📚Domestic #Thriller. Frank Reviews Semi-Detached by Deborah Stone, for Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #BookTwitter

Today’s team review is from Frank

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Frank has been reading Semi-Detached by Deborah Stone

There is a point near the end of this book when one of the characters says that what has happened is so improbable that were he to submit it to the producers of Eastenders, as a potential storyline, they would reject it. It echoes my own impression, much earlier in the story, when I thought to myself “this is preposterous and yet it is entertaining, just like a soap opera.”

That is the main point I want to make: Semi-Detached is an entertaining read despite the impossibility of suspending disbelief. The two central female characters come across as rather naive and dim witted; their respective husbands as controlling misogynists. In fact, the only character that is at all likeable is the husband that behaves in the most despicable fashion.

Not that this is surprising because his whole modus operandi is to use his considerable charm to perpetrate fraud on credulous individuals.

Despite the implausibility of the premise, it was fairly obvious from quite early on where the story was heading. Anticipating how Ms Stone would get us there is part of the entertainment. But, to her credit, she does not stop there. She is able to deliver a final twist that makes it all come right for the younger generation of her cast of characters.

Semi-Detached lacks the literary qualities that would make it a five star novel. It does not adequately address serious social issues. It doesn’t offer insights into human behaviour. The main characters, unlike those in soap operas, seem disembodied from the communities in which they exist. Nevertheless I believe it merits more than three stars for its entertainment value. My rating, therefore, is 3.5

Orange rose book description
Book description

Bill and Amanda are living in a semi-detached house, stuck in a depressing rut of boredom and disappointment, when Terry and Fiona – glamorous, successful and very much in love – move in next door. Despite their different outlooks on life, the couples befriend each other and life appears to improve for both pairs. But all is not what is seems, and their increasingly interconnected relationships are fated for tragedy.

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📚#Memoir The Horrors Of Modern Warfare. Frank Reviews The Thin Blue-Yellow Line Between Love & Hate by Ukraine Writer @AntonEine #BookTwitter

Today’s team review is from Frank.

Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Frank has been reading The Thin Blue-Yellow Line Between Love & Hate by Anton Eine.

In the spring of 1941 my mother left London. She was accompanied by her mother and carrying me in her womb. She had spent much of the preceding 12 months working in Air Raid Precautions. She was present in London during the 58 days of the ‘Blitz’ in September and October 1940, when she not only saw the devastation caused by Hitler’s bombers but assisted with the organisation of shelters and providing food for families whose homes had been destroyed.

In the summer of 1943 my father was one of 50,000 aircrew involved in the bombing of German cities. He took part in the raids which generated a fire storm over Hamburg, as a result of which 2 million civilians are said to have fled that city. He lost his life when the bomber of which he was Flight Engineer was shot down during a raid on Mannheim in November 1943.

Since 1945 neither the UK or Europe has had first hand experience of such a conflict. Whilst many US Army, Navy and Air Force personnel participated in that conflict and many others since, North America has never been under attack. Two generations of citizens in what we usually refer to as the Western Democracies have no idea what it is like to be subjected to bombardment on such a scale.

Since February 24th 2022, the citizens of Ukraine have had to get used to daily bombardments. For the first weeks after that date many also had to suffer the brutality of occupation by an army of individuals whose behaviour, revealed once they were driven back, marked some as psychopaths.

Anton Eine’s book documents the first 100 days following the unprovoked attack. The story of his own escape from Kyiv, with his young family, to the relative safety of Lviv in the west of the country, is harrowing enough. He brings together the tales of many other families from around Ukraine, collected via email and the internet. He also provides much more detail about the terrorising of Bucha, and other towns and neighbourhoods liberated from Russian occupation, than were shown on UK television at the time.

The book has been translated into English and is shows Eine’s diversity as an accomplished writer adding to his stable of works which include science fantasy novels. In this book he talks candidly about the difficulty of shielding his 3-year-old son from news about the ‘good soldiers’ and the ‘bad soldiers’.

‘Bad soldiers’ is a sanitised version of what Eine calls the Russian army and their leader. In fact, the most striking thing about the book, is the visceral hatred of the Russian ‘Orcs’ that comes across in every paragraph.

It is plain that the damage caused by Putin’s ‘Special Operation’ extends way beyond the destruction of buildings and infrastructure and the unnecessary deaths of civilians, to the minds of the people, leaving a scar that it will take generations to heal.

Although, I did not finish the book, I would suggest that it is essential reading for anyone who has not experienced the realities of modern warfare. Which means every citizen under 75 in most of Europe and North America. For that reason I cannot rate it less than 5 stars out of 5.

Orange rose book description
Book description

A diary chronicling the hopes, pain and fears of ordinary Ukrainians collected during the current war. Frank, emotional and straight from the heart.

This book is about the first 100 days of fascist Russia’s perfidious and unfounded invasion of Ukraine. But it is not an account of the war and its battlefield engagements. It’s about people. About their feelings and emotions, their experiences, fears and pain, their suffering, hope and love.

I started writing this book one sleepless night in Kyiv when I had been kept awake all night by the roar of our aerial defense system and explosions nearby, listening out for approaching rockets and bombs and wondering whether I should take my wife and young son and run for the air-raid shelter. That night, I realized that I had a duty as a writer to act as a voice for those whose stories desperately needed to be told to other people in the world.

I wrote about what I saw and felt. About the stories, my relatives and friends shared with me. It became a chronicle, memoir, diary and confession. I set down our stories so that the whole world might know and understand what we have been through. So that the whole world might share our experiences of this war alongside us – in our trembling buildings, in our freezing cold basements, underground parking lots, bomb shelters and metro stations and in the ruins of our burning cities. So that the world might be given a glimpse into our hearts through the lacerated wounds that have been inflicted on them by this cruel and barbaric war.

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📚Historic Domestic #Thriller. Frank Reviews Lake Of Echoes by @LizaPerrat, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Frank.

Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Frank has been reading Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat

Book cover for Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat
Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat

There is so much that is great about this book that it is difficult to know where to start. So I will start at the beginning. Léa took on the business of running an Auberge beside a lake in rural France in order to give her something to take her mind off the tragic loss of her son by cot death at just 3 months old. Now, in 1969, it is clear that her marriage is on the rocks. She and husband Bruno, Head Master at the village school, are constantly bickering, blaming each other for the tragedy. During one particularly heated exchange their 8 year old daughter, Juliette, wanders off. When she does not return we have the beginnings of a tension filled mystery. And the ensuing plot is handled with consummate skill by this Australian writer who has lived in France for more than two decades.

For those of us old enough to remember them, the years embracing the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies can offer a rosy hued vision of ‘flower power’; of Height Ashbury and Woodstock, of armed guards confronted by hippies pushing flowers into the barrels of their guns. But it was also a time of riots across several European nations and the USA, of the cold war and fears of communism and nuclear war; a time when strange cults emerged led by charismatic psychopaths who brainwashed their adherents into believing dangerous nonsense. It is this atmosphere that Perrat taps into with her mesmerising tale.

The first half of the book concentrates on Léa’s attempts to come to terms with the loss of another child. As weeks pass and nobody is found whilst more girls from the same age group disappear, we share her anger at the incompetence of the Gendarmerie. When she seeks help from a friend who claims to be clairvoyant she is treated with scorn. Meanwhile readers are provided with tantalising glimpses of the abductor and his henchwomen, his wife and sister.

The second half of the book presents a description of the lives of the girls under the discipline ordered by the abductor and administered by the women. The abductor’s master plan is revealed and tension rises as Juliette devises an escape plan.

The climax is superbly handled. There is no siege by armed gendarmes as might be the case today. I can’t tell you how the situation is resolved, for that would spoil your pleasure in reading it for yourself, something which I urge you to do.

The events are told from the different points of view of several of the characters. Each has a unique and utterly believable voice. The children, especially, are beautifully drawn. Animals, too, have important roles and their behaviour demonstrates the author’s skill as an observer of every aspect of life in rural France. So, too, do her descriptions of the landscape and climate. It is these details that bring the novel to life and make it one of the best domestic thrillers you will read in a long time. I wish I could award more than 5 stars.

Orange rose book description
Book description

A vanished daughter. A failing marriage. A mother’s life in ruins.
1969. As France seethes in the wake of social unrest, eight-year-old Juliette is caught up in the turmoil of her parents’ fragmenting marriage.
Unable to bear another argument, she flees her home.
Neighbours joining the search for Juliette are stunned that such a harrowing thing could happen in their tranquil lakeside village.
But this is nothing compared to her mother, Lea’s torment, imagining what has befallen her daughter.
Léa, though, must remain strong to run her auberge and as the seasons pass with no news from the gendarmes, she is forced to accept she may never know her daughter’s fate.
Despite the villagers’ scepticism, Léa’s only hope remains with a clairvoyant who believes Juliette is alive.
But will mother and daughter ever be reunited?
Steeped in centuries-old tradition, against an enchanting French countryside backdrop, Lake of Echoes will delight your senses and captivate your heart.

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🌍’Raleigh: a man not unlike a modern entrepreneur’. Frank reviews #Tudor #Histfic Raleigh by @tonyriches, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT🌍

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about him here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Raleigh by Tony Riches.

There are prize winning books based on the lives of the Tudors. I’m thinking of Hilary Mantell and Alison Weir among others. And then there is Tony Riches. Raleigh is the ninth book about various Tudors from this prolific writer of historical fiction.

The first thing to say about this book is that it is meticulously researched and carefully avoids the myths and legends that surround the Elizabethan adventurer. What we get instead is a portrait of the man and his career. One of the myths that Riches destroys is that Raleigh was Queen Elizabeth’s favourite. On the contrary, he is constantly disappointed at her rejection of his plans and her preferment of others, especially Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and, later, Robert Cecil.

In this interpretation of Raleigh’s life he comes across as a man not unlike a modern entrepreneur: able to persuade others to invest in his adventures on the promise of excellent returns, equally able to delegate responsibility for the management of his estates and other enterprises to others.

It is difficult to understand how men like William Langherne, his first secretary, lost overboard off the coast of Ireland, and Thomas Harriot who became Langherene’s replacement, after serving for years as the principle organiser of his North American expeditions, were able to remain loyal to him.

He has little regard for the orders of his superiors, willing to disobey if he can see a better way to achieve the desired objective. Many of his ambitions are either thwarted or end in failure. Settlers recruited for his ‘colonies’ in Ireland and Virginia are decimated by ‘native’ rebels.

Admirers of Hilary Mantell would no doubt be unimpressed by the lightness of this portrait. That is not to belittle Riches’ work. On the contrary, the simplicity of his style makes the stories he tells accessible to a much wider readership. It is a reason he has earned the accolade as Amazon best selling author, why his blog has over a million views and his podcasts 150,000 downloads.

I’m happy to recommend this book to anyone interested in the Tudors and to award it four stars.

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Tudor adventurer, courtier, explorer and poet, Sir Walter Raleigh has been called the last true Elizabethan.

He didn’t dance or joust, didn’t come from a noble family, or marry into one. So how did an impoverished law student become a favourite of the queen, and Captain of the Guard?

The story which began with the Tudor trilogy follows Walter Raleigh from his first days at the Elizabethan Court to the end of the Tudor dynasty.

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British Political Humour. Frank reviews Red Leicester Blues by @CunliffeRich, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Red Leicester Blues by Richard Cunliffe

I need to prefix this review with a confession: when it comes to politics and current affairs I am a complete nerd. For as long as I can remember I have followed political events in England, especially with regard to the relationship between the UK and Europe. In the 1980s I was an activist, becoming a county councillor and, in 1989, a candidate for election to the European Parliament. Inevitably a book in which the principle protagonist is similarly energised by politics is going to appeal to me.

We first meet Billy as a five-year-old, living in a council house in Leicester with his older brother, younger sister and his parents George and Sheila. It’s 1975 and the country is about to vote in a referendum to determine if the UK should remain a member of the EEC. We then leap forward to 2016 and Billy’s older self, Will. The electorate has just voted, by the narrowest of margins, to leave the EU. The rest of the book alternates between Billy’s childhood, adolescence and early adulthood and Will’s life as a business man and parent up to the end of 2020. Each episode in his life is linked to a key moment in British politics.

Billy’s father and his friends are Labour Party supporters, members of their trade union; Will’s business partner is a committed advocate of ‘Leave’ whilst Will is a ‘Remainer’. So there is plenty of opportunity for political debate throughout his life.

For those of you for whom politics and Brexit are a turn off, you can rest assured that Billy/Will’s life contains much more. The story explores his father’s drunkenness, especially after his mother’s death from cancer; his brother’s descent into violent criminality; his failed marriage and his doubts about his performance as a father. Each of these characters, and several others, are well drawn, fully rounded individuals who develop throughout the 45 year span of the story.

Billy/Will has an ear for language. Not only is this important for his career as an advertising copy writer, but it provides an opportunity for the author to display his own identical talent. The book is well worth reading just for that aspect.

Billy suffers from a mild form of OCD. A minor character introduces him to the techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a way of dealing with it.

The women in his life – mother, sister, ex-wife, PA, daughter, business partner’s girlfriend – are all well drawn, despite his ineptitude when it comes to male-female relationships.

Domestic dramas and romantic interludes are realistically portrayed without over dramatisation. So are business relationships. It is altogether a superb evocation of the lives of English people, residing in a provincial city, during a period of enormous political and technological change.

Personally I would have preferred to see more attention given to the fact of the existence of a ‘third force’ in 1980s politics and the way in which that, combined with the UK’s peculiar electoral system, helped the Conservatives to secure repeated success in general elections, as well as inspiring Gordon Brown and Tony Blair to modernise the Labour Party.

That notwithstanding, I can earnestly recommend it, whether or not you care about politics or

Brexit. Definitely worthy of five stars.

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It’s the 1970s in Leicester, and New Parks kid Billy Prendergast is, at face value, a pretty regular five-year-old. He has a bullying elder brother, a pesky younger sister, and an interest in Doctor Who bordering on the obsessive. But other aspects of Billy’s life aren’t so commonplace. His keen and precocious interest in politics is totally unexpected from one so young, and his enthusiasm for Margaret Thatcher, in particular, appears very unlikely in a Labour-voting household.

Forty years later, Billy remains both a fan of Doctor Who and an advocate of right-wing politics. He also happens to have made a small fortune building a successful, Leicester-based advertising business. But cleverness and money aren’t getting him a date with the woman he adores, and nor are they likely to help when Billy’s brother Keith is released from prison with vengeance on his mind.

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‘You will relive Queen Mary’s nightmare’ Frank reviews #Tudor #Histfic novella Rizzio by @DameDeniseMina

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Rizzio by Denise Mina

As I immerse myself in the history of the Reformation in England and Ireland, in preparation for a planned book about the Tudor Plantation of the Irish Midlands, I can’t help but be struck by the extent of the sheer brutality of the times, the lack of respect for the lives of others, the seeming absence of concern for their suffering. There are so many incidents involving deceit, false accusation and cold blooded murder. So many men felt an overwhelming sense of entitlement and its corollary, the need to avenge perceived slights. It is impossible not to conclude that it was a time when the most dangerous thing a man, or woman, could do was to express support for a system of belief, or for a particular individual, within earshot of someone who held an alternative opinion.

One of many ill-conceived plots that taints the period is an attempt to prevent the birth of a child to Mary Queen of Scots, in her apartments in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, in March of 1566. Forcing her to witness the brutal murder of her secretary, the Italian David Rizzio would, it was hoped, cause her to miscarry and die. The cowardly Henry Lennox, Mary’s husband, father of the child and Rizzio’s lover, had been duped into believing he would take the throne upon her death.

Denise Mina recounts these events in a delightful little book that captures the naked ambition that was the real reason behind the rivalries. The readiness of individuals to change sides, denouncing once passionately expressed beliefs, in order to save their skin, or gain royal preference. gives the lie to claims that it was all about religion. Although, to some, innocent of the true motives of their patrons, it was about nothing else but fear of the return of Catholicism.

Mary and Darnley’s child is destined to become the future King James Sixth of Scotland and First of England. Ironically, Darnley fears that the child will ensure the continuation of the Catholic line on the Scottish throne, so something has to be done to prevent its birth.

The book is an absolute delight to read. Mina gets deep inside the minds of each of the participants, analysing their motives, their opinions of the other protagonists, friend and foe alike. The sights, sounds and odours of the Palace, and the city beyond its walls, bring the events to life, playing out on the cinema screen in the reader’s head. But this is not a wide screen battle raging across a landscape. This is mayhem within the confines of a brick and stone palace, poorly lit by flickering candles as befits so dark a sequence of events. Outside, crowds gather. A patrol of city guards and militiamen try to investigate sounds suggestive of a disturbance, but are assured that there is nothing for them to be concerned about.

Elsewhere in the palace life goes on as normal. Two men play a game of chance, blissfully unaware of the horrors taking place a few yards away. With Rizzio dead, Mary plots her escape, with help from a surprising quarter.

In the aftermath, we visit the gallows where scapegoats for the crime meet their maker, and the long abandoned wing of the palace where the ugly scenes took place. The Scots, it is implied, were so ashamed of what happened there that for centuries it was used as a store for broken and unwanted furniture.

This is a book to rival many an acknowledged masterpiece. Do not let its brevity fool you. The quality of the writing is such that you will relive Queen Mary’s nightmare as if you were in her apartments with her. Mina has won many awards for her crime writing. I foresee many more for this masterful foray into historical writing.

Five bright shining stars for a book everyone with Scottish or English blood in their veins should read.

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On the evening of March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. Dragged from the chamber of the heavily pregnant Mary, Rizzio was stabbed fifty six times by a party of assassins. This breathtakingly tense novella dramatises the events that led up to that night, telling the infamous story as it has never been told before.

A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio looks at a shocking historical murder through a modern lens—and explores the lengths that men and women will go to in their search for love and power.

Rizzio is nothing less than a provocative and thrilling new literary masterpiece.

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Book #2 of a #thriller series. Frank reviews If She Wakes by Erik Therme, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about him here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading If She Wakes by Erik Therme

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Imagine a situation in which a woman tells you that her sister is mentally deranged and not to be trusted. Then the sister tells you that it is really the first sister whose mental health is questionable. Add to that a narrator who exhibits signs of being paranoid. Sound like a recipe for an excellent psychological thriller? I’m sure it is. I’m not so sure that Erik Therme has pulled it off with this one, however.

To be fair, I kept reading, needing to find out what was really going on. To that extent the author succeeds, by keeping the reader guessing. And it was a pleasant surprise to find, in a book set in what is supposedly one of the most gun loving states in a gun loving nation, a protagonist who hates guns and is horrified when she discovers one of the characters owns a pistol. Most of the other characters seem to be equally ill disposed towards such weaponry, exhibiting a preference for the use of a handy rock as weapon of choice.

The book has two problems from my perspective. The first is my fault. I should have realised that it is the second book in a series and that I needed to have read the first in order to fully understand what was going on. There are two parallel plots: the first is continuing the story that I suppose was begun in book 1. The other was a new story involving the narrator and the family of her late brother’s widow.

For me there were too many references to past events that were never fully explained, The other problem with the book is that too many characters are permitted to delay the action by being given long monologues in which they explain their motivations while the protagonist patiently waits to be attacked or kidnapped.

Those are my reasons for rating “If She Wakes” at only three stars. If you have read and enjoyed the first book in this series, then I have no doubt that you will also enjoy this one. Don’t, however, make the mistake I made and try to read it as a stand-alone novel.

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Who do you trust when everyone is lying?

My name is Tess Parker.

Two days ago, I was in a car accident with my sister-in-law, Torrie. Before she slipped into a coma, she asked my husband and me to care for her four-month-old son, Levi.

Yesterday, a woman claiming to be Torrie’s estranged sister knocked on our door. But Torrie has no siblings . . . or so she said. She and my brother were only together a short time before he left, and Torrie has clearly been keeping secrets.

Today, another of Torrie’s “sisters” has come to town. Both say the other is lying about who they are.

Neither of them is telling the truth.

Both of them want Levi.

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‘There is just enough detail to bring a face, a room, or a street to life without over burdening the reader’. Frank reviews Talk Of Tokyo by @heather_hallman

Today’s team review is from Frank. Read more about him here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Talk Of Tokyo by Heather Hallman

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I’m not sure why I expected something different when choosing this book. On the other hand, what I got was by no means a disappointment. That it might be better described as historical romance, rather than historical fiction, could provide an explanation, although, to be fair, it is both.

Written in a style full of the wit one might expect from a work by Jane Austen, this exploration of the unlikely relationship between two people from different cultures, set at the end of the nineteenth century, is a delight that can be experienced on several levels. There is the inevitable clash of cultures that took place when the hitherto feudal Japan opened up to trade with Europe and the USA. There is the rapidly evolving role of women in both cultures; there are the erotic possibilities that arise when two people experience a passionate desire to explore each other’s need for sexual fulfilment. Finally there is the corruption and exploitation of human weaknesses that accompanies the pursuit of lucrative trade deals and investment in new infrastructure.

In Talk of Tokyo, all these elements combine to produce an effervescent cocktail of scenes to both educate and delight the reader. The central character, half French, half Japanese, is a young woman whose French father deserted the family whilst she was still a child. She is determined to ‘out’ any foreign male who seems likely to treat Japanese women with equal disdain. Until, that is, she meets an English man whose sensibilities prove he is, at the very least, the exception that proves the rule.

The story is told in alternating first person narratives from both hers and his point of view, a technique that permits the author to indulge her proficiency in wit and irony through the contrast between the two. Both characters mature as the story progresses so that, by the end, two become one, so to speak. Along the way they expose one or two criminal conspiracies, something they are able to do, in part, because of the incompetence and/or lack of commitment on the part of the conspirators.

All of the other characters have substance, too, as do the settings. There is just enough detail to bring a face, a room, or a street to life without over burdening the reader with too much dull description.

The whole book is a delight to read, none more so than the erotic passages which are beautifully handled, and ‘handled’, in this context, very definitely has a double meaning.

Try as I might, I cannot think of a single reason to award fewer than five stars. Highly recommended for anyone who likes romance or history – especially a place and period that remains largely hidden from view in the English speaking world. I congratulate Ms Hallman for bringing it into the light.

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1897 Tokyo is no different than anywhere else in the world: men are exploiting women. Specifically, Western men are exploiting Japanese women, and Suki Malveaux holds no punches in her condemnation of their behavior in her weekly column in the Tokyo Daily News.

Suki knows firsthand when Western men arrive at Tokyo Bay there’s only one outcome for Japanese women: a child and new mother left behind as nothing more than discarded shrapnel from the heartless war on love.

Griffith Spenser is her latest target. He’s been seen with Natsu Watanabe, one of Tokyo’s esteemed war widows. Under full anonymity of the moniker “The Tokyo Tattler,” Suki makes sure Griffith knows exactly why his behavior with Natsu won’t be tolerated.

Away from her Japanese mask as a columnist, Suki never intended to meet the cad. When he seeks her out to hire as a tutor for his niece and nephew, she’s faced with seeing him day in and day out without him ever knowing who she really is.

Caught in her struggle for anonymity so she can keep battling for women’s rights, Suki’s about to learn the full impact of her words on the people behind the story, especially on Griff.

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‘Ms Goodwin has examined the subject from all angles’. Frank reviews #LiteraryFiction Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotist, for Rosie’s #bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

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I was about a third of the way through this book, the end of chapter ten to be precise, when I recognised the nature of Diana’s secret. And I saw how some readers would abandon the book once they made that connection. Others might even throw the book at the wall in disgust.

Either course would have been a mistake. What I wanted to do was to read on, in order to discover the degree of empathy Ms. Goodwin would bring to her analysis of the effect of Diana’s troubled childhood, and the choice she made at the tender age of fifteen, upon her life up to the age of 45, thirty years later; on her parents, friends and potential lovers. I was not disappointed.

The biggest surprise was that this is a first novel. The second that, despite having won an award in 2016, it seems to have remained below the radar of potential readers. It has just 58 ratings and 33 reviews on Goodreads. Fortunately most of the ratings are four or five stars. I suppose the problem for many is the subject matter – and I am not going to reveal that here because it would constitute an enormous spoiler.

Suffice to say it is a subject that generates an incredible volume of highly charged debate, both on social media and in the mainstream. As an inveterate follower of current affairs on the BBC I can recall a recent debate on Question Time, and  more than one feature on Newsnight, that dealt with the subject. As a follower of, and occasional contributor to, the on-line publication, Medium, I see articles and comments that make it clear that, in the USA especially, it is a source of anger and hate-fuelled rhetoric.

Ms Goodwin has examined the subject from all angles through the medium of a first person account from someone for whom it is a defining and ever present fact of life.

There are some superb evocations of life growing up in the 1960s, and as a teenager in the 1970s, in a small mining community in England.  By alternating scenes from her childhood and adolescence with episodes from Diana’s life as a lecturer at Newcastle University in 2005, Ms Goodwin enables us to observe the changes in moral attitudes that marked the intervening years. Changes that seem to have passed Diana by until she takes the courageous decision to reveal the truth about her background to a friend and colleague.

The characters are all well drawn and entirely believable. Early on I was struggling to empathise with Diana’s parents but, by the end, it became clear that they were torn between their beliefs, as Catholics, and the realities of late twentieth century life. In their way they were as confused by the situation they found themselves in as was Diana. Most of the time they are in denial. Yet, towards the end there are scenes in which the normally taciturn father reveals a surprisingly tender side to his character, based on the bullying he witnessed during army service and the resultant tragedy.

There is one scene that contains extremely graphic sex which makes this book unsuitable for young audiences. In my opinion this is a shame, for there must be many confused adolescents who would benefit from the message of optimism that this truly magnificent novel conveys. The number of five star ratings for this book on Goodreads has just increased from 23 to 24 with the addition of mine.

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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. 

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A Story Which Shows Compassion For People Doing Their Best To Make Their Way In The World. @fparkerswords Reviews DREAMer by @TheEmilyGallo @ChrisBarbozaPR

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading DREAMer by Emily Gallo

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A couple in their sixties from Los Angeles, on their way home from a vacation in one of California’s National Park areas close to the border with Mexico, discover a young girl alone by the roadside. There is no evidence of a vehicle having left the road so why is she there? Where are her parents or other significant adults?

Kate and Laurence set out to find the answers to these questions, thereby providing the reader with an unfolding mystery that has moments of joy and sadness as the traumatised child gradually responds to the love and compassion of the couple. There are encounters with the kind of racism, born of ignorance and fear that, if the media are to be believed, is quite common in the USA. But the majority of the people that Kate approaches are sympathetic and helpful within the constraints of their own limited knowledge. Many are operating close to, or beyond, the boundaries of the law, a fact that adds an atmosphere of danger to the search.

It is Kate who is most committed to the search, a fact which, from time to time, places a strain on the relationship, not least because Laurence is an African American all too used to the atmosphere of distrust between the forces of law and order of the United States and the non-white citizens of that country. If, as they quickly suspect, the girl is an undocumented immigrant, they and she could be in trouble if agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authority (ICE) become involved.

Their attempts to evade the authorities add to the tension, as does the fact of Kate becoming trapped by a minor earthquake during one of several journeys following leads, some of which prove false.

The word DREAMer of the title is used in the USA to define “an undocumented immigrant who is protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. The name comes from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act that was introduced in 2001 but failed to pass in Congress.” (quoted from slangit.com)

I enjoyed this book, both for the entertainment provided by the unravelling of the mystery and for the insights I, an elderly English man, gained into the lives of Californian farmers and the migrants they employ – or exploit, depending upon your point of view. I must add that the issues are handled in a way that does not come across as being politically partisan, merely as compassionate towards people doing their best to make their way in the world. I congratulate Emily Gallo for having achieved that balance in this, her most recent novel.

I’m very happy to award this book 4 stars.

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Kate and Lawrence drive through the desert on their way home from vacation and find a young girl sitting by the side of the road. Who is she? Where is she from and where is she going? Why is she there? When and how did she get there? What can they do to help? The girl won’t speak, but that doesn’t deter them from embarking on a journey through central and southern California to find the answers.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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