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Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Famished Road by Ben Okri

I am in the minority here. I found this book hard going though I did finish it.

The reviews were so good that I think maybe I did not appreciate it the correct way.

The story of Azara who is a spirit child who despite a lot of sadness lives with much joy on his face. Called back to the land of the dead, his parents succeed in keeping him alive but in the process are made very poor.

There is a lot of problems between living in the land of the living with its existing issues and the carefree life of the dead. The book with its elements of magic did not draw me in the way it should have.

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber

The Glovemaker

Utah in the dead of winter is so bleak, so inhospitable and very dangerous for travellers. Deborah lives in Junction a settlement of just eight families. They part of the Mormon community have moved here to set up a new life for themselves. The purpose seems to be not to be a rigid community having the bishop overlooking every aspect of their life but to be members of the community with views and a mind of their own.

At the same time, Junction is a point where Saints come through who are being pursued by the law mainly for the transgression of polygamy. With multiple wives, which in the law's view was an aberration, they are actively pursued these polygamists, their property seized and confiscated, the men thrown into prison and forgotten and they seem to be on the run to a safer area. Junction is a through point for them and Deborah and her husband Samuel unwillingly along with Nels help these men on their way.

When a man turns up in bleakest January, ready with all the signals that signify that he is a fugitive and safe for Deborah to help, she still however feels that something is not quite right. Passing him on to Nels to take him through the rest of the journey she returns home to find a Marshall skeptical of her answers and determined to follow the man. What follows is a disaster for not just Deborah and Nels but also for the whole community who now have to rethink their own future and the safety of their families. With Samuel missing for over four months now, feared dead Deborah herself must think of what she is going to do.

Very interesting reading because it also showed that all church goers were not blindly following their leader but also had views of their own. Polygamy is a thorny subject - even here where a Muslim is legally allowed more than one wife - but peeking into a Mormon household gave one an idea that the principle of polygamy was distasteful to many. It promised a celestial paradise for those that followed it, but that was very convenient (in my opinion!).

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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird

Born into servitude Cathy Williams always considered herself above all the rest. When the opportunity for freedom came, she took it and entered into service under the veteran Sheridan. When she had to return home, she refused to enter into any kind of service again and disguising herself as a man joined the Buffalo Soldiers.

Now fighting for just survival, Cathy is bent on finding her mother and her younger brother and also the love of her life. Based on a true story which I realised only much later this was a tale that could only be described as swashbuckling.

A good very descriptive history lesson especially for those not American, the story of Private Williams is a fascinating one.

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

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl

This was a lovely story. From war with its heartbreak and loss, there was also survival. There was love both in the past and present and always a hope for things better.

Told in two separate time frames from 1919 the story of Ellen and her love for Jimmy set against the Irish war for independence and then fast forwarding to an Irish woman of 2016 and her quest to build a life away from a manipulative and emotionally abusive husband.

Ellen was a simple girl who found employment as a maid. Her employer was a woman of distinct courage who was fearless in her support of the quest for independence. She knew Ellen was like minded and involved her in a few simple but very important tasks all helping the rebels. When Jimmy Ellen's sweetheart was involved in an attack, he was forced to leave her and move far away. He never knew Ellen was pregnant and at that time, the fate of unmarried pregnant girls was dire. The Madeline Laundries were horror chambers and Ellen who was sent there fared badly. Ellen disappears after the birth of baby James to try to find out what has happened in her own home, and when she returns she is told that the baby died.

The story takes off from there and Ellen has to find her feet sans any support from anyone because there is literally no one around. Picking up the pieces, we only unravel Ellen's life in 2016 when Clare Farrell literally running away from her husband discovers an old birth certificate and a medallion and tries to go back in history to find out to whom these belong.

Clare herself is trying to find her feet after a 25 year marriage has fallen apart and she is ill equipped to do so. Even simple things seem beyond her because her husband has over ridden all her wishes and done exactly as he wanted. But Clare herself knows that she is strong and that she must overcome those obstacles to live again, the way she wants to live.

Both stories bitter sweet and emotional, one set in older Ireland and one set in modern Ireland are equally very compelling.

A history lesson on the side also helped.

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Murder at Benbury Brook by Betty Rowlands


Melissa Craig is a crime writer. She has now decided to give her fictitious detective a retirement and go into the world of literary fiction. Her nose however leads her elsewhere. Mystery and murder seems to follow her even in this idyllic village she now calls home.

Melissa is missing her friend Irish who lived next door to her. The house has stood empty but at last there seems to be a tenant - a quiet man who is the teacher in the local school. Melissa hopes the new neighbour will prove to be a good one. The village is turned on its head when one of its youngsters is found dead in a brook in the village. When a chance encounter with her next door neighbour turns out to be chaotic and frightening, Melissa now has to decide whether the man is innocent as she believes him to be, despite his shadowy past or whether he is just a victim of circumstance.

Believing him to be innocent, Melissa sets out on a dangerous path of proving the Police wrong and finding the actual culprit responsible for this murder.

Set in beautiful surroundings and extremely descriptive of this part of England - the Cotswolds added to the interest for me in this book.

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

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Testament to Murder by Vivian Conroy

Nine heirs and one billionaire. You know there is going to be trouble. Wherever money accumulates very seldom will you find the heirs amicable. This is one difficult bunch of people -relations and outsiders and all heirs to the particular frame of Malcolm's will.

It seems that Malcolm is actually inviting someone to murder him. One attempted murder, two murders, three incidents which are not murder but almost there puts a lot of tension within one house whose inmates are prohibited from leaving till the inquiries are over. The list of suspects can cover all and Jasper, retired British police living in France is giving a hand to the French authorities in trying to solve these murders.

All the people in the house have a history related to Malcolm - our billionaire. Some are known like his ex wife, his ex partner who stole his wife, his secretary, his nephew, There are some who are unknown and when the story unravels it shows all have grudges and cudgels to take up with Malcolm for slights done to them, injustices shown in the past some of which he is unaware to give him his due.

The ending is most enlightening. Something I did not envisage and even that ending though clear enough, still left you with one doubt clouding your vision at the end as to who was the real culprit here.

A very different take on mystery murder, similar to an Agatha Christie.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Country Rivalry by Sasha Morgan

A Country Rivalry by [Morgan, Sasha]

I seem to be on a roll with film people because this book too deals with a film crew. Set in the gorgeous village of Treweham we have the current Lord and his family on the one side and motley film crew doing a documentary on this village and its inhabitants.

That Malcolm the extremely clever and popular director of the film has his own agenda regarding the inhabitants of the manor, is not known to any. His idea is to get into the minds of the Lord Tobias and strip the veneer off his very popular facade and show to the world what villains they actually are.
All this is of course unknown to anyone and Malcolm proceeds to do just that.

The aristocracy in this case is a very loving family with their usual eccentric relations but on the whole one who has maintained close links to the community in which they live and is very protective of their inhabitants. Tobias, the present Lord is not going to stand for anyone trying to hurt anyone in his wide circle of family and village and will go to any length to protect them. When Viola the main editor working under Malcolm tries to jeopardize Tobias's family, he goes into aggressive mode and completely cuts the grass under Malcolm's feet without his knowledge.

Malcolm also begins to realize that his vendetta with Tobias and the family is cold comfort if he is going to lose the women he has fallen in love with. How the story ends with a very happy family reunion and love conquering all was very sweetly accounted for.

Descriptive of the Cotswolds to an extent that it could be a travel book added to the interest of this story.

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

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Dreaming of Tuscany by T.A. Williams

This was ideal for me in between reads of psychological thrillers and murders and mayhem.

Bee was on a shoot when she was injured along with the main star in a freak accident on set. Left with scarring on her face and loss of all her hair she is off balance and undecided what to do next. An offer of a secluded villa in Tuscany for as long as she wants chaperoning the film star who was also injured looks ideal and spot on. The star in question is reserved and moody but Bee takes on the challenge.

In Tuscany the villa is idyllic, the setting amongst Tuscan forests far removed from the imagery of Tuscany promoted for the tourists and Bee settles in very well. There are very few inhabitants in this remote part of Tuscany except for a manager of the estate and a few others.

How friendship develops between the off hand star and Bee and how romance develops resulting in a complete change for Bee is this story. A light hearted fun read in a beautiful setting which is very descriptive, makes you want to get to Tuscany at the first available opportunity.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Death Comes to Call by Clare Chase

Death Comes to Call (Tara Thorpe Mystery #3)

Tara Thorpe is a young detective in the Cambridge police force. She is not without her enemies though within and outside the force. Having being stalked from the age of eighteen Tara has developed a keen sense of self preservation especially since the stalker was never found.

Now after a death defying solving of a crime, Tara and the team face the problem of solving another murder. A young woman strangled on a lonely stretch of the fens, followed by the death of her lover opens the field to many suspects. There is the husband and boyfriend (before his death), the employer who shows a sense of being jittery and nervous way beyond his feelings as an employer, there is the victim's brother and the list goes on. Each one has to have their alibis checked and double checked, motives if any ruled out and seeing whether old enmities exist within the family.

Tara is working closing on the case with her boss Blake. There are a few other detectives on the case and her unorthodox methods and tendency to not work as a team can get people riled. To top it all, she is aware that her former employer (a magazine) hates her guts and will do anything to bring her down, insidiously planting vicious rumours about her work ethic and her morals.

This was a very good mystery murder. I would not call it a cozy as it went beyond the cozy! I liked the characterization, the descriptiveness of the Fens and the way the suspense built up to an ending that got me by surprise.

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

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon

Anna and the King of Siam

The year is 1862 and the King of Siam is widowed with two small children to raise. Anna accepts the position of governess to the two small children but from the onset the relationship with the children's father is fraught with tension. The King is traditional and conservative, Anna looks forward to change.

Whilst being thoroughly intrigued with the customs and traditions of Thailand, Anna does not swerve from more modern principles of freedom and the abolition of slavery and it is her influence which led the young Prince to abolish both slavery and seek democratic reform in this ancient kingdom.

Most people know the basic story with its touch of romance as well from the The King and I, but this story researched in minute detail gives us the background in which Anna started her work and how she did not give up on her principles of justice and freedom for all.

I knew a bit of the background of this story but the book filled me in on the pieces I didnt know. Anna showed extreme courage in the face of constant adversity and persevered in her influence on the next generation. In this she was successful.

Good reading with detailed background of the actual setting of 19th century Thailand.

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