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Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah

This is devious crime fiction. Not in the category of Agatha Christie for me but something sharper, modern and with an edge.

Someone is killing pairs of friends. No apparent link between the pairs and seemingly random. The friends, partners, spouses of the victims are all in the clear. The first indication of a murder is the appearance of a blank book with an innocuous verse or sentence written in it. The books however are also not linked, just quotes from various sources.

The detectives in charge of the case face insurmountable odds. Till Kim Tribbeck a stand up comedian realises rather late in the day that she had also received one of these blank white books and has only now got to know its rather hideous significance. Working backwards, sideways and in every way possible our detectives have to deduce where and how the killer is going to strike next. Kim is obviously going to be the victim but why, how and where.

Edgy and full of suspense.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Death at Fountains Abbey by Antonia Hodgson

Thomas Hawkins has been sent on an assignment, blackmailed into accepting an assignment more or less. John Aislabie one of the wealthiest men in England has been threatened with murder and the murder threats are foul and frightening. Told ostentatiously to find from where the threat comes from, the actual reason for Thomas's visit is to find and return to the Queen a ledger which holds incriminating evidence that threatens the aristocracy, even going to the highest in the land the monarchy.

Aislabie himself finds himself in a complicated position. He lost his wife and daughter in a fire a long time ago but now he finds that his youngest daughter Lizzie has been returned to him, through a convoluted process. This has upset his second wife who fears that it is a fraud and an attempt to rob him though Lizzie herself has insisted that she does not want a cent of Aislabie's fortune because she is a well settled woman herself.

Thomas's life is in itself complicated. He has brought with him his partner Kitty whom he dearly loves and Sam his ward. Both of them are necessary to solve this crime and all of them are under personal threat while at the estate. The story unravels very slowly but the setting and the descriptiveness of the estate as well as of the unrest surrounding the property at the times is very well told.

The story is partly based on real life characters and is a good piece of historical fiction.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mistletoe Mysteries - Tales of Yuletide Murder by Charlotte MacLeod

This was the only "Christmassy" read I could get into this year and though murder is not the most Christmassy theme, this was a delightful set of short stories all set in this time of year.

The set of stories are entertaining, short and all very different. It was ideal for this time of year where one cannot concentrate on complicated trials and plots.This was a very pleasant read.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

The Line Between Us by Kate Dunn

This is an era where the demarcation between classes of society were very clearly marked. If you did step out of line it was usually detrimental not just for you personally, but very often for your family.

Ifor was a clever boy but circumstances made him become the gardener at the big house. Ella was the daughter of the house but their attraction towards each other and their sympathies for each other was automatic and immediate. It did not bode well for the rest of the story that followed.

The story that followed with Ifor trying to be the stronger of the two for the best of all was an emotional one. The war which followed left Ifor behind in Dunkirk joining the ships that were sent to bring the stragglers left alone. The bombing of the Lancastria and the loss of four thousand soldiers was a massive blow in the Second World War and one which is hardly known.

Ifor survives but his return to his home is still tinged with sadness because Ella is still out of reach.
The divisions amongst classes still remain and this is the early twentieth century where it still seems to matter.

Sensitively told Ifor and Ella's love story with the backdrop of the War is very evocative of the period. It is amazing that despite the flood of novels set in the backdrop of both World Wars, there can still be another book which brings another aspect of the War closer to the reader.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Endeavour Press.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Prodigal Daughter by Prue Leith

Angelica grows up privileged. Much loved daughter of Giovanni and Laura she grows up in the world of restaurants and good food. Her father hopes that she would one day be the heir to his restaurant world but Angelica has other plans.

Her love of French cuisine drives her to Paris for an apprenticeship under the best. Here she enters into a relationship with her cousin Mario, someone who is detested by her father but whom she falls in love with. Trying to straddle the heavy load of her training and also keep up with an unsteady partner who will not work and who depends on Angelica for everything proves to be hard.
Despite her realising that her parents are right Angelica returns home to England to work with her family, hoping that being back in England will help Mario to be more responsible.

Whilst Mario's life takes a downward turn, Angelica's career is on the up and up. Becoming a food writer in addition to her restaurant responsibilities she ends up working for the BBC as well. Making another break from her family she enters into a partnership with her cousin to operate a pub much to the dismay of her father who hopes that she is now settled in the family business.

Details of the restaurant trade plus descriptions of the fabulous food both in France and England kept this book delicious and tantalizing! I understand it is part of a series and that makes me sad as trying to find the rest will prove to be very difficult here.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Quercus Books this was a wonderful read.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fell by Jenn Ashworth

The element of haunting in this story is poignant but it is not something I am very familiar with.
I am not a fan of fantasy or the paranormal so I was surprised how much this book appealed to me.

Annette returns after a very long spell to an empty house overshadowed by huge sycamore trees. The trees are symbolic of the dark shadowy house and all the stories and secrets that it hides.
Annette's childhood has not been straight forward or clear and she herself is trying to come to grips with what she wants to do for the future. The house is also a focal point in the story, having a character of its own.

Told in the voice of two ghosts it is not as surreal as it may sound and one feels sympathetic to the two spirits, (strange as it may sound) as they are so uneasy and unhappy over the state of their only daughter. They just want her to be happy and settled and this is something Annette definitely is not.

The story was slow but it did not detract from the essential goodness of the story telling. This is not a quick read nor one you can put down and pick up again easily. It was a very good story though.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

This was a hard hitting novel. It makes any reader take a step back and think about your own mortality. It only takes a second of carelessness to change not just your life but the lives of all
those around you.

Charlotte is a happy baby sitter. She has her masters in music studies but cannot find a niche in the music world. She is happy with the two boys she looks after, has a wonderful relationship with their parents and everything seems alright.  A freak accident and everyone's world turns topsy turvy. Now Charlotte seems to be the glue holding the boys' world together and her personal life as well as her
professional life seems to be put on hold. The story winding its way through Charlotte and everyone in her periphery brings together the elements of love, grief, survival of the spirit amidst the overwhelming sadness of loss.

Beautifully handled debut for this author.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Henry Holt & Company. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Trespasser by Tana French

I've read her books not in order but I feel that it is perfectly alright as a stand alone.

The plot is seemingly straight forward but you do get it right away that it is not. It wouldn't
be a Tana French book if it were. We have Antoinette and Stephen - one abrasive, aggressive and clever and the other diplomatic, quiet and clever. A winning team whichever way one looks at it. The crime is seemingly straightforward as well. A woman killed apparently by her boyfriend. All the signs point to it, and all the other senior detectives on the Squad believe it is so. They cannot understand Antoinette dithering over the crime.

It seems to be too pat for our detectives and further investigations are called for, surreptitiously and without the knowledge of others on the Squad, also without the knowledge of their seniors. Both detectives know they are in for a host of trouble if word gets out and when the pointers are to one of their own, they know they are in for a lot of trouble.

The twists and turns of this investigation keeps the reader on edge. The characterization of the detectives were spot on, each one different to the other and each one showing up the investigation in different ways.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Hodder and Stoughton.

Friday, December 16, 2016

FRACTURED by Catherine McKenzie

One of my fellow bloggers recommended this book and am I so grateful to whoever it was. Just cannot remember whom!

I loved the book. It was one of those that I could not put down and the fact that I had to, to attend to chores irritated the hell out of me!

Julie and Daniel along with their twins move states to avoid a stalker who has made Julie's life hell. Julie is a successful writer of a best seller and that has brought out a lot of negative feelings from a lot of folk. Moving to Cincinnati and trying to make another life for her family was her idea of dealing with this and also getting on with her second book. She did not expect the very close knit community of her lane to turn against her. Feelings of envy, animosity, anger, hatred and dislike were uppermost in most of their minds and though Julie was not the easiest person to deal with, I felt that she got a bad deal from the neighbours.

The story abounds in detail, all dovetailing to a climax. The characters are mixed and all are run of the mill everyday people with the complexes and prejudices of very normal folk. This was what set the book apart. We are dealing here with the average Joe or Jane and you take a step back to realise and think that what they can get up to and more importantly how they can act on their feelings are way out of line at times.

The book kept a fast pace throughout. It went on from incident to incident without any let on and you knew it was going to come to a blow out soon.

I've read this author before but did not have this edge of the seat feeling before.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for sending this book to me courtesy of Netgalley, for an unbiased review.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Herald of Joy by Pamela Belle

Set in a period after the Civil War,  England is just recovering after a long period of strife. At Wintercombe the inhabitants are now trying to get their lives in order, but with difficulty. The lady
at Wintercombe faces a coming winter of knowing definitely that her husband is losing his battle with his life. She now has to find out how she can protect the estate and her children as best as she could.

Silence is a strong chatelaine, but she finds the unfairness of her husband's will is going to divide the family and create dissension. However his death brings about her freedom and a longing for her lost love and the chance to make a new life for herself. She also seeks settlement for her young children in a way which will bring happiness to them.

However the way forward is not smooth. Charles II has again started his encounters into the English countryside and Nick Hellier is part of his brigade. It brings unwarranted attention to the Wintercombe household and suspicion on the whole family which can lead to forfeiture of their lands, unnecessary focus on the household and even jail for its inhabitants for treason.

With one member of the family disloyal to the whole, the entire structure can be torn apart and the security and strength of Wintercombe destroyed with one rash act and this is what eventually happens. How the family holds on together subsequent to this and support each other hoping that they can recover from this grievous blow is beautifully told.

Characterization was spot on in this story. Each family member had strengths and weaknesses which were very apt and added to the interest of the story. Historically the details were descriptive and for readers who like historical fiction, this book would be an interesting read.

Sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review courtesy of Endeavour Press, this was a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

As a post note as I did this review weeks ago, we have had a bereavement in my family. My mother passed away after a very short illness. She died on Wednesday last and the funeral was on Friday. My mother enjoyed her life in full and I am just so very grateful for that.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Woman On the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

Agatha Christie has been for me a comfort read from the time I was a teenager. I still like to re-read her stories. Knowing that this was about her was such a good reason to read this book and I loved it.\

Set on the Orient Express and so very descriptive of both the journey and its surroundings, we hear of the adventure of Agatha and two other women both destined for Iraq. One who is escaping her husband the other to Ur to an archaeological site and a very complicated personal life. Evocative of Agatha Christie's own books this story draws you into the life of these three women, each escaping London for reasons of their own.

Agatha has had an upheaval in her life. Her husband has asked for a divorce to marry his mistress and after the episode of Agatha disappearing for a while, she is "hot news". She just wants to disappear again to avoid the notoriety of a divorce which for this time period is still a scandal. Katharine wants to continue with her career and finds that other than through marriage there is no way a single woman will be allowed to work on the site and Nancy is hiding her pregnancy, trying to escape an abusive and philandering husband.

The widely differing lives of the three women, drawn together through personal suffering and loss is
very well told.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing, for an unbiased review.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy

Lost Along the Way

Three women whose friendships go back decades and who swore they would be friends forever. They find however that with time their friendship is tested as each encounters people and incidents which do not quite mesh with their lifelong friendships and they drift apart. Three adult women have to deal with issues of self confidence eroded by issue of abusive partners amongst other issues and learn how to stand on their own feet again.

Coming back together after life changing moves, they find that they still understand each other better than most, better than their partners in some cases. How each support each other and try to encourage the other to move on and forward with their lives is this story.

Interesting story lines in each women's case adds a lot of interest to the book.

Sent to me by Edelweiss.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

I like stories told in two different time frames and this excelled in this. A debut novel by Sarah Maine I am so looking forward to reading this author again and again.

Hetty is our present day main character. Having inherited property in the Outer Hebrides she is faced with a quandary. She is drawn so much to the island, the house and its inhabitants that she wants to do what is best for all. She is swept towards her decision to convert the house into a hotel by Giles her partner and his team behind him who have grandiose plans for golf courses, helipads and all the accouterments of a fancy hotel whereas she is veering towards something else. She also did not realise before she arrived on the island the antagonism that a venture of this nature would have to face, neither did she take into account her own strong feelings both about the house and its history.

Going back to 1910 we have the famous inhabitant of the house, a famous painter Theo Blake and the history of the Blakes (not always good and certainly not a good or kind landlord). A real feudal lord of the manor, Theo for all his brilliance as an artist was indifferent to the needs and wants of his tenants, most of them who lived in abject poverty sacrificing their livelihoods for his artistic needs and the needs for hunting and sports of his friends.  The arrival of Beatrice his second wife was for a time a temporary lightening in his life and brought a fresh hope for the island itself but it dwindled in the face of overwhelming odds. Beatrice's subsequent love for Cameron, the factor's son was doomed from the beginning and you knew it would only lead to heartache.

How the two different time frames blended and came into a whole story was very descriptively handled and delicately balanced throughout the book. Characterization was splendid and the detailed description of the island, its birdlife and its natural beauty was beautifully told.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Freight Books.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Karolina's Twins by Ronald H. Balson

Another book with the backdrop of WWII this was a very emotional, true story.

A survivor of the Holocaust Lena is now old and wants to make amends and keep to a promise she is supposed to have made to her friend Karolina. Trying to find out the existence of two twin girls thrown out of a moving train seventy years ago seems to be a herculean task but the investigators involved in the task look on it as a personal challenge to see it through.

Taking us through in two separate story lines of WWII and the horrific times of the Jews in Poland, their incarceration, decimation and death the story moves into the present times and the story of Lena and her son Arthur who is determined that his mother not pursue her search for the twins. It turns ugly as well as he is even willing to say that his mother is incapable, senile and not of sound mind. Telling the story in two different time frames added such a lot to this story as it brought so much history to this story. Both World Wars and the effects of it have been documented in numerous ways but each fresh story brings in another aspect, another view of this horrific period in history.

This is a story about survival, family and the ties that bind family forever.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina

Victoria Woodhull is almost unheard of and certainly almost unknown as the first woman to run for the post of President of the United States. She was certainly bold if not a little over enthusiastic as this was at a time when women were not even considered citizens, ineligible to vote and the suffragette movement was just getting under way.

Born into a family which was abusive in itself, she made a horrific marriage and had to escape both to try to make a life for herself and her sister. They were spiritualists and could foretell the future and were able to see a life for themselves, but at the same time their ties to their family were very strong and it seemed strange how both sisters provided a home within their own home for the extended family who continued to abuse them, their hospitality and even ruined them at the end.

The book was good reading but at a midway point I was wondering whether I could understand any of the main characters. A strong woman, she was also foolhardy and this made it tiresome to understand where she was going with her life and her career.

This was a compelling read though as it was educative on a topic which I feel few would know about.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lawson Gartner Publishing. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Forgotten Women by Freda Lightfoot


Told in two different time lines in 1936 and the 1980s the story is of courageous men and women fighting on behalf of another country, other lives (always more courageous than fighting for one's own). This was a fight for beliefs and for what is right and wrong.

Spain is on the brink of civil war and many British men and women go across to help them in their struggle. This story encompasses two women and the men who are part of their lives. Fast forward a few decades and the grand daughter of one of them, tries to come to terms with a letter which is puzzling and intriguing. She hopes to find answers for the troubled history of her grandmother who is reticent on the past.

The fear of the past, the difficulty of talking of events long gone but which still cast shadows and how these revelations will affect the present generation are part of the story. The heartbreak of war, the struggles of the British in Spain are all descriptively told in this story. War is never easy and like all wars the effect of it is felt for generations to come despite the fact that it is over and done with. This just reiterates the feeling. The past never remains in the past. It is very much part of the present and the future as well.

The story line was very good, characterizations were spot on.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of 

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

This was one of those books that couldn't be put down. It started in a seemingly innocuous fashion. A wedding, irritating feelings between siblings and then wham the story started.

Placidia just 17 years old meets the Major at her step sisters wedding and within days is married to him. Days later after entering his rather mixed up household (baby son from a previous marriage, servants who are sullen and disorganised and a ramshackle household), Placidia is left high and dry literally holding the baby and being in charge of a farm of which she has no idea what to do. Never to let a challenge go unchallenged Placidia rises to the task in the absence of a husband whom she has fallen head over heels in love with and life goes on. Not smoothly, not easily but it does go on.

The descriptiveness of the American Civil War, the destruction it left behind, the conditions of slaves in the South all put together add to a huge part of the story and are part of the story itself. Placidia's life and the trauma she faces single handedly, with just the assistance of household help is amazing. The strength of her character and the fact that she is so courageous shines through.

All characters were beautifully crafted and fit into the story perfectly.

For a reader (like me) totally unaware of America's domestic history this was a fascinating read, and one I did not want to finish. Taking the story on for a couple of decades into the next generation of Placidia and the Major's children added another touch.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Algonquin Books.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Two short reviews. Both Regency Romances - both different!

This was a regency romance somewhat in the mould of Georgette Heyer and an enjoyable read.

Set in an era where there were decided views on how women should and should not behave, we have Joanna Feniton - independent of mind and the worry of her grandmother who just wants to see her well settled. Adventure seems to dog her path though and one of these drags her unwittingly into a world of spies, smugglers and others and she is flummoxed as she does not know who is friend and who is foe. Her suspicions are misplaced and this leads to more complications. All ends well though.

A very nice book for an evening when one wants an uncomplicated life!

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Endeavour Press.

This was a romance also Regency but of a different kind.

I did not think it was going to end well. Jonathan is the local laird's son. Penelope is the adopted daughter of the local florist. Her antecedents are unknown and for Jonathan's father this is of paramount importance. No son of his is going to marry an unknown. He has set his sights high enough.

The interest for me in this story was that the meaning of flowers was part of the story and this certainly added interest.

The romance however continues with slight ups and downs and this too is one that ends well.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Endeavour Press.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lisa Scottoline - Damaged

Patrick is being brought up by his grandfather Edward. The boy is polite and Edward is rather old fashioned and this can be seen in the boys behaviour. On top of all this the boy is shy and dyslexic and the school system has allowed him to fall by the wayside, and there is no attention being paid to the fact that he cannot read at all and as a result is classified dumb by his classmates and worst of all by the superiors in the school.

On top of it all it now appears that Patrick has an anxiety disorder which results in him vomiting and this has caused distress to both him and to the class mates and even the teacher. On top of that Patrick has been sexually abused and this has only now come to the notice of the lawyer appointed by his grandfather to overlook the case which has been brought against Patrick.

Against overwhelming odds Mary is determined to win a place for Patrick in a better school and at the same time dismiss the case against him. Her opponent lawyer is one who has absolutely no moral scruples and will stoop to the lowest possible tactic to win his case, despite knowing that all what he says is false.

The legal implications and how this case was fought fascinated me. I wonder how true to life the story is and whether there are many Patricks in the system who have no Mary to fight their corner. It is a sad reflection of the times we live in.

As in all Lisa Scottoline's stories, there are unexpected twists, quirky bits and characters which all add dimension to the story.

The story has elements of several genres in it, murder mystery, plus a touch of romance, and of course of much interest to those who like the legal complications of a court room drama.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of St Martin's Press.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What Happens at the Beach by T A Williams

I needed a light hearted romance after a few heavy reads and this fitted the bill very well.

Natalie is at the cross roads of her life. Her fiancee does not seem to live upto her expectations, her career is non existent and she decides to go visit her grandmother in France. This step takes her on another path, helpful to her career a stepping stone almost, and  also puts a few very attractive, eligible men her way. Now Natalie has to decide what she wants and take a few decisive steps.

Light hearted, fun, romantic and at the same time beautifully descriptive of the geography of the area (makes you want to immediately fly out there), I liked the book. It took the subject matter of Natalie's dissertation seriously and I did learn a lot of French history enroute. Always interesting to learn something new.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Carina UK for an unbiased review this was a very pleasant read.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Girl in the Afternoon by Serena Burdick

Aimee is young, quite naive but she wants to be a painter in a predominantly male dominated industry in France in the 1870s. It is not a period where such a thing would be encouraged and she is fortunate that her father does allow her some leeway in this.

Her attraction to Henri, the boy who came over from London and is brought up like a brother in the
Savaray household adds to the conflict. Henri is also deeply attached to Aimee but of a sudden he disappears and no one knows why. Fast forward a number of years Aimee herself is deeply sorrowful, maintaining a facade of normality in the face of a very troubled household. The reason for Henri's sudden disappearance becomes known and certainly understandable but Aimee's position both in the Savaray household and in Henri's life is in turmoil.

It was quite an emotional roller coaster this one, but not in a gruesome, harsh way. You felt for Aimee who was torn apart by people and circumstances not of her choosing. Fate played a role in this life and her love could never be freely expressed or shown without hurting many people around her. Aimee was restricted not just by her own character but also the behaviour of the times. Delicately told not intrusive at any times, the story slowly unfolded amongst a backdrop of war and strife in France.

Sent to me by Netgalley, courtesy of St. Martin's Press for an unbiased review.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Throw Away Girls by Jennifer Vaughn

Jaycee is a hard headed journalist aiming for the big time. Though young, she has had several credits and awards and is considered one of the top journalists in LA. Along with Ben her partner for photo credits they make an awesome team.

A series of murders of young women with a message from the murderer calling them Throw Away Girls hits an inner chord in Jaycee's mind and she is determined to track the killer especially after she interviews Zoe's parents. Zoe was a seventh grade teacher. The other two victims were equally innocuous. Their common denominator was their deadly pursuit of anonymous sex.

A good psychological suspense mystery thriller (it needs all those words to describe the book!) the pace of the story is steady and builds up but we are all going elsewhere so that the climax of the story hits you unawares. It did me anyway.

A very good suspense filled novel.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Waldorf Publishing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

Stanley is brilliant but not street smart, kind and caring but these come across as being quirky. Having a parent whose life is within four walls and who has a phobia about stepping out adds to the eccentricity. Stanley lives in a hotel suite, albeit a small one with his mum, after his father's death. His father was a concierge in the hotel and the hotel offers this facility to them.

Vera is also very clever, her mother is a secretary trying to upgrade her life. They have no fixed home, a series of motel rooms.

Vera and Stanley meet in the National Spelling Bee and end up as joint champions. This starts them on a lifelong journey which is quirky, strange but suits them down to the ground. Fooling both sets of parents, they decide to get married in a sham wedding purely for the financial benefits that would come to them and scrupulously divide the gains into two!

Added to the story is that they are actually in love with each other but both pretend that it is not so and pursue other interests and other lives. How the two finally meet and mesh through the world of crossword puzzles of which Stanley becomes a master and Vera becomes the one who can solve them all.

It was rather prosaic at times but was a different read.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant

We have all been guilty of this little crime. We tell a small lie to impress someone and then you find that this one lie spirals out of control. It may include just that person or it could go to a whole group of people. In this case it was the beginning of an end.

There was a lot going on in this book. Difficult, unlikeable people, dysfunctional families, and all set in Greece - everyone is in holiday mood and we have our author Paul himself a character that you would dislike from the beginning and you wonder why doesn't everyone else see through him. His character and his spiel is so flawed but he is a past master at this lying game and will do anything to further his own interests. He seems shallow and manipulative but the twist is in the tail.

Go read this book to know how it ends. Quite superlative!!!

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Cavendon Luck by Barbara Taylor Bradford

I am sorry that the story has finished (hopefully temporarily). I was enthralled throughout the earlier two books and the third did not disappoint.

The two families of the Inghams and Swanns are stronger than ever. The families are still firmly entwined by feelings of love, loyalty and service. The time frame moves from the sedate times of the past to the beginning of WWII and what it will entail for not just the two families but for all their dependants and for England in general.

For those who like to read about this period, this is another evocative read. WWI and II have thrown up so many novels but each one is so different and gives us another perspective of how these wars affected the average person not just in England but around the world.

The Cavendon family was no different and apart from the romance and stature of the family very descriptively told in this story, the heartache of war affects all of them as well.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

300 Days of Sun - Deborah Lawrenson

Set in two time frames which is always intriguing, we have two distinct story lines. One is from our present times where Joanna is in Portugal, trying to decide what she wants for her future and also to escape an over-whelming relationship. The other story is set in decades past in a time when Portugal was neutral during WWII and faced with many intrigues - from spies, to vast corruption and to a sorrowful story of child abductions.

The child abductions becomes the link in the two time frames and we slowly unravel a heart breaking story of Josh or Nathan or the future Rafael. There are many people who do not want these old stories brought to the forefront again and who have a lot to lose if they do come out. They are still powerful cabals in Faro and they will do anything to make sure that the past stays firmly in the past.

Joanna's encounter with a long standing English expat in Faro and his cryptic message of the story being in the book given to her is not easy to link or understand at the beginning but as the story goes on the pieces start coming together.

The story and characters are complex, the unraveling slow but it brings about a story of immense interest.

This was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Lawsome Books.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Between Sisters by Cathy Kelly

Set in Dublin a family saga with deep rooted histories of the painful kind. On the surface Cassie and Coco our sisters have it all. One a family - husband and two children, the other seems well settled though single with the vintage store of her dreams. Just scratch the surface and there are deep seated insecurities. Cassie more and more distanced from her husband and terrible teens, and Coco feeling that she is isolated and will never find a love of her own. Abandoned by their mother when Coco was an infant Cassie has always been the protective, elder sister along with a grandmother who they adore.

Like all families secrets abound and theirs have an even bigger share. Their mother's story is also told in parallel lines and you know that at some stage they are all going to connect. How and the way it is done is very sympathetic to the story of the sisters and dovetails well.

Full of character and descriptive of Dublin and suburban life this was a very interesting family story.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker

Who wouldn't fall in love with this cover?

1864 and the results of the Civil War are dreadful in small town America. Till the arrival of Asa Mercer on a rather unusual mission. He is seeking courageous, good character ed young women to take to Seattle to find partners there so that they can found a new generation of people for this frontier town.

Different types of young women all with their own agendas seeking new fortunes and new frontiers join Mercer on this mission. Adding to the sense of adventure is also a sense of seeking their own fortune and future homes all the girls look forward to the venture. Known as the Mercer girls and receiving mixed reactions from the town they are going to inhabit the story takes us through the ups and downs of life in such a town.

Adding to this is the suffragist movement in its infancy in America and how our ladies are drawn into it, some against their initial will but then becoming strong supporters of the movement.

A very descriptive story, strongly different characters all add interest to this story.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing for an unbiased review.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Netherfield Affair by Penelope Swan

The Netherfield Affair: A Dark Darcy Mystery

Variations of Jane Austen and I am definitely in!

This was a mystery set with our main characters, all acting in character and very much set for the beginning of Pride and Prejudice. Bingley and Jane are attracted to each other, she goes on the infamous visit engineered by her mother, gets sick and Elizabeth visits. The variation begins at this point. Talk of ghosts, highwaymen in the pattern of Robin Hood, the mysterious disappearance of valuable items from the inhabitants and both Darcy and Elizabeth are in pursuit of what they feel is not quite right in the Bingley household.

A light story, not very long, very well told. Enjoyable and entertaining.

This was a free download from Amazon. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project

This charmingly quirky read kept me on the go from the first page onwards. Don Tillman Professor of Genetics if blindingly clever and can solve a mathematics problem in seconds, sort the probability of everything and anything also in seconds but the normal communication of day to day life has him blundering about like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

He and his wife Rosie are expecting their first child and the project is to see whether he could love the child as his own without preconceived scientific notions of what is right, wrong etc etc. To this end he scopes and searches for data on what should be done, what shouldn't be done and ends up in escapades which are not funny, rather serious and luckily for him those who have to judge him, realise that he is totally innocent of all wrong doing.

Rosie is the antithesis of what Don wanted in a wife. He had definite ideas of what shouldn't be and he got exactly all the nays! Don displays some of the symptoms  of Asperger's but it is never specifically mentioned in the book, though he does agree to a lecture on Asperger.

I loved the quirky character of Don, beautifully balanced by Rosie and was rooting for them to live happily ever after.

So glad I got this, sent to me by my friend K.

Hot Flashes by Barbara Raskin

I was reminiscing myself whilst reading the book as I felt I could empathize with the whole group of middle aged ladies! Hip and happening in the 1950s, they are now in the 1980s, and still quite happening!!! Not willing to give up and behave gracefully, they still would like to scandalize, to stir up the pot. Quite an interesting bunch. Varied interests, varying careers and still good to go.

Sukie's death has brought them together and since it was sudden (and unexpected) the four are trying to organize things including bringing in an ex-husband whom they all detest at the beginning (some of them still do at the end but some change), a very young boyfriend of Sukie's whom they did not know about and who comes out of the woodwork with a new novel of hers which he will not relinquish to the family and there is the father from far away who also turns up for the funeral. The funeral is the focus of the novel and everything builds up to it.

A story of friendship amongst women going on for decades and how important it is for everyone to have extended support from friends even if they are distant physically, just to know you have someone who would understand you.

I enjoyed the characters in this book and this is my second book in a week dealing with adult women who go back together as friends for decades. Am I seeing a trend here?

This was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

My second read by this author. We have four attempts on the life of Judge Lobbett - all unsuccessful and in the process someone else dies. This creates a pall amongst his family as well as they feel that a sense of doom is following them doggedly. The quirky investigator Campion adds to the interest of the story and after a convoluted story, the villain is apprehended and dies in rather horrific circumstances.

This is a classic crime series and the language and descriptiveness is part of its attraction. A rather old fashionedly told tale, I liked it very much. Not quite Agatha Christie but very much like.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Bloomsbury Reader.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen

The Wages of Sin: An Ozarks Mystery (Ozarks Mysteries)

In rural Missouri a particularly gruesome murder of a young woman eight months pregnant by her partner. The only witness is her six year old daughter who is able to very clearly point out who the culprit is.

The public defender in this case seems inane, not particularly apt specially since it seems like an open and shut case. Not getting support from her co counsel as she will not support the death penalty, however deserved it is, Madeline turns reluctantly to Elsie who is equally reluctant to work with the arrogant, stuck up Madeline. Not a very good start for the case anyway.

Many unsavoury facts regarding the victim arise in the meantime and it becomes crucial to have our six year old Ivy and her statements intact. This is going to be easier said than done with several attempts made to intimidate her and even kill her. Whilst Ivy is having her own trauma in her head over the loss of her mother and now being in foster care, her temperament is such that she is not going to confide in anyone her thoughts on what she feels will happen.

The case is very straightforward but the murderer and his cohorts are not going to back down. They have hidden strengths not revealed till the very end and it was a surprising twist in the tale.

I enjoyed the story - though it was sad. I felt for Ivy who was just ignored and put aside other than by Elsie who saw her as the real victim in this case. There must be many thousands of Ivy's in the world who suffer a similar fate.

This book was sent to me by Edelweiss.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Step Mother by Claire Seeber

This was a story that was so unbelievable that it was perfectly possible, plausible and you are then sure that it is happening all around you.

Jeanie and Mathew both have history. Both have teenage children from previous relationships which have gone sour and how! the children seem wary of the new stepmother but Jeanie bends over backwards to try to find a meeting point so that the family can move on. Jeanie however has a past and one she is terrified is going to catch up with her sooner rather than later. It does and then the unraveling of her life begins.

Terrified that all her chances of happiness are drifting away from her, at the same time trying to protect her son who she adores and trying to balance it with two precocious teenagers who seem out to destroy her is the story of the book. Add to this an ex wife - scheming is putting it mildly with many other characters, all equally important and all well played in the story.

The book was a page turner and kept me on my toes till the end.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Bookouture for an unbiased review.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Broken Pieces by Kathleen Long

Destiny is alone and proud of the way she came through a lot of trauma. She lost her mother at a very young age, her father disappeared from her life to pop up at long intervals and then disappeared again. Brought up by a loving community, she is today having a thriving carpentry business and is very well settled in her little town, surrounded by people she loves.

The arrival of Albert her father, out of the blue who has decided to stay permanently puts a spanner in the works of Destiny's very orderly life. She is angry and puzzled in turn as to why he should pull a trick like this and expect to be warmly welcomed. A double whammy comes up when a long ago adopted sister turns up with her daughter in tow. How Destiny has to handle a situation with a very ready made family is the story here.

Emotionally the story was trying. We were dealing with relationships which were bitter and acrimonious and an unknown sibling who was very nice but her own tragedy to tell. The story telling was bitter sweet but a very welcome read.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

The Story of the Lost Child (The Neapolitan Novels, #4)

I only got to the final book in the quartet and wasn't this a good one! It took me a while to finish as its quite a chunkster and I wanted to take it slowly to assimilate the various characters. Everyone was related to everyone else in this story and it took me a while to sort out the who is who.

Elena is bookish, can be easily led and then there is Lila who is exuberant, unstoppable. Naples plays a huge role in the book as this is a city that both women cannot leave. Elena leaves it for a little while, gets married, has her daughters and then moves back. Lila never leaves. Both are successful in their careers - one writing, one business. The backdrop of organised crime, drugs, nepotism, thuggery is all very well depicted as being part of the Neapolitan culture and one has to learn to live and let live with this.

This is a story of a strange friendship between two women - ups and downs and with the vagaries of character thrown in as well. However it survives despite all odds. In many of the circumstances of the story it would seem strange that Elena will return to Lila and go back to the old existing situation despite harsh words, some true, some enigmatic, some forcing Elena to look back critically on her life and loves and to find them wanting. Then there are the personal tragedies in each woman's life - broken hearts from lovers who spurn them, from children who ignore them and finally from the loss of a toddler inexplicably. Throughout it all, the friendship survives.

This was a brilliant piece of writing and though I started with the last book, I will try to track down the other three. 

The Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford


The sequel to the Cavendon Hall book this takes us into another era. 1926 to 1929 and the background to the story is the major Wall Street crash.  The characters have grown up a little more, everyone is older, not necessarily wiser but there is much happiness ahead for many of the group.

I loved the story telling of the series and was all along hoping that many of the stories will have a happy ending. Everyone has come out of the war period hoping for some happiness and for some of them that is elusive but for the Inghams and the Swanns it marks a new beginning - a marriage between the two families which has never happened for the last two hundred years and hopefully the story will continue happily into the next book (which I have received).

This is such a pleasurable series to read as it takes us into the heart of an aristocratic home. A home which is trying to deal with social changes in plenty and radical ones at that. That the Cavendon family is adaptable and willing to change added much to the enhancement of the story.

The book was sent to me by St. Martin's Press courtesy of Netgalley, for an unbiased review.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Secret Lives of the Barbican by Nathan Field

We have a housing estate which appears posh and secure with thousands of tenants. We are dealing in the story with just three of them. Claire, Dennis and Trixie.

Each of them is a story in itself. Claire feels there is an intruder in her flat - things are moved about, Dennis accidentally takes ecstacy pills thinking they are headache tablets and Trixie is faced with a surprising visit from her cleaner who reveals that Trixie's partner has been also her cleaner's partner for sometime.

Taken over a period of twenty four hours (which was a bit too crammed in with action for just twenty four hours) we look at the three lives and the twists and turns which happen with far reaching consequences. This is definitely not a mediocre day and not routine and you are kept wondering what on earth is going to happen next.

The characters are complex and not what they seem with the exception of Dennis who was completely out of his depth!

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Silvermac Publishing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore

Set in the 1900s in an Anglo Irish aristocratic family, Kitty is certainly different to the other members of her family. She associates with the estate workers, visiting their homes, true it is surreptitious and always hidden from her mother and sisters. She is more akin to her grandmother whom her mother dislikes. Her mother seems to dislike everyone but she has a special venom towards Kitty and she makes no bones about it.

The story of being fey, of having the second sight is very well put in this story. Both Kitty and her grandmother have it but they do not want it known or spoken about though a few people do realise. They know they are the odd ones out and now Kitty has to live her life, maneuver her way around an ineffective father, a domineering mother and an economic lifestyle which will not support them anymore.

The people of Ireland are rebelling as well and Kitty is caught in the middle. She is siding with the rebels against her own, as her heart and mind are on the sides of the Irish but where this will lead her is the main crux of the story.

The history of the beginnings of the Irish Anglo conflict set against Kitty's own personal turmoil and the history of the Deverill family combines the best of fiction and history. Characterization is superb and the story well told.

Sent to me by Edelweiss.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Farm at the Edge of the World and The White Cottage Mystery - two short reviews.

The war setting is one I like to read about. It delves into the strength of human nature and all what can unimaginably do to survive. It also deals with parental love and protection and the extent one would go to protect the family.

Will, Alice and Maggie have an idyllic childhood. Two of them are evacuees from London sent to this part of bleak Cornwall but they relish the time they spend there till one small slip destroys their world.

Fast forward to 2014 and Lucy has come back home - trying to come to grips with a failing marriage and an almost fatal mistake in her nursing career. Both have put her on edge and when she is back on the family farm in Cornwall, things unravel bringing the past with the present. The strands which have been so disparate come together in an emotional story.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

With a cover like that I was entranced!

Eric was a peculiar human being. He collected secrets from people and then used them to make them suffer. It was not financial blackmail. It was his joy to seeing him suffer. When he was found murdered, everyone around him was openly happy and even said so to the detectives trying to solve the case.

In such circumstances with so many possible suspects, how does one solve this crime?

Artfully told, very descriptive of the human spirit this was a new author and series for me.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Two short reviews. Family Tree by Susan Wiggs and Weekend by Jane Hamilton

Annie seems to have the American dream. Co-host of a successful cooking show with the equivalent of McDreamy (chef and husband) she is soaring high. A chance unscheduled stop at her husband's work place blasts her dream and the subsequent accident puts her on hold with amnesia, an absent husband and miscarriage - for over an year. Putting the pieces back together, physically, emotionally and professionally takes a lot of doing, and a lot of family support.

Hiding back at her parental home till she tries to get her life back in some kind of order is hard but she does get there.

Survival, loss, family - the three aspects blend together to give one a very joyous read.

Sent to me by Edelweiss.

This was a sexually explicit novel about two lesbian couples both trying to make their relationships work with different levels of stress and anxiety.

One couple dealing with the birth of a new born and the attendant trials and physical and emotional difficulties a new born encompasses and the other a much older woman with major health issues having to face up to the frailities of life.

I did finish the book but did not very much enjoy the read.

Sent to me by Edelweiss.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Deliver Her by Patricia Perry Donovan

Alex seems to be the teenager who would create nightmares for any parent. Her parents going through a separation and especially her Mum is bewildered by the reasons for a divorce in a marriage which seemed fine. Jake seems distant, not wanting to communicate and to add to their troubles has moved back into their basement home, wanting to not be part of the marriage though very much in their face.

Alex has faced the death of her best friend Cass and she feels she is personally responsible for her death. Alex cannot move from the miasma of grief which overwhelms her and seems to be drifting deeper and deeper into trouble. Meg knows it is upto them as parents to pull Alex out and to this end enrolls her in a residential care facility for trouble teens. She does this however without the tacit consent of Jake and Alex leaving for this facility, unintentionally spirals into a nightmare for all concerned.

The difficulties of dealing with a taciturn, aggressive teenager who just wants to be difficult and different are difficult enough reading about, let alone living with it. Having to deal with them on a day to day basis must be a living horror. This is the story of how Alex and how her parents eventually deal with it, because her mother never gives up on the belief that Alex can be redeemed. Lots of mothers and fathers would have definitely given up.

This is not an easy read as you feel exasperated, angry, bitter and wonder how much more parents can take from children who expect everything and give nothing back.  I felt like giving up halfway but persevered and was glad I did.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Lake Union Publishing. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Blogger is playing ducks and drakes with me and not allowing me to post a picture of the cover! And such a good cover at that.

Set in WWII we find many Englishmen and women perplexed by the strength and speed of the Germans. They cannot quite believe that Germany has taken over a good part of Europe and only a little strip of water divides them from the marauding hordes. Morale is high amongst the populace at the beginning though as time goes on and fatalities and injuries rise and men return from the front damaged not just physically but mentally for all time,  the complexities of war hits out at all.

In Mary's home, the war does not seem to have affected the domestic front. Her mother still wants to host luncheons and parties, hopes her daughter will make a suitable match, preferably to someone known to them but Mary is of a different breed. She wants to make a suitable contribution to the war and not be a token worker for the war. To this end she enrolls as a teacher and ends up teaching children who are the ignored ones in society - the cripples, the mentally handicapped and in this category ignored by all the negroes.

Mary meets Tom and though he is in love with her and Mary tries to maintain the facade of love, she really is attracted to someone else and this is what sustains her through the war and the subsequent death of Tom.

This was an unusual side of the war from a civilian angle. I did not realise that the prejudice towards negroes in the UK was so strong and that they were considered a nonentity and that they survived on the very edges of society, not drawing attention to themselves and trying to be as much as possible under the radar.

Stories set in this era are all different and each book brings out a facet of the war and society at the time in a different manner. This was no different.

Told in a matter of fact manner throughout, despite the sadness and loss the survival of Mary and Alastair and the love they had for each other, despite overwhelming odds added a great deal of joy to the story.

The characterization was excellent and the descriptiveness of each stage of the war as part of this story was very much alive.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Promise You This by Patricia Sands

I read the first book so when I got an opportunity to read the second I was very glad to do so.

The story of Kat and her changed circumstances - moving from Toronto to the South of France, meeting Phillipe, her doubts whether a change of home so different, so far away is wise at this stage of her life and her subsequent happiness is all very well told in a romantic way. Molly's dreadful accident, subsequent recuperation and her love affair are a pleasant sub plot to the main story.

I found the story to be a little too sweet for my liking. I however did like very much the descriptive nature of the areas both in Canada and France, detailed in the story. It brings this area very much to life and this I very much enjoyed.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Mistresses of Cliveden by Natalie Livingstone

The story dealing with the ladies who presided over the house of Cliveden  was an interesting tale but the one that dominated the story was the house itself.  It seemed to have a presence and life of its own and it also became very vital and necessary for those who inhabited it. No one gave up on it lightly and their owners during their lifetimes became very attached to it.

The fact that most of the ladies and lords of the House were prominent people - politically mainly and socially was part of the charm and history of the book. Their lives were eminent and important and hence their stories were also so. Told in a succinct and precise manner the book goes through three centuries of history in a real story book manner which held my interest throughout.

Starting from the seventeenth century and its deadly beginnings ending with the equally deadly 1960s and the Profuma affair which topped a British government the house has been a background of conspiracy, spying, love affairs and secrets!

The stories that abound from this house reveal its mistresses  lives which always were slightly bigger than life and certainly not ordinary.

I received this book from Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson

Only in Naples

Between the escapades of a very young Katherine and the cooking that went on in her future mother in laws kitchen, this was such a fun read for me.

I loved the intimacy of family life and how intrinsic food is to the way the Neapolitans live. It seems to permeate all aspects of life and I did so enjoy the fact that there are others to whom it is not strange that a thirty year old son still lives with his parents!!!  I found nothing strange in the idea till I read that it is considered a bit funny!!!! At least I am not alone.

Katherine's move to Naples is one where she follows family tradition where she is doing a sort of internship at the American Consulate whilst experiencing life on her own, far from her own family. Landing in the Avallone family exchanged one family for another and Katherine took to it as if it was her fate to do so.  To someone with an eating disorder our plump Katherine faced disaster when she had to look upon Raffaella's cooking and one who wouldn't take no for an answer. For the mother in this household food was the answer to everything and it seemed to work!

A fun memoir with an emphasis on food and good cooking this was sent to me by Random House Publishing courtesy of Netgalley, for an unbiased review.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Two short reviews - Janet Finsilver's Murder at the Mansion & Julia Ibbotson's Walking in the Rain

Kelly is hoping to start on a new job as a Manager for a B&B and at the same time overlooking an adjoining property for her boss. What she did not expect is a murder of the most innocuous guest and then everything becomes inexplicable. No one is who they seem and everything seems shrouded in mystery and long ago stories.The clues are scattered and putting them together may put Kelly in very deep trouble and danger.

Kelly's character was strong and determined. She was not willing to be intimidated or frightened by those who wanted to get rid of her.

This was my first reading in the series and I will be looking out for others in the list.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Kensington Press

Jess has survived injury and been in the midst of a civil war in Ghana but she is about to face her biggest challenge yet. Getting married to Simon should have brought her much joy and it did in the form of two beautiful girls but with someone as unstable as Simon was, with an undiagnosed mental condition and the support of his parents who blindly agreed to whatever he said, life was not going to be easy for her.

The story was sad as the entire marriage was one sided with Jess bearing the emotional and to a great extent the working of the marriage and ultimately there never seemed to be a moment of appreciation from her husband who took everything for granted. Despite being Quakers with strong moral and ethical guidelines on how they lived, Simon and his parents were anything but and Jess ultimately faced betrayal by all of them. The worst betrayal came from her best friend Polly and this was the ultimate betrayal, slightly unbelievable for me as the reader as well.

Human nature at its best and worst in the story. The settings were the 1960s and I could not imagine why Jess took everything that was thrown at her without rebellion or question. Laws were still archaic according to this book and domestic violence and abuse was considered a matter for private settlement between 'husband and wife'. I couldn't believe this and am actually going to check this out.

The book was unsettling but well written.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Endeavour Press.