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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix

Secrets of the Tower

The story is set in alternate times - 1171 and 1999. That alone made it an interesting read. The background added to it. The city of Pisa in 1199 was an important trading port. A gateway to two worlds East and West making it a real hub for wealth and business. Pisa today still a hub in a different way - a tourist attraction and still adding to the wealth of its inhabitants. To this mix add two contrasting women. Sam a product of the 20th century, a has been career woman now balancing a family. Berta an unusual woman for the 12th century. Independent, artistic and wealthy, given free reign by her husband to pursue her artistic and architectural interests. What both stories have in common is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. How historical fiction can be combined with two life stories of two such diverse women have been done with this book. Rich in detail of the actual construction, and completion of the Tower it never gets boring or too bogged down in detail. Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Bookouture.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

The Third Wife

My reviews remain short as I am posting from my IPad and from areas where the Internet is sketchy.

This one a download from Edelweiss was a gem.  Posted as a mix of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes it did not disappoint.  Like Moriarty it kept you guessing almost to the end, and upto the end kept you even when you knew who did it, on the edge. You did want to know what Daddy would do.
So glad I got this one.

Adrian has it made. His third wife Maya gets on very well with Susie Wife No 1 and Caroline Wife No 2. So well even I felt uncomfortable. It was not quite right. It didn't sit well with me that two adult children, three littlies and three wives could all be so smooth and comfortable.

Yes, dig deeper and the cracks are showing. Adrian (don't want to stereotype) but like most men, don't see what is apparent to all. Maya was not happy. She tried to conform, she wanted to be accepted so she bent over backwards to please. And please she did but everyone had reservations and then it began to show in small, niggling ways  and then it began in nasty, biting emails. All vicious, all very knowledgeable and all pointing in one direction.

The characterizations were brilliant. Each one individual and different. The storyline great. Finished it in one go.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Inside The O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O'Briens

As usual I am not able to paste the image of this book which is a pity. My second read from this author the book held me in its thrall throughout. Joe the macho, father figure, stalwart and strong struck down with Huntington's disease in his mid forties. The diagnosis is very bleak. A neurological disease its progress is relentless ending in death. The side effects are not told - the effect on family, the loss of a career at the best part of your life, the loss of dreams for all you planned to do and the worst case scenario that you may hand over this gene to your children who have a fifty fifty chance of inheriting the disease. The story takes us from the initial onset of Joe's disease and the disbelief and shock of both Joe and Rosie to its gradual worsening and the actual physical deterioration which happens. The horror of his eldest son being diagnosed with the gene specially since his wife has just become pregnant adds to the emotional stress of the family. Meghan, the elder daughter, a dancer with the Boston Ballet is also diagnosed with the gene and Katie is left undecided whether she wants to know or not specially as she is at a rather mixed up point in their lives. Patrick is the other son who does not want to know. The manner of the handling of each character each different - one loud in their misery, the other introverted, Rosie trying to keep the family together And herself not knowing how to go about this. Each one wanting to be a support for their father in their own way, however they do not know how to be a support to each other though they are all feeling each other's pain. A story of growing up fast in the face of misfortune, family bonds and the power of enduring love very beautifully told. The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Valley, Threshold Pocket Books.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer

Sophie unconsciously does know her marriage is in the doldrums but it still comes as a shock when her husband lays down new ground rules. Susie her old friend has a bungalow in Nantucket and she thinks a separation will allow her to think clearly, what has to be done. Unknown to Susie, her cousin has given the house to a friend of his - Trevor and his son. Trevor and the boy are trying to come to grips with their life after the tragic loss of Trevor's wife and Leo's mother.

With no contracts to bind them both parties decide to live together and the arrangement seems to be working very well. What no one envisaged would be the attraction that develops between Sophie and Trevor.

This is a simple story of the break up of a marriage and finding love once again. Very simply told, almost too simple it would seem at times.

This was a book kindly sent to me by Edelweiss.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs, #11)

This was a download from Edelweiss and aren't I so very very glad I got this.

Set in Gibralter at a time of major conflict - Germans, Americans, the British, the Italians and the Spaniards are all at war with each other. Maisie Dobbs is on her way back home, but emotionally dead. She has lost her husband in a tragic aviation accident and also lost her baby when she was almost full term. She feels she cannot face her family as well as James's family back home and decides to take a break in Gibralter to gather herself, her thoughts and her physical self.

Discovering a body of a photographer was the impetus Maisie needed to get working again. Using all her skills as a private investigator, she puts together pieces of a puzzle which everyone else including Scotland Yard is desperate to cover up. Dealing with the different communities in Gibralter and trying to fathom as to what actually happened is the best part of the story. Apart from the murder and the solving of it, the historical details as to what happened in Gibralter and the various characters who manipulated situations to suit their own countries is very well told.

I liked the detail in this story though for some it may detract from the actual story which is the murder and its investigation. I felt the details added the depth to the background as well.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bless Me Father by Neil Boyd

The story was so full of droll humor that I kept smiling throughout my read. It would help to be Catholic to understand fully the nuances the announcements made by our senior Father. I am and I was still surprised by some of the stuff.

Father Neil is in his first pastoral appointment. Mild mannered and soft spoken he is the ideal foil to our gruff but crafty and cunning Father Duddleswell who knows exactly how to handle humans - and in this case a village of Irish immigrants. Known for their traditions and beliefs, Father Duddleswell  knows what buttons to push, when to speak out and when to remain perfectly quiet. He never crosses the line, does not put a step out of line but still comes out tops whilst never bending the rules.

This was a really good read for anyone to understand how to handle people successfully. Father Duddleswell does it simply and efficiently showing the green Father Neil how it's done. This book should be good for HR specialists. They may get quite a few pointers from him!

The book was sent to me by Netgallley courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media many thank

Friday, April 17, 2015

Whylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

The image of the book posts initially and then disappears!

Sent to me by Netgalley - Open Road Integrated Media.

Unusual setting and genre (for me).  Set in the 1970s a folk music/rock band of sorts has had its first hit and their manager Tom, knows that they have the capacity and the talent to pull in another great hit.  The whole group of artistes are sent to Wylding Hall, a crumbling pile but with the isolation required for them to concentrate on their work.  A motley group of youngsters complete with hash, very little money somehow make it work, but underlying it all is the strange sense of unease that there is something amiss with the Hall. The less sensitive ones brush it off but for some it is a danger that they will be pulled into a scheme they know nothing about, and still less how to handle it.

Told in individual points of view from both inside and outside Whylding Hall, the story keeps you on edge. I didn't know till the very end the outcome. I thought there would be a neat explanation. There wasn't.

Interestingly told from the point if music in the 70s and then the touch of the "other world" added a touch of both magic and mystery.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wish You Were Here by Catherine Alliott

A chance encounter and help given by a her doctor husband is returned ten fold. A holiday in a luxurious chateau in the South of France, all amenities provided not just for Flora and her family but to the extended family as well.

The holiday will be the luxury that the family needs to unwind but so many unexpected, not completely happy surprises keep cropping up. Flora's very placid husband seems to fall head over heels in love with their beautiful operatic singer benefactress, Flora herself is taken aback when her old boyfriend to whom she was engaged turns up on the arm of her sister in law, the two teenage daughters also turn up with their boyfriends and don't seem to have any inhibitions about sharing rooms to the dismay of their mother, and to top it all Flora's mother turns up with the charming John Piere. No one seems to have a care in the world but the tension keeps rising and you do know a blow out is inevitable.

How things settle - both the dramatic (child custody battles and DNA), and the more prosaic (change of career) all adding to the harmony of the family and peace reigning all around. A fun family story with the usual and unusual dynamics of family life.

The book was sent to me by Netgallley courtesy of Penguin UK Michael Joseph.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday for this week has been delightful.  One of the bloggers gave me a tip regarding free downloads of Jane Austen's variations and spin offs and I have been  able to get some very nice reads.

Beyond Downton Abbey Volume I

May's Grand Tour - A Regency Romance

Mrs Dashwood Returns - A continuation of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility

A Wintter Wrong by Elizabeth Ann West

I've already finished the Mrs Dashwood book. Enjoyed the romance of a fifty year old!

Henrietta Who? Catherine Aird

The Five Towns  Leslie Tonner

Even in Darkness Barbara Stark-Nemon

These three are courtesy of Netgalley.

In Sri Lanka, we are embarking on one of the biggest holidays for the country. The old year ends today and the New Year dawns tomorrow, not at dawn but at around 2.40 in the afternoon which is the auspicious time. The entire period is governed by times, time to light the fire, time to start cooking, time to eat and a time you do absolutely nothing other than read, meditate or go to temple. A time of much enjoyment in the country, families get together and traditionally you go back to your village. Cities are empty, transport systems are overloaded, shopping is in full swing and everyone has a good time.

Happy New Year to all.

Isabella by Colin Falconer

Hoping that this post will be presentable! IPad posts do not seem to work very well for me

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

The story of Isabella just twelve years old, a princess who follows her father blindly. Terrified of what the future holds she obeys orders implicitly. She is to marry Edward and somehow gain the control of the Crown. The fact that she falls head over heels in love with her husband does not help either. He looks on her as a child whilst he pursues his interests elsewhere. Isabella has to contend with a mistress more powerful than anything seen before. Piers Galveston is the love of the king's life and he will not brook any opposition to anyone who is critical or to anyone who restricts his partiality for the young man. The King is besotted. Civil war erupts, nobles come together against the King the country torn by civil war all to no avail. When finally the King gives in, Galveston tried and killed the King becomes almost mad with grief.

The story continues with Edward then falling in love with Despenser much more dangerous to Isabella and the Crown than anything that has gone before. How Isabella has to protect herself, the kingdom for her children, and her attraction to Mortimer and how it will be used against her is all part of the story though the Isabella Roger story is not enlarged in this book.

The character of Isabella is the main part oft he story. Edward comes across as dissolute, with no real feelings for his country. He seemed totally fixated only on his partners and himself. The fourteenth century was not the best time for acceptance of homosexuality and Isabella had to face the effects of this full on.

I liked the descriptiveness of the story, the wealth of detail that went into this unusual tale. Certainly not run of the mill characters for their time.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan

My internet is dicey in Rozella (this is the place I've moved to from a suburb in Colombo). I am not very sure whether I can do a blog post from here but am willing to try.

This was a wonderful book and depicted I think very well the life of immigrants in a foreign land. There are those who try to blend and fit in. There are those who have to live duplicate lives - one in this case American and on the other Indian. You don't want to stand out as being completely Americanized to your fellow countrymen and you certainly don't want to look like a "native" ignoramus to your fellow Americans. This dilemma faces most immigrants. Then you get the second generation. Born and educated in the West, they assimilate education and culture from their environment. They come home to a place where older, more conservative values preside. They find it difficult and sometimes impossible to follow rules and regulations which seem arcane to them.

The author handles all the characters brilliantly, highlighting so very real aspects of immigrant life that it is almost factual.

I read this in one go. Couldn't put it down. The book was a download from Edelweiss.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Ladies of the House by Molly Mcgrann

Though the story is about three deaths, three women in brothels and brothels in general and the workings of a brothel and how it made one man very rich indeed, the real story is one of oppression, unrequited feelings and how destiny and the fact of how and where and to whom one was born seemed to play a large part in the lives of these women.

All three women come from working class backgrounds. Two of them were not really wanted in their homes and one wanted a more exciting kind of life than the one that was envisaged for her. They all ended up in the brothels quite willingly. This was no white slave trade. Feelings however was another matter. Each was hoping for something a little more permanent than passing trade and all including the wife of the owner of the brothels was cheated of this. They all got just a little bit of what they were hoping for and they continued to hope that better things were in the future. It did not happen that way and that was the sad part.

The ending was a bit of a let down. I wish it could have been more definite.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Pan Macmillan.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Letter Perfect Book No. 1 by Cathy Marie Hake

Letter Perfect ( Book #1)

A light romance with a touch of whimsy.

Ruth has never been able to quite get the hang of how a lady should behave. Somehow she ends up dirty with smears on her clothes and face, her hair is awry, and she stumbles, falls and does not seem to be able to avoid the pitfalls of clothes with hoops which make life difficult anyway.

On the death of her mother and at her mother's last wish, Ruth journeys West to the actual tough, ranching world of her relations and where her father lives. Distraught to find her father dead, Ruth has to now live with a family who welcome her with open arms and treat her as a long lost member of their own family.

The twists in the tale come in with Ruth's inheritance and it is a surprising one indeed. How the story is handled from then on is different and refreshing.

A free download from Amazon this was ideal for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude

As usual I was drawn in by the cover. Reminiscent of an Agatha Christie whom I adore, I thought even the writing style was very much like hers.

Set among a beautiful county of Sussex the story was a idyllic one. Two brothers in perfect harmony living a very comfortable line following a very old line of business. The disappearance of one brother and following which the innuendos regarding the over friendly intimacy of the wife of one with the unmarried brother makes the investigating officer wonder who could be the murderer. There is no corpse only the gruesome discovery of bones remains in the kiln and Superintendent Meredith slowly and carefully unravels the mystery.

This was a good introduction for me to another series of mystery murders and to the meticulous search for clues so comforting in the read!

This book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of  Poisoned Pen Press.