A #middlegrade Adventure. @LizanneLloyd Reviews The Dark Side Of Midnight by @carolJhedges, For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Liz. She blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Liz has been reading The Dark Side Of Midnight by Carol Hedges

In a changed world of the near future, Jazmin Dawson and her mother Assia are growing apart. Assia’s job with an International Security organisation often takes her away from her daughter on important missions. Jaz dreams of being a secret agent too but she also wishes her Mum would spend more time with her. But Assia has to travel abroad again following up a worrying crime. This time Jaz has to go to stay in one of the new Tower cities with her uncle’s family. Uncle Ian & his wife Dee are a wealthy couple who work long hours so that they can spend plenty of money on their children. 16-year-old Clea is supposed to be looking after Jaz, but the spoilt girl is alternatively sarcastic or ignoring her.

As Assia finds herself a captive of a dangerous couple, Jaz’s life improves. She meets Tonda, a handsome, kind, young entertainer, whose friends welcome Jaz into their company. Sadly, he will soon be leaving England, but Jaz is also summoned to Prague by her mother’s colleagues hoping that she can help them to find Assia.

The story shows Jaz gradually developing skills as a crime fighter in an increasingly frightening scenario. Both Clea and Tonda have unexpected parts to play in the terrifying events and the conclusion draws the reader into seeking out the next book in the series. A recommended read for a middle grade reader who enjoys adventure with a smart, likeable heroine.

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Jazmin Dawson is a super-cool secret agent with hi-tech kit and a hi-octane life of crime-busting … in her dreams! In reality, Jazmin Dawson is a fourteen year old teenager, whose biggest battles are with her homework and her addiction to snacks.
But suddenly, everything changes. Jazmin’s mother works for the London branch of GID (Global Intelligence Department) an organisation responsible for tracking down individuals and groups that threaten world security. Tasked with locating a stolen dead body, she goes missing in action, and Jazmin is sent to find her.
Stepping off a plane in Prague, Jazmin finds herself at the centre of an international mystery, and with a dangerous mission: to infiltrate a rogue scientific institute.

“Jazmin Dawson’s first assignment is a thrilling read, full of fast-paced action and put-downs as deadly as an assassin’s bullet.”

AmazonUk | Amazon US

‘Someone Stole A Dead Body’. A new case for Stride and Cully. @CathyRy reviews Desire And Deceit by @carolJhedges for #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Cathy has been reading Desire And Deceit by Carol Hedges

Desire & Deceit (The Victorian Detectives Book 9) by [Carol Hedges]

London during 1868 is experiencing the hottest summer on record, wilting under the relentless heat and resulting odours. Detective Inspector Leo Stride, feeling the lack of his daily caffeine from the usual coffee stalls holders who have forsaken London for the much cooler countryside, is summoned along with his colleague DS Jack Cully to the morgue. There was a problem. A body had gone missing.

“You are seriously telling us that someone stole a dead body?” Cully asks.

“Unlikely as it may appear, that would seem to be the case,” Robertson replies drily. “Nos non habemus corpus as it were. I am sure I do not need to provide a translation. And I would hardly tell you such information frivolously, detective sergeant.”

Try as they might, a lack of evidence and motive hampers and eventually stalls the investigation.

Elsewhere, two despicable brothers are intent on ingratiating themselves with their rich, elderly aunt who is dying, each trying to outdo the other to be the recipient of her fortune and jewellery collection.

Miss Lucy Landseer has set herself up as a Private Consulting Detective and it’s no time at all until she receives her first client. Then we have Micky Mokey and Little Azella, variety artists appearing nightly at the Varieties Music Hall for the summer season. But who is the real Micky behind his stage persona?

The Replacement, newly appointed private secretary to the Honourable Thomas Langland MP, a position previously occupied by his good friend who seems to have disappeared. The Replacement’s bland appearance and subservient attitude disguises his intelligence and the real reason he has secured this post.

The intricate plot threads are woven together cleverly and seamlessly with engaging, descriptive prose and several twists. Crimes and machinations are resolved convincingly and in a very satisfactory manner. The characters are well rounded, easy to picture. I loved young Harriet and her no holds barred parrot, as well as the regulars. London and it’s inhabitants are evocatively depicted as always. Another very enjoyable addition to The Victorian Detectives series.

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t is 1868, and the body of a young man has gone missing from the police mortuary at Scotland Yard, an event that has never happened before. Who was the mysterious corpse, and why was he spirited away in the night? These are the questions baffling Detective Inspector Stride and Detective Sergeant Cully as they set out to uncover the truth.

Meanwhile, two greedy, unscrupulous, inheritance-seeking brothers, Arthur and Sherborne Harbinger, descend upon London and their very rich dying aunt, each determined to get whatever they can out of her, and prepared to use whatever methods they can to win her favour. And over in her newly rented rooms in Baker Street, Miss Lucy Landseer, consulting private detective, has been presented with her first ever proper case to investigate ~ and finds it is one that will defy even her imaginative and inventive mind.

Set against the hottest summer on record, Desire & Deceit, the ninth outing for this popular Victorian Detectives series, explores how the love of money really is the root of all evil. Once again, Victorian London is brought to life in all its sights, its sounds, its sordid and gas-lit splendour. Another must-read book, teeming with memorable Dickensian-style characters.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Desire & Deceit (The Victorian Detectives Book 9) by [Carol Hedges]

The Supernatural Power Of Words. Elanor Reviews Bibliomancer by Frances Evelyn, For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Elanor.

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Elanor has been reading Bibliomancer by Frances Evelyn

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Emily discovers that people at her local hospice die peacefully when she reads to them. This novel explores how she comes to understand and develop her power, with the help of several esotericist friends of her employer, who believe in the supernatural power of words and books. When she is arrested for murder, she has to try to clear her name. At the same time, she learns that she can’t be too trusting towards her new ‘friends’. I couldn’t see where it was going to go, and the final act was genuinely tense.

There are some well-observed characters. I particularly enjoyed Emily’s best friend, Lauren, a no-nonsense working mum who cuts through the book’s supernatural elements well.

The plot is interspersed with excerpts from Pride & Prejudice – the first book Emily successfully uses at the hospice – from the perspectives of different characters. This is well done and light-hearted, but did pull me away from the tone of the main narrative. I couldn’t decide if it was meant to be jaunty or gothic.

The main concept asks for an exploration of what it means to die a good death and the ethical implications of Emily’s power. Emily takes her own journey very seriously, but I never quite bought into the magical elements or the seriousness of what she and her group were doing.

Overall for me, this book skirted over the big themes it was undertaking, but was a fun read with a satisfying conclusion.

3 stars

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Is this the book you’ve chosen?

Emily Brewster is an angel. Ask anyone she reads to at the hospice. When she’s arrested for murder, it should be easy to clear her name. The only problem is, she thinks she might be guilty.

But what if death isn’t The End?

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‘Crackling with energy’. @deBieJennifer reviews #Fantasy Asperfell by @thatjamiethomas @UproarBooks #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Asperfell by Jamie Thomas

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Before we begin, I should announce two very important facts: Jamie Thomas’ Asperfell has a sequel, The Forest Kingdom (2021), and that sequel is already out and available for all the impatient binge readers out there.

Now, may we carry on with the review?

Asperfell opens with the assassination of a king and the subsequent punishment of his assassin, as seen through the eyes of our narrator, Briony Tenebrae. What follows is a tightly knit political drama as the royal court of Tiralaen devolves into a viper’s nest of corruption and suspicion, driven there by the unbalanced young king who sits on its throne and his fear of Mages. This fear, in turn, spawns from the old king’s death at the hands of one of Tiralaen’s most promising young Mages, the former heir apparent and new king’s older brother, Prince Elyan. Briony serves as the reader’s eyes and ears to this devolution and through her lens we feel every fresh cruelty of this growing police state.

The titular Asperfell, in turn, is a parallel world to the one Briony and all of Tiralaen inhabit. It is the place where Mages who have broken the kingdom’s laws, or simply existed outside the king’s control, are banished to. In Asperfell, exiled Prince Elyan now rules over the worst and most powerful Mages of Tiralaen, and it is to Asperfell that Briony must venture if she wants to save her home.

Does that sound complicated?

Good, it is.

If you are looking for a tidy fantasy world full of straight forward character relationships, motivations, and resolutions, look elsewhere. Asperfell and Tiralaen are not realms for the faint of heart. Here, the usual trappings of fantasy worlds, glittering castles and courtly manners, only mask the growing rot at the heart of both realms; rot beautifully encapsulated in a single, pivotal scene described by Briony in hindsight as just one instance to epitomize the king and his court’s descent into barbarism.

For those of you who have read the book, you know exactly what scene I’m talking about. For those of you who haven’t, I shouldn’t spoil the surprise.

With a deft hand, Thomas weaves her narrative through court intrigue, a child’s wonder, fell magic, and a young woman’s growing understanding of her own, perilous position. Crackling with energy and full of complex, stunningly rendered characters, Asperfell is a knockout of a first novel and a compelling opener for what promises to be a powerful trilogy.

5/5

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Only the darkest and most dangerous of Mages are sentenced to pass through the gate to Asperfell.

Not one has ever returned.

Never did Briony dream she might set foot in the otherworldly prison of Asperfell. She was, after all, neither Mage nor criminal. She was simply her father’s little whirlwind—fingers smudged with ink, dresses caked with mud—forever lost in a book or the spirit-haunted woods surrounding her family’s country estate.

But Briony always had a knack for showing up where she was least expected.

Only by braving the gate of Asperfell could Briony hope to find the true heir to the throne of Tiralaen and save her kingdom from civil war. And so, she plunges into a world of caged madmen and demented spirits, of dark magic and cryptic whispers… and of a bleak and broken prince with no interest in being rescued.

Hauntingly beautiful and lavishly told, Asperfell is a must-read for fans of Jane Austen who always wished she’d dabbled in blood magic.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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A Harrowing Tale Set in The Netherlands During #WW2. Sherry reviews Over The Hedge By Paulette Mahurin for #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Sherry. She blogs here https://sherryfowlerchancellor.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sherry has been reading Over The Hedge by Paulette Mahurin

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This one was hard to read for a number of reasons. The main one, of course, was the brutality of the subject matter. This book was harrowing and, often times, turned the reader’s stomach as to the behavior of human beings who took joy and pleasure in harming other humans. The Nazi regime created many monsters. The one question that will forever haunt me on the atrocities of the acts on Jewish people is, did the regime create these monsters or were so many already lurking in society and they were freed and allowed to run rampant based on there being no consequences (at least during those years when the evil was in power)?

The heroes and heroine of this true to life story were amazing and awe-inspiring. That two of them were Jewish themselves and risked it all to save children is admirable. They didn’t hide away, though who could have blamed them if they had? The fact they survived and made a difference as long as they did was remarkable. Henriette Pimental and Walter Suskind were truly angels on earth for the children they helped to escape and give a chance to live. Johan van Hulst, the professor who started it all, was also a brave man to not sit back and allow innocent lives to be destroyed. It’s terrible that they weren’t able to save more, but those they did save were reward enough. Every life that went on was a victory.

This was a tale that everyone needs to read even though the subject matter is tough.

The two faults I found with the book was it was hard to tell if it was a fictionalized version of facts or if it was a true and accurate telling of the actual events. The tale moved from almost reading like a text book to dialogue and dramatization. In places it was dry and then it would segue to an almost novel-like approach. The cover states it’s a novel, but it was hard to tell by the actual text. The other fault was the paragraph formatting. It may have just been in the ARC copy I have, but the formatting was disjointed throughout. Hanging sentences that joined up after an inserted return all through the copy made it hard to read properly.

I can’t say I enjoyed the book, but it definitely made an impression. The author did a good job in showing the reader just how awful and harrowing the residents of the Netherlands had it in WWII. What a terrible time and place for so many to have to endure. I’m sure it was hard for the author to write as it was definitely hard to read.

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During one of the darkest times in history, at the height of the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1943, members of the Dutch resistance began a mission to rescue Jewish children from the deportation center in Amsterdam. Heading the mission were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, principal of a Christian college. As Nazis rounded up Jewish families at gunpoint, the three discreetly moved children from the deportation center to the daycare across the street and over the backyard hedge to the college next door. From the college, the children were transported to live with Dutch families. Working against irate orders from Hitler to rid the Netherlands of all Jews and increasing Nazi hostilities on the Resistance, the trio worked tirelessly to overcome barriers. Ingenious plans were implemented to remove children’s names from the registry of captured Jews. To sneak them out of the college undetected past guards patrolling the deportation center. To meld them in with their new families to avoid detection. Based on actual events, Over the Hedge is the story of how against escalating Nazi brutality when millions of Jews were disposed of in camps, Walter Süskind, Henriëtte Pimentel, and Johan van Hulst worked heroically with the Dutch resistance to save Jewish children. But it is not just a story of their courageous endeavors. It is a story of the resilience of the human spirit. Of friendship and selfless love. The love that continues on in the hearts of over six hundred Dutch Jewish children.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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#SundaySpecial Looking Back At Part 2 Of The 14 Extra-Special Books That #RBRT Chose When We Celebrated 6 Years (In 2020) of Reviewing.

Welcome to Part Two of #RBRT Gold  – if you missed Part One, it’s HERE

During the past six years we have done our best 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.

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Each month we are inundated with review requests from authors and publishers alike.  Every book that I accept is passed on to my team of twenty readers, which is made up of book bloggers, writers, editors, creative writing tutors and people who just love reading.  Most gain just one or two reviews, but once in a while a gem comes along that piques the interest of several team members, and receives highly favourable reviews across the board.

Welcome to Part Two of #RBRT Gold: seven extra-special books that were greatly enjoyed by three or more team members.

Jonah by Carl Rackman

Nautical Thriller

Excerpt from blurb:

The North Atlantic, 1940. A British destroyer pounces on a seemingly abandoned U-boat, leading to a spine-chilling encounter.

Five years later, the US Navy destroyer Brownlee grimly prepares to battle a swarm of Japanese kamikazes at Okinawa.

Mitch “Lucky” Kirkham, a young gunner on the Brownlee, wakes up miraculously unscathed after his crewmates are killed in a fearsome kamikaze strike.

Far out in the boundless emptiness of the Pacific, a strange madness begins to seize the sailors on the Brownlee. Terror, hysteria and suicide torment the men amid sightings of ghosts and a terrifying monster that stalks the ship by night.

Jonah is a searing, psychological suspense thriller, the latest from Carl Rackman, author of Irex and Voyager.

The Code For Killing by William Savage

Historical mystery

Excerpt from blurb:

Dr. Adam Bascom, 18th-century physician and gentleman, is called to Norwich to treat a young man who’s been brutally assaulted and left with total memory loss. Why was the man attacked? What was he doing wandering on his own along the river bank late at night? Is his lack of memory real — or assumed to hide what is really happening?

Welcome to the surprisingly sophisticated world of 18th-century British intelligence — a story rich in excitement, deceit and subterfuge, involving the rarely revealed forerunners of MI5 and Bletchley Park.

The Night Porter by Mark Barry

Contemporary Drama

Excerpt from blurb:

Four writers are invited to stay at a sixteenth century hotel in the fictional town of Wheatley Fields, as they have been nominated for a prestigious award ceremony.

Seen through the cynical, ever-open eyes of the hotel’s night porter, the lives of the four meet and intertwine – and as the ceremony approaches, one of them takes a hit…

Based on the famous Saracen’s Head hotel in Southwell, England, The Night Porter combines the author’s experience of the hotel business with his work as a writer and adds humour, pathos, thrills and a wry look at the world of publishing and writing in the Kindle era.

October Rain by Dylan Morgan

Dystopian scifi novella

Book blurb:

The human race teeters on the brink of extinction in a solar system choking under the glare of a dying sun. An assassin for the Martian Interstellar Correction Agency, Steele has one more assignment to complete before a big payoff and the chance of a new life: a job that will reveal the true horrors of man’s futile existence and threaten the very people who make his life worth living.

As mankind draws its final breath, what would you do to save your family?

The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Historical romance

Excerpt from blurb:

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a well thought-out plan to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.  Her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety, and the chance for a new beginning.

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and The Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

Rack & Ruin by Carol Hedges

Historical mystery

Excerpt from blurb:

The city is in the grip of railway mania when the gruesome discovery of several infant corpses in an abandoned house forces Inspector Lachlan Greig of A Division, Bow Street Police Office and his men to enter the dark and horrific world of baby farming. It will take all Greig’s skill and ingenuity to track down the evil perpetrators and get justice for the murdered innocents.

Meanwhile, school friends Letitia and Daisy stand side by side on the threshold of womanhood. One longs for marriage to a handsome man; the other craves an education. Will their dreams come true, or will their lives be shattered into little pieces by the tragic and unexpected events that are about to overtake them?

Hope meets horror, and Parliament is threatened by anarchists in this rumbustious fourth Victorian crime novel, set once again amongst the dangerous twisting alleyways and gaslit thoroughfares of 1860s London.

An Empty Vessel by J.J. Marsh

Historical crime novella

Excerpt from blurb:

Today’s the day Nancy Maidstone is going to hang.

In her time, she’s been a wartime evacuee, land-girl, slaughterhouse worker, supermarket assistant, Master Butcher and defendant accused of first degree murder. Now she’s a prisoner condemned to death.

The case has made all the front pages. Speculation dominates every conversation from bar to barbershop to bakery. Why did she do it? How did she do it? Did she actually do it at all? Everyone has an opinion on Nancy Maidstone.

The story of a life and a death, of a post-war world which never had it so good, of a society intent on a bright, shiny future, and of a woman with blood on her hands.

This is the story of Nancy Maidstone.

Thank you for taking a look at the favourite books of Rosie Amber’s Review Team, a fine selection that can’t be recommended too highly.  Happy reading!

#ArchiveDay Looking Back At Part 1 Of The 14 Extra-Special Books That #RBRT Chose When We Celebrated 6 Years (In 2020) of Reviewing.

During the past six years we have done our best 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.

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Each month we are inundated with review requests from authors and publishers alike.  Every book that I accept is passed on to my team of twenty readers, which is made up of book bloggers, writers, editors, creative writing tutors and people who just love reading.  Most gain just one or two reviews, but once in a while a gem comes along that piques the interest of several team members, and receives highly favourable reviews across the board.

Welcome to Part One of #RBRT Gold: seven extra-special books that were greatly enjoyed by three or more team members.

Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

WW1 Historical Fiction novella

Excerpt from blurb: A Novella Based on True Events

His family said he was shell-shocked.

The asylum’s doctors disagreed.

It’s 1986 and Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s seventy years since he marched off to the war in France, young and raring to go. He put everything on the line for his country and family, but when he came home, they rejected him.

This is why Fred can’t rest in peace.

The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat

Dark Family Drama

Excerpt from blurb:

All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby.Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web. Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory.

The Women Of Heachley Hall by Rachel Walkley

Romantic mystery

Excerpt from blurb:

Miriam has one year to uncover Heachley Hall’s unimaginable past and a secret that only women can discover.

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.

But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.

That Summer At The Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan

Romantic Suspense

Excerpt from blurb:

Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking. Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother. So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate she asks herself – is he her father after all?

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.

La Petite Boulain by Gemma Lawrence

Tudor Historical fiction

Excerpt from blurb:

May 1536, London… a fallen queen sits waiting in the Tower of London, condemned to death by her husband. As Death looms before her, Anne Boleyn, second queen of Henry VIII looks back on her life…from the very beginning.

Daughter of a courtier, servant to queens… she rose higher than any thought possible, and fell lower than any could imagine.

Following the path of the young Mistress Boleyn, or La Petite Boulain, through the events of the first years of the reign of Henry VIII, to the glittering courts of Burgundy and France, Book One of “Above All Others; The Lady Anne” tracks the life of the young Lady Anne, showing how she became the scintillating woman who eventually, would capture the heart of a king.

Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen

Historical mystery

Excerpt from blurb:

The strangest detective story in the history of music – inspired by a true incident. A world spiralling towards war. A composer descending into madness. And a devoted woman struggling to keep her faith in art and love against all the odds. 1933. Dabbling in the fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartok, Ravel and Elgar, encounters a startling dilemma. A message arrives ostensibly from the spirit of the composer Robert Schumann, begging her to find and perform his long-suppressed violin concerto. She tries to ignore it, wanting to concentrate instead on charity concerts. But against the background of the 1930s depression in London and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, a struggle ensues as the “spirit messengers” do not want her to forget.

Season Of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander

Contemporary family saga

Excerpt from blurb:

When leaving is just the beginning… The long-awaited novel of family, love and learning to be kind to yourself by award-winning, bestselling Irish author, Aimee Alexander.

Grace Sullivan flees Dublin with her two teenage children, returning to the sleepy West Cork village where she grew up. No one in Killrowan knows what Grace is running from – or even that she’s running. She’d like to keep it that way.

Season of Second Chances is Grace’s story. It’s also the story of a community that chooses the title “Young Doctor Sullivan” for her before she even arrives. It’s the story of Des who served the villagers all his life and now feels a failure for developing Parkinson’s disease. And it’s the story of struggling teens, an intimidating receptionist, a handsome American novelist escaping his past, and a dog called Benji who needs a fresh start of his own.

For a book review team, there is little more satisfying than a reader discovering a new favourite book through a review you’ve written – I hope one or more of these appeals to you.  If not, look out for Part 2, tomorrow, in which we go a little darker; I have a nautical thriller for you, a dystopian scifi novella, murder and mystery!

‘It was so tragic, so shocking’. @TerryTyler4 reviews #LiteraryFiction Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by @Annecdotist

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin

4.5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which is both entertaining and incredibly sad.  It is set mostly in 1989/90, with flashbacks to the 1930s, and Matty Osborne, also known as Matilda Windsor, has been a resident in psychiatric hospitals for fifty years – since she was around twenty.  The reason given at the time was ‘moral turpitude’ – in other words, becoming pregnant without being married.  I remember seeing something on television once, a long time ago, about how, in the first half of this century, young girls who were committed to asylums for getting pregnant, and were never let out again.  In this circumstance, Matty eventually lost her mind; her path to this state is not revealed until the end of the book.


She believes that she is in her own stately home – sometimes during the Great War, at other times during World War II – that the other residents are her guests, and the carers are her staff.  The story weaves between three points of view: Matty, a young carer called Janice, and Matty’s younger half-brother Henry who doesn’t know where she is or why she left home.  The staff of Tuke House have no idea whatsoever what goes on in Matty’s head, or probably within the head of any of the residents.  Janice is likable and fun, and I enjoyed the portrayals of the people she worked with, most of them ghastly, grey jobsworths with limited imagination.  She is very much a young woman of the Thatcher years with anti-Thatcher ideals; I felt such a sense of going back over 3 decades when I read about her.


I guessed early on what had led to Matty’s dreadful fate, but it’s not obvious, and I did change my mind a few times; either way, the fact that we don’t know ‘how, who and why’ adds to the page-turning quality of the book.  When I got to the end of her 1930s story, I could have cried at how alone she was, how there was no-one, anywhere, who would listen to and believe her.  It was so tragic, so shocking, made even more so because you know that this sort of thing happened to so many girls, never mind the stories of some of her friends in the unmarried mothers’ home. 


Another element that adds to the suspense is Henry’s search for the long lost sister he hardly remembers, and all the near misses when he could have found her but didn’t.  They’re frustrating; each time I though, oh, they’re going to find each other!


I found this book particularly interesting because I’ve worked at a psychiatric hospital in the past, and because I was reminded of my late mother, who had Alzheimer’s for eleven years and lived in a care home for the last seven or so years of her life.  I visited her often; I remember her being under the impression that the place was a hotel, and the carers were waitresses.


Although this story has a certain amount of resolution, I gather there is to be a sequel.  I admit to being a little disappointed as I expected to get to the end and have everything nicely wrapped up – but life isn’t like that, and the stories of Matty, Janice and Henry will continue.  I look forward to reading the next book when it appears!

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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?

In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Guess the historical figures or famous people from the clues. @OlgaNM7 reviews Backstories by @SimonVdVwriter

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

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I enjoy short stories, but recently I have not read as many as I used to, preferring to read novels that build up more slowly and give you the opportunity to get to know the characters and see how they evolve over time. So this was a bit of an unusual choice for me, but I kept reading intriguing reviews of this book, and after checking it out, I had to read the whole thing. And it was worth it.

I had never read anything by the author, although he has been writing for a while and his short-stories have earned him a variety of awards and accolades, but I suspect this won’t be the last of his books I read, and he is already preparing a second volume of Backstories for publication.

It is a bit difficult to talk about this book in any detail without giving too much away. The author explains his goals and what the book is about quite clearly in his description, so I won’t go over it again. I am not sure that I would describe it as a collection of short-stories. Some are biographical vignettes, moments in somebody’s life (or their backstories, if we like), where something momentous happened, or is about to happen (in some cases), while others fit in more easily with the standard understanding of a short story containing a full narrative. In some ways, I guess it is the reader’s job to complete the story, by guessing who the protagonist is and understanding how that snippet fits in with the rest of the person’s life, how significant or important it might be, and how much it reveals of what we know happened next to the person.

In some cases, we see a famous person (some are musicians, some important historical figures, some sports personalities, some less-than-savoury characters…) as children or very young adults, and the author cleverly creates a picture of who they were and how that relates to who they will become. Sometimes, we see somebody on the verge of doing something that would change things forever, and at others, we get an inkling of what things might have been like if something hadn’t happened or circumstances had been different. One of the stories illustrated perfectly a quandary I’ve had for years about a historical figure, as if the author had read my mind, but I’ll keep my peace about it as well.

There are 14 stories, tightly written, some in the first and some in the third person, and they move quickly, the style of writing easy but at the same time adapted to the personality, the era, and the location of the individual portrayed by each. Most of them are told from the point of view of the famous person, although there are some in which we see them reflected through somebody else’s eyes. It is very difficult to stop reading the stories, especially if you enjoy guessing games or quizzes, as one gets gripped by what is happening at the time and also hooked on trying to find who the person is. If you want to know how well I got on, yes, I guessed all of them (although in one of the cases I had only a passing acquaintance with the character, and I ended up checking to make sure), and some had me scratching my head until the very end or changing my mind several times as I read, while others I suspected from early on.

I enjoyed them all, in different ways (some because I felt the build up of the situation, others because the story itself was moving and/or inspiring, some because I loved the protagonists, and some because they chilled me to the bone), and I think most readers will find some that work better for them than others, particularly if they admire some of the protagonists, but there isn’t a bad one in the lot. These are not sanitized and clean stories, and readers must be warned that they will find all kinds of violence, abuse, prejudice… depicted in its pages. The author has explained his reasoning behind his choices, and a percentage of the book’s earnings will go to good causes, so this is more than justified, in my opinion. I recommend this highly enjoyable collection to anybody who loves quizzes, who has ever wondered what happened before historical figures or famous people became who they are, and particularly to those who prefer their reading short, crisp, and based on facts rather than fancy. And, if you like the formula, don’t forget that there is a second book coming your way soon.

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These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60s and 70s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice – but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them – leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

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‘Wilson creates a miasma that steeps through her pages’ @deBieJennifer reviews #SpeculativeFiction This is Our Undoing by @raine_clouds #TuesdaybookBlog

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading This Is Our Undoing by Lorraine Wilson

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Lorraine Wilson’s This is Our Undoing, opens with a standoff between a conservationist looking for what has killed a protected species, and local villagers who want to harvest the carcass.

This standoff between Lina, our protagonist, and the native Bulgarians whose land and animals she studies, in many ways epitomizes the many conflicts in Wilson’s debut novel. A lone scientist with the backing of an international organization but little real power of her own, and a group of people who distrust outsiders with good reason and fight for their independence in the only ways they know.

Across the novel the sweeping geopolitics of Wilson’s world are funneled into just a few individuals caught in the maelstrom that is the volatile near-future her characters inhabit. This is a world in which many western nations have become some version of a police state, global warming has irrevocably reshaped the landscape and the climate, and violent tribalism has become the order of the day.

There are dangerous secrets of every kind in all the characters Wilson meticulously crafts for her narrative, secrets of the old family variety in Lina’s past, to the shady allegiances of her research partner, Thiago, the militant inclinations of the villagers they live in close proximity to, and the truth behind a statesman’s murder in London and his family’s flight to sanctuary in Lina’s mountainous home, all tease the reader in a steady drip of information as the narrative unfolds.

Much of This is Our Undoing’s power comes from the atmosphere Wilson creates; a miasma that steeps through her pages until something as innocuous as a string doll hanging beside a door, or a child laughing in a sunlit meadow, becomes a source of unease for characters and readers alike.

Wilson’s novel is, at its core, a story about people and their choices. People good, bad, and otherwise caught up in events far greater than themselves. Choices given, choices made, and choices taken away. Choices from the past that come back to haunt the present, choices in the present that can ripple out to create the future. Through each step of the novel, her characters make, re-evaluate, and cope with their own choices and the choices of others, leading inexorably to a climax that is at once cataclysmic, and incredibly intimate.

To explain more would be to spoil a truly fantastic novel from a fresh new voice.

Brilliant in concept and haunting in execution, This is Our Undoing is a fantastic first outing from an author whose work I, for one, cannot wait to see more of.

5/5

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Could you condemn one child to save another?

In a near-future Europe fracturing under climate change and far-right politics, biologist Lina Stephenson works in the remote Rila Mountains, safely away from London State.

When an old enemy dies, Lina’s dangerous past resurfaces, putting her family’s lives at risk. Trapped with her vulnerable sister alongside the dead man’s family, Lina is facing pressure from all sides: her enemy’s eldest son is determined to destroy her in his search for vengeance, whilst his youngest carries a sinister secret…

…But the forest is hiding its own threats and as a catastrophic storm closes in, Lina realises that to save her family she too must become a monster.

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