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Friday, April 28, 2017

Death at St. Vedast by Mary Lawrence

Sometime since I read something set in Medieval times so this was a good change for me.

Bianca is an unusual woman for her times. A herbalist a profession which can border on the dangerous depending on the mood of the people. She could be branded a witch for which the gallows is the option and so she must be careful of what she says and how she dispenses with her salves and potions. To the despair of her husband John she is also outspoken, easily draws the eye and attention of folk and this is dangerous for both of them.

In the midst of a series of unusual deaths, where the victim turns to being gibberish, to being almost epileptic in their symptoms with no previous disease the population wants an easy victim. From the husband of one, to the simple pastor of a parish who could not do enough to keep a person alive the victims are drawn from all sides - both the victims of the illness as well as those deemed to be guilty of being part of the illness.

Bianca realises earlier on that though isolated and the deaths are physically far apart from each other, the symptoms of death make her look for a common denominator in all. Through a series of deductions this she is able to do. The difficulty for her however is to be believed - a woman's powers of deduction and intelligence are very low rated amongst the chauvinist males of the times and getting her voice heard is going to be very tough.

The characterization of Biana and John was well balanced. One timid and one forthright, the others were typical of their times. Interesting plot as well.

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Good Time Coming by C S Harris

There were several bloggers who highly recommended this author but for other stories. This is the one I was able to get and it did not disappoint. My knowledge of the American Civil War is very scanty.  This story filled in the historical gaps very nicely set against abolition, slavery and the very unnecessary loss of lives which followed.

The story of Amrie who has only got memories of her father who enlisted when she was ten years old. Left in the care of a mother who was a very strong, and unusual woman of the times Amrie noted and came to her own conclusions on many happenings in her world, but she did keep them to herself. She grew up too soon and was a very mature fourteen year old who understood the vagaries of war, of men and hardship. She was a capable helpmeet to her mother and to those around her and she knew when to be discreet because indiscretion meant even a loss of lives. The story also highlights the unwritten heroes and in this case heroines of war of which little is known.

The prejudices towards African Americans was so stark, the sheer inability of white slave owners to even acknowledge them as people was very marked in the story. That even a pastor would condone slavery albeit actually encourage and endorse it, quoting from the Bible in support was incomprehensible.

Controversial, disturbing but it makes you think a lot on every distasteful subjects.

Sent to me by Severn House Publishers, courtesy of Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Sound of Thunder by Taylor Caldwell

Edward was one of the children of an immigrant. Typical to his age, he just wanted to make a living for his children in the best way he could with the help of his wife and this they did in running a modest delicatessen. Heinrich was more than content if he could nurture his children's talents and they were an extremely talented family. However, the sacrifice had to be the eldest who had to work hard, never had a childhood because he became the support and mainstay of his family.

How a lifestyle and a way of thinking turned a boy into a hardened man, with tunnel vision which ultimately cost him the love and warmth of his siblings who drained him dry financially, but did not care a toss for him and his well being is this story. A family saga, fairly twisted by twin themes of greed and envy which ate into the psyches of some of the siblings and which led to simmering undercurrents throughout the story.

This was not a comfortable read. You felt for each of the characters - some very strong, most weak falling aside over the overpowering personality of Edward who was dominated and controlled by the vast financial empire he built. That Edward found love and understanding in his wife and children was the saving grace for Edward.

The story also highlights the rise of a middle class in America, moving from small time businessmen to powers that will be in the financial world.

Very interesting, powerful characterizations and a family rags to riches story very descriptively told.

Sent to me by Open Road Integrated Media courtesy of Netgalley for an unbiased review.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Private House by Anthony Hyde

Set in Cuba with very interesting characterization, it brought out the best and the worst of a failing economy where normal citizens are so deprived that they resort to every imaginable scam possible to find a buck. Alongside that is the story of a rather naive woman, trying to find the young lover of a friend of hers to give him a legacy that has been bequeathed to him.

It was a conflicting story and at times the numerous characters confused me as to what their role in the story was, and how it was going to end. Two women one is Lorraine seeking the elusive Amado and then there is Mathilde a journalist looking at the Cuban revolution through an exiled American, a former Black Panther.

Since my knowledge of the Cuban Revolution was scant, and even less knowledgeable about the role of America in the whole scenario, I found the historical snippets very good reading and enjoyed this. The complications brought about the sordidness of poverty and trying to rook everyone who came within their sphere, left me feeling a bit dismayed, but that is hard core facts which cannot be denied and cannot be sugar coated. When life gets tough, you've just got to survive and this is one way of doing so.

I was still left dissatisfied at the end of the story as its pretty open ended but I did read it right to the end!

Sent to me by Endeavour Press through Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Melancholy Virgin by Annabel Laine

This was an interesting take on a Regency romance.A Lord Moriston, Bow Street runners and a murder of a young lady of easy virtue. All linked to the quiet, well behaved impeccable (upto now)Secretary of the said Lord.

Knowing that his Secretary cannot be in anyway involved with the murder, though he could be definitely involved with the young lady in question, Lord Moriston's quest is to very quietly without the risk of scandal sort the intrigue and find out who exactly murdered this lady.

That course of action puts the cat amongst the pigeons. There is a lady who is looking after the murdered woman's interests and she is determined to take Francis the Secretary down! on the other hand there are people who are very keen on making Francis the scapegoat for their actions and this makes for a very interesting murder mystery.

I liked the read very much. It pulled me out of my reading slump!

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Another Day Gone by Eliza Graham

Set against two separate time frames and three different story tellers, this was a story of family secrets and the irreparable damage that can be done by keeping such secrets. Sara and Polly brought up by their grandfather and Bridie their nanny after the tragic death of their parents are very different as siblings. Though as children they cling together against all outsiders, this they feel as their duty after their parents death. It is a kind of loyalty but this begins to be tested the sooner they grow up.

Very early on in the story one realises that Polly has discovered something amongst her grandfather's papers but she is not letting on to Sara what she knows. It causes a slight shift in their feelings and Sara though she knows it does not know the reason for this. This is one part of the story. The life of the two sisters from the time of their childhood to young adulthood form one part of this book.

The other part is that of Bridie who has been the mainstay of the girls' lives.
She too is hiding many secrets and her secrets cover the earlier time frame but the effects are felt by all today as this is what has given her, her taciturn airs.

Bombings of the 2005 era in which Sara is effected as against the Coventry bombings of 1939 where Sara's grandfather was convicted are part of the many strands of this story.

It is a complicated read with no fairy tale ending. It is hard hitting and realistic and a book which keeps one's interest going till the very end.

My first read of this author. Will not be my last.

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How Will I Know You? by Jessica Treadway

Joy was a model student and till very recently a model daughter. Discovering her body in a local pond and finding out that she was strangled was a shock to the entire community. Unraveling threads of her life over the last few months was surprising to all.

Told by four different people from four different perspectives, the stories are different and their views of the dead teenager vary. It shows how little we know those we live with and again reiterates how little we know our own children. How clever we are at subterfuge and how cleverly we can hide what we feel, what we do and what we are going to do.

The story was rather slow to unravel at the beginning but it picked up mid way and the actual discovering of the murderer was surprising (to me at least it was a surprise). The truth was a jolt for all.

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Murder at Cleeve Abbey by Anita Davison

I did not get to the first in the series. This was the second book but it did not detract from
the story or my interest in the book.

Flora is now very happily married but has just received disturbing news of her father's death
in a riding accident. Going back to the house where she lived and worked as a governess, she finds the circumstances of her father's death strange, and even stranger that a lot of people want to pass
this off as a tragic accident when the signs for Flora are that it is anything but an accident. Getting
even her husband to accept her point of view takes some doing but gradually she unravels a plot
that proves her right.

Finding the culprit however is going to be a tougher struggle against many odds and when you begin to uncover family secrets you are also going to be very unpopular.

A very nice mystery murder cleverly untangled.

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