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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Hunted by Darcy Coates

22 year old Eileen goes missing whilst hiking - alone. The nightmare for any parent. Especially when one of the guidelines for hiking in this particular forest is to go with a group.

Fast forward to anxiety on the part of a friend Todd and a group of friends led by her brother Chris to try to find out what happened to Eileen, particularly as the local police seem rather lethargic about the whole thing.

On the other hand we have a detective whose spirit has been worn down by personal nightmares whilst in the course of duty, and a constant putting down by her superior. No wonder the investigations do not lead anywhere, just trying to get to the daily workload seems enough for Carla.
When pressure mounts however Carla has a Eureka moment when she digs out the dusty archives and sees exactly how many people have gone missing over the last couple of years. A more systematic approach reveals many things ignored upto now.

When Chris and his friends provide photographs of what seems to be a huge animal hovering over Eileen (when her camera was discovered in a stream) though initially skeptical Carla has to rethink strategy.

With a cast of very different youngsters - cranky, self centred, clever and foolish at the same time, focused and unfocused at the same time we are dealing with a story that was imaginative and fantastic and quite possible also.

A bit of a mixed read for me but quite a change from the usual mystery books I read. My first read of this author and I've got another one to read as well.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dreaming of Italy by T A Williams

A book from a prolific writer who knows his geography very well. Apart from the romance angle, the book was almost a travel memoir covering Piedmont, Umbria, Assagio, Florence, Pisa and every town and village in between.

Although the story revolved around Emma a senior administrative officer in a film unit, hell bent on her career and doing the best she can, love hits her unexpectedly on her travels in Italy trying to scout out locations for their new best seller film. She has to focus on that, and having the boss's son with her on training adds to her responsibilities. Richard seems like a sensible guy but he has a "history" and Emma has to keep that also at the back of her mind. On top of that the arrival of Mark as a guide and historian who is knowledgeable about the areas does not help her sensibilities. He is a distraction she could do without considering that she has to also balance two hugely acclaimed actors at the same time and prevent them having any spats (which they are inclined to do). We also have an eccentric director on the scene who comes out with statements which are ludicrous but because he is brilliant, everyone just tries to appease him and move on.

I liked the story mainly for the travel descriptions part. It was ideal for me an armchair traveler right now who dreams of places like this and this author does make it seem very real.

Sent by Canelo via Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Sing me a Secret by Julie Houston

Four sisters all very different, but very loyal to each other, and like all families having secrets some common to them, some private to one or a couple of them.

The story set in Scotland is in itself picturesque. The loyalty that all of them have to their original place of birth is very nice to see. The sisters despite their difficulty in coping with a romeo type father and a mentally depressed mother who was besotted with her husband were not judgemental of either party though they did accept their limitations.

How the sisters whose paths were so diverse came together in a mix of family secrets unearthed, blackmail, domestic abuse, infidelity and a super performance of a musical in a village is this story.

Funny as in laugh out funny, but with strong overtones of a family story, I do hope there will be a sequel. The author will have to find something if there is a sequel because there is a lot going on in this busy story.

Enjoyed the read tremendously.

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

On a covid 19 note, we are "supposed" to be lifting restrictions tomorrow but it is very restricted actually. Only people going to work can use public transport, only those whose Identity cards ends with one and two can go on Monday etc. I hope everyone follows these rules. Shops can open, not salons no liquor or wine shops can open. Entry to offices are restricted - it is tough because for the last few weeks I am trying to get into a Land Registry type of office to attend to a legal matter and cannot. I've been told maybe in June! I doubt anyone will go for breaking the rules - violation is upto two years rigorous imprisonment and a fine!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Given in Evidence - A collection of ten short stories. (Detective/mystery genre)

Ideal read for a time like this for readers who want a mystery but not too much psycho babble going on.

Short stories with punchy theories. A haunted hotel, a typical country village and diverse characters and scenes. Very good reading. very good characterization.

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

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The First Emma by Camille di Maio

A true story of Emma Koehler - a success story at a time when women did not become professionals or enter business and especially this business which started with a brewery. This told in the form of a dictated memoir to a young employee begins at the very end of Emma's life and is such a rewarding, but sad story.

Emma had two distinct lives. One her married one, which she tried so hard to make a success of. Her husband Otto was not interested. His biggest love was making money and after that two women both named Emma, both nurses of his wife who looked after her very well. It was a strange arrangement in one house until he moved both the mistresses into one house with his wife in another. His death or rather murder became the crime of the decade because his mistress admitted to it, and she got off by a very sympathetic jury.

Emma was not bitter about her marriage and towards the two girls. Her love was for her employees and she was always thinking of them particularly because she knew no one else would. The book details much of American history from the Prohibition and the fight against it and the emergence of women though this was a slow process.

Very fascinating reading of a remarkable woman.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Wyatt Mackenzie Publishing.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Orphans of War by Leah Fleming

Maddie was being evacuated to the Yorkshire countryside after she was bombed out of her home in London where she lost the only relation she knew she had, her grandmother. Quite lost and forlorn she was going into the unknown to relations she had only heard about and never seen. Her parents were overseas and would eventually pick her up from her aunt and uncle.

Enroute to Yorkshire in the crowded train, a young mother thrusts her two children with no directions and no idea of where they will end up, hoping that they would be looked after. Maddie befriends Gloria and Sid and this unlikely meet up ends with them being friends forever.

The story proceeds in Yorkshire where taken in by a kind aunt and a stern grandmother who wants nothing to do with the evacuees and washes her hands off them , the children try to settle down to a life which is alien to them. This must have been the case with the many children who were sent to the countryside for their own physical safety with the bombings going on in London during the War.
The way in which the children all grew up, finding their own feet knowing they were on their own was sad. None of them had a shoulder to cry on or someone to confide in and though the Aunt was a kindly soul she had problems of her own to manage and cope with.

The story was detailed and descriptive of the emotional state of the children as they grew up and Maddie becoming adult and independent and finding a life of her own amidst heartbreak.   Another book with the backdrop of the War, and the amount of damage it did to people not just as statistics but with their lives as well. A story of loss and survival.

Sent by Harper Collins UK Avon through Netgalley, for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Good Stranger by Dete Meserve

A modern day sort of Robin Hood story. No one is robbing the rich to give to the poor, but someone is giving to the needy - and not just money but tokens of appreciation from bunches of flowers, to prepaid coffees, restaurant meals, even rental payments for those who are desperately trying to make ends meet.

Kate is the newest journalist in town. Her background as being a Senator's daughter does not help her in her career. The channel is coercing her to cover political news whereas her interest lies elsewhere. Kate has to uncover this story so that she can keep the lead on this one, and maintain readers interest and most importantly ensure that her boss is happy (he is not upto now).

When Kate gets threatening mail and videos asking her to stop the pursuit of uncovering who is gifting all this to the poor, she is even more determined to get to the source and particularly to find out the story behind it all.

Trying to get to grips with living in New York for the first time, getting over a break up with her boyfriend Kate is befriended by Scott a host of another show and together they team up to try to sort this riddle.

An interesting premise (which will be nice to be duplicated) and a romance in the budding made this an enjoyable read.

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

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Lost Girls by Jennifer Wells

When one reads a story like this, set in 1912 (does not seem so very long ago) you begin to realize what advances have been made in police procedures, methods, detective work. When May Day dawned and when the May Queen and her chief attendant are missing it sets up a furore in the small village especially since one was the local manor's daughter and the other the daughter of a former vicar.

Discovery of blood stained clothes found near the house of a vagrant sees that he is in prison for the abductions and murders despite no bodies being ever found. Fast forward decades and an old grainy film is shown from the archives and an image of the girl and this man at the time of the fair, seals his fate and he is bound to hang.

The story goes along from that point with a surprising ending.  Told from the point of view of one of the victims mothers - you can see the idea and morality of the time that whatever happens you must seal over the cracks and even though presumed dead you must maintain the characters of the girls and nothing must sully that - truths or untruths all hidden so that it all becomes very palatable. The hypocrisy and moral standards of the time.

Very good language and descriptive this was a good read.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

An American Princess by Annejet van der Zijl

More than being a Princess (she was for a time being married to a Prince) her life was much more colorful and interesting than being a mere princess.

Born into a pioneering family in a very raw part of the country, Allene Tew aspired for a world much beyond the narrow confines of a conservative, traditional family of modest means. Her first step was her marriage to Tod Hottstetter and though opposed and ostracized for years, she was one determined young lady to show everyone that she was not one to shirk from the first hurdle. Going on after his unexpected death to even better and wider horizons she was astute and clever in business, always expanding her business, landing on her feet and despite the Great Depression made and lost and regained fortunes.

Personal sadness in spades did not diminish this woman and for readers who enjoy history this would be a very good read of a period of American history from the 1800s to beyond the crash of 1929. Detailing her various husbands, their characters and the role they played in her life took up a great part of the book.

Interesting factual read.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Amazon Crossing.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Royal Flush by Margaret Irwin

The book deals with Princess Henrietta and the role she played - the many roles she was forced to play from a marriage without any feeling, to royal alliances and secret affairs.

The story is quite rich, occupied by many who are all important in their various positions and in court but at the same time the story is lengthy, quite wordy and though historically so very rich, it took me quite a while in getting to grips with the book.

This is a part of history that is interesting to those who like historical fiction but it was not an easy read.

The language is old fashioned but that may be due to the times of publication which was in the 1930s.

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

After she Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill (inventive fiction)

For someone to be able to be so inventive, you have to be a genius. For the first few pages I did not quite get it.

Madeline is an author, quite a successful one. She is now branching into a new character and a new kind of genre in her writing. Edward is the main character - gentle and kind. Madeline's marriage is already under some stress - multiple miscarriages, lack of communication and a husband who is just busy. Madeline is left on her own with her imagination and her books (this situation she is extremely happy with). She merges into the books and the characters become part of her where when you read you have to keep reminding yourself that Edward is a character ONLY in a book, not a flesh and blood person at all.

I've read Sulari Gentill's books where Rowland Sinclair overwhelmed me with his antics! I also like that the author is of Sri Lankan origin and I get to read one of her best sellers. This book left me so overwhelmed that at the end I had to stop and think - how much of invention went into the story and how it affected Madeline herself so badly.

This was a tantalizing read.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman (London 1815 detective )

London 1815 was a very nice place to be when you were part of the aristocratic and upper crust circle. Lily has been widowed for three years and has been now forced to face upto society. She is no stranger to this world but she finds that years away from them has made her aware of how brittle, insensitive and careless the upper classes are. She is thrust into a ball on her first day in London and all she wants to do is show her face and then escape to the house she has taken for the period of her stay..

What she did not think was that she will overhear a conversation where one man was being blackmailed by the other, and which ended in one person being shot dead. Lily is no shrinking violet and she is determined along with the help of the Captain to uncover who is behind this murder. She did not think however that her friend's husband will be involved and that her getting too close to the real facts of the case would put her in danger.

London society was very well depicted and the manner in which ladies should and must behave if they are to maintain some standing in society even if it looks ridiculous and barbaric. The history and action of the Bow Street runners was detailed as well giving an insight into how society seemed controlled by the rich and everyone including justice had to heed them very carefully.

The book was sent to me for an unbiased review from Netgalley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

The Caretakers

Tessa is an award winning film maker. Her films are on very hard hitting events and people and the latest was a huge scoop. She firmly believed in a man's innocence and felt he was framed by a corrupt police administration. The man was subsequently freed in a huge blaze of publicity. She is naturally not the local police precincts favourite. The accolades and offers keep pouring in until the bubble bursts when her former accused abducts the chief police constable's daughter and then sends dire messages which are cryptic indicating that he has murdered the young woman.

Tessa needs a bolthole and despite estranged from her twin sister, her mother insists that it is now high time a reconciliation is done. Everything arranged to coincide with her mother's birthday, the sudden very shocking death of her mother unleashes a will which takes both sisters by total surprise. Her mother was adopted, the grandparents they loved and cherished are not their biological grand parents and there is a whole family, plus an inheritance of a substantial property and more relatives which are coming their way.

Family secrets like this make for intriguing stories and this was much more intriguing than most. A decrepit house, two elderly sisters, a really chequered family background all lead Tessa to not only a bolt hole which is very necessary right now to escape from the clamouring paparazzi but also a way of coming to terms with her sister as well.

The two stories - one of a personal nature and the other a professional one intertwine at the end. Each story was engaging and held enough interest for two separate stories. The only irritation was that the bickering between the two sisters was a bit too intense for me.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Strangers by C.L. Taylor

The story is told by several characters. All of them are not connected in anyway and their stories are different and disparate. I continued for almost sixty percent of the book or even more before I could see anyway that they were going to be drawn together.

That was the key point of interest for me. When was it all going to be drawn together because without it, you knew there was no story. Alice,  Gareth, Ursula were the three protagonists each of them battling various issues Alice and being alone, Gareth and again he being alone and with a mother with severe dementia and Ursula never gotten over the loss of her love, insecure but brash and trying to keep it together.

The stories were long and complicated but not boring. Each of them were realistic enough that one could see parallels in people around us and it is only when it is put together that one realizes that all you need is one person off kilter to set normal lives haywire.

This was a good story (ies) all put together very nicely.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Avon Books U.K.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Dish of Spurs by Robert Low (historical fiction)

It is good that I am reading this during a period of curfew as it is one which needs a slower pace to take it all in.

Set in Scotland just after the birth of Mary Queen of Scotland the era is marked with violence of an unimaginable kind. Enmities and grudges are carried on for centuries over generations and nothing seems to be forgotton - not the smallest slight.

All Mintie wanted was to find out who her father's murderer was and to seek revenge for it. To also get back his belongings and his horse from whoever murdered him. What she did not envisage was bringing on a time of sheer intermittent warfare between two sides with no signs of stopping. In her search for avenging the death of her father Mintie herself lost so much of herself, her spirit and her youth.

The sense of belonging to a clan and that the clan reigned supreme was apparent because it was the clan and the family you belonged to which gave you support, succor and protection. Lose it and you are done for. There was no chance of survival if you were alone.

This is good for readers of historical fiction but there is nothing light in this book. It is all quite heavy stuff and you need time to assimilate it all.

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

P S Going back to the current situation, the curfew has been relaxed for some districts in Sri Lanka but not in others. We come into the other category! but though curfew relaxed it is reimposed every night at 8 pm till the next morning. There is no travelling between districts other than for exceptional purposes and permission very rarely given. Quarantine is strictly enforced and for the very very rare flight that comes in (mainly students returning home) they have to be quarantined in government determined places under army control. This is because we had some foolish people trying to escape (and they did) from the airport prior to being taken for quarantine. This resulted in several cases of the virus appearing in pockets here and there, all traced back to what we call foreign returnees! Not very popular with the local populace after those antics.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

That Affair Next Door by Anna Katherine Green

Image result for that affair next door anna katharine green

This who dun it is very precise. Miss Butterworth is somewhat older version of Miss Marple but is even more clinical, more logical and again very precise.

Working in tandem with Mr. Gryce a murder of a young woman, the wife of quite wealthy people is one that gets a lot of attention and when the young husband is the chief suspect it gets even more so. Public opinion and the paparazzi even then account and judgements can be swayed by them.

Miss Butterworth of course has different opinions (otherwise there would be no story to entice us) and this she sets out to prove. Written in the language of 1897, this is a classic vintage mystery murder series. Rather slow, a bit convoluted but for those who like the vintage reads, this is a must.

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