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Friday, April 20, 2018

King's Company by Jessamy Taylor

I avoided history of the mid 1200s because I inevitably found them humdrum, hard and relentlessly harsh.

This story was harsh all right but the story telling of William, a young second son of a manor who dreamt of becoming a knight, fighting wars, winning glory but was in reality only looking after the pigs or helping out in the fields and who always was hungry because the harvests were always never quite enough. He knew the responsibilities for his brother Richard were enormous but Richard never sought adventure the way he did.

A chance encounter with Phillip who he rescued and offered a safe stay with turned into something much much more. It would have been eventually described as treason but the road to it was so full of adventure, so convoluted and so much on the off chance as it were that it could be considered a fairy story!

Going from being part of the Kings most ardent supporters to turning against the King was never in William's mind. The fact that it happened, that it got the blessing of his family was beyond belief and it was a story that kept one enthralled from beginning to end.

Not in the least humdrum, not boring but an adventure throughout!

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Endeavour Press.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs

I liked that the story was similar to current events and that it was incorporated very smoothly into a story.

Sunday Night is ex cop and ex military and is now retired. She was very good at her job and that is why she is being sought by a very arrogant millionaire to find out what has happened to her grand daughter who she believes is alive after a bomb explosion which killed her mother and brother.

Working with her twin brother Gus who is bubbly and smooth, the opposite of Sunnie they have very few clues to start with. However, the people who start sniffing around obviously know more of what Sunnie is looking for and this is all she needs to start.

Through clever deduction and sound intelligence work Sunnie begins the hard job of trying to find Grace. Whether Grace wants to be reconciled with her grandmother however is another story. Having to confront her own past whilst looking for the girl is another thing that Sunnie did not account for.

Fast paced, going back and forth between the girl and Sunnie's own schemes you had to concentrate on this read to know what was going on.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Random House UK. Cornerstone. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Love of Finished Years by Gregory Erich Phillips

Pre WWI immigration was obviously as hard as it is now. Escaping Germany a family arrives in the US. Elsa and Sonja are the two girls in the family and they know that in their father's eyes they are second best to their baby brother. With the sudden death of their brother, their father disappears never to be seen again and Nina and the two girls are on their own.

Not knowing the language and finding everything strange to them, they settle down to a life of unrelenting struggle and hardship. All find jobs of the most menial kind but Elsa knows that if she is to get ahead she has to get some form of education and how she is going to get this whilst working full time is hard. But she perseveres and gets it. A fair knowledge of English to begin with and this along with her determination to succeed pushes her slowly but surely out of the bottom rung of the ladder.

Whilst her sister Sonja finds happiness in marriage, Elsa who is a plain girl plans her career as a maid and a translator for German documents for a businessman. The encounter with the family carves out a relationship with the teenage daughter of the family and it is this that is going to be the pivot of Elsa's future. Going through WWI and America's entry into the war turns everything around for Elsa who finds herself without a job, finding a German surname a hindrance of the most dangerous kind and being a maid to the frivolous Dafne who just whiles away her time waiting for the war to end.

The story of Elsa ends happily fortunately (I was glad after all the years of struggle!). Full of detail about the immigrants plight in this time and the sweat shops and factories in the cities and then descriptive of America's entry into the war the story was a piece of history as well as a family story.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Sillan Pace Brown. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak

In the 1950s Louisiana did not seem such a nice place to be. Unless you were white and then in control. Ginny was a child of a prison guard who met an untimely end. His killer went to the electric chair for his murder but Ginny knew that there was something off about the sentencing.

After her father's death and many intervening years, Ginny herself finds work in the prison where her father worked as a cook. She is particularly renowned for catering to the last meal of those on death row despite there being a lot of opposition to the practice. Her relationship with the present warden of the prison does not do either of them any favours and both Ginny and Roscoe finds themselves on the receiving end of a lot of antagonism and resentment.

Ginny is an emotional, sensitive soul. She also feels that justice should be done and the penal system of the time does not mete out any justice for those in the system. The brutality of the guards or the fellow prisoners and the supervisors turning a blind eye to all that went on under their eyes was something Ginny could not tolerate. That she had no recourse and no one who would listen to her was of course another story.

The story was harsh, unrelenting and unforgiving. It did not leave room in the system for someone who was kind or who was wanting what was right to be done. It also obviously is also a piece of history as this may have been the system of all prisons in the country at the time. Unpalatable but true.

I enjoyed reading this story despite its harshness.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Kensington Books.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Forgotten Children by Anita Davison

Part of a series and part historical fiction and part of an ongoing detective series, Flora has been involved with the police before in a murder investigation. Now Flora is married very happily to Bunny and has a very young baby. Very comfortably off her existence is far removed from the extreme poverty in London and the sleaziness of the slums.

An invitation to St. Philomena's Hospital for children depicts a different side of the fate of children in London to both Flora and Bunny. Children from deprived homes who are sick and who because of their very poor environment have very little hopes of recovering from some of their ailments. Meeting the Matron in charge of St. Philomena's also brings a spark of a memory to Flora though it is only later that she can pin her thoughts down to a specific one.

Following the visit Flora and Bunny are notified that young children are disappearing in London and no one seems to know where they end up. The police are not bothered by it as domestic issues like this at the time are considered family matters and cannot be prosecuted. No one seems to be willing to listen to them, that something is amiss specially since the Salvation Army seems to be involved. The Salvation Army works amongst the poor and are seen as just one of the few organisations trying to help the poor.

With the help of friends and the support of the Matron Flora and Bunny unearth a plot of far reaching ramifications. Trying to save the children taken so far puts them all in a dangerous situation from which they manage to escape with the children intact and all the villains under lock and key.

The book was an eye opener as to living conditions amongst ordinary folk in London in the early 1900s. It also highlighted the indifference of the rich to these conditions and very few took any interest in trying to help in any way possible. Those who did were not looked at very favourably either, which I found strange.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Aria, this was a very intriguing read.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Harriet is orphaned with no relatives and all alone and now desperate. She has got in with a loan shark who is charging her exorbitant interest and has now threatened her with violence if she does not pay up.

A letter from a solicitor asking her to attend the death of a grandmother she did not know about and the possibility of an inheritance is so tempting that she makes the tedious journey with her last bit of money to find out what it is all about. She knows she is not the Harriet Westaway that the lawyer is talking about and on meeting the three sons of the late Mrs. Westaway she is very quickly able to find out what the entire story is about. It seems obvious who she is but it is only at the end that the tables are turned and the actual story is revealed.

The idea of manipulation from beyond the grave is paramount in this. Malice and sheer devilment as it were to cause tension between the three sons when it comes about that Harriet is the main beneficiary. The eeriness of the surroundings, the fallen down dilapidation of the house and the eccentricity of the housekeeper all add to the heightened tensions of the story that builds to not one climax but a couple.

How the past can eventually catch up with you, secrets hidden for decades come out, and a rectification done which could not be done when alive but better late than never is slowly told and in stages. The story is full of suspense because you do know revelations are going to come about but they come from unexpected places and this is what interests the reader the most and keeps their interest going.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Random House UK Vintage Publishing. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Letters to Iris by Elizabeth Noble

The blurb spoke about love in all its forms and this is perfectly true of this story. The main thread is the immense affection and love that Tess has for her grandmother Iris who was the mainstay of her life in the absence of her mother and father and they were a mutual admiration society for each other. Until now. Iris has early onset dementia and moving her into a home is the only option available.

On top of it all Tess's own relationship with Sean is on the rocks with an unexpected pregnancy and going back to mother is a reluctant option considering their strained relationship over the years.
This is the beginning of the story. Unraveling further we have other characters coming into the story inter twining with the main character Tess and bringing with it parallel love stories of differing kinds. A marriage on the rocks after forty years, the difficulty of getting into a new relationship, the beautiful relationship unexpected and not often found between a mother in law and her daughter in law and the late blossoming of love and respect between an estranged daughter and mother.

It was a story with a very happy ending which was expected but it was not silly or fatuous. It made for a story well told.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Penguin UK Michael Joseph.