A Mix Of #MagicalRealism And #Steampunk. Rosie’s #Bookreview Of The Violins Played Before Junstan by @AuthorLouKemp

The Violins Played before Junstan (Celwyn #1)The Violins Played before Junstan by Lou Kemp

4 stars

The Violins Played Before Junstan is a magical realism story, also using the genres steampunk and historical fiction.

The story opens in San Francisco during 1865. Celwyn is an immortal magician with incredible talents but several enemies. He is employed to capture an evil inventor, Professor Kang, by Kang’s brother; the capture is to occur en route to Singapore. However, Celwyn discovers that many aspects of the brother’s story are untrue.

Kang is unusual because he is an automaton, but he has very human habits. As I turned the pages I came across much murder, mayhem and mischief, along with heroic aided escapes and a small band of travellers that grows in number as the adventure rolls along until the story reaches a grand climax in Prague.

This is a well written story; I easily found myself immersed in the narrative and could picture the wonderful scenery and magic that Celwyn conjured. There are a couple of dark threads which weave their way through the story and the reader is kept guessing about their outcome until the end. I liked the characters too; they were well rounded and quite believable.

The pace of the book is leisurely and reflects both the era and the style of the chosen transport that the characters use. Occasionally I did wish that the story moved at a quicker pace as it dragged a little, but not enough to frustrate me greatly. I did spot one or two plot holes: characters appearing or events happening that weren’t absolutely feasible and needed a bit more explanation or thinking through. However, they didn’t detract much from the overall enjoyment that I had from the storytelling.

Overall, a good start to a series, and I shall be interested to know where the author takes the characters to next.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Desc 1

San Francisco, 1865.

At first, the immortal peyote-eating magician Celwyn is hired to deliver an automat, Professor Kang, to a priest called Talos. Everything Talos told Celwyn was a lie, and by the time their ship, the Zelda, encounters a terrific storm in the Arctic Circle, Celwyn finds he must reconsider his allegiance. He chooses Kang, and they travel to Singapore, preparing to journey west. In order to deflect the attention of the city’s police, they allow an American heiress to go with them as she escapes matrimony to seek adventure. Her crazy aunt hops another train, and the pursuit is on. The third member of their friendship is from Juba in the Sudan; a widower, scholar, and brave but superstitious man. Their deep friendship grows as they battle several malevolent forces at the same time, and rescue two orphans along the way. Celwyn has avoided caring about anyone for hundreds of years, and now must learn the cost of friendship, and loss. Eventually they reach Prague. The culmination of their battles with evil occurs on the Vltava River under the shadow of the Prague Opera House. As always, it is accompanied by the ethereal music of the magician.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

58664238. sy475

‘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.

Desc 1

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 lesser known sequel to War Horse. Rosie’s #Bookreview of Farm Boy by Michael Morpurgo

Farm Boy (War Horse, #2)Farm Boy by Michael Morpurgo

4 stars

Farm boy is the lesser known sequel to War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. It is a short book filled with delightful illustrations and is written primarily for the young adult historical fiction market.

I wanted to read this because it was mainly set in Devon and I have been collecting stories from this county; the farming theme also appealed to me. The book features a young boy who spends his summers in Devon on his grandpa’s farm. Grandpa tells his grandson about his love for his working horse Joey, and briefly about his own father who signed up for the war so that he could find Joey – the army bought Joey from the farm for use in World War One.

There’s also a lovely piece about teaching Grandpa to read and write, resulting in Grandpa writing a treasured story about an old Ferguson tractor. I particularly liked the tractor story as I have another set of children’s books all written about old Ferguson tractors.

An enchanting tale about family and the stories they share.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Desc 1

The magical sequel to ‘War Horse’. Joey was the last working horse on the farm, and the apple of Grandpa’s eye. In War Horse, Joey was sent away from the farm to be a warhorse in WWI. Grandpa’s father had joined the cavalry in order to find, and fight, with Joey. Farm Boy brings us forward fifty years with Grandpa not only telling his grandson, Joey’s story but also a ‘shameful secret’ which he has held for years…

The story is set in Iddesleigh in Devon and lovingly evokes the bonds between farm and farmer; grandson and grandfather. The spirit of rural life is superbly captured in both Michael Morpurgo’s writing and Michael Foreman’s illustrations. An irresistible title from acclaimed author-illustrator partnership.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Victorian #Romance Based On A True Character. Rosie’s #Bookreview of Her Heart For A Compass by @SarahTheDuchess & @MargueriteKaye @MillsandBoon

Her Heart for a CompassHer Heart for a Compass by Sarah Ferguson

4 stars

Her Heart For A Compass is a Victorian romance. It is based around a true character, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, and the authors of this book have created a fictional tale about her life. As a second daughter of a Duke, Lady Margaret was brought up to do her duty by both her family and the society in which she lived. However, she rebelled against her father’s wishes and she refused to marry the Earl of Killin, the man chosen for her.

Lady Margaret’s refusal set her on a lonely path as she was sent away from her family, but as the story progressed Lady Margaret followed her heart and grew in confidence to become an independent woman; a rarity in Victorian England.

During the story the reader is taken on a journey which included Scotland, Lambeth in London and New York, and I could easily picture the settings. The narrative is sprinkled with letters between Margaret, her family and friends,  as well as several newspaper articles written about Margaret; not usually a fan of such inclusions, I was surprised by how well I thought they worked for this book.

The author’s notes at the back of the book explain that Lady Margaret is loosely based on a relative of Sarah Ferguson the Duchess Of York, who wrote this book with her co-author Marguerite Kaye. I’m sure that the Duchess’s knowledge of royal etiquette must have helped enormously as far as giving the story authenticity is concerned.

I must mention this is a long book, with my paperback version reaching almost 550 pages. I felt there was room to shorten the narrative without taking away too much of the story.  In other areas, a few times dialogue was used to convey information to the reader, in a fashion that made the dialogue seem unnatural; the facts could have been interspersed in the narrative instead.

Overall, this is the first attempt at writing for an adult audience by the Duchess and I’m sure it will be popular. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Desc 1

London 1865

In an attempt to rebel against a society where women are expected to conform, free-spirited Lady Margaret Montagu Scott flees the confines of polite society, and an arranged marriage. But Lady Margaret’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, as close friends with Queen Victoria, must face the public scrutiny of their daughter’s impulsive nature, and Margaret is banished from polite society.

Finding strength amongst equally free-spirited companions, including Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise, Margaret resolves to follow her heart. On a journey of self-discovery that will take her to Ireland, America, and then back to Britain, Lady Margaret must follow her internal compass and search for her place, and her own identity, in a changing society.

Incorporating research into her heritage and drawing upon her own unique life journey and experiences, the Duchess pens a fictional account of the life of her great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott. Rich in historical detail, Her Heart for a Compass offers a compelling look at Victorian England and the fascinating journey of a woman, born into the higher echelons of society, whose only desire is to follow her heart.

With co-writer Marguerite Kaye, an accomplished Mills & Boon historical author, The Duchess has created a breathtaking romantic novel of daring to follow your heart against all odds. Set amongst the drawing rooms of Victoria’s court, and the grand country houses of Scotland and Ireland. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

56654860. sy475

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

58521133. sy475

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

Desc 1

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?

58521133. sy475

‘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

48635703

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

Desc 1

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

48635703

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

58675147. sy475

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.

Desc 1

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

58675147. sy475

#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!

Desc 1

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