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Friday, April 20, 2018

King's Company by Jessamy Taylor

I avoided history of the mid 1200s because I inevitably found them humdrum, hard and relentlessly harsh.

This story was harsh all right but the story telling of William, a young second son of a manor who dreamt of becoming a knight, fighting wars, winning glory but was in reality only looking after the pigs or helping out in the fields and who always was hungry because the harvests were always never quite enough. He knew the responsibilities for his brother Richard were enormous but Richard never sought adventure the way he did.

A chance encounter with Phillip who he rescued and offered a safe stay with turned into something much much more. It would have been eventually described as treason but the road to it was so full of adventure, so convoluted and so much on the off chance as it were that it could be considered a fairy story!

Going from being part of the Kings most ardent supporters to turning against the King was never in William's mind. The fact that it happened, that it got the blessing of his family was beyond belief and it was a story that kept one enthralled from beginning to end.

Not in the least humdrum, not boring but an adventure throughout!

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs

I liked that the story was similar to current events and that it was incorporated very smoothly into a story.

Sunday Night is ex cop and ex military and is now retired. She was very good at her job and that is why she is being sought by a very arrogant millionaire to find out what has happened to her grand daughter who she believes is alive after a bomb explosion which killed her mother and brother.

Working with her twin brother Gus who is bubbly and smooth, the opposite of Sunnie they have very few clues to start with. However, the people who start sniffing around obviously know more of what Sunnie is looking for and this is all she needs to start.

Through clever deduction and sound intelligence work Sunnie begins the hard job of trying to find Grace. Whether Grace wants to be reconciled with her grandmother however is another story. Having to confront her own past whilst looking for the girl is another thing that Sunnie did not account for.

Fast paced, going back and forth between the girl and Sunnie's own schemes you had to concentrate on this read to know what was going on.

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Love of Finished Years by Gregory Erich Phillips

Pre WWI immigration was obviously as hard as it is now. Escaping Germany a family arrives in the US. Elsa and Sonja are the two girls in the family and they know that in their father's eyes they are second best to their baby brother. With the sudden death of their brother, their father disappears never to be seen again and Nina and the two girls are on their own.

Not knowing the language and finding everything strange to them, they settle down to a life of unrelenting struggle and hardship. All find jobs of the most menial kind but Elsa knows that if she is to get ahead she has to get some form of education and how she is going to get this whilst working full time is hard. But she perseveres and gets it. A fair knowledge of English to begin with and this along with her determination to succeed pushes her slowly but surely out of the bottom rung of the ladder.

Whilst her sister Sonja finds happiness in marriage, Elsa who is a plain girl plans her career as a maid and a translator for German documents for a businessman. The encounter with the family carves out a relationship with the teenage daughter of the family and it is this that is going to be the pivot of Elsa's future. Going through WWI and America's entry into the war turns everything around for Elsa who finds herself without a job, finding a German surname a hindrance of the most dangerous kind and being a maid to the frivolous Dafne who just whiles away her time waiting for the war to end.

The story of Elsa ends happily fortunately (I was glad after all the years of struggle!). Full of detail about the immigrants plight in this time and the sweat shops and factories in the cities and then descriptive of America's entry into the war the story was a piece of history as well as a family story.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Sillan Pace Brown. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak

In the 1950s Louisiana did not seem such a nice place to be. Unless you were white and then in control. Ginny was a child of a prison guard who met an untimely end. His killer went to the electric chair for his murder but Ginny knew that there was something off about the sentencing.

After her father's death and many intervening years, Ginny herself finds work in the prison where her father worked as a cook. She is particularly renowned for catering to the last meal of those on death row despite there being a lot of opposition to the practice. Her relationship with the present warden of the prison does not do either of them any favours and both Ginny and Roscoe finds themselves on the receiving end of a lot of antagonism and resentment.

Ginny is an emotional, sensitive soul. She also feels that justice should be done and the penal system of the time does not mete out any justice for those in the system. The brutality of the guards or the fellow prisoners and the supervisors turning a blind eye to all that went on under their eyes was something Ginny could not tolerate. That she had no recourse and no one who would listen to her was of course another story.

The story was harsh, unrelenting and unforgiving. It did not leave room in the system for someone who was kind or who was wanting what was right to be done. It also obviously is also a piece of history as this may have been the system of all prisons in the country at the time. Unpalatable but true.

I enjoyed reading this story despite its harshness.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Forgotten Children by Anita Davison

Part of a series and part historical fiction and part of an ongoing detective series, Flora has been involved with the police before in a murder investigation. Now Flora is married very happily to Bunny and has a very young baby. Very comfortably off her existence is far removed from the extreme poverty in London and the sleaziness of the slums.

An invitation to St. Philomena's Hospital for children depicts a different side of the fate of children in London to both Flora and Bunny. Children from deprived homes who are sick and who because of their very poor environment have very little hopes of recovering from some of their ailments. Meeting the Matron in charge of St. Philomena's also brings a spark of a memory to Flora though it is only later that she can pin her thoughts down to a specific one.

Following the visit Flora and Bunny are notified that young children are disappearing in London and no one seems to know where they end up. The police are not bothered by it as domestic issues like this at the time are considered family matters and cannot be prosecuted. No one seems to be willing to listen to them, that something is amiss specially since the Salvation Army seems to be involved. The Salvation Army works amongst the poor and are seen as just one of the few organisations trying to help the poor.

With the help of friends and the support of the Matron Flora and Bunny unearth a plot of far reaching ramifications. Trying to save the children taken so far puts them all in a dangerous situation from which they manage to escape with the children intact and all the villains under lock and key.

The book was an eye opener as to living conditions amongst ordinary folk in London in the early 1900s. It also highlighted the indifference of the rich to these conditions and very few took any interest in trying to help in any way possible. Those who did were not looked at very favourably either, which I found strange.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Aria, this was a very intriguing read.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Harriet is orphaned with no relatives and all alone and now desperate. She has got in with a loan shark who is charging her exorbitant interest and has now threatened her with violence if she does not pay up.

A letter from a solicitor asking her to attend the death of a grandmother she did not know about and the possibility of an inheritance is so tempting that she makes the tedious journey with her last bit of money to find out what it is all about. She knows she is not the Harriet Westaway that the lawyer is talking about and on meeting the three sons of the late Mrs. Westaway she is very quickly able to find out what the entire story is about. It seems obvious who she is but it is only at the end that the tables are turned and the actual story is revealed.

The idea of manipulation from beyond the grave is paramount in this. Malice and sheer devilment as it were to cause tension between the three sons when it comes about that Harriet is the main beneficiary. The eeriness of the surroundings, the fallen down dilapidation of the house and the eccentricity of the housekeeper all add to the heightened tensions of the story that builds to not one climax but a couple.

How the past can eventually catch up with you, secrets hidden for decades come out, and a rectification done which could not be done when alive but better late than never is slowly told and in stages. The story is full of suspense because you do know revelations are going to come about but they come from unexpected places and this is what interests the reader the most and keeps their interest going.

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Letters to Iris by Elizabeth Noble

The blurb spoke about love in all its forms and this is perfectly true of this story. The main thread is the immense affection and love that Tess has for her grandmother Iris who was the mainstay of her life in the absence of her mother and father and they were a mutual admiration society for each other. Until now. Iris has early onset dementia and moving her into a home is the only option available.

On top of it all Tess's own relationship with Sean is on the rocks with an unexpected pregnancy and going back to mother is a reluctant option considering their strained relationship over the years.
This is the beginning of the story. Unraveling further we have other characters coming into the story inter twining with the main character Tess and bringing with it parallel love stories of differing kinds. A marriage on the rocks after forty years, the difficulty of getting into a new relationship, the beautiful relationship unexpected and not often found between a mother in law and her daughter in law and the late blossoming of love and respect between an estranged daughter and mother.

It was a story with a very happy ending which was expected but it was not silly or fatuous. It made for a story well told.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Penguin UK Michael Joseph.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Bats in the Belfry - a London Mystery by E.C.R. LORAC

I love the British Library Crime Classics because all the detectives are clever, suave, well balanced men. All the sergeants are heart of gold, plods who do their work wonderfully well. It all evens out in the end! This one was a corker.

Bruce was a promising literary star, but his shine fizzled out and he was overshadowed by his wife Sybilla who after some years was fed up with him but was never willing to do anything about his philandering ways. Not that she was a saint either but each knew that the other would not make the first move.

When Bruce on a sudden overnight trip  vanishes without trace and his suitcase along with his passport is discovered in a decrepit building the search commences. Everyone of his friends are suspect, his wife cannot be found for a couple of days and there are various suspects which keep popping up. But then they all die, and those that are suspect have extremely good alibis because they have been coshed and are in hospital!

A very convoluted drama of a murder mystery with the reasoning behind the murder so complicated that it is almost genius if he could have pulled it off.

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

A very minor traffic accident set into motion a train of events unsought by three very different
people. Richard a human rights scholar, Evelyn an undocumented immigrant and Lucia  who is Richard's tenant and a visiting lecturer from Chile.

Moving from events totally disconnected initially with the discovery of a murdered woman in the boot of the car Evelyn is driving, the story moves from Brooklyn to Guatemala to Brazil to Chile.
To human trafficking, the reasons behind why people like Evelyn move to a country which is so alien to her that it is doubtful that she will ever adapt to being in America. The stories thrown up by the past are very vivid, very emotional and traumatic but they are the reasons why people will always try to escape regimens of violence, forsaking their own country for the wide unknown.

Handled well and fairly forthrightly all the topics in the story were not for the faint hearted but it goes to the heart of the story.

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

Friday, March 23, 2018

You Were There Before My Eyes by Maria Riva

You Were There Before My Eyes

A story of a very unusual, strong woman for her times. The first half of the twentieth century.

Seemingly without a romantic bone in her body Giovanni just wanted to get out of her time warp of a village in Italy. She knew the only way out was marriage and when one came her way, even though she was second or third choice of the handsome Giovanna she grabbed it determined to make it work.
Arriving in a land totally alien to her, she somehow managed on the arduous journey by sea to America to learn a bit of English or American as described, just to get by.

Her journey, her marriage, her adaptation to the American way of life and to the ways of her husband who though not unjust was bordering on the indifferent would have made another woman unhappy, In Jane's case (which was the name she chose) she felt that this was her path and just made the best out of it.

The story runs along the lives of this immigrant family along with many other immigrants in the same community surrounded by Hannah and Fritz whose boarding house they all land in before they find their separate ways. It is Hannah and Fritz who act as surrogate parents to the differing men who have all left their homes to find their fame and fortune in America.

Apart from the family saga, the story of Henry Ford is of paramount importance in the story. From its initial beginnings to the very end of this story, Henry Ford created a workforce of such loyalty amongst these people that could I think never be duplicated. They believed in him implicitly that all he did he did for the good of his people, and his country.

This was a fascinating story very well told. Descriptive not just about the immigrants and their daily life, it was also descriptive of the Henry Ford story (which was very unknown to me!).

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Beyond the Pale by Clare O'Donohue

The story alternates between Hollis and Finn who have now reached an impasse in their relationship at home. Professors and both highly involved in their careers, their marriage is in the doldrums. An  opportunity to find a rare manuscript sees them haring off to Ireland.

This is where the story gets both interesting and a bit long winded. Trying to get the manuscript is several bad guys and gals and these two innocents are like lambs to the slaughter. They know it is not as simple as it sounds - a twenty minute operation is the description originally but escaping the not so good guys at every turn makes one skeptical.

Descriptions of Ireland was one of the highlights of this story on another note!

Good story, but it seemed to get side tracked on the way.

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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Paris Still Life by Rosalind Brackenbury

The story of a forty year old married woman who troubled deeply by the death of her father, leaves her husband in America behind much to his bewilderment and arrives in Paris - is it to find herself as they would say, to meditate on life and its meaning and what does she eventually hope to do. Right now she is lucky as she has an apartment (owned by her father) and enough money to live without having to work.

Almost immediately she is beset by memories of her father when she sees not once but three times someone who is the image of her father. On all three occasions she is unable to reach him, being either in a bus or somewhere where she cannot access him. On top of that she meets up with her father's mistress whom everyone apparently knew about other than her. This comes to her as a betrayal though the lady is someone whom Gaby begins to appreciate, but slowly. Many characters from her father's hidden double life keep appearing and each one shows another facet of her father's life which he kept well hidden from his wife and family.

Gaby taking on a lover adds to her questions. Where is her life going to take her? Back to her American roots and her husband or to a new life in Paris.

Despite the varying nuances of the story, the story reads as a formal novel. The characters were multi faceted and added to the enjoyment of the story. At the same time it seemed slightly unreal and removed from day to day life as it happens. How many can move from the expected or unexpected death of a parent, move continents, leave a husband, start even temporarily a new life without any clear understanding of where this is taking one.

I enjoyed the story very much. It was the unreal, removed from real life bit that I enjoyed the most.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wild Justice by Priscilla Royal

The year of 1282 was tumultuous for both England and Wales were at war. The Prioress Eleanor is on her way home and she has been requested by her brother to hand over the rents and a private letter only into the hands of the Prioress Amicia and no one else. Though curious, Eleanor proceeds to do just that.

What greets her at the Mynchen Buckland Priory is chaos and disturbance. The Prioress Amicia has been accused of murder and is under detention and the new Prioress is not very pleased to either accommodate or have Eleanor on the premises. To add to the complications it is her brother Damien who is the preceptor in charge of the brothers who live alongside the priory. The reception of the small party is tense and it is apparent that they are not welcome at all.

On realizing that Amicia has been wrongfully detained Eleanor is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and it is only by pretense of being unwell that she is allowed to stay. Unraveling the mystery of not one murder but two under cover of ill health and not being able to move out of her room she is dependent on the faithful Brother Thomas and Sister Anne to bring information to her to solve the puzzle.

I did not think that I would appreciate this mystery murder set in medieval times. Surprisingly I did. The setting and the story of the priory was an interesting one and did not weigh too much on religious aspects but on the story itself. Murder is murder whatever century it happens and solving is very much a procedure of investigation and deduction. Very nicely put together.

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

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

It is 1920 and for girls like Louisa the future is bleak. Daughter of a washerwoman her way out of this drudgery is service in a respectable house. Nothing more than that. To add to her misery, her mother is ailing and her uncle who should have been a protector in the absence of her father, now seeks to sell her to the highest bidder as he has got into debt.

Louisa escapes his clutches and ends up in the Mitford household. A large house with a number of children, Louisa is happy for once in her life. She is content with her lot, feels safe, is not hungry and thinks that life is good. However she and Nancy the eldest daughter of the house gets entangled in a murder of a lady on a train and despite not wanting to get further involved knowing that her word will have no hold with the gentlemen of the law, both she and Nancy who will not give up get into the case more and more. Investigating independently and being much more successful along with Guy a railway police young man whose thoughts are also ignored by the higher ups they more or less solve the case with good deductive skills and thorough slow investigating.

This was the first novel in the series and I look forward to the next. This particular story apart from the murder and solving of the crime, depicted in great detail the lives of the aristocracy and the lives of those who lived and worked for them. It also showed the position of women at the time, which is not saying much.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for my unbiased review, courtesy of St. Martin's Press

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Safe with Me by Amy Hatvany

Safe with Me

Two mothers linked by a strange link. It was a bit too slick to be true but at the same time the story was so well put together that I did enjoy my first read from this author.

Emily is Hannah's much loved daughter. Maddie is Olivia's much adored daughter. Emily dies in a tragic car accident and her organs are donated by Hannah to various receipients. Fast forward Maddie is just weeks from dying if she does not get a new liver and it is timely for want of a better word when Emily's liver becomes available. The two families live in widely disparate worlds. Hannah is a single mother, successful and upto now managing very well on her own. Olivia is in an abusive relationship and though on the surface having everything material available to her and her daughter, she knows that this is not the way to live. She has no choice though, with Maddie so ill and needing so much she in a situation she cannot get out of.

The story goes on and with their eventual meeting, accidental and not contrived and the eventual realisation of who each person was.

The near death escape by Olivia from her husband is the catalyst that sets her and her daughter free  and it is a happily ever ending of a kind though for Hannah her life has changed completely and will never ever be the same.

Emotional but not overpoweringly so read. From the Glen Waverley library and my last book from them till the next time I come to Melbourne. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Fragile by Lisa Unger


My second read of this author though I have been having her on my TBR for quite a while.

The setting is almost village like though it is just outside New York City. Everyone knows everyone and everyone's memories last a lifetime and beyond.

Maggie has returned to the Hollows and is a psychologist. She is very anxious about her clever son who seems to have drifted into a life of aimlessness, not even thinking of his future and college. His girlfriend is not someone she would choose for him but she is trying desperately to be fair and not comment, Her disappearance puts the entire family on the spot though her son Ricky's alibi is rock solid as he was at home throughout. Ricky's father Jones is the lead detective on the case but Maggie sees anxiety and vibes not quite right in her husband.

Multiple characters and a story and a mystery murder that went almost unsolved thirty years ago is remembered when Sarah a classmate of them all went missing, and then later her body was discovered raped and abused. Why these two very different cases are linked and how they are linked is the story in this book.

Long hidden ghosts in one's past dont stay hidden and in this case they certainly dont. It will tear apart the entire town, outlining a past that all of them will prefer to remain hidden. Though dormant it has affected all of them and not in a good way these past years. For some it is a relief that it is now out in the open for others it is the end of the road for their lives as they knew it.

Well written with a wide cast of characters all different, this was a good read.

Courtesy of Glen Waverley library.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope

As usual Joanna Trollope gets to the very crux of the story very fast. Dan is in the Army. He has served a very troublesome six months period in Afghanistan and is now home with his mates. Life should be happy. His wife, he has twin daughters and an older step daughter all look forward to his return but why cant they all settle down.

Alexa is a very loyal dutiful wife. She has battled on alone, never complaining but she now begins to feel that his batch mates and the Army is his top priority and that the family trails behind. Dan himself feels caught up in a triangle of how does one choose priorities. A mate returned with him, his wife leaves him, there are those mates who have been badly injured who have to be rehabilitated, there are many social obligations within the Army itself which have to be included in his life and he himself feels that things are getting away from him and he and his wife are increasingly isolated, without communicating what they actually want from each other.

Alexa wants a fixed home, she wants Isabel her eldest daughter to be happy (she isnt), she wants them to be a family again without the third wheel of all of the Army crowding in. How does one cope. Dan's father, grandfather , Alexa's parents are all anxious, all wanting to help. All know that without an intervention the family is going to split.

The story of relationships and mainly the need for open lines of communication are so manifestly important and it is this that for me was the focal point of this story. Dan is a soldier foremost and now he must try to be a civilian father and husband whilst balancing his career as well. Tough calls.

Another book from Glen Waverley library.

Friday, February 23, 2018

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I See You

Like lots of us Zoe Walker had a routine. Walk a certain route, stand at a particular spot at the train station to get into a particular compartment as this was she felt the optimum position for her. Like all of us it was now in her subconsciousness. Little did she know that she was being watched, till one day idly picking up a discarded paper, her own face stares up at her from a classified advert. Almost an escort service, except for the fact that Zoe was no pin up babe, just an ordinary mid 40s lady intent on looking after her two almost adult children, get out of a marriage and solidify the relationship she has just embarked on.

Going to the police with such a weak story was laughable, the photograph was grainy, was old and did not look very much like Zoe. Discovering that many women unknown to them were featured on these adverts and with the murder of one of them, made the police sit up and take notice. Was there a link by such widely different women. The only thing that linked them all was that they used the underground railway. Could such a tenuous link be a key in solving murders, opening up a can of worms of the magnitude that the London investigators had not envisaged.

Identity theft, cyber crime, money laundering and eventually murder were all on offer. Trying to track down the mastermind behind the operation was almost impossible. With names popping up from the Channel Islands to China, from Russia to London itself it kept winding and winding upon itself until Zoe herself walked into the most improbable scenario with unexpected and scary effect.

Going alongside the story was the life of Kelly, the Police Sergeant and her life and then there was Zoe trying to balance it all and protect at the same time her loved ones. How even the simplest scenario can be misinterpreted very badly is shown up in the story over and over again. We think we have got to the end and the mystery is solved but it is never solved. Even after someone lies dead and bleeding.

A thriller with detailed police procedures for those of you who like it. I did.

Another good choice from Melbourne's Glen Waverley library. Sadly the holiday is almost at an end and there goes my huge choice of reading material!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Die for You by Lisa Unger

Die for You

An author who has been on my TBR for a long time. I knew I'd find her here in Melbourne!

Looking at Marcus and Isabel you'd think they had it all. Love, riches, happiness, good careers and a bright future. No one knew that it was a carefully built facade at least by one of them and that the bubble would burst and how.

Marcus kisses his wife and leaves for work. It is the last time she would see him as she knew him and her nightmare begins. Missing from work, he does not return home, his movements cannot be accounted for and then the assaults begin. First the office is trashed, three innocent staff killed and Isabel is badly injured. Then the apartment is trashed and it looks very personal the way the damage is inflicted. All her accounts are wiped out and Isabel finds that the man she loved and married is definitely not the person the Police are seeking. Going back to his Czech roots involving mafia, crime, corruption and betrayal of every kind Marcus is the very scum of the earth betraying at every turn not just women who fell in love with him but also his own family.

Told by alternate characters and then going back to Isabel as a narrator the story  holds your interest and unwinds slowly showing how cleverly and seemingly so very easily a person can impersonate or rather take over a character of another person and then live out a lie with clever, meticulous planning.

The damage left behind by the calculated actions of Marcus is immense. One feels for his victims
especially Isabel as she is the only survivor of his demonic plans.  You only hope she will recover and learn to live again.

I have already dug out another book from this author for my next read. This one too came from Glen Waverley library in Melbourne.

Friday, February 16, 2018

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

After the Funeral (Hercule Poirot, #31)

An ailing man in his sixties dies. Not unusual. At the funeral a sister blurts out 'but wasn't he murdered?'. Everyone shushes the sister who always even as a young woman spoke out of turn and blurted whatever she came up with. Leaving behind a substantial estate, no one wants to create waves as they each will inherit a substantial share.

All of them need the money, are desperate for it and everything seems to above board. This utterance however puts the lawyer who was also a friend on guard and he seeks Hercule Poirot's assistance to just check and verify that all is right. The murder of Cora - the sister in a hatchet attack the very next day however and the subsequent attack on her companion makes it obvious that someone is trying to hush and hide something.

In typical Agatha Christie fashion slowly unravelling the murderer is done methodically and carefully if somewhat slower than more modern mystery murder stories.

Vintage Agatha Christie courtesy of Glen Waverley library, Melbourne. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore

Secrets of the Lighthouse

After reading mystery murders and thrillers this was a good change. A family saga going back just two generations but worlds apart.

Lady Madeline Trawton is very much the aristocratic lady of leisure in London. With three daughters, two married into the aristocracy, her aim is to see her third also well settled. Ellen however is the changeling. After a serious think about her future, she flees her family and her fiance an retreats to Connemara where she knows her mother originated from and to her only sister. On arrival there Ellen discovers so much of the Bryne clan including the fact that her mother not only had a sister but several brothers.

Connemara works her magic on Ellen and this is where the romance starts. Apart from the romance which was a startling one, we also have a spirit of a wife who is very real and who does not want to let her husband and children go and who is clinging to be part of their lives despite it being five years since her tragic death.  Her death sudden and mourned by many is shrouded in mystery and innuendo and though the case is closed there are many who point the finger at her husband as a murderer. Ellen falling in love with Connor was not part of the equation on not just the part of the Bryne clan but also by the spirit of Caitlin who now tries to devise a method of keeping the two apart.

This bit of other worldliness coming into this story did not detract from the story itself. The family saga with its involved relationships, the love story of Caitlin and Connor and its tragic end, the love story of Connor and Ellen are very well recounted here,

The story of Ellen's mother and the two different worlds she inhabits and the reasons why she acted the way she did also unravel slowly and forms almost another story within the story.

This was a book I picked up from Glen Waverley library in Melbourne.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Choir by Joanna Trollope

The Choir

Reminiscent of Susan Howarth this was a change from the usual family sagas of this author. Here too human relationships formed the keynote part of the book but shadowed by the Cathedral, the Bishop, the Dean and the choir.

The cathedral is facing financial hardship. Like all old stately buildings maintenance is key, this has been neglected or not seen and the end result is an enormous outlay needed. On the other hand the choir has been an integral part of the Cathedral but it is also costing a great deal of money. The inhabitants of Aldminster are divided into two camps. Is the choir an anachronism in modern society, catering for an elite few who appreciate the music that is not appealing to everyone. Then there is the Dean's house. Massive enormous occupied by two people only. Should this be more open for use by a greater number of people.

Drawn into the story are Henry, the chorister who is destined to go places his mother and the organist, his grandfather and all the others who are integral to the story. Relationships are the cornerstone of the story - petty jealousies of the betrayed and lovelorn, the passion that is ignited by a loveless marriage, the loneliness and isolation that one can feel surrounded by many people and the feeling that you are out of date and out of time in a modern world which looks at everything with a more pragmatic and practical outlook.

All beautifully rendered in this story. All dovetailing neatly into a story which is very appealing and attractive.

Another pick from the Glen Waverley library for which I am eternally grateful. So many books so little time!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Sense & Sensibility (The Austen Project, #1)

A favourite author of mine this Austen project was not going to be easy. Following in the footsteps of the Dashwoods etc and finding that it works in a different setting was a wonderful way to relive the book.

Following the plot to a T, ingenuously keeping to all the scenes which formed the core of the original story you are never bored with this book. Knowing very early on that it was going to follow the sequence of the original did not detract from this story. It added a piquancy that I needed to know how the next part was going to follow through in this modern setting.

We have all the modern add ins of social media, trolling, hair extensions, gay party planners, depression et al. We have Fanny Dashwood with her inherent nastiness and social climbing and her aspirations of grasping it all. We have Belle who seems so ineffective at times and then Elinor the stalwart and the only one who has a grasp on reality. The other members of the family shirk from talking about money, responsibility or working.

The one detraction if at all is that at times I felt it was like late 19th century but then with all the modern hoopla you knew you were right in at the 21st! Still a very enjoyable read and one I thoroughly liked.

From the Glen Waverley library in Melbourne 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Flesh and Blood (Kay Scarpetta, #22)

I am coming back to Patricia Cornwell after about two years. I had read everything there was in the Glen Waverley library at that time and was very glad to see this one which was a new one for me. No 22 in the Kay Scarpetta series. Despite being No 22 which does seem a lot the book has pace, intrigue and sufficient mystery to keep you going.

Cornwell's writing is meticulous. Her research is obviously detailed and scrutinized because you can see accuracy in every bit of her writing. Police procedures, legal procedures, medical procedures are all very much alive and for me holds my interest throughout the story. For me it adds to the basic bones of the mystery/murder/psychological thriller part of the book.

The story here sounds more personal with the discovery of seven pennies shiny bright all with one date which has significance for Kay. One homicide follows a few minutes later followed by what seems like straight forward deaths but which on further examining are anything but. Links to an insurance company which Kay has had run ins before surface along with a political leader whose history is shadowed. He is powerful enough to bury everything that has been done by him and his son and somehow these homicides are linked back to him. The personal link does not surface till the very end and it surprises them all.

Characterization is spot on. Marino blustering and gruff, seemingly unprofessional, Kay the epitome of being calm and collected, Benton suave and all others playing a part in a story which comes together as a cohesive whole.

Loved the read.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Expense of a View by Polly Buckingham

This was a collection of short stories which is usually very good reading. However some of them were excellent and some were just fine.

Dealing with deep emotion in the midst of crisis, the stories are hard hitting and will make you think how you would react in similar situations. The stories cover the entire spectrum of humanity from male to female, homeless to parents to children. The feeling is dark and the emotional content is not easy to read.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of  University of North Texas.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Longbourn Library by Trudy Willis

Longbourn Library: A Novel of Pride, Prejudice, and Books

I seldom get to a Pride & Prejudice variation unless I win a book in a giveaway so this was a free download from Amazon which was a pleasant surprise.

Set in an Idaho library mainly we have all our characters - Liz feisty librarian, Jane sweet, Mary quoting good deeds and Kitty being Kitty. Mrs. Bennett being slightly different though gossipy and Mr. Bennett being a good soul. The characters are all there but are placed not as a family(which is what I gathered) which added to the variety. Darcy and Bingley are friends and Wickham is still the pariah of the lot!

It was a fun and entertaining read. What I really needed to get my mind off Melbourne weather.
To add to the misery we have an electricity breakdown which lasted from 10 pm to 6 am this morning. At least it came on this morning. Thank God for small mercies.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Secrets she Keeps by Michael Robotham

Two pregnant women. One seemingly a single mother, a low paid job of stacking shelves in a small supermarket. The other her third baby unexpected, but welcomed by her at least, Husband handsome, well employed, financially stable. A stay at home mum who has her inner circle of friends, the other a loner.

Hidden like in every situation are secrets, most of which should not see the light of day. Agatha our single mum is a mixed up woman who watches and plots and plans with deep envy Meghan's life. Meghan on the other hand has her own worries. A one off one night stand with her husband's best friend - could this pregnancy be the result. Who is the father of this child. Her troubles start when Simon wants to know definitely whether he is the father. DNA testing will prove this of course but it would also break up her marriage and her life.

Agatha;s machinations are Machiavellian - we do not know or realise what they are till well into the story. Her pregnancy, the eventual birth are meticulous in the planning and execution and the subsequent drama which involves Meghan's baby son can never be traced back to Agatha.

Police work detailed, backbreaking and laborious unravel the story step by step.

This was a real psychological thriller. Not a murder mystery but a look into the mind of a sad and twisted woman for whom no holds were barred to achieve her goal. Anyone who fell by the side was a victim to her needs.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Rita Mae is frightened of her own shadow. Having lived with an extremely abusive husband and with great courage sought some kind of freedom she lives in constant fear of being found out. Her character is one which today most of us would have trouble dealing with. Why couldn't she break away earlier when she had the chance, why wait so long, why be so frightened when opportunity was there to break free.

No one can understand the psyche of someone else and that becomes the bottom line even in this novel.

In another small town Dorrie tries to escape from her own history. She gets up one morning in a small hotel not knowing how or why she is there. Why is there a bloodstain on her coat, why has she drunk so much whiskey. Many questions for which there seems to be no answers.

Both women are terribly insecure, they do not know whom to trust and how to unravel their past and face the future.

Though as one reviewer said the story is said to be set in the 1980s, it was very old fashioned. Maybe the two main characters were styled on women in the early 1920s and so it seemed very conventional.

The story did not hold my interest at all until almost at the end. I do not like DNF stories and have very seldom kept a book aside so I did continue. The good part was in the ending.

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

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Of Men and Women by Pearl S. Buck

A woman who spent many years in China, on her return to the United States Pearl S. Buck found so many contrary characteristics amongst both men and women in their attitudes and in the cultural differences that existed that she wrote this short book of nine chapters with the idea of founding an idea of living in peace and harmony provided equality existed between the sexes.

One of our earliest women activists I would not agree on all of Ms. Buck's views especially today. Though a short book it covers a wide array of topics from polygamy to monogamy, women and war, women and family life which will hold anyone's interest as the subjects were so varied.

Quite philosophical, taken in a small doses like this one book, it was a good read. You did not necessarily have to agree with Ms. Buck at all.

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Assassin of Verona by Benet Brandreth

The Assassin of Verona (William Shakespeare Thriller #2)

Looking at Shakespeare from this angle was a totally different experience. These are considered a story on the "lost" years of which I knew nothing so I came to this story with an open mind. 

My knowledge of Shakespeare is limited to what I learnt in school. We actually did quite a lot of it but some of it just does not register at the age of 14! it should be taught to over 40s actually as it will make sense then. Anyway history and plenty of it, fiction and a clever author blend into a story that is fascinating and enthralling. 

Working as a spy for the Queen, uncovering a papal plot to assassinate the Queen it is upto Shakespeare and his cohorts to uncover the culprits and bring them to the Queen's attention before it is too late

The tale gets more complicated by romance, corrupt officials, ruthless clergymen and Shakespeare has to somehow find his way back to England.

I enjoyed the story of historical fiction peopled by very well known characters (with a twist of course).

My reviews posted from Melbourne are complicated! Blogger is not allowing me at times to access my blog. Today was a lucky stroke where I am able to post reviews on books I've read and posted reviews elsewhere.

On another note the temperatures in Melbourne sky rocketing as they are right now are not conducive to anything even reading. Coming from very tropical Sri Lanka I am very surprised how difficult I am finding to cope with Melbourne heat.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

On a Desert Shore by S.K. Rizzolo

I seem to be reading very busy books of late! so many strands woven into a whole and making a cohesive one is not very easy to do and in this Regency mystery even more so.

We have a society lady, daughter of a rich merchant but she is not a conventional, orthodox miss. Expected to marry well and take her family further up the social ladder, she has failed to do so and now lives in Clapham. And someone is being nasty and it is upto the Bow Street runner the very experienced John Chase to decide whether it is actually Marina herself who has cunningly made herself to be a victim or who is playing tricks on her. There are many suspects and all of them have equal stakes for a very high playing game.

There are additional characters of a lady who has scandalized society as it is by earning her living by writing and her lover a barrister. When invited by Marina's father to join his household John Chase's own story becomes even more difficult to handle. He must seek the support of Penelope the writer and Edward the barrister to overcome so many obstacles and find the truth of who is behind the dangers.

Going from calm and quiet London to the treacherous plantations of Jamaica the story is full of life, vitality and danger.

After a steady diet of too many psychological thrillers and mystery murders, it was nice to read a Regency novel with a twist!

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

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Bookworm by Mitch Silver

Two separate time lines 1940 and 2017. The first was turbulent. No one knew where Hitler's tentacles would reach next. In Belgium the German armies are about to invade a small monastery and steal as much art as they could. A British spy has another plan. His idea is to plant a bible amongst the treasures, one that will foretell and could change the course of history.

Fast forward to 2017. Here the story gets complicated. We have a discovery of a long forgotten murder in London, a Russian historian whose knowledge is legendary in history but who leads a very simple life back in Russia and then the appearance of six dictaphone tapes purported to be made by Noel Coward for Winston Churchill and then to crown it all the well documented activities of an American President with his counterpart in Russia.

The story was good, it was formidably plausible but there was too much going on that the scenes got a little crowded. I think we could have got rid of both the Presidents and the story would still be a very credible one!!!

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

Monday, January 8, 2018

the Queen's Mary by Sarah Gristwood

I seem to have been buried under mystery/thriller murder books and just came up for a breath of fresh air of a different kind.

History - Mary Queen of Scots and a new aspect of her tumultuous history. She had four ladies in waiting all called Mary. It was almost like joining a nunnery because they had to dedicate their lives and they all did to the wishes, beliefs and life of Queen Mary.

1548 and five little girls are taken from their homes in Scotland for training in France all to serve another Mary. With only vague recollections of their Scottish roots they train in France till one day a decade later they are called back to serve in their homeland. The upheaval, the uprooting, the difficulty of adapting to a new, different, harsher way of life which will show reality in all its ugliness now awaits them. Their loyalties will be tested and for Mary Seaton especially the times are going to be hard.

How she has to chart a future for herself as well without endangering in any way the views and life of the Queen are going to be a challenge for Seton. She serves the longest and she knows the Queen or thinks she knows her the best. But does she?

This aspect of Mary Queen of Scots was from a more personal side of history - her life the way it started, how she was maneuvered into not just one marriage, coerced into another and how keeping up with the formidable Elizabeth on the other side was not going to be a life of much ease. Told from the personal aspect of the women who served her, this was an uncommonly good read.

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

On another note I will be away from home for a month visiting my children in Melbourne. I do hope I find the time to post here. I have been finding it hard to find the time to read and review the way I used to do. I hope I can catch up with the reading at least whilst overseas!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Two good British Crime Classics.

Seven people found dead inside an isolated house. House locked from the inside. The owners a gentleman and his niece the normal occupants of the house missing. Then traced to France. Motives and suspects are all zero.

The story published in 1939 has an old fashioned air and style of writing which is at the same time charming. Slow paced but steady the investigation is pursued. By deduction it is solved.

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

Death Makes a Prophet (Superintendent Meredith, #11)

1940s Welworth Garden City has attracted its fair share or more of free thinkers. Fairly liberal for the era it is also home to a community following a particular way of thinking - the organisation of Coo with its own head of fairly eccetric characters.

Like all communities, there are secrets and blackmailers and murderers and it is upto Inspector Meredith to sort it out and bring back a sense of calm to this city.

A classic mystery crime book which with its religious sect overtones was very good.

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