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Friday, May 31, 2019

The Reluctant Hotelkeeper by John Searancke

Along with an idyllic cover, the story of a reluctant hotelkeeper who was forced into this occupation is a good one. Factual, hilarious and very matter of fact humour. Very tongue in the cheek humour very typical of a British attitude (I think). The British seem to excel at this.

Told over a span of several decades, inheriting a hotel which was run down, in a shambles, no known systems, the owners (his parents) not interested at all in its functioning and definitely in the red. How through sheer hard work and a few dashes of good luck and good timing, he turned the hotel into a star winning, accolade winning enterprise is a good story.

Handling staff, plumbing and electrical systems almost at the end of their natural life, dealing with irritating and interesting guests in equal measure kept the book alive throughout.

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tomorrow's Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew

In the South in America the year 1961 still sees a lot of segregation and discrimination is rife. Loraylee lives with family and her young son Hawk whose parentage though suspect is never discussed either within the family or outside.

Urban renewal at the time seems to only focus on "black" neighbourhoods considered a blight on the environment due to its neglect, its lack of facilities and curb appeal so hundreds of these neighbourhoods are razed to the ground in the face of "development". When Brooklyn faces the same fate, how these three residents face them courageously is the story of this book. The end is inevitable but how they handle it with grace and dignity and the sense of survival that brought them this far, is very courageous.

Told in the language of the times and of the community this was a very well told story, especially for an outsider.

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

Monday, May 27, 2019

Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly

Little Lovely Things

Claire is having an absolutely horrendous allergic reaction to a vaccine. She does what anyone would do. At a rest station she hesitates whether to lock the car or not and thinks it is safer otherwise, leaving two sleeping infants in the car she dashes into the room, then collapses. Comes out to the nightmare every parent hopes never to face. Both toddlers and the car  are missing.

It is the best of suspense mystery novels. Two little girls, a mad couple heavily into drugs on the other side and a couple breaking apart over guilt, misery and no news. When the littlest one's body is found, a sense of dread pervades the story and you wonder what is the fate of the older girl because unlike the parents who know who has taken them. You know the character of the beast and you are fearful where his mind (the little he has of it) will take him.

Holding on to your breath every step of the way, you are rooting for our couple, you are rooting for spunky Andrea now Colly and hope that some salvation is there around the corner. I felt for the McCann parents right then.

One of the best I've read this far.

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

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Mother In Law by Sally Hepworth

In any other family Lucy would have been a very welcomed daughter in law. She was loving, warm and wanted to be part of the family.  She was a good caring wife and mother and I thought that was the main criterion for a mother in law! I was wrong. Diana was cool and collected and she kept Lucy at arms length. She did not dislike her but she was never welcoming either.

Diana and Lucy got on fairly well. You knew where you stood with Diana who had iron clad principles and beliefs. One was that despite being endowed with a lot of money, she was not going to hand out any either to her son or to her daughter, however dire the circumstances were. She had a tough beginning herself and believed that you worked to overcome that. Nothing could shake her from that belief.

When Diana was found dead with a suicide note by her side, the family believed she had cancer and that may have caused her to take her own life. When that fact was disputed with no oncological records at all and when a vial of a drug found to cause slow, painless death was found the unraveling begins.

Unfortunately at the time of Diana's death both her children were in dire need of funds. The son because his partner had run the business down to the ground, they were in debt and everything had to go. Nettie the daughter desperate to have a child, an obssession if you can call it that, failed IVF treatments behind her, now forty and knowing she had to have one more round. Detectives had a good case for suspicion when they ruled out suicide.

In typical Hepworth fashion the story unwinds slowly but surely. You never know who could be the one but you knew it was close to home.

Fascinating read and a real page turner.

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

Victoria by Richard Mullen & James Munson

I had just finished watching the film on this Queen and getting this book was just the right moment.
It gave me a further insight into what the young Queen had to face not just from her country, but from her own mother, her uncles and then her husband.

The biography was meticulously detailed. The commentary was succinct and precise. It reflected on Victoria herself. She seemed to be a passionate woman - one with a passion for her husband and then for her country. She was determined to do well by her country, and had to fight the obstacles than men within her circle (including her husband) threw in her way. Most men of the time just thought that she was a Queen in name, lording it over a nursery and a large one at that and happy to be satisfied within that circle. Victoria was far from that. She threw herself into every act of government being partisan to some (the Queen was expected to be above party politics) but she knew her own mind and had no inhibitions about it.

This was a wonderful read of a life of 81 years set out meticulously in a book.

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

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Murder in the Dining Room by Betty Rowlands

After a rocky start, relations with her mother seem to be on an even keel and Melissa is keen for renovations to the extension to be finished soon so that her mother can move in and live with her on a permanent basis. In the meantime, the accommodation at the nearby retirement home is very good and her mother seems to have settled in for this short period.

The apparent murder of a pet dog and then the sudden demise of its owner sets Sylvia off on a tangent, determined that foul play is amiss and Melissa is terrified that with her interference that if there is an actual murderer around, her mother is the one in most danger as she is stirring things up without realizing it.  Initially skeptical, Melissa begins to think that something is amiss in the Home and that its inmates are not exactly what they seem.

Like everyone else, people are hiding secrets. There are skeletons in the closet that no one wants anyone to find and there are those who are determined to keep them hidden.

An old fashioned mystery murder, with slow detective work being laboriously followed up is this story. It does not mean it is boring though. Reminiscent of Miss Marple mysteries this was a good one.

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

Murder in Midtown by Liz Freeland

1913 America and though women were beginning to have a place in society there were still strict boundaries and conventions to be followed. Many careers were completely out of bounds and Louise's decision to join the Police Force was something that did not go down well. Fortunately her own Aunt was solidly behind her but even at the Police Station the treatment meted out to her was derogatory and unkind.

Louise was a determined girl - she was very focused on what she wanted to do and how she wanted to get about it. Having helped in solving one murder, the next one that crossed her path she was not going to give up on, despite all the pressure to do so.  When Guy Van Hooten is found charred to death in a fire which is ruled as not accidental, she is on the case immediately. The fact that Guy belonged to one of the upper rich aristocratic families in the city did not deter her and neither the fact that looking into his death brought her into conflict with the mob were minor details where finding the truth was concerned.

A little unusual for her time this story had lots to give optimism for the future and know that the American girl was going the right way!

Humour despite lots of odds kept Louise going all the way.

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Ladies of Intrigue by Michelle Griep

Three separate stories. All intriguing. All involving ladies!

The Gentleman Smuggler's Lady

Set on the Cornish coast Helen returns home to look after her father who is dying. She is quite prim and seeing Isaac she cannot quite figure out whether he is a smuggler and an outcast or a respectable member of Irish society.

The Doctor's Woman

This was a woman who set about doing something extraordinary at a time when women were supposed to be quite submissive and work behind the scenes. Acting as a doctor in most circumstances, she took a lot of people by surprise and upset many at the same time. Set in 1862 she was a pioneer! Much to be admired.

A House of Secrets

Set in 1890 Minnesotta, women still are expected to live and behave within strict boundaries. Amanda's attempts to set things right within a section of society comes up against a lot of odds, surprisingly enough her fiancee.  How does one balance love and your beliefs.

All three stories were about strong women who were willing to face social suicide in their attempts to do things their way.

Very good reading.

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Secrets of Willow House by Susanne O'Leary

Maeve is under doctor's orders to take a rest. A complete change of scene. She is run down and on the brink of having a medical breakdown due to stress and constant work. Luckily for her a bolthole with her aunt in Ireland is just the fix she needs.

Maeve returns to recuperate and do absolutely nothing. Sandy Cove is idyllic and her aunt is very happy for the company. Having lost her husband just a year ago, Phil is also trying to come out of the sadness that has gripped her this past year. She also is worried over the state of the house which is now beginning to show its age. She does not have the money for major repairs but she knows that it has to be done. Phil is also surprised at what she has found on her late husband's computer - there are incomings of money unaccounted for and she is worried whether he was in something illegal.

What Maeve discovers and shares with her Aunt is as surprising as it can get. It also is their saving grace and a way for Phil to go on living at Sandy Cove in the way she always wanted to. Sandy Cove also puts Maeve in a dilemma as to whether she really wants to go back to the fast paced life of an interior designer in London or live in Sandy Cove with someone whom she has strong feelings for.

The pull of career and finance against love is nicely balanced here and it is fortunate that it works out well and easily. Life is not always so fortuitous.

A light family story, extremely descriptive of Ireland (one that makes you want to visit now).

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes

The Daffodil Affair  (Sir John Appleby, #8)

Part of a series, I came to this unexpectedly in the middle at No. 8.

A bit of a far fetched tale. A horse goes missing - this horse is a bit different, good at numbers!
At the same time two young girls go missing, presumably kidnapped, probably human trafficking and the best part is yet to come, during the Blitz a house in Bloomsbury actually goes missing.

Now to put the three strands together - they are connected though not obviously so is the work of our Inspector and his side kick.

This is a quirky read, lots of literary references splattered throughout the book, all adding a piquancy to the read. It is a detective story with a lot of suspense. I like the references to the author himself in the book all adding great interest. Also very descriptive.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased read, courtesy of Ipso.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Until the Day I Die by Emily Carpenter

There were elements in the book which were difficult to follow, difficult to fathom and also difficult to accept. It did not mean the book was bad, it may be that I could not understand what the author was trying to say.

I liked the stories set in separate chapters - Erin and Shorie's stories particularly. Shorie seemed a particularly well balanced young woman who knew what she wanted. It was just not a college education. I felt for her as she had very good views of her own, she knew what she felt was right but she got conflicting advice from several sides so was a bit thrown. Erin as her mother felt (like most mothers would feel) that a university education was a must and this was the initial conflict.

Starting with Perry's death and the initial sense of grief and loss which continues throughout the story and then segues into a very complicated dark area where we really do not know who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. You suspect every character that gets thrown into the mix from this point on.

The incarceration of Erin depicted in the form of a "rehabilitating spa retreat" is a bit fantastical. From the very beginning it did not seem right, and there were a lot of things that were not in balance and off.

A bit unsettling!

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

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Hetty's Secret War by Rosie Clarke

WWI and II both fascinate me. The stories thrown up are intense and emotional - always. Survival in the face of hardship, persecution, then the separation sometimes temporary most often permanent from loved ones, the fear of the unknown, the missing. Then you get immense stories of courage of ordinary men and particularly women who took up the challenge at every level. The stories are never dull.

This was another good one.

Three separate people linked by the War. Georgie the only man she loved gone on a secret mission as a spy. Will he ever return? It seems so sad that after waiting so long for happiness that it is snatched away from her. We have Beth on the threshold of being a young woman. In love and marrying in such haste. Her husband in France. Every time the bell goes she is in suspense whether it is for her with the dreaded news. When it does come she has to face it head on with a baby on the way. Then we have Hetty who went away to France impetuously. Fled with a French lover, disillusioned by love and men, now caught in a no mans land with no way to return.

Each story was intense and Hetty's one though more dramatic than the other two all were equally emotional. The losses which each woman faced in turn were really sad. Each waited for happiness, each was given it for a short time, then it was lost. The fact that they continued to live with faith and hope and finally found comfort and love was enlightening.

Beautifully told the three women were individually strong characters who grew with the story. Descriptive of both England and France at the time in 1939 it brought everything alive.

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

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Murder by Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac

1945 London is gripped by the blackout and the parks is not a place that most people would want to be. However, three people find their way to the park in the pitch dark for various reasons of their own. They also witness a murder but not the murderer.

It is a very atmospheric setting and unraveling it seems inexplicable because the reasons for each of the gentlemen being there at that very dark moment seem questionable.  Each one has reasons which may seem plausible but on going back through their claims, too many coincidences start creeping in, and this starts different lines of questioning.

Plodding through in a slower pace 1945 style gets the job done of course.

The characters are all splendidly described and the setting of London during this period was bleak but not miserable. There was plenty of lightness in the story as well so that it was not a difficult read.

I only wish the covers could be a bit more attractive!

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Montauk by Nicola Harrison

1938 was a tough year for women. If they were in a relationship or marriage divorce seemed out of the question, on whatever grounds. If you were in the higher income bracket like our couple here, there was no way you could walk away from a marriage. Infidelity on the part of the man seemed to be an accepted feature of life and one that would hopefully go away. On the part of the women, yes if done discreetly.

Independence, working and having satisfaction from a job well done seemed unheard by all the society women flocking Montauk. The new Florida. One in which Beatrice and her husband Harry especially had high stakes. It was very important for Beatrice to cultivate friends, something she was not very good at, especially those who would help Harry's career. It did not matter that everyone knew that Harry was a philandering so and so. It was accepted in the society they moved.

When Beatrice got attracted to someone else, not of her class and started fraternizing with employees of the hotel it did not bode well for her. It marked subterfuge on her part to cover up her tracks and for her to decide what she was going to do.

The novel as it was depicted a society that looked very attractive to outsiders but was rotten to the core. Jealousy, infidelity, greed and social climbing seemed to characterize most of the people involved. It was difficult to read and accept as being the norm.

The setting was idyllic and descriptive. The story is a harsh one of a lifestyle which is not to be admired!

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