Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC @ReadersRealms Reviews #Horror HIGHLAND COVE by @dylanjmorgan

Today’s Review-A-Book Challenger is Heather, she blogs here https://readersrealms.com/

Heather chose to read Highland Cove by Dylan Morgan

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Rating = 🖤🖤🖤🖤 | 4/5
 
Thank you to Rosie’s Review-a-Book Challenge for an eBook in exchange for an honest review.
 
I love a good ghost story and/or horror movie. This book falls into both of those categories. I could easily see this book turned into a movie.
 
The writing was elegant, vivid and wonderfully descriptive… I was drawn in from the first few lines:
 
“Dark hallways resonated with the sounds of suffering. Doors slammed in the abyss, footsteps boomed off the walls, and tortured moans echoed the pain of their lives. Never before had he head them this clearly or in such numbers; never had he heard them so angry.”
 
The story unfolds through alternating POVs from the five main characters: Codie the leader, Kristen the girlfriend, Alex the rich kid, Liam the believer, and Julian the camera man. Each character’s background adds to the tapestry of the narrative, while their individual experiences run the range of the fear spectrum. Historical chapters provide a perfect dimensional overlay to what the characters are encountering as they cross paths with the former residents of the asylum.
 
I would have loved to have more actual encounters with the ghostly inhabitants, especially with Liam, and additional backstory. This is not to say that the story wasn’t complete, just that it was so entertaining that I wanted more. The book moves along at a good pace and there is plenty there to satiate any lover of the genre.
 
Overall, this was a great ghost story and had a surprise or two I didn’t see coming.
 
Book description
 
Highland Cove Sanatorium sits abandoned on a desolate island one mile off the Scottish mainland. It’s a dark, foreboding place, filled with nightmares. Even darker are the asylum’s secrets: a history of disease and mental illness, macabre experiments and murder.

The tales of ghostly appearances are said to be more fact than fiction, but no one has ever documented the phenomenon. Codie Jackson aims to change all that. Arriving from London with his small independent film crew, they plan to make a documentary that will forever change their lives.

But when one of the crew disappears, things begin to spiral out of control. A storm closes in to ravage the island, and in the darkness Highland Cove’s true horrors are revealed. Now lost within the institution’s labyrinthine corridors, Codie and his team realize that their nightmare is only just beginning.

 
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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC #Histfic #Romance THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s Review-A-Book Challenger is Jenni; find out more about her here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Jenni chose to read The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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There can be a claustrophobia to first person narratives. Trapping readers entirely inside a stranger’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences is a foreign thing, something few novelists can accomplish with finesse.

Fortunately, Ailish Sinclair is a novelist with finesse.

The narrator, and our eyes in the world of The Mermaid and the Bear, is Isobell. A young woman escaping a dangerous fiancé by fleeing to a remote estate in Scotland with her brother and a friend. The setup for the narrative is simple enough—she is a fish out of water, a high born lady from London masquerading as a kitchen maid in a Laird’s castle with various new friends and rivals coming into her life as she and the readers explore this foreign land where Isobell has placed herself.

Like many “not a normal girl” heroines, Isobell loves reading, has a penchant for being alone in the woods, and has some difficulty settling into her new role, from ignorance of the work, if nothing else. She is also virginal, innocent enough that a bawdy joke about men and pipes flies over her head at one point.

This final trope, that of the virgin girl, is something of a sticking point for me, personally. There are times when blatant innocence in female characters gets fetishistic: the idea of the virgin who never entertained an impure thought. Who is beautiful and doesn’t realize it. Who is just waiting for the right man to awaken her passion.

A protagonist cliché that gets retold again and again in novels written for young women.

And in many novels, and in the hands of a less skilled storyteller, this would be the story of that virgin’s awakening. Her falling in love, and it would happily end with her in the marriage bed.

Sinclair’s The Mermaid and the Bear hits the marriage bed roughly halfway through, and then keeps going.  Lovingly crafted and extensively researched, this is not the historical romance it was advertised as. There is romance, multiple love interests, breathless confessions dire circumstances that led to those confessions (again, well-worn tropes for those who frequent the historical romance genre), but at heart this is a story about women.

Women and the love they have for each other, not their love for men.

Women and the power they take for themselves, and the powers that abuse them.

Women and their faith.

This is a story about the women murdered by witch hunters, and about those who survived the witch trials.

And the trials are arduous. Isobell is no modern surgeon to describe the physical toll wrought in clinical detail. The intimacy of the first-person narrative makes her pain inescapable. Visceral. The 16th century was no time for the faint of heart, and during the trial, as in every thread of this novel, Sinclair’s research shows in brutal, effective detail.

This is a novel for the daring and for those who believe that the past can still speak through modern works- this is a necessary narrative.

A narrative about the hurt that can be given carelessly, and the pain that can be survived. A fairytale, and a myth, and a Shakespearean epic all rolled to one—The Mermaid and the Bear is a delight for those brave enough to tackle it.

5/5, would re-read most any day of the year.

Book description

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

AmazonUK | AmzonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC #Histfic #Romance THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair

Today we have another Review-A-Book Challenger, Claire can be found on Instagram here @saintorrow

Claire has been reading The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair 

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The Mermaid and The Bear is a whimsical title and although the first half of the story does weigh a little heavy on the whimsy (in the most delightful way), it is certainly intriguing in equal measure. For this is definitely a tale of two halves. Set in Scotland in the late 1500s at the height of the witch trials, I began the book knowing what direction it was going to go in but was hooked from the start with the exciting opening line, “The first time the sea killed me, my brother brought me back to life.” The heroine, Isobell, describes her sea sickness as she travels with her twin, Jasper and his friend, Ian. It becomes clear that they are in fact, escaping, as we are told of their arrival after dark by boat at the castle, which is central to the story. Secret tunnels, hidden doorways and shadowy figures drew me in to a whole other world immediately.

Isobell is a sweet and relatable character, on the run from her betrothed – an abusive man who is in cahoots with her father and nasty older brother. She must take on a new life and act the part of kitchen assistant in the castle, but the cook, Bessie, quickly susses her out and takes her under her wing. However, she also has Agnes to contend with, the spiteful, self-proclaimed governess to Wee Thomas, The Laird’s son.

My interest in reading this book was very much with regards to the witch trials, however the first half of the book is quite a sumptuous love story: Isobell’s love for the gorgeous Scottish landscape is second only to the growing love she feels for the Laird. I’m not a big love story fan, but Sinclair writes beautifully and manages to avoid any kind of cringiness. Plus, Isobell is portrayed so brilliantly that you can’t help but root for her – yes, she’s sweet but she’s no fool, and she deserves her prince.

What I found interesting was the very real and true depiction of how accusations of witchery came about. There were no pointed hats and broomsticks, frogs or cauldrons – often only a plain dislike or mistrust, as well as jealousy of women with knowledge or wisdom (particularly in relation to healing and herbalism). And that is exactly what unravels between Agnes towards Isobell and Bessie. I will say no more, but from the midpoint onwards, the story hurtles onto a very different trajectory from the initial dreaminess of Isobell’s seemingly magical new life. There is always the gnawing feeling that her past will catch up with her, but how it plays out is genuinely terrifying. It struck me as a grim parallel with today’s politics of polarization and finger-pointing, and as a reader, it was easy to empathise with the nightmarish quality of what transpires.

I loved this book much more than I thought I would. It has a depth that I did not expect but at the same time, it had an open-heartedness and generosity that I’m not used to when compared to my usual contemporary fiction reading. I think Ailish Sinclair is a wonderful writer and managed to keep true to history in a way that some more well-known authors who have chosen to write about this increasingly popular subject matter of the witch trials – both in the UK and the USA – do not always manage. She has clearly done her research and literal groundwork, which comes through vividly via her knowledge and descriptions of the Aberdeenshire landscape. I follow her on Instagram, and it is great to get a peek into her writer’s mind, her inspiration, and mythic gnosis of the land. Someday, I’d love to visit that beautiful pink castle and the mystical stone circle which are both as much lead characters as Isobell. Looking forward to the second novel to come from this talented author in Spring 2021, Fireflies and Chocolate.

5 stars

Book description

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

AmazonUK | AmzonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC Historical Welsh Saga THE COVENANT by @ThorneMoore @honno

Today’s review challenger is AJ Lyndon. AJ blogs here https://ajlyndon.wordpress.com/

AJ read The Covenant by Thorne Moore

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This historical saga, subtitled “The Life and Death of a Righteous Woman” is set in rural Wales in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a prequel to Moore’s first novel “A Time for Silence” and follows the lives of the Owen family, tenant farmers on a small piece of land “twenty-four acres, one rood, eight perches.”

The righteous woman is Leah Owen, daughter of Thomas Owen, “Tada”, a towering and uncompromising figure of biblical proportions whose relationship with the land he farms and his rigid attitudes to life and faith, dominate his family.

Leah herself is strong, patient and loving although she hides softer feelings beneath a rigid exterior born of duty and suffering. Her siblings gradually take different means of escape, leaving her with the responsibility of the farm and their father. Her younger brother Frank’s life is tainted from childhood because he is not their beloved older brother Tom, the lost heir to Cwmderwen. Gradually Frank himself becomes a malignant figure, struggling with an unwished-for destiny and the evil influence of his friend Eli John.

The other characters, Leah’s sisters, the rising man David George and the irritating but harmless Betty, contribute to the plot, providing a contrasting perspective and occasionally intervening in major events.

Each chapter is from a different time period as we follow Leah and the Owen family from the tragic prologue, back to their childhood and then forward, a few years at a time, from the 1880s until the 1920s. From the very start, we know that Leah’s life will not be a happy one. How the tragedy unfolds is gradually revealed as one after another the people she loves, those who might offer her support and save her, vanish from her sphere through fate, bad choices or the awful pressures of life on the Owen land.

If the prologue promises personal tragedy, it is Tom’s death aged 16 which seals it, shaping much of the ensuing succession of disappointments and disasters. My one criticism is that although we are told repeatedly that Tom’s early death changes his father’s character, the brief glimpses of Eden before the fall are insufficient to highlight the subsequent transformation.

The plot could not exist without the landscape, the harsh depiction of the Pembrokeshire countryside and claustrophobic village life reminiscent of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. But, undoubtedly, we are in Wales not England, surrounded by the grim “chapel” culture without the male voice choirs. A light sprinkling of Welsh phrases reinforces the place and the time.

Sometimes the next chapter in the unfolding cataclysm is clearly foreshadowed so that I was mouthing “No, don’t do it”. Alas, my warnings did not prevent a single murder, accident or drowning.

This is a well-constructed novel, beautiful but painful and raw, filled with the inevitability of an inescapable fate. If you enjoy books like Tess of the d’Urbervilles or Anna Karenina, you will love The Covenant.

Book description

The Owens are tied to this Pembrokeshire land – no-one will part them from it.

Leah is tied to home and hearth by debts of love and duty – duty to her father, turned religious zealot after the tragic death of his eldest son, Tom; love for her wastrel younger brother Frank’s two motherless children. One of them will escape, the other will be doomed to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps.

At the close of the 19th century, Cwmderwen’stwenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches are hardwon, the holding run down over the years by debt and poor harvest. But they are all the Owens have and their rent is always paid on time. With Tom’s death a crack is opened up and into this chink in the fabric of the family step Jacob John and his wayward son Eli, always on the lookout for an opportunity.

Saving her family, good and bad, saving Cwmderwen, will change Leah forever and steal her dreams, perhaps even her life…

The Covenant is the shocking prequel to the bestselling A Time For Silence.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC Ann Reviews Family Saga THE MEMORY by @judithbarrow77 @honno

Today’s challenge reviewer is Ann Reilly.

Ann has been reading The Memory by Judith Barrow

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4.5 stars

A Great Read!

Once I started to read this book, I couldn’t put it down!

It is a story told in two timelines running concurrently. One story line is told as the minute-by-minute events as one day passes. The other spans many years from the childhood of the lead character, Irene. As the story unfolds, you can see how the events from the past has finally led to this one day and this point in time. There was also an unexpected twist at the end.

Irene has played the role almost of a martyr, from childhood, born from a sense of duty that continues and has completely taken over her life. She has selflessly assumed the role of carer, from the age of eight initially, looking after her Downs Syndrome sister, through to her nanna, father-in-law and finally her mother.

Anyone who has assumed a long-term caring role for a parent would relate to this story of complete sacrifice for another, a feeling of being trapped, to the exclusion of one’s own life’s dreams. You can feel empathy and at times frustration for the situation. She is supported by a loving husband, which she puts at risk.

I liked the short punchy chapters that take you through a lifetime of lost opportunities, suffering and at times joy, spanning from 1963 to 2002. It was an easy read, this is my first Judith Barrow book, I will be looking to read more from this author.

Book description

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC @SueBavey Reviews #Dystopia WASTELAND by @TerryTyler4

Today we have a review from Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenger Sue, she blogs here https://suelbavey.wordpress.com/

Sue chose to read Wasteland by Terry Tyler

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Read on the Kindle

5/5 stars

In Terry Tyler’s version of 2061 people are living in government-controlled comfortable Megacities and less comfortable Hope villages, where putting a foot wrong can result in disaster and worse. Hope villages were introduced in the previous installment of the ‘Operation Galton’ series, ‘Hope’, but over the intervening years they have become even more dangerous, desolate places. A small percentage of the free-thinking population has escaped to the Wasteland, where they live outside of society and are known as ‘rats’.

The concept of the ‘Wasteland’ immediately reminded me of ‘The Wilds’ in the YA ‘Delirium’ trilogy by Lauren Oliver which I read about a decade ago and absolutely loved. Having said that, the books themselves are quite different. Wasteland is not a YA novel and although both are dystopian, the world of ‘Operation Galton’ feels more sinister, probably because it is not very far removed from where our present day society is heading. Our lives are more and more controlled by smartphones tracking our sleep, steps taken, screen use and conversations, offering us intrusive targeted advertising which demands our attention every waking second, much like the ‘com’ devices in Wasteland.

The powers that be have decided it’s time to clean up the Wasteland and plan to use its inhabitants in their macabre human experiments. This is happening in the background as we follow Rae’s journey from typical Megacity inhabitant to enlightened escapee, as she searches the Wasteland for the family she was separated from at the age of two.

The beginning of the story has a relatively slow pace, as we are introduced to new characters, then half way through the book, the pace picks up quite dramatically and it becomes a gripping thrill-ride with unexpected twists along the way. Wasteland is an exciting page-turner and I was rooting for Rae and the people she encounters in the Wasteland all the way. It was easy to visualise the action sequences and I can imagine this could quite easily be made into a blockbuster movie.

This dystopian story left me feeling unsettled, with a lot to think about and the intriguing parting shot about Ace’s background leaves the way open for further stories from Rae’s world which I would love to see sometime.

Recommended for fans of stories set in dystopian societies and thrilling fox vs. hounds style hunts!

Book description

‘Those who escape ‘the system’ are left to survive outside society. The fortunate find places in off-grid communities; the others disappear into the wasteland.’

The year is 2061, and in the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make. Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine. One too many demerits? Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Rae Farrer is a megacity girl through and through, proud of her educational and career achievements, until a shocking discovery about her birth forces her to question every aspect of life in UK Megacity 12.

On the other side of the supposedly safe megacity walls, a few wastelanders suspect that their freedom cannot last forever…

Wasteland is the stand-alone sequel to Hope, and is the second and final book in the Operation Galton series.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC @lfwrites Reviews #Tudor #HistFic NEST OF ASHES by @TudorTweep #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s review challenge post comes from Lynne, she blogs here https://just4mybooks.wordpress.com/

Lynne has been reading Nest Of Ashes by G. Lawrence

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I’ve always loved historical fiction and have two favourite periods that never fail to catch my attention. The first is WWII and the other is The Tudors. As author Gemma Lawrence states, there is so little told about Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII. It’s a huge understatement to say I was intrigued as to how she would portray a story based on someone about whom so little actual “history” is known. Indeed, following Anne Boleyn as Henry’s queen must surely have been a daunting time for Jane, after all was not Anne the original viper in the nest that led to the break with Rome and to Henry’s marriage with the dignified and most-popular Katherine of Aragon.

Nest of Ashes is the first in a trilogy of Jane Seymour’s life, and it is probably in book one where the author has the most scope to create Jane’s story. The author’s has imagined situations from Jane’s early years that are in keeping with the world she inhabits, its traditions and customs. So believable is her creation that you could be forgiven for thinking it is not historic fact, and so engaging is the story that you are instantly drawn into its fictional realm. The very best of both worlds.

When we meet Jane, she is the only daughter (so far) born to the Seymour couple. Her plain appearance marks her out as a disappointment to her mother who had longed for a daughter to grace the King’s Court as she had once done herself. As such, Jane becomes almost invisible to them, particularly when her brother Thomas is around. For Thomas can do no wrong, and despite Jane’s objections to the contrary, it is always she who is on the receiving end of any punishment. Knowing what we do about Jane’s future, it felt as though Karma was watching over her: the invisible daughter who would be queen.

Jane’s world is shaken for the first time when her beloved brother Edward takes a wife, Catherine. This beautiful and vivacious young woman is everything Jane’s mother had hoped for in a daughter, and the Seymour household is soon captivated by her charms. For Jane, that charm quickly wears off when she realises Catherine is not the sweet young woman she professes to be, but rather is intent on seducing Jane’s (and her husband, Edward’s) father. From here on, all doubt as to Catherine’s true nature is cast aside, and Jane sees her only as making a cuckold of her brother. Being invisible to everyone else in the household, Jane has no-one to tell, let alone anyone who might believe her. Confronting Catherine only makes things worse for her.

Jane can only hope her brother will find a place for her at Court, away from her family and the lies she has to ignore daily. When Edward does come through for her, and Jane is called serve Mary, the King’s sister, only then does her mother recognise how much she relied on Jane.

Jane arrives at Court, quiet and reserved and not at all confident of her position. It is her shy nature that catches the eye of Queen Katherine, who takes a liking to the young woman and appoints Jane to her own staff.

Jane’s mother is torn between fury and pride; Jane has usurped her own position at Court and without all the fuss and fancy. She begs Jane to meet with her cousin, Anne Boleyn, which she reluctantly agrees to; they are never going to be close but who would have thought they would be rivals for the King’s affections?

Jane’s future at Court is about to change her life and the history books. Forever.

As Nest of Ashes came to an end, my appetite for the next book only increased. In today’s society we are used to binge-watching complete series, so biding my time until the next instalment will be a challenge. Suffice it to say, I’m ready when you are, Gemma Lawrence! (No pressure LOL)

Book description

October 1537

At a time of most supreme triumph, the moment of her greatest glory, security and power, a Queen of England lies dying.

Through dreams of fever and fantasy, Jane Seymour, third and most beloved wife of King Henry VIII remembers her childhood, the path forged to the Tudor Court; a path forged in flame and ashes. Through the fug of memory, Jane sees herself, a quiet, overlooked girl, who to others seemed pale of face and character, who discovered a terrible secret that one day would rain destruction upon her family.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC Aidan Reviews Nautical #Thriller JONAH by @CarlRackman

Today Rosie’s Review-A-Book challenger review is from Aidan, he blogs here https://ricketttsblog.wordpress.com/

Aidan has been reading Jonah by Carl Rackman

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I don’t typically enjoy war stories, specifically those set during World War 2. However, Jonah being set at sea made it stand apart from other books I’ve read from the same time period. Being on a ship inherently creates tension, since there is no escape, and Carl Rackman leans heavily into this. Moreover, this novel has very little combat (other than a battle scene at the very beginning), and is more a look at naval life, with a supernatural undertone.

The book focuses on the life of Mitch Kirkham aboard the US Navy destroyer Brownlee. After surviving a horrific battle, the novel explores Mitch’s naval experiences, and through his interactions, other experiences of different characters. It deals with PTSD and bullying, before switching direction with the introduction of ‘The Brownlee Beast’.

I thought that the character of Mitch was excellent, as Rackman made him feel relatable by having him grapple with moral quandaries. He means well, but doesn’t always make the best choices – similar to most real people. Furthermore, it is very easy to feel sympathy for him, as he often gets into bad situations through no fault of his own.

Many of the supporting characters were also good, with my favourite being Doc. While not actually a doctor, he had rudimental medical training as the pharmacologist onboard. I felt drawn to his strong moral compass and his relentless work ethic. While many of the other characters were strong, I would have liked more development of the captain since he appears in quite a few scenes without us really understanding his motivations.

The author’s deep naval knowledge was obvious, but technical vocabulary never impeded my reading. He created a glossary at the end of the book, but I never felt the need to use this, since he did such a good job of making the meaning of new words obvious by the surrounding paragraph. It felt very well blended.

I don’t want to talk about the themes for too long, as I can’t mention some of the most interesting ones in case I spoil anything. However, I found the examination of chain of command very interesting, as well as the somewhat toxic culture that was found aboard the ship. That being said, the main aim of this book seems to me to be to entertain, which it does very well.

The mysterious element of the book is handled very well, and it kept me guessing until the final reveal. The action is also paced very well, with the tension staying with me long after I’d put the book down for the night.

However, I found the ending to be unsatisfying. The pacing was again good, and it felt like a proper climax, but the resolution just felt too perfect. There were also flashbacks interspersed throughout the book that, while I didn’t dislike them, and thought they were very well written, didn’t seem to add anything to the plot as a whole.

Overall, this book was a 5.5 out of 7 for me. It was easy to get into and this ease of reading continued throughout. The few small things I wasn’t a personal fan of are easily outweighed by the well-crafted plot and relatable characters. I would recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers, especially historical ones, as well as fans of psychological horror (since it shares some similar elements, while not strictly falling into that genre).

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?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC Frank Reviews THE MEMORY by @judithbarrow77

Today’s review comes from Frank. You can find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/about/

Frank has been reading The Memory by Judith Barrow

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When I selected this book for review Rosie pointed out that it was a book that leans “heavily towards women’s fiction”. Now that I have read the book I understand what she means by that. I still think that it is a mistake to categorise readers in this way. I understand the importance of categorising books by genre. That helps potential readers decide whether a book is one they would enjoy. But most readers surely read across genres: they might choose romantic fiction one week, a mystery the next week and a thriller a week later. When you describe a book as “women’s fiction” you are not so much categorising the book as the reader.

To the extent that this book is about a woman’s life it will certainly appeal to women. In my opinion that does not rule out the possibility that it can be enjoyed by a man. What it definitely is not is a feminist account of how women’s opportunities are limited by the demands of men. On the contrary, it is the refusal of other women to shoulder their responsibilities, instead pursuing their own selfish interests, that determine the course of the central character’s life. The principle male characters are portrayed as fundamentally decent men whose support is invaluable to her.

As the book opens we see Irene struggling to care for her mother who has dementia. We are then taken back to the day, 40 years before, when Irene’s sister Rose was born. Rose has Down’s Syndrome and is rejected by their mother, leaving Irene to take on the caring role. As Irene’s life progresses, she moves from caring for Rose to caring for her grandmother, her father-in-law and, finally, her mother.

The book is structured with each chapter opening with a description of what is happening over a period of two days in 2002 as an increasingly tired and frustrated Irene performs various caring functions for her mother before returning to the chronological narrative of Irene’s progress from childhood, through adolescence, to an interrupted career as a teacher and marriage.

Along the way there are descriptions of working class life in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s that those of a certain age will recognise. If you remember Berni Inns and Babycham, or prawn cocktails and fondu sets, there are scenes which will make you smile to remember how we once thought such things were glamorous.

Teachers, too, will find interest in the debates about curriculum and teaching methods that surfaced at the time and are with us still today, especially where they relate to the treatment of children with “special needs”.

There were times when I found the structure irritating, particularly when Irene’s life story reached a day that has enormous significance for her. Not only are the details of the day dragged out across several chapters, but by repeatedly returning to 2002, the shock we know is coming – we can even make a good guess as to the nature of the shock – is delayed a little too long in my opinion.

Is it fair to call it “Women’s Fiction”? It is written by a woman and the central character is a woman. But it is a book that takes a critical look at the lives of women in the second half of the twentieth century. It was a time when women were told they could have it all: a career and motherhood. Like many, Irene, though she craves both, has neither. Sadly, that was, and remains, the brutal reality for many women. Should men read it? Definitely: they need to be reminded of these truths.

4 stars.

Book description

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC #RomCom I Love Your Cupcakes by @OlgaNM7

Today’s challenge reviewer is Tovia Inokoba, Tovia blogs here https://chroniclesofawallflower.art.blog/

Tovia has been reading I Love Your Cupcakes by Olga N. Miret.

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Where there are cakes, there’s sure to be romance. I love your cupcakes is a work of fiction that envelops you in the sugary webs of both sensational romance and astounding baking. It’s a book centered on three like-minded creatives; Dulcina or Dulce who is every bit as sweet as her name implies is a lover of books and the goddess of flavors, Adelfa whose chemistry skills have not only brought her fame amongst intellectuals but has also made her a mastermind at calculating measurements and what not in the kitchen and last but not the least; Storm whose creativity and computer genius always has everyone in awe and his looks goes without saying as I would have swooned myself if he didn’t play for the other team. These three creatives teamed up to create what they would later come to know as Literally Literary Cupcakes and Cakes shop. Not only was Storm a creative genius and a computer wizard, he was also a spontaneous force to be reckoned with as it was him who got them into the ‘’Do you have what it takes to be the next baking star?’’ contest where they may or may not have found love.

This author uses flashbacks which such ease and synergy that it’s commendable. She’s able to tell the story with a seamless description and a diction that makes it easy to comprehend. If you’re a fan of romance as well as sugary treats then this sweet romance is definitely for you.

Will Dulce, Adelfa and Storm rise up to the task and prove that they have what it takes to be the next baking star or will dirty Harry be the end of them?

Book description

If you are nuts about TV cookery programs and think chocolate is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, keep reading…
I Love Your Cupcakes is a “sweet” romance, a virtual fantasy high in calories and a fun adventure. Dare to give it a bite!
Dulce, Adelfa and Storm, the protagonists of I Love Your Cupcakes are business partners, friends and share some “interesting” family connections.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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