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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Beyond the Pasta by Mark Leslie

The title epitomizes exactly what Mark Leslie did. He went beyond the basic pasta!

The story tells of how Mark in between jobs as a stage director in England, went to Viterbo and lived with an Italian family, living as one of the family. Taking cooking lessons from the grandmother and Italian language lessons from the mother of the house, he got slowly assimilated as one of the family living their life on a day to day basis.

This is something most people would dream about.  Living with a local family especially when you are in love with all things Italian - so that you capture all the nuances of the Italian family life. Very few people can actually do it.

Interspersed with outings to all the places of local interest and daily cooking for both lunch and dinner the book also includes recipes from Nonna's kitchen with side notes of how it can be adapted for those outside Italy. I loved the zucchini recipes particularly as with a surfeit of zucchini from the garden I never know what to do with it. There are plenty of recipes in this book.

The recipes aside the book deals with the marketing for groceries which is an important aspect of food in Italy. Quality of ingredients and from specialist shops is a necessity. Not just picking it up from the closest most convenient shop which most people tend to do. The family dinners and entertainment of the family are also an integral part of the whole exercise and Mark Leslie excels in its description.

This book is a keeper.

Sent to me by Netgalley via Gemelli Press LLC

Sunday, September 28, 2014

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

The books that came into my Mailbox this week are


Both these courtesy of Netgalley


Just finished one book and undecided on what to read next. Its also Monday here and generally the list of things to do is huge! Looking forward to the reading as so many good books around. 

I also won an Amazon Gift Card (my first win of an Amazon card) so I used it to buy this!

Twelfth Night at Longbourn (Given Good Principles)

Now that I've actually bought something from Amazon (instead of the amazing free downloads I usually indulge in), I will be able to post my book reviews on Amazon as well. That is a plus for the host of people who send me books as well.

Have a good week folks!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Girl at the Lion D'Or

The Girl at the Lion d'Or

Anne has had a life full of injustice. Her father was killed and her mother committed suicide. She comes to Janvilliers seeking a new life with a new community and to put the past behind her.

Getting involved with a married man was not the best of choices, but that is life. The story of Hartmann and Anne with a third wheel of his wife Christine, on the sidelines and always waiting is a story of love, passion, but with a great deal of sadness. 

Very descriptive of everyday life both at the inn and in the surrounding country of the area, the book is full of atmosphere especially of French village life. 

Not a book one should read fast. This is one of those reads which should be read slowly to get the nuances of this story.

I read this book after reading about it on Cosy Books. My copy came to me via Open Library.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Return to London by Terence Jenkins

A easy to read book of trivia and history behind some of the known and the unknown of London. 

I think native Londoners may be passing these landmarks and not having a clue as to why such an such got this name or the significance of that - the author here gives you an inkling as to why and how and when London became the city it now is. The facts are not boring, very interesting in fact and for someone like me who is an armchair traveller brought the city very much to life. 

I loved the eccentricities of London - the fig leaf which covered the sensitivities of the ladies of the time rather than the privates of the statue! the polar bear and of course I do love the pubs and their names. Great reading.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley via Troubador Publishing Ltd.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Other Side of the Bridge by Katharine Swartz

Ava has beaten a retreat. Her marriage has failed, she has lost a longed for baby and she feels she needs to take a step back to see whether she can retrieve her life in England. 

Her grandmother has bequeathed a house to her - a house in far off central Greece. Her grandmother though being Greek has never spoken of her Greek heritage, has never disclosed how she came to England and even her daughter Ava's mother knows very little of her mother's past.  Despite having several grandchildren, Ava cannot understand why the house was given to her.

She decides to go, sight unseen, without informing anyone of her arrival and finds a dilapidated cottage,in a very remote village. Luckily for her she is befriended on her arrival by Eleni, who offers her accommodation and hospitality till she settles down. Ava's interest other than pulling herself together is to find out what she can about her grandmother and Eleni's own mother is very shaken on her first sight of Ava. However Eleni is not willing at all, for Ava to question her mother about the subject of Sophia - Ava's grandmother because the Nazi occupation of Greece and the partisan warfare that also was part of this area are subjects that are extremely painful to recollect. Eleni fears for her mother's wellbeing and Ava has to look elsewhere for information.

Piecing together bit by bit, and in alternate chapters telling the story of Sophia during the 1942 period and the way Sophia had to live with her father and sister Angelika, her subsequent involvement in the Resistance despite her not wanting to do anything which would bring attention to their family and how she found herself in London is very eloquently told.

Ava's struggle to come to terms with her loss, her reconciliation with her husband and putting her grandmother's story to rest is this story.

Very descriptive of rural Greece even in the present times, and detailed in the telling of the 1942s this is a mix of history as well as a family story. 

The book was sent to me from Netgalley courtesy of Tute Publishing. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

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

The following books came this week:


These came courtesy of Netgalley.


These were from edelweiss


The meme is from Sheila at Book Journey.

Reading two books almost alongside each other!

Vanessa and her sister - historical fiction and good. Lots of reference to Leonard Woolf who was Government Agent in Jaffna, Sri Lanka during the time of the British in Sri Lanka.

The Diary of a Pissed Off Flight Attendant. I am almost thinking of giving this up because it is very off hand kind of writing. Almost as if the writer has a pleasure in giving a comeuppance to anyone!

Its mid day here on a Monday and already I feel oppressed with the list of things to do!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl: A Novel

I had read The Red Tent by this author and liked the historical detail of ancient Jerusalem in that one. In this one set in 1900 Boston and moving forward eighty five years, we find the same attention to detail which seems to be a mark of Diamant's books and her success.

Addie is recounting her life story to her grand daughter starting from the time of the arrival of her immigrant parents and how difficult it was for them to put down roots and how suspicious they were of anything modern that America had to offer.

For Addie who was vibrant, intelligent and curious it was an uphill battle to get an education against a mother who was only interested that her daughters earn some money, and then get married as quickly as possible. Getting an education, going to college was beyond her understanding and she certainly made no bones about what her feelings were on the subject. She tyrannized not just her daughter Addie but also Celia who was so submissive that she just gave in to everything and everyone and even Betty the sassy one, who gave her lip, left home to work in a departmental store and who was certainly no pushover. 

Addie's success at her studies, her love affair which did not turn out well, her marriage which was a stable one and the progress that has been made for women from 1900 to the present 1985 is the subject of this story. A coming of age book of women from a great grandmother to the grandmother the narrator of this story to the present grandchild who is now going to become a rabbi which for Addie is a huge achievement for womenkind.

I really like these stories. The story of survival in the first instance, invariable immigrants are escaping pogroms, persecution, civil unrest. They come to another country as aliens - no language skills, totally different in looks, food and temperament, they assimilate, they do well, they progress, and one thing they all do, they educate their children!!!! 

Loved this one which was a book downloaded from the Edelweiss site. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift

Shadow on the Highway (The Highway Trilogy, #1)

It was only at the very end of this read that I discovered that Lady Katharine Fanshawe's character was based on an actual Lady Katharine. Abigail her maid and general factotum is however fictional.

The story set in 17th century England depicts a very harsh life and with England set at war with itself. The King on one side and Parliament led by Cromwell on the other. The civil war was disastrous for England leading to large scale destruction of villages, property, churches and over two hundred thousand dead.  The ten years of fighting was a period of great hardship for villagers and it is this that is depicted in this story. The story also highlights the beginning of the Diggers Movement which though unsuccessful paved the way for future movements of the kind. More or less a commune lifestyle with a sharing of land and barter of goods.

Abigail is a girl who is deaf as a result of an attack of measles. She is the only person in her home who was afflicted and now she feels that she is a burden to her family because no one will employ her. When she is accepted at the Manor as a maid/helper she does not know that she is entering a house of tyranny. The Lady herself is very young, but extremely arrogant with orders to do everything. The cook expects Abigail to also provide water, firewood and cleaning in the kitchen and the arrival of the Lady's guardian Mr. Grice adds not only to the burden but to the fact that everything is not quite right. With Abigail's ability to read (unusual in her time) she is able to know that Mr. Grice is actually forging his Lord's signature on documents and has acquired for himself riches with the sale of all Lady Katharine's properties.  Lady Katharine herself is helpless in this and so is Abigail as they have been left alone with Mr. Grice and his henchmen who control the house.

Lady Katharine to add to Abigail's troubles dresses up as a maid and forces Abigail to take her out to the markets where she meets with Ralph Abigail's brother and falls in love with him. This does not bode well because Abigail knows when the truth comes out it will only be adverse for her own family and it does become so. Katharine's other exploits as a highwayman are also discovered by Abigail.

The story has a lot of stories within itself but what struck me most was the absolute power that the men in a family - whether father, husband or brother had over a woman and even a woman of Lady Katharine's stature was just a pawn in property or marriage stakes where everything evolved on the men and as in her case she was rendered penniless by those supposed to be protecting her. Her father in law's behaviour towards her, his physical abuse of her was appalling, specially in view of the fact that her husband was physically present and did nothing whatsoever to stop it and even participated in it. That this was factual I do not doubt as the trend of the time. 

The story was an educative one about England at a very brutal and primitive stage of civilization though of course the English may not think of it like that. Women were definitely cattle class and men were indifferent to what they thought or wanted. Quite a disturbing read.

This was a free download from Amazon. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

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

The following came this week!


Both books came almost instantaneously after my request through Netgalley from Smith Publicity.


This came from Blogging for Books

Fiercombe Manor

This was from Edelweiss.

While We're Far Apart

This was a free Amazon download.


This meme conducted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I am reading The Fragrance Shed by a Violet - just about twenty five pages in and am riveted!

The weekend was spent travelling (as usual) out of Colombo. Got back on Sunday. Now to a hectic new week.

The long tube like vegetable is drumsticks (called Murunga here). This is one of the crops grown by us on this property.

France - The Soul of A Journey by R J ODonnell

Like travel memoirs - under the Tuscan Sun started it for me and now I just love them. This one too started out very well. Four friends doing an overland trip through France, slowly and casually - not rushing things and seeing small places, villages, meandering off the beaten track. It was not all highways for them but just sometimes going away from the itinerary. How many people long to do that but somehow for whatever reason it does not happen.

Four people of disparate temperaments, spending three weeks in one car can end up disastrously. The fact that it didn't meant that there was a lot of give and take, compromise call it what you will so that things were always amicable, even though at times one was biting one's tongue not to retort or let fly at a companion!

Towns covered were the major ones of interest on a tourist route - Chartres and Bayeaux, cathedrals and tapestries but there were hidden churches and cafes, fabulous food, open air markets, views of the countryside both forest and cultivated which were beautifully and detailed in their description. I felt I was there looking at the mazes and labyrinths, listening to the chanting of nuns (this I must research a bit more as it got my interest piqued), and looking at the great cathedrals with their architecture and stonework, stained glass and relics. 

I really enjoyed this book. This was a download from Netgalley courtesy of  Troubador Publishing Ltd.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

All Good Women by Valerie Miner

Four young women - all from varying cultural and ethnic backgrounds come together to start training at a secretarial school. Secretary is not their first choice of job but they think that this would be a stepping stone to whatever their dream job is. Whether it be the movies or journalism or teaching. Living together just four girls, is a taste of independence and not something that went down well with the families of the girls. For some of the girls it was an escape from the cloying effect of huge families, extended families, constant needling and just in some cases to get away.

It is 1938 and the whole world is on the brink of change.  These four young women also know that life is going to change but they did not realize how radical the changes would be. In Wanda's case being of Oriental descent, despite having been born in America it became a nightmare. Classified as an alien, and a probably enemy of the American people, she and thousands of those of Japanese descent were overnight taken from their homes and put into barren camps where the treatment meted out to them was horrendous. It seems terrible that no journalist thought of highlighting the  unfair treatment meted out to them for no fault of theirs, other than their race of origin.

With Wanda's internment in the camp the girls grow up almost overnight each one thinking very clearly for themselves as to what they should or should not do. For Teddy a personal awareness of her sexuality and that the sooner it is acknowledged the better though how she is going to do this she does not know.

A coming of age of four young women - a delightful read with the background of WWII looming in the background and how it affected Americans so far away from the actual theatre of war.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel

An element of magic and fantasy in this one. Normally not my genre at all but for fans of Sarah Addison Allen this would be great.

Cora is a scientist, her parents have been scientists who were tragically killed in a fire over twenty years ago. Her only relative is her grandmother the owner of the dress shop. Etta is no ordinary dress shop owner. She imbues a certain amount of magic into her creations and she will gently direct customers to dresses that will bring them happiness and joy. 

Etta's one wish is that Cora would be happy, that she would find a partner who would love her and for Cora to take her head out of her science lab and realize that there is a world around her. Etta feels that her magic is working for everyone but Cora who has an admirer in Walt but Walt again is a man who is shy and reserved and he too needs to be given a gentle nudge in the correct direction.

However the nudge goes in the wrong direction and Walt is thrown into the path of Milly, another shy and reserved young widow who is lonely and bereft and who sees in Walt a partner to replace her dead husband Hugh. Cora on the other hand gets involved with unraveling the secrets of her parents death and is totally unaware of the machinations around her!  

Ending happily ever after as it had to, this was a pleasant read.

A book which I obtained from Blogging for Books.

Monday, September 8, 2014

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

A Murder Is Announced (Miss Marple, #5)             21155902     

I love Agatha Christie. I think I read this about twenty years ago but it is just as delightful today. The second book was a recommendation from Fleur Fisher. I get absolutely amazing recommendations from this blogger. Both books are courtesy of Open Library.

Nothing  new from Netgalley. So many geographical restrictions put me completely out of the circuit!

Two wins from Simon from Stuck in a book. The books take a circuitous route via London to Sri Lanka via a friend of mine who does not mind picking up my wins. I only enter for the UK prize books when I really, really want to get my hands on a particular book. These two were 

Media of Mrs Harris MP          Mrs. Harris Goes To Moscow          


I am reading The Siege as well as A Wreath for the Enemy. 

Monday was a holiday - a full moon poya day and I was out of Colombo. Hence the post got so late. 
Its been all systems go from early this Tuesday morning!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

Cecily comes to Willowgrove Hall with plenty of secrets, most of which she would like to hide. She is literally abandoned by her father after he discovered her secret of eloping with Andrew Morton. She was thrust into the school for girls where she remained till she got this appointment at Willowgrove Hall. She would not like her employer to know her past history but circumstances and events are all out of Cecily's control.

Cecily's arrival at the Hall itself is dramatic. She comes when the place is flooded and access to the Hall is not possible. She is rescued by the steward who takes her to his own home till she is able to go to the Hall.  On arrival there she finds to her dismay that the owner's nephew is her errant lover and who is now engaged to another. Another secret that she does not want known. She had thought Andrew was out of her life completely and now he is there large as life and apparently also not wanting it known that his Aunt's companion was once his lover.

Despite the odds against her, Cecily wins the favour of her dying mistress as well as the faithful companion and creates a niche for herself in this house. Cecily knows her period in this house is limited to the length of her mistress's life and when this ends she herself will be without a home. What she did not take into account is that she will find a new love here which will be for her, her saving.

Nathaniel Stanton who is the steward for the estate has his own secrets, known to just a few people. He has got to know of them only recently and considers it a huge burden and one he wants to escape from. He too is tied to Willowgrove Hall and is waiting for his release which will also come with the death of the current mistress.

How it all ties together is the story created by this author. Regency romance it is, but it also brings in a nice touch of family drama and secrets which have to come out - at least in a way which brings not sadness but solace and a form of happiness at the end.

This book was also sent to me via Netgalley via Thomas Nelson publishers.

Friday, September 5, 2014

As It Is In Heaven by Niall Williams

As It Is In Heaven

I was looking for another book by this author. Could not find that one so picked this one up. The book started slowly and I was wondering whether I should continue or give up on this one.

Stephen is a history teacher. Quiet, shy and very reserved. His father Philip is old and ill, dying in fact of cancer though he has not been to a doctor. He just knows he is. Philip lost his wife and young daughter in an accident and since then, he is just counting the days when he can be back with his wife and daughter on the other side. Philip talks to them and to all appearances in this story, they are as alive and present as they could possible be.

In this backdrop comes a violinist to this quiet backwater - a concert organized locally which Stephen attends. It is not just love at first sight, but Stephen is struck almost by lightening with his first glimpse of Gabriela. When Philip realizes that his son has fallen in love, he knows he has to live on at least till he gives his son the push he needs to follow his heart and his dreams to Venice and Gabriela.

The story more than the love of Stephen and Gabriela is one of a father's love, devotion and intuition where his child is concerned. The sacrifices that are needed on the part of a parent to see that his son reaches his goal and most importantly obtain the happiness of having a fulfilled life with a loving partner, the same happiness that Philip himself enjoyed is the main aim of Philip. 

The story is sentimental and sweetly loving. Maybe a touch too much but for me the story of the self sacrificing Philip was the most emotional part of the book. 

This was another download from Open Library. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

To War with Whitaker by Hermione Ranfurly

To War With Whitaker

Well it shows certainly that the aristocracy think differently from the hoi polloi!  When Hermione Ranfurly decided to follow her newly wed husband into the thick of a war she took with her strange stuff. As another blogger said I would have had more practical things. For her the important things were her husband's valet,  a parrot Coco and a black book.  For the record Hermione and Dan Ranfurly were the Earl and Countess of Ranfurly.

Starting from there, you know this is going to get more and more interesting. I thought it would be a bit eccentric and I would get cheesed off but it was anything but eccentric. Detailed analysis of war veterans, the theatre of war in various countries and cities, always in the thick of it, personalities and celebrities galore and also the description of the nitty gritty of the wars are detailed in explicit thoroughness which though may seem unappealing to a layman were very interesting. 

The author brings everything to life with tongue in the cheek humour. Laughing at not just the people around her but also poking fun at herself. Obviously made of very stern stuff, she took the good with the bad, made the best out of really bad situations and with typical British stiff upper lip soldiered on. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this read - the diaries covered three years and I am so very glad that this recommendation from Claire at The Captive Reader caught my eye. I am also glad that Open Library had a digitalized version of this book so that I was able to get to it. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

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

The Girl at the Lion d'Or

This came after reading a review on Cosy Books. I do so like this cover though I am reading a digitalized version on Open Library.

The Boston Girl: A Novel

This came from Edelweiss. I liked the only book I read which I won from this author Red Tent. There the setting was ancient Jerusalem. Here we are in contemporary Boston. 


These are from Netgalley.


Reading the Sebastian Faulks one. Twenty five pages in and liking it very much.

On another note, does anyone have expectations of comments when writing a review? I sometimes find that the review where I expected comments did not get any and the ones which I felt were rather meh got the most response! Like to know what other bloggers think.