HIDDEN CHAPTERS by Mary Grand contemporary fiction set in #Gower #Wales @authormaryg

Hidden Chapters: A powerful novel exploring motherhood, adoption, and family secretsHidden Chapters: A powerful novel exploring motherhood, adoption, and family secrets by Mary Grand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hidden Chapters is a contemporary story set on the Gower peninsula in Wales. The characters all plan to meet near Rhossili Bay to hold a memorial service for a young man who died on the Worm’s Head eighteen years ago.

They will celebrate the talented young man, who died so young. However, the gathering brings up old wounds for more than one character and secrets from the past are revealed.

Bethan is a skilled musician and her grandfather would like to help her make a rich life in America. Catrin hasn’t been back to the Gower for eighteen years, and she’s never understood her father’s hostility towards her. Elizabeth needs to lay her own ghosts to rest, and the memorial service offers her this opportunity.

I jumped at the chance to read this book because I’ve been to the Gower on several occasions visiting friends and attending weddings, so I was looking forward to a reminder of the area. I particularly enjoyed the parts about the location and its history. I thought that Catrin’s personal story moved well through a strong arc, ending in a most satisfactory way. However, the writing style was a challenge for me. I enjoy a book where dialogue is used to enhance the narrative and give the characters their own unique voices, but much of the plot in Hidden Chapters is related in large chunks of dialogue, which to me felt unnatural. There is much exposition: the characters explain points in order to get them across to the audience when, often, the characters would already have known the points she/he was making. I advise the author to make the most of the strengths of this nicely thought out story by finding a different way of putting information across, so that the reader is being told a story, rather than facts via conversation.

I liked many of the characters, particularly Bethan and how she overcame her challenges. Glamorous Elizabeth was well suited to her lifestyle too and I enjoyed how she evolved. I learnt much about deafness and sign language; however, in places it became repetitive, and at times more like a lecture than a story.

The whole storyline is about discovery of hidden truths and it makes for high emotions amongst the players. For me, the potential to take the reader on a rollercoaster wave was missed. I would have liked to see a wider range of emotions, perhaps going deeper with shock, fear, pain etc rather than using shouting and anger in most of the key moments.

The book has its good points and the Welsh setting will be a plus for some, but I’m afraid it missed the mark for me.

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Book Description

Whoever said time heals all wounds is a liar 
Haunted by the death of Aled at Worm’s Head, his sister Catrin returns to prepare the family home for sale, accompanied by her adopted Deaf daughter, Bethan. A web of lies and secrets spun by Catrin’s father slowly starts to unravel. Catrin, facing a crisis in her marriage, discovers that she must face this past if she is to heal and take control of her future. 
Nobody expects to meet Bethan’s birth mother, Elizabeth, who they think is dead. Her arrival at a memorial for Aled sends shock waves through the family. 
This is the beautifully told story of a family struggling with ghosts from the past. 
Hidden Chapters is an optimistic novel about the hope and the courage each of us can find within ourselves to own our past and take control of the next chapter of our lives. 

About the author

Mary Grand

I grew up in Wales. Later I taught in London and then worked with Deaf Children in Hastings. I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with family and my cocker spaniel Pepper.

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CHINA BLUE by Madalyn Morgan @ActScribblerDJ #Book #3 Dudley Sisters #WW2 Dramas

China Blue (Dudley Sisters Saga #3)China Blue by Madalyn Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

China Blue is book #3 of the Dudley sisters WW2 family dramas. This book is about sister Claire Dudley and her experiences in the armed forces.

Claire Dudley is good at languages and quickly rises through the ranks to Special Ops where she gets dropped into France to send back information on the German forces. Part of her training means staying for two weeks with a French speaking family in the UK and then several weeks training at secret locations.

Captain Alain Mitchell of the Canadian forces oversees Claire and pushed her hard. They are dropped into France together and against all training they fall in love and have a relationship. Claire’s code name is China Blue. But when the pair return to France for a second time Mitch is captured by the Germans. Claire is left to fulfil her role but there are complications. The local resistance take her under their belt, until she is once more taken back home.

This book is packed with nostalgia from the era. This was quite a light easy war time read with a romantic theme and a happy ending.

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Book Description

CHINA BLUE is the third book in The Dudley Sisters Saga. 
At the beginning of World War II Claire Dudley joins the WAAF. She excels in languages and is recruited by the Special Operations Executive to work in German occupied France with Captain Alain Mitchell, of the RCAF, and the French Resistance. 
Against SOE rules Claire falls in love. The affair has to be kept secret. Even after her lover falls into the hands of the Gestapo, Claire cannot tell anyone they are more than comrades. 
As the war reaches its climax, Claire fears she will never again see the man she loves. 

About The Author

Madalyn Morgan

Madalyn Morgan has been an actress for more than thirty years working in repertory theatre, the West End, film and television. She is a radio presenter and journalist, writing articles for newspapers and magazines.

Madalyn was brought up in a busy working class pub in the market town of Lutterworth in Leicestershire. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live. There were so many wonderful characters to study and accents learn. At twenty-four Madalyn gave up a successful hairdressing salon and wig-hire business for a place at E15 Drama College, and a career as an actress.

In 2000, with fewer parts available for older actresses, Madalyn learned to touch type, completed a two-year course with The Writer’s Bureau, and began writing. After living in London for thirty-six years, she has returned to her home town of Lutterworth, swapping two window boxes and a mortgage, for a garden and the freedom to write.

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AN OFF-PISTE CHRISTMAS by @JulieHouston2 #RomCom #Christmas novella #TuesdayBookBlog

An Off-Piste ChristmasAn Off-Piste Christmas by Julie Houston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An Off-Piste Christmas is a light romcom style novella and should ideally be read as part of the author’s series of books surrounding the Westmoreland family and friends. For those familiar with the characters from other novels it will make much more sense, than for first time readers.

There is an epic cast of characters to get your head around, most introduced early on in the book. They have complex relationships which take a bit of getting used to. That said the style is fun and upbeat.

The storyline follows a post Christmas skiing trip to the Italian dolomite mountains for a group of twelve English-folk, all related to or who are friends with Harriet Westmoreland. The group is diverse; twin three year olds, tweens, teens and post teens, a couple with their own three year old, whose real father is dating Harriet’s student daughter and even a seventy year old Granny.

The accommodation is top of the range in a resort known for its celebs, but try as she might Harriet is not a skier and soon gives up in favour of taking in the sites. These include a face to face with a dead ex-lover. Throw in vile Vivian and one or two other incidents and this makes for a lively and exhausting read.

Probably recommended for those readers who have previously fallen in love with the Westmoreland tribe.

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Book Description

The last thing Harriet Westmoreland wants is Christmas away from home, particularly when skiing, snow, heights and freezing her backside off are on the menu. While her own family, together with her best friend Grace’s, are soon whizzing down ridiculously high and scary mountains in the fashionable Italian resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Harriet is stuck in the remedial class on the nursery slopes unable, it seems, to remain vertical. 

Tired of trying to stay upright in the dunces’ class, Harriet decides to overcome her fear of heights and take her bruised body off to explore the refugios in the magnificent Dolomites above Cortina. And maybe catch a glance of George Clooney, rumoured to be in town… But what happens next triggers a totally unexpected avalanche of events which proves that, for friends Harriet and Grace and all their families, Christmas really is a time for little miracles… 

About the author

An image posted by the author.

Julie Houston is Yorkshire born and bred. She lives in Huddersfield where her novels are set and her only claims to fame are that she taught at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old school and she was rescued by Frank Bough when, many years ago, she was ‘working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’ at the Kensington Hilton in London.

After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country.

She now teaches just a couple of days a week but still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the last fifteen years, and, when not distracted by ebay, genealogy (so time consuming but so interesting – she recently discovered her husband is descended from the poet Shelley and the Duke of Milan!!) and crosswords, she spends much of her time writing.

Julie is married, has a twenty-one-year-old son and eighteen-year-old daughter and a mad cockatoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book.

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Rosie’s #BookReview team #RBRT OUT OF THE BOX by @JenTheRiot #SundayBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Luccia, she blogs at http://lucciagray.wordpress.com

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Luccia has been reading Out Of The Box by Jennifer Theriot

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I gave it 4 stars. Here’s my review:

This review is posted on behalf of Luccia Gray.

Out of the Box by Jennifer Theriot is a contemporary family drama with a hopeful ending.

Olivia, who is in her late 50s, is faced with making major life changes. Her children have grown up and left home, and she has to move from Huston to Chicago due to her husband’s new job. Her husband, Alan, is staying with his friend, Ash, who becomes Olivia’s supportive friend as her life unexpectedly falls apart.

We will follow Olivia through the discovery of betrayal and her traumatic divorce, as she gradually falls in love with Ash. She realizes she hadn’t really been in love with her husband for a long time before their marriage ended. For example, she loved music and dancing, while Alan didn’t, so she had abandoned her hobby until Ash and his son, who is a musician, open up a new world of music and dancing.  The realization that she has been drifting through life with Alan, who had never really appreciated her, comes as a shock. For instance, there’s a scene when she’s in hospital and Ash phones Alan to ask about her medical history to fill in a form, but he doesn’t know the answers.

‘Alan, tell me you actually know something about your wife? I’ve got to get these forms filled out and I goddamn need your help.’

Alan replies: ‘I honestly don’t know.’

It’s devastating, but at least Olivia is fortunate enough to have found Ash, who is supportive emotionally and helpful from a practical point of view too. He teaches her to value herself, her body, her hobbies and her freedom. He encourages her to find a part time job, to keep herself busy, motivated and independent.

Most romantic novels have young main characters, so it was refreshing to read a novel about a more mature love story including characters who were my age. There are also plenty of young people in the novel, such as Olivia and Ash’s young adult children, who liven up the story.

Although it can be read as a standalone because there is no cliff-hanger ending, and the ending is happy, there’s still a story to be continued. I was thrilled to discover that there are two more books in the series. How will their new life together work out? They both have families and personal baggage, will they be able to start again? Life with Ash will be better than life with Alan, because at least Ash respects and supports Olivia, but Ash also has his secrets. His job in government security, which we know little about and keeps him away for periods of time, is intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment.

A free copy of the book was given to the reader in return for an honest review.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Palomino Sky by @JanRuthAuthor

Today’s team review is from Luccia, she blogs at http://lucciagray.wordpress.com

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Luccia has been reading Palomino Sky by Jan Ruth

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Review Palomino Sky by Jan Ruth

Palomino Sky is the sequel to Midnight Sky, both novels are named after horses on the farm where James lives and carries out his equestrian business.

Palomino Sky is named after another new horse. Liz (James’ bossy and independent sister) calls a ‘showy palomino’. I know very little about horses, and one of the joys of reading these two novels is learning more about them, like discovering that palomino is a coat color in horses, consisting of a gold coat and white mane and tail. Rhian, one of the staff says ‘Jamie reckons she’s a natural at hooking up, a joiner.’ James, the horse whisperer, needs horses like that to help recover the horses he heals from trauma and injury. Palomino is also a metaphor for Laura’s role in the novel. She will have to heal, or ‘join’ James in the second part of the novel.

Palomino Sky moves the story started in Midnight Sky in a much darker way, because there are various dramatic and violent events, which will seriously change the course of all their lives, especially in the case of Laura and James.

In book one, James helped Laura during a traumatic moment in her life, including her break up with Simon, but in book two, it’s Laura who will have to heal James from real physical injury and trauma. I can say no more without including a spoiler.

Maggie and Pete have set up a bed and breakfast to supplement their meagre income at Hafod House, the running of which brings some humorous relief to the dramatic action. I liked the way Maggie’s role as older and wiser sister is heightened, and she actually takes some very important and risky steps to help Laura with her personal issues with the men in her life.

On the other hand, Jess’s role as troublesome teenager, develops into a dangerous troublemaker. A violent boyfriend, and a new crush on James’s twenty-year-old American son, will lead to many unfortunate incidents throughout the novel, including an almost tragic event, which will rock their lives.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT SHATTERED LIES by @sjfrancis419

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Terry has been reading Shattered Lies by S.J. Francis

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SHATTERED LIES by S J Francis

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber’s Review Team

This is a complex, emotional family drama set in America’s Deep South, in the ‘Magnolia State’, Mississippi. I believe this is the author’s debut novel, and 10% of royalties go the Polycystic Kidney Foundation.

Kate Thayer is a thirty year old widow who runs a horse farm that belongs to the family, and lives in the family mansion along with her grandmother, Katherine. Early on in the book she begins to unravel the lies she has been told all her life, about her parents and grandparents, and the servants who live and work on the estate.

I am interested in American social history and the stark differences between the states in this vast continent, and do like a bit of family intrigue. I cannot say much, as it would give the plot away, but I did find the age-old prejudices that still exist between races in this part of the world, interesting to read about.

At first I couldn’t connect with the characters at all, but they began to emerge from one dimension as the novel progressed. I found it a little ‘heavy’, as there was little to suggest a life for any of them outside the confines of the novel; if it wasn’t for people using their cell phones and a few references to Obama, and, indeed, the years themselves, the story could have been set at any time over the past forty or so years. The other downside, for me, was the curious punctuation; for some reason, the author has used two small en dashes (–) in place of semicolons, brackets, em dashes, ellipses, and some commas. There is a certain amount of ‘telling not showing’, ie, the omniscient narrator stating what a character’s personality is like rather than letting the reader assess it for him or herself, via dialogue, expression and action.

The plot is an unusual and unexpected one; it made me think of those 1980s American blockbuster mini-series. That isn’t a complaint—I loved them! It’s certainly thought-provoking, and provided a good insight into the North-South divide that, clearly, still exists.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

A SUITABLE YOUNG MAN by @annelharvey1 1950’s #HistFic #WeekendBlogHop #Bookreview

A Suitable Young ManA Suitable Young Man by Anne L. Harvey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Suitable Young Man is a historical family drama/ romance, set in the 1950’s in the English Lancashire town of Horwich. Kathy Armstrong is an only child and currently works as a typist for the Bolton Evening News. Attacked one evening by a group of lads she is rescued by school friend Nick Roberts.

There is a spark of interest between them, but they lead different lives, Nick is a Teddy boy, he drinks hard, plays hard and gets into trouble. But underneath is a different side to Nick, not long out of National Service, he wants to be a mechanic, but doors are closed to him without civvy street qualifications. So Nick attends night-school to get his certificates.

Kathy enjoys dancing and parties, she meets John Talbot, an educated young man who is an accountant and they begin dating, her parents see him as a very suitable young man, but Kathy keeps bumping into Nick and he ignites flames in her which John doesn’t.

Ann Harvey brings lots of nostalgia and plenty of details from Britain in the 1950’s to this piece of work which make the characters feel very real, a little twist at the end leaves the door open for a second book.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT A SUITABLE YOUNG MAN by @AnneLHarvey1 #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Terry chose to read and review A Suitable Young Man by Anne L Harvey

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A SUITABLE YOUNG MAN by Anne L Harvey

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team

I enjoyed reading this, and was very impressed by some parts. It’s a family saga, set in the working class Bolton area in the 1950s. Kathy is a secretary who wants to be a journalist in a time when women aren’t supposed to want careers. She gets herself a ‘suitable’ boyfriend, but finds herself falling in love with Nick Roberts, teddy boy, of whom her family disapproves.

The story is told mostly through the eyes of Kathy and Nick, in alternating chapters, with a few snapshots from the viewpoint of Joyce, Nick’s 16 year old sister. It’s obvious that the author has written about a time and circumstances that she knows well, and what struck me most was how very different those times were, though only 60 years ago, as I read about the poor families with the tin bath tub hanging on the back of the door, the way in which women of that class had nothing to look forward to but the lifestyle of their mothers. In other ways, though, history repeats itself; the Teddy Boys of Anne Harvey’s novel could have been the hippies of the 1960s, the punks of the 1970s, the Emos and Goths of later.

I loved the portrayal of the Saturday night dances (how tame when compared to young people’s entertainment of later decades!), the families sitting round listening to the radio as the only form of entertainment, the cinema as an exciting place to go to, to hear the new music (and those travel film opening features; I think they were still being shown when I was a teenager!). Also how Nick’s mother, at only around 40, was already an old woman. Nick’s a lovely character, I liked him a lot.

Later in the book there is a death that I found heartrending, I thought this bit was very well done without laying it on too thickly. I enjoyed this novel more and more as it went on. At times I found the dialogue a little contrived; I felt too much emphasis was put on sticking in yet another bit of nostalgia about the period, or giving information, rather than concentrating on making the dialogue realistic, but this doesn’t occur very often.

The story ended as I expected it to, but I was delighted to see a nice little twist in the epilogue, and I look forward to reading the next book, ‘Bittersweet’. If your preference is for these sort of ‘warts and all’, post war family dramas, I imagine you will love this; I’d definitely recommend it.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

 

The Cunning Woman’s Cup by Susan Hewitt #bookreview #DuddoStones @sue9631

The Cunning Woman's CupThe Cunning Woman’s Cup by Sue Hewitt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Cunning Woman’s Cup is a contemporary piece of fiction woven around ancient standing stones and family dramas. It is set in Duddo, Northumberland near the Scottish border.

There is an ancient stone circle at Duddo made of 5 megaliths. We are introduced to Mordwand of the Brigantes a healing woman burned at the stake. Her story threads throughout the book in a series of small flashbacks.

Alice McCleish lives with Nipper, her dog, close to the standing stones. The small community is close and supportive of each other and Alice is one of the backbones of village life. She meets Margaret Allerton whilst out walking and they begin a friendship which will give them both a new lease of life.

I loved the way the author built this story introducing new layers and new characters once I’d got a good picture and feel for the place. Alice employs Brian Rigden to help restore her garden to the splendour it once was when her husband Callum was alive. Callum was a man at one with the land and the spirits which watched over them, while Alice was a true believer in God and his church. They agreed to disagree on spiritual matters.

It’s Brian who discovers an ancient cup whilst digging in the garden and the rare find warrants a full archaeological dig. The cup’s discovery starts off a whole series of changing events, Violet Turnbull has not left the house for nearly 30 years. An Agrophobic until she talks to Maisie one of the young students from the dig. With help from Maisie’s Aunt, Violet takes her own destiny onto her hands.

There’s so much more I’d love to tell you about the book, but I’d give too much away. I thought it was an inspiring read, I was off baking my own bread and yearning to make some lemon curd, but more importantly I was researching more about Duddo stones and I’d never thought much about the new business which takes over Henge Farm, but now I’m mulling it over as a sensible option to our human needs.

This book left me with questions, got me thinking, sent shivers down my spine, had me laughing and crying and although I knew it must end, I really didn’t want it to, I’d found a new friend, now I’m just off for a spiritual walk to the stones and then I’ll settle down for coffee cake and tea with Alice and Nipper.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

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Pattern Of Shadows by Judith Barrow

Pattern of ShadowsPattern of Shadows by Judith Barrow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pattern of Shadows is a WW2 historical fiction. Mary Howarth is a nurse in a hospital attached to the Granville German prisoner of war camp, which is near Manchester, Uk.

The story begins in 1944. Mary’s brother Tom is a conscientious objector and in prison for his refusal to take part in the war. Her second brother Patrick, is a Bevin Boy, young men conscripted to work in the coal mines during the war to support the country. He’s angry at having his choice to fight in Europe taken from him and we meet him when he’s part of a striking work force.

Mary’s Dad is also a man with a temper, he’s embarrassed by his son Tom and angry with Patrick for striking. He remembers the first World War and his role which left him suffering from the effects of gas. He’s playing his part with the local home guard, but often takes his anger out on Mary’s Mum in violent ways.

Mary feels she holds the family together. Her younger sister, Ellen works in a munitions factory, but hates it, wanting to be young and carefree, she’s reckless with the local American GIs.

Mary meets Frank, a friend of Patrick’s and they start going out, but Mary isn’t sure about him. He’s a guard at the prison camp having been invalided out of the army with a knee injury.

At the hospital, German doctors help look after the patients and when two new doctors arrive, Mary feels a spark between herself and doctor Peter Schormann. But any romance would be extremely dangerous for them both, however they can’t hide their feelings.

Confiding in best friend Jean, Mary’s troubles begin to escalate. Heavy handed jealous Frank has a brawl and Mary doesn’t like this violent side to him, but he won’t take her rejection lightly. He begins to stalk her and notices her friendship with the German Doctor which he threatens to put an end to.

This book shows the hardships that families in England went through during the war, their suffering, lack of food and how they coped on a day to day basis. It was an interesting mix to have the “enemy” living along side them and the reactions that the locals had, their fears and loyalties tested to extremes. I really enjoyed the story and the ending had an unexpected revelation which was a delight.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by Honno Press

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

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