'I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.' L.M. Montgomery

'There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.' Irving Stone

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: April 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781492602026
Paperback 480 pages

My source: Netgalley

Author's website

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread-its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal’s cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal’s reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects.
It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise. When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.

As Mary’s tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take…to find the road that will lead her safely home.

Another wonderful time-slip historical novel from Susanna Kearsley! I have yet to read a book by her that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. In this book we have 2 protagonist, Sara in present day France and Mary in 1732 France.

We meet Mary Dundas, Scottish on her father's side and French on her mother's, through her diary written in 1732. Mary is recruited by her brother she hasn't seen in many years to aid the Jacobite's in getting a man safely to King James in exile in Rome. Mary's Scottish father and brother's had gone to help the Jacobite cause. She was left with an aunt and uncle in France for safety. She doesn't remember anything of her Scottish heritage. After all these years her brother comes to get her to live with him and his family and asks her to do to this one thing. This begins her dangerous adventure. Her traveling companions include MacPherson, a mysterious, hard, Highlander who's job it is to protect the small entourage. Is he foe or friend to Mary? A Scottish woman who is traveling as their maid and the man Mr. Thomson they are all protecting and taking to Rome to meet with Scottish King James. There is a bounty on his head and danger is everywhere. Through these difficult weeks that turn into months Mary learns much of the Scottish people and their fierce determination to restore King James to the throne, thus learning much about herself and her ancestors. I loved Mary and her bravery.

Thomson was a real person who was thought to have aided in a major financial deception of the time. And although Ms. Kearsley took liberties with the life of Mary Dundas she too was a real person of the time. Mary's character was an example of the displaced second generation of Jacobites, born in exile and with no homeland of their own and MacPherson represented the Highlanders who left their homes to fight for King James. We learn a lot about how the King was sustained financially while he was a King with no land or subjects to support his kingship. Also the fierce pride and devotion of the Scottish people.

Quite different in this book is our other protagonist, Sara, she has Asperger's Syndrome. Through the story of Sara's efforts to decipher Mary's journal we get a look into the world of someone with this syndrome and it is very enlightening! I loved watching Sara deal with the new relationships brought into her life by this job and maybe a new love! How she goes about breaking the cipher is interesting too. We get to visit many places in France through beautiful descriptions.

Lots of intrigue, suspicion, history, and romance. At the back of the book Ms. Kearsley included a short chapter on the history behind the tale and her resources. Excellent book, read it!

You can read the first two chapters here.

Purchase the book here

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book in advance!

*Although this book took place in France and is written by a Canadian, I am counting it toward Read Scotland 2015 as the story is centered on Scottish history and Scottish people.

Peggy Ann

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Catherine Ponton Slater, Author

My friend Evee over @ Evee's Blog just told me about a book she picked up at a used book sale. Marget Pow by Catherine Ponton Slater. She made it sound so wonderful I went right to my search engine and found a copy! I can't wait until it gets here to start reading it! My copy is missing the dust jacket though, darn!

"Its a grand thing to live in a land where a the folks speak plain Scotch. They say Italian is a beautiful language; so it may be so to them that understands it. But a body likes the tongue best that their Minnie used to sing hush-a-bye to them when they were weans, and its the language they would be fain to hear when they close their eyes in the sleep that needs no rockin'." Marget Pow by Catherine Ponton Slater is designed to delight the senses and offer relief to the tired mind. Originally published in full form in 1925, Marget Pow offers an account of the tapsalteerie of the early twentieth century as viewed by the eponymous heroine a douce and loyal Scottish domestic servant with decided opinions. Opening in epistolary form, Marget Pow's letters while she travels with her mistresses on the continent prove the maxim that one can take the woman out of Scotland but not Scotland out of the woman as she sets all she encounters against the benchmarks of home. Her further accounts in diary and memoir form of her return home, her description of her days in domestic service in the family's home in Edinburgh and their holiday home in the west coast are nothing short of a linguistic carnival as Ponton Slater utilises the unique characteristics of the Scots tongue to produce a work of high humour and wonderful entertainment.

Perfect for Read Scotland! 

I can't find anything online about the author though! Evee said it was originally released in 3 installments, but printed as one complete novel in 1925. The copy I found is from 1944 or '46, I can't remember now!

Have any of you read this author or know anything about her?

Peggy Ann

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Sound of Insects by Mildred Davis

Like insects scrambling for safety...
the victims of blackmailer Johnny MacLeod trampled on anyone who got in their way as they tried to hide their guilty secrets.
  Someone had stabbed Johnny with an ice pick. But the town's secrets did not die with him. They only came closer to the surface. Now it was necessary to find a victim to take  the blame and stop the gossip that threatened to destroy the whole town.

I read this book for Crime Fiction of the Year over @Past Offences. This month's year is 1967. I enjoy doing this meme! Each month we have to read a book published in the year chosen by Rich or a fellow reader. Click on the link 1967 to go to the page and see what everyone read or sign up yourself!

This was another excellent book by Mildred Davis. She does suspense well! Johnny seems to be blackmailing everyone in town. Finally he meets his match and someone puts an ice pick through his heart. They should have felt safe now but then the whispering phone calls started! His mother is acting strange and snooping around, determined to find the killer. Making all kinds of innuendos. Pitting one neighbor against the other. Is she the one making the calls?

A good study in human behavior. Davis sets up the community dynamics well in the opening chapters. Seems like a tight community, with long standing friendships, until Johnny is killed. Now protecting their secrets are at the top of the list and they become like insects ready to devour each other. A kidnapping, a suicide and a confession lead to the climactic ending.

Newer leaves, patched red and yellow as though by a colorful disease, covered the infinite layers beneath. Jelly Bean ran ahead, stopping now and then to cock his head. He heard a brittle crackle far off in the still air and took off like a shot. She tried to whistle him back but her only answer was a distant thrashing.
  A cluster of black-eyed Susans were still growing in a sheltered copse and she bent to pick them for the cache pot in her room. Then she followed the sounds of thrashing and found Jelly Bean digging furiously at a not-yet frozen patch of ground. Uneasy, she whistled again, but he paid no attention.
  She went over to pull him away and saw what he had - a thin gold ring with an old fashioned setting that held an opal.
  The flowers slipped from her nerveless fingers, joining the dead things on the floor of the woods. A wind whistled past the witch hazel trees, making her shiver. Finally she pushed Jelly Bean away and dug quickly, bringing up the rest of it - a gold charm bracelet, earrings with tiny diamonds and sapphires, a string of small pearls.
  She looked around as though expecting the woods to be filled with prying eyes. Everything was deserted. She carried the jewelry in both fists since she had no pockets and walked back to the house. At the edge of the lawn she stopped to make sure no one was watching. Then she ran to the French doors...

Good book, highly recommend!

Peggy Ann

Monday, March 16, 2015

Vote for your favorite book and enter a prize drawing!

Alan Jones' book Blue Wicked has been nominated for
BigAl's Books and Pals Readers' Choice Awards in the mystery category! Congratulations Alan!

They choose Indie books they felt stood out from the pack of 300 reviews they've done in the last year. 

BigAl and Pals is also having a prize drawing for those who vote with great prizes! Be sure to stop over and vote. Of course I hope you vote for Blue Wicked but that's up to you :)

On another note have you seen this yet? It's hilarious! Jimmy Fallon is the best! I've not seen Birdman yet. Have you?

And this has to be Facebook picture of the week!

Best photo bomb of all!

And this dog shows his mistress how yoga is done!

St Paddy's Day is tomorrow, here's a Tea Brack (or Irish Freckel Bread) recipe for you.

Make a great week!
Peggy Ann

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Umbrella Maker's Daughter by Janet Caird

Mary Tullis is not an ordinary young woman - not in her past, not in her future. Her present is 1832 in the small, Scottish village, Dyplin (dip-lyn). She moves to this rural town with her father, David, the umbrella-maker, hoping to leave her past behind in Glasgow.
  It is a hard year for the people of Dyplin: The cholera comes. Resurrectionists steal bodies from graves. The children, bored with all this decay, turn to witchcraft. The Reverend Matthew Glendinning is profoundly tested in his new position - torn between ecclesiastic duty and his love for a woman. Dark and fearful moods grip his congregation. Meg Annan, of stained reputation, is in love with Daniel Rutherford, the school teacher. And Mary, too, is in love. But much of the love - and the hate - in Dyplin is misplaced.
  Then a book reaches local hands, its anonymous author descrying the meanness and hypocrisy of the town. The book sets off strong, fundamental emotions in these townspeople, and a drama unfolds of immense compelling power. Janet Caird has created a world and a story of so profound an effect as to call to mind such enduring works as The Scarlet Letter and Zorba The Greek. Her novel is a superb achievement.

Very good read. As the book cover says it is reminiscent of The Scarlet Letter, just set in a Scottish village in a later century. The people of Dyplin don't except outsiders easily and Mary with her offish ways doesn't make it any easier for herself. She is a women who was wounded by others and has turned to her books for comfort and safety. Confident and well read, comfortable with herself, and because of her extensive reading (unusual for a woman in that day) she is quite progressive thinking for a woman. All this makes her appear uppity to the village people and they are against her immediately.

When the cholera strikes the normalcy seems to be disrupted and there is a totally different 'air' to the village and the people, that disturbs the minister. The winter is long and hard and the children of the village find a book on witchcraft and steal away secretly to a cave to experiment as a group with this new found 'treasure' to while away the long days. This seems to set in motion a great darkness over the village that culminates at the 'May Burning' in a most evil way. Emotions run high with no restraint.

Superstition, a suicide, a lynch mob, grave robbing, witch burning... an exciting, introspective look into the evil and goodness of men's hearts.

  'The May Burning was a ritual peculiar to Dyplin, found in no other village along the hills. No one knew how old it was, but there were records of it back into the fourteenth century. It centred on an enormous fire which blazed from dawn till dusk. What it commemorated no one knew, and no one cared. It happened on the last Wednesday of May and until Dr. Gillies came to the parish, had been a time for dancing, drinking, fornicating - an abandonment of all the accepted rules by most of Dyplin - even those normally douce and respectable; though a few managed to resist the pull, shutting themselves in their houses, with their children round them, closing and bolting doors and shutters, and sitting with open Bibles to add a spiritual protection against whatever forces were abroad. For it was not like Hallowe'en and Hogmanay, which the whole country shared. This was something very close, very private. It was not talked about and looked forward to. Only a day or two before the due date, the fire was finally built, by silent men who scarcely spoke to one another. It was a vast release for all that had to be battened down for the rest of the year and would be battened down on the morrow.'

  'She suddenly turned to Craig and said, 'I wish I could live like this, far away from everyone, with books all round me, and no people to bother me.'
  'That's no way for a young lass tae talk. Books are fine. I couldna live without mine. But they're not life.'
  'I don't like life. Books are safe.'
  He looked long at her. 'So that's the way o' it. Ye've been hurt...na, na, I'm no' asking any questions. I'm just saying ye'll maybe find safety in books, but you'll miss living. books canna tak the place o' fowk.'
  'I hate most people.'
  'Hoots, lassie, ye dinna hate them - ye're afraid o' them.'
  'Are you afraid of people?'
  'There was a time when I was afraid of the hurt fowk could dae tae me - and I turned tae my books. And noo I canna dae wi'oot them.'
  'But if you're happy?'
  'Happy enough, in a subdued wersh way. No' what you should tak' for happiness. Sometime I think books are a snare, like drink. They're a' richt for an auld man like me. I can make them the better part o' my life and nae hairm. But you - you should tak' care they dinna get a haud o' you at the expense of life... This is a queer talk we're hae'in. I've never met a lassie like you afore; I can weel understand that ye'll no' just fit in wi' life in Dyplin...

Peggy Ann

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin

John Rebus returns to investigate the disappearances of three women from the same road over ten years. For the last decade, Nina Hazlitt has been ready to hear the worst about her daughter's disappearance. But with no sightings, no body, and no suspect, the police investigation ground to a halt long ago, and Nina's pleas to the cold case department have led her nowhere.

Until she meets the newest member of the team: former Detective John Rebus.

Rebus has never shied away from lost causes - one of the many ways he managed to antagonize his bosses when he was on the force. Now he's back as a retired civilian, reviewing abandoned files. Necessary work, but it's not exactly scratching the itch he feels to be in the heart of the action.

Two more women have gone missing from the same road where Sally Hazlitt was last seen. Unlike his skeptical colleagues, Rebus can sense a connection - but pursuing it leads him into the crosshairs of adversaries both old and new.

Rebus may have missed the thrill of the hunt, but he's up against a powerful enemy who's got even less to lose.

This is only my second Rebus book, but I'm hooked just like everyone else. Great character! All through the book they make Rebus sound so bad, but I think he's great. He's just driven to do what he does. 

This one I listened to on audio book. The narrator was James MacPherson. Excellent job. I'd like to read them on this way as the soft Scottish accent adds so much to the atmosphere of the book. My library only has 2 in audio though :(

This is book number 6 for Read Scotland 2015. How's everyone else getting on?

Peggy Ann