My Blog List

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy

Stories set in two time lines makes for very good reading. This more so, since one was set in WWII time frame and in Paris (and Brittany). Both good settings. Then we have the present day setting of Paris and again it was a fashion house.

Couture, espionage, love stories, faith and trust in huge measures and friendship of a deep enduring kind between women which lived on even after they were gone. The elements of the story woven together give you a story that is emotional, educative (I am still learning about the extent to which women went in the field of espionage in a very matter of fact way) and intriguing.

Mireille, Claire and Vivienne are the three seamstresses from 1940 Paris and Harriet is the modern one who is trying to find out details of her mother's and grandmother's life. Mainly to get an inkling and a feeling of belonging to someone because she feels isolated and lost from her present family of father, step mother and siblings. In unraveling the story of her grandmother she also gives us an unparalleled story of love and friendship.

Beautifully written,  charming settings, gruesome war time stories all combine to give us a wonderful read.

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

Monday, October 28, 2019

The First Lady & the Rebel by Susan Higginbotham

American history and politics are two subjects I know very little of. So this was a good read for me. A very good one.

Dealing with a civil war on the one hand, Abraham Lincoln on the other and on top of it all the history of sisters divided by political conflict and personal beliefs. The trio came together beautifully to give you one wonderful story detailing history and a personal family saga that was wonderfully told.

The North and the South of America divided on this issue, and the war was very real with losses on every side. The Todd family had their fair share of losses and so did the Lincolns. Both from illness and the war the losses were heart breaking. The detailed history of the conflict, parallel with the story of Mary and Emily and to a lesser degree their other sisters is an excellent read.

There are details of the clan which were totally unknown to me - that Mary Lincoln was committed to a lunatic asylum by her only surviving son was hard to take. Emily on the other hand handled her sorrows in a more balanced manner despite facing more hardships than Mary did. The two sisters were a contrast to each other and this is what added interest to their story. It also points out to the fact that despite their positions, they were foremost women who were wives and mothers who sought to protect those they loved.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2019

One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker

1876 Wyoming. Life on the frontier was hard and for the Bemis and Webber families very isolated. Maybe that was why one man started an affair with the other man's wife. There was very little warmth anyway in Substance and Nettie Mae's marriage in the first place but when he was killed by Bemis, Nettie Mae felt that she was done wronged by and hated Cora Bemis with a vengeance.

What started out as bitter enmity, had to be put aside when circumstances forced the two families to live together for pure survival. With limited resources of both food and warmth and lack of labour to handle two farms the two eldest children, both teenagers decided to come together to just survive the hard winter ahead.

The story of the two women, trying hard to adjust, Cora being submissive to Nettie Mae as she was the offender. Netti Mae biting back her hatred because of the weakness of her son, knowing that he needs the Bemis family support to survive is a story of tolerance, hard work and just getting on with life, however hard it seems to be.

When a romance builds up between the two teenagers, the entire story is out of the mother's hands and the next step forward is taken in reconciliation and getting to grips with family.

A tough story, very well told.

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

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Where she Went by Kelly Simmons

The nightmare that no parent wants to face. Your teenage, college going daughter goes missing, the Police do not seem to take it seriously and her colleagues are oblivious to the fact that she has been missing from her room and from her classes.

Most mothers hesitate as to whether they are over reacting, it finally dawns that you do not really know what is happening in your daughter's life, you have not been privy to the daily happenings unlike before and that she is now grown up and quite independent of you.

Maggie does not take inactivity lying down. She pursues it on her own despite it being bordering on the illegal. Her daughter is missing and that is all she can think about.

I agree with one reviewer who said this is women's fiction. It is typical of a mother's behaviour, single or married. Your children are your focus and you are there to protect them. Everything else is beside. The story of Maggie and the unravelling of Emma who wants to fit in, who wants to have friends, who wants to be in the in crowd is a typical growing up story.

A good read about two women trying to come to terms with growing up and becoming independent.

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

This was set not in two time lines but in three! my first read where it went into three separate stories.

Victorian England and Elizabeth an impoverished aristocrat is being touted by her mother as a suitable bride for anyone who is worthy of her. He has to be rich of course. Everything else is by the way. That is the original story of where the paintings begin - the paintings of Queen Victoria which so beguiled her consort  that he kept it only for his private viewing. That is the origin of this tale.

We then move on to the harrowing 1934 England. Almost the end of WW II and the arrival of American troops and the solace and uproar they equally brought to rural England. We have Amelia trying to hold it all together looking after orphaned children with very little funds and trying to hold on to her common sense and sanity when the Americans arrive.

We then have the present modern times. Keira is asked to authenticate a painting. During a modernisation of the castle, exciting news in the form of a new painting by Winterhalter has been discovered. Keira is needed in this connection.

All three stories are linked to Parnham Hall and the paintings - the unraveling of the story and the romance of each period was wonderful. They were not the run of the mill romances but very unusual ones - the first starting with revenge, the second with lost hopes and the third with desolation when you realise your idol has feet of clay. The stories ended well, wonderfully well.

Very descriptive of their settings in all three time frames, the characterization was splendid and the story was a page turner. I'll be looking out for this author in the future.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Thomas Nelson FICTION.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Flower Arranger by J J Ellis

It took me a while to get into the space of this story. Set in Japan, the workings of a young journalist and the police force were at play here. That part of the story telling was just the same as any other. There were places in the mind set of the murderer or pursuer of the young girls who were his victims that was the hard part to fathom.

Two young women, one Swedish one French go missing. The Swedish girl's body is found. No violation, but just a small wound on her neck which indicates the blood drained out of her body systematically. The why of it could only be explained by the attacker himself in alternate chapters and this was the part that was culturally different. He wanted someone to be replicated by the image he had of his mother who used to make up as a geisha in chalk white make up and he was always on the look out for girls who were very pale who could be made to look paler and paler.

When Blain starts her pursuit of the story successfully and publishes her findings, it upsets the Japanese detective put in charge of the case. Foreigners involved make it more delicate and the subject is one that has to be handled with kid gloves. Alternating between Inspector Tanaka and Blain and the attacker the story goes on quietly but forcefully towards an end.

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

The Wayward Wedding by Sarah Richmond

After a very long time I read a book that was light hearted and a happily ever after in the nicest possible way.

Dolly is to be married in a week's time. She did not think the visit to the rector is going to end with her being arrested and ending up in Holloway. Finding the rector bashed on his head ended up her being the arrested, despite that there is no reason whatsoever that she was the attacker - courtesy of covered up evidence on the part of the char woman of the church and the officiousness and stupidity of the detective in charge.

This was a mystery murder (not much mystery actually, just botched up) a nice touch of old fashioned romancing, and ideal for a Sunday afternoon.

All ends well. Dolly does get married and we have a lovely wedding!

Sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review, courtesy of The Wild Rose Press. Inc.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Sassafras by Trish Heald

Champs Noland is in a retirement community and he hates it with a passion. His wife has passed away and he is totally at a loss how to cope with everyday stuff. He wishes she left him notes on how to manage their three children, what to say to people and just how to survive.

Champs has been the provider and nothing else. He has not been able to actually grieve the loss of his wife and just plods on day to day just trying to get through the day the only way he knows how. Returning to his holiday home on the river is the only way he knows how to live, but finding on arrival that the entire place has been gentrified makes him so angry that again he does not know what and how to cope.

When the children start arriving with the intention of disposing their mother's ashes and having some form of closure, apart from trying to get to grips with their father things take on a slightly ludicrous turn with Champs opposing them at every turn and not being able to see the bigger picture of how concerned they all are for him. Faced with a discovery that he only suspected before Champs has to now learn how to live, and love and forget all over again.

A story of family - amidst grieving for a much loved mother, and relationships which have to be first mended before they can move on.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards

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The setting of 1930 in London was good for this story. There have been several violent deaths of eminent people. All by their own hand so far and no suspects involved. The last one does not uncover any shady dealings in the man's history. His character and behaviour seems exemplary so why should he blow his brains out and top it all by accepting guilt for a horrendous murder, especially when his body is found with the decapitated head of the victim by his side.

On the other side we have the enigmatic Rachel Savernake. Daughter of a judge who finally went mad and killed himself, the daughter shows characteristics which do not make her seem normal. She is a brilliant detective though and showed up Scotland Yard by solving the Chorus Girl murder. Being a woman she was not taken seriously and still isnt by certain people, always to their detriment.

We have Jacob a young, keen Fleet Street journalist who becomes the pawn in Rachel's machinations and her vendetta against society who she feels did badly by her. One by one her foes are eliminated, along with the people who helped her put away people.
Very convoluted, very atmospheric I couldn't solve the puzzle till the almost end!

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

Death in the Village by Betty Rowlands

Adelaide Minchkin's body was found by the milkman dead on her bathroom floor. Apparently cardiac arrest but when her doctor insists that something is not quite right and that the coroner seemed to have overlooked or rather decided rather quickly that her death was due to natural causes, and causes a stir, the local Constabulary are called in.

When Sukey delves further into the happenings of this sleepy little village, lots of stuff surfaces. The previous owner herself, elderly in that case died suddenly and Adelaide who inherited the estate was an outsider, causing much ill will amongst the three siblings of Muriel. The owner before Muriel himself had died - sozzled, falling into a pool and drowning. The three deaths in succession are all quite self explanatory but now that a question has been asked, it is upto Sukey to investigate further.

Systematically going through the history and evidence around, and questioning all the villagers who are characters in themselves from the char lady to the local bar keeper was very well done and slowly a picture emerges of someone trying to hide something. When an old "cold" case seems to be somehow linked with the present deaths, Sukey knows she is on to something suspicious.

Told in a slightly old fashioned style, very reminiscent of this author's style the book is totally engrossing.

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Christmas at Pennington's by Rachel Brimble

A department store in Bath brilliantly preparing for Christmas but behind the scenes there is a lot of drama. A killer stalks the streets of Bath preying on women - and women who are respectable and doing good for the community.

Cornelia desperately trying to carve a niche for herself and her two sons in a contested divorce case. Stephen head of security at Penningtons, finds himself drawn into a murder investigation which he does not want to even know about. Stepping down from Scotland Yard he just wants to keep his head down and get on with his daily life. Joseph and Elizabeth cannot get past the tragic murder of Joseph's first wife and this is affecting their marriage and when murder strikes again they know they cannot sit back, despite Police inaction.

The drama of individual lives going on apace, set against the backdrop of the murders was balanced very well. It was several stories interspersed with each other and though set against the backdrop of the impending festival it was not a Christmassy book per se and could be read at anytime.

The characterization was spot on and the mystery murder detective theme was well thought of and detailed.

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

the second chance supper club by Nicole Meier

Anything to do with good food interests me immensely! This book apart from the food aspect has another good combo Sisterly relationships.

Here Ginny and Julia's one is fraught with tension. One feels that she did it all when their parents died suddenly, uprooting herself and her family to deal with the aftermath of a sudden death. The other cut herself away from everyone, building up her career not thinking deeply of the consequences of her sister's life. When one of them is faced with a crisis, she runs away to the only place she knows she will surely not be turned away - her sister's home.

Coming home to Arizona was not the homecoming Julia expected. A home which is being run as a sort of illegal restaurant, catering for exclusive diners and a sister who seems to be living on the edge - facing financial disaster as well as a disaster of a relationship between her daughter and herself. Stepping into this minefield Julia feels out of place and she has to find a way to mend fences with both her sister Ginny and try to bridge the gap between her niece and herself.

The relationship part and how the story evolves from this was the best part of the book and the story is a commonplace one where miscommunicationn and no communication results in such a lot of misery and misplaced judgements.  I enjoyed the story emotional though it was.

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Everybody's Somebody by Beryl Kingston

Rosie was not just somebody. For the late nineteenth century, she was certainly no pushover. She was not going to be happy or resigned to her lot, which seemed to be the idea of the working lot. They were born to it and there was no choice about bettering themselves. Rosie had ideas and she certainly was not going to let a bit of adversity or hard work get in the way of getting there.

I admired her spunk in the face of so much opposition. It was a time when women did what they were told to do by their parents or their husbands and most of them just buckled under. Rosie first as a maid - an understudy to a nanny made it her business to learn her trade and from there better herself.

After getting married, she ended up as a model for a famous artist, despite her husband's objections. Her first aim was just economic. It paid well and secondly it proved to be a learning experience in love for her. She balanced her career as a model, and on the other a loving mother and a wife admirably.

Set during the beginning of WWI and the ominous beginning of Hitler the story told how these wars affected directly and indirectly the rural population of Britain . It was insidious but a deep rooted effect on the entire population and affected entire generations.

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

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Deep Waters by Martin Edwards

This was a lovely theme of historical fiction mixed liberally with mysteries on anything water. Canals, lakes, seas, everything connected to the murder or the mystery was linked to a waterway and they were all picturesque, all descriptive and some of them remote.

All the stories are slightly old fashioned form of detective work, many of them were solved by laymen in collaboration with the police force and all conducted in a very gentlemanly like and orderly manner, despite the final brutality of the act itself!

Very easy to read, very pleasant to read.

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

Reading this mid September here in Sri Lanka and very apt, because we are having floods right across the country. I just got up this morning to see the river alongside my home flooding the opposite bank.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright & Cass Grafton

I knew this was going to be a variation of the Jane Austen theme but this took me way out of any comfort zone I had! In a very good way.

The idea that what would have happened if the Jane Austen books we know were not written or not published is unimaginable.

September and in Bath it is  all about Austen. Finding someone in period costume is nothing unusual at the time and Rose begins to think that the lady she glimpses everywhere is another of those who has immersed herself fully into the Austen saga. When Morgan arrives from America and Rose's entire present world is turned upside down with the appearance of a necklace which has brought Jane Austen to present day times and then takes Rose back in time, things get complicated.

Rose desperately wants to get back to modern times and Jane Austen needs to go back to write and publish her books but how are they going to do this, when the only way back is a necklace secreted in a safe in a place hidden by double walls and in a building which is now an office!

Taking innumerable twists and turns, you do know this story is going to end well. Otherwise there would be no Jane Austen novels today!

A fun read, for lovers of Jane Austen a must.

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

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Postcard by Zoe Folbigg

Maya and James journey starts with an idyllic, sumptuous fairy tale wedding of someone for whom James is the "fourth" photographer. It is a typical Bollywood style wedding and the accommodation and the luxury is overwhelming. What follows their journey in India is also typical. Ranging from horrible train journeys to middle of the road guest houses interspersed with the beauty and culture of India the story is almost a travel memoir.

The romance part of the story is that James and Maya are unsure of their own personal wants. At some point in their travels Maya knows that she wants a baby. She has just left her friend Nena back home with an adorable baby and this has set off Maya's yearning for a baby for herself. James does not seem to want the commitment, just yet.

In the same time frame of the story - a separate story of Nena and Tom is played out. Nena coping with motherhood, trying to be the "best" mother and maintaining a facade which will crack soon. Tom knowing something is not quite right, but not knowing how to put it right.

Then we have the missing French girl Manon - which has been covered by the International Press. The girl missing initially from Vietnam, then spotted in Thailand and now it is told at a very later stage that the girl has a mental illness and this adds to the problem of trying to locate her.

How the three widely different stories are linked, all with the background of exotic travel starting from the luxurious and going to the spartan, back packing lifestyle and finally coming to what James and Maya actually want from their lives.

Descriptive and captivating as any travel memoir, the story of James and Maya and the other characters all blend in well.

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