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

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

#RBRT Review Team

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

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I love old mansions, old houses, and antiques, and that was one of the things that attracted me to this book, together with the mystery aspect of it. As I’m in the process of moving, and I’m dealing with a house sale, the topic felt timely, and I am pleased I decided to go with my gut feeling.

This book manages to combine quite a few elements that I love in stories. There is a lone female protagonist, Miriam, that has to face challenges (OK, she is not fighting with a sword, but she has to confront difficulties she has never had to deal with before) and she gets to learn plenty about herself in the process. There is an old mansion (there is more than a touch of the gothic novel) that hides mysteries and tragedies of old (there are rumours that it is haunted and… well, I’m trying not to include any spoilers in this review, so I’ll keep my peace). There are family secrets, both Miriam’s and those of previous occupants of the Hall, that Miriam feels compelled to investigate, to fully understand her legacy and her feelings about Heachley Hall. There is a small town with friendly folks (and some not so friendly) that help give the place a genuine feel. The struggles of Miriam to make a living as a self-employed illustrator of children’s stories made me feel particularly connected to the character. I also enjoyed the way her relationship with Ruth, an older woman, a client and now a friend, is portrayed. There is also an element of historical fiction, as later in the book Miriam has access to a document that covers past events in the house (again, I’m trying not to give too much away), and we get to experience the way time transforms the mansion and also see how much society has changed since the XIX century. Ah, and let’s not forget, there is also a very romantic love story. (And a paranormal element…)

Imagine getting stuck, alone, in a huge old house that is falling to bits, with hardly any money to make any renovations or even make it liveable, and having to stay there for one year and one day to receive your inheritance. Although money is initially a big draw for Miriam (she is not in a particularly good place and feels she should show people she can rise to the challenge), she is also intrigued about her aunt Felicity’s reasons for setting up such strange condition. She only remembers having visited her aunt a few times as a very young child, and it makes no sense. Like so many amateur detectives, she is like a dog with a bone and has to keep making enquiries, no matter how many times she seems to have hit a dead end.

I liked Miriam. Although she has suffered tragedy and losses as a young child, she has reached adulthood as a well-balanced individual. She does have insecurities and issues, but she does not allow any drawbacks to bring her down and keeps going. She becomes stronger and more determined as the book progresses, but she does not waste much time feeling sorry for herself (only a little bit). I enjoyed the rest of the female characters as well, and although we only learn about some in the retelling of their stories, the author manages to bring them to live and make us connect emotionally with them.

The story is mostly narrated in the first person by Miriam (apart from the document I mentioned before), and she is excellent at describing, not only people and places (she is an artist after all), but also her own feelings, doubts, and mental processes. Although I know not all readers are keen on first-person narratives, I think the author does an excellent job of creating an engaging and genuine character. She is no superheroine who can do everything as soon as she steps into the property (she gets some help with her project), and she gets distracted, forgets things, gets scared, but does not give up. The story ebbs and flows as the time passes and the mystery aspects kept me reading on, although this is not a fast-paced action novel. The writing is beautifully descriptive without going over the top, and although there are sad moments, there are also light and joyful moments its readers can enjoy.

The mystery aspect of the novel is well integrated into the narrative, and although I had my suspicions about what was going on, the story is beautifully constructed and precious, and it is very satisfying. If you are one of those readers who hate cliff-hangers and always feel that there is some explanation missing and you’d like to know a bit more, you’ll be over the moon when you read this novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which combines so many of my favourite things, and I’d recommend it to people who enjoy gothic stories (it is not scary but it has some eerie moments), who love old mansions, mysteries without blood and guts (no explicit violence), who like to read a romance with a difference (no explicit sex either), and who like to make friends with the characters of a novel and feel at home with them. Although it does remind me of some books (Rebecca, Jane Eyre…) and movies, I don’t want to go into any detail to avoid spoiling the story for you. But do check it out if any of the things I’ve mentioned appeals. It’s a winner.

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 #Romance When the Stars Sang by Caren J Werlinger

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading When the Stars Sang by Caren J Werlinger

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My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team  and thank her and the author for the ARC copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.

I occasionally read romance novels although I am not their number one fan, but there was something about this book that called my attention from the very beginning. I am always attracted towards stories that are set in special locations (real or imagined) and the description of the island definitely fitted the bill for me. And, in this case, first impressions were right.  I loved the story and the place, and I wish it existed and I could be a part of the community in Little Sister.

The story is narrated in the third person from the point of view of two female characters, Kathleen, who returns to Little Island as an adult (after a traumatic breakup with her on-and-off girlfriend of 14 years), and goes to live to the house of her recently deceased grandmother (although she had not been back there since she was a child due to a very traumatic event), and Molly, the island’s sheriff, and also a handywoman, who loves restoring and repairing boats, but can set her hand at anything that needs repairing (even a broken heart). Although they are suspicious of each other at first, it is clear that they are meant for each other, but, as we all know, the path of true love never does run smooth, and there are a number of obstacles on their way, some of their own making, but others to do with childhood trauma, dysfunctional family relationships, and a past that refuses to be buried. If you are a big fan of romances, LGBT or otherwise, you do not need to worry. Although I won’t discuss the ending to avoid spoilers; I think you’ll be happy with it.

The author creates realistic characters we care for, and not only the protagonists. While Kathleen and Molly can be stubborn and blind at times (and even annoying, but ultimately likeable), there is a full catalogue of fabulous secondary characters, including Molly’s family (her wonderful parents, and her brothers, including Aidan, who is an integral part of the incident that made everything change for Kathleen), sisters Olivia and Louisa (who always carry the ashes of their father with them), Rebecca, the librarian and depository of the island’s traditions, and many more. Oh, and let’s not forget Blossom, a stray dog adopted by Kathleen (well, the adoption is mutual), that is both a totally realistic dog and a fantastic and heart-warming character.

There is lovely food, a variety of ceremonies and traditions, a strong sense of community [including matrilineal heritage that reminded me of the book The Kingdom of Women by Choo Wai Hong], secrets, deception, ecology and renewable energy, and plenty of love, not only between the two women, but between all the members of the community. The sense of belonging and the healing and growth of the characters is intrinsically linked to the way of life in this island that mixes Irish folklore and beliefs with Native-American (First Ones) ones. Werlinger creates a beautiful setting, both in its landscape and spirituality. Readers feel a part of this wonderful community, and I, for one, was sorry to come to the end of the book and would love to live in such a place.

The writing ebbs and flows, allowing readers to enjoy the descriptions of the island, its inhabitants, their actions and also their mental processes, although I did not find it slow and I was hooked to the story and the feeling of becoming one with the inhabitants of the place. As a writer, I easily empathised with Kathleen, who is an editor and also creates book covers, and I enjoyed the fact that female and male characters are diverse, are not restricted to standard gender roles, and the attitude of the islanders towards same-sex love is open and unquestioning. There are certain necessary characteristics that make a relationship truly compatible, but gender is not one of them.

As readers, we share the thoughts and experiences of the main characters although the third person narration also gives us enough distance to be able to make our own minds up. There are some surprises, some quasi-magical elements, some light and fun moments, but there are also nasty characters (although these are always outsiders), and intuition and family connections are very important. As for the love story, there are some sexual elements, but not a full-blown graphic description of events, and I found it rather delicate and in good taste (and I am not a fan of erotica).

I wanted to share a few things I highlighted:

Normally, those messages would have torn at Kathleen’s heart. But she wasn’t sure she had a hart any longer. She tapped her chest, half expecting it to sound hollow, like the Tin Man.

“It should be a mix. None of us is just one thing, complete in and of ourselves. We are the island, and the island is us.”

“That is not how it works. Love that has to be deserved or earned was never love to begin with.”

A joyful read, which I recommend to readers who enjoy books set in special locations, who appreciate a strong sense of community and belonging, and love solid characters. There are ups and downs, happy and sad events, although it is not a book for lovers of adventures and frantically paced novels. This is a contemplative and inspiring book, heart-warming and positive. If you need a pick-me-up, this is your book.

Book description

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend, packs up her few belongings, and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.

About the author

From the author’s website: I was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of my childhood was spent reading everything I could get my hands on, and writing my own variations on many of those stories where I could play the hero, rescuing the girl and winning her love. Then I grew up and went to college where I completed a degree in foreign languages and later another in physical therapy where for many years, my only writing was research-based, including a very dry therapeutic exercise textbook.

In the mid-nineties, I began writing creatively again and re-discovered how much fun it is. My first novel, Looking Through Windows, was published in 2008 and won a GCLS award for Debut Author. In 2012, I decided to begin publishing my own books under my imprint, Corgyn Publishing. Corgyn’s first release, Miserere, followed in late 2012 to excellent reviews.

Caren J. Werlinger

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Austen style #Mystery Lover’s Knot by @JenettaJames

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Lover’s knot by Jenetta James

Lover's Knot: A Mysterious Pride & Prejudice Variation

I have recently read and reviewed several books that take place in Jane Austen’s universe, from sequels to versions transplanted to modern times. One of them was The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James.  I was so impressed I could not resist getting an ARC copy of this book before its publication.

This is a more straightforward (and shorter) story, although it shares with the other the element of mystery, although, in this case, the story is not a domestic mystery but a police procedural of sorts (the police as we know it now did not exist at the time). Readers familiar with Pride and Prejudice will walk right into familiar territory when reading this story. We pick up the story when Bingley has moved into the area where the Bennetts live, with Darcy as his guest, and Jane Bennett is staying at the Bingley’s due to her illness, and her sister Elizabeth is looking after her. Rather than what happens in the original story, here we have a murder, and a bit later, another one (this one of a character we know, but I won’t give anything away). There are many familiar elements but interspersed with those, we have the investigation of the murders and the secrets behind it. As the description states, this is a variation on the story, as all the original elements are there, and the characters remain true to the original, but new events come into play and disrupt the action.

The story is told by Darcy in the first person and the present tense, and that makes readers feel they share his thoughts and his detecting process. This is quite different from the original novel, and it is one of the attractions of this variation, as rather than judging Darcy by his actions and having to second-guess him most of the time (let’s face it, he is the prototype of the strong and quiet man), we are privy to his thoughts and understand his motives and feelings. In this story, he becomes involved in the investigation, and that means it also fit into the genre of amateur detective fiction. In his case, though, he is not an old hand at this, eager to participate and imposing on the official team, but rather he is recruited by the magistrate investigating the case, Mr. Allwood, a fabulous character. Contrary to expectations, Darcy is not an immediate success at detecting as he is somewhat marred by his belief in appearances and his prejudices, but he is motivated to discover what happened to ensure Elizabeth is safe and goes out of his way to follow clues. The case helps him discover things about himself and about the society he lives in that make him change his outlook on life.

The case is intriguing. There are plenty of red herrings, devious characters, and, of course, there is romance. As I mentioned, Mr. Allwood is a great character. This magistrate doggedly pursues the investigation, not concerned about who might be discomfited by his methods, and making no distinctions according to social classes. People underestimate him at their peril, and I hope he might reappear again in later books (or get his own). I particularly enjoyed the mock paper by a Professor acknowledging the role of Allwood in the creation of the Metropolitan Police. A nice touch and a good way of providing more information on a star character that is not part of the original novel. Having studied Criminology, I only wish that many of the papers I had to read were written in such an engaging manner.

I am aware there are other mystery novels set up in the Pride and Prejudice universe (although I have not read them, so I can’t compare), although not at this particular juncture of the story (as this affords quite a different twist to the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth). I enjoyed Darcy’s point of view, having access to his thoughts and getting to see a more human and less stiff version of the character (he still has his pride, of course), although as this book is very short, some of the changes of heart in the main characters feel somewhat rushed (and, personally, the process by which both of them end up changing their opinions and the way they feel about each other is one of my favourite parts in the original, but that does not detract from the writer’s skill). The scenes that take place in London and the friendship that grows between Georgiana and Elizabeth are among my favourite parts in this story.

The writing style is perfectly in sync with the original and it flows well. The mystery elements are well worked into the story, and they respect the nature of a criminal investigation of the time. In keeping with the proceedings, and with the role Darcy plays, there is a certain degree of telling and not showing, especially when it comes to tying loose ends, but that is also typical of the genre. Although the mystery elements would work in their own right, even without knowledge of the original novel, I think the ideal readers are those familiar with Austen’s work.

An interesting variation on Pride and Prejudice that offers a new perspective on their favourite characters for fans of Austen. And for fans of mystery/crime books, an intriguing insight into crime detection prior to the establishment of the Metropolitan Police in England.

Book description

Darcy as an amateur detective, secrets, lies, and a peep into crime detection in the Regency period.

A great love. A perplexing murder. Netherfield Park — a house of secrets.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is in a tangle. Captivated by Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of no fortune and few connections. Embroiled in an infamous murder in the home of his friend, Charles Bingley. He is being tested in every way. Fearing for Elizabeth’s safety, Darcy moves to protect her in the only way he knows but is thwarted. Thus, he is forced to turn detective. Can he overcome his pride for the sake of Elizabeth? Can he, with a broken heart, fathom the villainy that has invaded their lives? Is there even a chance for love born of such strife?

Lover’s Knot is a romantic Pride & Prejudice variation, with a bit of mystery thrown in.

About the author

Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” and “The Elizabeth Papers”.

Jenetta James

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #fairytale The Royal Deal by @DGDriverAuthor #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Royal Deal by D.G. Driver

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I love fairy tales. I know some of the classic ones are cruel, harsh, and less than politically correct, but I do love them. And I am always intrigued by new versions of old fairy tales, or completely new fairy tales.

This short fairy tale has elements of the classics: a King and father, insisting that his daughter must marry the man of his choice (for political reasons); a Princess and daughter, Faith, who wants to follow her heart (she hardly knows Jaeger, the young prince she is due to marry. She always assumed she would marry the older, more mature, Mikhail, who is known for his caring attitude towards his people, although she does not know him well either); a challenge/mission… This time, the princess is not just passively waiting for a prince to come and rescue her (although she hopes Mikhail, who has been missing for a long time, will come back before her 19th birthday when she is supposed to get married). She decides to go to her father and make a deal with him. She wants to prove that she is not a useless thing that needs looking after. Her father agrees that if she can survive for three months in the forest, without any outside help, she will be free to marry whomever, whenever.

Faith is headstrong, rushed, and impulsive. She knows that she lives a life where she is totally dependent on others, (princesses don’t even get dressed by themselves), and has been trying to learn how to do things for herself, but she soon realises she has not thought things through. She should have negotiated the conditions of her deal to her advantage (she does not even have appropriate shoes to wear, does not know how to light a fire, and has no weapons to defend herself from wild animals or any other dangers she might encounter).

Faith learns a lot in the three months she spends in the forest. She meets a hermit who helps her (despite her insistence that she does not want to cheat); she realises that she must think before she acts and that we need to learn to walk before we can run. Her beliefs are put to the test, as are her prejudices, and although she knows she has a specific role to play due to her position in life and she is not free to do as she likes, she cannot help but end up feeling quite close to the hermit.

The story, written in the third person, is made up of vivid vignettes illustrating both, Faith’s life in the castle at first, and then her attempts at survival in the forest (mostly unsuccessful and lucky escapes, including a lovely interlude with a bear cub). This is not a story about a girl who suddenly discovers she is good at everything and has a natural talent to survive in the wild. She makes mistakes, is sorely unprepared, and keeps getting into trouble. She is about to give up but the hermit helps her and convinces her to keep going. The story dedicates much more time to the first couple of days when we meet Faith and she goes into the forest, than it does to the rest of the three months. Although there are some stirrings of a possible romance, and Faith has to admit to having developed feelings for the hermit, she is more passionate about tasting some chocolate after not having tried it for a few months than she is about any of the men in her life.

As some other reviewers have noted, this is no magical fairy tale, this is the tale of a determined (obstinate?) girl who learns the value of being prepared, of working hard for what you want, and of being truly independent.

The big reveal will not be a surprise to most readers, although it does tie things up nicely, and the actual ending, which some readers feel is a bit rushed, I thought made perfect sense and proved that Faith had learned from her experience and grown up.

The actual fairy tale is shorter than the e-book length suggests, as it contains a sample of the next fairy tale in the series (that looks quite good too).

An original fairy tale, which could facilitate interesting discussions about female role models (beware of the mention of her purity, which might be difficult to explain to very young kids), and the first of what looks like a very interesting series.

Book description

A pampered princess is told she must marry a prince she doesn’t like, let alone love, on her nineteenth birthday. Desperate to find a way to stop this arranged marriage, she makes a bargain with her father. If she can survive for three months in the forest with no help of any kind and return healthy and unharmed, then she can choose the man she will marry. The King accepts the wager, knowing he can’t possibly lose. Princess Faith knows she must win this deal, but once she ventures into the forest, she has no idea how she can possibly succeed.

About the author

D. G. Driver likes to write about diverse people dealing with social or environmental issues, but she likes to include a touch of fantasy or fun, too. She primarily writes middle grade and young adult fiction. She is the award-winning author of the YA eco-fiction series The Juniper Sawfeather Novels, which includes Cry of the Sea, Whisper of the Woods, and Echo of the Cliffs. She has stories in a variety of anthologies, and her newest book is a middle grade story about bullying and Autism awareness called No One Needed to Know. When she isn’t writing, she is teaching, performing in a local community theater musical, or probably watching TV.

D.G. Driver

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT @OlgaNM7 reviews #Horror Freaky Franky by @wblackwell333

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Freaky Franky by William Balckwell

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I have been reading a book called Paperbacks from Hell  and when I saw this book, it reminded me so much of many of the covers and topics I had been reading about that I could not resist, although I was not sure about the title (was it horror, humour, or something else entirely?).

The novel begins with quite a bang. A strong scene where we are introduced to la Santa Muerte (Saint Death) a religion/cult (depending on whose point of view you take) that has flourished in Mexico and is spreading to many other places. Although we all have heard about the Mexican Día de los Muertos, this might cover new ground for many of us, but the author is well informed and provides good background into the history and the various opinions on Saint Death, that is an interesting topic in its own right.

But don’t get me wrong. This book is not all tell and not show. We have a number of characters who are linked (unknowingly at first) by their devotion to Saint Death. What in the beginning seem to be separate episodes, which show us the best and the worst consequences of praying to Saint Death, later come together in an accomplished narrative arc. Whilst praying for health and good things can result in miracles, praying for revenge and death carries serious and deadly consequences.

The story, written in the third person, alternates the points of views most of the characters, from the main characters to some of the bit actors, good and bad (although that is pretty relative in this novel) and it moves at good pace. It is dynamic and full of action, and this is a novel where the plot dominates. The characters are not drawn in a lot of detail and I did not find them as cohesive and compelling as the story, in part, perhaps, because they are, at times, under the control of Saint Death (but this is not a standard story of satanic possession). Although none of the characters are morally irreproachable,  Anisa and Dr. Ricardo are more sympathetic and easier to root for. Yes, Anisa might resent her missed opportunities and the fact that she is stuck in Prince Edward Island looking after her son, but she goes out of her way to help her friend Helen and her brother Franklin and warns them not to pray for revenge. Dr. Ricardo threads a fine line between helping others and protecting himself, but he does the best he can. Franklin, the Freaky Franky of the title, is a much more negative character and pretty creepy, especially early in the novel. Although we learn about his past and the tragedies in his life, he is Anisa’s brother, and she’s also gone through the same losses, without behaving like he does. He uses Saint Death’s power mostly for evil, although he seems to change his mind and attitude after Anisa’s intervention (I was not totally convinced by this turn of events). I found Natalie, the American tourist visiting the Dominican Republic with her fiancé, Terry, difficult to fathom as well. Perhaps some of it could be explained by the love/lust spell she is under, but she clearly suspects what Franklin has done to her, and her changed feelings towards a man she has known for five minutes makes no sense, at least to me (sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers). Much of the action and events require a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but not more than is usual in the genre.

The novel keeps wrong-footing the readers. At first, we might think that everything that is going on can be explained by self-suggestion and that all the evil (and the good) is in the mind of the believer. These are desperate characters holding on to anything that offers them a glint of hope. And later, when bad things start to happen, it seems logical to believe that the characters we are following have acted upon their negative thoughts and impulses (and even they have doubts as to what they might have done). But nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems.

Although there is plenty of explicit violence and some sexual references (those not as explicit), I did not find it frightening or horrific as such. However, it is a disquieting, dark, and eerie book, because of the way it invites readers to look into the limits of morality and right and wrong. Is revenge ever justified? Is it a matter of degrees? Who decides? It seems la Santa Muerte has very specific thoughts about this, so be very careful what you wish (or pray) for.

An eye-opener with regards to the Saint Death cult and a book that will be enjoyed by readers who don’t mind supernatural novels with plenty of violence, and prefer their plots dynamic and action-driven.

Book description

When an enigmatic town doctor saves the life of Anisa Worthington’s dying son, she abandons Christianity in favor of devotion to the cult of Santa Muerte or Saint Death. Some believe the mysterious skeleton saint will protect their loved ones, help in matters of the heart, and provide abundant happiness, health, wealth, and justice. But others, including the Catholic Church, call the cult blasphemous, evil, and satanic.

Anisa introduces Saint Death to her friend Helen Randon, and soon one of Helen’s enemies is brutally murdered. Residents of Montague, a peaceful little town in Prince Edward Island, begin plotting to rid the Bible belt of apostates.

Anisa suspects Helen is perverting the good tenets of Saint Death. Before she can act, a terrible nightmare propels her to the Dominican Republic in search of Franklin, her long-lost and unstable brother, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace twenty years ago.

To her horror, Anisa learns Franklin is worshipping Saint Death with evil intentions. As a fanatical and hell-bent lynch mob tightens the noose, mysterious murders begin occurring all around Anisa. Unsure who’s an enemy and who’s an ally, she’s thrust into a violent battle to save her life, as well as the lives of her friends and brother.

About the author

William Blackwell studied journalism at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and English literature at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia.

He worked as a print journalist for many years before becoming an author.

Currently living on an acreage in Prince Edward Island, Blackwell loves to travel and write fiction.

He’s written many titles including: Brainstorm, Nightmare’s Edge, Phantom Rage , Orgon Conclusion, Assaulted Souls, Poison Rage, Infected Rage, Rule 14, Resurrection Point, Black Dawn, The End Is Nigh, Freaky Franky, Assaulted Souls II, Assaulted Souls III, The Strap, Blood Curse, A Head for an Eye, Black Dawn, The End Is Nigh and Freaky Franky.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW1 Fred’s Funeral by @sandeetweets #SundayBlogShare

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

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My review:

I am writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie and the author for providing me a copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is a short book, but it punches well above its weight. The book, written mostly from the point of view of Fred Sadler, a Canadian veteran of WWI who never quite recovered from the war and spent years in and out of mental institutions (such as they were at the time), takes its readers on a journey through Fred’s memories (he has just died, so I guess I should say his ghost’s memories, but, in many ways, Fred had been a ghost of his former self for many years already) and those of the relatives who attend his funeral. We have brief hints at times of what other characters are thinking or feeling (as Fred’s consciousness becomes all-encompassing), but mostly we remain with Fred. We share in his opinions and his own remembrances of the facts his family members (mostly his sister-in-law, Viola, who is the only one left with first-hand-knowledge of his circumstances, at least some of them) are discussing.

Fred’s story — based on the life of a relative of the author and on documents and letters he left behind— will be familiar to readers interested in the history of the period, and in the terrible consequences the war had on the lives and mental health of many of the young men who fought and suffered in the war. Shell-shock (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD) was little understood at the time and psychiatry (that is not a hard science at its best) was pretty limited in its resources at the time. Even nowadays, delayed onset PTSD is rarely diagnosed and not well-understood, and the condition results sometimes in permanent changes in the personality of the sufferer, who might end up with all kinds of other diagnoses and are often misunderstood and mistreated.

Sandy Day’s beautifully descriptive and, at times, lyrical writing —the author had previously published a poetry book— captures both strands of the story: the terrible disintegration of the life of such a promising young man, and the changes in his family and the society around him, which he was only a spectator of (and was never allowed to take an active role in). His brother married and had children, his parents died; the family property, so dear to him, was split up and eventually sold, and he was only the weird uncle nobody knew much about.

The novel (as it is a fictionalization of the events) succeeds in giving Fred a voice, in bringing forth the fear, the thrashed hopes, the puzzlement, the resignation, the confusion, of this man who put his life on the line and got only pain in return. It is a poignant and beautiful memorial to the lives of many soldiers whose trauma was misunderstood and whose lives were destroyed. The writing is compelling and gets the readers inside of Fred’s head, making us share in his horrifying experiences. The book can be hard to read at times, not so much because of graphic content (although the few descriptions are vivid), but because it is impossible not to empathise and imagine what he must have gone through. But there is also a hopeful note in the interest of the new generations and the fact of the book itself.

There are time-shifts, and some changes in point of view (because Fred’s ghost can at times become the equivalent of an omniscient narrator), but past events follow a chronological order and are clearly demarcated and easy to follow, and the device of the funeral helps anchor the story and provide a frame and a background that give it a more personal and intimate dimension. The Canadian landscape and setting also add a touch of realism and singularity to the story.

Although the book is very short, I could not resist sharing at least a tiny sample of the beautiful writing with you:

He looks down half-blindly as his old Canadian Expeditionary Force Uniform dissolves into a constellation of colourful snowflakes, twirling away from him in a trail. Beneath the uniform he is nothing. He has no name or age. He is at once as old as a flickering blue base at the wick of a candle and as young as a flame surging into brilliance.

This is a poignant and lovingly written ode to a man who returned from WWI (at least in body) but was as lost as many of the men who never came back. A story about an unsung hero that should be cherished and its lessons learnt. I cannot recommend it enough.

Book description

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

About the author

Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

Sandy Day

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT @OlgaNM07 reviews #HistFic #Romance TEARAGH’T by Craig Newnes

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Tearagh’t by Craig Newnes

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My review:

This is a puzzling book. On the one hand, there is the story it tells, that is fascinating but not complex to explain and summarise. The book is divided into three parts, and tells the story of two lovers, living in XVI century Spain, both conversos (Jews who converted to Catholicism, although, at least in their case and that of their families, they remain Jews, only they practice their religion in secret, to avoid the Inquisition and the risk of being expelled from the country). The man, Isidore, enlisted in the Spanish Armada, to see the world, although he was never convinced of the logic of that war. The first part consists of a partial diary of his adventures, both at sea and later in Tearaght (an Irish island, the westernmost of the Blasket Islands), that was recovered by a sailor and translated into English, a peculiar English (that I understand the author acknowledges is his own creation and a reimagining of how the Old English mixed with the original Spanish might have sounded like). The second part is the story of his lover, Beatriz, pregnant when he leaves, and her life back in Spain, constantly wondering where he might be and waiting for his news. In contrast, her story is told in modern English, and is very modern indeed, with plenty of detail of what her life is like, her lifestyle (including going out with female friends, drinking, talking about sex a lot, and thinking about it, later having a baby boy, and being pressurised into a possibly advantageous marriage), and a third part, much shorter, again written by the woman, who must make a decision when she discovers her lover’s diary. Will she go after him and try to find him? Or will she marry a rich man to make sure their son is safe and has the best possible start in life? This brief part is written in a similar style to the first.

Isidore’s story is heart-wrenching. It is a story of adventures, male friendship (international, as there are men from everywhere aboard the ships, and they even meet friendly English men later, and also men from all walks of life such as sailors, soldiers, writers (Lope de Vega makes an appearance, Cervantes is mentioned more than once, and later on Kid and, of course, Shakespeare). Rather than a factual and aggrandising story (HIStory), there is much discussion about emotions, confidences, feelings, and much self-doubt. Although there are funny moments interspersed in the narrative (mostly because it does not follow a chronological order), there are, mostly, terrible times. Death, disaster, and sadness abound, and it seems that all that keeps him alive is his hope to see his beloved again. There are incredibly sad and touching moments in this part of the book, and although, as I said, the language is mock-Ole-English, once we get used to it (saying it out loud in your head helps), it is easy to follow, even taking into account that it is not in the right order and we jump backwards and forward in time. And, although he does refer to his lover often, the style and the discourse seems to be in keeping with what readers would expect of a well-researched historical novel set at that time. However, the style is more intimate and personal, and more emotional, than what we would expect in a male narrative of the period.

I think most readers will wonder why the woman’s story is written in such a different way, as the change feels like a jolt, and at first I wondered if it was set in a different historical period, but as we read on it is evident it is the account of Isidore’s lover, Beatriz.  A common thread of both stories is the need of the protagonists to write. While for the man, although he questions his merits, it is more acceptable (and they even call him a writer), the woman describes how, sometimes, her need to write makes her stop what she is doing, her chores, to write, even if it is only about her chores. She does not have great adventures to write about, indeed. Does that mean she should not write? Both stories also talk about camaraderie, in the case of the men between those defending a mission and a vision, even if they don’t believe in it. The women talk about women’s things. Men, childbirth, marriage, romance, sex… A women’s sphere, especially at the time, was more personal and intimate (although, of course, Elizabeth I was the Queen of England, so there were some, very few, women in high places). The modern style Beatriz’s story is written in and the fact that it contains topics we find difficult to imagine writing about at the time, especially when the writer is a woman, seem designed to challenge our prejudices. Are old-style writing (more in keeping with what we imagine a historically accurate discourse would be like, even when we know it is, at least in part, invented) and a male protagonist immediately given more authority than a narrative of the period written in a modern style by a female protagonist? (The subjects discussed and the openness of the talk about sex between the women gave me pause. I am aware that personal letters, and in this case, a diary written for her lover, can be much more open and direct than we would expect of the period, although I wondered more about some of the other topics, like the fact that single mothers seem fully accepted and she is not short on offers of marriage, even after having had a child out of wedlock). She describes her process of analysis, the way she decides to study her thoughts and feelings, and indeed her lovers, and also mentions that other women do the same, therefore challenging gender expectations (women are supposed to be romantic and not be open or matter-of-fact about love or sex). We also have the writer becoming the reader later on when she gets hold of her lover’s diary. The third part, although penned by Beatriz, is written in the same language as the first. Is this a way of connecting with him, of communicating her official decision, of gaining authority? Knowing the field of study and work of the author (Critical Psychology) one can’t help but wonder. (And, perhaps overanalysing things, as I am Spanish I could not help but think that some of the expressions she uses and discusses in detail, like “falling in love”, that she feels is very apt, would not work in Spanish. Could that mean she is writing it in English, or rewriting it later? Does she indeed go looking for him, even after the ending? Or is it another way the author uses to remind us it is a story and to make us pay attention to the process of reading?)

A book that contains a fascinating story (with a fascinating historical background and some fabulous characters, both real and imagined) written in and an even more fascinating narrating style(s). Although the first part, once one gets used to the language, will grip most readers, quite a few might struggle to see how the two parts fit together (even if the characters do). A novel for those who want to try new reading experiences and check non-conventional types of writing. A word of warning, there is plenty of explicit violence, swear words, and discussions of sexual matters. An author a publisher well-worth keeping an eye on.

Book description

After the remains of the Armada hobble back to Spain, an extraordinary document – part diary, part love letter – is discovered on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. When it is translated, it reveals – not treachery nor evidence of Spanish military ambition – but something about the human condition. Love, loss, laughter and the madness of war are all in Tearagh’t.

This is an unusual novel. The author has developed a whole new language, which brings the experience of being on a ship in the Armada alive, as it battles its way down the English Channel, interspersed by some strange, incognito runs ashore. The diary is complicated by the Jewish origins of the narrator and his conversation in his head with his lover back home in sixteenth century Spain. But the lover, as it turns out, is also thinking about him – and she sounds remarkably modern…

“Falling in love isn’t in your control. It’s a wonderfully accurate phrase, isn’t it? You fall, with amazing luck, you both fall into it. It’s like a bottomless, heavenly well. You both tumble, then plunge. Down and down. Holding hands … but luck never holds you. One day, one of you hits the side of the well. The other keeps falling, always hurting – knowing your souls are no longer bound, no longer one in this life. That somewhere, far above you, lies the broken body that can only be touched now in dreams.”

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Horror GHOSTS OF MANOR HOUSE by @GhostsofMH

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Ghosts Of Manor House by Matt Powers

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My review:

I write this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber and the author for providing me a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

The description of the book provides us with a good gist of what the book is about (and it is accurate) but the title itself will stir readers in the right direction. Yes, this is a book about ghosts and it centres on a house. Manor House is a house with plenty of history behind. And Mr. Travels, the old oak tree in its vicinity, has seen its share of events, mostly dark ones.

The book is a ghost story in the best tradition of psychological horror. The clever way in which the story is designed made me think of magicians and sleight of hand artists who misdirect the spectators and create an atmosphere where the most bizarre or magical things can come true. The story is told in the third person and although it mostly tells of the events that happen to the family Wilder, it also has a prologue and an epilogue that beautifully bring the story full circle and incorporate it into the mythology of the house, turning it into a representative of what the house stands for, and of the stories of the rest of its inhabitants. The story is set in the recent past, before social media and mobile phones were the norm, and it is told in the third person, in its majority from the point of view of Edmund Wilder, (although later there are some chapters told from the point of view of his brother-in-law, Charlie), who was a happy husband and father until tragedy stroke and he lost his son, Tommy. His wife is depressed and when she suggests spending a few days at Manor House to have a break and strengthen their family ties, he agrees. The plan is for him to take the opportunity to write the book he has been talking about for ages. The narration is not straightforward. Although the book is pretty short, the reader needs to remain attentive, as Edmund experiences strange events, and his story is interspersed with his writing, that includes stories about the house, a diary where he narrates dreams (sometimes experienced whilst awake and sometimes asleep), and the time frame is not as evident as it might seem at times. Edmund is not a reliable narrator. He interacts with a number of mysterious characters that keep reassuring him that everything is all right, but he is not totally convinced of that. There are moments when he feels that he is not in control of what is happening or what he is writing, but that he is rather a conduit for somebody or something else (Manor House?).

These mysterious characters who work in the house (Lucas, the housekeeper, and the groundskeeper) give him some clues as to what might be really going on, but we experience events through Edmund’s eyes and senses, and although we might be as convinced as he is that things are not right, and we have some extra information (the prologue and later the chapters from Charlie’s point of view), we still feel as lost and puzzled as him.

Matt Powers does a great job of enveloping the story in suggestion and creating intrigue, without using gore descriptions or openly violent scenes. He manages to make the readers autosuggest themselves and creates a psychological atmosphere of disquiet and dread. The fact that we only know some basic facts about the family and the protagonist rather than having a very personalised and detailed portrayal of the individuals and their characteristics helps us immerse ourselves in the story and we can easily identify with the role of observer and writer Edmund takes on (more or less willingly).

The style of the writing is atmospheric and it alternates with stream of consciousness and with descriptive writing of historical events and lore, but as mentioned, due to the state of mind of the character whose point of view we share in, it needs to be followed closely and it is not a light and easy read.

The author explains that he intended to pay homage and create his own version of the horror stories about ghosts and haunted houses he loves, and in my opinion, he is successful. Fans of horror stories will find plenty of nods to stories and authors who have written in the genre and will enjoy that aspect as much as the story itself. Although I did not find the novel scary or the ending surprising per se, it is eerie and it does a good job of exploring the psychology of anxiety and fear, while at the same time touching on the themes of loss, grief, guilt, and the toll losing a child can have on family relationships.

A short read recommended for those who prefer their frights more psychological and less gory in nature. And I agree with the author’s chosen quote by Dean Koontz:

Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.

Another author to keep a close eye on.

Book description

Edmund and Mary Wilder are very much in love. But the death of their young son, Tommy, has shattered their family. Edmund is determined to bring them back together, drawing on the only bit of strength he has left—his love for Mary and their daughter, Stephanie. But Mary sinks deeper into depression while little Stephanie’s anger grows. Edmund flounders in his attempts to rescue his family from the brink of collapse and doesn’t know where to turn.

Then Mary receives an invitation for the family to become guests at Manor House, a seemingly quaint Bed and Breakfast. This, she assures her husband, is the answer to all their troubles.

Edmund arrives ahead of his family to spend a couple days working on his long-delayed novel. But his growing curiosity about the old house leads Edmund to an encounter that will change him forever.

What will you sacrifice for love?

An old fashioned psychological thriller with a nod to Stephen King, Manor House will keep you guessing and compel you to turn the page to the very end.

A mother will sacrifice anything for her children. A husband will risk everything to save his wife. Manor House will take them all.

About the author

Matt is the author and creator of Ghosts of Manor House and Senior Producer at Zynga. Computers and video games have been a part of his life since he was young. As a child, he always played video games and when he was ten, his Dad told him that he should try making his own. And so he taught himself to program and create games on the computer. He majored in Computer Science and enjoys working with a team of creative people. Matt has a passion for books and finds writing to be a great way to release his inner creativity.

Matt lives and works in the busy and vibrant metropolis of San Francisco where he is surrounded by extraordinary views of the ocean. He loves how the city is filled with a variety of people and activities – there is always something to do and new to see. In addition to San Francisco, Matt spends a lot of time in Grass Valley with friends and family where he can escape the concrete jungle for the relative calm of this gold mining sierra town. This is where the characters and story of Ghosts came to life.

He loves to write because he can use his wacky and twisted imagination to create interesting characters that he brings to life on paper. Matt’s writing process with Ghosts started with a concept, “write a creepy haunted house story.” Ideas became scenes, which became characters that created a story. Matt made a deal with Manor House to tell its tale and so he did, but at what price?

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#Giveaway 2 paperback copies open internationally. (closes Saturday 20th January)

Winners were Kristen & Marjorie.

 

 

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW2 naval suspense #Thriller JONAH by @CarlRackman

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Jonah by Carl Rackman

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My review:

I write this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I thank Rosie and the author for providing me an ARC copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

Although I had read great reviews of one of Rackman’s previous books, Irex, I had not read his work yet but I was eager to check his new novel, especially as it came greatly recommended by other reviewers from Rosie’s team.

The novel did not disappoint. It is a thriller set (mostly) in a US Navy destroyer in the Pacific during WWII. Moby Dick is one of my favourite novels (depending on the moment you ask me, my favourite) and I do like a story set at sea, although I’m not an expert on the topic. As we read the novel it becomes clear that the author has researched the historical period and the setting well and he is skilled at making readers get under the skin of the characters and share in their experiences and settings. Although some of the nautical terms might not be familiar to us, we can easily guess from the context, and we share in the heat, exhaustion, tension, anxiety, fear, and camaraderie. The setting of the novel, the destroyer, apart from being a confined space is a microcosms where we can find men from all walks of life, career navy men, enlisted men, older and younger men, some who’d never even seen the sea and others from long nautical tradition, and men from a variety of religions, ethnic backgrounds, and regions of the USA. These men are thrown together to fight a war under extreme circumstances and when we meet them they have all experienced things we would not wish on anyone.

The story is written in the third person, mostly from the point of view of Mitch Kirkham, “Lucky” Kirkham, a gunner who seems fated to survive when everybody around him dies. Early in the book, we witness another example of his good luck (by that point he had already earned his nickname following a battle in Okinawa where he was one of the few survivors), but unfortunately, not everybody sees things the same way, and he gets bullied and victimised, accused of being a coward. To add to his difficulties, strange things start happening on the ship. Some of the men start experiencing unusual things, there is paranoia, violence, deaths, and the weirdest explanations are suggested. His peers insist that Mitch is a Jonah (they believe he is bringing them bad luck or worse and want to throw him overboard), and his life becomes increasingly complicated.

The narrative of what happens in the ship (mostly from Mitch’s point of view, although at times, often when he is out of action, we also share in the point of view of a few other characters, like the medic of the ship, or the second in command), is interspersed with flashbacks (or memories) of incidents of the past of some of the men in the ship, usually those that end up right in the middle of the action. These snippets give us a better idea of what these men were like at home, in their real lives, when they were not cogs in the Navy machine, and they provide clues as to the psychological make-up of the characters (and also make us wonder what they might all have in common). Although the novel is mostly action-driven, we get brief glimpses into the men’s personalities and motives that add to the complexity and to the enjoyment for those of us who like well-defined characters.

As a psychiatrist and somebody who enjoys psychological thrillers, I started wondering about the situation and coming up with my own theory from early on (no, I won’t share any spoilers). Yes, I was right; although the nitty-gritty detail is not fully revealed until the very end of the book and it is… Well, if you like conspiracy theory books, I think you’ll be pleased. It is also very believable and that is the scariest aspect of it. I had to do some research of my own after reading the book, because although I had read about some aspects of the story (it is not based on real events, but it realistically portrays the life of navy men at war and the way the Navy operated), I did not realise the extremes to which these men were subject to.

The book is not only vividly written, intriguing, and tense, but it also deals with many important topics, such as survivors’ guilt, PTSD, war and fighting, the treatment of the combatants, experimentation, and the use of attention-enhancing drugs and its dangers.

And yes, as a Moby Dick lover, I did particularly enjoy the end.

As mentioned, the book is well researched and there is a glossary of terms and also an author’s note to explain the background to the story and clarify which aspects are based on truth and which have come out of the author’s imagination.

I’d recommend it to lovers of historical fiction, especially set in WWII, people who love atmospheric thrillers, within a naval setting and to anybody who enjoys a ripping good read.

Book description

The North Atlantic, 1940. A British destroyer pounces on a seemingly abandoned U-boat, leading to a spine-chilling encounter.

Five years later, the US Navy destroyer Brownlee grimly prepares to battle a swarm of Japanese kamikazes at Okinawa.

Mitch “Lucky” Kirkham, a young gunner on the Brownlee, wakes up miraculously unscathed after his crewmates are killed in a fearsome kamikaze strike.

Bullied and resented amid accusations of cowardice and worse, Mitch re-boards his patched-up ship for the long voyage back to San Francisco. All he wants is to go home.

But far out in the boundless emptiness of the Pacific, a strange madness begins to seize the sailors on the Brownlee. Terror, hysteria and suicide torment the men amid sightings of ghosts and a terrifying monster that stalks the ship by night.

Mitch stumbles upon a possible explanation for the madness. But as the ship presses on alone, deeper into the vast Pacific Ocean and the grip of insanity, will anyone listen to him before his famous luck runs out for good?

Jonah is a searing, psychological suspense thriller, the latest from Carl Rackman, author of Irex and Voyager.

About the author

Hi! I’m Carl Rackman, a British former airline pilot turned author. I come from a naval military background and have held a lifelong interest in military history and seafaring.

I spent my working life travelling the world and this has given me a keen interest in other people and cultures. I’ve drawn on my many experiences for my writing.

I write suspense thrillers with a flair for evocative descriptions of locales and characters. I enjoy complex, absorbing storylines combined with rich, believable characters, so that’s the sort of fiction I write. I try to create immersive worlds for the reader to explore, and characters who are more than just vehicles for the story.

Carl Rackman

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT @OlgaNM7 reviews Bear Medicine by @gekretchmer

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Bear Medicine by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

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My review:

I have read two of Elizabeth Kretchmer’s books before. The Damnable Legacy and Women on the Brink and enjoyed them. When I was informed that the author had published a new book, I had to check it out.

Once again, Kretchmer focuses on issues that relate to women’s lives and also to the environment and to human beings’ place in the world. The story is narrated by two women, Brooke and Anne, in the first-person. Although both women have a lot in common (both are married and not terribly happy in their marriages, although they are not fully aware of it or at least they haven’t acknowledged it to themselves yet, and they both love nature), they are separated by a hundred and forty years. Whilst Brooke lives in our present, Anne convinces her husband to visit Yellowstone not long after the Park is established, seriously underestimating the risks. Both women suffer because of their decisions (Brooke is mauled by a grizzly bear and is seriously injured, and Anne ends up alone and defenseless without experience on surviving in the wild) and are helped by other women. And in both cases, these seemingly terrible decisions end up totally changing their lives. The book is part contemporary women’s fiction and part historical fiction, and an inspirational read.

Both characters are sympathetic because of the terrible circumstances they find themselves in, although they are not the standard heroines that suddenly and almost magically become enlightened and proficient at everything. They sometimes show little insight into their real situations, can be naïve, do little to help themselves, moan, and take one step forward and two steps back. If anything, Anne, who married young and has little experience of the world, seems to take to the new situation and accept Meg’s teachings more easily, although it must have been a bigger shock to her and farther away from her everyday experience. The society of her time was also more prejudiced, and the fact that she becomes best friends with a Native American woman is much more of a leap of faith than Brooke’s friendship with Laila and her confused feelings about the younger woman. But Brooke has also been victimised (even though it takes her quite a while to accept that) for much longer, has two grown-up children, and therefore has much more to lose. It is understandable that she struggles more and it takes her longer to fully embrace her new reality. I think most women will recognize themselves in one of the characters, either the narrators or their friends and helpers, and feel personally involved in the novel.

The writing is beautifully descriptive and there are very touching moments, some because of the extremes of emotion and suffering, and some because of the moments of clarity and insight that the love of the women and their cooperation with each other brings them. The author has done her research (she explains her process at the end and also acknowledges her sources) and I learned much about the birth of Yellowstone and the Indian Wars by reading this book.

There are serious and current subjects discussed in the novel (abuse [mental, physical, and sexual], rape, drug abuse, mental illness, nature and environment, the protection of wild animals, politics, parent-child relationship), there are adventures and risky situations, secrets, betrayal, and plenty of love. Although most readers will figure out soon enough the connection between the two women, we care enough for both characters and their adventures to keep reading and hoping we will be right about the end. And yes, the ending is empowering and positive too.

An emotional book (yes, I did cry), an enlightened book, and also a realistic book, that shows us some women who are not the perfect heroines, all powerful and knowing, but who make mistakes, hesitate, don’t know what to do for the best, and can be annoying and irritating at times, but who become stronger and learn about themselves by joining with other women and choosing to work together.

An inspiring read and a book that I recommend to women (and men) who enjoy multi-dimensional characters. It will also delight people who love historical fiction, in particular, the Indian Wars, and readers interested in Native American tradition and mythology. Another great book by a writer I will keep my eye on.

Book description

When Brooke sets off on a trail in Yellowstone National Park to train for an upcoming marathon, she is savagely attacked by a grizzly bear. One hundred forty years earlier, Anne accompanies her husband on a camping trip in the nation’s first national park and awakens one morning to find he’s been captured by Nez Perce warriors. Both women encounter a sacred but savage landscape. Both fall under the care of American Indian women. Ultimately, Brooke and Anne must each overcome multiple obstacles, with the help of their new friends and native lore, to find what she seeks.

Alternating between contemporary and historical times, Bear Medicine is a story about women helping women in a complicated, male-dominated world.

About the author

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer holds an MFA in Writing from Pacific University. Her short story collection, Women on the Brink, and her debut novel, The Damnable Legacy, were both published by Booktrope Editions. Her short fiction, essays, and freelance work have appeared in The New York Times, High Desert Journal, Silk Road Review, SLAB, and other publications. When she’s not writing, she’s facilitating therapeutic and wellness writing workshops or spending time in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three sons, and Lani the Labradoodle.

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

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