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Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp

(A nutmeg tree, Wikimedia Commons)

Julia sings in the bath even though her furniture is being taken away, the bailiffs are at the door, and she is an out-of-work and aging actress! However, she does have some happy news.  Her daughter Susan, who has been raised by her proper upper middle-class grandparents, is about to get married and she needs her.  Julia rushes off to a beautiful country house in France only to find that her daughter is a prig and she recognizes a kindred spirit in twinkling-eyed Bryan, her daughter's fiancĂ©e.
They are not suited at all! What is Julia going to do? The arrival of Sir William, Susan's guardian, also puts a spanner in the works...

I could hardly put this fast-moving novel down with its charming heroine and her amusing adventures, its descriptions of the gorgeous French scenery, and its sweet love stories.  I was sad to finish it! More of the wonderful Margery Sharp, please.

I received this free eBook from Open Road Integrated Media via Net Galley.

A Hero of France by Alan Furst

In the midst of occupied France, Mathieu helps Allied airmen escape. He is assisted by many people, including young Lisette who delivers messages by bicycle and beautiful and aristocratic Anne Marie, but when he is offered several thousands of dollars, he has to decide who he can trust... He must also keep away from Major Broehm who is sent to France to destroy the escape networks.

Kind-hearted and funny Mathieu is a likeable character and this is an atmospheric and enjoyable novel.  However, I prefer some of the other novels of Alan Furst, such as The Spies of Warsaw with its noble hero.  I found this one a little bit too much like an airport novel at times and it had some unnecessarily sordid scenes, I thought.  I look forward to his next book, though!

I received this free eBook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Eternal Party by Kristina Hagman and Elizabeth Kaye

When Larry Hagman was on his deathbed, he asked his daughter Kristina to forgive him.  He didn’t say the reasons, so she decided to go on a journey back in time to find out.  This is her story…
Was it because of his several affairs?  After he died, former mistresses would tell Kristina how much Hagman meant to them which Kristina, unsurprisingly, found quite insensitive.  He had a long and very happy marriage, however. He even tried to care for his Swedish designer wife by himself when she got Alzheimer’s.

Was it because he was often drunk or on drugs, mostly marijuana?  People who grew up watching Hagman as the straight-laced Tony in ‘I Dream Of Jeannie’ will find this book, especially this part of it disillusioning.  Apparently, Hagman was really a somewhat left-wing hippie who searched for enlightenment, even taking LSD. 

Was it because Kristina’s parents were loving, but quite negligent with her care?  Although Hagman’s family spent a lot of time outdoors (he loved hunting and fishing) and she liked that, she had an unstable childhood and she had bad experiences.  Her beloved grandmother Mary Martin took better care of her.  It surprised me that she was jealous of Kate Burton, the daughter of Sybil and Richard Burton, who seemed to have had a ‘meticulous’ upbringing.

This is an interesting and well-written autobiography, although rather sordid at times.  It certainly shows the power of resilience.


I received this free book from Net Galley in return   for an honest review.

Murder on the Quai by Cara Black

Quai in Paris, Wikipedia

This clever detective story by Cara Black will keep you turning the page until the very last minute!

At the beginning, Aimee, the young daughter of a detective, is struggling with her medical degree and upset with her handsome boyfriend who has left her for another woman.  She is also angry with her father who has disappeared and left her to run an errand to help a cousin Elise, whose father has been murdered.

Aimee becomes more and more involved in the search for the killer, which involves her in a lot of dangerous journeys through seamy parts of Paris.  When other men are murdered in similar ways, Aimee starts to wonder about a connection.  Does it have anything to do with the war and the Resistance?

I really enjoyed this exciting tale. Aimee is a very likeable, brave and well-rounded character and the atmosphere of 1989 Paris is so vivid that I felt that I was travelling through its famous streets with her.  She is even amusing at times.

There were a few flaws, I thought. I found the story a bit complicated and I felt that the ending was devised to make readers want to read the next book in the series.  However, I would want to do that anyway!  I wasn’t sure about the politics at times.


I received this free ebook from Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Moggerhanger by Alan Sillitoe

The EPUB seemed to have a lot of mistakes, but I don't think that this is my kind of book, anyway. I will try reading it on Kindle. I like Alan Sillitoe's account of his travels in Europe, however.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Although I love the Cazalets, I found it difficult to get into this one so I didn't go on with it. It was very bleak and involved a lot of stream of consciousness writing which I find rather heavy-going.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Young Louise lives in a privileged and entrancing world in her family's town house and its country house, where she is surrounded by a beautiful English garden with lavender and honeysuckle,  Although she is the heroine, this first book of the Cazalet series also introduces her large family.  She has two uncles, Rupert with his selfish younger wife Zoe and Hugh with his cultured wife Sibyl and cousins, such as Clary.  This Downton Abbeyesque life of the family only really exists on the surface, however - there are lots of family secrets.  For example, Rachel, Louisa's spinster aunt is really a lesbian and Edward, Louisa's father is a philanderer.  Even though it is 1937, Rupert Brooke would fit into this upper-class existence easily, but the winds of change are about to affect the lotus-eating existence of the Cazalets...

This is the kind of novel that you can actually live in.  The Cazelets are so real that they begin to feel like the wealthy family nearby. This beautifully written novel discussed issues such as homosexuality, contraception and incest.  I was going to write that it was ahead of its time, but it was published in 1990 so I am not sure about that! However, actually having a gay character in the book was probably unusual in 1990.

This is the third time that I have read this book and I never fail to enjoy it.  It made me want to watch the excellent TV series again as well.

Interview with Elizabeth Jane Howard



I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The More of Less. Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker

 Joshua Becker  told his little son who was crying that he couldn't spend time with him until he'd finished clearing out his garage.  Then he realised that he was choosing his possessions over his son! This began his journey towards minimalism, a fantastically popular blog      and this book.  This is an excellent book to read for anyone who is interested in decluttering, but 'clutter people' will probably find it all extremely difficult.

There are several advantages of minimalism, according to Becker. These include 'more time, more money, less stress, less distraction' and 'more freedom'.  We often buy stuff in order to seek security, apparently.  It's better to do this by choosing 'loving relationships with other people' instead.  Also, if you spend less time buying things and decluttering, you have more time to achieve your dreams.

 Becker  provides a process to help people start decluttering, by assorting things into specific piles, labelling them and dealing with them in the appropriate way.  He gives tips for getting rid of objects, such as paper, books and gadgets, which are very helpful.  However, booklovers may find some of these suggestions pretty difficult!

The stories of people who experimented with minimalism are the most interesting part of the book, I found.  For example, Courtney was suffering with MS and decided that she needed less stress. She realised that she was buying too many clothes so she chose to use just 33 items of each item of clothing for three months and started the popular Project 333.

This book will certainly help you buy less and start decluttering.  Whether you will become a minimalist or not is another matter...

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Friday, July 01, 2016

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

The wonderfully handsome Peter Davison as Albert Campion. (Wikipedia)

After Campion dramatically saves an old American judge from death on a cruise ship, his children engage his detective services.  Campion decides to arrange for the judge and his children to stay in an old Suffolk house near his country home so that he can protect him from the dangerous Simister gang.  This gang has already murdered all of the judge's servants!  The poor judge's troubles continue in the eerie Suffolk countryside.  Soon after he arrives, an old minister commits suicide,  and other mysterious events start occurring.

Albert Campion is a disarming detective with a liking for frivolity and a pet jackdaw called Autolycus.  The other characters are not nearly as interesting but the intricacies of the tension-filled plot and the spooky descriptions of Suffolk make up for this.  It is an extremely English vintage detective story in which the characters live in luxury, no one worries about money too much, and people use words like 'ducky'. I really enjoy these 'Golden Age' detective tales, but they are not for everyone!

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Ties that Bind by Lexi Landsman

Jade stays to defend her beloved olive plantation in country Victoria even though her grandmother and father leave.  She has to eventually run for her life and almost dies but a handsome young firefighter saves her.  He helps her rebuild the property and recover her shattered life, but Jade is also troubled by family secrets.  Why did her mother leave her? Why did her grandmother hate her mother so much?

Courtney and David live in Miami, on the other side of the world.  When their wonderful son is afflicted by an extremely dangerous form of leukemia, Courtney, has to make tough decisions.  Courtney, who was adopted, is also troubled by secrets, especially when when she starts looking for the truth about her family.

How do these two stories intertwine?

This is a riveting tale about the importance of family with likeable characters and a moving love story.  The effects of the terrible fire in Victoria are vividly described and the beauty of the Australian countryside springs to life with Landsman's exquisite writing. I did find both stories rather harrowing, however.

I will certainly be looking out for more novels by Lexi Landsman.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nobody Said Not To Go The Life, Loves and Adventures of Emily Hahn by Ken Cuthbertson

When Emily Hahn was asked why she risked her life in the middle of fierce fighting to spend a weekend in Nanking, she said: 'Nobody said not to go!' This indicates the kind of woman that she was.

Emily (Mickey) loved to disobey the rules. This famous writer travelled in Africa alone in the 1930s and caused scandal almost everywhere she went. Expats in China were especially shocked by her having a Chinese boyfriend in a gown and pigtails who was married, and her constantly appearing with her gibbons, Mr and Mrs Mills.

This is a fascinating story which certainly led me to want to know even more about Emily Hahn.

I received this free ebook via Net Galley