Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Mistress Of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon @MadameGilflurt #HistFic

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Mistress Of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon

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The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon

3.5 out of 5 stars

The Mistress of Blackstairs is set in Covent Garden in the late 18th century, where the mysterious, veiled Madame Moineau runs an establishment in which she provides entertainment for some of the moneyed men of London.  In reality she is former courtesan Georgie Radcliffe.  In the winter of 1785, two men appear in her life.  The first is portrait artist Anthony Lake, looking for the daughter he has never met, and the second is someone she would rather not remember, Viscount Polmear.  Georgie and Anthony’s lives become entwined as they face a mutual foe.

There is no doubt that the author knows her subject very well, and she portrays the period in intricate detail, creating a lovely atmosphere of the time and showing the pretensions of the well-to-do against the seamier side of life, with the whores and gambling.  It’s a jolly good story, with some evocative description that I enjoyed very much; the dialogue is interesting and adds to the characterisation in each case, from the snooty Viscount Polmear to the dialect of the kitchen staff, young Molly (Georgie’s ward), and the ladies of the night.

I didn’t enjoy the book quite as much as I’d expected to, alas, because I felt it could have benefitted from some redrafting/editing to tighten it up and make the actual prose read more smoothly.  The punctuation bothered me; there are blocks with no commas where I thought there should have been some, which meant I had to read passages twice to get their meaning.  There was too much use of the words ‘and then’, where a semicolon, instead, would have made the whole paragraph read so much better.  I’d sum it up as a very good book, let down by less than satisfactory editing and proofreading. I have read two of the author’s other books and enjoyed them, most recently The Crown Spire.

Book Description

Everyone thought she was dead…
In 18th century Covent Garden, Madam Moineau, is the mistress of Blackstairs, an establishment catering to the finest clients in London.
The mysterious, veiled lady of Paris was better known in the past as a former courtesan and went by the considerably less exotic moniker of Georgina Radcliffe, or Georgie to her friends. 
In the winter of 1785 two men appear in Madam Moineau’s life.
Rogue artist Anthony Lake has recently returned from Europe. Lake is on his own assignment, searching the streets of London for the daughter he only recently discovered he had fathered.
He learns that the child’s mother is dead, brutally killed and Anthony finds himself on an unexpected mission to avenge his ex-lovers’ murder.
Nearly ten years after he left Madam Moineau, then known as Georgina, for dead, Viscount Edmund Polmear returns to London.
He has a new fiancé in tow and is soon to be found around Blackstairs, seeking a further mistress for his own pleasure.
His sudden appearance is a shock for the victim that he believed he left for dead, forcing Madam Moineau to face the horrors of her own past head on.
Anthony Lake and Madam Moineau’s lives become inevitably and inextricably entwined as they find themselves up against the fearsome and unforgiving Viscount Polmear.
 

About the author

Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian better known as Madame Gilflurt, the author of A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life (www.madamegilflurt.com), where she blogs on all matters 18th century. 
She has been published on matters as diverse as Marie Antoinette’s teeth and Grace Kelly’s love life. Her work has been featured by BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austen’s Regency World, the official magazine of the Jane Austen Centre. She is thrilled to provide an online home for An Evening with Jane Austen, and her additional material for the show was performed at the V&A. 
Catherine has performed the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, as part of An Evening with Jane Austen, and spoken at Dr Johnson’s House and Lichfield Guildhall. 
Catherine holds a Master’s in Film Studies from the University of Nottingham. When not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London. 
She resides atop a steep hill in Brontë country with a rakish colonial gentleman, a hound, and a feline.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Walls of Silence by @helen_pryke #WomensFiction #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Walls Of Silence by Helen Pryke

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WALLS OF SILENCE by Helen Pryke

3.5 out of 5 stars

I was not sure how to review this book at first, because it’s a strange one; my opinion of it varied so much, all the way through.  It’s a long novella (or a very short novel – I am sure it is no longer than 50K words, maximum).

Warning: this review includes plot spoilers.

Set in northern Italy, the story opens with Pietro, heartbroken over the loss of his wife, Maria, who has just died from cancer.  It then goes back to Maria’s childhood in Sicily, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Maria lived in a small village, where life rolled by at the slow pace of fifty years before, and the Roman Catholic church and the family were the main focus.  I adored every word of this part; it’s beautifully written, and I felt so sad when Maria’s mother died, even though I’d met her only briefly.  Yes, the characterisation is that good.  The atmosphere of the time is simply yet vividly portrayed, and I was completely engrossed in the story.

Maria’s childhood takes a darker turn when her father remarries, and her ‘uncle’ Salvo comes to live with them.  Her account of the abuse she suffered is raw, poignant and utterly believable, and I loved that this part of the book showed not only the reasons for her silence, but also the way in which the simple, ill-educated population were manipulated by the rigours of formal Catholicism.  Stunningly good.  At this point I was going to give the book 5*, which is not a rating I give often.

Skipping forward, a marriage is arranged between Maria and Vincenzo, when she is sixteen and he is in his late twenties.  They go to live in Milan, and the marriage is difficult, interspersed with brief moments of happiness.  They live in a squalid apartment, Vinny struggles with the prejudices of the northern Italians, he gambles, drinks, and eventually abuses her physically.  I felt this part was a little rushed, and I was sometimes a bit ‘hmm’ about Maria’s reactions, but I was still enjoying it.  Eventually, Vinny’s gambling spirals out of control, and he offers Maria up as a final wager in desperation to recoup his losses.  He loses, and Maria has to leave the house with her new protector, Matteo.

It’s now that the book trails off.  Maria is forced into prostitution.  Another street girl gives her a tablet ‘to take the edge off’, which turns out to be LSD.  Girls in that situation are usually given (or choose to take) heroin or cocaine (or possibly dexedrine, in the 1960s), which give the illusion of wellbeing, not LSD, which is a powerful hallucinogenic and produces a ‘trip’, not the sort of drug that would be offered to ‘take the edge’ off anything; I suspected that Ms Pryke knew little about her subject at this point.  After a terrible few months, Maria meets Pietro, a young, professional man who falls instantly in love with her during their brief afternoon/early evening meetings.  Despite the danger involved with going up against Italian gangsters and the fact that he hardly knows her, Pietro hatches a plan to aid her escape, which involves them faking their own deaths and changing their identities.  For some reason I couldn’t fathom, his parents (who, in the staid Italian 1960s, are perfectly okay with him potentially ruining his life for the sake of a prostitute he hardly knows) agree to orchestrate this preposterous plan.  I am afraid I could no longer suspend my disbelief at this point; I thought of at least three more convincing ways to end the Matteo section even as I was reading it.

The book is wrapped up quickly, with details about Pietro and Maria’s happy new life, her return to Sicily and reunion with her family.  Again, it was over too soon.  The reunion with Guisy should have been hugely emotional, but it felt raced through, with all information given about the people of Maria’s childhood like a quick report.

I am giving this book 3.5* but rounding it up to 4* on Amazon because the beginning was so very, very good, and because Ms Pryke can certainly write; I read it in one day and looked forward to getting back to it each time.  The main problem is that for the depth of plot, it needs to be a novel the reader can become immersed in emotionally, not a short catalogue of disastrous events.  Had the second part, with Vinny, been extended, and the prostitution plot been less outlandish, it could have been a terrific book.  Sometimes, less is more; this author is talented enough not to need car chases and faked deaths.  The atmosphere of Sicily, the stark contrast between the 1960s and the 21st century, the characterisation and her simple knack of writing good sentences that keep the reader wanting to turn the pages, are enough.  And I’d definitely read something else by her.

Book Description

Living in the mountains of Sicily, Maria has the perfect childhood until the tragic accident that changes her life forever. The events that follow will take her away from her home town to the streets of Milan, in an ever-increasing spiral of abuse and deception. Will she ever be able to trust anyone ever again? Set in turbulent 1960s Italy, Walls of Silence is the story of a girl who must find the courage and strength to survive her family’s betrayal and the prejudices of her country.
Part of the proceeds from this book will go to a women’s centre in the UK.

About the author

Helen Pryke

I moved to the north of Italy 26 years ago, without knowing a word of Italian! I picked it up pretty quickly, mostly by watching cheesy American soaps dubbed in Italian with Italian subtitles… but was too shy to speak for about a year!
26 years later, I now work as a translator, from Italian to English. It’s a job I love, especially when I got the chance to translate a children’s book and screenplay written by an Italian author. The screenplay is now winning awards at American film festivals!
I have always written short stories and books from an early age – I still have a short story I wrote when I was 10 that was published in the school magazine!
I love reading – I’ll read almost anything! I tend to spend most of my free time relaxing with my husband and two sons, and eating delicious Italian food!
The only thing I don’t like about Italy is the climate – cold and damp in the winter, hot and humid in the summer. With infestations of mosquitoes in the summer and stink bugs in the autumn…
but all in all, it’s a great place to live.

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Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT This Parody Of Death by William Savage @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading This Parody Of Death by William Savage

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THIS PARODY OF DEATH by William Savage

4 out of 5 stars

This third Ashmole Foxe 18th century murder mystery has more humorous overtones than the first two, and is probably a more ‘easy read’ for those who are not particularly interested in historical fiction per se. Ashmole Foxe is a wealthy gentleman bookseller of Norwich, a leading member of city society and a slightly world-weary ladies’ man.  He is also known to take an interest in crime within the area, and in This Parody of Death he is invited to solve the murder of Richard Logan, an undertaker and recluse.  As Foxe delves into the lives of those involved with Logan, he uncovers far more than he had ever expected.

As ever, I quickly became absorbed in the world of 18th century Norwich; it’s a city I know, so this was interesting for me.  Mr Savage’s characterisation of Foxe is first class, as, for the first time, he begins to question his own future, his attitudes to women, and even the flamboyant way in which he dresses.  I liked that there was a look inside the head of Charlie, Foxe’s street urchin messenger, with a chapter from his own point of view, and Mr Savage makes the reader all too aware of the seamier side of life beneath the period’s veneer of respectability.  I also enjoyed the amusing insight into the mysteriously competitive world of church bell ringing (yes, it sounds a bit obscure, but it’s very well done), and the alternative views on the hypocrisy of formally accepted Christianity.

With regard to the plot itself, it is convincing, and unpredictable.  I felt there were a few inconsistencies within the novel, and some repetition of fact that was not necessary, but the uncovering of the crime is dialogue-led, so this was perhaps unavoidable in some circumstances.  The characters are the stars of this book; I’d love to see them in a novel other than a murder mystery, as I think they have potential for more.  This is a most enjoyable novel, and I’m happy to recommend it.

Book Description

Eighteenth-century Norwich bookseller and dandy, Ashmole Foxe, is asked by the local bellringers to look into the death of their Tower Captain, who has been found in the ringing chamber with his throat cut. Since the victim had a foul temper, as well as being a notorious miser, killjoy and recluse, there’s no shortage of suspects. Yet with everyone lying about themselves and their relationships with the dead man, Foxe knows it will take even more cunning than usual to dig out the truth. When, on top of all that, he discovers nothing about the victim is what it seems, he realises he must dig into the man’s past as well as his present. Can he ever separate truth from pretence and the genuine from the fake?  

On the track of the killer, Foxe encounters many of his city’s 18th-century inhabitants along the way, including a sharp young whore, several frightened tradesmen, a reclusive miser, an unlucky attorney, a desperate Ship’s Mate and a woman who gets the better of him nearly every time they meet. Bit by bit, Mr Foxe reveals a tale of greed, bitter family strife and unexpected love. A tale that ended in the church tower in an explosion of anger and death.

About the author

William Savage

William started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had always lectured and written extensively on business topics, including three books, many articles and a successful leadership blog which garnered more than 5000 regular followers. He has no intention of letting his mind stagnate or his creativity wither. This means finding new sources of interest and inspiration.

Throughout his life, William has read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of his other loves is history, especially the local history of the many places where he has lived. It seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk. Four books have appeared so far and he is currently at work on a fifth.

William’s books are set between 1760 and around 1800. This was a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with Napoleon. The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city. The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman-physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations nearer to the North Norfolk coast. Adam tries to build a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and a knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.

William has spent a good deal of his life travelling in Britain and overseas. After obtaining his degree at Cambridge, he set out on a business career, during which he lived in most parts of the UK, as well as spending eleven years in the USA. He has been a senior executive, an academic and a consultant to many multinational companies. Now he is more than content to write stories and run a new blog, devoted to the world of Georgian England, which you can find at http://www.penandpension.com.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Spirit Of Lost Angels by @LizaPerrat #HistFic #wwwblogs

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Spirit Of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat

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SPIRIT OF LOST ANGELS by Liza Perrat

4.5 out of 5 stars

Spirit of Lost Angels is Liza Perrat’s debut novel, and revolves around Victoire Charpentier, a peasant living in the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne.  It is linked to the later book, Blood Rose Angel, by the bone angel talisman passed down through generations.  This first novel in the trilogy takes place in the years leading up to the French Revolution.

Victoire’s life is one of tragic events indeed, as she loses those she loves to accident, illness, the danger and politics of the times, and at the careless hands of the nobility.  Cast into a brutal Parisian prison, she meets the notorious Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Remy who inspires within her the fire of revolution; I liked the inclusion of a real-life character in this work of fiction.  All the way through the book I appreciated the amount of research that has gone into writing this novel ~ such an entertaining way to fill in the gaps in my education.  I enjoyed reading about the lives of the rural peasants in the beginning of the book, and comparing this with the medieval life in Lucie, four hundred years earlier, in Blood Rose Angel.

Throughout the book, the gaping chasm between the lives of the poor and those of the ludicrously self-indulgent aristocracy is always evident; it was most interesting to read the thoughts of the time about the general lot of women, and, as in the medieval story, the restrictions due to social mores and religious belief/superstition.  Victoire lives many lives in her short one, and I was pleased to see return to Lucie, and reunite with the family she had longed for, for so many years, and to see wrongs overturned.

Showing the history of a country via the changes in one village over a period of six hundred years is such a great idea, and I now look forward to reading the third book in the trilogy, Wolfsangel, which is set during World War Two.

Book Description

Her mother executed for witchcraft, her father dead at the hand of a noble, Victoire Charpentier vows to rise above her poor peasant roots.

Forced to leave her village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for domestic work in Paris, Victoire suffers gruesome abuse under the ancien régime. Can she muster the bravery and skill to join the revolutionary force gripping France, and overthrow the corrupt, diabolical aristocracy?

Spirit of Lost Angels traces the journey of a bone angel talisman passed down through generations. The women of L’Auberge des Anges face tragedy and betrayal in a world where their gift can be their curse.

Amidst the tumult of revolutionary France, this is a story of courage, hope and love.

About the author

Liza Perrat

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.
Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the French historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII Nazi Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.
Friends, Family and Other Strangers is a collection of humorous, horrific and entertaining short stories set in Australia.
Liza is a founding member of the Author Collective, Triskele Books and regularly reviews books for Bookmuse.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Ronald Laing by @davidboyle1958 #NonFiction

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Ronald Laing by David Boyle

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RONALD LAING by David Boyle

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team

The name R D Laing is one that I’ve often seen around, probably on my parents’ bookshelves, too, but I’ve never really known who he was.  I’ve long been sceptical about psychiatric diagnoses, so this book piqued my interest.  It’s only novella length, so I knew it wouldn’t be a huge chore to get through if I didn’t like it.  Happily, I did.

Laing was an unorthodox Scottish psychiatrist who challenged methods of psychiatric treatment during the 1940s and 50s, was greatly influenced by existential philosophy and became a cult figure in the 1960s.  This book is not long enough to be a biography; it’s more an overview of his life and an examination of his principles, theories and work in relation to the trends of the time.  David Boyle writes intelligently, clearly and in language plain enough for the general reader with no knowledge of the subject.  He gives a few instances of Laing’s experiments when working in psychiatric hospitals, such as this one: ‘…In one ward, he reduced the drugs to practically zero and locked the door.  In the first week of the experiment, about 30 windows were smashed.  Nobody was hurt, so from the second week onwards he unlocked the doors and found there was no rush to leave, and the windows stayed intact … it was being locked up that they resented.’

Like others of his brilliance, philosophies, era and convention-challenging ideas, Laing sank heavily into the bottle and became something of a caricature of himself.  I was interested in much of what Boyle touched upon, found myself constantly nodding and highlighting passages, and will find out more, I am sure, probably from the bibliography at the back.   This mini-bio ends at 87%, after which there is the beginning of another work by David Boyle, and a list of others, which I was interested enough to look at.

‘He had a complete lack of interest in any kind of small talk or going through the social motions’.   Hang on while I go and look him up on YouTube…

Book Description

The radical psychiatrist R. D. Laing took the world by storm in the 1960s and 1970s with his ideas about madness, families and people’s need for authenticity. At the height of his fame he could fill stadiums like Bob Dylan, and often did so. He became an icon of the movement that held psychiatry to be an agency of repression, his phrases on a million hippy T-shirts. Then he fell from grace, flung out of the medical profession, and his influence has been waning since. His basic ideas have been regarded as having been discredited. Yet, despite this, his influence is also everywhere – but largely unnoticed and unremarked. 

This book tells the extraordinary human story of his struggle, first with the authorities as a psychiatrist in the army and then a series of mental hospitals. It explains his extraordinary influence in the context of the upheavals of those psychedelic days – and it looks at what we can still learn from Laing today. Boyle finds he still has an unexpectedly potent message.

About the author

David Boyle is the author of Blondel’s Song: The capture, imprisonment and ransom of Richard the Lionheart, and a series of books about history, social change and the future. His book Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life helped put the search for authenticity on the agenda as a social phenomenon. The Tyranny of Numbers and The Sum of Our Discontent predicted the backlash against the government’s target culture. Funny Money launched the time banks movement in the UK.

David is an associate of the new economics foundation, the pioneering think-tank in London, and has been at the heart of the effort to introduce time banks to Britain as a critical element of public service reform – since when the movement has grown to more than 100 projects in the UK. 

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Planck Factor by Debbi Mack #Thriller @debbimack

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Planck Factor by Debbi Mack

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THE PLANCK FACTOR by Debbi Mack

3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a short book, a long novella.  It’s an unusual plot ~ student Jessica starts to write a thriller, then discovers that life is imitating art as she is swept into a cat and mouse chase involving mysterious men in vans, research into the possibility of making a bomb more powerful than a nuclear attack, truth seeker groups and murder.

I like Ms Mack’s writing style very much; it’s sharp, current and witty, and she has clearly drawn on her own experience to write Jessica, which was entertaining and amusing.  The book alternates between Jessica’s own story and that of the novel she is writing, which was only occasionally confusing; mostly, it works, and is nicely interspersed with short chapters from ‘observers’.  I was interested in the subject matter, and it has a good end twist which I hadn’t anticipated.

For me, the downside to this story was the lighthearted tone in which it’s written, almost a comedy thriller.  Despite being the subject of a nationwide search and having witnessed murders, chasing across the country in an effort to hide, and wondering what the hell is going on, Jessica still makes quips and manages to work on her novel.  This does make more sense when you read the twist at the end, but the problem was the rest of the story; I think it would have seemed more feasible if her work had resulted in her getting drawn into the danger, rather than having her novel ‘come to life’.  Also, if it had been a bit more serious, and possibly longer.  It’s a great idea, I just thought it needed a bit more research and thinking out.

One thing that made me choose this book was the ‘New York Times best selling author’ line on the cover.  This refers not to this book but to a 2011 mystery, Identity Crisis, which made numbers 27 and 35 on the NYT ebook best seller list for two weeks during that year, in case you’re interested.

Book Description

On a dare, grad student Jessica Evans writes a thriller, creating a nightmare scenario based upon the theory that the speed of light is not a constant—one that has a dark application. Her protagonist (the fiancé of a scientist killed in a car crash) is pursued by those who want to use the theory to create the world’s most powerful weapon.
Jessica’s research into the science stirs up concern from an extremist group intending to use it for evil. Before long, Jessica’s life mimics that of her protagonist, as she runs from terrorist conspirators who suspect she may try to stop them from causing a major disaster. As the clock ticks down, Jessica must put the pieces together and avert a global catastrophe.

About the author

Debbi Mack

Debbi Mack is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sam McRae Mystery Series. She’s also published a young adult novel called INVISIBLE ME and a thriller entitled THE PLANCK FACTOR.
Debbi’s a Derringer-nominated short story writer, whose work has been published in various anthologies. She also writes screenplays and is interested in filmmaking.
Debbi enjoys reading, movies, travel, baseball, walking and espresso–not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Columbia, MD, with their family of cats.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Codename Lazarus by @APMartin51 #WW2 #Spy #Thriller

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Codename Lazarus by A P Martin

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CODENAME LAZARUS by A P Martin

4 out of 5 stars

This is a spy story set in England and Germany during Hitler’s rise to power and the first year of the Second World War.  John King, a history lecturer, is invited to become an undercover agent, and, despite the realisation of how dangerous and lonely his life will become, he agrees.

What I liked about this book

  • The author clearly knows his subject inside out and, I would imagine, has a great interest in it, as opposed to just having done the research required to produce this novel; you can tell the difference.  I feel that A P Martin has an innate understanding of the era itself, and the people who lived within it.
  • The section before the war, when agent King witnesses the ‘gathering storm’ of Nazi Germany, is excellent, and SS man Joachim Brandt’s witnessing of Dunkirk, from the point of view of a German spy, is outstanding.  I loved these two parts.
  • I thought the plot was well thought out, generally, and it kept me interested throughout.
  • The understated communication between King and his controller, Pym, was most believeable.  The characterisation of Pym and Brandt was particularly good, as was that of misguided informant Abigail Stevenson; Brandt’s duplicitous relationship with her was executed very well, as was Brandt’s developing character, as he grows from patriot to confirmed Nazi.  There’s a key scene were he slaughters some POWs, which triggers him off; it’s so well done.
  • The build up to the war, with the growing danger in Germany, the differing attitudes to Hitler, and the many theories about his intentions, was fascinating, and gave such insight into how that time must have been for different people across both countries.

What I was not so sure about 

  • I found some elements early in the book less than convincing; at the beginning, King is with his friends in Germany in 1933, and everyone speaks in perfectly formed sentences, giving just the right amount of information to the reader; the conversation didn’t seem real.
  • I wasn’t convinced by the romance with Greta; I found their Christmas together in 1938 not a last idyllic, romantic few days before the war, but a mildly interesting account of activities.  Greta never came across to me as a living, flesh and blood woman. However, it was no worse than the depiction of women by some well-known writers of this genre, Jeffrey Archer to name but one.
  • I would urge Mr Martin to seek out a proofreader who knows how to punctuate ~ there are scores of missing or incorrectly placed commas, and the curious placing of quotations marks around proper nouns (eg, ‘Lords Cricket Ground’).  I didn’t find any spelling mistakes or typos, though.
  • The ending.  The book just stopped.  The main conflict of the plot is resolved, and satisfactorily, but it seemed almost as though the author had forgotten that minor story threads needed resolution, too.  I turned the page expecting another chapter, or at least an epilogue, but that was that.

This book has much to commend it, hence the four stars; the parts I liked, I liked very much indeed, but I feel it needs a bit of ‘sorting out’ by a really good editor, perhaps a trimming down and removing of mundane detail, to make it the first class novel it deserves to be.  I think lovers of ‘old school’ sort of spy stories will love it.

Book Description

Spring 1938: Great Britain is facing potentially lethal threats: the looming war with Germany; the fear that her Secret Service has been penetrated by Nazi agents and the existence of hundreds of British citizens, who are keen to pass information to her enemies.

John King, a young academic, is approached by his Oxbridge mentor to participate in a stunning deception that would frustrate Britain’s enemies. As King struggles to come to terms with the demands of his mission, he must learn to survive in a dangerous and lonely ‘no man’s land’, whilst remaining one step ahead of those in hot pursuit.

Adapted from a true story, ‘Codename Lazarus’ takes the reader on a journey from the dark heart of Hitler’s Germany, across the snowy peaks of Switzerland to the horrors of Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz, before reaching a thrilling and decisive conclusion, from which none of those present emerges unscathed.

About the author

A.P. Martin

I was born and spent my entire working life in the North West of England, where I taught at school, college and university levels. I became Head of Department of Social Sciences at a University, specialising in the study of social inequality, social mobility and sport. During my academic career I published many sociological studies on these themes.

Since taking early retirement, I have really enjoyed immersing myself in reading and writing fiction. I feel that most historical fiction benefits from a connection to something that actually happened, so when I wrote my first book, Codename Lazarus, I took a little known true story and used it as a framework for an exciting thriller.

I am currently writing my second spy story, which also takes as its inspiration a fascinating, yet almost unknown episode from the Second World War.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT BLIND SIDE by @Jennie_Ensor #London setting #Thriller

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Blind Side by Jennie Ensore

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BLIND SIDE by Jennie Ensor

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team

This is the debut novel from Jennie Ensor, and it’s one of which she should be proud. Set in mid-noughties London, it’s a fairly standard spurned-lover-as-stalker plot, but with a lot more to it.  Middle class marketing exec Georgie only ever wanted to be friends with Julian, but when she starts a relationship with Russian immigrant Nikolai, she discovers that she never really knew Julian at all.  Alongside this storyline is the dark shadow of terrorism relating to the London bombings of the time – and Georgie’s growing fears that Nikolai might be involved.

I admit to being slightly underwhelmed by the beginning; both dialogue and narrative are rather bland, with opportunities for more ‘colour’ missed, and, when Georgie succumbs to sex with Julian after a drunken evening, I never got the impression that she was drunk; I actually forgot she was meant to be.  Happily, the pace and intrigue stepped up very quickly, and I began to really enjoy it.  I thought Julian was revolting from the outset, and I didn’t begin to warm to Georgie until later on; Nikolai, on the other hand, was lovely.  The characterisation was very good all the way through. I cared what happened to the two main characters, which is all important.  

The novel is extremely well structured, planned and edited.  I particularly liked that the backstory about both Georgie and Nikolai appeared in dribs and drabs, all the way through, which kept my interest.  There aren’t many surprises, but certainly enough suspense to call this book a thriller, albeit quite a low-key one.  But it’s a love story, more than anything, I think.  It’s intelligently written, with much background about the war in Chechnya and Nikolai’s experiences, which were shockingly fascinating and made the book so much more than just a stalker story.

I was glad that Georgie was not portrayed as a victim, though I found it unrealistic that she didn’t guess, immediately, that Julian was behind threats to Nikolai, too (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s fairly obvious!).  The only other bit that niggled me was minor – Georgie displays a shock-horror attitude when her lover suggests they go camping together, and is, apparently, ignorant of all such practices.  Yet she’s supposed to be a keen, fairly long distance hiker… 

The ending was pleasing, though the odd surprise or revelation wouldn’t have gone amiss; the last few chapters were little more than a wrapping up.  I’d say that Ms Ensor is a talented writer, for sure, and I enjoyed this book.  I felt that it could have done with a little bit more spark, but it’s very well written, and a fine debut.

Book Description

Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable? 
London, five months before 7/7. Georgie, a young woman wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, gives in and agrees to sleep with close friend Julian. She’s shocked when Julian reveals he’s loved her for a long time. 
But Georgie can’t resist her attraction to Nikolai, a Russian former soldier she meets in a pub. While Julian struggles to deal with her rejection, Georgie realises how deeply war-time incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai. She begins to suspect that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her. 
Then London is attacked… 
Blind Side explores love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and obsession. An explosive, debate-provoking thriller that confronts urgent issues of our times and contemplates some of our deepest fears. 

About the author

Jennie Ensor

Jennie Ensor is a Londoner descended from a long line of Irish folk. She has worked as a freelance journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to the fate of Aboriginal Australians living on land contaminated by British nuclear testing. 
Ms E lives in London with her husband and their cuddle-loving, sofa-hogging terrier. When not chasing the dog or dreaming of setting off on an unfeasibly long journey with a Kindleful of books, she writes novels, short stories and poetry (published under another name). Her second novel, to be finished in 2017 with any luck, is a dark and unsettling psychological drama.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT DIDN’T GET FRAZZLED by David Z Hirsch #Medical #Comedy #wwwblogs

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Didn’t Get Frazzled by David Z Hirsch

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DIDN’T GET FRAZZLED by David Z Hirsch

3.5 stars

The debut novel from this author, who uses a pen name, Didn’t Get Frazzled is about a few years in the life of Seth, a graduate medical student in New York.  The novel intersperses darkly humorous scenes during Seth’s training, with the ongoing drama of his personal life.  It’s intelligently written, well put together, amusing in parts, and I thought the dialogue and the characterisation good (Seth’s girlfriend, April, is particularly so; dreary as hell, and takes herself far, far too seriously).  The contrast between hospital and personal life is well balanced, each giving more weight to the other.  The banter in the practical classes is believable, and it’s clear that the author knows exactly what he’s talking about, all the way through it – nothing like writing what you know!

So why only 3.5 stars? The reason that I haven’t given it the 4 that most of the book merits is that I almost abandoned it three times.  I nearly decided it was a ‘no’ during the first chapter, which I assumed to be written from experiences of the author’s own.  You know when someone tells you about something funny that happened to them, and it sort of trails off with them saying, “Oh well, I suppose you had to be there.”?  That’s what this felt like; a bunch of ‘in’ jokes.  I could see how funny it should have been but it just … wasn’t.   Another time was during the description of an intimate examination of an obese woman.  It wasn’t daringly warts-and-all, it was just disgusting.  I actually closed my Kindle and opened my laptop to write my decline-to-review email, but then I thought, no, I’ve already spent a few hours reading this.

I found the parts about Seth’s personal life the most interesting to read, very well done, but I wonder if the in-hospital sections might contain too much medical info, etc, for your average reader; I did find myself glazing over by about half way through.  And it is, at times, really quite revolting.  But other bits are very good.  I’m in two minds about it; I would imagine that if you’re a medical student, you will LOVE it!

Book Description

A rousing, provocative novel about four years in the life of an intrepid young medical student, set in the grueling world of an elite NYC medical school.

“…the best fictional portrayal of med school since ER.” — BlueInk Review (starred review)

Medical student Seth Levine faces escalating stress and gallows humor as he struggles with the collapse of his romantic relationships and all preconceived notions of what it means to be a doctor. It doesn’t take long before he realizes not getting frazzled is the least of his problems.

Seth encounters a student so arrogant he boasts that he’ll eat any cadaver part he can’t name, an instructor so dedicated she tests the student’s ability to perform a gynecological exam on herself, and a woman so captivating that Seth will do whatever it takes to make her laugh, including regale her with a story about a diagnostic squabble over an erection.

Didn’t Get Frazzled captures with distressing accuracy the gauntlet idealistic college grads must face to secure an MD and, against the odds, come out of it a better human being.

 

About the author

David Z Hirsch grew up on the steppes of Nebraska peddling Kool-Aid off I-129 until saving up enough cash for medical school. After graduation, he moved to Pyongyang to teach pre-med classes at Kim Il-sung University. He soon fell out of favor and was imprisoned at Kaechon where he traded medical favors for soup and toilet paper until he made a daring escape across the border. 

Dr. Hirsch subsisted for the next three years by foraging gooseberries and licking the dew off spiny toads. This led to a burst of creativity, and he wrote the first draft of Didn’t Get Frazzled on bark peeled off a dying Manchurian Ash tree. Ultimately discovered in a semi-feral state by the China Coast Guard flotilla from Liaoning, Dr. Hirsch returned to the United States sixty pounds lighter but more inspired than ever.

David Z Hirsch is a pen name, so absolutely nothing in the above paragraphs are true. This is not lying, you see. It’s fiction. Many well-regarded sources insist that these are two distinct things. The actual guy who wrote this novel is a practicing physician in Maryland. His life story is considerably more prosaic, but in his head he lives a fascinating, fascinating life.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT HENRY by @tonyriches Early #Tudor #HistFic #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Henry by Tony Riches

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HENRY by Tony Riches

4.5 out of 5 stars

I reviewed this as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team, via an ARC, but I’m a big fan of this author so I would have bought it anyway. I adored the second part of the Tudor Trilogy, Jasper, and was looking forward to this last part.

I love Plantagenet and Tudor history, but Henry VII is one of the characters I knew less about; I’ve always thought of him, I suppose, as a not very interesting link between the wars of York and Lancaster, and the great era of the eighth Henry and Good Queen Bess.  This book showed, though, that the uniting of the two houses to end the Wars of the Roses, after Henry defeated Richard III at Bosworth and married Elizabeth of York, was far from the end of the story.  He then had to deal with kingship itself, something that his mother, Margaret Beaufort, had always assured him was his right, though he was not one who sailed gallantly into such a role.  His reign was beset by troubles with the Yorkist rebels, imposters like Perkin Warbeck, the Cornish rebellion, financial difficulties, and tragedy within his own family, with the deaths of children Edmund and Katherine and, of course, Prince Arthur ~ which gave way to the reign of the most famous of all English kings, Henry VIII.

I liked how Tony Riches has shown us the man behind the sombre portrait, and I warmed to his Henry Tudor very much.  Even though some of his problems were of his own making, he seemed like an honest, self-aware, realistic person, rather humble, and very much like his mother ~ the ‘Beaufort Steel’ is much in evidence, though to my mind it skipped a generation, and didn’t come out again until Henry’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, was on the throne.  Riches writes so well, and I read this book in almost one sitting.  So interesting, of course, to read about the young Henry VIII, and I had forgotten the difficulties that came with his desire to marry Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow.  I couldn’t help thinking that, given the events some twenty-odd years later, it might have not been meant to be.

Henry’s story is not as thrilling as Jasper’s, but this is a fine end to a superbly researched and well-written trilogy, one I would recommend to anyone with an interest in this period of history.  And don’t forget to read the Author’s Note!

Book Description

Bosworth 1485: After victory against King Richard III, Henry Tudor becomes King of England. Rebels and pretenders plot to seize his throne. The barons resent his plans to curb their power and he wonders who he can trust. He hopes to unite Lancaster and York through marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth of York. 

With help from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, he learns to keep a fragile peace. He chooses a Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, as a wife for his son Prince Arthur. His daughters will marry the King of Scotland and the son of the Emperor of Rome. It seems his prayers are answered, then disaster strikes and Henry must ensure the future of the Tudors. 

About the author

Tony Riches

Tony Riches is a full time author from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, an area full of inspiration for his writing. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya.

His real interest is in the history of the fifteenth century, and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period. Best known for his Tudor Trilogy, Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’. In his spare time Tony enjoys sailing and sea kayaking. 

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