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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Death in the Castle by Pearl S Buck



I've always associated Pearl Buck with stories set in China so this was a nice turn up for the books.
An ancient castle, a very English old couple, a butler and jack of all trades and his daughter Kate loyal stalwarts and the brash American who wants to buy the castle and transfer it (naturally) to Connecticut! His reasoning is that there are more people there who will appreciate the paintings he intends to hang in the castle converted to a museum.

You knew you were going in blind in this one. Very early on there are lots of fantasies being played out, especially with the older couple who seem to live in years gone by in the actual times of Kings and the part that the family played in whatever role they did. The fact that they thought the sale was a straight forward one with the castle merely changing hands not changing places was an added twist to the story.

The novel was not a mystery thriller for me in the real sense but it did make for interesting historical fiction. The characters were a little too defined for me, with Kate the maid not acting or speaking like a maid at all. However the interest in the story was the castle, its history, its future and the bit of romance that was evolving as we went along.

Sent to me by Open Road Integrated Media through Netgalley, for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Charlie's Wives by Simon Luckhurst



The year 1864 is turbulent in America. Charlie has returned seemingly unscathed but PTSD and depression are unknown at the time and on the surface he seems fine. He is psychologically scarred by the effects of war - the death and for him needless dying of thousands has hit him hard. Much harder than those of his fellow soldiers. To them he seems delicate, sensitive and these are qualities unknown to them.  This puts Charlie at a disadvantage.  They look at him with slight disdain and also suspicion.

Charlie is assigned a role to find African Americans to serve. To recruit them he is given an incentive payment but it is not enough and Charlie finds that talking to the African American women may be the key to getting the men to enlist. Whilst he is successful in doing this, it is misrepresented by his commanding officer who is a boor and a coward who tries to undermine Charlie's efforts at every turn.

Charlie helps the women by writing for them. Letters to their husbands giving details of their homes and children and their own feelings because he knows how much he longed for letters himself from his mother and sisters when he was on the battlefield. He also reads the letters that come back from the husbands and through this interchange, Charlie builds up relationships with the women who are quite distant from the other white men of the camp.

Charlie is an outstanding man of the times. Sensitive and compassionate and compared with the others of his camp he is such a good man. Not appreciated of course by his seniors or his peers who do not quite understand him.

Characterizations was spot on throughout the book and the story was a good one, highlighting a part of the war where African Americans were an integral part of the war to win liberty at a time when such liberty was at risk.

The book is also a story based on true events.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Wild Rose Press Inc.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

Dear Amy

Margot Lewis is a columnist a sort of agony aunt for The Cambridge Examiner. She also teaches classics at a private school. Margot also has a chequered history which she has taken great pains to conceal as she knows if it gets out that is the end of her teaching career. Subject to mood swings and depression and bouts of lack of self confidence, I wondered how she was an agony aunt and teacher in the first place but as I said all this seemed well hidden at most times.

A girl from this school goes missing but there seems to be little hue and cry as it is assumed that she ran away from home - from a mother and a stepfather and all the implications from that sentence. Unfair but that was the way it went. Getting letters from a girl who went missing twenty years ago and who was presumed dead all these years opens up a new avenue for the police and the Missing Persons Unit. Building up a case from these letters and taking it a step at a time comes this strange thriller. Mystery, abduction of course and above all the twists and turns of the human mind.

The book was startling by the end, totally unexpected from my point of view and held me in thrall throughout.

Sent to me by Edelweiss for an unbiased review.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

all I ever wanted by Lucy Dillon




After a series of rather complicated mystery murders and thrillers, Lucy Dillon was a comfort read.

Two parallel stories for me- one a four year old Nancy exuberant, talkative full of life who one day becomes silent, so surreptitiously that her mother and father have to be told the facts by their elder son a little boy of nine. Patrick and Caitlin are so immersed in their divorce, their own lives and how they are going to live that they do not realise what is happening closer to home. Joel who was always attention seeking now becomes worse and Nancy goes deeper and deeper into her shell.

We then have Eva, Patrick's sister who is roped in as a chaperone and a place where both parents would be comfortable to leave their children. Eva is 45 has been married to a famous actor, recently widowed and childless. How she is going to cope with two children in an immaculate house is something Patrick selfishly does not even think about. Eva despite her doubts how she is going to cope, rallies beautifully. The children and Eva develop strong ties of warmth affection and family and this was wonderful to see.

The selfishness of both Caitlin and Patrick was also apparent and though the end of the story brought them to their senses it indicates how quickly even adults can forget about their responsibilities and duties.

An interesting story, with good characters and a nice setting.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Girl Before by J P Delaney




Told in two time frames Emma and Jane both get the opportunity to live in an architectural masterpiece. There are restrictions and regulations and limitations galore and the selection procedure is relentless and ruthless. Both women consider themselves privileged to get the opportunity to
live there.

The house is in itself rather strange, rather peculiar. Very modern in concept and design it is considered secure and unable to be broken into. Everything is digitally controlled and seems almost antiseptic in its design - not just structure but even furniture and fittings.

What follows when living in the house forms the crux of the story and what happens to Emma is both twisted and macabre not the least to do with her own personality and the relationship which developed between the architect and herself. The repetition of the story with Jane draws parallels and you begin to wonder whether history is going to repeat itself.

Alternating between the two women, very soon you realise that this is not going to end well and it is that, that keeps the reader on edge.

I received the book from Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Quercus Books.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

His Kidnapper's Shoes by Maggi James



Sad but not an uncommon tale. A baby kidnapped and brought up by a woman who conveniently forgets the kidnapping and in her mind he is her son.

In this case however there is unknown to the mother physical and sexual abuse by the stepfather and at the back of his mind Daniel knows that something is not quite right with his memories. He does not shrug it off like anyone else but he pursues it. memories of a young child of four and memories of two women totally unlike his mother. This is the beginning of the mystery he tries to unravel and unravel it does.

Having being forced to live a lie, Daniel now has to begin to process who he is, assimilate into a new family and by a strange coincidence lose the love of his life who just so happens to be a close relation. This was the only feature I found a bit too slick but the general book was an excellent read into the vagaries of human nature and what we would or won't do to satisfy simple human needs. Even to the detriment of everyone else, humans can be appallingly selfish.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel



Oh this was dark! very dark and it made you sit a bit on the edge of your seat throughout the read!

Very much in your face with the facts, nothing was quite hidden here despite the Southern charm.
Like all families, this one had its secret a very twisted one and one that had seeped through three generations of women. You didn't have to like this book you just had to know how it was going to end and the ending was a closure of sorts. I doubt you'd get closure with a subject like this but this is as far as it was going to go.

Very well told, strong characterization and plot this was a good book though the subject matter was distasteful. distressing even.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.