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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. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ANNA by Niccolo Ammaniti

This kind of futuristic genre is generally not in my comfort zone and for the greater part of the book I was not quite there with the author on this one. This does not detract from the story line at all. A future that was very bleak where Anna as the elder sister was totally responsible for her younger sibling, foraging for medicines and food in a world that was so so hostile and predatory, took my breath away.

I was always on edge during the story, not knowing what fate would befall both children and the depth of responsibility Anna showed as a result of a death bed promise to her mother was amazing.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Canongate Books.

No One Hears But Him by Taylor Caldwell

It has been sometime since I read a more spiritual book so this made a good change!

A Sanctuary has been built in very pleasant surroundings. It is meant to give solace and meaning to life to those who enter. One is for people and one is for the person who listens.

Those who come here are those who seek answers as to why life has burdened them with sorrows which are not bearable. People want answers but the answers they get may not be the ones they want.

The novel deals with the idea of faith surmounting all issues. Not an easy concept to understand or accept. This was why it took me a long while to finish this book. It had to be read slowly.

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Accident by Dawn Goodwin

A nightmare for any couple. A tragic accident tears a young family apart. A loss of a child in such circumstances rends this family apart and does not bring them any closer. Months go by and the situation does not seem to improve at all. The mother seems to revert to a state of not acknowledging the absence of her child and the father tries to reach out to her and at the same time, has no support for his own overwhelming sorrow.

Enter a new friend who supports the mother, brings her out of her shell and forces her to live again.
It may not be the ideal way to go about things and old friends are shut out firmly, mainly because they remind her too much of the past. As the days go by Veronica seems to drift deeper and deeper into a morass of her own mind which seems to make sense only to her. You wonder where it is all going to end and you also know its not going to be good.

The ending of course is with a twist in the tale. It is that which supports the whole story.

It was a sad story, very emotional, very good characterization.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Double Cross by David Hegarty

Selling whiskey was going to be a slightly shady but accepted practice in Dublin. Denis Murphy was doing a favour for a friend and was going to be slightly richer for it. He did not know that he was in for a major double cross and that he was going to get involved with seasoned criminals.

From whiskey to guns, to blackmail, several murders, violence and a lot of aggression the plot develops with Murphy now trying to save his skin, that of his mates and Melissa whom he has begun to have feelings for. Getting it all together in the face of powerful criminals is not going to be easy and Murphy has to use his wits against a very rich cartel of criminals who would stoop to anything to get where and what they want.

On top of it all the police are now on his tail as they feel he is a person that they are interested in. Trying to get out of the situation alive, along with his friends is his aim. Managing that feat needs ingenuity and cunning.

A bit complicated with several strands of different events coming together, the characters were well developed and the story built up very well.

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Scarweather by Anthony Rolls

I was on a roll of reading British Crime Classics and one blogger recommended this one. I really should get down to noting the name of the blogger but somehow in the excitement of quickly requesting this from Netgalley, it invariably slips my mind.

It is 1913 and John and Eric visit the famous archaeologist Teisby. His house is situated in a remote but beautiful part of the northern coast of England. The description of the location was one of the finer parts of the book, along with the varying weather, the tides and how the sea and the surroundings govern the lives of the people in this story. The story of course is a crime which went hidden for decades.

Told slowly and steadily over a long period of time, the tragic disappearance of Eric and the events both leading to it, and subsequently with the discovery of the actual truth were a climax of the story.  It was a bit unnerving to read that the discovery of the truth was going to remain hidden, only known to a very few and though the discovery was important, it went hidden into the history of those involved.

The characters were very well developed, the description of the locality was beautiful and the storyline fascinating.

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Right Side by Spencer Quinn

The Right Side

LeAnne has returned from Afghanistan mentally and physically scarred. Her rehabilitation will be long and slow but she is an impatient girl  LeAnne also knows that her memory is shaky and faulty and that chunks of what she should remember as being imperative to her well being are missing.

Losing her room mate suddenly whilst in hospital triggers LeAnne into going back to the same town from which Marci came. Arriving there the distressing news that Marci's little girl has gone missing adds to the trauma. Adopted by a dog who is determined not to leave her side and who becomes more a guardian angel than a pet LeAnne now embarks on a dangerous mission, almost as dangerous as the Afghan one which she came back from. Will this finally help her to fill in the gaps in her memory and make her more at peace with not just the military but herself.

A very descriptive thriller combing the combat scene of Afghanistan alongside the peaceful little village in Washington State the contrasts in the two scenes could not have been more apparent. From the people inhabiting the two scenarios Americans in a village and Americans in the military the contrast was huge and added to the heightened tensions in the story.

The story moves in fits and starts, very much like the character of LeAnne who has moods of her own. It did not deter from the flow of the story at all.

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

PS On an exciting note, I leave for Paris tomorrow with family. I have dreamt of this for years and though it is sad that my husband is not joining me on this trip, I am determined to enjoy this as much as I can. From Paris we journey to Switzerland and then return back to Sri Lanka on the 25th of this month.

Image result for photos of eiffel tower at night

Monday, October 9, 2017

the darkest lies by Barbara Copperthwaite

This is my second read of a child going missing in about two weeks. Its a bit nightmarish.
There is no parent who hasn't done what Melanie Oak did. Just a few metres away from a friends house, her daughter Beth insisted that she can walk alone. Despite a few misgivings Melanie gives in to what would be her dismay and anger with herself for life.

Thinking that Beth is at her friend's house Melanie and her husband have a quiet evening. Jacob goes out to meet a friend to share a spiff and they relax at home. The next day Melanie rings the neighbour to find out what time Beth will return to find out that Beth never turned up. This starts the spiral into the actual story of what went wrong.

Beth was hiding secrets. She was a perfectly normal teenager who had a good relationship with her parents, her teachers, her friends in school. She just was a teenager and she had secrets that she did not want others knowing. Unraveling the last few hours of her life, unraveled an entire village's secrets and this lots of people did not want done. It led to very ugly incidents and it also led to Melanie feeling so very alone. She felt that her husband, the police, the neighbours were all embarrassed by her violent feelings about the slowness and apathy of the investigation and that she had to take it upon herself to uncover what she felt was suspicions about the various villagers. Some of her suppositions did have a valid base, some were baseless but she did put a lot of people's backs up as a result, including that of her husband in the process.

This was an emotional read. You felt for the hopelessness of Melanie. What would one do in such similar circumstances. It also makes one think that we never actually know what teenagers get upto! we should not kid ourselves that we do.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Bookouture.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Teacher's Secret by Suzanne Leal

I went into this book imaging the worst. It was a bit of a let down (the secret that is). The setting however was very good.

A school in middle America and it is a small town. Everyone knows everyone, no secrets it seems and even if there are skeletons in the cupboards, all are protected from outsiders. A new Principal for the school coming for just a year puts the cat amongst the pigeons. She is new school full of ideas and wanting to keep to regulations and procedures, whereas the school seemed to have got on very well in its old fashioned style of looking after both students and teachers alike. The children are happy, the teachers are happy. What more could one want?

All hell breaks loose though with the new Principal and the sad part is that she thinks she is doing the correct thing in rigidly following the letter of the law. The heartbreak and dissension she brings about is immaterial to her as long as procedure and regulations are followed. Detailing small town life and the quirks and eccentricities of its inhabitants, the progress and lives of the teachers as well as the students, the author draws in a lot of color into this story.

For me the secret was nothing much, it was the activity of the school, the town, the inhabitants that made up this really good story.

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Kerry Lonsdale's - Everything we Keep & Everything We Left Behind

Told in two books I am doing the reviews consecutively so that there is structure. I myself did not know there were two books till I got the first book and then went on to the second.

Aimee loses her husband, she then opens a restaurant and keeps it going at the same time disinterested in men and anything else. The story opened slowly and continued at a very slow pace because it was totally focussed on a single character and the  subject was restaurant, food and art.
It did not quicken the pace at all and maybe it should have because what was to follow was anything but ordinary.

For me the book was so so rather lukewarm.

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

Now this one was a complete contrast with the first book. The characters were full of spirit and the storyline was very good.

Continuing from the first (which is a must read before you get to this one) we continue our story of Aimee and how she is still trying to come to grips with her loss.

James (the husband)  has metamorphosed into Carlos and the confusion and anger is overwhelming. He is not dead and coming to terms with that is alone huge and naturally dramatic. Equally dramatic is that he is now the father of two young sons. Aimee's life after six years has also moved on. She is now married and mother of a young son.

Trying to put all these different and jarring elements together is not an easy job. Making a story of a convoluted mess is also not easy but this author does it all and presents a rather dramatic story with a lot of sexual overtones rather well!

Definitely enjoyed the pace of this second story as against the first book.

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

When the Bishop Needs an Alibi by Vannetta Chapman (Amish Bishop series)

When the Bishop Needs an Alibi (The Amish Bishop Mysteries #2)

I just finished one book set in a National Park and now this one was set in Colorado in an obviously scenic area famous for cranes - 20,000 of them visiting the valley and the area which is a refuge for these gorgeous birds.

Different however from others is that this is my first read of the Amish community. It was certainly educative. The Bishop who is the chief character in this story leads his flock by example and is a very strong and good man. Not aggressive by nature at all, more by dealing in kindness and compassion he is nevertheless for the second time involved in an unsavoury murder. Finding a young woman's body in the bulrushes is bad enough, but when he has associated with her before her death and when so many clues linking him to the young woman is found in his house things are suddenly not looking too good for not just the Bishop but for his people.

Uncovering the small clues left behind is a laborious process. With the lack of telephones, computers and anything which would be considered imperative for an investigation the Bishop and his small coterie of supporters unravel a much bigger scheme of corruption which involves people at very high levels.

Very simply told as suitable to the theme of the Amish, this was a very pleasant read.

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Just Between Us by Rebecca Drake

Just Between Us

Four friends in suburban America. Some of them have secrets deeply hidden and despite meeting and talking about their lives, not everything is known to everyone.

Misreading a situation and acting upon it takes them into dangerous territory. Now they have a secret that is dangerous not just to themselves but to their careers, their professional lives are at stake and their family security has been jeopardized. Trying to cover up in the midst of an investigation is not easy. The women are easily startled, and the tricky thing is that they all have to come up with the same story. The detectives are suspicious but there is nothing to tie them into the crime. Nothing on the surface that is. Until a letter arrives to each of them, and blackmail begins.

How four amateurs decide to deal with their blackmailer, and to what extent they would go to safeguard their lives - even to kill and cover up again, is not beyond their scope. How it ends and dovetails very easily is also very plausible, very believable!

The characterization was spot on. Each woman different, looking at life differently and thinking they knew it all. Most of them were supercilious thinking they were a cut above the others, despite being friends. Most of them were judgemental. All common flaws in humankind but the need to survive beat all odds and this all had a common goal and interest in maintaining.

Story was quirky but held my interest throughout while it unravelled slowly. I always thought someone was going to blurt out the truth or get caught down the line but they managed to pull it off.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of St. Martin's Press. This was a book I had wished for and I got lucky!

Monday, October 2, 2017

When I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi

This story set in Sweden in a small town was something a bit different. A teacher wife, husband painter twin sons. Middle class background. Normal family life. And one day the wife is attacked so brutally in the school car park that they fear that she will survive.

Whilst Anna is in a coma, the story of the various characters emerge and as usual life is not what it seems to be. Erik her husband is questioned but there seems to be no reason to link him to the attack. Her colleagues at work are all in the clear and whether this was a random attack or one that was pre planned has the police in a quandary. There seems to be no hidden factors in the attack and no reason for her attack.

Investigation slowly unravels several strange happenings. Daniel a student is obsessed by Anna. He wants to leave his drunkard mother and go and live with Anna in her home. He looks on Anna as part lover and part saviour and Anna does not know how to handle the situation. At the same time, Anna has fallen in love with a woman in the same town and intends telling Erik about it and leaving him. Erik himself has had a one night stand with his sons nursery school teacher, who is now trying to blackmail him into continuing the relationship. The woman with whom Anna has fallen in love has a husband who is having a relationship with Daniel's mother but it is only a sexual one and when he realises that his wife is going to leave him for Anna, he is filled with hatred for Anna. So there are several suspects coming out of the woodwork with reasons to hate Anna. The suspects are also in many ways linked to each other and the police have to work on each suspect separately.

The police work seemingly very slowly to unravel the mystery because though Anna has survived the attack, she has lost her memory so she is unable to help them with the investigation.

The Swedish background and setting was a different kind of read for me and one I enjoyed. The story unraveled very slowly. I felt it could have been slightly quicker but it did not detract from the evolving story.

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