Margaret Fulton.

Last year I made loads of tomato sauce and this year I have also made sauce but not quite as much.  Today for a bit of a change I made relish instead.

The recipe was from Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopaedia of Food and Cookery

Margaret Fulton's Encyclopaedia of Food and CookeryWe have had this book since 1983 and it still gets referred to occasionally.

Here is the recipe I used

recipe“until the mixture is thick.” had me in a bit of a quandary as there are various stages of thick!  I did it until I thought it was thick enough and it seems to have turned out ok.  This is the first time I have done a pickle, relish or sauce that has flour as a thickener.

It was delicious on cheese.

 

More June reads

Much of my reading is crime fiction and Stuart MacBride is one of my favourite authors.  I tend to read quite a bit by Scottish authors.

A Song for the Dying is another novel in the Oldcastle series.

“He’s back …

Eight years ago, ‘The Inside Man’ murdered four women and left three more in critical condition – all of them with their stomachs slit open and a plastic doll stitched inside.

And then the killer just … disappeared.

Ash Henderson was a Detective Inspector on the initial investigation, but a lot can change in eight years. His family has been destroyed, his career is in tatters, and one of Oldcastle’s most vicious criminals is making sure he spends the rest of his life in prison.

Now a nurse has turned up dead on a patch of waste ground, a plastic doll buried beneath her skin, and it looks as if Ash might finally get a shot at redemption. At earning his freedom.

At revenge.”

Bye Bye Baby by Fiona McIntosh is one that I borrowed from the library.I have read many Fiona McIntosh novels but none of those has been crime fiction, perhaps The Pearl Thief could be classified as such but none of the others.

“It all began in Brighton. Now there is a killer on the loose. Scotland Yard′s brightest talent is chosen to head up the high-profile taskforce, a DCI who must confront his own past as the body count rises.

There are few leads and Jack Hawksworth can only fall back on instinct and decades-old cold cases for any clue to the killer′s motive … and identity.

With his most loyal team member threatening to betray him, a Chief Inspector pushing for results, a hungry British media clamouring for information, and a restless public eager for a conviction, the high-pressure operation can only end in a final shocking confrontation …

A searing story of brutal revenge.”

I loved this book and devoured it in one sitting. I couldn’t wait to read the first book,

so went out and bought it.  It didn’t disappoint.  I loved it too.  Apparently these books were originally published under the pseudonym of Lauren Crow, in 2007. They have now been re released under her own name and as there are so many followers of Fiona McIntosh’s books I am sure these will do equally as well.

“A calculating killer, who ′trophies′ the faces of his victims, is targeting Londoners.

Under enormous pressure from politicians and the public, DCI Jack Hawksworth and his team begin their investigation, which takes them into the murky world of human organ trading.

But when the murderer strikes closer to home than Jack could ever have imagined possible, the case becomes a personal crusade – and a race against time. Can the killer be brought to justice before Jack is removed from the operation?

From London′s backstreets to the dangerous frontiers of medicine, BEAUTIFUL DEATH will keep you reading late into the night.”

This is a fast paced read, perhaps a bit bloodthirsty for some.