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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Friday, September 23, 2016

Triads and trying times!

Mysteries beyond the Orient Express! Enthralling!

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford. 


Set in 1928, the story opens later years with Agatha Christie, now a grandmother, being visited by a young man. He has with him a photograph of Agatha and two other women. One is his mother. He wants to know more about them, and in doing so, find out more about himself. He is convinced there is a mystery surrounding them that affects him. Agatha shares their story.
Meshing together fact and fiction Ashford has crafted a wonderful story depicting a painful part of Agatha Christie's life. This rather haunting and beautifully wrought story deals with the time after Agatha's  mysterious disappearance and subsequent painful divorce from her husband Archie.
Agatha travels to Bagdad via the Orient Express. It is on this trip that she meets two woman who will become important friends. Katherine is an archaeologist on her way to a dig in Ur. Nancy is a young woman, confused because of her lover's treatment. She is on her way to spend time with her cousin in Bagdad.
Ashford brings to life Agatha's journey, the exoticness of the sights and smells of the bazaars, the desert and the dig at Ur. The interplay between the three women is fascinating.
On this trip a very real life drama unfolds before Agatha's eyes, that transcends the fiction of her novels. 
I love the voice of Hercules Poroit  occasionally popping into Agatha's head. Directing her. He is like her inner self pointing the way.
A fascinating look into the life and legend that was Agatha Christie told compellingly in the first person cleverly blending fact and fiction. 

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A culinary journey!



Obviously Naomi Pomeroy has led a life dedicated to food and cooking.
A cook's cook if you will.
This is not just a simple cookbook, it's an explanation of the balance of ingredients that bring forth the best in each other. In this way it's fantastic. This was the part I enjoyed the most.
Her narrative of her journey into all things culinary is amazing. Her story is an inspiration. The idea of meal 'happenings' where the first eight to answer are invited, where people jostle for a coveted entree into the dinner prepared for that night is crazy wonderful. It's like crowd sourcing and flash happenings all rolled into one. Exciting times!
I found the explanations of recipes throughout the book balanced and well presented. I will also admit to the fact that I do not devote the time to dishes that Pomeroy does and that's where I might hesitate. There are however recipes that I found exciting and lavish in their simplicity.
For those who are through and through foodies this is a book to enjoy and savour.
For those like me who mostly exist on the quick grilled something and salad, this is a book to add to the shelves and dabble in from time to time as the moment takes.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Monday, September 12, 2016

Murder and might!

Santorini Caesars: A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery 

(Andreas Kaldis #8) by Jeffrey Singer



A young demonstrator racing for sanctuary at the university grounds of Athens is chased by police in balaclavas and gunned down steps from safety. There is an uproar!
Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is called in to investigate. What was needless police brutality appears to be something very different.  Given more credence when it's discovered that this is the child of a Brigadier. Kaldis' investigations lead to intrigue and planning at the very highest level, with possible international connections. The new government is not acting as it'd promised. Contemplation of a military coup is on the cards. Kaldis reflects, 'Maybe his grandfather was right. If politicians are involved, there’s no hope for change. They’re all alike.'
Alerted to a hush hush military conference on the island of Santorini, Kaldis' team races there ahead of the attendees to set intelligence gathering equipment in place. What they learn there does little to calm their fears. But how is this related to the murder? That is the puzzle!
One of his team members, Petro, becomes entranced by the vivacious daughter of a local restauranteur, Sappho. Their story makes for a lively sideline.
Kaldis' reflections and explanations of Greece's internal political workings and relations with its neighbours are informative.
The descriptions of the island of Santorini and the delights of the food make me want to catch the next plane to Greece. 
Alleviated by moments of family comings and goings, the action continues right to the end.
An intriguing read!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Spell binding! Elegant!


The superlatives reviewers have lavished on this novel are well deserved. This is an enthralling, all consuming  window into life in Moscow from the pre 1920's through to the 1950's, from Stalin and the Bolsheviks through to Nikita Khrushchev.   
We view the microcosm of what's happening in Russian history through the eyes of the man 'in the bubble' Count Alexander Rostov, who in 1922 was confined for life to the Metropol Hotel, across from the Kremlin, by a Bolshevik tribunal.
Mentored by his godfather and guardian, the Grand Duke Demidov, Alexander recalls the Grand Duke's words, 'if a man does not  master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.' These words mark the way Alex moves forward.
How the sophisticated, urbane Count Alex handles his incarceration is wonderfully told. His acquaintances are like a panoply of stars spread out beneath Alex's new sky, the ceiling of the Metropol.
His meeting with, and continued relationship with the fascinating child Nina, the harsh realities of the changes in the  politburo, the advancement of small minded individuals like the inept waiter the Bishop, contrasted to the kindliness of some of the more urbane true believers. 
Of the many friends Alex makes amongst hotel staff four stand out; Andrey, the maître d’ of the Boyarsky Restaurant, Emile the chief, Vasily the concierge and Marina the hotel seamstress.
His world, in one fell swoop narrowed, is in reality enlarged through the people he becomes acquainted with. There are his friends from the past. The angst of his writer friend Mishka, an expert on Chekov. And not to be disregarded a new friend, the actress Anna Urbanova.
There's Nina the young girl who grows into a fervent young woman, typical of her generation committed to the communist ideals. Her fanatical absorption with change for the common good that at times prove disastrous reflecting the broad sweep of political, social and economic change that forgot to involve the people and it's way replaced one tyranny with another.
A startling set of circumstances give him Sofia, the child he was to mind for a month, the daughter he unexpectedly acquires. She brings light and meaning to his life.
Abram the handyman he encounters on the roof and from whom he learns the secrets of coffee and the miracle of the bees. A wonderful interlude that helps Alex retain his equilibrium.
And the others, Osip Ivanovich Glebnikov, a former colonel of the red army, a Party man who comes to Alex to be educated in understanding the privileged classes of those countries Russia wants to enter into economic and political discussions with. England, France and America...and how they view the world.  The American psyche needed to be understood. For over fifteen years they read literature, discussed and watched films together. Their run down on Casablanca is superb.
A life lived within the confines of the hotel that Alex somehow ironically lived to the full, discovering new emotional truths, new revelations.Layers within layers are revealed within the story like the Russian nesting dolls Alex at one time unwraps, layers of meaning and revelation that are just as painstakingly and beautifully crafted.
This novel is pure poetry, gift wrapped in vivid and taut prose.
An amazing read!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fascinating!



A story in three parts sprung from the desert sands. Beaulieu refers to this as the little book that could. The way the three parts blend from one to the next is curiously masterful.
Çeda, known in the pits of the desert city of Sharakhai as White Wolf, finds herself pitted against an ehrekh, a creature sprung from the whims of the God of chaos.
When Brama Junayd'ava steals Çeda's purse she rectifies the situation, yet Osman takes her to task for toying with Brama. He points out to her that her ego is involved and as a pit fighter that can't happen. 
The ehrekh Rümayesh draws Çeda in, to steal her dreams, the window to her soul, Çeda knows fear, and knows that she must find a way to destroy Rümayesh. Çeda cannot allow Rümayesh entree. The emotional battle to lead Rümayesh away from her deepest thoughts and secrets, to avoid enslavement is intense.
Unfortunately in the melee, Brama becomes involved, joined to Rümayesh. Çeda must try to separate the two. In doing so she further endangers her very being. 
This little book certainly can.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Soup up your life!


Accompanied by wonderfully, colorful and artistic photography that draws you in and makes you itch to start cooking these soups really feel like they can take you away to a healthy magical place.
There's more to the many 'chicken soup' stories than meets the eye and in Clean Soups we are reminded of the nourishment that is there for the taking, the road to health.      
Katz talks of watching her mother and grandmother make soups, 
'creating culinary wonders in a flame-enamelled Le Creuset pot. The soups they made were magic. I have always felt better after having a cup or bowl, and I knew instinctively that soup had the power to heal.'
Well I know I love my Le Creuset pots, (so that statement won me over right away) and if your like me and am enamoured of all things soup, then this book should become a favourite on your shelf. Soups do harken back to that childhood place of comfort and well being.
There's several basic stocks, including one to help with your body's immunity. 
From there the sky's the limit.
I was drawn to the Mulligatawny (one of hubby's fav's) and as I adore all pumpkin soups I am looking forward to the cooler weather and testing these out. Mind you tomato soup is as as ever a must-have standby. In our home tomato soup was the equivalent of chicken soup.
I must admit that I always find Ten Speed Press publications interesting and somewhat different, and Clean Soups is another winner.

A NetGalley ARC

*****