Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Mystery Hide Not Seek by @dehaggerty

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Hide Not Seek by D. E. Haggerty

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In this third book in The Not So Reluctant Detectives series Terri, Mel and newest member of the trio, mild mannered Prudence Webber, find themselves solving another mystery, this time concerning Pru and a stalker/murderer.

Pru hasn’t shared her experience with stalkers with her friends, or anyone else for that matter. She’s pushed her previous life to the back of her mind, where she thought it would stay. She had been prepared for an isolated life after she had relocated and had no thought of meeting women who would become friends, much less two who would become so close in a relatively short time.

Pru had no intention of pursuing a romantic relationship with a man either, no matter how much she likes Ajax, the gym teacher at the school where she works. Especially now she’s receiving threatening notes. Her past seems to have caught up with her and she needs to leave, find a new place. The thought of bringing trouble to her friends doesn’t bear thinking about. Ajax however, had no intention of letting Pru run away. He was determined to help and protect her. He’d found the girl he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

‘He paused as if to give her a chance to respond. She didn’t. She couldn’t. She wasn’t going to tell him what had happened. She was never telling anyone the story again. She’d been forced to tell the story too many times to count. Fat lot of good it had done’.

Pru hadn’t counted on the determination of her friends to unravel the mystery and the unwavering support they gave her. Terri and Mel having private investigator and police partners respectively doesn’t hurt and goes a long way in helping to straighten things out with the Milwaukee police force. Not wanting to wait for things to go through the proper channels, the three women begin their own investigation.

Another entertaining, fast paced and dialogue driven read in this cozy mystery series. The three women have distinctly different characters and have real issues, such as Mel’s ADD and Pru’s shyness and lack of self confidence. I like the way her character develops in this story. Terri and Pru are the voices of reason and help to keep over the top Mel from getting them into even more trouble. The plot has enough twists to keep the reader engaged and the flashes of humour offset the more serious aspects.

Book description

I know who you really are.

Pru has a secret, which she has no plans to reveal – ever. But after a woman is murdered and all clues point to her, she has no choice but to disclose her true identity. When her revelations thwart the killer’s plan to frame Pru for murder, the killer begins stalking her. With each note he sends, he gets closer. The police are stumped. Pru wants to run away. She really, really wants to run, but Ajax has found the woman of his dreams and he’s not letting her go anywhere. He can be patient. In the meantime, he’ll protect her with his life. Pru isn’t feeling very patient, and her friends, Mel and Terri, are definitely not willing to wait until the police discover who the stalker is. The three friends take matters into their own hands and jump headfirst into the investigation.

Will Pru and her friends uncover her stalker before he turns his violence on Pru?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview of #Historical #Romance Secrets Of A Highland Warrior by @NicoleLockeNews @JaniceGPreston #TuesdayBookBlog

Secrets of a Highland Warrior (The Lochmore Legacy, #4)Secrets of a Highland Warrior by Nicole Locke

4 stars

Secrets Of A Highland Warrior is the final book in the Lockmore series of historical romances.

A set of four books, each steps back into history as clues to a mystery are revealed. Book one began in the Victorian era, book two is set during the Regency years, book three in Tudor times, and the final book is set in the medieval period.

So far we have been introduced to a mystical brooch, an empty crypt and a long standing family feud between two clans.

The final tale, but it could also be called the first, is set in 1293. Rory Lockmore is the only child of the current chief of the clan. He has taken men with him to Castle McCrieff, the home of their long-term enemy, to demand the surrender of land granted to them by the new English king.

Instead of the expected battle, Rory is offered a peace treaty and a marriage proposal. Is it a trap or can Rory put an end to the feud between the families?

This book is an enjoyable historical romance, but, more than that, it also provides the answer to the on-going mystery. Each story in the series has added clues and the mystery is concluded in the epilogue by Janet Preston, author of book one (His Convenient Highland Wedding). I’ve enjoyed each of the romances as I’m a fan of this genre; the mystery theme less so. However, I can see this working well as a box set.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

The key to his past…

…lies with the enemy sharing his bed!

Part of The Lochmore Legacy: a Scottish castle through the ages! Rory Lochmore had expected to wage battle, to claim land and finally secure his standing within his clan… Instead he won a wife. A McCrieff wife. Their convenient marriage could unite the two long-feuding clans forever. But can a political alliance give way to a passion strong enough to stand the secrets of the past?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WomensFiction Will Rise From Ashes by @JeanGrant05

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Will Rise From Ashes by Jean M. Grant

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This is an ambitious novel. The author has tried to combine a complex set of characters with a gripping plot. AJ, the protagonist of the novel, is a woman in crisis, dealing with grief, having to bring-up two young boys on her own (neither of them the ideal well-behaved easy-child that everybody dreams of, but I suspect doesn’t exist in real life. The oldest, Will, in the autistic spectrum, and Finn, whom we hear plenty about but don’t get to know as well first-hand, sounds pretty overactive and his behaviour can be also challenging at times), suffering from anxiety (and perhaps other mental health difficulties), and experiencing an almost totally crippling fear of driving. We hear her side of the story, narrated in the first person. Being a professional writer, she makes for a compelling narrator, and, although not being a mother and not sharing in her extreme circumstances I do not have much in common with her, I felt the author managed to convey well the doubts, anxieties, hesitations, guilt, and the difficulties the character experienced accepting her situation, moving through the stages of grief, and eventually giving herself (and others) a chance. Her son, Will, loves all things volcano, weather, and geology, and the author offers us his perspective of the situation (this time in the third person) that serves two purposes: on the one hand, we get a more objective outsider’s perspective of how things are (because being inside of AJ’s head all the time means her suspiciousness and paranoia are not always easy to separate from how bad things really are), and we also get an understanding of how things look like and feel for a child with high-functioning autism (although there is less emphasis on that aspect than in other books I’ve read, unsurprising if we take into consideration the many other things going on).

We are later introduced to Reid, who is a combination of knight in shining armour, love interest, and also a man haunted by issues from the past (ex-military, talks about PTSD as if he was very knowledgeable about it, and his behaviour is at times mysterious, to say the least). Although AJ is suspicious about him and it takes her a long time to give him a chance, do not worry, the novel also contains romance and an opportunity for redemption. (I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but the description is quite clear in some aspects, and this is not a mystery novel, even if there are some details about the characters that are only revealed late in the story, and eventually help us understand people and events much better).

The plot keeps the story ticking, ensuring that people who might find the self-questioning and doubts AJ has to confront a bit uncomfortable (or worry that they might slow the story) have plenty to keep them turning the pages. A major disaster is the background of the story, which once AJ decides to go searching for her son, becomes the novel equivalent of a road movie. This is not a post-apocalyptic novel, but there is evidence of research and credible details of the likely scenario and consequences of such an event are interspersed through the narrative. Thanks to Will’s interest in volcanos we get first-hand information about that side of things, and as they approach the affected area, we get an almost physical sense of what it would be like to live the aftermath of a super volcano eruption. Apart from nature, the characters have to confront many other problems: technical difficulties, robberies, attempted assaults, road blocks, lack of supplies, poor telephone lines and a break-up in communication, no running water, no access to prescription medication… A woman with a driving-phobia having to drive across half the country is enough of a challenge, but her resolution keeps getting tested, and despite her reluctance to ask for or accept help, no matter how cautious and well-prepared she thought she was, she discovers that she needs a helping hand. Although the situation is harrowing and there is almost no rest or break from it (other than some dreams of the past AJ experiences, that provide us more background information and a better understanding of where she is coming from, her moments writing the diary, and the odd detour), this is not a book that gets into the gore of the destruction in detail, and, if anything, we are so focused on the here-and-now of the story that the global picture (and the many lives lost) is somewhat diluted.

The ending is satisfying and hopeful, in marked contrast to the difficulties and hindrances experienced during the trip, and in many ways the book can be seen as a metaphor for the process the main character must go through. AJ’s whole world has shattered around her, and she has been put to the test. She realises that she is stronger than she needs, that she can ask for help, and that she is ready to —slowly— move on.

As I mentioned, I did not identify with AJ, and I am not a big fan of romance (there is also a mild and not-too-graphic sex scene, but I thought I’d warn people just in case), but the book captures well the mental processes of the main character, who is a credible and complex woman trying to do her best in very difficult circumstances. The challenges of motherhood are also compellingly told (although I have no personal knowledge of the subject), and I am sure many readers will enjoy that aspect as well. If people are looking for other books focusing on the autism side-of-things, I’d recommend a couple of books as well: the well-known The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, from an older boy’s perspective (and if you can catch the play, it’s well-worth watching), and Keith Stuart’s A Boy Made of Blocks where the father of a child with autism is the main character.

A tour-de-force that combines a gripping plot with strong and complex characters, and a hopeful message. Recommended for readers of women’s fiction.

Book description

Living is more than mere survival.

Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother? Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can’t lose another loved one.

Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ’s fear of driving and Reid’s military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ’s anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family’s present, and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #FairyTale Retelling The Silent Beauty by @DGDriverAuthor

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading The Silent Beauty by D.G. Driver

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I do so love it when you open a book and within the first few lines you know you are in for a treat. The Silent Beauty is just such a read.

Colleeda has been bestowed with not only beauty but also a wonderful voice yet she is a horribly, horribly vain and selfish woman with not one redeeming feature. She treats everyone around her appallingly, her thoughts and manners ugly and breath-takingly arrogant. However, her favourite pursuit of luring men to her, then leave them heartbroken, proves her undoing when she seeks to distract a good man, dismissive of the fact his fiancé is rumoured to be a witch.

The Silent Beauty is book three in a series of fairy tales and contains all the magic of such tales with good and evil, heroes and heroines, and characters brought low by their own weaknesses. Does this one offer the possibility of redemption and send out a moral message? Well, you will have to read it yourself to find out and I highly recommend that you do. At only 80 pages long this is a gem. The writing is excellent, the descriptions rich and the storytelling wonderful.

Book description

If you’re a fan of fairy tales or retellings, D.G. Driver’s delightful, and occasionally dark series checks those boxes quite well, and can be easily read in one sitting.

Colleeda is a beautiful but wickedly vain young woman. Of all her assets, the one she prizes most is the sound of her voice. Her favorite game is to attract young men and then leave them heartbroken. It’s all fun until she chooses to lure one man away from his fiancée—and that woman is rumored to be a witch bent on revenge. Colleeda is cursed to never speak or sing again, except for a couple minutes in the wee hours of the morning when no one can possibly hear her.

For years, Colleeda mourns the loss of her voice, believing she is no longer beautiful or desirable. She lives in solitude as her house falls into disrepair around her.

Is there any way to break the curse? Does she deserve to have it broken?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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#NonFiction Tracing Your Insolvent Ancestors by Paul Blake @penswordpub

Tracing Your Insolvent Ancestors: A Guide for Family HistoriansTracing Your Insolvent Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Paul Blake

3.5 stars

Tracing Your Insolvent Ancestors is a non-fiction guide for family and local historians.

Much of the book is about courts, different types of debtors and where they were imprisoned.

I enjoy genealogy so this unusual title caught my eye. However, I don’t actually know if any of my ancestors were insolvent at any point. Therefore, I think this book would suit readers who have struck a dead end with their own enquiries and are seeking new research threads.

There were a couple of interesting snippets: the history of the term ‘sponger’, for someone who could not pay their debts and also the story behind the terms ‘John and Jane Doe’. Originally those names were used to keep someone’s real name private, whereas today they often refer to an unidentified dead person.

As with many non-fiction books I found the lists of address and websites for further research very helpful.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Debtors’ prisons are infamous but very little has been written about the records of those confined within them in London or elsewhere in the country. Even less has been written about the trials of those who were often incarcerated following misfortune or mismanagement rather than criminal intent. That is why Paul Blake’s handbook will be so useful for researchers who want to find out about forebears who may have been caught up in the insolvency system.

In a series of information-filled chapters he covers the historical background to the handling of debt and debtors, and bankruptcy and bankrupts. In addition he describes the courts and procedures faced by both creditors and debtors, and the prisons where so many debtors were confined.

Throughout the book details are given of the records that researchers can turn to in order to explore the subject for themselves. Many are held at The National Archives, but others are to be found at local record offices around the country.

Paul Blake’s book will be appreciated by local, social and family historians, as well as those with an interest in debtor crime and punishment, and bankrupts in general.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Pen And Sword Books

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of Family Drama The Road She Left Behind by Christine Nolfi #TuesdayBookBlog

The Road She Left BehindThe Road She Left Behind by Christine Nolfi

3.5 stars

The Road She Left Behind is a family story about secrets, loves, and losses.

Darcy has been running from her secrets for eight years, but a phone call about her missing nephew brings her back to the family home in Ohio.

Since his mother’s death, Emerson has been raised by his draconian Grandmother (Rosalind), but when he fears she might be due to leave him, he pulls his biggest stunt yet. Darcy’s concerns for her nephew’s disappearance give her the strength to face a mother she hasn’t spoken to since the day she left. As the story evolves, the emotional walls that Darcy and Rosalind have built between them begin to crumble.

I liked the setting for this story and the author provided a range of colourful characters to make the book enjoyable. Once Darcy arrived in Ohio, I eased into the story.  I can’t say I would gush with enthusiasm for it, and I guessed the mystery and foresaw the denouement.  It was well written but ‘safe’ within its genre.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Three women. Two families torn apart by secrets.

Crushed by guilt over the car accident that killed her father and sister, and torn apart by her mother’s resentment, Darcy Goodridge fled her family estate eight years ago and hasn’t looked back. Now an unexpected phone call threatens to upend what little serenity she’s found. Her nephew, Emerson, who was just a baby when his mother died, has gone missing. Darcy must return home and face her past in order to save him.

Once back in Ohio, Darcy realizes there’s more to Emerson’s disappearance—and to the sudden retirement of her mother, Rosalind—than meets the eye. As she works to make inroads with Rosalind, Darcy begins to unravel a decades-old secret that devastated her family and forced a wedge between her and Michael Varano, the man she left heartbroken when she vanished after the funeral. After carrying the scars of that fateful night for almost a decade, Darcy is determined to find closure, healing, and maybe even love where she lost them all in the first place—right back home where she belongs.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Middlegrade UNDOERS ONE by D. P. Davies

Today’s team review is from Karen, she blogs here https://mytrainofthoughtson.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Karen has been reading Undoers One by D. P. Davies

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This book introduces you to Lily who is running away from something invisible and ends up in front of Sam’s home.

With “Undoers One, D.P. Davies has created the first in a series of adventures with an unusual and cute group of kids. It is a very compelling read, inevitably drawing you in as the story proceeds. D.P. Davies paints a clear picture of the main characters’ mindsets – making the readers acquainted with them – while the story evolves. I was drawn very close to Lily and Sam. The main characters are complex and I took to them instantly; the others are of sufficient depth. The story is cleverly elaborated and has a great flow. I had a great time reading “Undoers One”; currently reading “Undoers Two”.

This is a book for you if you like middle-grade adventure, funny moments, and likeable characters.

Highly recommended.

Book description

“I can’t do magic,” said the boy. “That’s impossible.” He paused. “But I can undo it.”

Sam is a nine-year-old boy who can solve anyone’s spooky problems. He knows there are no such things as ghosts, vampires or aliens, only a mysterious energy that gets attached to stuff. People give Sam their “cursed” things, he applies some school science, and their terrors disappear, all without ever having to leave his bedroom (which is the way he likes it).

But then Lily, a girl in the grade above him, arrives outside his house one night surrounded by this strange energy, and it keeps coming back whatever Sam tries to do to help. Can they work together to find out why? And where in the maze of DC’s streets and monuments will it lead them? Together with a best friend who thinks he’s a Russian hacker and a brother who believes he’s the next baseball All-Star, Sam and Lily can’t give up until they figure it out.

If you can prove that monsters don’t exist, what is there to be scared of?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery The Head In The Ice by @RichardNJames

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Head In The Ice by Richard James

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From the moment I read the description of this novel, a few weeks before its publication, I knew I’d end up reading it. I love mysteries, have been reading historical fiction in recent times and with my background in criminology, a mysterious murder set in the Victorian era ticked many boxes. To top it all, the main character, and the protagonist of the series, Inspector Bowman, had been in a lunatic asylum. As I’m also a psychiatrist and have read and enjoyed books looking back at the history of psychiatry, this was a further inducement, if I needed one. Of course, the title and the cover of the book worked in its favour.

I’ll try not to dwell too much on the story and the plot itself, to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you the book is a fine mystery that lived up to my expectations, and even surpassed them in many ways.

The style of the story and the way is told put me in mind of watching a movie (or a play, which I know is a genre the author is very familiar with, although here we have many more settings than in a standard play). The author uses an omniscient point of view, and that means that readers get to see scenes and events from a variety of characters’ perspectives (and not only the good guys either), and sometimes also from a neutral observer’s point of view (that works particularly well to set the scene and also to keep the mystery going, while at the same time offering readers some snippets of information that Bowman and his team do not have). That is an excellent method to avoid revealing too much while offering the readers great insights into the characters’ thoughts and motivations, but I know not everybody likes stories told this way, and I’d advise people to check a sample of the book to see if it is a good fit, in case of doubt. Personally, I did not find the way the story was told at all confusing, although due to the nature of the case and to the many characters, it is necessary to pay close attention and make sure not to miss any details. (Perhaps adding a cast of characters might help readers get their bearings quickly).

In some books that type of point of view might result in difficulty getting attached to any of the characters, but I did not think that was the case here. Although we get many points of view, the main one we follow is that of the Bowman, and because the inspector is the first character we meet, and in pretty difficult circumstances (he is a resident at a lunatic asylum just about to go in front of the board that must decide if he’s ready for his release), we quickly establish a connection with him. He is a sympathetic and intelligent character, who has suffered a personal tragedy that has resulted in mental health difficulties (nowadays, I’d say he would be diagnosed, most likely, with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), and who tries hard to get on with his life, despite his anxiety, flashbacks, and the complex and emotionally challenging nature of his work. He is not the perfect and flawless here, but a human being with flaws and weaknesses. His flashbacks, the physical symptoms he experiences, and his fragile mental state are well drawn and are, for me, one of the strongest points of the book. I also enjoyed the depiction of the asylum and its therapies, far from the ones we often see and read about in popular media that seem right out of a horror movie. There are other characters to root for as well, although not quite as fleshed out as Bowman, and even some of the baddies are individualised enough for readers to get a fair idea of who they are.

The novel also succeeds at creating a picture of the London of the era, the atmosphere of the different neighbourhoods, the asylum, Scotland Yard, the underworld, without going overboard with descriptions and details or slowing the action. It is a compelling and historically accurate portrayal of a time, and one that goes beyond the anecdotal to dig deeper into some of the unsavoury aspects of the era.

The plot is gripping, and we visit upper-middle-class locations, pubs, sewers, cemeteries, bridges, a lunatic asylum, a ship, Bengal, and we get to learn about laudanum, poisons, laws, Victorian trade, weapons, the criminal underworld of the era (including murders, robberies, prostitution…), and although we learn enough information to get suspicious about the guilty party (or parties) fairly early on, there are quite a few twists and turns, strange goings on, and we don’t get to understand how it all fits together until close to the end (we might have our suspicions but…). There are some red herrings thrown in, and even a suggestion of the supernatural. All in all, the atmosphere, the characters, and the plot, work well to create a solid story, a great opening to a new series of Victorian mysteries, and one that allows us to examine the laws, mores and morality of the era.

If I had to take issue with anything, other than the point of view that I think works well but some readers might not feel comfortable with, I felt that, at times, some of the experiences, tics, and behaviours characters engage in (clearing one’s throat, blowing smoke into someone’s face, etc.) are repeated fairly often, and that put me in mind of stage directions or business that actors have to engage in to indicate certain traits of a character, which might not be as relevant or necessary when we can share in their thoughts directly. I did not find it distracting and, like some of the side stories, I felt they helped readers catch their breath and regroup, but those who prefer stripped down and action-led plots might feel they could be slimmed down.

In sum, this is a great story that I’d recommend to those who enjoy mysteries within a historical setting (Victorian in this case), with a complex story full of compelling characters and plenty of atmosphere. I look forward to the next adventure of Inspector Bowman, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

Book description

Who would send a madman to solve a murder?

Just released from a Lunatic Asylum, Inspector George Bowman is in no shape to lead an investigation, but the discovery of a severed head in the frozen waters of the River Thames sees him back in service at Scotland Yard. As he delves into the dark heart of the city in search of answers, the memory of the death of his wife threatens to derail his investigation and place his very sanity in peril.

Bowman must confront his demons and the part he played in her demise before he can solve the case; a case that leads him across Victorian London in pursuit of a killer.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Mystery HIDE NOT SEEK by @dehaggerty

Today’s team review is from Sandra.

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading Hide Not Seek by D.E. Haggerty

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Hide Not Seek is the third volume in The Not So Reluctant Detectives series and completes the trilogy with Pru’s story.

Although she has not lived in Milwaukee for very long, Pru has formed a strong bond with Mel and Terri whose stories were told in the first two books. She thought she had left the past behind her, and when she starts getting threatening notes we finally find out what Pru has been hiding from the others, but she does not give up her secret until absolutely forced to.

There are lots of twists and turns and a great surprise ending. You can read this on its own, but it will make a lot more sense if you read the books in order. I really like the relationship between the three women and how they complement each other. Their escapades are not so wild in this book, with Owen and Ryder more aware of what is going on, but that is good as Mel’s more extreme behaviour is kept in check. As Pru is an English teacher, the chapters begin with cryptic quotes from poems and novels (they are listed at the end).

Hide Not Seek is an enjoyable resolution to the series, and I am looking forward to reading DE Haggerty’s next book.

Book description

I know who you really are.

Pru has a secret, which she has no plans to reveal – ever. But after a woman is murdered and all clues point to her, she has no choice but to disclose her true identity. When her revelations thwart the killer’s plan to frame Pru for murder, the killer begins stalking her. With each note he sends, he gets closer. The police are stumped. Pru wants to run away. She really, really wants to run, but Ajax has found the woman of his dreams and he’s not letting her go anywhere. He can be patient. In the meantime, he’ll protect her with his life. Pru isn’t feeling very patient, and her friends, Mel and Terri, are definitely not willing to wait until the police discover who the stalker is. The three friends take matters into their own hands and jump headfirst into the investigation.

Will Pru and her friends uncover her stalker before he turns his violence on Pru?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Nostalgic #Fiction MONKEY TEMPLE by Peter Gelfan @ryderswriters

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Monkey Temple by Peter Gelfan

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4 out of 5 stars

An unusual and entertaining book, mostly based around a short period during the twilight years of protagonist Jules, his wife, Ritz, and their mixed bunch of ageing hippie friends from the old days—mostly the complicated and high-maintenance Ralston, who is determined not to see Jules go gently into that good, comfortable retirement.  Mostly, it’s about Jules’ relationship with Ralston.

Deciding that the time has come to leave New York, he and Ralston go on a road trip to look for a house for Jules and Ritz.  When they find a possibility, Ralston has plans for it other than simply being his friends’ last home.

Interspersed with present events are Jules’s memories of their past, chaotic life; the travelling, the experiences and the sex, drugs and rock and roll of the 1960s and 70s.  For this reason I’d say it would be appreciated mostly by the over fifty-fives, those who have experienced the backpacking type of travelling or are familiar with, shall we say, a more erratic lifestyle; I think some of the references might go over the heads of anyone who ticks none of those boxes.  Maybe it’s a book about old hippies for old hippies.

Much of the narrative and dialogue is centred around the subject of the characters’ ageing processes, rubbish that is talked about ‘alternative’ philosophies, and also Jules’s observations about the writing world.  I found myself smiling a lot, and highlighting passages I agreed with or enjoyed.  Alas, I forgot to highlight many, but here are a few.

(about Jules’s client, who is writing novel based on her life)

‘Problem is,” I said, ‘her life’s not a story.’

…’Everyone’s life is a story.’

‘No it isn’t.  Things happen, but that doesn’t make it a story…A story is about something.  A particular struggle.  With a beginning and an end’.

‘You can learn something by studying its opposite.  Like, who the hell knows how to be happy?  So instead, think about what makes you unhappy, and avoid it.’

‘Doesn’t it ever occur to you that … when you don’t like someone, it’s because there’s something very wrong with them?’

‘Of course…and then I try to distinguish the subjective from the objective’.

‘What a bunch of pseudo-intellectual bullshit. Nothing’s objective…it’s just a cop-out’

‘The truth hit me.  The journey to transcend ego is an ego trip’ 

Yes, I enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend.  My only criticisms are practical ones; at £6.13/$7.97 for the Kindle version it’s priced a bit high for the market, and the rather dull cover doesn’t do the book justice, or give any indication that this is a dryly amusing, entertaining and poignant story about artists, writers and other colourful people who have spent their lives living and thinking outside the box.  I’d have chosen a sunset streaked road with a back view of Jules and Ralston driving over the horizon, corny though that may be—or a few of them sitting on the dilapidated porch of the Monkey Temple.

Book description

Monkey Temple is a coming-of-old-age adventure about two longtime best friends and rivals who, determined to “not go gentle into that good night,” set off on a final road trip. Their efforts to face past failures and give meaning to their dwindling futures change their lives forever but not at all as they had envisioned. It’s a buddy story with strong female characters and plenty of dark humor.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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