Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry @GreenWizard62

Today’s Team review is from Cathy, she blogs here http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry

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When Carol Prentice left her home town of Wheatley Fields for Manchester University she had no plans to return. Her father’s death precipitates a change in her and the subsequent return to Wheatley Fields, along with the resolve to address those intimated demons which have blighted her life and made her believe herself to be less than. She had A Plan.

After successfully applying for a job at a local bookstore, Carol and Steve, the manager, become firm friends. It’s an unlikely friendship, but they are both compelling characters, well defined with depth and relatability, even as we see their flaws. Steve, despite his previous failures and tendency to drink too much, becomes Carol’s source of strength, the foundation on which she can build, her rock.

However, it’s not very long before Carol’s demons appear and events are set in motion which spiral into disaster. Whatever happened to Carol prior to her leaving Wheatley Fields has defined her life up to date and is the catalyst that drives everything towards a riveting, and touching, conclusion.

Carol is a complex character, hiding behind a Goth exterior, emotionally damaged and with her feelings under such strict control, she perceives and registers rather than feels. The narrative is written informally in the first person from Carol’s point of view, giving a comprehensive insight into her psyche, and how deeply past events impacted on her. Although her subjective views could cast doubt on her credibility as a narrator, it doesn’t detract from believability and the vividness of her observations. Carol is real, fully developed, so much so that I felt like a spectator and completely forgot this was a man writing from a young woman’s perspective, it was so convincing.

This is the totally unpredictable and powerful story of a dramatic revenge planned down to the last detail. As more of the story is revealed, the more intriguing it becomes. How does Toby fit into Carol’s story and why is he so antagonistic? The disclosure, and learning the meaning behind the shiny coin, is appalling.

Mark Barry is a gifted storyteller with a knack for making this reader feel she’s been put though an emotional wringer (in a good way) every time. The writing is real, gritty and sometimes violent, but always eminently readable. Engaging characters are vividly portrayed and display a realistic range of emotions and reactions. Loved the Carla reference and the small but significant cameo of the author.

Book Description

“I swore that I would never go home,  but in the end, I had no choice.  I had to confront what happened.  And them too.  It was going be icky. And totally scary.” Carol Prentice left Wheatley Fields to attend university in Manchester and not once did she return in four years. Her beloved father visited her whenever he could, but then he passed away and it was up to her to sort his affairs.  She could have done this from a distance, but a woman can run to the far corners of the earth, but, in the end, she can never escape herself She had to come home: There was no other choice. Taking a job at a bookshop for the duration, she befriends Steve – an older man who looks like a wizard and who knows everything in the world.  Carol quickly encounters the demons that forced her to leave in the first place – including Toby, the raffish local villain, with whom she shares the most horrifying of secrets and whose very existence means evil and mayhem for everyone around. Especially the lovable Steve.  Carol finds herself in the middle of a war between the two men:  A war which can only have one victor.  Soon, she wishes she had never come home.  But by then it was too late.  Much too late.

Biography

Mark Barry

Bio: Mark Barry is a multi-genre writer and novelist. His work includes the minor cult hit Ultra Violence about football hooligans at a small Midlands football club and Carla, a quirky, dark, acclaimed romance with shades of Wuthering Heights.  He is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people… He has one son, Matt, on the brink of University, with whom he shares a passion for Notts County Football Club.  Fast food, comics, music, reading, his friends on the Independent scene, and horse racing keep him interested and he detests the English Premier League, selfish, narcissistic people and bullies of all kinds.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Last Meridian by @HefferonJoe #Noir #Crime

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Last Meridian by Joe Hefferon

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Lynn Killian left Chicago in 1948. She wanted a new life in a new place with a new name. With no particular plan in mind she headed west. Who she left behind would never really leave her. She would always wonder.

Fast forward sixteen years and Jimmy Filkins, a reporter captivated and preoccupied by the thought of his ongoing project. A story he desperately wants to write based on his interviews with Nina Ferrer, interior designer to Hollywood’s elite. Nina’s story, as she recounts it to Filkins, begins with murder and a telegram. That telegram changes her life forever. Her now teenaged son, who she left behind in Chicago all those years ago is in desperate trouble. The events set in motion culminated with Nina being incarcerated and the interviews with Filkins taking place in what was known locally as the LA County lock up.

Alongside Nina’s account and the flashbacks leading to her present situation, are the activities of several other key players and how they all converge. Nina’s husband, Arturo, and his shady contact, Morris Canfield. CS, the private investigator hired by Nina to help Steven, the boy accused of murder and, of course, Jimmy Filkins. Recounting the previous months helps Nina to come to terms with what her life has become.

Initially the structure threw me a little. Not sure why because I normally quite like flashbacks driving a story. Maybe because the sections were mostly short, the timeline seemed disjointed and I wasn’t able to engage enough. Anyway, I reread the first 10% or so and it became much clearer and easier to follow. The narrative continued to swing back and forth between past and present, timelines and characters, but I’m glad to say it wasn’t confusing any longer. I was more at ease with the writing style and could settle in to the story.

The setting is 1960s Hollywood and, along with the associated superficiality, the time and place is evident. Once I was over that first hurdle I enjoyed the story and the way Nina’s background unfolded. Her desperation to vindicate her son served to open her eyes to the people around her, who she thought she could trust, and made her realise how futile her life had become. Perhaps it could also become her salvation.

Nina grew on me, she’s strong and forthright. The supporting characters are also well-rounded. The prose tends towards the lyrical (if that’s the right word), with snappy dialogue, which seems in keeping with the narrative.

 

Book Description

A telegram sets off a chain of events that destroys five lives, throwing Hollywood insider Nina Ferrer’s life into turmoil. The infant boy she gave up for adoption in Chicago sixteen years earlier has been arrested for murder. A plea from the boy’s adoptive mother pushes her to act, but Nina has a big problem—she never told her husband about the boy.

Nina must come to terms with her guilt, while accepting the reality of her fragile life and her cheating husband, who’s embroiled in another deadly plot. As her life unravels, the boy’s fate grows ominous. Set against the backdrop of the Hollywood heyday of the early 1960s, the quick-witted, smart-talking Nina, a designer for the well-heeled of Los Angeles, hires a private detective to uncover the facts about what happened back in Chicago, and save her boy. Maybe… just maybe… he can save her, too.

Or perhaps Nina will have to save herself, the most frightening prospect of all. To do that, she must cross The Last Meridian, the place beyond which life as she knows it will no longer exist.

About the author

Joe Hefferon

Retired law enforcement. Enjoying the process of creating a second career as a writer

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Rosie’s review Team #RBRT The Mistress Of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon @MadameGilflurt #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Mistress Of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon

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The mysterious, always heavily veiled in public and very French Madam Moineau, Georgina Radcliffe in a former life, is the mistress of the hugely successful brothel, Blackstairs, in Covent Garden. It’s the winter of 1785 and Georgina’s life is about to be changed by two men. It’s almost ten years since, as Georgina, she was left for dead by her abusive husband and she hasn’t seen him since. Until he turns up at Blackstairs, about to be married and looking for a mistress he can set up for his exclusive pleasure.

Artist Anthony Lake, recently returned from Europe with the realisation he is the father of a young girl, is searching for his daughter. He finds her under Georgina’s care. When Anthony learns his daughter’s mother was murdered, he vows to find the person responsible and avenge her death. The fates of the three become more and more entwined as events unfold and danger looms.

Obviously very knowledgeable about the era, Catherine Curzon portrays the more unsavoury aspects of 18th century London vividly, the atmosphere of the time and place apparent and believable throughout, with realistic dialogue and clothing descriptions. I like the way Molly, Anthony’s daughter, sometimes seems older than her years, due to life she leads, but at other times appropriate to her age. 

Secrets abound and are about to be laid bare. Only a select few know the results of Georgina’s traumatic past and her real identity, but the reappearance of the husband she hoped never to see again forces her to confront the past. Anthony isn’t all he seems, either, and his former life is revealed as the story progresses and the threads are drawn together. The plot is good and I really liked Georgina, Molly and Anthony, but the narrative just felt quite slow in places. Perhaps tightening it up would add to the suspense and keep the reader more engaged.

Book Description

Everyone thought she was dead…
In 18th century Covent Garden, Madam Moineau, is the mistress of Blackstairs, an establishment catering to the finest clients in London.
The mysterious, veiled lady of Paris was better known in the past as a former courtesan and went by the considerably less exotic moniker of Georgina Radcliffe, or Georgie to her friends. 
In the winter of 1785 two men appear in Madam Moineau’s life.
Rogue artist Anthony Lake has recently returned from Europe. Lake is on his own assignment, searching the streets of London for the daughter he only recently discovered he had fathered.
He learns that the child’s mother is dead, brutally killed and Anthony finds himself on an unexpected mission to avenge his ex-lovers’ murder.
Nearly ten years after he left Madam Moineau, then known as Georgina, for dead, Viscount Edmund Polmear returns to London.
He has a new fiancé in tow and is soon to be found around Blackstairs, seeking a further mistress for his own pleasure.
His sudden appearance is a shock for the victim that he believed he left for dead, forcing Madam Moineau to face the horrors of her own past head on.
Anthony Lake and Madam Moineau’s lives become inevitably and inextricably entwined as they find themselves up against the fearsome and unforgiving Viscount Polmear.
 

About the author

Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian better known as Madame Gilflurt, the author of A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life (www.madamegilflurt.com), where she blogs on all matters 18th century. 
She has been published on matters as diverse as Marie Antoinette’s teeth and Grace Kelly’s love life. Her work has been featured by BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austen’s Regency World, the official magazine of the Jane Austen Centre. She is thrilled to provide an online home for An Evening with Jane Austen, and her additional material for the show was performed at the V&A. 
Catherine has performed the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, as part of An Evening with Jane Austen, and spoken at Dr Johnson’s House and Lichfield Guildhall. 
Catherine holds a Master’s in Film Studies from the University of Nottingham. When not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London. 
She resides atop a steep hill in Brontë country with a rakish colonial gentleman, a hound, and a feline.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Clay Tongue by @NicholasConley1 #Fantasy novella #wwwblogs

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Clay Tongue by Nicholas Conley

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Clay Tongue is a moving story of a little girl’s belief, determination and courage. Young Katie Mirowitz is a quiet, shy child, except when she’s with her Grandfather. Katie loves talking to him, even now when he can’t form coherent words anymore after his stroke, they always manage to communicate one way or another. But Grandfather is keeping a secret, Katie saw him trying to hide his journal. The knowledge gives her an unfamiliar, and not altogether comfortable, feeling in her heart. 

When a nightmare wakes Katie in the middle of the night, she overhears an emotional exchange between her mother and Grandfather. It seems her Grandfather may not be able to live with the family much longer. Katie waits until the coast is clear and sneaks a peek at her Grandfather’s desk, finding the journal and an old iron key. She sees that her Grandfather has written a description of his experience, when he was much younger, of meeting a golem who had the power to grant wishes.

A delightfully touching story of unconditional love and selflessness, told from Katie’s perspective in the third person. Nicholas Conley portrays Katie, her naturalness and strong, loving relationship with her grandfather, extremely well and sympathetically. The characters are wonderfully defined and very believable, giving an immediate sense of who they are and their feelings. I found myself really caring about them and hoping the situation would be resolved.

The writing is wonderful, sympathetic and effective in conveying anxiety and distress, the fragility and poignancy of the situation they all find themselves in. Descriptive phrasing evokes strong images. I enjoyed the inventiveness of the story very much, and the way the golem’s human characteristics are represented. I love the cover image which is almost ethereal, in keeping with the story. And, of course, the resolution.

Book Description

From the author of the award-winning Pale Highway and the radio play Something in the Nothing comes a short fantasy of love, shyness, and the secrets of human communication. 
Katie Mirowitz is a small little girl with an even smaller little voice. She possesses a deep love for her grandfather, who suffers from aphasia after a bad stroke cuts loose the part of his brain that processes verbal language. When Katie uncovers a miraculous secret inside the pages of her grandfather’s old journal, as well as an ancient key, she goes out into the woods in search of answers — hoping to uncover a mythical being that, if it exists, may just have the ability to grant wishes.

About the author

Nicholas Conley

Nicholas Conley is a novelist, world traveler, playwright, and coffee vigilante. His passion for storytelling is evident in Clay Tongue as well a Pale Highway, the winner of the 2015 Predators & Editors Award for Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel. He has written for Vox, Truthout, The Huffington Post, SFFWorld, and Alzheimers.net, and his original radio play Something in the Nothing was performed live on the radio station WSCA 106.1 FM in 2016. He is a member of PEN America, the writers organization dedicated to human rights and freedom of expression.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Red Cobra by @RSinclairAuthor #Thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Red Cobra by Rob Sinclair

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James Ryker may have relaxed slightly after twelve months of living in a secret location with Lisa, his girlfriend, since leaving behind the violent life of a secret agent. But fate, in the guise of Peter Winter his ex-boss, was having none of it. He wants Ryker to look into the unexplained murder of Kim Walker. Her fingerprints match those of someone from Ryker’s past who has supposedly been dead for years. The female assassin known as the Red Cobra. Anna Abayev. His former lover and adversary.

The Joint Intelligence Agency computer systems have been compromised, accessed to find information on the Red Cobra and, at the same time, jeopardising agents’ identities. And now she had been murdered. However, when Ryker sees the images of the murdered woman he’s certain she was not the Red Cobra. Although he’s enjoyed the isolated living with Lisa, Ryker feels the urge for some action and the Red Cobra is the hook that makes him agree to help Winter. He gets more than he bargained for though, when the trail puts him in the path of mobsters and double dealers. Once again he becomes a target, not knowing who he can trust.

Starting as it means to go on, this is an exciting, tightly plotted, sometimes gruesome story with plenty of action, the chapters short and punchy. The Red Cobra’s backstory, and her history with Carl Logan, is interspersed through the narrative. This insight makes her more of a sympathetic character and even though she’s an assassin I could understand how the events she suffered set her on that path. Left, at not quite fourteen years old, by her father in the ‘care’ of the lecherous Colonel Kankava, working as a maid, Eva eventually manages to escape after taking her revenge. Her childhood well and truly over, she will never be quite the same again.

I really enjoyed the novelty of the main protagonist assuming another persona as the story continues on an altogether other level. Ryker’s character has developed and continues to do so. He’s his own man, still complex and vulnerable, but with a personal moral code. Perhaps not quite as physically tough, as he finds out to his cost, but a better more rounded person. Characterisations are excellent, showing flaws and weaknesses that make them all them more believable. 

I enjoyed the Enemy series very much but I think this is Rob Sinclair’s best book to date.

Book Description

Carl Logan dedicated nearly twenty years of his life to the Joint Intelligence Agency. Now living in a secret location, under the new identify of James Ryker, he wants nothing more than to be left alone, the chance to start a new life away from chaos, violence, destruction and deceit.
It’s not long, however, before Ryker’s short-lived idyll is destroyed when he is tracked down by Peter Winter, his ex-boss at the JIA. Winter brings with him news of the murder of a woman in Spain, Kim Walker, whose fingerprints match those of one of Ryker’s former adversaries who’s been missing presumed dead for years – an infamous female assassin known as the Red Cobra.
A cyberattack at the JIA led to the Red Cobra’s profile being compromised, and Winter believes JIA agents may now be at risk too, Ryker included. But Ryker knew the elusive Red Cobra better than anyone, and when he sees the grisly pictures of Kim Walker’s corpse, he has news for Winter – she isn’t the assassin at all …
So just who is the mystery dead woman? And where is the real Red Cobra?
The Red Cobra is a fast-paced thriller filled with twists and turns and intrigue that will appeal to readers of big-hitting thrillers by the likes of Lee Child and David Baldacci, and with echoes in its plotting and breadth of the globe-trotting spy thriller I Am Pilgrim.

About the author

Rob Sinclair

Rob is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series of espionage thrillers featuring embattled agent Carl Logan, with over 200,000 copies sold to date. The Enemy series has received widespread critical acclaim with many reviewers and readers having likened Rob’s work to authors at the very top of the genre, including Lee Child and Vince Flynn. 
Rob’s fourth book, the pulsating psychological thriller Dark Fragments, released by Bloodhound Books in November 2016, has been described as ‘clever’ and ‘chilling’ and an ‘expertly crafted’ story, and became an Amazon UK top 50 bestseller soon after its release.
Rob’s forthcoming James Ryker series follows on from the Enemy books, with the first novel, The Red Cobra, being released in April 2017.
Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full time.
Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

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#HotNews We’ve been nominated for a Best Book Blogger in the 2017 BloggersBash awards and we need your votes. Please vote here (Best Book Blogger)

Thank you.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Codename Lazarus by @APMartin51 #WW2 #Thriller

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Codename Lazarus by A P Martin

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Codename Lazarus is taken from a true story and set in pre World War II Britain and Germany. It’s John King’s last day of an eighteen month research stay in Heidelberg. Although he will be sorry to leave his friends, the threatening climate in Germany, the increase in Hitler’s dictatorship and the ensuing violence against Jews only disgusts and horrifies, somewhat neutralising the sadness at leaving.

Several years later, John King is a gifted academic with a Doctorate and a major interest in the Second Reich. He is approached by his erstwhile tutor, Professor Pym with an incredible proposition. If John agrees, his life will never be the same but his help would be invaluable to Britain in the fight against Germany.

John’s struggles with the constraints of his new role, and the position he finds himself in, are compelling and I enjoyed the danger, intrigue and resulting tension.

A very good story with a well thought through plot, which I found extremely interesting. The build up was slow and steady, most of the action takes place in the second half of the book. The author obviously has an incredible knowledge and huge enthusiasm for this period of history, and it shows. The re-creation of certain points, such as the rise of the Nazis and the growing persecution of the Jewish community in Germany, an impromptu execution, the Blitz and the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk were written realistically and very well done. I liked the way Dunkirk was experienced from the perspective of Joachim Brandt, John King’s erstwhile friend. The feeling of time and place is apparent and the narrative gives an authentic sense and of events.

However, I do feel that the narrative needs a little smoothing out, some of the dialogue, a couple of characters and situations were unconvincing, most notably John and Greta’s relationship. Also, I think there was scope for more development of John King’s character. Having said that all that, Codename Lazarus is a promising debut.

Book Description

Spring 1938: Great Britain is facing potentially lethal threats: the looming war with Germany; the fear that her Secret Service has been penetrated by Nazi agents and the existence of hundreds of British citizens, who are keen to pass information to her enemies.

John King, a young academic, is approached by his Oxbridge mentor to participate in a stunning deception that would frustrate Britain’s enemies. As King struggles to come to terms with the demands of his mission, he must learn to survive in a dangerous and lonely ‘no man’s land’, whilst remaining one step ahead of those in hot pursuit.

Adapted from a true story, ‘Codename Lazarus’ takes the reader on a journey from the dark heart of Hitler’s Germany, across the snowy peaks of Switzerland to the horrors of Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz, before reaching a thrilling and decisive conclusion, from which none of those present emerges unscathed.

About the author

A.P. Martin

I was born and spent my entire working life in the North West of England, where I taught at school, college and university levels. I became Head of Department of Social Sciences at a University, specialising in the study of social inequality, social mobility and sport. During my academic career I published many sociological studies on these themes.

Since taking early retirement, I have really enjoyed immersing myself in reading and writing fiction. I feel that most historical fiction benefits from a connection to something that actually happened, so when I wrote my first book, Codename Lazarus, I took a little known true story and used it as a framework for an exciting thriller.

I am currently writing my second spy story, which also takes as its inspiration a fascinating, yet almost unknown episode from the Second World War.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT IREX by @CarlRackman Maritime #HistFic #wwwblogs

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Irex by Carl Rackman

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First of all, I have to say it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. It’s so good and the quality of the writing is excellent throughout. The story is based in history, the ship, a couple of the main crew members, reason for the wreck and the attempts at rescue, are all fact. Carl Rackman has woven an incredibly imaginative and compelling tale around that tragic event.

Frederick Blake, the County Coroner for Hampshire, arrives in Newport on the Isle of White in February, 1890 to conduct an inquest into the cause of the sinking of the sailing vessel, Irex and, in turn, the fate of the crew and passengers. In Court Room No.1 Blake is welcomed by Mr Peabody, senior magistrate, and Henry Rudd. They are forestalled in their efforts by government interference, the justification for which Blake and Peabody could not fathom, and which left them confused and frustrated. It soon became clear all was not as it had seemed aboard the Irex, and Blake’s inquest becomes more of an investigation. Time is not on their side and it soon becomes apparent someone doesn’t want the truth told.

The Irex’s first attempt at setting sail was defeated by shifting cargo de-stabilising the ship and so forcing the Captain, Will Hutton, to put back into port. And there they stayed to watch for a break in the weather in order to once again attempt to set sail. When the chance finally arrived, the Irex began her ill-fated proposed journey to Rio de Janeiro with, unusually for a cargo ship, three passengers; Major George Barstow, his wife, Elizabeth, Salvation Army missionaries, and Eddy Clarence, unlikable from the first.

The events on board the Irex unfold alongside the ever more complicated and undermined investigation, through alternate chapters. The mood in both parts of the narrative, but especially so aboard the storm-tossed ship, is convincing and portrayed extremely well. Undercurrents of unease and ill feeling steadily intensify the suspense and tension. I enjoyed the writing and the distinctive characterisations. Will Hutton is a sympathetic character, and who could have guessed the terrible secret of one of the passengers. I liked the investigators more and more as the story progressed, particularly the irrepressible news reporter.

Judging by the wonderfully descriptive writing the research must have been very comprehensive. With vivid imagery throughout the narrative it’s easy to picture the terrifying and traumatic journey on the high seas. I can hardly imagine masts of 200 feet in height, much less think about climbing them. A very intriguing and harrowing story, filled with action, adventure, mystery and murder. I look forward to the next novel by Carl Rackman.

Book Description

In the harsh winter of December 1889, the sailing vessel Irex leaves Scotland bound for Rio de Janeiro. She carries three thousand tons of pig iron and just three passengers for what should be a routine voyage. But Captain Will Hutton discovers that one of his passengers hides a horrifying secret. 

When the Irex is wrecked off the Isle of Wight six weeks later, it falls to the county coroner, Frederick Blake, to begin to unravel the events that overtook the doomed ship — but he soon finds that powerful forces within the British Establishment are working to thwart him. Locked in a race against time and the sinister agents sent to impede him, he gradually discovers that nothing aboard the Irex is what it first seemed… 

Irex is an atmospheric mystery, set in a rich Victorian world, packed with intrigue, twists and colourful characters — the spellbinding first novel by Carl Rackman.

About the author

Carl Rackman

Carl Rackman is a British former airline pilot turned author. From a naval military background, he has held a lifelong interest in military history and seafaring. His life spent travelling the world has given him a keen interest in other cultures, and he has drawn on his many experiences for his writing.

Carl’s writing style can best be described as the “literary thriller”, with a flair for evocative descriptions of locales and characters. Complex, absorbing storylines combine with rich, believable characters to create immersive worlds for the reader to explore.

Carl is married with two daughters and lives in Surrey, United Kingdom. Irex is his first novel, published under his own company, Rackman Books.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT GHOST VARIATIONS by @JessicaDuchen #SundayBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen

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Ghost Variations is created from real people and true events which occurred during their lives; history dramatised into a rich and enchanting narrative.

Jelly d’Arányi, the central character, is a renowned Hungarian violinist, living in 1930s London with her sister, Adila and her family. Jelly has been the muse for several famous composers and is dedicated to her music, to the exclusion of her personal life, especially since she lost the man she loved at the Battle of the Somme during WWI. The sisters have lived in London since Jelly was sixteen and now as she approaches her fortieth birthday, Jelly is aware she is (unfairly) considered past her prime as a musician.

Adila’s close friend, Baron Erik Palmstierna, is involved in aspects of psychic research and spiritualism, and often play what they call ‘the glass game’, a form of the Ouija board. It was during one of these sessions, with Adila, Jelly (against her better judgement) and her assistant, Anna, that a message came through about a lost violin concerto by Robert Schumann.

This is an extraordinary and vividly written story when, as the author says, the truth is stranger than fiction. That the concerto should come to light in such a fashion is incredible. Jelly is finding the changes, within herself and the distant rumblings in Europe, difficult to come to terms with. How can there be another war, and so soon? Finding the concerto becomes Jelly’s quest and her lifeline.

Jelly is a very sympathetic and engaging character, not without flaws, but warm-hearted and genuine. Her kindness is shown in her behaviour toward Anna and the free cathedral concerts she performed to allow music and pleasure into the lives of those less fortunate. Jessica Duchen brings the characters to life and captures the atmosphere of the era perfectly. I like the realistic way Jelly’s life as a touring musician is portrayed and her intense enthusiasm for her craft despite the hardships.

The story is told mostly from Jelly’s perspective in the third person, with several segments from Ulli Schultheiss, a music publisher from Germany (one of the few fictional characters) who falls under Jelly’s spell during his stay in London. Persuaded to help in the liberation of the concerto, Ulli returns to Germany only to be met with a wall of bureaucracy, followed by interference by the Third Reich who wish to use the manuscript for their own purposes.

There are several subjects in this intriguing story which give pause for thought, not least the restrictions placed on women; the choice between career or family and the fact women were not allowed to attend certain of the better institutes of learning. The impending Nazi threat and the resulting fascism and growing prejudice against Jews is represented in all its horror. At its heart a touching, sensitively told story creating a wonderful read.

Book Description

Ghost Variations: The Strangest Detective Story In Music by Jessica Duchen. Music, mystery, beautiful writing and a story that proves reality is weirder than fiction

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’Arányi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartók, 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. The concerto turns out to be real, embargoed by Schumann’s family for fear that it betrayed his mental disintegration: it was his last full-scale work, written just before he suffered a nervous breakdown after which he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. It shares a theme with his Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) for piano, a melody he believed had been dictated to him by the spirits of composers beyond the grave. As rumours of its existence spread from London to Berlin, where the manuscript is held, Jelly embarks on an increasingly complex quest to find the concerto. When the Third Reich’s administration decides to unearth the work for reasons of its own, a race to perform it begins. Though aided and abetted by a team of larger-than-life personalities – including her sister Adila Fachiri, the pianist Myra Hess, and a young music publisher who falls in love with her – Jelly finds herself confronting forces that threaten her own state of mind. Saving the concerto comes to mean saving herself. In the ensuing psychodrama, the heroine, the concerto and the pre-war world stand on the brink, reaching together for one more chance of glory.

About the author

Jessica Duchen

essica was born in London. She first tried to write a novel at the age of 12 and found much encouragement from a distinguished author and a literary agent. After studying at Cambridge, she worked as an editor in music publishing and magazines for ten years.

Her latest novel, Ghost Variations, is based on a true incident in the 1930s: the bizarre rediscovery of the long-suppressed Schumann Violin Concerto. “This is a hugely atmospheric and thought-provoking book featuring fascinating characters… It evokes a period pregnant with both promise and menace” (Music & Vision Daily).

The earlier novels focus on the tensions and cross-currents between family generations, including a painful exploration of the effects of anorexia (Rites of Spring) and the rearing of a child prodigy (Alicia’s Gift) to the long-term effects of displacement and cultural clashes (Hungarian Dances and Songs of Triumphant Love). 

Jessica’s journalism has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous music magazines. She gives pre-concert talks at venues including the Wigmore Hall, the Southbank Centre and Symphony Hall Birmingham. Having created concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations, she often narrates their performances. Her play A Walk through the End of Time, introducing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, has been performed at music festivals in the UK, France and Australia. 

Jessica lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys long walks, cooking, and playing the piano when nobody can hear her. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jessicawords.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT SELF SERVE MURDER by @denaehaggerty cosy #Mystery #wwwblogs

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Self Serve Murder by Dena Haggerty

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As well as being a grad student and working part time at the local youth centre, Kristie Larson helps out as a barista at Callie’s Cakes. When she finds herself in bed one morning with a man she doesn’t know, and soon realises is dead, dazed and shocked she calls her best friend Anna. Kristie has no memory of the previous night, the man or how he ended up at her house, much less in her bed. She and her two friends, Callie and Anna, and their police detective boyfriends, Logan and Ben, begin to unravel the mystery and find out more than they bargained for.

Kristie is cleared of involvement in the death; tests prove she had been drugged and hers wasn’t the first case of this happening. There has been a string of date rapes on the college campus, all with the same approach, and although Kristie comes across as quite diffident and unassuming she’s determined to root out the perpetrator. After accessing a forum dedicated to assault victims and connecting with an online member, she’s in for quite a shock when she finally meets ‘Alex’.

Kristie has depth, tact and is a coffee addict. She’s also keeping a secret from her friends. I enjoyed learning about her life and connection and commitment to the Youth Centre. The three women have a great relationship and are always there for each other. Kristie is easy to like and not as over the top as the other two – Anna, the pink haired pixie and know it all Callie, aka the troublesome twosome.

Reading the previous books would probably have given me a deeper understanding of, and the dynamics between, the characters but having said that I did get a good idea of the personalities. Self-Serve Murder can definitely be read as a standalone. The storyline is emotional given the subject matter, written well and sympathetically, the humour in the appropriate places, and with a suitably creepy and repellent villain.

Told in the first person from Kristie’s perspective, Self-Serve Murder is entertaining, with likeable, sometimes ditzy, female protagonists. I wasn’t too sure about the men. I found Tyler irritating with his continual use of ‘baby’ when talking to Kristie and the insta-love aspect was too much too soon. All three men were a bit too alpha for me….shades of quite assertive cavemen types.

Self-Serve Murder is a cozy mystery with a dark undercurrent which is shockingly all too true. The figure of over 11% of college students subjected to rape on college campuses is correct. And although this is a fun, lighthearted tale the subject of rape is treated very seriously.

Book Description
Book 3 in the Death by Cupcake series. Can be read as a standalone.

Kristie is kind with a capital K, so it’s quite the surprise when she wakes up next to a dead man with no recollection of the previous night. Even worse? She’s naked. Kristie may be a sweetheart out to save the world, but sticking her nose into an investigation of rapes across campus makes her the target of a murderer. Before she knows it, Callie is smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation with her colleagues Callie and Anna. If that’s not enough to drive a sane person up the wall, a friend has decided he’s going to keep her safe whether she wants him to or not. And, oh yeah, he’s her man and that’s that. 

Come join us at Callie’s Cakes, where murder investigations are on the menu. You are most welcome, but you may need to serve yourself as our barista Kristie is busy trying to save the world. 

Warning: Although there are plenty of moments that will make you shake your head and laugh at the antics of the ladies of Callie’s Cakes, the subject matter – rape on college campuses – is very real and somewhat darker than your usual cozy mystery.

About the author
D.E. Haggerty
I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on from my mom’s Harlequin romances to Nancy Drew to Little Women. When I wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although I did manage, every once in a while, to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But being a lawyer really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out being a B&B owner wasn’t my thing either. I decided to follow the husband to Istanbul for a few years where I managed to churn out book after book. But ten years was too many to stay away from ‘home’. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book. 

Did I Meet You In 2016? A Year in Review #NewYearsEve #WeekendBlogShare

Hello Lovely Readers – Did we meet in 2016?

On this New Year’s Eve: My 2016 year in review

I think many folks will be looking back at 2016 and wondering what it all meant to them. I’ve handpicked some of the highlights for me.

meet-ups

In April I had a planned meet up in Glasgow with Barb Taub, Cathy Ryan and Alison Williams. These lovely ladies are all part of my review team. Barb is an author and her blog posts are just the best to entertain you. Cathy is a book reviewer and her book reviews are extremely popular, check out her blog here. Alison is an author and editor, check out her rates and recommendations from satisfied customers.

In June I went to the Bloggers Bash in London and met lots of faces from social media. Sacha Black, Ali Isaac, Hugh Roberts and Geoff Le Pard are the bash organisers. It was the second year of this event and if you can get to London easily and want to meet a variety of bloggers and network, this annual event is a great opportunity. Next year’s date is June 10th, more details here. I chatted with Shelley Wilson, Christina Philippou, Mary Smith, Lucy Mitchell (Blondewritemore), Sarah Hardy and Suzi from Suzi Speaks, the founder of #SundayBlogShare.

Shelley is a very inspirational blogger and author, splitting her work between fantasy and non-fiction self help. I’m thrilled that she will be running a four week guest series on ways to motivate yourself here on the blog every Wednesday this January.

In August had I an enforced two weeks off as I was required to do jury service, not something I wanted to attend, but you can’t wriggle out of it very easily these days. However is was interesting to see how the system works, how strict it all felt and how sad that the case I had, ever came to court. On a positive note, whilst in Guildford I made a renewed contact with Christina Philippou and this lead to me attending her book launch in September.

At Christina’s book launch for her debut novel (Lost In Static), I met Neats from the Haphazardous Hippo ( lilac Hippo) a book blogger who lives near by and we met Chris’ publisher Matthew from Urbane Publications. This is small up and coming publisher check it out here.

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My links with Chris and Neats took me to a Blogger/author meet up in London. Event organisers; Kim Nash @kimthebookworm and Holly Martin @hollymartin00  run these events alternating between London and Birmingham. This was a fun afternoon with a mix of authors and book bloggers all chatting in a relaxed atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed chatting to; Author Jessica Norrie, Book bloggers Susan Hampson, Anne Williams and  Jo Robertson, authors Barbara Copperthwait,  Jan Brigden and Steven Hayward

Another day I met book reviewer Liz Lloyd for an Autumn walk around a local village.

Late November Neats invited me to a book launch. We spent a Saturday afternoon in Farnham meeting author Kristen Bailey as she launched book #2 of her contemporary women’s fiction  “Second Helpings”. We also networked and by chance met another Urban Publication’s author Shirley Golden.

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December saw me heading to Leicester to meet Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns, Adrienne Vaughan, Margaret Cullingford and several other members at their monthly RNA meeting. Lizzie, June, Adrienne and Margaret are also know an the New Romantics Four. With me came author, reviewer and Twitter Queen Terry Tyler, Cathy Ryan, Shelley Wilson, and Proofreader Julia Gibbs. It was great to meet Terry’s sister Julia, who was recently on the TV quiz show Pointless. If you need recommended help with copy editing or proofreading do check out her site here.  In the evening we met with authors Mark Barry and Georgia Rose. Mark runs workshops in schools encouraging reluctant readers to pick up books and Georgia has been a guest speaker for Mark, she also runs her own self publishing workshops.

The 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge tells me I’ve read 175 books this year, however I’ve also beta read 4 books and have read others which aren’t yet on Goodreads, this bumps the number up a little.

What am I going to do next year? Perhaps I’ll meet you. I plan to go out and meet lots more authors and bloggers, nothing beats a face to face meeting.

I’d like to wish all my readers and reviewers a very Happy New Year.

Here are useful Twitter handles of people I’ve met this year.

@barbtaub

@CathyRy

@AlisonW_Editor

@sacha_black

@aliisaac_

@HughRoberts05

@geofflepard

@ShelleyWilson72

@CPhilippou123

@urbanepub

@marysmithwriter

@Blondewritemore

@sarahhardy681

@suzie81blog

@lilac_hippo

@KimTheBookworm

@hollymartin00

@jessica_Norrie

@susanhampsom57

@Williams13Anne

@jocatrobinson

@BCopperthwait

@JanBrigden

@stevieboyh

@LizanneLloyd

@baileyforce6

@shirl1001

@lizzie_lamb

@june_kearns

@adrienneauthor

@CullingfordMags

@newromantics4

@TerryTyler4

@ProofreadJulia

@GreenWizard62

@GeorgiaRoseBook

@rosieamber1