Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE PORTAL by Caren J Werlinger #YA #Fantasy #Irish

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading The Portal by Caren J Werlinger

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Like many ancient societies, early Ireland has a rich history of what we’d call magic and fantasy. From our modern viewpoint, we may find it hard to believe that so much of their society was influenced by the belief that supernatural forces controlled and influenced almost every aspect of their lives. Only…what if that was exactly what was happening? What if there were people with special gifts, trained and honed over a lifetime to wield tools we can’t understand? What happens when that supernaturally-based belief system crashes against the equally supernaturally-based system propagated by Christian missionaries?

This conflict forms the basis for Caren J. Werlinger’s Dragonmage series. Set in an ancient Ireland steeped in magic traditions, it tells the story of a young girl who is the one chosen to fill ancient prophecies while her entire world is crashing against the rapidly spreading new Christian beliefs.

This is the second book in the series, and —while the story arc can stand alone—to really understand the large cast of characters, it would be helpful to read Ash’s story in Book 1 first. Adopted by badgers (badgers!) as an infant after her village is destroyed by invaders, Ash survives because of her ability to communicate with animals. Although discovered and accepted as apprentice by mages, Ash and her new friends’ existence is threatened by the increasing influence of the Christianity introduced to Ireland by Saint Patrick in the fifth century.

Bonded with the baby dragon Péist, Ash receives her true name—Caymin—and discovers  her destiny as a dragonmage, one chosen to travel through a time Portal to save other mages and their dragons, prevent a horrific war, and keep the spreading Christians from destroying Ireland’s magic heritage. But Caymin is torn between accepting her role as the one chosen to save her world, and the certainty that doing so will cost everything she holds most dear.

In a way, it’s like reading stories about the Titanic, because we already know how the tragedy plays out. But author Caren Werlinger continues to balance delicately  between the magic lore taught and practiced by her fictional mages and the reality that we know the Christians were eventually successful.

As with Book One, the world building is wonderful. Not only do we get the strong sense of the realities of everyday life, but we also see the lure of the “what if”. Caymin and Péist each must consider whether their task really justifies the personal toll. This plays out in a very real sense, as Caymin is offered the ultimate “what if”—the chance to grow up with her family, to see them alive and happy instead of murdered when she was a baby. But everything comes at a price, and the cost for that one is a life lived without the magic and the defining bond with her dragon. Both the young mage and her dragon face trials as this version of the classic hero’s quest sets their coming of age crucibles against a backdrop of a world we as readers know will change despite them.

It’s always tough to create a believable middle book in a series arc, but Caren Werlinger succeeds brilliantly. The story arc takes Caymin and Péist both through adventures and through moral dilemmas, resolving them while still leaving enough threads open and a developing crisis to take us to the next book. I enjoyed the way Caymin’s character develops and grows, even as the slightly more alien dragon also tries to find his path as he matures. Caymin’s confusion about her attraction to another girl is sensitively and beautifully handled, fitting well into the context of the strong women who have guided her.

I wouldn’t hesitate to give The Portal five stars, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, adventure, and coming of age stories. And I can’t wait for the next book in this terrific series.

Book Description

The Dragonmage Saga continues as Caymin and Péist return to Ireland. Together, mage and dragon seek allies to try and stop a pending war with a fanatical monk determined to rid Éire of magic. But the spreading tide of Christianity isn’t the only threat. An ancient evil – one that dates back to the last dragon war a thousand winters ago – threatens the present. The Portal into the otherworld is the only way to the past, but the otherworld is the realm of the gods and goddesses and other creatures of the old stories, and it is not forgiving to those who do not belong. Caymin and Péist soon learn that, in the otherworld, the deepest desires of their hearts become traps. While there, the young dragonmage and her dragon realize they are pawns in a struggle for power that was set in motion long before they were born. Even those they trust have been using them. Only through their bond with each other can they hope to survive to the trials awaiting them and find their way back through the Portal to this realm. But returning may not be an option if they have to sacrifice all to bring peace to a world that no longer holds a place for dragons and mages. Book Two in The Dragonmage Saga

About the author

Caren J. Werlinger

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.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT DCI JONES CASEBOOK: CRYER’S VIEW by @KerryJDonovan #Crime

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The DCI Jones Casebook: Cryer’s View by Kerry J Donovan

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This the first book I have read by Kerry Donovan and I was definitely not disappointed. There are three other books in this series, and I plan to read them all.

The murder of Detective Sergeant Richard Juno at the end of a long solo tail of a low-level suspect is the latest in a series of police operations in southeast England that have ended in disaster. Juno is a member of the Organized Crime Task Force.

Detective Philip Cryer, recovering at home while his smashed femur knits following two surgical procedures, is asked to replace Juno in the OCTF by Chief Superintendent Knightly, a senior office from the National Crime Agency. Detective Chief Inspector David Jones, an old friend of Knightly and Cryer’s immediate superior, presses the issue, because both he and Knightly are convinced there is someone in that unit selling police intelligence – a dirty cop. Cryer is the best person to find the mole quickly because of his ability to scan and sort vast quantities of information, using his photographic memory.

Despite the fact he is still in considerable pain from his injury, Cryer agrees to their request and is dispatched to the OCTF with a cover story. There he meets the members of the team, among them a gorgeous blonde secretary who immediately has designs on Cryer, the unit leader Detective Chief Inspector Bee Endicott, and Detective Inspector William Hook, who takes an immediate dislike to Cryer. Hook is a nasty character with a personal interest in finding the killer of Richard Juno, who was his best friend from childhood and was married to his sister. Nevertheless, Cryer begins to think Hook is the mole, code named Alpine. When the mole is revealed, I was surprised, along with all the characters in the book. These characters are wonderfully wrought and the reader is never confused as to who is who. Cryer is particularly three-dimensional; the author lets us into his mind and his way of thinking from the beginning.

The policies, procedures and hierarchies within the National Crime Agency are laid out in detail, woven nicely into the story. This is the first time I have read a mystery where the police do not carry guns, and the awkwardness with which that obstacle is handled was surprising.

The pacing is very fast, and the book is a page turner with lots of twists and turns in the plot. Hard to put down, and I highly recommend it.

Book Description

The explosive fourth instalment in the DCI Jones Casebook series of crime thrillers—this is CRYER’S VIEW. 
For more than five years police operations in the southeast of England have been failing. Chief Superintendent Knightly, a senior member of the National Crime Agency, suspects that someone is selling police intelligence. When one of his junior officers dies before he can attend clandestine meeting with him, Knightly is certain—there’s a dirty cop inside his organisation.
Unable to trust anyone under his command, Knightly turns to an old friend for help—Detective Chief Inspector David Jones.
When Detective Sergeant Phil Cryer, answers his doorbell to find CS Knightly and DCI Jones on his doorstep, he knows things are about to get interesting—and dangerous. 
Phil Cryer, on sick leave after suffering an injury in the line of duty, soon finds himself deep undercover inside the NCA hunting the dirty cop, codename Alpine. He faces his most difficult and dangerous assignment. 
Alone, injured, and armed only with his phenomenal memory, Phil must identify the rogue cop before he escapes … or kills again. 

About the author

Kerry J. Donovan

Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. Kerry earned a first class honours degree in Human Biology, and has a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. A former scientific advisor to The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he helped UK emergency first-responders prepare for chemical attacks in the wake of 9/11. This background adds a scientific edge to his writing. He is also a former furniture designer/maker. He is the author of a sci-fi/thriller, The Transition of Johnny Swift, which reached #1 on the Amazon Bestsellers List in December 2014.

A citizen of the world, he now lives in the heart of rural Brittany with his wonderful and patient wife, Jan. They have three children and four grandchildren (so far), all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely grateful for the development of video calling.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT GHOST VARIATIONS by @jessicaduchen musical mystery

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen

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I’m writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was given an ARC copy of this book and I voluntarily chose to review it.

I enjoy reading in a variety of genres but have recently realised that I really enjoy historical fiction, as it offers me both, great stories and a background that’s interesting in its own right and that often offers me insight into eras and situations I know little about.

When I read the description of this novel I thought it sounded very different to what I usually read, but fascinating at the same time. A mystery surrounding a piece of music (a violin concerto) by a famous composer (Robert Schuman) that has been hidden for a long time. I love music but I’m not a deep connoisseur, and I didn’t realise when I read about the novel that the story was based on facts (it follows quite closely the events that took place in the 1930s, involving Hungarian (later nationalised British) violinist Jelly d’Arányi, and a concert Schuman wrote whilst already interned in an asylum) and included an element of the paranormal. It’s one of those cases when reality upstages fiction.

Despite the incredible story, that’s fascinating in its own right, Jessica Duchen does a great job of bringing all the characters to life. The story is told in the third person mostly from Jelly’s point of view, although later in the book we also get to hear about Ully, a character that although not based on a real person brings much to the equation, as it offers us a German perspective on the story. Jelly, who lives with her sister, brother-in-law, niece and their dog, despite her many admirers and some failed romances, is single and dedicated heart and soul to her music. I easily identified with Jelly, although our vocations and personal circumstances are very different, but I appreciated her dedication and love for music and for her family, her horror at the social and historical circumstances she was living through, her difficulties fitting in, as a foreigner living abroad, and her awareness of the challenges and limitations she was facing due to her age. There are very touching moments, for example when Jelly goes to visit her secretary and friend at the hospital and gives an impromptu concert there, when she organises a tour of concerts in cathedrals, free for everybody, not matter their social class, to collect funds for the poor, and when she becomes plagued by self-doubt, due to her personal circumstances and to her failing health. Jelly is not perfect, and she appears naïve at times, showing little understanding of issues like race or politics, limited insight into her own beliefs about the spirit world, her feelings and hesitating about what to do in her personal life, but she is a credible and passionate human being, and she gets to confront many of her fears by the end of the book.

Apart from the gripping story and the background behind the discovery of the concert, there is the historical context of the 1930s. As Schuman was a German composer, somehow it became a matter of national importance to recover the concert and claim it as a German work. The changes in Germany, the atmosphere of menace and threat, the rise of dangerous nationalism, and how that was also reflected in Britain, where the sisters lived, was well reflected and built into the book, especially when, at first sight, it seems to be only marginally relevant to the central mystery. As several characters observe in the novel, a piece of music is not ‘just a piece of music’ any longer and everything becomes vested with particular significance, thanks to manipulation and propaganda, no matter what the original intention of the composer might have been. I suspect most people who read this book won’t be able to resist comparing the historical situation then to our current times and worry.

This novel is a joy to read, one of these cases when the story and the writing style are perfectly matched and one can almost hear the music flowing from the pages. A wonderful novel that I recommend to anybody interested in the period and in good writing. I’ll be closely watching this author in the future.

Book Description

Ghost Variations: The Strangest Detective Story In Music by Jessica Duchen. Music, mystery, beautiful writing and a story that proves reality is weirder than fiction

The strangest detective story in the history of music – inspired by a true incident. A world spiralling towards war. A composer descending into madness. And a devoted woman struggling to keep her faith in art and love against all the odds. 1933. Dabbling in the fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartók, Ravel and Elgar, encounters a startling dilemma. A message arrives ostensibly from the spirit of the composer Robert Schumann, begging her to find and perform his long-suppressed violin concerto. She tries to ignore it, wanting to concentrate instead on charity concerts. But against the background of the 1930s depression in London and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, a struggle ensues as the “spirit messengers” do not want her to forget. The concerto turns out to be real, embargoed by Schumann’s family for fear that it betrayed his mental disintegration: it was his last full-scale work, written just before he suffered a nervous breakdown after which he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. It shares a theme with his Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) for piano, a melody he believed had been dictated to him by the spirits of composers beyond the grave. As rumours of its existence spread from London to Berlin, where the manuscript is held, Jelly embarks on an increasingly complex quest to find the concerto. When the Third Reich’s administration decides to unearth the work for reasons of its own, a race to perform it begins. Though aided and abetted by a team of larger-than-life personalities – including her sister Adila Fachiri, the pianist Myra Hess, and a young music publisher who falls in love with her – Jelly finds herself confronting forces that threaten her own state of mind. Saving the concerto comes to mean saving herself. In the ensuing psychodrama, the heroine, the concerto and the pre-war world stand on the brink, reaching together for one more chance of glory.

About the author

Jessica Duchen

essica was born in London. She first tried to write a novel at the age of 12 and found much encouragement from a distinguished author and a literary agent. After studying at Cambridge, she worked as an editor in music publishing and magazines for ten years.

Her latest novel, Ghost Variations, is based on a true incident in the 1930s: the bizarre rediscovery of the long-suppressed Schumann Violin Concerto. “This is a hugely atmospheric and thought-provoking book featuring fascinating characters… It evokes a period pregnant with both promise and menace” (Music & Vision Daily).

The earlier novels focus on the tensions and cross-currents between family generations, including a painful exploration of the effects of anorexia (Rites of Spring) and the rearing of a child prodigy (Alicia’s Gift) to the long-term effects of displacement and cultural clashes (Hungarian Dances and Songs of Triumphant Love). 

Jessica’s journalism has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous music magazines. She gives pre-concert talks at venues including the Wigmore Hall, the Southbank Centre and Symphony Hall Birmingham. Having created concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations, she often narrates their performances. Her play A Walk through the End of Time, introducing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, has been performed at music festivals in the UK, France and Australia. 

Jessica lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys long walks, cooking, and playing the piano when nobody can hear her. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jessicawords.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE REPLACEMENT CHRONICLES by @HarperSwan1 #HistFic #Mystery

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Replacement Chronicles by Harper Swan

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I previously reviewed the first part of this saga (https://saylingaway.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1354&action=edit), which was published as a novella. The story has now been expanded into a saga – a meticulously researched story of the interaction of an early Homo sapiens woman, Raven, with a Neanderthal man she calls Longhead, who was captured by her tribe. Raven is a healer, and in treating the captive for a dislocated shoulder and seeing to his care, she develops a bond with him.

The chronicles weave back and forth from the present to the past, continuing the story of Mark Hayek in the present. Mark is an introverted scientist of Lebanese ancestry and has a larger than normal proportion of his DNA identified as Neanderthal. About 1-2% of our DNA is Neanderthal, as the result of Neanderthal-Home sapiens interbreeding (see my post: How Much of Us is Neanderthal? at https://saylingaway.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1361&action=edit). Mark is unusual in that his DNA is 3% Neanderthal. Is it because of this that he develops a real interest in early modern man and seeks to feel their presence in places where they lived?

When the Neanderthal captive is released, Raven follows him and when they meet, they engage in a moment of passion before he treks on, back to his people. Raven becomes pregnant and first tries to hide her pregnancy, then get rid of it. When that fails, she pretends that the child is from her sister’s husband, Bear, who has been co-habiting with her as well. Although she is treated as a slave by most of the tribe, she has a talent for finding and honing just the right stone for spear points. Finally, she decides to leave the tribe with the help of Leaf, a young brave who loves her. She fakes her death so Bear, who treats her brutally, will not follow. She and Leaf then begin the long trek across the steppes and find the father of her baby.

Mark’s story begins with the request from his mother that he go to Turkey to collect the ashes of her brother, Sami. Although Sami had a son, Anton, he made his sister the executor of his estate, and asked that she bring his ashes back to Israel. Although both Mark and his mother question why Anton was not made the executor, the inheritance will bring financial relief to them both. Mark agrees to go and is met at the Ben-Gurion airport by Anton and is immediately suspicious of him. Anton’s off-again on-again bonhomie reinforces Mark’s disquiet, which is only mitigated by Anton’s taking him to various caves in Israel where early humans were known to live. In one that is privately owned and where both Neanderthal and modern human bones have been found, Mark discovers a bladed stone of quartz hidden away in an invisible niche, possibly for thousands of years.

You absolutely need to read the Chronicles to find out what happens to Raven. Will she eventually find the baby’s husband? Will she and Leaf become a couple? Will she be accepted by the Longhead tribe? Will Bear find her?

And what happens to Mark? When Anton takes him to Turkey to collect his father’s ashes, he lures him to a cave with the promise of more prehistoric artifacts, but instead delivers him to kidnappers demanding a million-dollar ransom before they will let him go. How does he escape and how does the skull he finds in the cave where they hold him relate to the spear point? Is there a possible link of Mark to Raven, who lived during the late Pleistocene?

I loved the saga, and hated it when I had to leave one line of the story to return to the other, only to be drawn into the other with as much interest. For anyone who wonders about our prehistoric ancestors, this book is perfect. The characters are well-limned and the historical detail right up there with Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series.

The author writes the present-day story line in present tense, to differentiate it, and I will admit I found it jarring to switch from past to present initially. Also, the thought processes of Raven and the other Homo sapiens might be more sophisticated than those of an early modern human, although more of their brains were devoted to cognitive function that those of Neanderthals. But then the story would not be nearly as interesting, right?

Hopefully I haven’t given too much away. This is a book I can enthusiastically recommend and I’m looking forward to more from this author!

Book Description

This omnibus edition of The Replacement Chronicles contains Raven’s Choice, Journeys of Choice, and Choices that Cut. 

Two Lives… separated by millennia but nevertheless linked irrevocably. 

What possible link could Mark Hayek, an introverted twenty-first century research scientist, have to Raven, a young healer who lived during the late Pleistocene? It has everything to do with an injured Neanderthal man taken captive by Raven’s band while he and his brothers were hunting bison. 

After Raven heals the captive, he leaves for his tribe, and she tries to forget him as she struggles to remain within the band. But it’s not possible to stay when several band members make her life with the group untenable. Seeking the Neanderthal man she’d helped and facing her fear of being alone on the dangerous steppes, she begins crossing that grassy land—but a woman like Raven isn’t destined to be by herself for long. 

In the future, Mark Hayek is forced into making his own journey when his uncle dies in the Levant. His travels place him firmly in the footsteps of his Neanderthal and Early Modern Human ancestors, crossing the same ancient lands as he struggles against the fate a wayward kinsman has imposed. He’s been made a pawn in a cruel game, but when he encounters a woman being held prisoner in a cave, he seeks a way to save her. Help arrives for the pair, flowing from an unexpected, ancient source, igniting a struggle deep within Mark to accept that the illogical as well as the logical make up existence. 

Peoples come and go, one group replacing another over time, and echoes from ancient events have always affected the future, but Mark and Raven discover that in certain environments echoes are able to bounce back and forth, blurring their origins. 

About the author

Harper Swan

Harper Swan lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband and two sweet but very spoiled cats. She is the author of has Gas Heat, a story of family angst taking place in the Deep South, and found the inspiration in the books by Jean Auel. She has drawn on her interests in archaeology, genetics, ancient history and archaeological finds from Paleolithic sites to create the world of the Replacement Chronicles.

 

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT GHOST VARIATIONS by @jessicaduchen #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen

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Set in 1930s Britain and strongly based on real events, Ghost Variations is resonant with attitudes and feelings relevant to us now. Jessica Duchen tells the story of renowned violinist Jelly d’Aranyl towards the end of her career. At 42, she feels the need for a new purpose which is partly fulfilled by a series of free concerts, open to everyone, in the finest cathedrals in the land.

Jelly and her sister had been brought to England from Hungary, when she was in her teens and Jelly’s considerable talent had already been acknowledged. She had been the muse of Bartok and Ravel and was in great demand for concert venues. But while her sister, Adila chose marriage to a prominent diplomat, Jelly decided that the demands of her art meant total devotion, excluding marriage. But this decision may have been finalised by the tragic death of Sep Kelly, her one true, but unconsummated love, during the First World War.

One cannot help feeling empathy for Jelly, who shows great affection for her erstwhile assistant and companion, Anna and kindness to strangers such as a Jewish pianist who has fled from Germany. Her life is taken over by the desire to obtain and perform the long hidden violin concerto of Robert Schumann, a close friend of her great-uncle, violinist Joseph Joquem. The manuscript is traced to Berlin but Jelly’s partially Jewish ancestry makes it impossible for her to follow up, so against her inclinations she enlists the help of her sister’s close friend Erik Palmstierna, the Swedish ambassador to England.

The novel recreates the glamorous environment of the London cognoscenti, where Jelly and Adila socialise with pianist, Myra Hess, Sir Adrian Boult and all the fashionable people of culture. In contrast we glimpse through a window into Hitler’s pre-war Germany, seeing the manipulation of values made by Goebbels. The increasingly anti-foreign atmosphere in England and the corrosive effect of newspaper articles, build up the tension as the story moves towards 1938.

This novel provokes thought on so many topics; the problems for a female artist in her mature years, the sad waste of lives in both wars and in Hitler’s Germany and observations of the philosophies of spiritualism and eugenics. But it is also the story of the fascinating Jelly d’Aranyl, her friends and her passions, at perhaps one of the most interesting times in history.

Book Description

The strangest detective story in the history of music – inspired by a true incident.
A world spiralling towards war. A composer descending into madness. And a devoted woman struggling to keep her faith in art and love against all the odds.
1933. Dabbling in the fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartók, Ravel and Elgar, encounters a startling dilemma. A message arrives ostensibly from the spirit of the composer Robert Schumann, begging her to find and perform his long-suppressed violin concerto.
She tries to ignore it, wanting to concentrate instead on charity concerts. But against the background of the 1930s depression in London and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, a struggle ensues as the “spirit messengers” do not want her to forget.
The concerto turns out to be real, embargoed by Schumann’s family for fear that it betrayed his mental disintegration: it was his last full-scale work, written just before he suffered a nervous breakdown after which he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. It shares a theme with his Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) for piano, a melody he believed had been dictated to him by the spirits of composers beyond the grave.
As rumours of its existence spread from London to Berlin, where the manuscript is held, Jelly embarks on an increasingly complex quest to find the concerto. When the Third Reich’s administration decides to unearth the work for reasons of its own, a race to perform it begins.
Though aided and abetted by a team of larger-than-life personalities – including her sister Adila Fachiri, the pianist Myra Hess, and a young music publisher who falls in love with her – Jelly finds herself confronting forces that threaten her own state of mind. Saving the concerto comes to mean saving herself.
In the ensuing psychodrama, the heroine, the concerto and the pre-war world stand on the brink, reaching together for one more chance of glory.

About the author

Jessica Duchen

Jessica was born in London. She first tried to write a novel at the age of 12 and found much encouragement from a distinguished author and a literary agent. After studying at Cambridge, she worked as an editor in music publishing and magazines for ten years.
Her latest novel, Ghost Variations, is based on a true incident in the 1930s: the bizarre rediscovery of the long-suppressed Schumann Violin Concerto. “This is a hugely atmospheric and thought-provoking book featuring fascinating characters… It evokes a period pregnant with both promise and menace” (Music & Vision Daily).
The earlier novels focus on the tensions and cross-currents between family generations, including a painful exploration of the effects of anorexia (Rites of Spring) and the rearing of a child prodigy (Alicia’s Gift) to the long-term effects of displacement and cultural clashes (Hungarian Dances and Songs of Triumphant Love). 
Jessica’s journalism has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous music magazines. She gives pre-concert talks at venues including the Wigmore Hall, the Southbank Centre and Symphony Hall Birmingham. Having created concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations, she often narrates their performances. Her play A Walk through the End of Time, introducing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, has been performed at music festivals in the UK, France and Australia. 
Jessica lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys long walks, cooking, and playing the piano when nobody can hear her. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jessicawords…

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT AN UNEXTRAORDINARY LIFE by Jo Hollywood #Paranormal #Romance

Today’s team review is from Shelley, she blogs at http://shelleywilsonauthor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Shelley has been reading An Unextraordinary Life by Jo Hollywood

Title: An Unextraordinary Life
Author: Jo Hollywood
Category: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3*
 
My Review:
 
Romance isn’t one of my favourite genres to read. However, paranormal fiction certainly is, so when I spotted that An Unextraordinary Life was a mix of the two I thought I’d give it a go.
 
The story switches point of view between the main characters, Tess and Jack. Tess is a young woman trying to move on with her life following the sudden death of her husband, and Jack is her dead husband back from the dead and on a mission to help her move on. It’s got many similarities with the 90s film Truly, Madly, Deeply. There are two secondary characters, Jenny the every faithful best friend, and Rob, the handsome work colleague who is conveniently placed to swoop in and ‘get the girl.’
 
The romance was fairly predictable, with an overly long build up to the love triangle between Tess, Jack, and Rob. I did like the idea of a heroine battling with her emotions over the feelings she has for her true love (a ghost) and reality. I would have liked the paranormal aspect to have been explored further. We discover that one character is something more than just a human friend, but the what, how, and why are left relatively unanswered. I wasn’t convinced with the Guardian Angel and her receptionist either.
 
There were sections of the book that were quite boring for me, and I found myself skim reading, but I’m glad I stuck with it as the twist near the end was nicely done.
 
A sweet novel that would appeal to a more die-hard romantic.
Book Description
When Tess unexpectedly bumps into Jack one cold day in March, her world is quite literally turned upside down. Can she make a new life for herself with Jack, based on how happy they were in the past? Or does she need to make a new start and find love in the arms of her new work colleague, Rob? The path of true love never does run smoothly. Meet Tess, a woman who is still in love with her husband, who died five years ago. Meet Jack, the ghost, who wants to make Tess happy again. Finally there’s Rob who wants to win Tess’s heart. Who will she choose?

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT TURN OF THE TIDE by @margaretskea1 #HistFic #wwwblogs

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Turn Of The Tide by Margaret Skea.

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Initially, I wasn’t too sure about this book. There are a lot of characters, and their allegiances, to keep track of, which I found it a little confusing at first. Writing them down as a quick reference helped as it’s not so easy to keep referring back on a kindle. The more I read, the easier it became and the story took hold. Set in Ayrshire in the sixteenth century it tells of a notorious feud that lasted almost two centuries, between the Montgomeries and the Cunninghames. In the middle of these two warring clans is Munro and his family. Munro owes his loyalty to the Cunninghames, even as he is ever more uncomfortable with their actions and behaviour, and his understandable failure to comprehend the reasoning behind the feud.

After an ambush and horrific massacre, not to mention several terrible retaliations, the two families are charged by King James VI to publicly declare a truce and with members of each family vying for the King’s favour, it’s not long before tensions erupt again. Munro escapes retribution for his part in the ambush but his conscience, his wife and his gradual friendship with several Montgomeries, make him reassess his priorities, regardless of the fact his association with the rival clan would be condemned out of hand by certain members of the Cunninghames.

The story is firmly rooted in the time and place by skilful, descriptive writing and evocative dialogue. It’s a complex tale of politics and intrigue, with basically one main, and despicable, miscreant – William Cunninghame, Glencairn’s heir. Despite the truce, he has no intention of even attempting to keep the peace. He is vicious, overbearing and completely intolerant of perceived slights, as Munro’s family learn to their cost. Anyone who offends him is in a very precarious position.

It’s a harsh and dangerous time, when hatred and revenge is rife. Munro walks a fine line between the two families, always having to be on the alert while just wishing to live his life quietly, at home with his wife and children. Always conscious of the choices he makes, and the resulting actions, as to how they might affect his family. This is shown extremely well by the vast chasm between daily family life on the farm and the conflicting violence and tragedy.

Margaret Skea creates a good balance between fact and fiction, blending both seamlessly. Munro especially stands out, and initially it was his character that helped draw me into the story, which, to all appearances is a convincing and representational account. The characters, both real and fictional, are well defined and believable and the story well crafted – I can only imagine the depth of research this took. I love the tense build up to a very unexpected ending.

Book Description

Old rivalries…new friendships…dangerous decisions. 
Set in 16th Century Scotland Munro owes allegiance to the Cunninghames and to the Earl of Glencairn. Trapped in the 150-year-old feud between the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries, he escapes the bloody aftermath of an ambush, but he cannot escape the disdain of the wife he sought to protect, or his own internal conflict. He battles with his conscience and with divided loyalties – to age-old obligations, to his wife and children, and, most dangerous of all, to a growing friendship with the rival Montgomerie clan. Intervening to diffuse a quarrel that flares between a Cunninghame cousin and Hugh Montgomerie, he succeeds only in antagonizing William, the arrogant and vicious Cunninghame heir. And antagonizing William is a dangerous game to play…

About the author

Margaret Skea

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

An interest in Scotland’s turbulent history, and in particular the 16th century, combined with PhD research into the Ulster-Scots vernacular, led to the writing of Turn of the Tide, which was the Historical Fiction Winner in the 2011 Harper Collins / Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition and the Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best First Time Author 2014. 

An Hawthornden Fellow and award winning short story writer – her recent credits include, Overall Winner Neil Gunn 2011, Chrysalis Prize 2010, and Winchester Short Story Prize 2009. Third in the Rubery Book Award Short Story Competition 2013, a finalist in the Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition 2012, shortlisted in the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2012 and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society Short Story competition 2014, the Matthew Pritchard Award, the Fish Short Story and Fish One Page Prize, she has been published in a range of magazines and anthologies in Britain and the USA.
New collection of short stories – including some those from competitions mentioned above available for pre-order now.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Goodreads | Twitter also available on kindle unlimited

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT WARNINGS UNHEEDED by Andy Brown #NonFiction #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies At Fairchild Air Force Base by Andy Brown

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WARNINGS UNHEEDED by Andy Brown

4 out of 5 stars

I’ll start by saying that this book is a terrific achievement by the author.  The painstaking and intricate work that has clearly gone into it is to be admired, as is its purpose.

The ‘warnings unheeded’ of the title refer to two mass-casualty accidents that occurred within days of each other on a US air base. “Using the words of the people who experienced the tragedies, the book provides an in-depth look at the before, during and after of a preventable “active shooter” incident and an avoidable fatal plane crash.”  A shooter terrorised the base hospital, and, in a parallel account, a veteran pilot, known for his reckless flying put the lives of both his crew and spectators at risk.

Andy Brown was the hero who ended the hospital killing spree, and intersperses chapters about the build up of fears about Mellberg and Holland with information about his own life and what led him to the position by which he was able to act as he did.  He also writes about the aftermath of the shootings, and PTSD.

I found shooter Mellberg’s story the most interesting, and read almost open-mouthed that the people who could take action did not appear to see that he was a tragedy waiting to happen, with the professionals who predicted this swamped by bureaucracy.  Most chilling was Dr Brigham’s instruction to his wife to keep firearms in the house, because he recognised the sort of patient who would see those who helped him as friends, though could just as easily turn on them.  Although non-fiction, the character of Mellberg, in particular, came across most clearly.  The book is well-written throughout, and the amount of planning that has gone into it is apparent.  For a non-military person (with no particular interest in or experience of the military), I thought that the factual detail was clear and well-explained, though sometimes too detailed, adding facts (and many initials, military terms and the explanations of) that were perhaps not necessary to the story for a layman’s point of view, and made one glaze over a little.  However, for its target audience, I imagine such detail will be admired.

For that target audience, I would say that this should probably be required reading.

Book Description

The true story of two separate mass-casualty incidents that occurred within days of each other at a US Air Force base. Using the words of the people who experienced the tragedies, the book provides an in-depth look at the before, during and after of a preventable “active shooter” incident and an avoidable fatal plane crash.

In one tragic week at Fairchild Air Force Base, an “active shooter” terrorized the base hospital and a talented but reckless pilot crashed a B-52 bomber near the flight line. Both fatal tragedies had been repeatedly predicted by numerous airmen and mental health professionals. 
In “vivid and thoroughly researched detail” Warnings Unheeded delivers an unprecedented, revealing look at the events that led to the twin tragedies.

The book follows an “active shooter” as he progresses toward his crime and dispels the myth that these incidents are random acts of violence committed without warning by otherwise normal individuals.

In a parallel account, Warnings Unheeded tells the story of a veteran pilot who was known for exceeding the maneuvering limits of his B-52 bomber. His reckless flying not only put the lives of his crew at risk, but also the lives of the air show spectators who gathered to watch him perform. When attempts to ground the pilot were unsuccessful, several aviators refused to fly with him and “predicted the worst air show disaster in history.”

Warnings Unheeded is authored by Andy Brown, the man who ended the hospital killing spree, and is a result of more than seven years of writing and research. Brown “masterfully weaves” the two stories and intersperses them with chapters revealing the preparations he made that enabled him to end a pistol-versus-rifle gunfight with a 70 yard shot from his handgun. Brown also writes of his experience with the aftermath of the shooting and encourages others to learn from his mistakes when it comes to dealing with the effects of trauma.

These empowering stories are exhaustively researched and presented in an objective, narrative style that shows what can happen when authorities become complacent, when the precursors of violence are ignored and when the lessons from history are forgotten.

About the author

Andy Brown

Andy Brown grew up in Port Orchard, Washington and joined the Air Force in 1989, shortly after graduating from South Kitsap High School. He served as a law enforcement specialist in the Security Police/Security Forces career field and was stationed in Idaho, Greece, Washington, Hawaii and New Mexico. 
He now lives in the Spokane, Washington area and works for the Department of Homeland Security. 
After seven years of researching, interviewing and writing, he wrote Warnings Unheeded. The book is part of his ongoing effort to share the lessons learned from the Fairchild tragedies and his experience with the effects of trauma.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT GIRL IN A GOLDEN CAGE by @lucyBranch11 #Alchemy #Italy

Today’s team review is from Judith W, she blogs here https://readandreview2016.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Girl In A Golden Cage by Lucy Branch

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#RBRT: GIRL IN A GOLDEN CAGE by LUCY BRANCH @lucyBranch11 #BookReview #CrimeThriller

  • Title: Girl In A Golden Cage
  • Author: Lucy Branch
  • Published: 2016
  • Started: 19th December 2016
  • Finished: 31st December 2016

Girl In A Golden Cage is about Francesca Milliardo as she discovers she has an extraordinary and supernatural talent. She visits her rich father in Milan, and enjoys a life of glitz and glamour – a refreshing change from her home in the UK, but slowly begins to feel more unsettled.

From my understanding, Girl In A Golden Cage is the sequel to A Rarer Gift Than Gold, which I’m only just realising now. I haven’t read A Rarer Gift Than Gold, which, according to Amazon, is about Abigail Argent, a skilled craftswoman, who can enhance the beauty in metal sculptures. She discovers her craft is linked the art of alchemy, and uncovers a dangerous secret.

Although Abigail features in Girl In A Golden Cage, I don’t think I’ve missed out, despite not reading the first book. Francesca is a new character, and we explore the seemingly luxurious and wonderful Italian through her eyes – not Abigail’s – and watch her gradually uncover her father’s deception.

There are lots of Italian references (obviously) and a lot of artistic language and description. I didn’t really understand these parts – I’m not a very artistic or multi-cultural person, but I am confident Branch knows what she’s talking about. Amazon lists some of her achievements, such as studying at University College London, The Royal College of Art and Victoria Albert Museum and being a restorer of public sculptures and historic features.

My favourite aspect of this book were Francesca’s “out of body” experiences; they were supernatural, but not scary. While I don’t believe in “out of body” experiences in real life, I think it’s a fascinating subject to write fiction about, and made the storyline enjoyable.

While I liked the character of Lorin, I thought his motivations for involving himself Francesca were a little predictable. I didn’t feel that their connection was “real”, despite Francesca believing she was in a genuine and trusting relationship.

Also, I’m not sure what genre Girl In A Golden Cage is meant to be – it’s very difficult to pin down. There’s suspense, but it’s not wholly a mystery novel. There are some violent moments, and criminal activity does crop up, but I don’t feel like there’s enough to classify it as a crime novel. If anyone has any suggestions as to a genre which best fits this book, I’d be glad to hear them.

For me, the main let-down of Girl In A Golden Cage was a little too much unnecessary dialogue and the subsequent description of speech acts (e.g. he said/she said). I’m a strong believer in not overusing dialogue (or obvious narration) to convey basic information. For example (this is not lifted from the book, but an exaggerated example), I prefer to interpret a speaker’s body language, for instance, based on the way they speak and the character traits that have already been assigned to them, rather than a descriptive line of dialogue such as: “I am very annoyed” said the man, in a frustrated tone of voice, folding his arms and scowling.

On the whole, despite not reading A Rarer Gift Than Gold, I managed to enjoy Girl In A Golden Cage and thought it was a good book, although I can’t put into words exactly why that is!

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Rarer Gift Than Gold is available to buy as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

Girl In A Golden Cage is available to buy as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

Book Description

She has an eye for detail but can she see the truth? Making decisions is not one of Francesca Miliardo’s strengths so when something mysterious starts unfolding in her father’s mansion in Milan – it’s no surprise that she’s unsure what to do. Francesca dreams of becoming a star in the contemporary art world and she has all the right connections, though what should be a summer of fun is turning out to be anything but.

Crippling migraines have always been a burden, now strange happenings are making her question whether they really are a curse. It’s not the best time to fall for someone, but who could resist a man with wolf’s eyes? Knowing who to trust is vital when those closest to you are suddenly not all they seem. It’s the time in Francesca’s life to make some hard choices: follow her own path or step into somebody else’s story.

About the author

Lucy Branch

Lucy Branch’s fiction has been featured on Radio 4, Timeout London and The BBC World Service. She is an expert in the conservation of public sculpture and has worked on some of the UK’s highest profile projects including Nelson’s Column, Eros and Cleopatra’s Needle. She studied at University College London, The Royal College of Art and Victoria Albert Museum. Her knowledge and passion for the art world is poured into her fiction which she weaves together with myth, conspiracy theory and fantasy.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT ARDENT JUSTICE by Peter Taylor-Gooby @PeterT_G #WeekendBlogShare

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Ardent Justice by Peter Taylor-Gooby

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Ardent Justice is a novel that brings to light the corruption in the financial world of the City.  After a brutal rape by a rich financier, tax inspector Ade becomes involved with Paul, an activist who works with homeless people.  Together they become modern day Robin Hoods, determined to expose the fraud within the City and help the poor, fighting the power of money and influence of back-hander paid officials.  The novel is billed as a character-led feminist thriller.  

I found the explanation of how fraud works within the city fascinating, and certainly confirmed much that I suspected; alas, this is how business has been done for hundreds of years, after all, the only difference being that today it is on a much larger scale and has more devastating and widespread consequences.  There is no doubt that the book brings to light societal problems that will be an eye-opener for some, but I’m afraid that, for me, it didn’t work as a novel.  The characters were one-dimensional; Ade came over as bitter towards the world rather than feminist, though aside from this she was never more than words on a page for me; I didn’t believe the characters as, on the whole, the portrayal of emotion was not convincing, dialogue was unrealistic, and I found the narrative disjointed.

The proceeds of the book will go to Shelter, the charity for the homeless, so I am sorry not to be able to be more positive.

Book Description

Ade is a tax-inspector. She hates the City of London. She hates the endless corruption, the bland assumption that tax is for the little people. She hates the casual sexism, the smug self-assurance, the inviolability of the men she deals with, and the cold certainty that nothing you can do will ever touch them.
She finds herself in the world of the rootless, marginal street homeless who live meagre lives in the shadow of the office blocks that house the rich. She meets Paul, an Occupy activist who works with homeless people. As their love for each other grows, they find real fulfilment in fighting for the rights of ordinary people, such as Gemma, a homeless single parent.
Ardent Justice is a gripping feminist thriller, endorsed by Polly Toynbee, the leading Guardian columnist. It tells the story of Ade’s struggle against the City and for her own integrity, and of her love for Paul, and of how hard it is to live a morally good life in a corrupted world. It has been inspired by Zoe Fairbairns and Lionel Shriver and will appeal to fans of character-led thrillers. Profits will be donated to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.

“Good to find a novel with a strong social message about the way we live now”

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

About the author

Peter Taylor-Gooby

My novels deal with how people live their lives in a diverse globalised capitalist world. In ‘Ardent Justice’, Ade struggles against the corruption of the City of London, where high finance and street homelessness flourish cheek by jowl. In ‘The Baby Auction’ Ed and Matt struggle to lead a passionate, humane and generous life in a world dominated by the market.
In my day job I’m an academic. My research shows how market capitalism generates inequalities between haves and have-nots and promotes a corrosive individualism that stunts our capacity for empathy, charity and love.
I enjoy hill-walking, riding my bike, holidays and looking after my grand-daughter (not in that order). I became interested in social policy issues after working on adventure playgrounds, teaching, claiming benefits and working in a social security office in Newcastle. I’ve worked in the UK, most European countries, Canada, the US, China, Korea and Japan, Australia and South Africa.

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