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Monday, July 30, 2012

ROBIN PILCHER'S AN OCEAN APART AND STARTING OVER




My first read of Robin Pilcher and it became two reads as this is two stories in one. It was difficult physically though because at 1000 pages it is quite cumbersome to handle.

The stories deal with family, with relationships mainly and with its very descriptive settings make for a very interesting read.

In Ocean Apart we have a very young man widowed and finding himself totally unable to cope with living. He is existing almost as a shell of his former self, a facade maintained for the best of his three young children and his aged, bereft parents who themselves are bewildered and not knowing how to cope. How David manages his life with the loss of his beloved wife, what he does to take little steps to come back to the land of the living is what this story is about.


In Starting Over the story centers around Liz dealing with the break up of her marriage to Gregor. Her grief and hate over the break up are huge and how she tries to maintain a facade of peace for the sake of her son and her father fill her with bitterness at the same time. It does not help that Gregor continues to live in the same village almost next door with his new girl friend. It also does not help that due to their acrimonious separation the estate/farm is facing bankruptcy and what was in their family for five generations has now to be sold to a golf course developer so that Liz and her father and also Gregor can climb out of their financial ruin.


Both stories are emotional ones. They are also stories one can identify with as these are circumstances that all of us face in one form or the other. How individuals manage to cope or not cope depends on their individual strengths or weaknesses but it makes for a very intimate read.
Very descriptive of settings, landscapes and backgrounds - these are relaxing reads. I will be looking for his books.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

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


My Mailbox this week is quite heavy - courtesy of two wins and the library. This meme is being hosted for July by Mrs. Q Book Addict.


one of my favourite mystery/murder writers!


Have been trying to get one of her books so this was a good choice.

Then a series of Penelope Lively books!







An author I had almost given up of finding




Two wins! one came to me via the UK and I had to wait six months for it to come this way! Thanks Maria from Fly High.


The other was a win from Heavenali. Looking ever so much to reading this one.







This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

The books I am reading right now are a Robin Pilcher (two book in one) and quite a chunkster. Almost finishing the second book and then I will choose one of the above.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

THE SILENT WORLD OF NICHOLAS QUINN AND SERIVCE OF ALL THE DEAD BY COLIN DEXTER


A foreign examination run by a syndicate in Oxford with Nicholas Quinn at its head is the base of the story. Quinn is deaf so for him it is a prestigious appointment which he is very proud of. His appointment was not without its opponents and he knows this.

When Quinn is found murdered everyone is suspect. There are connections between the staff members which are not apparent on the surface and so many of them lie to either protect themselves or one another, that is obvious to Inspector Morse that the truth will come out as they cannot help tripping over the various lies and pretexts trotted out as alibis.

A tale of corruption, examination fraud and Morse trying to get it right.

Interesting as usual.


The next story involves a murder that has long been written off. The fact that Morse is even investigating this gets the back up of local officials who feel that the matter is now closed. A vicar and his erring flock gets Morse's attention to the point that he almost gets murdered as well. Amurder and what is thought to be a suicide, a woman working for the church and the list of victims keeps getting longer and longer.

Morse and Lewis go through several theories discarding them as they go leading upto the final debacle.

Morse is as usual a pompous prickly sort of man. Lewis is self effacing, kindly and tolerant. How he tolerates Morse is another story. It is the contrast of the two characters that add greatly to the interest of the writings of the story. Murder aside it is these two people who lead the story and get you going.

For me two books in one and not very cumbersome either to read was a good choice.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

KATIE FFORDE - A PERFECT PROPOSAL


Sophie is the daughter everyone would love to have. She is general dogsbody in a house where no one appreciates her, everyone including her parents treat her as a simpleton and just a jill of all the work and no takes the slightest notice of her own ambitions and dreams. I wanted to shake Sophie and tell her to get rid of her family and get on with it!

When her friend Milly invites Sophie to New York, the adventure begins. Initially going as a nanny Sophie finds herself without a job. Going to a fancy art gallery for a viewing she meets up with Matilda, wealthy and benevolent who takes Sophie under her wing and invites her for Thanksgiving to her family home. Meeting up with Matilda's grandson who immediately thinks that Sophie is a gold digger she meets up with animosity on his side but at the same time is roped in to act as his pretend fiancee! This is the part that I thought was a bit overdone. You cant be antagonistic to someone and also pretend to be lovey dovey.......

I like chick lit in small doses. This was a good one. The heroine was a down to earth woman, willing to work hard, shopped in thrift shops and made do. The hero was of course fabulously rich (a Learjet of his own no less) and handsome so it put the equation out a bit. It was nevertheless an enjoyable read.

Came to the computer after a 2.5 hour power cut. So unfair as it is only our area which has had its power cut today. 

Going to be away from Colombo and all access to the internet till Sunday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SARAH DUNANT SNOW STORMS IN A HOT CLIMATE


I have read three of Sarah Dunant books but they were all set in Rennaissance Italy. I loved the settings, the writings, the period. This was a 360 degree turnaround! a debut thriller by the same author. What a contrast and still so refreshing.

A very suave young man dealing in cocaine and a very naive woman who falls in love with him. He is brilliant at portraying emotions so well that anyone is swept away by his "genuineness"!  Portrayed to the reader as a cold, clinical, calculating killer the story of  Elly and Lenny is set amidst the countries of Colombia and America with a a descriptiveness of both which catches one's imagination wholeheartedly.

The loyalty of old friends whose ties are those that bind and go back years is also highlighted in this book. Old friends who care for one deeply despite being rejected by one who finds new loves and new interests.  This theme of friendship runs through the whole book uniting Marla and Ella with Lenny and other characters on the sidelines.

Beautifully told, very intense and keeping you on the edge till the end. Another side to a very clever author.

We are having three hour power cuts every day! this affected our computers as well and we were without internet for two days. Now hopefully things are going to settle down. Can live with the power cut but not without the internet!  it was a bad two days.


Monday, July 23, 2012

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



Mailbox Monday hosted for July at Mrs Q Book Addict.

I received just one book which was a win from Joanna . Thanks for the win


I've read Middlesex by this author and the book was disconcertingly good!


This meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I had an excellent reading week though reviews went on smoothly only till Wednesday. Work and travel got in the way and everything is now late.

I've finished practically all my reads - right now its Lisa Scottoline and then a fat two book in one by Robin Pilcher. Eldest son of Rosamunde Pilcher so I think I am on a winning streak here!

Have a good week everyone




Sunday, July 22, 2012

ROSAMUNDE PILCHER - THE SHELL SEEKERS


We have a very strong character in Penelope here and what is apparent right from the start is the theme of love. Not just the romantic, passionate kind but also the maternal love as well as the love one has for parents.

Penelope is not blind to her children's weaknesses, neither is she blind to those of her husband whom she went along with for many, many years accepting his infidelity, his disinterest in both her and the children and trying to be mother and father to her family. We then go on to the next stage where she falls passionately in love with Richard but a World War intervention puts a sad end to that story. However Penelope does not allow life to get her down and she is determined to make the best of what she has and she does it wonderfully.

This was not a sweetly sentimental tale, but one of courage, perseverance in the face of adversity and much love. I particularly liked the depiction of her as a parent and how she was very firm in her decisions towards her adult children, able to read them as they actually are, and not what she would like them to be.

The last weekend was hectic. We went to Jaffna (ten hours by bus which took twelve eventually) but enjoyed ourselves. It was meeting relations all over again but after a thirty year absence from the Peninsula this is something that we look forward to. The food of course is another attraction! Returned this morning and its back to business.




My mailbox meme is going to be a bit late this week as well as I try to finish all the odds and ends of work which has piled up over the weekend.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

THE LIGHTHOUSE BY P D JAMES




P D James's books never ever fail to entrance me.  The author is 85 but the stories are so contemporary, so in touch with present life that they hold you from beginning to end. At the end you are sorry the story ended and you are on the lookout for the next book.

Set on a fictitious island Coombe off the coast off Cornwall in idyllic but rough surroundings, the island is a haven for those in industry or politics who seek a quiet place of serenity and solitude to relax sans the fear of terrorism or security or the day to day humdrum calls of their lives. It is run with clockwork efficiency by a very efficient staff and the whole place runs like a well oiled machine.

Enter Nathan Oliver a not very nice man, famous author who uses people and brings out the worst in them so that his stories could be so authentic as he is able to get into the head of the character so to speak. Nathan Oliver upsets the smooth functioning of the Island. He also finds himself murdered and so enters the enigmatic Adam Dalgleish. (I never fail to be impressed by him as well!)

Unusual settings are James's forte and here there is no exception. This remote island with its lighthouse and its separate cottages cut off from the mainland, no visitors allowed other than by permission are so beautifully described that you never want to leave. Add to this mix the gorgeous Inspector with his poetry and music, and a mix of characters and you have a best seller on your hands.

Just waiting to get to the next P D James's book. Absolutely riveting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

THE BIRTH OF VENUS BY SARAH DUNANT






The story opens with the end of our chief character's life and this puzzled me with the name change. It was only subsequently that it came to me that women who become nuns sometimes change their names so that our heroine and our nun were one and the same.

Sarah Dunant did not disappoint with this book. Set in 15th century Italy amidst turbulent times the story encompasses the life of Alessandra - who was somewhat "different" to the rest of her family and whose mother foresaw that life could have been tough for this girl who was not willing to conform to what was expected of her.

With her growing up and subsequent marriage, Alessandra realizes that things are not quite right not just with her husband but with the beautiful city of Florence where she lives. Things are turning quite stormy with the arrival of a new priest Savonarola and the city which prided itself on its rich culture and appreciation of anything beautiful whether it was fabric, houses, or sculpture not puts itself on the defensive against the onslaught of a puritannical monk who seeks to purge the city of everything that is vain - in the monk's eye anything that is beautiful.  Florence also takes a step back in time when it banishes women from churches and public gatherings and this is a frightening stage in the life of Alessandra.

As Florence becomes dull and women become subservient and self effacing the showdown between the Borgia Pope and Savonarola becomes inevitable. The final purge of the city by force in most instances of all its antiquities and even its ornaments and the bonfire that results marks the turning point in the history of the city itself and begins the end of Savonarola's hold on Florence's citizens.

The end of Alessandra's marriage and her subsequent decision as to what to do with the rest of her life is a twist in the tale so beautifully told.

This was a fascinating story (once again) told by the passionate Alessandra - the historical detail, the descriptiveness of the entire gamut of art and life in that time in Florence is evocative and beautifully told.

Monday, July 16, 2012

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

Mailbox Monday hosted for August by Mrs Q Book Addict.

I have a host of good reads this week courtesy of a library

This was a collection of short stories. I like the idea of short stories ideal for me whilst travelling and this was already read and reviewed.



One of the blogs had a review on several of her books. So this was timely for me.


I've read two of her books set in Renaissance Italy and loved them. This is of course set in modern times with a very modern storyline.



I've read quite a few of her books and it was only one book which disappointed me. This one has excellent reviews and I am looking forward to this one.




This was a purchase from the church sale and the lady who sold it said that it was very good!



This Tracy Chevalier book was a win from Rebecca. Thanks Rebecca.


The next meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey


I am right now in the middle of two books. One is the Katie Fforde A Perfect Proposal (pictured above) and the other is the absolutely gorgeous Adam Dalgleish in The Lighthouse!



Have a wonderful week everyone.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ACQUA ALTA BY DONNA LEON

This was a new author for me. It is also I understand part of a series and one that I am going to like very much. Here we are dealing with a Commissario who is intelligent, cultured and not brash. I can only ally him with Adam Dalgleish of the P D James's books.

Also, with a setting of Venice and so beautifully described at every turn even at its most dismal, dingy and diabolic the book captures your interest with its story of faked antiquities and a rollicking business in this, an American art historian caught in the middle and her lesbian lover opera singer Flavia and the horrific start to the story where Brett is attacked as a warning to lay off or else.

Packed with a lot of action Venice herself is a major character in this story and this I enjoyed tremendously.
I will be looking out for more books by this author.

I had a disastrous three days with no internet due to some router fault which has just been rectified. My Mailbox Monday meme is going to be delayed but hopefully I will get there. Apart from that two dogs both sick - really, really sick - which adds just so much more pressure to the mix!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER AND OTHER STORIES BY ROSE TREMAIN



The stories start with the unusual one of Charlotte preparing to rob the ancestral home whilst her parents are blissfully unaware of what is happening as they are on holiday. This was the main story and though all the stories are short and to the point, there is a lot of action and every story is utterly concise and complete.

These collections of short stories are for me very enjoyable. They are ideal to read whilst travelling. I am overjoyed at the end of the day that I have actually completed so many stories - and the fact that all the stories have a story to tell is also interesting.

Apart from the Colonels daughter where you are dealing with the aristocracy on the one hand and their daughter who is so opposite them, we next have the aging beauty trying to hold her own and losing her gigolo boyfriend to her own daughter, the Dawses trying to maintain a lifestyle which they are not accustomed to courtesy of the life insurance policy that has matured, and we have the author delving into all kinds of relationships apart from the talking about the effect that money has on love and the effect that social class have on love. The book gets you thinking of parallels that you may have found in your own life - people who may be similar to those you are reading about!



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

THE WHITE PEARL BY KATE FURNIVAL





Set in the period of 1941 - 1942 with World War II as its background, it deals with the life of Connie and her life as the wife of a rich rubber planter of the Hadley family. With Japan invading the Far East and stealthily creeping across South East Asia which was hitherto thought impossible, the lives of the complacent British have to change.

The beginning of the story was for me slow - the catalyst of Connie killing Maya and Razak's mother - was somehow flat for me. This should have been more important as it formed the very crux of this story and how it sort of spun out of control from that point onwards. With the fall of Malaya Connie and a close band of acquaintances are forced to flee taking what little they could grab on board The White Pearl a yacht belonging to Connie gifted to her by her husband.

Taking their lives in their hands across the seas hoping to reach Singapore safely (not knowing that Singapore will also fall), the expedition faces many dangers, loss of lives, pirates, storms, a betrayal and also a new exhilirating love being discovered.

The book picked up midway and held my interest intensely from that point onwards till the end. The way Connie's character developed from being a mild woman to that of asserting herself and deciding for herself what was good for her and her young son was nice to watch. How she handled treachery, betrayal and her new love was also amazing.

Books set in foreign climes always  fascinate me. Maybe I will be able to visit the country maybe I won't and this may be the closest I will get to it. This period in history was also new to me. My knowledge of how the Japanese ruthlessly almost took over the Far East was also new to me.

A very good book. I read about this author first on Cornflower Books. So glad I got this book.


SPIN BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE



I read chick lit after a very long time. I did go into it not really knowing whether I was going to like it or not because sometimes it bores me silly. I should really get rid of my condescending tone and get to grips with this genre.

Kate gets a once in a lifetime opportunity and obtains an interview at a magazine that she adores. She blows the whole chance away by getting absolutely drunk on the night before the interview, turns up for it stoned out of her mind.   Fast forward to a couple of weeks later where she has gone through every feeling of guilt, self hate and anger. She is now called upon to go undercover at a rehabilitation center for recovering addicts and be the papparazzi who will uncover the story of what a famous star is doing at the center. In return she will be offered a job at the magazine. She herself is being diagnosed as an alcoholic much to her dismay and disgust.

Go further down the line meeting the person she is supposed to shop, meeting a man whom she is attracted to and feeling thoroughly mixed up about being the person to blow the whole story to the media who are waiting with bated breath for news of the star who is now in rehab is the rough outline of the whole story.

I found Kate to be silly and I also found lots of things in the book unrealistic. I was glad however  that it tackled the problem of alcoholicsm in young people because very often this is thought to be an issue amongst older folk. In this story Kate and her friends are all very very young.   I was glad I read it mainly to get out of my own comfort zone and read a genre which is opposite to what I normally would indulge in.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ROSAMUNDE PILCHER - TWO SHORT BOOKS


Rosamunde Pilcher is a prolific writer. Like Agatha Christie and Jane Austen, she is for me something of a comfort read. When I have had a surfeit of serious stuff and lots of murder and mayhem, this is a good one to relax by.

Sleeping Tiger set on a romantic island deals with a girl on the eve almost of getting married who ups and goes away to find whom she thinks is her father whom she had been made to believe was dead. The book was far too good to be true and it did not give me the pleasure of this author's other reads. I was disappointed as it was as if it was a mix of a fairy story and a highly over rated romance!

But then I read the next book which was



It restored my faith in her writings once more. A selection of mixed reads but what a gorgeous selection of stories. All kinds of settings, all vivid, all very beautifully told and invariably with a moral in the story which rounded it off very well.

I am going to look for her other books as well.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

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


Mailbox Monday is on tour and for July is hosted by Mrs. Q Book Addict. I had some good choices at my second hand book store this week.


The accolades are immense for this one and the setting is also dramatic.


This was one I grabbed since I had just finished  another book by the same author. I found it amazing and hope this one won't disappoint.



One of my commentators suggested me reading Robin Pilcher (son of Rosamunde Pilcher whose books I like).  This is two books in one as well so double the pleasure.



I love her books! nothing more to add other than I love Dalgleish too.


A new author for me - recommended by a fellow blogger.



A new author and title for me - set in 1946 the war is over and this era is a period I like to read about.


Venice and crime! this is the mystery box selection. I like to go with a random read sometimes to see how it pans out.





The meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Since I am doing this meme early the book I am reading today - Sunday is


Set in Malaya - with Japan waiting to over run the East, this is a saga of one woman's fight for survival. Very good so far.  My next read will depend on my mood at that moment!

On a non book note - the cousins arrived and it was a lot of fun. Hoping to meet up once again before they go back to the UK. Hilarious how one of them was terrified of mosquitoes - and anything creepy crawly even flies. I do hope she does not get surprised by the komodo dragons around!  Tried to explain tropical country - part of life but failed so gave up...

Another lot of cousins again from the UK - this time with three kids all under the age of seven coming on the 17th.  Children are versatile, adaptable and will act to the manner born in two or three
days.  They have not been able to come home for the last ten years as the mother went as a refugee and just got residence in the UK. Her father is in his late eighties and hanging on for dear life just to get a glimpse of his grandchildren.  She is his only child and he is over the moon with happiness at the thought that at last he will be able to see and hold them.

Everyone have a good week.

Friday, July 6, 2012

IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN BY SARAH DUNANT





Once I started this book, I just could not put it down. Ok I love history and this was history at its best. Throw in a clever, very clever courtesan and a gorgeous dwarf who is equally clever and you have magic at its best. Once I finished the book, I wanted to know about the woman who wrote the book, because she is obviously cleverer than everyone featured in the book to have written such a masterpiece.

The research that must have gone into this book is amazing. The amount of detail as to how the system amongst courtesans work both in Rome and Venice, the intricacies of the local politic and the day to day workings of what was a very lucrative business which brought prostitution down to a fine art was fabulous.

Fiammetta successful at her work and Buccino her pimp are a match made in heaven. There is mutual admiration for each other, but does Buccino secretly pine for her. We do not know ever. Theirs is a relationship which goes beyond business but not lovers. Both rely on each other not just for success but for survival. This is a story of violence and horror and it opens with the sack of Rome and both Fiammetta and Buccino escaping with their lives and a few jewels, escaping to Venice to start all over again. Physically and mentally exhausted, they rebuild their lives with limited resources and start living again.

The wry humour to be found throughout the story - in good times and in hugely bad times is beyond description. That even in the worst of times, you can always smile at the language, at the descriptive manner in which something is portrayed is beautiful. There is magic in the language used and no holds barred either describing something sensual or even something mundane. You just have to read more and more. It became an addiction for me and I was very sorry when I finished the story.

The only good thing was that like a miracle I found another book by this author and now I have to go dig out the other seven she has written! This is a must read book for lovers of not just historical fiction, but for those who love strong women, good humour, beautiful use of language and descriptive surroundings.