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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review - A Tudor Tragedy by Lacey Baldwin Smith

This is a mini review since I seem to have a bit of time to spare! Apart from the time as I mentioned before everything in the computer world has crashed and its a horrible feeling knowing that I am beholden to my daughter having to wait till she is free for me to grab her laptop! Definitely not a nice feeling.

This was a book which I picked up from a second hand bookshop in Colombo a while ago. It looked quite old and dusty and has been printed in 1961. The cover is mainly black, white and a touch of grey with an outline of Catherine Howard in the form of a jigsaw puzzle. It was the cover that pulled me in initially.

I have read quite a few books on the infamous Henry VIII and his wives but this book was totally different. It not only dealt with Henry and Catherine in particular but it dealt in depth with the life and times of the Tudor era. The way they lived, managed their estates - in fact all aspects of Tudor life which made the book interesting - the clothes they wore, the gargatun amounts of food they put away and even household accounts.

One is aware with the Tudor era of no surprises - most of the wives die anyway but the wheeler dealing which surrounded the king and his entourage is second to none of the very modern world.

The book was an interesting one for anyone who likes history not just the Tudors. I do not know whether the book is even published now - my copy is by the Alden Press.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book reading gaps and internet woes

My laptop has crashed, the mainframe computer has crashed and the one in office is painfully slow apart from being in office and not really conducive to blog hopping.

I have not had much reading done - snippets of Georgette Heyer in between stuff.
After an exhausting flight from Melbourne (I really am getting ancient) we now find ourselve readying ourselves for a hop across the Palk Straits to Chennai. Bridal shopping here we come. We need saris, sherwanis, gee gaws by the dozen plus clothes
for relations etc etc. Its a nice bunch. My husband, daughter, myself, my mother and my sister in law. All confirmed shopaholics. They will all shop till they drop.

I intend to get myself to Landmark (bookshop in Chennai) armed with lists and find my books pronto because otherwise I am going to be most unpopular if I dont join in the shopping. I have several books which are must reads - so that will be number one priority.

The food is another thing I look forward to in Chennai. We have a lot of good South Indian restaurants in Colombo but in Chennai it seems somehow just more authentic! Dosas, vadas, iddli and sambhar and alugobhi to die for! plus sweetmeats by the dozen. I need the sweets like a hole in my head but what the heck! we dont do weddings every day.

Books have had to take a back seat to wedding planning and I think it will be like this till end August.

I am visiting all my blog friends however and will post on them. Its just the reading that is not getting done.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Leaving Melbourne

An almost three month sojourn here in Melbourne is ending tomorrow. Am leaving
home to spend the night with friends who live a bit closer to the airport and then
catching tomorrow's evening flight to Colombo via Singapore.

The flight from Melbourne to Singapore is for me very tedious. Books don't help and
I am not a movies fan. Having said that I now try to watch back to back movies to pass
the time. Even though aisle seats have been reserved it is sometimes strange that on
check in that arrangement is completely overlooked and I dread if I find that I am in
a middle seat! I need to walk around and find that all the time asking someone to move
for me to slip out is extremely annoying for the person who is sitting next to me.

Weather here in Melbourne is chilly and I am going back to my hot and humid and presently rainy Sri Lanka. Am looking forward to going back home but I am extremely sorry this time to leave my daughter behind (the middle one) who is slap bang in the
middle of exams and her final semester. She is going to be all alone till my son returns from his month long vacation at home. It is a very sad situation because I really need to get back home and at the same time to leave this girl behind.

For a few days blogging will have to take a back seat unless I finish all the stuff
which has been piling up at home. I also have a wedding - both church and temple to organize - as this is the final bit for our eldest daughter's wedding.Looking forward very much to that as well.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Three short reviews - Elizabeth Peters Borrower of the Night, Pamela Oldfield's Early one Morning and Thrity Umrigar's If Today be Sweet

This is going to be a couple of short reviews as the books have been around for sometime. I am in my last week in Melbourne and trying to finish last minute tasks including a marathon cook up of curries for my daughter who says pasta is a last option for her! I love all kinds of pasta but she cant stand it.

The first review was the first Vicky Bliss murder mystery - Elizabeth Peters Borrower of the Night. I am glad I went to the first even though the books are not necessarily to be read in a specific order. It was not a huge mystery but interesting enough covering Switzerland, America, Germany and involved a wicked Aunt, a naive niece who turned up to be not so naive after all, two American scholars who just wanted to restore something that was lost (a priceless shrine) and one American who was more or less out for it himself! Add to this a couple of murders - all connected to the priceless shrine and you have the mystery. It was a treasure hunt with strange characters, nice offbeat banter at times and a pleasant very quick read.

The next review was a change Pamela Oldfield - Early one Morning. A completely different slow paced setting in a conservative English household. Set in the early part of the last century it deals with a horse stable running family - prosperous and well settled and a "name" in the county. Nancy the daughter of the house engaged to be married, and Lillian a step mother who just does not fit in with the country set. Lillian horrifies everyone by eloping with Donald leaving behind a nine year old son and husband! Husband commits suicide and the downward spiral from there including Nancy breaking off her engagement.

A comfortable read looking at the life and times of women of this period and the attitude of men towards their womenfolk. Always nice for me to read and so grateful I am living in the present times!

The last book up for review was If Today be Sweet - Thrity Umrigar. What can one say about Umrigar's books. Passionate, emotional, sad and sweet at the same time, depicting all the emotions and ups and downs of life. It does not matter if the book is talking about an Indian family in the States. These are human characters found all over the world and she brings such a beauty to the story, my words will not do it justice.

Tehmima - the mother in law of the story, recently widowed - bereft with the unaccepted loss of her husband Ruston, we then get Sohrab and his American wife Susan and Cookie the little boy of the story. The book deals with loss, sadness, joy and the future and how all the sayings of Omar Khayyam are so apt today as it was in the days gone by.

A beautiful book to read and treasure. Unfortunately I had to give this one back to Carnegie library!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review - The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge

From the first page you do know you are reading a mystery thriller, a crime case, a bit of romance thrown in and you are enthralled.

The story is unusual dealing with a "sect" a sort of a doomsday cult with the discovery of nine adult bodies in a semi circle and worse the murder of several children. This follows a large scale suicide several years ago of another group of people in Switzerland. The prosecutors for the case are Andre Schweigen and Dominic Carpentier - known universally as the Judge.

The story seems difficult to unravel particularly as the group's religion The Faith is virtually unknown other than to a very elite circle. The story covers cosmic beliefs going back thousands of years, a coded language known only to two people and A Book which is their Guide and Guru. Add to this mix haunting music, a composer and travels through Lubeck, southern France, London and Alpine villages and you have a fascinating book which is difficult to put down.

The book invites you to think as to what is going to happen next and as all of us or rather most of us want to know about the afterlife and our purpose in this life and where we are going next, this book appeals to anyone who wants to delve into philosophical and theological debate and also the seemingly inexplicable and confounding reasons why some people bond instantaneously.

A book I got from my Carnegie Library. Since its publication has only been in May 2010 this was a totally unexpected and very pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What are your favourite genres?

I have not done a Meme as yet on this blog so this is new to me. There are so many bloggers out there - some concentrate on one genre whereas others seem to go for many different ones.
This meme is hosted by Lost in Books and you can go there and link as well.

I like a great variety of books which include crime fiction, travel memoirs, general fiction and historical fiction. I think that covers almost everything! I am not into the fantasy and paranormal genres. I have tried to read a couple of books just to see what the buzz is about but it has failed to interest me.

In general fiction I love the Victorian period and also the period of WWI and WWII which has given us wonderful books.

Please let us know what is your favourite reading genre. Is there anything that you dislike intensely and avoid?

Review - Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson

The sub title of the book just drew me in - In Paris. In Love. In trouble!!! who wouldnt want to read something after that! I was also just after an exhibition of European masters and after Renoir and Monet at the National Gallery of Victoria this was my immediate choice at the library. (I was still in Europe in my mind!!) The exhibition was awesome and for me my first ever sight of an original Renoir and Monet amongst so many others.

The story is non fiction and deals with the life of a blogger - for a period of one year. A period of many ups and downs. A strained relationship with the father of her child, the emergence of one lover who is a follower of her blog, the break up of that relationship, and finally the emergence of a stronger Catherine - who is able to handle her life and loves with more strength than before.

From the time she was very young, Catherine fell in love with anything to do with the French way of life and the book shows how she was able to achieve her dreams of both studying and then working in Paris. The overwhelming influence of Paris in her life - is paramount in this book. More than Mr. Frog (her French partner which is how she describes him in her blog) Paris is the magnet for Catherine's life and it is impressive how she builds her life as a foreigner in France.

The book takes us through the mundane day to day life of any young mother coping with a toddler and a partner - the boring stuff all side by side with memoirs of Parisian life. It also gives us a glimpse of how exciting life can be in this European capital.

I loved the easy going style of this book. Maybe it is what could be called "Summer Reading". I am still not very familiar with what books actually fall into this category. Sri Lanka does not have a summer at all and I cant get my mind around books being read according to a season! For me books are wonderful 365 days of the year.

Petite Anglaise was very enjoyable - you really felt for Catherine whilst she was feeling down, you were elated when things were looking good and this was the essence of this book.

The book is a Penguin publication and I got it from the local Carnegie library.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review - E F Benson's Mapp and Lucia

This is going to be a short review as there has been much written regarding both this author and the book.

I came into reading this rather late and I am glad that I found it at last!!! The series was recommended by many book bloggers.

Lucia who is somewhat of a Queen bee is domineering, arrogant and wanting to be the cynosure of all attention. She has got irritating habits of talking or rather pretending to talk in Italian as if she is very fluent in the language and also has a habit of conversing in baby talk with Georgie which can get annoying. Add to the story another character who has upto now been Queen Bee in her area - Elizabeth and naturally you get a clash head on if titanic proportions.

The ramifications of living in a village complete with the Major with his reminiscences of the Punjab, the pretentious Daisy who would like to be more upper crust and the others add to an enjoyable read.

I liked the book as it is also nostalgic of a period gone by - enjoyable to read about it though.
My only fault with this book is that the print/font was very small, closely put together and really strained my eyes particularly as I do read a lot at night.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review Christie Phillips - the Devlin Diary

I came across a review of this book and was entranced. Historical fiction of a period I enjoy and mystery murders a half dozen of them. Plus strong women - which was unusual for the time. I was just lucky that one of the libraries in the system had this book as it was not available at Carnegie.

London and Paris - the time is 1672 and then Cambridge 2008. The story is written in these time frames with the Cambridge period unravelling the story of centuries before. A new fellow at Cambridge - a young American woman tries to solve the unsolved murder of a senior fellow. Someone she has accused of not just copying what she wanted to publish but also someone whom she slapped in public. The same night he is found dead. Unravelling the story Claire goes back to the period of 1672 both in London and Paris at the turbulent time of Charles II.

1672 London - we have Hannah a physick (rare for a woman to be involved int he field of medicine) and apart from her medical knowledge Hannah has intelligence and wit and soon uncovers the plot behind two murders of courtiers of the King's own circle and it is this knowledge that brings her into personal danger.

The story is one where the characters of Claire - the Cambridge fellow and Hannah the physick of earlier London are inter-twined. Through the diaries left behind by Hannah the story is able to be deciphered and made public. The book was one of those which you cannot put down as you always want to know what is going to happen next. Hannah was indeed a character whom one could empathize with and Claire was another who was bewildered by the archaic values of academia in Cambridge.

I think that this would be a wonderful book for a book club because at the end of it , I myself would have loved to have sat down with a group and had a discussion on this. The book left me with a sense of satisfaction at the end - true love prevails, justice is meted out and Hannah lives happily ever after.

A very satisfying read.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Problem with comments

Reading through blogs and also on this one, I realize there is some problem with the

I do hope it will be sorted out soon. Please keep the comments coming in because I have linked
all comments to my email so I do receive them. Its just not appearing on the blog!!!!

Review - Marghanita Laski's To bed with Grand Music

I was going to keep this post for a day or two to re-think what I actually thought of this book. I was a bit - whats the word - perturbed maybe by this book. I have had it on my TBR for ages. Its a classic which has been recommended throughout the book blogging world and when Simon of Savidge Reads recommends I always note it!

The book depicts life in wartime England which in itself is not unusual but this book is definitely different. It shows a more humane side to life (wartime or anytime) where a young, vibrant wife goes from a normal marriage to flitting from one bed to another, handed over like a pass the parcel as it were from one man to another. This actually happens because when one man for whatever reason it may be has to leave England, he actually introduces her to another man who takes over Deborah as his mistress. Deborah also justifies this at every turn with various reasons of her own - some so so and some ridiculous, but she does go through the two years since her husband Graham left in this manner.

Described in one instance as "a harlots tale", I thought that was rather harsh. In similar circumstances encompassed by loneliness, frustration, sexual needs and youth - we could I suppose all act like Deborah. Everyone does not stay on the straight and narrow path.

I liked the book very, very much and am so glad I took the trouble to get this one. It shows life in a completely different angle - not the usual self sacrificing one which I have read about so much during wartime particularly. I myself have lived through a civil war for over 2 decades in my own country and know how very much this story would be replicated in homes in different degrees - war does change everything. Nothing is ever the same as before - and if we say or try to make it appear that it is identical to what it was, we are hoodwinking ourselves.

This Laski book is a must read for everyone whatever the genre you fancy, this book will have something for all. I got this book from my Carnegie library but this is an author I would like to have permanently on my shelf at home.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review Dicey Deere's The Irish Village Murder

I dont understand this. After never having ever got my hands on anything remotely Irish, I seem to be a magnet for all the Irish related books to be drifting down my way. I am not complaining either.

This book is part of a series (which I discovered whilst reading) and is set in a picturesque, idyllic village of Ballynagh. The story is simple - a wealthy author who lives in this village has been murdered and the obvious suspect seems to be his housekeeper who is also his lover. Add to this that the girl friend has of late found another boyfriend and you add another suspect. However, like all good mysteries things are not so easy for the Gardia as it seems. After all then it will not be mysterious and interesting.

The characters in the book are varied and all are not what you may possibly find in a rural village. Most of them have made their home here as they do want to get out of the rat race and find in its serenity the peace and quiet they are looking for. The main character Torrey Tunet is one of those - an interpreter/translator who speaks seven languages and travels the globe - an unlikely find in this village.

Torrey - someone who just cannot let things be is determined to clear up the mystery much to the Inspector's dismay. Torrey and the inspector have gone head to head before this and he is not enamoured by her way of doing things (and coming out tops either!).

I liked this story simplistic though it was as the pace was varied and quick. A short read of just 214 pages and I finished it in one go. Another find from the Carnegie library here in Melbourne.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Review - Elizabeth Palmer's The Distaff Side

This book was not recommended by anyone neither did I see it on any of the book blogs I read. I picked it up purely because of the cover - I sort of like the cover which I thought a bit rakish! I also liked that it began in 1917 and went on (this is a period which I have just begun to read about and have liked so far).

The book revolves around Bertie a rather nice young man whose mother Augusta proverbially rules the roost. Her husband is a peaceful man who does his own thing whilst allowing his strong willed wife to do whatever she wishes. We then have Mai who is Bertie's betrothed who breaks up her engagement with him as he is pressurised by his mother to force Mai to give up her support for the suffragette movement. The story actually takes off from there and goes on to not just one but two sad marriages - one of Bertie who is pushed into marriage with the so called Princess Zhenia from Russia, a bogus fraud and murderer! Then we have poor Mai who marries Ned and who very shortly thereafter realises what a stupid mistake she has made.

The story is convoluted - it has murder, robbery, fraud, romantic liaisons of every kind but it is also very descriptive of the period which it covers. A great deal of the women's movement and the suffragette movement is covered and it is also very informative of the life of women in this period (and how much we have to appreciate that we are living in the present times!!!). How even strong willed, financially independent women were often governed by the men in their lives and how society and traditions expected them to conform - mainly for the good of the men in their lives.

I was glad that I picked up this book from my Carnegie library. The book was a good read and I'd like people to read this one.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Review D E Stevenson - Mrs Tim of the Regiment

This book one of a series published originally in 1932 and has been blogged about so much that I felt I should get my hands on at least one of the books. I was happy that I got the first of the series. I do not know whether the series are inter linked but this was a good choice for me.

The story centres around Hester a much harried housewife and mother and wife to Tim an army man. The story presumes that men of the time do not seem to be aware of domestic issues and the problems surrounding them but expect with the proper financial assistance that wives should be able and willing to provide all creature comforts to both husbands and children, and that it should be smooth sailing throughout.

The story is in a diary form of both mundane and unusual day to day incidents of a wife and particularly of a military one which entails moving house (a huge undertaking in that period of time) and the fact that it has to be done efficiently and smoothly with the least hindrance to Tim makes it seem as if Tim is an uncaring man. It is not so. Tim is very much in love with his wife and vice versa - the sad part is that he does not seem to be able to show his affection and feelings (probably again going back to the sentiments of the time).

The book is charming and nostalgic of a period gone by - the dialogue is vivacious and witty and though daily happenings in Hester's life can be thought to be boring it isnt so. I was very glad that I was able to get this book and hopefully will be able to get the rest of the series. One book blogger has said the style of writing is something like Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady. I think I will go look for that next.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review M C Beaton - There goes the Bride

Agatha Raisin has been popping up in book blogs for quite some time and I had never been able to get one of her books. This week at the Carnegie library whilst going through my TBR lists I discovered that her books are available!

Agatha who owns and runs a detective agency along with Toni, Paul and Phil and other assorted characters (all reaaaallll characters!) lives in a village somewhat similar to Midsomer village. Lots of murders amongst the most unlikely folk. I presume a typical English village with vicars and pubs, corner shops, and village gossip. A very interesting mix.

Add to this one rich family who aspire to the manor born (absolutely working class), a nymphomaniac daughter, a combination of people smuggling Frenchmen, a touch of Spain and
of course the Chinese who are being smuggled in. This is one side of this story. The bride comes
in - in the form of Felicity who gets murdered a couple of minutes before saying I do and the main suspects are Agatha who just incidentally happens to be the ex wife of the groom!

This is a simple book which would be ideal to while away an afternoon - right now with it being so chilly it provided an afternoon's entertainment with a nice hot cup of tea. The characters are quirky - Agatha apart from being the top detective is so lonely that she is trying to find a partner through a dating agency with dire results - but these are all side shoots as it were to the main murder mystery.

The book was a short read of just 276 pages - my first read of Agatha but wont be my last.