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Sunday, September 30, 2012

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


Mailbox Monday is on tour and I just don't seem to be able to see who the host is for October. I will come back and edit this post once I get that bit of information!!!!

I had just two books come into the house and they sound delicious!



Loved the cover and the lacy effect!!!


This was the only image I could find for this book so excuse the web site indicated on the cover!
A delightful mix of three great authors - Alexandra Potter is a new one for me. The others are very old favourites and this is one book I am really looking forward to.

I've done a fair amount of reading despite it being a pressurised week! but reviewing and commenting has been a bit haphazard.

This meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. For this week I still have two great books both with an Indian background. One set in the time of the British Raj and one very much in present times of call centers and modern technological advances! Undecided on what to read. May go with something very different though.
 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

THE LITTLE FRIEND DONNA TARTT

I was in the minority where I could not finish/did not like  The Secret History but I did think that I had not given it much attention. With this book the story is different. A bit like a Mark Twain novel we have our main character the child Harriet behaving in turns in a very child like and in turns an adult manner. I held my breath several times thinking that she was going in over her head and entering into spheres which she should have left well alone. Suspense yes!

The effect of a murder on an entire family and the lifelong effect it will have on 12 year old Harriet forms the main part of the story. The story set in the American South is very vivid in its portrayal of Southern ladies who live upto their imagery of being either delicate ladies or stalwart ones and Harriet sets out on a journey of trying to solve her brother's murder. Once she has decided who is the murderer she is very focussed on bringing justice to her family.

Set during one summer Harriet faces so much of misunderstandings, specially from her own family. Her mother completely unhinged by the murder of her son, has never really recovered and lives in a fog of her own. Her aunts try to cope, trying to maintain a facade of normality over their lives but put up a wall of resistance whenever the topic of the murder comes up. For Harriet herself I was just wishing she would put her dead brother aside and just get on with her 12 year old life. You felt for her, you felt the danger she was putting herself into when she dabbled in things much too dark and deep for a 12 year old.

It is the suspense in this novel which was tough to deal with. I was relived at the end of the book - relieved the book was over and I could delegate Harriet to a corner of my mind. Hely her best friend creates a nice balance for Harriet - a very normal, boisterous 12 year old boy who brings so much normality to the plot.

This book comes after a ten year hiatus so lets hope we do not have to wait that long for the third book.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

THE MARRIAGE PLOT by JEFFREY EUGINEDES



This was a book win - thank you Joanna. 

I first tried to understand the title of the book and then realized that yes this is a planned plot - albeit set in very modern times. The meeting, the planning and the settling down of happily ever after sounds old fashioned but the story is central to this theme.

We have three distinct personalities in Leonard - manic depressive, clever  and we have Mitchell also clever and secretly in love with Madeline,  but with little courage to actually make the move and a strong affinity to religious studies  and we have Madeline heavily into Victorian literature, upper class, moneyed and never ever having to take the hard road in life. Madeline falls in love with Leonard very early on in the story, decides to marry him but very very early in their married life realizes that the man she has got married to is ill and the veneer that is apparent is just that - only on the surface and she will have to work extremely hard against a lot of odds to make her marriage work.

Working out like a love triangle between the three, Madeline is sometimes tempted to opt out with Mitchell when he is around because working with Leonard is too hard. Leonard not responsible for himself, on medication, has to be watched most of the time and Madeline does seem to do a lot of hand holding here.  The story is a love story but not of the romantic kind. Madeline has to grow up and fast - she also has to hold out against her parents who with their 'I told you so' attitudes are so similar to parents worldwide who fear for their offspring and seem to sense danger even before it exists. I felt for Madeline's parents - helpless and on the sidelines - wanting to protect their daughter against everything untoward that could go wrong and not being able to do anything about it.

The story unfolded for me slowly. During the first half of the book, I was slightly bored but by the middle I was caught up in the happenings of Madeline and Leonard's marriage, honeymoon and return to their life in America. By this time the book engrossed me totally and I wanted to know how it would all end.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

MIDWIVES by CHRIS BOHJALIAN



Sybil Danforth fell in love with the entire birth process and her patients became her extended family. There was no doubt of her sincerity and her caring for them throughout their pregnancy and their birth. Though she believed intensely in the necessity of a home birth, she also knew the practical difficulties faced with some pregnancies and never took a chance with something that she was just not comfortable with.

A disaster in the form of what should have been a normal delivery which went wrong, resulting in a hurriedly performed Caesarian section at home so that the baby was saved led to the crux of this story.

Bohjalian takes us along on a very smooth path of birth, Sybil's own family and how peaceful everything seems. But, you do know you are sitting on the edge because this cannot be a story if it is all going to be so nice and comfy. I was from the beginning of the story on edge despite such a serene setting because you did feel that turning over the next page was going to be the actual reason for this story.

The death of Charlotte sets a series of events leading to Sybil being charged and the resultant court case which divides the town as well as medical professionals is intense. I thought it was a bit unfair to categorize that all the doctors detested the habit of midwifery at home and that they were against Sybil from the very beginning but maybe I am wrong here. The focus on child birth at home is I suppose a personal choice and one which could be having pros and cons for all. This book brings it all into the open.

The story narrated from a 14 year old's point of view was also an interesting choice. How quickly and easily Sybil's daughter grew up with the turmoil of the case around her was a nice touch.

This was a book which was good to read.
 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

THE WRITING CIRCLE by CORINNE DEMAS


This was my last book which I took from the Carnegie library in Melbourne. I picked it up in a hurry and thought it would be all about writers (which it was) and would be very interesting. The mix of writers was an eclectic mix - highbrow as well as those who did know what they were capable of. The writing circle also came along with something of a handicap in the form of partners of the writers and the families of the writers and though this was part of the history of each individual writer, it also took away from their writing in this particular case.

Growing animosity within the group, the forming of cliques and sidelining one of their number, a charge of plagiarism and the manner in which it was done was all part of the story. How the plagiarism was handled by the rest of the writers and how they rallied around the writer who was the victim formed part of the ethics of writing.

Lots of broken hearts, emotion in every form, viciousness amongst partners form the background to the story. The book did not do anything much for me. I expected too much from the writers. My fault for keeping writers on a pedestal. Here most of them had feet of clay.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Another week without additions to my books. I've caught up with reading and finished two books which had been on my nightstand for ages so thats a good thing.

Mailbox Monday is hosted for September by BookNAround.


It's Monday What Are you Reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I was reading whilst travelling today - I finished The Little Friend by Donna Tartt just minutes before I arrived at journey's end which was excellent timing. Finished Midwives (so long on my list) last night.

I have a William Dalrymple to read next but its a huge book so I may go for something easier to handle!
 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

PARDONABLE LIES by JACQUELINE WINSPEAR



The series set after World War I are very interesting reads for me. Maisie Dobbs worked in France during the war as a nurse so the flashbacks are also indicative of what her work during the war involved. This particular book involves three separate mysteries of missing people - all missing in action so to speak and whose families in one way or another seek closure.

The results of Maisie's investigations are intriguing. You knew at the beginning that it is what not it seemed. No one had actually died the way the way they said (otherwise there would have been no mystery!) but the tale is very interesting and what transpires on the way and how it gets actually solved is what is good.

Maisie is not just part of an investigation here. In this story she also forms very much part of the emotional side of the story as she becomes personally involved in many ways. I did not care much for the psychic side of Maisie but then you cannot have everything.

This is a series involving Maisie Dobbs and I would certainly like to read more. The fact that I read this book in a large font made it so much easier on the eye as well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

THE SHADOWY HORSES by SUSANNA KEARSLEY

 
Susanna Kearsley had been on my radar for months. I got my first book Mariana when I was in Melbourne and loved it. This is my second book which I was lucky enough to get.
 
A nicely blended story of the gothic (we do have a roman sentinel roaming on an archaelogical site, only visible to a small boy who is able to see him, have conversations with him (in Latin of course) and then we have the romance.
 
The story is set in Scotland and seems as far removed from Roman remains as whatever. Verity our main character has a steady job at the British Museum and is gaining a foothold in her field when her ex boyfriend summons her to Scotland with what may be considered a wild goose chase. At least that is what the whole archaelogical world thinks. Peter Quinnell is considered at best eccentric and at the worst absolutely insane but everyone humours him by going along with his firm view that he is on the cusp of a major discovery of Roman remains on this site in Scotland.
 
No more as it would be a spoiler but coupled with the rich history revealed of a time gone by, a tragic love story of Roman times revealed, a present day love story unfolding and a family drama and secrets being unfolded as well makes for a very good story.
 
Now to look for more books by this author!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SMUT by ALAN BENNETT



I picked this one up solely on my wonderful experience with The Uncommon Reader. I think my expectations were far too high. Two longish short stories which did not do anything very much for me.

Described as unseemly, the words are very apt as I was not very comfortable with the two stories - in fact not even with the two titles. The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, middle aged, comfortably widowed and then a turnaround in behavior. Not a fling which would have been par for the course but something different!
The Shielding of Mrs Forbes deals with again a middle class woman with an attractive son who is gay and here keeping up appearances is of paramount importance.

I should have found them funny or even slightly humourous but I found them rather dull. I did finish the book because I was hoping for something more but by the end - it was still slightly flat for me.

Both stories are about what people would think and do, and how they would react if they actually know the truth so it was a bit of play acting throughout. The story also deals with how sex is handled with an almost Victorian attitude in the 20th century and the only happy handling of a sexual relationship was between a father in law and daughter in law!

Not my best read for 2012.

Monday, September 17, 2012

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


I am back in Sri Lanka after a three week sojourn in Melbourne. Coming back is always sad as I have to leave the children behind and though it is nice to be back in my own home it takes me quite a while to settle down. 

I was without Internet for the last two weeks and could not participate in my Monday morning memes (which I dearly like). My mailbox this week will remain empty and I will start on my reading once I unpack and settle down (came back only early this morning).

I am going to visit the mailboxes of all the other bloggers though and see what is the latest happenings in the book world.

This meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey is also an interesting one. Will be visiting the blogs after a long absence.

I have quite a few book reviews to do and will get back into the reading asap.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

THE VISION OF LOVELINESS by LOUISE LEVENE



I read about this author for another book Ghastly Business at Cornflower Books and since that one was not available I thought I'd pick this one up and try a new author for me.

Set in the 1950's in a drab suburb of Norbury where being "respectable" counts above all, we have Jane James living with her younger sister June, in the home of her aunt and uncle who took the two children in when their parents died. Jane wants to break away and at 19 is looking for an opportunity to do so. She reads up on how she should behave with men, to seduce and entice them, how to dress, how to do proper make up and generally wants to upgrade herself in a manner which will take her out of Norbury into the much looked up West End part of London.

An opportunity comes her way and she grabs it with both hands, leaving Norbury behind and joining forces with Suzy St. John (nothing real about the name) and in her finds a like minded spirit who is determined to move on and up and speedily.  Anything more would be spoilers!

This book deals with the feelings of the time - that for young women there was nothing else to do but make themselves as attractive and appealing to the men - married or single - and obtain as much favors as one could - from marriage, to jewellery, to a flat to anything as mundane as furs and handbags as well so that earning one's bread and butter is not a chore but just a sideline  to the main event.

It is bitingly funny,  described as a social satire and at the same time looking at it from 2012 I found it sad that such talented young women had to behave like this to improve their lot.  I just thank my lucky stars that I was not born in such a sexist, small minded society!  This was a excellent read and I must try to find Ghastly Business before I leave Melbourne.

I am going to be away from the Internet as we are moving house and the provider has just informed us that it takes two weeks to give us our new connections. I didn't think it was as bureaucratic as all that in modern Melbourne so unless the library has time for me to get a slot no internet till I get back to Sri Lanka.

Weather here in Melbourne was chilly when I arrived, then turned balmy, two days ago cyclonic winds and now just gloomy. Ten days more only in Melbourne and then back home. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

WAIT FOR ME by DEBORAH DEVONSHIRE



I have liked memoirs and I think the Mitford sisters ones are slightly different - a bit larger than life always, a bit eccentric and a bit in your face. They were a family which did not follow the norms of conventional society of the time,  though the broad outlines of normal family life were very much there - father was someone who hitched his children to carts or wagons to work off the children's excessive energy but at the same time both parents were far thinking on lots of things which was unusual for their era. They were very fair to the myriad people who worked for them and it is obvious that the caring was much more than skin deep. They did not have a callous attitude towards their "servants" and though aristocratic as they were, it could never be equals, they still had a far better time under the Mitford family than most other families of the time.

Although this book concentrates on Deborah's life as the youngest and the one most ignored by her siblings, it also brings to life what it was to be part of such a big, strange family. The life that Deborah led was to a great extent the most "normal" to the extent of marriage and family but she certainly had an exciting time of it and she seemed to have coped wonderfully - going through the changes of two World Wars, loss of family members at every turn, an alcoholic husband and the burden of great wealth which had to be looked after, nurtured so that it could be passed on intact either to the next generation or for the appreciation of the public in general.

How she turned Chatsworth into a self sufficient enterprise along with members of a Trust was for me amazing. She was willing to try out any entrepreneurial scheme that would benefit the employees, the House itself and the family so that profits aside it would be independent and able to manage on its own.

Very dry wit and facts as they stood - whether it was homosexuality, alcoholism, dissolute lifestyles, atrocious attitudes and tempers it is all in this book. Quite a chunkster I read it in stages and enjoyed it very much. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

DROWNING ROSE by MARIKA COBBOLD



The story begins with Eliza holding a responsible job as a ceramic conservator at the V&A museum. She is happy in her job, trying to get the pieces of her life together after her divorce. Eliza was brought up in Sweden and out of the blue receives a phone call from Uncle Ian and this is where the flashbacks begin and the actual story starts.


We go back twenty five years to three girls Portia, Eliza and Rose and Sandra/Cassandra. In a posh boarding school the girls are put together to "get on" and with orders not to make Sandra feel unwanted. In typical teen fashion which can be quite cruel three of them do realize that whatever happens Sandra is an outsider who does not understand the nuances of society as much as they do or rather think they do and their cruelty is knowingly or unknowingly the beginning of the tragedy where Rose loses her life.

Sandra comes in as the scholarship girl and trying desperately to get into the inner circle. It is Sandra who gives us perfect descriptions of each girl - Eliza the artistic one, Rose the film star and Portia the author - the two first person narrations of the story can be confusing till you separate them in your mind into two distinct compartments. We have Sandra as the first with very clear cut views on each of the girls she is associating with and her wanting to be part of that circle does not diminish her views on each persons strengths and weaknesses. Once Rose and Sandra fall for the same boy, the chips are down and its a full scale battle.

We then have Eliza in the present time, older, a bit battered and wondering why Rose's father wants to give her such a legacy despite the fact that she was responsible for his daughter's death.

The burden of grief and more than that guilt is brought out delicately in this story. The fact that some of us can handle both of it better than others is also shown whereas with some the guilt specially overshadows their entire life and can sour it forever.

Though there are degrees of sadness and darkness in the novel, the lightness of Eliza's tongue in the cheek humour makes it very refreshing to read.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

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


I am spoiled for choice! So many books courtesy of the Carnegie library in Melbourne. The host for this month for this meme is BooksNAround


Ghastly Business was the recommended read on Cornflower Books.  That book is only going to come back after I leave Melbourne. This is another book by the same author.


After reading Mariana, this was my next step.


I have seen this author on several blogs. This is my first read of the author.


The Mitford sisters has fascinated me for years. I have been able to get hold of several of the books but this account by the youngest sister is a new one for me. They were often overshadowed by Pam and Nancy so this one gives another view of this family.




This has been on my TBR for over one year. Finally got to it.



It's Monday What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. 


I'm reading two books - Drowning Rose as well as Wait for Me. The two are a contrast to each other and
thankfully Wait for Me is in a big print. Ideal for night time reading.

Am visiting quite a few blogs as I have more free time than at home. Enjoying seeing what everyone else is reading.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

PARIS IN LOVE by ELOISA JAMES


This is a book that came highly recommended during the Paris in July read-a-long. I would have liked to have entered such a group of bloggers but I knew that my access to reading books on Paris would be nearly zero. I picked this one up now and wasn't it a winner.

Something that lots of us would maybe like to do. Take a year off from whatever we are doing - in this case a Shakespeare professor - take the family and go live in Paris for one year. It is a book that drags you in and won't let you get out. An original take on one woman's insight into living in Paris with an Italian husband, two children of eleven and fifteen who are trying desperately to cope with a new language and a new set of friends and her own foray into the world of French women, French food and the French way of life.
It also brings us glimpses of immigrants, the homeless of Paris, museums and churches galore and I loved the list of fairly unknown museums at the end which was a personal recommendation of the author.

The author decided to go to Paris to live after hearing herself diagnosed with breast cancer and just two weeks after her mother died of the disease. The book signifies her triumph in spirit and the way she embraces life with all its differences, determined to enjoy life and at the same time makes sure that her children also experience life in another dimension. The story of Luca and Anna is uplifting - in a strange environment learning Latin and French and making new friends is never easy but these two children manage very well and I loved how they adapted to their new environment. The support of Alessandro the author's husband was immense and she could not have done this without him. The flashbacks to James's Minnesota background was a nice contrast to their present way of living and highlighted the differences.

Told in snippets and each one varying greatly from the previous one - you could be reading ten lines on a fabulous museum, then going on to French women and their sartorial touches and then moving on to an episode of Anna and her erstwhile enemy now turned best friend Domitilla and then moving on to a mouthwatering menu.

An enchanting read.