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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Have you seenn Luis Velez by Catherine Ryan Hyde

This was a joyous book to read. Like it said in the book, most older folk seemed to have given up on young people. Their indifference, their attitude to very old, slow folk is degrading and some of them look through them as if they didnt exist. Then you come across someone like Raymond and your entire view of life changes. You think there is hope for the human race.

Millie is old and blind and dependent on a young man called Luis Velez for assistance - to the bank, to the grocery. When he does not turn up for three weeks, she is on the point of starvation but she does not want to worry social services or anyone for that matter. She steps out of her apartment and for her good fortune and also for our young man, they meet and the rest is the story.

The search for Luis Velez goes on privately by Raymond who is horrible conflict at home. He is the odd one out in a family of white, he is black and is made to feel alone by all, including his mother who shows no empathy and particularly no sensitivity to her son who is struggling to just fit in. At his father's house, his father's second wife shows no hesitation in showing her dislike that he is part of her husband's responsibilities even though it is only twice a month. She resents this and shows it.

That Raymond turns out the way he did, is a marvel. He could have been a grouch, he could have been frustrated, angry and annoyed at the deal the world dealt him but he just handled it and went on with it.

The story was descriptive, detailed and though there were no entirely happy endings it ended on a note of hope and love.

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

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Well Read Woman by Kate Stewart (a biography of Ruth Rappaport)

A fascinating biography of a woman with a colorful history and one with ambition.

Ruth Rappaport was a child in Nazi Germany. With Romanian origin parents and a passport which helped  since it was not a German one, she was a Jew and faced great danger in Nazi Germany. She was fearless and even as a young child was daring and bold. Faced with an uncertain future, she like thousands of others was shipped to Seattle to join a family and to try to live a life without the luxury of parents or family or money.

How Ruth survived the treacherous journeys through Switzerland then to America to Vietnam and back to America all sustained by her love of libraries and books and how she used this to her advantage to seek a life of some sorts despite being without roots, without a home, without a family is an emotional read. For anyone to be not really welcomed, to be just tolerated by family  more as an obligation or duty to extended family is a hardship that cannot be endured for long. Ruth had to bear this for a long time because with no money, no education she was dependant on others.

How she carved a life for herself out of her libraries, the work she did in Vietnam setting up a fine system for all the forces stationed there was immense. Even on her return her work with libraries continued and even in retirement she was an active force within the community itself. It makes one life seem very dull and mediocre in comparison!

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

The Two Lila Bennetts by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Lila Bennett is one focussed individual. Focussed on what is best for herself mainly. To this end some hard decisions have been made in the past. Some deliberately so, with the idea of promoting herself and some just because she wants to win and come out ahead of everyone else. Tough upbringing has to an extent made her the way she is.

We have two aspects here - (I did find it confusing at the beginning). Lila kidnapped, kept in an underground bunker, not ill treated but not treated well at all, disoriented, without any clue as to who and why she has been taken. When her captors start focussing on her past decisions and getting her to accept and apologise to those she has wronged, Lila though knowing her own career is going down the drain, has a strange sense of relief.

In the other alternate,  she eludes her captors but someone is unravelling her life piece at a time deliberately. In this scenario, she knows exactly who and why but is left helpless. When Lila in this case decides to do the "correct" thing, she literally sets the cat amongst the pigeons unleashing a series of good decisions, and upturning all what went before.

Both scenarios were equally fascinating. Both were equally ruthless. In both Lila became from being the strong victor to the submissive person who knew she has to set right her original faults.

Very intriguing. Very well written. A page turner and one that keeps you on edge till the end.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer

Duplicate Death (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #7)

A card party hosted by a woman whose credentials do not seem very sound. But she is able to attract to the table very high flying people including the aristocracy. She has also been able to get one of the most capable hostesses to introduce her daughter to high society. There seems to be a history behind the woman but no one knows anything about it.

When two deaths in identical manner take place at the house within a short period of time, the hunt is one to find a very determined and bold killer. When the Secretary to the hostess Miss Birtley is suspect Timothy who is madly in love with Miss. Birtley will leave no stone unturned to prove her innocence. With two capable detectives also following all leads, the story is a bit complicated with side stories of drug running, blackmail all in high society adding a piquancy to the story.

Nor like Miss. Heyer's usual Regency Romances which I love, this was also very good in a different style.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The House of Hardie by Anne Melville

Young love, idealistic dreams, dreams far removed from what your parents envisage for you and the determination to achieve them form part of the story.

Two families two very different social situations. One in trading, one very upper class. Very unlikely that either family will tolerate a marriage within the two. Lucy is headstrong and Gordon taken quite unawares. Midge had to learn the hard way that a man may not feel the way he behaves and may be very different to what she is expecting.

Midge is ahead of her time. She is clever and wants to be educated. Unfortunately not encouraged by the world in general though her family is supportive. Her idea of teaching and then becoming a Head of a college seems such a feasible idea now. In Victorian England it was far fetched. Midge was determined however and after her disillusionment with Archie she channelled all her energies into her education and career.

In Midge's brother's case despite being expected to take over his father's business, his love of nature drew him to explore the world and he somehow was determined to trek in China seeking for elusive plants and herbs. He did this not expecting the determined Lucy to escape the confines of her home and join him on board the steamer to the Far East. Their adventures are a travel memoir of the difficulties of travel in the time and make for a fascinating read.

The stories of the two separate families and how their lives entwined and how fate played a role is very well depicted.

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

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Fire of The Sun by Simon Laffy

This was a complicated story crossing several time lines and several countries. A nurse talking to a cancer patient who she discovers is a famous scientist partially responsible for the Apollo missions. He tells her of the Nazi search for proof that they were a pure race and descendant from the Gods . In their quest for this, they did come across something which proved to be beyond the understanding and imagination of the scientists of the 1940s.

British Intelligence is also keen on knowing what this subject was but it seems as if all doors are closed to them and they always arrive a tad late to discover what actually happened. The story is fantastic, but very plausible and in this lies its attraction.

Can this knowledge be used constructively and why is it that so many people die in the pursuit of finding out the truth.

This was not an easy read, I took a number of days to read the book but when I finished it eventually, I did think it was an unusual subject.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of ACM Letro Ltd.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Caroline's father disappeared from her life over thirty years ago. She had no hankering to look for him because what she knew and was told about him was disappointing. But his sister Lanie, the aunt who brought her up is at death's door and her wish is that she see her brother once more before she dies and Caroline is trying very hard to track down the illusive Hoff and bring him to Lanie's bedside.

Caroline does not realise that her quest for her father is going to make many people uneasy. From the people he worked with to those whom he had relationships/children with all are determined to block Caroline from her search. Caroline is determined however and despite a dangerous episode where someone runs her off the road, causing her to crash she still pursues the trail.

Disappointing though it is with the end result, the story of her search was a good one. It unearthed clues not only to her father's past but also to the histories of those who were linked to her father - and they were for the most very unsavoury. That is why people were not keen to allow her to unearth information about Hoff.

There were quite a few stories here apart from Hoff and Caroline and it detracted a bit from the main story.

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I Know You're There by Sarah Simpson

The four inmates of the four flats seem like a very nice bunch of people. Differing ages, differing personalities but they all get on well. There are no hidden tensions or agendas. It seems so.

Natalie  permanently afraid of her bullying and father who is now in prison, sent there by her complaint. Morwenna motherly but with a past addiction and a fear that she killed her husband whom she was devoted to, Nigel serious and just right and then there is Daniel the young boy who is fearful and has everyone looking out for him. We have Mark their landlord who is also now in a relationship with Natalie.

Under the blithe surface all of them have secrets and when a series of anonymous postcards keep appearing in their flats and when Natalie always fears that there has been someone in her flat in her absence though she cannot pinpoint exactly why and how the house of cards begins to tumble. It is an exercise in living on the edge, fearful of shadows, fearful of the dark and now fearful and suspicious of your neighbour.

Fairly tense, living on the edge thriller. Nice characterization. Nice setting.

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Tubman Command by Elizabeth Cobbs

Very detailed and with accurate historical information of the life and work of Harriet Tubman who worked tirelessly to free slaves.

In this story, we get to know much more about Harriet than is generally known. Due to the generally secret nature of the operation, the fact that she was a slave and because she was female, her role has generally not been highlighted but rather downplayed which is totally unfair because she played the greatest role in freeing 750 slaves which is huge for the time.

Meticulous detail to history was part of the story and will endear history fans for this fact alone.

My knowledge of American history is scant, almost non existent so this was very good reading for me.

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Silver Ladies of Penny Lane by Dee MacDonald

Tess and Orla are good friends, blunt to each other but honest - there is a no holds barred conversations going on between the two all the time. I thought it was a bit too blunt but it worked very well for them both.

Now in their sixties, both are looking for love in almost any place possible. Their pursuit of happiness was a bit forced but both were determined to get it by any means. Companionship, a physical relationship were both goals for both of them and the story of how they achieved it is this story.

I was not very enamoured by the whole process but then I think I am prejudiced! The story was light, funny in parts, a farcical in parts.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Only Charlotte by Rosemary Poole Carter

Lenore James is a good natured woman. She has outlived three husbands, is financially independent, fair and non judgemental and worried over her brother Gilbert. He has tragically lost his wife and child and now seems enamoured by the young woman Charlotte Eden. Herself married with two children and whose husband is very much part of New Orleans society.

The story revolves around Charlotte and her supposed death under mysterious circumstances whilst at a weekend with mutual friends (of her husband). Gilbert as the doctor was brought in to take the body away and prepare it for burial. That the husband did not accompany the doctor gave us the first inclination that things were not quite what they seemed and when Charlotte is found to be alive and has to be given some kind of place to recover apart from her husband and children, this is where the actual story unravels.

New Orleans society was lax and amongst this circle of society rather immoral. The Judge who overlooked all legal matters of the area was corrupt so that there was no way that Gilbert could bring about a case against Charlotte's husband. It was a very cliquey society a sort of old boys network which worked well for them against all outsiders.

The story was slow paced but descriptive of the society in which Lenore and Gilbert lived and was interesting for its depiction of New Orleans society from their viewpoint.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of TOP Publishers. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Brighton Guest House Girls by Lesley Eames

It must have been so difficult to be intelligent and street smart for women in the early part of the century.  They were expected to conform, not to argue, to be supported by a plethora of parents, brothers, husbands and just expected to look helpless and pretty.

For someone like Thea who saw through her stepfather's wiles and was disenchanted with his drunken ways life was hard. Not only did he run through all the money that was available, he sold everything her mother possessed to fuel his drinking habit. When he died, his son turned up on Thea's doorstep with a will which showed that her mother had written everything to her husband, and her husband had written everything to his son. His son wanted Thea out of the house asap.

Thea knew that either the will was forged or that signatures were forged or witnesses were coerced. She did not know where to start though.

In a parallel zone we have Anna, single and pregnant  her partner lost at sea off the coast of Brazil and now she has been thrown out of her home. We have Daisy who wants to see the outside world a bit before returning to the loving embrace of her father. How these three women meet, give each other the support each one needs and form a bond over riding class particularly and becoming good friends is this story.

The story was a charming one of the support people can be for each other, and how greed for material wealth over rides morals or ethics.
A simple story of all's well that ends well but put together very well.

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

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Roman Count Down by David P Wagner

The story is a simple one. One of the upper class Counts has been found supposedly murdered just outside his residence. The police do not find any enemies or suspects as such. They are under pressure from the Countess as well to find out how and why her husband is murdered. That she was a strange bird is another part of the story.  Enter Rick who has decided to come to Rome and live there, uprooting himself from his American lifestyle to adapt to his Italian roots. His uncle is the Detective on the case and he ropes Rick in to help.

I was nonplussed how a civilian could be officially roped into an investigation but that is beside the point. The story reads more like a travelogue on Rome with special emphasis on food. Food in restaurants, food in cafes, food in hole in the wall grocers (delicious, fabulous) and traveling in and out through Rome brought the city to life in this book.

I like travel in every form so this was a lovely choice for me. I enjoyed the forays that Rick made into the by ways of Rome and how he extricated himself from them as well. You got a view of Rome from the expat as well as from the local.

Very nice reading (the murder was solved at the end) so two birds with one stone!

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

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

The past is reaching out to both Nelson and Ruth - in ways that are strange as the author of the previous missives is now long dead. Who could be knowing the style of writing, the cryptic poetry and the messages it conveys other than Erik himself and they both know he is dead.

When the body of a little girl is found within a henge (a circle of stone) and when carbon dating proves that it is of recent origin the detectives get their cold cases together to find out who would fit the profile.  Apart from solving the case of the missing Margaret, there are many threads from previous cases which link all the characters together. From Michelle Nelson's wife who is about to give birth and does not know whether it is her husband's or her lover's child she is expecting to Ruth who finds it bitter sweet because Nelson is the father of her Katie. So much of inner tension in the story underlying the professional relationships which have to be maintained at all costs and impersonally, if the case is to be solved.

This was a different take on a mystery murder story. The detectives themselves had a convoluted history and apart from the main two, several others were also involved in the story. It added a different structure to the story.

Very much of a page turner in a different style this was a very good read.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

All the Missing Pieces by Juanita Tischendorf

An extremely rich powerful family in New York with two children. The boy brought up to inherit the fortunes of Coral Ridge almost totally owned and powered by this family. The girl Katrina wayward from her days as a teenager ends up in a marriage disapproved by her parents, disowned by them and she dies and then her husband leaving behind two children.

The story of the two children Tyler and to a lesser extent Alyssa brought to the Engelman household and held in disdain and dislike by both their aunt and uncle and terrorised by their cousin Barstow. That a family could treat their own with such dislike, such coldness which was the worse form of cruelty and overlook the ill treatment of the children by their own son was harsh. It also continued till adulthood and finally led to the rape of Alyssa and the utter humiliation of Tyler.

The story gets more and more twisted as it went along - with the older Engelman's becoming lonely, alienated from the community and the end is surprising.

Terrible families, dysfunctional relationships, harsh living all found in one story.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of J. Tischendorf Services.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

From One Hell to Another by Liz Cowley & Donough O'Brien

Carmen and her two sisters were from a close knit, conservative Spanish family. With the outbreak of war, their father thought it was time to send them along with their mother Maria to his cousin who lived in France. They got out in the nick of time.

Settling into a village life in France was hard. Language was a problem and though schooling sorted that issue out very fast, Maria lagged behind. She was never comfortable with the French language, found the accent difficult to comprehend and remained isolated throughout. It did not help matters because she still brought with her traditional values which in the French context were out of date.
When the Germans invaded Poland, and then France Carmen decided enough was enough. She wanted to do something constructive with her life and joined the Resistance. The family was again in the midst of war and though not as bad as other villages, life was tough.

Pedro was struggling to maintain the farm he got from a friend of Carmens (when the boy was conscripted) and making huge amount of supplies to the German army made making a living precarious. When Ottillia the second girl began a liaison with a German soldier matters became worse. Ottilia was the hard headed girl who did not listen to advice and despite knowing what became of those who befriended Germans she continued the relationship.

The day to day life of the average person in the village juxtaposed with the life and deprivations of those who joined the Resistance and who faced major setbacks and hardship were very descriptive. The thread of romance going through the book in various forms shows that love will find a way in the most difficult of circumstances. It added another layer to the story.

Moving from one war to another was difficult. They came as refugees hoping to find peace and ended up in another bigger war. That they all escaped with their lives despite being foreigners was no easy task.

Very good historical detail of one of the lesser known contributions of the Spanish to the French resistance and war effort which is forgotton most of the time was detailed here.

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

Monday, July 1, 2019

Tick Tock by Mel Sherratt

In the city of Stoke a 16 year old girl is murdered in broad daylight, within minutes of her friends departure on a cross country run. The school is just yards away and when they turned around and walked back, they found her dead. Two days later a young woman leaving after work is abducted and her body found strangled in a field.

DI Grace Allendale is tasked with the job of finding who this serial killer is and when a third girl is attacked, the agency knows that they are in trouble. There are no clues, no links between the victims and only when an online chat line becomes a common link do faint clues appear.

Dealing with psychopaths and trying to unravel what goes on in an irrational mind must be an almost impossible job and this is what these detectives have to face. A tight knit community, and when children are hurt things can get ugly for the police as well.

There are differing points of view shown in the story - from the police side and from the "other" side. It added a lot of interest and kept one on your toes throughout.

A real page turner.

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