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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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

Memory is a girl's name and this is her narration of her stay in prison in Harare, Zimbabwe. Incarcerated for the murder of her guardian, Memory is due for execution, though execution has not taken place in Harare for over ten years so it is life imprisonment. There is no way that Memory can explain the circumstances of Lloyd's gruesome death as everything points out that she is the killer.

This story outlines the life of an albino girl born in Zimbabwe and the twists and turns her life took before she ended in prison. The account of her life before she was taken in by Lloyd was also a difficult one - poverty and an antagonism on the part of her mother towards her which could not be understood till the end, the cycle of superstition and ancient beliefs and then Memory's education and broadening of her outlook till the end.

This was a very powerful emotional read. Not an easy one but the narrative was as if Memory was in the same room as the reader, recounting her story day by day, going back and back till she was a mere toddler and then coming back to the young woman she was today.

This was a recommendation from one of my blogging friends and I was very glad that I was able to get to this hitherto unknown author and subject.

Thanks to Netgalley who sent the book to me, courtesy of Faber & Faber Ltd. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Amour Provence by Constance Leisure

Stories set in two time frames dealing with the same families are always good for me. Set in Provence during the time of the Nazi as well as much later the story outlines the lives of several people from the time they were youngsters as well as their parents and then goes on to the later scenario and how lives have changed/been unchanged.

In the vineyards and farms where the story is set, life is governed by what is seasonally done for generations. Also livelihoods have been passed from father to son. A variation in this set in stone lifestyle is not looked at well by either neighbours or the community at large. The return of a daughter after a broken marriage to a Scottish man is looked at askance, especially as her sibling feels that he may get deprived of his inheritance. A young Arab woman hoping for a life of freedom realises that she has escaped one constrictive life for another where everyone looks at her with suspicion and life is still governed by what her husband decides. A young man has an affair with the mother of another young man in the village, but the affair only comes back to bite him decades later and leads to his divorce and isolation.

Interspersed with the complicated lives of the people of the midi, is also the descriptiveness of this bleak, but beautiful countryside. The people seem at times harsh molded by the landscape they inhabit and this must influence the way they think and behave, but the story is compelling reading.

Strong characterization was another hallmark of this story which made for an interesting read.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of  Simon & Schuster.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan

Joe and Ravi could not be more unalike - on the surface that is. Both are starting fifth grade, both are the "different" children in the class and you know right from the start that they are going to get bullied like hell.

I have been hearing about bullying in schools - heard it a lot of late and I was surprised as I do not recall it being a problem as such when my own children were in school. Maybe because children in my part of the world all come from different communities, different religions, and even widely differing eating practices that it never struck me that being a total vegetarian in an American public school could be an ordeal. Thinking about it poor Ravi did not stand a chance - his mother and grandmother in sari, picking him up and molly coddling him all the way and his food with its smells of oil and spices. Then Joe the other boy whose mother became the lunch monitor in school and made the cardinal error of blowing him a kiss across the canteen. Then we have the all time popular boy whose main purpose was to make fun of others, and make Joe and Ravi's life a misery.

How Joe and Ravi extricate themselves without the help or rather with the guidance only of parents and go it on their own to stand up to bullying was a good story. It also helped that there were teachers who understood the problems faced by both Joe and Ravi and decided to support them all the way. In a very unobtrusive manner.

I did not know when I requested this that this would be a story good for youngsters on this theme of bullying but this would be an excellent read for school children in all schools.

This was sent to be by Edelweiss. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

London Gambit by Tracy Grant

I did not know this was part of a series but this was very good as a stand alone as well.

Set in the period of Napoleon and his arrest and covering the entire gamut of French English relations which was not cordial at the best of times, we are dealing with a bunch of present and ex spies on both sides of the fence. To make matters more complicated the opposing sides are in several cases married to each other, have built up lives and families and been on the straight and narrow - upto now.

A sudden incident puts Malcolm and Suzanne's lives at high risk along with their children. It also touches the lives of all of those within their circle. No small thing as all are highly connected and a fall from grace would be distinctly unpleasant for all.

With ramifications going out in every direction, the story is succinctly told very descriptive of both the process of spying and how it works as well as the period and the way lives were lived. It was also good as it gave details of both the aristocracy as well as more ordinary folk.

It was my first read of Tracy Grant and I am presently looking for more books by her in the Melbourne library. Havent been able to track down any but I am not giving up.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of NYLA

Friday, September 9, 2016

Lies I Lve By by Lauren Sabel

This was a book which was out of my league! also out of my genre but it does not mean that I did not enjoy it. Slightly fantastic, slightly unreal but with a lot of stuff which in our present day and age seem quite feasible and doable!

Claire is the youngest psychic spy around. She lives a double life - one as a teenager about to enter college, going through applications and to all intents and purposes going to enter college. Her second life is working as a psychic spy, trying to figure out from her readings where the next disaster is going to happen and what the Government could do to prevent such a calamity. No easy feat or undertaking for such a young person. It can weigh very heavily on her and it does but she is not alone in this field and she finds kindred minded spirits who try to help her (she is the younget)

At the same time there are many evil minded souls in this galaxy and the story is a bit convoluted at times but it does all dovetail neatly!

There is romance as well as murder, a touch of fantasy, the psychic all thrown in together but it does not dull or bore the senses.

Sent to me by Edelweiss. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Blue Bath by Mary Waters Sayer

Kat Lind is married, financially very stable and mother to a lively little boy. Her life is even, on track and there do not seem to be any worries on the horizon at all.

A reluctant visitor to an art exhibition in London brings back her past to life. She is the only subject of the painter Daniel Blake who has painted her as he knew her in different forms and even in little sections, becoming the darling of the art world in the process and threatening through his paintings to reveal her very deep love affair of her past to the world.  That it will disrupt her present world is of no doubt.

How Kat tries to balance the two worlds - and is drawn and enters willingly into the present world of the artist and renews their affair whilst her husband is totally unaware of what is happening is the slightly surreal story in this book.

I was reading the book as an onlooker, not actually taking part in the story and it was a different experience. It was slightly fantastic the way the story evolves but realistic in its ending.

I enjoyed the telling of this rather common story of infidelity and of loves past, told in a different way.

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

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

This was a creepy one but the cover could be a bit more lively (my feelings here! as I am a sucker for covers).

Allie Marshall has just got released after ten years in prison. She was serving a sixteen year sentence and she herself cannot believe that she is now free. Under parole of course with strict regulations governing her behaviour. She is coming home to her daughter Caroline, her sister who has looked after Caroline single handedly and to her parents.

Her homecoming is not that joyful even on the family front. Her sister is obviously making an attempt to welcome her, her father is stilted, her mother shies away from any obvious reference to any unpleasantness and her daughter is disastrously not merely indifferent but angry that her mother has returned to her life and upset the even keel it was upto now.

Allie knows that she has to try extra hard to make a go of her life from now on. Getting a job, then getting to grips with Caroline's feelings, trying to handle people in the community who make no bones about their dislike for her is all hard.  Added to that is the fact that Allie knows she is innocent, and she was framed. She is still determined to get to the bottom of that.

The whys and hows of this thriller were convoluted to be sure. Half way through it was possible to know which way it was going though it did not detract from the story. It emphasized what love does to people - it can actually make a very sane person so off balance that they do not know what is right or wrong and can justify their most harshest actions accordingly.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Thomas Nelson.