Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT In A Gilded Cage by Susan Appleyard @Mexisue1 #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs at http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading In A Gilded Cage by Susan Appleyard.

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I like this author’s style of writing; In a Gilded Cage is a compact, detailed read that need a lot of concentration but is so worth it. And, as in Queen of Trial and Sorrow it is obvious that the author has research in great detail has preceded the writing of this book. It is an enthralling read of the time and the two countries.;the sense of the politics and machinations, threaded throughout reveal the tumult that the characters live through

Told in first person point of view from Elisabeth Empress of Austria The reader lives through all the emotions the protagonist feels: the uncertainties, the ,contentment, the wretchedness, the distress,the love. It’s easy to empathise with the changes in ‘Sisi’s’ life.

At the front of the book there is a long list of the principle characters that is quite complex and I often had to go back and refer to it which interrupted my reading. But that’s a small quibble. On the whole the characters are well rounded and believable; I liked those the author intended me to like and disliked those who made the protagonist unhappy or afraid. If a book does this for me as a reader… it works.

Susan Appleyard has a knack for capturing the sounds and syntax of an historic period; she doesn’t disappoint in this novel. For me the dialogue gives a real flavour of the era as I imagine it to be.

Again, as in Queen of Trial and Sorrow, although there is a wonderful sense of place through the descriptions of the countries, the buildings, the costumes, I did feel that they were sometimes a little arduous and I was tempted a few times to skip through them. (although I didn’t, knowing I needed to review honestly and fairly)

Would recommend In a Gilded Cage? Yes, I would; the book suit readers who enjoy first person accounts of historical fiction.

Book Description

In a Gilded Cage is a B.R.A.G. Medallion winner! Sisi enjoyed a carefree lifestyle in the hills of Bavaria until she was chosen by Franz Josef to be his wife. At the age of sixteen she became Elisabeth Empress of Austria and moved into the imperial palaces of Vienna, where a hostile court disdained her for her low birth, and strict protocol ruled her every act. She had no other purpose than to adorn the emperor’s arm on ceremonial occasions and to make babies who were taken from her at birth to be raised by her domineering mother-in-law. Of too sensitive a spirit, and dazzlingly beautiful, she was often ill and anorexic and had to flee the court to distant places in order to heal. She struggled to adjust to her new life in an alien environment until she found a cause into which she could pour her heart and soul: Hungary. Like Sisi herself, Hungary struggled to find its place in the world, where it would not be subsumed by a soulless empire. Having found her salvation, she also found a man she could love in the great patriot, Count Andrassy.

About the author

Susan Appleyard

I was born in England where I learned to love English history. Now I live in Canada in the summer with my three children and three grandchildren. In winter I flee the cold for Mexico where I enjoy the sun and sea, restaurants on the beach and Happy Hours with my friends.
I don’t think I have a particularly unique writing method. I always write in the mornings in a place where I can work relatively undisturbed. I never read over what I’ve written until the manuscript is finished so I can approach it with a fresh eye.

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#Bookreview Thirteen Reasons Why by @jayasherguy @penguinrandom #TuesdayBookBlog

Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is a young adult book which deals with a disturbing case of teenage suicide. This book has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and has been made into a series by Netflix.

Teenager Clay Jensen returns home to find a mystery package on his doorstep. It contains old style cassette tapes from a girl at school, rumoured to have committed suicide. Intrigued, Clay begins to listen, then he is reminded of a map of the town which mysteriously arrived in his school locker.

Hannah’s reasons for creating the tapes have Clay criss-crossing town as we hear about the decisions others made which, she felt, which left her alone, hurt and eventually suicidal.
The author chose to write the book using dual narration: Hannah’s voice on the tapes and Clay’s immediate response to points and situations. It makes the story incredibly intense and puts the reader right in with the middle of the story. Thirteen reasons; thirteen stories of how and why Hannah ended up where, she believed, she only had one choice left. Those mentioned on the tapes never realising the connections they made and the impact they had on one girl.

Using everyday situations that many teens find themselves in, the suicide element has already shown itself to be a controversial discussion topic among many other readers. Was the book intended to highlight suicide? I don’t think so; it is more about the impact anyone’s thoughts and actions can have on another human being. Would it be a suitable book for anyone with suicidal tendencies? I don’t think so, not particularly; there are no answers or suggestions for help. Instead, it could make us think about how simple, often thoughtless, words, and action or non-action, can have such an effect on another’s life, and highlight that we don’t exist in a bubble.

I liked this book and read it over the course of twenty four hours. It was refreshing, harsh at times, intense and even surreal. The unusual writing style worked well and I can see this work being a popular discussion topic, for the teenage groups in years to come. Maybe a classic in the making? I shall leave you with a quote from the book:

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people.”

View all my reviews On Goodreads

Book Description

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

About the author

Jay Asher

Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitar to his writing. He attended Cuesta College right after graduating from high school. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. At this point in his life, he had decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores. Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.

He has published only one book to date, Thirteen Reasons Why, which was published in October 2007. He is currently working on his second Young Adult novel, and has written several picture books and screenplays. Thirteen Reasons Why has won several awards and has received five stars from Teen Book Review. It also has received high reviews from fellow authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Chris Crutcher, and Gordon Kormon.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Revengers by @dvgtweets #Horror #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Shelley, she blogs here http://shelleywilsonauthor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Shelley has been reading Revengers by David Valdes Greenwood

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Title: Revengers
Author: David Valdes Greenwood
Category: Horror
My Rating: 4 Star
My Review:
As a lover of supernatural and horror stories, I was drawn to this book by the mention of Salem and the Furies – or lone Fury in this case. Exacting revenge was the purpose of the Furies, and in Revengers it falls to three teenagers to carry out an ancient act of vengeance.
Ama, Mark, and Justin have never met, and yet they have each been touched by death and are hounded by grief. By witnessing the murders of their loved ones,they have been left broken and alone. Ama was sent to an all-girls’ school because her aunt couldn’t handle her, Mark dropped out of Harvard because he couldn’t cope with his heartache, and Justin has jumped from bedsit to squat over the years, never settling, never living.
The three main characters are so different and yet they share a common bond. I loved their diversity and how their friendship developed in the face of such horror. Ama is feisty and cold but learns to open her heart and let down her walls. Mark is smart and excitable but loyal to his new found friends. Justin is broken but allows himself to feel alive for the first time in years. They are an unlikely threesome, and yet the dynamics work well.
After witnessing the deaths of their loved ones, the three main characters are plagued with nightmares where they relive the event over and over. However, there is an addition to their usual dreams when the Fury, Rebecca, invades their minds and leaves them a trail to follow; a journal, the letter R, the word Salem. All three independently decide to investigate what it all means and eventually meet outside Salem’s Witch Museum. They are whisked away by the tour guide, Betty, for a speedy low down on the rules of the game. Revenge the death of their loved ones by killing the people responsible.
The story unfolds as the three teens take on the challenge, but it’s not as simple, or as straight forward, as Betty made it out to be.
The story is perfectly paced but picks up towards the end as a series of unexpected twists keep you hooked. Told in the third person, the book switches between all the characters point of view, changing angles but never losing its momentum. The horror aspect isn’t too gory and so would appeal to the more squeamishreader. Although the characters are teenagers, this book could be thoroughly enjoyed by teens and adults alike.
An enjoyable read.
My thanks to the author/publisher for an ARC copy of Revengers which I reviewed as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.
Book Blurb:
How far would you go to make things right? Ama, Mark, and Justin are about to find out.

All three have each witnessed a murder that went unpunished, and they’ve lived broken lives ever since. In recent months, their dreams have been haunted by someone who understands their pain: a Fury who survived the witch hunts of Old Salem. Three days before Halloween, she enters their dreams and summons them to be Revengers, just as she has done for a new trio of teens every year for centuries. If they abide by her seemingly simple set of rules, she promises supernatural protection while they avenge their losses.

One catch: exacting revenge means becoming killers themselves. And they don’t have much time to wrestle with the moral dilemma, as the Fury’s protection will end on the Day of the Dead. When they agree—setting in motion three bloody acts of vengeance—things begin to spiral out of control and they come to understand they are pawns in ancient game. As the Fury toys with them, they race against the clock, hoping to live more than just a few more days
About the author

David Valdes Greenwood is the author of Revengers, The Rhinestone Sisterhood, Homo Domesticus and A Little Fruitcake. As an award-winning playwright, his work has been staged coast to coast and in the UK. A former freelance journalist, Valdes Greenwood is best known for his Boston Globe columns. Currently, he details life as a parent as a Huffington Post blogger.

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Adventuring during #Canada150 #redchairs, Forest Fires and the #Rockies #MondayBlogs

Sharing a few adventures from our recent Canadian holiday.

Many of you know we’ve just had a long awaited trip to Canada, and I thought I’d share a few of our adventures with you readers.

‘Ah’ moment – using I Love Meet and Greet car drop off/ pick up service at Gatwick made the start of the trip a breeze.

Eek!’ moment – my son’s visa wouldn’t electronically talk to the airline’s computer, but the Westjet staff and security soon sorted us out.

‘Ooh’ moment– straight roads which stretched as far as the eye could see, around both Edmonton and Calgary airports.

Amazing moment – views from the Dinosaur trail near Drumheller, Alberta

Fun momentHoodoo stones, fun formations created by wind erosion.

Love it – this year to celebrate 150 years of the Canadian Federation entrance to all the National Parks is free.  Red chairs – The Red Chair Experience – Parks Canada have placed pairs of red chairs throughout Canada in treasured places such as awe-inspiring views or markers at the end of a hike. We found several sets of chairs on our trip and they were a delight to find.

‘Ah’ moment – Snow topped mountain views at Lake Louise Inn. Our 2 night stay here was our top holiday memory.

‘Ooh’ moment – Big horned mountain sheep strolling down the road.

‘Phew’ moment – hiking all the way to the top of Johnston Canyon and Falls, Banff National Park.

‘Ooh’ momentTakakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park.

‘Ah’ moment – blue glacial lakes on the Icefields Parkway.

‘Phew’ moment – hiking all the way up a 5km round route to Parker Ridge and seeing the Saskatchewan Glacier.

‘Phew’ moment – hiking to see the Athabasca Glacier.

‘Wow’ moment – the Athabasca Falls and a brown bear and elk on the roadside.

‘Eek!’ moment – driving to 100 mile house, seeing wildfire smoke and being told the town was on evacuation alert. Over 300 wildfires had been caused by dry lightning in one day. More than 100 started the next day. We did stay overnight and the town was evacuated the next day, just a few hours after we left.

‘Phew’ moment – We needed to change our plans.  Our route to Whistler was shut by another large fire, and routes out of the area were closing fast, so we made a long detoured drive down to Vancouver to escape the area.

‘Ooh’ moment – Our stay in Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island was at Wild Edge Lodge in the spacious granny annexe of the owners house. The town was small and we went on a trip see whales, sea lions and bald eagles with our landlord on his Wildedge Whales tour boat. Captain Cam is one of the area’s top wildlife spotters in the area.

‘Ooh’ momentsPacific Rim National Park Reserve, between Ucluelet and Tofino, had us walking in rain forests, bog trails and taking plenty of peaceful forest lined coastal walks. Ucluelet is much quieter than the surfing town of Tofino and we ranked it our second best place we stayed.

‘Ooh’ moment – Next we stayed in a small, cute log cabin at Port Renfrew a backwater coastal town and a fisherman’s mecca. Unspoilt by tourism, this hamlet is just beginning to get noticed. We saw grey seals in the harbour and giant gnarled cedar trees in the Avatar Grove.

‘Eek!’ moment – navigating the roads in Vancouver.

‘Phew’ moment – on our last day in Vancouver, we saw Olympic rings and hiked up Black Mountain trail in the Cypress ski resort in North Vancouver, host to the 2010 Winter Olympics freestyle skiing and snowboarding events.

We enjoyed the polite Canadian drivers, who gave us lots of space when overtaking, accepted our late turn-off decisions, and we saw no signs of anger or road rage, even in the cities.

We liked the fact Canada was litter free with plenty of bear-proof garbage bins—a nation trained to responsibly dispose of their litter.

We loved the scenery, the tress, the wildlife, the vast open spaces, majestic mountains and the rugged coasts.

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Ryan Kaine: On The Run by @KerryJDonovan #Thriller

Today’s team review is from E.L Lindley, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Ryan Kaine: On The Run by Kerry J Donovan

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Ryan Kaine: On the Run by Kerry J Donovan is an action adventure story, introducing the character of Ryan Kaine in what promises to be an exciting new series. The novel concerns itself with the murky world of arms companies vying for government defence contracts.

The opening is shocking, setting a morally ambiguous tone when Kaine is duped into shooting down a passenger plane and killing 83 people. This act sets in motion a chaotic and violent series of events and leaves Kaine struggling with his own conscience. The pace of the story is break-neck, leaving the reader with barely enough time to draw breath. The speed is emphasised by the way Donovan uses dates to head up his chapters. The whole novel is set over a period of a week. The dates also underscore the military background by creating a precise, report like style.

Despite the action-packed nature of the story Donovan does a great job with characterisation. Multiple viewpoints are used in a 3rd person narrative which allows the reader to get inside the psyche of all the main characters. Ryan Kaine himself is a middle-aged ex-Captain in the Royal Marines, left adrift when government cutbacks led to him being retired from service at 39. I think Donovan does a great job of highlighting a real problem for people who spend a large part of their adult life acquiring skills that are not adaptable to civilian life. Like many ex-service personnel Kaine finds himself drifting through freelance work for not always reputable agencies.

The military aspect of the novel is very convincing. Kaine calls upon former colleagues to help him out and the banter between the men lends an air of authenticity to the story. There is an unspoken code between them and Kaine trusts them with his life. Fans of The DCI Jones Casebook series will enjoy the guest appearance by DCI Jones who Kaine trusts to process the damning information he unearths and it’s probably no coincidence that Jones also has a military background.

It’s gratifying that the female characters in the novel hold their own. Dr Laura Orchard is a military widow and vet who helps Kaine and goes on the run with him. She is capable and resourceful and the blossoming romance between the two of them is the perfect foil for the otherwise stark landscape of the story. My favourite character however is the IT expert, Sabrina Faroukh. Her insight and internal commentary about the people around her show her to be intelligent and spiky. Donovan hints at Sabrina not being who she seems which adds an added layer of mystery.

Regardless of the violence and dark subject matter Donovan uses his villains to inject some humour into his novel. Several of them are psychopathic shadowy figures, creating a sense of almost pantomime villainy that allows the reader to relish the violence that is meted out to them and a guilt-free satisfaction when they get what’s coming to them.

One of the things that I particularly enjoyed about the novel is the fact that Donovan chooses to place a series of extraordinary events within a very ordinary setting. The story begins in the seaside towns of Cleethorpes and Mablethorpe which makes an intriguing change from the more traditional exotic settings of espionage.

Donovan’s skill as a writer is stamped all over this novel, in both the control he exerts despite the speed of the plot and the way he builds the tension to an almost fever pitch. There is a lot of violence but I didn’t find it gratuitous or excessive.

I really enjoyed this introduction to Ryan Kaine and it would make the perfect holiday read. If you’re looking for escapism with lots of action and adventure then this is one for you.

Book Description

A passenger plane explodes. Eighty-three people die. One man is responsible.
When a routine operation ends in tragedy, decorated ex-Royal Marine, Ryan Kaine, becomes the target of a nationwide manhunt. The police want him on terrorism charges. A sinister organisation wants him dead.
Kaine is forced to rely on two women he hardly knows: one, a country vet who treats his wounds, the other an IT expert with a secret of her own.
Battling overwhelming guilt, life-threatening injuries, and his own moral code, Kaine hunts the people who turned him into a mass-murderer.
Can Kaine’s combat skills, instincts, and new-found allies lead him to the truth and redemption?
Ryan Kaine: On the Run—a powerful, action-packed novel set against the backdrop of the international arms trade.

About the author

Kerry_J_Donovan

Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. He spent most of his life in the UK, and now lives in the heart of rural Brittany with his wonderful and patient wife, Jan. They have three children and four grandchildren (so far), all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the advent of video calling.

The cottage is a pet free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and red squirrels).

Kerry earned a first class honours degree in Human Biology, and has a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. A former scientific advisor to The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he helped UK emergency first-responders prepare for chemical attacks in the wake of 9/11. This background adds a scientific edge to his writing. He is also a former furniture designer/maker.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Spirit Of Lost Angels by @LizaPerrat French Revolution #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Spirit Of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat

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After reading reviews of The Silent Kookaburra by some of Rosie Amber’s book review team, I decided to read Spirit of Lost Angels by the same author. This book is the first in this author’s French historical trilogy, The Bone Angel series.

The Spirit of Lost Angels is the story of Victoire Charpentier, who lives with her parents and siblings in a rural village in the years before The French Revolution. The family is poor but happy, until a series of devastating tragedies occurs. First, her young twin siblings die in a house fire that destroys their home, then her father is run over and killed by an aristocrat. Finally, her mentally distressed mother, a midwife and a herbalist, is killed by the villagers for being a witch. During this time, the old king dies and Louis XIV marries Marie Antoinette, and the country sinks even deeper into poverty with new taxes.

The village priest arranges for Victoire to become a servant in the home of the Marquise de Barberon in Paris, where the nobleman repeatedly rapes her; she becomes pregnant. She manages to hide her pregnancy with the help of the Marquise’s cook, Claudine, and after she gives birth, she leaves the baby on the steps of a church. There the baby is picked up by Matron, the head of a large, state-run orphanage.

Victoire’s experiences leave her with a deep and abiding hatred of royalty and the aristocracy (no surprise). As whispers of revolution run rampant through Paris, Victoire returns to her village to marry a kind and good man, many years her senior, who is willing to overlook the fact she is no longer a virgin. For a period of time she is happy. But it isn’t to last…

I have to admit, while this book is a barn burner, at this point, the unending tragedies in Victoire’s life were wearing me down. And there are more to come. Here I will stop and allow potential readers to find out what happens next, but I will tell you that Victoire returns to revolutionary Paris, and actual historical figures, one of them Thomas Jefferson, make an appearance in the book.

The author is a meticulous historian who describes village life, Paris, and the Revolution in colorful and compelling detail – the sounds, the smells, the colors – with an unsparing introduction to the mores of the time. I think that, more than anything, kept me reading. There is plenty of politics once the idea of revolution takes hold in Paris as more than just an intellectual concept, and the danger of living there at the time is very real. My one other less than positive comment concerns the amount of the book devoted to the Revolution. After the breathless pace of Victoire’s life, once she returns to Paris, her story slows to a sedate pace, which I found distracting. Too much of politics and the Revolution frustrated me.

There are many, many characters,, but with rare exception they are well drawn and realistic. To mention just three: Victoire can be frustratingly indecisive one minute and a strong and determined the next. The cook, Claudine, is a flour-sprinkled tower of strength, and the Marquise, although brief in appearance is suitably ignorant and evil.

I strongly recommend this book – it is a great summer read. For any reader with a love for historical fiction, especially about women at the time of the French Revolution, this is the book for you!

Book Description

Her mother executed for witchcraft, her father dead at the hand of a noble, Victoire Charpentier vows to rise above her impoverished peasant roots.
Forced to leave her village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for domestic work in Paris, Victoire suffers gruesome abuse under the 18th century old regime.
Imprisoned in France’s most pitiless madhouse, La Salpêtrière asylum, the desperate Victoire begins a romance with fellow prisoner Jeanne de Valois, infamous conwoman of the diamond necklace affair. With the help of the ruthless and charismatic countess, Victoire carves out a new life for herself.
Enmeshed in the fever of pre-revolutionary France, Victoire must find the strength to join the revolutionary force storming the Bastille. Is she brave enough to help overthrow the diabolical aristocracy?
As this historical fiction adventure traces Victoire’s journey, it follows too, the journey of an angel talisman through generations of the Charpentier family.
Amidst the intrigue and drama of the French revolution, the women of Spirit of Lost Angels face tragedy and betrayal in a world where their gift can be their curse.

About the author

An image posted by the author.

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.
Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the French historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII Nazi Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.
Friends, Family and Other Strangers is a collection of humorous, horrific and entertaining short stories set in Australia.
Liza is a founding member of the Author Collective, Triskele Books and regularly reviews books for Bookmuse.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry @GreenWizard62

Today’s Team review is from Cathy, she blogs here http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry

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When Carol Prentice left her home town of Wheatley Fields for Manchester University she had no plans to return. Her father’s death precipitates a change in her and the subsequent return to Wheatley Fields, along with the resolve to address those intimated demons which have blighted her life and made her believe herself to be less than. She had A Plan.

After successfully applying for a job at a local bookstore, Carol and Steve, the manager, become firm friends. It’s an unlikely friendship, but they are both compelling characters, well defined with depth and relatability, even as we see their flaws. Steve, despite his previous failures and tendency to drink too much, becomes Carol’s source of strength, the foundation on which she can build, her rock.

However, it’s not very long before Carol’s demons appear and events are set in motion which spiral into disaster. Whatever happened to Carol prior to her leaving Wheatley Fields has defined her life up to date and is the catalyst that drives everything towards a riveting, and touching, conclusion.

Carol is a complex character, hiding behind a Goth exterior, emotionally damaged and with her feelings under such strict control, she perceives and registers rather than feels. The narrative is written informally in the first person from Carol’s point of view, giving a comprehensive insight into her psyche, and how deeply past events impacted on her. Although her subjective views could cast doubt on her credibility as a narrator, it doesn’t detract from believability and the vividness of her observations. Carol is real, fully developed, so much so that I felt like a spectator and completely forgot this was a man writing from a young woman’s perspective, it was so convincing.

This is the totally unpredictable and powerful story of a dramatic revenge planned down to the last detail. As more of the story is revealed, the more intriguing it becomes. How does Toby fit into Carol’s story and why is he so antagonistic? The disclosure, and learning the meaning behind the shiny coin, is appalling.

Mark Barry is a gifted storyteller with a knack for making this reader feel she’s been put though an emotional wringer (in a good way) every time. The writing is real, gritty and sometimes violent, but always eminently readable. Engaging characters are vividly portrayed and display a realistic range of emotions and reactions. Loved the Carla reference and the small but significant cameo of the author.

Book Description

“I swore that I would never go home,  but in the end, I had no choice.  I had to confront what happened.  And them too.  It was going be icky. And totally scary.” Carol Prentice left Wheatley Fields to attend university in Manchester and not once did she return in four years. Her beloved father visited her whenever he could, but then he passed away and it was up to her to sort his affairs.  She could have done this from a distance, but a woman can run to the far corners of the earth, but, in the end, she can never escape herself She had to come home: There was no other choice. Taking a job at a bookshop for the duration, she befriends Steve – an older man who looks like a wizard and who knows everything in the world.  Carol quickly encounters the demons that forced her to leave in the first place – including Toby, the raffish local villain, with whom she shares the most horrifying of secrets and whose very existence means evil and mayhem for everyone around. Especially the lovable Steve.  Carol finds herself in the middle of a war between the two men:  A war which can only have one victor.  Soon, she wishes she had never come home.  But by then it was too late.  Much too late.

Biography

Mark Barry

Bio: Mark Barry is a multi-genre writer and novelist. His work includes the minor cult hit Ultra Violence about football hooligans at a small Midlands football club and Carla, a quirky, dark, acclaimed romance with shades of Wuthering Heights.  He is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people… He has one son, Matt, on the brink of University, with whom he shares a passion for Notts County Football Club.  Fast food, comics, music, reading, his friends on the Independent scene, and horse racing keep him interested and he detests the English Premier League, selfish, narcissistic people and bullies of all kinds.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Whispers In The Alders by @HA_Callum #fridayreads #litfic

Today’s second team review comes from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Whispers In The Alders by H A Callum

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WHISPERS IN THE ALDERS by H A Callum

4.5 out of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

This book was submitted to Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team, of which I am a member.  Interestingly, I didn’t initially choose it as the genre and blurb didn’t particularly appeal, but then I got talking to the author on Twitter (about something else entirely) and he asked me if I would take a review copy.  I’m glad I did.

Lesson for readers: don’t bypass books just because they don’t immediately appeal; you never know what gems you might find behind that quiet cover.

Lesson for writers: talk to people on social media!

Whispers in the Alders is set in the small east US town of Alder Ferry, where young teenagers Aubrey (female) and Tommy both suffer loveless, cold childhoods.  Aubrey’s family are wealthy, whereas Tommy’s are poorer, and his life is quite brutal.  They meet in a wooded area behind Aubrey’s family home, amongst the alders, a place that both of them feel is ‘home’.

The book starts in the present, with Aubrey in Portland, Maine, as an adult; she has left her family and the prejudices of the small town long behind.  It then goes back to her early teens, and the loneliness she feels.  The books spans the period of this time until early adulthood, and follows the tragedies of her and Tommy’s lives.

I’d class this book as literary fiction, as well as a contemporary ‘coming of age’ story.  Much of the writing is beautiful; I read that Mr Callum is a poet, too, and this is evident, but it’s not wordy for the sake of it.  It’s quite a dense sort of novel, with much description, and on occasion I felt it could have been trimmed down just a little, but that’s just personal preference, and I certainly appreciated every line.  The plot itself develops slowly, with some shocking outcomes (child abuse and homophobia, but nothing graphic), and it’s perfectly plotted.  It’s a heartrending, lonely sort of book; I longed for Aubrey and Tommy to find happiness.

A hidden gem by an extremely talented writer, very American (which I liked), and one I definitely recommend ~ I hope some other members of Rosie’s team pick it up, or that anyone who reads this takes the plunge and clicks ‘buy’!

Book Description

Alder Ferry would have been just another nondescript suburb living in the shadow of its urban parent if not for one detail: the mysterious stand of alder trees anchoring the town to its past and standing as a reminder to the wilderness that once stood in its place.

In the shadows of the alders a boy named Tommy found refuge. There, an eclectic book collection was his only companion through a tumultuous childhood, serving as his escape from the brutal realities of his life. That was, until Aubrey appeared.

Born of different worlds, the alders become their escape while their unlikely friendship blossoms into a love that few people ever come to understand or enjoy—proving that true friendship is a romantic pursuit in its purest form.

Together they come of age in a town hostile to their friendship—a friendship that challenges the intersecting boundaries of class, gender and sexuality. Prejudice and privilege masquerade to destroy their dreams while class, gender and faith collide. All are tested as Tommy and Aubrey carry each other through their teen years and into adulthood.

Whispers in the Alders is an impassioned experience that will test the emotions and is a story that will linger with the reader long after the last page is turned.

About the author

H.A. Callum

Of all the hats I have worn, the only one that has truly defined me is that of the writer. Whatever has happened, and wherever I have been, writing has always been my guidepost.

Writing has been the best way to examine life while contrasting it to the “what ifs” and “why nots” that surround the marquis events of our existence. This is also why we read: to give us a greater understanding of our own lives through the lens of characters that face similar challenges as we do.

I’m glad you stopped in to visit. I hope you enjoy what you read here and take some of it along with you to share. As always, I am most interested in what you – my readers – have to say.

The light is always on and the keyboard endlessly humming along, through late nights and endless cups of coffee. It’s a writer’s life!

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT @barbtaub reviews Fat Girl Begone by @dehaggerty #Romance

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here http://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Fat Girl Begone by D. E Haggerty

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How many times do you plan a vacation where you have no idea of your destination? Not that often, I’d bet. We may SAY it’s the journey that matters…but a mountain climber doesn’t want their journey to end up in an art museum any more than an opera buff wants to end up on a surfer beach.  It’s the same with the romance genre. Sure, we expect that the two main characters will end up together. But the paths taken to reach that point are literally infinite in number. Just ask Elizabeth Bennett (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen), Claire Randall (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon), Kate Daniels (Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews) or any of the literally millions of romance heroines how they arrived at their HEAs. Some of those paths are so well-travelled that the scenery is boring and the tour has become a cliche. Others, though familiar, still offer plenty of exciting, gorgeous, and just plain romantic views along the way. Take Fat Girl Begone as an excellent example where the destination might be a given, but the fun is all in how author D.E. Haggerty gets us there.

It might seem like Everly Rawlins has it all—handsome and successful boyfriend, partnership-track at her accounting firm, secret savings account to fund her dream wedding. But her self-image tells her she’s fat, her boyfriend tells her he’s leaving because he can’t take any more of her obsession with diet instead of him, her best friend tells her that tequila-fuelled decision to pre-pay for a private trainer is non-negotiable, and her employer tells her security will be escorting her from their premises. And that’s just the beginning, as author D. E. Haggerty keeps the romance tropes flying so fast we barely register the meet-cute with Mr. Yummy, the obligatory ensuing love triangle, and all four types of what the Greeks called the four loves:

  • STORGE (Affection/family love): Everly builds a new family-of-choice in her supportive, profane, but well-dressed new friends from the gym.
  • PHILIA (Friendship love): Her best friends steadfastly refuse to accept Everly’s body image issues, seeing her as both intelligent and beautiful.
  • EROS (Romantic love): Rejected by her long-time boyfriend, Everly tries to keep new suitors firmly in the friend-zone, telling herself that she is not up to their league.
  • AGAPE (Unconditional love): With her former boyfriend as the poster boy for how to undermine self-image, Everly is suspicious of unconditional love when it’s offered.

There are so many things I liked about Everly. The snarky banter with her friends, the humor that shines through even when she’s at her lowest points, the secret core of strength she has no idea is there, and way we start to see her intelligence and beauty as reflected in her friends’ love and admiration—these all combine in beautifully orchestrated character development.

There were a few things I found a little harder to swallow. There’s the billionaire who seems to work about an hour a week, the new business that springs into life and instant success, the will-they/won’t-they (they will) suspense, the expanding triangle as every guy she meets falls in lust with Everly, and especially the mind-boggling perfection of a suitor whose like hasn’t been seen outside the pages of Porn for Women. (Sexy Shirtless Guy: “As soon as I finish the laundry, I’ll do the grocery shopping. And I’ll take the kids with me.”)

Does any of that matter? Not if what you’re looking for is a funny, entertaining, and ultimately charming journey to a destination you knew about right from the start. If that’s what you’re hoping for, then Fat Girl Begone is exactly the right ticket.

Book Description

I’m a total mess. My boyfriend dumped me – get this – because I diet too much. Not because I’m fat, mind you. Of course, this spurs me into the diet-fitness-revenge-plan of the century, which leads me to the gym and a scorching hot personal trainer. I even manage to make some cool new friends, including a millionaire if you can believe it. Things are looking up! Naturally, that’s the moment my ex decides he wants me back, the personal trainer asks me out, and my millionaire male buddy decides to throw his hat in the ring. But that’s not enough drama. No, not for me. Because I’ve also lost my job and decided to start my own business. Just call me Ms. Drama.

Warning: Bad language, bumpy roads, and embarrassing moments ahead. But there’s also more than a bit of romance and even, if we’re lucky, love. Fingers crossed.

Not endorsed by or affiliated with any brand of tequila.

About the author


I grew-up reading everything I could get my grubby hands on, from my mom’s Harlequin romances, to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When I wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion I did manage to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But being a lawyer really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out being a B&B owner wasn’t my thing either. I polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before deciding to follow the husband to Istanbul where I decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.
Fat girl Begone! is my eleventh book.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Planck Factor by @debbimack #TechnoThriller

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Planck Factor by Debbi Mack

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My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber and the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely decided to review.

This thriller (technothriller according to Amazon) tells a complex story, or rather, tells several not so complex stories in a format that can make readers’ minds spin. A thriller about a student who decides, on a dare, to write a genre book (a thriller) and whose life becomes itself another thriller, one that seems to mix spies, conspiracies, terrorism, the possibility of the end of the world, and it all relates to quantum physics. (Or, as she describes it in the book: “…a suspense story with a hint of science fiction and a touch of espionage at its heart.”) The parallelisms between the story of Jessica Evans (the protagonist) and that of her fictional character, Alexis, become more convoluted and puzzling as the book progresses and the astounding coincidences will ring some alarm bells until we get to the end and… It is a bit difficult to talk about the book in depth without giving away any spoilers, but I’ll try my hardest.

This book will be particularly interesting for writers, not only because of its storytelling technique (talk about metafiction) but also because of the way the main protagonist (a concept difficult to define but Jessica is the one who occupies the most pages in the book and her story is told in the first person) keeps talking (and typing) about books and writing. No matter how difficult and tough things get, she has to keep writing, as it helps her think and it also seems to have a therapeutic effect on her. It is full of insider jokes and comments familiar to all of us who write and read about writing, as it mentions and pokes fun at rules (“Show, don’t tell. Weave in backstory. Truisms, guides, rules, pointers—call them what you will… And adverbs. Never use an adverb.”) and also follows and at the same time subverts genre rules (we have a reluctant heroine, well, two, varied MacGuffins and red herrings, mysteries, secrets, traitors and unexpected villains… and, oh yes, that final twist).

Each one of the chapters starts with the name of the person whose point of view that chapter is told about —apart from Alexis’s story, told in the third person, written in different typography, and usually clearly introduced, there are chapters from the point of view of two men who follow Jessica, so we know more than her, another rule to maintain suspense, and also from the point of view of somebody called Kevin, who sounds pretty suspicious— and apart from Jessica’s, all the rest are in the third person, so although the structure is somewhat complex and the stories have similarities and a certain degree of crossover, there is signposting, although one needs to pay attention. Overall, the book’s structure brought to my mind Heart of Darkness (where several frames envelop the main story) or the Cabinet of Dr Caligary (although it is less dark than either of those).

As you read the story, you’ll probably wonder about things that might not fit in, plot holes, or events that will make you wonder (the usual trope of the amateur who finds information much easier than several highly specialised government agencies is taken to its extremes, and some of the characteristics of the writing can be amusing or annoying at times, although, whose story are we reading?) but the ending will make you reconsider the whole thing. (I noticed how the characters never walked, they: “slid out”, “shimmied out”, “pounded”, “bounded down the steps”, “clamored down”…) As for the final twist, I suspected it, but I had read several reviews by other members of the team and kept a watchful eye on the proceedings. I don’t think it will be evident to anybody reading the story totally afresh.

The novel is too short for us to get more than a passing understanding and connection with the main character, especially as a big part of it is devoted to her fictional novel, (although the first person helps) and there are so many twists, secrets and agents and double-agents that we do not truly know any of the secondary characters well enough to care. Action takes precedence over psychological depth and although we might wonder about alliances, betrayals and truths and lies, there are no complex motivations or traumas at play.

Due to the nature of the mystery, the novel will also be of interest to those who enjoy stories with a scientific background, particularly Physics (although I don’t know enough about quantum physics to comment on its accuracy). A detailed knowledge of the subject is not necessary to follow the book but I suspect it will be particularly amusing to those who have a better understanding of the theory behind it. (The author does not claim expertise and thanks those who helped her with the research in her acknowledgements). The book also touches on serious subjects, including moral and ethical issues behind scientific research and the responsibility of individuals versus that of the state regarding public safety. But do not let that put you off. The book is a short, fast and action-driven story that requires a good attention span and will be particularly enjoyed by writers and readers who enjoy complex, puzzle-like mysteries, or more accurately, those who like stories that are like Russian dolls or Chinese boxes.

I enjoyed this book that is clever and knowing, and I’d recommend in particular to readers who are also writers or enjoy books about writers, to those who like conspiracies, spies and mysteries, especially those with a backstory of science and physics, and to people who prefer plot-driven books and who love Hitchcock, Highsmith and Murder She Wrote.

Book Description

On a dare, grad student Jessica Evans writes a thriller, creating a nightmare scenario based upon the theory that the speed of light is not a constant—one that has a dark application. Her protagonist (the fiancé of a scientist killed in a car crash) is pursued by those who want to use the theory to create the world’s most powerful weapon.
Jessica’s research into the science stirs up concern from an extremist group intending to use it for evil. Before long, Jessica’s life mimics that of her protagonist, as she runs from terrorist conspirators who suspect she may try to stop them from causing a major disaster. As the clock ticks down, Jessica must put the pieces together and avert a global catastrophe.

About the author

Debbi Mack

Debbi Mack is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sam McRae Mystery Series. She’s also published one young novel. In addition, she’s a Derringer-nominated short story writer, whose work has been published in various anthologies.

Debbi is also a screenwriter and aspiring indie filmmaker. Her first screenplay, The Enemy Within, made the Second Round in the 2014 Austin Film Festival screenplay contest and semifinals in the 2016 Scriptapalooza contest.

A former attorney, Debbi has also worked as a journalist, librarian, and freelance writer/researcher. She enjoys walking, cats, travel, movies and espresso.

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