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Thursday, August 29, 2013

FOREVER AMBER by KATHLEEN WINSOR

Forever Amber


This is a book I finished a couple of days ago but one which is not going to be easy to review. 

From the very onset of the story you know that Amber is trouble. She is the very young girl who will take the first step to approach an absolute stranger - a gentleman of the Court who has stopped at her village to shoe a horse and flirt with him lightly, follow it up with a planned meeting of him and then seduce this man to take her with him to London. Bruce Carlton does this knowing full well that it is trouble he is asking but he does not seem to be able to help himself and Bruce and Amber's love affair persists through the story - through three marriages of Ambers and one of his and despite him wanting to end it with Amber. Amber's influence and sway over him seems so strong that he just cannot get out of her clutches!

With Amber's arrival in London the story then goes on to the ups and downs for a country bumpkin who aspires to the highest position in the land. Amber is no shrinking violet and neither does she think it not within her reach to try to attract even the Stuart king Charles to her bed. Beginning as an actress and working as a partner for a thief she is very successful at her chosen career and this makes her confident that she will be successful in whatever she does.

Amber is a woman with only one thought in her head. Herself. It is always about herself and her position and hang everyone else. Going through three marriages, each one adding to her wealth and for her convenience only, she has scant respect for any of her husbands and uses them only to reach another position on the ladder upwards. 

For sheer determination and grit Amber is unsurpassed but at the same time a rather unlikeable girl!  Her determination to hold on to and marry the one man she cannot get runs through the entire story and you are sad that she cannot see it for herself - that the one man whom she passionately loves is never ever going to marry her. 

Set in Stuart England the story is full of court detail and the history of the period though mainly it deals with the actual court of King Charles and his courtiers. History is just part of the novel due to its setting and it is more to do with the morals, enjoyment and description of court life than anything else.

Despite my not liking Amber, I did like the novel! 







Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FIRST CHAPTER FIRST PARAGRAPH - TUESDAY INTROS






I just started this book and it is going to be so different!

"Their stories began with the day that my father appeared. 

Rachel came running into camp, knees flying, bellowing like a calf separated from its mother. But before anyone could scold her for acting like a wild boy, she launched into a breathless yarn about a stranger at the well, her words spilling out like water into sand."

Taken from the book The Red Tent by Anita Diamant we have the story of Dinah moving from Mesopotamia to Canaan to Egypt. Dinah brought up by four wives and a woman who became one of the most influential and powerful women of the age.


Joining Bibiliophile by the Sea on the Tuesday meme (a bit late).

Monday, August 26, 2013

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




Mailbox Monday hosted for August by Bermudaonion.

The books this week are just two


Five generations of women and set in a one hundred years in Jerusalem.


Setting off on an adventure at 51 is something not for the faint hearted. I doubt I will ever do anything so bold but I'd like to read about it anyway.



Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Forever Amber

This is an interesting story. You want to alternatively cheer Amber on and sometimes berate her for being so shallow! Almost done with this one.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

THE FIRST PHAROAH by LESTER PICKER



I didn't think I will finish this book so quickly. I thought it was one that I would take in stages. It is a heavy subject and the storyline gets a bit complicated but it was very intriguing and I had to finish it fast. This book was a win from the author himself.

We have a young Prince with his older drunkard father and the proverbial wicked step mother and a half brother. She naturally wants the throne for her own son and does her damnedest to put obstacles and problems in our Young Prince's way. Nothing works and he eventually does get to the throne as King Narmer with the love of his life as his Queen. We also have a powerful priest behind him who is father figure, guide, philosopher and teacher rolled into one who looks for Narmer's best interests at whatever cost.

The stories of the Kings (and later the Pharoahs) of Egypt are stories of fantasy and drama. Along with a lot of bloodshed we have triumphs of engineering, architecture, scholarly pursuits, agricultural innovations and some Kings who felt for their people and sought a way of uplifting people especially the poverty stricken ones. We also have Kings who were megalomaniacs who thought they were not quite human, who believed in an afterlife where everything was smooth sailing and beautiful and were so far removed from reality that today we would call them unstable.

King Narmer was everything a king should be. Young enough to be open to change, strong minded but not obstinate, guided by his teacher the story brings this part and era of Egypt alive. You are constantly cheering for King Narmer hoping against hope that he will be victorious in all his endeavours. Such detail in a story can be sometimes boring - it was not so in this one. It brought it all so very much to life.

I hope I can get to the other books in this trilogy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

SWIMSUIT by JAMES PATTERSON & MAXINE PAETRO

Swimsuit

I've not read a Patterson for years and I've not read something like this for a very long time. A murder and a mystery of course but I tend to read those set in a rather older setting so that this was not an easy read for me!

A gorgeous girl goes missing from her Hawaiian hotel whilst on a modelling shoot. A couple of hours later her parents get the call that any parent would never want to receive.  They leave for Hawaii fearing they will never see their daughter again.

We have a serial killer but a peculiar one. One who is paid for what he is doing - paid by a syndicate of "Peepers" from around the world who like to watch and remain far removed from the actual happening of murder. 

Ben who is an ex cop gets this assignment from the L A Times. He thinks it is going to be a kind of holiday where he can file reports, loll on the beach and then return home. Entrapped in the murder he finds himself so entrenched with the serial killer that unless he kills the killer there will be no escape for him and his girl friend. 

Gruesome and twisted as a murder mystery it certainly fitted the genre. Not for me though. I think I prefer the more formal writing of Patricia Cornwell for this genre. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

SHORT REVIEW - THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS BY AGATHA CHRISTIE

The Secret of Chimneys


I revert to Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer when I need a real comfort read.

Here the story starts with Anthony wanting to make a quick buck and being a messenger for a packet of letters and for some memoirs to be delivered to two different people. It seems straight forward enough until blackmail, murder, mysterious "foreigners", rich Americans, the CIA and the Surete all are involved and the case is not as simple as it sounds.

Set mainly at Chimneys an idyllic country retreat of Lord Chaterham who is nonplussed by the comings and goings of random people and even of the people he knows he just wants to get his peaceful house back. 

Also a touch of romance with the lovely Virginia Revel who is such a fun character and game for anything that life throws at her.

Very nice Agatha Christie read.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The First Pharoah by Lester Picker


An introduction to a book I've started.



The bright afternoon sun changed color slowly, now taking on a reddish hue, not a favorable sign from the gods. I tried to think what it was we might have done that had angered Ra, but my weary mind swam in a fog, so that I felt like a blind beggar on the streets of Tjeni. I was exhausted, standing by the bed of the Queen, watching the great orb of Ra descent under the portico, between two square mud brick columns in the courtyard. It had been almost two days since the Queen started labor and her strength was waning. With her tiny stature and frail nature it was a miracle that she had lasted this long. 


Would you continue to read this one? Yes to lovers of Egyptian history or anything Egyptian. Am just 50 pages in and liking it very much.

Joining Diane in this meme at Bibliophile by the Sea. Please visit the other blogs on this meme for introductions to very good books!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

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




Mailbox Monday is being hosted for August  by Bermuda Onion.

I've got some good books in !


The Last Empress (Empress Orchid, #2)

China in the late nineteenth century was a turbulent time.  Internal strife amongst warring clans and humiliating foreign invasions diminished China's power. This one woman held it all. 


The First Pharoah was a win from the author himself. Looking forward very much to this one.

Forever Amber

A particularly interesting period of English history and an interesting story to boot.



The Red Tent

Described as the traditions and trials of ancient womanhood, this cover appealed to me as well. 





This meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I am still reading The Emperor's Children. Have finished Chimneys by Agatha Christie and am almost done with The Last Empress which is breath taking when you also think of the research which would have gone into writing this book.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

OLEANNA by JULIE K. ROSE

Oleanna

The novel is inspired by the author's great great grand aunts and looks at a very simple and straight forward life in an extremely remote and rural part of Norway in the 1905. Dealing with the story of one family the main characters are Oleanna and Elizabeth - the others though important are secondary.

Family loyalty, a sense of love for your home and country, a feeling of kinship to the farm they were born and grew up on makes both girls hesitant to leave. This a story of hardship and a lot of it, and romance and falling in love, about divided loyalties and how one has to choose eventually. 

Told in a simple manner and very descriptive of a country I know very little about the story was an enjoyable one. It is a slow read and the tempo is very slow paced and may not appeal to all. 

I won this months ago from Dar from Peeking Between The Pages.  I was looking for something new to read as unlike most bloggers I have very little new books available with me,  though towering TBR lists and then discovered three new books hidden away (it was such a nice feeling to come across new, hitherto unread books!).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

LIGHT A PENNY CANDLE by MAEVE BINCHY


Maeve Binchy's stories are very often of family and relationships and love. That is the straight forward part. The other is about the relationships which evolve over the years as we grow up and this book particularly is one like that.

Elizabeth is sent to board with the boisterous O'Connor family in Kilgarett, Ireland. She is a quiet girl brought up by a mother and father who are distant not just with her but with each other. For the first time she is faced with a loving family who have no problem with showing their feelings for each other openly and brothers and sisters who may love each other dearly but who have no compunction in tearing their hair out either. She is also faced with the Roman Catholic religion in full force - not just at home but in the convent with the nuns. Lots of changes for little Elizabeth and ones which she handles beautifully.

Fast forward to the end of the war and Elizabeth must now return home. To a mother who is very light hearted and gay and to a father even more reclusive than before. She soon realizes that everything is not quite right and she has to take a leading role in being the adult in the family and sort matters out.

Joy and sorrow in equal measure, the devastation of war and the fear of death, the irreparable sorrow on the death of a child, the disillusionment of failed marriages and betrayal are all part of this story. It is also a story of strong women who face upto whatever life throws at them.  It is actually a story of life in general. The era in which it was set is particularly appealing for me as I like WWII stories.  



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First Chapter First Paragraph - Tuesday Intros



My first time with this meme!!!!

This week the introduction is from an old time favourite author of mine. Maeve Binchy. 





Her covers are idyllic and the stories are always down to earth, family stories which I like very much. 

The first chapter in the book goes


It had been very dull and matter of fact in 
the coroner's court. No great raised bench
with wigged judges, no dock, no uniformed 
police calling down the corridors for the next
person to appear. It was actually quite like an
ordinary office, there were books in glassfronted
cases, and lino on the floor - at one corner it had
definitely been nibbled or chewed by something.



I am eighty pages into the book now and the story is definitely interesting. The setting is WWII and blitz battled England and Ireland are our stages. This is going to be a good one.

The meme is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea. Please come link and visit.

Monday, August 12, 2013

QUEEN OF DREAMS by CHITRA BANERJEE DIVAKARUNI

Queen of Dreams


This author is one of my favourites and I always look forward to her books. Like Thrity Unrigar she is writing of cultural diversity, of the difficulties of parents from one culture trying desperately to come to grips with another culture. This particular story is also one of the relationship between mothers and daughters - and also of how parents try to protect their children from anything harmful and children remain their children even when they become adults!

I could feel for Rakhi while she tried to handle her traditional looking parents who were anything but traditional. Rakhi's mother dealt in dreams - it was not a conversational gambit and nothing you could mention. It was not something up for discussion even within the family and everyone knew it was out of bounds but it was very much in their midst. How Rakhi grew up dealing with this and herself grown up, married, separated and with a young daughter of her own trying very hard to understand and accept her mother and why her mother acted the way she did is the crux of the story.

When personal tragedy follows a national one in the form of 9/11 Rakhi has to try to balance her world - she knows no other world other than the American one and now she finds herself classed as alien. This must be a story repeated thousands of times in so many homes post September 11th and the fear and insecurity that followed is something I could empathize with so very much. 

The mystical does not appeal very much to me and I thought I would not really like this book but it drew me in. Apart from the dream telling (which of course is a major part of the story) the story is also about relationships and this is the one that held my interest.

I did not much care for Mistress of Spices. I certainly liked this one. 




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



Mailbox Monday is being hosted for this month by Bermuda Onion.

The Emperor's Children


Claire Messud has been on my TBR list for ages.


The Secret of Chimneys

My comfort read!



This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. 

Right now in the middle of the Claire Messud book.  






Friday, August 9, 2013

COLPETTY PEOPLE by ASHOK FERREY

Colpetty People

To even understand the title of this book you've got to know that Colpetty is a suburb of Colombo and a rather posh one at that.  The book falls under the category of Sri Lankan English fiction. A slightly difficult classification but Sri Lankan English is not pidgin but there are some idiosyncrasies and quirks of Sri Lankan English which are now par for the course (in Sri Lanka of course only!).

One blogger asked me whether we have many writers in English and surprisingly for such a small country we do have many. We have several of Sri Lankan origin who emigrated years and years ago - Michael Ondaatjie, Roma Tearne, Michelle de Kretser and Ru Freeman to name a few and then we have the current crop of Shehan Karunatilleke, Shyam Selvadorai, Romesh Goonasekera, Karen Roberts, V V Ganeshananthan amongst many others and then we have quite a few Sri Lankan authors residing in Sri Lanka like Ashok Ferry, Madhubashani Dissanayake and Ameena Hussein who do much for budding authors in Sri Lanka.

The story of Colpetty People is a collection of stories of various characters - reminiscent and everyone of us can identify with one or more of the characters. We all have an Aunt or Uncle from these stories and that is what made the reading of this book enjoyable for me. The book uses so many different types of people in different settings - lots in the UK and Sri Lanka.

It is a fun read actually light heartedly poking fun at ourselves which is never a bad thing!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

RAGTIME IN SIMLA by BARBARA CLEVERLY

Ragtime in Simla (Joe Sandilands, #2)


The book I read had such a boring cover I thought this was more suited for the read! 
Set in Simla a little before India got Independence, the town is an absolute frontier town. We have smuggling - people, arms, jewels, opium. You name it and its there. We have the stalwarts of an established very British society - the police in full force, we have the administration in full sway and we have the collection of English people who have made Simla their home away from home together with English style cottages and English style gardens. We also have those who have something to hide or who want to hide away from society in Europe and have ended in this town knowing that the possibility of their skeleton in the closet being discovered is unlikely. 

Set amongst a pine scented cooling forest (as against the heat and humidity of India) and the hectic social life of a vice regal court we have a very unusual woman (for the times) in the form of Alice Conyors Sharpe. She runs the empire of ITCC and has taken it from strength to strength from the time she took over the reigns of governance. Alice came to this position with the tragic death of her young brother and is presently a person to be reckoned with in the rich commercial field of India.

This is not a story of romantic Simla however. We have a detective from New Scotland Yard no less - who has been asked to come to Simla to investigate a murder. En route to Simla he dramatically encounters another murder, with him as the only witness and it is touch and go whether he was the intended victim or not. The story develops from there with Sandilands the detective, along with Carter of the local Simla police force and the Governor of Bengal Sir George trying to solve not just one or two murders but a hitherto uninvestigated third.

The unravelling not just of murders but also of fraud, gun running, subterfuge and blackmail is the story of Ragtime in Simla. Beautifully descriptive as well, I enjoyed this story very much. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

THE PROMISE by LISA CLIFFORD

The Promise: An Italian Romance


This was a story that I could totally relate to. It is definitely a love story with a lot of ups and downs but the underlying reason for the downs was an unusual one.

Lisa is a very young girl from urban Sydney. Like most young Australians she wants to do the tour of Europe, see the world a bit and come back to her career and settle down in her own home. Paolo gets in the way. She meets him in Florence, a budding doctor and the teenage romance which should have fizzled off did not. Their relationship becomes an on off one which stretches over a period of ten years because Lisa cannot get used to cultural differences between an Italian way of life and the in your face Australian way of life on the other side of the world.

The reason why I was able to relate to this book was because my three children live in Australia. They all went when they were 17 and 18. The eldest has been there almost ten years now - they are very Australian and I am personally very glad that they fitted in so well and that they adapted to their new home because home it is for them now. I flit over and come back often but Australia is not home for me and the differences are very apparent - in very much the way that our Lisa in this book faces. 

I felt for Lisa and how much she was torn between her love for Paolo and her love for her own country and family. Lisa also loves Italy and particularly Florence and Paolo's family but she finds so many aspects of Italian life very difficult to handle and this was what kept the relationship on a simmer. It took ten years for Lisa to decide finally what she had to do. 

I like it very much when the author is descriptive about the place in which the book was set and Lisa Clifford did Florence proud! It was almost like a travel memoir of places, people and sights. The only thing that let me down was the cover. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

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



Mailbox Monday for August is being hosted by The Reading Fever.

Colpetty People

Short stories. Sri Lankan English fiction. One of the best around.

Light A Penny Candle


Am getting into a Maeve Binchy after ages. Looking forward to this one. A girl from Blitz battered London being sent to Ireland to live the war years safely.




Swimsuit

Ditto for reads of Pattersson. Its been too long.

Head Over Heels (Lucky Harbor, #3)

Sounds like a fun read this one. 




Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Reading right now

The Promise: An Italian Romance

Over a 100 pages in and I do so like the description of Florence in all its glory. 

Daughter husband and baby left last night. The house in unbelievably quiet. 





Friday, August 2, 2013

THE YUMMY MUMMY by POLLY WILLIAMS

The Yummy Mummy

Not the cover of the book I read, but for some reason blogger is not allowing me to paste that picture!

Amy is our new mother, Evie is our infant and Joe is the partner. We then have the various other mothers - each one different and oh so very individual.  We have the single mum, we have the placid mum where everything is all right in her world, we have the model mum. the earth mum, the organic food only mum. In fact the whole gamut of them.

More than a story about Amy our new Mum, this is an eye opener into the world of new mums - the insecurities faced in a modern world ranging from body image to self confidence, to the need for family or partner support and how mums struggle to deal with these more modern issues. The subject of faithfulness despite the light hearted attitude to "affairs of the heart" and the heartbreak which follows unfaithfulness is also a revealing subject, specially in the view that these mums view flirting and sometimes an actual open invitation to flirting very matter of factly and part of the lifestyle.

A chick lit with a bit of serious overtones once you stop to think of it all. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

THE ITALIAN WEDDING by NICKY PELLEGRINO

The Italian Wedding



The stuff of fantasy - haven't we all wished that we could just flit away to Venice or Florence or Provence. Well this is what Catherine did thirty years ago and where she met the impoverished and handsome Beppi (still true to form and fantasy) married him and moved back to England.

Fast forward thirty years, we have an established restaurant called Little Italy, a very clever chef in the form  of Beppi who has remained true to his Italian roots and we now have two daughters by the unusual names of Pieta and Addoloratto (pity and sorrow!) and Catherine our mother in the story. 

We also have a wedding coming up (the Italian wedding in the story) of Addoloratto marrying a Scottish/Ghanian and Pieta on the sidelines. One daughter has followed her father into the restaurant business and is equally successful and Pieta is a bridal designer equally good.  The saga, the history behind these characters, the unfolding drama at the wedding forms the entire story which is delightful.
Interspersed with receipes (I would have loved more) the warmth and caring of a small knit family set in an immigrant community in a foreign city comes through marvellously.

Liked it very much.