Tuesday 29 June 2021

Catching up on reviews

Still very behind with book reviews so this is another quick catch-up post.

First up, A Quiet Month in the Country by T.E. Kinsey. This is my 6th. book for Marg's Historical Fiction challenge.

It's 1908 and Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence Armstrong, have retired to the countryside. They have purportedly lived quite a colourful life: you get hints as the book goes along of them being stranded in China and having to make their way to India on their own. Anyway, they think they're moving to get a quiet life but naturally it doesn't work out that way after they find a body hanging from a tree in the woods. They get involved in the investigation and Inspector Sunderland, the officer in charge, is content to let them help solve this mystery involving murder, missing jewels, engagements and even cricket. This was a light, fun read which I enjoyed more for the banter between the two women than anything else. It's clear their relationship is not the traditional employer/maid one as they've been through an awful lot together. Lady Hardcastle is nothing if not eccentric and Florence is into martial arts so that makes the whole thing even more intriguing and I plan to read on in the series to find out more about these two women.


Next, Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen. This is my 7th. book for Marg's Historical Fiction challenge.

Isabella Waverly is witness to a road accident on the streets of London  and the  young woman involved dies as Bella tries to comfort her. In her hand the woman is holding a letter which Bella reads and sees is a letter of introduction to the kitchens of Buckingham Palace. The dead woman, Helen Barton, was about to take up a position as an under cook there. Unhappy in her own position as a cook in another household, Bella decides to become Helen and thus begins quite an adventure. It eventually  sees her in the south of France, learning the secrets of French cuisine from the head chef of Queen Victoria's custom-built hotel in Nice. It also sees her desperate to keep the secret of her real identity, that of a daughter to an aristocratic father who lost everything due to alcohol and who, penniless, had to go into service. And then one of the royal family's German relations is poisoned and things become even more complicated than they already are because Bella is now one of the suspects. This is my first book by popular author, Rhys Bowen. I found it very readable, if slightly far-fetched, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. I loved the setting of the French Riviera, Queen Victoria was well drawn and all of the details of her household were as I have read from non-fiction books. I loved the descriptions of  the huge meals and how they were prepared - no expense spared! There was enough in the way of intrigue and secrets to keep me happy and all in all I enjoyed this one very much. 


Lastly a non-fiction book, Faring to France on a Shoe by Val Poore.

It's 2008 and the author, Valerie Poore and her partner, Koos, who live in Rotterdam, buy a secondhand barge. I can't remember now whether they named it the Hennie-Ha, or it was already called that, whatever... Unfortunately it turns out to be in not quite the good nick they thought and they sort of put it to one side and forget about it. Eventually the problems are fixed and in 2016 they decide on a trip, they go 'faring to France on a shoe'... 'shoe' because that's what a bystander shouted out one day as they went past, referring to the appearance of the boat. Anyway, they set out from Rotterdam, travelled across Belgium and into France heading for Cambrai, a town in the Hauts de France region of Northern France (just south of Lille). It's not an area you read much about in books that deal with France, Provence, Brittany, the Dordogne, yes, but not northern France. So it was a real pleasure to read something a bit different and I love books about people travelling on canals, so this was right up my street. Val is a super writer (I've read her Watery Ways so I knew that already) and it was sheer joy to accompany her and Koos as they meandered along so many different canals and through so many towns to reach their destination. I'm full of admiration for her can-do attitude too. She admitted to being terrified of the gaps between the barge and the sides of the locks, and the subsequent climb to the canal-side. I'm not surprised, so would I be! But she grits her teeth and gets on with it. She often found herself cycling for miles to pick up supplies and one story of how she did it in searing heat on a bike with a serial flat tyre astonished me. This a delightful read. Such gorgeous descriptions of the peace and tranquility of their journey and the cameraderie with the people they meet on the canal. And when they turned for home and she felt sad, I did too, quite bereft to be honest and that really is a sign of good writing. I look forward to reading more of Val's lovely books... in fact she has a sequel to this book, Faring Forth Again on the Shoe, newly released. I shall be reading it.

I wish I could say that brings me up to date but it doesn't. So, more soon!


Lark said...

All of these books sound good. I love a good historical mystery, and more light-hearted ones are so perfect for summer reading. And you know I also love a humorous and interesting travel memoir. So that'll be going on the list, too. :D

Vallypee said...

Many, many thanks for reading my book, Cath. I am so pleased you enjoyed it. Your other two reviews have now added two more books to my list! I especially enjoy good dialogue and banter, so A Quiet Life in the Country will definitely be one for me!

Sam said...

These all sound good, Cath, but I'm particularly taken with the boating book, I think, because I so badly want to get back on the road again and do a little exploring of my own. I almost always love books like this one where one long trek is described stop-by-stop because the best of them make the reader feel as if he's along on the trip.

With any luck, my youngest grandson (19) and I will be hitting the road in late July to do a little exploring of several states north and northwest of us here on Texas's eastern border. I haven't made any plans yet...but then I never do...much preferring to take it one day at a time and letting the road take me where it thinks I need to be.

Cath said...

Lark: They were all good, I seem to be lucky at the moment with my choice of books. Either that or I've got better this year at pinpointing books I'll enjoy. LOL I like a bit of light summer reading too.

Val: The pleasure was all mine. We can't really go on holiday at the moment so it's really nice to do it via a really good travel memoir. I hope you enjoy the other two books if you get to them.

Sam: Val's book really will transport you to the canals of The Netherlands, Belgium and France and you'll feel very much like you're along for the trip.

We miss exploring holidays too, we've done some good ones in the past. The best ones are whhere you just get in the car and follow your nose. I do hope you get to go on your roadtrip with your grandson and that you take pics and post them on your blog.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I haven't read any of these but they all sound good to me.

Susan said...

I've never read anything by Bowen, but her books seem like ones I would like. I need to give her a go sometime soon.

Mystica said...

I love Rhys Bowen's writing and try to keep up to date with whatever is around. The Val Poore book fascinates me. At least vicariously I'd like to follow those adventures.

Cath said...

Diane: Yes, as I said to Lark, I seem to have become very good at pinpointing books I will really like, and also much better at abandoning books I don't after 30 or 40 pages.

Susan: Bowen seems to be hugely popular at the moment and she has a long list of published books too. I have several more on my Kindle but this one appealed because of the themes of cooking, Queen Victoria and the south of France.

Mystica: I plan to read more by Rhys Bowen and luckily have several more on my Kindle. If you try Fairing to France I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Nan said...

I have read all the Lady Hardcastle books, and so enjoy them. I've just begun a series you might like by Jack Murray. The first book is called The Affair of the Christmas Card killer. I don't usually read Christmas books this time of year, but I couldn't resist.
I have some kind of mental obstruction in understanding locks. I just can't seem to get the whole water movement thing. ;<)) I think people are very brave traveling as in your last book.

TracyK said...

I still haven't read anything by Rhys Bowen, although I do have a copy of In Farleigh Field. Above the Bay of Angels sounds like a good read, although I probably would agree with your description of far-fetched. I think I would like A Quiet Life In The Country most for the setting.

R's Rue said...

The nonfiction book by Val Poore sounds like a book I would enjoy. Thank you for sharing. I’m about to order it. Have a great evening.

CLM said...

These all sound fun. I have never read Rhys Bowen but read the Jungle Red Writers blog which she contributes to. Funny how I am suddenly aware of lots of books about barges! I read one years ago by Katie Fforde, whose books I always enjoy but there seem to be quite a few recent ones.

Did you review something recently set in Provence? I was looking for some fiction for my mother's birthday and now can't find whatever it was I read about a book I had meant to purchase.

Cath said...

Nan: A friend of mine loves the Lady Hardcastle books too (in fact she was the one who recommended them to me) so what with you and her, it's enough to make me carry on with the books. I'll look into the Jack Murray books, not an author I'm familiar with.

Oh don't worry, locks are a mystery to me too! I also think people are very brave in their travelling. I recently read about a couple who took into their heads to cycle around the world....

Tracy: This is my first book by Rhys Bowen too. They are easy, light reads for when you're in the mood for that kind of thing. Not to be taken too seriously in the way of plot. LOL

Yes, the setting of A Quiet Life in the Country was quite idyllic really.

Cath said...

R's Rue: I highly recommend Val's barging books, they're lovely for those of us who can't go anywhere at the moment.

Constance: The Jungle Red Writers sounds like an interesting thing, I shall have to search that out.

Yes, there are actually quite a few barging books around at the moment. One series I love is by Terry Darlington who wrote about canal trips in the UK and to France and the USA (they did the South-East seaboard which I had not known existed).

I did read a book about Provence recently, Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman, which I reather enjoyed.