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Sunday, December 28, 2014

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








           Things You Won't Say: A Novel




Both books courtesy of Edelweiss. Am looking forward to reading both. I have read both authors before and liked very much the style of writing.









Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.


Despite not really having major festivities for Christmas, routine work seems to have taken over my life! today Monday is a normal working day and am trying to just complete the work for today which leaves me little time for reading.


Mavis Gallant - From the Fifteenth District is the one I am half way through right now.


Have a very festive holiday and all the best for the New Year.

Family Matters by Elizabeth Berridge



A boring cover which is all I could find for a delightful collection of charming short stories. I do so wish the cover could have been a bit more imaginative!

The collection of short stories cover the gamut of all relationships. Between husband and wife married for decades, between sisters now grown old and widowed and living together, between aunts and nieces and nephews. The usual family with all its hidden depths. Nothing is as it seems and even the most innocuous relationship seems to have hidden meanings of either spite, envy and bitterness but there is plenty of happiness and joy in the simple things in life as well.

The collection of stories set during wartime reiterate the influence the war had on the social mores of the time. Husbands who expected submissive wives did not get what they were used to, fathers who expected obedient daughters got the shock of their lives when their daughters became independent women. Wartime changed women for good. It seemed to be a testing time for women to take up the challenge in Britain and taking up the challenge they did and very well at that. Men came back expecting things to be the same as before but life had changed for all and some of them did not quite like what had happened.

For anyone who likes short stories this is an ideal collection. For those who are hesitant thinking that there is not enough time for a story to have a proper ending when it is a short story should maybe try this one.

This was a download from Open Library.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett

Murder on the Mind (Jeff Resnick, #1)

I am reading a murder mystery after quite a bit and this was refreshing.


Jeff was rescued by his step brother after he was seriously mugged. He lost not just his wallet and money but since they also took his keys they trashed his apartment and he was left with literally nothing. One strange thing however followed the mugging.  Jeff became what could only be called psychic or extra sensitive to things happening around him and especially to a murder which took place around the time.

He saw bits and pieces of the puzzle and it was upto him to put the pieces together coherently. Richard his brother was disbelieving though his girlfriend was not a skeptic.  Going to live with his brother who was a millionaire several times over was the only available path for Jeff to both recover as well as to have a sounding board as Jeff himself was very stressed out with his new powers. Jeff knew he had to follow through specially since a child was involved as well.

Through step by step deductions and another murder which followed the first Jeff is able to solve the crime and present it to the authorities as a solved crime. With the murderer dogging his footsteps and endangering the lives of those around him Jeff still manages to solve the crime though his brother does get badly injured in the  melee.

Unusual for a murder mystery linking it with the paranormal this was a different kind of read. 





Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Undertaker's Daughter by Kate Mayfield




This took me right back to Six Feet Under. The tone of the book was very reminiscent of this but then this took a different turn.

Kate Mayfield is one of the children of a local small time undertaker and her memoir of growing up above a funeral home is a wonderful read for people who like good writing. Strong characters in the form of a father and mother whose word was law and an older sister who was slightly psychotic with two other mild siblings Kate seemed to be the curious one. The one who always wanted to know the whys and hows. Not discouraged by her undertaker father to understand the workings of the funeral home, for her and the other children death was very much part of their lives and nothing to be afraid of. They grew up with the notion of death coming to all, young and old and how their lives had to fall in line with the funerals which took place in the home because funerals governed the entire Mayfield family life.

Kate growing up in this environment, the attitude of those around her to her background and how she eventually leaves the small town of Jubilee to make a life for herself elsewhere is the story of this book. Her turbulent relationship with Evelyn one of her sisters and the very close relationship she had with her father despite his shortcomings which she got to know of only in her later teenage years are very descriptively told. Her mother and she seemed distant with her mother not really understanding or rather wanting to understand the needs and mind of the young Kate.

A family saga with Kate being the spokesman in this book a very nicely balanced story of how life and death live alongside each other.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley via Gallery, Threshold Pocket Books.




Monday, December 22, 2014

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








Coming to the meme after an absence of a week. These three courtesy of Netgalley.






        






Hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney.




2a




Very little reading is being done - got back from Vietnam which was a totally different kind of holiday - didn't enjoy the constant political history. Very little cultural insights into the country because their entire focus is on the Vietnam war and the horrific results todate. A huge country with a vast agricultural industry and being an agriculturalist myself this is one part I enjoyed. Developing fast so I am glad I saw it like this.


Now its Christmas week but we have no major preparations as celebrations are extremely low key in our household and have been since our children left home years ago.  So many Sri Lankan parents are in the same category as due to civil war, lots of parents sent their children overseas for security reasons, but the older folk still seem to carry out Christmassy traditions and rituals. Putting up the tree, decorating the house, making the traditional cake and wine and sweets is still a must.  I admire them for it but I gave it all up and just enjoy it in other people's houses!


Reading bits and pieces from several books, enjoying TV specials and work going on as usual. Rather mundane for this time of the year.













Saturday, December 20, 2014

Three Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr



Starting from a village in Jerusalem we cross three generations of women and end up in Georgetown, America. We start from a traditional, very conservative woman who is stepping out or rather forced to step out of her environment to take over a business she knows nothing about. No knowledge of the world, no knowledge of accounts, mother and wife and how she transforms not just her life but those of her children holding in trust the business for her husband to return to from a war which destroys their homeland.

Three women, Miriam her daughter Nadia given opportunities beyond her dreams of an education, flying in the face of clan opposition as to what good this is all going to be and then her daughter Nijmeh facing deviousness from her own cousin who is determined to lay waste to Nijmeh's dreams and hopes and take it all for herself. All three women live their lives in the face of vast change - both to their country and within their own families. They each in turn face opposition from within when they try to do something different as the clan influence is great and the good name of the clan is more important than the ambitions of the individual.

How these three women live their lives very bravely is the story told by this author. I loved the descriptiveness in this story. Not just the cultural background but the nitty gritty of daily life - how they lived, what they ate and especially the camaraderie amongst the various groups.

This was a book sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Private Papers by Margaret Forster

Private Papers


I read about this author but it was another book by the same author that I got.  Invariably for me, it is always like this. I do not get the book recommended as it is out with a huge waiting list or  never around. I take the next one available because a good author is a good author!

This did not disappoint. A download from Open Library.  I wish the site was more user friendly. They can give me innumerable choices if I type in an author I am interested in but there is no way to browse through category, era or interest. You have to know what you are looking for with this site but I do get very good books from here.

Penelope our main character is the Mother - she is also now old. Her children are all grown up and rather patronizing and condescending of her behavior both present and past. Particularly the past. Penelope was brought up in an orphanage and married very young, a doctor who volunteered in WWII and never came back. She single handedly brought up her large family and in her opinion family came first and hence she put their needs before anyone else's.

The story told in two characters both Penelope and her eldest daughter Rosemary are alternate - both overpowering strong characters who thought their way was the best. It is a story of how most families operate. A lot of give and take, a lot of forgiving and forgetting and putting aside differences for the good of all.

The story of the Butler family is told against the fabric of breakout of WWII and the massive changes that took place socially. This was particularly so for women and women of the older generation like Penelope got caught in the middle not knowing exactly what was expected of them at the present times.

This was a very intriguing read. You got caught up in the moment and wanted to slap Rosemary for her high handedness. On the other side you wanted to shake Penelope out of her implacability. Very good book.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Family by Caroline Leavitt


Nick grows up in a loving family but the fairy tale ends when he is orphaned and put into a boys home.  He stoically waits out his time there and then branches out independently on his own.

He falls deeply in love with Dore and they are both happy specially when a baby is born to them. With the sudden tragic cot death of the baby Nick and Dore drift apart. They do not seem to have any means of communication between them and the death of the baby seems to be a divide that they cannot get over. Both suffering immensely in differing ways they drift permanently apart.

Nick in the meantime finds a second love with Leslie and has a daughter with her. The gradual disintegration of the marriage and how Nick finds himself trying to balance his love for his daughter and handle his feelings for Leslie as well. Leslie herself does not have a good relationship with Robin however much she tries and the story seems to be about family and how relationships can disintegrate, break up and get destroyed. It also shows how divided love can be and how it seems quite feasible for some men to love two women in different ways at the same time!  The story is quite convoluted at this point and goes into further complications for all the parties concerned.

Robin the daughter seems to be the pivot on which the relationship of Leslie and Nick revolves on and when she disappears from the scene, their marriage collapses entirely. How Robin's return helps the parents reconcile to a degree of cordiality is also evident in the story.

It is also frightening to realize how much children depend on their very survival for parents to just simply exist. Their entire future seems to be so dependent on this feature and how when this is absent the entire structure can fall apart so rapidly was nerve wracking to even read about.

This was a book that got me thinking on several different lines which is what good books are all about.

This was a book sent to me by Netgalley for an honest review. The publishers are Open Road Integrated Media.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gracie - Women and War by Ellie Keaton

Gracie (Women & War #1)


This was a recommendation from Serena and one which I enjoyed. A free download from Amazon.  A short read it is a simple story set in the WWII background in Britain. 

The war in Britain seemed to have been unexpected. Most of the older folk felt that after WWI there would be no repetition of the war. The world in which England found itself was very harsh. The bombing of London was brutal and Gracie's life as a young woman is in this setting. Coming from a traditional family where parents decided what was good for their children,  Gracie is in service at the "big house" and here she meets Penelope the estranged grand daughter of the family. An unlikely friendship develops but this is a time of great change in England and the  system of upstairs, downstairs is fast disappearing.

Gracie's boyfriend too is not happy that she has joined the war effort and in addition all news of her twin brother lost during a battle seems at an end. Gracie however firmly believes that he is alive and will one day return.

The story of Gracie is a simple one of love and family set in dire circumstances.  This particular story very simply told has a happy ending which adds to the niceness of the story.






Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friends and Relations by Elizabeth Bowen



The book is out of print and the chances of me getting to this one was remote. Fortunately Open Library had it and I was able to read it there. Highly recommended on several blogs including Book Snob and Fleur Fisher,  I was very glad I was able to find this one.


The story deals with relationships between four families - it begins at the wedding of a young couple where we are introduced to all the parties that form the story. The scandalous Lady Elfrida whose only scandal was that she is a divorcee seems to cause uneasiness wherever she goes. Hovering over it all are the Thirdmans just returned from Switzerland, seemingly lost with their precocious daughter Theodora who even as a teenager is out to create trouble wherever she goes.

Soon after one wedding, Janet announces her intention to marry Rodney the heir of Considine who was the lover of the scandalous lover.  Despite initial hesitation over the match because of the uneasy connection between the families permission is granted and things seem to settle down.

Fast forward ten years down the line and we see the two marriages. Steadfast true but rather dull going on in a very dull way. Theodora however is still very much there on the scene, still creating tiny little rifts without even seeming to do so. Over it all is Lady Elfrida and despite her relationship with Considine being very much in the past, and ancient history, it is still the elephant in the room.

I like the way the author describes in detail the history of this particular time, the formality of day to day life is handled well. I found also excess of passion on one side and the absolute lack of it in other relationships in this story also an interesting feature.





Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Season for Martyrs by Bina Shah

A Season for Martyrs


The story is told in two parts. We have the life of Ali a journalist for Channel 24 and then we have the imminent return of Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan from her exile in Dubai.

Both come from the same family of feudal zamindars of the Sindh community. Benazir Bhutto's father took his political leanings far and established a party which was at odds with the feelings of his community. He was for the common man, he sought land distribution (which did not go down too well with the people who owned land), he also sought the upliftment of the common man. For this he paid the ultimate price. His daughter took up the political baton and was set to  make wide sweeping changes. That this could happen in an orthodox Muslim country was in itself a massive story. That it actually happened is the fact.

Ali's life is also complicated. Involved in a love affair with a Hindu girl which in itself was a no no from both sides he knows that the chances of this love affair reaching its goal is almost impossible. His story that his father is dead just to avoid scandal is also not helping him or his family. His father has taken a second wife and moved away - he not acknowledging his father's existence is causing him more heartbreak than he imagined. The relationship between father and children has been distant and Ali as a young man is now feeling its absence the most. Ali has also secretly applied for a visa to the US and when this gets known to his family he is treated with suspicion because he did not disclose this to them. Trying to reconcile his personal life with the professional is also hard for Ali. He supports Benazir Bhutto but at the same time is skeptical about her aims. The corruption charges against the Bhuttos has not gone away and he is aware as do most of Pakistan of their enormous wealth both in Pakistan and abroad and he wonders how this came about.

The story then shifts to Bhutto's planned arrival in Pakistan and the events that preceded it. The dismissal of the Chief Justice and the breakdown of law and order was huge at the time as other than bringing in the military hard, there was no way for Musharaff to stay in power. Like most autocratic regimes the army was brutal and the death toll and the missing toll was very heavy.

A story of personal lives and political turmoil combined, alongside a fascinating slice of history and the development of a country goes alongside each other in this book.

Loved it.

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


Monday, December 8, 2014

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




Doing this post way ahead of schedule as I am leaving for Vietnam on a ten day trip tonight! Looking forward to this ever so much. It is the first time I have joined a guided tour so I am hoping it will all work out.


My books are all from Open Library.


        Cover of: Hiding from the light by Barbara Erskine




I read the first one and its already up for review in January. I found it a wonderful book about human relationships and the varieties of human nature that one comes up against in a single family. In this one every good and bad one is portrayed very well.  It is my first Margery Sharp read.


I do not know whether I will be able to get anything read on this trip though I am taking my Kindle with all its downloads. I hope I will be able to get some reading done.


Having a long break in Singapore on the return trip. Looking forward to Christmas décor there. They always do a splendid show!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Difficult Husbands by Mary de Laszlo



Three friends all in the same age group of forties. Three husbands all twenty years their senior. Now after a decade or more of marriage, we find their lives disintegrating with husbands either looking elsewhere, drunk and disorderly or just disinterested in their wives and families. Trying to at least keep their children within the family unit is hard. Most of the children are grown up and finding it difficult/impossible to cope with such fathers. They prefer to stay away from the family home rather than seeing their fathers. How the three wives come up with a scheme to try to bring some sense to their wayward husbands as well as keep their families close to them is a heart breaking and funny story here.

Lorna is the only one who is actually divorced. Gloria seems not able to let go of her permanently drunk husband however much of a no gooder he is and Rosalind seems to always make some kind of excuse for her philandering husband.  Despite Lorna's husband being out of the scene and shacked up with a much younger woman, Lorna still yearns for the marriage that was and does not seem to be able to let go.

A surprise inheritance in the form of a country house and the arrival of Nathan on the scene seems to be the catalyst that sets inadvertently all three women free. The outcome of the inheritance and the role it plays is strange but it does seek some closure for all.

The setting of Ravenscourt in winter and the time being Christmas was good for me as well. My first sort of Christmassy read as well. I have read many books where a house becomes almost as big a character as the characters themselves and this was one of those books. Nice!

The book was sent to me by Netgalley via Bookouture. Thank you.


Friday, December 5, 2014

The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

The Marriage Game

This was a delightful novel. Very slow in some parts but at the same time, keeping the reader interested because though of course we do know the outcome we still want to know personal stories.

This is not just history, this is a personal love story of a queen who was tragically torn in two. Today she would have been diagnosed with the syndrome and treated accordingly. At that time she kept it a well hidden secret and took it with her to the grave.

Elizabeth I came to the English throne through very turbulent times. She was quite used to intrigue and murder though murder and death warrants would haunt her to the end of her days. Very early on she fell in love with Robin and this love affair would also last her to the end of her days. The tragedy that she would not allow herself to take this affair to its culmination in marriage was her personal tragedy. For Elizabeth England reigned supreme and was her Master. Everything she did including the protracted marriage negotiations (which she had no intention of fulfilling) were done for the benefit of the country.

The Queen enjoyed the flirtations, and the intrigues of court politics involved in the marriage negotiations. What this did to her relationship with Robin whom she supposedly loved was secondary. A woman who seemed very calculating of every move and who wanted the cake and the plate as it were.

The author spins the story of Elizabeth I masterfully. Flaws and all are mercilessly revealed but at the same time the character and strength of Elizabeth are also revealed and how she laid the foundation for good governance in England is apparent.

This book was sent to me by Edelweiss.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Snail Man by Victoria Benchley



This was an unusual read in parts and just a basic read in some parts. The story was a bit off putting and creepy but at other times seemed very ordinary. I do not like to stop half way and sometimes wish I would! This was read to the end though.

Kathryn has been widowed for three years but she still seems to want to live in the past, which was a safe haven for her. Her job is a secure one but not exciting and she now feels that the time is correct to get back into the world of men and dating. Meeting two men - one rich and famous and flashy, the other homeless and almost  a stalker she has to choose between the two.

Kathryn herself comes across as being very shallow. I read a review saying she was naïve but I felt that she was much more calculating than that and for me not a very likable character.  The book was rather impersonal in the telling and I never got really taken in by any of the characters.

This was an Amazon download.


Monday, December 1, 2014

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






Mailbox Monday is today heralding in the month of December. A very happy season to all readers.




Wicked Ways (Wicked #4)


From Netgalley.




Truth Be Told            


From Amazon




2a


Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.


Right now in the middle of Escape the Night by Richard North Patterson


Also trying to finish some reviews so that it will not pile up this month. Also a trip to Vietnam in the offing - quite excited to go. First time I am doing an organized tour so looking forward to that.