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Monday, December 31, 2018

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins







A death sixteen years ago traumatized both Sylvie and her mother Annie. Annie becomes an alcoholic and Sylvie is never the same. Cared for by an aunt, Sylvie is resentful of the lack of caring and indifference on the part of her mother. Persephone was a loved sister and her death especially since the murder was never solved left a huge hole in their existence.

Returning to the dismal family home Sylvie is determined to try to open this cold case, despite one of the original detectives long retired and the suspects being related to the most prominent man in this tiny town with a reputation for being determined to get his own way.

The story unravels fairly slowly, at times a bit too slow. You realize where this is going but that does not detract from the telling of the story. It is the characterization of Annie the mother that gripped me. That a woman could be so blind to anything else than her passionate love for a scoundrel amazed me. Everything else fell by the wayside. That she realized that her idol had feet of clay at the end, was neither here or there. That her surviving daughter could move on showed the character of Sylvie.

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


PS This review done on my iPad so please excuse any shortcomings in typing!




Sunday, December 30, 2018

Friends Like These by Sarah Alderson






Becca seemingingly has it all - good looks, a rich professional boyfriend, popularity in the office. It can spark envy especially if like Lizzie you are just ordinary, but you yearn to be so much more.

A chance accident and Becca as she was is no more. Lizzie is also transformed into a confident bright young woman. An encounter with the ex boyfriend of Becca's sets off a story which is so implausible, it has to be true.

We have all sent a text to a wrong number but in this case a Facebook post which is derogatory to Becca sets off a catastrophic tirade of revenge against Lizzie with disastrous consequences. When Lizzie realizes her mistake and tries to rectify it in the form of a face to face apology, she opens a can of worms in the form of a concocted life full of fabricated stories, showing a life much removed from reality.

The twist in the tale however does not end there. It catches you unaware and was bizarre. The author certainly knows to keep the best for last.

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

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Only Woman In the Room by Marie Benedict



This was a fabulous read to end 2018. It had much to admire and learn. Set first in Vienna in a well established Jewish family, we have a young Heidi an accomplished debutante in the field of drama with a doting father and an antagonistic mother.

Very soon she catches the eye of a business magnate Fritz Mandl, whose arms dealings and factories have made him a millionaire. He moves with the uppermost sections of society and when his eye falls on Heidi, there is no way out for her. Her marriage takes place and Fritz begins to control every aspect of her life. Who she sees to where she goes, not given any room for anything to do with the many houses he owns, she is merely an ornament to adorn his world. Heidi is a clever woman and Fritz begins to see what an asset she is to his business with her acute business sense and awareness of people.

However when things turn ugly in the Mandl household, and when she is a virtual prisoner in her own home, Heidi plans her escape. Successfully entering the Hollywood scene her new life emerges. Not just a second marriage and the adoption of a baby boy, but  her real scientific talent blossoms with the manufacture of a system which will prevent ships being torpedoed. Turned down by the American Navy for the flimsiest and most chauvinistic of reasons, which made me so angry, the prototype of what Hedy Lamarr put together with her partner is followed by the navy today. Even our cell phones use a system which was manufactured or rather put together by her.

No one knows of this part of the glam girls history. That she was responsible for raising 2.5 million pounds in one dance hall performance is one of the highlights of her life. What she actually did is not known - her scientific mind and bent, her obviously above average intelligence was ignored by the powers that be. So sad.

Despite this woman being born in modern times, she did not get a fair chance to shine. This part made me feel very unhappy at the way she was treated. People could not visualize other than what her physical appearance projected, which was glamour and beauty.

Gorgeous story sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review, courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Girl From The Mill by Chrissi Walsh



This is a rags to riches story with a lot of history running through the entire story along with a very nice romance.

Lacey is a diamond in the rough Yorkshire girl. Employed in a textile mill, Lacey realises that women are marginalized. They do not get a good deal in their homes, nor in their work place. They are the backbone of yorkshire's textile industry and they get paid substantially less than the men, under appalling work conditions. Lacey decides after a mill accident to organize the women in a collective group, a basic Union to ask for better working conditions and for better pay. At the same time an unlikely romance develops between the boss's son and Lacey.  Not favored by anyone the relationship develops slowly, culminating in a joyous marriage but her very new husband enlists and leaves Lacey to face an uncertain, war torn future alone.

The details of Lacey's life including an ongoing battle with a woman who is mad with jealousy over Lacey's marriage, her budding entrepreneurship and facing a future with her baby son when her husband is declared MIA forms the story of a very unusual and courageous woman. The history and turbulent times faced by ordinary village folk are detailed well.

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


Monday, December 24, 2018

The Belting Inheritance by Julian Symons



I am a sucker for these idyllistic covers. When you start the book you also know that you are in a stylised setting. Its almost medieval - the autocratic lady of the manor, no domestics (due to the great War) but ruling all with a fist of iron, two sons dead in the War, two left behind and one distant nephew adopted into the family. A motley collection but you sense a great story round the corner.

All the characters are eccentric, all live far removed from everyday life in England especially our Christopher the speaker in the story as it were. Orphaned at a young age, he was brought to the Belting house then sent to school, then on to university and has "expectations" as like everyone else though definitely not a greedy boy! the two sons specially were in their own ways wanting to get the fortune that waited them on their mother's demise.

When after years the news came through that David the eldest was alive, it threw the cat amongst the pigeons.  Stephen particularly felt that it was unjust! and Miles followed blindly. Our narrator was devil's advocate but  when David finally appeared he tended to be with the brothers, that David was an imposter. However David answered questions put forward by two people who knew from way back, but the brothers and Christopher were unconvinced.

How Christopher finally unravelled the sad story of the impersonation follows. Christopher broke from the mould, had his adventure and found love as well.

Loved this book!

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

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Accident by Donna M. Zadunajsky



There are several stories here and although initially I thought it was going to be too much, it somehow blended in well.

We have Adanya an officer of the law. Her story is separate. We have Kaitlyn whose story is quite separate. Kaitlyn is married and on the surface everything seems fine. Her husband is a twisted abusive who has no qualms about hitting her at every turn, even in the past to force a miscarriage.
Adanya has a heavy secret. When she was a teenager she had a baby, she gave the baby away for adoption, a decision tinged with deep regret and sadness.

Kaitlyn had a great love in Adam who went to Afghanistan and then she got involved with her husband to her deep regret. Now that she has conceived again, she is determined to run away, create a new identity and bring up this baby alone. All that changes when a grievous accident affects the lives of all of the above.

In twists and turns, some plausible, some slightly not we are taken into the next step of both Adanya and Kaitlyn's lives - thank goodness for the better and happier.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review.


Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Fallen Women by Lindsey Hutchinson



The story of a rags to riches, from poverty to happiness and finding love is one that warms everyone's heart. At this time of the year it was also apt. That there are a couple of errors in the setting is neither here nor there.

Ann was left orphaned and left to fend for herself in a very harsh part of England. That she survived, and did not drift into prostitution is extremely commendable. Her friends and those who looked out for her were those same women and those who frequented a public house. Ann knew however that she needed to get out and improve her lot. Her talent was with design and in a simple way she started a business which was good.

She did not reckon with the jealousy and madness of one particular woman who would continue to make her life hell, thwart her at every point and even threaten her very life. The story set amongst a public house and the prostitutes who patronised the place and the working class life of the time was very descriptive.

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

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd


Sir Robert and Lady Lucy Kurland are taking the waters at Bath for the sole purpose of Sir Robert recovery from a war wound which he got whilst at Waterloo. Lucy wants to help him out and the house taken for three months seems to be a good option.

Bath however is not good for everyone and their immediate neighbours, whom they know are struck by the first disaster the death of Sir William.  There is a Lady William and her two sons, there are three sons from his first marriage and the ensuing battle, and cross talk amongst them all makes it very obvious that more than one person wanted to get rid of Sir William - father or not.

Lucy and Robert face the predicament of knowing there is a murderer in their midst and signs point to all of the five sons. To narrow it down needs a certain amount of judicious probing and this they do admirably. The final villain is unexpected and obvious!

Very nicely told in a very genteel time in England this was a very welcome read.

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Forgotten Books by Becki Willis



Going back into the past, unraveling mysteries of family and the secrets hidden for decades can sometimes spring pleasant, sometimes unpleasant surprises.

Charity wants to get to know the aunt who gave her an unexpected bequest. Coming up and finding a dilapidated cottage she does find surprising stuff. A blood stained suit with bullet holes and four boxes of stuff dating back to 1984 with differing addresses on them. Delving further, she finds out that all were supposed to be delivered on the day her Uncle supposedly committed suicide. Thinking of going a step further, she starts on a quest to deliver the boxes thirty years hence not realising that she is opening a can of worms.

This book had lain in my old Kindle collection for months and for this I apologise.

An interesting story throwing up romance, suspense and sadness.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased reviews courtesy of Clear Creek Publishing.




Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Secret by Jennifer Wells


 


Set in two separate time frames 1920 and 1942, we have WWII fully upon the whole world and everyone buckling under its weight.

1920 and Lily finds herself a guest of Dr. Cuthbertson in an isolated manor. How the events of 1920 will again come up in 1942 is a bit uncanny. Lily gets pregnant and has a child.  Fast forward Ivy is a nurse working in the local clinic. She has to go up to Dr. Cuthbertson's house once in a while to attend to an invalid son, who is supposedly injured whilst fighting. Ivy's mother never a person in good spirits goes berserk when she hears that Ivy is going up to the manor and has met the Mrs. Cuthbertson though the Doctor is always absent and not to be disturbed.

 Ivy does realise at the very onset that things are not quite right at the big house but she becomes fond of the young man and does not want to jeopardize her position in the clinic either. She is also intimidated by Mrs Cuthbertson who is rude and condescending.

The story unravels slowly and typifies the standards of the age, where a lot of stuff going on in homes was all veiled up and a curtain pulled across the whole thing to maintain an aura of respectability as that was what of prime importance.

A very interesting part of the story was the form of family planning advice offered by the clinic - privately to the poorer section of the community who had no one else to turn to. It did show women supporting women, despite the morals of the day. No mean feat this.

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

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Secrets of the Tea Garden by Janet Macleod Trotter



I am very partial to a tea estate story. We have a small  tea property and have heard stories of those far off days when the British ruled our estates and the lifestyle and how they did things is engrained in Sri Lankan history. The British gave us tea estates, coffee estates, railways, an administrative system, roads all over the country, the Protestant faith and most importantly English!

The fact that I do have a McLeod amongst my relations who was a tea planter as it is called here added to my interest in this story.

I loved the story, the ramifications of its setting - the coming of Independence in India was huge, and marred by strife, death and partition of the country. Sri Lanka was nothing like this. The setting alone of Libby and Ghulam set against both religious and racial divides was huge in that era. Mixed marriages were few and far between. The story of Logan and the way he treated the local women is a commonplace issue and the heartbreak of the woman was a very sad one. Added to that the saga of the entire Robson, Logan clans amidst the other characters of the story was beautifully told.

The descriptiveness of the Assam region where the tea estates were, seemed idyllic and the lifestyle took a certain kind of woman or man to adapt to the loneliness, the insularity of the communities and knowing the rigid barriers that were in place. That some adapted and some did not, and returning to their home country did not solve their woes is also taken into account. Decades spent on an estate and then moving to Newcastle did not go down well with some. It did bode well for others.

Reading the book was nostalgic for me personally and I loved the read.

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

We All Fall Down by Cynthia Clark



Bea and her brother Sebastian, Helen, Sandra and John live with a foster mother as all of them come from families which have broken up for one reason or another. The misery that Miriam imposes on them is unimaginable and painful, degrading and horrible.  The children however for one reason only did not complain to the authorities though they had ample opportunities to do so. Just because they did not want to be separated and they thought that the situation could be worse.

A freak accident which causes the death of Sebastian, paralyses Miriam sets them all free of her clutches in different ways. Some live in very nice homes after this, some dont.  The driver of the truck Ronnie Moss shaken and drunk after the accident runs away to the Caribbean and is forgotton by the children, but not by the authorities.

Decades later, all grown up getting on with their lives, the bombshell that the truck driver has been found, is being sent back to England to trial and that Miriam may regain her memory of the incident is a ticking bomb for all of them. During the last few months of their stay with their foster carer, they came up with the brilliant idea of slowly poisoning Miriam with rat poison in order to weaken her and make her unable to physically abuse them the way she did. Will this secret hidden for so many years now come out and ruin all their lives.

Once again anxious, worried and on edge the four of them come together to face this new calamity in their lives and how to handle the situation carefully, not bringing any of them into suspicion with the authorities who have started interrogating each of them individually about their stay with Miriam.

The story highlights how easy it is for abuse to be in a system and for it not to be noticed by either teachers or fellow students or friends. All of them were severely underweight, all of them carried bruises and no one was any the wiser as to what was happening.

It was a sad story but with redemption at the end.

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta



The town's name alone is entrancing. Mark has been left a house by his aunt  in her will. She is someone whom he hardly knew, but now he wished he had taken the time to know her better. She did not seem to want to keep in touch and was always serving in remote areas of the world as a doctor.
Coming to her house and slowly unravelling the secrets of her life is more than what he bargained for.

Mark did not even know that she ran a bed and breakfast and having to face upto unexpected guests as well as the rituals involved in the Indian culture following a death was a little hard for him to follow. Getting more and more involved in the personal lives and calamities of the guests was something he never envisaged and he does not know how to get out of it and go back to the peaceful life he led before.

Finding out that even total strangers can be connected to one another seems very strange, and when it seems that some of it connects back to him it is even more difficult to logically explain. Going with the flow Mark discovers a part of him that was hitherto unknown!

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, by Celestial Eye Press this was a very unusual read.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Duke's Agent by Rebecca Jenkins



I needed a change of pace from the thrillers and murder mysteries that I had heaped on my Kindle. Then I ended with this.

Set in 1811 in the town of Woolbridge Jarrett is looking for some peace and quiet and to act as the Agent for the Duke of Penrith. He has returned from a turbulent period of service and expects the countryside to be peaceful and kind to him. Anything but. Uncovering a network of crimes and being made to be the scapegoat for a murder on a property nearby, kept in jail by the local Magistrate is not what was expected in this very countryside area.

One death follows another and this time around the people want blood. It is upto him to clear his name and also sort out the mess that is apparent alive and kicking in this sleepy town.

A Regency era mystery this was not lacking in gore and violence! A very nice change from modern mystery murders though.

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

Thursday, December 6, 2018

In the Company of Like-Minded Women by Elaine Russell



1901 Colorado. It was a very tough time for women. Unlike previously, women were more aware of the advantages of having the vote, of being independent, of owning your own property. Everyone did not want to be subservient to the whims and fancies of their husbands. Three sisters finding their way in different paths.

One recently widowed, a fully qualified medical doctor not being recognised as a caring doctor and getting short shrift from male colleagues. Trying to make ends meet and look after her two children at the same time. Mildred who was a kind soul, now grumpy and almost following their mother's rigid, hateful attitudes and then the youngest who has fallen in love and whose union is being frowned on and even denied just because her mother wants someone to sit with her whilst she gets old.

A chance visit to a sister's home with an idea of being a change and to recuperate after an illness gives the sisters the opening and the chance to breathe again and take a decision about their lives.
That Mildred changes is the biggest happiness in this book even more than the younger one's success in finding love!

Set amongst the fight for universal suffrage, a women's movement that was courageous and strong and a bid for independence for women made this a very interesting read.

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Master of His Fate by Barbara Taylor Bradford




Two parallel stories that intermingle at the end beautifully.

James is young, street smart, working on a market stall with his father. He is far thinking and with the entire support of his clan who sees the potential in him from the very beginning, he is groomed for much bigger things. Proving himself to both his Uncle and his family his world begins to involve the aristocracy and the world they live in.

On the other side we have Alexis, a very different young woman to the women of her age. She has a strong business acumen, is her father's heir and has sworn off marriage. Meeting Sebastian, the father of her friend and being bowled over by him despite the age difference, Alexis is blissfully happy until the untimely and savage unexpected death of Sebastian blows her world away.

How the two stories come together is the story of this book. At times too simplistic, it is however something that we all like to read and enjoy - a happy ending despite villains, treachery, back stabbing, thievery, ungrateful relations. Great read.

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

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Spitfire Girl by Fenella J. Miller




Set just before the outbreak of WWII, with a rural background a spirited Ellie is definitely not a run of the mill girl of the times. With hardly any education, an indifferent cold mother, a father cowed down by too many quarrels at home, Ellie is able to carve herself a niche in the world she loves.

Flying a plane, tutoring others how to fly is not an occupation commonly found even today but Ellie tries to balance it all with a mother who is always sniping at her, trying her best to make a lady out of Ellie. When the disgruntled woman leaves her home without a word to any of her children, Ellie is able to be free and be happy. So is her father.  However,  with the outbreak of the war they know that their flying school has only got a limited time before its activities are stopped.

At the same time, a chance encounter with Jack brings another dimension to all their lives and another is added when a break in reveals that they have been hiding a letter which is detrimental to many in the top echelons in their country, including Ellie's grandfather.  Revealing that he is a fascist is not going to be good for any of them and Ellie worries for her brother's futures if the matter comes to light.

Taking us through the outbreak of WWII and Ellie joining the WAAF first as a radar officer and then going on to aviation, the field she loves is this story along with a simple love story which is very typical of Ellie herself.

Very pleasant reading. \

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