Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Womensfiction The Women Of Heachley Hall by @RachelJWalkley

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Women Of Heachley Hall by Rachel Walkley

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When this book presented itself, I was in the mood for some chick lit. The title intrigued me, and since I love old Victorian houses and mysteries surrounding them, I had to read it. It proved to be a great read, and I can only hope this author gives us more in this line.

The story:

Twenty-eight-year old Miriam Marsters, a freelance illustrator, is shocked to discover she is the sole surviving heir to her Great Aunt Felicity’s fortune. Depending on referrals for paying jobs, she sees selling the Victorian mansion bequeathed to her, Heachley Hall, as a way of being able to sell her cramped old city flat and buy a house with a studio. There is only one catch – in order to get the house, she has to earn it, by living in it for one year and one day. It’s hardly habitable, having been empty for five years and decaying even before her great aunt left it, far from the memories of a color-filled home with splendid gardens she has from her youth.

Other people want the estate, valued at around one million pounds, even in its present condition: Mr. Bridge, the avaricious estate agent who brings her to Heachley, and a nosy, superior neighbor, Liz Pike, who has had designs on the estate for years. Even her solicitor seems to be plotting against her, claiming that despite Felicity’s clearly worded will, it took him five years to find Miriam and now he is unwilling to release monies from the estate to help Miriam make it habitable.

Despite the odds, Miriam decides to stay and begins to transform the house into a place liveable for the year, with the help of a handyman who seems to come and go like a wisp of smoke. From Glenda and Bert, the companionable the owners of the local pub (the only place with wifi for her to transmit her drawings and interact with clients), she finds electricians and plumbers and also learns a little more about her mysterious handyman, Charles.

Miriam knows next to nothing of the hall’s history and even less about her great aunt, so she follows leads wherever she can to learn more. In particular, she believes the answers to many of her questions lie in a box that was Felicity’s last possession and that seems to have been lost or misplaced. She is particularly obsessed with finding out why Felicity specified she live in the hall for a year and a day.

In the last third of the book, Miriam’s world is turn upside down with the discovery of Heachley’s past and the tragedy of a family that lived there many generations ago. What happened when a fire consumed part of the house? Are the noises in certain locations in the hall ghosts, as her aunt’s last housekeeper thinks? What will she find in the dark, menacing basement? I can’t say more without giving away secrets.

This book had so many parts to it that attracted me, I could hardly put it down. Having grown up in a 150-year-old creaky house, I found Heachley Hall to be a main character and I loved the author’s descriptions of it. I wanted to get in there and renovate it myself! The people who populated the story were three-dimensional and believable, the dialog flows easily, and for the most part, the descriptions were crisp and clear. And I was caught by surprise when the mystery of the handyman was solved.

The only small detractors for me were some over-blown prose at the beginning, which disappeared soon enough, and a slowing of the book toward and during the denouement; I expected the ending in several places before it actually arrived!

All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable read, especially for a debut novel, and I look forward to this author’s next outing.

Book description

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.
The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.
After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.
But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?
Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.

Does she dare keep searching, and if she does, what if she finds something she wasn’t seeking?

Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?

About the author

Born in the Midlands, I grew up in East Anglia and am now firmly lodged in the North West of England. My first writing achievement was my Brownie badge and after that I’ve never let go of the dream of becoming of an author. Once a librarian and caretaker of books, I’m now a teller of tales and want to share with you the secrets that hide in the pages of my books.

Rachel Walkley

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #UrbanFantasy Gypsies, Tramps And Weeia by @elleboca

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Gypsies, Tramps And Weeia by Elle Boca

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Elle Boca is the prolific author of seven books about Weeia, and three in the Marshalls series, of which this is the first. Although I have not read the previous books, it was easy to immerse myself in this one.

The Weeia look like normal humans but they possess special powers for the sole purpose of protecting humans and Weeia alike. Their lifespan is longer than humans, but they are subject to the same dangers. Marshalls are trained to police Weeia hiding among humans.

At the opening of this story Danni Metraeux, who, while constantly bullied at the academy, completes her final exam and becomes a level 3 Marshall. The bullying is the result of something that happened to her family, but it’s not explained, so I was left wondering exactly what had marked her. Expecting to be given an assignment in a backwater place, Danni instead receives a plum assignment to Paris. Arriving there, she discovers why the assignment isn’t plum: her housing is less than substandard, her immediate superior isn’t interested in working with her, and her predecessors all died.

Nevertheless, Danni, who is strong, persistent and inventive, gradually overcomes all the negatives and finally – one her own – discovers a purpose for her being in Paris: to find a missing Weeia man in the underworld of gypsies and tramps who also populate the city.

The author does a good job of creating a three-dimensional protagonist with special powers and a whole host of tangential characters: a sort-of boyfriend named Ernie, who as second to the school’s Weapon Master, supplies her with the weapons she needs for her work; her BFF Marla, with whom she can share her troubles, both at school and in Paris; Odile Marmotte, an overly-made up matriarch who handles the day to day affairs of Weeia Marshals and is largely dismissive of Danni until Danni stands up to her; and the handsome Alain, who takes her on a tour of Paris on a motorbike, introducing her to the city. Of course, there is also Paris, and the author makes the city real and immediate.

In Paris, Danni comes into her own, as her growing powers allow her to be successful. I did like the paranormal aspects of the Weeia and enjoyed this world the author created.

There were a few issues for me, in addition to wondering about Danni’s parents. The pacing of the book was somewhat uneven. The testing of new marshals at the beginning started the book at a good pace but was followed by a lot of background information slowing the story. The tempo finally picked up around the middle of the book.  The author does a great job with action scenes – I just wish there were more of them!

This book will definitely appeal to readers interested in the colorful world of a paranormal race, and there are two more books in this series.

Book description

Sworn to protect the secrets of their race, marshals are trained to police Weeia hiding among humans. After completing her advanced marshal training, Danni is blown away by her new plum assignment to Paris. But, all is not well in the City of Lights; the offices are a shambles, her boss is apathetic, and her predecessors died under mysterious circumstances; it’s almost like somebody doesn’t want the law there. Despite that she risks her life in the seedy underworld of gypsies and tramps to search for a missing Weeia man.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Vintage #Mystery A Clerical Error by J New @newwrites

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A Clerical Error by J New

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This review was written for Rosie’s book review team and it was purchased by this reviewer.

A Clerical Error is a cozy, the third in the Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series. I read the second in the series, The Curse of Arundel Hall, so I am familiar with the setting, and I was looking forward to this next adventure. What appeals to me about these books is the historical setting, the paranormal aspects of the stories, and the fact they are cozies.

The Yellow Cottage series is set in the 1930s, and the author is developing her characters and the back story with each further adventure. Following the death of her husband, Ella Bridges moves to Linhay Island, spurred by a strong suggestion from her husband’s boss, the British Home Secretary, that she move away and forget her husband. She takes up residence in a refurbished cottage that was once a part of the Arundel Hall estate – a cottage inhabited by ghosts. In this volume, only Phantom, a cat ghost and companion to Ella, remains. Ella develops a reputation as something of a local sleuth, following her solution of a murder in the previous book.

In A Clerical Error, Ella takes a bike ride around the island and meets two ladies involved in raising funds for their church. Despite their somewhat off-putting interaction, they persuade Ella to run a stall to make money for the church at the May Day Fete. The action begins with the sudden death of the vicar, Father Michael, at the Fete. The vicar had only recently returned from a sabbatical and while liked, was not well known by his [parishioners. Characters previously introduced reappear, cleverly woven into the story: Sergeant Baxter, a policeman Ella had worked with before; her ever supportive Aunt Margaret; her housekeeper Mrs. Shaw, and her Uncle Albert, the Police Commissioner at Scotland Yard.

Confounding the threads of the investigation and shocking Ella is the discovery that her husband is still alive and the fact Mrs. Shaw is not who she claims to be.

The descriptive narrative is very well done, if at times not completely necessary. I particularly liked the walled garden – I could almost smell the flowers and hear the bees. I also enjoyed learning more about the island and Ella’s cottage, both of which are characters themselves. The author does a good job of creating well-rounded and sympathetic people to populate her books, and she keeps the reader in the 1930s. Best of all she provided enough plot turns to engross the reader in finding out who done it.  While Phantom appears from time to time in the story, I would have liked to see more of Ella’s paranormal skills, and the story of her husband’s reappearance and the sequalae was somewhat of a stretch.

All in all, though, a satisfying read and one which keeps me interested in reading the next book in the series. This is a book to cuddle up with on a rainy day, and the ending does leave you hanging!

Book description

When the crime scene is pure coincidence and there’s no evidence, how do you prove it was murder?

Ella Bridges faces her most challenging investigation so far when the vicar dies suddenly at the May Day Fete. But with evidence scarce and her personal life unravelling in ways she could never have imagined, she misses vital clues in the investigation.
Working alongside Sergeant Baxter of Scotland Yard, will Ella manage to unearth the clues needed to catch the killer before another life is lost? Or will personal shock cloud her mind and result in another tragedy?

‘A Clerical Error’ is set in 1930’s England, and is the third of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series.
‘Miss Marple meets The Ghost Whisperer’ – Perfect For Fans of Golden Age Murder Mysteries, Cozy Mysteries, Clean Reads and British Amateur Sleuths

About the author

J. New is the British author of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series. Set on the fictitious island of Linhay in the south of England during the 1930’s, they are an homage to the Golden Age mysteries but with a contemporary twist.

J. New

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Bad Blood Will Out by William Savage @penandpension

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Bad Blood Will Out by William Savage

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This review is for Rosie’s Book Review Team. The book was purchased by the reviewer.

Bad Blood Will Out is the fourth in the Ashmole Fox series of mysteries set in Georgian England. The protagonist is the owner of a bookstore and is also the purveyor of rare books in central Norwich. He was introduced in the first book in this series, The Fabric of Murder, as somewhat of a fop, who frequents ladies of the night, the theater, and fine dining establishments. Over the series, he has grown into a much more established figure, well-know to the leaders of Norwich as a successful investigator of more serious crimes. His bookstore is now run by a widow with clever business skills: the proper, reliable and clever widow Mrs. Crombie. He also has an apprentice, Charlie Dillon, who was rescued by Fox from a life in the streets. Charlie has retained his connections to the street urchins, which proves of inestimable value in Fox’s investigations. Fox is one of the few elite of Norwich with a genuine understanding of, and care for, these children.

Bad Blood Will Out is probably my favorite in this series, and I have read and reviewed them all. It works well as a stand-alone mystery, which should tickle the reader to take a look at the first three. Before I go into my reasons for this, here’s the story line.

Fox has the bad luck to be presented with two murders at much the same time: one of a wealthy chandler (a dealer in supplies for boats and ships) and the other an alcoholic, over-the-hill actor at a local, run-down theater, the White Swan. Fox tries to avoid being involved in investigating the second murder because he loathes the manager of the White Swan. At the same time, he is forced by his inconsiderate brother, a moralistic preacher in the countryside, to entertain his nephew Nicholas, who is trying to find a profession for himself. Fox begins to unravel the chandler’s stabbing, which occurred while he was hosting a masquerade ball and was surrounded by guests., But Fox finds his mind wandering to the theater murder, which he finally decides to tackle by using the network of street children to gather evidence. What does the death of a popular actress twenty years ago have to do with the theater murder?

In this Fox adventure, we meet some interesting new characters, among them the local Cunning Woman – the Georgian term for a folk healer and herbalist – who in this case has some clairvoyant qualities. She has some past history with Fox and sends him a cryptic message about his necessity to solve both murders.

As usual, William Savage has woven his story into the historical tapestry of Georgian England, with wonderful details of life at that time, its customs and mores, and the nature of theater in places apart from London. His mystery, as always, is complex – lies and deceit abound. His characters are wonderfully drawn and three-dimensional, and there is a subtle but lovely sense of humor in the dialog and interactions between his people.

The reason I particularly liked this latest Ashmore Fox adventure was a compelling first chapter – really a prologue – and the evolving maturity of Fox. Although we are introduced to his sins of the flesh, I got the distinct feeling he might eventually consider marriage. It seems a likely direction, but I leave that to the author!

A great addition to the Ashmole Fox series, I highly recommend it!

Book description

Ashmole Foxe is approached by the mayor of Norwich and the manager of one of its oldest theatres, both wanting him to investigate sudden, baffling deaths. Foxe loathes the theatre manager, so he’ll have nothing to do with his tale of ghostly apparitions and the murder of an alcoholic, has-been actor. Instead, he turns to the mayor’s request — to resolve the killing of a rich merchant. The trouble is Foxe can’t quite put the theatre mystery out of his mind.

Both cases contain inexplicable events. How did someone stab the merchant as he was hosting a grand masquerade ball surrounded by his guests — without anyone seeing what happened? What has an actress dead for twenty years to do with the murder of someone who shouldn’t even have been in the current cast?

Urged on by cryptic messages from a local Cunning Woman and supported by his extended household and the street-children of the city, Foxe is soon entangled in webs of secrecy and deceit going back into the past and outwards as far as London itself.

“Bad Blood Will Out” is Book 4 of the Ashmole Foxe mystery series. Like the rest, it’s set in the fascinating world of 1760s England. The story shows how betrayal, greed, ambition and grief lead to a toxic mix of thwarted passions, grim obsession and slow-burning hatred. Before the end, it’s going to bring Foxe face-to-face with the most callous, cold-hearted and remorseless killer he has ever known.

About the author

I started to write fiction as a way of keeping my mind active in retirement. I have read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of my other loves is history, so it seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk.
All my books are set between 1760 and around 1800, a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with Napoleon.
The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city.
The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations nearer the North Norfolk coast. Adam builds a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.
I have spent a good deal of my life travelling in Britain and overseas. Now I am more than content to write stories and run a blog devoted to the world of Georgian England.

William Savage

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Urban #Scottish #crimefiction The Trial by @johnmayerauthor

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Trial by John Mayer

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The author of The Trial was an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland, and he made good use of his knowledge of the Scottish legal system in this, his first book in the Parliament House Series.

Glaswegian Brogan McLane is a member of the Faculty of Advocates in Parliament House after being called to the Bar of the Scottish Supreme Court. He is an outsider, having spent years of university education and legal training to reach his position, rather than being handed his judicial office from his father. The other members of the Faculty of Advocates come from a rich and entitled tight-knit community, having grown up in each other’s company from an early age. Brogan, by contrast, comes from a murky background. So who better to frame for the death of High Court Judge Lord Aldounhill, found dead after a transvestite party in his sumptuous home.  Brogan is the perfect scapegoat to set up to take the fall, hiding the real killer.

The author takes us skillfully through the trumped-up charges, the holes in the rigged investigation, and the trial, which with a bad outcome can send Brogan away for life. The investigation is continually thwarted by corruption and evil within the Supreme Court.  It is not enough that the police officer leading the investigation, Commander Imrie, and Jimmy Robertson, the oldest Queen’s court officer in Parliament House and the provider of inside information, both believe Brogan is innocent. It is up to Brogan’s friends, who live largely on the other side of the law, to provide him with the help he needs to face the power of the nefarious forces within the Court.

I had a great time reading The Trial. It offered a unique setting for a crime novel, and the author provided plenty of twists and turns to keep me turning pages. The treacherous connivance of the members of ‘the system’ set my blood to boil in this good vs evil tale. The characters were enjoyable – even the vilest of the characters were limned in three-dimensions. The steaminess of the crime was presented tastefully as was the (limited) sex. I particularly enjoyed being educated on the Scottish legal system, although I had to refer frequently to the Glossary of Terms and am still not sure I understand the court organization.  I also had to read the Scottish dialect carefully – it added to the richness of the story, but not being familiar with it, I found some of it confusing. None of this detracted from a darned good ride. Great story, excellent plot – I recommend The Trial.

Book description

An urban legal/crime novel set in the beautiful Scottish city of Edinburgh.
Part I of The Parliament House book series

When Glaswegian Brogan McLane completes many years of university education and legal training he crosses that great divide from Glasgow to Edinburgh. ‘Called’ to the Bar of the Scottish Supreme Court, he becomes a member of the most prestigious club in Scotland; The Faculty of Advocates in Parliament House.

When High Court Judge, Lord Aldounhill, is found dead after a transvestite party in his sumptuous home, those who know the killer close ranks and need a scapegoat – who better than ‘outsider’ Brogan McLane?

Out on bail with his career on hold, McLane and his band of blood brothers in the Calton Bar in Glasgow need to get ahead of their enemies or McLane will go down for life after Trial. But every time they discover a piece of evidence, it seems there is a mirror image to contradict it.

Through the murky world of Russian controlled transvestite hotels and with some unexpected police and judicial help, McLane battles against ‘Low Life in High Places in the Old Town’ until the killer is found.

But well protected and knowing all the tricks, will the killer ever stand trial in Parliament House.

About the author

John Mayer would love to be a top-flight blues guitar player and have dated Jennifer Aniston. But what he did achieve, amongst other things was to be a 1970s Indie Record Producer before becoming a top-flight Advocate in the Supreme Court of Scotland where he specialised in international child abduction: rescuing the children, not abducting them, of course.

In his youth, John was shot! Twice! Once in Glasgow, Scotland and once in New York City. John attacks everything he does with passion. And that’s what he brings to his writing.

John Mayer

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scottish #HistFic A House Divided by @MargaretSkea1

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A House Divided by Margaret Skea

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A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of a religious war, feuding clans and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597 – What’s not to like about A House Divided? I couldn’t wait to read it and savored it for as long as I could.

This is the second book in series about the Munro family and their enemy, the arch-villain of their story, William Cunninghame. Although I have not read the first in the series, The Turn of the Tide, A House Divided can be read as a stand-alone novel with no problem…except that I now feel compelled to treat myself to that first book.

The Munro family has been forced into hiding to escape their enemies, the wealthy Cunninghames. While Adam Munro fights in France with the Scots Garde, which is supporting Henri IV, Kate Munro takes shelter with her children at the Montgomerie stronghold of Braistane. There she takes the surname Grant to hide her and the children’s identity. The Cunninghame son, thinking all the Munros are dead from their persecution, takes possession of the Munro’s home at Broomelaw and is rebuilding the estate for himself.

Kate supports herself by working as a ‘wise woman,’ the term used for an herbalist and a midwife. These woman are often accused of being witches, and Kate courts danger during a period when witchcraft trials and burnings are common in Scotland. Kate is partially identified when she attends the wife of a Cunninghame supporter, and her daughter, who is training with her mother to be a wise woman, also becomes visible in the countryside when she answers some of the calls for Kate to provide medical help. When Kate’s growing reputation results in her being asked to attend Queen Anne, the wife of James VI, the chances she will be seen by the Cunninghame family at court increase exponentially.

Although the story focuses on Kate, Adam is not forgotten as the reader is treated to the vicissitudes of the war in France, King Henri’s increasing reliance on him, and Adam’s attempts to find a way home to see his family, from whom he has been separated for several years. I found these interludes to be less compelling than Kate’s story, but necessary to the direction of the overall plot.

This is an exceptional book, combining the tensions of several story lines with exquisite detail of life in Scotland in the 16th century. I loved the descriptions of herbal remedies and as the wife of an obstetrician, I found the midwifery fascinating.

The characters are exceptionally well wrought, pulling you into each scene. Skea is a master of description, from the lovely countryside to the details of siege warfare, the trials of witches, and the daily, mundane chores of everyday family life. Set against this rich tapestry is the rising and falling tension that Kate and/or Adam will be discovered, which did not play well with my blood pressure!

Skea also weaves into her story broader issues of morality, science vs superstition, loyalty and justice. This is a must read for all lovers of historical fiction, and I think Skea’s writing  is comparable to that of Phillipa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon.  I’m hooked and looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Book description

Eleven years on from the Massacre of Annock, the Cunninghame / Montgomerie truce is fragile.
For the Munro family, living in hiding under assumed names, these are dangerous times.
While Munro risks his life daily in the service of the French King, the spectre of discovery by William Cunninghame haunts his wife Kate. Her fears for their children and her absent husband realized as William’s desire for revenge tears their world apart.
A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of feuding clans, the French Wars of Religion, and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.

About the author

Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’, but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders.

Awarded the Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best First Time Author 2014 and Historical Fiction Winner in the Harper Collins / Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition for her debut novel Turn of the Tide, the sequel A House Divided was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2016. The third book in the series will be published in autumn 2017. She is passionate about well-researched, authentic historical fiction and providing a ‘you are there’ experience for the reader.

An Hawthornden Fellow and award winning short story writer – recent credits include, Overall Winner Neil Gunn, Chrysalis Prize, and Winchester Short Story Prize. Third in the Rubery Book Award Short Story Competition 2013, a finalist in the Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition 2012, shortlisted in the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2012 and the Fish Short Story and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition 2014, the Matthew Pritchard Award, and Fish One Page Prize, she has been published in a range of magazines and anthologies in Britain and the USA.
New collection of short stories – Dust Blowing and Other Stories, including some of those from competitions mentioned above is now available.

Margaret Skea

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #NZ #Mystery The Maori Detective by @crossmanDA

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Maori Detective by DA Crossman

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I selected this mystery to review because I was attracted by both the setting and also the protagonist, who is half Maori.  Here’s the story:

Carlos Wallace spent thirteen years in Australia, eight of them as a police officer in New South Wales. When he kills a man in the line of duty and his wife is subsequently murdered, he comes under suspicion and he’s dismissed from the force. He’s devastated and decides to return home to Christchurch and become a private detective. He arrives shortly after the earthquake of 2011, which leveled the city’s business district, and the reality of the devastation is a grim backdrop to his depressed mood. An absent and mysterious Mr. Prince sets Carlos up with a PI business office and funds to continue cases that Prince left behind. A blood relative deeds him a house, asking only that in return, he look after his cousin Miriama (a beautiful matakite or seer to whom he is attracted) and his whānau or family.

The main case Carlos sets out to solve is the disappearance of a young French girl, missing since the earthquake and presumed dead. His search is tortuous and has international tentacles, but he acquires a feisty and capable partner, Ginny Andrews, who has a mysterious background of her own. Interspersed in this case are searches for lost dogs and unfaithful wives, which at first seem rather superfluous but which eventually tie in. One of the best character in the book is Uncle Tau, a local cop whose links to the community are a big help to Carlos. But his uncle also reminds him of his duty to family and a supposed curse he needs to explore.

To be honest, I found this book a tough read with some definite roadblocks. There are initially many Maori terms, which are defined at the end of the book, but going back and forth with an e-reader is tedious. The plot lines are complicated, and when I put the book down, I had to go back when I picked it up again and skim through what I had read.

Nevertheless, the setting and the Maori family culture are fascinating and that kept me going, when I felt a little frustrated. Initially slow with the introduction of characters and their past, the pace picks up as the various plot lines come to the fore. There are many interesting and  complicated turns, but the characters are vivid and compelling. To me, they were one of the best aspects of the story. I particularly like the taciturn Uncle Tau and Carlos’ beautiful but troubled cousin. The descriptive details are spare, but Christchurch itself, as it struggles to revive and rebuild, is a wonderful background.

The Maori Detective was not a totally satisfying mystery for me because of the density and the foreignness. I felt like I was standing to the side, observing the story and trying to understand it, rather than being pulled into it. I do think the book will be a huge draw to readers in that part of the world. All in all, the insight into Maori life and the backdrop made it a read worth the effort.

Book description

He’s lost his wife, his job, and his mana. So what now? A PI? He really couldn’t get used to it. Traipsing around after unfaithful wives and little old ladies’ lost dogs? Was this the future for Carlos Wallace? And what of the beautiful matakite? Wasn’t it a sin to fall in love with your cousin?

Carlos has spent thirteen years living in Australia, eight of them as a serving officer with the New South Wales Police. But when he kills a man in the line of duty, Carlos’ life begins to unravel. His wife is subsequently murdered in mysterious circumstances, and Carlos is dismissed from the force. A devastated Carlos returns home to his Christchurch whānau and takes up a job as a private detective.

When Carlos investigates the disappearance of a young French girl, missing since the February earthquake, the detective becomes embroiled in a sinister conspiracy. Carlos must solve the case, and pick up the pieces of his life among the ruins of a devastated city.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT superhero #fantasy The Hat by C.S. Boyack @virgilante

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Hat by C.S. Boyack

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The Hat is a delightfully fun, whimsical fantasy with overtones of chick lit and Disney magic. As a novella, it is a fast, fast read, and I was disappointed when I came to the end.

Lizzie St. Laurent is a 21-year-old college dropout who is having a difficult time following the loss of her grandmother, whom she loved and with whom she lived. She moved to an apartment, but her roommate abandoned her, and now she is working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Her uncle is in control of her grandmothers’ estate, and when she visits her grandmother’s house in the hopes of having something by which to remember her, she finds everything boxed up and on a moving truck. In frustration, she snatches a box from the truck and brings it home.

From the book’s title, the reader can guess what Lizzie finds in that box – a hat – but not just any hat. This Hat can talk and can alter its look to any fashion appropriate to Lizzie’s wardrobe. More importantly, the Hat can transport Lizzie to other places, once it’s on her head. Lizzie is taken by the Hat to a cabin owned by her grandmother, a place which no one knows about, and discovers she can play a mean jazz bass, when the Hat plays through her fingers. The banter between Lizzie and the Hat is pure comedy and made me laugh.

In a serious subplot, the magical and paranormal abilities of the Hat take Lizzie on a roller coaster ride to uncover a ring of baby snatchers and find her best friend’s kidnapped child. How does it do that? You have to read the book.

The ending left me thinking there will be more adventures of these two odd companions, and I’m looking forward to them! C.S. Boyack has created a magical mystery tour de force.

Book description

Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.

She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.

Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.

Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.

Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon.

About the author

About the author:

Craig Boyak was born in Elko, Nevada, which the author claims has always been a little behind the times and gives him a unique perspective. He moved to Idaho in the early 2000s and jumped into his writing career where he found other writers and critique groups. He likes to write about things that are unusual, and his books are science fiction, fantasy and paranormal designed to entertain his readers. The Hat is his twelfth book.

C. S. Boyack

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Historical #Mystery The Likeness by @carver22 #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Likeness by Bill Kirton

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The Likeness is a sequel to the enormously popular book by this author: The Figurehead. In that book, the readers were introduced the port city of Aberdeen in the mid-19th century and to three of its citizens: the woodcarver John Grant; William Anderson, a rich merchant; and his headstrong daughter Elizabeth.

The Likeness begins with the discovery of the battered body of a young woman in the muck near the wharves where the Aberdeen fishermen bring in their catches. The body is painfully thin and is clothed in the rich garb of someone not normally found in that area.

Grant is doubtful that the town’s constable – who is short-sighted, lacks intelligence, and has a nasty personality — will ever discover what happened to her, and decides to take on the task of finding her killer. At the same time, he accepts a commission to create a figurehead to feature onstage in the melodramas of a newly-arrived theatre group, a commission paid for by a demanding patron.

The love that developed between John Grant and Helen Anderson in the previous book grows stronger and more evident in this one. Helen wishes to become an integral part of her father’s shipping business, an unheard-of thing in those times, and eventually her father acquiesces. This puts her in direct conflict with a merchant wishing to do business with her father — the patron who paid Grant’s commission and an insulting character.

The story weaves in and out of Helen’s challenges in a male-dominated society, Grant’s investigations, and their love story. It proceeds at a leisurely pace, as befits the times, and is filled with historic details of the theater and actors, the city, and most especially Aberdeen’s busy port. The descriptions of waterfront and the wharves, the ships, and the workers there were compelling, and I read some of them twice for enjoyment. The author has captured the sights, the smells, the city and the societal norms in vivid detail.

Helen as a character is quite unique to her age. I wonder if such women – running businesses and rejecting the restrictions of conventional courtship and marriage, especially the idea that a woman is the property of her husband –actually existed at that time. Certainly, her role is one that will appeal to feminists of all ages. I was particularly drawn to the description of her three-day journey on one of her father’s ships, designed to carry passengers to Canada. It gave further insight into Helen’s intelligence and the plight and strength of those immigrating to North America.

John Grant is kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and certainly amenable to all of Elizabeth’s modern ideas. As a man of his time, I would have liked him to be more resistant. The only tension between them is just a misunderstanding.

The mystery of the woman’s death is far more complex than at first view, and the twists and turns of Grant’s investigation left me puzzled to the very end.

All in all, a successful meshing of historical romance and mystery, with rich detail of a bygone era, by an author who knows how to weave a good story.

Book description

Aberdeen, 1841. Woodcarver John Grant has an unusual new commission – creating a figurehead to feature onstage in the melodramas of a newly-arrived theatre group. Simultaneously, he’s also trying to unravel the mystery of the death of a young woman, whose body has been found in the filth behind the harbour’s fish sheds.

His loving relationship with Helen Anderson, which began in The Figurehead, has grown stronger but, despite the fact that they both want to be together, she rejects the restrictions of conventional marriage, in which the woman is effectively the property of the husband.

As John works on the figurehead, Helen persuades her father, a rich merchant, to let her get involved in his business, allowing her to challenge yet more conventions of a male-dominated society.

The story weaves parallels between the stage fictions, Helen’s business dealings, a sea voyage, stage rehearsals, and John’s investigations. In the end, the mystery death and the romantic dilemma are both resolved, but in unexpected ways.

About the author

Bill Kirton was a university lecturer in French before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer. He’s won two 2011 Forward National Literature Awards – ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’ was the overall winner of the Humor category and ‘The Darkness’ was runner up in the Mystery category. His historical mystery, ‘The Figurehead’, was long-listed for the 2012 Rubery Book Awards.

He’s produced material in many different media. His radio plays have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His stage plays have been performed in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the USA and he’s been the visiting artist to the Theatre Department of the University of Rhode Island on four separate occasions. There, he directed stage plays, gave classes on creative writing and theatre, performed in revues and translated three plays by Molière for public performance, one of which won a BCLA prize. Material from his Edinburgh Festival revues was broadcast on the BBC, ITV and French television.

He’s also been a TV presenter and a voice-over artist and his scripts for corporate and educational DVDs and videos have won awards in the UK and USA. He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and the universities of Dundee and St Andrews.

Most of his novels are set in the north east of Scotland. ‘Material Evidence’, ‘Rough Justice’, the award-winning ‘The Darkness’, ‘Shadow Selves’ and ‘Unsafe Acts’ all feature DCI Jack Carston. ‘The Figurehead’ is a historical novel set in Aberdeen in 1840. The award-winning ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’, is a spoof spy/crime novel also set in Scotland. His comic fantasy novella, ‘Alternative Dimension’ satirises online role-playing games.

His short stories have appeared in the Crime Writers’ Association annual anthology in 1999, 2005 and 2006. IN 2010, one was also chosen for the ‘Best British Crime Stories, Vol. 7’ anthology edited by Maxim Jacubowski.

His non-fiction output includes ‘Brilliant Study Skills’, ‘Brilliant Essay’, ‘Brilliant Dissertation’, ‘Brilliant Workplace Skills’ and ‘Brilliant Academic Writing. He also co-wrote ‘Just Write’ with Kathleen McMillan.

He writes books for children. ‘Rory the Dragon and Princess Daisy’ was published as a tribute to his great niece, Daisy Warn, who lived for just 16 weeks. Proceeds from its sales go to a children’s hospice in South-West England. ‘The Loch Ewe Mystery’ is a stand-alone novel for children aged 7-12 and he’s preparing a series about a grumpy male fairy called Stanley who lives under a cold, dripping tap in his bedroom.

Bill Kirton

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller Ryan Kaine: On The Defensive by @KerryJDonovan

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Ryan Kaine: On The Defensive by Kerry J Donovan

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This is the third in the Ryan Kaine series by Kerry Donovan, and it’s been interesting to see how the main character and his story evolve through the books. This one is quite a change from the first, which left me out of breath by the end, with its fast and furious pace, and the second, where the pace had slowed marginally but gathered steam as it went along.

On the Defensive opens in a small Greek bistro in London, where the owners, Justina Constantine and her husband Orestes, struggle to keep the business open. Justina’s father-in-law, Papa Onassis, had been killed when a missile exploded the plane he was on to Europe – a missile fired by Ryan Kaine, who didn’t know at the time he’d been set up to do this. The Constantines now owe thousands of pounds to the bank and business is way off because a developer has bought the block where the bistro is located and is systematically forcing the tenants to leave. This day Justina is visited by two men, who smash up the restaurant, rough her up and threaten to harm her daughters if her husband won’t sign papers selling their place to the developer. A terrifying opening and a great hook.

What bothered me about the book is what came next: a long, long digression to a villa in France. There Ryan Kaine lives with the veterinarian Lara, who is introduced in the first book when she rescues him from the people sent to kill him. She must now remain with him for her own safety. Filled with their badinage, the story drags while Kaine, who has promised to make restitution to the families affected by the deaths on the plane, is informed of the Constantines’ situation. His plan to help them, his interactions with Lara, and the arrangement for a backup for him in London occupy the next seven chapters and to me, the story dragged here.

Admittedly, the author needs to fill in information about Kaine, Lara, and the mechanism by which Kaine is told when and where he might be needed. There is also Kaine’s internal struggle not to fall in love with Lara – a struggle he is losing – because of the mortal danger their relationship brings. However, this long a digression from what I’ve come to expect – a fast-paced story – detracted from my enjoyment.

Once the story returns to London, the pace picks up and the reader becomes engrossed in how Kaine inserts himself into the Constantines’ lives, identifies and finds their tormentors, manages to wreak justice on the man at the top, and rescue the bistro and the family. This is pure Donovan.

As usual, the author’s descriptions of places are succinct but well-wrought and the villains are loathsomely three dimensional. All the characters are clear and identifiable, with quirks and foibles. There are the usual twists and turns along the way, leading to a satisfying ending, with more foreshadowed to come.

All in all, a good, fun read, but maybe not up to the level of the first and second books. Nevertheless, for Ryan Kaine fans, this latest adventure will please.

Book description

A simple act of vandalism. A victimised family. One man will protect them.

When Ryan Kaine, former Royal Marine and current fugitive, learns of the Constantine family’s problems, he leaves his coastal hideaway and rushes to their aid. The only problem is, he is the most wanted man in the UK and his face is on every billboard and news bulletin.

Choosing his vow of protection for The 83, the eighty-three families of the people he killed on Flight BE1555, over the pleas of his friends, Kaine risks his life and takes the first plane to London.

Fully recovered from his recent injuries and with a London safe house full of toys at his disposal, Kaine won’t stop until the Constantines are safe.

Can Kaine find out why the family are under attack, neutralise the threat, and make it out of London without being recognised?

About the author

Internationally bestselling fiction author, Kerry was born in Dublin. He spent most of his life in the UK, and now lives in the heart of rural Brittany with his wonderful and patient wife, Jan. They have three children and four grandchildren (so far), all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the advent of video calling.

The cottage is a pet free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and red squirrels).

Kerry earned a first class honours degree in Human Biology, and has a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. A former scientific advisor to The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he helped UK emergency first-responders prepare for chemical attacks in the wake of 9/11. This background adds a scientific edge to his writing. He is also a former furniture designer/maker.

Kerry J. Donovan

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