Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What Happens in Tuscany by T A Williams

If I see Tuscany or Provence in a title I am invariably drawn to check out what the book is about. This seemed a light novel which I thought would be ideal for me whilst travelling myself and it was.

Kate is in a dead end job. She is bored, frustrated at the way her life is turning out to be and her partner of seven years seems indifferent to say the least to any of her feelings. A complete break is needed and this is what she does. Taking up a job as a companion to a 25 year old is weird enough - but when she arrives at the Manor where she has to take up employment she realizes that there are much more weird things ahead.

There is her charge - Lady Victoria Chalker Pyne who seems to be in a time warp of 1910 - hasn't heard of Facebook or Twitter, talks in the language of Jane Austen and has to be introduced to the 21st century - gradually.

The education of Victoria in the manners (and morals) of the twenty first century bringing her gradually into everyday life is the goal of Kate. Her father has deliberately kept her hidden, never taken her overseas (despite having property overseas) as this was his view of keeping Victoria safe.
Ending up on their villa in Tuscany, life becomes different for the two girls who have to also face interests from young men in the vicinity and in Victoria's case how she should cope with both admiration, love and lust. How to differentiate the wood from the trees is rather difficult for Victoria who takes everyone at face value and does not know who is good, bad or indifferent!

As I said a light novel, pleasantly interesting which was a good wrap for a long bus ride!

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Carina UK.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

This was a very good read which shows Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russel capturing the imagination in a classic mystery escapade.

Set alternately in England and a cruise ending in Japan we encounter the adventures of the couple on a seemingly random mystery - a passenger overboard, a blackmailing peer who never got caught, an unusual acrobat of an Oriental - all seemingly unconnected and with no connection to the couple who were seeking a pleasant holiday and rest.

All is not what it seems though. Breaking journey in Japan was on the cards as it is a country they have not been to. They did not plan that they would spend it the way they did. Travelling third class and on a schedule which was tough, they follow a mysterious plan to meet a mysterious man not knowing that their target is the highest in the land - the Prince Regent of Japan who is now being blackmailed and seeks their help in getting an article back from the devious Lord Darley.

How the story goes back again to England and the resurgence of our Haruki Sato - who very quietly and efficiently pulls the wool over both Russel and Holmes's eyes is masterful. Both are played by the inscrutable Japanese - all in a good way for a good cause.

Humorous, detailingly descriptive and slow paced on the whole, it kept my interest from beginning to end.

This was a book sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Random Group Publishing House - Bantam Deli. Many thanks for this book.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Matrons and Madams by Sharon Johnston

This book was sent to me via Edelweiss. The cover does not do the book any justice at all.

Adele is an experienced Matron from the first World War. She was also widowed and then tragically lost her young son to the great flu epidemic that swept across Britain. Adele along with her daughter looks for fresh pastures to get away from all the tragedy and she applies to a hospital in Lethbridge, Canada.

Lily is herself a young married woman looking forward to a bright future comes from Nova Scotia to Lethbridge. She tragically loses her husband in an accident and now this teacher has to find alternate employment to support herself. Failing to find anything, she turns to managing The Last Post - a brothel. She does this with efficiency and compassion.

When Adele and Lily meet they find there is an urgent need to ensure that young women and the men who patronize the brothels must be able to access the hospital's clinic to ensure that venereal disease does not spread rampantly in the province. They have to do this in the face of stiff opposition from the conservative folk of Lethbridge alongside union members, clergy and others who feel that this is just too much for Lethbridge.

Told in the backdrop of war, the story of survival of both Lily and Adele in the face of personal tragedy, their bid for professional success in their respective fields and also eventually finding love again is very nicely told.

The combination of the hospital and the prostitution, bars and brothels of this city are blended well to bring an unusual story to light.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

RYDER American Treasure by Nick Pengelley

Another recommendation from a fellow blogger.

Even the name Ayesha Ryder sounded exotic. The combination of a very Middle Eastern first name with a Westernised surname made me think of some exotic creature and Ayesha very much is one.

Very fast paced, bursting with intrigue, lots of violence and violent imagery the storyline was a good one.

The year 1812 at war with Britain, America lost a great deal of artifacts all looted by the British. There are lots of people very interested in getting them back, all with ulterior motives. Two centuries later a curator at a British museum finds a vital clue and a couple of hours later he is assassinated with Ayesha being framed for the murder.

Whilst Ayesha's one ambition is to find the Golden Ark written in history of the famed Lawrence of Arabia she is unwittingly drawn into the American artifact  adventure because she has no choice but to obey. She wants to do whatever she can and then return to her actual work of the Ark. Unknowing to her there are elements who are actively seeking her downfall and as with all fanatics, revenge is a very personal matter to them. Ayesha is their focus.

My first read of this author. This was an excellent introduction for me.

Liked the quick pace of the story telling, the story moving from one chapter to the next smoothly and everything very connected so that the pieces begin falling into place one by one like a jigsaw puzzle. The end was surprising but that is the excellence of the novel.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Random House Publishing Group Alibi.

Monday, February 23, 2015

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

One book courtesy of Edelweiss

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs, #11)

Set in Gibralter this sounds very very good.


Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Just finished a book and toying between The County Guides Death in Devon or The Lake Season.

Returned to Colombo late last night but finished the book I was reading before I went to bed! I just had to know the end.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Magnificient Spinster by May Sarton

I am indebted to the blogger who introduced this author to me and for the life of me I cannot remember who it was. Thank you.

I loved the style of writing of this wonderful story. A memoir of a life but first starting at seventy and then going back to seventh grade and then gradually unraveling a life which was so full of vitality, energy, love and kindness that I felt totally inadequate at the end of the story feeling very much so that I have not done enough with my life!

Cam is our narrator and she does a wonderful job of detailing Jane Reid's life from the time of an idyllic childhood, one of five sisters and two loving parents, a nanny who was a surrogate mother to Jane and then detailing her school life, her holidays, her eventual growing up and rebelling by deciding to join the college of her choice, and not one deemed fit by her parents (at that time considered very unusual). Her final choice of career as a teacher and then joining the Warren School which became a lifetime commitment and her work with the oppressed, black community in Cambridge itself, her work with orphans in France and finally her decision very late in life to go back to Germany to work for people there were all trail blazing. For a young woman who was almost the closest you could get to American aristocracy - Jane Reid was different and you wanted to get to know more and more about this most generous hearted, simple woman.

Brilliantly written,  this is only partly a memoir and part a recollection of a life wonderfully lived and beautifully narrated.

Thanks to Netgalley who sent it to me courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Just One More Day - Jessica Blair

The year 1939 was tumultuous for all. It brought such great change to the social mores of the time and especially marked a turning point in the status of women. At that point in time, the worth of what a woman could do began to be pointedly noted and though there was a long way to go, this was a good starting point.

Carolyn was just a schoolgirl but someone who was bright and intelligent. When her brother Alaistair joins the Air Force immediately Britain declared war against Germany, Carolyn knew where her future lay. The moment she legally could she with the reluctant blessings of her parents joined the WAAFs - the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.

Whilst on her way to enroll she meets up with a friendly airman who helps her out with directions to her posting in London and her conversations with him despite being of a short duration makes a lasting impression on the young Carolyn. Joining up, meeting up with other young women equally determined to contribute to the war effort Carolyn has to learn to be independent, away from home for the first time and also learn how to manage the many young men who are around her.

She finds the work heady, the environment tense but at the same time feels so alive to be doing something vitally important for the war effort. Underlying all this however is the threat of constant death and the death of so many comrades - here today gone by nightfall makes living on a bombing station like walking on the edge of a precipice. Unlike her other girl friends she decides to only have a platonic relationship with any young man who shows interest in her because she feels that she will not be able to cope with a loss of a loved one so early on in her life.

The story of life on a bombing station, the picture of what goes before an actual bombing raid starts, the collection of intelligence and information and how it is all brought together before a briefing as to how it should be managed was meticulously done but was not boring. The life of the station was equally important to the story as the story of Carolyn herself.

A touching love story as well as a good descriptive one of WWII in this corner of England.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Little, Brown Book Group UK.