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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WHEN SHE WOKE by HILLARY JORDAN



I am sorry the cover is all blurry because I just could not find an image that was better. The images for this book are all a lurid black and white and this is the one I got as a win from Shannon.

This is a story set in the future and what was creepy about it was that it was not all fantasy or too futuristic  - it was very believable and very apt and something that you could imagine happening in America.

Hannah is a young single woman who gets pregnant and who aborts her child. She is melachromed (skin color changed to a startling red shade) for a fixed period of time. She serves a very short sentence and is then sent out into the world. This world does not accept those who are Yellow, Blue, Green or Red as these all indicate a crime of some nature or the other. The average man on the street is frightened of them and in turn ostracize them and ridicule them and also try to hurt them. Apart from that there is a vigilante group which deliberately seeks to kill them, trying to eliminate them from society altogether.

What does a defenceless young female do in such circumstances. The story of Hannah's flight and eventual arrival in Canada helped along by a group of underground supporters who do not hold with the government's views on the subject of melachroming and its over riding powers over people's lives, brought me very much to the same way the underground Resistance worked in Europe. A network of one person helping the other along and each one only knowing who your immediate contact is so that the entire network does not get blown apart.

This is not a genre which I generally read. I tend to be a bit skeptical about the futuristic novel, but this was one I just couldn't put down. I read it till 2.30am one night, skipped Grey's Anatomy and Junior Masterchef so you can imagine how enthralling the book was.

The story once again of a human's search for survival despite overwhelming odds is again told.
An amazing story and thank you Shannon for sending this on to me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TRACE by PATRICIA CORNWELL

 
 
Kay Scarpetta has moved on. She is no longer the very famous Virginia forensic expert, the one everyone turns to when there is a body around and no clues.  However, surprise surprise the same office that fired her now wants her back to get her opinion on the death of a 14 year old girl.
 
Coming back to Richmond was an uneasy business for Scarpetta and Marino. She knows the case stinks from the time she is ushered into her former office by a man who is surly and rude but so very frightened of the shoes he has got to fill, knowing he is falling short. Marcus also knows that everyone weighs him against the charismatic, gorgeous Kay Scarpetta. Fortunately no one still knows about his phobia re the garbage man and old Buicks!
 
In this story all the main characters have matured and moved on. Lucy always on the very edge of either breaking the law or avoiding a break of the law, Marino no longer hot headed though a bit stupid where the women are concerned and Kay herself is in a relationship with Benton which in this book seems to be going nowhere.
 
The murder itself seems to be just another part of the book - not the main focus. We have the usual list of suspects, we have another murder seemingly random, we discover more and more bodies as the story goes on again seemingly random and then in the usual Cornwell style, it all ties down together beautifully so that we wonder where it all began.
 
The murderers are always quirky in Cornwell's books. Not for her the sudden murder by someone who could not hold his liquor or was passionate over something. Her murderers are clever in their own way, meticulous over the planning and execution and always trying to cock a snook at the authorities - in this case Kay and her niece Lucy.
 
Liked the writing as usual though I did miss Kay Scarpetta's cooking. She normally dishes out fabulous food in the books which I thoroughly enjoy reading about.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

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


After two weeks of absolute nothing I got some good books this week. Mailbox Monday is being hosted for November by Bermudaonion.


This was a win from Giraffe Days. Thank you Shannon.


My second foray into this gorgeous author!

 
The precise and almost dry sense of humour of this author is what attracts me here. Always a favourite of mine.
 
 
Recommended on several blogs. Quite a heavy tome so I am keeping this aside for a bit.

I've never chosen an Oprah Book Club pick so this was a first for me.
 
 
 

This meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Right now I have a Julian Rathbone and a Patricia Cornwell going side by side! the Cornwell is gaining over the Rathbone rather fast. I also have the Hillary Jordan waiting on the sidelines.

Monday mornings are generally busy and tomorrow is again a holiday being the full moon Poya day so there are things that need to get done today and fast. Its a public holiday tomorrow so all banking and any office work must be finished now.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

THE LAST MUGHAL by WILLIAM DALRYMPLE

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

William Dalrymple is a favourite author of mine so I was very happy when a friend of mine from Australia gifted me this book in August this year. Why it took me so long to read it is a puzzle. I started it and found it very slow going, put it aside and came back to it this last week.

The story which is self explanatory is about Zafar - the last of the great Mughal rulers who ruled India for nearly 350 years and the way the dynasty ended - in banishment, penury and senility with the Emperor not being given any status or position as befitted his stature. Zafar was the last in a long line of very eminent Mughals - Genghis Khan and Timur the Great being the two most well known. For much of British history in India this last Mughal was insignificant. He was a weak emperor ruled and influenced very much by others who surrounded him. He seemed indecisive and could not be seen to act independently. He also never wanted to take on the responsibility of what he started and all the time said that it was in the hands of God, specially when things turned disastrous.

This story is set in old Delhi which was the pivot of the Mughal dynasty of the time. In the Emperor's time the Muslims and Hindus lived in harmony, the Emperor himself had a mother who was Hindu and he was very tolerant of Hindu rituals and customs both within and outside his own home. Although by now a vassal of the British, he lived a life of considerable ease, not imposed on by the Britons or anyone else. The tension arose with the rise of fundamentalism amongst the Islamic ulema or clergy who saw the disintegration of Islam, the rise of Hindu influence going step by step with total British control and more importantly, what they perceived the conversion of Muslims and Hindus to the Christian faith.  The destruction of Delhi and the Mughal dynasty were linked to the war which arose between the Muslims and the British rulers.

The callous murder of English men, women and children, the murder of Christian converts, the widespread looting that followed with no sense of justice and fairplay on both sides was horrific. The British murdered everyone in their path in a move which they saw would wipe the slate clean. For some officers in the Army it seemed to be a game of who could kill the most. Even those people who had given safe haven to fleeing English women and their families were not spared. They were killed merely for being Indian.

On the other hand the sepoys who ran berserk killed any Englishman or convert who crossed their path. The stories of rape were just stories and unlike other pictures of war, Englishwomen were not raped but the story was not the same when it came to the English army.

The violence depicted in this story is brutal and it was for me an eye opener. I had read of British atrocities in India when India was a colony but I never imagined anything on this scale in the 1800s. Detailed descriptions of the flight of English families who had lived in India for 30 or 40 years and who considered Delhi home was so sad, the loyalty of servants was incredible despite personal danger many did not leave their masters and were subsequently punished for it, and I especially liked the detailed footnotes which gave little snippets of information so very vital to the whole story.

Dalrymple was excelled himself once again.

Book reading and reviewing has taken a back seat this last week with a heavy workload. The Christmas gifts are still not finished and beginning to take on the look of a nightmare now as it has all got to be packed and ready by the 30th of this month. I have however been determined this year to become a little Christmassy around my own home (for the last three year I have not even put up the
tree. This year this is hopefully going to change!).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

WHAT CAME BEFORE HE SHOT HER by ELIZABETH GEORGE



Elizabeth George never disappoints. This one was totally different to all the other books of hers I have read. No Inspector Lynley other than in the dramatically, explosive and horrifying end. The moors reminiscent of many of her books, the quiet countryside all left far behind for a inner city full of squalor, fisticuffs, gang warfare and more.

Ness, Joel and Tobe are abandoned by their grandmother who is deported to Jamaica. Their mother is in a psychiatric unit and their father was killed in a shooting incident. The children have learned not to depend on any adult - no adult has won their trust or confidence and it was heartbreaking to read of how each child coped or rather tried to cope on their own, with sheer bravado and non chalance and a stiff upper lip maintained throughout. The concept of saving face was I thought an Asian idea and here I was totally fazed to see that it is very much part of the story here. Whatever you do, you must not let the other side know the inner workings of family, the skeletons in the closet, who is doing what with whom. These must always be strictly maintained with a curtain drawn over the whole unsavory business so that we continue to maintain a facade of gentility and family unity when the actual fact is actually blood curdling devastation.

The children end up with their aunt Kendra who has no skills in parenting but who feels she must love them  as they are family and they are all she has and vice versa. Trying to bring up a young teenager in this block of flats would be a nightmare for anyone let alone an aunt suddenly thrust with a defiant, sexually active, street smart, foul mouthed niece who feels she must rant, rave and steal if she wants to maintain her position in the world she moves in. We next have Joel , a level headed twelve year old who has his disabled brother as part of his responsibility and knows that this is something that he can never let go.

How circumstances force the entire family of three into a spiral of despair, truancy, robbery, blackmail and murder at the end is how this story comes about. From the opening line of the book we know that the end is not going to be pretty or even one where a murder is very cleanly solved. You know this is going to be a sordid story and sordid it is.

The author keeps you rivetted and I read it through till 4.30 am (and now being unable to keep up in office!). I was alternately horrified, angry, disbelieving that a situation like this can exist but then I have no idea of how a ghetto of this kind operates. My knowledge of gangs is restricted to books only and I was stupefied that twelve year olds could be influenced to behave in the manner that they did. Nothing was beyond them and what one of these characters would do in their twenties (if they live to tell the tale) would be worthy of another book.

There is no systematic looking for clues and interrogation of suspects in the story as the book deals with the very story of how the situation of the "shooting" comes about. As a result it is a story of the life of three sad children who through circumstances only of birth come to the end that they do. The slick investigation of Elizabeth George's novels through the suave Lynley, Havers and Nkata are only brought in at the very, very end and even then it is only Havers and Nkata. Lynley is just a name mentioned.

Strong stuff here but very good reading.

Monday, November 19, 2012

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

 
Mailbox Monday hosted for November by Bermudaonion.
 
Only one book came to my house this week given by a friend -  this Daphne du Maurier is unknown to me so I was delighted to receive this.
 
The next meme for Monday is It'sMonday! What Are You Reading hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
 
 
I have several reads going on at once. An Elizabeth George totally different from the rambling English countryside or a bleak moor setting but an urban sprawl complete with squats, squalor and all and the Julian Rathbone from last week which is slow reading but which I am hopeful of finishng one of these days.
 
Going back to my children's Christmas shopping, today was another marathon - six of them wanted dolls, three wanted doctor sets, one wanted a bead jewellery set and three wanted specifically Winnie the Pooh teddy bears. Got it all except the latter. Now have to look for them plus thirteen of them still have no special dresses for Christmas. Somehow I couldn't find clothes for the 12 to 14 year olds.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

SLAMMERKIN by EMMA DONOGHUE


Set in the 1700's we start with Mary in prison. We then work backwards as to how she got there and that is how the story originates. So we start knowing almost all -  because we know also that getting into prison is easy and getting out of it in those times was almost impossible and that probably either our Mary will be hanging on a gibbet or sent out to the Americas. A bleak prospect either way.

Mary is very young, living with her mother, step father and baby brother when she is thrown out of the family home for getting pregnant.  With no money and no home, she ends up with a sympathetic prostitute Doll who takes her in, nurtures her back to health (Mary has suffered a complete breakdown by now) and also Doll introduces her to prostitution and the world of prostitutes in London.

For me the description of London from Doll's and Mary's point of view was an eye opener. The rampant poverty, the sheer struggle to survive against all odds, each man for himself only but despite this Doll looks out for Mary and the two become very close, definitely close friends almost family.
From the start we see how Mary's life is determined by poor choices and circumstance. Mary always wants something better and is determined to get it. She is not happy with the philosophy of her mother of being content with your lot and of knowing your place in society. She yearns for what she does not have and wants to get it by whatever means possible. She thinks it is unfair that someone has position and power just because the person was born into a position of such. This is what leads to Mary's gradual downfall.

It was a difficult thing to read because you knew that Mary's ambition was not going to get her anywhere. I would have been satisfied after the long trek to Monmouth to be taken in by the Jones's family and to be taught a trade and also earn your independence but Mary was not me. She wanted it all. This was a girl born into the wrong century - born two centuries later Mary could have got what she wanted through her determination and spirit and hard work. In the eighteenth century this was just not possible.

An interesting read definitely though very slightly depressing!
 

Friday, November 16, 2012

DEAR FATTY by DAWN FRENCH

 
 
My only knowledge of Dawn French stems from The Vicar of Dibley which I found to be hilarious, irreverent and absolutely funny.
 
This memoir starts from the time of her being part of  a RAF family and the warm family atmosphere she grew in to her growing up, becoming a teacher of drama and then moving on to her career in comedy. The memoir in a series of letters to friends and family, especially those to her Dad shows how much she misses her Dad (who committed suicide when she was nineteen). Reading about her in various articles made it known to me that she has since left her husband so those letters in the book addressed to Len are particularly poignant.
 
A very frank and self critical look at herself this book is an honest look by Dawn French at Dawn French. A little more information about the Vicar of Dibley series would have been nice (for me!).
A very nice memoir.
 
Going back to the shopping, yesterday was full on!!!! Sixteen different salwar kameez sets, five sets of blouses and skirts and for one girl a dress! ordered 35 pairs of sandals which will come in by the 1st - and now for the little ones black patent leather shoes to go to church!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SHORT REVIEW! MERCY by JUSSI ADLER OLSEN

 
This was a win from Judith at Leeswammes.
 
The book was a very cold and clinical read. I just wanted it to end as quickly as possible hoping that the end would make it all worthwhile (which it did).
 
Someone is kidnapped and held for a number of years in a sealed compartment and the inhuman treatment meted out is breathtakingly brutal. I was very uncomfortable reading the story but it does keep you rivetted as one does want to know the outcome.
 
A new type of genre for me - murder and kidnapping in another form.
 
Started on an Elizabeth George and a Emma Donoghue book. Both murders and mysteries and a fair amount of intrigue and gore but somehow different.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

IN THE WOODS by TANA FRENCH


This is a book that you have to read in one go. It was an excellent read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Adam is a detective in the Irish Police force. As a young child he was part of a tragic incident in which two of his best friends simply disappeared. Due to the trauma Adam could not recall what actually happened and todate the case remains unresolved. Adam has also changed his name to Rob.
Fast forward to the present day and Adam and his partner detective Cassie find themselves on a case where a 12 year old has been found murdered in the same woods where Adam's friends disappeared so long ago.

Is there a link between the cases? who would want to murder Katy and the manner in which the murder is done and the sexual abuse of the body leaves a lot of questions. The Devlin family in itself are peculiar - the father heavily involved in a move to prevent a motorway coming through the wood leading to the question whether property developers were sending a sign to him to lay off, the mother Margaret vague and spacey - could she have caused Katy's severe gastric illnesses deliberately, the elder sister Rosalind - having secrets of her own and Jessie Katy's twin, not quite right but no one actually says so.

We also have running parallel to the story the story of Cassie and Adam - best friends in the most platonic way and Sam who is added to the mix as a detective who can help. How the relationship changes from being platonic to one which is not so and how it effects their working relationship so badly - to the extent that it seems that they cannot even work together. It spoiled it for all of them.

The solving of the murder was for me a surprise. It is always good when you can never solve it yourself till the end when all is revealed.  The breakdown of the relationship between Cassie and Adam was sad, specially when you considered how good it was before. I think Cassie is strong enough to be a repeat character in another book - someone like Lynley in the P D James's books or Miss. Marple in the Agatha Christie series.

On a non book note, today hopefully I can start on the Christmas gifts for the fifty children in the two Homes I help out at. Detailed lists of what each one wants has been given - I certainly like that children have individual ideas on what suits them. I hate the idea of institutionalized sameness!  Hopefully I can find everything to suit all.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

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


Monday morning here and this week there are no new books coming in. This week too it is hosted   by Bermudaonion. Time to play catch up.

Tomorrow we celebrate Deepavali - known as the festival of lights.





I will be away from the blog for two days as I have to go to Rozella as the workers there will be celebrating the festival. We have two enormous dogs who will need looking after so no internet at all.



However this meme will get lots of attention because with so much of travelling and being away from office, reading will get done (hopefully).


The meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
 
I've just started a Tana French book which is proving to be very, very good. I've also got Dear Fatty which got put aside and Mercy awaiting me. William Dalrymple and the Michael Ondaatjie have just got to wait.
 

SLEEP PALE SISTER by JOANNE HARRIS

 
 
Described as Victorian gothic, this was definitely a creepy one!
 
Set in the 19th century Henry Chester is a painter and he seems to specialize in paintings of very young girls.  This also seems to be a secret obsession of his. He takes in Effie as a young model at a very early age and uses her as his muse. He eventually marries her at 18 but though married to her would like to keep her in his eyes and heart as a young girl of not even teenage years.
 
Effie who looks at him as a father figure at first is repelled by him as time goes on specially after she loses her first baby. Ripe for any form of excitment, Effie falls in love with Mose an unsavoury character himself and finds herself lined to a world of prostitution and deceit in the form of the very friendly Fanny Miller.
 
Effie stands alone in this gothic story - yet a link and a pawn with all other characters who want a piece of her and who will cling to her in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.  Victorian society was harsh - the excessive restrictions of women by their husbands, the control that men had over women (even to the point of getting a wife locked up in an asylum on a false charge of insanity was possible as a doctor would faithfully follow a husband's wishes on this matter), the excessive use of drugs laudanum and choral were some of the features of the society at the time.
 
The story was harsh, the ending harsher and it was not a comfortable read. Certainly different, just not comfortable.

Friday, November 9, 2012

PAYMENT IN BLOOD by ELIZABETH GEORGE

 
Elizabeth George never disappoints me. This time around it was particularly good. A practical reason as well. The book was one of 300 odd pages compared to her normal 800 page tomes and sometimes when the story becomes so long, I tend to lose track of characters, plots and sub plots. Especially since I am reading on the go as it were and not in one place (if that is understandable!).
 
This one set in the bleak winter of a Scot landscape was brilliant. I loved the descriptiveness first of the landscape. Maybe it appeals to me because it is the exact opposite of where I live (hot, tropical, humid). The feeling of isolation, the absolute silence of the entire setting is something that can never be found in a populous island like mine.
 
A theatre group including director, playwright and actors meet for a reading in this remote Scottish manor and the playwright ends up dead with a dirk through her neck. Inspector Lynley and his partner Havers are sent out to investigate the crime. At the onset itself it seems rather strange and out of place because Scotland Yard has no jurisdiction in this territory and Lynley should have smelt a rat. It is not till the very end that Lynley finds how he has been used - being a peer it was decided by the higher ups that he would be the ideal sucker to be taken in by another peer Lord Stinhurst whose actions in the case are so suspicious and that Lynley will be taken in by the word of a "gentleman", accept everything he says as gospel and the case will die a graceful death.
 
Unfortunately, they did not think of Havers - who cannot stand the toffs, disregards everything they say and is suspicious to the last of the "gentlemen". A second murder of an innocent bystander, the discovery of suicide of a young woman twenty five years ago, now not a suicide but a murder and the unravelling of that story linked to this play makes for a marvellous mystery murder. Add to this several adulterous relationships, family secrets, government cover ups, a Soviet mole and you definitely have not just a good crime fiction read but a wonderful read.
 
One of the best by Elizabeth George.
 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

HEAD OVER HEELS by JILL MANSELL


Yesterday was a busy day and I did need something light to read. I had plenty of waiting time in between doctors appointments and was on the road the whole day. This was an ideal read for me.

Jessie has kept the identity of her son's father a secret for 21 years. Of all the coincidences possible the father Toby Gillespie now a very famous actor buys the manor in the small village where she lives and turns her world upside down,  sets in motion a series of events which implausible though they sound actually could happen and in turn make for a wonderful read!

The coincidences were a bit too much but the incidents they set in motion are ones which could really happen and I was always thinking back to something similar that I knew about!!!

Interesting reading.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

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



Mailbox Monday being hosted for the month of November by Bermudaonion.


I have been seeing this author on several blogs I follow. I've read one and it was a light hearted read
though definitely very much feet on the ground.


 
A Very English Agent set in 1852 - a period of the nineteenth century very often neglected.
 
 
I am expanding my reading horizons and reading something described as Victorian gothic!
 
A very English crime fiction author and the suave, professional Inspector Lynley along with the haphazard, casual partner Havers. One I am looking so very much to.
 
 
Another author coming up on the blogs.
 
The next meme for Monday is It's Monday! What Are You Reading hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney.
 
 
I have been reading quite a bit but the reviews are getting late and blogger did not work on the scheduling thingie and posted two posts on Sunday! Was a bit disappointed over that.
 
I am reading the memoir of Dawn French. Very humorous and the only problem is that it is such a big book, very difficult to handle in a vehicle!
 
 
 
I still have Anil's Ghost and two books on India. I cannot understand why I don't seem to be able to go further on the William Dalrymple one. I love his writing so very much but this time around its hard going.
 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

RESTORING GRACE by KATIE FFORDE



Restoring Grace is a light hearted read. - three very different women. We have Grace very young, recently divorced from a stuffy much older husband, we have single mother Ellie whose own parents shudder at being grand parents and we have Demi whose respective parents have both found new spouses and certainly do not want a teenager in their house.

All three women suffer from self esteem and feel sorry for themselves justifiably. It is not pleasant to be not wanted and Ellie and Demi's parents are particularly harsh. Demi's mother converts her room into a gym as she wants herself toned and fit for a much younger partner. Ellie's parents are too smart, and too modern for the art oriented daughter they have. In Grace's case there is a lot of animosity around as well. Grace inherited a rather old fashioned but valuable house and property from her godmother. The antiques in the house went to her two siblings - Allegra and Nicholas but they are far from being happy or satisfied. Allegra particularly resents bitterly (despite being married to a wealthy man) that Grace inherited this property and after Grace finds a valuable painting panel in the house is livid about the money that Grace will get.

Add to the mix two delicious men - Flynn rugged and handsome and Ran also the same and Grace despite her initial deep distrust of men finds herself drawn to Flynn as if to a magnet. In Ran's case Ellie wants a fling, before her pregnancy begins to show (I found this a bit unbelievable but then again I think I am too conservative for present day stories!!!!)  - she does not want a love affair she just wants some nice sex but the story turns out otherwise.

It was a nice, quiet read for an evening and I liked it.

HUMAN CROQUET - KATE ATKINSON


I did not know anything about this book so went into it totally unaware of how or what it was. We read reviews about books and then we have invariably a pre-conceived idea of the story and the way it works. 

This was going in blind to a story that is part fairy tale, part factual, part fantasy and part pathos.
Told from the point of view of two children, it is very often a sad tale - of how neglect and abandonment by any parent (one is bad enough, two is horrible) can change a child. Not just the personality or character of the child but how they view the whole world and everyone in it. I found the way the children's lives were turned upside down extremely sad.

Having said that about the sadness bit, the book was very interestingly written. Going from past, to present to even future, the fantasy genre is not one I am very familiar with and this was a good start for me to get going with. The future part was plausible and the fantasy part was not too way out for me!!!!

This is a good example of modern story telling.

I am behind on reviews again and even posting as was out of Colombo and just got back. Now its Monday morning and heaps of work!