📚Set in North Carolina. Rosie’s #Bookreview Of Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. #TuesdayBookBlog

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where The Crawdads Sing is a fictional story set between the 1950s and the 1970s on the North Carolina coast. It tells the story of Kya, the youngest child of a family that lives in a remote shack in the marshlands.

It is a haunting tale of loneliness and one of wonder at the natural world. Kya was just six when her mother left and never returned. Her siblings all left soon after until it was just Kya and her drunk, violent father. Using basic survival, the kindness of a few folks and the lessons she learnt from her Ma and her older brother, Kya was forced to look after herself.

As well as this being a coming of age story there is also a darker side. A body is found in the opening pages of the book and most of the townsfolk accuse (adult) Kya because she was seen as strange and she was an easy scapegoat. The story then goes back to Kya’s youth and what led to her arrest. It is so well written that I was right there in the story wanting to reach out and help Kya.

This book has been on my TBR list for ages and I am so glad that I finally got a chance to read it.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

 

Orange rose book description
Book description

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

📚Set during the 1970s. Terry reviews #HistoricalFiction Fortunate Son by Thomas Tibor, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT.📚

Today’s team review is from Terry.

She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Fortunate Son by Thomas Tibor.

4 stars

Reed Lawson has a lot on his plate – he’s juggling college and membership of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), and his much revered father has been MIA in Vietnam for three years.  Then there are the droves of anti-war demonstrating hippies on campus, calling people like himself and his father ‘warmongers’.


When circumstances lead him to volunteer at a community project giving help to people with drug and emotional problems, he falls for Jordan, a strident feminist and peacenik.  His life also becomes entangled with a younger girl with serious emotional and family problems.


I enjoyed reading this; the storytelling itself is fine, the characters are clear and three-dimensional, and the author certainly knows how to write convincing, appropriate dialogue, a talent I believe is innate – I didn’t wince once, which says to me that the knack probably comes naturally to him.  Reed’s conflicting emotions about his father, and his reaction to discoveries about his parents, were extremely well written.  Also, there were a few excellent passages about the time and feel of the era:


‘The interstate had opened a few years ago.  Motels, fast food joints and gas stations mushroomed at each exit, sprouting garish oases in the rural countryside.  His mother hated the trend, predicting the country’s regional charms would be bulldozed in a few decades to make way for chain stories and restaurants that peddled the same brand of blandness in every state.’


‘He felt a kinship with all who’d travelled before him on thousands of miles of highway, which had replaced dirt roads, which covered trails hacked from raw wilderness.  Generations of restless Americans, forever on the move.  Pushing west, pushing south, yearning to go anywhere that promised to be better than where they came from.’


Although it’s a good book and I liked it, I thought it could have been cut down by about ten per cent to make it tighter; it’s quite long, and a fairly slow unfolding.  Also, the reminder of the era’s culture was a little over the top – the frequent indication of what song was playing on the radio or floating out of a student’s window, the way everyone’s conversation revolved around drugs, Vietnam, feminism and their own existential crisis, constantly.  It became a little repetitive after a while.
Having said that, I would most definitely recommend it as a solid human interest novel and a good story, particularly if you remember or have an interest in the era.

Desc 1

Fortunate Son is a coming-of-age story set on a southern college campus during the turbulent spring of 1970. Reed Lawson, an ROTC cadet, struggles with the absence of his father, a Navy pilot who has been Missing in Action in Vietnam for three years. While volunteering at a drug crisis center, Reed sets out to win the heart of a feminist co-worker who is grappling with a painful past and to rescue a troubled teenage girl from self-destruction. In the process, he is forced to confront trauma’s tragic consequences and the fragile, tangled web of human connections.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘A mid-life coming-of-age story’. @OlgaNM7 Reviews Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotist, For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin.

Sugar and Snails: An unusual midlife coming-of-age novel shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize by [Anne Goodwin]

This is a remarkably difficult book to review, because although it is not a mystery in the standard sense, there is a secret at the heart of the story, and one that when it is revealed (and I will do my best not to spoil the revelation) has a similar effect to a plot twist. It makes us reconsider all we have read before and realise that the signs were there, but perhaps we put ourselves so much in the protagonist’s shoes that we lost all sense of perspective and objectivity. I am not sure I can share much more of the plot than what the blurb reveals, but I’ll add a few more details. Diana is a university lecturer in Psychology whose Ph.D. thesis had to do with the way teenagers make decisions. By the end of the novel, we get to realise that this topic is strongly linked to Diana’s life story, and she comes to accept that we cannot hide our past behind a locked door and pretend it didn’t happen. As the blurb states, this is a mid-life coming-of-age story, and I must confess that having read a few of those in recent times, it is fast becoming a favourite subgenre of mine.

I cannot discuss all the themes in detail, but I can mention amongst others: childhood trauma and bullying, difficult family relationships, Psychology, university life, middle-age expectations, long-term friendships, middle-age romance, issues of identity, secrets, and lies (or half-truths), guilt and its consequences, prejudice, therapy (or what passed for therapy at some point in the not too distant past)… Although I can’t go into details, for the reasons mentioned above, I should say that the main subject of the book is quite controversial (not so much the subject itself, but how best to approach it and its practicalities), and everybody is bound to have an opinion, no matter how much or how little experience or knowledge they have on this particular matter. From that perspective, I am sure this book would be perfect for book clubs, because the events, the attitudes of the many characters, and the way the story is told will make people eager to engage in discussion.

The book is told in the first person by Diana, and I hesitate to call her an unreliable narrator, although, if we take the story at face value and only think about the plot, there is some of that. She does not give us all the information from the start, but there are reasons why, and she is not so much trying to trick us as trying to trick herself, or rather, trying to fit into the role she has created for herself. The story is not told linearly, because the memories of the past keep intruding into the protagonist’s life due to her present circumstances, but the outline of current events follows a chronological order, and there is never any confusion as to what is happening when. Sometimes we only come to fully understand a memory we have already been witness to later on when we obtain new information and we can review everything from a slightly different perspective, and this is one of the most interesting aspects of the way the story is told and a big asset.

Diana, as a character, might not have a lot in common with many readers (although that was not my case and I identified with quite a few aspects of her current story), but her first-person narration, the way she keeps analysing everything that goes on in her life, her lack of self-assurance and the distinctiveness of her voice are bound to connect with most readers. It is clear that she is trying hard to protect herself, while at the same time being a good friend, a dedicated lecturer, a loving cat owner, and a lonely woman who does not dare allow anybody in because the price to pay could be devastating. There are many other interesting characters whom we meet through Diana’s point of view (her parents, her sister, her brother, her friend Venus [one of my favourites], her other colleagues and friends, her new boss, a university student [who makes her question many things] and her father…) and they all come across as complex human beings, who sometimes make mistakes, but never intentionally. There are also a number of professionals (psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, teachers) who make an appearance, and although we don’t get to know them as well, they represent different models or options of therapy. Some might seem old-fashioned now, but unfortunately, they reflect the situation in the past and some recent welcome changes.

I have described the way the story is told, and the writing not only flows well, despite the changes in the timeline, but it is also engaging, moving, and gripping. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy story to read from an emotional point of view; there are many dreadful things that take place in the book, and people who are at a fragile or vulnerable moment in life, and those who might have had difficult dealings with mental health services or suffer from severe mental health problems might find it a particularly painful read. Despite those caveats, readers cannot help getting caught up in the story, and the way the protagonist slowly comes to terms with who she is and gains insight into what is really important for her. Perhaps an easy life and peace of mind should not be her main priorities, and being true to herself is fundamental, but reaching that realisation is far from straightforward.  There are many quotes I have highlighted and inspiring paragraphs, but I worry about letting the cat out of the bag, so rather than risking that, I would recommend that anybody with doubts check a sample of the writing, to see if it suits their taste.

The ending… I enjoyed it. I think it is perfect. It does not over-elaborate the point and leaves things open to readers’ imaginations, but it does so on an optimistic and hopeful note, and it does feel like a true resolution for the character. What else should we ask for?

In summary, this is a novel about a controversial subject that deals with it in a sensitive and truly insightful manner. It has an unforgettable central character, and it is beautifully written as well as inspiring and hopeful. I have included some warnings in the body of the review, but I am sure many readers will enjoy it and it will make them stop to think about the real world situation many people find themselves in and, perhaps, reconsider their opinions. Ah, I recommend reading until the end and learning a bit more, not only about the author but also about the publisher, Inspired Quill, their mission, and their contributions to charity (a 10% of all profits will be donated to charity). Oh, and the cover is a work of art. Beautiful.

Desc 1

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Sugar and Snails: An unusual midlife coming-of-age novel shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize by [Anne Goodwin]

A Story About Secrets And Life. @CathyRy Reviews Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotist For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Cathy has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

25865437. sy475

Diana Dodsworth is a psychology professor at Newcastle University. After a confused, unhappy childhood and making a decision in her mid teens that impacted on her in ways she didn’t expect, leaving her with a host of insecurities, she chooses now to live alone with her cat and tends generally not to get too involved with people. Privacy is very important to Diana and her past is something she keeps very much to herself.

Meeting recently divorced Simon at her friend’s birthday party is the catalyst for an upheaval in Diana’s somewhat lonely and reclusive lifestyle, particularly when he invites her to join him on a trip to Cairo during his sabbatical.

‘When I pointed out my red front door I expected Simon to stop in the middle of the road and let me hop out. Instead he reversed into a space a few doors along and switched off the engine. Was I supposed to invite him in and, if I did, would he assume there was more on offer than coffee? Did he even want more-than-coffee? Did he think I did? Or was there no deeper meaning to his parking the car than a wish to avoid blocking the road while we got my bike out of the back.’

Diana’s story is revealed in alternating flashbacks, and the more we get to know her, the more understanding and sympathy she generates. It’s sad that her decision all those years ago didn’t really lead to a happier life. She wants to keep her secret at all costs and has effectively stalled her life. Meeting Simon has made her begin to re-evaluate the way she lives, and how confiding in the people closest to her might affect her going forward.

Sugar and Snails is a remarkable and poignant story, covering several significant topics, particularly the main one, which Anne Goodwin deals with sympathetically. I like the fact that we witness events unfolding from both Diana’s perspective and also that of her parents…the confusion, uncertainty, not knowing how to deal with the position they find themselves in. The characters are wonderfully drawn and realistic. It’s only when Diana’s secret is revealed that things, or situations read about previously, fall into place. I had no idea until then, although looking back perhaps there were subtle clues.

Sugar and Snails is described as ‘A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.’ That sums it up in a nutshell but there’s an awful lot going on in between those gaps.

Desc 1

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

25865437. sy475

‘This story is about Diana who made a monumental decision aged just fifteen’. Georgia reviews Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotis

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Georgia has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

25865437. sy475

This story is about Diana who made a monumental decision aged just fifteen and, now aged forty-five, I felt that while that moment changed everything for her, she has still been living in some sort of hiatus for the last thirty years. Existing, rather than living, I suppose, as she wasn’t comfortable sharing who she was, not even with the closest of her friends, let alone with the new man in her life, Simon.

Diana is a psychology lecturer so there is some psychology in the book but it’s well explained, and interesting. I also enjoyed the structure of this story with alternate sections revealing the story of Diana’s childhood. This was so well written there was no chance of getting confused and I found it kept the interest level high, and the pages turning, because you wanted to find out what exactly had happened in Egypt all those years ago.

The depictions of Diana’s family were very well done too. The parents, who I initially thought rather uncaring, were actually, understandably, confused and at a loss as to what to do with their child. Her father, particularly, clearly haunted by what had happened to his friend when they were in the forces together, and later on. His guilt plain to see.

This story covers a highly controversial topic sensitively and the author writes these words at the end of the book, ‘I hope you find my words worthy of your time’. I most certainly did and I highly recommend this most excellent read.

Desc 1

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

25865437. sy475

‘I wanted to buy him a large strawberry milkshake.’ Alex reviews #familystory This Much Huxley Knows by @gailaldwin

Today’s team review is from Alex.

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Alex has been reading This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin

This Much Huxley Knows: A Story of Innocence, Misunderstandings, and Acceptance by [Gail Aldwin]

As part of Rosie Amber’s review team, I saw this book on her list and was intrigued by it. The following is my own, honest opinion.

I thought I’d like this book, which is why I chose it. I was prepared for it to be a bit ‘twee’ but worthy of at least 3*. This one is a definite 5* for me. I loved it.

The story is written entirely from the perspective of seven-year-old Huxley and the author has done a superb job of capturing his mannerisms, thoughts and behaviour. Anyone familiar with this age group will acknowledge how closely observed these things are and Gail Aldwin has managed to synthesise the essence of Huxley in a way that’s believable, funny and very, very touching.

Huxley is a ‘lonely only’. He’s desperate for a sibling and feels an outsider at school. His quick brain and love of puns often annoy his class teacher and there were instances when I felt anger on his behalf when the adults in his life behaved badly towards him.

What appeals so much about him as a character is his innate goodness. He knows it’s wrong to do ‘picking-on’ of people, whether it’s in the school yard or on the street, by children or adults, and is prepared to stand up to bullies – even those much older and bigger than him. Some of the adults in his life judge people by appearances but his innocence cuts through this prejudice.

There are several plotlines and tension is created through Huxley trying to make sense of the world without an adult’s filter of experience. We feel the same anxiety, confusion and anger that he does but have a perspective that makes sense of some of his misunderstandings. We don’t have the full picture, though – just his take on it – and this can rack up that tension as we wait to find out the full picture.

Huxley has a silly, boisterous side that rang completely true but he’s also a sensitive soul. Sad feelings ‘let my heart get sore’, he knows from the ‘squiggles’ on his father’s forehead that he has worries in there, and when his mother falls out with someone ‘It sounds like a friendship has broken’. He does what he can to make things better. The pace of the story never lags and I read this in one sitting. I’ll not give away any spoilers but suffice it to say that there’s some mysteries to solve and a growing sense of threat. The characters are finely drawn and distinctive and there were times when I wanted to join in with Huxley’s fun, sympathised (and recognised the behaviour!) when he was uncooperative because of perceived injustice, and there were other moments when I wanted to hug him and buy him a large strawberry milkshake.

Desc 1

I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.

Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?

Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship and what it means to trust.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

This Much Huxley Knows: A Story of Innocence, Misunderstandings, and Acceptance by [Gail Aldwin]

‘Take a step back and see the world through the innocence of a child’s eyes. @SueBavey reviews This Much Huxley Knows by @gailaldwin

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sue has been reading This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin

56958593

This Much Huxley Knows is Gail Aldwin’s second contemporary novel and is written in first person perspective from the point of view of Huxley, a seven year old boy living in the outskirts of London during the Brexit period. His world revolves around his parents, school, church, swimming and play dates with his friend Ben. He occasionally hears things he shouldn’t when the adults are talking, assuming he is not within earshot, and he often repeats things he has heard at the most inappropriate times and to the wrong people!

Huxley is quirky and likeable with a talent for making longer words into shorter expressions, which entertains him immensely. For example “sensible” becomes “sent-a-ball” but this talent can be wearing for his parents. Sometimes these word games are more apposite than he realizes: Brexit becomes “Breaks It”.

Through his eyes we experience the casual racism often expressed by Brexiteers such as Ben’s grandmother, his fear of bullying, the contemporary political issues and the fear of strangers felt by all parents in this day and age in a charming and engaging manner. I really enjoyed Huxley’s black and white take on the world around him. Sometimes we need to take a step back and see the world through the innocence of a child’s eyes.

Desc 1

I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.

Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?

Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship and what it means to trust.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

56958593

A Coming-Of-Age Superheroes #Scifi Story. @SueBavey reviews The Ascension Machine by @StorycastRob, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sue has been reading The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards

55200059. sy475

This book was a lot of fun to read. Aimed at YA/Middle grade readers, The Ascension Machine starts off in a space station in deep space, filled with interesting alien species such as the Welatak:

“The family pod of Welatak that sat near the toilets weren’t looking at me at all. The prime of the pod was playing a game that made the podlings clack with laughter, while the other adult in the group fiddled with one of the podling’s saline suits. They needed their suits to keep saltwater on their skin; Welatak dried out quickly in oxygen.”

The many different alien species at the transport hub brought to mind the scene in the bar in Star Wars: A New Hope, where we see all the different aliens – that scene was always fascinating to me and I imagine young readers will be equally captivated by the intriguing and unusual species described here.

We are introduced to our unnamed teenaged main character, who begins to tell us his story from first person perspective. He has lived aboard space stations for most of his young life, scamming travelers to make a little money here and there, without really thinking too much about the morals or consequences of his actions. Over the course of the novel, thankfully, this all changes, and he begins to see the error of his old ways as a grifter.

Searching for a lookalike to take over his responsibilities, while he goes off on some unidentified escapade, offensively rich Mirabor Gravane runs into our shady main character on the space station, running from his latest mark. Persuaded to take on the job, against his better judgement and for no small fee, our hero decides to call himself ‘Grey’ for short and reluctantly boards the ship for which Gravane handed over his first class ticket, without knowing what is in store at his destination. Another first class passenger, a somewhat scary looking large green alien of the Brontom variety, known as Seventhirtyfour turns out to have an enthusiastic and upbeat personality and quickly takes Grey under his four arms, eagerly showing him the commercial for the Justice Academy they are both heading towards – a college for would-be superheroes. The commercial makes it clear that you do not need superpowers to become a superhero – being true to yourself and having the right mindset will get you a long way on the path towards your goal and the courses on offer will build on these character traits:

“At the Justice Academy, we will equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs. Self-defence! Clue Analysis! Parkour! Rocket-Grapnel Maintenance! Rescueology!” Rescueology? “But we will also teach the other side of being a superhero.” And now there was a flurry of more studious, earnest learning scenes. “We have award-winning classes in marketing and public relations, costume design, and even philosophy, morals and ethics.”

In this way the Justice Academy is more inclusive than other similar schools such as Professor X’s Xavier Institute in the X-Men franchise.

The group of diverse friends Grey makes at the Justice Academy become his found family and they support each other in any way possible. In addition to the effusive Seventhirtyfour, they comprise Pilvi, a female human farmer and plant expert; Gadget Dude, a tech genius; reptilian female Dez; and winged Avrim. Seventhirtyfour was my favourite of the bunch, due to his unwavering positivity, friendliness and enthusiasm. Indeed at one point he is described as “a wall of green enthusiasm”. He is the glue that holds the group together.

The friends soon form a team for the inventive school sport of PowerBall and quickly learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Grey makes full use of his problem-solving skills, honed when running from his targets onboard space stations and now given full rein. These strengths and weaknesses translate well into the real world and when they are sent on a mission by Gravane’s mother they find themselves face to face with notorious gangs on a distant planet named Bantus, and make use of everything they have learned so far at the Justice Academy as well as their own natural skills to save the victims of these gangs. Hanging around with the morally upstanding Seventhirtyfour has already had a positive effect on Grey – he is no longer simply out for himself, he cannot ignore a mugging and also feels bad about his previous thievery.  He acts as a spy rather than superhero and foils the gang leaders on Bantus. Thrown into the situation at short notice, Grey has been unable to decide on an appropriate superhero name:

““Who are you?” he asked. “I’m the Grey…” Accountant? Ghost? Avenger? None of them sounded right. “The Grey?” he repeated. Great, now my superhero name was the same as my assumed secret identity…”

Grey is brave, if also reckless, and puts his friends in harm’s way again and again, never seeming to learn from his mistakes.

The pace of this book is fast with a chase right at the beginning and continuing in this vein with exciting adventures and escapades: chases, gang fights and action sequences involving superheroes (both with and without powers and tech gadgets), spying, criminology and detective work, a kidnap plot, an evil and possibly insane enhanced arch-villain with an army full of alien henchmen, a thrilling escape through a cave system and since they are young adults at college, there is even some social and emotional awkwardness between Grey and a girl called Sky Diamond.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good coming of age, action-packed school story with superheroes, aliens and a main character whose personality develops for the better and matures through his story arc. I loved how this book is filled with tongue in cheek humour and positive messages.

Desc 1

Welcome to the Justice Academy – the galaxy’s best superhero college! Teen grifter Grey arrives at the school carrying a lie: he isn’t really tech heir Mirabor Gravane. At the first opportunity Grey plans to leave the Academy. That is until he makes the mistake of starting to like his fellow students. The Justice Academy promises to “equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs” and Grey is beginning to believe the hype. But as he takes more risks to protect his secret, events spiral out of his control. When the real Gravane is kidnapped, Grey and his new friends must come together to mount a rescue and defend a city from an attack by hostile super-powered aliens. If he is to succeed, or even survive, Grey must decide who he is, and does he want to be a superhero?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

55200059. sy475

1930s Virginia, Sprinkled With #MagicalRealism @OlgaNM7 Reviews #ComingOfAge Fleuringala by M.K.B. Graham, for #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Fleuringala by M.K.B. Graham

57685598. sy475

Although M. K. B. Graham had submitted her first novel to Rosie’s team a few years back, I somehow missed it then, but I’m very pleased to have discovered this gem now. What a gorgeous read!

The novel is listed under the categories of ‘historical fiction’ and ‘coming of age fiction’ and they are both appropriate. The story is set in the late 1930s and early 40s, mostly in Virginia, a setting that the author knows well and several generations of her family have grown in. The protagonists (Tack [he is called Albert, like his Dad, but from the beginning it proved difficult to share the name, and he became known as Tack], and Ruby) live plenty of adventures, many together and some separately, but Lauderville and the rest of the settings they visit play almost as important a part as they do, and the book excels at making readers feel as if they were totally immersed in the experience, walking the streets, smelling the aromas, touching the fabrics, seeing the colours, and talking to the inhabitants of the town, and later, of Suwanalee (North Carolina), Charleston, and Fleuringala (yes, the title comes from a property and its quasi-magical gardens), and although some of those are fictional, it is evident that their creation has been inspired by real small towns and by a period of history that might feel far off, but it not as distant some things haven’t changed as much as we’d like to believe.

This is Tack’s coming of age story, although Rudy does a lot of growing as well (but she is much younger and still a child as we leave her). He graduates from high school, gets his first car, gets his first job (and that causes upset with his father, as he wanted him to carry on with the family business, because he is the only boy in a family of girls, and the youngest), and eventually gets to move away from home, live independently, and takes on the responsibility of looking after another human being. I don’t want to summarise the whole novel here and leave readers with no surprises,  but the story brought to my mind some of the classics in the genre, like Huckleberry Finn (mentioned in the book as well), To Kill a Mockingbird (although here, poverty, lack of social standing, and behaviours that are not considered ‘socially acceptable or in good taste’  are the cause behind much of the discrimination and suffering that ensues, rather than race, which does not feature in the book), and others like Little Women, a big favourite of mine. Tack is a young man, of course, but his selfless behaviour and the way he cares for others place the focus of the novel in characteristics other than those that tend to be more common in coming of age novels whose central characters are male, which often focus on the quest motif, adventures and dangers. Yes, Tack experiences plenty of those as well (they come across many obstacles, moments of self-doubt, and terrible trials), but not just out of a thirst for adventure or a desire to become independent and go looking for freedom. Those things also happen, but seem to be the unintended consequences of the interest he takes in Ruby and her welfare.

There are elements of the fairy tale as well (Fleuringala and its owner made me think of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Selfish Giant,’ minus the religious symbolism), and as would be the case in a fairy tale, there are characters that play the part of fairy godmothers (several in fact), out and out villains (Ruby’s mother, Gilda, although one has to wonder at how she might have been like, had her circumstances been different; Tack’s older sister; the car man [a true monster]…), there are magical castles/gardens, animal companions and defenders (Arly is a hero), something close to a miracle transformation, happy coincidences aplenty, and yes a HEA ending as well (with a final surprise, although I had my suspicions about that). Some of the characters seem to be larger than life, as if a caricaturist had emphasised their features for laughter or to bring them to our attention, but they all  (or most) have their human side. Don’t think that means this is a book that deals in light and fluffy subjects. Far from it. Even though this is not the typical story about the dark side of small America, where behind the veneer of civilization festers an underbelly of crime and corruption, we can still find child abuse and neglect, a horrific scene where Ruby is in terrible danger (well, two, but quite different in nature), plenty of prejudice, gossip (oh, those Mavens), and a good deal of suffering and disappointment. But, fear not, there are moments of comic relief (Maxine is wonderful if a bit over the top and I quite appreciate her friend Ira as well; Albert had his moments; and I loved Francine’s Beauty Parlor and the goings on there), plenty of smiles and happy events, beautiful descriptions of places, and a gorgeous rendering of the language of the people, turns of phrases, and local sayings and idioms. And, Ruby. The little girl is a light that shines through the whole story, (almost) always optimistic, willing to think the best of people and to give everybody a second chance. She is a transformative force, and she changes all she meets for the better.

I’ve mentioned the beautiful language and writing. The story is written in the third person, from an omniscient point of view, which, although I know some readers don’t appreciate, I felt that in this case it worked well to bring us closer to all the characters and to make us appreciate what moves them and what they are really like. It also foreshadows what is to come, giving us hints and insights, and preparing us in advance for both good and bad news. Most of the story follows chronologically the events from the moment Tack sees Ruby from the first time, although there are some chapters where it provides background information about some of the other characters, allowing readers to get a clearer picture of where they are coming from and helping us get a clearer understanding of their reactions, their behaviours, turning it into something of a collective narrative, and not only the story of the two main characters. We might or might not like some of the people we meet, but we get to understand them a bit better.

I highlighted plenty of sentences and full paragraphs as I read, and I’ll follow my usual policy of recommending possible readers to check a sample of the book if they can, but I’ll share a couple of random examples, to give you a taste:

All Tack knew was that here in Lauderville, a little town tucked in the bumpy toe of Virginia as close to Tennessee as a blanket is to a sheet, the winters were cold, the springs and autumns were nice, and the summers could be pleasant —or hot as Hades. Like today.

Here, talking about the Maven’s behaviour at Francine’s Beauty Parlor:

They shamelessly, deliberately, and corporately encouraged Gilda the way a child is prodded to repeat a dirty word. That she could run her mouth faster and louder than an un-muffled Chevy only added to her appeal. And with her ability to spin an innuendo faster than a frog can snatch a fly, she entertained the Mavens who would not miss it for anything short of the funeral of a close relative—although not one among them would admit it. Everybody around her sat and listened, assured that their own stations in life were considerably loftier than Gilda’s.

I have mentioned the ending, and yes, I’m sure it won’t disappoint readers. I felt sad for losing sight of the characters, but the ending is pretty perfect, in the way the best fairy tales and happy novels can be, especially when the characters have gone through so much. It’s easy to imagine what their lives will be like from then on, and the outlook is excellent.

This is a wonderful novel, and I enjoyed it enormously. It is not realistic and gritty in the standard sense, but if I had to include any warnings, as I’d mentioned before there is a scene that is fairly explicit and terrifying, and another one that will cause heartache to most readers who love pets; and child abuse and neglect are important themes in the story. Of course, if one thinks of classic fairy tales, they are not mild or non-violent, can be terrifying, and often feature abuse, neglect, abandonment, cruel behaviours and worse. I wouldn’t recommend this novel to people looking for a hard and totally realistic account of life in 1930s small town America, but readers looking for a magical story, with wonderful characters, a strong sense of place, the nostalgic feel of an era long gone, and beautiful writing peppered with local expressions and idioms, will love this novel. I can’t wait to see what the author with delight us with, next.

Desc 1

Abandoned by her no-count mother in a rundown shack on the outskirts of Lauderville, Virginia, seven-year-old Ruby Glory is alone. Her only friend and sole companion is her faithful dog, Arly. Then along comes Tack, the teenage son of Lauderville’s prominent and well-heeled Pittman family. Despite his sincere desire to help Ruby, Tack learns quickly that no good deed goes unpunished. His involvement with the child of a women of ill-repute sends his family and the citizens of Lauderville into a frenzy of rumors and gossip, presenting Tack with a dilemma. Will the uproar spell the end for the mismatched friends—or set in motion opportunities that Tack and Ruby could only imagine?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

57685598. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Ya #Fantasy The Trickster’s Sister by R. Chris Reeder

Today’s team review is from Barb. She blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Barb has been reading The Trickster’s Sister by R Chris Reeder

57672862. sy475

Epic fantasy is an ambitious genre to take on. After Lord of the Rings defined it, great series from the Belgariad to Harry Potter refined it, and Star Wars took it into space, it’s got to be a challenge to extend the tropes into new territory, especially for the middle book of a series.

I started with a disadvantage because I haven’t read The Changeling’s Daughter, Book 1 in the Coblyn Chronicles series. And while author R. Chris Reeder does an excellent job of slipping in the important details as his story moves forward, the usual middle-book issue of introducing an ever-increasing cast of supporting characters is compounded by the mortal sin of fantasy writers: loads of fantasy creatures with unpronounceable names containing too many or not enough vowels—”…he’d been interrupted by a family of gwyllion whose cavern had been vandalized by a band of pwca colts…”

This is compounded by long descriptions of magical spells and babbling that basically involves applied phlebotinum (a term supposedly coined by Buffy writer David Greenwalt to move a plot forward using a fictional material possessing made-up properties unknown in the real world.

Luckily for all of us, author R. Chris Reeder soon tires of this epic-soup, and turns to the coming-of-age stories of his two teenaged protagonists, Makayla and her goblin bestie, Brynn.

Their hometown, Jeffersonville Indianna, is being systematically destroyed by demonic changelings, while their actual family, friends, and fellow residents have been taken…somewhere. When Brynn’s parents disappear, leaving the girls to watch over Brynn’s baby sister, the two friends realize it’s up to them to babysit. And save the world.

There were standard epic tropes, nicely-subverted in most cases. For example, there is a dragon-pommeled sword, a gift from the most powerful warrior, and a tiny magic fairy nut which the girls faithfully haul around with them but which never seem to quite win the day.  There was a hobbit, at least he was hobbity most of the time. There was an ancient evil that could be killed but not, perhaps, defeated.

But oddly, none of those things were really what the book was about. Instead—and the parts I most enjoyed— it’s about friendship, and love, and being the outsider, and fitting in. It’s about growing up to acknowledge that you can’t win unless you celebrate what makes you different.

What I absolutely loved about the tale as it moves forward is that instead of being the Chosen One(s) prophesied to save the world (while mastering convenient new powers in the nick of time, of course), Makayla and Brynn instead are friends with issues. Makayla is suffering from PTSD after their last traumatic adventure, while Brynn is profoundly distrustful of her own newfound abilities. Brynn’s younger brother is conflicted about pretending to be human while denying his goblin nature. In addition, both girls are coming to terms with their sexuality and attraction to each other, although in Brynn’s case that’s a little more unusual:

 I mean, I’m a goblin,” Brynn said with a shrug. “But I still think of myself as a person So I like people…But I also see a goblin and go, hmm.’ And there was that hot horse person, the pwca, and I don’t know if…if that horse person…was a boy or a girl or what. So yeah, I like girls, But I don’t think that’s all I like. Is that okay?

So even though bad guys have a tendency to come back from the dead, and this episode ends in a seriously disturbing (think Sophie’s Choice) confrontation followed by a cliffhanger, and there are way too many pantheon-swapping supernatural creatures with annoyingly few vowels in their names, I ended up enjoying the ways The Trickster’s Sister used its high/low/epic/fairytale fantasy mashup to evoke and subvert fantasy genre tropes. And I especially liked the way two young women grow, and love, and learn to use their flaws and their idiosyncrasies as their advantages.

Desc 1

After getting kidnapped by a demigod and imprisoned in another dimension, Makayla was really hoping that her life would get back to normal. Or at least as normal as life could be when you had a goblin for a best friend.

But now her sleepy midwestern town is being invaded by shadows. Her neighbors are being stolen away and replaced by changelings. And when she tries to escape, her path threatens to take her to the one place she never wanted to return to: the mysterious and dangerous Land of Annwfyn.

In this sequel to The Changeling’s Daughter, Makayla and Brynn must confront their deepest fears and their worst enemies as their journey takes them to the farthest ends of the Earth and beyond.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

57672862. sy475