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Saturday, October 30, 2021

A Bright Young Thing by Brianne Moore

1930s England must have been a very difficult time for young women who had a yen for independence. They had a peak at it during WWI, got all their freedom taken back at the end of it and were expected to go back to a Victorian age. The plight that befell Astra Davies was similar. Her parents dying in a freak accident, her taken in by an unwilling Aunt, no monies available for survival and no skills at all for her to survive on her own. Astra realized soon after the death of her parents that things were really bad. The only way out, as touted by her Aunt was a rich marriage. Suitors were there in plenty but on Astra's side she had to hide the fact that she was almost destitute. What she thought was a comfortable living was a lie, her father had invested badly had lost it all. When Astra realized that she had been living in a coccoon, she took the reins into her own hands and tried to slowly uncover the secrets her parents had hidden from her, in a foolish bid of protection. From discovering a simple minded young man, purported to be her brother in an institute, to fraudulent withdrawal of monies due to her by her lawyer, her own Aunt's hand in witholding information and a virulent, psychopathic jealous woman amongst her circle who is ready to destroy Astra's reputation in anyway possible to get rid of her from the social scene. The last was the vituperative bit and unimaginable to what lengths a jealous woman would go to bring down a rival. It was fascinating reading and as the story unfolds the importance of "what will society say" seems paramount for society at the time and anything and everything was done to maintain one's position just so. Very descriptive of the times, very descriptive of the main characters in this story this was a really interesting book to read. Sent by Alcove Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

1985 is not really a very long time ago. The way the story unfolds however it seems like the Middle Ages. Bill Furlong his wife and family live in Ireland minding their own business. He supplies coal and kindling to everyone around, is a fair businessman and a steady family man. His focus is on building up his business and providing for his wife and children. The convent in their midst is one of the features of Irish life. Strong Catholic links everyone in these parts but though others are aware of what goes on Bill seemed to have been a bit oblivious. The Magdalene laundries are infamous and after having read one account of it, I would not have picked this one up if it was too descriptive of these places but it was not so. On a visit to supply coal and kindling to the Convent, Bill is faced with a small view of what actually goes on in these places but he closes his eyes to it and returns home. It weighs heavily on his mind though. His wife just wants him to forget what he saw because she knows interference with the workings of the Convent will have a huge repercussion on the family. The power of the Church was widespread, and vindictive. (at the time in Ireland). The story is very touching, and emotional. It is also quite precise and not long winded. Though the subject is a tough one, the feeling of being humane and compassionate are all encompassing in this read. Sent by Grove Atlantic for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Farewell Blues by Maggie Robinson (Lady Adelaide Mysteries No. 4)

Lady Adelaide is not the average lady of the day. She is more than halfway in love with Detective Devanand Hunter, a relationship which will be scandalous for more than half the aristocracy. Her worries right now are not on that score. Her mother the very proper Dowager Compton is in prison for the murder of the Duke of Rufford. The evidence is over whelming, the Rufford family wants to see justice done and this seems the quickest way to achieve it and they are not too bothered if the Dowager is actually guilty or not. Lady Adelaide is not going to take things lying down. She is determined to see her mother vindicated, and free and at the same time find out who the murderer was. She knows socially the family will be outcasts with this scandal and the future of not just her but her younger sister is at stake. The story written with the setting of the English aristocracy with all their eccentricities and foibles, their methods of doing things just so, the attraction between the young Detective and Lady Adelaide, the unscrupulousness of the Rufford family all do their level best to put roadblocks in the investigation. The Police, corrupt as they possibly could just want to finish the case, see the Lady hang and be done with it. I loved the writing style, the setting, the romance (not overly done) and the entire story. I hope I can get more from this author soon. Sent by Poisoned Pen Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Little Bones by Patricia Gibney (Detective Lottie Parker No. 10)

Though this is No.. 10 in the Detective Lottie Parker series, this does very well as a stand alone. Isabelle Gallagher is found murdered, her throat slashed, a razor blade in her hand whilst her infant daughter is screaming in her cot. The baby is unharmed. Detective Lottie Parker is on the scene and what she unravels with a belligerent husband, a mother who is hiding something and a very quiet, unassuming victim who obviously incurred the wrath of someone to meet a death like this. No clues are apparent, the killer was clever but when another mother and son go missing and when the body turns up again with razor blades on the scene there seems to be a connection, however tenuous it is. Connecting the dots and turning up a trail is not easy for these victims who led lives with no history and who lived almost under the radar. A good thriller, well written holding one's interest from start to finish. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Susan a Jane Austen Prequel by Alice McVeigh

A mix of Regency Romance, touches of Persuasion, lots of Pride and Prejudice and you get a scintillating mix for the Jane Austen fantasy. A mixed bag of characters with the familiar Lady Catherine always hovering in the background, her daughter Lady Anne being more assertive than ever before, Frank Churchill dying before his time and Alicia Collins and Susan the start of the show. The characters were nicely placed and I liked that Susan was not all that sweet and submissive and ladylike. On the contrary she was scheming (not just for herself but for others as well), but with good intentions throughout, although her manner of achieving her aims was not very conservative. Mr and Mrs Collins were very nicely portrayed, long suffering and under obligation always. The entire story with its romantic themes interwoven throughout was a good one. Sent by BooksGoSocial for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Woman at the Gates by Chrystyne Lucyk-Berger

A difficult story to assimilate as no holds barred in the telling of it. But this is how a story should be told especially one like this. It is also difficult if one has not lived through oppression of been under government control to understand living conditions like this. You can never under estimate the power of neighbours or relations who may not like you and who may "dob" you to the authorities. Compromise which may seem the cowards way out on reading it, may be the only way to survive and the human spirit does need to survive, come what may. The story set in 1944 embodies the spirit of survival, of family ties, of love and the heartbreak behind it all. Of personal sacrifice for the better of the common good. The characters in this story are doing the best they can not just for their country but for their own survival. I followed the maps which were interspersed with the chapters and saw how the borders of Ukraine, Lithuania, Slovekia, Yugoslavia, and even Russia changed every few years with wars and greed of one power taking over another. The story is full of historical detail (in great depth) which may not appeal to anyone other than those who like history because though the personal story is very powerful, the historical story is the one which is uppermost. It was my first read of a story set in 1944 Ukraine. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, October 18, 2021

A Death at Candlewick Castle by Emma Jameson (Book No. 2 in series)

The setting of a book and the geography also contributes much to the pleasure of reading, especially if you are not from the area, live in a totally different type of environment. Having a book set in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles brings to the overseas reader another glimpse of Britain - a most idyllic one here in this story. The story of a cozy mystery murder set in such surroundings, with an unofficial sleuth on hand and her band of friends adds to the piquancy of the read. When one body is found, and questions raised and he is found to be not such a nice guy after all the suspicions start pointing all ways and when another body is discovered Jem knows she has to get cracking with the clues before the bodies start piling up. Very pleasant reading from this author whom I discovered through another series by her. Sent by Bookouture for an independent review, courtesy of Netgalley

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Small Hotel by Suanne Laqueur

The story set in the islands seems idyllic. The family of Fiskare is close knit, lovable and part of a Swedish community. The ethnicity is quite marked and when a exotic relation from Rio turns up you know sparks will fly and they do. Then the equalizer of the Great War starts and the boys enlist, the household gets broken up, Astrid gets torn away from the love of her life Kemmet by her vindictive mother and there is general heartbreak around. The story continues in the setting of wartime Europe and extremely harsh it is most of the time. One of the sons dies, another is wounded and only one escapes unscathed physically, changed completely mentally. The war descriptive and brutal and all episodes in the various villages were quite difficult to read, fathom and accept. War however is never pretty and this was very harsh. We then go back to peacetime, back to the islands, back to a reconciliation and trying to pull together broken strands of everyone's life to make it all whole and complete again. The settings were different - from the peace and calm of a backwater island, to Europe and everything in between. A family of young men, peaceful and kind and basically good were returned in slightly different form after the ravages of war. Acceptance of being different was an important feature of the story. An unusual book in unusual settings. The horrors of war well told. Sent by Cathedral Rock Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Hayward

Some mother daughter relationships are fraught with so many roadblocks. Emma had rarely spoken to her mother over the last couple of years because it invariably became tense, rude and unforgivable things were said. The fact that her mother was a difficult woman was acknowledged by many, but her mother's animosity towards Emma's second child, her daughter Libby was unforgivable. When her mother died, and Emma was left to clear her house and stuff, her will was enough in itself to be upsetting. She had changed her will one day before she died, leaving the flat to Libby - the grand daughter whom she refused to be courteous to during her life, and on further delving into papers and journals Emma discovers an entire new life her mother had. Something totally unknown, disturbing, and in hindsight accountable for her mother's distorted way of living her life. The story was alarming, very tense, very emotional, disturbing but an excellent read of hidden elements in a person's life and how eventually they do surface - intentionally or unintentionally. Some things seem like fate, some things should be left buried but are somehow dug up and then you cant put it back in the box neatly. It disrupts everything from that moment on. I did not feel that the facts that were buried, but were deliberately opened helped to bring about peace and happiness at least not very much. The story is unusual. Disturbing but unusual. Sent by Agora Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Death on the Marais by Adrian Magson (Lucas Rocco No. 1)

1963 France and Inspector Rocco is not the most popular of people. Each chapter started with one of his seniors making a comment on Rocco - his tenacity, his rough attitude, his way of getting things done, his not sticking to protocol, regulations or procedure. A lone wolf. Transferred to a small village with no crime records, the worst that happens is a brawl between two drunken old men. On Rocco's arrival looked with distrust amongst villagers who feel he is an "outsider" the crimes start. The first victim is the daughter of one of France's most eminent citizens, though a shady character in his own right. Identified as Natalie Berbier no one in the police hierarchy wants to touch the case because of its powerful implications but when the body is whisked from the morgue back to Paris, Rocco moves in the only way he knows how. Uncovering plots which go back decades to the time of WWII and which no one wants to talk about - Resistance and Communists, also traitors to the cause and many deaths in the village, pieces slowly begin to unravel and the Police top dogs have to take action despite their initial unwillingness. Highlighting police detection though a trifle unorthodox, police corruption prevalent in every society uptil now, the story was an excellent read. I will be looking out for subsequent numbers. The setting is bleak, not picturesque at all but it all adds to the darkness of the story. A download from Amazon.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Damask Rose by Carol McGrath

The story begins with Eleanor as a Princess being held hostage and with great privations and distress, especially after she lost her baby daughter. The actual story was fascinating to read. How the Princess Eleanor who was very much loved by her husband became a strong Queen who was shrewd, calculating and persistent with her plans and even with long hidden animosities which were nurtured and acted upon at the opportune moment. Eleanor was the power behind the throne - a much heeded advisor to the King, who never felt shy about her feelings on any subject within the realm. Though very diplomatically as well. She was the mother of some sixteen children, many of whom died either as still births or in infancy and this made her wary of being overly affectionate or loving as a mother. Her maternal feelings came into play only when the children were very well grown up. She handed over children to her mother in law to bring up, because she always felt that her position was by the side of her husband - whether on Crusade or whether travelling the length and breadth of Britain. In this story the other character Olwen has a very prominent part to play - from being a herbalist, a doctor's daughter who could not aspire to be an apothecary even being a woman, she was also a designer of gardens. This endeared her to the Queen who had manors and castles all over the country and who wanted gardens in every style imaginable and herbal gardens as well in all her residences. Olwen was faithful and part of the Queen's entourage for years and her story held great interest in this book. The book though very full of historical detail was not dull in the least but was a lively account of the Royal Court in the 13th century. A download from Amazon.

Friday, October 8, 2021

A Lesson in murder by Verity Bright (Lady Eleanor Swift Book No. 7)

1921 and Lady Eleanor Swift has been invited to give an address to the girls as she is considered a rather prestigious old girl. Independent, adventurous and definitely not found elsewhere a rather sensible down to earth young woman who is also of the aristocracy. Very unusual combination for the time. When one of her most beloved teachers are found dead just before her speech and which turns the whole school upside down, Eleanor is called upon to privately investigate along with Clifford her butler who is a character in himself (and stories could be written from his point of view alone) to find out who did this. The school seemingly made up of staid, respectable teachers is anything but and Eleanor discovers plot upon plot with many suspects. It has to be whittled down and fast, because a second murder takes place. Entering the school as a relief was the only way Eleanor was able to access the school without suspicion and without incurring the wrath of its well heeled parents, who did not want even a whiff of scandal to touch their daughters at this elite school. Fighting the establishment and discovering clues was not an easy task but the inimitable Lady Eleanor does it all in her usual unflappable style. Loved the plot, the characters, the settings, the era, everything! Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

An Eligible Gentleman by Alice Chetwynd Ley

In the manner of a Georgette Heyer read, this was a nice read for those who like the genre. We have two girls - Phoebe and Eleanor. One being pressurised into marriage with her cousin who has absolutely no interest in her or marriage but unprepared for a determined mother. We have the other determined to help her friend out of this predicament with one idea after another. The ideas backfire, but the parents are thwarted and all ends well. Very simple, easy reading. Sent by Sapere Books for an unbiased review courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt

I've read the scenario over a dozen times. Someone gets an unexpected inheritance in a far flung corner of the world (this time Greece) and you rush there to occupy, make a life for yourself, uprooting yourself almost completely. For me it sounds improbable but the fact that it is written about so much, it must be factual as well. Ava is in deep sorrow over her miscarriage. Her grief she feels is hers alone because her husband Simon comes across as cold and unfeeling. This she can no longer stand and her marriage is about to collapse. Inheriting a house in a Greek village from her grandmother who never ever spoke of her Greek ancestry, was unexpected and was the bolt hole she needed. That the house was closed for sixty years did not strike Ava as ominous. The story of Ava, her arrival in this tiny remote village, her attempts to make her house habitable and making friends with quiet reserved neighbours was not easy. Unravelling the past was worst. Just five people of her grandmothers generation survived and very few of them wanted to talk of the past. It was a bloody past filled with revenge and distrust, murder and an unforgiving one which traumatised those living even today. An interesting story told in two time lines outlining Ava's grandmother Sophia's days as a girl and then the present day as depicted in Ava's ti,e and her sadness and life as it was now. Sensitively handled a good read. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

Mrs Lorimer and Miss Douglas were quiet friends. One a mother of a large family and a husband who was just stubborn, wanting his own way and Miss Douglas living a very fulfilled life on her own, doing exactly what she wanted and being a good friend to all. When the entire family descended on the Lorimer's Gray Douglas knew that her friend will need encouragement to deal with the myriad tensions and problems brought about by the young people and the irritation faced by Mr Lorimer when his routines and house were upset. One daughter having differences of opinion in a very silly manner with her husband was one and the youngest son facing issues after he was dumped by a long standing girl friend. How was Mrs Lorimer to give the support to her son, admonish her daughter, keep the peace in the household without being too interfering! An exemplary story for non interfering mothers and mothers in law, a solid book regarding enduring friendships this was a wonderful read recommended by one of the blogs I follow. Purchased from Amazon this was such a calm, energising book.