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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.