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Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Girl I Used to Know by Faith Hogan

The Girl I Used to Know: A heart-wrenching and heartwarming story of two strangers and one house by [Hogan, Faith]

Two women share the same house over a very long period. One the main house, one the basement flat.  Amanda is married to a very well settled professional with two teenage children. On the surface her life seems complete. Tess is a single woman who has no friends, absolutely no family and lives a very lonely life tucked away in her flat which has not seen improvement for years and is in a bit of a shambles.

Tess seems embittered the way life has turned out to be. She started out as a bright, hopeful star hoping to break into the singing sphere. She fell in love and she thought that was it. Unfortunately that was not to be and her lover fell in love with her placid sister who whisked him away to Ireland.

Amanda is now seeing cracks in her marriage, she feels that her husband is unfaithful,  her children are drifting away from her and that her life has lost all meaning. A chance encounter with Tess seems to slowly bridge the gap and a confrontation with her husband also brings closure though it brings its fair share of heartache. With the absence of her husband her children also begin to be more supportive and life seems to be better. With Tess the constant prodding of her doctor and a few others make her less hesitant to step out into the open and enjoy life once more. It also helps her to try to reach out to her sister to whom she was so close. It helps in all ways for Tess to have closure on many sides.

This was an emotional read. One felt one was on a see saw as there was much sadness and bitterness in the story. Characterization was spot on.

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

Saturday, December 30, 2017

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen

I like history and I like royalty. Coupled together with a good dose of mystery thrown in, this was a good one for me.

With a mission from the Queen on the one hand to find out exactly the situation of the young Prince's philanderings and the state of the monarchy as a result, and on the other hand trying to find out what her loved fiancee Darcy is upto, Lady Georgiana is charged with a mission. Is the Prince about to embark on a secret wedding with the infamous Mrs. Simpson and thwart the hopes of the Queen. Georgiana is entrusted with finding out the exact details and transferring them to the Palace.

To add to the complications, we have Belinda, her friend alone and friendless in an Italian convent sent there to deliver a baby so that no scandal would attach itself to her name when she returns back to London. Georgiana is also to see her and help out in whatever way she can.

Georgiana arrives at the Italian villa to face the people with whom she is supposed to spend a relaxing holiday. She hardly has any affection for any of them, including her hostess (her former school mate) who is very patronizing (having married into the Italian aristocracy!) Add to this to further complicate matters is Georgiana's erstwhile mother who has never publicly acknowledged her daughter with her latest husband. Her mother and others are being blackmailed by a guest and when the guest turns up dead and it is deemed a suicide by the local police and later changed by higher ups to murder,  If  Georgiana wants to get out of this and get back to Belinda, she needs to solve this murder.

The complications are fragmented and varied. It should normally be an irritating read because you jump from one topic to another. It is not. It is a fun read, light hearted and seems to follow a sequence which has no pattern but is nevertheless entertaining.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Berkley Publishing Group.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Corsican Woman by Madge Swindells

The Corsican Woman

Set during the Second World War life in Corsica was tough for women. When Sybilia married she gave up on so much for a marriage that was doomed from the start.

Sybilia's talents however were recognised very early on as being useful to their resistance and was used to full advantage by them. It however brought her in touch with an American whom she would fall in love with and have a child with. Cast out as a whore by the village mainly encouraged by her father in law who is enraged that the marriage never worked, Sybilia's life is not easy. Her mother in law is her sole companion and support but is under the whiplash hand of her husband. The son has always been afraid of his father and shies away from any contact with Sybilia.

At the end Sybilia is abandoned by her lover whom she waits for in vain for twenty five years. Finding out the truth of what happened gives her the means of vengeance and vengeance she wreaks on the man who ruined her life. 

The story was overwhelmingly sad for me. I felt that Sybilia was on the losing side with no support from either her own family or the family she married into (other than her mother in law). Her husband was weak, her father in law overpowering and vicious. Sybilia was caught up in the middle of a narrow minded, insular community and there was no way getting out of that one. Her one passionate love was not to be. However the wealth of historical detail was of immense interest to me. It brought together different elements of the story all together.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Endeavour Press. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood

Murder on a Midsummer Night (Phryne Fisher, #17)

I am going to start reviews after a short lapse with one of my favourite authors whom I do not seem to get hold of often enough.

The Honourable Phyrnne Fisher is quirky but a good detective who gets things done. Sometimes not in a very orthodox way, but who cares. When you pay for an investigation everyone wants results and the Police seem to be happy that one more case gets closed because very often Phyrnne slips out of the picture, and the local police gets the credit.

An apparent suicide, a lost child, magic which makes things and people appear and disappear all add to the story in the midst of a Melbourne heatwave. Along with Phyrnne's rather large entourage of family and retainers all playing a role the murder mystery is always solved.

Full of color both in characterization and surroundings,  the story is always light hearted, easy to read and very enjoyable.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press.

P S Just returned after a five day break in Singapore for the Christmas holidays! difficult to get back to normal.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Hunting Grounds by Katee Roberts

A mystery killer, systematically and tortuously going through a list and killing people off one by one. The final tally of seven is enormous, for this National Park where one death a year is considered too much. The endangerment to the rangers and the bears which inhabit this park are all huge.

The park ranger and the Fed Investigator have a past and this meeting up after years adds a touch of romance to an otherwise gruesome list of murders. Atmospheric and descriptive the detectives are all desperate to find out who is the murderer and though there are clues that it is linked to a young group of hikers, the whys and wherefores are a mystery till the very end. That it is the work of a clever sociopath is a foregone conclusion and whether the detectives are going to be able to solve the case before the whole group is annihilated is the worry.

Strong characterization and suspense throughout the story were the strong features of this story.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Montlake Romance.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne

Beautiful Animals

This was a disturbing read for me. Set in exquisite countryside of Hydra and its surroundings it throws up a story of real bitterness amongst a family, then indifference and this was more galling than the bitterness. On top of it all how one young woman can influence another through sheer peer pressure, dragging her into a crime and its subsequent cover up was strange, disturbing and brought to me the fact that I do not quite get human nature as yet, despite being old!

This was a dark read which left me unsettled. It is all too real of course and not a fantasy. Telling more would be spoilers.

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two mystery murders. Both totally different!

The cover seems to indicate pastoral calm. Almost village like. The train was the pivotal scene or so it seemed on a return journey, like any other. Everyone returning after work on a dreary, very cold, winter like day. The usual clerks, the workmen, an odd woman and her child, all generally known to each other all travelling on the same line not on a daily basis but accountable and all found.

Mr. Grayling our victim one of them. An unlikeable character if ever there was one and in this carriage there were many who would have been very glad if he was dead. So how do you pinpoint who could have killed him. The method of murder was particularly violent. Mustard gas no longer in use but strangely enough could be obtained by any number of those in this carriage. The war was not long over and supplies were around if you knew where to look.

The story proceeds in a methodical way, a bit slow, a bit pedantic but you do know you are getting there!

A different style to a mystery murder but appealing in its own way.

Sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press.

The cover could have been more appropriate I felt for the very violent crimes committed within this story and for the apt description of our murderer.

Contrasting heavily with the above murder mystery is this one. Taking murder to an extremely violent level we have our Casanova and alongside him a serial murder on the other side of the country, competing with each other in their skills to evade all the detective agencies on their backs. They seem to be succeeding especially since girl after girl keeps disappearing.

The one girl who does escape through sheer skill and a great deal of luck helps out our Detective Alex Cross but it seems that things will be at a standstill because in the midst of the investigation another girl disappears whilst her boyfriend is murdered, shot at point blank range and we know the crimes will escalate.

Brutal, very difficult to read at times, I still have nightmares over some of the scenes but this is a skillful writer who takes an uncompromising subject and handles it well. Not for the squeamish though.

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

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Two five star reviews! Longbourn's Songbird & The Flight Attendant. Two very different genres too.

The two books which I am reviewing could not be more different from each other!

Longbourn's Songbird takes our usual P&P characters and imbues them with stronger characteristics of the originals which makes them literally very challenging. The setting in America in 1948 is till very Victorian. There are distinct standards of behavior for young ladies and though the Bennetts are a bit more modern than most, they still live in a society where "what people would say" seems important.

Elizabeth and Jane are the main characters of the story with Bingley and Darcy both following suit. However Charlotte Lucas role becomes a rather interesting one and Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine are strangely rather impoverished here. The relationships which develop between Anne and Charlotte would have scandalized Jane Austen society but here it happily ends well.

I liked the role that Elizabeth played. Feisty still but daring and very caring of Darcy. Darcy in turn was very well put in this story and the whole story was extremely balanced keeping the main story of P&P but adding a very unusual twist to the story.

I had to read this in one go and would give it five stars because of this!

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of  Beau North.

The beauty of this story is that we have a character that I did not really like on several accounts. However the author weaves a story that we cannot put down. You've got to know how this is going to turn out and I felt that Cassandra got off lightly despite all her un-likeable ways!

Cassandra worked for an airline, was a binge drinker, picked up men both from the flights and random men from hotel bars. She "blacked" out many times whilst on these binge spells but does not seem to have learnt the danger she was in till she one day gets up in Dubai with a dead man beside her. She has no clue whether she murdered him herself but then rationalizes that she wouldn't have! and then begins the cover up and the story behind the murder.

Though the plot was convoluted and crossed several countries and nationalities, the main event was Cassandra and boy was she a character.

As usual the author keeps you on edge throughout. All his books are different and do not expect the usual.

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

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Two reviews. Both on the mystery/murder/psychological thriller lines!

I know some books get a bit more sad and emotional than others, but when the sadness persists throughout the book it does get me down.

Having said that the story of Wade and Ann and Jenny, May and June was overwhelming in its theme of hopelessness and sadness. I felt that there was no silver lining at all but I persevered with the read hoping that something even at the end will uplift me.

The storyline was a good one. Murder of a child by her mother. Reasons never known. The other child goes missing ever after and is never found though the search does go on. The father with inherited dementia goes into a very early decline and it is left to the second wife to hold the fort for all. Which she does admirably. Given the circumstances I should say she does well.

It had good characterization, descriptive of the prison system and the story told from multiple times and perspectives though normally a theme I like, I found a bit confusing.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Chatto & Windus.

This is a story that parents of teenage children do not need to read! it is all too realistic and all too happening in today's world.

We have flashbacks throughout the story. The present day police officers coming to a scene and finding a family murdered. Then we have the real story building up very slowly. A normal upper middle class family. Father seems steady, not really so. Gambling his money away hoping to make a very quick buck and landing the entire family in bankruptcy. Unknown to them of course.

The wife a home maker who knows that something is not quite right, Cannot put her finger on whats wrong. A teenage daughter full of angst and anger and a mother not knowing how to reach her, having her hands full with her husband and youngest child.

The youngest child, not knowing where she fits in cowed and a bit frightened of the real world. Loves her family but finding it difficult that her eldest sister now hates her.

And Ruby the teenager daughter not knowing what to make of herself. The bullying which is relentless, the peer pressure, the pressure to conform to be part of the top group and failing and then trying to find a niche for herself with a boyfriend who she dearly loves but is again not acceptable to all.  How does this pressure cooker situation finally evolve?

The author takes us slowly through the final explosion and it is a big one. Disastrous, sad, inevitable.
A psychological thriller I would say, told quite slowly so builds to a climax better!

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dandy Gilver A Most Misleading Habit (mystery/murder)

I like anything with a church, convent, monastery background and have had this book for ages. I cannot understand why I never came to it sooner as I enjoyed the story very much. I think it was the name Dandy Gilver which put me off!

A 1930s setting so it is a slower paced mystery murder detective series. There is a a bit of women not being able to told about stuff which can get irritating to someone in the 21st century but other than that once you get into the swing of the book it was most enjoyable.

The setting of a convent in Lanarkshire on a bleak moor was very descriptive and set the tone for the happenings which were unusual for a convent.  That the convent was set almost alongside a mental asylum for men was also unusual. The benefactors of all this was a family eccentric in themselves - three sisters all unmarried.

The convent has been set alight, a murder of the Mother Superior has been committed and the investigation has reached an impasse. The nuns though seemingly co-operative all seem to be holding vital clues back, there is a scandal of epic proportions lurking in the background, the village wants to have the convent and the asylum closed and so many open ended statements and ends that bringing them to a cohesive whole seems very tough indeed.

The original suspects are three escapees from the asylum but when two bodies turn up the focus turns to anyone and everyone.

The story had stuff for everyone.  It was very well told and the story got more and more interesting the more it went on. I liked all the characters as they were all different and like all humans just because they are nuns, did not make them saintly at all.

I will come back to this author as I found this book very good.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Devil in Beauty by Heidi Ashworth

The Devil in Beauty by Heidi Ashworth

This was not quite Regency romance aka Georgette Heyer though I was hoping for that. It was however very good reading.

The Marquis is under a cloud. Despite his title, he is finding it heavy going as he is not invited for parties of the ton, he gate crashes them. His title is not helping him, nor is his fortune. Normally quite enough to attract the ladies! or rather the mothers who are on the look out always for eligible men. This time around it is not working.

His reputation in ruins, it is isnt helped when he finds himself supporting Willie a disabled boy of also a very good family who now finds himself accused of his brother's murder. A more unlikely murderer cannot be found, and our Marquis with the support of a Senhor of doubtful antecedents and a young Miss whom our Marquis has lost his heart to - are determined to defend Willie despite the strange behaviour and reticence of Willie's parents Mr and Mrs Gilbert in the whole scenario.

The story got complicated, and though the storyline was a good one and very descriptive it was too I lost a bit of interest three quarters of the way through though I did finish the read. Giving the details at the end will spoil it for readers but it was a good mix of murder/mystery with a touch of romance and life during the period well told.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Dunhaven Place Publishing. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Lost Sisters by Lindsey Hutchinson

A rather old fashioned story of tragedy and separation, of a mother who was unbelievably evil and a rather helpless father who had a fine past of his own.

The sisters were the main part of the story and though it came together too smoothly to be true, it was still very descriptive in the telling.

Children from a upper middle class family. The mother abandons an infant almost at birth, that is the eldest. Fourteen years later she does the same to the second daughter. It seemed too plausible to be acceptable by anyone. But it seemed that according to the times, the rich could literally get away with murder.  The story goes on in two separate time lines and life times of the upbringing of two different girls. One with plenty of money in the background, absolutely no love and care and the other poor but with plenty of love and attention. Throw into the mix an illegitimate son, a mistress and we have a rather complicated family story.

Though rather far fetched, it still held my interest. The rags to riches story is always loved. Everyone likes a winner.

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow Land

Going back in time and then coming back to present times in telling a story is always fascinating. You compare the then and now and there is always a link, a sense of continuity - and it is always very intriguing how small clues lead us from one story to the next going over decades in time and becoming a cohesive whole.

This was part of the mystery of this novel. Alexandra is a young English teacher, recently arrived in Sofia on an assignment. Her main focus is however to get over the heart rending loss of her brother in rather cryptic circumstances. She is disassociated from her parents as well and feels very much alone. She feels a new start in a new place will help. She did not take into account that she will be left with the ashes of a person who has died and without any knowledge of how to get them back to their rightful owners.

Taking convoluted journeys throughout Bulgaria, going from pillar to post to try to track the owners and in the process uncovering a massive story of corruption, fraud and terror during a dark period in Bulgarian history is the major part of the story. It is quite comprehensive history very well detailed and descriptive and though particularly horrifying in its aggression is a matter of fact telling of what actually happened without sugar coating it.

Not an easy history lesson to follow on but history it is and however unpalatable it is part of the story.

Alexandra's coming of age is part of the more pleasant aspects of the story.

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Three short reviews. Three different genres.

An unusual beginning but a complicated one. A woman with amnesia on a road in Barcelona. She is of French origin and the artist must try to complete her past if he himself is to find some kind of happiness with her. He has fallen in love and wants to know what her past is like.

The past unravels to enfold Daniel into a nightmare. Is he willing to go the extra mile into a very dark place for the sake of his love for Marianne. A quite simple love story overshadowed by dark mysteries,

Sent to me by Netgalley for an honest review, courtesy of Pushkin Press.

1924 the war is over and life seems full of promise for little Alexa. Much loved but sadness is to follow. Her mother dies unexpectedly and her father finds a step mother very quickly. Life changes for Alexa in many ways and she knows she must get away to establish a life of her own.

The vagaries of life and the challenges Alexa faces whilst away from her beloved home and father are many. She does come to grips with her life in the end but it is a struggle throughout.

The overall tone of sadness was prevalent throughout the book and though described as a historical fiction with romance it was too sad to be of much happiness to the reader.
I found it difficult to read especially because of the sadness.

Sent to me by Netgalley, courtesy of Bonnier Zaffre.

In comparison with the other two books, this one was a very "readable" tale.

Set in WW2 in a small village we have a well knit community and family. The usual heartache of war will come upon them all. Lovers will be separated, families split, some may never return and then there are the London evacuees. Some of them never seen a cow before, most unused to country life, some willing to fit in and chip in, others not.

So descriptive of how the Great War affected ordinary English people. In their daily lives, how they had to adapt, how they changed even the way they cooked to handle rationing, the stiff upper lip prevalent throughout and the feeling of comradeship, love and support extended to all by all during the Blitz and aerial bombing was very descriptive, took you to the place and made you feel as you were one of the family.

The entire story kept one on the go from the beginning to the end and was a lovely read.

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Away with the Fairies by Kerry Greenwood (A Phyrne Fisher series book)

A Phyrne Fisher mystery does not have to have an extra ordinary myster/murder to make it an enjoyable read. It is the whole package put together - Miss. Fisher herself, her very out of the ordinary lifestyle (in laid back Melbourne especially), her blaise attitude and her above average intelligence and flair for finding out what went wrong where and with whom in record time.
The timing is always important because she is way ahead of the Plod - depicted by very nice Policemen and Detectives who abound, who are good friends and who respectfully recognise that they are dealing with a pro.

I am only sorry that I came to the series so late that I have been able to get to only two of her books. I am hoping that the publisher's will be kind enough to allow access to the others but I doubt it will
happen (regulations and all that!!!)

For those who like a mystery with ambiance, style, flair and detective work par excellence thrown in, this series is for you.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Mapmaker's Daughter by Katherine Nouri Hughes

Set in the 16th century, the story of Cecilia taken captive at a very young age from her island home into the keeping of Suleyman the Magnificient was no accident. It was a planned maneuvre because they did know the value of this very young girl.

Taking the name of Nurbanu, she rises to the most important position within the Empire as wife of the son of Suleyman who eventually becomes Sultan. She was also the mother of the future Sultan and her position of authority and power was assured. She was however the chosen one of Suleyman who felt that her character had the strength and the willpower to undertake a chore that very very few human beings could do. To put to death all brothers of the future Emperor when the moment came. He knew that this was not something that any person could do. He was assured that even though he would be dead by the time the need arose, that she would unflinchingly carry out his orders and this she did.

The story of Nurbanu was a fascinating one. Escaping the harem and being just a concubine she was chosen for her brilliance and her character as one befitting being the wife of a weak but good Sultan who could support, guide and advice him as necessary and be protective of the future Sultan as well. That she was manipulative and calculating was to the benefit of the Sultanate. Her intelligence in establishing an observatory and being proficient in the sciences was a bonus.

The story told in the form of a memoir and a confession details in descriptive detail the wars, the extent of the Sultan's empire, the workings of the court and the position of women at the time of the Sultan. The background information and setting was very detailed and gave the life of those involved with the Sultan a lot of meaning.  For those who like history in any form, this was a very good read.

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

One Day In December by Shari Low

The story is told in segments of time in a particular day in December. We have several characters all very different and like a pack of cards Caro's search is going to bring all of them down. Heartbreak, deceit in spades, indifference of a parent (hurtful to the extreme) and friendship and love all in one package.

Caro is seeking her father. After many years she has discovered he is alive, well and living a full life with a wife and a daughter (of the same age as her). Her mother is dying and Caro seeks closure of a life of hurt and bewilderment how a parent could abandon both a wife who was ill and a daughter without any remorse. She also comes up again Lila her stepsister, a woman with a will of her own and only looking out for herself. Her love affair with Ken a cardiac surgeon she thinks is going to lead to a life of riches, respectability and security. His wife the mousy one discovers that she also has a will of her own after decades of verbal abuse and being submissive.

The story shows the highs and lows of several lives all packed into one day and was a book you had to finish naturally in a day.

Settings were lovely, characterizations were spot on.

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Too Many Women in the Room by Joanne Guidoccio

Quite a few women, two murders. All the women have motives for murdering the first victim, the second victim was a bit hazy as to why.

The story started with the murder (almost) and then proceeded from there, unraveling the past, unraveling secrets that were best left hidden and causing damage in a lot of people's lives. One of the women was guilty but fine tuning it was a matter of deduction because the motives were fairly strong in a lot of the cases here.

Gilda launches her own investigation into the crimes as she has done before and this does not bode well for all. Her investigation finds more clues than the conventional one and this helps eventually to close the case. The element of romance was by the way, not contributing so very much to the overall story.

I like the bunch of women as they were all different and with strongly different characters. This certainly added a depth to the story. The storyline naturally involving several women was complicated and convoluted!

This was not a heavy read in the normal mystery murder genre. A very pleasant read.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of The Wild Rose Press Inc.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Living Spectres by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

I cannot understand how I had this book for ages on my Kindle and never got to it sooner.
This was an enchanting read.

The storyline was straightforward. Poppy is a journalist at a time when women did not do "such things". Teaching and nursing were the accepted occupations for women who had to work. For upper crust women like Poppy who came from a privileged background, there was no necessity to work and many people had no qualms about pointing this out to her.  Investigative journalism is her forte, not just the social and women's pages and this created a rumpus amongst even her male colleagues. Not all of them but she certainly ruffled a lot of feathers.

That is the story of Poppy. What she investigates and how she does it is immaterial to the fascination of this story. What is unique is that she has a ghost of a spy master who is a friend, a colleague and one who befriends, protects and advices her on all aspects of her career - in a professional and personal way as well. The fact that he is dead, is all part of the story and the world he occupies is one of ghosts and spirits not frightening ones but a separate world of their own. The fact that just a handful of people can actually talk to Holte is the fascinating bit. It includes Maestro - Poppy's cat who snarls and sniffles when Holte is around.

The story here is a convoluted one but it does cover the fields of women in journalism at the time, the ethics and rules governing the behaviour of women in society (horrible!) and the social setting of the time which was very interesting.

The interest in this story lay in the spirits of this story.

Very unusual book which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Smoke and Shadow Books. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

PROOF by C E Tobisman

I hadn't read the first book but this one was very good as a stand alone. A lawyer with a highly qualified techie background was an unusual combination to begin with. Someone who stood first in her graduation, was offered a plum job coveted by all and left it within a month leaves a lot of questions behind. Starting her own firm in a very small way, carving out a niche for herself is going to be tough.

Caroline is tough - separated from all family she feels the loss keenly. A mother who is disinterested, and a father who has made another life for himself with a wife who does not want to have his daughter in their life the only person whom she loves dearly is her grandmother. Her grandmother is old, lives in a facility and Caroline knows that her time has come. However, when she does pass on Caroline is left with a lot of questions and ones which niggle at her conscience.

Unraveling these turns out into a full time investigation which is going to leave Caroline stunned by the extent of the corruption, the machinations behind the facade of old time retirement homes and a mafia of people who will leave no stone uncovered, including murder to cover up their traces.

The story was excellent, plausible and very very readable. I enjoyed this one thoroughly.

Sent to me by Netgalley 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Secrets of Married Women by Carol Mason

A book full of twists and turns in three very ordinary marriages and the cliche is very right. No one actually knows what goes on in a marriage.

Three friends Wendy, Jill and Leigh. Friends for a long while. All married with families except Jill who has no children. Each one with a career (of sorts) and life seems to be fine. Cracks appear with one - infidelity but Leigh is determined to keep it to a fling and nothing else. Six weeks, and then it becomes the length of summer and then she is out and back to Lawrence and Molly. The heart does not work quite like that and Leigh becomes besotted. She cannot cut the tie and in not doing so involves her friends as well.

Wendy seems staid and set in her ways. Husband and two young boys. Jill and Rob - the sad fact of not having children has created such a rift in their marriage. The elephant in the room which cannot be spoken about or discussed at least by Rob. Ignoring the issue and being careless of his feelings have left Jill very vulnerable. This leads to a crisis in her marriage.

More would be spoilers!

Friendship taxed beyond endurance, revenge, maliciousness, despair, unrequited love all strands of the story or rather stories here. Very commonplace tales, meticulously told and things that happen to all.

A very good book which was a relief from me from my diet of continuous murders and very gory happenings.

Sent to me by Netgalley, courtesy of 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Three different genres being reviewed here. Think there is something for everyone!

Old fashioned slower detective work by two women. One a country soul and one a high flying adventuress as described in the story. Two missing women and a lot of innuendo, gossip and the fact that women wearing trousers are rather immoral.

A look at how life was for women in a time not so very long ago. Descriptive, slow paced but interesting detective work.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Kensington Books.

I was a bit skeptical about this one because though I love the Georgette Heyer type of story, this was a bit too far fetched.

We have a governess who is sort of abducted by a Lord, who of course has to marry her now that her reputation is in tatters (nothing ever happened as he is a gentleman of course). But she is an heiress hiding away from a wicked uncle who had her incarcerated in an asylum to get his hands on her fortune.

The story with the feisty lady, the distant lord was good but the story was a little far fetched for my liking!

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Escape Publishing.

This was a dark evil tale. Three sisters actually two sisters, one step sister. Two sisters trying to oust their father from a billion dollar worth company by having him institutionalised in a remote mental health facility.

Of course Dunbar being Dunbar (he never became a billionaire by taking the easy path) plans his escape with the help of an alcoholic comedian and succeeds. He is being sought by his youngest daughter for his protection because she does know that her two sisters are ruthless and would not hesitate to even murder both her father and herself (and this is what they eventually do) to get their hands on this vast conglomerate.

A fairly modern interpretation of King Lear, this was a tragic, sad tale of families split apart by greed and ambition.

Fast paced, descriptive, strong characterization.

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

The Copenhagen Affair by Amulya Malladi

Set in very modern Copenhagen, the travails of depression, marriage and image having to be maintained all combine in a very modern, funny tongue in the cheek very British sense of humour type of story.

Sanya was a very supportive wife. She not only had a very demanding job but she also took on the role of carer to her daughter and was a very supportive wife to Harry. When a sudden breakdown happens in office to the surprise of all the onus is now on Harry. His plan is to move across the world to Copenhagen where he feels a fresh start with new people is just the pep that Sanya needs. In this he is clueless as to what makes Sanya tick and though he thinks he knows how to handle women, he does not and this makes it a comedy as well as farcical at the same time.

Alongside Harry's ineptitude is Sanya breaking out almost falling in love with two very different people and being perfectly happy about it. She who never thought of being unfaithful or even different to others, is now open to ideas, options and new ways of life!

How these very disparate ways of looking at life are brought together finally in a spirit of understanding and  respect and how each character reverses their usual form to accommodate the other is very well told.

Another nice aspect of the story is that throughout the author gives you glimpses into life in Copenhagen from its restaurants and bars to the general way of life there in that city.  It added a lot of vibe and color to the story.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

After She's Gone by Maggie James

The story is not an uncommon one. A young girl found strangled. No apparent clues as to who she was meeting. Sixteen years old with no boyfriend and just girl friends the family is nonplussed as to what her secrets and her life was.

Lorie her elder sister devastated, thinking she should have seen the signs. Dana her mother not even beginning to comprehend what has happened and an absent father who doted on the dead daughter to the detriment of the living one. There is a partner and his son who adds complications and twists to an already rather complicated plot.

Unravel ling the mystery is slow as is expected because there are secrets that are not being told. Each one keeps them close to their chest, hoping that that secret is not relevant to Jessie's murder. A tragedy of most families in that they think that keeping it swept under the carpet, means that it will stay under the carpet. Not so in this case. Very relevant and would have aided a lot of people if it all came out sooner rather than later.

An interesting thriller/murder/psychological profile with a horrible twist at the end. Did not see it coming myself.

Sent to me by Netgalley, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee

This is a good read for all those wanting an insight into modern India. Comprising three stories all vastly different but all dealing very much with what happens on a daily basis in modern times.

We have a domestic cook and a cleaner in a middle class flat in Mumbai. The son returned from London on vacation and one who finds the class divisions difficult to accept, but you do not make waves when you are only at home one month every year! He is keen to know what goes on in their lives, what makes them tick to the consternation of his mother and disdain of his father. The two classes do not mix and sadly this remains so even in my part of the world. I must say there are reasons for this some good, some not so but that is the way of the world.

We then have a man with a dancing bear and this was something I found very very hard to read about. We have dancing monkeys in my part of the world and I hate that the government is not doing enough to stop this practice. It has almost died out but we still have them. Right now everyone here is on a rant about elephants and I do hope it succeeds. This bit about the bear was very difficult for me to get through.

The third story was a very good one - of a girl who escapes biting poverty to join a rebel movement to try to obtain justice and an alleviation of poverty for her family in someway because normal ways do not work. This was a hard hitting story and one that is relevant very much today in many many countries. The story was a sad one, one that was not going to end well but it was a realistic one.

Different social situations, different people, mainly dealing with the poor who are all trying to make a better life for themselves. Not a very comfortable read but a book that would make you think and be also happy that you are where you are, living the way you do live. It certainly made me think of being fortunate to live in Sri Lanka.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Girl Who Came Back by Kerry Wilkinson

It seems a common story nowadays. A child vanishes. But with the abduction the story ends. There is no ransom note, no child or body of a child found and the family has to try to get back together and most of the times it fails.  The pressure of a missing child who could have done what to prevent it happening, is very much part of every story of a missing child.

In this case Olivia Adams goes missing from a small English village. Everyone knows everyone else's business and Olivia and her family are known to all. Thirteen years pass and Olivia has returned. Her story is sketchy and she does not volunteer much information but she is welcomed back by her mother who has since divorced her Dad and is married again with a small toddler. Adapting to the new circumstances is not easy, especially since her step father and most importantly his brother dislike her intensely and her presence in their home. The brothers are a strange pair, they do everything together and one blindly follows the other. Olivia cannot imagine her steady, sensible mother getting involved with a moron like him but those are the circumstances to which she returns.

It is from here that the story really starts and this is the unlikely part that you would never guess unless you are really clever. I wasn't and I didn't!

The story itself is a common one, the twist in the tail wasn't. Read this one for a really good mystery read.

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

The Austen Escape

This was a definite twist and variation on a variation of the Austen reads.

Isabel persuades or rather manipulates her friend Mary to join her in an Austen reinvention stay in England, all expenses paid.  Isabel's dissertation is on Austen and to complete this she feels that this stay is necessary. Mary is an engineer, very clear cut in her views and ideas and thinks logically. This is really not her scene but she needs to get away from a unpleasant work scenario and her father too thinks this would be the ideal break. Two weeks is not the end of the world.

Everything goes on smoothly with the Regency clothes, the enactments, the food, the service at the inn. Until Isabel loses her memory, goes into a fugue state and forgets her entire past and actually begins to think that she is living at the time of Austen with the same mores and rules that apply then. Mary is on her own to deal with the situation and deal with it she along with the other participants do.

The complication and distrust set in when Mary half way through discovers betrayal by a friend who has been close to her and her family from the time they were tots and the work scenario becomes very much personal and in Mary's face.

The story was beguiling and interesting and different and totally different to what I've read before on JA variations!

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Thomas Nelson FICTION. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Mad for the Marquess by Jess Russell

Though I started this read initially thinking it was going to be a light hearted, sensual romance between a prim governess type girl and the dashing Marquess, this was anything but.

It came as a surprise that within the romance that evolved between an understanding woman and a much maligned man (Marquess though he was), the real story is about mental asylums in Britain where a soul could be thrown into and completely forgotton as it was an embarrassment to the family to have anyone even tainted with the slightest hint of madness as they called it.

Devlin was found covered in blood - and the murder was most gruesome. He has also lost his memory and so his father as a form of treatment has assigned him to Dr. Hives at his establishment to try to "cure" him and bring him back to sanity. In shackles, purged, bled and drugged Devlin does not know most of the time what he is, where he is or what he did.

The arrival of Anne Winton is the turning point in both their lives. She herself has had a very raw deal. Orphaned and then in an orphanage where she bore the brunt of bullying just because she was different she is aware that the slightest bit of showing that she is "different" would mean that she will be thrown out of this establishment as well. She has to tread very carefully amongst many treacherous staff and also try to effect some form of healing for its inhabitants. Her gift of healing can be a two edged sword and despite healing many, she can also be called out as a witch with its own horrors.

The story outlining treatment of the insane, the mentally depressed and also the homosexual was very depressing but factual. Sadly you realise that so many would have just faded away in these institutions forgotten by all and ultimately becoming raving mad through no fault of theirs.

The romantic part of the story however was quite interesting and very sensual which added a certain amount of piquancy to an otherwise brutal story.

Sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review, courtesy of The Wild Rose Press Inc.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Virtually Perfect by Paige Roberts

Coming down from having your own television programme and being a star of sorts to now being a personal chef - yes to a rich, spoilt, dysfunctional family is a bit of a come down and Lizzie is finding it difficult to come to grips with it. Anyone would. You have to deal with people with quirky tastes, some of whom are arrogant and rude and treat the hired help as just that. With Zoe the daughter of the house wanting to emphasise the difference it becomes awkward and difficult.

Lots of different personalities in this story (I felt one too many) but the storyline itself was a nicely crafted story. One young woman has to reinvent and recreate herself in the way she knows how to make an independent life for herself.

It was a bit bland in parts but generally a very readable story.

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

The opening line was evocative enough. I thought the ditty was just that but now I realise its based on true fact.

Lizzie and Emma are two spinster sisters from an affluent household. A father and a rather scheming step mother and a maid comprise the main characters. Brought up without any love or affection the two sisters are different but close by ties of blood alone.

Finding her father's body brutally murdered, Lizzie is almost clinical at the very onset. Finding her step mothers body as well just added to the cold bloodedness of the murders. Taken in for questioning eventually Lizzie is released but questions remain. Both sisters wanted their independence badly which was being denied them. Was that the reason for getting rid of the impediment which held both back. Lizzie and Emma sought different things but both knew that obtaining it was almost impossible.

Lizzie is almost child like in her mannerisms, thoughts and behaviour. But the fact is that there were two murders and finding out who did it was the crux of the novel.

A rather unsettling story which highlights once again that you never know the depths of the human mind, and what each of us is capable of doing or not doing.

For a debut novel, this was amazing.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Grove Atlantic.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

A girls murder is anyway going to touch lives. Family friends and of course the detectives assigned to the case. It is such a waste of life that there is always trauma surrounding it.

In this case you have to add obsession, voyeurism, stalkers and simple straight forward blinding jealousy.  A debut novel combining all these unhealthy factors should make for an interesting mystery murder and it does. It was not the average mystery murder thriller - it was a bit unsettling for me.

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood

Set in Melbourne in 1928 it involves a star cast of characters - the Hon. Phyrne Fisher, lots of orphans and destitute children picked up and rehabilitated, single pregnant women (discarded by all), vicious nuns of the infamous Magdalena Laundry and various supporting stars - all unique.

Phyrne gets drawn into activities which need active and urgent help. Girls keep going missing in Melbourne. Three heavily pregnant girls right now, and then there is a problem of young blonde women also disappearing from Melbourne. Only blondes.

Ramifications in both cases are quite complex. The Catholic Church holds considerable sway in Melbourne, getting access and finding out what happened to the girls once they enter the hallowed precincts of the convent is going to be tough. Finding out what happens to the blonde beauties is dangerous as obviously lots of money is involved.

Sailing into violent situations and finding a way out seems to be the way to go and Phyrne excels at it all. With verve, sophistication and lots of support she solves issues which have been a headache for the Melbourne police, especially since once solved she does not try to gain any credit or publicity for these wins. So its wins all around.

Loved the style of writing, the flair of Phyrne and the easy going style of the book.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Three short reviews, three different genres!

I'm way behind on reviews so thought I'd do three together.  My apologies to the authors as well as the publishing houses which sent me the books.

When Shannon realizes that there is a stalker in her life it is an unsettling feeling. It does not end however badly as what would one imagine. A black suv following you around does not sound good at all. In this case it is very good and life would change for Shannon.

A different kind of storyline, mystery in a woman's fiction novel. Very nice.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Kristin Dow.

A story of war during Napoleon's time and the epic battle of Waterloo as well. Set in the French countryside initially we have a young French woman thrust into the heart of the battle when her father, brother and a good friend are all faced with danger. She must try her best to avoid the dangers facing a single young woman and she now dresses as a stable boy to be able to evade the dangers of an unprotected woman in the midst of a war.

Romance and history combined very well, with a wealth of descriptive detail of the era and the setting makes this a very good book.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Manor Gate Press.

This was the third book in the story of Befu and Calli so I came into it blind.

Ivy is very protective of her blind sister Lily. She feels that she must do everything in her power to protect her. When Lily is abducted Ivy will do all she could to get her safely back.

On the other side Befu and Calli's long lost daughter is found but she is also caught up in the family saga of whether she should look forward or stay in the past.

An intriguing story especially from a female point of view, where the girls of this family are very much loved and cared for in the face and at a time where value for daughters is rather low.

Very interesting setting and a family story with all the ramifications of a complicated family where love and faith will prevail.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

An American Family by Khizr Khan

Immigrant stories have always appealed to me. My three children are themselves immigrants and every success story which is full of happiness and success brings a lot of happiness to me personally as well as I know it echoes my own wishes for my own children.

This story which propelled one family into prominence through the sad death of their son is no exception. Like most immigrants the Khans were hard working, god fearing, simple folk. The fact that they were Muslim was incidental to the entire issue. That their son was a Muslim who worked in the American forces and was killed in the line of duty is also a fact. That the situation was politicized for someone's gain is shameful.

The title of the book says it all. The Khans brought up their sons the American way, with strong beliefs in the power of justice and equality for all. The parents were strong supportive parents in no way radicalized or partial towards a single group of people. The story of their lives was of huge interest and the way the story unfolds is beautiful.

Mr. Khan Snr spoke up for what he felt was right and he was pilloried and his family was reviled for that. He must be admired that he still believes in what he said and stands up for what is right. From very humble beginnings in Pakistan to Harvard is no easy feat. He and his wife also brought up their children with very ethical and moral understandings and the memoir is a testimony to that.

I loved this book and the story of the Khans.

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

Dead Man's Chest by Kerry Greenwood

After reading a couple of Kerry Greenwood books, I've fallen in love not with the stories but the style of her writing.

I love the characterizations. All different. Phyrne Fisher private detective extraordinaire. Like Miss Marples mystery and murder follows her, even on holiday as in this case. Her adopted daughters with a very difficult history behind them, her companion the prim Miss Dot. Those she picks on the way
Tinker the odd job boy whom she brushes up and who now adores the Guvnor, the maid Mairie a waif desperate for love and attention and all those who meet her on her journeys.

The story itself is a by the way to the life, descriptions and characters in the story. Their day to day life and how it unfolds around a mystery is even better than the mystery itself. The detail of everyday living, the differences in each person all put together give one a delightful read. Something reminiscent of Delafield in a way, with of course a mystery or a couple of murders thrown in for good measure.

Love the writing style and only disappointed that there are no more I can request for from Netgalley.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press.

At Wave's End by Patricia Perry Donovan

I like food so I did like the idea of a setting in an upmarket Manhattan restaurant where Faith works as a chef for relentlessly long hours but is blissfully happy in her job.  Her mother however is another story - always falling for a hard luck story and keeping her on the straight and narrow has been Faith's responsibility.  Now just a couple of months away from getting a pension Faith faces a quandary. Her mother in one of her infamous lottery schemes has actually won something. A bed and breakfast inn, which looks idyllic on the coast of Jersey Shore.

Knowing very well that her mother will get taken in, Faith is determined to accompany her mother to the Inn and then get her to turn around and return. The whole thing falls apart when Nature (like the present tornadoes, hurricanes and bad weather) turns the Jersey Coast into a nightmare and Faith and her mother Connie are both stuck - one by choice and one by circumstances. Overnight Faith's dream job has disappeared in the storm damage and she decides to wait behind till things change, hopefully for the better.

A story of a fragile understanding between mother and daughter developing into a more solid relationship, lots of romance and stories of human nature and survival in the face of impending crisis is the basis of this story.

The settings helped the story along.

With lots of cooking and chefs involved this is a book for those of us who like food.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

On The Run by Izai Amorim

A young man of South American ancestry is on the run for crimes he did not commit. How he is going to evade not just the Feds and the Police who are on the look out for him, but most importantly Colombian drug dealers who think he has skipped with their consignment is even worse.

In a series of cross country runs, ingenious thinking, good network of friends and supporters and sheer good luck he is able to survive. In the process he has to change his way of thinking, give up on his family, take on a new identity and think of a career change as well. The changes are very far seeking from his present way of life but he realises earlier on that there is no point in living in the past and what should have, or could have been.

The story was interesting as it gives you pointers into the way of life of different ethnicities and how people are able to survive in a melting pot which is very often hostile to either one or many of them. Not always doing the right thing Pablo who also changes his name to suit the occasion lands on his feet, makes his money and finds the girl of his dreams as well.

The story has a happy ending though it did not seem like that it will go that way for a very long time. Easily told of a life of crime and how it sometimes pays!

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Izai Amorim

PS I just returned from my holiday in Paris and Switzerland. Both places magical in different ways. Just trying to keep my feet on the ground now!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Before I go by Catherine Cookson

A candid story of a rags to riches story of an extremely prolific author - forthright and truthful to the end.

Catherine Cookson's life was hard from the word go. An alcoholic mother who played on the child's emotions, a friend who played her out ruthlessly not just whilst living but even after she was dead (keeping letters in a place where she knew it will be found and hoping that it will hurt and destroy her marriage) and the worst of it all undiagnosed illnesses which would have killed off a less strong willed person.

The illness alone was enough for a biography. It was continuous and Catherine Cookson talks about it so matter of factly it is unbelievable. Even depression after bouts of miscarriages did not mar her spirit, and the jealousy of peers and those around her at her literary success did not affect her generosity of mind. The enduring love and support of her husband is the beacon of light in this story and it shines throughout.

This book was discovered after her death and its publication is a wonderful story of a very brave woman who fought astounding odds to gain the literary position she did.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Sultan and the Queen by Jerry Brotton

Elizabeth I was always a women to be reckoned with. She would done very well in the present times, ruthlessly deciding what was best for her country and her country alone. At the time, she was fiercely loyal to her country and decided that any decision she took was vital for the development of England alone.

Having been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, she was now in a predicament how to maintain her trade links and more than maintain, how to further develop them with the Sultan's Empire. She knew vast amounts of money could be made through trade which would in turn help England immensely.

Establishing trade missions with Morocco, Iran and the Sultan established English supremacy in the trade world for years to come. She had to do a delicate balancing act with these missions  and make sure the alliances went from strength to strength.  Everything Eastern  become fashionable and in demand and this was what established England as a trading power right into the twentieth century.

For readers of history, this was another fascinating read of a powerful Monarch who balanced being a woman and a ruler in medieval times very well. It showed it could be done.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Penguin Group Viking. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Valley by Helen Bryan

The Valley (The Valley Trilogy #1)

This was the only cover I could find and I read it in a Kindle variation.

A coming of age story apart from the vast history it covers which in itself was a story. Sophia is an heiress to a tobacco plantation in Virginia and this is the only asset she has left after she finds herself left bankrupt in England. With the help of a French man who is very reluctant to go with her, lots of slaves both free and indentured she sets out to claim her land.

The road to Virginia is hard and troublesome but Sophia is determined that she and her band will make a life for themselves. How they set up camp, marry (all of them) have families, make a settlement and town of a barren landscape is very descriptively and told in detail. The history of slavery, the treatment of slaves even free men was horrendous and was distressing to read about even years later.

The story goes on and on and could have been trimmed a bit. Maybe the telling of it was necessary for the plot but the main story of Sophia got side lined as numerous other characters also had a fairly large role to play and each of their stories added to the main.

It took me a while to get through this book and I felt bad because it had been on my Kindle for a very long time.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.