Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Dystopia KNIGHT IN PAPER ARMOR by @NicholasConley1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Knight In Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

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Set in the not too-distant future, a dystopian future where the United States seems to have become more parcelled out and separate than ever —different populations are segregated into newly created states [immigrants have to live in certain areas, the Jewish population in another state, the well-to-do elsewhere…]—, where huge corporations have taken over everything, and prejudice is rampant. From that perspective, the book fits into the science-fiction genre, and there are also other elements (like Billy’s powers, the way the Thorne Corporation is trying to harness those powers…) that easily fit into that category, although, otherwise, the world depicted in it is worryingly similar to the one we live in. Although there aren’t lengthy descriptions of all aspects of the world, there are some scenes that vividly portray some parts of the town (Heaven’s Hole), and I would say the novel is best at creating a feeling or an impression of what life must be like there, rather than making us see it in detail. Somehow it is as if we had acquired some of Billy’s powers and could “sense” what the characters are going through.

I don’t want to discuss the plot in too much detail, as there is much to discover and enjoy, but the book is also, at some level, a rite of passage for the two young protagonists, who might come from very different backgrounds and traditions but have much in common (they’ve lost beloved family members to unfair treatment, discrimination, and manipulation; their grandmothers have played an important role in their lives; they are outsiders; they are strongly committed to others…), and who help each other become better versions of themselves. Although there is a romantic aspect to their relationship (it is reminiscent of “insta love” that so many readers dislike) and even a sex scene (very mild and not at all descriptive), the story of Billy and Natalia’s relationship goes beyond that. I don’t think I would class this novel as a Young Adult story, despite the ages of the protagonists (at least during most of the action), but that would depend on every reader. There is plenty of violence, death of adults and children, instances of physical abuse and serious injuries of both youths and adults, so I’d recommend caution depending on the age of the reader and their sensitivity to those types of subjects.

The book can be read as a metaphor for how the world might end up looking like if we don’t change our ways (and I thought about George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm often as I read this novel), or as a straight Sci-Fi novel where two young people, one with special powers and one without, confront the government/a powerful tyrannous corporation to free society from their clutches (think the Hunger Games, although many other examples exist). It’s easy to draw comparisons and parallels with the present (and with other historical eras) as one reads; and the examples of bullying, abuse, extortion, threats, corruption… might differ in detail from events we know, but not in the essence. There is also emphasis on tradition, memory (the role of the two grandmothers is very important in that respect), identity (Billy’s Jewish identity, Natalia’s Guatemalan one, although she and her family have to pass for Mexicans at some point), disability, diversity, poverty, power, the role of media…

I have talked about the two main characters, who are both heroes (each one in their own way) and well-matched, and their families feature as well and play an important part in grounding them and making us see who they are (although Billy’s family features mostly through his memories of them). We also have a baddie we can hate at will (he is despicable, but I didn’t find him too impressive compared to others, and I prefer baddies with a certain level of humanity rather than a purely evil one), another baddie who is just a bigot and nasty (not much characterization there), and some others whose actions are morally wrong but whose reasons we come to understand. The circumstances of Billy and Natalia are so hard, and they have such great hearts that it is impossible not to root for them (I’m a big fan of Natalia, perhaps because she saves the day without having any special powers and she is easier to identify with than Billy, who is such a singular character), and their relatives and friends are also very relatable, but as I said, things are very black and white, and the book does not offer much room for shades of grey.

The story is told in the third person, although each chapter follows the point of view of one of the characters, and this is not limited to the two protagonists, but also to Thorne, and to one of the scientists working on the project. There are also moments when we follow some of the characters into a “somewhere else”, a vision that might be a memory of the past, or sometimes a projection of something else (a possible future?, a different realm or dimension?, the collective unconscious), and these chapters are quite descriptive and have an almost hallucinatory intensity. The Shape plays a big part on some of those chapters, and it makes for a much more interesting evil character than Thorne (and it brought to my mind Lovecraft and Cthulhu). Readers must be prepared to follow the characters into these places, although the experience can be painful at times. I was touched and close to tears quite a few times while I read this book, sometimes due to sadness but others the experience was a happy one.

The book is divided up into 10 parts, each one with a Hebrew name, and as I’m not that familiar with the Jewish tradition I had to check and found out these refer to the ten nodes of the Kabbalah Tree of Life. This made me realise that the structure of the book is carefully designed and it has a significance that is not evident at first sight. That does not mean it is necessary to be conversant with this concept to read and enjoy the book, but I am sure there is more to it than meets the eye (and the Tree of Life pays and important role in the story, although I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers). The writing is lyrical and beautiful in parts, and quite horrific and explicit when it comes to detailing violence and abuse. This is not a fast page-turner, and although there is plenty of action, there are also moments where characters talk, think, or are even suspended in non-reality, so this is not for those who are only interested in stories where the plot is king and its advancement the only justification for each and every word written. I often recommend readers to try a sample of a book before purchasing, and this is even more important for books such as this one, which are not easy to pin down or classify.

From my references to Orwell you will know that this is a book with a clear message (or several) and not “just” light entertainment, but I don’t want you to think it is all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite, in fact. The ending is positive, hopeful and life-affirming. Those who like endings where everything is resolved will love this one, and those who are looking for an inspiring novel and are happy to boldly go where no reader has gone before will be handsomely rewarded.

I had to include the quote that opens the book, because it is at the heart of it all, and because it is so relevant:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. To be in the window and watch people being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and do nothing, that’s being dead.” Elie Wiesel.

Book description

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction About Child Migration to Australia THE LOST BLACKBIRD by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Robbie, she blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat

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The Lost Blackbird is an intriguing novel about a group of child migrants who are taken from a shelter for children in England and shipped to Australia. The children are misled about a number of things including that siblings would stay together and that their lives would be better in Australia. This story is based on true facts about the English child migrants to a number of British colonies and was particularly shocking for me as this story took place in the 1960s.

Sisters, Charley, aged 5, and Lucy Rivers, aged 10, agree to go to Australia following the death of their abusive father and subsequent arrest of their mother who is accused of manslaughter. Easthaven children’s home is run by sour and unkind spinsters who have no sympathy for the children in their care. Charley is not thriving and Lucy hopes that she will rally a bit in the warm climate in Australia. Lucy’s best friend, Vinnie Armstrong, also gets selected for the relocation as well as Jane Baxter, whose face is disfigured due to a cleft palate which has been badly repaired, and twins, Patty and Sara, who both wear thick glasses. Lucy is a bit suspicious as she can see that it’s the children with physical imperfections and troublemakers, like herself and Vinnie, who are selected to go to Australia. She goes ahead with it because she hopes it will be better for Charley.

This book is well researched and insightful about the hardships and abuse faced by many of these child migrants who are sent to farms and treated as slave labour. A few of the fortunate younger children are adopted.

The character of Lucy is well developed and it was sad to read her story of years of physical abuse at the hands of Milton Yates, who takes a group of older migrants on their to help him run his farm. It was disconcerting and poignant to watch Lucy’s self esteem and confidence being eroded away to nothing. Lucy eventually loses the fight and becomes a victim of her circumstances.

Charley, on the other hand, has a different life as the adopted child of a wealthy couple who have no children of their own. Charley’s life seems idyllic but nothing in her life is as it seems.

The two girls live in the same part of Australia and their paths are destined to cross again later in their lives with some surprising outcomes.

This is a well written and enjoyable read and will appeal to readers who enjoy historical novels with a good outcome.

Book description

A powerful story of sisters cruelly torn apart by a shameful event in British-Australian history. Clare Flynn, author of The Pearl of Penang
London 1962. A strict and loveless English children’s home, or the promise of Australian sunshine, sandy beaches and eating fruit straight from the tree. Which would you choose?
Ten-year-old Lucy Rivers and her five-year-old sister Charly are thrilled when a child migrant scheme offers them the chance to escape their miserable past.
But on arrival in Sydney, the girls discover their fantasy future is more nightmare than dream.
Lucy’s lot is near-slavery at Seabreeze Farm where living conditions are inhuman, the flies and heat unbearable and the owner a sadistic bully. What must she do to survive?
Meanwhile Charly, adopted by the nurturing and privileged Ashwood family, gradually senses that her new parents are hiding something. When the truth emerges, the whole family crumbles. Can Charly recover from this bittersweet deception?
Will the sisters, stranded miles apart in a strange country, ever find each other again?
A poignant testament to child migrants who suffered unforgivable evil, The Lost Blackbird explores the power of family bonds and our desire to know who we are.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Victorian #Romance FAIR AS A STAR by @MimiMatthewsEsq

Today’s team review is from Sandra, she blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading Fair As A Star by Mimi Matthews

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Set in Somerset in 1864, Fair as a Star is the first in the Victorian Romantics series by Mimi Matthews. Newly returned from a mysterious trip to Paris with her aunt, Beryl Burnham tries to pick up her life where she left off. She is engaged to Sir Henry Rivenhall, in a marriage of convenience, but has always been good friends with his brother, Mark, who is curate in the local church.

No one knows why she left for France so suddenly, and local gossip was rife, but she has to come clean to Mark when he accidentally finds her weeping in a secluded spot by the river. She is suffering from depression (or melancholy as it was known then) and does not want anyone to know, partly because of the extreme treatments advocated by her previous doctor.

Mark is very understanding, and does not belittle what she is going through. As a curate, he is a good listener and this is just what she needs. He does not suggest cures for her melancholy, does not even see her as damaged. The message here is to accept others for who they are as individuals, and not try to make them all fit into the same mould.

This is a romance novel, and the ending is obvious from the start, but it is how Mimi Matthews achieves this end that makes it so readable. Sir Henry is very full of his own importance and thinks he knows best, but does not love Beryl. She realises her affections lie elsewhere and behaves in a very bold fashion.

I read this in one sitting, and thought it dealt very sensitively with the difficult subject of depression. It was not really understood back then, and a lot of strange, harmful beliefs and so-called ‘cures’ were commonplace. Medicine was a very male-dominated profession, and women faced both the patronising attitude of old-school male doctors, and the ludicrous treatments they prescribed.

The period detail is convincing, and the characters come across as well rounded individuals; my favourite was Beryl’s horse-mad sister, Winnifred, whose story will no doubt feature in a later book. I will certainly be looking out for the next book in the Victorian Romantics series.

Book description

A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy—or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it’s Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings—or betraying his brother?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Steampunk OUT OF THE LONDON MIST by Lyssa Medana @Lmedana

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Out Of The London Mist by Lyssa Medana

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I believe Out of the London Mist may be the first steampunk novel I’ve read. The book was purchased for review by Rosie’s Book Review Team.

The story opens with the visit of John Farnley to the East End of London to the shop of a metal worker who has frequently made parts for Farnley’s aether-powered plane. The shop was the last place John’s brother, Sir Nicholas Farnley, visited before being killed in a nearby street. This area of London was one which Sir Nicholas would never visit, and John is determined to trace his last steps and find his murderer.

John is faced with now being a nobleman, Sir John Farnley, and all that entails, plus having to sort out family business and holdings, which entail the mining of aether crystals, a source of power in Victorian England. He must also comfort his sister-in-law, who was a decorative wife to his brother but proves to be a competent household manager of the little-used London home.

A dense London fog is blanketing London, and it becomes a character unto itself, well drawn by the author. She also creates the world of the East End slums, a deadly place where life is cheap and people walking alone are preyed upon.

John discovers that his brother was helping the father of the metal worker, a rabbi involved in creating something monstrous which now lurks in the mist-shrouded corners of the East End. People are dying from being beaten with inhuman force, and John suspects his brother was one of the victims. Aiding him in his investigation is the resourceful Miss Sylvia Armley, brave and fearless. John has an intimate understanding of the aether lines that flow above London and of the advantages and disadvantages of using aether crystals as a power source, and he is helped to understand why his brother was collaborating with the rabbi by the erudite advice of Professor Entwistle, a close friend of the rabbi.

Together with Miss Armley, John travels though the darkest part of London to determine exactly what his brother was doing and to stop the aether-powered monster that killed him. The ending was not at all what I expected, and I can see another book to follow this one.

The author does an excellent job limning her characters and creating a steampunk world. I enjoyed the detail and the dialogue moved crisply along. The most compelling aspect was the way in which she created the foggy world, at once opaque and frightening. The mystery compels you to read on. For my first adventure into steampunk, this book is a winner.

The author tells a good story, and I am going to download some of her other books.

Book description

When news of his brother’s murder reached him, aether pilot John Farnley raced back to his old family home.

While he comforts his bereaved sister-in-law, and tries to sort the family business and holdings, he also wonders why his brother, Lord Nicholas Farnley, had ventured into the cramped streets of the East End of London where he had met his violent end. The slums are a deadly place where life was cheap and murderous thugs preyed on the weak and lost.

Now, in the midst of a thick, London fog, something even more monstrous is waiting in the mist-shrouded shadows. Something that has been brought to life by the refugees crowding Bethnal Green and Mile End. Something his brother might have had a hand in creating.

Aided by his friend, the resourceful Miss Sylvia Armley, his own understanding of the aether lines that flow above London, and guided by the erudite advice of Professor Entwistle, John is forced to find his way through the darkest part of London to avenge his brother and stop whatever aether powered monster is lurking there.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Terry Reviews #Thriller DARK OAKS by Charlie Vincent

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Dark Oaks by Charlie Vincent

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When I started reading this book I was at once impressed by the writing style and enjoyed reading about wealthy doctor Charles Mason and his ritzy lifestyle in Monaco; there was a certain dry humour about his observations and the narrative flowed well.  There were a few minor proofreading errors which I could overlook, because I liked what I was reading.

Charles wakes up on the morning after his extravagant annual party to find that everything is not as it should be, in a big way.  The book then moves to Dark Oaks, his ancestral home in rural Hampshire.

It is clear that the author knows Monaco well, and I liked reading about the lifestyle of the rich and famous with whom Charles mingled, but there is a little too much detail that is not relevant to the rest of the book.  Throughout, there are long blocks of description, much of it superfluous, which is unbroken by dialogue and slows down the plot, not least of all a long paragraph describing the making of a sandwich, and a wince-making piece of exposition in which Charles has the phrase ‘chop shop’ explained to him, which is clearly only there to explain to the reader (I thought it unlikely that Charles would not have known what a chop shop was, and ditto most readers).

The book is basically well-written, and the plot is interesting, but the novel is not structured well.  The history of the family is told in backstory when Charles gets to Hampshire; an initial few chapters set in the past, at the beginning, would have set the scene much more effectively, and linked the Monaco and Hampshire sections together – once Charles got to Hampshire I felt as though I was reading a completely different story, with the sudden introduction of a number of new characters who had not been mentioned before.  To sum up, there is much to commend about this book, but I think it could use a bit more thinking through and the hand of a good content editor.

Book description

New Year’s Eve. The turn of the millennium. A tragic accident results in the death of Charles Mason’s parents, his sister-in-law, and her unborn child. His army officer brother, Robert, is the only survivor.

Unable to come to terms with the loss, Charles moves abroad and tries to forget the past.

Twenty-two years later, things start to go badly wrong for him. Two of his friends go missing, his boat is stolen, and his bank account is emptied. Scared and unsure of what to do, Charles returns to England to ask Robert for help.

As the two brothers begin investigating who is behind the crimes, they uncover evidence that somebody out there has been masterminding the death of their entire bloodline over the course of decades, and they are next in line.

Can Charles and Robert bring their nemesis out of the shadows and fight back, or are they doomed to follow the same fate as the rest of their family?

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Tudor #HistoricalFiction DRAKE-TUDOR CORSAIR (The Elizabethan Series Book 1) by @tonyriches

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Drake-Tudor Corsair by Tony Riches

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Avast, all you fans of Tony Riches! The author has gone to sea, introducing us to Sir Francis Drake. Having confined himself to land with the Tudor series and other wonderful stories of men and women peopling the Tudor era, the author has found his sea legs.

I am, probably like many, cognizant of the name Francis Drake but know little about him except for a vague colorful impression. Born in Devonshire, England, Drake was the son of a tenant farmer on the estate of the earl of Bedford, but was brought up in Plymouth by his relatives, the Hawkins family. The Hawkins worked as merchants and privateers (pirates) and introduced Drake to sailing. The book opens with Drake’s first posting as crew on the Tiger, a slave ship in the flotilla of Hawkins ships. Drake’s thirst for adventure is satisfied as the flotilla sails to seek fortune and trade goods in the Caribbean after visiting Africa for a cargo of slaves. Riches handles this distasteful aspect of Drake’s life in a straightforward fashion with tact.

He follows Drake through his early voyages and his rise through the ranks to become captain of his own ship. Skirting death and capture by the Spanish during these voyages, he learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life to return to England more than once with a large amount of Spanish treasure, an accomplishment that earned him a substantial reputation along with a fortune.

Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy. In 1577, she commissions Drake to lead an expedition around South America through the Straits of  Magellan. Sailing the Golden Hind, he becomes the first to complete circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition, returning with enough Spanish treasure to force the Spanish to assemble an armada to attack England.

Written in first person, the author explores Drake’s motives, audacity, personal disappointments, successes and failures with an objective eye. Riches is terse in detail – something I’ve noticed sets him apart from many of the female writers of the Tudor era – but gives us enough of Drake’s world to put us en scene. As a sailor, I especially liked being at sea with him, feeling the deck roll beneath my feet, the force of a good wind, and the swelling and snapping of the sails.

It was a surprise to discover that Drake was not the swashbuckling, flamboyant figure I thought he was, but a practical man, certainly drawn into Elizabethan court intrigue but not really of it. Riches creates a real person, one whose main pleasure in life is being the captain of a ship, with a purpose for his voyage.

If there is one criticism I would make, it is my frustration with not knowing what the different types of ships mentioned, or on which Drake sailed, look like. A chart or some line drawings at the beginning would have been lovely, along with a map of the Caribbean and the places Drake explored.

Notwithstanding that, I think Tony Riches’ first sea voyage is a successful one that will please not only his usual readers but also anyone drawn to sea adventures.

Book description

From the author of the best-selling Tudor trilogy – the Elizabethan series begins.

1564: Devon sailor Francis Drake sets out on a journey of adventure.

Drake learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life in an audacious plan to steal a fortune.

Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy. Her unlikely champion becomes a national hero, sailing around the world in the Golden Hind and attacking the Spanish fleet.

King Philip of Spain has enough of Drake’s plunder and orders an armada to threaten the future of England.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ContemporaryDrama FACE THE WIND by Caren Werlinger

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Face The Wind by Caren Werlinger

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On the small island of Little Sister off the Atlantic coast of Maine, Kathleen is beginning to feel settled in her relationship with part-time Sheriff, Molly, and is now an important member of the close-knit community. But another young woman is on her way to the island from the other side of the States. Teacher, Meredith Turner finds her dreams filled with a dramatic shipwreck and identifying the ship from a picture she believes it happened near to Little Sister. Her mother shares the same dream and a surprise Ancestry DNA result causes the two women to question the past.

Louisa is the much-loved, retired island schoolteacher. She is lonely but has many friends to help her. As she waits out her days, she thinks back to her youth at college wondering if her life could have been different.  Molly is very happy with Kathleen but sometimes there are misunderstandings. She would love her brother, Aidan, to find happiness but he is scared of committing himself to another person.

The island’s population receive a portent, but will it be a disaster or merely a change in their customs? This magical place attracts many tourists but the last thing they want is an influx of newcomers. It is a pleasure to share the dramatic events and consequences, in my return visit to the island and to see characters I care about struggling to achieve their dreams. Another delightful story by Caren Werlinger.

Book description

Kathleen Halloran has never been happier. She and Molly Cooper have built a life together, living in her grandmother’s cottage. The family drama of the past has calmed down. She and Molly will soon be aunts. Life on Little Sister Island is everything Kathleen could wish for… until the island begins to send ominous signals that change is in the wind.
Living beside a different ocean, Meredith Turner tries to make sense of her dreams—dreams of an island she’s never seen but can’t forget. After an ancestry test throws her family into chaos, the tempest that follows blows Meredith and her parents clear across the country, to the island of her dreams.
For Louisa Woodhouse, it feels the end is near. With no one to follow after her, she’s the last of her line on Little Sister, and her secrets will go with her. Soon, the Woodhouse name will join the others that now exist only in the island’s genealogy records.
But Little Sister Island has its own magic—rhythms and seasons and tides and currents that even the best-laid human plans can’t fight. And in that magic is a warning—a storm is coming.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction THE COVENANT by @ThorneMoore

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Covenant by Thorne Moore

The Covenant by [Thorne Moore]

The Covenant is a powerful novel which gobsmacked me with the fierce emotions of its characters and the immutable future of unending work and forced acceptance of their fate, by woman in the period of this story. This is a prequel to the author’s best-selling A Time for Silence, and is a must read.

Written in first person, the author has created in Leah Owen, the middle daughter of a farmer in Wales at the close of the 19th century, a woman burdened by both love and duty. Her father, Tom Owen, is a tenant farmer on twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches of stony, hilly
land, and together with his oldest son, barely ekes out a subsistence for his family. The farm –Cwmderwen (and I wish I could pronounce it!) and its house are very real characters in the story, setting a grim, rundown background as the result of debt and poor harvest.

Leah has hopes. As the middle daughter, she will be able to marry and leave Cwmderwen to lead her own life. Her oldest sister, a strangely quiet and dour woman, will remain behind to care for her parents. When the oldest son Tom dies, largely because of the ignorance of his father, the father, always pious, becomes a religious zealot. He drives his lazy youngest son, Frank, away. When both the oldest and youngest daughter marry and her mother dies, Leah is left to take care of her increasingly maniacal father, even when love comes her way. She is forced to follow a path of servitude and disappointments to a grim future. Tom Owen’s grandson, John – son of the wastrel Frank – becomes a miniature of his grandfather, claiming his covenant with God in keeping the farm and determined to keep the increasingly unproductive farm.

Farmhouse, Derelict, Ireland, Nature, Field, Farm

What possible future does Leah have? Can she remain dutiful, even to Frank and her nephew, bound as she is by the community, her church and custom? And how can she survive when her every dream is crushed by her family.

The author does an impressive job creating a background of isolated and rural Pembrokeshire, the changing seasons and vicissitudes of farming. The detail never becomes heavy but is integral to the story. Her ability to create depth in her characters, their beliefs and piety, and the changes and occasional joys in their lives is exceptional. The reader lives in Leah’s being and the feelings are at times overwhelming.

This is a book with a wallop, and I recommend it as an exception read.

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

The Covenant by [Thorne Moore]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Cosy #Mystery With Hints Of Darkness by Patrick Canning

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Hawthorn Woods by Patrick Canning

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I had come across Patrick Canning thanks to Rosie’s Review Team, where his previous novel got great reviews, and I had to check his new book. It is quite different to The Colonel and the Bee demonstrating that this is an author who has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and one likely to enchant us with a variety of stories for a long time to come.

This is a difficult book to review without revealing any spoilers, as talking in any detail about the plot or the characters could let the cat out of the bag, so I apologise for being a bit vague here. I think the synopsis I include above offers a fair idea of the plot. The premise makes one think of a cozy mystery. Francine, a young woman who works as a hairdresser and is still trying to get over her failed marriage (she was convinced it was going to be forever, but they didn’t even make it to their first wedding anniversary) takes the chance of her sister’s long-delayed honeymoon trip to housesit for her, intent on having a therapeutic holiday while there that will help her to move on in her life. The setting reminded me of Desperate Housewives, Blue Velvet or many series and novels about small towns or housing estates, perfect on the surface but with a fair amount of dirt hidden under the carpets. When Francine puts on her Nancy Drew hat and starts investigating what at first-sight appears to be a pretty harmless incident, things soon start to unravel, and she discovers she is not the only amateur detective at work. We realise that what appeared to be a light read starts getting darker, and by the end of the book it has touched on some very serious topics: domestic violence, intolerance and prejudice, historical memory, Justice, animal cruelty, anti-Semitism, mental health problems…

 

Francine is an eminently sympathetic character. She is going through a hard time but keeps trying to make the best out of things and is always prepared to give everybody a second chance (even when it might be risky). We learn early on that she has always taken refuge in fantasy, loved reading Nancy Drew novels as a child, to the point where she would take on her persona, and her self-esteem is quite low (she does not see herself as others do). She believes in her intuition but second-guesses herself often and can easily be swayed by others she trusts. She is also quite fixated on a questionnaire her ex-husband gave her, and each chapter starts with one of the questions of the questionnaire and her answers (the questionnaire is real, just in case you wonder), which also help give us an insight into the workings of her mind. Most of the story is told from her point of view (in the third person), but, as mentioned, her perception of things is coloured by her own experiences and feelings about herself, and she is not the most reliable of narrators. There is a long catalogue of other characters, although we don’t get to know them in as much detail as we do Francine. There is a much younger narrator as well, who reminded me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn mixed in one, a bit naughty and not always a follower of rules, but he knows how to enjoy himself and is a great observer (and yes, a detective of sorts as well). There is a nice elderly man who becomes a father figure to Francine; there is a mysterious and attractive stranger; there is a friend of Francine’s sister who adopts her and takes her under her wing (and she brings a bit of a chick-lit element to the story); there is a vet Marine of a certain age who believes he is still a Don Juan; there is a youth with a motorbike whom everybody believes is a troublemaker; there is a woman who has become the self-appointed queen bee and insists all should follow her rules; there’s the sheriff and his jealous Russian wife (rumoured to be a mail catalogue wife)… As I said, we don’t get to know all of them in detail, but there are secrets and mysteries hiding in many of their lives, and I think most readers will be taken by surprise by how deceptive appearances can be.

The writing flows easily, and we get a good sense of the neighbourhood and the characters without long-winded descriptions disrupting the action. The pace is fairly steady to being with —it ebbs and flows, with some moments of contemplation punctuated by excitement and action— but towards the end the pace increases and the book crams a lot of action in the last few chapters. Although most of the book is pretty light, with only some hints at dark goings on (I’ve mentioned animal cruelty, and there are a couple of instances of it), towards the end, things become more tense, minor incidents pile up, and then there is an explosion of action and violence (not extremely explicit or gore, but I would recommend caution to those who prefer a light read) that will get readers turning the pages faster and faster.

I always mention the ending, and I enjoyed this one. Yes, it did not disappoint. In fact, it ties everything up in a most satisfactory way (together with something that happens in the book and I won’t mention).

I recommend this book to people who like the idea of cozy mysteries but prefer something darker; to those who enjoy small town settings with a dark underbelly, and to readers who delight in putting puzzles together and questioning everything they read. There are unreliable narrators, details that don’t quite seem to fit in, lovely dogs, wayward kids, romance, several mysteries, a colourful cast of characters, and a heroine most of us will root for. If you like the sound of all that, check a sample and give it a go. It will entertain you, make you think, and might even surprise you.

Book description

Summer, 1989. Reeling from a catastrophic divorce she just can’t seem to leave behind, Francine Haddix flees San Francisco for a two-week stay at her sister’s house in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois. The quaint neighborhood of shady trees and friendly neighbors seems like the perfect place to sort through her pain and finally move on with her life—but the tranquility doesn’t last long.

Beginning with a complete stranger throwing a drink in her face at her own welcome party, Francine soon discovers the supposedly idyllic suburb is hiding a disturbing number of mysteries. Why is the handsome-ish guy next door lying about who he is? What’s hidden in the back of the teenage troublemaker’s shed? Who wrote a threatening message in blood? Which of the smiling neighbors has a secret they’d kill to keep?

Seeking to reclaim a natural passion for sleuthing numbed by her divorce, Francine rewrites her prescription from one of relaxation to one of investigation. If she can detect the lies, follow the clues, and remember how to trust herself, she might get to the bottom of what’s so very wrong in Hawthorn Woods. She might even be able to believe the future can be good again—assuming she lives long enough to be in it.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Sailing Themed #Mystery DRACA by @GeoffreyGudgion @unbounders

Today’s team review is from Sandra, she blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

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Draca is a wonderful tale that combines many different elements and weaves them together to make a satisfying story; not an easy book to categorize so it will have wide appeal. I started reading Draca on the Pigeonhole app and got so engrossed, I requested it from Rosie’s Book Review Team
list as well.

Jack is a former officer in the Royal Marines with PTSD, and a life-altering injury, trying to get his life back on an even keel. He was close to his grandfather, Eddie, who has recently died and left most of his estate to Jack. To say this does not go down well with Jack’s father, Harry, and his sister, Tilly, would be an understatement. Their mercenary attitude and sense of entitlement beggars belief especially as they had not cared much about Eddie when he was alive.

Add to this Jack’s faltering marriage to Charlotte, the rift between him and his family, and his embryonic relationship with George and you have the makings of a real page-turner. Told in the third person from the points of view of Jack, Harry and George we can see the story from all angles.
Interspersed with the narrative are extracts from Eddie’s diaries and the Norse Saga of King Guthrum which help to explain Eddie’s weird behaviour in the months before his death. The history of the Saxons and Vikings is not something I know much about, but I am now interested in finding out
more. The supernatural element is done with a light touch and seemed perfectly plausible; at times Draca does seem to be a malign influence with a mind of her own.

I loved reading about the sailing without actually having to get on a boat – it’s not something I would ever be brave enough to do, especially as I get really seasick. I don’t think it matters if you understand sailing terminology or not, when Jack takes the vintage sailing cutter out on the open
sea, the writing is thrilling and you can almost feel the spray on your face.

This is not the sort of book I would normally read, but I’m so glad I did. Beautifully written and well researched, with fully fleshed out characters, some sympathetic and others not, I thoroughly recommend that you give Draca a try.

Book description

Draca was a vintage sailing cutter, Old Eddie’s pride and joy. But now she’s beached, her varnish peeling. She’s dying, just like Eddie.
Eddie leaves Draca to his grandson Jack, a legacy that’s the final wedge between Jack and his father. Yet for Jack, the old boat is a lifeline. Medically discharged from the Marines, with his marriage on the rocks, the damaged veteran finds new purpose; Draca will sail again. Wonderful therapy for a wounded hero, people say.
Young Georgia ‘George’ Fenton, who runs the boatyard, has doubts. She saw changes in Old Eddie that were more sinister even than cancer. And by the time Draca tastes the sea again, the man she dares to love is going the same way. To George, Jack’s ‘purpose’ has become ‘possession’; the boat owns the man and her flawed hero is on a mission to self-destruct. As his controlling and disinherited father pushes him closer to the edge, she gives all she has to hold him back.
And between them all, there’s an old boat with dark secrets, and perhaps a mind of its own.

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