Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Sailing Themed #Mystery DRACA by @GeoffreyGudgion @unbounders

Today’s team review is from Sandra, she blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

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Draca is a wonderful tale that combines many different elements and weaves them together to make a satisfying story; not an easy book to categorize so it will have wide appeal. I started reading Draca on the Pigeonhole app and got so engrossed, I requested it from Rosie’s Book Review Team
list as well.

Jack is a former officer in the Royal Marines with PTSD, and a life-altering injury, trying to get his life back on an even keel. He was close to his grandfather, Eddie, who has recently died and left most of his estate to Jack. To say this does not go down well with Jack’s father, Harry, and his sister, Tilly, would be an understatement. Their mercenary attitude and sense of entitlement beggars belief especially as they had not cared much about Eddie when he was alive.

Add to this Jack’s faltering marriage to Charlotte, the rift between him and his family, and his embryonic relationship with George and you have the makings of a real page-turner. Told in the third person from the points of view of Jack, Harry and George we can see the story from all angles.
Interspersed with the narrative are extracts from Eddie’s diaries and the Norse Saga of King Guthrum which help to explain Eddie’s weird behaviour in the months before his death. The history of the Saxons and Vikings is not something I know much about, but I am now interested in finding out
more. The supernatural element is done with a light touch and seemed perfectly plausible; at times Draca does seem to be a malign influence with a mind of her own.

I loved reading about the sailing without actually having to get on a boat – it’s not something I would ever be brave enough to do, especially as I get really seasick. I don’t think it matters if you understand sailing terminology or not, when Jack takes the vintage sailing cutter out on the open
sea, the writing is thrilling and you can almost feel the spray on your face.

This is not the sort of book I would normally read, but I’m so glad I did. Beautifully written and well researched, with fully fleshed out characters, some sympathetic and others not, I thoroughly recommend that you give Draca a try.

Book description

Draca was a vintage sailing cutter, Old Eddie’s pride and joy. But now she’s beached, her varnish peeling. She’s dying, just like Eddie.
Eddie leaves Draca to his grandson Jack, a legacy that’s the final wedge between Jack and his father. Yet for Jack, the old boat is a lifeline. Medically discharged from the Marines, with his marriage on the rocks, the damaged veteran finds new purpose; Draca will sail again. Wonderful therapy for a wounded hero, people say.
Young Georgia ‘George’ Fenton, who runs the boatyard, has doubts. She saw changes in Old Eddie that were more sinister even than cancer. And by the time Draca tastes the sea again, the man she dares to love is going the same way. To George, Jack’s ‘purpose’ has become ‘possession’; the boat owns the man and her flawed hero is on a mission to self-destruct. As his controlling and disinherited father pushes him closer to the edge, she gives all she has to hold him back.
And between them all, there’s an old boat with dark secrets, and perhaps a mind of its own.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Sailing Themed #Thriller DRACA by @GeoffreyGudgion @unbounders #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

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The Draca is a vintage sailing cutter built in 1905. Her owner is Eddie Ahlquist, an old man dying of cancer. She lies beached at a marina, slowly falling to the ravages of time as her owner also fails. Eddie’s grandson, Jack, is a former Marine in his Her Majesty’s armed services, who has returned from service in the middle East minus a foot and part of his leg, beset with PTSD, and carrying a load of guilt from the deaths of two of his fellow Marines, one who died with him and one who died trying to rescue him. Jack is the one member of the dysfunctional Alquist family who truly cares for Eddie and he tries to spend as much time with him as possible.

Eddie has earned the epithet ‘Mad Eddie” because of his wild sailing of Draca before he became too ill to continue. He had found a four-foot-long piece of ancient timber carved into the neck and head of a snarling dragon which he made into the figurehead for Draca. The figurehead now sits in his garden and Eddie talks to it when Jack is not around, thinking he sees the outline of a huge, looming figure coming through the trees toward his cottage.

When Eddie dies, Jack inherits Draca as well as his grandfather’s cottage, his diaries, and his library of Viking literature. Jack’s father, an overbearing and greedy man with whom Jack has an adversarial relationship for his entire life, does not understand why Eddie’s estate did not go to him and vows to fight Eddie’s will in court.

Jack moves into the cottage while the will is in probate and, with a suggestion that restoring the Draca might help him with his lasting emotional and physical problems, takes out loans against Eddie’s estate. He immediately dives into the difficult work of bringing Draca back to her original condition.  As he does, the serpent figurehead seems to capture his psyche as it had his grandfather, and he also sees the looming figure amongst the trees. He is drawn to the figurehead and Draca as if they both have a hold on him.

This is a terrific book on many levels: the struggles of a veteran with physical and emotional baggage for the time of his service; the warped interactions of a family with a bully for a father and husband; Jack’s own crumbling marriage; the exhilaration of sailing, especially on this old, restored schooner; a developing love between Jack and a young woman, George, who runs the boatyard where Draca is moored; and the growing hold of Draca and the figurehead on Jack. There is also interspersed between the chapters excerpts from what is clearly a Viking story, the ‘saga of King Guthrum,’ with a strong indication that the figurehead derives from a Viking ship in the saga and that it is cursed. Will figurehead claim Jack’s life to satisfy the curse?

The characters are wonderfully created. Jack is a finely tuned rendering of a veteran with PTSD, old Eddie is both loveable and frightening in his final madness, and Harry, Jack’s father, is a villain – perhaps a little heavy-handed, but still believable. George is at the same time both incredibly naïve (she doesn’t recognize when Charlotte, Jack’s wife, tries to draw her into a lesbian affair and that left me scratching my head) and equally brave, as she tries to heal Jack and at the end risks her own life to save him in a horrific storm at sea.

As a sailor, all the descriptions of sailing and the rigging and sails of Draca, especially at sea and in the wind, were both familiar and exciting. This might not be so for someone who has never sailed, although I believe any reader can loosely follow the action.  Having the drawing of Draca for reference was a good help.

In short, this is a rollicking tale, both down to earth and also unearthly, combining many elements into a fine story. I strongly recommend it.

Book description

Draca was a vintage sailing cutter, Old Eddie’s pride and joy. But now she’s beached, her varnish peeling. She’s dying, just like Eddie.
Eddie leaves Draca to his grandson Jack, a legacy that’s the final wedge between Jack and his father. Yet for Jack, the old boat is a lifeline. Medically discharged from the Marines, with his marriage on the rocks, the damaged veteran finds new purpose; Draca will sail again. Wonderful therapy for a wounded hero, people say.
Young Georgia ‘George’ Fenton, who runs the boatyard, has doubts. She saw changes in Old Eddie that were more sinister even than cancer. And by the time Draca tastes the sea again, the man she dares to love is going the same way. To George, Jack’s ‘purpose’ has become ‘possession’; the boat owns the man and her flawed hero is on a mission to self-destruct. As his controlling and disinherited father pushes him closer to the edge, she gives all she has to hold him back.
And between them all, there’s an old boat with dark secrets, and perhaps a mind of its own.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller DRACA by @GeoffreyGudgion @unbounders

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

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I didn’t know Geoffrey Gudgion before I read this novel, but the description and the cover called me (a bit worrying when I think about it after finishing the book), and my reward was a fantastic read that combines many elements likely to interest a large variety of readers. Draca, the vessel of the title, is a haunting presence throughout the book. Old Eddie, its owner, was fascinated by old Norse mythology and his Viking heritage, and there are fragments from the Saga of King Guthrum (c a AD 875) heading each new chapter and telling a fascinating story of the Vikings’ incursions into Britain and their battles with the Saxons. This mythological background and the story of King Guthrum and his son Jarl Harald moves apace with the adventures of Draca and Jack, Eddie’s grandson and new owner of the sailing cutter. There are adventures that will delight those who love sailing (but also those who don’t. I haven’t done any proper sailing but have a soft spot for books and movies set at sea, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Let me clarify that although there is ample evidence of knowledge and research on the topic of sailing, no expertise is required to enjoy the novel). The characters, and especially the relationship between the male members of the Ahlquist family, make for fascinating reading, as we have parents and sons of different generations with complex love-hate relationships, and they relive their conflicts on and off the ship.

Other themes are also explored and add to the overall interest of the novel: Jack, the main protagonist of the story, was a decorated Royal Marine who was severely wounded during the war, and now suffers from PTSD and is finding it difficult to adjust to civilian life. His flashbacks and his account of his experiences are realistic and compelling (not surprising when we take into account the author’s background), and it makes him a particularly sympathetic character. We also have romance (although the two characters seemed made for each other from the beginning, and I’m sure most readers will enjoy it, considering the background of both characters it seemed a bit too perfect for me, especially if readers are expecting a standard horror story); a woman with a gift for healing and for sensing things about people; and a paranormal element that I felt worked very well.

I think the description offers more than enough information about the plot, and I want to avoid spoilers.  I think this novel cuts across a few genres. There are very realistic elements, in particular those depicting the psychological state of the characters, PTSD and obsession; there are also mythological and fantastical elements; paranormal/horror elements; sailing adventures; family relationships (a family saga, to a point); and a romance (there is some sex, but it is pretty mild and not very explicit, and people who follow my review know I don’t like erotica, so…). If I had to choose, I enjoyed the mythological/fantastical aspects of the story, the sailing adventure, and the realistic aspects, especially the relationship between the men, the most.

I have mentioned some of the characters already. The story is narrated in the third person, each chapter usually following the point of view of one of the main characters (Harry, Old Eddie’s son and Jack’s father, not a particularly likeable character and not somebody who evolves much during the novel, but he is not all bad either; Jack; and George, the main female character, who runs the boatyard and seems to combine characteristics of the caring female who would do anything for her man, with an independent and wise woman who tries hard to keep trouble at bay), interspersed with the Saga of King Guthrum and also, especially at the beginning, with fragments of Eddie’s diary, which help us understand more about the man and about Draca. We also meet Charlotte (Charlie), Jack’s wife, who is a very intriguing character, but her story is not developed in a lot of detail (and we don’t see things from her point of view), not is that of Jack’s mother, who seems to be an old-fashioned housewife and hardly has a voice of her own. We don’t see enough of Tilly, Jack’s sister, for her to play a part in the story (other than being a hindrance at times).

The writing is excellent. There are beautiful descriptions of sailing, not only of the act of sailing but also of the emotions it creates, and as I’ve said already, the psychological experiences of the characters, particularly of Jack are rendered in such a way that we can’t help but feel as if we were there, sharing in his anguish and feelings. There are lyrical passages that made me reread them again, and this is a book that combines an absorbing story that makes you keep turning the pages with a style of writing that demands to be savoured an enjoyed. I’ve highlighted many fragments, but I thought I’d share a couple to give you some idea of what to expect:

When the tide was just on the ebb it sucked at the beach below the cottage, a soft susurration at the limit of hearing. In the pre-dawn darkness it sounded like whispering, so human that he strained to distinguish the words.

Draca was a bit like some men she’d met who were handsome on the outside and dangerous on the inside. In that way, Draca was the opposite of Jack. He was dangerous on the outside but probably dead gentle on the inside, like he was wearing a suit of armour, or a shell, like a crab.

The ending… I think the author has managed to pull quite a trick there, because all the different elements come to a satisfactory ending (no, I’m not saying happy), and I enjoyed it, for sure. And it does not leave us hanging, so people who don’t appreciate cliff-hangers don’t need to worry… much.

The author mentions his sources (people and books) in his acknowledgments, and I was particularly happy to learn about Unbound, the first crowdfunding publisher, which made the book possible. The book also includes a list of supporters and patrons, and I will try to keep track of their future projects.

In brief, a great read, that I’d recommend to people interested in male family relationships, PTSD, and who don’t mind a touch of the paranormal and romance. Fans of sailing stories and those who love Norse mythology and Old Saxon history will enjoy it even more. There are some chilling and eerie moments, but the horror, such as it is, is mostly psychological, so this should not put off people who usually avoid the genre. I won’t forget Draca in a long time, and I’m sure if you read it you won’t, either.

Book description

Draca was a vintage sailing cutter, Old Eddie’s pride and joy. But now she’s beached, her varnish peeling. She’s dying, just like Eddie.
Eddie leaves Draca to his grandson Jack, a legacy that’s the final wedge between Jack and his father. Yet for Jack, the old boat is a lifeline. Medically discharged from the Marines, with his marriage on the rocks, the damaged veteran finds new purpose; Draca will sail again. Wonderful therapy for a wounded hero, people say.
Young Georgia ‘George’ Fenton, who runs the boatyard, has doubts. She saw changes in Old Eddie that were more sinister even than cancer. And by the time Draca tastes the sea again, the man she dares to love is going the same way. To George, Jack’s ‘purpose’ has become ‘possession’; the boat owns the man and her flawed hero is on a mission to self-destruct. As his controlling and disinherited father pushes him closer to the edge, she gives all she has to hold him back.
And between them all, there’s an old boat with dark secrets, and perhaps a mind of its own.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #Contemporary #Romance WE STILL LIVE by @saradobie

We Still Live by [Bauer, Sara Dobie]

We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

4.5 stars

We Still Live is a contemporary romance set around the survivors of a shooting incident in the United States.

Isaac Twain has just joined the English teaching staff at Hambden University. The move was rather rushed; Isaac replaced a teacher who wasn’t returning to the scene of the shooting, and Isaac had his own reasons for taking the last minute job.

During the shooting incident, John Conlon stood in front of the gun wielding student and was the last person to speak to him before the boy turned the gun upon himself. The media made John out to be a hero but he refuted this and just wished to be left alone. He was a popular man; liked by friends students and staff he made an impression wherever he went. On the outside he was fun-loving, a protest leader, minority supporter and openly gay, but the experience he went through affected him badly.

This story had plenty of drama as it dealt with some serious mental health issues caused by the shooting. However, the beautifully created main characters made it enjoyable to read. The romance between John and Isaac worked well and the growth of their relationship was endearing to watch. I was impressed with the book, the writing flowed smoothly and the narrative will be one of those that will remain with me for a long time.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Running from a scandal that ruined his life, Isaac Twain accepts a teaching position at Hambden University where, three months prior, Professor John Conlon stopped a campus nightmare by stepping in front of an active shooter.

When John and Isaac become faculty advisors for the school’s literary magazine, their professional relationship evolves. Despite the strict code of conduct forbidding faculty fraternization, they delve into a secret affair—until Simon arrives.

Isaac’s violent ex threatens not only their careers, but also John’s life. His PTSD triggered, John must come to terms with that bloody day on College Green while Isaac must accept the heartbreak his secrets have wrought.

***WE STILL LIVE is a standalone M/M friends-to-lovers romance featuring detailed adult content, graphic violence, hurt/comfort, and mental illness.***

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

We Still Live by [Bauer, Sara Dobie]