Rosie’s #bookreview Team #RBRT #PostApocalypse The Afters by Chrisptopher O’Connell @chrisObehave

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

#RBRT Review Team

Lilyn has been reading The Afters by Christopher O’Connell

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I received The Afters by Christopher O’Connell for review consideration as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. It was the cover of the book that initially drew me too it. I think it made me expect something vaguely comic book-y, without the whole panels thing. And, actually, that was pretty much dead on. The Afters has that quick-moving action and sly-tongued banter that graphic novels have trained me to expect. 

O’Connell did good with The Afters. It’s 234 pages, but feels like its only about 125 or so. The main character, Chuck, is too mouthy for his own good, but he has a heart of gold, and when he suddenly finds himself taking care of a couple of munchkins, he’s surprisingly okay with it. And you buy it. That’s the most important part. He seems very believable. We want to think that, should the worst happen to us – to the world – there’d be a slew of Chucks out there doing the right thing. I didn’t even mind being inside his head, and I normally hate that POV! As for Kalila – she wasn’t my favorite. To be honest, I could have done with most of her parts being much reduced in the novel. Chuck, Big Bertha, and the two little ‘uns were enough for me.

The Afters does one thing different from normal zombie novels that really made me feel creeped out for a few minutes. I won’t go into details because you need to read it yourself, but let’s just say that I’m not sure I could do the apocalypse in The Afters’ world.  Well, maybe if I got to be like one of the kids…. actually, no. Not even then. Not considering some of the baddies that get introduced en masse later in the book. Nope, no thank you. I want a regular zombie apocalypse please. 

This was a quick, easy read, but it would have done much better with a(nother?) round with an editor. There are some scenes that could have been tightened up and it would read much better on the whole. One stands out near the beginning where the dialogue just feels kind of cringe-worthy.

Overall, The Afters was an enjoyable, shut-your-brain off read that demanded little, but entertained a lot. It’s not memorable, but you’re absorbed while you’re reading it. Considering it was a post-apocalyptic zombie fic, which I’m nearly burnt out on, AND the POV is my least favorite, I could have easily hated this book. I didn’t, though, and I think that says a lot for O’Connell’s story-telling ability.

Book description

It’s the end of the world as we know it and Charles Gilbert Billingsworth the VIII feels just fine. Not only is he surviving the zombie apocalypse, he’s enjoying it too. But Charlie’s idyllic life as a daydreaming zombie killer takes a turn when he finds two kids lost in the woods. One of whom is hiding an amazing, powerful secret.

Meanwhile, Kalila Trout is on a quest for revenge. The only survivor of an attack by the warlord known as King George, Kalila’s vengeance is only stopped by his distinct advantage in numbers. When King George kidnaps one of Charlie’s children, Kalila finds an unlikely ally to help her get the closure she needs. But even if Kalila and Charlie manage to make it out alive, a new race of zombie might ruin everything they are fighting for.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #thriller The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne @Abigail_Author

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne

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The story, set out in three parts, beginning in the present day, followed by flashback chapters from the past, before returning again to the present.  Chapters alternate between Billie’s and Adam’s perspectives, with the occasional diary entry from an anonymous, shadowy figure who obviously knows Billie and is stalking her. This approach defines the characters and their innermost feelings, building the suspense. Billie lives alone, with only her cat for company, avoiding contact with other people as much as possible. Something terrible has happened to her in the past which has had huge repercussions on her life.

‘Billie stole down the street avoiding all eye contact and people. Once a week, on Sunday, she braved the world to visit the bookstore not far from her flat. One Upon a Time had thousands of books and a quaint little cafe; it was her haven.’

Adam is a journalist, determined to expose Billie and exact revenge for the lives he believes she ruined. He seizes his chance when an unexpected opportunity arises and sets about trying to win her confidence, using all his charm to break down the barriers and gain her friendship. It’s an uphill struggle, Billie is very vulnerable and terrified of forming any sort of relationship. Very little information is disclosed about either of their backgrounds at this point in the narrative and the reader is kept in the dark for quite a while, which works well. I wondered what on earth Billie had done to cause such a reaction in Adam.

‘As he walked towards her, a plan formulated in his mind. His instinct for a story was awakened and he knew he had the opportunity of a lifetime.This could be his ticket to a better career and, more importantly, he could get justice.’

Billie suffered through a traumatic childhood with little to no support from her family. The lasting effects are her self-imposed isolation and panic attacks. Young Adam was devastated when he lost his mother. His father was unable to cope, neglected Adam and started drinking heavily. Adam was raised by his uncle, who became the young boy’s role model.

This is a story which revolves around the power of manipulation, how the manipulator controls by either friendliness, fear and/or deviousness, and sometimes leading by example. The debilitating effect on Billie and her conflicting emotions as she becomes closer to Adam are portrayed very well. The middle section of the narrative was less engaging and not quite as believable as the beginning, even as it shows how the chilling unscrupulousness of the manipulator breeds fear and repulsion and the reason for Adam’s fixation on Billie begins to become clear. It picks up again towards the end and I enjoyed how it plays out. The lack of suspects, twists and false leads, means it’s not hard to realise who the antagonist is. The book does convey very well how children can be betrayed by those they should be able to trust implicitly and disturbing subjects are covered without being gratuitous. I’ll be interested to see what the author tackles in her next book.

Book description

Manipulated by fear and love…could you cut the strings and take back control?

Billie’s hiding from the world, believing it to be the only way to take control of her life as she lives in fear of the man who nearly destroyed her. But what she doesn’t realise is that she’s exactly where he wants her; isolated and afraid. A chance meeting with budding journalist Adam sparks a relationship that could free her from the terror that controls her. But will Adam be able to see the real Billie buried under her terror and pain?

Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives she ruined. But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him but as unwanted attraction and feelings blossom between them, Adam is forced to realise that all is not as it seems.

Most of their lives have been unknowingly governed by the desires and needs of someone who considers himself their master. He has influenced and shaped them for years, meticulously weaving a web of lies and control around them. Can Billie and Adam survive the betrayals in store and cut the strings that bind them?

One thing is for sure. The master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Scottish #thriller The Trial by John Mayer

Today’s team review is from Sandra.

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading The Trial by John Mayer

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I started reading The Trial partly because it was set in my home country of Scotland but it was not what I was expecting. I found it quite hard to get into as there were so many members of the legal profession introduced at the beginning it was difficult to distinguish them from each other. Brogan McLane has been singled out because he’s not one of the Edinburgh elite; his working-class Glasgow background means he is looked down upon in these hallowed circles. I felt a visceral dislike of these judges and advocates whose sense of privilege and entitlement made them think they could get away with anything, even sending an innocent man to jail for a murder he did not commit – which is surely what the author intended! But Brogan McLane has what they don’t – the staunch support of his friends and their belief in his innocence. While his enemies are stabbing each other in the back to protect their privileged positions, Commander Imrie and Brogan’s Glasgow friends are working away behind the scenes to find the real culprit and prove Brogan’s innocence. Once it gets going, this is a fast-paced thriller that whets your appetite for the further adventures of Brogan McLane. Thanks to the author for a free copy of his book that I review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Book description

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

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

John Mayer

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #PostApocalyptic Assaulted Souls by William Blackwell

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Assaulted Souls by William Blackwell

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3 out of 5 stars

This first instalment of the Assaulted Souls series is a short novel (possibly a novella) of just 183 pages.  The setting is an alternative reality ~ the year 2016, three months after a nuclear blast.  The story opens with Nathan King – who has lost his memory due to a fall from a balcony – waking up in a cave with a man he doesn’t recognise and no recollection about how he got there.  Great opening.  We soon find out that the cave is on Prince Edward Island, which I assume to be off the coast of Canada, and Nathan begins to piece facts together via information from the stranger (Edward) and his own still hazy memory.

Elsewhere, Nathan’s girlfriend, Cadence, is held captive by the cannibalistic Thorvald.  In another cave we meet escaped convicts Karl and Russ.  Everyone is scared of the Neanderthals, a group of other escaped convicts from the same facility as Karl and Russ.

This opening to the series has a lot going for it; there is some excellent, amusing dialogue (both spoken and inner), and the setting descriptions totally worked; I could imagine every scene.  It rips along, and I found each character to be clearly defined from the outset.  Mr Blackwell can certainly write, and this is one of my favourite genres. 

However, much though I enjoyed the author’s writing style and humour, I feel that the book needs more work ~ careful redrafting, the fine-tuning of ungrammatical sentences, and more attention to structure.  The backstory of some important issues, such as Nathan’s amnesia and the nuclear blast itself, are brushed off in the odd short paragraph (some of which read like notes that were written with the intention of expanding them in a later draft), whereas a story about some trouble with a difficult tenant in Nathan’s past life was more detailed than necessary for such short book, and not particularly relevant; the tenant does appear later on, but is in and out within a couple of pages.  Mr Blackwell is clearly imaginative, articulate and can write some captivating sentences (which is much of what writing a good book is all about), but there were too many that made me go ‘ouch’. At first I was highlighting passages and making the note ‘ill-thought out sentence’.  As I found myself highlighting more and more, I shortened it to ‘ITOS’.  Then I gave up.   A few examples:

‘..his stomach was still knotted with hunger and when he had woke up this morning he had even…’ ~ either ‘when he woke up’, or ‘when he had awakened’ or ‘when he had woken’.

‘The radiation had already infected his mind, producing a stark raving lunatic’.  Better: ‘turning him into a stark etc’, or something like ‘producing worrying psychotic tendencies’; I think the phrase ‘stark raving lunatic’ is a more like something you’d read in a comic book, anyway.

There are run-on sentences (two independent clauses without an appropriate punctuation mark or conjunction to separate them) and non-sentences such as this: Suddenly banging and growling at the door.

To sum up, the basics are all there, but in my opinion it needs fleshing out, more re-drafting and the help of a good copy editor for it to stand up as the good example of this genre that it could be.

Book description

Nathan King wakes up one day freezing cold and starving with hunger on a tattered mattress in a dark cave and has no idea where or who he is.

He meets Edward Sole, apparently his protector for the last few months, who tells him a nuclear bomb has been dropped and most, if not all of the world, has been destroyed.

Slowly the realization sinks in that in this horrific post-apocalyptic landscape, there are no rules, no laws. Cannibalism is rampant, mutant animals and humans are on the attack.

With all communication cut off, and meagre supplies, every day becomes a fight for survival and sanity!

To make matters worse, a band of savages called The Neanderthals have emerged who rape, pillage and murder for more than just survival. They enjoy it.

Fighting for their survival and hoping to find a more hospitable island off the coast of Prince Edward Island, Ed and Nathan team up with Cadence Whitaker, Nathan’s girlfriend whom he has no recollection of, and fierce warrior Velvet Jones to try and hatch a plan to escape the island before they’re all killed.

In the meantime, Ed has begun a slow descent into madness, leaving the group wondering who the enemy really is.

A lightning-paced, action-packed exploration of a terrifying existence in a wasteland produced by mankind’s stupidity.

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

Today’s team review is from Jenny.

#RBRT Review Team

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

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5 Stars

Her Great Aunt Felicity has left Miriam Heachely Hall. But she has to live in the house for one year and one day before she can sell it and collect her money, that are the terms. There are some brilliant spooky moments in the story, you feel as though you are there with Miriam, you feel her fear! Miriam lives in the run down hall day and night where she hears odd noises and things happen that she is unable to explain….there is the weird dust that appears, where is it coming from and what exactly is the dust?   With exception to her visits to the local pub and a short visit to her best friend Ruth, Miriam is determined not to be scared away from this strange house.

Then there is the arrival of Charles. A strange man, yet there is something quite captivating about him. There are questions that need to be answered about Great Aunt Felicity, about the history of Heachely Hall and its previous residents and also about Charles. Something does not add up, and Miriam is going to find out the truth!

I utterly loved this book from start to finish.  A haunting romance full of intrigue.  I was enthralled and had to keep reading, I needed to know what happens next, the end of every chapter left me wanting more.

This is a wonderful book, one I recommend highly, it has to be one of the best books that I have ever read…. and I have read quite a few over the years.

Thank you Rachel for drawing me into the mystery of Heachley Hall and its residents.

Book description

Miriam has one year to uncover Heachley Hall’s unimaginable past and a secret that only women can discover.

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.
But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.
The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.
After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.
But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?
Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.

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

Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?

About the author

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

Rachel Walkley

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #YA The Staircase Of Fire by @benswoodard #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading The Staircase Of Fire by Ben Woodard

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The Staircase of Fire is an extraordinary book for children aged 12 upwards. The story is set in Shakertown, Kentucky in the 1920s and features a young orphan boy, Tom, who is being raised by his Uncle Davis on his farm. Tom is a tormented soul having been instrumental in the accidental death of his baby sister. He is plagued by guilt and bad dreams and has a lot of anger towards anybody who mentions his sister’s unfortunate death. In the manner typical of teenagers, some boys use this as a way of inciting Tom’s ire and he ends up in all sorts of altercations and feels very victimized. His own troubled state of mind makes it impossible for him to develop wholesome friendships and his budding relationship with the beautiful Helen is thwarted by his own insecurities and doubts.

Tom has developed a close friendship with a Negro woman, Rose, and her son, James. Despite her difficult circumstances, Rose has managed to gain knowledge and become fairly learned through reading books. James is also ambitious to better his position in life. Rose is determined to stand up for her right to vote in terms of the recently passed Nineteenth Amendment, but no stirrings of change in this direction have yet reached the rural farming community where they live. Rose stirs up a lot of trouble for her son and herself when she tries to register to vote. Her actions unleash the anger of the Ku Klux Klan who plan to drive Rose and James out of town. Tom unexpectedly becomes caught up in the Klan’s attempt at retribution.

The story of Rose and James and Tom’s involvement in their lives is a large part of the story but the underlying plot is Tom’s journey towards overcoming his personal demons and moving towards acceptance of his past and an ability to embrace the future. His interactions with people who really care about others and try to help them allows him to do the same and find forgiveness of his own actions and past and to find his own peace and love. As he seeks to remediate his personal hurts, Tom also walks the path of justice with Rose.

I enjoyed the way the author brought small pieces of poetic thought into the story.

I rated this book five out of five stars.

Book description

A quiet town in Kentucky explodes from a racial incident and fourteen-year-old Tom Wallace is in the thick of it. Dealing with his past was bad enough, and now he’s witness to a horrific event leaving him devastated and afraid. Along with his cousin, Will, he searches for lost gold he believes can help him escape his town and its memories. But leaving has consequences, too. He will lose his friends and his new love. Tom finally realizes that he cannot escape himself and has to deal with his past. But to do so requires him to take a stand that could change his life … or end it.

About the author

A spellbinding storyteller of high adventure, Ben has walked the Great Wall of China, hiked in Tibet, and climbed to 18,000 feet on Mt. Everest. And recently learned to surf in Hawaii.
Ben is active in SCBWI and a member of a local children’s writing critique group. He is a former Marketing Manager for a major corporation and ran his own marketing consulting business. He started writing children’s stories in 2008 and has written picture books, middle grade and young adult. Stories of adventure and wonder. Stories that inspire and educate, and, most of all, entertain.
Ben lives in Kentucky with his wife Lynda.

Ben Woodard

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WW2 #Mystery The Black Orchestra by JJ Toner

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading The Black Orchestra by JJ Toner

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My Review:

I have to say I struggled with this book and it took a long time to read, mainly because the beginning is convoluted and littered with so many characters that each time  I picked it up again, I needed to go back to see who was who, what rank they held and  and where they fitted into the Nazi regime.

However, around three quarters through, the book became easier to read and was interesting.

After reading the first part of the book, and to be fair to the author,  I knew I needed to make notes on what was working for me and what didn’t. (it’s the first time I’ve done this) So here are my thoughts:

I know little about the intricacies of the Nazi regime during WW2 so I had to take the military rankings, the way the regime worked and the historical details within the book  at face value Though some of the scenes did seem a little far fetched.

I felt that many of the characters deserved more ‘fleshing out’ because of the part they play in the story. The protagonist, Kurt Müller, grows more rounded as the story unfolds and becomes easier to empathise with. The female characters, Gudren, Liesal and Tania are well portrayed but I felt that some of the sections they were each in could have been given more depth. The descent of  Kurt’s friend, Alex, is well written and reflects the breakdown of the society at the time. I would have liked more to be shown of the character of main antagonist, Uncle Reinhard; his function in the plot is enormous but, for me, he wasn’t layered enough.

The dialogue was more difficult to judge as, of course, it’s necessary to believe most of the characters are speaking in German. It became more realistic in the parts where the protagonist is in Ireland. I did like the passages between him and his mother; the dialogue is good and the love between them is palpable.

There is a good sense of place, both in Germany and in Ireland. The tension that is in some segments of the story is reflected in the descriptions of these backgrounds.

The general plot-line is thought-provoking because it gives the story from the angle of Germany at that time. But quite a lot of the scenes are rushed and told rather than shown. And I felt somewhat disappointed with the denouement; it appears to be hastily written and a little unbelievable. I’m not sure if my dissatisfaction was because of the way the characters, Kurt and Gudren  were shown in this part or through the action in the story itself.

I think, overall The Black Orchestra could be viewed as a cross genre book, rather than a thriller. There is the capacity for it to be an intriguing spy novel, to fit into the historical genre and also for romantic fiction. But as it stands it seems, to me anyway, that it doesn’t quite make it in any.

Note: After I’d written my review I searched for the book on Amazon. The Black Orchestra has quite a few reviews and there are some good comments. Being fascinated by the era, I’d hoped to enjoy the story more, but maybe it just wasn’t for me.

Book description

WW2 Germany. The German war machine has invaded Poland and is advancing west toward France. In Berlin Kurt Muller, an Abwehr signalman, discovers a colleague lying dead at his radio receiver. The criminal police dismiss the death as suicide, but Kurt is not convinced. Kurt follows a trail of mysteries, witnessing several atrocities that expose the Nazi regime for what it truly is. When the trail leads him to the German resistance, he faces the most difficult choices of his life. He must choose between his duty and his conscience, between his country and his family, between love and death.

About the author

After 30 years working with computers in a variety of industries: Oil exploration, pharma, hospitals, manufacturing, shipping etc., I retired early and began to write. I’ve been writing full time since 2007, and have completed hundreds of short stories and self-published 6 novels.

J.J. Toner

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #KidsLit The Yellow Bills by @MichelleMcKenna

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading The Yellow Bills by Michelle McKenna

This is a children’s book, suitable for around six to nine years. It’s a well written story of perseverance and friendship told with gentle humour, the text interspersed with lovely ink-drawn illustrations.

Mya is a strong well-rounded female protagonist with Goose as a great side-kick. Ill matched in appearance they may be, but bonded together with one aim, they make a good team.

The steadily-paced narrative is easy to follow, with just enough descriptive passages ,and the dialogue is straight-forward.

I really liked the author’s style of writing. I should imagine that many children will as well.

And I love the brightly coloured, comical cover.

The Yellow Bills is definitely one book I would recommend.

Book description

Mya loves planes and wants to be a pilot when she grows up. As luck would have it she comes across a flying school run by lieutenant Drake who awards his pupils splendid pilot hats when they graduate. Mya wants to join the class but there’s just one problem. She’s not a duck! Could Goose the little duckling with big flying ambitions be the key to Mya getting her pilot’s hat? Or will Mr Sour the teacher who never quite made the grade have other ideas…Inspired by authors such as Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, Michelle weaves a story with the humour and invention of Nick Ward’s ‘Charlie Small’ series meets Dick King Smith’s wonder of the animal world.

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

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

#RBRT Review Team

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

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

The story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book description

Miriam has one year to uncover Heachley Hall’s unimaginable past and a secret that only women can discover.

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.
But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.
The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.
After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.
But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?
Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.

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

Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?

About the author

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

Rachel Walkley

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Nepal #memoir Four Seasons in Nepal by Nicola McGunnigle

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Four Seasons In Nepal by Nicola McGunnigle

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4 out of 5 stars

Four Seasons in Nepal is an account of the year the author and her family (husband and two young sons) spent a year in the country after the devastating earthquake of 2015; Nicola was to work with the NGO International Nepal Fellowship (INF).  This book describes the decision to go, the journey, how the family settled in, became used to the customs and made friends with the locals.  It tells of her activity in the post-earthquake rehabilitation programme, the GRACE project, in which she would work closely with others to rebuild schools, houses, and (most importantly) the wellbeing and morale of the communities.

This is an in-depth account of the year, about how they adapted to such difficulties as being without power for an extended period of time, but, most of all, how the work of the project helped the victims of the earthquake.  I envied the McGunnigle family the experience, and, of course, felt great respect for all that the INF do.

That the decision to go out to Nepal and help these people is a worthy one is indisputable, but my job is to review the book itself.  I gather it originated from blog posts, and in places I felt that there was too much detail, as if Nicola had written down every single memory and every thought that occurred to her, which makes it a very dense book.  Such detail works in short blog posts, but is rather a lot to wade through in a whole book; and I thought that it being chopped down by a third/edited a little more tightly would have made it more compelling.

Having said this, I would most certainly recommend the book to anyone who is thinking of going to Nepal for similar work; in such a case I’d say it is probably essential reading, as there is no stone left unturned.  From the point of view of someone who just likes reading travel memoirs and is interested in this part of the world, like me, I think it’s more of a book to dip into here and there, reading odd chapters, rather than sitting down and reading it from cover to cover ~ rather like you would read a blog, I suppose!

The cover is beautiful, and the book is well presented, with some lovely photographs at the end.  It is available in paperback only.  You can read more about it and see lots of great photos on the author’s blog, and read delightful sections with her sons’ views of Nepal, HERE.

Book description

It’s not your everyday family adventure, packing up to live in one of the world’s poorest nations. But in the wake of the devastating 2015 earthquake, Nicola McGunnigle took a leap of faith, heading to Nepal to work with NGO International Nepal Fellowship, her family in tow.

Not letting challenges get in the way of contentment, she shares everyday moments of living life with restricted electricity and unclean water, in the midst of political instability, which resulted in country-wide fuel and gas shortages. Moved by the resilience of the nation, the family were welcomed into Nepali culture and generous hospitality, despite the obvious additional hardships around them.

Through her eyes as a volunteer, Nicola paints uplifting scenes of committed Nepali staff who work to empower the poorest and most marginalised in Nepal. Through work, travel and everyday encounters, the reader journeys through each season of learning, challenges, hardship and reward.

About the author

Nicola was born and raised in New Zealand to English parents and worked in rural Tasmania and outback Australia as a geologist before setting off to explore South East Asia in the late 1990s.
With a passion for supporting clean water, sanitation and education projects she has volunteered plentiful hours assessing funding applications for Water for Survival and TEAR Australia before returning to her beloved Nepal with her family in 2015, which is told in Four Seasons in Nepal.
Nicola now works in the environmental sector in Adelaide, Australia, where she lives with her husband, two sons, three chickens and four fish. She loves sitting down to write when she has a moment between working, volunteering and keeping up with the never-ending cycle of washing.

Nicola McGunnigle

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