c April 2018 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Book Reviews - Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, 61 Hours Jack Reacher, The Poisonous Seed

Book Review Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society 61 Hours Jack Reacher

My latest Book Reviews 

I have been galloping through my reading challenge over the last few months, ticking book after book off my list. The books I was most excited to read were The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Shaffer & Annie Barrows, 61 Hours by Lee Child, I can't resist a Jack Reacher story and The Poisonous Seed by Linda Stratmann. I also had chance to catch up with a few non fiction books in particular The Queen's Dolls House.

No spoilers... I will never giveaway any spoilers in my reviews, just my honest opinion on how I found the book. So you can read my review with the confidence it will not ruin the story for you.

My latest Book Reviews
61 Hours (Jack Reacher, #14)
61 Hours by Lee Child

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.
Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed—but so is the woman he’ll risk his life to save.

I thoroughly enjoyed this instalment of Jack Reacher. I think a little space between reading the previous one and a couple of significant changes to the 'normal' Jack Reacher tale made me give this book 5 stars. I particularly liked how the weather impacted virtual every element of the story, something I can not recall Lee Child doing in a previous Jack Reacher story. Also the interaction between Reacher and the female connection in this book, is dealt with very differently, I don't include spoilers in my reviews so can not elaborate on his.

This story line very cleverly brings together a South American drugs lord, the whole of the South Dakota Bolton Police force, a new prison, a gang of bikers, a retired librarian, a coach of 25 retired people and their driver on there way to visit Mount Rushmore and not forgetting Jack Reacher. Lee Child expertly unravels a great modern thriller, he really never does disappoint. I enjoyed reading all of the characters in the book, I never once felt the need to skip a paragraph. Deputy Andrew Peterson and 'little old lady' Janet Salter quickly had a rounded and respected relationship with Reacher, you could feel the emotion and turmoil they were experiencing.

One of my favourite Jack Reacher books, so far.

The Poisonous Seed (Frances Doughty, #1)
The Poisonous Seed by Linda Stratmann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a customer of William Doughty's chemist shop dies of strychnine poisoning after drinking medicine he dispensed, William is blamed, and the family faces ruin. William's daughter, nineteen-year-old Frances, determines to redeem her ailing father's reputation and save the business. She soon becomes convinced that the death was murder, but unable to convince the police, she turns detective.
Armed only with her wits, courage and determination, and aided by some unconventional new friends, Frances uncovers a startling deception and solves a ten year old murder. There will be more deaths, and a secret in her own family will be revealed before the killer is unmasked, and Frances will find that her life has changed forever.

Firstly I wanted to thank Hayley one of my blog readers for recommending this book to me. This Victorian murder mystery was a pleasant read. It follows a young lady Frances living with her father William Doherty a respected pharmacist in Victorian London. Frances dreams of becoming a pharmacist herself in her fathers business, these are dashed following her brothers illness. When Frances’s father becomes accused of poisoning a wealthy and respected customer, she sees it her duty to prove his innocents and save the reputation of the family business.

She discovers a skill for detective work whilst uncovering the truth to help her father, not at all the type of work a young unmarried lady should be doing.

This is quite a complex murder mystery story, lots of intrigue, deception and of course murder. You get to see the story unroll from the perspective of Frances, the police, the servants and the well to do upper classes. I particularly enjoyed the characters of a number of the housemaids. This is a period of history I enjoy reading, and it made an interesting story to read so much of the lower classes in England during this time.

I felt the book was a little longer than it needed to be, I also thought there were a lot of characters in this book, at times I did get a little confused trying to remember who’s who. There were two characters in the story I thought most odd, though only in it briefly I did not see that they added anything. It turned out that my sister who read the book felt the same about these too.

But yes in case you are wondering I would happily read the next book in this series of Frances Doherty mysteries.

As an aside, the main character Frances Doherty reminded me of a character from a period drama set during the Victorian era that was on tv sometime ago, ‘Bramwell’.

Book Review Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
SynopsisJanuary 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
Written with warmth and humour as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

What a heart warming story, through the bleakest of times for the islanders of Guernsey.

This was such an enjoyable book to read, a glimpse into life during the second world war set in London, but mostly on the island of Guernsey during German occupation. I really enjoyed how the story was told through the sending of letters between successful author Juliet in London and the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society following the end of the war. It cleverly tells the story of how a mix of different characters are bought together during the occupation, support and help each other through those difficult years, including their discovery for the love of books. Segments of the story would slowly unfold as Juliet receives and responds to the letters from the book club.

I was so wrapped up in reading the books, happily following their tales as I turn the pages with that contented feeling you get with a book you fall for that I physically gasped when I read a major part of the story line. I was lulled into a false sense of security, where I thought hope may prevail.

I loved the relationship and short sharp letters Juliet exchanged with her editor Simon Stark, and how he shares his dislike for her American boyfriend Mark Reynolds. I was surprised and enjoyed just how well the authors captured the British sense of humor and reserve in the characters. These are the personality traits that made me adore Dawsey Adams and Eben Ramsy.

When mentioned I was reading this book to friends I was taken a back by how gushing everyone was about the book, and how had I not read it when it first came out I will never know. I too find myself singing the praises of this book which would make it into my top 10 reads ever!

Yes the film version is lovely but not a patch on the book, huge sections of story lines and characters are missing, and I was a little annoyed with the typical Hollywood style ending. 

My Non Fiction Reads
The Queens Dolls House lucinda Lambton Book Review
The Queen's Dolls' House: A Dollhouse Made for Queen Mary by Lucinda Lambton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having seen this delightful dolls house at Windsor Castle a few years this book was the first item I sort out in the souvenir shop. I was so fascinated and intrigued by the tiny hand made treasures in front of my eyes I was desperate to find out more.
This book takes you through the inspiration and design of this magical house by Edward Lutyens, made specially for Queen Mary. The book leading you through the downstairs, gardens, garage first before leading you to the formal rooms of this upper class home of the 1920’s.

This project lasted many years and manufacturers, craftsman, and famous artists of the day were all honoured to take part. Many offering their services and item for free. Although it is amusingly read of those few that refused and would be insulted to have had there work included, these include a very famous author and composer. 

When the house was finished it went on public display, and was an opportunity to show the British public that the King and Queen lived in a home, that was like many others. They had a chamber pot under their bed, a pot of cold cream on the dressing table. They also have Crown Jewels, a motor vehicle, working lift, electricity, running water, and servants quarters. 

I did find the book to be written in a rather pretentious manner, it also did not answer some of questions about the detail of some of the items. I would like to have read more about the process it took to create some of the items, such as the tiny pots of jam, the China and cutlery, and particularly the full library of books. There are some wonderful photographs a chance to see an item that may be hidden away out of sight when touring the real dolls house. The set of golf clubs photographed next to a full size golf ball gives you a real appreciation of the skill required by to create these wonders.

I long for another visit to Windsor Castle to peek inside this wonder of craftsmanship. 

More books read... other books read for my 2018 Reading Challenge last month included The Workhouse Southwell a National Trust guide book, Stonywell Cottage a National Trust guide book,  English Heritage guides to Haughmond Abbey, Moreton Corbet Castle and Lilleshall Abbey.

What's next on my bookshelf
I am on the waiting list for the next book in the Frances Doherty series at local library. I also have a number of Philippa Gregory books on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I have just finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and have just started reading Mary Higgins Clark's All By Myself Alone. Do let me know if you have any book recommendations. To find out more about the books I am currently reading or vote on which book I should read next on my Instagram account Garden Tea Cakes and Me.

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Angela has read 15 books toward her goal of 20 books.
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Spring Tour of my Garden - Six on Saturday April 2018

It would appear spring has now finally arrived here in the UK, so I thought it time for a tour of the spring highlights in my garden this weekend. Which also gives me the opportunity to join in for the first time with Six On Saturday, pop over to The Propagator to find out more about this fun gardening blog along.

Let the garden tour commence

First up are some colourful containers...
Anemones Sarah Raven
Beautiful Anemones 
These Anemones have been providing colour and structure to the patio area of the garden. These corms where a purchase from Sarah Raven last year and were planted early summer so it's the first spring we have had chance to really appreciate them. Appreciate them we do! 

No smirking please, but this year is the first time I've grown Tulips and it won't be long before these  will be in bloom, and that you see is a problem. Why? Well shortly I will be surrounded by stunning displays of Tulips as this month I am rather excited to be visiting Keukenhof Gardens in Holland!  So if the dozen or so Tulips in my garden could just hold back on flowering until I return from holiday in a week or two's time I would be most pleased.

Forced Rhubarb pot
Forced Rhubarb
Forced Rhubarb
Ruby Red Forced Rhubarb
Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. Another first, this year a pot has been upturned and placed on top of one of the rhubarb crowns, and here is a sneak peek on how it is looking.  Not long before it's Rhubarb everything in the kitchen.

Kale seedling
Kale seedling
I have been pretty late at getting my seeds sown this year, so there is always the thrill when you spot your first seedling sprouting. This is the first of my Kale sowings, something I love to sow, grow and eat.

Wildlife pound gardeners world
Wildlife pond a work in progress
I share the garden with my sister, she loves doing all the heavy jobs (honest) as I'm not able to due to my scoliosis. Inspired by an episode of Gardeners World last year, 'we' are putting in a wildlife pond (barrel)- it's a work in progress. We have yet to buy the water lily and other pond plants, which we are hoping to find at the Malvern Spring Show next month.

dead Erysimum Bowles's Mauve
Erysimum deceased!
Did you have any loses in your garden this year? This Erysimum Bowles's Mauve sadly has not made it. Now this is not unusual for these plants, they usually last a few years then die and as such every year I take several cutting so always have new plants in reserve ready to fill a spot. They give great colour to the garden throughout most of the year. 

Well that's the end of this brief garden catch up, and my six highlights for the month of April. 

Thank you for taking a tour around my garden with me. 

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