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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.