Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Midwife's Daughter by Patricia Ferguson

This is a wonderful book set in England in the beginning of the 20th century. It is about a midwife, Violet  Dimond, who lives in a small town. Her husband is dead and her son has emigrated to America. Her twin sister Bea,  with which she has never been of equal terms lives nearby and is running a home for orphans. On one visit Bea shows her a black girl of 2 years that has been found on the street. Violet is connecting to the girl since she reminds her of her dead daughter and decides to adopt her. She names her Grace.

The story tells of the difficulty to grow up in a small community being black at the time when people had hardly seen a black person in their lives. But also how difficult it is to be different. Prejudices and narrow mindedness is part of the life. But it is also a story about the changing times coming up towards the first world war. The poverty and the strife to survive the day.

The story follows Grace, Violet's and Bea's lives. Things are not always what they seem to be. The relationship between the sisters are coming to a point where they finally can talk to each other and look back to how their different lives developed. Is maybe Grace someone they know? Was there a purpose that she came in to their lives?

The Lucy Kincaid series by Allison Brennan

I recently reviewed the book 'Love Me to Death' by Allison Brennan. I liked it so much so I threw myself over the rest of the books in the series (Kiss Me Kill Me, If I Should Die, Silenced, Stalked, Reckless and Stolen). The books are just soooo good I can't stop reading. The stories are absolutely fantastic, so thrilling with many different layers and I can't remember when I read such suspense novels last. Maybe the books of Henning Mankell can match. There you also have a story and a suspense that makes it difficult to put down the book.

This is a series of books and like with the Sookie Stackhouse novels it is a continuing story that covers a shorter period. Where one book ends the next one takes up. That makes you feel like part of the family and you follow the development of the relationship between Lucy and Sean and their relationship with their respective families and jobs.

It seems there is a new trend in writing series with characters that belong to a tight family or 'clan'. I am thinking of the Sookie Stackhouse novels and the Twilight series for example. I am sure there are other books out there with the same setting. The persons within the family or clan help each other and there is a goodwill feeling of caring about each other. It is a nice change to all those stories where people seem to only want to hurt others.

This book sees Sean Rogan go undercover for the FBI and is set to join his former hacker gang. Lucy meanwhile is making her training with the FBI. Neither Lucy, nor his family, understands what is happening. The job is not a clear cut as it seems and as usual other actors have other plans. Thrilling as it can be!

I said in my earlier review of the books that I thought they had something of the books of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. There is the same day to day, hour to hour scheme of the story and the whole set is only covering days or a week. I just finished the last book of the series 'Stolen' which was so exciting that I had to force myself to stop reading at 2.30 a.m.! The stories are seen from the perspective of different persons and I find myself thinking or screaming in my head 'don't do it, don't do it' when the heroine or the hero is doing something because they don't know as much as I do. It is all very thrilling.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

When finding this title on the Kobo site I got intrigued. This is for someone like me who can hardly do anything before breakfast... even when breakfast comes at 10 a.m.! However, just having gone into early retirement and finding that on the contrary to what I believed, my days have become shorter and I am achieving less then when I was working, I thought this was a good hint.

And so it is. It turns out that a lot of the most successful people in the world (at least on the American continent) go up at 5-6 a.m., go for a jogging run, reading the papers, spending time with their family and in this way manage to spend some valuable time by themselves and with their family before heading for a stressful work.

It sounds really good and I got a little bit inspired.  I do realise that the reason I don't get anything done is because I start the day too late and I spend around 1,5 hours breakfasting, reading the papers and e-mails etc. By the time I have dressed it is already mid-day and half the day is gone. I must admit though that I will not be able to go running at 6 a.m. My body is screaming on such exercises at this time of the day.  I do go up at 7 a.m. to prepare breakfast for my husband and son, but what happens then? Yes, your are right, I go back to bed an sleep another hour!

Well, this book has inspired me to not go back to bed but do some useful time in the morning. Since I was never a jogger this is really hard for me. However, I have started on a 10 week scheme to come into shape where you jog 1 minute and run 1 minute and increasing to 2 and 3 and the last week 10 minutes jogging! Hmm, we will have to see. Just today I am doing the 3rd round of the 1st week!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Love Me To Death by Allison Brennan

It seems that every time I now go into the Kobo books web-site I find another book to purchase. Perfect with the E-Reader, then you can start reading right away. The summary of the latest book in the series of Lucy Kincaid 'Stolen' by Allison Brennan drew my attention. I realised quickly that this is a series so looked for the first book. I downloaded 'Love Me To Death' and finished it over two days. This was really a surprisingly good suspense book.

It tells the story of Lucy Kincaid, her PI boyfriend to be Sean Rogan, FBI agent Noah Armstrong, other family members and agents. Such a book could easily become a cliché but Allison Brennan manages to keep the whole book within all limits. While reading I was thinking of good old fashioned thriller books 'noir' like the books of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mike Hammer and filmed versions like 'The Maltese Falcon' and 'The Big Sleep'.  The story is really exciting and is moving forward all the time. 

We get to know that six years earlier Lucy Kincaid was held hostage, beaten, raped, filmed for videos to use on the internet and almost died in the process. She came out of it alive and has spent the last six years to get over her trauma. She now has her university degree in computer science and psychology, is working on voluntary bases with an organisation helping abused women and is dreaming about an FBI job. All her family is already working with law enforcement and her boyfriend to be is a partner with her brother in a security firm which is on a borderline  between legal and illegal activities. 

The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James

Some years ago I read a book which has become one of my favourite ones. It is a biographical novel on Henry James called 'The Master' by Colm Tóibín. It is an absolute masterpiece and has to be read if you are in to both Henry James and Colm Tóibín. Since then I have read several books by him and 'The Master' really made me want to read something of Henry James. I can remember having read 'Washington Square' but not remember it (have to read it again). I was therefore quite eager to read 'The Turn of the Screw' when my Brontë reading group put this on the list. Since 'The Aspern Papers' is in the same Penguin book I finished both of them within a couple of days.

The 'Turn of the Screw is a ghost story. A group of people are gathered in an old house around Christmas. They amuse themselves by telling ghost stories. One of the guests, Douglas, says he has the most dreadful story to tell, but it is written down, placed in a safe and he has to send for it. The manuscript was written by his sister's governess. When she died some twenty years earlier she had sent the manuscript to him for safe keeping. The mystery surrounding the story excites the guests but they have to wait for a couple of days before the package arrives. The story thus begin...

The fact to be in possession of was therefore that his old friend, the youngest of several daughters of a poor country parson, had at the age of twenty, on taking service for the first time in the schoolroom, come up to London, in trepidation, to answer in person an advertisement that had already placed her in brief correspondence with the advertiser. This person proved, on her presenting herself for judgement at a house in Harley Street that impressed her as vast and imposing - this prospective patron proved a gentleman, a bachelor in the prime of life, such a figure as had never risen, save in a dream or an old novel, before a fluttered anxious girl out of a Hampshire vicarage. One could easily fix his type; it never, happily, dies out. He was handsome and bold and pleasant, off-hand and gay and kind. He struck her, inevitably, as gallant and splendid, but what took her most of all and gave her the courage she afterwards showed was that he put the whole thing to her as a favour, an obligation he should gratefully incur. She figured him as rich, but as fearfully extravagant - saw him all in a glow of high fashion, of good looks, of expensive habits, of charming ways with women. he had for his town residence a big house filled with the spoils of travel and the trophies of the chase; bit it was to his country home, an old family place in Essex, that he wished her immediately to proceed.