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Friday, May 31, 2013

GONE MISSING by LINDA CASTILLO


This was my first read of this author and I thought it may be something like a Chevy Stevens book. Set in Amish countryside, a very peaceful and serene setting we have a murder and our Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is set to solve a puzzling case.

A missing teenager is a nightmare for all parents and the police now uncover what seems to be a long list of missing Amish teenagers going back over nine years. How the cases went cold and why none of them were solved add up to the mystery. The Amish will call in the English only when pushed to the wall. Distrust and suspicion is rife - no outsider is acceptable and the only common feature amongst all the missing teens is that they were all rebellious in some way and did not want to accept the conservative, disciplined way of Amish life.

Kate herself is Amish and speaking Pennsylvanian Dutch seems to bring her a tad closer to the missing teens mothers at least who are able to open up to her in a way they would never have done to a male Detective. 

The story is also a description of the not just the serene side of Amish life but also portrays that like any community, there is always a dark side. There are characters that are really vile but I also got the impression that the Amish will like to protect their own, and also mete out their own forms of discipline or punishment and not seek justice in a broader spectrum of set norms.

That such a community can still exist in mainstream America is amazing (for me!). Obviously ties of family and community bind everyone together but that youngsters still abide by these rules, stringent as they are was an eye opener for me. 

A very good book and if you do like thrillers this is one for you. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

THE PERFUME GARDEN by KATE LORD BROWN

The Perfume Garden



Told in alternating bits between 1936 and the present day, between the cities of Valencia of the past and the present and Cornwall of then and now this story kept me on the edge.

Emma Temple holds the key to opening secrets buried for decades. Buried for so many reasons - security, safety, embarrassment, anger, shame, suspicion, love affairs best forgotton, traitorous actions which have not been forgotton. An absolute can of worms.

And can Ms Lord Brown write! the story telling is evocative, spell binding, mesmerising. Descriptions are so alive that you feel the actual action happening on the page. It was almost like watching a movie because words brought everything to life. 

Emma inherits a house in Valencia from her mother who has just passed away. Bereft after a disastrous love affair which has torn her faith in human beings (her lover and her best friend) she also discovers she is pregnant. Emma decides to go to Valencia and take up residence in this dilapidated house which has to be rebuilt. During this arduous process, Emma discovers one by one facets of her own life being revealed to her linked to her grandmother Freya in Cornwall and how and why the secrets of Valencia were kept unrevealed for so many, many years. 


The Spanish Civil War - brutal and inhuman, the enormous loss of life, how it turned Spaniard against a fellow Spaniard is brought to life in this story. Alongside it the story of Emma's ancestors and it brought to my mind that any war civil or otherwise has such untoward effects on the everyday life of the average man in the street.

A compelling read and one I would highly recommend. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

THE PARIS WIFE by PAULA MCLAIN



Right now for me the 1920s are everywhere. Even the book I picked to read after this one is set in this time period, we have The Great Gatsby peeking at us at every turn so it was quite coincidental to me to discover this book also set in the same era.

The story told from Hadley - Hemingway's first wife narration details the struggle and the way life for the Hemingways was at the very beginning. The very origins of the story in St. Louis is detailed and descriptive. From Hadley's own family to Hemingways and then their journey to Paris where it all began.  That Hadley was Hemingways biggest inspiration is apparent and that she was the wife who supported him at the time he was most needy is also very apparent. His other wives had it when times were much better (financially at least!).

Hadley's role as Hemingway's wife was not a bed of roses. The principle of free love and not having to tie yourself to a single partner was strictly weighed in favour of husbands who like Hemingway and his contemporaries took advantage of this without any qualms feeling that it was their God given right as such brilliant writers and thinkers. How the wives, girlfriends felt seemed to be a very secondary thing. 

The book emphasises the theme of love and loyalty. Support of a husband through thick and thin. Not very well reciprocated by the husband however brilliant he was. He supposedly loved his wife to the exclusion of everyone else, she was his inspiration and support but that did not prevent him finding solace elsewhere.

A story beautifully told. Poignant, sad and very introspective. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

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


After weeks of empty mailboxes this week's one is a nice one


The Perfume Garden








I also have five other books due on Wednesday - all recommendations from the book blogs.




This meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

The book I am currently reading and almost done with is The Paris Wife. Intriguing with history and details of Hemingway's life.

Melbourne is freezing cold (for me) but its a change certainly from Colombo. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

LIFE ISN'T ALL HA HA HEE HEE by MEERA SYAL



Growing up in London three Indian origin girls try to cope with a traditional family background and also maintaining their modernity and independence which they successfully do. Three very different girls cope with friendship, family, marriage and relationships in very different ways. Though its about Tania, Sunita and Chila in general, it focuses on Chila the most and how her life affects the other two even though everyone is now grown up and adult.

At the very beginning Sunita and Tania are the strong ones who always protect Chila. She is the one who needs protection from the harsh world around them. With Chila's marriage a change comes over all three and with her marriage break up comes the strengthening of the relationship between the three women despite the fact that one of them was in some way the cause for the break up of the marriage. 

This was an easy read. Being Asian I was able to identify with some of the characteristics of the families - the fear almost that mothers have that their daughters are going to remain unmarried! though thank God this is now a distant memory in my part of the world but I do remember older people talk disparagingly of some family or the other with unmarried daughters, or those who put their parents in a home - keeping them in their own home and being cruel to them and using them as unpaid babysitters and caretakers and cooks was better than putting them somewhere they would be looked after well and with plenty of time to rest, sleep or do whatever they want. The funny prejudices of the old ways have now all but gone but we do remember them. 

I watched the TV serialization of this book and enjoyed it too. 

Still doing last minute packing and trying to squeeze in just one item more. Very Sri Lankan in that respect - taking everything I possibly could. I doubt very much that I will be ever able to travel without being way above the baggage limits!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DECEPTIONS ON HIS MIND by ELIZABETH GEORGE



This was a major change for me from the usual Elizabeth George books. Inspector Lynley was missing and did I miss him. It somehow missed the flavour of all her books and though Havers did a wonderful job, faux pas and all throughout and ended up trumps, I somehow felt that something was missing from the mix.

We have a sleepy little town in two distinct halves. The "white" very English part of town and the very "muslim" part of town - no one actually says anything but the feelings of animosity and almost anger and hatred are very strong in some sectors. Amongst both communities you get the rational beings but a few rabid souls can rouse a whole community and the Police have been set with an unenviable task of keeping the peace.

A murder of a young man who is just six weeks in England, come to marry the youngest daughter of the foremost Muslim family in the town. The Bangladeshi community feels that since it is an Asian man murdered, the police are not very interested in finding the culprit and are more than likely to sweep everything under the carpet, unless they can find another Asian suspect. The English on the other hand think that it is a murder within the community and the threads that start unraveling definitely point out that way. 

There is infighting amongst the leading family, a Asian English love affair which will horrify both sides if it comes out, blackmail, two friends completely at odds with each other, homosexuality, women still living very stultified lives in a modern community at variance with what is happening outside their homes and an economic recession to add more woe to the inhabitants of this seaside town.

How Havers works with the Chief of Police of this town and succeeds in solving the crime but at what personal cost to themselves. 

I was surprised at the amount of racial hatred and the animosity and the disparaging attitude of everyone involved in the story. Although everyone tries to maintain a facade of tolerance, this is not even skin deep and practically everyone in the story is intolerant. 


The end was very surprising and not at all what I expected. The butler never did this one! 



Sunday, May 19, 2013

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



A win of mine came through this week Oleanna courtesy of Peeking Between the Pages. Thank you Darlene. 



Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Just finished another Elizabeth George.



This was a cracker! Review to follow. 

I have several more Elizabeth George and P D James books on hand but think I should change the genre now! the reviews may get monotonous for those who do not want to read only about murder and mystery.

On a pleasanter note, the rains are here. I know I can get boring going on about the weather but when you are hot as we are here, the rains are most welcome. I only hope they are here to stay. On another book note, I am hoping to leave for Melbourne this week. Taking my TBR list with me. That follows me wherever I go. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

THE SHADOW LINES by AMITAV GHOSH



Set across Dhaka, Calcutta, London and in a minor way other cities this story is a narration of a thirteen year spell where the narrator starts with London and ends with his departure from London to Delhi at the completion of his studies.

Ghosh's other books were much more alive for me than this one. This was for me a bit of a plodder. I knew the story line was a good one but unlike his other books this was not one which kept me captivated till I finished (and it was a small book as well).

The story of a life of personalities starting with his grandmother and her vivid memories of her life in Dhaka before the Partition (Bangladesh) and the other women in his life his cousin Ila and May Price. 
The story lives in the present and then suddenly goes back to a vivid past for all the characters and this was what was attractive. For people who have had history woven into their lives e.g. someone who has lived through a war, displacement and then resettlement history has never been part of a dull past. It is something one has captured in one's heart and one which actually lives with you till the end. It is unlike the life of a person who has quietly been born and lived his entire life without any major outside upheaval. So many people live and work in their own little corner of the world and watch events happening from far away but when you are part of the event which is what happens in this story, the drama is very much closer at hand.

On another note, I finally sorted out my visa for Australia and hopefully can get a ticket to fly on Friday. It is going to be a busy week! Looking forward to seeing my children and now my grand daughter. Having a christening on the 2nd June and looking forward very much to that. 



Thursday, May 16, 2013

WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS by ELIZABETH GEORGE

With No One as Witness (Inspector Lynley #13)


Three adolescent boys murdered in three different boroughs of London and no one thought it was a serial killer until  the first white victim was discovered. Unleashing a spate of public upheaval and media hype over the fact that if black boys were being killed, the cases were put on the back burner and it is only because a white boy has been killed that the Yard is taking some sort of interest  and the officious Inspector Hillier is coming to the fore.

Hillier instead of calming things down makes matters worse by putting Nkata as the face to the investigation purely because he is black, came from a gang and has now made Detective Sergeant. Hillier also comes up with the bright idea of having a journalist as part of the investigation and this leads to disastrous results.

The investigation seems to be going around in circles and it was only at the very end that I cottoned on to our murderer. There seemed to be so many suspects and then more than one murder was not connected to the earlier ones so that whether this was a serial killer, a copy cat killer or just a killer on the loose was not apparent.

I was taken aback by the amount of bureaucracy faced by Lynley, Havers and Nkata in just carrying out their duties. Back biting, currying favour seemed to be the order of the game and whether this is so or not I really don't know. It adds just another twist to the writing of Elizabeth George in whose books nothing is too small for minute detail. That sometimes there is overkill in the details is also apparent.

The stories themselves are very good and I do so like the descriptive parts very much. I like books that take me and plonk me down in the middle of London, Cornwall, the moors or wherever the book is set and Elizabeth George certainly does this. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

ANITA AND ME by MEERA SYAL



Meera is the daughter of a Punjabi couple who live in the village of Tollington. They seem to be the only  Asian in this village and source of great wonder for the inhabitants of the village. Meera because she has grown up in this village seems to be more part and parcel of the village, not an oddity but it is mainly due to the fact that like most immigrants, no one wants to stand out - they want to assimilate and get on with their lives in the quietest way possible. 

Like most children of immigrants Meera is torn in two. Does she go the way of the parents - respectful, traditional, listening above all to everything her parents tell her or does she go the independent way of her peers. The person whom Meera wants to most ape and befriend is the brassy Anita and she becomes Meera's "particular" friend and mentor. What Anita wants Anita gets and Meera follows her blindly until a rather gruesome end. The meaning of love and friendship, betrayal which at this age becomes so hard and finally bereavement hits Meera hard. 

The coming of age of Meera and Anita, the tough choices faced by families like Meera's parents trying to tread a path between tradition and the new ways (always hard - this my personal experience!!!), and at the same time to bring up your children in a "right way" is this story. It is in a way a coming of age story of the parents as well. 

I have watched several TV presentations of Meera Syal and thought the book was as light hearted as those shows. The book is certainly hilarious at times but overall it is a serious look at life.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

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



Nothing came into my Mailbox but I am hopeful it will come in tomorrow Tuesday! which is the US Monday!!!




This meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. 

I read all the books I received last week and did reviews on three of them. There is only the Anita and Me by Meera Syal to go. I thought the book would deal with the differences between an Indian girl born in the UK and the contrast to her English friends but it was a little more than that. Review coming up. I am always amazed at how much change immigrants face and how they cope with the changes, trying to adapt, most importantly most of them trying to blend in and not be confrontational!

Presently reading an Elizabeth George 


Thomas Lynley at his suave best with Havers his sartorial opposite! I still cannot imagine an American author writing about the British, the countryside, the appalling ghettos in the UK - so descriptive, so much detail you are actually living in it. 

Next on my list is a triology of P D James - another brilliant mystery murder author. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

THE COLOUR by ROSE TREMAIN

The Colour

I had read about the gold rush in California but the gold rush in New Zealand was a new story for me.    The reference to "colour" was also to gold which was also new to me. 

We have the story of emigration and the tough life faced by all immigrants whether this took place in the 19th century or in present times. All immigrants face a period of settling in and in the rough, underpopulated areas of remote New Zealand, life was even tougher than usual. Harriet being one woman and a respectably, married one at that sets her apart from the floozies and boarding house mistresses who are the only women around. 

The story is also of a marriage and its ultimate breakdown with glimpses into how people of two different temperaments who are not willing to communicate and who are really not willing to be totally free with each other, can lead to a total breakdown of the relationship. 

The story is built up slowly - almost block by block. We have Harriet and Joseph and his mother Lilian coming to New Zealand with great hopes on the part of Harriet and Joseph but with a secret desire not to be part of her son's schemes on the part of Lilian who longs for the respectability and routine of what she knows. How Joseph is ensnared by the magnetic pull of gold and how he is constantly reminded of the crime he committed which forced him to leave England and Harriet in her turn thought that marriage was the only way to escape her being a permanent governess and that she looked forward to her marriage as a new beginning in her life. The failure of the marriage and the awareness of the failure by both Joseph and Harriet who kept their minds secret  from each other are all part of this story.

Add to this a bit of homosexuality,  Maori folk lore, descriptive countryside both bleak and luxuriant (depending on the weather!) and a good storyline and you have a very readable book. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

PLAYING FOR THE ASHES by ELIZABETH GEORGE



Before I like the story I just love our plummy Lynley and his diamond in the rough Havers. I do so like to see how the two work so amicably together and how they each understand how the other's mind evolves despite one being such a toff and the other from such a homespun background. It adds so much to the conversation and the sparkle the differences between these two that it is now part of the book.

We have a death by fire in a cottage in Kent of a famous cricketeer who was going to play for the English national team. We have infidelity and adultery in spades, we have a possessive, bitter wife and children who now realize that for their father, they are a poor second and then we have the much older woman - definitely a mother figure who does not seem to have very motherly feelings for her protegee. We also have estranged daughters and life threatening illnesses.

Put the lot together and we have a brilliant murder, very well executed and which kept me guessing as to the real murderer till about 50 pages to the end. This in a book which was more than 620 pages so it did keep me going. 

Story telling at its best, Elizabeth George's ability to take words and make magic with them is enthralling. Anyone who likes murder, mystery, along with a British stiff upper lip type of theme would love her work.  

After my grousing over the weather, we are having rain. We never do anything by halves. We now have flooding in several suburbs and 5000 homeless according to our local paper in the Gampaha district. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

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



Coming to this meme after a bit of an absence. The host for this month is 4 the LOVE of BOOKS

The few books which came into my home were 


The Novel in the Viola which I read and reviewed. I just loved this book. Despite its overtones of sadness!!!



My enthusiasm for this author does not wane.  Human relationships at its best.



Meera Syal's debut novel. Immigrant stories fascinate me. Maybe because my three children are immigrants in Australia! the adjustments are many and varied and fascinating.

The Colour

The immigrant theme continues but take it back a century. Another author whom I like.



The meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I finished 


Twisted family relationships - bitter and possessive. Possessive to the point of never ever letting go. Love that can be so blind is it love I wonder. Marvellous read, review coming.

I only realised today that Elizabeth George is American. She writes books set in England with such descriptive detail that I had to actually go and double check that this was so!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

THE RECTOR'S WIFE by JOANNA TROLLOPE



From the opening pages you do know that this idyllic state of affairs cannot last. We have Anna patient and long suffering - 20 years of service to church and family, putting herself right at the very end of a long list of can and can't dos. A life governed not by the dictates of the needs of husband and family but  by the dictatorial attitudes of a village community who decide in advance what clergy and their wives should and should not do.

I was cheering Anna from the beginning to the end and even though the end of her husband was a bit deflating I still felt vindicated for her at the end!  Flora her youngest was a whinger, Luke the next tried hard to understand his mother's plight and he did to a great extent, Charlotte the eldest also understood but none of them knew how to communicate their support to her. Peter her husband was completely out of the equation. He did not understand Anna nor did he want to. He seemed to have blind tunnel vision as to what was needed in a bad situation. Anna is almost pushed into another man's arms by her husband himself though he would be the last person to even admit this.

I felt that this was a very good example of keeping a stiff upper lip, of maintaining space and not infringing into someone else's lives for fear of interfering and the lack of communication within a family. The break up of a marriage can be seen from the very beginning and I was not sad to see it go. For Anna it was going to be a beginning for herself.

As usual I like Trollope's books very much. This was no exception.