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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.