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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

I see London I see France by Paulita Kincer

I had downloaded this book quite a while ago and thought that while I am in Melbourne I will read this book which also deals with moving between countries! Since I am moving back to Colombo tomorrow it seems apt! Caroline is taken aback when her husband walks out of the house after an argument. The subject of the argument looking back is a minor one. Caroline then decides to take a bold step of taking her children to tour Europe selling her minivan and moving from London to Paris, Scotland and Provence pursuing her steps as an au pair in her younger days and tracking the man whom she had passion for when she worked as an au pair. We follow their journey through these cities and it is almost like a travelogue which was very descriptive and detailed and the story of Caroline and her dilemma is one that faces many women when a marriage breaks down. Does one continue in the same rut, or do you take this as an opening to break free, try new things use this as a challenge. Good reading for women who accept a challenge.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson

Ida and Louisa have a very sedate life. One works as a government clerk, and Ida loves to write, often scribbling down snippets and notes of ideas for stories. Their love for opera sees them scrimping and saving to buy opera tickets and then daringly actually going to opera houses in Europe to see their stars perform. During the course of these visits they are befriended by the celebrities themselves who are charmed by the simplicity of the sisters. When Austria and subsequently Poland followed by France are overswept by the Nazis, Ida and Louise set up a system of trying to help Jews to get out of Europe by a system of sponsorship. To this end during their frequent visits to Europe, they take with them the jewels and furs of the Jews who have managed to save them as a guarantee of their stays in London and elsewhere. The system works despite Ida and Louisa's total lack of training in this kind of work - work they do with their entire hearts and minds overcoming great odds and personal dangers to get as many people as they could out of these countries. The novel is based on a true story and links and snippets as to actual events are highlighted at the end of the chapters but the appeal of the story is the simple, straightforward lifestyle of two very middle class sisters who stepped out of their comfort zone to help people who were unknown to them. An inspiring read of two very down to earth heroines. Sent by Shadow Mountain Publishing for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Orphans of Mersea House by Marty Wingate

Postwar England 1957. Respectable ladies when they left bereft of any income what does one do. Olive finds herself after a lifetime of caring for everyone else totally alone - she has no financial back up, no one to turn to and with the avenues of employment also restricted she really does not know what to do next. At the very last minute her friend Marjery turns up with a brilliant offer. Relocating from London, she has decided to re-open her uncle's shop with upto the minute, modern appliances for the home none of which is available in their village, and open the house as a lodging. She offers the post of housekeeper to Olive who accepts it gratefully. Lodgers aside, a ward of Margery appears. A little girl stricken with polio and now in caliphers. Though she is Marjery's ward, it is Olive who falls in love with the little girl and seeks to protect her against any ill wisher or ignorant villager who may be harsh to Juniper. The story highlights the ignorance about polio and also a hitherto unspoken of subject - homosexuality. The story is a lovely warm hearted read - reaching out to everyone around. It ends well for everyone but it is descriptive and very well told. Sent by Alcove Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

A Gracious Neighbour by Chris Cander

Martha has never felt that she quite fitted in with the crowd. She felt she was always on the edges, not getting either the clothes vibe right or the conversation right. When Minnie, a girl who was a mate at school comes next door to live, Martha is elated thinking that with her polished syle Minnie is going to be Martha's entre into society. Alternately ignored or welcomed Martha still not get what drives Minnie to act the way she does and what starts as just plain curiosity as to what her neighbours do, ends up in real stalking. Martha does not intend actual harm to either Minnie or her husband John but she is intensely curious about their lifestyle, the poshness of it all, and then the bickering and what seems to go beyond the surface veneer of the glam life. Martha herself would be unrecognisable as the normal stalker, if ever there was a definition of one but things spiral out of control and she is apparently caught in trying to catch up, make amends and do it all. The story highlights of one aspect of keeping up with the Joneses and what happens when you feel slighted that you do not have it the way someone else does. Envy in a slightly different form but to what extent you would go to have it all. A very insightful read into human behaviour. Sent by Little A for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley. This post brings me to the end of a two and a half month stay in Melbourne. It was immensely good for me, but I do have to get back home!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Beach Club by Elin Hildebrand

Mack has been working as the Manager at the Beach Club for the last twelve years. Every year has passed in a pattern but this year his late father's lawyer calls with disturbing news. His manager at the farm is retiring and a decision has to be taken as to the farm's future. It is quite an extensive property far removed from Nantucket and the hotel. His girlfriend of twelve years wants to get married and though he loves her dearly, he cannot understand why he does not want to commit. She is also pressurising him to secure his future by asking for a profit share in the Club. When Vance who is Macks second in command forces him at literal gunpoint to come clean to Marribel his girlfriend about his association with a guest at the hotel Mack knows that it is now crunch time. The story revolves around Mack and his indecisions about what to do. Other characters though important to the story are secondary. On top of it all, a hurricane sweeps across the island and this seems to be the starting point for change for all the inhabitants of the hotel. Although a typical light hearted holiday read, this was full of people who faced very basic fears of living alone, of abandoned love and bleak futures to be faced by some. A book I picked up from Glen Waverley library.

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

I was very curious about this book and I knew I could never get it in Sri Lanka. I had forgotten about it till I came to Melbourne and picked it up from the library. I must be one of the last readers to get to this very long and interesting story. Pagford is a small town in England divided into two distinct parts. The Fields the lower end of town inhabited by those with limited or no incomes and then the upper crust Pagford who feel (at least some of them) that they pay un necessarily for the ameneties and benefits of the Fields inhabitants most of whom they feel do not want to improve their lot but continue to depend on dole outs from the council. Into this scene comes the sudden death of Barry Fairbrother one of the council members and this death causes a "casual vacancy" and in its turn sets off a maelstrom of action, inaction, devastation, death and so much more. The number of characters are quite large, they ebb and flow with the story and most of them are constant even on the periphery because they are all relevant in some way to the larger picture and each plays an extremely important part in the whole. The book is a definite adult styled story and is an excellent read. Highlighting some of the lesser nice characters of humans ranging from avarice, envy, lust and greed there is plenty of profanity, drug abuse which makes it more suitable for adults. The book was a very long one and since I took a large print, it was really very long! Thpugh late to the party I loved it and am just grateful that I got to it eventually.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

A Very Typical Family by Sierra Godfrey

The title is misleading. The family is anything but typical. At the age of fourteen Natalie called the police when she found her brother and sister at a party where they were all high on drugs and one teenager actually died. They were both sent to prison and neither of them had forgiven her though they are both out of prison now. Years have gone by, the family has split up, no communication between the mother and Natalie either. Natalie faces obstacles of her own at her job in New York. Ear marked for the top job, she is ousted at the very last minute by her boyfriend of whom she had such high hopes of making the relationship permanent. Heart broken mainly by what she feels as betrayal at work, Natalie is then faced with a letter from a lawyer, saying her mother has died and left the ancestral home to the three children who can inherit provided they actually come together to the house. The lawyer says there is no acknowledgement to the letters sent to her siblings upto date. This is how the story starts. Natalie undertakes the long journey back home, hoping to get some space from her relationship and her heart break and try to overcome the break up with her brother and sister as well. The story goes through several hiccups at every stage before a reunion of any kind can happen. Trying to put a dysfunctional and deeply hurt family together again is never going to be easy. The story is emotional, draining but a very good one. Sent by Sourcebooks Landmark for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, August 19, 2022

The Light House Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

The story surrounding Grace Darling set in the remote Farne Islands who operated the lighthouse along with her father but who could never become an official light house keeper because of her sex, combines the best of a number of genres. History in plenty, the courage and daring and innovation shown by a woman in 1838. Saving a group of shipwrecked survivors was the beginning of the story and the ties that were forged during that operation are then brought forward again in 1938 when Hannah Emmerson seeks refuge with Harriet now a light house keeper in Rhode Island to wait out her pregnancy. Her mother in Ireland is too ashamed of her daughter and just wants the whole story to be swept under the carpet and out of her sight. Just nineteen Hannah starts on her journey to America and her entire life changes as a result. Both 1838 and 1938 with the lighthouse as the main background are depicted very vividly. The life of lighthouse keepers in 1838 was not an easy one - apart from the isolation, it demanded loyalty and hard work and constant attention to detail. In 1939 with the addition of technology it became easier but the principles of hard work and attention to detail remained. The lives of these two women are detailed very descriptively and one is drawn into the whole saga of how these lighthouses work. Give the background of 1938 and WWII added more interest to the story. This book was a free download from Amazon and I am grateful as it opened a new vista for me - lighthouses and the courageous women who manned them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Paris for One and other stories by Jo Jo Moyes

I have been trying for the longest to get to this author and was never successful. This book was through the local library at Glen Waverley in Melbourne and hopefully I will be able to get another book before I leave for Sri Lanka by the end of this month. This collection of short stories starts with the Paris for One which is also the longest one of the lot. Each story involves a woman and the story is from the angle of the woman. In Paris for one Nell decides to act out of character. Planning a weekend in Paris with her boyfriend who ditches her, she now has to salvage what was left of the weekend. How she goes from despair to euphoria and how the weekend ultimately evolves is the story. Crocodile Shoes how a misplaced bag and a fancy Louboutini changed someone's life was very good. What a new hair cut and a trip to the salon could do! The Christmas List highlights how one should celebrate not as a rote, but because we want to and with people whom we care about otherwise it is just another day. The entire collection some very short and some novellas, held me interested throughout.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Mydworth Mysteries No. 1 - A Shot in the Dark by Neil Richards & Matthew Costello

1929 rural Sussex. The year may be 1929 but it looks as feudal attitudes are going to take a very long time to die down. Sir Harry has returned after a diplomatic spell in Egypt along with his clever, modern American wife Kat. That alone is exciting and turbulent but as they get off their steamner, an urgent summons for Harry to come to the Foreign Office sees Kat going to Mydworth on her own. She is a bold young woman, driving in a country she doesnt know, to meet relatives she has only heard about and aristocratic as they come, their welcome is as tepid as expected. When a jewel robbery is what faces Kat as she arrives, followed by a random shooting of the robber as he tries to get away the couple have to use use their skills and contacts to try to solve this their first investigation in England. Finding who the murdered man was, the motives for the robbery and then solving the mystery was entertaining. I liked the setting, the era particularly, the relationship between not just Harry and Kat but the entire cast around them. This was a free download from Amazon. I will be looking out for the rest in the series.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Where the Sky Begins by Rhys Bowen

1940 London - Josie Banks is an out and out city girl. She wouldn't know what to do in the countryside. The quiet and silence of it would drive her nuts. Surrounded by people and noise she finds it alien but this is going to be her life after being evacuated from London and all that she is familiar with. First her husband Stan gets called up. Not the most loving of relationships, he was anyway her choice but then he goes. She finds employment with a Russian Jew who has opened a tea room and helps her out, bwfriending her as well. That gets bombed and the old lady dies. She then moves on but she gets bombed out of her own house, with literally not a stitch of clothing. Thats how the evacuation to the countryside starts. It was usually children who get evacuated so when they find themselves with a grown woman without a stitch to her name, the authorities scramble to find a place for her. Miss. Harcourt and her servant Kathleen are not welcoming. They are suspicious and supercilious and Josie is not made to feel welcome. Little by little Josie overcomes the obstacles facing them all, settles in and makes a life for herself and the family as best as she could. Josie has a good heart, is willing to see beyond the arrogance of Miss Harcourt and see the loneliness and heartbreak that has madeher what she is. Kathleen is a different kettle of fish - blowing hot and cold alternately. Josie's sojourn during the war is very beautifully documented - the travails of wartime rationing, how people made do and this adds to so much apart from the story of how Josie gets involved in sussing out a spy in their midst. This will eventually lead to Josie's future working at Bletchley Park but that I hope will be another good story. This was historical fiction very well told, documenting the daily life of Britons as well as the overall aspect of WWII Sent by General Fiction (Adult) Women's Fiction for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Dear Little Corpses by Nicola Upson

The mass evacuation in September 1939 from London to the countryside of thousands of children was a lesson in planned logistics. Of course like all plans something has to go wrong somewhere and one isolated incident did Two children went missing, one got misplaced due to sheer mischief and families all around and a community went to pieces. In a small Suffolk village Josephine has to come to terms with the onset of war, and that her partner and lover Martha is leaving to go to America. In such uncertain times when she will come back is unknown. On top of that with the missing girl from a fair in open view of all the villagers is something that has to be tracked down carefully to find out what happened to the little girl. As usual in Upson's novels, nothing is as straight forward as just a missing girl and when the story is unravelled we find one missing girl, two missing girls and then bodies. Complicated in its telling you have to follow the stories of several families who try to deal with the trauma of separated families - husbands at the warfront, wives alone without the emotional support children can give you and not knowing whether your children are happy, settled and safe. I was also thinking of how in the present context of what my grandson was told "stranger danger" how we would deal with this forced separation. Anti vaxxer protests will be nothing compared when parents take to the streets! I dont blame them either. (the parents not the anti vaxxers!) The story made one think and drew the reader into the emotional morass of it. Like Nicola Upson always does. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson

The style of writing in this book is so reminiscent of P D James that I just had to finish it in one go. My last book I picked up from Glen Waverley library because I am leaving for Colombo tomorrow the 28th August. The story starts in very peaceful countryside and Detective Archie Penrose does not expect to find the horror he does. In an abandoned grave, Archie finds the mutilated body of the church organist, a private man who did not antagonise anyone and who led a very quiet life. No apparent enemies and the only significant piece of evidence is a torn photograph of a house with a few words on it. Trying to piece the clues of this brutal murder takes Archie back to Cambridge and to a group of young men who on the surface do not have any close links other than they were members of a choral group. They are today scattered in different professions, one of them dead, one dying of cancer, the others seemingly harmless very highly placed and one particularly boorish bully. Finding no cooperation within this group of men, and also having one by one them picked off does not bode well for the Police because they cannot find who the murderer is. The only clues are the choir and the remaining members are tight lipped. Alongside this, a series of rapes and brutal attacks on women have put the Police on full alert as the numbers keep mounting. This puts more pressure on the police force and Inspector Webster is the most empathetic of the Force because other officers do not give the assaults and the victims the support they should have. The story is complicated and intense, the detective work is detailed and intricate and extremely involved. Uncovering the strands is a tough job and needs focus even whilst reading let alone solving it. Alongside the two strands of the rapes and the murders, we have Archie's own personal history being in the forefront of the story. His love affair with Bridget who also now lives in Cambridge and the discovery of a twenty year old secret in the form of a daughter he never knew he had are two additional strands to the story. Josephine Tey's involvement is almost like a sideline in this particular story albeit an important one. I couldnt put this book down till I read it fully.

Friday, August 5, 2022

A Botanists Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari

1923 and it is not an easy era for women who want something more from their life - not only marriage and children but a career of some kind. Saffron has fought her peers and colleagues for a spot on the research team and she is well suited for the job but fighting prejudices and sneers from her colleagues is getting too much to bear. When her boss who has always been supportive of her is accused of murder, by using his botanical knowledge to kill off a fellow researcher, Saffron knows she has to use her analytical skills as best as she could to get him free. The botanical theme throughout the book, the characters not just the main one all added interest and substance to the story. The touch of romance was judiciously right not overpoweringly so and the book provided to be a good read, on a subject which for many may be boring. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Guilty Creatures edited by Martin Edwards

This collection of slightly vintage mystery stories had something for everybody who is a fan of this genre. Slow moving in some, fast paced in others, quiet characters, forward and pushy characters in others it ran the full gamut of characters which added up to a very satisfying whole. Sent by Poisoned Pen Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood

Judith is elderly and very happy with her life and the way it is going. When her neighbour Stefan is murdered and when the local police seem to dismiss her as a cranky old lady, she decides to join up with two other ladies Suzie and the very prim Becks, the vicar's wife to embark on a bit of detection and try to sort out who murdered whom. When a second murder occurs, they step up their action - in a head on, amateur attempt but which is strangely successful and keeps them out of harms way though they come perilously close on several occasions of endangering themselves. They do not follow protocol or procedure and ignore the local police force but come up trumps with clues and suspects - much more than the local police. The setting itself was picturesque - how these murders take place in serene, quiet and such pretty locales is something to ponder! A well rounded mystery detective story. Sent by Poisoned Pen Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.