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Friday, February 27, 2015

Matrons and Madams by Sharon Johnston

This book was sent to me via Edelweiss. The cover does not do the book any justice at all.

Adele is an experienced Matron from the first World War. She was also widowed and then tragically lost her young son to the great flu epidemic that swept across Britain. Adele along with her daughter looks for fresh pastures to get away from all the tragedy and she applies to a hospital in Lethbridge, Canada.

Lily is herself a young married woman looking forward to a bright future comes from Nova Scotia to Lethbridge. She tragically loses her husband in an accident and now this teacher has to find alternate employment to support herself. Failing to find anything, she turns to managing The Last Post - a brothel. She does this with efficiency and compassion.

When Adele and Lily meet they find there is an urgent need to ensure that young women and the men who patronize the brothels must be able to access the hospital's clinic to ensure that venereal disease does not spread rampantly in the province. They have to do this in the face of stiff opposition from the conservative folk of Lethbridge alongside union members, clergy and others who feel that this is just too much for Lethbridge.

Told in the backdrop of war, the story of survival of both Lily and Adele in the face of personal tragedy, their bid for professional success in their respective fields and also eventually finding love again is very nicely told.

The combination of the hospital and the prostitution, bars and brothels of this city are blended well to bring an unusual story to light.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

RYDER American Treasure by Nick Pengelley

Another recommendation from a fellow blogger.

Even the name Ayesha Ryder sounded exotic. The combination of a very Middle Eastern first name with a Westernised surname made me think of some exotic creature and Ayesha very much is one.

Very fast paced, bursting with intrigue, lots of violence and violent imagery the storyline was a good one.

The year 1812 at war with Britain, America lost a great deal of artifacts all looted by the British. There are lots of people very interested in getting them back, all with ulterior motives. Two centuries later a curator at a British museum finds a vital clue and a couple of hours later he is assassinated with Ayesha being framed for the murder.

Whilst Ayesha's one ambition is to find the Golden Ark written in history of the famed Lawrence of Arabia she is unwittingly drawn into the American artifact  adventure because she has no choice but to obey. She wants to do whatever she can and then return to her actual work of the Ark. Unknowing to her there are elements who are actively seeking her downfall and as with all fanatics, revenge is a very personal matter to them. Ayesha is their focus.

My first read of this author. This was an excellent introduction for me.

Liked the quick pace of the story telling, the story moving from one chapter to the next smoothly and everything very connected so that the pieces begin falling into place one by one like a jigsaw puzzle. The end was surprising but that is the excellence of the novel.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Random House Publishing Group Alibi.

Monday, February 23, 2015

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

One book courtesy of Edelweiss

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs, #11)

Set in Gibralter this sounds very very good.


Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Just finished a book and toying between The County Guides Death in Devon or The Lake Season.

Returned to Colombo late last night but finished the book I was reading before I went to bed! I just had to know the end.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Magnificient Spinster by May Sarton

I am indebted to the blogger who introduced this author to me and for the life of me I cannot remember who it was. Thank you.

I loved the style of writing of this wonderful story. A memoir of a life but first starting at seventy and then going back to seventh grade and then gradually unraveling a life which was so full of vitality, energy, love and kindness that I felt totally inadequate at the end of the story feeling very much so that I have not done enough with my life!

Cam is our narrator and she does a wonderful job of detailing Jane Reid's life from the time of an idyllic childhood, one of five sisters and two loving parents, a nanny who was a surrogate mother to Jane and then detailing her school life, her holidays, her eventual growing up and rebelling by deciding to join the college of her choice, and not one deemed fit by her parents (at that time considered very unusual). Her final choice of career as a teacher and then joining the Warren School which became a lifetime commitment and her work with the oppressed, black community in Cambridge itself, her work with orphans in France and finally her decision very late in life to go back to Germany to work for people there were all trail blazing. For a young woman who was almost the closest you could get to American aristocracy - Jane Reid was different and you wanted to get to know more and more about this most generous hearted, simple woman.

Brilliantly written,  this is only partly a memoir and part a recollection of a life wonderfully lived and beautifully narrated.

Thanks to Netgalley who sent it to me courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Just One More Day - Jessica Blair

The year 1939 was tumultuous for all. It brought such great change to the social mores of the time and especially marked a turning point in the status of women. At that point in time, the worth of what a woman could do began to be pointedly noted and though there was a long way to go, this was a good starting point.

Carolyn was just a schoolgirl but someone who was bright and intelligent. When her brother Alaistair joins the Air Force immediately Britain declared war against Germany, Carolyn knew where her future lay. The moment she legally could she with the reluctant blessings of her parents joined the WAAFs - the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.

Whilst on her way to enroll she meets up with a friendly airman who helps her out with directions to her posting in London and her conversations with him despite being of a short duration makes a lasting impression on the young Carolyn. Joining up, meeting up with other young women equally determined to contribute to the war effort Carolyn has to learn to be independent, away from home for the first time and also learn how to manage the many young men who are around her.

She finds the work heady, the environment tense but at the same time feels so alive to be doing something vitally important for the war effort. Underlying all this however is the threat of constant death and the death of so many comrades - here today gone by nightfall makes living on a bombing station like walking on the edge of a precipice. Unlike her other girl friends she decides to only have a platonic relationship with any young man who shows interest in her because she feels that she will not be able to cope with a loss of a loved one so early on in her life.

The story of life on a bombing station, the picture of what goes before an actual bombing raid starts, the collection of intelligence and information and how it is all brought together before a briefing as to how it should be managed was meticulously done but was not boring. The life of the station was equally important to the story as the story of Carolyn herself.

A touching love story as well as a good descriptive one of WWII in this corner of England.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Little, Brown Book Group UK.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Auld Acquaintance by Ruth Hay

I did not realize this was part of a series till I got the book but even then as a stand alone it did fine.

Anna is in her sixties, independent with a full life (as it seems on the surface). Her marriage to Richard seemed to have destroyed her self confidence as a woman and also as a person and she fears that she should be better or prettier or whatever. Richard was very successful in battering her confidence and even years later despite the solid support of a small group of friends she is still shaky on this.

Out of the blue Anna gets a letter from a firm of solicitors in Scotland saying that a Helen Dunlop has gifted her a house in Scotland. At the same time her brother gets a letter indicating that he is the beneficiary of a legacy of cash. Dumbfounded as they cannot recollect anyone of that name in the family, Anna decides to go to Scotland to unravel the past. Her parents were rather self contained, never spoke of the family they left behind when they emigrated to Canada from Scotland so Anna with the help of the solicitor has to start from scratch.

In the present era of course with everyone cross referenced and registered somewhere for something this is not an insurmountable task. Anna discovers pleasant and not so pleasant events in her benefactor's past. Her search in Scotland also gives her comfort and grounding and she is extremely content at the step she has taken. Despite the lack of modern amenities, Anna decides to live in the farm house and see what happens and how she feels about living in Scotland even temporarily.

A very nice, warm story. Glad I got this through Netgalley courtesy of

Monday, February 16, 2015

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


These three from Netgalley.

          The Pocket Wife

The Queen's Caprice

These three came from Edelweiss.

I do so like the mix of reads I got this week.


In the middle of The American Lady. It was a bit slow to begin with but mid way it gets rather interesting so I am glad I persevered.

On a weather note, still extremely hot weather - by 11 am its stifling. If I do go out I think I will get sunstroke it is so hot. Just waiting for this to break.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

From the Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant

This collection of short stories has got very positive reviews and I was very keen to read this collection. Sadly though I found it tough going but I did finish the book.

I like the period and setting of WWI and II and this book was set during this period in Europe and displays various characterizations of people with all their eccentricities and quirks. We have a family moving away to France from England to escape not just the weather but also the rationing. Father is dying and the mother feels that the bracing weather of France is what he needs.   A group of English people living in Italy feel put down upon that Mussolini and Germany are actually going to affect their lives. A displaced soldier now makes a living as an actor in Paris and a widow comes to terms with her widowhood and makes a new start on her life much to the dismay of her children.

The stories in themselves are detailed and descriptive and it should have worked for me but it really didn't.  It was like the curate's egg good in parts for me and I was disappointed.

This was sent to me by Netgalley via Open Road Integrated Media. Thank you for sending me this book.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

I have been singularly successful in getting books from Netgalley. At the beginning I found it rather disconcerting when I was turned down for various reasons - geographical, to not having enough followers etc but I have found that very recently books are being released to me and for this I am very grateful. English print books in this part of the world are exorbitant and hard to find and getting new releases albeit impossible. 

This was another spectacular find. I haven't read anything of this author for the reasons given above and getting this was very lucky.

Told during the period of almost the end of WWII we have Maddie and Ellis and his friend Hank, privileged and crass setting forth for a remote village in Scotland looking for the fabled Loch Ness monster. Ellis's father supposedly found the monster years before but was finally discovered to be a forgery of photographs and is in disgrace in this village who felt that he let everyone down.

Maddie is naïve, silly and you want to shake her up. You wonder where in the world she has been living all this time and her being young is no excuse. Ellis on the surface like Hank seems good natured but condescending, full of pride of being who they are and very demeaning in their attitude towards others. Maddie however as time goes on is able to judge for herself not just the frightening situation she is in, but also the character and nature of her husband and Hank and knows that extricating herself from this mess of a marriage is going to be very tough. Especially at a time when a husband was able to not just control his wife, but dictate to her what she should and shouldn't do, control her money, and even incapacitate her by admitting her to an asylum which he always has, as his trump card.

The story of these three characters set against WWII, the difficulties and scarcities faced by the villagers during this period and how they overcome it as best as they could, keeping a stiff upper lip, managing with zero resources and somehow surviving are beautifully and descriptively told.

I was very glad though that the story ended happily though it seemed a bit too neat! glad nevertheless!!!!

The book sent to me via Netgalley - Random House Publishing Group. Thank you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

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

Just two books came via Netgalley.


I love the covers of both books!


Am writing this post early as Monday is going to be tough (as usual!).  Just finished reading a book and now trying to decide what to read next!

Weather still very hot, no sign of rain in Colombo at least.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

This was one of those books that one gets not really knowing what one is going in for. And then bang! the book takes you by the throat (and heart) and won't let go until you have devoured the whole story. This was The Dream Lover. 

The story of the writer George Sand set in the 1830s and 1840s deals with an  unusual lifestyle set amongst the bohemian and artistic world of the writers, musicians, painters and sculptors of Paris. The story told in stages from the time she was a girl, her upbringing, her marriage and then the failure of her marriage. The huge step she took of separating from her husband and yet maintaining a contact with her two children and then her passionate love story itself with lovers ranging from the famous to the unknown are beautifully and very descriptively told in this book.

George battled with two focuses in her life - she was torn between her writing and then the effect of her life on her two children. She tried her best to balance the two, making sure that the children had her love and attention but it never seemed to be enough for her daughter Solange who rebelled and sadly rejected her mother. This sadness was prevalent throughout the book because George felt that her life should not be detrimental to her children but she found the balancing act very hard and near impossible.

This was my first read of this author. It is also a subject I knew nothing about. It has left me wanting to know more about George Sand and I will be trying to get my hands on something written by this woman to find out more. 

Thank you to Netgalley courtesy of Random House Publishing Group for sending me this book.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Winter Siege by D W Bradbridge

The Winter Siege

This period in English history was a bit hazy for me so this was a good read for me personally as I got educated in the process.

The year is 1643 and King Charles is at odds with his Parliament. Both sides are determined to win a war which is being fought unfortunately in the countryside and villages of England, much to the detriment of the simple villagers and with huge damage to property, livestock and life.

The story is set around the town of Nantwich. The royalists have once before swept through this town and people haven't forgotton their rampage. Now they are on the outskirts of Nantwich again and the townsfolk are not being left in peace to just carry on their daily work. There is tension in the air more so brought on by the inexplicable murders of not just one person but three. The constables both Daniel and Alexander are perplexed as to the motive of the crimes and to the perpetrators.  With so much going around there is very little time for conjecture and people need to find solutions to everything very fast.

Set amongst the time of conflict and with the ongoing murders as well, Daniel our chief character and his life amidst this time is very descriptively told. I specially liked the detailed description of the brine and salt making industry which made Nantwich famous and though it seemed on the decline the details of its working was interesting reading.

Daniel has to sort out the murders as well as be part of the garrison protecting the town. Who is the traitor in their midst? it has to be someone with knowledge of the local populace as well as with a grudge against some of the families in the town.

The twists and turns of a small town holding out against Royalist forces and at the same time just trying to survive is brilliantly told.

This was a download from Amazon. Thank you to the blogger who recommended it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Montpelier Tomorrow by Marylee MacDonald

This is an ideal read for most mothers. We roll up our sleeves, take all the crap and just head down shoulders squared box on. Colleen is faced with a huge situation. Her daughter Sandy pregnant with her second baby is facing a crisis of epic proportions. Her husband fit and able upto now that is has been diagnosed with ALS disease and given just months to live.

The story of Colleen and Sandy along with everyone else involved right down to baby Ben and how families cope or rather try to cope with an illness which has no hope of cure kept me riveted to this book. Each person copes in their own way and sometimes very careless of the other persons feelings or capabilities for that matter. For Sandy she herself and her husband and her two babies are the nuclear family and though dependent on her mother for so much assistance, resents her mothers presence in her own home. Sandy should have had a stint in a joint family in Asia!  Sandy sees her position being usurped by the capabilities of a stay at home caregiver in the form of her mother and resents this.

Colleen gives up her quiet, easy paced life from 1000 kms away and moves in to help. The help is at times appreciated and most of the time resented (I found that difficult to digest) but it speaks to the various characters in this story.

The story is tragic and the tragedy does not stop with the husband either. It goes much more than that and you wonder why some families face so much pain and sorrow all at the same time.

Beautifully written, characters full of flaws but at the same time so very human, this was a book one had to finish in one go.