"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." ~ Charles W. Eliot
"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook - try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" ~ Julia Child
"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Friday, October 17, 2014

Molly's Millions


I would loved to have given this book 4 stars out of 5 but an irritation of something in it brought it down a notch for me. Instead it is 3 stars for me. 

The florist Molly Bailey runs out of her floral shop to buy a lottery ticket at the end of the day. She wins 4.2 million pounds. Molly's family is miserly and she keeps it a secret running off on an adventure to give away money to others to make them happy. Tom MacKenzie gets hold of the story from the start and decides to pack up his car and follow her. What he did not bargain for was the arrival of his daughter Flora on his doorstep the very morning he was to leave. She tags along and makes a great sidekick for him on his chase. 

The story is fun and predictable. It is all that chic lit is supposed to be but I became irritated by some remarks about Americans by Tom. I felt the remarks did not add to the story in the least. It was almost as if the author (who I have contacted by email previously after reading another book and found her such a nice lady) was putting forth her own thoughts just for the sake of them. I was amazed as I found them inappropriate. It is my own opinion and many may read this and not think twice about it but I come from a background where some things need not be said in life.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Holiday Home

This is the second time I have read a book written by someone I see regularly on a TV program. I know of Fern Britton though hosting Ready, Steady, Cook many years ago and more recently through her fabulous new show The Great Allotment Challenge. So I was unsure about her being an author until reading The Holiday Home. I will be reading her other books now knowing what a fun book she writes. 

This book combined a beautiful Georgian house on the coast of Cornwall, a less than perfect family, two sisters who to spite their sibling rivalry obviously love each other, the characters of the Cornwall village and a number of surprises thrown in to stir things all up. A recipe for a good summer read!

Happy reading!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Tattered Quilt


This book follows The Half Stitched Quilt Club. I loved it and was not sure how Wanda E. Brunstetter would be able to follow up that amusing story. The story continues following yet another of Emma's quilt classes. These six students are once again so different from each other and most unimaginable as beginning quilters. Some have come to Emma's class through connections to those in her previous class. There is Jan's bossy busybody neighbor Selma, Carmen who is Paul's sister-in-law coming as a reporter to get a story on the Amish, Terry who works with Jan as a roofer, Blaine who is Stan's fishing buddy, Anna who is a young Amish girl who was signed up by her mother to learn quilting although she is uninterested and Cheryl who decides to take the class when she brings her 85 year old grandmother's quilt to Emma to repair.

The story will pull you in Wanda E. Brunstetter's magical way to draw you to the side of each character. You cannot help but feel that you are there watching the quilt classes with each unique person who not only learns to do patchwork but also piece their lives into something more than when they started.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Amish fiction or quilt fiction. It will make you smile and even has another surprising twist in the end.

Happy reading!

Friday, July 11, 2014

A nice soak, summer reads and ice cream.....

This is a book review with a twist. Do you have a favorite place to read a book? I do...well more than one place really but this one gives me total relaxation. I have a Kindle that I read from but still have a good library full of real books as I love to read in the bathtub where I just finished my latest book yesterday...

My summer reads selection is on my windowsill ...

There is nothing like soaking for a long time in a bubble bath while enjoying a good book...

My latest book was Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop by Abby Clements. This was the first thing I have read from this author. It is a perfect summer read...light, romantic with drama along the way and full of ice cream. Good thing I was in the bath reading this or I might have reached out for ice cream each time I read a chapter. *grins*

Anna and Imogen are sisters who unexpectly inherit their grandmother's business when she passes away suddenly. Vivien has had an ice cream shop in Brighton for ages. While it used to be a major attraction on the seafront, times have seen this ice cream parlour fall into disrepair. Vivien had been a major force in the lives of Anna and Imo so they decide to forge ahead and revive the shop into an improved retro version of what their grandmother started while bringing it upmarket with innovative ice creams, sorbets and granitas. Anna even goes to Italy to learn from the masters of ice cream. But there are many hurtles to get over when starting up and the sisters need to tap into their fighting spirit to battle on in spite of problems. 

The characters in the book are really wonderful. They are, as in real life, like a mixed box of chocolates that make up a family. Vivien is at the helm and is larger than life. Even though she passes away at the beginning of the story, her spirit is in the ice cream parlour and watching over her granddaughters throughout the book. She helps them to stay focused on the business and find a way to make it work. We meet the entire family when Vivien dies, as we meet Tom and Jan who are the sisters' parents and Uncle Martin and Aunt Francoise. Tom dives into a depression after loosing his mother. He is too busy dealing with his own lost feelings to help his daughter's. But from the beginning, he and Jan show faith in Anna and Imo. 

The sisters are very different from each other in personality. Anna has a steady job and a relationship. She just bought her first home. She has a hobby of loving good food. Imogen however is a restless type. She is in Thailand when her grandmother dies. When she has a dream, she goes after it. Her dream could not be further from ice cream but her love of her family brings her home and keeps her there to help the shop get back on its feet. 

This book is one that makes you cheer to the two sisters. You want them to succeed and life to be good for them. Life is not always black and white and people do impulsive things but it can all come together if you try hard. To me, this was a bit of the theme behind this story. I really enjoyed it. 

Happy reading!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Falling to Pieces


Falling to Pieces is the first in the quilt shop murder mysteries and my first book by Vannetta Chapman. I already just downloaded the second book to my tablet since I really enjoyed this one.

Callie moves to Shipshewana after her aunt passes away. She intends to sort out her aunt's things and sell her quilt shop, then move on. She meets three Amish women on the first day in the quilt shop. Deborah, one of the woman, convinces her to auction their quilts for them on eBay. Little does Callie know that this will seem to start something ending in murder. Or so it seems. But both Callie and Deborah want to get to the bottom of the truth even putting themselves in the firing line.

I enjoyed the rawness of Callie in this book. She is a widow who is in search of something in life but does not seem sure what. She comes to Shipshewana to simply tie up all life's loose ends for that moment. But a truth in a quilter's life is when you are least searching for the right fabric, you find it. So is the reality of life for Callie too it seems. Her contact with the Amish and Deborah in particular effect her with their warmth. I am looking forward to seeing if the next in this series continues as well as the first book. 

Happy reading!

Monday, May 12, 2014

What Would Jane Austen Do?


What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown really deserves 3,5 out of 5 stars. I would like to have given it 4 stars but found two parts a bit inappropriate for the Jane Austen theme. More about that in a moment...

Eleanor arrives in England for a JA conference. When she gets to the hotel, she finds her room has been cancelled instead of rebooked to a single room after the break up of her relationship. The only room left is in the haunted old tower of the hotel. Haunted supposedly by the ghosts of two sisters who used to live in the old manor house during Regency times. Eleanor doesn't believe in ghosts so she accepts the room. But soon she discovers that the ghosts are very real and she agrees to help them change their destiny by going back in time. They even agree to arrange for her to meet Jane Austen herself. Eleanor will agree to anything to get some sleep. 

She awakens to find she really has travelled back in time. She is introduced as the sisters widowed cousin from The Colonies who has come to visit during a house party. 

This book is great fun. Eleanor has to fumble her way through the customs of the time and does it with surprising ease. She is constantly asking herself "What would Jane Austen do?" which gets her through some situations. The book is a humorous and fun referral to many of the stereotypes of JA books. It pulls you in like a JA book where you find yourself wondering if Anne and Captain Wentworth, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy or Emma and Mr. Knightley will really get together in the end. I enjoyed Eleanor as a heroine who fumbles her way through history.

So why only three stars, you ask?

Unfortunately, there were two scenes in the book which I found went off from being very JA to being (especially chapter 15) simply pornographic. I was really sorry these were put in the book as it brought the book down for me and did nothing to add to the rest of the atmosphere which was spot on. Still, the book was great fun and I would recommend it to any Jane fans out there...well, maybe with skipping a few pages during the two scenes between Eleanor and Lord Shermont.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dying in the Wool - A Kate Shackleton Mystery


In the style of Agatha Christie, this new mystery series (to me) has caught my attention for the atmosphere it creates. Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody takes place in the Yorkshire village of Bridgestead. Kate Shackleton goes to meet up with an old friend. Tabitha will be getting married soon and has one wish. She wants Kate to find her missing father so he can walk her down the aisle. But Joshua Braithwaite disappeared 7 years ago from the mill he owned after having to attempt suicide. Kate loves trying to solve puzzles of missing persons so she takes up this challenge.

I loved many aspects of this book. I love Yorkshire and could imagine so much of the scenes described from my many visits there. The village is fictitious but the feeling of the area very real. I enjoyed Kate and her passion to help others find loved ones stemming from the disappearance of her own husband at the end of WWI. Her sidekick Sykes is a combination of Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp to her Poirot. Kate is only interested in the truth but at what cost to herself?

This is a cozy mystery so the atmosphere itself is a character within the book. This left you remembering the various people met along Kate's path. It is entertaining for that reason alone but as its plot takes a couple of turns along the way, it is also an intriguing mystery story. Looking forward to more...

Happy reading!

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Thread


When I finished the last page, I closed the book and said WOW. I had The Thread by Victoria Hislop in my basket to order for ages but kept thinking I would not like it. How mistaken I was. The fact that is was based in Greece made me leery. I was uncertain I would be able to feel any connection to the story. What I did not know was that this was two love stories wrapped up in one beautiful cover. 

Mitsos is in Greece visiting her grandparents. Katerina and Dimitri begin to tell him the stories of their lives. Their story begins with a great fire in 1917 that virtually destroys Thessaloniki. It is in the midst of this time that Dimitri is born. Five years later, Katerina is separated from her mother and baby sister while fleeing Asia Minor. These two major events alter both the children's lives so that they become linked. It is a tender love story against the backdrop of racial problems, complexity of class and even invasion and occupation during a world war. 

The second love story is one I had no idea about when I bought the book which pulled me so deeply into the story. It is the love of a woman and her needle and thread. This story speaks to me from the very core of who I am as a needlewoman. I loved the descriptions of Katerina's talent with her stitches. I found the special relationship she has with her neighbor Roza heartwarming. She loves to spend time with her stitching away as kindred spirits. The quilts in the story became real to me. I could see them as they were being described. 

I found this book well written with beautiful language of place, people and time. The descriptive passages brought me into the homes while the women worked on their clothes, rugs and embroidery. I could visit the haberdashery with Katerina, walk through the fabric warehouse with Konstantinos or experience the buzz of the busy Moreno tailoring workshop. For the history and romance, this is a wonderful read but, for any who enjoy needlework of any kind, it is a true treat that will leave you wanting to run and pick up your own needle and thread.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pasta with cheesy sauce and rocket

Jos and I love pasta dishes. I am always experimenting various combinations. We tried this and it has now become a favorite as it is not only tasty but very easy too. 

Pasta with cheesy sauce and rocket

150 gram corkscrew (fusilli) pasta
handful of thinly sliced sweet red pepper
2 large handfuls of rocket (arugula)
3 thin slices of salami, cut in strips
5 mushrooms, sliced
For the cheesy sauce:
75 gram mascarpone cheese
75 gram Parmasan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
around 4 tablespoons pasta water
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
dash of red chili flakes
drizzle of virgin olive oil

Cook pasta as directed on package. Save a little of the pasta water for later.

Saute the salami, red pepper and mushrooms in olive oil. Add the pasta and mix thoroughly.

In a bowl, mix the mascarpone, lemon juice and seasonings. Now add enough pasta sauce to make a creamy sauce. Crumble Parmasan flakes into the sauce. Drizzle a little olive oil in the sauce.

Pour the cheesy sauce over the pasta and toss in the rocket. Serve immediately.

Eet smakelijk!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chicken spread bagel

A friend and I lunch together almost weekly. It is fun to come up with things when it is my turn to make lunch. Recently, I served her this bagel with chicken spread that I had whipped up that morning. It is so good freshly made and was so simple to do. This makes enough for three to four bagels.

Chicken spread bagel
1 boneless and skinless chicken breast
1 spring onion
1/2 stalk of celery
2 to 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon of sharp mustard
drizzle of lemon juice
generous pinch of tarragon
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Poach the chicken breast in vegetable bouillon for 20 minutes. Leave the chicken to cool then slice into bite size chunks. Slice a spring onion and dice the celery. In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice. Now season to taste with the tarragon, salt and pepper. Mix in the chicken breast, spring onion and celery well. You can add a little extra mayonnaise if needed.

Toast a bagel and place a helping of the chicken spread on a bed of baby Romaine lettuce leaves. Garnish with red pepper rings and serve with slicked cucumber and pear on the side.

Eet smakelijk!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Bay of Secrets


I found Bay of Secrets by Rosanna Ley very intriguing. How would it feel to find everything you thought to be true was all a lie. How would it be to be left alone in the world not knowing your true past or knowing you were part of others being denied that knowledge. These two woman faced different dilemmas but found a common bond through their pasts.

** possible spoiler alert ** Two stories that end up entwining. Two stories of women who must be courageous to face the future which has been tainted with the past. One story takes place in Spain during the revolution. In the days of dictatorship, Franco creates a law that children are adopted from single mothers by wanting and deserving parents. The tragedy is how the adoptions talk place...a mother is either coerced into giving up her child or is told her child died during birth. The child is sold to a worthy couple with their name placed on the birth certificate and all documents destroyed of the biological mother. Sister Julia finds herself taking part in one of the many clinics practising this atrocity. But she decides to start secretly recording the names of the mothers and the adoptive parents. 

Ruby Rea has come back to Dorset to go through her family home after her parents die tragically in an accident. She finds a shoebox in her mother's closet that changes her entire life. Tom and Vivien had a secret that sends Ruby on a search for the truth about her birth and for a mother that she never knew. 

In Ruby's search, she meets Sister Julia. It is time for the truth to be told and Sister Julia sees that Ruby is the one to be her voice. 

Happy reading!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Roasted carrots

We love roast vegetables! On top of the fact that they look so beautiful when they come out of the oven, they are so good for you too. It is a simple way to prepare vegetables that takes so little time. I simply cleaned and scrapped my carrots leaving a little of the tops on just for show. *grins*  Roll them in olive oil and lay then in a baking pan. Add some sliced wedges of red onion also rubbed with olive oil. Sprinkle on ground sea salt, ground pepper and some mixed Italian herbs. You can also add honey to the olive oil if you want the carrots to be even sweeter. Roast them in a 200C/400F oven for 30 minutes or until carrots are to desired tenderness. This time will vary depending on the size of your carrots.

They taste great and look so pretty on your plate...

Eet smakelijk!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

204 Rosewood Lane


Another fun visit to the cove! When you get into this series, you want to move to the cove yourself. 204 Rosewood Lane is the house of Grace. She is coming to terms with Dan's disappearance and trying to get a new start in life. But while she is starting to feel something for Cliff, she is struggling to chase away the ghosts of the past. 

In the meantime, new additions are coming to the cove as Grace's daughter Maryellen and Olivia's daughter Justine are both pregnant. 

Life has its ups and downs and some families find it impossible to stay together while others are starting out or hanging on. I enjoyed my latest visit to the cove.....

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Snow Child

The Snow Child

How difficult to write a review for The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey not because I did not like it but because I did. I would hate to take away any of the movement and anticipation of this novel for anyone else. I cannot tell you how often I put this book in my shopping basket and took it back out debating if it would be for me. I finally did buy it when it went on sale and have loved reading it.

Jack and Mabel lost their son at birth. They move to Alaska to start a new life. One that they dream will be for them together working and living off the land. In winter, a little girl appears on their land. One that looks remarkably like the little snow girl that had built together the day before. Neighbor and friend Ester worries that Mabel is suffering from cabin fever which can be common in the long winter months. But why then does this little girl who says her name is Faina seem so real?

This is as much as I can reveal about this book without possibly ruining the effect for you. Do you think you are too old for fairy tales? This enchanting story might change your mind.....

Happy reading!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Christmas Wish


The Christmas Wish is a book by Lori Evert. What a sweet story! This is the cutest book...wonderful pictures to go along with a magical story about a little girl who sets off to become one of Santa's Elves. I can see this will become one of my traditions at the holidays to read this story as it is a great story for children of all ages.

I read this book aloud tonight to my mother while we were on Skype. When I started it, I kept replacing Anja's name with Heidi...myself. My mother calls me Miss Pickles the Elf so it only seemed logical. It is my story. *grins* And our family nickname for my father was Bear. So I want to share this wonderful photo from the book of Anja (Heidi) sleeping with the polar bear (Bear).....

May you never be too old to believe!

Happy reading!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy 2014!

So adorable!

Wishing you a very happy 2014! 

I am looking foward to a year filled with new and wonderful books to read, a good glass of wine to drink and delicious food to eat. Life is full of riches in the most simple of things. 

2013 ended with sadness for us as we had to have our precious cat put down. If you would like to see him just click here to see my post on my home and garden blog

"I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship."
Louisa May Alcott