Books

Key Lime Pie Murder – Joanne Fluke

I am back with Hannah Swensen, in Lake Eden and the beauty of reading a book in a series is that you can catch up on all the characters. There is something familiar about them all and you like to take a peek at their lives.

This time round, Hannah has been called to judge a baking competition at the local country fair. Of course this means that we get to hear about even more delicious recipes besides Hannah’s cookie ones. Although Hannah knows one of the judges she has only just met Willa the other judge. There seems something mysterious about her. Hannah likes a good mystery however this turns into a murder mystery when Willa is found dead at the county fair ground by, yes of course, by Hannah.

Hannah’s mother despises the ability she has in finding dead bodies. But she is also most keen on finding out all the gossip as well. In such a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s business and it is that which helps Hannah solves nearly all her mysteries.

Of course Mike, the local sheriff does not want Hannah involved as it puts her in danger and he does not like that, especially as he still has his heart set on her. But then so does Norman, who seems to be winning favour with Moshie, Hannah’s rather changeable cat. But who will eventually get her heart. Who knows and now at book nine, I wonder whether this particular story line is wearing a bit thin. All the other characters are happily getting on with their lives, there are developments, there is progress as well as heart ache and setbacks, but for Hannah it all seems to be standing still for her.

However, the only thing that does move is Hannah in the right direction and finds out who claimed the life of Willa so cruelly. This is a cosy crime book which does well to incorporate the aspects of small community life where everything seemed all that much nicer – obviously apart from the murders!

Great escapist easy reading. But worth reading in order to really understand Hannah and the recurring characters in the books.

I was on a bit of a binge reading of Hannah Swensen mysteries. It was all my brain could cope with. I actually had to stop myself moving onto book ten, because there are many many other books calling out to me to be read. But I could just sneak and read it on my kindle….. nobody would know…..

Books

Cherry Cheesecake Murder – Joanne Fluke

Hannah is back in Lake Eden at The Cookie Jar and when we last left her she had to make a decision between the dentist, Norman and the sheriff, Mike. Which one is she going to choose and will it be the right one, and what will happen to the man who is turned down?

Nothing, because somehow as sweet as the cookies that she makes she agrees to both and neither all at the same time. Quite an achievement. And just when she thinks everything is back on an even keel, another admirer pops into town.

A film crew is in town and the man helping it all happen is an old friend of Hannah’s. Everyone is excited, everyone is going to get to be in the film and Hannah finds herself with the task of making cherry cheesecake to placate the rather irate and cantankerous director every day. Apparently the right cheesecake will make everyone’s lives easier.

But if you know Hannah, then a body is not far away, and in fact she is not on her own when it is discovered as there is a whole room full of people who witness the death.

Was it suicide, it an accident or was it deliberate? Only one way to find out is to leave it to Mike the sheriff of course. Well that’s what Hannah tells him, in the meantime she uses her baked goods to gain further information.

And so as all things that happen in Lake Eden, we are delighted with recipes for more lovely tasting things that are no good for us I am sure but also how Hannah comes to the right conclusion and will she catch the man or woman who committed murder right in front of everyone. But will she ever make her mind up about Mike and Norman?

The business of who Hannah is going to choose is starting to wear a bit thin. Although I went straight on and read the next book in the series, I am wandering if she ever makes her mind up? This was quite a strong story compared to some of the previous novels, it builds up to something as opposed to being an instant murder near the beginning of the book. 

These are pure cosy crime books – and recommended if you want to read but know that your brain perhaps cannot cope with anything too deep or complicated. They could even be my guilty read, if a thing should ever exist! 

Jottings

Jottings #12 Jumbles and Jigsaws

I really do not know where time has gone or is going, and I thought it was time that I popped along and say hello. There is nothing amazing or major going on, it is just work is thoroughly busy and I seem to have less time to get on the computer at home and post reviews. When you have been looking at figures and a screen all day, firing up the laptop in an evening (stand fast today) is not really what I want to do. I am still reading which is good. But there is much I would like to mention and share, hence why I thought I would do this post of my jumbled thoughts and see if you can find the pieces to put it all together in some semblance of a jigsaw.

Strictly – Yes it is that time of year again, and yes I am watching it. However, I have to say I think I might have to say that this programme may have had its day. Over two hours of a programme on a Saturday night is some sort of marathon and I often get up and wander about doing other things whilst it is on. The celebrities seem to be getting less famous or well-known as the series goes on and the jokes are predictable whether they come from Tess, Bruce or even the judges.

The other factor that makes me think, enough is enough. Is the results show. Sorry if I am going to spoil something for you, but they film it on a Saturday night and simply change costumes and presenters and then claim it is a Sunday. Do not insult the British audience’s intelligence, they know. And if they are also intelligent enough and not completely hooked by the programme, they probably know who is out anyway. I check on a Sunday AM through the medium of Twitter who has left. How many others are doing this? So I am not really watching the programme when it is on.  I feel because I am not hooked by the programme I don’t really care about it any more. And if you check out Elaine’s Blog she has got this two-hour programme down to about forty minutes by recording it and watching at another time, and fast forwarding through all the dross that fills the programme. But because I am fickle, I will still watch it and perhaps when it gets down to the last few it might be a bit more captivating, until then it will be a background noise on a Saturday night for me.

Sticking with TV and getting down to the last few is The Great British Bake OffNext week is the final – oooooo. I have been hooked by all these wonderful individuals who have brought so much to the programme. I think Mary Berry has been harsher than in previous years and Paul Hollywood, still has that smug look (along with contestant Frances) about him and I always think he needs taking down a peg or two. I so want to be able to bake every week. When I have lost the few pounds (weight not money) that have crept in I will certainly give my baking skills a bit of an exercise. It will not be anything so creative as these people but still it is lovely to eat homemade stuff. Doesn’t it taste better than shop bought mass manufactured items?

And I also cannot understand why the next series of GBBO has to be moved to BBC One. Again are they insulting are intelligence that we cannot possibly work out where to find one of our favourite programmes to watch? We can work a remote control. And also in this day and age where you can record your TV programmes weeks in advance, from your mobile phone, your bus, work, the loo, in the pub or wherever. Does it really matter which flipping channel it is broadcast on? Rant over.

Don’t worry BBC I managed to turn my television over when I wanted to another programme which is a favourite – Downton Abbey. (I went from 1 to 3 on my remote control – I had to lie down afterwards of course). I know folks have complained about a scene a couple of programmes ago and they have every right to do so. It could have been a lot worse, I am sure and more graphic. Sometimes it is the suggestion which is worse. I was only disappointed by the fact that it was Nigel Harman that did the deed! (Secret Crush – not so secret now) That aside, I do like the subtle wry wit and humour between some of the characters, makes me chuckle on a Sunday night.

Now enough television, what about books. Well I have 4 waiting to be reviewed and also a book club meeting to write up. Then a post on a book I gave up on, life is too short.  I have the posts created as an incentive to get me to moving. In fact some have words on them too! As for the books that need reading, well I expect it is like all of you out there – too many to choose from. I have been making a headway into some of my books which is good but I need to turn to some of the wonderful offerings from the publishers. Too many books, too little time.

I am intrigued by the winner of the Man Booker Prize, I like the sound of the book. Anyone read it? Would you recommend? I see it is a mighty tome.

As for the new Bridget Jones, I am slightly disheartened to read that Mark Darcy is no more. And it was part serialised in a newspaper, which put me off too. I have read very mixed reviews about it so I think I might wait for a paperback version. Sometimes it is best not to go back. Although if I was one of the lucky few that got a copy of the book, with part of the David Jason autobiography in it then I would have been thrilled! His book is on the Christmas List for sure.

I heard him on Chris Evans Breakfast Show last Friday on BBC Radio 2. If you get the chance do catch up on some of the clips. I am most excited that Open All Hours is coming back for a one off at Christmas. I loved that programme, I have it on DVD and watch it at least once or twice a year. I so wanted to go and poke round the shop. I did get to have a picture of the outside of it a few years back. It is in fact a hairdresser’s in Doncaster and round the corner from where many of many relatives lived and are now buried.  It will be interesting to see how it will all work some thirty years later.

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Knitting, I have been knitting. Stitching, felting, painting, glueing in fact a range of crafty things. (Distracts from Strictly!) I am in the process of knitting squares for a blanket for a friend who is most poorly. There is a group of us doing it, as a joint gift. Then we thought we would make some more stuff to sell and raise money for my friend who is hoping to run the London marathon next year for the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust.

Followers of this blog will know that I decamp to the Knitting and Stitching Show every year with my mum for the day. This year’s trip has just passed and I need to share all that with you too. Although the coach journey has a strikingly familiar feel to it from past years…….

What else is going on – well Saturday is Guildford Book Festival Readers Day and I am off again to Guildford (Funny that!) to pick up lots more recommendations no doubt for my every growing wish list. I am trying to resist buying books. I have a couple already which I might take with me to get signed. I will report back to you all, there are lots of authors going who I have not read anything by them at all!

Autumn they say it is – but I have the new warmer fluffier slippers out. The heating has been tested to make sure it is working, although I have had no hot water in my bathroom for a while; now sorted and the winter quilt is on. I think I could quite happily hibernate.

I am fitting in swimming, Body Pump, sleeping, cleaning, eating and all of life’s other bits and bobs as well as working too! One of the reasons we are busy at work is well check out the Court Circular tomorrow (17 Oct). I will not be there, I have been more involved in preparation, but I am sure she is not worried that she will not meet me.

Hope you have enjoyed my jigsaw come jumble of thoughts and that if I have not popped by your blog and said hello for a while, I have been dropping in when I can.

What have you all been up to?

Books

Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop – Abby Clements

If books can be beach reads, then this ticks the boxes all the way round. For even the setting for the Ice Cream Shop of the title is in fact on the beach. Brighton beach.

The Ice Cream parlour is about to change hands when its former owner, dies. It is left not to her sons but to her granddaughters, Imogen and Anna, it was obviously Vivien’s wish for these two sisters to make their childhood memories of the place into more of a reality.

However there is a few problems along the way. Imogen is in fact miles away in Thailand and only intended returning for her grandmothers funeral as she wants to carry on her life as a photography artist. Anna has a busy job and has just settled into her first flat with her boyfriend, Jon. Their father seems to have taken the death of his mother badly and is not communicating and their aunt and uncle want to take over and sell not just their grandmother’s house but also the ice cream parlour, thinking it would make life a lot easier all round. It is not going to be easy for Anna and Imogen.

Along with family conflicts there is the locals where the ice cream shop is situated. They lost a friend when Vivien died and also the support that the local business community generates on this part of Brighton Beach. Can Anna and Imogen try and bring some of that back even when it looks like someone thinks otherwise.

The sisters try and make a go of it. It is inevitable that they will make a hash of it to start off with, and some of the decisions they make and the people they alienate mean they learn a lot very quickly. However, the two women learn about themselves, And whilst there is plenty of romance for the reader, it is also in some way a novel where two women really face the choices they have made in life so far and whether they are the right ones to fulfil their ambitions. This is all served up with lashings of descriptions of ice cream and the varying flavours, pure indulgence for ice cream lovers.

It is a light read, which is enjoyable but there is a lot packed into the story and I wanted to know more about the ice cream parlour of Vivien’s day which I am sure would have given us a lot more about Vivien who we only really know about through her remaining family. I would like to have seen her character developed more. Also when Anna went to Italy learning about gelato and flavours could have been expanded a lot more, it was a very contained part of the story which although I knew the obvious was going to happen it could have had a couple of twists added in to make it a bit more exciting. However, I made do with what there was (a sequel or a prequel perhaps to satisfy my curiosity?)  and this is certainly a read for the summer and I enjoyed it and although I am not a fan of ice cream, I certainly wanted to try some of the flavours out!

Let’s share ice cream flavours – I am a lover of Mint Choc Chip and also the cookie dough of the Ben and Jerry’s fame. Because raw cake/biscuit mixture does not count as calories does it? But then the book offers up such delights as Champagne Sorbet or Salted Caramel, Earl Grey Sorbet or Strawberries and Cream. I bet your mouth is watering now……

Books · Jottings

I have been to the……..Bookshop

Yes yes I know I don’t need any more books, I have too many but I just can’t resist and I do so love my local Waterstones, I am sure they love me when they see me coming in. The way I have been looking at it for the last few years is that I don’t have any other expensive vices; fast cars, drugs, drink, cigarettes, travelling first class, expensive holidays I am but a simple soul and content with book, cup of tea and piece of cake (less said about the cake at the mo!). So why should I not add more to my collection of books to give me a wider variety to choose from.

They all go off to different homes once read by me, various friends, friends of friends, neighbours, book club attendees, work colleagues and the charity shop so they have a good life once they have left me. Enough of the justifying – what did I get.

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From the top down:

Penelope – Rebecca Harrington. Apologies but I cannot remember where I spotted this book, but it was on my list and the bookseller said it was good and reminded her of herself at 18. Recommendation I am sure.

The Sweetness of Forgetting – Kristin Harmel. I actually fell in love with the cover of this book. It looked whimsical to me. And it had a bakery as a setting so what is not to love!

The Disappearance of Emily Marr – Louise Candlish. Again another book which caught my eye by the cover, the blurb on the back and the first couple of pages.

The Vintage Teacup Club – Vanessa Greene. This has been on my radar for ages. When I saw how much Dot enjoyed it, I knew I had to catch up with reading it.

The Perfume Collector – Kathleen Tessaro. I have read one of this author’s books before – The Débutante. This sounded delightful and intriguing all at the same time. A dual narrative novel, set in Paris and New York.

The Summer House – Santa Montefiore. I am a fan of this author’s novels and this was really picked up because it was on the buy one get half price table and I needed another one to get the deal and I know I will enjoy what I read.

Touch not the Cat – Mary Stewart. I was a bit miffed when I went to my local library that they did not have any Mary Stewart. I wanted to read another one, ready for the Mary Stewart week . This was a bookseller recommendation for the summer in my shop so I was mighty grateful to spot it.

Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer. Similar to the book above I was also miffed that there was no Georgette Heyer novels in the library either. I set myself the challenge of reading one at some point this year and thought that as it was way into August,  should really be doing something about it. So I have bought a book…….

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez. Again this was a book that caught my eye from the cover of the novel. It is the story of a coffee shop in the heart of Afghanistan. This is a fictional début novel from the author.

Alex – Pierre Lemaitre. The reason for this book was that it was plastered all over the front of the store as the book to be reading this summer. It has also been summed up by Simon on his blogtoo! I suppose I was a sheep and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop – Abby Clements. I read this author’s short story at Christmas, The Christmas Bake Off and whilst I did not think reading her Christmas novel Meet me under the Mistletoe was the right for the time of year I was delighted to see a much more suitable book for the summer! This book is not pictured, because I had already started it by the time I got round to the picture.

So there you go, I am hoping that some of these will feature on the blog soonest. Do let me know if you have read any of them and how you found them. And as for buying any more books well………..

Cooking · Jottings · Witterings

Merry Christmas

Christmas Present* – Chocolate Guinness Cake with a Christmas Twist

If you have escaped from the melee of wrapping paper, noisy toys, awful television and warring relatives then may I take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas.

If you haven’t escaped from any of that then the sentiment still stands and I hope you and yours are having a peaceful day. Plenty of books I hope?

*Recipe by Nigella, Made & Decorate by Me, Eaten by my boss!

Books

The Christmas Bake-Off – Abby Clements

Tapping into two markets at this time of year Christmas and Baking brings us this little short story by Abby Clements – The Christmas Bake Off.

Rachel just wants to win something and be recognised for her efforts for once. John is perhaps having a go but his skill is putting together flat pack furniture than a cake and then there is Katie who has a reputation to uphold as she bakes for a living and wants to be talent spotted for her baking by the famous TV baker – Joe Carmichael.

Things do not go to plan in fact there are some suspicious ingredients in it. True colours are shown and well you will just have to read to find out what happens.

A quick Christmas read to get you in the mood for some more Christmas themed reading and if not then some baking at least!

 

Books

November Roundup

Wow – you blink and we are at the end of November! What a girly November I have had reading wise and spending time with my mum for my birthday as well – afternoon tea at Fortnum and Masons is a must now for us from now on! And the cakes were just delicious and we did not even get to the other trolley full of them to try.

So it was a month of mouth-watering all round which cleverly leads me into themed reading which was by pure accident as I reflect back on the month! The Chocolate Money – Ashley Prentice Norton was more about lots of other things than actual chocolate! Now you are going to need chocolate to make Fudge Cupcake Murder – Joanne Fluke which was a return to cosy crime for me, these are rather an indulgence at the moment. But then baking is an indulgence which I would love to do more of and The Christmas Bake Off – Abby Clements* was where it could all come together.

Food of a sort features strongly in The Villa Girls – Nicky Pellegrino. If you love good Italian food this will make your mouth water without any of it going to your hips! I promise.

Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies  – ed. by Hallie Rubenhold is the place to find those ‘certain’ types of ladies that could probably do marvellous things with their hips providing their teeth were clean! A requirement it seems in this little guide. A great historical diversion.

The only historical novel you could say for this month (note to self – I must read more historical fiction) was Mary Stewart – Thornyhold. Set just after the war and with the character of a house as well in the pages, this was going to be a hit for me and it was. I will be reading more Mary Stewart I am sure in the future, well I hope so anyway!

New authors came with Marika Cobbold – Drowning Rose this month. This is a wonderful book and having heard Marika talk about the book at an author event back in July, I cannot believe I took so long to pick the book up and read it. Again, more of her books will be making their way to my shelves soon I hope. (Not that there is much room on my shelves!)

Familiar author’s besides Joanne Fluke went to Dawn French – oh Dear Silvia her second novel and very different from the first! It will be interesting to see what she comes up with next because this was not as good as her debut for me. 

As November comes to end everyone must be thinking about Christmas, well actually you could have been thinking about it since September when stuff started arriving in the shops. I bet Santa has been planning for ages if he can take his mind off all the wish lists and he has with Scarlett Bailey – Santa Maybe*. A great short Christmas story to get you in the mood, and another new author to add to my ever growing list!

So that was November, there were some short stories scattered through the month and no real crime as such as I don’t count cosy crime as ‘real’ crime. I also finally give up on reading Letters Between Six Sisters – ed. Charlotte Mosley* which I have had out of the library for nearly 5 months now, I did not want to, but felt I had was not going to get any further than I did with it. Hopefully my review will make sense of what I thought.

I end the month reading Louise Douglas – In Her Shadow which is rather gripping and resonates something of Drowning Rose which I can see similarities of but there is something of the unknown hiding in that shadow and I need to get to the end and find out what it is, so if you will excuse me…….

* Book review yet to appear on this blog.

Books

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder – Joanne Fluke

At last Lake Eden is warm – in the first three books it has been winter and much as I love the snow – I thought it never warmed up there. But now it is warm – very warm and Hannah and the local community are celebrating the Fourth of July! What could possibly happen or go wrong?

Well a murder could put a different slant on things?

And so it does, but it is not Hannah who finds the body but her mother, Delores and to make it even worse it is in the property that Norman, a close friend of Hannah’s has bought so he can demolish it to build a dream house!

In fact the dream house that both he and Hannah designed. Does he have an ulterior motive? And will Hannah eventually make her mind up between Norman and detective Mike who has rather a jealous streak when it comes to Hannah. As the books go on,  I much prefer Norman – something about Mike makes me suspicious!

So what else can Hannah do but investigate this death, especially as at the crime scene is found one of her Lemon Meringue Pies she sells. But Hannah and her business partner Lisa cannot remember selling the victim one.

Upfront this time with the police, she starts to ask questions. It seems the victim knew a lot of people and for all sorts of different reasons. And it is the most unlikely people who have a connection to her, and Hannah has some difficult questions to ask from people she holds in great respect. In the meantime her contribution for the 4th July BBQ continues as does keeping  The Cookie Jar going.

Regular characters are there, and we now have the addition of Hannah’s sister Michelle who returns from college and brings her own take on things and adds an extra dynamic to the relationship that all three sisters have with their mother, Delores.  There is something reassuring about these novels and they have gentle rhythm, you know that good will overcome evil. Along the way there are some strong community minded people who are contributing to Lake Eden, to make it a good place to live as well as be a tourist. What more could you want from a cosy crime novel – which is where I place these books. I look forward to visiting again.

I read this book straight after reading book 3 which was my last review on the site. And probably because they are on my kindle, it was easy just to start the next one, especially when I finish one in the night and it is so easy to carry on with the kindle. I manage to balance it somehow so I can keep my arms warm and under the covers to carry on reading all without having to turn the page. I am not sure though that this is a unique selling point for ereaders. 

I resisted starting book 5, in the main because there are so many other books I want to be reading, but I can see that it will not be too long before I pick one up again. And I really must get and make some of the cookie recipes as well. Reading these do the diet no good! 

Books

Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues – Trisha Ashley

Tansy returns to her home village and her Great Aunt, after the break up of a relationship, betrayal of siblings and having her self confidence and worth knocked out of her. Retreating back to Sticklepond to try and repair all that is broken with her life. Where there are people there who love her for all her quirkiness, whether it be clothing, work or passion for baking.

Tansy decides to bring to life her own Cinderella dream of opening a shoe shop that sells bridal shoes only, traditional, vintage and all that goes with it. As the business builds and “Here Comes the Bride” plays as the door opens to this new venture. However the past is not far behind, when an ex-love, Ivo moves in next door, now a ‘resting’ actor who has taken time out for a peaceful six months suddenly finds in the middle of a lot of romance from the shop door sounding and the peal of wedding bells. His gruff manner is appeased by walking Tansy’s dog and her baking the obsessive need to feed him up.

This is a modern day Cinderella tale– Tansy the main protagonist has the step-sisters, Marcia and Rae who are more than unpleasant they are so awful that I took an instant dislike to them as their characters almost came off the page; I had an overwhelming desire to smack them for their actions. For a while you perhaps think that Justin, a dashing doctor is Prince Charming but in fact he is the toad that all princesses have to kiss before finding their prince. He is on a par with the step sisters, and whilst some could admire his dogged determination in trying to win back Tansy, you do wonder how an intelligent man could not understand the clear message that Tansy was giving him. Tansy loses faith in ever finding Prince Charming; but then perhaps he comes in a different form that Tansy never believed.

There are many sub plots in this book some work and are weaved in well with the story; Bella, who is not looking for romance but it rings at the door. Tansy’s Great Aunt (Nan) Nancy who not only leaves her the family shoe shop but also an oral history of her life and past secrets on her own romantic notions of the past and how sisters were an unpleasant two generations ago. An interesting contrast you could say. Other sub plots jarred rather; the threat of an out of town outlet shopping centre was dropped in the story and seemed to be sorted out so quickly that it became irrelevant to the rest of the plot. For me it did not need to be there or needed to be developed a bit more to make more of an impact. Perhaps it would have fitted better in a sequel once Tansy and the shoe sop had been established? Ivo’s constant voice speaking in Shakespearean quotes was irritating although perhaps that was to be the point? Nonetheless it did not give him the depth that I perceive it was intended to do.

That said Trisha Ashley is on top form with this novel, and I loved it. Much escapism with old fashioned courtship and romance. Plenty of mouth watering descriptions of food, made me want to get up and bake. I want to live in Sticklepond and be part of it all. Familiar characters from her previous Sticklepond based novel Chocolate Wishes are featured and there is a wonderful familiarity about it all which makes it a great comforting read. A good Trisha Ashley novel to start with and if you are a fan you will appreciate the warmth and the gentle humour that is sprinkled throughout – rather like icing on a cake!

Read my review of Chocolate Wishes here 

I am working my way through Trisha Ashley novels and I could not wait for the new one to be released. It came at a time when I needed that wonderful feeling of curling up with a good book and forgetting what was going on outside of the pages. Which is why I think I can give it five stars on Amazon even though there were parts that I did not necessarily like which I have commented in my review above. It has certainly piqued my interest in baking again, not that it had really gone away –  It was just the scales once on them tells me something completely different.

Coming Up on this blog – Trisha Ashley answers some questions on her books and writing.