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Thursday, April 28, 2016

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

My Name Is Lucy Barton2222222222

This book was a bit unsettling for me. The voice of Lucy is there throughout but sometimes so hesitant, so nervous to take a step forward or to assert herself that I got a bit irritated at her!

Told in the aftermath of surgery which should have been straightforward and wasn't, Lucy is in hospital and her mother visits for a few days at the request of Lucy's husband. The conversations are stilted and about everyone that Lucy knew as a youngster. Lucy's mother seems to be in a time warp of her own and the two do not seem to be able to meet on a single plateau despite Lucy longing for a warmer, closer relationship with her mother.

I was still unsettled at the end of the book but some human relationships are like that, everything cannot always be cosy!

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

PS On a non blog note I am presently in Melbourne enjoying the cool weather here. Colombo was horribly hot, humid and non ending hot weather. My grand children are a delight and it is lovely to spend some time with them.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

With our Blessing by Jo Spain

With Our Blessing

Books set in convents are really my scene! Love them. I studied in a convent school with nuns from the age of five till seventeen and I think I look back nostalgically on those times.

This was a convent of a different genre. Known as the Magdalene Laundries their reputation was obviously horrendous though having said that, the Church provided a haven for some girls, a horror house for others. The Church in Ireland held sway so much over the people that very few would dare to go against it, unlike now and when we read this book we think how much our spirits are freer, not encumbered by fear or ostracisation by society now.

A nun is found brutally murdered and Tom and his team are in charge of finding the murderer. Another murder after a while despite the entire team living in the convent really keeps the entire lot on their toes to solve the crimes as quickly as possible. Red herrings, varying suspects all keep the reader enthralled because the final suspect is totally unimaginable.

Told in a methodical manner, slowly unraveling the mystery was an interesting way to present this story.

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmole

I seem to be reading so many books on WW both of them, but they make for fascinating reading as each individual story is so different and though the Wars are the background and the reason for the story, it is eventually stories of human lives changed, utterly transformed by the war. It is also strange that mostly it was because of the Wars that these stories actually came about.

Clare is from Scotland and utterly bereft from the death of her father. Her grandfather is away in Ceylon, not contactable, her mother abandoned the family years before and has not been heard of since and so Clare is despatched to France to her mother's best friend who welcomes her with warmth and open arms. Here she meets Luc a young son of the house in University in Paris but who visits the house frequently and a very close relationship develops between the two.

Just as Clare arrived at the Crepets household, she goes away again with her grandfather on his travels from Morocca to Algiers to the Far East. The outbreak of WWI sees Clare back in France as an artist helping to make facial prostheses for wounded men trying to remake their world amongst people who may not accept or see them for who they are. Luc is one of those who make their way to Clare and how she is to tame this embittered man to the boy who was warm and kind hearted and whom Clare loved is this story.

Emotional, warm and descriptively told this is a beautiful story of survival and love, of family and of course the ugliness that is war.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Kind of Grief by A D Scott

The setting was very good and the characters were priceless. Joanne and MacAllister were quite normal people - but it was Calum, Mrs Mackenzie and the others who formed part of the newspaper that were priceless. From the language, diction, attitude and style these were all unique. I loved the tidbit that a reference " to 45" did not mean any time in the recent past but to 1745!!! Long memories the Scots!!!

A seemingly apparent suicide finally unravels to what it is not. All indications point to murder and the way it is hushed up by the police, the appearance of big wigs on what is a small time northern newspaper and the intimidation that follows does not warrant this death.  Alice was a controversial figure it is true but who would want to murder her. The clues lie in her house, in the paintings and etchings that she surrounded herself with and also her isolation and description of being a witch were what caused her death.

Joanne is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery and though her husband supports her, he knows she is heading into very dangerous territory. How to protect her and how to also obtain the story which lies beyond this death forms this story.

Part of a series (my first foray into reading this author) this was a read that was an absolute thriller.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Atria Books, for an unbiased review.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Very Like A Queen by Martin Lake

Alice is a favourite of the King, but being his mistress was living life on the edge. You never knew how or why or when the mercurial King would have a change of heart and move on.  The balancing act was a difficult one because with this King getting rid of a mistress or Queen was very easy - all you had to do was accuse her of treason and his courts did the balance work.

Being in favour with Henry VIII was no walk in the park and you could never tell when his eye would move over to someone else and you were out.The life of being a mistress of Henry VIII was not just pleasing the King but also pleasing and being on good terms with his Ministers and hangers on of which there were myriad ones. No one wanted a mistress or Queen for that matter to have too much influence over a King even in small matters. Everyone remembered the influence that Anne Boleyn had over the King and the benefits that accrued to her family as a result (to the detriment of everyone else that is!).

A protector in the form of Thomas Cromwell was ideal for Alice. He stood in strong favour with the King, he was not interested in Alice as a woman but when he fell from his position Alice was thrown to the wolves.

The story gives one an insight into the position of women in the Court of Henry VIII. Those who were pretty and clever could survive, ups and downs aplenty but survive they did whereas if they were only pretty they did not. Women were pawns not just at the mercy of husbands but sadly at the hands of fathers and brothers who used them only as merchandise to gain position and property for the family.

The story of Alice was a complicated one - she was one who was determined to survive against severe odds and it was a triumph for her.

I enjoyed the wealth of historical detail and the story of Alice against the backdrop of both Katharine Howard and Anne of Cleves.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake House 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

Faye is now a single mother - the eldest is at the dangerous age of thinking she knows it all, her mother is old hat and that she is very much a woman of the world (very tricky stage that!), the boy is very sweet, family conscious but with a condition which prevents him talking when he is with outsiders - he is perfectly normal with family members, and then you get the littlest four year old, cute as a button and around whom the story revolves.

Scouted out for a commercial and then going on to greater things, the youngest brings about financial stability for a family which was living hand to mouth but fame also brings a lot of dissension to the family. The sudden reappearance of the father was so disillusioning as he was only wanting to get on the gravy train and to get his paws on whatever his youngest was earning.

The struggles of being a single mother, the what you should and definitely what is out of bounds, how to handle difficult teenagers and growing up children and the frailties of even those whom you love are very descriptively told in this story.

Each character was very specific and very different and this added a lot of interest to the story.

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden

This was a recommendation from a book blogger and I am so very glad that Netgalley sent it on to me at my request.

The setting was certainly unique. A railway accident set in Victorian times and the entire backdrop of the story was the development of the railway system in Britain, the financial implications and the vast amounts of money that could be made and lost by speculation on railway stocks, doctors known as railway surgeons who specialised in railway accidents - characters who I have never met before.

Lady Elizabeth Fraser is returning home after a disastrous fourth season. It could be her last and her mother has announced that she would most probably live and die a spinster. Her fortune seems to have been lost and she knows that without a dowry there is no hope of her making a good match. This dismal scene is further enhanced by the fact that there is a great deal of animosity and distance on her mother's side towards Elizabeth and Elizabeth herself is unable to fathom the reason for this.

When the horrific accident happens and both Elizabeth and her mother are rescued and attended to by Dr. Wilcox, Elizabeth realises that she is very attracted to the doctor but knows that in their class of society it is a hopeless attraction.

Meticulously detailed, the romance was just a by line of the main story - the unravelling of the accident and the greater implications that were discovered by lawyers and Elizabeth herself into the story behind the accident, the lapses on the part of the railway in order to further financial profit for a few and the final trial and exoneration of the good doctor.

Characterization of all the people in the story was masterful and I loved the story itself. A fairly boring subject made extremely interesting by a clever author.

Thank you to Netgalley for sending this on to me for an unbiased review, courtesy of  Random House Publishing Group Albi.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Two very short reviews - A Few Days in the Country and The Birds of Opulence

A collection of short stories which cover a range of feelings and human relationships and emotions. My first read of this Australian author.

Setting was slightly surreal - a southern town in America - a black township where several generations of women live together, survive amidst borderline madness.

Both books sent to me by Edelweiss.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Island in the Sea by Anita Hughes

This was just what I needed when I finished a rather heavy emotional book on the plight of a particular community which has been harassed and marginalised for generations in Afghanistan.
This was a very good antidote to get me out of the dismals!

Set in New York and Majorca the author brings the island especially to life. From its natural beauties to the tourist attractions, from its beaches to the restaurants and especially, very markedly its food the place sounds idyllic. Set amidst these surroundings we have a story.

Juliet is a senior at a music studio and she has been sent on a mission. Persuade the man who wrote a best seller years ago, not to renege on a contract and get it done within two weeks and come back with it in hand. A tall order because our musician has gone down the road of putting off everything, not interested in life at all and is in a tailspin of debt from which he cant see himself getting out of. He is depressed, drunk and disinterested. How Juliet is going to do what she set herself out to do is the problem. Juliet knows that coming back empty handed means that she will be sacked immediately. She needs to safeguard the job she has worked so hard to attain.

Juliet did not count for the island's magic and falling in love. Combining all the above, the story comes together beautifully.

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Swan Widow by Fiona Cameron

This is an autumn love story of the best kind. Peigi has settled in her mind that she is not going to find someone whom she will find a lasting love but she is also terribly tied down to looking after two spoilt children who are her sister's grandchildren. The mother and grandmother are both dead and the father is either too desperate or finds it very convenient to just totally dump the responsibility on Peigi and depart for his high powered consultancy work.

Peigi is wondering and planning how she can escape from this prison of her own making and she is planning to stage her death and disappearance (I initially thought she was writing a novel!) and during one of her visits to her favourite cafe she meets up with Kevin who just refuses to let her go.

Kevin is a retired cop, who has set up his own security consultancy business though you see hardly any business once he arrives on the scene and he very neatly captures Peigi's heart and mind completely.

The usual story of love and romance with its ups and downs, and much more variants and differences when each of you has baggage by the ton, and histories by the dozen to be either unraveled or kept tightly hidden. It was these unravel lings that added so much spice to the drama.

Lovely to find a very late second chance at love so successful.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an honest review courtesy of Flying Swan Press.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

If ever there was a Jane Austen variation that was fabulous, this is it. I've read (and reviewed) quite a few of them but this is so very very good. Now I sound gushing!

Liz and Jane along with all the Bennets in a very modern setting. I doubt anyone could get more modern than IVF, lesbian relationships, transgender marriages etc but the basic Pride and Prejudice story comes shining through.

Bingley and Darcy and Caroline are all there, all very modern characterizations but nothing detracting from their original states and this is what made it wonderful reading.

A riveting read, quite a long story, unputdownable. I had to finish it in two days reading putting aside work and everything else.

Storytelling at its best.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Random House Publishing Group - Random House. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Regret to Inform You by Derek Jarrett

This particular village in rural England is idyllic. Rusfield does not seem to have any any apparent villains. All are hardworking, mainly agricultural though youngsters are now moving to towns to better their prospects. Very few of these rural teenagers have thought of an education other than whatever the local school has to offer and the stalwarts of the village - the vicar and his wife, the school teachers, the principal, the local magnate are all upright worthy gentlemen who seek to protect the people who work  for them.

However the year is 1914 and things are going to change forever. The men who join the war effort are never going to be the same again. What they see and here in the battles of France and Flanders even Mesopotamia are going to change the way they look at the way of life in Rusfield. The havoc of war, the loss to families across the land and how these same families coped and survived are beautifully and very sensitively told.

We have youngsters growing up to be responsible men who will return, many do not and there are many elements of such sadness in this very rich story.

I liked the rich detail of rural agricultural life at the time and the very slow pace at which life was lived. There was a season and a time and place for everything and it all seemed to go according to plan. Work was hard and leisure time was scarce but enjoyment of simple pleasures was very appreciated.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for a fair review courtesy of Troubador Publishing Ltd.