Monday, August 29, 2022
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Monday, August 22, 2022
Thursday, August 18, 2022
The Shell Seekers. Rosamunde Pilcher. Dell (1989). 582 pages. Genre: Fiction.
Monday, August 15, 2022
The Unkept Woman (Sparks & Bainbridge #4). Allison Montclair. Minotaur Books (2022). 320 pages. Genre: Mystery.
First Line: "The woman following Iris Sparks wasn't very good at it."
Summary: The Right Sort Marriage Bureau is thriving. Gwen and Iris have hired a secretary and expanded the office to include one more room. But, it is their personal lives that are not proceeding smoothly. Gwen is attempting to gain full legal control of her life, including her son and her finances. Her biggest obstacle remains her father-in-law. Iris' past literally shows up on her doorstep and barges in. Before long a woman is found dead in the flat Iris had been living in and Iris is the primary suspect. Gwen and Iris must work fast to discover the real murderer or Iris will go to jail.
My thoughts: Each book in this series zips along at such a fast pace. The dialogue continues to be witty, the pace is just right and the characters are wonderful.
I absolutely love the character development in this story. Gwen and Iris continue to grow and change. Gwen is stepping out of her comfort zone a little more, while continuing to be a good friend, mother and daughter-in-law. Iris is dealing with her past and making progress. She continues to see that some of the choices she made were harmful. I love the honesty in both of them.
A real treat was the trip Gwen and her son made to the Victoria and Albert museum to view the Britain Can Make It Exhibition. Every bit of their trip their was described in such detail, I felt like I was wandering through with them. Part of the exhibit included:
"Twenty-four fully equipped rooms, each by a different designer, drawing upon the combined imaginations of furniture makers, potters, engineers shifting their focus from destroying the Axis to improving the lives of ordinary households, and artists of all kinds. Each room was created for an imaginary occupant or family, with a drawing and quick biographical sketch mounted above the listing of items displayed and their manufacturers."
I found this fascinating and would have loved to see it.
The mystery was complex and many layers had to be uncovered to figure out what was going on. Scotland Yard was involved and so was MI-6. So of course there were things that couldn't be said and people who couldn't be known. There were lots of twists and turns and I was completely surprised when the murderer was revealed.
I really enjoyed this and highly recommend this series. If you are new to it, I recommend you start with the first book, The Right Sort of Man.
Thursday, August 11, 2022
First Line: "Mrs. Kaveri Murthy pulled out her oldest sari, nine yards of checked cotton in dark brown."
Summary: Bangalore, April 1921. Kaveri is getting used to married life in Bangalore. She and her husband, Dr. Ramu Murthy, are still getting to know one another. Their marriage was arranged between their families, but both feel fortunate in their spouse. One evening they are invited to a dinner at the Century Club for the doctors and their wives. This is a chance for Kaveri to meet some of the other wives.
Later that evening, on her way to the ladies' room, Kaveri stops to look out the window at the gardens. She notices someone lurking in the shadows and then views an argument between a man and a woman. Not long after she returns to her place at dinner, a woman's loud scream is heard. Soon the party is informed that a man has been found dead. When Kaveri learns that the dead man is the man she saw arguing in the garden, her curiosity is peaked. Fortunately, she brings her questions to her husband. The two of them work with the police to help discover the murderer.
My thoughts: Kaveri is an interesting heroine. She is unique for her time in that she has been educated. She grew up in a home where education was valued, even for women. She is very interested in mathematics and is determined to continue her education. She is currently studying to be able to take an exam, but is hiding it from her husband. Granted, she doesn't know her husband very well yet and the prevailing attitude toward women becoming educated is negative. There were several other instances where she hid things from her husband. I was beginning to be a little annoyed with her. Fortunately, each instance was soon discovered by her husband and in each instance he was not upset, but was understanding and they were able to talk about it. This ultimately led to some good character development.
I really enjoyed the setting. The author did an excellent job of helping the reader get a feel for India in 1921. The story takes place in the month of May and the description of the heat as well as the beauty of the flowers and gardens helped me to travel there in my mind. There was such a vast range of wealth in the area, from the poor cowherders to the wealthy British doctors.
Kaveri's husband, Ramu, has a love for automobiles and has one of his own. There were a few scenes in the story where they went on excursions in the car. These were some of my favorite parts of the book.
The mystery allowed Kaveri to come in contact with people from several different classes. Since the murder took place at the Century Club, the suspects were either doctors and their wives or staff. Of course there is always the possibility that someone was there that shouldn't have been. Since Ramu is at work during the day, Kaveri asks her neighbor to go with her to visit some of the people she wants to question. As her neighbor is an older woman who has lived in the area for many years, she usually knows the person or one of their family. Along the way they are able to help some people while also gathering information.
Overall, I found this a bright, cheerful read. I look forward to getting to know Kaveri and Ramu better in the next installment.
"She could not help but notice things in the world sometimes - patterns and abnormalities. They multiplied and repeated in all directions, like random coordinates on a map, begging somebody - begging her - to make sense of them."
"The temperamental May sky, overcast and cloudy when they had entered the cottage, had gone through one of its quick mood changes, and the sun now blazed hot overhead."
"She remembered Lalita Iyengar had also been heavily decked out in gold, wearing a thick chain, and multiple large bangles jangling on each hand as she swam. It seemed an uncomfortable price to pay for the pleasure of flaunting your wealth."
Monday, August 8, 2022
First Line: "After the thing was all over, when peril had ceased to loom and happy endings had been distributed in heaping handfuls and we were driving home with our hats on the side of our heads, having shaken the dust of Steeple Bumpleigh from our tyres, I confessed to Jeeves that there had been moments during the recent proceedings when Bertram Wooster, though no weakling, had come very near to despair."
Summary: When Lord Worplesdon is in need of a place to conduct a secret business meeting, Jeeves volunteers Bertie to help out. If Bertie would have had any say in the matter, he would have said, "No.". But, since he did not have any say in the matter, he and Jeeves are on their way to Steeple Bumpleigh. Jeeves has arranged for Bertie to take a cottage where the secret business can be conducted. Unfortunately, young Edwin, while trying to be helpful, burns down the cottage. Bertie is forced to stay with Boko, who also enlists his help with Uncle Percy. This time to smooth the way for a marriage to his ward. In the meantime, Bertie manages to lose a brooch, get on the wrong side of the law and become engaged to a woman he would rather have nothing to do with. Fortunately, Jeeves saves the day with his quick thinking.
My thoughts: I can't help but giggle while reading P. G. Wodehouse. In fact, there are times I found myself laughing so hard I had to put the book down.
Not only is the book funny, the characters are so endearing. You can't help but like Bertie, even though he does get himself into the worst tangles. Of course Jeeves is so calm and collected and is almost always able to untangle the mess Bertie finds himself in. Bertie realizes that the situation is dire if Jeeves is stumped. And there are a few dire situations in this book. More than once, Jeeves was stumped.
The other characters were fun too. Uncle Percy is a blustering old fellow who has only bad things to say about Bertie. Bertie is sure that Aunt Agatha "eats broken bottles and conducts human sacrifices by the light of the full moon" so he does his best to avoid her. Young Edwin, a Boy Scout, has tasked himself with doing an act of kindness everyday. He has fallen a bit behind and is trying to catch up. The problem is that often his acts go wrong. Like when he started the cottage on fire while cleaning out the chimney. Stilton is engaged to Lady Florence, who was once engaged to Bertie. Unbeknownst to Bertie, Stilton has become a police officer. And then we have Xenobia, Nobby for short, who is Uncle Percy's ward. She wants to marry Bertie's old friend Boko. However, Boko has not made a good impression on Uncle Percy and he won't give his blessing.
The story bumps along at a good pace and before you know it, Bertie's mess is untangled and all is right with the world again. If you are looking for something light, but not fluffy, something that will make you laugh, give Joy in the Morning a try.
"It will be a pleasure to put in a word for you. I anticipate notable results. I shall play on the old crumb as on a stringed instrument."
"In appearance, as I have indicated, this man of letters is a cross between a comedy juggler and a parrot that has been dragged through a hedge backwards, and you never catch him at his nattiest in the workshop."
"'I am always stiff in my manner with elderly gentlemen who snort like foghorns when I appear and glare at me as if I were somebody from Moscow distributing Red propaganda.'"
Thursday, August 4, 2022
First Line: "Writing in the Boston Public Library had been a mistake."
Summary: Freddie Kincaid is trying to get some writing done. She finds herself distracted by the beauty of the Boston Public Library. Then she finds herself observing the people around her. She begins naming them and wondering how she can fit them into her current story. After an awkward moment when she notices one of the men staring at her, introductions are finally made. She and the three people closest to her are getting to know one another when a scream pierces the relative quiet of the library.
When it is discovered that a woman was murdered in the library, the four acquaintances find a bond in the fact that they were together in the library when the death occurred. As they spend more time together, friendships are formed, but so are suspicions.
My thoughts: This is a unique story told in a unique way. I found it hard to put down as the twists and turns make for a suspenseful and exciting read.
Freddie is an Australian living in Boston short-term. She won the Sinclair Scholarship which gives writers a place to stay while writing a book. The other people she met at the Boston Public Library are there for various reasons. One is a writer and two are attending college. The four of them bond over trying to figure out what happened in the library that day. Their concern for one another is what often fuels their need to get together. There is also some romance that brews between the characters. Unfortunately, I didn't really connect with any of the characters. Fortunately, the story is plot-driven and that kept me turning pages.
As far as the uniqueness of the story, I will just say that it is a story within a story. Part of the story is told in letters, but not all of it.
The mystery was interesting. I had a pretty good idea who the killer was early on, but the details of the crime and reasons for it were a mystery to me. There were a couple of times in the story where I started to think things were sounding a little odd, only to turn the page and find out I was right. The author did a good job of leading the reader to a conclusion without spelling it out.
The book contains a bit more language than I prefer in my mysteries as well as some sexual content. The sexual content is kept to a minimum and is mostly closed door, but is still more than you would find in a cozy mystery for example.
The strength of this book was it's uniqueness. The story is told in such a way as to reveal the truth in layers. There were times when I was completely confused, but it wasn't long before things became more clear. If you enjoy stories within stories or twisty mysteries, I think you will enjoy this one.
"Deep down I know this is about Cain, but one should maintain one's dignity even in conversations with oneself."
"'Words have meaning. I suppose who the author is, what he's done might change that meaning.' 'Isn't meaning more to do with the reader?' 'No...a story is about leading a reader to meaning. The revelation is theirs, but we show them the way. I suppose the morality of the writer influences whether you can trust what they are showing you.'"
Monday, August 1, 2022
First Line: "When you are just the right age, as Mma Romotswe was, and when you have seen a bit of life, as Mma Romotswe certainly had, then there are some things that you just know."
Summary: Precious Romotswe is settling in to married life on Zebra Drive. Her assistant, Grace Makutsi, has a newly acquired fiance. Life is good. However, there are still some things that need to be addressed. For example, something is not right in Mokolodi. People are acting strangely and Mma Romotswe thinks it might have something to do with superstitions. Then there is the case of the nurse and the changing blood pressure numbers. To top it off, Mma Romotswe is beginning to think that being traditionally built is not ideal. Just when things feel like they are becoming too much, Mma Romotswe and Mma Makutsi take some time to do some window shopping and drink some tea.
My thoughts: These books always remind me to slow down. When I am feeling overwhelmed, it is always a good idea to sit and think for a while. Or maybe have a cup of tea (or coffee). Even, do a little shopping.
I found the cases and problems Mma Romotswe and Mma Makutsi were working on this time very interesting. Dealing with superstition and a situation based more on feeling than fact made for fun detective work.
Most of all I love the characters, especially Mma Romotswe and her ability to understand the right ways to act, even if she can't always carry them out. I enjoy entering into her thoughts while she sits and thinks. I also enjoy hearing her thought process when she is tempted to say one thing, but doesn't because that would not be "the Botswana way". And I enjoy getting a glimpse into a place I will probably never visit in person.
This was an entertaining, relaxing and comfort read.
"None of us knows how we will cope with snakes until the moment arises, and then most of us find out that we do not do it very well. Snakes were one of the tests which life sent for us, and there was no telling how we might respond until the moment arrived."
"Mma Romotswe was not a prude. She knew what went on between people, but she believed that there was a part of life that should be private. She believed that what one felt about another was largely a personal matter, and that one should not talk about the mysteries of the soul."
"Everybody, she felt, could do evil, so easily; could be weak, so easily; could be selfish, so easily."