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Friday, January 28, 2011

Review - The Good Liar by Laura Caldwell

This was a win from The Book Depository. It is from the wins as you would surmise that I get such a wide range of reading material as I would never have access to so many genres out here in Sri Lanka. For this I am eternally grateful.

Kate recently divorced, vulnerable and lonely is set up on a date by her best friend Liza. Michael is seventeen years older but from the first moment on the chemistry seems magical and within a short period Kate and Michael are married.Unbeknown to Kate, Michael has a rather colorful history. He is a spy, a professional marksmen, someone who has murdered for his country and all this is unknown to Kate.

The story unravels slowly - with many twists and turns. Michael wants to get out of the organization which has held him so tightly but finds it almost impossible to do so. The ramifications of getting out are as big as getting in and seem insurmountable. Kate is bewildered as she feels Michael has many secrets which she is unaware of but no amount of imagination prepares Kate for Michael's past.

Caldwell keeps the story at a high level of tension throughout. Though the story unravels slowly you unmistakably feel that every turn of the page is going to bring you something different and even more complicated than before. This was a nice Friday evening read which I really needed after a hard working week.

Review - The Last Christian by David Gregory

This was a win from Deb - I have said several times on this blog that I am not partial to paranormal, sci fiction, vampires so why I entered for this I wouldn't know. I am so very glad I did - it took me completely out of my comfort zone and plonked me in something totally alien to me (and I loved it). I finished this in record time once I got going on it last night and am delighted I got the opportunity to read this fascinating book.

Abby born and bred amongst the Inisi tribe in Papua New Guinea through complicated circumstances arrives in America to a land and people totally alien to her in every way. Born to missionary parents Abby is Christian to her core and comes to a land where religion is considered a rather quaint antique of times past. Humans integrate through a pattern of virtual reality rather than physically meeting up and the development of the first transhuman is taking place.

It sounded daunting at this point but I persevered. Abby feels that God has sent her to America to carry out the spirit of missionary work in a land where religion is alien. Abby is confused, angry and questioning of the American public and their refusal to accept God into their lives.
Add to this story twists where people try to eliminate Abby and all she stands for as she stands in the way of their own programmes.

The importance of eternal life as a human as against Abby's version of eternal life with God are the points which emerged from the story. Whether man's overwhelming need to extend the natural life of a human being with the aid of technology is going to override the need for spiritual salvation for human kind? A question we could also ponder over.

A very interesting read - one which held me enthralled from beginning to end. Nice to see which way humanity will go. The other good thing that emerged from this read is that it makes me much more partial to more of this genre in the future.

Review - Twelve Times Blessed by Jacquelyn Mitchard

The blurb talks about love the second time around and this was quite true of the story.
A young widow 43 years old, successful in business with a six year old son who is the apple of her eye, not looking actively for love and quite content meets a much younger man and in a whirlwind gets married to him all within a week!!

The story spread over one year and divided by chapters into the months of the year was charming. The story is romantic and also descriptive - the relationships that exist both on
True's side as well as Hank's are close, supportive and part of the story. This extended family both in real terms as well as True's business colleagues is something that is very often absent in stories set in the West. There is so much independence of spirit that is admired and flaunted that families tend to sometimes take a back seat. In this story the extended families are very evident and are very much the story as well.

I enjoyed this book - a simple, love story with a twist (as usual) of an unusual family.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review - Lady of the Roses by Sandra Worth

The book having as its background the bloody War of the Roses is also a story of the House of Neville and the love story between Isobel and John Neville. At a time when marriages specially for the aristocracy was mainly one of convenience, and adding to a family's wealth Isobel was always aware that she was one of the lucky ones who was able to marry whom she loved.

In a period where little of the story can be authenticated, the story of Isobel is heart warming. A wife and a mother steadfast and supportive of her husband to the end, against difficult circumstances - the typical good times and in bad - form the bulk of the story. The background of the Warwicks and the role of Kingmaker that Warwick played is also part of the story. Isobel by her birth is central to the period - on every side she is related to both sides of the struggle and places her in difficult positions whenever there is a change of ruler.

A light novel of historical fiction, very well written which will appeal to all.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mailbox Monday

My first book for this Mailbox was a win from Debbie at debs book bag. The Last Christian deals with futuristic scifi (2088) with combining mans quest for eternal life with God's gift of everlasting life.

I am not very keen on sci fiction type of reading but am looking forward to this book. I also think it is time I got out of my comfort zone reading wise and got into things which I am a bit hazy about . My reading has been almost zero on this type of subject so I am very keen to read this book and come back to you with a review.

Twelve Times Blessed by Jacquelyn Mitchard was a gift from my daughter. The blurb says "A warm and moving novel of love second time around". That would be interesting I am sure.

The story spread over one year deals with a woman trying to balance responsibilities of family with feelings of the heart. I have enjoyed stories which are compartmentalized into days or months before so will enjoy this book I am sure.

The last one Lady of the Roses (also from my daughter) by Sandra Worth is one I have been eyeing for some time. I like historical fiction very much but there is so much of it around and all good and getting the latest is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. This was a really lucky find for me. Her latest book looks wonderful but that will have to wait and I will have to be happy with this one.

The book dealing with the war of the roses and Isobel and John Neville whose enduring love carries them through a very tumultuous period of English history.

I am lucky that over the last couple of months I have had access to such varied reading. Some months are not so! I also like to mix genres - do other readers feel the way I do. Looking forward to everyone else's Mailboxes!

Review - Hot House Flower by Margot Berwin

This was a win from Raging Bibliomania and a very unusual read for me. Coming from the tropics some of the plants were a bit more familiar to me than it may be for other readers. Despite that it was an unusual read.

I do not go in for fantasy at all and this is bordering on it in a way in which an absolute novice to the fantasy game could appreciate. It may actually pave the way for me to pick up another book in a similar vein.

A 32 year old divorcee is looking for these rare plants in Mexico. She is also very susceptible to love and is very open to the idea of finding a new partner. She is lonely. Add to that plant robbers, the mysticism of plants and plant lore, the ideas that plants are living beings who actually feel and can scream (whilst being uprooted) and a wild goose chase across the Yucatan to find these missing plants and you have the gist of the story.

The story has mystery, murder, romance, sexual tensions galore all mixed into one book. A
light read not quite chick lit but fitting this into a category is hard.

On a non book note I am still trying to catch up on work - orphanage work still in arrears. I did a quick visit once again today taking with me stuff for six girls to start training in needlework and machine embroidery. There were all sorts of thread, needles, hoops, embroidery scissors, tapes and fabric. Then we started special English classes for the older girls and they needed a whiteboard and pens and papers. Managed to buy it all and I was determined to take it so that a start could be made on Monday itself. The sooner the girls are trained for the local job market the better life would be for all of them.

First day of the weekend gone!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review - The Leopard Unleashed by Elizabeth Chadwick

This was a win from An ecletic reader.

Renard heir to Ravenstow comes back from Antioch with an exotic dancing girl Olwen whom he is addicted to. Coming back to an ailing father and strife in the Welsh land of his birth he is also faced with his long time fiancee Elene - an absolute contrast to the striking Olwen and someone whom he has to marry as it is more or less a political alliance. Something Renard does not look forward to.

The story revolves around the constant war for supremacy amongst the highlands with each clan trying to gain the upper hand and control of the land. The conflicts are constant and bloody. Interspersed with this is the relationships which Renard tries to keep separate - the one with his wife and the other with his mistress.

After being taken prisoner during a skirmish and being rescued subsequently Renard realises with pleasant surprise that his mild, timid Elene is stronger than she appears and that Olwen his magnificient mistress is malevolent and all the time only looking out for her self whereas his wife is protective of his own interests at anytime.

This is light historical fiction. It also dealt with a period of history which I was not familiar with and which unlike the Tudors or the Regency period has not been done over to death. It was fresh and interesting.

Review - A Royal Likeness by Christine Trent

This was a win from Arleigh of Historical and which came ages ago and was awaiting me when I returned to Sri Lanka.

The story revolves around Marie Tussaud the madame of the wax works renowned all over the world for her immaculate attention to detail in her figures and Marguerite whom she takes on as a protegee and the adventures both of them face - both good and bad in trying to establish a successful salon in England.

Marguerite starts life as heiress and a very successful businesswoman in the doll making business. After a tragic, totally uncalled for death of her husband Nicholas she sinks into deepest depression and it is through her aunt Claudette that she is put in touch with Madame Tussaud as a way of getting her to face life and move on.

The book is one of historical fiction comprising events of the Napoleonic wars, the Battle of Trafalgar, the position of French emigres in England and their precarious existence there, and the fact that Marguerite herself of French descent faces many threats in her newfound life with the waxworks and must strive to maintain not just herself but also protect her patroness at all costs.

The story which combines history, and a love story is very well told with all its bits of intrigue and romance. A story which kept me enraptured from beginning to end. 455 pages of a good story for lovers of historical fiction and a love story with a happy ending.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review - Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

The book was sent to me by the author herself and I am so happy that I got it so early. I would have got to it eventually so it was a bonus to get it so early.

Set in Cevennes in a part of France hitherto unknown to me I found Catherine's transfer from England to France absolutely enchanting. She left behind an ex husband, a sister and two grown up children and moved lock, stock and barrel at the age of 48 to a new home, a new country and a completely different way of life. She was also very eager to start up her upholstery/curtain business in rural France - a place where I thought this would have been a non starter from the beginning. It proves how wrong I was, and also showed how courageous Catherine was - willing and able to start anew.

We very often think this starting afresh is a prerogative of the young and that doing something like this at 48 is a bit risky. It is a risk of course but the benefits to Catherine were immense. I loved the story - with nuances of rural French life, with the trials and day to day happenings of a rural community where life revolves around the seasons, the sheep, the goats and things happening to a timetable and a pattern unchanged through centuries.

This was such a happy book to read - the spirit of quiet happiness, contentment and joy seeps through at every turn and one in turn is happy for everyone who appears in the book.

It is not a cheesy read at all, not overpoweringly frenchified as it were but an amazing unput downable book. A must read.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mailbox Monday for week starting 17th January 2011

Mailbox Monday is on a blog tour. Right now it is being sponsored by Rose City Reader. Please do visit and post your own Mailbox. Bloggers need not sign up every week but are most welcome to do so.

One of my books was a delightful surprise - The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton. Sent by the author herself! she read my review of More than Love Letters and then wrote to me. I thought that was delightful. This was the first time an author sent me a book! I hope it wont be the last.

This was a win from Heather from Raging Bibliomania. Thank you very much for this.

What did you receive in your Mailbox?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review - The Lady'sSlipper by Deborah Swift

This historical fiction novel combined two unusual genres - history on the one hand and horticulture on the other. This was a win for me from Sarah of Reading the Past.

The time is 1660 and though the British Civil War is over there is still tension about as to where one's loyalties lie with religious dissension also very much alive. Alice a botanist and a painter of plants discovers a rare orchid indigenous to Britain and to a particular patch in the woodlands. Alice decides to steal it for future safekeeping and to propagate more plants against the wishes of Richard Wheeler the guardian of the woodlands who thinks that its rightful place is where God initially put it and it is not up to humans to interfere with the natural order of things.

Little does Alice realize that her stealing this plant sets off a tumultuous tide of events, way beyond her control leading to her eventual imprisonment and breakdown of her marriage, her life and her final forced fleeing from Britain.

The story gives one a glimpse of life in rural Britain of the time, as well as a glimpse into the life of Quakers and the dissensions that rang so strongly in Britain fuelled by miscommunication on anyone who did not conform to the norm. It is frightening to see the extent to which intolerance existed and to what lengths people would go to stamp out what they felt was not their point of view of how people should live.

I would recommend this book not just for readers who like historical fiction but for anyone wanting a good read. I am looking forward to Swift's next book.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review = Think of a Number by John Verdon

This book was a win for me and I am so glad I won it. It started a bit slowly for me. Someone receives an envelope with a verse in it - saying think of a number and the next envelope he opens has the identical number he thought of. Completely illogical and for me till I was half way through the book totally incomprehensible. That was kept you going till you find what and how it is going to work.

Gurney a retired NYPD detective is drawn into the mystery due to a school going friendship with Melllery and in turn is drawn into a web of four and later five murders. All seemingly unconnected, all seemingly random, all meticulously planned, all the work of a very clever, pathologically twisted killer.

The police drawn over several states are all baffled at the aspects of the case. Is it someone who has a grudge against alcoholics, is it someone who has a personal axe to grind with each of these victims, what is the fact that is common to all the victims.. The questions are numerous and the end result is totally unexpected.

More than finding out who the murderer was, for me the star of the show was the how it was planned. A twisted mind and a good detective story. Keeps you puzzled and on edge till the end.
This is a debut novel so I do hope we will have more from this author.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mailbox Monday - 10th January 2011

Mailbox Monday is the brainchild of The Printed Page. It is now on a blog tour. Last month
it was Lady Q at Let Them Read Books. This month it is being hosted by Rose City Reader.
Every week we post what books we have received either through a library/gifts/wins or purchased.

Those who link to the meme should try to visit each others blogs and leave comments. It is not
necessary to link every week.

This week my books are courtesy of wins.

I am still not able to post the covers of the books where I want them to be placed. The pictures come
alongside the main picture and not where I need them to be. I don't seem to be able to copy and paste
them either which was an easier option. If anyone can help me, please do.

The Lady's Slipper won from Sarah at the Reading the Past. A novel set in mid seventeenth century
and concerns the discovery of a rare orchid. The story eventually leads to murder and exile so it is definitely
slightly different to the normal run of historical fiction.

The other book was The Leopard Unleashed by Elizabeth Chadwick - a win from Teddyree from The Ecletic
Reader. A story of Renard a crusader in Antioch and Olwen a exotic dancing girl and a political marriage in the
form of Elene. The story is both intriguing and romantic. A historical fiction novel which is also different.

Today was spent at the orphanage in Negombo. Due to the fact that I delayed my arrival in Sri Lanka the children
did not get their Christmas presents during Christmas for which I was truly sad. It was just not possible to coordinate
the purchase of things for 35 girls from Melbourne. It was done in two days and all delivered today - the children
and I were very happy to meet after so very long. I visit again next week. I am still trying to finish the backlog of work
so blogging sometimes has to take a back seat for a while.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Review - ROOM by Emma Donoghue

This was for me a win from Katrina from Stone Soup and I am ever so happy I won it. The book was not even on order in the Melbourne library.

The story based on a 5 year old boy whose world is limited to just the four walls of his "room" and the fact that he knows no other world and his Mother who heroically protects him from the horrors of their real life.

Since this book from the time it was nominated for the Booker, has got so very many reviews all over the blogs I will keep this short. What really struck me was the "shorthand" in the language used by Jack who simplified terms in English which were so realistic and true that I wondered why no one had thought of talking like this. 5 year old Jack is able to sustain the whole book with
his Mother being a sideline as it were though she should have been the star of the show.

With very descriptive English the minuscule world of Jack and his mother are very poignantly brought to the reader so that we begin to understand very early on the desperation of Jack's mother's part as she strives to do what is best for Jack in the circumstances. It also heightens my belief that mothers do whatever they can to protect their children in whatever horrendous circumstances they face. This follows my reading of Secret Daughter a week ago where this fact is reiterated there as well.

For me a perfect read.

I am back in Sri Lanka to overwhelming work! will however keep upto date on the blog as much as I possibly could.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review - Tracy Chevalier's Burning Bright

This is my first foray into Tracy Chevalier's writing. I also read it quickly which is not quite right. This is a book to be read a bit more slowly. Set in the late 18th century it deals with a family moving from deepest Dorsetshire to London and finding themselves completely at sea almost like in a foreign country.

The move comes about after their eldest son Tommy is killed in an accident where he falls from a tree. His mother finds their home stifling and full of memories and despite being not the one who wants change is very anxious to move from there. The whole family feels alien in London at the beginning. Jem ridiculed for his accent and his ways, Maisie nervous and out of place and Anne the mother suspicious of everyone and everything. Thomas seems to be the only one who tries to keep it all together for the sake of the family and move on.

The family becomes neighbours and friends of William Blake - publisher and printer. The French Revolution on the other side of the channel at first does not seem to have any influence on these Londoners until they are thrust into it where they are all forced to sign a letter of support for the king. William Blake and his Mrs are not a major part of the book but through a series of incidents, conversations and meetings his words and his influence form a major part of the story.

Another important figure is Maggie - a veteran Londoner street smart and savvy who instantly feels attracted to both Jem and Maisie and takes it upon herself to not just educate them in the ways of London but also protects them as she feels they are too innocent and naive to be left alone. This works well for both Jem and Maisie and in turn Maggie herself is changed into a caring person who is able to see the value of innocence.

A very descriptive book of the life and times of both the country side as well as Londoners and in great detail too of the minuscule details of their daily lives. 386 pages.

Mailbox Monday - 3rd January 2010

Mailbox Monday is the brainchild of The Printed Page. It is now on a blog tour. Last month
it was Lady Q at Let Them Read Books. This month it is being hosted by Rose City Reader.
Every week we post what books we have received either through a library/gifts/wins or purchased. Those who link to the meme should try to visit each others blogs and leave comments. It is not necessary to link every week.
This week too my books have been courtesy of the Carnegie library in Melbourne. This is
my final week here and from next week I will be posting from Sri Lanka.
My books this week : again no images as my computer is upto some trick again!
Tracy Chevalier - Burning Bright - London 1792 the family of Kellaway has moved from
Dorset to London.
Colin Cotterill - The Coroner's Lunch - described as a wonderfully fresh and exotic mystery.
Courtesan - Diane Haeger - the story of Diane de Poitiers - I have read numerous accounts of her and none of them were flattering. I would like to read this to see whether it gives me another perspective of this fascinating lady.
I have finished packing as well but the books will be read till I leave the house! I will then drop them off whilst going to the airport. Reviews will be done next week. The weather here is so strange. It touched 40 on the 31st and thankfully went down to 24 - very balmy and nice on the 1st.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Review - Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

So many books to finish before tomorrow evening!!! This one Excellent Women by Barbara
Pym covers a period of time which I like very much. Not quite Victorian, not very modern, just sort of an in between period where people still seem to be wanting to step out and be different and yet holding back because their mothers did not do this/or the vicar would not have quite approved of it!

Miss. Lathbury our chief in the story does not fall into quite the category of simpering spinster. She is very eager to help of course (father being a vicar does count) and likes to see the good in everyone (I wish I had some of that characteristic) but she is sharp eyed and does know when she is being taken advantage of.

The period is one of great austerity and this comes through in the book which adds to the interest. Women have become braver, stronger and maintaining your dignity, poise and the British stiff upper lip are also part of the story. Lots of eligible bachelors around but the delicacy involved in pursuing someone/or being pursued may be very strange in the present times but it is part of the story.

I really enjoyed this book - my second by this author. 288 pages and a very enjoyable read specially for those who like this era set in England.

Review - Shilpa Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter

This is my first book done for my First Challenge entered into! The challenge is linked to the South Asian Challenge 2011 - S Krishna's books.
I am so happy that I started with this book. I like stories in this kind of setting. Immigrants generally bring with them so much history and culture normally totally different to their new country. People generally emigrate to somewhere totally different to what they usually have. I wonder why that is? In a lot of cases there is economic reasons for the emigration and in so many others it is a question of personal security. It is a problem that has also been part of my own life because my children were sent by us overseas for purely security reasons. Now that the war is over that reason is obsolete but they have gotten so used to being in a foreign land that they will not return. That is our personal cross that we have now learnt to bear.
Secret Daughter is slightly different - it deals with another subject close to my heart - adoption. In this Asha or really Usha has been adopted at birth by a warm, loving family of Krish and Somer an Indian-American couple who love her as their own. On the other side of the world we have Usha's birth parents struggling to survive with their son. From dirt poor rural beginnings they move to the big city and survive they do by dint of hard work and some wheeling dealing by their son.
The story begins mainly when Usha grows up and decides to move back to Mumbhai not just to find her roots but also to work as a journalist highlighting life in the slums of Mumbhai and to see life from another perspective.
The story of Usha is heart breaking and heart warming. Her exposure to poverty hitherto unknown in her comfortable American life, her experience of mind boggling wealth amidst so much poverty, her exposure to female infanticide which hits her very hard, and her final realization of her mother's love - both her birth and her adopted mother are subjects which everyone should read about.
This book does not deal with just cross cultural issues, it deals with matters of the heart. Why we act the way we do and the extent to which mothers do go to safeguard their young. The fact that mothers will fight anything and anyone to protect their young is reiterated in this book. The harsh realities of back breaking poverty, the second or third rate position of wives and the fact that female infants have no real value in rural India are secondary features of the book. Hopefully things are changing and one day soon these may be things of the past. What is important in this book are the over riding love of family, the deep implications of the love and support which an extended family can give one, and that it is very important for us not to lose sight of who we are - wherever we may be.
I would recommend everyone reading this book. An absolutely fascinating find for me.