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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cry of the Peacock by V R Christensen

Cry of the Peacock

Arabella and Mariana have fallen on difficult times. With the death of their parents and with no money, it was a difficult life in Victorian times. They were living with their Aunt who ran a Magdalene house. Something that was horrifying for the oh so genteel English women and something that would always be a blight if they wanted to be accepted socially.

Their father was an overseer on the Holdaway properties and when the Crawford family opened their home and hearth to Arabella as an adopted daughter it was very puzzling. Why would this family behave like this, bending over backwards to make Abbie comfortable and welcomed. Why all the effort to make her an accepted part of society. It soon becomes apparent that she is being groomed to be Ruskin's wife and on her part it is only a matter of accepting Ruskin's offer. Half of Arabella wants to accept and get accustomed to the luxury and the world of being his wife will offer but the other half is skeptical. Abbie wants the workers of Holdaway Hall to get a good deal and this is her bargaining chip. Do all this for them - increase the size and quality of their homes, increase their land holdings and allotments and give them a fair deal. Ruskin is not interested in modernizing or giving in to labourers requests. He thinks as the owner of the estate he can do what he wants but he does not realize that social change is in the air.

The story was very good in that unexpected help came for Abbie from within the family itself. James and David two brothers of Ruskin disliked their elder brother's manner of coercing Abbie as well as his way of running the estate.  An unexpected uncovering of an earlier Will shows everyone the actual reason why the Crawford family wants Arabella so eagerly. How to break this news to Arabella without making her feel obliged to accept Ruskin through a feeling of guilt is David's and James's predicament.

How the situation is resolved and sorted out brings the story to its climax.

Very descriptive of the social changes of the times, the hypocricy that seemed prevalent in Victorian times and how families lived and worked this was an interesting story to read. The Magdalene home was something I was unaware of so I was keenly interested in that as well.

This was a book I downloaded from Amazon on a recommendation on FB. So very glad I got to this one.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams



Tiny has been the chosen one from the three sisters to do the "right" thing. Marry well and upwards and keep the Schuyler flag flying. Despite being attracted to someone else, she does what is expected and marries Frank, a high flying son of a family which wants to reach the very highest pinnacle in politics in the land.

By her side the Hardcastle family believe that Frank can reach the top and they are ruthless and determined that he and they should achieve this. A girl like Tiny is a mere small obstacle but she is a vital cog for appearances sake - the close knit family is of importance to the American public.

Life never moves smoothly and her sister's appearance in her life, along with her former lover Caspian and the appearance of the first of several letters and photographs from her past life blackmailing her ruffles what was smooth sailing. How to deal with each of them in turn and not disrupt the campaign is Tiny's focus. Her love for Caspian aside, she is loyal to her husband and does not want to rock the boat at this stage. Frank's philandering is well known but when it hits very close to home and her unexpected discovery of what exactly Frank is upto puts the cat amongst the pigeons!

The unexpected twist added piquancy to the story and turned it on its head. Very well told this story of a family in politics coupled with a family saga was an interesting one.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Penguin Group Putnam

Saturday, August 22, 2015

my grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry by Fredrik Backman



Not an easy book to review at all!

Elsa is a seven year old - a very different seven year old. Someone who understands Wikipedia, who knows that someone's grammar is very wrong and has no hesitation in correcting her/him and most important a person who knows the value of silence. She is intelligent, smart, empathetic, compassionate and oh so very different.

Her grandmother is her best friend, mother comes in at a far second. When her grandmother dies and leaves a series of letters to people saying she is sorry for so many things she has done, the adventure begins.  It is a magical story that took me a little while to get into the spirit of but once it does, it envelops one so that you do want to know how this story is going to end.

I felt a bit sad once the book ended because you would like to have a sequel to Elsa's life. Elsa can never be the girl next door. She is destined for great things and all because she was different.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Atria Books.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Island Escape by Kerry Fisher



Octavia and Roberta are best buddies. They have gone through teenage crisis, boyfriends, high school and now its marriage and children. Unfortunately their respective spouses have never quite hit it off. Scott is condescending and Johnathan despises him for his nouveau riche ways! This fortunately does not affect the ladies relationship with each other.

Octavia comes from a working class background and Roberta was born with the silver spoon in her mouth. They still seem to look at life from these two backgrounds and though Octavia wonders when Roberta is going to realise that life is hard and tough, the friends still continue to remain very good friends, there for each other, supporting each other.

Octavia was the free spirit. She wanted to have her children grow up around the world - fluent in Spanish or Italian, world citizens. What she has now is the humdrum life of a housewife with three children, school and homework, cooking and laundry. Roberta has a rich husband but she has helped him immensely on this path to riches. Providing a very real interior design knowledge to his building empire which has been her share of the work.

Suddenly Roberta finds herself pitched out of the house, on the flimsiest of reasons and Scott has decided that enough is enough. Roberta has not even thought of a single life with her daughter Alicia and for her being single is daunting enough to consider going back to the selfish, boorish Scott despite all Octavia's pleading and reasoning.

The story of friendship between two women, the strain that it comes under when third and fourth parties come into the picture, how families can tear you in different directions and how a long lost love can sometimes remain just that. A spark that was there but has somehow got dimmed with time. How second chances exist for all and that happiness can be found in the second time around. I felt very happy for both Roberta and Octavia at the end.

Despite obstacles, struggles in both marriages, wayward teens, boorish husbands and differing opinions friendship can survive and grow. Grow it did.

Loved this book which was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of HarperCollins UK Avon. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

To Catch A Falling Star by Anna Belfrage

To Catch a Falling Star

This was a win for me and aren't I the lucky duck for getting this one. I had read one book in the series and this is the eighth one in the lot.

Matthew and Alex with their brood now live in Maryland having left Scotland under a dark cloud. Matthew's brother Luke has now gifted Hillview to him and he yearns to go back to the land of his birth. Alex is torn. She has to go with Matthew but she is leaving half her family behind and this she hates to do. She does go with him and two of their boys leaving the rest behind. This does not augur well for their relationship as well as she is angry, bitter and distraught at leaving her daughters behind.

Arriving at Hillview is not as rosy as they expected. There is antagonism towards Alex from the beginning. She is different - no small wonder with her taking baths every week which is enough to set people against her! A time traveler herself she has adapted to life in the present times but is certainly not the average woman of her time.

Scotland is in turmoil in the 1600s with the Stuart Catholic king on one side and the foreign but Dutch Protestant William on the other. Matthew's reluctance to openly support William is also looked at with suspicion especially as the family has Catholic friends and visitors.

After just a year in Scotland the decision to move back to Maryland is made and the journey begins. Leaving David their youngest behind in Scotland is again hard for Alex but the decision is made and the return trip done. Arriving in Maryland things are not rosy and difficulties in the form of religious persecution against their daughter Sarah who has converted to Catholicism, a murder trial, and the machinations of Richard Campbell a pastor makes Alex's and Matthew's life a misery.

The historical detail in the book would be in itself a saga. Life in the Colonies and Samuel being adopted by an Indian tribe would be a story in itself. His final choice of being Indian rather than White is a saga in itself. Alex the heroine of the story would spin off a couple of novels in herself. The book is difficult to review because so many facets of the story are brilliant each within itself. History, the family saga, the journeys on the high seas in the 1600s is an adventure again and then we have the complicated inter personal relationships of Matthew, his brother Luke and his dead wife Margaret with Alex, we then have the time travel of Isaac the first born son of Alex who disappeared when he was eight and then turned up in his late twenties. We have Mercedes Alex's mother and other characters in the time travel series who pop in and out of the story adding spice to an already very complicated set of characters. We have pastors who are anything but compassionate - in fact they are positively evil and they play an important part in this particular book.

Another book I couldn't put down. Very good historical detail, descriptive about living conditions and ways of life in both the Colonies and Scotland apart from being a fabulous family saga.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Warning by Sophie Hannah

The Warning: A Tale of Suspense

I thought this was going to be a dire, full of suspense read. It started like that and proceeded like that but the end fell a bit flat for me. It was not the psychological thriller it was dubbed and I felt it did not do anything much for me.

The story in itself is straight forward. You meet someone unexpectedly, it is a total Cinderella moment and the attraction is felt by both parties. Unexpected road blocks ahead and these are ironed out in a rather unconventional manner (investigators etc) and the net result was a happy ending. The psychological part was that the sociopath was unexpected and not the person one expected it to be.

This was a short book ARC sent to me by Edelweiss. The author has written other books and I will be keeping an eye out for these.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich



I was not quite aware of what I was getting into when I chose this book. It is not a genre I am generally happy with but the author was one I have seen on several blogs so I thought its time I gave it a fair go! Was I in for a surprise.

Monkeys, pirates, sort of vampirish figures, buried treasure, spells, a man behaving like a dog, a cupcake and bakery shop filled with delicious treats and characters definitely out of the ordinary.

A story of hidden treasure and clues hidden in a coin and a diamond and naturally every one around is hurrying trying to get there first.

Greed and avarice and a bit of lust thrown in for good measure this was a very different read for me.
Very pleasant!

A download from Netgalley courtesy of Random House Publishing Group Ballantine.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The End of Innocence by Allegra Jordan

The End of Innocence

Helen and Wils meet at Harvard. They fall in love. But this is not going to be smooth sailing. They are on opposite sides of a great divide. Wils is German and his mother is pressurizing him to return. Anti German sentiments in America are now high and the few Germans who are around know that they are under suspicion of being spies.

The story of Helen and Wils and other characters which form the story are all highly individualistic people. Each one carries within them a little story, which forms the whole so we have Ryan a cousin of Wils, Copeland the Professor an integral part of the story and Helen's parents who have formed her and guided her amongst many other characters.

The story moves from America to Belgium to Germany and back to America again. We also move forward in time seventeen years later and it is bitter sweet. Memories of times past evocative of a time long gone and the futility of war and why we fight these wars. An entire era has passed before the reader's eyes - changes brought about by this Great War are far reaching - especially on the social level.

I am finding it difficult to review this book as there was so much to love. From the harsh biting reality of war in frozen Belgium, to the warmth and affection of comrades during the war, to the overwhelming love story of Wils and Helen and the story of Harvard overshadowing it all, this was a wonderful debut novel.

I was sad when I finished the book and only hope there will be more coming from this author.

I was very lucky to win this one from Sourcebooks. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

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



I am trying to keep up with the memes. Two weeks in a row seems good!

               



     




A very handsome mailbox! I've got different genres and this is what I really like. I am trying to step out of my comfort zone a wee bit and this mix is helping.

1



I am reading two books currently, something which I rarely do. One is The Road to Rangoon and the other is Rich Friends. The books couldn't be more dissimilar - one set in abject poverty and a rebellion in Myanmaar and the other set in California - a family saga of people who are rather rich!

We have had a long weekend with Friday off as well (Esala Full Moon Poya Day). It has been a lazy time for me. Caught up with friends, had several meals out, altogether a good time ready for the working week.



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun


This has to be one of the best books ever. A love triangle, history of a nation emerging and the brave, heroic story of a very young woman finding her way and trying to stand on her own two feet at a time when women were generally thought to be helpless and men seemed to like it that way.

Beryl is just seventeen - her father seems to have given her very little choice. Leaving their beloved home in Ngoro and joining them in a new venture or getting married to Jock a much older man. Someone with whom she has had very little conversation, no knowledge of. Even at this stage it looked a receipe for disaster. The marriage is foundering from its first day and you begin to realize that Jock himself has taken on someone whom he does not understand and is not willing to even try.
Beryl realises that she has to take care of herself and to this end does something unprecedented not just in Kenya but in the whole world. She becomes a horse trainer. This is something she has done her entire life, she understands the animal so very well and this she does successfully. It also spells the end of her marriage and the beginning of several romantic liaisons, none of them permanent and all of them spelling disappointment and sadness for Beryl.

Fast forward to Beryl's success as a horse trainer and to the jealousy that follows from women and men alike. Beryl has to face adversity and loss and even in her second marriage disaster follows disaster when she is forced to give up her baby son to a domineering mother in law and an ineffectual, helpless husband. The sole light in her life is her love for Dennis but this is always something that she has to share with Karen Bixen. Dennis cannot be tied down to any woman and Karen is never going to give up the tenuous hold she has on him.

The story is a fascinating memoir of an unusual woman of her time. She was actually way ahead of her time as she just wanted to be Beryl Markham. She did not want or need to be anyone else and this was something that made everyone around her uncomfortable.  The people she moved with were not conventional in the least but conformity to society's norms was very important for them and unfortunately Beryl did not fit into any one category. Her sins were not easily forgiven or forgotton by society and this ostracized her. It also made her realize how alone she was.

The story of Beryl is the main one but the history and beauty of Kenya forms such an integral part of the story and the two are intertwined throughout.

This was a beautifully written story and I  was so glad I got this book from Ballantine Books through Netgalley.