Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT family #memoir Castles In The Air by Alison Cubitt @lambertnagle

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Castles In The Air by Alison R Cubitt

Castles in the Air is a form of an epistolary memoir, written by the daughter of Molly Ripley. That, through diary journals belonging to the author’s father, Don, and letters sent by Molly to a family friend, Steve, traces  her mother’s life through childhood  in wartime and later through her education and work. From the tone of the letters it seems her attraction to Steve lasts well into adulthood. I wondered why his letters were not kept.

The story begins when Molly’ is eleven in 1937. Her letters date from when she and her parents were about to leave England to go to  the Far East where her father has important work. These are minutely detailed and, I’m afraid to say, laborious letters of life on the ship, shopping  trips, parties, friendships. I would have loved some setting, some information of the world around Molly at this time but, of course, it needs to be kept in mind that this was a child writing. The father’s journals are really sparse notes also.

I found the second half of the story more interesting; the accounts of the family’s struggles, financially and emotionally, from the author’s point of view as she sees her parents from a distance. There is both sadness and poignancy threaded throughout the text after Molly’s marriage, the move to Malaysia, to a rubber plantation,back to England, and then on to New Zealand. there is also the interesting/curious continuing friendship with Steve (seemingly resented by Molly’s husband?) And copious accounts of Molly’s drug addiction.

Time and again throughout Castles in the Air it occurred to me that it would have been  fascinating to use all of Molly’s letter and journals as research for a fictitious story. But I am aware that this is a memoir; lovingly  and obviously sometimes painfully written by  Alison Ripley Cubitt.

The Book Description is so enticing I was eager to read this memoir but I have to say I was disappointed overall. It is a good family memoir which is surely fascinating to and for the author’s family. I think what I wanted more of, was a greater sense of place and more rounded characters. I realise this is probably impossible to glean from the scant details through letters and journals.

Book description

After writing this review I have looked for Castles in the Air on Amazon. There are some good five star reviews there; it may be this was just not the style of memoir I enjoy.A daughter is forced to confront the uncomfortable truth of her mother’s seemingly ordinary life. By trying to make sense of the past, will she feel able to move on with her future? Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, Castles in the Air is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams, in an era when women couldn’t have it all.

About the author

Alison was born in Malaysia and like many an expat child, was sent away to boarding school in England at a young age. At the age of eight she moved with her family to New Zealand, where she went to school and university.

Bitten by the travel bug, she moved to Australia, then to the United Kingdom where she landed a job in TV and film production, working for companies including the BBC and Walt Disney. But her passion has always been for writing.

She is an author, memoirist, novelist, and screenwriter and co-writes thrillers with Sean Cubitt, writing as Lambert Nagle. Sean’s day job is Professor of Film and Television, Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been published by leading academic publishers.

Serial expats, Lambert Nagle have also lived in Canada and although now based in Hampshire, travel back and forwards to New Zealand whenever they can.

Alison Ripley Cubitt

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #shortstories Donkey Boy & Other Stories by @marysmithwriter

Today’s team review is from Judith B, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith


This is a fascinating collection of short stories, set in various places with a wealth of diverse characters, all wonderfully rounded. The author has a talent for setting the scene and giving a sense of place with few well-chosen words.

I read each of these unusual stories slowly, taking in the way each situation unfolded, savouring the reactions of the characters to each problem they faced, enjoying the touches of humour, poignancy, empathising with the great sadness in some of the tales.

Not sure I had an overall favourite, they are all easy to read, but these are the ones that stayed with me long after I’d read them:

The story in the title, Donkey Boy. The protagonist, Ali, should be in school but instead drives a donkey cart for his father. His resentment is palpable from the very start. The dilemma he faces exposes the way different cultures live;  not only their values and ethics but the differences in the child and adult in these societies.  This is well deserving as the title story.

Trouble with Socks. Set in a care home with the character George; patronised by one of the carers who really is in the wrong job.

Accidents Happen. Set in Pakistan; the story of a young girl with a step father she detests.

Asylum Seekers. One of the monologues (I did like this way of writing/reading a short story). Though ironic, this reveals unpleasant bigotry and prejudice,

There is a whole gamut of human emotions in Donkey Boy and Other Stories and I thoroughly recommend this collection by Mary Smith to any reader. Whatever your favourite genre you’ll be sure to find one that will linger with you long afterwards.

Book description

Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.

About the author

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Mary Smith

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW2 Thriller The Circumstantial Enemy by @JohnRichardBell

Today’s team review is from Judith B, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading The Circumstantial Enemy by John R Bell


The Circumstantial Enemy drew me in from the first page; Bell has a writing style that has great depth, tells a story that has so many sub-plots, mixes facts with fiction, yet is easy to read

This book is based on real events that happened during World War II and it is obvious the author has also researched extensively. The plot reads authentically with many twists and unexpected events. Set between 1941-1952 , It’s a cross-genre story of history, politics, war  and romance: a story that exposes the devastation and horror of war, the reactions of human beings to the stress and trauma of enforced separation from family and friends, of enduring love against all the odds. The pace is swift and encompasses the difficult period when Yugoslavia was divided into Serbia and Croatia,  moving to Italy, the stockades in North African,  American prisoner of war camps and on to post war Europe.

Yet all is not doom and gloom; there are touches of humour here and there, showing the resilience of the human condition.

The characters  are well portrayed with authentic and individualistic dialogue, particularly that of the protagonist,  Tony Babic, shown in so many layers through both his actions and internal  dialogue as the story progresses. As the story moved forward I felt, as a reader, that I almost knew what his responses would be to everything he faced. This is a strong protagonist, embodied by self-respect, honour, courage; a man who faces life with stubborn perseverance even in his darkest moments. And the minor characters, being well drawn and believable, give excellent support within the plot.

The descriptions of each of the settings are extremely well written and give a great sense of place.

If I had any reservations about this debut novel it would be that sometimes, just sometimes, a point is belaboured, slowing the action down. But, as I say, it is a small irritation compared with the enjoyment I had reading The Circumstantial Enemy.

Striking cover as well!

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with wars as the background and a touch of romance and  I look forward to reading John R Bell’s next novel.

Book description

When Croatia becomes a Nazi puppet state in 1941, carefree young pilot Tony Babic finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome are soon to discover that love and friendship will not circumvent this war’s ideals.

Downed by the Allies in the Adriatic Sea, Tony survives a harrowing convalescence in deplorable Italian hospitals and North African detention stockades. His next destination is Camp Graham in Illinois, one of four hundred prisoner of war camps on American soil.

But with the demise of the Third Reich, repatriation presents a new challenge. What kind of life awaits Tony under communist rule? Will he be persecuted as an enemy of the state for taking the side of Hitler? And then there is Katarina; in letters she confesses her love, but not her deceit… Does her heart still belong to him?

Based on a true story, John Richard Bell’s The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust and revenge. Rich in incident with interludes of rollicking humour, it’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.

About the author

John Richard Bell was born in Chigwell, UK and now resides in Vancouver, Canada. Before becoming an author of business books and historical fiction, he was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and a global strategy consultant. A prolific blogger, John’s musings on strategy, leadership and branding have appeared in various journals such as FortuneForbes and

John Richard Bell

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Thriller Novella MY SWEET FRIEND by @HALeuschel

Today’s team review is from Judith B, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading My Sweet Friend by H. A Leuschel


My Review:

I first came across  H.A. Leuschel when I read and enjoyed her collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives.

In this novella the author  has, once again, concentrated on the theme of manipulation; from the manoeuvrings for power in business to the exploitation that can be committed in personal relationships. This is an emotional exploration of the human psyche on various levels. It is also a brilliant story.

Told from the first person point of view of the two main characters, Rosie and Alexa, each have their own chapters, which move from present to flashbacks.  The plot takes us from absolute loyalty and hope in Rosie’s understanding of her relationship with Alexa, to the first seeds of doubt and distrust, (emphasised by the exchanges of dialogue with Jack; would be boyfriend and initially also taken in by Alexa). With Alexa the portrayal of  the ultimate confidence that she is in control of her life and is blinkered to any faults of her own, is gradually undermined by glimpses of vulnerability. Each character is so multi layered and believable that I found myself at various points throughout the narrative both empathising but being exasperated with Rosie and disliking yet understanding Alexa. Ultimately, though, I had compassion for both.

These are strongly- written characters; Leuschel has an innate sense of the way anyone can manipulate others through the facade of friendship and loyalty; even subliminally. Both the internal  and the spoken dialogue are used to give rise to unease and doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is actually the victim in this relationship.  Even the descriptions that give a good sense of place are used to show brilliant interpretation of the emotional weakness of each character.

I would have loved the intricacies of the relationships within the story to have moved more slowly, shift in the strengths and weaknesses between the characters. I felt this novella could easily have been made into a novel. But then, perhaps, it wouldn’t have worked; it is a very intensely controlled friendship so would have always burned out quickly.

There is only one tiny thing I really disliked in this story – and I will admit it sounds trivial and silly but it is a personal aversion; I did not like the word “sniggered” (Alexa sniggered a few times – it drove me mad!) the verb just did not fit in with the image I had of this character. Sorry H.A. Leuschel.

Putting such an inconsequential point to one side  I would certainly recommend My Sweet Friend to any reader; it’s a thought-provoking physiological and gripping read.

Book description

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

About the author

Helene grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh.
She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

H.A. Leuschel

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Sunday Connection – What’s Been Happening This Week? #SundayBlogShare

Just in case you’ve spent the last few days hoping it’s still the holidays and you’ve been hiding under the duvet…

Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday: Karen Bernard reviewed romantic Suspense – When A Stranger Comes by Karen Bell


Tuesday: I reviewed historical fiction The Lady’s Slipper by Deborah Swift


Wednesday: Karen Oberlaender reviewed thriller Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley


Thursday: Judith Barrow reviewed literary fiction The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle by J.D Dixon


Friday: Olga Miret reviewed naval thriller Jonah by Carl Rackman


Saturday: Alison Williams reviewed cultural fiction All The Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser


There have also been some fun posts

Top ten new-to-me authors I read in 2017

WWW Wednesday (what are you reading meme)

Plus news from around the Blogosphere

Pages unbound – Book Blogging resources for the New Year

Is literary fiction in decline? – Asks Caroline at

January Blues? How To Create A Happiness Jar – Shelley Wilson – Motivate Me Now

Just the thing if you need cash after the holidays – Rachel Poli lists some writing competitions with money prizes!

2018 Book Industry Predictions: Are Indie Authors Losing their Independence?

Finally a fun post – 10 signs you may not be loving your current read…



Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle by @James_D_Dixon

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle by James Dixon


My Review:

I finished The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle thinking this has to be made into a film. And I’m ashamed to say I finished the book almost a week ago and have dithered on how to review because the emotion that it has stirred in me prevented a rational and objective/subjective ‘putting down words here’. Which delay does the author, James Dixon, no favours at all, I know.

All I can say is that this is a brilliantly compelling read: the author’s stark but totally gripping style, the twists and turns of the story, the layering of the protagonist’s character and the many other characters that people this book and  the multiplicity of themes, all make The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle a novel that stands out…unrivalled in my opinion, especially as  it is a debut novels. But it also hits home… hard. This is a  harsh indictment of our times, of our country, of our humanity. Over the top? I don’t think so (having worked for a short while among such disadvantaged people – I believe the author has researched well.)

A little slow to begin with, the pace of the story then moves inextricably towards the protagonist’s decline, from bewildered homelessness, which instills pity in the reader to a brutal callousness and a total lack of empathy for and with those around him; his thoughts and actions shock and sicken. And yet, for me, the sympathy still hovers for Willem.

A word on the title: at a time when many titles are of one or two words I found this one intriguing. (I’d maybe suggest cut out the word “Unrivalled”?)

And the cover? Loved the way the protagonist blends in with the brickwork behind him; much as he disappears from the view of those that pass him by.

Would I recommend The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle? You bet!! All I can say to anyone, whatever their usual preferred genre is …  please do read it.

Book description

In a Scotland beset with depression, Willem is one victim among many. He loses his job, his mother dies and he is forced out of the flat they shared. Seeing no other option, he takes to the streets of Edinburgh, where he soon learns the cruelty felt outside the confines of his comfortable life. Stories from his past are interwoven with his current strife as he tries to figure out the nature of this new world and the indignities it brings. Determined to live freely, he leaves Edinburgh, hiking into the Scottish Highlands to seek solitude, peace and an unhampered, pure vision of life at nature’s breast.

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle is at once a lyrical, haunting novel and a set piece in the rage of an oppressed, forgotten community. J. D. Dixon’s sparse, brutal language captures the energy and isolation of desperation, uniting despondency and untrammelled anger in the person of his protagonist.

About the author

J. D. Dixon was born in London in 1990. He studied English Literature and History at Goldsmiths College, University of London, before pursuing a career as a writer. He currently lives with his wife, the psychologist Dr Lauren Hadley, in Edinburgh.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT A modern Austen’s ‘Emma’ I Could Write A Book By @KarenMCox1932

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading I Could Write A Book by Karen M Cox


My Review:

Retelling  a classic in modern times is an interesting concept and one that has worked really well here.  Karen Cox clearly has a talent for this genre and I enjoyed reading this re-working of Jane Austen’s Emma.

I must admit, though, I found I Could Write a Book impossible to review as I normally would review a book. This is a canonical classic; it is difficult for me to criticise the story of a novel I have long admired.

But here goes…

Told through alternating perspectives of Emma and George Knightley the different depiction of the personalities of each character is well rounded and follows closely to that of Austen’s, though naturally adapted to the setting of Kentucky, during the 1960s and 1970s. The juxtaposition of  humour and poignant tenderness is threaded throughout. Nevertheless the actions of the modern strong-willed Emma still brought out the same feelings of exasperation in me as it had in the original Emma. Yet, as before, I felt empathy and compassion for the character; there is still the underlying naivety there. Though cosseted by her family I also felt protective of her when George Knightley, battling his own feelings towards her, attempts to ‘open her eyes’ to herself.

Good characterisation of both and I also found the supporting characters to be multi-layered, adding to the background and action within the plot. And brought right up to date by the emphasis as much on religion and race as on the class divisions in the original story.

Both the spoken and internal dialogue adds to an understanding of these two friends as the friendship grows into a burgeoning romance- (I liked the way Emma is shown almost as the omniscient narrator through her free indirect language – much in the way Jane Austen shows)

I liked the author’s style of writing and the steady easy pace of the story was reassuringly similar Austen’s.

I Could Write a Book works well and I would urge both readers who are admirers of Jane Austen and those curious to see how a classic can reappear as a contemporary read to discover this book for themselves.

Book description

“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.

About the author

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of novels accented with romance and history: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, and I Could Write a Book. Other published works include an ebook novella, The Journey Home, “Northanger Revisited 2015”, which appeared in Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, “I, Darcy,” a short story in The Darcy Monologues, and “An Honest Man”, which will appear in the upcoming anthology, Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentleman Rogues.
Originally from Everett, WA, Karen now lives in Central Kentucky with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter. Like Austen’s Emma, Karen has many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but like Elizabeth Bennet, she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker.

Karen M. Cox

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Medical #Thriller A Kiss Before Killing by Keith McCarthy

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading A Kiss Before Killing by Keith McCarthy

A Kiss Before Killing: Nothing can keep the doctor away... by [McCarthy, Keith]

My Review:

From the start it is obvious that the author knows a great deal about cadavers and forensics; there is a lot of detail about the dissection of bodies and the necessary criminal investigation. I didn’t mind reading about those sections; in fact I can deal with grisly as much as the next reader of this genre but it felt rather clinically shown so, as a reader, the dreadfulness of the murders, the horrendous dismemberment, was, for me, portrayed too clinically; there was something emotionally missing.

I liked some of the characters; most were multi – layered. Beverley Wharton is well rounded and the relationship between her and John Eisenmenger is interesting. And we get some insight into her sergeant, Tom Bayes and his background. We also get a good understanding of their  professional environment.  All of which shows that these characters and their relationships to one another could lead to further stories. But I couldn’t quite get a handle on the character of Dr. Claire Woodforde. (I did think this was perhaps what the author intended as, although portrayed as a professional person her interaction with other characters was hesitant and not what I would have expected)

On the whole the dialogue is realistic and shows who was speaking, though it is a little stilted, less realistic, at times.

It’s a good plot. And, generally, well told. The author has a good writing style that carries the story along. But there are too many cliches in the narrative and far too many  metaphors and similes. (and these also slip over into the dialogue occasionally. Which would be fine if it were an idiosyncrasy of only one or two of the characters).

My whole problem with this book was with the editing and the proof reading. I think the book needs another good edit and, certainly, a more exact proofreading.

Once this is done I would certainly recommend A Kiss Before Killing.

Each man kills the thing he loves…

Edward Marsham is admitted to the Royal Infirmary having hung himself in his prison cell.

As predicted, he dies.

In the wake of several unexpected deaths at the hospital, however, Dr. Claire Woodforde suspects there is a killer amongst the staff. As Detective Chief Inspector Beverley Wharton and her new sergeant Tom Bayes begin to investigate Marsham’s death, they too start to wonder if it was natural or whether someone…

helped him along.

But as they start to make headway on the case, something much more sinister comes to light.

A body is found in an empty house.

A body without its limbs. And head.

Dr. John Eisenmenger is tasked with examining the torso to uncover clues which will lead to its identity and cause of death; a grisly job even for the most hardened of pathologists.

But as the investigation unfolds, the team discovers that there is much, much worse to come, and in addition, there is growing suspicion that there is a link between the two cases.

This not-for-the-faint-hearted crime thriller shines a light into the darkest recesses of the human soul.

Keith McCarthy is a pathologist and writer of crime fiction, known for his Eisenmenger-Flemming Forensic Mysteries. He also writes under the name Lance Elliot.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistFic Everybody’s Somebody by @berylkingston @EndeavourPress

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Everybody’s Somebody by Beryl Kingston


 I was really looking forward to reading Everybody’s Somebody. This is my kind of book, set in an era I have read and researched. I wasn’t disappointed; the story has  a true sense of the time, the place, the people. Told with great attention to period detail, there are some lovely passages of descriptive writing, particularly in relation to the interior scenes of buildings and houses.

The characters are well drawn: Rosie Goodison, the protagonist, has many layers; loyalty, love, pride, independence, and holds a great sense of self-preservation. I empathised with her from the word go. I had reservations sometimes with Jim, Though sensitive to a point with Rosie, I found him to be slightly self-centred and self-indulgent. But, for me, this was a sign of good writing, he is brilliantly  rounded. As is his sister, Kitty. And I liked the friendship and solidarity the two women are shown to share.

One of the themes running throughout the book is that of these two women, as well as others, fighting to asserting themselves, both within relationships and in society. This struggle is carried out before a backdrop of patriarchy,  poverty, unemployment and the devastation of the First World War. It is obvious that the author has researched both the social, economical and political backgrounds and changes: the book covers the Suffragette movement, WW1,the London floods of 1928,.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and the few problems I had with Everybody’s Somebody are slight and two of the reasons are purely personal. But to balance the review, I will mention them here.

The first is with the dialogue. I found the overuse of dialect a bit irritating and, for me, there was little to distinguish the voice of one character from another,especially between Rosie and Kitty. This wasn’t helped by the ‘head-hopping ‘ between them; in the middle of one character’s point of view, the voice of one of the other character would pop in.

And, for me, the dropping in of so many names of famous people in real life at that time felt contrived. One or two would have worked. As far as I was concerned so many were not needed; it’s blatantly obvious the author knows this era like the back of her own hand.

And, also, sometimes I felt as if time was skimmed over; I was just settling into a certain scene or set of circumstances and  the story moved on. However this is a personal thing; I so love this era I just wanted to read more about particular scenes or circumstances. I do realise that this could have made the book impossibly long,.. though it did cross my mind that Everybody’s Somebody could have stretched to a sequel… even a trilogy.

But, as I’ve said, I’m only adding the above to balance the review.  I really liked this book, the plot is excellent with many twists and turns and Beryl Kingston has an easy to read writing style.

I would recommend Everybody’s Somebody to any reader who is interested in history, feminism and family sagas with a hint of mystery.

Book Description

“Life’s for real an’ you got to get on with it.”

Rosie Goodison is not one to shy away from life’s problems. Whether it’s finding work or challenging injustice, Rosie squares her shoulders, sets her chin high and faces it full on.

Born at the end of the nineteenth century, in the rural south of England and sent into service aged just twelve, Rosie quickly discovers that many good people spend their lives toiling for very little reward, whilst others ‘have it all’.

She decides it won’t be like that for her. Why can’t she ride in a car? Why can’t she work when she’s pregnant? Why can’t she live in a nice flat? Why can’t she be an artist’s model?

Whilst working as a housekeeper for two upper-class boys, Rosie starts to learn more and more about the world, gleaned from overheard conversations and newspapers left lying around. This triggers an ongoing thirst for knowledge, which shapes her views, informs her decisions and influences her future.

Rosie aspires to have a better life than that of her parents: better living conditions, better working conditions and pay, better education for her children, to be able to vote, to be able to control how many children she has…

Without realising it, this young woman is blazing a trail for all those who are to come after.

Whilst working in London, Rosie meets her sweetheart Jim, but the The Great War puts paid to their plans for the future, and matters worsen afterwards, as she, along with the rest of society, tries to deal with the horrors and losses.

This heart-warming story follows the events of the early twentieth century – the impact and horrors of WW1, the financial crisis and the rapid social and political changes that took place.

All that remains of Rosie now is a quartet of paintings in an art gallery. The artist, now famous but the model, unnamed and forgotten; nobody of consequence.

But everybody has a life story. Everybody leaves some kind of mark on this world.

Everybody’s somebody.

About the author

Beryl Kingston

I was born in 1931 in Tooting, and when I was four was enrolled at a local dancing school run by a lady called Madam Hadley, which I attended until I was eight when the war began. Because of the war my school career was – shall we say – varied. I was evacuated twice, the first time to Felpham which is near Bognor Regis and the second to Harpenden in Hertfordshire, and consequently went to ten different schools. I ended up at Streatham Secondary School, an LCC grammar run on the Dalton system, which offered a few lessons as sparking points and then required pupils to be responsible for their own learning, either in study rooms with their teachers on hand to help and advise, or on their own in the library or the school hall. It suited me to a T. Then to King’s College London, where I read English and enjoyed myself a lot, but wasn’t particularly distinguished, having other things on my mind by then.

I am proud of the fact that I was in Tooting for the first four months of the blitz, and only left it to be evacuated again when our road was bombed and our house was uninhabitable. I spent the middle part of the war in Harpenden and returned to live in London again at the end of the war at the time of the V2’s, this time without my family.

When I was just sixteen I met the love of my life, who arrived on my doorstep in Air Force blue one February evening in the coldest winter on record. Despite heavy opposition from my parents, we married three years later during my first year at King’s and spent the next 53 years 11 months and 6 days living more and more happily together. We had three much loved children and five much loved grandchildren and once I’d embarked on my career as a novelist, researched all the books together, which was great fun. We finished work on ‘Gates of Paradise’ six weeks before he died. So this publication is special to me.

I have enjoyed two careers in my life – as a teacher from 1952 to 1985 (with ten years off to bring up my family, which some might consider a third career) and as a published writer from 1980 to date. I am also, although it sounds immodest to say it, an easy and charismatic public speaker, usually unfazed by any audience no matter how big or how small or what questions they might throw at me.

In the two schools where I was head of the English department, I deliberately covered the full range of age and ability, believing that as I was paid the largest salary I should carry the heaviest responsibility. My work was filmed by KCL Education Department for use in their PGCE course and I have given talks at various colleges and schools on a variety of educational subjects, from teaching poetry to ‘tackling’ sex education. I have never subscribed to the Gradgrind theory of education which is current now, but always believed that the job of a teacher is to enable her students to learn.

I have always been a political animal, taking part in street demonstrations, walking from Aldermaston to London, involved in the 1945 election despite the fact that I was only fourteen, taking to the streets again, along with a million others, to protest against the Iraq war when I was 72.

And as a last and rather lighter touch, I was a beauty queen in 1947. It wasn’t all protests!

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT @barrow_judith reviews Alt #Rome Inceptio by @alison_morton

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Inceptio by Alison Morton


My Review:

I need to say from the start, that I may not have been in the right frame of mind to read what, to me, is a book with a complex and fantastical plot.  I wanted to like INCEPTIO; I started off really enjoying the book but as I read on I found the plot erratic; sometimes dragging, sometimes rushing by. So I struggled to be totally engaged with the story.

Told mainly from the point of view of Karen Brown, a modern New York resident, it is to the author’s credit that the protagonist is quickly built into a rounded character and it is easy to empathise with her in the rapid change in her circumstances. But, as the story progresses it becomes quite obvious that Karen,  soon renamed Carina Mitela as the most important resident of Roma Nova, wasn’t going to be beaten by any antagonist nor fail in any of the tasks she was given to complete. I felt there  were too many (and sometimes what I thought were ‘tongue in cheek’ ) attacks on the protagonist, designed to persuade her to sign away her  inheritance of vast amounts of money and, more importantly, a very successful business before her twenty-fifth birthday.

I did like the way the author built up some of the other characters: Karen/ Carina’s grandmother, Nona/Aurelia, the attractive, soon to be lover, Conrad. (I would have liked more time spent on the building of the relationships between the protagonist and these two characters – I am always more won over by character-driven tales ). And I also enjoyed characters such as Lurio, Apollodorus and Aelia. Even the antagonist, Renschman (told from a third person point of view, so we were a little distanced from him but could still see, if not empathise, his mindset – he has personal reasons for hating Karen) had his moments of depth were true evil for me. Of necessity there needed to be a lot of characters to populate this alternative country. But I did find myself shuffling back and forth sometimes to find out who fitted where.

Must admit though, I did like the idea of a country where the women ruled and called the shots!!

One of Alison Morton’s strengths is dialogue, both internal and spoken; there is never any doubt which character is speaking, even without dialogue tags. Yet even here I tended to be pulled out of the story by the constant use of Latin (Yes, I l know it adds to the validity of the country but still… . I have to confess this might have brought back too many memories of the language from a certain teacher in my schooldays! Don’t ask!!)

There is a lot of dense detail and some quite long descriptions of the fictitious state of Roma Nova. These build up a good sense of place of this civilisation that exists as a left over land of the long ago Roman Empire. Interesting- but I found they slowed the plot for me and I have to admit I did skip over some of them. And I found some of the narration, in parts, also dragged a little.

Loved the cover, by the way. I see this is a theme throughout the Roma Nova Thriller series.

Would I recommend? Well, yes to readers who enjoy alternative historical fiction with lots of action and lots of description.

Having written this review and then gone onto Amazon and seen how many 5* this book has been given, I think I’d like to read more of  Alison Morton’s work. Perhaps this just wasn’t for me at the moment

Book Description

INCEPTIO plunges you into a 21st century Roman world. Apart from kidnapping, heartache and a close encounter with Latin grammar, New Yorker Karen Brown must contend with a fascinating Praetorian elite forces officer. Oh, and a crazy killer pursuing her for a very personal reason.

Karen flees to her dead mother’s homeland, Roma Nova, the last remnant of the Roman Empire. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman exiles and now ruled by women, it gives Karen safety and a ready-made family – but at a price.

In this adventure thriller set in an alternative timeline, Karen grows from a girl anybody might know into a strong female character not only intent on staying alive but also on finding out why the killer is hunting her.

A coming of age story, where an ordinary girl discovers there is a great deal more lying under her mundane existence, but also lethal danger. At what stage does she stop running from it?

About the author

Alison Morton

Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. After six years in a special communications regiment, she left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things she can’t talk about, even now…

The mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) and their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation made her wonder what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women.

Now, she writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines, tends a Roman herb garden and drinks wine with her husband of 30 years.

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