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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Wharf of Chartrons by Jean - Paul Malaval

I loved the cover before I read the blurb. The background was interesting. Bordeaux - wine country and wine making. 

Two cousins David and Gaspard share a deep love for the history and making of wine. They both want to break away from their over bearing and claustrophobic families and make a new start. They do this by investing in a wine yard and in making a new wine which despite all odds is a great hit. The period is just before WWI and then the setting moves into the background of this War and France during the war.

The two cousins are short of money and enter into an agreement with a wealthy engineer but it also causes them to give up on some of their ideals of what a good wine is and they have to forego quality for both quantity and profits. 

With the onset of the war, they also have to think of alternative markets - the lucrative world of America and beyond beckons. With a touch of romance both homespun in the marriage of one and in the lifelong love affair of one for someone who is married and out of reach the love story adds a softer touch to a story which is essentially a family drama with wine making as its main theme.

For anyone who enjoys anything French, this is a book which will appeal.  Apart from the wine and Bordeaux, the pragmatic view of the French in all things comes through in this book. Very educative reading!

Sent to me via Netgalley courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Together and Apart by Margaret Kennedy

The 1920s is another period where what people would say was obviously of paramount importance. Betsy has decided to divorce her husband Alec - her reasons seem somewhat lopsided. She feels let down by her marriage and feels that happiness has somewhat eluded her. Her husband has never been passionately involved with her and despite knowing about his liaisons with various women, she now takes it upon herself to bring up the latest mistress as one of the reasons for her leaving him. On the sidelines is her cousin who has always been in love with her and who has offered marriage on innumerable occasions. He is also very rich, an Earl into the bargain and is an ideal alternative to her.

She discounts however the interference from family. On informing her parents (holidaying in Switzerland) about the impending divorce her mother hotfoots back home to try to prevent this. Her mother is not interested in Betsy's personal feelings on this subject but only on preventing her divorce. Her mother in law has more decided views on the subject - despite her support for her son, she does not want this divorce to go through. She does not want to be the subject of gossip by her circle of friends and so she descends on the family to see what she can do.

The break up of the marriage and its effect on three very susceptible children, maybe two of them badly affected by the divorce - the two elder children not knowing who is right or wrong, taking wrong decisions, forcing parents themselves to choose and in a custody battle where at sixteen they have to choose which parent they want to live with, completely cutting the other parent off. Barbaric, very difficult to handle situations for children. 

The need for provision of proof of the other woman in this case pushes the husband into being forced into a decision of a relationship with the young woman who looked after his children. He is not in love with her, she is madly in love with him and because of the lack of an alternative he almost is forced to begin an affair with her! His disinterest is obvious and how he is maneuvered into this relationship is farcical. 

The divorce ultimately does take place, each partner marries someone else but it is almost as if it was by accident than by design. 

I did not enjoy the divorce part but the setting of 1920s is a favourite period of mine. I liked the exchange of letters from friends who sought to do whatever they felt they could do to put the pieces of the couple's lives together. The interfering mother in law was an old cat, wily and only supportive of her son and seemed typical! Betsy's mother seemed a more floundering, helpless type. I did like the characterization!

The book was recommended on Cosy Books 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Collar by Frank O'Connor. Stories of Irish Priests.

I have a weakness for anything to do with the Church. Be it vicars, parsons, convents whatever so this was irresistible for me. Must be the convent education here!

Frank O'Connor takes a very common thing - the Catholic priests of Ireland and makes them into iconic figures. The humour, the wit, the fantasy, the implausible and the hypocrisy of the Church are all rolled into this collection of short stories which kept me entertained so much.

From the cover up of a curate's suicide - what will the people say and what about his dear Mother - who on earth is going to tell her that her son cannot be buried on consecrated ground. I thought these mind sets only existed in Asia where the matter of what would the people say and saving face were matters literally of life and death. To find it existing in Ireland was comforting.

The over riding hatred/dislike by the Irish for the English. I do hope that this is now a thing of the past. Everyone was involved and it did include the clergy whose faultless condescension towards anything and anyone English was marvelous. Difficult to fathom but good nevertheless to read about!

I enjoyed this book. Whether it meant to be enlightening or whether it meant to poke fun at the whimsy of the Irish clergy I do not know. I just know I enjoyed the read.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of  Open Road Integrated Media.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday! What are you reading?

The following books were received by me this week.


These are courtesy of Netgalley.

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel

This came from Blogging for Books.

The Missing One

This one was from Edelweiss (from their download section).

Together and Apart by Margaret Kennedy was from Open Library and a recommendation by Cosy Books. I took the fanciest image I could find! 


Reading several books at the same time. 

The Wharf of Chartrons - finding it a bit slow in the middle though the subject is very intriguing. All about wine growing with of course feuds and under cutting which I did not know applied to this industry!

Also started Family by Caroline Leavitt.

Despite being rather busy I have surprisingly been able to read quite a bit.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Lazarus Prophecy by F G Cottam

The Lazarus Prophecy

I am reading a book like this after a very long time. Combining elements of fantasy, religion, horror and mystery the various elements are woven together very well to keep you wanting to read this book in one go. It was not easy to keep and come back to.

Women are not safe on the streets of London. Never mind the three prostitutes which were his first victims, he has now moved on to very high profile women.   Jane Sullivan is put in charge of the investigation and very soon comparisons are being drawn to the horrific Jack the Ripper which haunted London a century or so ago.

To add to the mystery is the fact that messages left behind at the murders are in languages which are ancient and in one case one that is not even spoken today. It all points to someone who is apart from being very clever at avoiding capture is very well educated in ancient languages and with a wide knowledge of the Bible as all quotes are from the Bible. 

Bringing together priests from an order which lives in the remote Pyrenees and almost forgotton by the Vatican, along with a prophecy which so many in the Church did not even believe in the supernatural is woven into the story that one tends to believe that it is quite possible to happen.

An excellent read.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

The story set in turbulent times in America during the Abolitionist era. People and even relatives strongly divided on the very emotional issue of slavery. Civil war, strife and destruction throughout the south. A period I knew very little about so was quite educative for me.

Set in parallel times in 1859 and 2014 the story of Sarah, independent, artistic and determined to do her bit even as a woman restricted by man made rules and Eden who has moved to this small village with her husband Jack in this historical house and who is desperate to have a child. How the two disparate lives mesh through a discovery found in the house and which unravels the mystery of the hows and whys of the freeing and escape of slaves, the routes they followed, who helped them on their way and the workings of the underground railway which assisted so many to become free.

The personal lives of Sarah in love with Freddy but who turns him down because she feels she can never give him a child and who remains single to the end and Eden who makes this longing for a child the beginning and end of her existence and puts her marriage at danger with this almost obsession that time is passing her by. These two stories are also very much part of this story and help to define the boundaries of love and family so much part of the story.

I am glad that the blurb says "Final cover to be reviewed" as it would be unforgivable to go ahead with this one!

Sent to me by Netgalley via Crown Publishing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Poet's Wife by Rebecca Stonehill

Family sagas with a strong historical background are one of my favourite genres. This one ticked all the boxes. Another huge favourite is strong women and this story throws up strong women in every generation the book covered. The autocratic and dictatorial type of rule under Franco in Spain was a period of history unknown to me, so I found this very informative.

Luisa and Eduardo fall in love. He is a poet and she is a free spirited young girl, ahead of her time and knows her mind. They marry and have a beautiful family. In the 1920s Spain is torn apart by civil war.and one has to be very careful even of one's neighbours, friends and relatives because the cost of a loose word here or there could be the cost of a life. 

The light hearted family background for the children ends and the family along with a family of gypsies that Luisa has befriended start the 50 year journey of their lives, just trying to survive. As each child strives for independence at a time when independence for women is particularly forbidden Isabel and following her the other children leave the nest and Luisa and Eduardo try to protect the ones left behind.

The story of Isabel and then Isabel and Henry's daughter Paloma follow. Each episode is very beautifully told. It is an emotional and tense time for families in Spain, and for close knit families trying to keep the bonds close it is particularly difficult.

As usual in times of Civil War the stories of survival both physically and mentally are the stories that are wonderful to read about and this family saga is no exception. 

The book was received by me from Netgalley courtesy of Bookouture

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday! What are you reading?



Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

The Englishman: Can Love Go the Distance?

This is a Nordic English love story. I like these cross cultural books!
This was an Amazon free download from a blog I read.  

Am also halfway through The Collar. Its all about Irish clergymen (the likes of which I have never sighted!!!!) Humorous and slightly whimsical and a touch of fantasy as well. Takes all kinds!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria

The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan

The story of Aunt Amina and her husband Uncle Sohail is the primary focus of the book. However the shadow of the Pakistani India conflict and the continual Islamization of Pakistan forms the over riding feature of the story.

I like family sagas. I like the rich, descriptive detail found in such stories. The links within links and in an Asian family with its huge extended family the saga is always more complicated, richer in detail and somehow more intimate.

Amina is married to Sohail and after over a decade of marriage he decides to take a second wife. Taking a second wife is allowed in Islam but you do have to get the permission of the first wife. This was not done in this case and I think it is not done in a lot of cases. The wife tends to get shoved aside in placed of a newer and more glamourous entity. In this case the over riding cause was that Amina did not have children and for Sohail this was of primary importance. Egged on by his elder sister (in the absence of his mother Sohail's elder sister wielded clout that a Western woman could not even dream of!!!!), a new wife was found. Unfortunately for Sohail this wife too did not produce the required heir.
The story is told from the point of view of a ten year old girl, herself the niece of the said Amina. The family is a joint one and her mother is trying to balance the dictates of her own mother in law who asserts herself on even the smallest point to get her own way and try to "put one over" her independent daughter in law. The case in point of getting a driving licence and for five years having to be accompanied by her father in law whose instructions on how to drive, what to do and what not to do whilst driving despite the fact that he did not know himself to drive was a case in point.

Amina's story is set in the time frame of the family's migration from Bombay in India during the Partition. The historical detail was fascinating for me. How a country due to the dictates of first the British was just divided - entire families, communities being uprooted and said now you are Pakistani, now you are Indian. The administrative chaos that must have ensued. The documentation for each individual must have been a nightmare but survive all this they did and families like Amina's moved to Karachi and made a life there for themselves.

The new migrants were not all that welcome. They brought with them a different culture and a different way of life and were looked on as outsiders for decades. The partition of Pakistan, the division and declaration of Bangladesh as a separate country, and the Islamization of Pakistan with its strict Shariat law are all part of this story. The story of the different politicians of Pakistan and what part they played in what Pakistan is today is also detailed in the story. The rise and fall of most of the Presidents of Pakistan is a turbulent story in itself, full of violence and upheaval and military coups and families lived, survived and prospered within this framework.

I loved the writing of this story. I liked the detail. I liked the fact that I was reading something which actually happened and will continue to happen in Asian families upto date. 

The book was a choice from Blogging for Books. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cross the Ocean by Holly Bush (short review)

Cross the Ocean

This was my fun read for the week.

Gertrude was an independent suffragette supporting woman. A fighting woman of her times. The Duke of Wexford is just the opposite. Double standards, women in their place sort of thing. Their meeting was definitely going to create fireworks.

Parallel to their fiery love story is the unusual story of the Duke of Wexford's wife filing for divorce (and getting it). Quite difficult for the times needless to say scandalous when you have three grown up children and one daughter on the brink of being brought out!

Full of very descriptive scenes of both London and America of the 1870s, the way of life for women in both countries and how it was slowly changing despite obstacles added a lot of interest to the love story.

Enjoyed this book courtesy of a free Amazon download.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Into Thin Air by Caroline Leavitt

A story of abandonment and the effects that this has a decade later on all three parties involved.
We have Lee very young, in love and married and all of a sudden pregnant. A pregnancy she never planned, she did not even think of it till it became so apparent that you could not avoid it. The husband who adores her, and for whom the pregnancy was the crowning glory of his life. That his wife was going to have his child. It was sad seeing the joy, the anticipation of this young husband, when all along you read and felt the despair of the young mother at the same time.

Just after the birth Lee abandons the baby and disappears. Immense time and money is spent on trying to find her and then it peters out because of lack of any evidence that Lee was taken by force. Jim tries to make a life for himself and succeeds in doing so, all the time balancing looking after the baby and trying to forget his wife. 

Many years later, Lee is now in another relationship which also has a partner who seems to feel for her much more than what she feels for him. This all of a sudden triggers in her a need to see the family she left behind and she makes the journey back to find that Jim has settled into a second marriage and to all intents the family is secure and happy. How Lee coming into this marriage creates dissension and strife not just between Lee and Jim's second wife but the trouble created by Lee for their daughter who finds the situation too difficult to handle. A dead mother now resurrected?

Lee seemed to be a spoilt girl who wanted only what she wanted and had no qualms about reaching in and taking it, despite adverse repercussions on anyone else. Lee was not willing to think of the bigger picture - the welfare of her daughter and move on. She felt she was owed something by the whole and thought of herself only.  Jim obviously hadn't got over her abandonment and obviously felt something for her because he kept making excuses to his wife which were for the most part lame and inexcusable. 

The story drew one in because you did want to know what the outcome was going to be. It was settled in a not so satisfactorily manner but then again that is life. 

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore


The book highlights the world that exists (and that will continue to exist) between the rich and the poor, the ordinary and the super-sophisticated. Mainly due to their inherited wealth and years of not knowing what it is to not have we have the Winslow family on the one hand, almost aristocratic as far as aristocracy and autocracy could go in America and plain and simple Mabel who just wants to belong. Who yearns to have the sense of belonging to one particular sphere which the Winslow children all seem to take for granted.

Mabel and Ev are dorm-mates at university. That too by the maneuverings of Ev's mother who vetted whoever her children were associating with. She saw the neediness of Mabel just the correct antidote for her daughter and set things in motion accordingly. Ev's parents are manipulative, rich, controlling and her father in particular has traits that you wouldn't wish on anyone.

The manipulative nature of the parents have not missed a generation. Ev in her own way is equal to them all and knows exactly which button to push to put Mabel on the spot and doing exactly the things she wants. Mabel on the other hand is the other extreme of naivety - she is so taken up by the Winslow clan, their riches, the ease of life that exists that for a long time she lives in a world where everything is rosy. 

It is only when the brutal facts of rape, murder and pushing everything under the carpet which is  the norm for the Winslow family (as they have been doing for generations) becomes apparent that Mabel comes awake to the fact that this is not quite right. She also realizes that in families such as this, however nice they are to her face, she is still a rank outsider and they will close ranks against her viciously and nastily. Will Mabel have the courage to overcome her feelings to come clean about the nasty secrets harboured by this family.

This was a book which I got through Blogging for Books. A very different read from the other books I read this last week. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday! What are you reading?

Mailbox is still a lot of good reads!


From Blogging for Books. 


From Netgalley.


Liking this one very much. I have a soft spot for books with regard to the Vatican, church philosophy and treachery and the Devil in equal instalments in this one! Makes for a very interesting read. Wheels within wheels in the Church.