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Friday, July 1, 2016

Crime in Leper's Hollow by George Bellairs



The story had all the elements of a good mystery - even the title was evocative of something strange. A passionate woman married to a rather steady but dull man. No two people could have been more opposite. Then there was her eccentric brother. A hanger on if ever there was one. Two adult children both estranged from one parent. We had the lady's lovers and boyfriends by the score and all set in a very provincial town in rural England.

Murders take place one by one and by simple death, it removes one more suspect from the scene. Although the murderer was well hidden he was very much part of the story and very much at the forefront of the book.

I found it slow in patches but then got caught in all the excitement three quarters of the way through.

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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi



Priya and Madhu seem to have it all. There is however one thing which Priya yearns for and which is missing. Her own baby. Three miscarriages and three failed IVF attempts at enormous cost have seen Priya and Madhu saddened by both the process and the result. Madhu is resigned to their childlessness and is frustrated that Priya cannot move on.

The question of surrogacy comes up and they decide upon a home in South India run by an efficient doctor with proven results. A baby is conceived and the plan set in motion.

The story then turns to the surrogate mother. Asha is a bit different to the other mothers. She went into this for the money. They have an exceptionally gifted little boy of five and a little girl. They have no home of their own and Asha and Pratap her husband see this as the only way of going forward. Asha did not expect to have contradictory feelings of guilt and love for the child, distaste and dislike for Priya and her modern ways and to feel that she has not made the right decision but is being swept forward on a tidal wave of other people's needs and wants. In her inner mind, she knows that the net result would bring happiness to another couple, bring happiness to her own small family but still Asha is not happy.

The author Amulya brings all these contradictory strands together smoothly in a story that brings out the best of all the worlds. The problems facing both the surrogate parent as well as the sponsor parents, the fringe around them of lucrative benefits to those who can organise such things such as the clinics and doctors who benefit immensely from these transactions. At the end it is a transaction with benefits to all - but it is a need that is supplied and ultimately satisfactorily to all the parties concerned. In this instance anyway.

The story holds your interest from the beginning  to the end.  Characterization was brilliant and the story was an emotional as well as a balanced one.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Lake Union Publishing. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Millers Valley by Anna Quindlen




This story is one which lots of readers will identify with. Mother has her favourite son. She does not show it openly but it is very well known. The eldest is clever and the daughter of the house turns out to be the cleverest. She is also the one who will sacrifice her personal needs to those of the family. She will also with all the odds stacked against her be most successful professionally.

A very middle class background and strong ties to the area where she was born ties Mimi to her family. She knows she has the brains to do something more with her life than waitressing but she doesn't seem to know the way to reach that point. When she does reach her goals, she is quite firm in what she wants to do and what she doesnt want to do.

The portrayal of Mimi and her entire family was very well done. I loved the strong willed mother, the equally adamant father, the eccentric aunt who hid secrets till the end and all the myriad boyfriends and friends of Mimi who came together in this story.

A family saga, a coming of age, a realisation of dreams, all put together to give one a classic.

Thanks to Netgalley for sending this on to me for an unbiased review, courtesy of Random House Publishing Group - Random House.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Monticello by Sally Cabot Gunning





This was a complicated book which made the reading of it a bit slow. It did not detract however from its worth.

A fragile and again complicated relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his eldest daughter to begin with. Jefferson was a complex character and his statemanship aside it made it difficult for personal relationships to develop fully. The family take on a diplomatic posting in France and after five heady years they move back to Monticello the family home, to take on the politics of the time. America was in the midst of the slavery issue and this overshadows the entire history of Thomas Jefferson and his family and this book. Contentious issues and how it was going to be resolved was never going to be easy and the convoluted lifestyles of having slaves, freeing them and at the same time trying to win over people who were totally dependant on slavery for their livelihood and prosperity was not going to be an easy mix.

Though slavery was the overall story, it goes hand in hand with Martha's own lifestory.  Married very young and ending up with eleven children her life with Randolph was not easy. Having to live up to a father in law of the stature of Thomas Jefferson was also hard and Randolph fell short. Financial woes dogged both Randolph and Jefferson to the end of their days (so far removed from the corrupt politicians of today) and both ended their days bankrupt. Martha had to steer a life in the best way she knew protecting both husband and father and also trying to provide a good life for her brood.


Martha was a woman well ahead of her times. Clear headed, clear thinking, politically adept and able to manage a plantation, a complicated home and keep everything on a balanced keel. Having her father's slave mistress in the family home and dealing with the attendant publicity and mess each time she had a child could not have been easy both in a personal sense as well as dealing with the world at large who made no bones about the precarious position Jefferson was in.  Jefferson in this book never openly acknowledged Sally his mistresses's position in the home and was oblivious to Martha's discomfort. It was only on his deathbed that the provision for Sally was important and dealt with directly.

As I said a complicated story, one that I enjoyed. It showed Martha's sound common sense despite over riding difficulties of a husband and a father who were both difficult. Martha survived both of them and had to make a fresh life for herself.

Very well written, told clearly so that it made me an outsider understand the complexities of American politics and life at the time.

Sent to me by Edelweiss.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Girl who Came Back by Susan Lewis



This is every parent's worst nightmare. A friendship which goes wrong which turns into a revenge killing of the most brutal kind. On top of it all, the murderer gets away with it with just a tap on the wrist and three years in jail.

Daisy was bright, sparkly, in love with everyone and the apple of her parent's eye. Her friendship with Amelia was not a happy one but Daisy's temperament was such that she was ever willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the other party and let it go. In hindsight her parents did realise that they should have been firmer, more definite in her choice of friends but by then the worst damage was done.

The blight on Jules and her entire family and in fact the entire village was profound. That Amelia and her high handed father continued to live in the village and that Amelia decided to flaunt her freedom in Jules's face seemed to be the last straw.

How this murder unravels and how the effects of one act are so wide and startling are very well told in this story.

My first read of this author and I certainly hope I can track down all her other books.

I found the story fast paced and intense and enjoyed every minute of it, heavy and dark though it was.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Random House UK Cornerstone. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

All Summer Long by Dorothea Benton Frank

All Summer Long

My first read of this author and I am so glad I got to her books finally.

The story is reminiscent of a lot of older people - who want to get back to their roots and then find themselves perplexed that things are not quite what they expected. We have Olivia and Nick moving back to Charleston - he is delighted that after fourteen years he is coming back. This was a promise he extracted from his wife that they will return. She is not so taken up with the move though she does keep her reservations to herself. It is not her place of birth, she is an urban being and delightful though Charleston is, she has her doubts as to living permanently there.

Side by side with this story is one hidden from Nick. Olivia has overextended herself in business and is now on the verge of bankruptcy. Unless she gets new clients and new projects they are done. Living the lifestyle they do they need it fast.

Another aspect of the story is the very hi fi lifestyle of Maritza and Bob. A taste of this is tempting and then you begin to think that private jets, unlimited champagne and private yachts with the attendant trimmings are very attractive to have as a lifestyle.

The different strands of the story eventually mesh but they are individual stories all separate and interesting on their own. The core is the subject of relationships - how people manage them, how we need them and what we do to keep them going.

The descriptiveness was amazing - not just the country around you but the places and people who occupied the story. Characterization was marvellous and you could from the descriptions imagine how each person stood in the story and their contribution to it.

This book was sent to me by Edelweiss.







Monday, June 20, 2016

The Living by Anjali Joseph




Two alternate lives - Claire working in a shoe factory in England and Arun working as a chappal maker (which is featured on the cover) in Kohalpur. He is just doing what his father and grandfather before him did. Both characters lead humdrum lives and both wonder what would have happened if things had worked out differently in their respective worlds.

I unfortunately did not understand that the book was portraying the two lives and the workings of the mind of the characters till the very end. The portrayal of daily life, the humdrum and the extraordinary were both depicted in detail.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Harper Collins UK 4th Estate.