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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

This was an easy read.

I had not read anything in this series so the characters were new to me. They are the straight forward characters one would find in a country village. The vet Dooley his wife to be Lace their parents. The wedding looked forward to by the whole county as it were. A simple affair. Potluck. Barn cleared out for guests and dancing. Anything that could go wrong? not very likely, but like all the best laid plans things can get out of hand a bit. No one accounts for changes in weather, there are many surprises along the way but thankfully it all gets smoothed out in the end.

Very pleasant reading.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Penguin Group Putnam. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg

This is a story of  a family with a lot of secrets. Most families do but this one has more than their fair share. June is looking forward to reconciliation with her daughter who has been estranged for years. Lolly is getting married the next day and June hopes that with Will, her daughter will find peace and contentment and maybe just maybe that would spill into a better relationship with June.

Tragedy strikes and June loses them all. Not just her daughter and son in law to be, but also her ex husband and her lover Luke. In this small knit tight community gossip spreads like wildfire and without reason and June flees this town for anywhere she can get some peace.

The story is told in segments with many different people involved in the story having a part. June, Cissy, Lydia all tell their stories and overall its a mixture of sadness and hopelessness of lives lived with a great deal of suffering and remorse without hope of ever seeing closure.

Very much highlighting the power of the family, our need for love and affection and the very great need we all have to just survive to see another day are seen in this writing.

Though very emotional, the book was an excellent read. The sadness was never off putting.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Random House UK Vintage Publishing.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert

A political reporter falling in love with the First Lady. Sounds improbable and that it happened and was maintained for years shows how much can be done without the technical advantages of bugging, long distance lens, papparazzi etc.

I cannot imagine a scenario like this going undiscovered today or even if discovered not being talked about on every show imaginable! Here there were innuendoes and hints but nothing more and talk just generally died down. Hicks was the AP reporter during the period of the Great Depression. Her appointment alone as a reporter was very unusual. Women reporters got the society pages and the women's pages. She covered trials, political meetings and the like and this threw her in contact with Eleanor Roosevelt. Hicks finally covered Eleanor during the pre Presidential run and subsequently went "undercover" to follow the effects of the Great Depression on the American public.

The fact that the First Lady of the time was an unwilling participant in the political field and that she  had to handle FDR's roving eye and at the same time maintain a facade of the perfect family was the reason that Eleanor looked elsewhere for affection and love. She found it with several people and this story was the one between Hicks and Eleanor.

Very poignant, emotional and loving it was also sad. One knew that there was never going to be a happy ending and that both parties would have to move away from the situation.

The Great Depression brought out in vivid detail from the farming communities to the mining one from the timber forests and to the black communities segregated and marginalized the story is one of great detail and shows how politics was the most important thing in the game, people came a very very far second.

A compelling read which was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Persevero Press for an unbiased review. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain always writes about secrets, I think everyone has them and sometimes like in the story they are not that easy to reveal,however much you love your partner or boyfriend or anyone.  The story once again going into two time lines - one when Molly was a youngster and one when she is all grown up in her mid thirties - seems to be a recurring theme with all the books I've chosen. I am not complaining though.

Molly and Aidan desperately long for a baby. It is not going to happen. One miscarriage and one hysterectomy later they put themselves on an adoption list. This is an unusual adoption procedure (though it may be common elsewhere, not known in my part of the world). This is an open adoption and the birth mother, grandmother, other members of the family may have access to the child who is being given for adoption. It is not just photographs once a year.

Aidan is wholly open to the idea, but Molly knowing her own background has reservations. She is worried whether she will welcome the birth mother as warmly as she does now, will she be able to love an adopted child as well as she loves her own biologically born child. Questions which seem very rational to Molly given her background which is still unknown to her husband. Molly herself is in a quandary as to whether she should/should not divulge her history to her husband with whom she is otherwise very open to.

The characterization is spot on in this book. Molly and Aidan are a mature couple and they seem typical of the family wanting to and needing to adopt. Sienna the birth mother is a teenage mother with one bad incident in her life which resulted in this pregnancy. She also cares about the birth of this child and whom it is going to. She knows she cannot bring this baby up on her own and that she is putting her entire future at stake if she keeps the baby. Sienna's mother Ginger is troubled by the fact that her first grand child will be growing up not knowing her birth family. There is also Molly's very chequered family history that has to be considered and sorted out if Molly is to ever have peace.

A very good story very well told.

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Long Room by Francesca Kay

Stephen is a spy who listens to other people's conversations and he imagines their lives beyond the conversation. When this fantasy gets a hold of him in the case of Helen and her husband whom they already suspect (we never know why or how they are involved) he takes it a step further, fabricating conversations, following up on the people (strictly forbidden) and falling in love with a woman he has only listened to.

A sad depiction of a nice person who wants to have a life and love of his own. He is in the wrong profession and though the others working with him are "normal", fun loving familied people Stephen is somewhat different.

 Stephen's mind is under pressure and that is when the imagination runs riot. Clinically told and at the same time leading to a suspenseful end (which you know is not going to be happy ever after), the book held my interest until the end.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Faber & Faber Ltd.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Two Amazon free downloads. One cookery/one romance!

Eat Sleep Cook School!: A Year at Cookery School in the South of France

The first one is an amazing story of how someone can change careers midway in life (after 25 years as a journalist) and to join a restaurant in Avignon, start at the bottom, work with people who are just teenagers and be treated as an imbecile half the time by your superiors.

The process is gruelling, the procedures and food turned out at these restaurants very good, The receipes at the end of each chapter, along with the short cuts used professionally and personally by the author were also of interest.

The treatment meted out to juniors in a kitchen by the Chefs was unimaginably hard though it seemed to be accepted by all!

The Earl's Secret Bargain (Marriage by Deceit Book 1)

Another free Amazon download and just what I needed when the going was tough!

A wager for the hand of  a lady's hand in marriage is not done in proper circles and the two men who are involved in it are two contrasting characters.   The Earl of Davenport knows that he has made a foolish mistake in entering into this. How to win the hand of the lady without her knowing about the wager is the biggest problem he has to face now.

Lighthearted romance. All ending well.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Beatriz Williams has the magic touch where writing is concerned. She takes the story and makes it a magical read!

The story in itself is a complicated one. Slightly larger than life characters - each very forceful and told in continuous timelines - both women were people to be reckoned with even at a very very young age. The men they got entangled with were equally large. The circumstances of their meeting the men who shaped their lives were momentous. It was anyway a momentous period in history and everything seemed to be touched with something slightly out of the ordinary.

One knew from the very first page that this was not going to be a story by the book. Told in a looking back at what happened form, one feels the history not just of the people involved but the history of the world as well. Events which were life threatening were happening around one, and it could not but affect even the most ordinary person. Not that these were ordinary people!

The historical background, the characterizations, the family history of the two girls all combine to give one two separate love stories which are emotional, poignant and very beautiful.

Loved the book and so appreciative that Netgalley sent it on to me courtesy of Penguin Group Putnam. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

David Harwood is despondent. He has lost his job in Boston as a reporter. His wife is dead and he is moving back to live with his parents and his nine year old son. He gets a local job as a reporter and on the day he starts work, the paper folds up. Nothing could be more bleak for David.

His cousin Marla has been a little strange for a very long time. The loss of her baby has affected her and though she is holding it together, it is just barely there. When David visits her and finds a baby in her house, he knows that something is amiss. The fact that she insists that an angel visited her and gave her the baby adds to the mystery. David knows that the police are not going to be as kind to Marla as the family is. The discovery of a body which turns out to be the baby's mother and a string of strange circumstances with apparent links back to Marla makes David think that this is not just an abduction of a baby and a murder of a young mother.

The story was slow at the beginning for me despite the kidnapping and the murder! but it did pick up when the investigations went along. The college incidents of attempted rape and oddities happening around Promise Falls detracted from the main story but the clincher at the end was very good with readers now being able to look forward to a second book! it came in unexpectedly and was very well enacted.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Penguin Group, Berkeley Nal. Thank you.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Hundred Gifts by Jennifer Scott


I identified with Bren very much (being an empty nester myself) but I do not think that I had the withdrawal symptoms as badly as she has. She feels isolated and alone and on top of losing her children - daughter in Thailand and blissfully happy unfortunately, her eighteen year old son has also deserted her with a girl friend whom he "maybe" married to. I think any mother could be forgiven for irrational behaviour if your son is "maybe married" at eighteen!!!

Bren's husband has also hit a midlife crisis taking on hobby after hobby - the final one being working in a band with a group of equally tone deaf buddies who cannot/do not know how to sing. Listening to their camaraderie and buddy talk Bren feels that she is even more alone without even a husband's support.

The offer of teaching a cooking class with a difference seems to be the ideal alternative for Bren to settle down. Meeting up with a bunch of very interesting ladies helps Bren and surprisingly turns into an act of charity with a cantankerous, rude, ill mannered neighbour!

A story with a morale - that traditions can be redirected, that things never stay the same and that reaching out to help someone in distress is always a good thing are highlights of this book. In giving to others one does forget one's own worries and woes! old saying but still good.

This book sent to me by Edelweiss.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton

The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great

This is ancient history and may not appeal to all. You have to stick to the story, tedious though it maybe at times because life I guess was not instant gratification in those times. The story of Alexander the Great, his life, his loves, his victories, his defeats and the personal charisma (and shortcomings) of the man are beautifully, carefully enacted in this book. For lovers of historical fiction a must.

Alexander the Great could not come into power, neither could he maintain his position without the support of several women. His half sister was the most loyal of women and though she had the heart of a man, she was always sidelined to stay behind and be just a woman whilst the men went to war. The Princess Drypetis (one of the spoils of war) who became his queen was a loyal woman, completely in love with her husband but she had to fight Roxanna who was the self proclaimed Queen of Queens and fought to the death her position as the first Queen. There were numerous other women all contributing in some way to both Alexander's rise as well as his fall from power.

The loyalty and support which Alexander got from those close to him as well as those soldiers who fought battles where they were mere fodder for the enemy is enough testimony to the charisma which was Alexander. The man himself is powerful but brutal and only thinks of his own victory though his loyalty to his friend remains steadfast throughout.

How a single man rose to control such a vast empire and how quickly it disintegrated on his death is this story.

The book was sent to me by Edelweiss.