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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Body In the Village Hall by Dee Macdonald

I love depiction of British village life whether it was in the past or in the present. This book typifies it most. The characters are iffy some of them, most of them are quite the average Joe but the few eccentric ones make up for it all.

When Fenella was found stabbed at a Women's Institute meeting with a dozen women in the next room waiting for refreshments, the detectives know that something is quite wrong. The killer has to be extremely bold to carry this out with so many people around. Fenella herself seems to be a character - there are a dozen wives who could be called suspects because Fenella seemed to have had no problems in spreading her charms far and wide (quite indiscriminately it seems).

There is the husband of course apart from the various wives who are suspect and several others and when Kate who discovers not just this body, but the next that turns up - Kate feels that it is upto her to uncover the reason and who the murderer is. 

Balancing her personal life with a sister who seems intent on getting drunk all the time, her job as a nurse in the medical centre and sleuthing keeps Kate busy. The fact that the handsome detective in charge of the case has also got eyes for Kate helps in making this a lighter read than just murder.

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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill

My fascination for this author is that I can never reconcile in my head the image she conjures with 1920's style Melbourne and Sydney with the present day cities as I find them. My children are immigrants who have been there for a while but still you look at life in a slightly different angle. Sulari Gentill's angle fascinates.

We have Rowland Sinclair aristocratic but simple, and his cohorts a mixed bunch if ever there was one from the bohemian to the communist. All raging red flags to his conservative brother who feels the respectability of the Sinclair name must be maintained at all costs though what Rowland does is actually nothing disgraceful. The idea of not having anything about the family in the gutter press is the worst thing that could happen to the Sinclairs and this time around, Rowland outbeats all his previous endeavours !

I loved the quick pace of the story, the characterization of everyone and the settings for this story covering several cities in Australia.

History of early 20th century Australia at its best.

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mis Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman

Kate felt for me a complete wimp. I was getting to the point that I wanted to throw the book away as I thought my gosh how long more is she going to make excuses for that nerdy boyfriend or hang on to him. That amount of neediness and making excuses makes me want to just walk away. But then the story changed, fortunately at just the correct time of my exasperation and turned into something quite delicious and different.

Packed with lessons on how not to hang on to any one (let alone a man!), plus recipes and recipes for every occasion and the saddest lesson of loneliness and ending your days all alone - mentally alive and well and physically deteriorating the story became riveting.

Sent by Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley for an unbiased review, this was a very good one after a shaky and an angry beginning!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Hidden Hearts (Book I) Marci Bolden

The HEARTS agency deals with a myriad of domestic problems - cheating husbands, small time crimes but when two women go missing and there is no apparent link between the two, other than a close physical similarity, Holly and her team must dig deep to find out what is it that they cannot see.

When the Police Department in the form of Detective Jack enters the scene, a kind of romance enters the story and though I went into this thinking it was just a mystery murder sort of read, the romance did not detract from the story.

The story was serious - two missing women finally turning up dead and the third escaping at the last minute but at the same time the romance sizzling between Holly and Jack was reminiscent of Miss. Fisher in the TV series!

Sent by Pink Sand Press via Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Mystery at Seagrave Hall by Clare Chase

Eve is a amateur detective and lives in a picturesque village. When a sudden death of a celebrity under rather unusual circumstances happen, despite everyone trying to pass it off as a genuine accident, Eve's suspicions are aroused as she feels that things are not quite right.

There is Rupert who was Verity's fiancée - this should have been a happy time but arguments are overheard, there is dissension within Rupert's family with his mother and adopted sister not happy with his choice of bride. There are too many undercurrents in Verity's own professional life to be ignored and Eve who is an obituary writer (I did not know there was a profession like this before) knows she has to investigate further if she is to get to the truth of Verity's death. When a second and a third death takes place, one deliberate, one seemingly accidental there is no room for coincidences and a full scale investigation is on with Eve putting herself right in the middle of a ruthless murderer.

Nice setting, myriad characters and a good story to boot. What's not to like.

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

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Ascent (a true story) by Carmela Cattuti

Angela an immigrant came to America with high expectations. They were not met in her marriage but she did something that she had earmarked herself to do. She made herself independent, created a business for herself, and a standing in the community - both amongst Americans and her own people who were insular.

Angela also brought up her sister's children despite grave odds and indifference on the part of her brother in law after her sister died. She was determined that they should have a better future in whatever field they chose for themselves. Nunzio the military, Joe away from home because he was homosexual and Alicia in a hopeless abusive marriage which she clung to.

Another notable point in Angela's life was that despite being a Sicilian immigrant whose strong links to the Catholic church were steadfast, she did not personally believe in the religion but more in the spirituality. She maintained a façade of following the religion, just not to be noted as a rebel.

Stories of immigrants are always colorful, intriguing and painstakingly real. They bring with them a whole sense of history, of secrets, of new beginnings, old traditions and some things best left hidden. This was just one such story.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Three Towers Press.

An Oxford Revenge by Maxine Barry

Like Paris anything with Oxford in the title, I seem to gravitate to! I love the scenic beauty of Oxford as depicted in the mystery series Lewis and earlier Morse so this was a good choice for me.

The story of straightforward revenge on a tutor at Oxford because he supposedly was responsible for her brother's death is the bottom line. As the story progresses, we realize that revenge is not as sweet as it should have been for Davina and that the tables are slowly turning on her as the story progresses.

I liked the depiction of Oxford and all its traditions but the story left me disappointed.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Joffe Books.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Paris Runaway by Paulita Kincer

Paris Runaway

Anything with Paris in the title, I will pick up so this had a head start from the word go. It would be most mother's nightmares. Your young daughter just ups and flies away to Paris to meet up with someone she imagines is a boyfriend.

Of course the fantastic part of it was part of the magic. It cannot happen in real life - not here anyway. No teenager would be given an ad lib credit card to charge a flight to France, then there would be a visa issue. It would take all the romance out of the flight. In this case however mother follows daughter to try to track her down in a vast city with no known place to start.

This mother however is very successful and ends up with a romance of her own which was even more interesting than the daughter's romance which was a damp squib anyway!!!

I was almost sure of a good ending and the book did not disappoint me that way. I liked the engaging style of both mother and the angst of teenager daughters! I could not relate to either but it was a very interesting story nevertheless with Paris as a huge background always and Parisians added to the atmosphere and interest of the story.

A free download from Amazon.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Beauty of Broken Things by Victoria Connelly

Luke is devastated by the sudden loss of his wife in a tragic train accident.  In retrospect he feels he never acknowledged Helen's intrinsic goodness, her needs and her desires and only on her death he discovers little at a time that she had interests which she did not share with him purely because he did not give any indication he was interested.

Orla lives alone and isolated by choice on a remote castle in Suffolk. She has been disfigured in a revenge attack and has since then hidden from society, surviving alone but fearful for her life.

When Luke decides to visit Orla he did not know what was in store for him, he was following one of Helen's last wishes to deliver a birthday present for Orla and to help Orla in her distress, even though she did not know what Orla's situation was.

The story takes off from that point when the two eventually meet and how Luke persuades Orla to step back into the real world and meet and interact with people. Both begin to heal only when they help each other to come to terms with their past.

The story is an emotional one, descriptive of the Suffolk region as well and a gentle and quiet read.

Sent by Amazon Publishing UK for an unbiased review, via Netgalley.

Death on the Beach by Anna Johannsen

An ultra conservative religious group, closing guarding their members from any attention is not the ideal group when a teenager of one of their families is found murdered on the beach.  Seen as uncooperative and unwilling to divulge any information, not allowing access to their houses, cars is not helping the detectives on the case.

Set on an island off the Danish coast, the people are already well known to each other. Everyone seems to be stone walling the detectives and pressure is mounting to solve the case at the earliest. Even in this day and age arranged marriages within the community, implicit obedience, and the husband as head of the house prevents the detectives from getting any information vital to the case.

At the onset it seems as if the parents do not care - her father did not even join the group in its initial search and this strikes most people as odd but Lena the detective knows there is more than meets the eye.  Is everyone actually shielding the murderer and how do they unravel the very few pieces of evidence they have to link to their killer.

It was a good story but I figured the killer very early on which is not always the case for me! I also liked that Lena had a personal life and this was very much part of the story as well. It added a different perspective to the story too.

Interesting read. Nice setting.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Small Mercies by Alex Walters

DI Annie and her partner Zoe are off duty and on a walk in the desolate moor highlands. The last thing they expected to find was a mutilated body with indications from the markings that it is indicative that the person belonged to a cult.

At the same time Annie and her partner Sheena an MP are facing personal threats culminating in shots being fired at Sheena and then an attack on her whilst leaving the hospital. Further investigations reveal cameras in trees around their home and all this facing an unknown enemy who has not indicated upto now what he wants.

When not just one but two other bodies turn up with the same markings,  the detectives know that they are linked but other than being from the same area, known small time drug dealers and general bad boys there is no reason why they should be involved in any cult. When the dots start adding up into a pattern Annie and Zoe realize that they are facing someone much bigger than they previously imagined and it is going to take a lot of resources and hard slog to get anyone convicted and first arrested.

The story is similar to the killing of a British MP and the investigation and police work would be interesting for those who like following police procedures. Told in almost two separate tales, with the overlap only happening towards the end even I the reader could not see where it was going.

A good take on a mystery detective story.

Thanks to Canelo who sent it to me via Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Inconvenient Need to Belong by Paula Smedley

A story told in two time lines of a carefree youngster Alfie in 1953 England and then moving to his late eighties living out his days in a care home.

Cantankerous now, keeping everyone out, socially inept Alfie has not changed especially the social part. Brought up by a strict dominant father whose word was law and who was to be feared, whose mother just followed his father's orders, the only person he loved was his sister Betty. But to get out from these suffocating circumstances, he crept out in the dead of the night and a reconciliation was never possible.

Now Alfie reminisces about his past with Fred a youngster who joins him on Saturday mornings on a park bench. Alfie sees in Fred a younger version of himself and gives an account of how his life panned out hoping that Fred will not make the mistakes he made. Befriending Anne on a pen pal site was a way of reaching out of his solitude and putting to paper what he has bottled up for decades.

I seem to be reading a lot of stories of people who are loners, who are socially not upto fitting into groups in a casual way and as a result are thought to be arrogant, evasive and just difficult. Alfie fits all the descriptions of being a cantankerous old man, whilst deep down he is just lonely and someone who has never got around to not being judgemental and to accept people as they are.

This was an eye opener of a read for older people - to live and let live, to realize that the end is closer than one thinks.

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

Friday, June 12, 2020

The Fool's Folly by Keith Moray

1485 England. King Richard on the throne and though he is a good king, the countryside is rife with rumours - about his marriages, the deaths of his own wife and son, the two famous nephews whom no one has seen (the King also admits he has not seen them for a long time).

In this setting Sandal Castle has not been without its murder and mayhem. One murder in the castle under the watchful eyes of the heir to the throne is bad enough, but then when more grisly murders take place, seemingly random, no connection to any known opposition the entire castle is on full alert as to whether what is taking place is actually with an aim of toppling King Richard off the throne and for the Tudors to get hold of it.

A lot of treachery, scheming and the manipulative greed of the aristocracy and the never ending wars and plunder in order to be on top of it all seems to epitomize England's politics at the time. There was a never ending stream of deaths all with the aim of maintaining one's position.
How many families were torn apart, children orphaned women widowed long before their time, did not seem to matter to these families.

Representative of its times, the story is a good one for lovers of history.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Private Lives by J G Harlond

Bob Robbins is a detective, but he is presently on holiday enjoying a short walking holiday in the countryside. Stumbling upon a shooting, one man dead, one man missing both of whom he actually saw he now finds himself embroiled in a peculiar mystery of linking pieces of an immense family puzzle.

I lost track of who was related to whom halfway through but I think in small country villages all over the world, everyone is interconnected by marriage going back generations. This village was no different. That was part of the charm of this story because history of clans seemed to be taken very seriously and accounted for various squabbles, ill feelings and stories never allowed to actually fade away - good or bad.

A classic mystery murder detective story this was a nice one set in a rural setting in  wartime England.

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

Monday, June 8, 2020

Rules for Moving by Nancy Star

Lane Meckler and her husband Aaron were living in the same house as virtual strangers. They were on the brink of divorce but Lane, intensely private, intensely reserved had not spoken about it to anyone. Henry their little boy was very sensitive, was probably aware of the tension and in the midst of it all Aaron dies in a car accident with his supposed girl friend beside him.

Lane did not experience the outpouring of grief that is expected of a young widow and she also did not know how to cope with the barrage of sympathy from office mates, neighbours and parents of children in the same school as Henry.

Like another book I read just a little while ago, the story highlights the difficulties of when one is different and when one does not know the normal way to react to social situations, which many of us, the majority really take for granted. The telling of a white lie, the effusiveness of greetings, the reality of cut throat office politics took both Lane and her son by storm leaving them bereft and rudderless not knowing which way to turn.

Unlike Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory, Lane and Henry had no support system of friends and family empathizing with what was considered an aberration - and people do not know what to say, how to react to people who are different.

The story evolves in Lane's fight for her son and why he has gone mute of a sudden, changes which they must adapt to and how they are going to survive alone in this little world of Two.

A very strong emotional read, this was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Prodigal Priest by Andre Csta

From a small Irish town to Namibia is a huge jump. For Father David Callahan it is also a leap of faith and one that is going to be tested over and over again.

Finding someone close to you murdered by extremists is a hard  situation to face. Going as a priest to live with scientists who are following leads on human existence and the cause and reason for it is a test of your faith, especially under the circumstances Father David had to face. Will he succumb to scientific reason or will his faith sustain him. A touch of romance as well in this novel story.

An unusual read sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of BooksGoSocial.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Very Nearly Normal by Hannah Sunderland

Effie is not the usual run of the mill 29 year old. The story highlights very much the problems faced by someone who is a square peg in a round box. However much she has tried to be the "average Jane" Effie has never fitted the mould much to the dismay of her mother. From her school years she has been brash, I would say never considering what to say before she says it so that she has ended up at this age with no friends, no family life and very much alone, sad and bitter.

The only person who seemed to see a glimmer of a person within the person was Arthur her employer who treated her with distance and care at the same time which seemed to be the way to go. That is until she met Theo who saw the rough diamond that Effie was and who was determined to bring the person out.

The travails of Theo and Effie form the crux of the story - emotional, heart breaking but thank the Lord with a happy ever after ending. I couldn't have borne it if I saw Effie disillusioned again!
How our books drag us into a fantasy all the time!

The story was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Avon.

PS On a covid note, I did go out today for the first time in eight weeks for a hair color and pedicure . It was almost alien!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Letters from Bath Or A Friend in Exile (tongue in cheek humour) British style

Letters from Bath; Or, A Friend in Exile (The Merriweather Chronicles) by [Meredith Allady]

Story is all done in a series of letters and after reading one book like this (Helene Hanff) I loved the style.

The story is set in the times of Jane Austen so should have been a polite, ladylike way of writing - but it is sarcastic, witty and very modern. The writer taken against her will to Bath to be presented almost, by her fashionable distant mother who beneath the surface is condescending to her daughter for being insipid and not worthy of the name mainly because she has a limp. This is highlighted as one of the main obstacles to her marriage and must have been so hard for the girl in society at the time.

Nevertheless the story surrounds another lady and her mother who are being brow beaten in the most respectable way just because of genteel poverty as they are under the guardianship of one of their relations who is taking utmost advantage of their insecurity. Ann is determined to whisk them away from their yoke of being subservient and arranges successfully through a series of planned meetings a most eligible bachelor and his aunt much to the dismay of Ann's mother who was very annoyed at her daughter for allowing this rich young man to get away.

I understand that there are more from this author in similar vein and now I will try to track them down.

I am reading vintage and classic authors in between the more modern ones for just a change of pace.

This was a free download from Amazon. Thank you Amazon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Murder to Music by Margaret Newman

Superintendent Simon intends proposing to his girl friend Delia at the appropriate moment. It never seems to come. Going for the Metropolitana Choir practices and the final concert is his part in being part of her world but when the conductor is murdered right in front of a live audience with no one the wiser as to who shot him, Simon is put on the spot both physically and metaphorically.

Detective story dealing with a lot of history going back decades going back to WWII and revenge kept on the boil. Petty passions aside, the depth of feeling kept buried and brought bubbling to the surface not helped by the nasty personality of the conductor himself who did himself no favours with literally anyone.

Interesting setting, good characterization and plot.

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

Monday, June 1, 2020

Patricia Brent, Spinster by Herbert Jenkins

Patricia Brent, Spinster

Patricia Brent lives in a mundane boarding house and one day overhears the others talking about her lack of a partner in rather condescending tones. She outrageously tells them that she does have a partner and is meeting him this evening.

The whole situation spirals out of control, when the busybodies follow her to the hotel to find out who she is actually meeting. Having been very bold to approach a young man and pleading with him to act the part the story proceeds from there becoming more complicated when she realizes she is attracted to the young man (who incidentally is a Lord!) and he himself realizes he is in love with her.

Not wanting to appear to be a gold digger, Patricia wants out of the so called engagement but friends and family conspire to keep things going till Patricia sees sense. It all ends happily.

It was the ideal read for me amongst the doom and gloom of Covid 19. I downloaded this from Amazon for free and enjoyed every minute of this old fashioned story.