14 Extra-Special Books Celebrating 6 Years of Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT: Part 1

RBRT Gold:

My Review Team’s Favourite Books

#RBRT Review Team

How time flies – Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team has now been up and running for six years!  During that time we have done our best to spread the word about novels, novellas, short stories and non-fiction from self-published authors and independent publishers – to showcase talent found outside the mainstream publishing world.

Each month we are inundated with review requests from authors and publishers alike.  Every book that I accept is passed on to my team of twenty readers, which is made up of book bloggers, writers, editors, creative writing tutors and people who just love reading.  Most gain just one or two reviews, but once in a while a gem comes along that piques the interest of several team members, and receives highly favourable reviews across the board.

Welcome to Part One of #RBRT Gold: seven extra-special books that were greatly enjoyed by three or more team members.

Under the title of each book, you can read its team reviews, which include Amazon links.  Enjoy!

Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

WW1 Historical Fiction novella

Fred's Funeral by [Sandy Day]

Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

 Excerpt from blurb:A Novella Based on True Events

His family said he was shell-shocked.

The asylum’s doctors disagreed.

It’s 1986 and Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s seventy years since he marched off to the war in France, young and raring to go. He put everything on the line for his country and family, but when he came home, they rejected him.

This is why Fred can’t rest in peace.

Reviewed by:

Olga Miret

Terry Tyler

Judith Barrow

Robbie Cheadle

Noelle Granger

 

The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat

Dark Family Drama

The Silent Kookaburra: Australian Psychological Suspense by [Liza Perrat]

Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

 

Excerpt from blurb:

All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby.Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web. Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory.

Reviewed by:

Alison Williams

E.L. Lindley

Terry Tyler

Jenny Reeve

Olga Miret

 

The Women Of Heachley Hall by Rachel Walkley

Romantic mystery

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

 

Excerpt from blurb:

Miriam has one year to uncover Heachley Hall’s unimaginable past and a secret that only women can discover.

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.

But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.

Reviewed by: 

Olga Miret

Liz Lloyd

Jenny Reeve

Noelle Granger

 

That Summer At The Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan

Romantic Suspense

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

 

Excerpt from blurb:

Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking. Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother. So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate she asks herself – is he her father after all?

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.

Reviewed by: 

Cathy Ryan

Judith Barrow

Chris Philippou

Georgia Rose

 

La Petite Boulain by Gemma Lawrence

Tudor Historical fiction

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

 

Excerpt from blurb:

May 1536, London… a fallen queen sits waiting in the Tower of London, condemned to death by her husband. As Death looms before her, Anne Boleyn, second queen of Henry VIII looks back on her life…from the very beginning.

Daughter of a courtier, servant to queens… she rose higher than any thought possible, and fell lower than any could imagine.

Following the path of the young Mistress Boleyn, or La Petite Boulain, through the events of the first years of the reign of Henry VIII, to the glittering courts of Burgundy and France, Book One of “Above All Others; The Lady Anne” tracks the life of the young Lady Anne, showing how she became the scintillating woman who eventually, would capture the heart of a king.

Reviewed by:

Olga Miret

Noelle Granger

Cathy Ryan

 

Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen

Historical mystery

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

Excerpt from blurb:

The strangest detective story in the history of music – inspired by a true incident. A world spiralling towards war. A composer descending into madness. And a devoted woman struggling to keep her faith in art and love against all the odds. 1933. Dabbling in the fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartok, Ravel and Elgar, encounters a startling dilemma. A message arrives ostensibly from the spirit of the composer Robert Schumann, begging her to find and perform his long-suppressed violin concerto. She tries to ignore it, wanting to concentrate instead on charity concerts. But against the background of the 1930s depression in London and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, a struggle ensues as the “spirit messengers” do not want her to forget.

Reviewed by:

Olga Miret

Alison Williams

Liz lloyd

Cathy Ryan

 

Season Of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander

Contemporary family saga

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

 

Excerpt from blurb:

When leaving is just the beginning… The long-awaited novel of family, love and learning to be kind to yourself by award-winning, bestselling Irish author, Aimee Alexander.

Grace Sullivan flees Dublin with her two teenage children, returning to the sleepy West Cork village where she grew up. No one in Killrowan knows what Grace is running from – or even that she’s running. She’d like to keep it that way.

Season of Second Chances is Grace’s story. It’s also the story of a community that chooses the title “Young Doctor Sullivan” for her before she even arrives. It’s the story of Des who served the villagers all his life and now feels a failure for developing Parkinson’s disease. And it’s the story of struggling teens, an intimidating receptionist, a handsome American novelist escaping his past, and a dog called Benji who needs a fresh start of his own.

Reviewed by:

Sandra Firth

Liz Lloyd

Olga Miret

Judith Barrow

 

For a book review team, there is little more satisfying than a reader discovering a new favourite book through a review you’ve written – I hope one or more of these appeals to you.  If not, look out for Part 2, tomorrow, in which we go a little darker; I have a nautical thriller for you, a dystopian scifi novella, murder and mystery!

 

Congratulations To The Winners Of The #RBRT 2017 Book Awards #TuesdayBookBlog

It is the end of another busy year of book reviewing for my team.

So I now have great pleasure in announcing the winners of our #RBRT 2017 Book Wards

Fantasy / Scifi

Winner: Do You Realize? by Kevin Kuhn 

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George is a middle-management, middle-class, middle-aged guy who hates his job and struggles to stay connected to his wife and teenage children. Most guys might end up with a steamy affair and a flashy car for their midlife crisis, but George gets a quirky, philosophical physics professor named Shiloh. Trapped with this mysterious misfit on his morning commuter train, George is dragged into awkward conversations about love, fear, music, and the meaning of life. Shiloh asks George to beta-test an app he wrote for the new Apple Watch–and with a free watch included, how could he say no?
When tragedy strikes, throwing George out of his uncomfortable comfort zone, he learns that Shiloh’s app lets him journey through alternate versions of his past. As challenges mount in his own reality, George must make a decision that will change him–and possibly the entire multiverse–forever.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

2nd place: Chimera Catalyst by Susan Kuchinksas 

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When Finder is hired to locate charismatic, green-haired Miraluna Rose, it seems like an easy job. Crack into corporate databases, brew up some biologics to enhance his thinking, and get the job done with the help of the Parrot, a bird/dog chimera with the finest traits of both species.

The search takes Finder and the Parrot to the sun-broiled streets of Laxangeles, the canals of Seattle and the weirdly mutated vegetation of the Area. It turns out that it’s not a simple missing-person case after all.

Finder discovers that ReMe, a corporation providing medical cloning services, is illegally breeding human/animal chimeras. ReMe is selling these exotically beautiful female creatures, branded as ArcoTypes, as playthings to the wealthy and ruthless.

Miraluna Rose is its finest creation, but she has other ideas. She’s holed up at Refuge, a haven for runaway ArcoTypes, where she’s planning a future of freedom for her sisters.

To help the ArcoTypes fight ReMe, Finder and the Parrot will need the help of a couple of sympathetic AIs, the CEO of the world’s largest advertising company and a posse of highly modded, celebrity-crazed media kids.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Finalists: Tokoyo, The Samurai’s Daughter by Faith L. Justice, Voyager by Carl Rackman & Clay Tongue by Nicholas Conley

General Contemporary Fiction

Winner: The Beauty Of The Fall by Rich Marcello 

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Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss, Olivia Whitmore, fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.

Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.

Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

2nd place: A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry 

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

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Finalists: Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith, Whispers In The Alders by H. A. Callum & The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat

Historical Fiction

Winner: I Could Write A Book by Karen M. Cox 

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“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich…”
Thus began Jane Austen’s classic, a light and lively tale set in an English village two hundred years ago. Yet every era has its share of Emmas: young women trying to find themselves in their own corners of the world.
I Could Write a Book is the story of a self-proclaimed modern woman: Emma Katherine Woodhouse, a 1970s co-ed whose life is pleasant, ordered, and predictable, if a bit confining.
Her friend George Knightley is a man of the world who has come home to fulfill his destiny: run his father’s thriving law practice and oversee the sprawling Donwell Farms, his family legacy in Central Kentucky horse country.
Since childhood, George’s and Emma’s lives have meshed and separated time and again. But now they’re adults with grown-up challenges and obligations. As Emma orchestrates life in quaint Highbury, George becomes less amused with her antics and struggles with a growing attraction to the young woman she’s become.
Rich with humor, poignancy, and the camaraderie of life in a small, Southern town, I Could Write a Book is a coming of age romance with side helpings of self-discovery, friendship, and finding true love in the most unlikely places.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

2nd place: Irex by Carl Rackman 

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In the harsh winter of December 1889, the sailing vessel Irex leaves Scotland bound for Rio de Janeiro. She carries three thousand tons of pig iron and just three passengers for what should be a routine voyage. But Captain Will Hutton discovers that one of his passengers hides a horrifying secret.
When the Irex is wrecked off the Isle of Wight six weeks later, it falls to the county coroner, Frederick Blake, to begin to unravel the events that overtook the doomed ship — but he soon finds that powerful forces within the British Establishment are working to thwart him. Locked in a race against time and the sinister agents sent to impede him, he gradually discovers that nothing aboard the Irex is what it first seemed…
Irex is an atmospheric mystery, set in a rich Victorian world, packed with intrigue, twists and colourful characters — the spellbinding first novel by Carl Rackman.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Finalists; Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen, Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat & A Tincture Of Secrets And Lies by William Savage

Mystery / Thriller

Winner: Blessed Mayhem by Sue Coletta 

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A chance encounter …a deadly predicament …a lethal decision.
The infamous Mr. Mayhem is not your average serial killer. Reminiscent of the beloved Hannibal Lecter, minus his thirst for flesh—because eating humans is just plain rude—Mr. Mayhem storms on the scene with style, grace, elegance, and a zest for life unlike any other. Impeccable manners also help. He may commit murder, but there’s no reason to be impolite about it.
Accompanied by his loyal crow companions, Poe, Allan, and Edgar, his crimes strike fear in the hearts and minds of folks across Massachusetts’ North Shore. When Shawnee Daniels—cat burglar extraordinaire and forensic hacker for the police—meets Mayhem in the dark, she piques his curiosity. Sadly for her, she leaves behind an item best left undiscovered. Or is it serendipity by design?
Color him curious, but he yearns to examine the psychology behind her life choices, tough girl routine, witty banter, and unique double-life. In a different time and place they may even become friends. But unfortunately, their predicament defines the risk.
The stakes are too high to stop now.
For reasons authorities cannot fathom, these seemingly unrelated murders will go down in history as the most impressive killing regime of all time. His coup de grace, if you will. Even if it means permanently erasing Ms. Daniels from the equation. All the pieces are there if the authorities look hard enough. The question is, will they? The only new wrinkle is Shawnee Daniels, and she may be his toughest opponent yet …if she’s clever enough to play the game.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

2nd place: The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson 

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When a Dutch art dealer hides the stock from his gallery – rather than turn it over to his Nazi blackmailer – he pays with his life, leaving a treasure trove of modern masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, presumably lost forever. That is, until American art history student Zelda Richardson sticks her nose in.
After studying for a year in the Netherlands, Zelda scores an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Historical Museum, where she works on an exhibition of paintings and sculptures once stolen by the Nazis, lying unclaimed in Dutch museum depots almost seventy years later.
When two women claim the same painting, the portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting’s history and soon finds evidence that one of the two women must be lying about her past. Before she can figure out which one and why, Zelda learns about the Dutch art dealer’s concealed collection. And that Irises is the key to finding it.
Her discoveries make her a target of someone willing to steal – and even kill – to find the missing paintings. As the list of suspects grows, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Finalists: The Unrivalled Transcendence Of Willem J Gyle by J.D. Dixon, Ryan Kaine: On The Rocks by Kerry J. Donovan & The Unraveling Of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn

Non Fiction

Winner: Warnings Unheeded by Andy Brown 

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The true story of two separate mass-casualty incidents that occurred within days of each other at a US Air Force base. Using the words of the people who lived and died during the tragedies, the book provides an in-depth look at the before, during and after of an avoidable “active shooter” incident and a preventable fatal plane crash.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

2nd place: Fractured Memories by Emily Page 

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In 2009, Emily Page’s father was diagnosed at the age of 65 with frontotemporal dementia, a form of dementia that strikes earlier and progresses more quickly than Alzheimer’s, and for which there is no treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Being so young, Page hadn’t had much experience with dementia, but she began documenting, in writing and art, her family’s heartbreaking and hilarious experiences.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Finalist: Gone: Catastrophe In Paradise by O.J. Modjeska

Romance

Winner: White Lies by Ellie Holmes 

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From the author of The Flower Seller
A WET NIGHT, A CAR CRASH,
THREE LIVES ARE CHANGED FOREVER…
Sam Davenport is a woman who lives her life by the rules. When her husband Neil breaks those rules too many times, she is left wondering not only if he is still the man for her but also if it’s time to break a few rules of her own.
Actions, however, have consequences as Sam soon discovers when what starts out as an innocent white lie threatens to send her world spiralling out of control.
White Lies is a warm, engaging read about love, deceit, betrayal and hope.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

2nd place: Dear Internet: It’s Me, Avery by Jennifer Ammoscato 

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“Oh, don’t judge me, people. We all do it.
Don’t try to tell me that you’ve never checked that weird mole on your thigh on WebMD. Or how to fold meringue on Epicurious. And, there’s no way that I’m the only one who clears her search history after looking up how to give a great bl— (Um, that last one’s not important.)”
When newspaper reporter Avery Fowler discovers her husband is having an affair, the online help site HowTo.com is where she turns to navigate this challenging stage of her life.
If the Internet is Avery’s information god, then HowTo.com is her Holy Grail. Its live chat option is like having a virtual life coach for the low, low price of $14.95 a month:
Add into the mix a new boss whose managerial style calls to mind the Wicked Bitch Witch of the West—or the Anti-Christ—and the poor girl needs all the help she can get! The stakes rise and hilarity ensues as our heroine struggles to take control of her personal life and topple her boss after she learns Victoria’s guilty secret.
With Clementine (virtually) in tow, our heroine tackles such tricky situations as dating after divorce, sex once nothing points north anymore, and how to cover attempted murder scenes (despite a paralyzing fear of blood) as the new and improved Avery Fowler 2.0.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Finalists: The Betrayal by Anne Allen, By Light Of Hidden Candles by Daniella Levy & Watercolours In The Rain by Jo Lambert

Huge congratulations to all the authors who made the finals and to everyone who took the time to vote.

#RBRT Review Team

The Rosie’s Book Review Team (#RBRT) awards. VOTE NOW for your 2017 favourite.

The Rosie’s Book Review Team (#RBRT) awards are back! 

Now in their third year, I’m delighted to open the public vote.  The books were chosen from the hundreds submitted to our team for review in 2017.   My team of reviewers were asked to nominate their favourites; here are those that made the final cut.

You may vote for one book in each category.  Please only vote for books that you honestly feel deserve an award, in accordance with the authenticity of my team’s reviews.

Voting closes on December 15th and the results will be announced  on Tuesday December 19th.

Meanwhile, huge congratulations to all the finalists!

Fantasy /Scifi

General Contemporary Fiction

Historical

Mystery / Thriller

Non-Fiction

Romance

 

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

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Description

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

The strangest detective story in the history of music – inspired by a true incident. A world spiralling towards war. A composer descending into madness. And a devoted woman struggling to keep her faith in art and love against all the odds. 1933. Dabbling in the fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartók, Ravel and Elgar, encounters a startling dilemma. A message arrives ostensibly from the spirit of the composer Robert Schumann, begging her to find and perform his long-suppressed violin concerto. She tries to ignore it, wanting to concentrate instead on charity concerts. But against the background of the 1930s depression in London and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, a struggle ensues as the “spirit messengers” do not want her to forget. The concerto turns out to be real, embargoed by Schumann’s family for fear that it betrayed his mental disintegration: it was his last full-scale work, written just before he suffered a nervous breakdown after which he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. It shares a theme with his Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) for piano, a melody he believed had been dictated to him by the spirits of composers beyond the grave. As rumours of its existence spread from London to Berlin, where the manuscript is held, Jelly embarks on an increasingly complex quest to find the concerto. When the Third Reich’s administration decides to unearth the work for reasons of its own, a race to perform it begins. Though aided and abetted by a team of larger-than-life personalities – including her sister Adila Fachiri, the pianist Myra Hess, and a young music publisher who falls in love with her – Jelly finds herself confronting forces that threaten her own state of mind. Saving the concerto comes to mean saving herself. In the ensuing psychodrama, the heroine, the concerto and the pre-war world stand on the brink, reaching together for one more chance of glory.

About the author

Jessica Duchen

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT GHOST VARIATIONS by @jessicaduchen musical mystery

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen

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I’m writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was given an ARC copy of this book and I voluntarily chose to review it.

I enjoy reading in a variety of genres but have recently realised that I really enjoy historical fiction, as it offers me both, great stories and a background that’s interesting in its own right and that often offers me insight into eras and situations I know little about.

When I read the description of this novel I thought it sounded very different to what I usually read, but fascinating at the same time. A mystery surrounding a piece of music (a violin concerto) by a famous composer (Robert Schuman) that has been hidden for a long time. I love music but I’m not a deep connoisseur, and I didn’t realise when I read about the novel that the story was based on facts (it follows quite closely the events that took place in the 1930s, involving Hungarian (later nationalised British) violinist Jelly d’Arányi, and a concert Schuman wrote whilst already interned in an asylum) and included an element of the paranormal. It’s one of those cases when reality upstages fiction.

Despite the incredible story, that’s fascinating in its own right, Jessica Duchen does a great job of bringing all the characters to life. The story is told in the third person mostly from Jelly’s point of view, although later in the book we also get to hear about Ully, a character that although not based on a real person brings much to the equation, as it offers us a German perspective on the story. Jelly, who lives with her sister, brother-in-law, niece and their dog, despite her many admirers and some failed romances, is single and dedicated heart and soul to her music. I easily identified with Jelly, although our vocations and personal circumstances are very different, but I appreciated her dedication and love for music and for her family, her horror at the social and historical circumstances she was living through, her difficulties fitting in, as a foreigner living abroad, and her awareness of the challenges and limitations she was facing due to her age. There are very touching moments, for example when Jelly goes to visit her secretary and friend at the hospital and gives an impromptu concert there, when she organises a tour of concerts in cathedrals, free for everybody, not matter their social class, to collect funds for the poor, and when she becomes plagued by self-doubt, due to her personal circumstances and to her failing health. Jelly is not perfect, and she appears naïve at times, showing little understanding of issues like race or politics, limited insight into her own beliefs about the spirit world, her feelings and hesitating about what to do in her personal life, but she is a credible and passionate human being, and she gets to confront many of her fears by the end of the book.

Apart from the gripping story and the background behind the discovery of the concert, there is the historical context of the 1930s. As Schuman was a German composer, somehow it became a matter of national importance to recover the concert and claim it as a German work. The changes in Germany, the atmosphere of menace and threat, the rise of dangerous nationalism, and how that was also reflected in Britain, where the sisters lived, was well reflected and built into the book, especially when, at first sight, it seems to be only marginally relevant to the central mystery. As several characters observe in the novel, a piece of music is not ‘just a piece of music’ any longer and everything becomes vested with particular significance, thanks to manipulation and propaganda, no matter what the original intention of the composer might have been. I suspect most people who read this book won’t be able to resist comparing the historical situation then to our current times and worry.

This novel is a joy to read, one of these cases when the story and the writing style are perfectly matched and one can almost hear the music flowing from the pages. A wonderful novel that I recommend to anybody interested in the period and in good writing. I’ll be closely watching this author in the future.

Book Description

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

The strangest detective story in the history of music – inspired by a true incident. A world spiralling towards war. A composer descending into madness. And a devoted woman struggling to keep her faith in art and love against all the odds. 1933. Dabbling in the fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartók, Ravel and Elgar, encounters a startling dilemma. A message arrives ostensibly from the spirit of the composer Robert Schumann, begging her to find and perform his long-suppressed violin concerto. She tries to ignore it, wanting to concentrate instead on charity concerts. But against the background of the 1930s depression in London and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, a struggle ensues as the “spirit messengers” do not want her to forget. The concerto turns out to be real, embargoed by Schumann’s family for fear that it betrayed his mental disintegration: it was his last full-scale work, written just before he suffered a nervous breakdown after which he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. It shares a theme with his Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) for piano, a melody he believed had been dictated to him by the spirits of composers beyond the grave. As rumours of its existence spread from London to Berlin, where the manuscript is held, Jelly embarks on an increasingly complex quest to find the concerto. When the Third Reich’s administration decides to unearth the work for reasons of its own, a race to perform it begins. Though aided and abetted by a team of larger-than-life personalities – including her sister Adila Fachiri, the pianist Myra Hess, and a young music publisher who falls in love with her – Jelly finds herself confronting forces that threaten her own state of mind. Saving the concerto comes to mean saving herself. In the ensuing psychodrama, the heroine, the concerto and the pre-war world stand on the brink, reaching together for one more chance of glory.

About the author

Jessica Duchen

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

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

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

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

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

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT GHOST VARIATIONS by @jessicaduchen #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs at https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen

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Set in 1930s Britain and strongly based on real events, Ghost Variations is resonant with attitudes and feelings relevant to us now. Jessica Duchen tells the story of renowned violinist Jelly d’Aranyl towards the end of her career. At 42, she feels the need for a new purpose which is partly fulfilled by a series of free concerts, open to everyone, in the finest cathedrals in the land.

Jelly and her sister had been brought to England from Hungary, when she was in her teens and Jelly’s considerable talent had already been acknowledged. She had been the muse of Bartok and Ravel and was in great demand for concert venues. But while her sister, Adila chose marriage to a prominent diplomat, Jelly decided that the demands of her art meant total devotion, excluding marriage. But this decision may have been finalised by the tragic death of Sep Kelly, her one true, but unconsummated love, during the First World War.

One cannot help feeling empathy for Jelly, who shows great affection for her erstwhile assistant and companion, Anna and kindness to strangers such as a Jewish pianist who has fled from Germany. Her life is taken over by the desire to obtain and perform the long hidden violin concerto of Robert Schumann, a close friend of her great-uncle, violinist Joseph Joquem. The manuscript is traced to Berlin but Jelly’s partially Jewish ancestry makes it impossible for her to follow up, so against her inclinations she enlists the help of her sister’s close friend Erik Palmstierna, the Swedish ambassador to England.

The novel recreates the glamorous environment of the London cognoscenti, where Jelly and Adila socialise with pianist, Myra Hess, Sir Adrian Boult and all the fashionable people of culture. In contrast we glimpse through a window into Hitler’s pre-war Germany, seeing the manipulation of values made by Goebbels. The increasingly anti-foreign atmosphere in England and the corrosive effect of newspaper articles, build up the tension as the story moves towards 1938.

This novel provokes thought on so many topics; the problems for a female artist in her mature years, the sad waste of lives in both wars and in Hitler’s Germany and observations of the philosophies of spiritualism and eugenics. But it is also the story of the fascinating Jelly d’Aranyl, her friends and her passions, at perhaps one of the most interesting times in history.

Book Description

The strangest detective story in the history of music – inspired by a true incident.
A world spiralling towards war. A composer descending into madness. And a devoted woman struggling to keep her faith in art and love against all the odds.
1933. Dabbling in the fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartók, Ravel and Elgar, encounters a startling dilemma. A message arrives ostensibly from the spirit of the composer Robert Schumann, begging her to find and perform his long-suppressed violin concerto.
She tries to ignore it, wanting to concentrate instead on charity concerts. But against the background of the 1930s depression in London and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, a struggle ensues as the “spirit messengers” do not want her to forget.
The concerto turns out to be real, embargoed by Schumann’s family for fear that it betrayed his mental disintegration: it was his last full-scale work, written just before he suffered a nervous breakdown after which he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. It shares a theme with his Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) for piano, a melody he believed had been dictated to him by the spirits of composers beyond the grave.
As rumours of its existence spread from London to Berlin, where the manuscript is held, Jelly embarks on an increasingly complex quest to find the concerto. When the Third Reich’s administration decides to unearth the work for reasons of its own, a race to perform it begins.
Though aided and abetted by a team of larger-than-life personalities – including her sister Adila Fachiri, the pianist Myra Hess, and a young music publisher who falls in love with her – Jelly finds herself confronting forces that threaten her own state of mind. Saving the concerto comes to mean saving herself.
In the ensuing psychodrama, the heroine, the concerto and the pre-war world stand on the brink, reaching together for one more chance of glory.

About the author

Jessica Duchen

Jessica was born in London. She first tried to write a novel at the age of 12 and found much encouragement from a distinguished author and a literary agent. After studying at Cambridge, she worked as an editor in music publishing and magazines for ten years.
Her latest novel, Ghost Variations, is based on a true incident in the 1930s: the bizarre rediscovery of the long-suppressed Schumann Violin Concerto. “This is a hugely atmospheric and thought-provoking book featuring fascinating characters… It evokes a period pregnant with both promise and menace” (Music & Vision Daily).
The earlier novels focus on the tensions and cross-currents between family generations, including a painful exploration of the effects of anorexia (Rites of Spring) and the rearing of a child prodigy (Alicia’s Gift) to the long-term effects of displacement and cultural clashes (Hungarian Dances and Songs of Triumphant Love). 
Jessica’s journalism has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous music magazines. She gives pre-concert talks at venues including the Wigmore Hall, the Southbank Centre and Symphony Hall Birmingham. Having created concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations, she often narrates their performances. Her play A Walk through the End of Time, introducing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, has been performed at music festivals in the UK, France and Australia. 
Jessica lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys long walks, cooking, and playing the piano when nobody can hear her. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jessicawords…

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