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Friday, December 2, 2016

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine




I like stories told in two different time frames and this excelled in this. A debut novel by Sarah Maine I am so looking forward to reading this author again and again.

Hetty is our present day main character. Having inherited property in the Outer Hebrides she is faced with a quandary. She is drawn so much to the island, the house and its inhabitants that she wants to do what is best for all. She is swept towards her decision to convert the house into a hotel by Giles her partner and his team behind him who have grandiose plans for golf courses, helipads and all the accouterments of a fancy hotel whereas she is veering towards something else. She also did not realise before she arrived on the island the antagonism that a venture of this nature would have to face, neither did she take into account her own strong feelings both about the house and its history.

Going back to 1910 we have the famous inhabitant of the house, a famous painter Theo Blake and the history of the Blakes (not always good and certainly not a good or kind landlord). A real feudal lord of the manor, Theo for all his brilliance as an artist was indifferent to the needs and wants of his tenants, most of them who lived in abject poverty sacrificing their livelihoods for his artistic needs and the needs for hunting and sports of his friends.  The arrival of Beatrice his second wife was for a time a temporary lightening in his life and brought a fresh hope for the island itself but it dwindled in the face of overwhelming odds. Beatrice's subsequent love for Cameron, the factor's son was doomed from the beginning and you knew it would only lead to heartache.

How the two different time frames blended and came into a whole story was very descriptively handled and delicately balanced throughout the book. Characterization was splendid and the detailed description of the island, its birdlife and its natural beauty was beautifully told.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Freight Books.










Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Karolina's Twins by Ronald H. Balson




Another book with the backdrop of WWII this was a very emotional, true story.

A survivor of the Holocaust Lena is now old and wants to make amends and keep to a promise she is supposed to have made to her friend Karolina. Trying to find out the existence of two twin girls thrown out of a moving train seventy years ago seems to be a herculean task but the investigators involved in the task look on it as a personal challenge to see it through.

Taking us through in two separate story lines of WWII and the horrific times of the Jews in Poland, their incarceration, decimation and death the story moves into the present times and the story of Lena and her son Arthur who is determined that his mother not pursue her search for the twins. It turns ugly as well as he is even willing to say that his mother is incapable, senile and not of sound mind. Telling the story in two different time frames added such a lot to this story as it brought so much history to this story. Both World Wars and the effects of it have been documented in numerous ways but each fresh story brings in another aspect, another view of this horrific period in history.

This is a story about survival, family and the ties that bind family forever.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of St. Martin's Press.



Saturday, November 26, 2016

Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina



Victoria Woodhull is almost unheard of and certainly almost unknown as the first woman to run for the post of President of the United States. She was certainly bold if not a little over enthusiastic as this was at a time when women were not even considered citizens, ineligible to vote and the suffragette movement was just getting under way.

Born into a family which was abusive in itself, she made a horrific marriage and had to escape both to try to make a life for herself and her sister. They were spiritualists and could foretell the future and were able to see a life for themselves, but at the same time their ties to their family were very strong and it seemed strange how both sisters provided a home within their own home for the extended family who continued to abuse them, their hospitality and even ruined them at the end.

The book was good reading but at a midway point I was wondering whether I could understand any of the main characters. A strong woman, she was also foolhardy and this made it tiresome to understand where she was going with her life and her career.

This was a compelling read though as it was educative on a topic which I feel few would know about.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Forgotten Women by Freda Lightfoot

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Told in two different time lines in 1936 and the 1980s the story is of courageous men and women fighting on behalf of another country, other lives (always more courageous than fighting for one's own). This was a fight for beliefs and for what is right and wrong.

Spain is on the brink of civil war and many British men and women go across to help them in their struggle. This story encompasses two women and the men who are part of their lives. Fast forward a few decades and the grand daughter of one of them, tries to come to terms with a letter which is puzzling and intriguing. She hopes to find answers for the troubled history of her grandmother who is reticent on the past.

The fear of the past, the difficulty of talking of events long gone but which still cast shadows and how these revelations will affect the present generation are part of the story. The heartbreak of war, the struggles of the British in Spain are all descriptively told in this story. War is never easy and like all wars the effect of it is felt for generations to come despite the fact that it is over and done with. This just reiterates the feeling. The past never remains in the past. It is very much part of the present and the future as well.

The story line was very good, characterizations were spot on.

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers



This was one of those books that couldn't be put down. It started in a seemingly innocuous fashion. A wedding, irritating feelings between siblings and then wham the story started.

Placidia just 17 years old meets the Major at her step sisters wedding and within days is married to him. Days later after entering his rather mixed up household (baby son from a previous marriage, servants who are sullen and disorganised and a ramshackle household), Placidia is left high and dry literally holding the baby and being in charge of a farm of which she has no idea what to do. Never to let a challenge go unchallenged Placidia rises to the task in the absence of a husband whom she has fallen head over heels in love with and life goes on. Not smoothly, not easily but it does go on.

The descriptiveness of the American Civil War, the destruction it left behind, the conditions of slaves in the South all put together add to a huge part of the story and are part of the story itself. Placidia's life and the trauma she faces single handedly, with just the assistance of household help is amazing. The strength of her character and the fact that she is so courageous shines through.

All characters were beautifully crafted and fit into the story perfectly.

For a reader (like me) totally unaware of America's domestic history this was a fascinating read, and one I did not want to finish. Taking the story on for a couple of decades into the next generation of Placidia and the Major's children added another touch.

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Two short reviews. Both Regency Romances - both different!




This was a regency romance somewhat in the mould of Georgette Heyer and an enjoyable read.

Set in an era where there were decided views on how women should and should not behave, we have Joanna Feniton - independent of mind and the worry of her grandmother who just wants to see her well settled. Adventure seems to dog her path though and one of these drags her unwittingly into a world of spies, smugglers and others and she is flummoxed as she does not know who is friend and who is foe. Her suspicions are misplaced and this leads to more complications. All ends well though.

A very nice book for an evening when one wants an uncomplicated life!


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





This was a romance also Regency but of a different kind.

I did not think it was going to end well. Jonathan is the local laird's son. Penelope is the adopted daughter of the local florist. Her antecedents are unknown and for Jonathan's father this is of paramount importance. No son of his is going to marry an unknown. He has set his sights high enough.

The interest for me in this story was that the meaning of flowers was part of the story and this certainly added interest.

The romance however continues with slight ups and downs and this too is one that ends well.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Endeavour Press.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lisa Scottoline - Damaged






Patrick is being brought up by his grandfather Edward. The boy is polite and Edward is rather old fashioned and this can be seen in the boys behaviour. On top of all this the boy is shy and dyslexic and the school system has allowed him to fall by the wayside, and there is no attention being paid to the fact that he cannot read at all and as a result is classified dumb by his classmates and worst of all by the superiors in the school.

On top of it all it now appears that Patrick has an anxiety disorder which results in him vomiting and this has caused distress to both him and to the class mates and even the teacher. On top of that Patrick has been sexually abused and this has only now come to the notice of the lawyer appointed by his grandfather to overlook the case which has been brought against Patrick.

Against overwhelming odds Mary is determined to win a place for Patrick in a better school and at the same time dismiss the case against him. Her opponent lawyer is one who has absolutely no moral scruples and will stoop to the lowest possible tactic to win his case, despite knowing that all what he says is false.

The legal implications and how this case was fought fascinated me. I wonder how true to life the story is and whether there are many Patricks in the system who have no Mary to fight their corner. It is a sad reflection of the times we live in.

As in all Lisa Scottoline's stories, there are unexpected twists, quirky bits and characters which all add dimension to the story.

The story has elements of several genres in it, murder mystery, plus a touch of romance, and of course of much interest to those who like the legal complications of a court room drama.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of St Martin's Press.