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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Icarus by Deon Meyer (set in South Africa)

The author was new to me and even the setting of a modern South Africa was almost unknown to me. I enjoyed the setting and the characters, especially since they were drawn from all the communities in South Africa. It added to the cachet of the story, added an additional flavour which I think is very typical of South Africa.

A crime, a rather unusual one during the Christmas season sends shock waves through the elite and rich of the country. The founder of Alibi has been found murdered, and Alibi is a very unusual company. It provides alibis (naturally) for anyone wanting a hundred percent cover up of any out of town assignments, and anything extra marital that he wants not traceable by his family. They customize bills, scenarios, conversations, people, meetings so that everything is above board.Uncovering the trail is the Police force whose characters added so much spice to the story.

The unravelling of the story was unusual. It went from the usual suspects - those who stood to lose if Alibi uncovered their secrets to a wine making illustrious family.  It covered the wine industry and went back decades to when South African wines were unknown right upto the present position.  The history of the Du Toit family alone could have been one novel alone. Coupled with its link to Richter our victim, the story was a good one. One could not have imagined the ending and when it fell into place neatly, one wonders why one did not think of it before! a good who dun it.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Grove Atlantic Atlantic Monthly Press.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Carrie McClelland is an author who is hoping to write her next book set in the Scottish highlands. Whilst researching for the book and trying to confirm historical details and in the midst of meeting her agent a strange phenomenon happens. Carrie experiences not just a sense of deja vu but also feels that the physical building or rather remants of the building she sees is beginning to talk to her through the characters who inhabited this place three hundred years before. Carrie knows a compulsion to record the story of Sophia and John with the background of James Stewart trying to reclaim his crown.

That is the crux of the story. But to get to this point we have a whole lot of history, intricate and complicated, lives of ordinary people in extraordinary times, tales of courage and conviction and the tales of sacrifice are unbelievable. People being exiled, deprived of family and loved ones for the sake of king and country - exiled for decades all based on a dream and hopes of a King being returned to his country. That people would forego their entire life all for the sake of a single man who probably may not realize the sacrifice of his people is something that is difficult to fathom but very easily understood in this novel.

The love story of Sophia and John - the sadness that ends it all but the extremely rewarding and the magical ending which I loved is only something that Susanna Kearsley can imagine and conjure.

This was a wonderful book and one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a tale well told. Not just for lovers of historical fiction but for all.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Prisoner of the Queen by E Knight

Described as tales from the Tudor Court, we deal mainly with the court of Queen Elizabeth. She was a very good ruler, consolidating England's position as a power to be reckoned with but in this book she comes across as a hard, shrewd negotiator who acted only for the betterment of the Crown and did not care for the emotional damage she brought about.

In this story Kat and Ned have fallen in love. Kat's mistake is that she is born into the wrong family. She is a direct threat to the throne and Elizabeth does not realise that Kat is only interested in making a family life for herself and to live peacefully elsewhere. Kat's family are treacherous and her father has been executed for treason, so has her sister the nine days queen. Kat's ancestry alone is enough to be threatening.

Refused permission by the Queen to marry, and under Elizabeth's constant supervision, Kat nevertheless marries Ned, conceives, has a child and is thrown into the Tower for treason. Whilst in the Tower she has another child for her husband, but this infuriates Elizabeth so much that she still refuses to allow Ned and Kat to live as husband and wife and banishes them to two different parts of the kingdom.

The heartache and sorrow that follows the two along with the workings and machinations of the Court form this story. Beautifully descriptive, detailed and full of history, the story is a must for lovers of historical fiction.

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

This collection of short stories is like no other. Very close to home (most of the time) dealing with family, quirky and eccentric family members, dinner parties, siblings, children - one can identify your own family in some of these stories! Stories of marriage, parenting skills or rather lack of them, women's roles in both marriage and society, this is a quirky book of short stories very difficult to put down.

Some of the stories are very, very short which adds to their interest rather than detracting from it. The stories show that Ms. Jackson is an absolute original and very clever at her craft. Keeping your interest firmly on the book and sad when it ended!

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Random House Publishing Group - Random.

PS - Although this post was done sometime back, the review is being posted only now. I have just returned from Melbourne - leaving the grand children was not easy and its getting harder every trip I take and return. What to do?  Coming back to Sri Lanka and my life here. Takes time to get settled in again.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Silent Treatment by Melanie Surani

The story centers around Katrina who has just escaped an abusive relationship. Trying to find her feet, evade her ex and evade her extended family she just wants to lie low and recover from the blows to both her mind and body. She wants to start afresh but knows that getting rid of Jeremy from her mind is easier said than done, despite the abuse, she feels that an attraction still exists.

Dragged to a garage sale by her friend Bridget she discovers a box of jewellery which she buys. Hidden within it is an old film reel which is the beginning of the actual story. A murder captured on film, hidden by the studio, covered up for a very long time and one which will be of interest and worth a lot to several people.

Peter, the grandson and person who ran the garage sale is obviously one of those interested along with several others and trying to keep it in safe hands is Kat's job.

The storyline was good, the dialog and characters true to themselves and the author did the mix of mystery with a touch of romance deftly.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Booktrope.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Dear Sophy by Kimberley Truesdale

My Dear Sophy

A simple straight forward love story with not very many complications. The path of true love in this instance did not have many obstacles and it made for a simple reading pleasure.

When one is flat out working, this was an ideal light hearted read. Especially for those who like Jane Austen and its variations.

Sophie lives in Milverton, sleepy where nothing happens. Being the doctor's daughter she is the person who runs the household, looks after her two younger brothers and her father her mother having died years before. She is twenty three years old and has almost given up hope of meeting anyone who will marry her. There is the young curate who is definitely interested and interesting but is he the one.

The arrival of the friendly, outgoing Captain Connie turns everything around and from then one you know where this story is going.

Nice, neat ending! a bit too neat and a bit too smooth without any obstacles but pleasant.

A free download from Amazon.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer

I always like to read about the American President, the administration, the way it works. It seems so far fetched, so much another world that at times its like fiction but the reality is of course very much there.

The wheels within wheels, how does one differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. Does everyone live with a facade on. Does everyone hide their real beliefs, their real feelings and its all a front.

The book was a fascinating one - from the severed arm found in the Rose Garden to Beecher and his search for the truth about his father. It opened a can of worms and generally when that happens someone is going to get hurt because no one wants those cans opened.

Keeping you on edge, you never knew which way the characters would turn and you were almost invariably wrong! this was a fascinating read into how the White House operates, its secrets and I presume there must be many, and how people will kill to keep them hidden. Of course for the common good!

This was a book sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rich Friends by Jacqueline Briskin

The setting is a rich one. The goal of girls is to marry well and woe betide you if you were from one of the richer, more elite families and you decided to marry down. There were no careers as such, or advancement for women in the professional field. In this setting we have the families of Van Vliet (the supermarket giants), the Linde's amongst others. Three girls Em, Caroline and Beverley's lives will be linked permanently by children and events which will leave them scarred like never before.

Em is the first to get married. When she produces twin boys she feels complete. Her entire life then becomes devoted to making "something" of them. Using her Van Vliet connections she is determined that they be someone big in life. Caroline is somewhat different. A bit of a radical. Then we have Beverley - artist extraordinary and not really living in the moment. It is the offspring though that create catastrophe,

The story unwinds slowly. It does not hit you from the first page. You begin to think this is a story of three friends, relations, family. When it does hit you, it is unexpected and huge. The damage done to not just the children, but to the lives of all the people around is stupendous. It continues in this vein till the end of the book and it holds you spellbound and enthralled right up to the end. You really are disappointed that it ends as you want to know a bit more.

Very well written the book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

Lucy lives in a world of books and antiques and it is very Jane Austen! I couldn't have asked for much more in a book. At the very beginning of a relationship which could possibly be the "one" her slightly unorthodox methods of handling business puts her future in jeopardy not just with James but with Sid her boss and mentor whom she adores.

An unexpected business trip to England with Helen who is James's grandmother brings the whole to crisis point. Helen has secrets of her own. Secrets which she has kept for sixty years and her choice of Lucy as a companion is no random choice.

As the story of both Helen and Lucy unravel, will they both find peace the way they each want and will James ever forgive her.

In a setting which crosses the pond, both American and English ways of business, life and history as well are detailed.

An exceptionally told tale. Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Thomas Nelson - Fiction.