Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #FamilyDrama THE SUM OF OUR SORROWS by @LisetteBrodey

Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sue has been reading The Sum Of Our Sorrows by Lisette Brodey

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4/5 stars

This book is an emotional roller coaster ride. It begins at the funeral of a mother of three, who died in a horrific car crash, while her middle child, Charlotte, watched, and continues relentlessly as her family tries to deal with the emotional and psychological  fallout caused by this tragedy.

Lily, the eldest daughter and main character of this book, has her life turned upside down almost immediately by her stern, unlikeable father announcing that she must take over both running the household and raising her two younger sisters, while forgoing her job at the diner with her friends and also her place at design school in LA in the Fall. Try as I might to forgive the widowed father’s stern demeanor and cold manner towards his girls I found him completely unlikeable and the way he disregarded his grieving eldest child’s needs unforgivable.

I enjoyed the adorable sisterly dynamic between the three girls, particularly the close bond between Lily and her youngest sister Willow. The antagonism between the middle child, Charlotte and her replacement caregiver, Lily was frustrating and I kept yelling at my Kindle that the whole family needed grief counseling!!

The youngest daughter, Willow does seem to be written much older than twelve. I have a twelve year old son and most communication consists of grunts and declarations of hunger!!

I also think most nineteen year olds are much more self-centered than poor put-upon, modern day Cinderella, Lily. However mild mannered she might be I think she would have railed against her father’s decisions much more and something would have given sooner than it actually did. Lily is also far too insightful for her years. There is a conversation after a party, where she talks like she has so much life and relationship experience to draw from.

Charlotte’s nightmare helps Lily understand exactly how traumatized Charlotte is:

“Charlotte opened her eyes, her tear-streaked face and look of absolute terror hitting Lily in a way she hadn’t allowed herself to fully grasp before. In that moment, Lily was there in the car during the tragic moment that changed her family’s lives forever. She saw her mother’s light go out in as little time as it took to scream her name. “

None of the characters in this book have an easy ride, there is so much pain and suffering, whether caused by events in the story or in the characters’ pasts. Dak, who Lily becomes reacquainted with in Malibu, has some insight into how to keep going when consumed by tragedy:

“And then I thought about the waves … they drew me here too. Look at how they break … but see how they gather their strength and form again … only to keep breaking … over and over again? This is exactly what life makes us do if we want to keep going. We have to learn how to break.”

The second half of the book moves away from the tragic events of the first and we meet a larger than life waitress called Bonnie, short for Bonstance Constance Universe. She is quite a character. Her turn of phrase is unique and hysterical.

The story also develops into a love story at this point and I found myself relieved for Lily that she was finally catching a break!

There are themes in this story which could act as triggers for certain readers. That is all I am prepared to say without “spoiling” anything!

I enjoyed The Sum of Our Sorrows and read it fairly quickly. I did feel that all the loose ends got tied together a bit too nicely in a bow at the end – but I was willing to suspend my disbelief in light of all the separate tragedies these poor people had suffered!

Book description

In an idyllic suburb in Northern California, tragedy strikes the Sheppard family when Abby, the mother of three daughters and wife to Dalton, is killed in a car accident. Charlotte, the middle daughter, is in the car with her mother and survives without physical injury but remains deeply scarred on the inside.

Dalton tells Lily, his eldest daughter, that she must sacrifice long-awaited college plans and put her life on hold to take care of her sisters. Lily is torn between her devotion to family and an increasing need to find her place in the world — but how can she leave, knowing her family may crumble?

Will her presence eventually cause more problems than it resolves?

The Sum of our Sorrows reveals how the aftermath of a family tragedy can precipitate sorrows never imagined.

It is a tale of grief, hope, healing, coming-of-age, friendship, and survival. It is also a love story of two broken souls living through pain in search of better days and the renewal of one’s spirit.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror Collection THE DEAD BOXES ARCHIVE by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sue has been reading The Dead Boxes Archive by John Leonard

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The seven stories included in this anthology of the macabre are:

  1. Call Drops
  2. Doggem
  3. A Plague of Pages
  4. Night Service
  5. Burntbridge Boys
  6. Linger
  7. The Screaming Mike Hawkins Story

These are clever and interesting stories filled with wit and intelligence. I enjoyed the mentions of the Wombles and the New Musical Express and references to other popular culture peppered throughout the stories, including songs by Snow Patrol & Nelly Furtado. These references acted as a kind of light relief amidst the delectably disgusting and relentlessly repulsive images that kept getting put in my head by John F. Leonard’s ghastly descriptions of fearful, revolting episodes and horrific circumstances. Episodes and circumstances  brought about by a character’s possession of one of the Dead Boxes of the title.

Themes within these stories include murder, infidelity, poisoning, and plenty of twisted madness. The stories are populated by unpalatable people made fearsome and horrific by the events of their lives. For example, in Doggem, childhood rejection of uncaring parents and personal greed leads to murderous, poisoning tendencies. Infidelity and double crossing by spouses and business partners lead to murder in Call Drops and A Plague of Pages.

The Dead Boxes Archive is a book full of victims. Victims of spousal infidelity, parental hatred, financial double crossing, suicide, being on the wrong bus or at the wrong football stadium at the wrong time. In most cases these victims of life and society turn the tables and make murder victims of their oppressors. We could ask if these murder victims therefore bring their fates upon themselves –  but no one deserves such horrific fates as those dreamed up in these gruesome stories.

Many of these despicable characters have in common their lack of respect for human life:

“On the whole, humankind were a pretty motley crew. Loathsome, grubby creatures who invariably descended to the lowest level and wallowed in the filth they found there.”

I particularly enjoyed the tongue in cheek wit from a writer of horror:

“Some things didn’t bear contemplating, there was already enough horror in the world without inventing more.”

I also enjoyed spotting the connections between the stories. The geographical locations of Bledbrooke and the eerie wooded ‘beauty spot’ of Cenet Chase are mentioned multiple times throughout the collection. The Salton Marsh antique shop was mentioned in Call Drops and then echoed in A Plague of Pages.

Noel Bayley the private detective is run over and killed in Call Drops and later referred to in A Plague of Pages to name just a few.

My favourite story in the collection was Night Service in which a hapless young man and his new girlfriend take the night bus back to her place but the journey quickly becomes even more terrifying than the night bus journeys I remember taking from Trafalgar Square in the early 90s.

All in all I enjoyed my foray into the world of the Dead Boxes. Heaven forbid any of us should do anything to cross someone in possession of one of these accursed items – or get on the wrong bus, for that matter!

4 stars.

Book description

The Dead Boxes Archive is a chilling collection of short horror stories and horror novellas. Together for the first time in one volume, seven tales from the critically acclaimed Dead Boxes series.

Dead Boxes are scary things. Wonderful and dreadful secrets hiding themselves in plain view.
On the surface, they often appear to be ordinary, everyday objects. Items which are easily overlooked at first glance. Perhaps that’s just as well because the Dead Boxes are as far from ordinary and everyday as you can get. They hold miracle and mystery, horror and salvation, answers to questions best not asked and directions to places better left unfound.

This collection offers an insight into some of these delightfully eerie articles. A stunning omnibus of old school inspired horror, the brooding and ominous variety. Not to say that there isn’t a little gore and gruesome in the mix. But one of the beauties of horror is that it comes in many forms. Blood and guts don’t need to be stars of the show for a story to be dark and disturbing. Something that will stay with you long after the reading is done.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Humour THE CHEF WHO MADE ONIONS CRY by Chilli Kippen @kiplingpress

Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sue has been reading The Chef Who Made Ionions Cry by Chilli Kippen

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The Chef Who Made Onions Cry: A Goldfarb Adventure is a fun-filled story set onboard a ‘wellness’ cruise with a cast of wonderfully quirky characters. It is the second in a series about Pushkin Goldfarb, a professional gambler from New York, but it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to enjoy this one.

We are introduced to each character chapter by chapter and each one seems more unusual than the last. The chapters are all written in third person POV, occasionally even from the point of view of the pig and also from a mischievous albatross that also travels with the ship.

Chef Armand the titular chef, hails from Marseilles, where he lives alone with only his beloved pet truffle-hunting pig for company. Due to a misunderstanding with the local imam he fears for the life of his pig, which he antagonistically named ‘Arafat’ and decides to bring her on the cruise with him. This is much to the disgust of the other kitchen staff, since this means there is a pig in the galley most of the time while they are preparing food.

We are introduced to ex-psychiatrist turned assassin Major Barbara Cock who has been retained by a mysterious island-dwelling man called Mr Rufus whose spouse, Mrs Rufus just happens to be a dog. He wants Major Cock to kill the mysterious Sheikh Hasim. 

“A stocky woman severely dressed but not unattractive with shoulders of a weightlifter.”

Sheikh Hasim travels with his double who he claims to need for security purposes, due to death threats. 

“At the Captain’s table, the Saudi reclined, like a pile of freshly washed laundry next to Captain Svensen”

Animal rights groups are threatening the sheikh’s fast food chain due to the unethical manner in which his sheep are transported. It is this animal cruelty which has led to Mr Rufus hiring the assassin.

Gold digger Pamela Lawson-Groves III is also onboard, searching for her next husband and she sets her sights on the sheikh. Unbeknownst to her all of her romantic dealings with him are actually with his double, a penniless out-of-work actor whose desperate state of unemployment led him to undertake plastic surgery in order to take on the role of the sheikh’s double.

We also meet Pushkin Goldfarb, who is there to win big at Blackjack. The previous year (in the previous book in this series) he stole away both one of the sheikh’s wives and also a large amount of his money during a game of Blackjack on a cruise. Goldfarb encounters a bunch of elderly bridge players onboard and decides to teach Blackjack so that he can relieve them of their retirement funds.

Mahmoud is a member of the kitchen staff on the ship and is the nephew of the imam in Marseilles, who has declared a fatwa on the chef’s pig. When Mahmoud finds favour with the chef and is made sous-chef he is faced with a difficult choice – obeying his uncle by carrying out the fatwa and killing the pig he has grown fond of, or a possible glittering career working alongside the pig’s owner. 

Mahmoud’s unfriendly uncle the imam has persuaded a congregant, Ahmed to also take a position on board the ship in order to ensure Mahmoud gets rid of his pig nemesis, thus completing the fatwa during the cruise. 

The story unfolds with many opportunities for farcical humour. A strawberry birthmark on the left buttock of the sheikh’s double, with the words ‘lick don’t bite’ tattooed below it is the only difference between them. So how is Major Barbara Cock going to find out which sheikh has it? She actually comes up with a good plan but is foiled by the truffle-hunting pig who thinks the double’s discarded underpants smell like a truffle and follows her very sensitive nose into their cabin.

This was a delightfully amusing story, full of unexpected twists and turns. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to be entertained by a quirky cast of entertaining cariacatures and stereotypes and the nonsensical events they get wrapped up in.

An assortment of recipes made using truffles are included at the end of book.

I will be on the lookout for any subsequent ‘Goldfarb Adventures’ and will be recommending this one to family and friends.

Book description

As on all cruise ships, the most important person on board the Pacific Belle, apart from the Captain is the Master Chef. It is the quality and yes indeed the quantity of food that makes or breaks a cruise.

The reader is introduced to Master Chef Armand Barrique – twice Michelin starred – dreamt recipes, who is not only a Master Chef but also a man of sensitivity and devoted to his trainee expert truffle-hunter pig. Chef is also central to the plot and his planning and delivery of the spectacular Versailles dinner is a highlight, not only for the cruise guests, but also for the reader.

Our old friend Alexander Pushkin Goldfarb continues his run of luck in the ship’s casino as he observes the foibles of his fellow passengers while new characters such as Major Barbara Cock, a retired army psychiatrist and now assassin for hire, introduce elements of intrigue and revenge and somewhat paradoxically humour and sympathy for her cause.

As in her previous novel, as the plot twists and turns in Ms Kippen’s hilarious and deliberately absurd trademark style, she tackles another important social issue and delivers a powerful blow to the proponents of Live Animal Transportation. The marked contrast of sober descriptions of this cruel practice brings home the message that it must be stopped! Now!

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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

Today we have a review from Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenger Sue, she blogs here

Sue chose to read Wasteland by Terry Tyler

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Read on the Kindle

5/5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book description

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

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

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

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

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

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC @SueBavey reviews #Histfic THE LAST PILGRIM by @NAGrangerAuthor

Today’s review comes from Sue, who joined our Review-A-Book Challenge. Find Sue here

Sue Has been reading The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger

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Since 2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth, UK to Plymouth, MA, I was interested in reading this account of the life of Mary Allerton Cushman. Mary was only four years old during the arduous journey made by the separatists, who later became known as pilgrims. Their story is well known in Massachusetts and taught from an early age.  I was keen to read this account written for an adult audience and was rewarded by a narrative filled with a great deal of well-researched historical detail. Some of the events were relayed in a slightly unemotional manner, there could have been more excitement during the description of John Howland having fallen overboard and his rescue, and also an episode in which one of the cross beams of the Mayflower cracks during a heavy storm. These events, the illness and death below decks must have been terrifying.

The beginning of the book introduces us to Mary in 1699, as an elderly woman, looking back on her life. We then switch to her father, Isaac Allerton, in whose voice most of the early chapters are written, switching to Mary occasionally, as she gets a little older. When Mary reaches the age of 8 she is put out to live with another family, that of the Governor of the Plymouth colony. Mary’s behaviour is unruly and her father has struggled to tame her since the death of his wife on the Mayflower. This event is useful since the narrator is now a party to the majority of conversations held within the Governor’s house and through these we learn of relations with the local natives, the problems relating to debt which follow the settlers and the subsequent trade deals set up by Mary’s father, which have detrimental effects on his relationship with the governor and eventually lead to his leaving the colony.

It was interesting to hear in detail the processes which Mary must learn in order to become a goodwife: soap making, cooking, spinning flax into cloth and how to catch leeches in a bottle from a river, to name but a few. The author clearly spent plenty of time researching every possible aspect of life in the colony and describes it in an engaging manner.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Historical Fiction.  4.5/5

Book description

This book captures and celebrates the grit and struggle of the Pilgrim women who stepped off the Mayflower in the winter of 1620 to an unknown world – one filled with hardship, danger and death. The Plymouth Colony would not have survived without them.
Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower, dying at age 88 in 1699.
Mary’s life is set against the real background of that time. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view – she was, after all, only four when she descended into the cramped and dank living space below deck on the Mayflower – but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in the New England’s rocky soil.
What was a woman’s life like in the Plymouth Colony? The Last Pilgrim will tell you.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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