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Monday, October 31, 2011

THE WILD HUNT - ELIZABETH CHADWICK



The story set during the Welsh March wars Guyon is ordered to marry Judith just 16 years old and terrified of marriage after seeing the treatment meted out to her mother by her father. On his side Guyon is angry that he is forced to marry Judith who he considers a child. Used to the charms of more mature women he finds her too childish for him.  What eventually evolves is a beautiful, mature relationship based on trust, deep affection and a kindness on the part of Guyon who knows that Judith has to be handled gently if they are to make a success of their marriage.

The background to the story is tumultous. It is a period of war - annexing territory without regard for any moral norms. Bloody warfare is rife and the kingdom is torn apart and every Lord has to make sure that he is on the alert for marauding tribes. Despite the constant warfare, the constant battle to maintain one's own territory and the fact that you never know whether your husband is going to return home in one piece, this book combines the best of history in violent times with a very tender love story. Beginning in 1089 a period of history in a time which was not very well known to me set in a very beautiful country this was a very interesting book.

I haven't read much Elizabeth Chadwick but am definitely going to keep my eye out for books by this author.



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday - What are you Reading?




Mailbox Monday shows what you received during the week. This month the host is Savvy Verse and Wit.

Combining it with Book Journey's meme - Its Monday What are you Reading?

Both bloggers give you an insight into what is the latest in the reading world. Please do go visit the links.

Nothing new in my Mailbox for this week though several wins expected! Disappointed that a win that was scheduled to come did not turn up when the blogger informed me that it was only for US/Canada. I wish they would put it so in the original post!!!

For the Monday - What are you Reading ? Right now reading Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain described as a Haunting elegy for a lost generation. - set in 1914 a period which I like to read about and the struggle of women to be educated/have a voice of their own. My kind of book definitely.

AUNT MARGARET'S LOVER - MAVIS CHEEK



Sorry the picture is not clear enough but it was this picture of Elizabeth the First that drew me to the book. Coupled with the title it seemed at odds but reading through of course you get the connection!
Also, not having read of this book elsewhere I thought why not. I like the quirky ones too.

Margaret the proverbial Aunt has bid a temporary goodbye to her niece who is also her surrogate daughter (sister died in crash/brother in law disappeared). Right now Margaret is feeling a bit lost and alone and in between partners - (marriage and sex were not very high on the list of priorities and the marriage bit was shelved). Partners few and far between. A period of one year till Saskia returns from visiting her long lost father and Margaret feels that it is now or never to take a grip on herself and do something special for herself.

Advertising for a lover for one year is not everyone's cup of tea but thinking it over it seemed to Margaret to be the ideal solution. Finding the person was not so easy but then it happened and everyone is happy.  The story set around Margaret with all the other characters who are part of her life are depicted as they live on a daily basis which makes it matter of fact and at the same time maintaining a feeling of fantasy. The best of both combined in this book.

The link to Elizabeth was seen when one realizes that she gave up on love and passion as her overwhelming love was for England. She knew that lovers were well and good but that England was forever. A similar link forged by Margaret.

 I would call the book a romantic novel without being saccharine sweet. It touches on the fraility of humans, the depths to which we could descend and the things we would also do to help a friend and the extent one would go to help someone survive - at the same time gritting our teeth in annoyance at their foibles.

A light read but one which was enjoyable. I have just found out that the author has several books to her credit. I will be looking out for them.

Have been away for a week and its nice to be back. It is raining very heavily in Colombo but that is such a welcome thing for me. Anything to get away from the heat.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mailbox Monday and It's Monday What are you reading?

 



Mailbox Monday for this month is being hosted by Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit.

The meme will highlight what books came into your house during the week. Going through fellow bloggers mailboxes, leads to towering piles of TBR lists and horrible envy over what everyone else has received!

It's Monday - What are your reading is hosted by Book Journey

This meme also highlights what one is reading and what one hopes to read during the week.

Please visit both bloggers linky lists to get an update of whats what in the book world.

I had just one book - a book win which was eagerly awaited and got misplaced and got sent again! Thank you Natalie for a gorgeous book.


This is going to the end of my TBR list as there are many books I have scheduled to read first!!! though I am solely tempted.

What I am reading right now is a new author for me - set in Victorian England Anne Perry's murder mystery Highgate Rise is so far very interesting. A more sedate style of writing which I like very much.

                                                      
Thats it for this week end. Tomorrow I leave for Rozella for four days. It is the festival of Deepavali on Wednesday - a festival of light and the power of goodness over evil. Happy Deepavali everyone.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

AN UNEQUAL MARRIAGE - EMMA TENNANT

I get my hands on a spin off from Pride and Prejudice very rarely. Very very rarely. Most people I have spoken to here have not even heard of this kind of novel - so when I do get one I enjoy it very much.

This particular story did not do very much for me - but it was a different take from the blissfully happy, perpetually content Elizabeth. A few thorny issues - scandalous behaviour of the heir to Pemberley and constraints in the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy are some of the things which came up.

Darcy was always a snob but the idea was that Elizabeth would smooth out the rough edges. Here Darcy seems to be a positive snob! I was disappointed with this. Miss Bingley is still terribly jealous, Jane is still gentle and kind, Mrs Bennet is in turns surprisingly good and surprisingly strange, Lydia Wickham is still out for what she can get from anyone around.

Interesting light reading.

Friday, October 21, 2011

ELIZABETH GEORGE - A SUITABLE VENGEANCE


I put Inspector Lynley somewhere on par with Darcy so naturally I like the book! thats the first point. The second point is that Elizabeth George is such a natural story teller that one gets wrapped up in the story to the point that the book cannot be put down.

Three murders - starting with the clubbing and castration of a journalist then moving to the Cornish coast with its caves and rough seas, its history of smuggling for centuries recast in a modern mould.  Add a personal scandal of epic proportions - Lynley's own brother Peter heavily involved in drugs - addicted and could he be dealing. We also have St James's sister Sidney and her lover heavily involved as well. The boyfriend also ends up a victim so where does that place Sidney?

The complications within the family - the love triangle of Lynley, Deborah and St James - where is it going to end is a question in the story. The estrangement between St Lynley and his mother and his continued insidious harshness in his treatment of his mother leading to her being so alone is beautifully described.

Add to this beautiful descriptions of the countryside of Cornwall, the environs of London and you have a book that you do not want to put down.

As usual I loved the book!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ELIZABETH ELGIN - THE HOUSE IN ABERCROMBY SQUARE AND A MISTRESS OF LUKE'S FOLLY

The first story deals with Patrick - who has through sheer brilliance and hard work is able to rise from his humble beginnings in Liverpool and is now on the threshold of a future amongst the elite in London. Engaged to Arabella, the daughter of an extremely wealthy, well connected man his future is assured.

Returning to his home to settle matters prior to his marriage Patrick is drawn into the life of his former best friend who has started a clinic for the poorest of the poor in Liverpool. Should Patrick give up his dreams of earning millions for the sake of suffering humanity in Liverpool is the question. How Patrick faces up to the biggest challenge in his life is this story.

Set in the most squalid part of Liverpool, with plague and illness rife - the rich unconcerned for the poor whom they employ, this shows us another side of England and the struggle people faced to just survive.



The second story deals with Sarah - a worker in the Yorkshire mills who is suddenly elevated to being mistress of the mills when she marries the owner's only son. The difficulties faced by Sarah not just in the family which she married into - but also being ostracized by those of her own background who look on her as a traitor is the story.  Her father particularly looks on her marriage as a betrayal and does nothing to ease the problems faced by Sarah. Added to this the beginning of unrest amongst the labour of the mills against unfair working conditions and insufficient pay also form the major part of this story.

Both stories highlight the suffering of the working class in an industrialized society where the poor have no alternative but to continue to work in inhumane conditions, for insufficient pay just to keep alive. No alternatives in sight at all and everyone is beholden to the rich man for just survival.
The beginning of the industrial revolution, the beginning of unrest and the spirit of rebellion against such unfair practices are features of both stories.

For me the first story was very idealistic and the second seemed very improbable but I liked the history of the period and the immense detail of both Liverpool and the Yorkshire mills. It gave me an understanding of why labour unrest became prevalent in England on the scale it did. Interesting reading from a historical point of view.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday - No. 7 (Favourite Authors)


Wonderful Wednesdays is a meme about spotlighting and recommending some of our most loved books, even if we haven't read them recently.  Each week will have a different genre or theme.

This weeks theme is favourite authors

Like the host of this meme Sam of Tiny Library I would go with the book being good rather than the author!
But unlike Sam I do have a tendency to go looking for those books by a particular author who has caught my interest.

My first choice would be Jane Austen. Apart from Austen herself, by being introduced to her as a young teenager my reading veered towards her style of writing - over and over again. It is from this that I still tend to like books written in a more gentler style.

The second author of my choice would be Christopher Kremmer. Just one book only written by him read by me - Inhaling the Mahatma and what an impact the book had on me. So that reiterates my saying that the book is important.

It is difficult to stop at one or two - there are gorgeous authors out here - I have to mention a few at least. Rosy Thornton, Chevy Stevens, Georgette Heyer, Jean Plaidy, P D James, Agatha Christie, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. The list is endless.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mini Reviews - DEATH NOTICE by TODD RITTER & FAINTLEY SPEAKING by Gladys Mitchell


A murder mystery and Ritter's debut novel.  A box very like a coffin discovered on the side of the highway sparks off chaos and pandemonium in the small town of Perry Hollow where the chief of police has never faced anything so grim in this sleepy town.

Fast forward to several murders, each one more grisly than the others, announced by prior fax giving the time and date of the murders - twenty minutes before the murder has actually happened. You have the whole town on its toes, everyone suspect of everyone else, hidden secrets being dragged out and little known facts of the inhabitants of the town gradually come into the open. (lots of interesting information coming out re hitherto very respectable inhabitants!!!).

A thriller with quite a bit of suspense you are kept guessing as to who the murderer is. I did not get it till the very end so that is one way of determining its success.

     
Gladys Mitchell created Beatrice Lestrange Bradley psychiatrist and consultant to the Home Office and even on vacation,  murder follows her about (somewhat similar to Hercule Poirot). The murder of a young, respectable teacher stabbed to death in a thicket seems  at odds with the story of the young woman's life.

The whole story of the murder - the whys and wherefores are conducted in a genteel manner more suited to the time the book was published (1954). Everything seems to be quietly conducted and under control in this book as against the Ritter publication where things were more "in your face" and you were very aware of a murder or rather murders taking place.

The murder as told by Ms. Mitchell is so different from the style of writing of Mr Ritter of the first book I reviewed. I did the two reviews together as one subject - gruesome murders - one by a serial killer and the other by a killer who wanted to silence someone - handled so differently and yet both interesting to read in two different ways.

Old Penguin publications are freely available here so I was glad to pick this one up. The Todd Ritter book was a win.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mailbox Monday / It's Monday What are you reading?

Am combining the meme of Mailbox Monday showcasing what books came into your house with It's Monday What are you reading? Mailbox Monday is being hosted for October by Savvy Verse and Wit.
It's Monday What are you reading? is hosted by Book Journey.

The books which all came into my house via my second hand shop

Mixed reviews on this fan fiction sequel. Love the entire lot so lets see what it's about.


A blurb says Perry gets the Victorian mood just right!!! that is good enough recommendation for me.

The improbability of Aunt Margaret's Lover with this very Elizabethan cover intrigues me.
Inspector Linley is on par with Darcy for me. So I do not think explanations are needed.

A WWII background so I picked it up. Also like the cover.


Had not seen this on any blog so thought I'd pick it up.

For reading this week I have not yet started on Rohinton Mistry's book which is a fat one. I also have
River of Smoke which I will start only on Sunday when I am at Rozella. Right now it is Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. Again a favourite period of mine set in 1914 also adapted for the BBC.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

VOYAGER BY DIANA GABALDON






I did not know this is the third book in the series. I see a book I like I have to pick it up as otherwise if I have to wait for books to come in the series form nothing will be read!

Voyager as the name implies shows the journey that Claire takes back in time after a gap of living twenty years in the twentieth century. Not lacking in courage but knowing that she is missing a huge portion of her life, Claire steps back to go back to Jamie her husband.

The adventures of Jamie and Claire are many - not least the fact that both of them have led separate lives for twenty years - it is difficult to reconcile the fact that the love of your life has taken another wife (who incidentally is ready to kill you in the fight for the prize), there is a son born out of wedlock and numerous bits and pieces which Jamie does not talk about but which blow up in their faces at the most unfortunate times. Claire and Jamie are both passionate in temperament - not quiet, self effacing souls here so fireworks aplenty. The sense of honor and family which binds them both takes them to the West Indies in a series of adventures with pirates, zombies, magic, voodooism and what not.

I could not read the book in one go simply because it is over 1000 pages long but if it was not for that fact this is one book I would have not got out of bed for anything at all. I just loved the detailed descriptiveness of Gabaldon - from the clothes, to the houses, to the climate, to the people - you did feel that you were actually living either in the eighteenth century or in the twenty first. The jumps from one century to the next were not jarring or difficult to handle. One just slipped from one to the other with ease. 

Just loved the book. Onwards to find the next one!

Now to some pictures of what I did on Saturday - to bring one into the twenty first century and the nitty gritty of daily work!



At Badalgama - pineapple and banana cultivation.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

5 LITTLE PIGS AND THE SECRET ADVERSARY - AGATHA CHRISTIE

Two reviews of Agatha Christie coming up here.

Five Little Pigs was interesting as we went sixteen years back to solve a crime - the people had all grown up, lives had changed considerably and Hercule Poirot had a task on his hands. No evidence, people's memories of dates and events had changed but it was strange how judicious questioning brought everything back - minute details as to the color of the light, to what someone was wearing. It shows how much the subconscious mind actually retains - despite the passage of time.

A man who likes women is murdered. Throw in a jealous wife, a passionate girlfriend - friends on the surface but people who are in turn envious of the couple's lifestyle and you have a murder. Like many reviewers of the book, I thought I had the murderer identified not even halfway through the book. I was wrong and Agatha Christie in her inimitable style proved me otherwise!!!

This was a totally different read. Poirot is pedantic and slow! Tuppence and Tommy are young, agile and quick to jump the gun. Meeting them for the first time when they are just going to start their sleuthing careers was a nice read for me. I have read one book when they are old, retired and just looking for a quiet life so as usual I read it in the wrong order!

The setting is 1922 and I understand its Agatha Christie's second book so there are a bit of raw bits and pieces around. A girl goes missing with sensitive documents. Finding her and the documents most importantly is what the story is about. Put in some Russians, some Slavs, bolsheviks, revolutionaries, terrorists and an all important Mr. Brown and we have a light hearted entertaining story.

A touch of romance is also thrown in and you are sure there is going to be a happy ending for Tuppence and Tommy.

Agatha Christie such comfort reading.

Friday, October 14, 2011

PASSIONATE OBSSESSION - JULIE ELLIS



I have always had a liking for stories set in the era of WWI or II and this is one of those. Vera Mueller is a refugee - first from Germany in the aftermath of the infamous Kristallnacht (she loses her only brother and parents then) and escapes to Denmark. The second time around she is forced to flee her adopted family's haven in Copenhagen for war time London.  Fluent in French, German and English Vera will surely become a very sought after employee with war time work in translation of documents.

With her knowledge of languages, Vera meets Paul - a young American who has to learn German in just two short weeks as he is on a secret mission to Germany. The attraction is immediate and before he leaves the two marry. Fast forward to the end of the war, Vera now has  a  daughter whom Paul has not seen as she did not know she was pregnant when he left and the three of them decide to return to America to start out life there.

Paul's father is a well established businessman in the field of arms - specifically guns who has done very well out of the wars. Paul on the other hand is a pacifist and hates the idea of profiting from guns and much to his father's astonishment opts out of the business and becomes a high school teacher. Vera on the other hand takes to the business like a duck to water, and with the support of Paul's father and the animosity of her brother in law slowly but surely builds up success upon success in a field which is very much a man's world..

In the midst of this new emerging businesswoman Vera is still passionate about Paul and knows that her entire life is centered around him and that whatever happens she cannot lose him. The story of Vera and Paul's life amidst the upds and downs of not just WWII but also the beginning of the Vietnam war - its effect on not just the Kahns but on Americans in general, the beginning of protests against the Vietnam war and the escape of so many to Canada to avoid the draft are all part of the story.

Although WWII and its stories are known to me the Vietnam war was an unknown entity. This was a good introduction to that period of American history.

Not just a story set at the end of WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars, this is also a family story of love found in the most uncommon circumstances and how a family overcomes so many trials and tribulations to be together and to survive.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

THE FACE OF DECEPTION - IRIS JOHANSEN

This has all the mix of suspense, mystery, murder and a twist in the tale.  Her only child killed by a serial murderer Eve turns to a career which she has made into a lifeline. A forensic scientist she helps in locating remains of children - murdered and missing - so that their parents could have the peace of closure.

When John Logan approaches her with details of finding a missing adult, Eve is not interested. Her focus is on children only - but the money offered to a foundation to search for missing children is so big that Eve just cannot turn down the offer.  Though John does not reveal his knowledge of the identity or rather his suspicions of who is the murdered man, it does come as a surprise when you realize who it is. How politics can get involved in murder and the huge cover up involved so that many people will benefit is the story of the book.

The unravelling of the identity of the man behind the skull and the convoluted politics involved are interesting and gives one an idea of how the FBI and American politics operate. For a non American this was informative reading as well!

I did not know the book is part of a series and that this was the first in the series. I was just lucky that I found the first one. It does not always work out that way in this part of the world.  I liked the style of writing and though critics say that DNA testing could have been used initially prior to what Eve did, the story was good for me. I will be looking out for other books by this author. The nice part of reading mystery/murder stories is that each author has their own style of not just relating the murder but the method of solving the crime differs greatly - one from the other. This was in a more modern style of writing and very enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY - NO 6 HISTORICAL FICTION



Wonderful Wednesdays is a meme about spotlighting and recommending some of our most loved books, even if we haven't read them recently. Each week will have a different genre or theme.




This weeks theme is Historical Fiction.

Which stories set in the past do you really love?

For me its difficult to choose between two top favourites

There is Cynthia Harrod Eagles and her books on the Morland Dynasty - spanning generations, linking one story with the next and also so beautifully done that a book can be read stand alone.
Then I have the inimitable Jean Plaidy - she covers Tudor and everything else though her Elizabethan themed books would be my top favourite.


               

Cynthia Harrod Eagles combines history with family - the history is a background to the family which lives in the period. Jean Plaidy combines history with romance and here history is at the forefront of the story.
This meme is hosted by Tiny Library. Please do go visit and if you like historical fiction the blogs affiliated to the meme are right up your street.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review - Anne Tyler's DINNER AT THE HOMESICK RESTAURANT

This was my third book of the author. I did not care for the first two but the comments on my reviews were so positive about the author that I thought I must give her another try.

The characters are not lovable (this was the same for the previous read) - I found it a drag to read and go on reading what a negative character Pearl was. How her children turned out the way they did is a miracle! Pearl was abandoned by her husband and she did bring up her children single handed, but in the meantime she did not allow anyone to forget that it was a tough haul.

So much of bitterness and cold animosity - this is going to be the last Anne Tyler for me. I know life cannot be all froth and lightness but I do not need this in a book. It depressed me.

Review - The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

I loved the Thorn Birds and could not pass on this one. Had never heard of it before and it was interesting because it depicted a period in time from the other side of the world - Australia which obviously followed England in all matters relating to dress, custom, manners and way of life.

Missy is 33 years old - very plain and already on the shelf - lives in genteel poverty and she and her aunt and mother are prevented from improving their lot because it is "not done" for them to work for outsiders, do anything like trade and it is considered preferable for them to starve rather than find some suitable employment.  However Missy does have the backbone to get what she wants. Faking a life threatening illness she manages to hook the richest newcomer to their little town, upstages her cousin Alice - beautiful and rich, and generally turns the entire town on its head.

A very short novel, light and a nice read though it did make me mad when I read how the family was being cheated left, right and center by their own male relatives! It all comes right in the end for Missy and her family.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mailbox Monday and It's Monday What are you reading?

It has been a week since I last posted (it was a strange connection in Rozella - I could comment on blogs with a bit of difficulty, I could not open emails and I could not do a post!!!) so I was looking forward to coming back to Colombo and doing a proper post.

My mailbox for this week has just one book. Death Notice by Todd Ritter - this was a win and for the life of me I cannot trace it! Acknowledgement to the source will follow I promise. Description reads as a tense and twisty whodunnit! Nice.



My reading for the last week was excellent - over five books done so reviews will follow.  Right now I am reading Also the Hills and am also hoping to start Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.

Today is a Poya day - it celebrates the full moon and each month there is a separate significance for Buddhists attached to it. Today it is the Vap Poya day.  It is also a holiday.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review - Monica Dickens's THURSDAY AFTERNOONS





The background to the story is an old one. Handsome, successful doctor and a spinsterish nurse madly in love with him, a wife on the side who has nothing in common with our doctor, and our nurse  fantasizing about various ways she could show her love for him, rescue him from dire situations and generally make him aware of her. He is blissfully unaware of her feelings other than the fact that her shoes squeak and that she is a bit of a nuisance.

The story is much more than this of course. The saga of a bored marriage, how the doctor just tolerates his wife - most of the time either being deaf to what she is saying, or pretending he is somewhere else, having a schedule that keeps him so busy that he has no time to think , getting involved with a pretty girl and hoping to balance the two separate lives are part of the story. His wife Ruth has just not kept pace with him, does not know how to cope with social situations and after the loss of their little daughter seems to have got more introverted than ever.

Given the author's background in nursing, there are details here that would not otherwise happen. It gives one an insight into the world of hospitals and nursing in the 1940's - the strict hierachy maintained in hospitals, for me,  almost like a caste system where each one was strictly allocated what one could/could not do even to what you could eat or drink! Nice to see how things have changed in the last sixty years, certainly for the better with nurses being given their due place in hospitals (my own daughter is a nurse!).

Monica Dickens's stories are generally light and funny - this is not one of those. The ending is a bit sad and a bit dramatic - a little too unbelievable but sad. I am reading more of this author.

I am leaving Colombo this afternoon for Rozella and will be away for about five days - sadly no internet at least the connection works for ten minutes and then its done. Just 72 miles from Colombo but almost another world - temperate climates, extremely green and very quiet.


These are the Devon falls just a couple of kilometres away from where I stay.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mailbox Monday and It's Monday What are you reading?



Mailbox Monday and  It's Monday - What are you reading? are two memes which I combine so that readers can have the best that the reading world can offer. Please go visit the links.


This week my Mailbox is fairly heavy - three books are wins



These two were wins from Marce. Thank you Marce.

This was a win from Rebecca.  Thanks Rebecca.


This cover does not do the book justice! just could not find the striking cover of the book I have won from Abigail Ann. This goes right away to my son who will enjoy this book.

The balance books are from my second hand shop - all the authors are ones which have been recommended by book bloggers.





Both these books were picked due to recommendations of bloggers. May not be this particular book as I am not always that lucky to get the actual book recommended but I feel getting to read even one of the books by a recommended author is good enough. Bloggers are so discerning that that recommendation alone is enough!

I am hoping to finish two Monica Dickens books (Man Overboard and Thursday Afternoons) - both slightly old fashioned style of writing which I like. Both books are really old and musty - one is published in 1958!  The other book which I hope to start on is the Anne Tyler one which I bought last week - Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (I feel that title alone is intriguing enough to get one started!)

It's Monday here in Sri Lanka and a start of  hectic week. Am leaving for Negombo (quite close to Colombo but it is going to be a full days work out) this is what Negombo is like.

A fishing town (now an enormous city) with a church on every corner!

Have a good week everyone.