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Friday, November 30, 2018

An Irish Country Cottage by Patrick Taylor

Ballybucklebo - even the name is slightly fantastical and brings to mind a quirky, eccentric vibe.

The year is coming to an end and the characters in this Irish village are facing tumult on several sides.
A fire in a cottage has put a family out of their home and the inhabitants of this village from the manor to the humble thatcher come forward to give their support in getting the family on its feet.
Then we have the strong division between the Protestant and Catholic faith. Not just division, but feelings of no common ground, very much understood by me as we face these divisions on a daily basis here.

Intermingled with the stories of just everyday life of doctors in a rural practice are the above underlying tensions. Add to this the subject of infertility,  discussed in depth here and how it eats into a couple's otherwise blissful life and how it can erode a relationship so badly that only strength of will and character are enough to face this heart breaking issue head on.

So many subjects were discussed in such great detail, especially the religious divide and the brutality and viciousness of its hatred in Ireland that it was an eye opener for me in any case. On top of that the fertility issue, coupled with great discussions on the forbidden subject of contraception in a Catholic region for me was the best part of the book, over riding the actual story that was the book.

Beautifully written, very simplistic in its style, very evocative this was a great read.

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Who I am by Sarah Simpson

The story divided into two parts - the past Andi and Camilla, carefree till a tragedy sets them apart and Andi now with a husband and two children who is drifting away from her family with no grounding at all, alcoholic addiction she has absolutely no way to control and deception which is going to erode her entire life.

This is no comfortable read and reiterates the fact that some things should be kept private! Confidences shared can come back to bite you very hard decades later and this is how it is turning out to be.

There were very tense and edge of the seat moments in this book. Twisty and you really do not like human beings at times when they act like this! There seems to be no forgive and forget and no happily ever after for those seeking revenge.

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Cottage on a Cornish Cliff by Kate Ryder

Cottage on a Cornish Cliff: Don't miss this heartwarming and emotional page-turning story by [Ryder, Kate]

The setting of the Cornish coastal side was absolutely stunning. The myriad range of characters we had made the story very good.

Cara is recently widowed, three very young children. After her husband's very early demise, she found love with Oliver who was forced by family circumstances to return to his wife and four children. Cara is happy with her life as it is, especially since her paintings of Cornwall have been successfully accepted in the art world. The only obstacle to this smooth sailing is Greg, her agent who has bigger plans for Cara both professionally and personally.

The story evolves in two planes - Cara's life and Oliver's life and you do hope that somehow, though it looks albeit impossible, for a happy ending.

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

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

The title in itself was intriguing, the reviews certainly were and I learnt a new word psychometry.

Xanthe and Flora both want to leave their old life behind. Flora after a disastrous divorce where her husband is taking every penny he can get from the marriage, and Xanthe a love affair gone so bad that her lover was willing for her to go to prison rather than to own up to the drugs found in their apartment in a raid.

Finding fresh life in an antique shop in very village like Marlborough, we are then acquainted with Xante's unusual gift of actually being able to hear or feel messages through inanimate objects especially antiques. You know you've got a story going on here when a chatelaine -a piece of domestic jewellery actually sings to her and then the manifestation of a disfigured female appears in the form of a woman who is insistent that Xanthe goes back in time to find her daughter Alice and save her from death by hanging where she is unjustly accused of theft.

Time travel in the best possible way, an intriguing story of 17th century England, romance for Xanthe who knows that it just cannot be but this too in the most beautifully described way possible. Emotional, sad, joyful all at the same time Xanthe has to learn to balance life between 2017 and the 17th century as she flits in between two lifestyles trying to piece evidence and clear Alice's name.

I loved the story, loved the style of writing and hopefully will have more to look forward from this author.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick by Jan Harvey

Martha is facing something that quite a lot of retirees feel. Her mind is agile, she has been used to a very active job which used her capabilities and now she is adrift. Her husband, a very good man is staid, he himself a maths teacher who does not understand Martha at all.

A chance advertisement asking for help to set out a book regarding the history of this particular village seems just up Martha's street and she falls into the project with enthusiasm and a lot of vigor. Enthusiasm which is not shared by all of the committee surrounding this project. It also opens up a past story on the history of a manor in the village, whose history has been lost to the present inhabitants. Abandoned and falling into a derelict state, it must have been a grand home for some family and uncovering it step at a time, takes the reader back to the WW1 era and the tragic saga of the Amherst family.

The story of Martha (who also discovers love in the best way possible) at the age of sixty and is in a quandary as to what she should do, and the story of Henry, George, Alice and Madame Roussel takes across from England to France to espionage, betrayal, love, distrust and lost opportunities. Very poignant, very tragic but very well told this was a beautiful story to read.

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Bloomsbury Affair by Anita Davison

Image result for the bloomsbury affair anita davison

1905 London was a tough place for women. There was disdain for any woman getting into the professions and the suffrage movement had started. Most men wanted women kept strictly for home and hearth.

Flora and Bunny were a different kind of couple. Fortunately. Flora was a modern young woman who had come out of a complicated family drama where she found a long lost family of both her father and mother and lost the much loved father she ever knew.  Flora and Bunny have previously solved two murder both baffling to the police but the Inspector in charge is wary of them and what he calls their amateur sleuthing.

Now the family is facing the scandal of their cousin the young, arrogant Viscount Trent being embroiled in a murder where he is the only possible suspect. Getting him out of this mess is Flora's work ably assisted by her husband Bunny. A seemingly innocuous young man found murdered in a railway carriage whilst the Viscount lay sleeping by him seems very difficult to believe. Unraveling the mystery was the story.

Set in a London which was picturesque and very interesting to read about, the writer takes us on a journey through both the rich and famous and how they live, to the political tensions simmering underneath at the unfairness of it all.

This was a very absorbing read.

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

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Imperfect Memories by Jody Wenner

This was another book which tested me. Nina has lost her husband and young daughter in a tragic accident and now she wonders whether there is something happening to her. A kind of dementia which she saw in her mother and which she can now frighteningly find in the same person who caused her family's death.

The premise alone is enough to keep you on edge.  Another attitude to the unknown yet looking for answers illness in dementia and in Nina's case hyperthymesia. The ability to have instant recall of incidents of every day of her life.

This was not a comfortable book, but then we read not always for comfort. This was emotional because Nina was trying to cope, trying to survive on a day to day basis and life did not help her at all.

Emotionally challenging this was a difficult read. I cannot say I enjoyed the read but it was a good book.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Proposal by S E Lynes

The Proposal

This was a thriller in every sense of the word. At times I could not quite get my head around why Pippa acted the way she did.

Pippa was definitely an out of the box person. Her actions did not follow the routine and her good friend knew that she was governed by feelings and something so reckless that she did not even think of her own safety most of the time.

It was the recklessness which drove her to take over Ryan's story - a travelling salesman who turned up at her door. She invited him in and her proposal of payment for his life story began and ended the story.

The book drew me in and repelled me at the same time. I felt too much on edge to really enjoy the read and I am not one for discarding a book halfway. But it was not a plodding read. I read it with nervous interest is what I would say as I know it could not get better.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What Happened to Us? by Faith Hogan

Carrie and Kevin have a good relationship professionally. Running a very successful restaurant they complement each other. Kevin taking care of the kitchen and Carrie taking care of everything else. In their personal lives, they have got into a rut. Carrie still takes care of all the financial details of their lives and the housekeeping whilst Kevin leads a very relaxed life. 

When a bolt from the blue comes in the form of a Colombian waitress that Carrie herself has taken on, Carrie knows she has to get to grips with her life and decide what she wants to do. She has invested herself in the restaurant and does not intend to calmly hand it over (hurrah!). She is also very fond of her small home and offers a fair deal for Kevin who in the throes of love and lust is willing to do anything to make his new love happy. His new love's happiness lies in spending his money as fast as he can make it and she takes him to the cleaners!

The story of how Carrie survives, Kevin barely comes out of the whole thing unscathed but with severe lessons learnt and how Carrie finds a new life and love interest is very happily told. I was very happy for Kevin as there are many Kevins in this world and he got his just desserts!

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

The Girl from Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

The Girl from Berlin (Liam Taggart & Catherine Lockhart #5)

This book like all those set during the great World Wars is so emotional, so factual, so matter of fact at most times that it brings all the cruelty, the in humaneness of dictators, of racism, of actual bitter hatred back, that it is frightening. It also spins a story of generations of people who strive to survive, of selflessness and always thinking of others.

Set in Germany our family is upper middle class Jewish. Educated in the arts at the height of his career Baumgarten does not think that his life is going to be fraught with danger. Even when all the signs show that Jews are no longer to be tolerated, he is protected by his profession and goes on for much much longer than others. It is at others persuasion that he knows that the future for his daughter who is herself a prodigy is bleak that moves are made to send them out of Germany to Bologna.

From here the story of Ada and her mother evolves always with the hateful Nazi powerforce behind them. Italy is not safe either but where else are they to go. Opportunities are there in Vienna but Austria is swallowed by Nazi Germany. They have left going to America too late and with the death of Ada's grandfather that sponsorship avenue is closed to them.

Told in two time lines. WW1 and 2017 the story starts from trying to prevent an old lady Gabriella from being evicted from her vineyard where she has lived for 70 odd years. Even though judgement has been given, her nephew approaches a hot shot lawyer in Chicago pleading with her to take the case. Facing obstacle after obstacle Caroline and Liam knows that the whole thing is off when registrar books are missing, lawyers are evasive and seem to have been bought over, one clerk turns up murdered and a company that no one knows anything about.

In history you go back decades to turn up a hatred between a German officer and a young girl and someone who seeks revenge at every turn.  Unraveling pages of a family history that is convoluted at best, you also read about slices of history that most people would like to forget.

The characterization was excellent, the story telling even more so.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

A Light of Her Own

In 1633 any woman with ambition was fighting a losing battle. Never mind ambition women did not seem to hold any position other than being daughters or wives and if neither worked it was a terrible life for any of them.

For Judith abandoned by her father and mother through circumstances of debt, her brother who was her only family now getting involved in shady activities, Judith with her ambition of being an artist and becoming a member of the Guild had ambitions far beyond the usual woman of the time. With hardly any money to set herself up, she was nevertheless determined to do so.

The story of Judith's endeavours despite immense hardship, obstacles and sheer pig headedness of men around her was a tough read. It is factually true according to the author in several instances and an artist of this name did live and have her own workshop in Holland at the time. The story was intense and Judith was blessed with common sense and a sense of diplomacy to know when it was enough.

Judith upto now lived with a master guildsman and his daughter both artists in their own right but Maria had problems of her own. She would have been treated accordingly today but no one knew of her mental suffering and torment she underwent. Judith had to balance her life between being a friend to Maria and her ambition about her art on the other. It did not always balance evenly.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an independent review, courtesy of Amberjack Publishing.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Vendetta by Heather Burnside

I have been reading books which have been so idyllic that they are too good to be true, or really horrendous thrillers.

This was certainly different. Adele has been thrust into the running of the nightclub owned by her brother who is currently in prison. Everyone in the story has served time, including Adele and it is dealt with very matter of factly and casually in the book. Whether that added to the general effect of lawlessness or the undercurrent feeling that everything was slightly dodgy is another thing.

Adele wants to run the club free of drug dealers but she is up against the implacable Glynn who wants a share of the action and is intent eventually on getting rid of her brother. Though Adele has her suspicions of Glynn she has no concrete proof to present to Peter who is skeptical of his sister's views on the subject. Since she was once involved with Glynn Peter thinks she is a bit sour that he has now found someone else.

The story goes on and you know that it is not going to end well for Peter despite he getting out of prison. Glynn pretends for a little while that he is a friend, but is constantly undercutting Peter and cheating him of his share - whether legally or illegally acquired is a moot point in the story.

The book was different because here we were dealing with characters who all had served time, who did not think twice of cheating, who were involved in the drug trade and who had no qualms how they earned their daily bread.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Aria

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Happily Ever After at the Dog & Duck by Jill Steeples

This is one of those stories that are ideal for a lazy afternoon or a weekend snooze read. Satisfying, romantic, idyllic setting, very nice people and all is right with the world.

We have a young couple not married with a baby who want now to get married. They are financially very stable - have a beautiful home, a manor in fact, and owners of a successful pub the said Dog & Duck. They are surrounded by the village with nice friends and the only worry is that something will happen to put off the much planned for wedding.

A broken ankle of the bride's father, the entire barn burning down are two of the mishaps on the way on top of the bride's mother leaving her husband and turning up on their doorstep. The bridegroom's sister is a stroppy one who cannot get on with the mother so there is tension in the house but the house is sufficiently big enough for all to have their own space, thank God.

A lovely read which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Village Affair by Julie Houston

A Village Affair by Julie Houston

I'm having trouble with my computer and posting from my Ipad so excuse mistakes as they appear!
I leave for Melbourne middle of this month and really want to get up reviews all posted before I go.

This book was a good change for me. I have been reading so much of mystery murders and psychological thrillers, and good though they undoubtedly are, I did need a change of pace. This was reminiscent of a Joanna Trollope for me.

Three dear friends, two married and one very happy single. The ones who are married are set in their lifestyles and comfortable with it. They live in an idyllic village with very nice children as well. It all gives a very cozy feel. When one marriage falls apart in the most public of ways to the astonishment of Carrie  who had no clue that her darling husband was cheating on her with her best friend for well on two years, she is devastated. She thought she was in a rock solid marriage and to have this most publicly announced was tough on several counts. That she was starting a new job as Assistant Head of a School the very next day added to the complications.

Like in real life, turbulence comes in waves! we have an uprising in the village with the local lords of the manor (literally saying) coming up with a plan to be build 3000 houses on land in the village, upgrading the local school and generally turning this green belt into a jungle township! the villagers are divided on this issue and add to the general mayhem at this point in this story. On top of that cupid strikes again in the most unexpected way and Cassie finds herself in a quandary how to handle conflicting issues along with a romance which has disaster written all over it.

Despite several strands in the story, all good, it did not detract from the very story itself.

This was a lovely read with three very strong women as the main characters who handled everything that life threw at them with aplomb!

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

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Our Little Lies by Sue Watson

Our Little Lies

From the onset you knew this was going to be a bit twisted. I knew Marianne despite being a good mother had mental health issues. Not that Simon helped in any way by his innuendos and constantly putting her down in insidious ways. His idea that because he was a heart surgeon, and handsome to boot,  played on the vulnerable ways of his wife who imagined (real or imaginary) mainly real, his flirtations with anyone around.

He put everything squarely on his wife from maintaining an immaculate house, to controlling two rambunctious boys, from being a very kind step mother to Sophie to also imagining way beyond what was actually happening when it did happen. Simon was the worst kind of husband for Marianne, ignoring her history of mental health issues stemming from the time she was a little girl when she discovered her mother's suicide and he preyed on her insecurities so much that she began to think he was all powerful, all right and that she must reign in her instinctive dislike of so many women. She could not stand up to him or for what she believed in and that spiralled into the mess they found themselves in.

Marianne would have been hard to live with no doubt. Her constant need to be reassured that she was the only one would be galling to someone like Simon who wanted a model wife and mother. He could not bear to be seen with failures and in his wife he saw many.

The end however was unexpected and came in the story after the actual end of the marriage. Totaqlly out of the blue.

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

Thursday, November 1, 2018

In The Vines by Shannon Kirk

In the Vines

Mop as she is known wants closure on the sad tragic death of her mother and returns to the mansion of her now eccentric, cloistered aunt. The aunt who was very close to her and looked on her as the daughter she never had.\

The story is convoluted because the deeper Mop goes to solve the mystery of her mother's death, the more she unravels none of which are acceptable or palatable to her. Is digging deeper really what she wants to do.

The story starts off in one way and ends in another. Gothic, creepy and how power and position can hide secrets more effectively than anything else can.

Not an easy comfortable read, but a very intriguing one.

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