Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Vintage #Mystery HIGH WIRE IN NUALA by @harrietsteel1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading High Wire In Nuala by Harriet Steel

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The racecourse in Nuala was busy, but not for the racing. The Russian circus had come to town with its colourful wagons and big top. Excitement had built with the appearance of posters advertising trapeze artists, jugglers and high wire, even a snake charmer—de Silva’s dislike of the reptiles causing him to shudder at the thought—along with several other acts.

It was full house for opening night and all was going well with the dance troupe opening the show, followed by the rest of the acts, until there was what looked like a terrible accident during the high wire walk. Inspector Shanti de Silva was in the audience with his wife, Jane and their friends, Doctor and Mrs Hebden, so de Silva and Dr Hebden were able to be first on the scene.

“So tense that you could almost touch it, a hush had fallen over the audience. The low, pulsing beat of the drums heightened the apprehension that filled the air. Every time Tatiana paused, there were gasps of alarm. A pain throbbed behind de Silva’s eyes. He felt as if he was making the slow walk with her. At last, the end of the wire was not far away. Tatiana turned her head a fraction towards the audience; he glimpsed a smile of mischievous triumph on her face. She took another step closer to the tower, and the audience exhaled a collective sigh of relief. Soon she would be safe. Clapping began to swell.
And then it died.”

De Silva suspects this was no accident and that he was looking at a murder, but wonders if his hands are tied as his superior, Archie Clutterbuck, believes the suspicious death of a foreigner isn’t a matter for the Nuala police. But as de Silva was questioning the circus folk another body was discovered.

High Wire in Nuala is another enjoyable mystery, set in the evocatively described Ceylon of the 1930s, capturing the sense of place and the contrast between cultures. The rich, multicultural way of life is still evident but also with the possibility of changes on the horizon. It was lovely once again to get reacquainted with the engaging characters at the heart of the series.

The well thought through plot unfolds at a steady pace as de Silva’s investigation leads him to uncover much more than he initially expected.

Book description

Much to the delight of the locals, a colourful Russian circus rolls into Nuala, but the fun ends abruptly when, on the opening night, a tragic accident takes place.
Shanti de Silva and his wife, Jane are among the crowd to witness the accident. Or was it an accident? Inspector de Silva senses murder, and soon, he’s juggling with the evidence. Will the trail lead to the circus’s dashing stunt rider and master of horse, Alexei Goncharov, or to Alexei’s brother Boris, its boisterous ringmaster? Throw a string of jewel thefts and some deadly snakes into the mix and the list of suspects grows.
De Silva will need to keep his wits about him to unravel yet another absorbing puzzle in this charming and addictive mystery series set in the 1930s in exotic Ceylon.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Family Drama BLIND TURN by @caraachterberg

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Blind Turn by Cara Achterberg

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The book description gives an idea of the bare bones of the story, which is not very complicated, at least on the face of it. The novel follows the aftermath of a terrible accident, although perhaps not a totally ‘accidental’ accident, as the girl driving, Jess, was ‘allegedly’ texting while driving. The girl, who suffers a concussion, can’t remember anything about the accident, but her friend Sheila, who was with her in the car, has plenty to say. The victim is a well-known town coach and a friend and mentor of the girl’s father. Let’s say there’s not much love lost for the girl and her family in the town (Jefferson, Texas) after that happens. The novel falls into the categories of family drama (or women’s stories, as the story is told by the two women, Liz, the mother, and Jess, her daughter, in the first-person) as well as a coming of age story. Jess is only sixteen when the accident happens, and she grows up considerably during the next few months, while she discovers who her real friends are, reorders her priorities, gains a new appreciation for both her parents, learns about guilt, and more than anything, about forgiveness. She is not the only one who grows up in the process, and her mother also learns a lot about herself and about those around her.

I’ve mentioned some of the themes discussed in the book, and there are others: disappointed expectations, second chances, the risks of texting and driving (of course), parenting, split-up families, the nature of guilt and forgiveness, the way all lives are interconnected and all actions have consequences, unplanned parenthood, looking after the elderly (especially our parents)… This is not a novel full of secrets and twists, devious characters and bizarre motives, but rather one that we could imagine happening to our own relatives and/or friends (or ourselves). That is one of its strengths. The plot does not require any suspension of disbelief (or not much. At times, I wondered if in real life things wouldn’t have got even more difficult for those involved, and especially some of the male characters seem very understanding and forgiving, although that is refreshing), and as the book is not heavy on details or descriptions, it is even easier to imagine its scenario taking place around us.

I liked all (or most) of the characters. Although I have little in common with Liz or Jess, I found them both easy to empathise with. They are not perfect but are fundamentally good people trying to get on, and they love each other deeply, though at times it might not be that evident even to themselves. The rest of the characters are also pretty decent despite their flaws, and this is not a book where good and evil are clearly separated. Sometimes a mistake can have terrible consequences, and sometimes good people can do terrible things. If I had to choose some of my favourites, I quite liked Katie, Liz’s sister; her friend Avery; their neighbour, Dylan; Ellen, the counsellor; and Fish, a boy Jess’s father knows. Both of their love interests are endearing, although at times they appear a touch too perfect (but things happen that qualify that impression), and even the characters whose behaviour is not exemplary are not despicable. Through the main characters’ narrations we get to share in their doubts, hesitations, fears, defence-mechanisms, disappointments, expectations, hopes, guilt feelings; and it’s impossible not to wonder what we’d do in their place. I have no children, but I could easily imagine what Liz might feel like, and as somebody who’s driven for years and has been lucky enough not to be involved in any serious accidents (none involving injuries), Jess’s plight was instantly recognisable. Their thoughts and their emotions felt true, and the way they behave and eventually grow suits perfectly the kind of human beings they are.

The use of the first-person narration by the two main female characters works well, as we get both sides of the story, with access to more background into the changes and the actions of each character than the other has, and it also provides us with some distance from each woman and an outsider perspective on them, and we come to realise that they are more alike than they think. The author is both skilled and thoughtful enough to avoid common-places, and she does not give her characters an easy way out. They have to work through their issues and earn the hard lessons they learn. Saying that, I loved the ending that manages to be both, open and hopeful.

The writing flows easily, and although the novel is not full of action or a page-turner in the standard sense, there are very emotional moments. We become so involved in the lives of the characters that it’s difficult to put the book down, as we care too much for them to rest until we know what happens. I read a review written by somebody from Jefferson, Texas, who felt somewhat disappointed because she had expected to recognise some of the landmarks, so beware if you have similar expectations. On the other hand, I got a good sense of what it felt like to live there (or at least in the Jefferson of the novel) and to know the characters personally, and that worked perfectly well for me.

I thought I’d share a few of the passages I highlighted (although, remember mine was an ARC copy, so there might be some slight changes in the final version):

Why does forgiveness require a sacrifice? That piece of Christianity never made sense to me. That sounds more like making a deal than offering forgiveness.

I am the roadrunner, running in thin air, moments from smacking into reality.

Sometimes it feels like I’m in a dystopian novel being controlled by a cosmic author who makes the characters do things no one would ever dream they would do —especially themselves.

I am different too. I am finished withholding forgiveness and clinging to my anger and fear like some kind of sick armor to shield my heart.

I recommend this novel to readers who love realistic/plausible coming-of-age stories and family dramas that don’t fall into the trap of trying to make everything right or easy for the characters while at the same time avoiding unnecessary twists used simply for effect. If you’re looking for an inspiring story you can connect with and characters you’d love to have as neighbours or friends, this is your book. There is heartache, tears, and also a process of growth and lessons to be learned, and you’ll feel better for having read it. And what more can we ask for! (Oh, I almost forgot! There are dogs as well!)

Book description

In the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident, a mother and daughter must come to terms with the real meaning of forgiveness.

Liz Johnson single-handedly raised an exemplary daughter. Jessica is an honor-student, track star, and all-around good kid. So how could that same teenager be responsible for the death of the high school’s beloved football coach? This is Texas, where high school football ranks right up there with God, so while the legal battle wages, the public deals its own verdict.

Desperate for help, Liz turns to a lawyer whose affection she once rejected and attempts to play nice with her ex-husband. Jessica faces her angry peers and her own demons as she awaits a possible prison sentence for an accident she doesn’t remember.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Mystery JANE IN St. PETE by @CynthiaHarriso1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Jane In St. Pete by Cynthia Harrison

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When Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Harry Bosch, or James Bond get older (or at least the actors playing them do), they just brush back a few (distinguished, of course) gray hairs and carry on carrying on with younger (beautiful, also of course) women. But what happens when female detectives get older? Is there a stop between teenage Nancy Drew and little old Miss Marple with her knitting?

Author Cynthia Harrison gives us a mature woman as amateur detective in her latest cozy mystery, Jane in St. Pete. Following the mostly unlamented demise of her workaholic husband Stan—whose only redeeming feature seemed to be that his unexpected death saved her the time and expense of filing for divorce—Jane left her old job and life in Detroit to move to Florida. She’d spent decades in a loveless relationship for the usual reasons. “She stayed for the kids. For the financial security. For the insurance. For the appearance of a normal family.”

Instead of the divorce she always promised herself, Jane became more like Stan, throwing herself wholly into first raising her two children and then into her career as an art lecturer. When we meet her, Jane is literally standing at the door of her new Florida life, having left job, house, and identity as ‘Stan’s wife’ behind in Detroit. Before her is a vibrant Florida lifestyle in Winding Bayou, an “over-fifties” community in which her mid-fifties age makes her one of the youngest residents.

Although she’s left her art career behind, Jane is instantly captivated by the outsider art created by a local native artist, Waylon Silvercloud. But Jane and her new friends at Winding Bayou are stunned when the artist is found brutally murdered. As more of her new friends are drawn into the investigation, a Jane is asked to help detective Jesse Singer with the art-related aspects to the crime.

And that’s where, for me, this book became interesting. There were plenty of red herrings along the way, including a disconnected and basically superfluous romantic subplot involving a younger neighbor and an FBI agent. But the solution to the crime was fairly obvious, and the motive frankly unlikely. That didn’t really matter beside the gift of seeing Jane slowly unfold like one of the local Florida blossoms. 

When she first arrives in Florida, Jane is almost shocked by how comfortable her new “senior” neighbors are with emotions she’s locked away—attraction, lust, romance, jealousy. It’s interesting to follow Jane’s emotional journey as she opens herself to these soul-shaking feelings of pain mixed with fragile but growing romantic attraction. In addition, we see Jane navigate her archetypal role as mother to her angry daughter, and daughter to her own wise mother. And of course, there’s the fun of seeing fish-out-of-water Jane trying to adapt to her new Florida surroundings. When shots ring out during a trip to a local restaurant, Jane is stunned as everyone around her brings out their gun, from her friends to the waitress and the musicians.

‘I don’t own a firearm,’ Jane said. George and Kim turned amazed faces toward hers. ‘This is Florida, everybody owns a gun,’ Kim said.

If it wasn’t for the pleasure of following Jane’s character change and develop, this would be a far less interesting and entertaining book. But seeing a mature woman step up to help and defend her friends, investigate a crime, and build a new life while slowly accepting herself as worthy of sexual feelings and romantic emotions is what, for me, makes Jane in St. Pete a recommended read.

4 stars.

Book description

Widowed art lecturer Jane Chasen is not an impulsive woman. Why, then, does the formerly methodical workaholic quit her job, sell her house, and move from Detroit to Florida? Instead of pondering her atypical behavior, she takes a closer look at a neighbor’s intriguing outdoor art installation. Days later, Detective Jesse Singer discovers the murdered artist in his studio. With Jane’s help, Singer finds the victim’s bloody shirt, inexplicably located within Jane’s gated community. Singer knows nothing about art, and as he closely questions Jane, she offers to help with the art angle of the case. Singer soon takes Jane up on her offer. Then, Jane begins to receive anonymous threats. Singer, determined to protect Jane, keeps her closer to his side than ever—she’s not complaining.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #FamilyDrama BLIND TURN by @CaraAchterberg

Today’s team review is from Jenni, she blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/the-miscellaneous-drawer-blog/

#RBRT Review Team

Jenni has been reading Blind Turn by Cara Achterberg

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I suppose this review should start with a disclaimer: I’m a Texan.

Not only am I a Texan, I’m a northeast Texan. I was born and raised roughly 50 miles from the city of Jefferson, where Cara Sue Achterberg’s Blind Turn nominally takes place. This setting is what drew me to her novel in the first place, despite tight family drama’s like this laying way outside my usual genre.

For fellow Texans out there looking for loving descriptions of the historic red brick post office, the Beauty and the Book hair salon, Big Cypress Bayou, or the annual Krewe of Hebe Mardi Gras parades, I’m afraid you will have to look elsewhere. Achterberg’s “Jefferson” is a kind of Anytown USA, rather than specifically Jefferson TX, zip code 75657.   

For me, the weakness of Achterberg’s work can be found in this. In a novel where one of the biggest hurdles is that the entire town turns their backs on the protagonists, the absence of that uniquely Jefferson spice is felt keenly. A weekend jaunt through Jefferson, the B&B and antiquing scenes are fabulous!, or even an afternoon stint on Wikipedia would have helped lend the novel local flavor and enriched the setting and the story immensely. When someone tries so hard to write a generic small town, they lose some of the DNA that makes every small town unique.

That said, there are some universal truths in Achterberg’s novel. Truths like small towns are places were “people mistake proximity for intimacy”, and frequent musings on the “invisible and impossible ways” people’s lives intertwine. There is beauty in these universalities, and in the ways that a mother’s love can transcend even doubt about her child’s innocence, in the redemption and of a flawed father, the generosity of a near-stranger who becomes a part of a family, and the maturing of a teenager.

There is beauty in forgiveness, of the self and of others, and that too lies at the heart of this very human novel full of very human characters.

The great strength in Achterberg’s work lies in this humanity, in the ways she makes her characters stumble and fall as they struggle to grow into themselves. There are no perfect people in this novel, but they’re all trying, and damn do we love to watch them try.

When Jess runs away from home, all of sixteen and crumbling beneath the weight of the world, our hearts run with her. She has been through so much, physically and emotionally, how can we begrudge her this escape?

And when she comes home? When her parents find her and finally realize how much hurt their child has been hiding and they break with the weight of it? How can an empathetic reader not break as well?

Despite the story taking place across several months, Blind Turn is a rapid read. The inciting incident, a horrific car crash that upends everyone’s lives, happens about page three and the punches keep coming from there. Courtroom drama, complicated family dynamics, small-town histrionics, and workplace politics all come into play in Achterberg’s story, just as they do in real life.

And just like in real life, the ending is messy. A man is killed in the opening car crash and there is no un-ringing that bell. Jess, who was driving the car, her parents, who have alternately fallen together, apart, and together-ish again throughout the novel, the dead man’s widow, and the town as a whole all have to learn to live with that. Lines of love and loyalty are tangled, but everyone we care about as readers is working towards better. Working towards being whole.

There’s no riding off into the sunset here, but there is satisfaction in the conclusion both in redemption well earned, and in completing a story well written.

3.75/5 for fellow Texans who see what it could be with a little research.

4/5 for everyone else.

Book description

In the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident, a mother and daughter must come to terms with the real meaning of forgiveness.

Liz Johnson single-handedly raised an exemplary daughter. Jessica is an honor-student, track star, and all-around good kid. So how could that same teenager be responsible for the death of the high school’s beloved football coach? This is Texas, where high school football ranks right up there with God, so while the legal battle wages, the public deals its own verdict.

Desperate for help, Liz turns to a lawyer whose affection she once rejected and attempts to play nice with her ex-husband. Jessica faces her angry peers and her own demons as she awaits a possible prison sentence for an accident she doesn’t remember.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #CrimeFiction MY HANDS ARE TIED by Seam Campbell

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

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading My Hands Are Tied by Sean Campbell

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In My Hands Are Tied, DCI David Morton and his wife, Sarah, are invited at the last minute – only a fortnight before – to their son’s wedding, and find themselves at Terra Farm; home to the Collective, and now to Stephen and Abigail, the future daughter-in-law they have yet to meet. The entrance is hidden behind high hedges and a security gate where they are asked to surrender their mobile phones. This level of security all seems a bit much to DCI Morton, but he goes along with it, not wishing to rock the boat. His relationship with his son is difficult enough already without him ruining the ceremony that is about to take place.

When they eventually get inside, Terra Farm is not what they were expecting. It is more like a small village tucked away in a valley, hidden from sight, but actually very close to civilization in SW London. At the centre is the barn, where the ceremony is due to take place, surrounded by eight bungalows, most of which are a bit ramshackle and rundown.

What follows is a bit of a homage to classic detective stories and the ‘country house’ mystery where all the characters are trapped inside, and the detective has his work cut out discovering who the killer is. Here it is a gated commune, dedicated to living an alternative lifestyle, where everyone has something to hide.

Having had a few too many beers after the ceremony, DCI Morton is forced to stay the night. He is woken in the morning by the sound of gunshots; one of the commune members, Guy Rosenberg, has been murdered. Worried that his son might end up being wrongly charged with the crime, he goes against protocol and carries on investigating, when he should have handed the case over to another officer, hoping to find the killer before the weekend is over. Losing his job doesn’t seem to bother him as he was near retirement anyway, but I thought his lack of concern over losing his pension, if found out, was a bit unbelievable.

The story is well written and the characters fleshed out and believable, even though some of them are decidedly weird, but something about this book just does not work for me. This is number seven in a series, but the police officers working on the case did not convince me that they were part of a team. One striking omission is the lack of humorous banter usually found in crime novels.  

I have not read any of the other books in this series, but, while the story worked perfectly well as a standalone, perhaps I would have gained some insight into why this team were not convincing if I had read the series from the beginning.

Book description

A last-minute wedding invite drags DCI Morton and his wife to the grounds of Terra Farm to watch his son marry the fiancée they’ve never met.

Nerves about meeting the bride prove to be the least of their worries when they’re awoken by gunshots and one of the guests – the bride’s ex – is found dead.

When Morton’s son becomes the prime suspect, the choice is simple: sit back and let another detective work to imprison his son, or work outside the rules to clear the family name.

As if he had any choice.

MY HANDS ARE TIED is the 7th and final instalment in the DCI Morton series of crime novels.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Thriller GHOST by Michael Jack Webb

Today’s team review is from Sherry, she blogs here https://sherryfowlerchancellor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Sherry has been reading Ghost by Michael Jack Webb

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This book had a good story, buried in way too much minutiae and exposition. The characters had interesting backgrounds and the premise of the story was great. Sadly, the action was interrupted constantly by overlong descriptions and encyclopedia “dialogue” being inserted way too often. The periods of natural dialogue were good, but there was not enough of that to satisfy this reviewer.

The heroine’s parents disappeared, and rather than being upset and focused on finding them (she’s an FBI profiler), she’s more concerned with what the local cop is wearing when he shows up and that he looks like Chris Pratt. There’s a long section on Chris Pratt and how she binged watched his movies in grad school. This was the first of many such interruptions in the flow of the story.

At one point, the main characters are driving along investigating the case of the serial killer that takes her attention away from finding her parents. She mentions a winery and stopping to get a bottle of her favorite wine. She then goes into a long one-sided discussion of the history of the winery. This totally took the reviewer out of the story and was not the only time such exposition did so.

Each time the characters went to another location, one of them would go into great detail about the history of the area (to the point it was laughable as it appeared whole sections of the encyclopedia were cut and pasted into the text.)

Another time, they ate at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and we got the whole history of the hotel as well as the town. These numerous interruptions of the actual plot of the story—that added nothing to moving the tale along—began to grate on this reviewer’s nerves and caused the focus of the tale to meander off on tangents.

I kept reading as I was interested in how the story would turn out, but sadly, the author seemed to get in his own way. What could’ve been a tight, taut, thriller turned into a slog of too much information. Research is important to add richness to the story line, but telling the reader everything that was learned in the research for the novel takes away from the pacing and excitement of the story unfolding in a thrilling manner. Little tidbits sprinkled in to add authenticity to the settings/circumstances is good, but wholesale chunks of research take the reader out of the story.

I’d give this one three stars.  If it was tighter and there was not so much dialogue that sounded more like recitation from the encyclopedia, I would’ve rated it much higher. I most likely won’t read the next in the series even though I like the storyline. The information-dump style is not for me. I much prefer a tightly written, fast paced story. For those who like an intense history lesson while reading a novel, this one may be right up your alley.

Book description

Enter a world where nothing is what it appears to be, and every clue leads an extraordinary young woman deep into the heart of darkness and beyond.

Kate Justice, FBI’s youngest Profiler, is assigned to find a serial killer with supernatural abilities.

The killer is elusive, cunning, and seemingly invincible.

Kate races against time to discover who or what is behind the gruesome murders and prevent another brutal killing.

She soon fears she’s in over her head as stunning revelations about her mysterious ancestry surface.

Hunter becomes the prey as the Ghost in the Darkness killer plays a vicious cat and mouse game, drawing Kate into a deadly confrontation.

Uncovering the truth will challenge her beliefs about the world around her and her understanding of what is real, what is a myth, and what is something in between.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #LiteraryFiction THE BIRD THAT SANG IN COLOR by Grace Mattioli @fixion4change

Today’s team review is from Tovia, she blogs here https://chroniclesofawallflower.art.blog/

#RBRT Review Team

Tovia has been reading The Bird That Sang In Color by Grace Mattioli

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‘’Real wealth like the kind Vincent had resided from within’’

Stated above is my favorite line from Grace Mattioli’s ‘The bird that sang in color’. Donna who happens to be the main character uses first person narrative to give us an insight to her life and that of the people around her. She takes us on a journey of what bordered between love and hate as seen as perceived in her relationship between herself and her spouse and that of her parents, a journey of self-discovery and ultimately the journey of life complete with all its sweet and sour intricacies.

As the book progresses, Donna is seen trying to rein in her artsy brother whose levity towards life and refusal to conform to anyone’s standards against her own very structured life leaves her bothered. It’s turns out to be ironic as the very genesis of what she presumed to be Vincent’s problem would later come to be known as her saving grace. Does Donna’s carefully scripted life bring her the comfort and happiness she so desires or would she have to throw caution to the wind and tweak things up a little?

In the course of reading this book, I noted that the copy I read had editing issues which I hope are resolved in the final version. In addition to this, I did feel as though there were a few loose ends that need to be addressed. I would rate this book a 3 out of 4 stars regardless of its flaws as I believe that the author accomplished what she intentionally set out to do in terms of her execution of a beautiful underlying message. If you’re one who loves to search for ‘’meaning’’ in literary pieces as well as crave a better understanding of life and relationships in its purest  un-sugarcoated form then I suggest that you read this.

Book description

Part family drama and part self-actualization story, this is about Donna Greco, who in her teens, subscribes to a conventional view of success in life—and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbors guilt for her supposed failure until she discovers a sketch-book he’d made of his life, which prompts her own journey to live authentically.

While this textured story combines serious issues such as alcoholism, death, and family conflict, it’s balanced with wit and humor and is filled with endearing, unforgettable characters. The story spans decades, beginning in 1970 and ending in the present. Readers will be immersed in this tale as it poses an intriguing question: “What pictures will you have of yourself by the end of your life?”

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Anthology Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid by Margaret Elphinstone et al @marysmithwriter

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

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid by Margaret Elphinstone et al

Last year, my family visited Scotland for a holiday. I remember Scotland as being beautiful, peaceful, and fairly sparsely populated compared to England. I also remembered that it rained a good deal. It was a wonderful experience. When I saw this book about a group of 22 writers living in the Galloway Glens during lockdown, I was curious to read how life had changed in Scotland as a result of Covid-19 and the accompanying lockdown. Living in South Africa during our lockdown period from 27 March to approximately the end of August, I was also interested to know how life in Scotland during lockdown differed from life here in South Africa.

The diary posts of all of the contributors were fascinating, they told tales of active and busy lives disrupted by the lockdown. Mixed feelings of relief at getting a welcome, but unexpected, reprieve from our ‘hamster in a ball’ style lives and frustration at the loss of freedom. I was quite surprised to read just how busy the majority of the contributors are in the daily lives compared to my elderly parents who are retired and live life at quite a slow and relaxed pace.

There is a great sense of loneliness expressed in the words of those who were living alone during this time, very different from my own experience where everyone in my family was schooling and working from home and I felt like I never got a minute to myself. On reflection, I was a bit ungrateful for the companionship and fellowship my family offered. One of the most compelling messages in this book for me were the following words shared by Lynne: “”Language … has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” I craved solitude, but never experienced loneliness. Loneliness can be soul destroying.

There are also many expressions of anxiety conveyed in these diary entries. Anxiety about many things including the writers own health and that of their families, as well as the health of friends and other members of the community, including front-line workers in the medical profession. There were also expressions of anxiety about the economic implications of the pandemic as well as concern about the future and how long the pandemic would last.

The strongest message for me, in reading this book, is the difference between in a lockdown in a third world country, where jobs and money are scarce at the best of times, and lockdown in a first world country where people have more financial security.

In South Africa, economic concerns generally outweighed concerns about health. The lock down resulted in millions of people being put on unpaid leave in the hospitality, tourism and entertainment sectors. These sectors have still not recovered and a significant number of people have lost their jobs. There are less benefits available here and only select people received government aid. The poverty we are seeing in the aftermath of the lockdown is overwhelming and frightening. People are going hungry and are begging for food on the streets. Our crimes rates have also rocketed.

The major impacts of the lockdown in the UK revolve around the psychological effects of isolation, loneliness and depression. In other words, mental health effects rather than the physical effects I see on a daily basis. Having read this book, I am of the view that the mental health issues are just as significant and concerning as the physical effects, and could potentially receive less recognition because they are less visible.

I found this book to be incredibly thought provoking and relevant, and I believe that would be the case for all readers regardless of their personal lockdown experience.

Book description

Writedown provides a unique record of life in Galloway, south west Scotland during lockdown through the work of 22 writers in a collection of lyrical poetry, desperate rants, humour and quiet endurance. They tell the story of a community encountering unprecedented times.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Jane in St. Pete by @CynthiaHarriso1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Jane In St. Pete by Cynthia Harrison

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4 out of 5 stars

Art lecturer Jane Chasen is recently widowed and moves from Detroit to live within a community in Florida.  Shortly after her arrival, she admires a neighbour’s unusual art installation – but then a murder takes place.  Detective Jesse Singer wants her help when dissecting the art angle of the case, and together with friend Kim and neighbour George, Jane sets out to help solve the mystery.  Also involved is FBI agent Barb, who has a special relationship with George.

It’s clear from the book that Ms Harrison is familiar with this part of Florida, and she makes it sound idyllic.  There is quite a lot of most interesting detail about Jane’s loveless marriage to the late Stan, and I couldn’t help feeling glad for her that she was able to start this new chapter in her life, despite the difficulties with her daughter, who accuses her of being glad her father is dead.  Jane is fifty-five; I very much liked the way in which she is not written as an ‘older woman’, but simply how your average fifty-five year old is, these days – still wearing cool clothes, being up for adventure and new experiences, and a new love relationship.  She could have been any age from thirty to sixty-five-ish.

The novel is nicely written, perfectly presented, and a cosy ‘easy read’; the sort of story to be relax with after a long, busy day.  Good for women who want to read about older female main characters – and I must just drop this quote in, that I really liked:

Jane felt bad for George. Young people didn’t get it.  Love wasn’t fate or soul mates, it was just hormones that evaporated with time.’

Book description

Widowed art lecturer Jane Chasen is not an impulsive woman. Why, then, does the formerly methodical workaholic quit her job, sell her house, and move from Detroit to Florida? Instead of pondering her atypical behavior, she takes a closer look at a neighbor’s intriguing outdoor art installation. Days later, Detective Jesse Singer discovers the murdered artist in his studio. With Jane’s help, Singer finds the victim’s bloody shirt, inexplicably located within Jane’s gated community. Singer knows nothing about art, and as he closely questions Jane, she offers to help with the art angle of the case. Singer soon takes Jane up on her offer. Then, Jane begins to receive anonymous threats. Singer, determined to protect Jane, keeps her closer to his side than ever—she’s not complaining.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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

Today we have a review from Sherry, who took part in our Review-A-Book Challenge. Sherry blogs here https://sherryfowlerchancellor.com/

Sherry chose to read Highland Cove by Dylan J Morgan.

Five friends with ambitions to become documentarians travel from London to an abandoned asylum on a Scottish island. The doctor who ran the asylum died sixty years prior and the hospital was closed and is rumored to be haunted.

The author is excellent at evoking atmosphere. The descriptions—first of the pub where the friends met the man who was taking them to the island—then of the island itself—and, finally, the inside of the asylum. The descriptions were creepy and very well done. Dark clouds hanging over the island and the storm complete with lightning added to the exquisite sense of anticipation of meeting some supernatural beings in the corridors or hospital rooms in the abandoned building. Peeling paint, dead leaves and icy wind whirling through the scenes were particularly evocative.

This reader enjoyed the suspense of the book for most of the novel. Figuring out an essential plot point early on was interesting and upped the anticipation of what was ahead.

What was unexpected was the shock of what happened later in the story, and without any spoilers, it’s hard to say what that was, but it was almost too much for this reader. I confess, I glossed over some of that, swiping my e-reader pages faster until the tale moved past that part. I imagine many readers of this genre would revel in that section, but not this one. It didn’t ruin the story for me, but it was disturbing.

The flashes back to the past added to the overall creepiness of the novel. The author is definitely gifted with a talent for descriptiveness. I could see all the places in the story and some made my skin crawl.

If you’re a fan of horror, you shouldn’t pass on this one. The ending was particularly disturbing. Just don’t read before bed or you might wake up at 2 a.m, like I did thinking I heard someone calling my name…..

Book description

Highland Cove Sanatorium sits abandoned on a desolate island one mile off the Scottish mainland. It’s a dark, foreboding place, filled with nightmares. Even darker are the asylum’s secrets: a history of disease and mental illness, macabre experiments and murder.

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

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

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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