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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Taking Heart by Rowena Summers

When their nice cosy life is unexpectedly turned upside down with the crash of the family business, Imogen being the eldest is forced to take on the responsibility of her ailing mother who is in the early stages of senility and two younger sisters. Her father is totally blown away by the loss of his business and a huge loss of confidence in himself as a provider. Then the family is dealt another huge blow by the tragic death of their mother leaving them all rudderless. Though Frances was ineffective in dealing with the day to day lives of her family, she was very much loved and her loss affects them all badly.

Imogen comes up with the idea of taking in paid lodgers despite it being anathema to the society they live in. The youngest Teddy is sent along with Daisy to their aunt's house till they sort things out and Elsie and Imogen decide how they are going to manage not just their finances, but their personal lives and their father who has now become ineffective.

When the firm which took over their business offers their father a job, it is a life saver for him but for Isobel she feels the family are not being loyal to the Caldwell name. When her sister also joins the firm she is appalled but she is holding out but for what she doesnt know. The fact that everyone seems to have found some niche for themselves, along with boyfriends and a purpose whereas she seems aimless and jobless is enough to create tension for Imogen.

The onset of WWII is also imminent but the girls do not seem to want to acknowledge that it is going to happen. Whether reading about it in the newspapers or  listening to the news is not the "done thing" for young women of the era I don't know but in this family they all pretended to be deaf and blind to what was happening in the world outside their little town, until it blew up in their face.

The family story of the Caldwells in the setting of just pre WWII was a good one. It embodied family values of the time, along with the position of women and what was expected of them. Family tension and rivalries were also seen - the way women took over the working world had still to come with the actual out break of the War. Characterization was interesting because we had all kinds of people in the book - from the flighty to the serious, from the domineering to the more submissive types.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiaed review, courtesy of Agora Books.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Quickening and the Dead by J C Briggs


London 1850 and what intrigued me most was the involvement in a big way of Charles Dickens!

Three girls murdered. There is a link of a spurious awful Doctor who has used his position of supposedly being moral and ethical to ruin three women and on further investigations many more.Annie is in Newgate prison for the murder of Dr.Plume and it does not help that she does not talk about the case to support herself.

Collaborating with Sam Jones, both he and Charles Dickens believe that the girl is innocent and now they have to find out through a very complicated web of people, stories and deceit to find out exactly what went on and how they can get Annie set free.

The setting was a very good one but poor downtrodden London is a far cry from the fashionable soirees and houses of London's aristocracy. The wealthy had it all and the poor were left in miserable conditions. It is no wonder that death took away so many children and people alike as disease was rampant.

Descriptions of the poorer parts of London were heartbreakingly rough.I felt I had to skip paragraphs as it was too graphic for me but then this is part of the story. It was a very good introduction to Dickensian England.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Mortal Blow (Lady Fan Mysteries) by Elizabeth Bailey

The year 1791 and Lady Ottilia and Lord Francis are on their way to see his mother when in a woodland a woman stands stock still in the middle of the road, covered in blood. Thinking it may be an ambush they are cautious in approaching the woman, but Fan realises that she is almost catatonic and unaware of who and what they are.

Investigations reveal a dead man minus any injuries so where did the blood come from? Lady Fan her investigative antenna fully operational takes on the woman and the case which unravels slowly but surely with French emigres, a fanatic pastor father and a woman frail, fragile and at risk of hanging for murder in the absence of any other possible suspect and no witnesses.

My first foray into Lady Fan mysteries and I am a fan. I also like history and the setting was marvellous. Very descriptive of London in all areas from the high brow aristocratic circles to the poorest of the poor.

Slow deduction of this mystery murder added to the interest.

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Girl Most Likely by Max Allan Collins

In a small town, a school reunion is being planned. Out of towners are expected and some who have made it big are also expected. Not all are looked at fondly especially Astrid who seemed to have taken great delight in taking away the boyfriends of all her school friends and then discarding them when it was not quite convenient.
Memories seem to be harsh and though Krista now head cop of the small force in town is rightly proud of her position, she is slightly unnerved to face the crowd that is going to come. Her father who lives with her now is also a retired Detective. When things dont go quite as planned and when the body of Astrid is discovered brutally murdered, most people think that it is beyond the capabilities of this small police force since investigations reveal that it is not just jealous women or men in the community at play here.

When this becomes a triple murder Krista at times seems a little out of her depth and lacking the confidence to handle the situation alone. She does depend on her father for help and this is fine as otherwise she would have consulted outsiders in the force. The police procedure and the regulations which were followed and detailed in the book also add a lot of interest to the story.

Nice characterization as well of all who played a part in the book.

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Seventh Train by Jackie Carreira

There are some stories that are so improbable that it is quite possibly true. This is one such story!

I am also having a problem with blogger/computer? that does not allow me to place the post in the position I want to.

Elizabeth has invented this idea - with the idea of going nowhere fixed, having no idea of what the future holds, or rather where the future will take her. She gets on to the seventh train at a station, goes four stops then gets down and does it again - and again.  When she accidentally meets up with one character, then it becomes two, then they rope in a third the quartet becomes almost a family sharing their love of the unknown.

I was a tad bit envious of the lifestyle, the freedom of choice but it takes a brave soul and you do have to put something by to handle this on your own for a feasible amount of time.

I loved the quirkiness of it in total contrast to the sobriety of the character Elizabeth, the bounciness of one, the smart ass attitude of one and the normalcy of the other.

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

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Ghost of Hollow House by Linda Stratmann

In the format of an Agatha Christie this is a slightly old fashioned mystery thriller. Set in the peaceful Sussex countryside we know that appearances are deceptive and the Hollow House a very nicely turned out manor is no different. Bought by the affable Mr. Honeyacre for his bride he has refurbished and repaired it to the utmost comfort with staff to match. There is however one catch. Mina Scarletti is invited to suss it out and find out why supernatural occurrences are hindering the happiness and future of the owners.

There are a number of interesting characters. Mina herself a victim of scoliosis, a disease not understood in England of the 1860s, there is Nellie formerly of the stage, Mrs. Honeyacre herself formerly of the stage and then we have lovers and spies for ex husbands, an occultist and a photographer plus the usual staff of a countryside manor.

Unraveling slowly but surely the story is rather complicated but it devolves and the ultimate revelation is timely.

Very nicely told in an older fashioned tradition of Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot and their ilk.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Sapere Books (a new publisher for me).

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Winemaker's Secret by Cynthia Ellingsen

Abby and her family have dedicated their entire life to the vines and their vineyard.  That someone is trying to destroy their reputation and even sabotage their lives is becoming apparent and it is up to the youngest two Abby and her prodigal brother Dean to see to it. It does not help that Dean is a former drug addict who broke their parents heart, disappeared for years and is it is a coincidence that the troubles are beginning with his sudden appearance.

Abby has a fragile past. Beset with illness and lack of self confidence, this is a trait that is holding her back from her full potential. Her father and grandfather are not willing to let the reigns go to someone who is not confident to face people and Abby knows she has to overcome these fears to move forward.

Very descriptive of the countryside in which the book is set, the story of this wine making family is very detailed and interesting.

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Prologue to Murder by Lauren Elliott

Addie has worked with books and in a prestigious library at that. She has now moved into her hometown to settle down with a small shop.

Her friendship with the Police Chief does not go down well with a certain lady and when June is found murdered, Addie finds herself mired in innuendo connecting her to the lady's death. No slander no libel possible, just a gossip column doing untold damage to her reputation and to her business.

Addie is determined to get to the bottom of the story and slowly a plot of pirate treasure, caves, family feuds going back centuries are uncovered. Added to this is Addie's own troubles of the heart, having just got over her relationship and now finding both the Chief of Police and the new Surgeon at the local hospital both attracted to her. She herself is in a quandary not knowing whom she likes the most and this makes her very unpopular!

Told in a step by step cozie mystery manner, this was a nice mystery murder read.

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

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Only One Life by Ashley Farley

Julia was from a wealthy household. But she had snobbish parents or rather an over bearing father and a mother who just went along with him. She also had an overbearingly bullying sister who never gave up.

When Julia met Jack she married him and whilst pregnant with his baby, Jack met with an accident and died. At the time Julia had been estranged from her family and although her mother appeared out of the blue in Julia's neighbourhood, she never met her. Just watched from afar and disappeared.

Julia became destitute and realized that the only way out for her was to seek help from her family. It was not easy and there was the father and sister together sniping away. When her father died and left his entire wealth to his eldest daughter, questions had to be asked as to why he would leave his wife and younger daughter bereft of any of his wealth.

Her mother's past and questions about her birth are the answer to Julia's questions and though buried in a decades old story it unearths the reason why her father disliked her. The questions of maintaining a facade in their lives and marriage, led to so much heartache and pain all for the lack of communication - forthright communication on a touchy topic.

A family story with more than its fair share of heartache.

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

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Secret Child by Caroline Mitchell

An affluent home and a child snatched. Ellen is four years old and has been brought up in an isolated manner for reasons only known to her father the famed Dr. Curtis. She goes with her kidnapper because he said her father said so. She has been taught to follow instructions.

DI Amy Winter is put on the case and investigations reveal a very tangled story which has to be slowly unravelled if the Curtis's want to see their daughter alive. The fact that they are slow to give information, albeit reluctant to talk at all points the finger at them squarely but this is discounted with a second child, this time a disabled one is taken away from school. The links have to be linked and then Amy may find who is responsible.

Many of those close to the children say it is Luka who is the kidnapper but Luka and his mother died in a fire years ago. No autopsy was done, no remains can be found so the suspicion is now rife that Luka is very much alive and he is seeking revenge for the experiments that Dr. Curtis carried out on him and other young children in his care. All for the sake of science and for the benefit of humankind, but at what expense to those who were experimented on..

Uncovering a story of monsterish proportions DI Amy is working against time and against a kidnapper who seems to know her every move, and only wants her involved in the case. A cat and mouse game begins and the end is surprising.

Very good suspense/thriller/mystery holding the audience captive.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Re Tyred (Discovering India) by Sara McMurry

Image result for re tyred sara McMurry cover images

I like travel memoirs and though this is not a travel memoir as such, it was much more than that. The writer spent months spread over a number of years in parts of Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh as an English teacher volunteer. Her writings about her experiences in two very different locations added much interest to the work of teaching.

Rajasthan is desert country. Parched, dry and a hard life. Himachal Pradesh is picture perfect - mountains and valleys, green and fresh. The physical contrast alone was a very good story because the author paints a beautiful picture of both.

Her experience in dealing with simple, straight forward villagers who liked the idea of their children learning English but she also accepted the practices of the villagers and never tried to influence them to change their ways, despite her own personal ideas on the subjects. Very young marriages of girls at the age of 15 are common in the Rajasthan area, despite being illegal. Children are expected to help out on farms, with cultivation, with livestock. The family is of paramount importance, not the individual. The differences are many and all are very well articulated in this book.

Very vividly described both geography and people, this was a very entertaining read.

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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Dare by Carol Wyer

Does any parent know what actually goes on behind the facade of their teenage children. I think we think we do, but we really don't!

Jane thinks she has a good rapport with her daughter. Not being rigid but there are guidelines and when her daughter does not return home by 4 pm on a school day and when none of her friends know where she is Jane's nightmare begins. Her body is discovered just a few hours later.

Natalie Ward is the detective on the case and she knows that this one is not going to be an easy ride. She feels that she is getting close to the killer, but then a second girl goes missing and she knows the killer is mocking them with the clues he leaves behind. A killing of a similar nature in another city rings a bell and now Natalie has to find some common link with the previous killing to check whether a serial killer is on the rampage. When Natalie's own daughter goes missing the nightmare comes closer to home.

Full of suspense this is a real page turner.

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

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson

This was a really emotional read which was however not overwhelmingly so. The prejudices of narrow minded people (existing even today!) lead to so much sorrow and heartache and for our Cussy who just wanted to live a normal life was made just so much harder.

Cussy is a woman who is blue skinned. I had not heard of this condition and had to look it up. In an era of prejudice Cussy was an aberration and one who was ostracized from society as on a level with the African Americans and had to be treated accordingly with segregation and downright dislike.
Part of Roosevelt's Pack Horse Librarian services, serving distant communities and bringing reading and a modicum of education to others Cussy and those of her ilk did yeoman service in the face of prejudice and natural hardships covering long distances through remote, isolated areas.

Cussy was one of a few people who were blue skinned and despite that she was a happy soul who was satisfied that she was of some use to a community and also independent financially . That she was thwarted by the people surrounding her both in her workplace who were downright wicked and those in the community did not dull her spirit or her kind heartedness to others.

An interesting take on a part of American history and culture, also unknown to me until now.

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick

I was lucky I got this book from Netgalley because I have not had much luck with many good books I've wanted to read. Those on the wish list never come my way so this was one was a really good break for me.

Told in two different time lines though in the lifetime of one person - William - the story delves into the personal and political life of both the Kings of England the political strife of Jerusalem and the difficulty in holding on to it in the face of Saladin.

Descriptive in detail from both the workings of households in both states, to the journey itself. Perilous, facing brigands and treacherous weather it was a pilgrimage in adverse conditions and from which many did not return alive. It was also no ordinary turn around journey William and his group spent several years in Jerusalem, lived there under the patronage of eminent folk, he became a secular Templar and this added another dimension to the story.

The telling of his story towards the end of his life when death was around the corner was poignant and far sighted. A life story of great interest, the story thrown back to decades before when William was in his prime was out of a fantasy. Overcoming odds, making decisions which were vital for the groups survival were all mind blowing. I loved the juxtaposition of both history and personal melding together very well into a whole.

Ancient history told in a way to capture the interest of any modern reader.

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

Monday, June 3, 2019

Trophy Life by Lea Geller

Trophy Life

Agnes Parsons came from humble beginnings. But she has now got used to a high maintenance life. With a much older, much richer husband and now a baby, she has got used to a very luxurious life, also strangely never wondering from where the money comes. She just goes with the flow, accepting her riches and quite oblivious to the situation around her.

When her husband does not turn up after going off to office, she has only the contact with his lawyer. There are no friends because her husband did not encourage any and when the lawyer tells her that her husband is in trouble, that there is no money, and that she should herself take her baby and disappear to a middle school and take up an appointment there Agnes accepts it packs up baby and a few things and moves across country to a crummy school, an even more crummier apartment and rather appalling school kids.

Throughout the story, I was slightly taken aback at Agnes's attitude. She just went with everything dictated by Don and her husband when he enigmatically called on and off, she accepted the explanation that he had cheated lots of people out of their savings, she put up with her horrible downturn in circumstances just for an opportunity to meet her husband once more and believed him when he said that this state was only temporary.

This was a quirky novel, a little unbelievable but at the same time showing how circumstances can change so drastically that you wonder whether you lived in a fairy tale before.

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

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy (The Marquess House Trilogy #1)

I like stories with two separate time lines. This one from the very present modern pair of twins in an exquisite setting of the Marquess House and then we go back centuries to the time of the Tudor King Henry VIII and yes some of his wives.

1539 and Catherine Howard is a simple girl just arrived at the court. She wasn't to know that she would catch the rapacious eye of the King who just did not like his Queen - Anne of Cleves. She was too "plain" for him and he wanted someone younger, more pliant than a maturer woman. Catherine fitted the bill. That she did not like the King, and that she was coerced into the relationship is obvious from the start.

On the other hand we have Perdita and Piper who have been estranged from their grandmother who they believe cut them out of her life when her only daughter was killed in a car accident. Just days after her grandmother died, the twins are amazed to know that not only was their father in a very good relationship with their grandmother, but that their grandmother had followed every detail of their lives minutely and that both of them were her only beneficiaries of her estate.

How the two disparate stories come together is very well told in this epic story. History to a great extent, factual and very much part of the story and then the fiction crept in and what a story. It would change the history of the British Royals if factually true!

This was history, family saga, mystery and of course a fair amount of murder considering that we are talking of Henry VIII.

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