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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan (must read if you like historical fiction)

The London Restoration ticked off many boxes for me and I was delighted with the read. There was history in spades, archaelogy, nice ancient churches and a touch of romance with lots of mystery as well. The story set in post WWII deals with a couple, both returning from the War with secrets to hide. Diana wants to get back to married life with Brent the love of her life but her signing of the Official Secrets Act and her involvement post WWII puts paid to that. Brent has to put up with a wall of silence as to what his wife did, and what she continues to do and obviously with a degree of danger. Diana is in love with churches and particularly those built by Christopher Wren and when the churches are linked to an espionage network, she becomes the obvious candidate who can decode the mystery and uncover the mole. Balancing a fragile marriage despite a lot of love on both sides is hard when so many secrets cannot be told and Brent and Diana have to reach far inside themselves to trust their partners that things will eventually work out. The story throws another aspect of WWII ( perspectives and stories are endless and imaginative always) and this was no exception. Excellent reading. Sent by Thomas Nelson - FICTION for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Under a Siena Sun by T A Williams (idyllic setting)

Lucy has been a doctor with Medicine without Borders serving in one of the most conflict associated areas in Africa. Escaping literally at the last minute and under fire, she wants a period of recuperation and rest away from any turmoil. After a short stay with her family she goes to the South of Italy to stay with old friends and there come to a decision regarding the rest of her working life. It was an idyllic setting and when an offer of a job came in a most exclusive hospital serving the rich, the famous and celebrities it was a question of her ethical sense. Whether her hard won skills were best served by saving the lives of the rich or whether she should continue with her work with the poor. Finding love was also not on the cards but it found her and Lucy had to decide which way her life was going to take. This was a light hearted read, set in beautiful country with with very descriptive places and settings. I enjoyed the story. Sent by Canelo for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan

Friends for sometime, with a common thread of young children amongst them, they meet up for play dates, at the school gates, for a coffee on a casual basis but the relationship builds slowly and you think you know them. Mothers and their relationships with their children are a secret group here. No one can fathom how the other will react in a certain scenario, though you think you know each one. The calm, collected stay at home mother, meticulous about schedules, hygiene, method. The career mother who is trying to balance double and triple lives and hoping it will all work out well. The careless, couldnt care less mother who actually abuses her children but for the solidarity of her children who do not rat on her, carries her secret with her after causing untold anguish to her offspring. This was a telling, an emotional read for all women. For whatever reason who cannot express their feelings, their inadequacies and when an incident as what happened here does occur, goes on a trip of one lie covering another and another till it becomes a web of deceit leading to untold misery for all. A very good read, characterization of different women portraying modern day mothers very well done. Holds your interest throughout. Sent by Atria for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Murder at Kingscote by Alyssa Maxwell (1889 Newport US)

1899 Newport genteel and with very rigid demarcations of society. Emma is not part of famous Four Hundred families and hence though on the fringes related to everyone is not quite accepted as being within the famed group. It does not bother Emma who has now landed the position of Editor in chief of the Messenger but it does affect her marital chances with someone whom she has fallen in love with. An automobile parade is a highlight of the summer events, but a death seems to uncover a string of suspects, hidden histories and past events which everyone is trying very hard to conceal. The blame seems to fall on young Philip King a notable young man prone to gambling debts and a very likely suspect in the first murder. For the sake of his mother Emma along with the help of Douglas the owner of the paper who is also the man she is in love with, pursue various avenues trying to find out who could want the butler dead. Past incidents with long histories of animosity and revenge surface and now there are multiple suspects all have to be researched and eliminated to come to the truth. The mystery murder was one story, but the social setting of 1989 Newport was the one which I liked very much. Reveals a world stepping into the modern era but with strong holds to tradition sometimes hidebound tradition and customs which surely must be eliminated. Interesting social history reading. Sent by Kensington Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Talland House by Maggie Humm (shades of Virginia Woolf here)

London 1919. Lily is a very mixed up woman. Torn between her love for her tutor Louis and then her love for the lady whom she considers a mother Mrs. Ramsay, she is heartbroken to overhear that her half done portrait of the lady is not pleasing to her. For Lily has put her heart and soul into this painting and this almost destroys her. The story with its strong connections To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf draws its world from St Ives in Cornwall and London and the ten missing years of the story. Lily Briscoe was very much part of the Woolf scene visiting the Isle of Skye before the War, then during the War and then after the War returning to Skye after the death of Mrs. Ramsay. The feeling of such a close connection between Lily and Mrs. Ramsay - almost spiritual despite the aggressiveness of the Mr. Ramsay in the story. Lily's unfortunate love for Louis which was never reciprocated because as she discovered at the very end that he was gay are very well enumerated in the story. The book mixes historical fiction, as well as actual history with a lot of imagination and combines all the elements to give you a very factual story. Sent by She Writes Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Girl from Vichy by Andie Newton (1947 era occupied France)

1942 occupied France is not a good place for a patriot. There are the Nazis and then there are Petain supporters even more dangerous than the Germans. They could be anyone and everyone around you. You never knew when someone had turned, for whatever reason. It could even be your sister. Adele is a courageous young woman, trying to live an independent life but finding it hard. Her marriage has been promoted by her father for strategic if no other reason, her mother finds it abhorrent but is helpless, her sister is all for it as it promotes both her and her husband's well being in the current political climate but Adele is looking for a way out. Escaping to a convent, acting as a postulant, getting embroiled in Resistance activities and then finding love and consolation in the arms of another is good. Having to return to her former fiancée and pretend to be in love with him and then go on planning a wedding with him is very hard for anyone and for Adele it is the breaking point in her work for the Resistance and for herself as well. The extent to which people work for the love of their country, never mind their own loves is boundless and inexplicable. To sacrifice all for love of country has happened countless times and will happen again and again and it is a huge sacrifice. This is that story. Part history, with threads of a love story as well and a family striving to survive amidst so many threats. Sent by Aria for an independent review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Hidden Lake by Ruhi Choudary (small time politics/police)

Mackenzie is the Detective in smalltime Lakemore. She is known for being rather reserved, not much of a mixer and this does not bode well when one is part of a team. Right now Lakemore is facing their biggest unsolved crime - an abduction of a young woman daughter of one of the founding fathers of the town as it were, and a very big cheese both for the town and everyone else. Finding Erica is top priority, and when one year exactly on the date of her abduction another girl coincidentally her best friend disappears the town is galvanized into action. Something has to be done and fast. The second girl is a nobody, and the action is slow but when Erica's body is discovered a couple of days after the second girl's abduction, Mackenzie and everyone on her team knows that time is running out for Abby. Further enquiries uncover that during September of the two previous years, two girls were also reported missing and through very convenient channels, the files got buried, misrepresented and forgotton. Now four girls are missing and the onus is on the detectives to discover who is responsible. A bizarre finding of a few clues leads them to all the leading citizens of the county and the head is very very reluctant to allow for even questioning let alone arrest. How the detectives are going to go ahead with this elite few is the question facing them. Especially since everyone is in awe to them, obliged to them for their jobs and even the whole town is dependant on them for their living. Corruption found in police and politics abound everywhere. Magnified here. How do you get around it and still do your job to the best of your ability is the problem. Nice police work, small town politics, corruption all found in this story. Captivating reading. Sent by Bookouture for an honest review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan (post Partition India)

This encapsulated everything I like in books - history, family saga, mystery, detective, a touch of geography and politics of the glass ceiling. All hot topics for me. The story set in post partition Bombay involves Persis a Parsi (tiny minority in India and in the world actually) eloquent, educated and determined to hold her own in a terribly male dominated profession - the police force in India. The only and first female detective in India but one who has to fight every step of the way to get recognition from her peers, from her superiors and even the public whom she tries to help. A murder of a English diplomat at the height of a dinner party despite lots of people around, security, his personal servants etc and no one saw or heard anything. The victim was found minus his trousers which added to the mystery and Persis and her team are put in charge of the investigation. Mainly with the reason that if the investigation falls flat, the blame will squarely fall on her shoulders and those of her precinct, all of whom other than her have come there as a result of what is usually called a "punishment transfer" for some misdeed done. Her colleagues all have a chip on their shoulder and some of them are out gunning for her, not liking her status, her position and her confidence. Going back and forth from the victim's mansion and his coterie of domestics to the far outskirts of Amritsar and the Punjab and coming back again the story winds around with a sad ending. Not the ending that was envisaged but one which sought to cover political ills in a system and one where everyone came smelling of roses. Persis is not happy but she cannot endanger the careers of many with her wanting to speak out the truth. A fine enactment of what happens everyday in most countries even today. I loved the setting, the detailed history of the antagonism which exists and which politicians try to play down, the insistence on one's community, religion and caste so important in not just India but many Asian countries and the deep rooted hatred built up over centuries sometimes not understood by those outside these realms. Beautifully written about and fascinating reading. This was a real winner for me. Sent by Hodder & Stoughton for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Nidderdale Murders by J R Ellis (idyllic setting!)

A Yorkshire Murder Mystery - that is the description and certainly more than the murder or the mystery or the detective work, the Yorkshire dales are so beautifully described in this book that anyone will want to go right now see what it is all about. The names of the villages themselves are enchanting and add to the mystery of this story. Add a detective that loves poetry and the dales, a mix of very realistic village folk, cautious with "in comers" and everyone who loves a pint the story is very good reading. One murder at point blank range, the murderer almost wanting to be recognized as so and so and then the murderer disappears. No one knows where he lived, though he worked for many as an odd job man and gardener - the victim was obnoxious and disliked but tolerated because he spent quite a bit around the village (though never paid his bills on time). When a second murder happens in the same manner, where the murderer faces a witness so that he will be identified Detective Oldroyd knows that there is something much more than meets the eye. Good detective work, plodding book work connects the dots and how revenge is really served cold in this case. Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Amazon Publishing UK.

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Quiet Girl by S F Kosa

Still unable to upload the picture of this book! Alex returns home after a spat with his new wife and discovers her missing. Her rings are in a wineglass and that's that. The police treat it as a person who wants to be missing and do not take his pleas seriously. The story begins to unravel at that point. Alex has not met his parents in law other than on a single occasion. He knows that his wife is not on good terms with them but they are his last resort to find out any clues as to what has happened to her. Meeting them and feeling the tensions and hidden stories behind their steely façade, Alex knows there is more than meets the eye and it is somehow connected to his wife's disappearance. The story of Layla is running parallel to Mina's story and one is definitely linked to the other. How Alex has to work to unravel the mystery of his wife's past and somehow find her is this story. The book was good but meandered a bit to the point that it became rambling and it was difficult for me to fix events and how they connected. Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant

The story is told in two time frames. 1538 and 2019 five centuries apart. The story which we read in present times is an eerie similarity to what went on five centuries before and you do kind of think that there is much more to life than what actually meets the eye. Saffron Hall is a crumbling manor house lived in by Amber's grandfather. Amber after a miscarriage almost at the end of a normal pregnancy has fled to her family home as she cannot bear to live in the house with her husband who is also grieving but who seems to be able to cope better with the emotional trauma of this loss. Amber's reason for being there at Saffron Hall is to deal with the enormous collection of books that are lying around, to archive it and to bring it to some sense of order. Discovering an ancient manuscript when one tower of the Hall comes down, reveals a story that Amber feels compelled to follow. She feels that Eleanor is trying to tell her a story about the child she carried which died, and which was never properly buried. Trying to unravel this piece of history and bring it to completion is what Amber feels will also bring peace to herself and a reconciliation with her husband. Till this is resolved, she is determined not to leave Saffron Hall. The story alternating between two centuries is a poignant one in both time frames. Both Eleanor and Saffron suffered immensely from their loss and both had to come to peace before they could move forward. Sent by Avon Books UK for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, September 7, 2020

The Last to Know by Jo Furniss

Very atmospheric from the word go, Rose and Dylan with their little son are returning home from tumultuous Somalia after a long exile away from home. Home is Dylan's ancestral pile in the quiet village of Hurtford. The house is eerie, sitting on a hill and the Kynaston name alone is spoken about with derision, scorn and disdain. Rose is unaware of the tension surrounding her husband's family until she actually arrives in the home to find Gwendoline - Dylan's mother herself eccentric, displaying all the characteristics of dementia but is not acknowledged by her son to actually be a danger to anyone. To the outsider Rose, there are lots of things very wrong both with Gwendoline and the house but Dylan persists in being blind to all this. The scandal attached to Dylan's father persists despite there being no proof at all (case dismissed) but it is not a happy situation at all. Rose is fighting blind an enemy that she does not know or even can perceive, and when human remains are discovered the entire old scandal is reopened like a festering wound and it is upto Rose to protect herself and her son even against her husband who is now a prime suspect in a murder investigation. The whole village of Hurtford itself added to the suspense of the story as it seemed as if small time villages have very long memories and thirty years is a mere few days in people's memory. It does not fade with time nor is it allowed to do so and it is kept very much alive - the animosity and hatred particularly. This was a good read with a lot to ponder over - how family ties, loyalty to a clan to a village can sometimes be too much of a good thing! Sent by Lake Union Publishing for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The House at Mermaid's Cove by Lindsay Jayne Ashford (WWII setting)

Another story with a World War II background set between the coasts of Cornwall, scenes of quiet rural life with hidden secrets and then moving across to France and all the turmoil there with German occupation. Alice is a survivor of a ship torpedoed by the Germans and washed up on the Cornish coast. With her shorn hair and secretive speech, her rescuer knows that there are secrets behind the façade of the washed out, exhausted woman found at his doorstep. When her life story is told which in itself is intriguing (a convent in Africa, a questioning of faith, an idea of leaving the strict no feelings to be shown policy of the convent) and with her knowledge of French, Alice becomes a key person in the permanent quest of finding people who can infiltrate the French coast and bring back airmen and others who need to get back to England. Following her adventures both in and out of France at great personal risk to herself and reading about her life in the convent in Africa, both the highs and lows - you can see how far the church has come since those difficult times of strict laws, and rules and nothing else. It was a tough time for anyone who chose a vocation unless you were devoid of any natural feelings. The story of survival, of faith, and finally of a peaceful end and love finding a way is all told in this imaginative story. Sent by Lake Union Publishing for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Lighthouse by P D James

I am going to the pile of books unread at home and picking up one at a time. The first is an all time favourite P D James. I love her style of writing, formal, precise and so very informative. All in one sentence. The feeling conveyed in a sentence is so good that nothing is superfluous. Never get tired of reading her books. The Lighthouse set on Coombe Island is a isolated place. It serves as a resort for those "captains of industry" or politicians who need a quiet, restful place to recuperate and relax, free from the intrusions of modern life. It did not prove to be so for Oliver Nathan, a cantankerous author who from several accounts was described as evil. His murder set in motion a series of events starting with Detectives from Scotland Yard arriving on the island and with a second murder, an episode of SARS, it soon racked up the tensions on this small island with just a few people. Uncovering a history that went back decades in the lives of those who were on the island, not just islanders as such of whom there were only a couple but the lives of those who were on the island at the time of the murder showed that coincidences is not acceptable when it comes to murder. On an island with such a few inhabitants even the lives of the detectives - just three of them mesh in a way that does not happen in a more "open" environment. This added another dimension to the story. This was a gorgeous read, I can see myself reading it again in a year or two.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg

The saga of Blogger not allowing me to paste the picture of the book continues. Sigh! Unusual memoir. At 36 the author finds herself (presently for descriptive purposes only) married and with a small baby. Happy in her marriage, financially stable, happy with her domesticity as well. Called up for jury duty Molly finds herself hopelessly and irrevocably attracted to Nora a lawyer and she cannot get her out of her mind. It is not a momentary feeling of lust but one that seems to take over Molly's entire thought process. The story proceeds how Molly (and her husband) have to handle this new intrusion in their life, come to terms with it (which they do), and proceed with their separate lives, causing as little disruption to the lives of their child and those around them. It seems all very civilized, a minimal amount of heartbreak over a failure of a marriage but it seems a bit strange all the same. It is a memoir which feels like a bit of therapy is going on with the writing itself, expunging itself as it were and on the other hand gives a clearer perspective of how harsh it is to have a gender identity crisis at the age of 36. Unusual reading, got me thinking. Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Abrams Press.