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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd

This was a classic rags to riches fairy story, a touch of romance, the wicked step mother (here a scheming aunt) and all the pointers to a nice read for a weekend.

Isabel and her step sister Lizzie are at a rather disciplined school where the possibility of dreaming is not encouraged. They are expected to be pragmatic and practical about their future. An arrival of an unheard of family, being welcomed with open arms into a family seems like something out of a fairy story. A comfortable life but why is her aunt pushing her into a marriage so soon, almost on her arrival.

The family has a lot of secrets, and there is a lot of untold stories surrounding them, Not just them but also the environment they live in. Separating facts from fiction is rather hard for Isabel and she has to depend on the only family and security she knows. Whether it will end well or not is something even she cannot imagine. All she knows is that she does not trust the man chosen for her by her Aunt, and refusing her aunt in this is going to create friction and dissension in the family.

A very well told story with several different elements. Not just romance, but also mystery and myths.
I enjoyed it very much.

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

Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate

In between reading very modern crime fiction/thrillers/mystery murders et al it is very nice to slip in a British Classic Crime reading. It does have a slower pace which may not appeal to all, the characters are a bit gruff and rough round the edges but even at a slower pace the way the British criminal justice system works is good reading.

A woman is on trial for murder of the most horrendous kind - a child for whom she was the guardian. The twelve jurors are all having their own perceptions, ideas and views on this murder. How they act, react and interact during the trial is this story.

Throughout the story apart from the murderer, we get little drawings of each juror and these are as good as the main story. This is a very different crime read.

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Body in the Ice by A.J. Mackenzie

There were many things here to like. There was the historical fiction angle, there was plenty of mystery and murder, it was also very much a family saga coming down the generations and then there was the setting between two countries and the time of 1796.

A remote village in Romney Marsh and a very old manor house is being opened up again for its owners. With the excitement of a new family coming in, there is apprehension when a body is discovered of a young man encased in ice in the horse pond. Subsequent examination shows that this is in fact a young woman and to find a black woman in this part of the world adds further to the mystery.

The history of the family who owns the house is complicated to say the least. There are branches of the family that are not even acknowledged, and the present head of the family would like it to stay that way. They did not count for the magistrate of the area - a vicar and someone who has a keen eye on seeing that justice is done, whatever the rank. Our vicar cum magistrate has to come up against the highest echelons in the land who do not want to upset the political and diplomatic waters in London, irrespective of what their sins may be. Along with his good friend the widow Amelia, Harcastle unravels a plot which will not just endanger their village but also the whole of Britain at a time when it is already in crisis.

The family saga which is historical was very good. Characterization and plot was excellent and the pace of the story was quick and fascinating.

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Strange Things Done by Elle Wild

Strange Things Done

The setting was a first for me. A town that during the winter freeze will isolate itself due to the freeze. No flights in or out, the river freezes and everyone who hasn't left is just existing till the snow ends and the freeze ends.

Jo Silver has started out as the editor of the Daily Mail in this town in the Yukon region. She obviously has not researched the place very well and a lot of surprises mainly unpleasant face her from her first day onwards. Her involvement at the very onset with a rather smashing, handsome man does not help matters or her reputation. Secrets abound and like a lot of small communities, every person wants to protect the home grown product against the outsider. Also a feature of small towns, everyone knows everyone else's business even before it happens as Jo finds out shortly afterwards.

Several murders later and cover up from the Editor to the Mayor of the paper apparent, Jo is no further in her investigative journalism to at least uncover what is happening in this small town that warrants repeated murders of its citizens.

Held my interest throughout and I could not solve the mystery till the very end!

A good debut novel.

Sent to me by Edelweiss for an unbiased review. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave

Sunshine, yes Sunshine (sister of Rain) I know I know, is having a dream spell. Guru on a you tube cooking channel, looked upto by millions as the authority on how to improve your life, let alone your cooking skills, is now headed for a fall.

Unveiled as a fraud and overnight losing her top spot, her support base, her friends, her home and most ignominiously her husband she has no option but to go where she said she will never go back.  Home to a sister who dislikes her and wants her nowhere near her daughter Sammy. Home is not the same, it has been sold in the meantime and her sister remains bitter and antagonistic towards Sunshine.

Sunshine is literally an epitome of her name. She believes very sincerely, that with just a few flips she can turn her life around and get back to what she was - or at least close. It is a steep learning curve when she realises the public are fickle, her friends are out to take over the space left by her and move on and upwards. This goes for her husband too.

This was a good read for family situations which go tragically wrong due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, the policy of you telling one lie to cover another and independent women who are now stretched to their ultimate.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore


The late 1700s in Bristol, England was a time of great change. Events in France were disturbing and would affect England as well. Lizzie Fawkes is a spirited, young woman who is married to John Diner Tredevant. She has to tone down her style of living and her behaviour as he is conventional and does not like anything out of the ordinary.

Lizzie's mother has been unconventional, a writer of ideas and an idealist. These trends are not popular with Lizzie's husband and Lizzie finds herself trying to tread a middle path keeping the peace at home, and finding solace and love with her mother as well.

There are parallel conflicts throughout the story. Tredevant himself is hiding secrets of a horrendous kind and it is bound to come out at some time. He is also greatly in debt having over extended himself. It adds to the tension in his household. He is at odds with Lizzie's behaviour and this creates another side story as it were. Lizzie's mother's life was itself complicated and her having conceived and had a child in her forties added to the tension in the story. The survival of the baby and nurturing him created another tense situation for Lizzie.

I found the different strands of the story a bit too much to assimilate though the setting of the story and the events in France were very well itemized.  The characters of Lizzie and her mother were developed but the story did not take off very well from that point.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Library of Light and Shadow by M J Rose

The Library of Light and Shadow (Daughters of La Lune #3)

Delphine Duplessi is more than just another young, talented artist.  She is gifted in another unique way. Her shadow portraits are not the normal portraits people are used to seeing and in fact it is with some trepidation that most people would employ her to do their portraits. She unveils hidden secrets, crimes and past sins which everyone may not want to even acknowledge let alone let others see them. She is not deliberately drawing people like this but that is her talent. She uncovers past desires, incidents and these portraits are highly valued, and highly feared.

It is with one such portrait which leads to the death of a person that leads her to leave New York and return to France to her family to recuperate and to also decide on what she is going to do next. Art is all she knows, this is her livelihood but she does know that it is a dangerous skill that could get a lot of people into trouble, the way it already has.

Her family the female side are witches of a kind. Each female imbued with particular abilities and strengths but all to be used for the good of people. It is 1925 and Paris is awash with believers in the occult and sciences who are all looking for answers for a France so badly effected by WWI. Delphine herself is desperately alone having never recovered from a love affair which she herself ended when she saw an image into the future and thought that her presence in his life would be eventually his destruction. She has never got over her love for Matthieu and coming back to France would she feel put him again into her orbit and whether she will be strong enough to walk away a second time is doubtful.

Told in descriptive detail so that a newcomer to the art of the occult would understand this is a magical story and one also of love and survival and family. A genre the magic that is, is one I am not very familiar with but it was a fascinating read which kept me literally spell bound throughout the book.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs

The Bishop of Greyle was an unassuming, quiet man. Hardly anyone knew his surname even. Then why would someone obviously hate him so much that they would push him off a cliff. Why was his body so emaciated to the point of being declared starved.

Inspector Littlejohn has a puzzling case in front of him. Embarrassing that no apparent clues in the Bishop's own life could lead to solving the case, the Inspector has to look elsewhere as to why the Bishop was done away with.  The investigation is puzzling but it leads to certain unconnected leads and how to connect these leads to give a coherent picture is not easy.

The story was a bit slow, not a fast paced mystery but the series of deductions and connections was well placed.

Interesting take on a mystery.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Summer at Hope Meadows by Lucy Daniels

A simple story set in Yorkshire with a vet family as the background. Both parents being vets, Mandy herself is one and her boyfriend is also one. Its very much the same interests amongst all. However whilst Mandy thinks and works on more compassionate lines, Simon is more money conscious and you know very early on that this is going to cause friction and differences later on.

Unable to decide whether to expand where Simon wishes to set up a modern surgical practice or move back home and expand her parents existing practice into a practice cum refuge is the problem Mandy faces. The work of a vet in a rural practice seems different from an urban one and this was good reading, especially for any lover of animals.

A coming of age for Mandy with animals very much in the forefront of the story made this a very comforting read.

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Son of York by Amy Licence

I had been reading too many mystery/thriller/murder books and needed a change of scene. This piece of history gave me all I needed and more. I will be keeping an eye out for this author definitely in the future.

King Henry VI is the monarch at the time. He is unwell and seems to be more suited to a spiritual life. Sad that kings cannot decide what they want to do. He seemed so unfit to be King of a country that was always in turmoil and needed his attention and care. His wife the French queen was not a popular choice and her backers were those who were looked at with suspicion. The Duke of York was a man who felt strongly over the King's role in the country and looked initially to be protector of the King against elements who were dangerous. Over time, with the continuation of the King's absence from Court and the wider influence of the Queen, he sought the position of King for himself.

The story of the Duke of York and his two sons and their rise in fame towards the position of King forms the basis of the story. Told in detail with a great deal of history accounted for, this book is a must for those who like English history.

I enjoyed the telling of it, both from the personal angle of the House of York as well as from the angle of the greater overall picture of the rise of the House of York.

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chains of Sand Jemma Wayne

I had not read a book with a Middle Eastern background for a very long time and this one with its cross culture mix. Jews in England, Jews in Israel, Muslims in Israel and the attitudes of one community towards another in an area of heightened tension like Gaza or Tel Aviv was an interesting read.

Udi wants a new life. Something that he can be comfortable with. He is Jewish to the core but is struggling with life in Israel. He wants to go and work in London.  Daniel lives a very comfortable life in London as a banker, he wants to move to Israel much to the horror of his family and his girl friend. Why give a comfortable secure life for the certainties of war and being called up as a reservist at any time.

Both men trying to find their place in the world - both very close to their families but seeking something that they are not very sure what.

This was a complicated novel but it may be a question that a lot of young people face. The restless ones anyway.

A book that set you thinking whether we are ever going to have peace in the Middle East.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The General's Women by Susan Wittig Albert

The General's Women

This was a book which combined the best of many genres. History in great descriptive detail and then the person behind the great character - his life, loves and the women he fell in love with.

General Ike Eisenhower was a character. Leading from the front, he was successful combining the Allied forces with American troops to halt the German Nazi tide in Europe. Success came to him slowly. Very slowly. For sixteen years he languished almost forgotten and then the rise and the promotions came very swiftly. It took him to London first and then to Europe and Africa. His wife of very long standing was very set in her ways - she thought she would not be able to travel, she thought she had a weak heart, could not take any stress, decided not to bring the army and his professional life home at all. Mamie Eisenhower sounded a very selfish and a self centred woman. The General getting attracted to Kay Summersby in London seemed fated from the beginning. Kay was young, attractive and determined to do her job well. She did it too showing extreme bravery during the Blitz and carrying out all duties entrusted to her, including driving the General around London in blackout conditions.

Their relationship was doomed however as he would never be able to get out of his marriage for both political and personal reasons. Kay knew this. She had been warned about it but she lived for the moment and loved him very deeply.

The poignancy of their relationship is very well told in this book. You feel sad, happy, overjoyed but the sense of an ending comes is always there. Kay came out of this badly, Ike also but not as badly. He had options open to him which he took becoming President of the United States.

For lovers of history, this is a must read. My knowledge of the American involvement in the War was sketchy. This filled out all the blanks. From a very deep love story angle, this was a classic.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Independent Book Publishers Association. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Finding Secrets by Lauren Westwood

Seemingly straight forward but uncovering secrets by the score. One lead to another and Alex's world was turned upside down. What was a normal occupation - manageress of a country home and expanding the business, being the adopted daughter of a very nice set of middle class parents and then you sort of ending up having royalty ancestry, lots of money and a very complicated background.

It was a bit difficult for me to follow the various strands of the story as it was very involved but they all came together very well. The mystery and the ancestry was one section, the romance was another and they blended well.

The setting of the old English manor, the bits of history adding to the interest in the story were good and kept me going throughout the book.

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Three short reviews. Three different genres.

Three  short reviews. Two different genres!

Based on Jane Austen's Emma this Emma has also got the match making gene along with a Knightley in the background and a Weston who likes a bit of dalliance. There are lots of other characters in this charming Southern background book and the old fashioned style of story despite its modern setting echoes the Emma of Jane Austen.

What I really liked is that our Emma here had all the faults of the original character and more! she was not a good two shoes but someone who liked to have her own way and who thought she knew it all and was superior to lots of those around her. This characterization made her much more easier to like in the book.

The setting in the US I thought could detract from the rural village setting of England but it was not so. It seamlessly blended into the story and worked out very well.

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

Guy is a very successful landscape architect. Sybille his wife is administrator cum excellence. It is she that does the nitty gritty in their business. An argument like any other, on a deserted road Sybille gets out of the car, storms off and is never seen again. Two people do not accept the story and file a report against Guy. It is Guy himself who is his own worst enemy. His laid back attitude, his telling of the facts in an extremely factual way, does not endear him to authorities or friends alike who do not know what to make of this.

The resolution was not for me, quite right. An unresolved ending may have been better but the writing, the story told in chapters by different people all added interest to a mystery.

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

The Lighthouse Keeper

Living in a beach cottage would be idyllic for Laura who has come on a holiday to do a series of paintings. She did not envisage anything other than a peaceful time - not for a holiday romance as she was just getting over a break up and certainly not for ghosts and hidden spirits trying to tell their story.

Though this was a ghost story, it did not come across as eerie or creepy. Maybe it was the setting and maybe it was the relationship that developed between Laura and Ben who are two very likable characters. The town itself, the characters in the town all add interest to this story and it being a very short read was enjoyable in itself.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

the lying game by ruth ware

Four girls, friends from the time they were young teenagers in a boarding school in Salten have remained friends though their lives have taken them in diverse paths.  They have not met for years but when a message comes from one of them "I need you" it draws them all back immediately despite each one having responsibilities which they cannot shake off easily.

A secret they share buried so deep that should it get out, consequences will be very tough on all of them. They could lose their careers, their families, their marriages and their lives. Arriving in Salten the four try to come to terms and to organise the identical story that they should come up with, in case the worst scenario happens. Unravelling slowly first through a dead sheep left on their doorstep following up with unsigned notes, they know that they are not the only ones privy to their deadly secret.

The setting of a very closed village where the four girls are even decades later disliked and shunned, the isolation and general desolation of the village all add to the scenic gloom where you know that sooner or later things are going to come to a climax which is not going to be good for any of them.  Descriptive of the marshes and the tides and the seas around Salten are so good that you can feel how much the environment added to the story's telling. For someone who has not seen this kind of scenery, it was very evocative of the dangers and the treachery of these tides and seas.

This is not the happy reunion of school girls meeting after seventeen years. This is a dark and dangerous period in their lives. It was as good as watching this in a movie. You felt the atmosphere pull you into the story.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Two short reviews. Donna Leon's Earthly Remains and Bette McNicholas's Farragut Square

For me its both Brunetti and Venice that draw me in. I know the setting will be Venice - drawbacks and all and told from the point of view of an actual resident, not the romantic version of tourists and then there is the Police matters told in minute detail with an Italian flair! Irresistible.

This time the setting is out on the islands and adds another dimension to this author's work. A sudden drowning of a seasoned seaman - is it enough to be suspicious or is it just one of those freak accidents. Brunetti decides to investigate with surprising results and sequences which goes back decades to uncover a tale of corruption, hidden stories and very present day problems.

As usual a fabulous story.

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

Lindsay McCallister is almost you could say undercover in the Washington investigative division. She has earned her stripes the hard way but no one knows exactly who she is and she intends it to stay that way.

Her entire focus is on finding out about the abduction of Tricia Avery who went missing from the streets of Washington years ago. Determined to find out more, Lindsay sets out on this mission not knowing how dangerous it could be to herself as well. Till almost midway no one in the department knows that Tricia is Lindsay's sister.  The element of romance brought into the story by the handsome Dragani for me, took away from the depth of the story which was a good one.

Highlighting a common feature of missing people, this was a good well told story.

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I'm Still Here (Je Suis La) by Clelie Avit

Elsa is thirty and after a mountaineering accident, in a sort of irreversible coma in hospital.
Thibault accidentally barges into her room to avoid going into his brother's room as he is also
in hospital after a major accident. The story unfolds from there in alternating chapters told by both parties.

Unknown to doctors, friends and family Elsa is able to hear all that is spoken around her but not able to communicate by even a blink that she is functioning on one level at least. It is only Thibault, the absolute stranger who believes that Elsa is able to hear and that she is not brain dead.

A debate on whether to turn life support off is supported by the medical staff at the hospital but her family is dithering on the decision. Will Thibault's intervention help to save Elsa.

A little too bold on Thibault's part and a bit fairy tale ish the book was nevertheless engaging and unusual.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased read, courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal

It is a bit of a lopsided family. Julia after being devoted to her daughter Gwen for five years, where she has been the total and only focus of her life, has fallen deeply in love with James. James brings to the mix his quirky son Nathan. Then there is Iris and Phillip very much part of Julia and Gwen's lives. The loyal and supportive parents of David, Gwen's father and Julia's husband who died five years ago.

The story traverses the pitfalls of such situations - and the frailty and perverse nature of humans who are selfish and only see their situation from a point of view which is advantageous to them and them alone. Gwen cannot bear that her mother is happy and not just happy but incandescently happy with James. She cannot believe it either. She feels abandoned and alone. Nathan is sneering and rude, disruptive and a mess. That eventually two teenagers living in one house will develop feelings for each other is inevitable, but not obvious to the two parents who live there. When it does happen they are shocked out of their wits and each one secretly hates the other person's child. How is a loving relationship going to survive in the midst of so much secret antagonism. Then Iris and Phillip - Iris strong willed and Phillip very mild who springs the biggest surprise of it all.  The impact on all is felt and on Iris it is an avalanche of feeling, repulsion and revulsion!!!

The story told from the three different units of couples was complex, interesting, varied and kept me on the go from the first page to the last.  Human nature at its best and at its worst.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

the good at heart by Ursula Werner

The Good at Heart: A Novel

I've been reading many stories set with a WWI and II background but this one is from a different perspective altogether. We hear of the persecuted and the persecutors but this is from a civilian German outlook, forced to live their lives under Hitler and for some members of the family only beginning to realize what was actually happening much later on in the day and then the utter horror of knowing that their men folk knew, understood and followed orders in the persecution of their fellow neighbours and others.

The story resulted as the author herself discovered papers regarding her great grandfather and this piqued her interest. This story is based on a family now living on the border to Switzerland, just because they wanted to escape the bombings of Berlin. Whilst Edith the mother was blindly believing in whatever the media turned out, her daughter, her adopted son and a pastor of the village knew otherwise. Clandestinely helping out sending Jews to the other side Marina and Johannes needed not to be the focus of attention. This was not to be. It is also ironic that it is children who on the one hand played games of make believe like all children would, believing that the enemy would come over and spy on them and kill them all would endanger an operation which would lead to disaster.

The arrival of the Fuhrer in this little picturesque village sets off a series of events including an attempted assassination which goes awry leading to arrests and immediate execution and a general uproar in the village.

For me the highlight of this story was the gradual awakening in Edith (the matriarch) mind that her husband too was part of the atrocities that took place and this was something she could never imagine. For her, her husband was a good man and that he could be responsible for such things was beyond her imagination, belief or understanding. She naively believed that the Jews were sent on trains for resettlement and that her neighbours and good friends were now happily setting up home elsewhere. The horror of the whole Holocaust hit her later.

The story was a mixed saga of War, family and the need for survival amongst a great many risks. That fathers would give up their lives even for the sake of family is very well outlined in this story. It must be one that would be replicated in hundreds of homes in Germany of that era. It must also be a very hard legacy to live with.

A very moving story.