Terry has been reading The Grifter by Sean Campbell and Ali Gunn
An action packed tale about James, whose life was ruined by crooked financier Kent Bancroft, and his plans to retrieve his lost half a million pounds. It’s also about Kent himself, and how the life of a rich man does not always run as smoothly as you might think. What I liked about this book:
The structure – ever since reading Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel decades ago, I’ve adored alternate POV books, especially when, as with this, the lives are poles apart.
The pace – the book marches along with just the right amount of inner narrative versus events – there are no boring waffle bits, the characters are well-developed, and all the backstory is nicely woven in at just the right time. This is something that you may not notice unless it isn’t right (like how you don’t notice if something is clean, but you do notice if it isn’t) – getting it spot on is an art.
The writing style – flowing and so readable, so much so that I wasn’t tempted to skip-read even when I wasn’t too sure about the content itself.
The quality of the research that had clearly taken place, about the financial detail, life as a homeless person, the art world and other aspects throughout the book.
The basic storyline, which appealed to me as soon as I read about it.
What I was not so sure about:
There were way too many errors that editor/proofreader should have picked up on, such as the phrase ‘the gig is up’ instead of ‘the jig is up’, Marlborough cigarettes instead of Marlboro, multiple instances of the word ‘invite’ that should have been ‘invitation’ (unlikely to occur at this level of society), numerous backwards apostrophes at the beginning of words.
I wasn’t convinced that an exclusive gym patronised by the aristocracy would be called ‘MuscleBound’, which sounds more like an establishment owned by Phil Mitchell from EastEnders. It’s only a small thing but it really stood out to me.
The story development, which I thought needed more thinking through; many developments/details seemed a tad unfeasible. An example: a rich financier sharp enough to con thousands of people out of millions but doesn’t have an efficient alarm and CCTV system at his house.
To sum up, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, it’s a jolly good, fun book that zips along, entertains and keeps you turning the pages, and for this I commend it; being able to tell a story that amuses and keeps the attention is indeed a talent worthy of note. Everyone has different levels of belief suspension, and mine are particularly low; most of the reviews for this book are very positive indeed.
One will rise. The other will fall.
Kent Bancroft’s rise to fame and fortune was nothing short of meteoric. Once a simple teacher in London’s East End, he’s now on course to become Britain’s youngest billionaire.
But his success has come on the back of those he’s trodden upon to get there. Among them is a man whose fall was as swift as Kent’s rise. He used to be a sparky until a freak accident robbed him of one leg.
And then Kent Bancroft robbed him of everything else.
Forget forgiveness. Forget turning the other cheek. And forget waiting for karma.
Judith has been reading Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin
The one thing that was going through my mind as I read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home was that there is only us inside our own heads. Obvious I know, but no one has an insight into anyone else’s thoughts, whatever the state of our mental health. And, quite often, it’s a case of second guessing on anyone’s reasons for their actions.
In this powerful and moving story, Anne Goodwin has shown the frailties and strength of each of her main characters through their internal dialogue, their actions, and their reactions to what is happening to them.
Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is narrated by three characters: Matilda (Matty) herself; cruelly and discriminatorily incarcerated for fifty years in a psychiatric hospital, this seventy-year-old woman tells her own story in her own inimitable way – skewed as it is by increasing confusion – yet still with some individual insight that brings out wry and compassionate smiles in the reader, even as the horror of her life story unfolds.
Janice – a young newly qualified, newly single, social worker who, unable to mend her own broken world, seeks a project within her work at the asylum; a relic of such places that existed in the early decades of the twentieth century. Misguidedly, and seemingly unable to accept that Matty is totally institutionalised, Janice takes on the task of trying to find Matty’s long-lost family and guides her towards integration into the community, a programme devised in the nineteen nineties. I don’t like to give away any spoilers to stories – so I’ll leave that there
And then there’s Henry, now almost sixty, side-lined in his job, dithering within a clandestine relationship – and waiting for the return of his sister, a girl who left home in undisclosed circumstances. The author cleverly layers this sister in enigmatic ambiguity. It’s left to the reader to unravel the mystery.
Each of these characters are cleverly brought to life on the page, by their dialogue, by their actions. Every turn of a page is a revelation, an insight to human emotions and the lives we think we are creating, but, more often than not, are structured through fate and inadvertent choices.
The descriptions of the settings that the characters move through are brilliantly shown, giving a great sense of place, and evocative images. They also gave me a sense of claustrophobia for each of them, the sense of each being trapped, even as they go about, or are guided through, their individual lives.
This is such a absorbing book. It’s a complex and heart-breaking family story against a background of an historical, inflexible mental care system, tumbling into, what I think, through personal experience, was a injudicious, if well-meant plan.
Though the pace of the story is sometimes frustratingly slow, it becomes obviously necessary as the plot unfolds. For me, the denouement is enough. And Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a book that will stay with me for a long time.
In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.
As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.
Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home. A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
Told with compassion and humour, Anne Goodwin’s third novel is a poignant, compelling and brilliantly authentic portrayal of asylum life, with a quirky protagonist you won’t easily forget.
The Rose Code is a World War Two historical fiction tale based around the codebreakers of Bletchley Park.
There are two timelines: 1940 when three women from different backgrounds join the secret codebreakers, and 1947 during the preparations for Princess Elizabeth’s wedding.
The story opens in 1947 with a coded message sent to two women who were once good friends but are now estranged, their common factor being the one who sent the message; Beth discovered a spy at Bletchley but she can do nothing about it on her own.
Back in 1940, Mab, a working class girl who was top of her class at secretarial school, is on a train with Osla, a young debutante who is determined to do her bit for the war. They have both been recruited to work at Bletchley Park, but they have no idea why. The two girls are billeted with a local family and they befriend the daughter, Beth, a young women with a mind that can see patterns, but who is stifled by her overbearing mother. Osla is quick to spot Beth’s sharp brain and gets Beth enlisted to Bletchley where she soon proves how capable she is.
Back in 1947 time is running out. It is only days before the royal wedding; for all three women it means very different things and not everyone is about to celebrate the royal nuptial.
I thought that the storyline was fantastic, I lost myself for several hours reading all about life as a codebreaker; the highs and lows, the frustration and jubilation. I liked how the author portrayed the characters, showing how they were brought together from diverse lifestyles. The second timeline added lots of tension for its own reasons which I won’t spoil by explaining here.
Told from the perspectives of Osla, Mab and Beth, this tale is primarily about friendship and secrets and how these two themes were tested to the extremes. I’m a fan of historical fiction from this era and the spy theme especially worked for me. Bletchley park holds a fascination for me and I hope to visit one day. I would happily recommend this to readers who enjoy well written World War fiction.
1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart. 1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…
Olga has been reading Face The Wind by Caren Werlinger.
I have read and reviewed two of Werlinger’s novels before this one, and I’ve become a fan (although I have yet to read any of her fantasy novels, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time). I read When the Stars Sang, the first book in the Little Sister Island series (although I don’t think it was intended as a series at first), a while ago and loved it. (You can check my review here). I couldn’t wait to go back to Little Sister, and my second visit more than lived up to my expectations. I am not sure I’d dare to say that I enjoyed this novel more, but I had, at least, as great a time reading it as I did the first, and I was happy to see that this second instalment revisits the characters and places we have come to love, rather than being a totally separate story, although I am sure readers who come across this book first will catch on pretty quickly (but will end up going back to read the first one, no doubt).
All I said about the first novel applies to this one as well. I wasn’t surprised when I read that the author had many requests to carry on writing about the island and its characters, because both, the setting and the people in it are unforgettable. The mix of Celtic and old-Irish tradition with Native-American folklore, the strong sense of community, the way the inhabitants bond with each other and are like a big family, the way of life there (beautiful but harsh at times, stripped down to the bare bones but precious, not fully “connected” [no mobile phone signal], in tune with nature but at times at the mercy of its whims, gentle but risky and dangerous…), and the way they hold onto ancient rituals and traditions whilst at the same time embracing diversity, new technologies, and adapt to changes and challenges, makes it a place where many of us would love to live in, even if we’d never be allowed to (or perhaps because of it).
The story is told in the third person, as the previous one, although we see things from more perspectives this time. We follow Katheen and Molly’s adventures again, and we get to see how their life has been since we last met them. Kathleen has taken to the island and is growing into her new role with gusto, and Molly is happy as well, even with some ongoing concerns about her family, especially two of her brothers. But there are also new characters, Rae and her parents the most important of those. Rae and her mother, Irene, who live all the way across the country, in Oregon, have been having vivid dreams about a storm and a sinking ship most of their lives. A series of coincidences and decisions with unexpected consequences make them travel to Little Island looking for answers. And let me tell you that they find much more than they bargained for.
Little Island is sending its inhabitants messages they are having some trouble deciphering, and Louisa Woodhouse has to face a secret from her past that she had kept hidden from everybody, even her father and sister. How will it affect the island and its inhabitants?
I warmed up to Rae quickly. Although she seems a bit insecure at first (her boyfriend has cheated on her, and she is determined not to let anybody else hurt her), she is also determined to find an explanation for her dreams, loves her parents (even when they do things she doesn’t like and annoy her no end), and has a strong bond with her dog, Jasper. Her mother, her father and the dog are wonderful in their own right, and few of us would hesitate to invite them into our homes. They quickly become attuned to life in Little Sister and wish they could stay. Most of the characters we met in the previous novel appear again, and Aidan, Molly’s older brother, plays and important part in the plot. Of course, Blossom, Kathleen and Molly’s dog, also plays a role; he and Jasper become pals and they make a strong winning team. (I do so love them)!
The story includes a variety of topics: adoption, what makes a family, secrets, lineage, history, destiny, romance (there are no explicit sexual scenes but I think fans of romantic novels will find much to enjoy) and second chances, life and death, how our priorities change with age, pets, new beginnings, and what is really important. There is a price to pay for living in a place like Little Island, and the characters, both old and new, get a harsh reminder of that in this novel.
The writing is gorgeous. There are lyrical moments, beautiful descriptions of landscapes, food, and even feelings and emotions. There are also scary and action-packed moments, which we experience at times as observers and other times as full participants. There are contemplative moments and reflections that made me pause in my reading and will stay with me. There is much joy but also tragedy. As happens in life, it is not all sunny and rosy, and we close the book sad to leave, but with a smile on our faces because things are as they should, and the future looks hopeful and full of opportunity.
A few samples from the book to offer you a taster:
“Life here is no more tragic than elsewhere. It’s just more condensed. When you know everyone, when it involves visitors to your home, when things threaten your home, you feel them more deeply than when it’s just something you hear on the evening news.”
“Beauty isn’t one-sided. Sometimes it comes up with a terrible cost.”
“I think some people need the storm, they need that rush of constantly fighting to stay afloat. For years, I was like that, but now I know, it was only because I was afraid of the calm. In the calm, there’s nothing to fight, no waves battering you from outside, trying to sink you. The calm forces you to listen, to look at your own reflection. And I never liked what I saw.”
Do I recommend this novel? Yes. It is beautiful, it takes place in a wonderful setting, it’s inspiring, its characters are engaging and easy to bond with, and there are intrigues, mystery and magic to keep us coming back for more. I’d love to live inside this book, and I’d love life to be a bit like it is in Little Island, but I guess I’ll have to make do with reading about it, and I hope you give it a go as well. You’ll feel better for it.
Kathleen Halloran has never been happier. She and Molly Cooper have built a life together, living in her grandmother’s cottage. The family drama of the past has calmed down. She and Molly will soon be aunts. Life on Little Sister Island is everything Kathleen could wish for… until the island begins to send ominous signals that change is in the wind. Living beside a different ocean, Meredith Turner tries to make sense of her dreams—dreams of an island she’s never seen but can’t forget. After an ancestry test throws her family into chaos, the tempest that follows blows Meredith and her parents clear across the country, to the island of her dreams. For Louisa Woodhouse, it feels the end is near. With no one to follow after her, she’s the last of her line on Little Sister, and her secrets will go with her. Soon, the Woodhouse name will join the others that now exist only in the island’s genealogy records. But Little Sister Island has its own magic—rhythms and seasons and tides and currents that even the best-laid human plans can’t fight. And in that magic is a warning—a storm is coming.
“It’s your review; to write as you want”. I carried this advice from Rosie Amber (#RBRT) around in my head as I struggled to find a way to put into words what I thought about the first book I’d read and was about to review for her team. I’d never reviewed a book before – or anything, come to think of it.
As a creative writing tutor, I was used to reading essays, stories, poems – but this was different. Five tries later and I decided to break up the parts of the book into sections, as I do for my work: characters, dialogue, settings, points of view, plot etc. A moment of eureka; I didn’t need to tell the story of the book, I could say what I thought were the strong points and what didn’t work for me, because I know any review is subjective, and what I might like or not be so keen on, someone else will always have different thoughts. Writing it that way I could then recommend it to readers who like a book that had a good plot, is character led, told in a certain tense, and so on – or for readers who like particular genres.
One thing I do like with being on the #RBRT team is that if I really can’t get to grips with a book, I’m not expected to finish it; I’ll let Rosie know and that’s the end of the matter. And I don’t give below three stars; I don’t think it’s fair to any writer who has worked hard to produce a book but has probably not used either an editor or a proof-reader. It happens and I always think it’s a shame if the plot/idea is good.
“It’s your review; to write as you want”; something I would say to anyone thinking of joining #RBRT, with the one proviso (which goes unsaid but should be kept in mind) use constructive criticism and be kind. And enjoy the reading. Rosie is approached by many authors of all kinds of genres, eager for the team to review. Their books are put on a list and we can choose the ones we think we might like. I’ve had the chance to read some wonderfully written books of all genres … for free. Although I don’t always manage to review as often as I’d like for Rosie’s Book Review Team, due to other commitments, I’ve loved being a member since I day I joined and I’ve made some brilliant and supportive on-line friends in the team. And Rosie is always there for advice and to steer the ship. What more can one ask?
I invited some of my team members to tell us more about being part of the book reviewing team.
Welcome to Noelle Granger, who also writes book reviews at Sayling Away
Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team has now been up and running for six years! I have been one of her book reviewers for much of that time. At first I only read books in my genre, but I gradually expanded to romance, sci-fi and historical fiction. That last is perhaps what gave me the push necessary to write my recent book about Mary Allerton Cushman, the oldest survivor of the Mayflower voyage.
The goal of Rosie’s book review team (RBRT) has been to spread the word about novels, novellas, short stories and non-fiction from self-published authors and independent publishers – to showcase talent found outside the mainstream publishing world.
I have had the enjoyment of corresponding with many of these authors about their books, making new friends along the way.
I highly recommend joining the team – it will challenge your review skills and introduce you to a wide assortment of genres!
Regular readers of my blog will already know about #RBRT but I have been a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team since… well, I can’t actually remember when I joined, or how, but I suspect it had something to do with Terry Tyler. I think I’d started posting reviews for books I read and it seemed like a natural fit to join the team. And I’ve never regretted it.
I don’t accept review requests on my site, choosing instead to review any book that’s my choice to read, and that I finish. If I can’t finish it I don’t review it as I don’t think that’s fair. I also don’t give below three stars. If I was minded to give below that, I wouldn’t have finished the book, and I think you can see where I am going with that.
I like reviewing to be a positive experience. As we know, no book can please everyone and just because I didn’t like it I don’t want to slam it in case it is someone else’s favourite book ever…
Anyway, what I like with Rosie’s team is that there is no pressure. Authors regularly send their books to Rosie for review. Thankfully Rosie does all the admin (thank you, Rosie!) and they get put on a list. We are all busy, isn’t everyone, so we do what we can. I aim to choose at least one book per month from that list. I also belong to a reading group in my village so with the monthly book there and then one of my own choosing, three is about my limit for a month.
Also by joining this group I have read books in all sorts of genres I would never normally have chosen and thoroughly enjoyed myself doing so, discovering some real gems along the way, so it has broadened my reading experience considerably.
I have become stuck a couple of times, finishing books I perhaps should have stopped reading and then feeling obliged to review when I’m not so sure I can be as positive about them as I’d like. That’s where the support of being a team comes in as Rosie and Terry have always helped me out so that I have been able to give an honest review, as tactfully as possible.
You also don’t have to write anything elaborate by way of a review. Mine are not particularly sophisticated or in depth. Not like some that I am in awe of. I simply say how a book made me feel and what I liked about it. It’s easy. Imagine reading a book, enjoying it and wanting to tell your friends about it. I write that.
Plus, we get to use the photo below on our posts to distinguish the team reviews, and we have a cool hashtag to use for sharing, #RBRT.
Nowadays I don’t get to hang out on social media or in the blogging world perhaps as much as I once was able to but my closest online blogging friends are all part of this group and I’m delighted to be able to support them whenever I can in sharing their posts. They are a great group of people, some of whom I’ve met in real life now too, so if you fancy giving book reviewing a go you will find Rosie’s Book Review Team a friendly place to be, and authors will love you for it. Plus, there are, of course, free books! What’s not to like?
Thank you Georgia, it is a pleasure to have you as part of our team.
I have been a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team (#RBRT) for five and a half years, now. I first ‘met’ Rosie online when looking for reviews for my own early books, and through her some of the other bloggers who later became part of the team.
I admit to being wary of making the commitment when I joined the review team, but I’m so glad I did; Rosie has created something so positive for the independently published world (the team deals mainly with the self-published or those published by independents), and I am proud to be a part of it. When I joined, I decided to start my own book review blog – I don’t profess to be a ‘proper’ book blogger as I’m primarily a writer; I don’t take submissions and use it only for reviewing for Rosie and my own reading choices, but it’s something I enjoy doing.
There are two main reasons why I’m so glad I joined the team, equally important. The first is the discovery of some truly excellent books; now and again, you find a real gem, that you want to shout about; so often these are books that are hidden away on Amazon and you would have never discovered, had the author not submitted. Here are a few that made me feel this way (link takes you to my review):
I have always been a reader. I read books at such a fast rate when I was a young girl that my own four library cards were not enough. I used to use my younger sister’s three library cards as well as my own [Cath was not a big reader back then and preferred to visit her friends down the road than read] and I still had to make two trips a week to the local library. That mean I read at least fourteen books a week. I used to ride to the library on my bicycle which my dad fitted wit a basket for my books.
Even back then, I never read the same books as my friends. I read strange books like Fattipuffs and Thinifers by André Maurois, Helter Skelter, the Charles Manson story by Susan Atkins and all the Eva Ibbotson books, which I didn’t think were unusual, but my friends definitely did. I lived in a Catholic community and books about witches, wizards, dark magic, banshees, and other magical creatures were not encouraged. When I was ten, I ran out of books to read in the children’s section of the library, so I resorted to reading my mom’s books behind the couch. My reads included The Shining and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. My peer group were not reading these books in the fifth and sixth grade.
The result of my unusual and advanced reading tastes was that I never participated in reading groups at school. I was a “lone wolf” reader and was never interested enough in popular peer group reads to change this position.
As an adult I never belonged to book clubs as they seemed to involve more socializing and drinking of wine that discussion of the books I like to read. As a result, I never joined one, so I don’t know if my views are actually fact or not.
When I started to blog, I quickly saw that a lot of readers shared their reviews on-line. There were all sorts of book reviewing groups among blogging groups and on Goodreads where people read the same book and discussed their opinions of the books and the writing style. This interested me and I started following lots of book bloggers and reading lots and lots of book reviews. One book blogger that particularly interested me with her detailed reviews was Olga Nunez. I realized that Olga belonged to an on-line book reviewing club called Rosie’s Book Reviews and was sufficiently interested to find Rosie’s wonderful blog and follow many of her reviewers.
Often, more than one reviewer would read the same book offered to the club and I loved reading the different viewpoints. All the reviewers have a different reviewing style and I learned to look for, and appreciate, different things in books. This has helped my own writing as well as my own book reviewing process. I decided to ask Rosie if I could join her book reviewing team and she graciously added me to her group. I still have rather different tastes in books and read and review a lot of classics, but I do like to read at last one book a month from Rosie’s lovely list. I always look for other reviews of the same book by other team members as I am fascinated to learn what they enjoyed about a book I have read and what they did not enjoy. I have found that certain of the team members share similar tastes to me, so I look out for books they have reviewed and sometimes request them from Rosie.
Some of the recent books and authors I have read and enjoyed during my time as a Rosie’s book reviewer are as follows:
The Zelda Richardson series (The Vermeer Deception being the most recent book) by Jennifer S. Alderson;
I enjoy being part of Rosie’s team and have discovered some great new authors this way. She had a splendid team of reviewers whose opinions on books I value, including Rosie’s own reviews. If you like to read a wide variety of different genres and authors and like the idea of being part of a book reviewing team, then I would recommend this lovely group.
Thank you Robbie, I enjoy seeing all the different books that team members enjoy.
I’ve just been reminded that Rosie’s Book Review Team is six years old! That means BetweenTheLines is also six years old. I joined the team a few months after I began my blog and am still enjoying the experience. Rosie does a great job coordinating everything and many books have come my way that I probably would have missed otherwise, and more than a few authors have become firm favourites, such as Terry Tyler, Carol Hedges, Adrienne Vaughan, Liza Perrat…the list goes on.
One book in particular, The Cunning Woman’s Cup by Sue Hewitt, which I enjoyed immensely and is one I’ve read more than once, sent me on search to find the stone circle in the story. It was a trek to find the Duddo Stones but it was worth it for the atmosphere and the view.
I enjoy following series and there are several murder/mystery ones I’ve enjoyed including The Victorian Detectives by Carol Hedges, Madame Tulip cosy mysteries by David Ahern and Inspector de Silva Mysteries by Harriet Steel.
Not only that, several of us have become ‘real life’ friends and meet up every so often, which is fantastic. Long may it last!