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Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Girl I Used to Know by Faith Hogan

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


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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 30, 2017

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen



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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Corsican Woman by Madge Swindells


The Corsican Woman




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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Hunting Grounds by Katee Roberts



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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne


Beautiful Animals



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

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two mystery murders. Both totally different!



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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 9, 2017

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




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






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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 7, 2017

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




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

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

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

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

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








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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dandy Gilver A Most Misleading Habit (mystery/murder)



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Devil in Beauty by Heidi Ashworth






The Devil in Beauty by Heidi Ashworth





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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Lost Sisters by Lindsey Hutchinson



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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova












The Shadow Land


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

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

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

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

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

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