Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Family Saga Set In Wales, THE COVENANT by @ThorneMoore @honno

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

Terry has been reading The Covenant by Thorne Moore

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5 out of 5 stars

This doom-laden tale about the Owen family and their land begins with a mystery: the discovery of a body, declared to be that that of Leah Owen, who happens to be the main character of the novel—but this is in no way a spoiler.  If anything, it provided added intrigue to the story, which then goes back in time to Leah’s childhood.  Much later, the why and how of the initial chapter comes as a total surprise.

Life on Cwmderwen is hard, with strict adherence to the word of God—and that of Thomas Owen, head of the family, who becomes a religious zealot to the point of insanity after the death of his eldest son.  Leah’s entire life is ruled by duty to family and farm, and the restrictions of religion.  Her bright childhood spirit is quelled by bereavement and loss of love—happiness is snatched from her at every turn.  Aside from the day to day problems (scratching a living, troublesome rellies and a wrathful killjoy of a god), Leah also has to contend with the malignant presence of slimy businessman Eli John, who has unwelcome influence over their lives.

I was completely absorbed in this book all the way through; it’s so well-written, every character clearly defined, every piece of research unobtrusive (and it is clear that the author knows her subject so well), every dark, dismal day in the Welsh valleys so real.  Although it is most definitely worth 5* for the quality of the writing and the story itself, I was initially going to take off a half star because of personal taste; I found this book more depressing than any novel of stark dystopian futures, simply because of the lives wasted and made unhappy because of the barmy religious and social protocols of the day.  But the end was uplifting indeed, enough to make me revise that; Thorne Moore, you have earned that extra half star!

If you love nitty-gritty, no-frills family sagas set in relatively recent times, you will ADORE this.  Even if they’re not quite your thing, you’ll still love it.  I did.  I read at the end that it’s actually a prequel to A Time For Silence, which I have just bought.  There—that proves I loved it!

Book description

The Owens are tied to this Pembrokeshire land – no-one will part them from it.

Leah is tied to home and hearth by debts of love and duty – duty to her father, turned religious zealot after the tragic death of his eldest son, Tom; love for her wastrel younger brother Frank’s two motherless children. One of them will escape, the other will be doomed to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps.

At the close of the 19th century, Cwmderwen’stwenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches are hardwon, the holding run down over the years by debt and poor harvest. But they are all the Owens have and their rent is always paid on time. With Tom’s death a crack is opened up and into this chink in the fabric of the family step Jacob John and his wayward son Eli, always on the lookout for an opportunity.

Saving her family, good and bad, saving Cwmderwen, will change Leah forever and steal her dreams, perhaps even her life…

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Dystopia Knight In paper Armor by @NicholasConley1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Knight In Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

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Billy Jakobek was born with powerful psychic abilities and has lived most of his life in a town called Heaven’s Hole, under the care of the Thorne Corporation that dominates America.  Billy absorbs the physical pain, trauma and memories of everyone he meets, which, most of the time, causes him fear and sadness.  He is frequently visited by an entity called The Shape, which he perceives as being the darkness in man, and which predicts a calamitous future for mankind.

At school, Billy meets Natalia, with whom he feels an immediate, powerful connection—it is more than just attraction.  Elsewhere, we learn more about Billy’s ‘Mother’, aka scientist Roseanne, and Caleb Thorne himself.  I liked that the author wrote chapters from Roseanne and Caleb’s point of view, too, as it shows us what is really going on behind the scenes—and what Caleb’s plans are once he has harnessed Billy’s powers.

I liked the feeling of depressed doom about the town of Heaven’s Hole, in which immigrant workers live and work in appalling conditions, though I would have liked to know more about it, and also how the country came to be how it is now—more background would have been welcome.

The characterisation is good; I had a clear picture of who each of the main players were, and the dialogue is strong and realistic, the emotions portrayed well.  What I was not so keen on was the frequency of inner thoughts in italics (on just about every page), and the fact that the book was more YA-orientated than I thought it would be; I would class it as a YA book even though it is not listed as such.  One can have enough ‘teen speak’.

I thought this book would be very much my cup of tea, though it wasn’t so, but it’s good of its type, and it is clear that a lot of work and thought has gone into it; and the aspects I was not so keen on are down to personal taste rather than there being anything wrong with the book.  I’ve given it 3.5* for how much I enjoyed it, though it’s worthy of 4* for readers who enjoy teen-supernatural books with powerful themes of good and evil, and the overcoming of light over dark.

Book description

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Terry Reviews #Thriller DARK OAKS by Charlie Vincent

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Dark Oaks by Charlie Vincent

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When I started reading this book I was at once impressed by the writing style and enjoyed reading about wealthy doctor Charles Mason and his ritzy lifestyle in Monaco; there was a certain dry humour about his observations and the narrative flowed well.  There were a few minor proofreading errors which I could overlook, because I liked what I was reading.

Charles wakes up on the morning after his extravagant annual party to find that everything is not as it should be, in a big way.  The book then moves to Dark Oaks, his ancestral home in rural Hampshire.

It is clear that the author knows Monaco well, and I liked reading about the lifestyle of the rich and famous with whom Charles mingled, but there is a little too much detail that is not relevant to the rest of the book.  Throughout, there are long blocks of description, much of it superfluous, which is unbroken by dialogue and slows down the plot, not least of all a long paragraph describing the making of a sandwich, and a wince-making piece of exposition in which Charles has the phrase ‘chop shop’ explained to him, which is clearly only there to explain to the reader (I thought it unlikely that Charles would not have known what a chop shop was, and ditto most readers).

The book is basically well-written, and the plot is interesting, but the novel is not structured well.  The history of the family is told in backstory when Charles gets to Hampshire; an initial few chapters set in the past, at the beginning, would have set the scene much more effectively, and linked the Monaco and Hampshire sections together – once Charles got to Hampshire I felt as though I was reading a completely different story, with the sudden introduction of a number of new characters who had not been mentioned before.  To sum up, there is much to commend about this book, but I think it could use a bit more thinking through and the hand of a good content editor.

Book description

New Year’s Eve. The turn of the millennium. A tragic accident results in the death of Charles Mason’s parents, his sister-in-law, and her unborn child. His army officer brother, Robert, is the only survivor.

Unable to come to terms with the loss, Charles moves abroad and tries to forget the past.

Twenty-two years later, things start to go badly wrong for him. Two of his friends go missing, his boat is stolen, and his bank account is emptied. Scared and unsure of what to do, Charles returns to England to ask Robert for help.

As the two brothers begin investigating who is behind the crimes, they uncover evidence that somebody out there has been masterminding the death of their entire bloodline over the course of decades, and they are next in line.

Can Charles and Robert bring their nemesis out of the shadows and fight back, or are they doomed to follow the same fate as the rest of their family?

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE LOST BLACKBIRD: An emotional dramas based on true life events by @LizaPerrat

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat

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This book is certainly an eye-opener.  In the 1950s and 60s (and as late as 1970), children were taken from English children’s homes for a ‘better life’ in Australia.  Sometimes the children were orphans, other times they were in care because the parents were temporarily unable to look after them, and they were shipped off without parental consent.  A few were fortunate, and were adopted by families, but most were used as slave labour on farms, until they were sixteen, when they would be sent to cattle stations to serve an ‘apprenticeship’ – more slave labour.  Most suffered permanent separation from siblings and families in England.

This is the fictional story of Londoners Lucy and Charly Rivers who ended up in ‘care’ (a brutal, regimental establishment) after their mother was wrongly convicted of having killed their father.  When Charly was six and Lucy ten, they were put on a boat with many others, to sail to the other side of the world.

The story alternates between that of Lucy and Charly, who fare very differently.  I found Charly’s story absolutely fascinating, and it was so well written by Ms Perrat; it involved a slow brainwashing until by the time she was sixteen she was not sure what was a memory and what a fantasy or dream; the way in which she tried to capture fleeting images was perfectly illustrated, as was the behaviour of the people who perpetrated this; the gradual unravelling was riveting stuff.  Lucy’s story was so tragic and I was equally engrossed in the first two thirds or so, though I was less convinced by a couple of developments later on.

The book is certainly a page-turner, nicely structured, making me eager to know what would happen next, as hope twinkles in the distance for the characters, then disappears. The writing flows well, and I’d definitely recommend it to any readers who enjoy emotional dramas based on true life events – the fact that all this stuff actually happened gives a hugely compelling slant to the whole story.  At the end of the book, Ms Perrat writes about her research process, giving details of some of the books she used for reference, which has now added to my reading list, too!  I give her a round of applause for bringing these heinous crimes to light in this highly readable novel.

Book description

A powerful story of sisters cruelly torn apart by a shameful event in British-Australian history. Clare Flynn, author of The Pearl of Penang
London 1962. A strict and loveless English children’s home, or the promise of Australian sunshine, sandy beaches and eating fruit straight from the tree. Which would you choose?
Ten-year-old Lucy Rivers and her five-year-old sister Charly are thrilled when a child migrant scheme offers them the chance to escape their miserable past.
But on arrival in Sydney, the girls discover their fantasy future is more nightmare than dream.
Lucy’s lot is near-slavery at Seabreeze Farm where living conditions are inhuman, the flies and heat unbearable and the owner a sadistic bully. What must she do to survive?
Meanwhile Charly, adopted by the nurturing and privileged Ashwood family, gradually senses that her new parents are hiding something. When the truth emerges, the whole family crumbles. Can Charly recover from this bittersweet deception?
Will the sisters, stranded miles apart in a strange country, ever find each other again?
A poignant testament to child migrants who suffered unforgivable evil, The Lost Blackbird explores the power of family bonds and our desire to know who we are.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Victorian #Mystery FAME & FORTUNE by @carolJhedges

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Fame & Fortune by Carol J Hedges

5 stars

This is the eighth book in Carol Hedges’ Victorian murder mystery, featuring officers of the law Stride and Cully.  The story starts with a mysterious hanging and the theft of rare Japanese artefacts, and takes the crime-fighting duo to the seediest areas of London and then off to more upmarket districts to see out the Black brothers, Herbert and Munro; Munro runs gambling clubs, while Herbert is often abroad, taking care of his trading empire – but what is he selling?

Running through the main story are a couple of juicy sub-plots – that of a romantic novelist accused by an aristocrat of using his marital dramas as a plot for her novels, and the tale of Izzy, a ten-year-old who works painting furniture for dolls’ houses by day, and washing dishes by night, then goes home to share a mattress with her uncaring mother in an unsavoury boarding house.

Fame & Fortune is up there with the rest of this series, a delight to read, as Ms Hedges spins her story around artfully-drawn characters, at the same time as highlighting the social injustices of the day.  Izzy’s story, in particular, is heartrending.  Another winner; if you haven’t read any of this series, they’re all completely stand-alone, even though certain threads are carried on throughout.  Highly recommended. 

Book description

When the body of a man is discovered hanging from some scaffolding under one of London’s bridges, Scotland Yard’s detective division is called in to solve the mystery of his identity & how he died. What they discover is a web of crime and extortion, and at the heart of it, two evil brothers, Munro and Herbert Black. Their inquiries will bring them into contact with the strange world of Gerald Daubney, collector of Japanese curios, whose priceless collection of netsuke has disappeared.

Facing a similar loss is Mrs Riva Hemmyng-Stratton, writer of ‘silver-fork’ novels, who suddenly finds herself embroiled in a court case when she is sued for defamation and libel by Lord Edwin Lackington. Her priceless reputation as a writer is on the line. How on earth can she prove her innocence when the only person who could vouch for it is incarcerated in a private asylum?

Many old friends make appearances in the novel … and a certain meaningful relationship finally reaches its conclusion.

AmazonUk |

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #PostApocalyptic The World Without Flags by @BenLyleBedard #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The World Without Flags by Ben Lyle Bedard

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5 stars

I have an endless hunger for post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, but it has to be well-written, feasible, properly researched and edited, with great characters, realistic dialogue and a plot that keeps me turning the pages.  I am delighted to say that this ticked all the boxes.  I loved it.

It’s actually a Book #2, but it’s completely stand-alone; I didn’t know of the existence of Book #1 until I looked up the Amazon links for this review.

Birdie is around sixteen (she is not sure of her exact age), and lives in the Homestead in Maine, where she lives with Eric, who she thinks of as her father.  She has only vague recollections of the Worm, a disease that hit the world a decade ago, around 1990, rendering most of the population zombie-like, though only a few ‘cracked’ and became flesh-eaters.  She is happy enough in her world – but then a traveller appears with news of a coming war between two factions, both of whom want to rebuild the country under their command.

This news leaves the community in a state of extreme anxiety, but worse is to come.  Much, much worse…

Most of the story is about a journey that Birdie must make to ensure her own safety and that of those she loves, through land she doesn’t know, where she will come up against much danger.  The hazardous journey is a post-apocalyptic standard, but it works every time if done well, and this was.  It’s exciting, unpredictable, and Birdie’s development, as she learns more about the world outside her safe enclosure and finds much strength within herself that she didn’t know existed, is a joy to read.

If you love this genre, I recommend highly; even if you think you don’t, I still recommend.  Suffice to say that I’ve downloaded Book #1, and started reading it as soon as I’d finished #2.  One word of warning: it’s rather gruesome at times.  Don’t read it while you’re eating.  I say this from experience.

Book description

The old world is gone. Ten years have passed since a parasitic Worm nearly drove humanity to extinction. When the Worm infected its human host, it crawled up into the brain, latching on and taking command. The result was shambling hordes of infected people called zombies. When the Worm vanished, bringing the majority of humans with it, it left a ravaged landscape. Small communities struggle to survive while bandits prey on the weak and hunger marches in through winter’s gate.

Across this landscape, a young woman must overcome terror and isolation to survive. Driven by determination and loyalty, she must leave the only safety she has ever known. Confronting both death and her own past, pushed to her uttermost limits, she will discover who she is and what she is willing to sacrifice.

The stand-alone sequel to the award-winning The World Without Crows, The World Without Flags is a story of survival, loyalty, and what we suffer for the ones we love.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Celebrating 6 Years Of Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT With Team Member @TerryTyler4

Recently we celebrated our review team’s six year anniversary by revealing fourteen of the team’s favourite books.

You can find out which books they were in part one and part two.

I invited some of my team members to tell us more about being part of the book reviewing team.

Welcome to Terry Tyler, who also writes book reviews at https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

I have been a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team (#RBRT) for five and a half years, now.  I first ‘met’ Rosie online when looking for reviews for my own early books, and through her some of the other bloggers who later became part of the team.

I admit to being wary of making the commitment when I joined the review team, but I’m so glad I did; Rosie has created something so positive for the independently published world (the team deals mainly with the self-published or those published by independents), and I am proud to be a part of it.  When I joined, I decided to start my own book review blog – I don’t profess to be a ‘proper’ book blogger as I’m primarily a writer; I don’t take submissions and use it only for reviewing for Rosie and my own reading choices, but it’s something I enjoy doing.

There are two main reasons why I’m so glad I joined the team, equally important.  The first is the discovery of some truly excellent books; now and again, you find a real gem, that you want to shout about; so often these are books that are hidden away on Amazon and you would have never discovered, had the author not submitted.  Here are a few that made me feel this way (link takes you to my review):

The Men by Fanny Calder
The Usurper King  by Zeb Haradon
The World Without Flags by Ben Lyle Bedard
Singularity Syndrome by Susan Kuchinskas
The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle by James D Dixon
The Unravelling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn

The second reason I love being a part of #RBRT is that some of us have become real life friends, too, enjoying several meet-ups. Here’s to six more years of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team!

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery ODD NUMBERS by @JJMarsh1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Odd Numbers by J.J. Marsh

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I chose this book from the review team list because I loved An Empty Vessel by this author, though this book is completely different.

For the past twenty years, Gael, Lovisa, Mika, Simone and Clark have spent every other New Year together, taking it in turns to choose the venue for a short holiday.  There used to be six of them, but Dhan died at their Y2K celebration two decades before.  At the time it was thought to be a terrible accident, but as the book progresses, we start to wonder if it was suicide, or even murder.

Interesting, interesting – and it is a testament to JJ Marsh’s storytelling skill that I enjoyed much of this, and was eager to find out what happened, despite some issues I had with the novel as a whole.

The book is told in first person chapters from all five friends, and dots back and forth in time between the present and the various reunions of the past twenty years, which were held in many different locations. To say I found the zig-zagging between time and locations confusing is something of an understatement; by half-way through I decided to stop trying to remember exactly where and when I was currently supposed to be, who was married to whom when, what already had or hadn’t happened in the chapter I was reading, and just concentrate on the relationship dynamics, and the uncovering of the mystery.

One of the characters comments that if it was not for Dhan’s death, maybe their friendship would not have endured. I thought she was probably right, as much of the time they don’t seem that keen on each other.  None of them are very likeable people (even the ‘nice’ one talks in humourless therapy-speak half the time), but I don’t mind that. I’d rather read about a sociopath than a saint any day; it’s far more interesting, the only problem being not having anyone to root for when all the characters are self-centred, cunning and/or in denial about more or less everything.

Aside from the chaotic timeline, I found it difficult to ‘know’ any of them, because each of their point-of-view chapters is written in much the same ‘voice’, despite their being of different nationalities, different social classes, etc. Aside from the varying subject matter, the odd Americanism from Clark, and Simone being a manipulative, particularly nasty piece of work, they all use the same language, have the same speech patterns, similar mood, tempo, vocabularies. Mika, Lovisa and Gael I could never ‘see’ at all; sometimes I thought I was reading Mika when it was Gael, etc. I also found some of the dialogue unrealistic.

Having said that… (and it’s a big ‘having said that’) I did enjoy reading this book, became immersed in the intrigue and thought the basic plot was great. I liked the slow uncovering of each person’s dark secrets, the truth about Dhan and the final drama, though it felt a bit rushed; I think more could have been made of it. There were a fair few irritations (not least of all the reiteration of the current trend I’ve noticed on new, young audience TV shows: that out of any group of young people, fifty per cent of them will have casual sex with either gender at the drop of a hat), but I found that … yes, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a hard one to rate. Yes, I liked it. Sort of. Mostly.

To sum up: The plot kept me interested throughout. JJ Marsh’s innate talent does come across, despite the book’s weaker elements; although the characters never really came to life for me, I liked the story a lot. So although I couldn’t say ‘yes, definitely, you must buy this’, I also want to say, it’s fun and original, and I did like it. Mostly. Sort of.

Book description

The Guilty Party meets The Secret History

Can you forgive a friend?

Strange things bring people together. Like a tragic death.

Over two decades, five friends reunite every other New Year. They celebrate, grieve and heal. Memories grow dusty and the nightmare starts to fade.

On the 20th anniversary, in a remote snowy chalet, old doubts surface.
Wounds reopen and morality comes into question.

Is friendship a safety net or a tie that hobbles to the past?

They thought they knew each other’s secrets.
Did they miss the biggest one of all?

When history is rewritten, they must act to preserve the future.
A fatal decision means this reunion will be their last.

A psychological drama with beautifully portrayed characters and an intricately woven plot. The suspense emerges between the lines, grabs you softly but never lets go.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT 1930s American #HistoricalFiction THREADS by @CWhitneyAuthor

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Threads by Charlotte Whitney

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4 out of 5 stars

Threads is a set on a farm in Michigan during the Depression, about a family struggling to survive.  The novel is told in alternating first person points of view of the three daughters: Flora, who is seventeen, Nellie, the youngest, who is seven, and Irene, somewhere in the middle.  Nellie is a tad wild, with a vivid imagination; Irene is a rather smug goody-goody on the surface, but is clearly suffering from ‘middle-child syndrome’, while Flora is very much the ‘big sister’, nearly an adult, who sees how the world works outside the concerns of the other two.  Each sister’s character is clearly defined, with her own distinctive voice.

The novel is primarily concerned simply with the way of life of that place and time; it is character rather than plot-driven, an illustration of the family’s world and their fears, joys and struggles.  These people were POOR.  If you’ve never dined on potatoes every night, or looked on a bean sandwich as a treat, you should never think of yourself as hard-up again!  Within the girls’ narratives, Ms Whitney has shown us a larger picture of the country in the 1930s; they tell of the ‘train riders’; unemployed, itinerant young men who travelled the country by stowing away on trains, begging for food wherever they stopped.  The way the community pitched in to help each other.  The fears that consumed them all; if they couldn’t sell enough produce, they would lose their homes.

I found Flora’s chapters the most interesting as she was concerned not only her own insular world (what happened at school, etc) but talked about the way of life as a whole.  On occasion, though, Irene and Nellie would reveal much within their own childlike eye-view; this was done most skillfully.

If I have any criticisms, it’s just that I would have liked a bit more actual plot; events coming to a climax and then being resolved, at some point.  There is a little mystery concerning an event from the first chapter about which we don’t get the answer until the end, but I felt there were missed opportunities to make the story more of a page-turner.  However, I did enjoy it, throughout, and would most certainly recommend it as an insightful and highly readable look at this recent and still relevant time in America’s history.

Book description

It’s a boring, hardscrabble life for three sisters growing up on a Michigan farm in the throes of the Great Depression. But, when young Nellie, digging for pirate treasure, discovers the tiny blue-black hand of a dead baby, rumors begin to fly. Narrated by Nellie and her two older sisters, the story follows the girls as they encounter a patchwork of threatening circumstances and take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Football Themed #Horror Novella BURNTBRIDGE BOYS by @john_f_leonard

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Burntbridge Boys by John F. Leonard

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I’ve read quite a few of John F Leonard’s shorter length horror tales, and always enjoy both his original story ideas and characterisation.  Burntbridge boys is set in 1979 and is about Sammy ‘the butcher’ Rafferty, a former footballer, football club manager and general bad boy, whose glory days are over; he is currently on the run from the police and from unfriendly criminal types.  When Sammy finds himself in the decaying stadium of a defunct club, it seems that his dreams might not be over after all….  

Much of the story includes flashbacks to the 1960s, detailing Sammy’s career and how deeply he became involved in the corruption to do with the game: the pay offs, the dodgy transfers, the darker side of life for many of those involved.  Sammy’s backstory is as much a part of the whole as the supernatural side, which I liked; in itself, it’s something of a horror story.

I very much liked the unravelling of the ghostly mystery in the last 20% of the story, the strongest part; Sammy’s meeting with Burntbridge’s Chairman Millicent is stunningly good.  I felt that some of the earlier parts would benefit from a bit of fine-tuning, perhaps another draft or the hand of an experienced copy editor to tidy up some over-use of the subordinate clause and to make the delivery more concise.  A little more attention to detail could raise this author’s work to the next level.

Having said that, it really is an excellent story, and I love the way Mr Leonard doesn’t shy away from the distasteful, and builds tension so well – I think if you have an interest in football, you’ll love it, especially if you like your fiction on the dark side, but even if you actively dislike it, as I do, you’ll still enjoy!

Book description

It’s 1979 and Sammy Rafferty is on the run. From the past. From the police. And, perhaps more importantly, from some rather unfriendly criminal types.
He thinks his football dreams are over, but that might not be the case. He’s run to Burntbridge Lye. A place where dreams don’t always die.

Sammy “the butcher” Rafferty has long since kissed his playing days goodbye. Never kicking a competitive ball again was a hard pill to swallow and he’s not ready for his managerial career to come to an untimely end. The thought of forever being shut out of football makes his heart sink and feet itch.

There isn’t any choice. The cards have been dealt and you have to play the hand you’re given. Sammy grits his teeth and gets on with it. Life settles into monotony and offers only boredom and frustration …until he comes across an old football ground nestled in the back of beyond.

He can almost hear the roar of the crowd as he parks at the gates of the deserted Burntbridge Palmers, a decaying stadium on the outskirts of Bledbrooke Town.
The club that won’t die could be just the place for a man who still has a gleam in his eye. After all, they’re both ghosts that won’t go away.

Burntbridge Boys is about a lot of things.
Horror, for sure. No doubt there. Old school horror, with a twist. A ghost story where the ghosts aren’t really dead.
A fond reminiscence of football, back before football became completely commercialised? Yes, definitely, soccer plays its part. Although, it has to be said, the beautiful game is sometimes less than beautiful in Burntbridge Boys. It can be somewhat ugly and …disturbing. And often more than a game.
Deceit and double-dealing? Yeah, there’s a fair-sized chunk of that.

It might also be about power passed into hands too fragile for the holding. The darkness hidden in human hearts which is best kept hidden and secrets that are better not revealed. Society and its cruel attitudes, before society became an equally dreadful click-driven social media experiment.
You’ll draw your conclusions – that’s one of the joys of reading.

On a more prosaic level, is there such a thing as a football horror story? Let alone one set in the past which wallows in a darkly imagined history of the game.
Who knows? When the Dead Boxes are involved, anything is possible. Such items have always been scary things.
Even in the swinging Sixties and glam-shock punk revolution of the Seventies, they contained a terrifying mix of horror and salvation. Throw the Scaeth Mythos into the mix and stuff gets decidedly multi-dimensional.

There are different realities and the walls which separate them can be paper thin. The tiniest tear can allow horror and madness to bleed through.

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