🎼Lost are the creatures destined never to be understood.🎼Jenni reviews literary saga The Crooked Little Pieces by Sophia Lambton, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Jenni has been reading The Crooked Little Pieces by Sophia Lambton

Book cover for literary saga The Crooked Little Pieces by Sophie Lambton
The Crooked Little Pieces by Sophie Lambton

3.5/5

Sophia Lambton’s The Crooked Little Pieces follows Isabel and Anneliese van der Holt from the age of six in 1920s Zurich, into their early twenties in Blitz-struck London. Raised by their neurology professor father, each van der Holt twin is exceptional in her own way, with Isabel holding the promise of being a musical prodigy, and Anneliese following her father’s passion for medical sciences. Together they move countries, attend school, nurture and neglect their talents by turns, suffer many of the expected triumphs and heartaches expected in a coming-of-age story and yet… I never quite cheered for these girls.

Protagonists do not have to be good people, and I have certainly taken my own, private glee in following a story through the eyes of some true monsters, but at the end of the day a reader needs a reason to like the people they’re reading about. I never found Anneliese and Isabel likeable. Isabel decides to pursue marriage because being a wife will mean she doesn’t have to keeping trying with her music, and Anneliese becomes obsessed with her therapist to the point that she steals important documents from her, and then attempts to bring them to the attention of the medical community against said therapist’s wishes and best interests. They are both self-destructive, and dismissive of other people as beneath their attention or care.

Don’t get me wrong, Lambton has fully fleshed out both girls. Their characterization is strong, and with the chapters alternating perspective between the twins and their father (until his death) we get a thorough understanding of how they speak, the ways they act in different situations, and why they are the way they are, but that just make their narcissism more blatant and their actions pettier.

Then there is the is the language of the text itself. Lambton has a dreamlike, drifting approach to the story (hence this novel clocks in at over 400 pages), and an approach to sentence structure that does not always lend itself to readability. Take, for example, this sentence from chapter 8, in which a coworker of the twins’ father is propping her elbows up on a counter:

The kitchen top began to hold her weight as she sustained her elbows on it.

It’s not incomprehensible. You and I, dear reader, know what she means about leaning on a countertop, but there is smoother language out there.

All of that said, I should reiterate that this is a 400+ page novel by a young writer who obviously has a grasp on how to create fully-realized characters. She also certainly set up the potential for some interesting scenarios: the push and pull between a flighty, musical twin and her more grounded, scholarly sister. The dynamic of being raised by a scientist father who has, if not a preference, at least a greater understanding of the scholarly daughter as opposed to the musician. The comatose mother who I have not even touched on in this review. The enigmatic, female psychologist who Anneliese begins seeing, bearing in mind that this would be the 1930s and thus the infancy of clinical psychology as we know it today. The universal tensions that came with being in London after one Great War and before the second kicks off. There’s some really good and interesting material to be plumbed there, and I certainly wish Lambton the best luck with her next installment in this series.

However, sadly, to me The Crooked Little Pieces never quite sang.

Orange rose book description
Book description

Lost are the creatures destined never to be understood.
1926. Professor Josef van der Holt obtains a post at an all women’s college overseas. Stuffy London suddenly becomes the site for the unseemly exploits of his half-Dutch and half-German daughters Anneliese and Isabel. When tragedy carves out a hollow in their lives, a severed soul sends the sororal twins along a jagged path: while Isabel takes flight in sensual hedonism Anneliese skirts danger in her role as sleuth. Elusive are the sentiments they seek: swift stopovers of fleeting feeling. Lopsided loves and passions scarcely probable veer each away from the predictable.
And when the obvious appears unstoppable the opposite may achingly be true.
Spanning the twentieth century’s five most volatile decades, The Crooked Little Pieces is a series about inextricable entanglements. Perverse relationships pervade a glossary of scenes. Plots criss-cross over a rich tapestry of twists and tension-fuelling characters: some relatable, others opaque and many “crooked”.
It is television drama. Novelised. 

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‘An author with an ear for dialogue’. @deBieJennifer reviews #MagicalRealism Ash Tuesday by @AriadneBlayde

Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find her here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

It is the final week of Mardi Gras and the guides of Spirits of Yore ghost tours have a story for you. Walk the crumbling streets, stay on the sidewalks, don’t lean on the buildings, and listen as the history of the French Quarter unfolds through the ghosts who haunt its streets, and the guides who keep their tales alive.

Each chapter of Ariadne Blayde’s Ash Tuesday follows a different guide as they struggle with their personal demons, celebrate their small triumphs, and share their favorite ghost stories with the tourists who deign to wander their city for a short spell. As with any great novel set in an old city, Ash Tuesday makes New Orleans herself, with all her chaotic beauty and horror, as much a character as any person walking the page. Blayde lives and New Orleans, and has worked as a tour guide in the Quarter, and her obvious knowledge of the geography of the city, the kinds of people it attracts and repels, and the kinds of ghosts that linger there is obvious in every line.

This is a book for lovers of New Orleans, lovers of ghost stories, and lovers of history, but more than that it’s a story for lovers of people. The net of characters, tour guides, acquaintances, sometimes-rivals, frenemies, and lovers that Blayde brings to life are wholly unique, each with their own, rich lives that readers are privileged to see. The good, the bad, the baffling, and the in-between all come to life (or death) between the covers of Ash Tuesday, and the inescapable humanity of it all is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.

Blayde is an author with an ear for dialogue, a heart for creating characters, and enough grit under her fingernails to get the texture of her setting right. There are dozens of canned phrases to throw around about how spectacular Ash Tuesday is, but at the end of the day the highest praise I can offer is: I bought a copy of this book for someone I love.

Ash Tuesday is a novel worth sharing, and this reviewer can only be grateful that Blayde chose to share it with the world.

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Giving ghost tours on the decaying streets of the French Quarter isn’t exactly a high-profile career, but the guides at Spirits of Yore Haunted Tours are too strange and troubled to do anything else. They call themselves Quarter Rats, a group of outcasts and dreamers and goths who gather in hole-in-the-wall bars to bicker, spin yarns, and search for belonging in the wee hours of the night after the tourists have staggered home.

Through the ghost stories they tell, their own haunted lives come into focus. Like the city they call home, these tour guides are messy with contradiction: they suffer joyfully, live morbidly, and sin to find salvation.

Weaving together real New Orleans folklore with the lives of eleven unforgettably vibrant characters, Ash Tuesday is a love letter to America’s last true bohemia and the people, both dead and living, who keep its heart beating.

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

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Georgia has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

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

Desc 1

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

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

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

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

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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/

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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.

Desc 1

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

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

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

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

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘I loved the lyrical quality of the language’. Says Rosie’s #Bookreview Team Member @OlgaNM7 About #LiteraryFiction Cenotaphs by @marcellor #TuesdayBookBlog

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Cenotaphs by Rich Marcello

I have read two of Marcello’s novels, The Beauty of the Fall and the Latecomers, and I have quickly become an admirer of his books, as he combines a lyrical and poetic style of writing with a choice of subjects that transcend the usual genre novel and look deep into the souls and minds of his characters.

This novel is not heavy on plot or action (some things happen, of course, and there are references to pretty major events that took place before, although I won’t spoil the novel for future readers). It is primarily about relationships between all kinds of people. The primary relationship we learn about is the one between Ben, a retired man who leads a pretty quiet life in a cabin in Vermont and spends his time sharing his advice and wisdom with others, and Sam, a thirty-something hedge fund manager who spends most of her time travelling and conversing with strangers. They meet by chance and quickly realise that there is a connection between them. Although in appearance they are as different as could be, they come to realise that they share some experiences and feelings. They both feel guilty of something that happened to their families (they were both brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, although neither of them are followers of any official religion now), and they find companionship and comfort in each other. Their relationship confounds many, but although Platonic, they know they have found something special in each other and treasure it.

This book reminded me of some of my favourite French movies, especially Eric Rohmer’s, that made you feel as if you were a privileged witness to the conversations between two characters (or a few characters), as they slowly got to know each other and to discover that they were meant to be with each other (or sometimes, to be apart but to gain some important insight from their time together). This is a book of communing with nature, with your dog, of going fishing, of building a cenotaph, of stripping your life of unnecessary things and acknowledging what is truly important, and of understanding that you cannot heal from your emotional wounds by hiding your true self and pretending to be somebody else. People can help you along the way, but you have to come to accept your pain, your loss, your responsibility and, perhaps, if you’re lucky, meet somebody else and make amends.

It is difficult to talk about the genre of this book, because other than literary fiction, it doesn’t fit in nicely under any other category. There is romance, but not in the standard sense. It is not strictly a self-help book, because it is a fictional story, but I am sure it will inspire many readers. It deals in loss, grief, guilt, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and other self-destructive behaviours, but also in music, nature, friendship, family relationships, spirituality, religion, love, and the meaning of life. It even touches upon the paranormal and metaphysics, so anybody who likes to reflect, analyse, and dig into the depths of what makes us human could potentially be a good match for this book.

I wouldn’t say I quickly warmed to the two main characters. I was intrigued and puzzled by them, as it was clear that there were many secret motivations behind their behaviours and their actions, but slowly, as I learned about them, I came to understand them a bit better and to accept them as human beings (with all their faults and their gifts). Although we don’t learn that much about the rest of the characters, I quite liked Scott (terrible mistake and all) and would have liked to learn more about Marianne, one of Ben’s friends but not around when we meet him. Zeke, the dog, was quite a character, and I enjoyed the conversations between Ben, Sam, and all of Ben’s friends, so different but so happy to share and engage in serious debate.

I also loved the lyrical quality of the language, and the many thoughts and phrases that made me stop and think. As usual, I’d advise people thinking about reading it to check a sample of the novel to see how they feel, but I’ll also share a few quotations I highlighted. Please, remember that I am reviewing an early copy, and there might have been changes in the final version.

An aspiration for old age: When the weight lifts, float up over all the love harmed, and marvel that something as healing as forgiveness exists at all.

Sometimes an undercurrent joins two people right from the start.

My greatest learning is this —love people exactly where they are, flaws and all, for as long as they grace your life. We don’t get do-overs, do we?

We never really fully understand another human being, do we, only the ways they touch us.

The story is narrated in the first-person by both main characters, and if I had to highlight one of the things that got me a bit confused, it was the way the book was divided up. Who was narrating each part was clearly indicated, but there were several parts I and parts II throughout the book, and some ‘chapters’ with their own separate titles. I think part of the issue might be due to reading an e-book copy and not having a clear idea of its structure, but later on, there is a development in the novel itself that helps to give this issue a totally different perspective. So, although the novel is written in the first-person, and I know there are readers who don’t appreciate that, there is a good reason for the choice, and the quality of the writing is such that it should dispel any concerns.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy beautiful writing, who are looking for a different kind of story, one that makes you think, reflect and ponder, rather than turn the pages quickly to know what will happen next. To those who love to explore the reasons behind people’s behaviours, to look closely at their relationships, and to wonder about the meaning of life. And if you’ve never read any of the author’s books, you’re in for a treat and a delightful surprise. Don’t delay.

Desc 1

AFTER A CHANCE MEETING, AN OLD MAN AND A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN CHART AN UNCONVENTIONAL PATH FORWARD.

When Ben Sanna, a contemplative retiree with a penchant for helping people, and Samantha Beckett, a secretive New York City hedge fund manager, meet by chance in a small Vermont town, they enter into a tenuous relationship. Over several weeks, Samantha and Ben open their pasts inch by inch, sift through their futures consciously, and come to terms with the strength and depth of their bond. A meditation on redemption told in alternating chapters of musings and scenes, Cenotaphs is about platonic love; the ways we close ourselves off in reaction to pain and what happens when we open ourselves up again; and the deep, painful legacy of loss.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #LiteraryFiction THE BIRD THAT SANG IN COLOR by Grace Mattioli @fixion4change

Today’s team review is from Tovia, she blogs here https://chroniclesofawallflower.art.blog/

#RBRT Review Team

Tovia has been reading The Bird That Sang In Color by Grace Mattioli

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‘’Real wealth like the kind Vincent had resided from within’’

Stated above is my favorite line from Grace Mattioli’s ‘The bird that sang in color’. Donna who happens to be the main character uses first person narrative to give us an insight to her life and that of the people around her. She takes us on a journey of what bordered between love and hate as seen as perceived in her relationship between herself and her spouse and that of her parents, a journey of self-discovery and ultimately the journey of life complete with all its sweet and sour intricacies.

As the book progresses, Donna is seen trying to rein in her artsy brother whose levity towards life and refusal to conform to anyone’s standards against her own very structured life leaves her bothered. It’s turns out to be ironic as the very genesis of what she presumed to be Vincent’s problem would later come to be known as her saving grace. Does Donna’s carefully scripted life bring her the comfort and happiness she so desires or would she have to throw caution to the wind and tweak things up a little?

In the course of reading this book, I noted that the copy I read had editing issues which I hope are resolved in the final version. In addition to this, I did feel as though there were a few loose ends that need to be addressed. I would rate this book a 3 out of 4 stars regardless of its flaws as I believe that the author accomplished what she intentionally set out to do in terms of her execution of a beautiful underlying message. If you’re one who loves to search for ‘’meaning’’ in literary pieces as well as crave a better understanding of life and relationships in its purest  un-sugarcoated form then I suggest that you read this.

Book description

Part family drama and part self-actualization story, this is about Donna Greco, who in her teens, subscribes to a conventional view of success in life—and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbors guilt for her supposed failure until she discovers a sketch-book he’d made of his life, which prompts her own journey to live authentically.

While this textured story combines serious issues such as alcoholism, death, and family conflict, it’s balanced with wit and humor and is filled with endearing, unforgettable characters. The story spans decades, beginning in 1970 and ending in the present. Readers will be immersed in this tale as it poses an intriguing question: “What pictures will you have of yourself by the end of your life?”

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THE INFINITY POOL by Jessica Norrie @Jessica_norrie #LiteraryFiction #fridayreads

The Infinity PoolThe Infinity Pool by Jessica Norrie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Infinity Pool is a piece of literary fiction set on an island where a camp exists called Serendipity, where men and women can go to relax, regenerate and find themselves in fairly basic and primitive surroundings. The camp offers holistic therapies, fresh food and the chance to meet like-minded individuals.

The story opens with an attack on a key member of Serendipity, it then turns back almost a year. Adrian is a known womaniser and searching for a fresh injection of life he befriends a young local girl. Island villagers already dislike visitors to the Serendipity camp, they find them intrusive and disrespectful of their local culture and customs. There is often an undercurrent of trouble waiting to erupt between the campers and the villagers.

When the camp re-opens the following year, the leader fails to turn up. Magda, the camp’s head housekeeper makes sure the camp continues to run as best she can, but some returning campers are disappointed by the absence and the camp’s atmosphere degenerates without their leader. Relationships with the villagers heat up and become violent.

You won’t find cosy characters here, many were selfish and awkward showing how they didn’t mix well with the locals. There are several storylines vying for attention, and the ending wasn’t what I expected at all. This book is quite different from lots of mainstream dramas, but will draw its own audience of readers.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com also available free from Kindle Unlimited

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