Thursday, July 31, 2014

Boarding House Reach by Peter Crawley

This is a story that is character driven. I also like stories where disparate characters come seemingly randomly together and form the story as a whole.

In this one five separate people come to a boarding house in Strand-next-the-Sea. Each one comes for a completely different reason but there are strands in each one's story which is sometimes linked to the other by very tenuous threads as it were. 

The Reach which is the name of our house offers a safe house for the five people - Phoebe, Audrey, Hacker, Phillip and our landlady Stella. A story of love and rejection, blackmail and long forgotton history - but our characters know that nothing can be forgotton because the past always has a link to the present and the future and you really cannot completely put it behind you.

Very interestingly told. It was a bit slow for me at the beginning but it picked up very nicely and I liked the way it was presented. 

This book came to me via Netgalley courtesy of Troubador Publishing Limited.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In your Eyes by Ruth Axtell

In Your Eyes

As I looked at the cover I never could imagine that this girl was depicting a scene in 1641. It looked as modern as today!

1641 Amsterdam it is and we are introduced to the world of shipping and trade. The Dutch ruled the East and Amsterdam was a melting pot of rich traders, burghers and people from every corner of the globe. It was also the centre for trade in spices, silks and what not. The Dutch ruled the waves.

Into this background comes Francesca abducted and released but abducted by mistake for her cousin Lisbeth (who was the rich one). Francesca is literally the poor relation. Parents dead and she was foisted on this uncle who very reluctantly takes her over and her father's debts. She is grudged every penny spent on her and the food she eats, and she works in the household almost like a servant.

Her rescuer is Dirk and Francesca who loves to paint and is a good painter, wants to paint his portrait. Dirk falls in love with her and honourably offers her marriage but the path to happiness is strewn with obstacles. 

The story is a simple one but it is the setting that does it justice. Apart from the detailed descriptions of wharf, port and all the people who inhabit this great harbour, we have the history of art from Rembrandt to those who work for a pittance - the literally starving artists. Loved the atmosphere it generated for the story.

This was a free download from Amazon. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday! What are you reading?

Good things courtesy of Netgalley!



Reading Boarding House Reach and its good.

On a weather note, it has started to rain. I am too nervous to be happy over it as I know it can become dry in a few minutes! I just wish the rain would stay.....

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Distant Dream by Vivienne Dockerty

The year is 1847 and it is the time of the infamous potato famine in Ireland. My knowledge of the period is sketchy and I fell in love with this cover. The somber tones perfectly convey the feeling of despair and almost resignation that the emigrants have.

We have scores of people moving out of Ireland and underscoring the famine and hunger, is also the fact that most of them are farmers who love the land but who are just tenant farmers. They long for their own land, something that they could nurture, protect and enhance and then hand over to their children.

Clarence and Bessie have no children - they actually abduct Molly while her sister is at her mother's funeral and very quickly whisk her away from the home she has always known. Molly is just three. The story follows with a tiring, eventful journey across the seas to Australia. There the family like scores of their fellow countrymen try to settle down to the life they are dreaming about. Molly's death is an act of murder covered up by her adopted parents as well as by Hannah who is cowed into covering up the actual facts. Molly's death is also the death knell for Bessie and Clarence who reverse their plans, move out and establish themselves elsewhere.

The book is one of a trilogy and I do hope I can track down the other books in the series. Very evocative and very descriptively told of the trials of average human beings. How even a very normal person like Bessie, can turn into something she is normally not. She was not maternal, she had motherhood thrust on her and she did not take to it. The difficulties facing farmers in a land totally different to what they knew is a subject that fascinates me. I have problems being an agriculturalist in a land I know. Imagine not knowing terrain, temperature, wild life (of which everything was different and strange), the hazards of no civilization, no doctors, no schooling. People faced all this and overcame these obstacles and did wonders for their adopted land.

This was a very good read.

Courtesy of Netgalley via Troubador Publishing Ltd.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Seasons of Trouble by Rohini Mohan

The subject was known to me very well (no Sri Lankan will ever not know this particular subject) and though handled through not just books but through the media umpteen times, not one we get tired of because there are so many aspects and variations to this story that each one is unique. Rohini  Mohan has taken this subject, albeit a difficult one and handled it delicately, sensitively and at the same time its an in your face of all the facts as it happened.

The story deals with the civil war which lasted for three decades and its effects on Sri Lankans. However it deals in this book with particular characters and its effect on them individually. Both are Tamils and so the war looks at it from the perspective of only one race and not both. The Singhalese are seen as the aggressors and the judge and jury. The Tamils are the victims here. I do not personally think that is quite the way it should be but that is another story.

Sarva is a young man of Tamil ancestry. He is from the highlands of Sri Lanka and his story is a painful though common one. Taken in for brutal questioning which involves a great deal of torture, the boy and his family comes out of the episode hating the Singhalese and just wanting to get out of the country. He succeeds after a great deal of trouble, involving his family particularly his mother who never gives up (what mothers have done for centuries), and finds his way to Cardiff eventually.

The story of Mughil is a very interesting one. She was a cadre in the feared LTTE army. At the very end of the war, she realizes that she is on a losing wicket. She gives up all pretense of being a member of the LTTE and goes back to her village and her family. Detailing the last stages of the war which were horrific from a refugees point of view,( this was the first time I read of it from an individual's angle) Mughil and her two young sons along with her sister and family, her mother and father live in appalling conditions both on the run and in the Government run camp which is more or less an open prison. Mughil's instinct for survival is very strong and she is more determined than ever that her two sons will survive and prosper. That they will be educated and not even think of a war and anything that is war related.  How she achieves this and reconciles with a husband whom she hasn't seen or heard of for years, gets back to civilian life and then eventually gets arrested as being a former cadre is heartbreaking. All she wants is to be is a a "normal young woman:". She never achieved that and that was very difficult for me to accept. 

I liked the detailing of everyday life - both in prison, in the camps and then back in civilian life under a military regime. It seemed so far removed from my own life - living just 200 kms away it seems like another world.  Makes me appreciate the life I've had in Sri Lanka despite the war going on. It also shows how one can grow a skin of a kind of indifference to that which is happening so close to one and yet so far. 

The book is I think of special interest to Sri Lankans. I do not know whether the same appeal and interest would be there with others. You have to live through a conflict like this to understand the nuances of this story and I liked the book very, very much. Painting the Singhalese as villains is not something I appreciated but that is that. There are always faults on either side. No one is ever literally so clean that they can point the finger at others.

This was a download from Netgalley courtesy of Verso Books (US).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Beast in Venice by Michael E. Henderson

I chose this book because if I see Venice in a title I want to read it. I did not check out the genre of the book and it surprised me.

Brigham Stone is a modern artist. His wife is a Professor. They live in Venice. He is trying to get a gallery to showcase his art and he is failing miserably. Art gallery owners belong to a cartel (or so it seems) and choice of artist is strictly determined by some rules governed by a kind of Mafia.

Brigham is also on the way to becoming a drunk.  He sees a man walking through a brick wall, confides in his wife, who puts it down to the drink, confides in a friend a gondolier Mauro who believes him intensely and who says that it is all linked to the current events in Venice - bodies being fished out of the canals, gutted, crucified and eaten. Referred to as shroud eaters Mauro insists they exist despite Brigham's initial skepticism.

Brigham is later befriended by Charles - seemingly a kindly, rich man who likes his art and is willing to help him along. His kindly exterior of course conceals more sinister workings and Brigham is drawn into a private, hidden world in Venice. The world of clubs where vampires, blood sucking, crucifixion and death is also involved.

How to exist in this world to which he is drawn, how to reconcile with his wife Rose who has gone missing, and how to get back to normality because Brigham knows definitely that continuing down this path is going to lead to his own demise.

The vampire bits left me unmoved but the story of a sometimes bumbling Brigham, was amusing.

A download from Netgalley courtesy of Gemelli Press.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Night Drop by Michael W. Sherer

Blake Sanders has not put the pieces of his life together quite like it was before. He has lost his only son Cole and he is now divorced. Molly and he maintain a cordial relationship but when she is abducted from her high profile law firm, Blake steps in as the person who will maintain contact with the kidnappers.

The kidnapping seems a run of the mill one - the demand for money with detailed, convoluted instructions on how and where the money is to be placed and delivered. Following the instructions to the letter but giving his own twist to the tale, Blake is determined to find the identity of who has kidnapped Molly because both the FBI and the law firm have not clue as to why Molly was abducted.

Slowly emerging from the very complicated background is an international Middle Eastern (and a Bangladeshi) group intent on creating mayhem in America Al Quaeda style. Using a system of trained dolphins and blackmailing a former Navy Seal into helping them, they use the dolphins to retrieve canisters of nuclear material which they intend to use to pulverize American cities. 

Getting Naval intelligence into the act Blake and Reyna realize that their goal is not just freeing Molly if it is at all possible but also to prevent another huge attack on Seattle. 

Starting slow but building up the heat as it went on this was a good thriller. I did not much care for the racial profiling of Muslims - it seemed a bit trite but other than that a good read.

This was a book from Netgalley courtesy of Cutter Press.