Google+ Followers

My Blog List

Saturday, December 31, 2011

REVIEW - SIDEWAYS ON A SCOOTER - MIRANDA KENNEDY

I like travel memoirs and this scooter business has always fascinated me. In Sri Lanka no women ride sideways on a scooter or a motorbike - and if they do you could bet your last rupee they will be Indian. I always used to think shouldn't they slide off specially since everyone is in sari or salwar kameez.  Getting back to the book - we have Miranda thrown into the deep end - a journalist wanting to make a career out of foreign news based in Delhi with excursions to Pakistan and Afghanistan and at the same time being a single female in India.

Miranda's story is from the heart - everyone has read at some stage of the poverty, the slums of India, the lepers, the beggars, the water, the food too spicy for most but at the same time India is so vast that it can offer you a myriad choices. Whether one seeks the urban cosmopolitan style of Bombay or Delhi or the toned down life of Chennai or the agricultural communities which thrive all over India, there is something for everyone.

Miranda Kennedy embraces what India has to offer - she tries to understand the huge and I mean gigantic differences that exist between her American upbringing and those of girls of her own age around her. The double standards that prevail in society in the East for single, professional women is hard - specially hard when you do live in a family environment and where your actions can hurt the entire family. You have to think twice - there is also very little forgiveness or forgetting and what would be such a small, insignificant thing or behaviour would be totally unacceptable in India. The importance of family, extended family and obedience, sometimes blindly accepting what parents rule as law may be baffling to a Western mind taught from the cradle to think independently.  Here one is just a cog of a wheel - and practically everyone toes the line however educated you may be or however broad minded you may appear to be.


Miranda's career takes off on a shaky note but she does establish herself after her rocky start. After a successful term in Delhi she returns to America happy with what she has done. That was the nice part. The author took it as a sojourn from her everyday life and that this was an experience that was different and enjoyable - uncomfortable experiences and all.

This was my last read for 2011 - I have a stack of books to read this weekend. Everyone gets back to work only on the 3rd of January so its a long weekend as well.

A very happy new year to all.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

REVIEW - FOXEY'S HANGOUT (THE BOOK) BY CATHY GOWDIE


I am not making this picture bigger because it was explained to me about pixels and by increasing the image I am making it blurry. I do not know the technicalities of this but agree with what was said!

I picked this book as I am right now in Melbourne - my daughter is visiting the Mornington Hill Peninsula for the weekend and my interest is always piqued at how so many people make the change from city dweller to country dweller easily. I know there may be many who have failed, but the ones who have succeeded seemed to have done a 360 degree turn and made such a success story of their lives that I am a bit green with envy.  I seem to have one leg in the city of Colombo (hot, humid, crowded)  very firmly planted there and one leg in Rozella which is our equivalent of country (read tea/vegetable gardening and cool) but I have not made the transition completely (as yet).

This story deals with a young Melburnian couple and their friend and partner who decide to plant vines, open a winery and a restaurant (they call it a cellar door here) and do it very well. Finding a property suitable for their needs, getting the local planning authorities permission which turned out to be difficult, time consuming and filled with objections (???) from all and sundry and finally being able to do so makes this a very enjoyable read.

Filled with beautiful photographs of their area in Victoria, as well as receipes from the author the book is a very pleasant introduction to rural Victoria. Added to their personal story is quite a bit of history of the area including the background story of how Foxey's Hangout got its rather quizzical name.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

REVIEW - MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND BY HELEN SIMONSON

Why are my images so blurry??? This book was finished in a day - reading at the bus station/train station/waiting for my daughter - just had to finish it today. The anticipation of would he or would he chicken out had me on edge so very much now it seems laughable!!!

Major Pettigrew very English (if there could be a description as such) with immaculate values and views lives in an idyllic English village complete with village shop now run by Mrs Ali - effacing, wanting to fit in with the neighbourhood, never been quite accepted, cultured, pretty, educated and widowed. We have miscellaneous characters like the greedy son Roger, the religious bordering on fanatic nephew Abdul Wahid who is inheriting the property as he is the nephew, we have a separate love triangle of George and Amina and Abdul Wahid (nothing is as simple as it looks) and we have the hierarchy of the English village ranging from the Lord of the Manor and his daughter, to the rich American who is intent on making a fast buck (I would like to see this stereotype of Americans being brash with their money removed from books. It is not fair!), and we have a Vicar whom I did not like when he sided with the conservative rather than for what was right when it suited him.

A beautiful story, descriptive of an age and of the characters of a typical (what we think) an English retired Major of the Army should be like - loved the chivalry and politeness of this character along with his strong sense of values and of what is right is might. A love story which did not turn soppy. The book was also very insightful of the characters of people - how insular we all could be and all it needs is a slight provocation to get us all rattled.

Wonderful read and so right for this time of the year. I am still smiling.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY/IT'S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING?

Coming to these memes a bit late. Our library in Carnegie was closed till today. I arrived late on the 23rd night so it was a nightmarish experience with no books!!!  Mailbox Monday is being hosted for this month by Let them Read Books.
It's Monday what are you reading is hosted  by Sheila at Book Journey.



The books that I picked up from the library are a rather nice mixed bunch of books.



Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. On my last visit to Melbourne this was permanently reserved!







Penelope Lively is an old favourite.








The blurb says the story of one family's vineyard dream. Let me live vicariously!











My copy and paste has not done much for this cover. Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Aggarwal. A debut novel by this author - love books with extended family - even in my country of Sri Lanka becoming rather rare these days.
















I have started reading the Major Pettigrew book and am already sixty pages in!!! This is quite an achievement as it has to be done in between laundry, cooking and the myriad chores which seem to pile up in this house.



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas


A very Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends from down under.  So different and yet so nice from a Sri Lankan Christmas I am enjoying the company of the children but missing husband and extended  family and my dogs especially Googly  back home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

REVIEW - SISTER BY ROSAMUND LUPTON

The entire blog post disappeared and I don't think anything is more frustrating than this. I had been looking out for this book for over a year. It just fell into my lap a couple of days ago and didn't I just love it.

The story is about the relationship between two sisters - Tess and Beatrice. Beatrice the older sister is always on the look out for her siblings - being the elder sister she feels not just responsible but also protective. As Beatrice grows up she becomes confident, self possessed and affluent. Tess remains according to Beatrice from a rather condescending point of view - bohemian, an art student, involved with her married tutor, insecure and pregnant. Tess is happy, settled and secure but Beatrice sees it otherwise.

A horrendous mid story crisis and Tess is dead. Beatrice takes charge. A verdict of suicide under the influence of drugs, related to post natal depression is ruled. There is no way Beatrice is accepting this verdict. Despite the pitying responses of the Police, even their mother, friends and colleagues Beatrice battles it alone
knowing that a clever murderer is out there, trying to outmaneuver them all knowing that he is the plausible one and that Beatrice is being looked at as almost mentally ill, depressed and raving.

How the story flows out of the love of a family - how an unwavering faith in a sisters character holds the story to the end - though I would have liked the end to be a bit more concise and not hanging in the air as it were.

The story telling is superb - the history of cystic fibrosis, the gene therapy involved in the treatment of the illness, the relationship of Beatrice and Todd and how her Dad's separation has affected her even in her adult life is beautifully told.

I am very glad that I eventually got to this book.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Additional Mailbox Monday

I had a delightful addition to the above today. This was such a nice surprise as I did not realize I had collected points on my credit card which I utilized  at the bookstore. And all for nice, crisp, clean, sparkly new books.

The books I picked up were ones I had been eyeing for ages!

Rosamund Lupton's SISTER


The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Mark Haddon's book has got intriguing reviews on several blogs.

And for a taste of history. Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose


I have been in such a reading slump these last two weeks but hopefully these new additions will get me back on track.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday and It's Monday what are you reading.




It has been a dull mailbox with no books coming in though several are expected. Mailbox Monday is hosted by Let them read books 


It's Monday What are you Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. For the second or is it the third week I seem to be in a reading slump. Middlemarch and Portrait of a Lady are still being read though I am
halfway through Portrait of a Lady - Middlemarch's progress is very slow.

End of year work in office and trying to tie up loose ends prior to going to Melbourne is taking up all my time.  Shopping for them as well as picking up the little myriad things they want is eating into reading time. Hopefully Melbourne will bring me back my reading mojo.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

REVIEW - THE HOUSE OF THE WIND - TITANIA HARDIE

The book came to courtesy of its publisher. Since I do not get many books this way, this was a special treat.

The story is set in centuries apart. We have Maddie - bereft, grief stricken at the loss of her fiancee in 2007 and we have Mia in 1347 struck dumb since the death of her mother and living with her aunt in Tuscany.

The stories set in separate chapters taking each character by itself alternatively was good. I liked the detailed background history of each person, their environment, the way they lived, their daily life and what it entailed. Taking it as a contrast in itself was interesting. We had Maddie a modern day lawyer dealing with a huge trial against a multi national and pitting her brains and talent against an equally dynamic man. We have Mia living a quiet life though with undercurrents always - the restlessness of the age and the political unrest of the times where you did not know from which side danger would erupt. 

Both women were strong ones who were willing to put up a good fight for what they believed in. Mia's aunt Jacquetta was a thoroughly modern woman of the times and the life she led - independent, fearless and doing what she knew best - added a lot of interest to this story. The story telling was fluid - for me the change from one century to the next was of interest though lots of reviews seem to find the change difficult to handle.

Interestingly told, it was a story teller's tale slowly unfolded with a satisfying end.

Monday, December 12, 2011

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


Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Let Them Read Books This week no new books came into my house which will help me read those which are around.

Am combining Mailbox Monday with It's Monday what are you Reading hosted by Book Journey..
I have not been able to finish both books which I started reading which is strange for me. Middlemarch is one which is slow going but one I am determined to finish. The second book which I am 30 pages in is Portrait of a Lady. I am finding the latter more interesting than the former - despite rave reviews on Middlemarch it is slow going for me.

Have finished quite a few books and reviews are due. One of them is the wonderful The House of the Wind and the other is an Angela Thirkell book.

I am leaving for Melbourne once again visiting the children for Christmas. Looking forward to lots of new books at the Carnegie library.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Two Short Reviews - Georgette Heyer's Bath Tangle & Cotillion


Serena is not really a good example of Regency England womanhood. Feisty, very independent, decided views, a temper and passion to match. Her father has encouraged her to be the son he never had. Following her father's death Serena is horrified to realize that the person her father has appointed as Trustee is the very person she had jilted some months previously.

Escaping to Bath to escape her father's heir and his taking over her beloved home, Serena ends up with a string of beaux and adventures in full.



Kitty is charming but without a cent to her name. Her guardian wishes to leave her a fortune provided she marries one of his nephews. The choice seems limited but their are two young men who seem suitable. Jack a gamester but handsome and Freddy rich and reliable.There is Hugo and Dolph both written out of the equation and so the adventure begins.  Kitty is attracted to Jack but in a fit of pique gets engaged to Freddy to get out of her guardian's house as well as to make Jack jealous.

Following adventures in London, including encouraging her cousin's marriage to another Kitty's story takes a happy turn.

Both books were read by me on long journeys - they are always light, refreshing and help me relax.

After simply ages I finished a quilt - this went to a baby girl Keziah who will take the quilt with her to Dubai. I really must try to quilt more - have finished several blocks but it is the putting it together which takes time. This is baby Keziah's quilt. I did a big quilt so that she could use it for a couple of years at least.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas pressies!

Photos from our Negombo Children's Home. Distribution of Christmas gifts well in advance



Sewwandi


These girls are doing the O'levels this week starting on Monday!


My twins Manushika and Maheshika!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

REVIEW - CLOSE YOUR EYES - AMANDA EYRE WARD


This book intrigued me when I saw it on Bibliophile by the Sea. Generally I never get to read a book as it comes out on blogs but this time I was in Melbourne and I just devoured all the recently read and reviewed books. Luckily for me this was available at the Library.

In 1986 whilst two children were sleeping in a tree house built by their father, their mother was murdered and since all evidence pointed to the father, he was arrested for murder and has since been in prison. Alex has always believed in his father's innocence whereas Lauren always went for the general opinion that he was guilty. She has cut all links with him and had never contacted him since he was in prison, neither has she even opened any letters sent to her.

Fast forward 20 years - Alex is a doctor working in Iraq and and Lauren lives with her boyfriend and works in real estate. Lauren's world is turned upside down when Alex goes missing, presumed dead. Lauren then decides to investigate further into her father's imprisonment. What is uncovered is totally surprising, totally out of the blue and so strange it has to be true. I only hope this does not happen in real life as that would be tragic.

The story was compelling, it also shows how a random act of someone can have such far reaching consequences. No where was the ripple effect more effectively seen than in this book. Nice read.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

REVIEW - THE POSTMISTRESS - SARAH BLAKE

This was a win from Martha. I had seen the book around for quite a while but knew that other than a win it was not possible to get it here. So I really got lucky. Thank you Martha.

I like stories about women - specially women who are strong and who try to make a difference. This book revolves around three women - Iris who runs the post office, Emily the doctor's wife and Frankie a journalist/broadcaster. The year is 1940.

The main character of the book at the beginning (starting from the title) one would presume is the postmistress Iris but it is Frankie who takes center stage and seems to carry the whole book through her experiences in war torn Europe and through coincidence meets up with Will who is the doctor in the story. I would have liked to have seen more the indomitable Iris in the book but she is more or less
a background figure to the story - very important but still a bit shadowy. Iris is strong, supportive and a good woman and should have been more pivotal in the story. The story of the town of Franklin seems to go around Iris and her life at the post office. Then on the other hand we have the very compelling story of Frankie dragging around a 30 pound recording device all around France, Berlin and Europe recording the stories of Jews and those being persecuted and hunted by Hitler.

In the story what also comes out is that Americans seemed to be rather laid back about what was happening in Europe - particularly relating to the persecution of Jews, Gypsies and others - it always seemed that it was not our concern, and too far away for anyone to get involved. The passion that Frankie had for this issue and her frustration that America was not going to get involved, or rather get involved when it was far too late is also an important part of this story.

Lots of things made this book a good read. The story telling was good - three separate lives intertwined in the way that is sometimes strange, the meanness of small town spirits, the insular attitude of small town people and their fear of the unknown, the details regarding WWII and specially the situation of the Jews across Europe were well depicted.

For those of you who like this era this is a good one.

Mannar Children's Concert





I  have been unable to put titles on the photos but these are from my last trip to Mannar. Just to recap, the orphanage is small, the pre school is one of the first in the area and they are having a concert which is huge after 15 years. An entire generation of school children have grown up without a concert of any kind.

I think it was so brave of the Sisters to venture into singing, dancing and music. Training 40 children who have never taken part in any kind of organized activity, that is what I call clever organizers.

I always thought running a business is difficult but running an orphanage and this kind of school is enormous work under sometimes trying circumstances. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY/IT'S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING?

Mailbox Monday on tour at the moment is being hosted for December at Let Them Read Books. The books that came into my house were both wins - the first was The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie courtesy of Headline Publicity.  The second was Underground from Nat of the blog In Spring it is the Dawn. Thanks to both of them.

The next meme which is combined with Mailbox Monday is It's Monday - What are you Reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.



The book I have just finished is The House of the Wind. The book which I have started next is Middlemarch (another win).  Several reviews have been delayed mainly due to pressure of work.

I just returned from an orphanage visit to Mannar. It was my Christmas visit well in advance with presents and clothes and shoes for Christmas. This week is also very full - my visit to the Negombo children's home is scheduled this week and there is an end of the year concert by the little ones also to attend!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

REVIEW - THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST - DEANNA RAYBOURN

I am not a fan of vampires so this was a surprising choice for me but boy didn't I just love the book!! I have read this authors books generally murder and mystery and Lady Julia Grey - this was different.

Theodora Lestrange is anyway different - she does not fit the norm for young women of her age and era. She is not willing to think of marriage as the ultimate for her life. She would like to be independent, like to develop her career in writing a bit further and make a life for herself. She has faith in her abilities and knows that given the right atmosphere she could come up with a very good novel.

Fate intervenes and she is invited by a class friend for a wedding and for an extended stay in Rumania. Transylvannia the land of myths, vampires, fantasy and what not. Theodora is not like Julia - the book is more gothic romance than mystery murder in genre but nevertheless very enjoyable. At the beginning I was disappointed with our Count who was only interested in seducing Theodora and it was nice that it ended happily! The other players in the story had surprising facets to their characters

It has changed my opinion on vampires and I think I will read more of this gothic genre. It made for a very nice change of scene and pace.